New Baby. New Discovery.


The most stressful times in one’s life include starting a new job, moving and welcoming a new baby. Collectively, Jamie and I tackled all three over the summer. Our family welcomed little Louis Lee on August 2 – all nine pounds and two ounces. Rather than explain the lack of activity on the site, let’s dive into the joys of parenting.

Last week I listened to an interview on NPR. The host with a lovely, unique name, a requirement for all NPR hosts, was interviewing a travel journalist. The topic: career changes after having kids. I always marvel at the questions women are asked and often think “Would she dare ask this of a man?”

During the interview, the host chimed in to answer her own questions – she provided personal anecdotes about her own birth experience and maternity leave. She never thought of herself as athletic or having significant physical strength yet, after having her baby, she felt invincible. She couldn’t believe what she had accomplished. That made her wonder – what else can I do? How strong am I, really? What else can I accomplish?

Then, what happens after this monumental moment of self-discovery? Your world becomes small. Daily geography shrinks to a few rooms in your house. The focus, rightfully so, is on the baby. A very important, isolating time.

I had a C-section with my daughter and a VBAC with son. Although the experiences were vastly different, I felt the same sense of amazement and pride. My body was capable of so much more than I gave it credit for. In hindsight, that’s why I became a runner. I never considered running before having kids and told myself I wanted a quick, effective form of cardio. As I type these words I realize that’s was only one little reason. The real reason is because I finally had the confidence in my body and my mental toughness. When I’m facing a tough run or steep hill, I tell myself “You made another human. You can run up this hill.” And, it’s true. Moms do run up hills.

We research doctors, create meal plans and tour daycare centers. We write out birth plans while understanding we only have so much control. We eventually recover from pregnancy and birth. We nurse our babies. We fed our babies. We work hard to craft a life that makes us happy and fulfilled. Then we wonder, if I can do ______, what else can I do?

Monday Motivation: Keep on Keeping on

Ingrid Ice Skates

The face of determination.


Happy Monday!

How was your weekend? Over here, it was a good mix of tackling house projects and ignoring responsibilities like laundry and grocery shopping. Yesterday Jamie and I met up for coffee and chatted about our families, writing and Trivia Crack. I told Jamie that I was falling short on my most recent writing goal but, I want to keep writing. She nodded and for some reason, that gesture was enough motivation – and validation – to keep going. After all, the name of the game this year is determination.

Over the holidays, I stumbled upon a project that resonated with me and mimicked National Novel Writing Month – Picture Book Idea Month. Although I discovered the site a few months after the challenge, I decided to participate, or should I say “participate.” The challenge: to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. The website provides some writing prompts but its primary goal is to motivate writers.

I started 30 days ago and have 16 ideas.

If you just look at the calendar and the number of ideas, I’ve failed. Since I’m going at this solo instead of following along with a group of like-minded people, I’m proud of my progress. That’s not entirely true – I find my progress acceptable. My arbitrary date has come and gone but instead of giving up, per usual, I’m going to continue to write and generate ideas. If it takes 60 days, it takes 60 days.

I tend to get caught up in a negative feedback loop and ultimately stuck in my own head. Telling myself these ideas aren’t good. These books have all been done before. Why would anyone want to read a children’s book about that topic? Fear, what a powerful beast!

It took me a long time to get mentally tough as a runner. Mental toughness is proving to be a muscle that I need to continue to flex. I didn’t think brainstorming 30 book ideas would require the same level as mental toughness as running a half marathon. It does. It’s easier to check email or read blogs. It’s easier to stop running and walk. But, as any seasoned runner will tell you, it’s quicker and far more satisfying to run up that damn hill instead of walking up the long climb. You reach the top feeling satisfied and accomplished. It was hard and you did it. You can do hard things.

It took me a long time to believe that hills were worth running but over the course of training, I started to like hills. There is this gradual, never-ending hill about a half mile from my house. Each time I run up the incline, I repeat the mantra, “This hill is my bitch, this hill is my bitch. This. Hill. Is. My. Bitch.”

It’s time to embrace this mantra and repeat it over and over until I reach the top, and write 30 ideas, “This challenge is my bitch, this challenge is my bitch. This. Challenge. Is. My. Bitch.”

2015: The Year of “Because, Why Not?”


I stated in my last post that I was not about setting goals for the new year just for the sake of setting goals for the new year. But in the back of my mind, there’s a small part of me that knows I want this year to be just a little bit different, hopefully a little better than the last. In 2014, I got a taste for embracing the fear. In 2015, I’m going to push that. I’m calling it the year of, “Because, Why Not?” (screw your grammar rules, it works!)

Maybe it’s because I’m in my thirties and I’ve started to care less and less about the opinions others have of me. Maybe it’s because I’ve been able to keep a child alive for over 2.5 years (with the help of an amazing partner, I might add) and that in itself is a COMPLETE success for me. Maybe it’s because I’m rejiggering the idea of who I am and what I’m capable of. Whatever it is, I’m glad it found it’s way to me. And I plan to embrace that sense of pushing past the fear to try new things.

Just today I stumbled across a piece of advice for aspiring writers from one of my favorite authors, Margaret Atwood:

“”I think the main thing is: Just do it. Plunge in! Being Canadian, I go swimming in icy cold lakes, and there is always that dithering moment. ‘Am I really going to do this? Won’t it hurt?’ And at some point you just have to flop in there and scream. Once you’re in, keep going. You may have to crumple and toss, but we all do that. Courage! I think that is what’s most required.’

So I’m going to be flopping. I might be screaming. But by golly I’m going to give 2015 my all…because, why not? How about you? What will you be doing with the new year?

This should be the “celebrate your successes” post…

The view from the top of the NaNoWriMo mountain.

The view from the top of the NaNoWriMo mountain.

…But it’s not.

Why? Because, maybe I can’t do that. I don’t know. But I’m sitting here, staring at a blank screen, trying to figure out how to make a post about celebrating your successes because that’s what I should be doing. I just won NaNoWriMo…i.e. I just wrote 50,000 words in one month. I get that that’s amazing. I get that that’s on top of another 50,000 words and that is also amazing. And I get that I set out to accomplish these goals back in July and I did just that, and that too is amazing.

And yet, other than a small, victory lap on social media, I don’t have any other thoughts on celebrating these successes.

Why do I feel this way? I’m asking myself that very question. Why can’t I celebrate my success? Why can’t I just sit back and have a glass of wine and snuggle up for a marathon of Once Upon a Time (seriously, stop judging)? My best guess is momentum.

I can’t stop.

...and we won’t stop…Thanks, Miley

As tough as it was to sit down and dedicate myself to one thing until I could say it was finished (or at least that step in the process), it’s the journey that I love. It’s in some ways how I feel when I’m training for a half marathon or another long distance event.

When I’m training for a run, it’s similar in that it takes a while. 12-16 weeks to be exact. And the journey can get really tiring. And there are high points and low points, but you gradually get closer to the race day. And then you get super pumped for the race and you imagine how grateful you’ll be to have finished the race, and then it’s over and you think…hmmmm…I’ll just rest for a bit, but then I should go find something else to train for so I don’t lose this momentum (there it is, again!).

It’s not a bad problem to have, but it’s there. And it steals the joy you imagine that you should have had from accomplishing such a great feat, because you’re constantly thinking about the next big thing.

So that’s the world I’m living in right now: What’s the Next Big Thing (NBT)? I have a couple answers, but I can guarantee it doesn’t include a lot of time for marathon viewings of ABC family shows (booooo, hissssss).

NBT 1: Fitness first! It’s December 1, and I am ready to get back into running and working out. I just signed up for a gym membership after a long hiatus (it’s too nice in the summer to waste it on a gym membership) and I’m already planning out how to make this month count. No January 1 woes for this girl, that’s for sure.

NBT 2: Baking. Well maybe there will be a few small woes on January 1, but it’s still worth it. I need to do some serious holiday-inspired baking this month. First up – chocolate covered pretzels, caramel corn and sugar cookies.

NBT 3: Happy by Design. Lindsay and I are putting our thinking caps on and making the most of our little blog during the month of December. As they say in the Lego movie that I’ve seen no less than 80 times in the last week, “Hold on to your butts!”

NBT 4: Reading. I have a seriously long list of books that I need to read. It’s not all going to happen in December, but I can make some good progress on the list over the next 30 days.

And where does this leave the book I spent so much time working on? Well, it leaves it right where I left it on November 29, when I wrote the last words. My goal is to not touch it for a couple weeks. I’d like to just focus on the four items above. I really think that’s enough to fill my personal plate…not to mention that list doesn’t even include all of the other priorities in my life…like family, friends, my job, traveling, wrapping presents, etc. But I have a feeling that I won’t be able to stay away very long. And that’s a REALLY good thing. Because if you feel the need to go back to it, it means there’s something there. So I hope this feeling pesters me for the next couple weeks, but only time will tell.

You gotta let it simmer.

So all of this to say, I suck at celebrating successes. I’m just constantly caught up in the momentum. So if you’re looking for someone to show you how to have a good time after a recent accomplishment? Well you’ll have to look elsewhere, because I’m not your girl.

Past the point of “young and reckless” but I totally get what you’re saying

I’m in the middle of another hectic week. And I’m resorting to my best bad mood lifter – music.

Speaking of which, is anyone else a little embarrassed about how much they love Taylor Swift? Well, once again she comes out with a song that is catchy and honest and even pokes a little fun at herself.

I kind of feel like another Taylor when it comes to admitting this. Yes. Taylor Wolfe over at the Daily Tay says it best.

Alright, well before we move on, just go watch Taylor Swift’s new video, “Blank Space.”


Now for the dissection. Get your scalpels out, and put on those latex gloves because this is going to get messy.

First off – I know on the surface level this song is really a big disclaimer for all of her past and future relationships. DUH.

But let me lay this on you: This is also a metaphor for the success in her life. She’s going to be crazy and passionate and write about crappy breakups. She’ll bear her sole, she’ll rip herself and others to shreds. She’ll make enemies. She’ll be the media darling. She’ll be poetic and she’ll be basic. She’ll be all of those things and she’ll serve it up on a platter that makes it REALLY hard to turn your back on, because deep down you see sides of her that you are too scared to show, yourself. She speaks for the crazy in all of us.

There. I said it!

Second – Can we all just admit that she has a knack for storytelling. Yes, I consider what she does to be storytelling. Here’s my favorite part of the song:

But the worst is yet to come
Oh no
Screaming, crying, perfect storms
I could make all the tables turn
Rose garden filled with thorns
Keep you second guessing like oh my god
Who is she? I get drunk on jealousy
But you’ll come back each time you leave
Cause darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream

Oh the fire, in this one! I bolded the lines that were especially delicious. I mean, I’ve never been this kind of a girl, but I love imagining a character like this. So vicious when you cross her. This is definitely giving me some ideas for that book I’m working on (I swear this isn’t another post about NaNoWriMo).

Third – If ONLY I could react to bad news the way she does. This would be the week for it. Vases of roses flying. Lots of mascera-smeared tears while I cackle widely to no one in particular. I could really use some of that consequence-free, emotion-fueled rampage for just a bit.

But alas, I’m no longer young and reckless (as she claims she is in this song). I’m a grown, sort-of responsible adult. And I can’t lash out when things don’t go in my favor.

Coping mechanisms.

Okay, these past two weeks could have gone more smoothly, but I can get past this. I have my tried and true coping mechanisms.

  1. Running: A good run and some punk music usually do the trick. I think this evening is very deserving of one.
  2. Writing: Oh look! Here I am, blogging on HBD. Check and check.
  3. Music: We covered Taylor Swift extensively, above. Other good songs I’m into this week include: Pitbull’s “Fireball,” an interesting cover of “The One that I want” (ignore the video itself, it’s a weird Chanel video…just focus on the fact that it’s an amazing “Grease” cover), and an oldie but a goodie, Michael Jackson’s “Scream“.

This too shall pass

I’m not going to get really deep and talk about how “We’re only on this earth for so long and it’s pointless to waste so much energy on unpleasant events that are so fleeting” but I kind of believe that. So while I get lost in the music, pick out my running clothes and hit publish on this post, I’d be interested to hear what your coping mechanisms are.

Cheers, friends!

Time’s up

I’ll get to Tina and Amy in a minute, but first, let’s talk about the phrase, “Pencils down, everyone. Time’s up.”

Remember the anxiety in those words when you heard them as a kid? Well, the words “time’s up”  still induce a bit of anxiety in me. But it’s the good kind of anxiety.

After writing the first half of my book, I found that I had a little bit more time between the last stroke of the key and when I was supposed to start writing again for NaNoWriMo (which started on Saturday, November 1). Which was great. I wanted to use that time to gather my thoughts, organize the plot structure a bit more, dive into the back stories of my main characters and figure out some plot twists that I kept glossing over because I just couldn’t find the right balance.

Planning paralysis.

The good news is, planning and prepping are the easy part. I was able to get up most mornings, just like I’d done when I was actually writing the story, and lay down more detail for the story and the characters. But the problem was, I kept finding new things that I needed to figure out, that had to be done before I could start back up on November 1.

But on November 1, I sat down, did a last ditch effort of planning a bit more and then looked at the clock. Time’s up. I had about two hours before I would need to go resume life and I had 1,667 words that needed to be laid to rest.

The anxiety peeked it’s head for a moment, but then I started in. And within one hour and change, I was already at 2,132 words. I had more left in the tank, I could have kept going, but I called it a day. I thought to myself, “It’s never as hard as you’ve built it up in your head.” And then I went about life, once again.

Bossypants. Read it if you haven’t already. 

This line from Tina Fey’s book, “Bossypants,” has been sticking with me lately when it comes to moving forward, even if you don’t feel ready. In her book, she talks about how she would agonize over details right up until the last minute before SNL would start.

The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30…What I learned about bombing as a writer at Saturday Night is that you can’t be too worried about your “permanent record.” Yes, you’re going to write some sketches that you love and are proud of forever—your golden nuggets. But you’re also going to write some real shit nuggets. And unfortunately, sometimes the shit nuggets will make it onto the air. You can’t worry about it. As long as you know the difference, you can go back to panning for gold on Monday.

Tina Fey

When it comes to being a bomb-ass driven female, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler are certainly great role models in that area. And it’s good to know that even really talented people have “shit nuggets” that they accept and can move past.

Show up before you’re ready.

So what if it sucks? Just put something out there, learn from it, and keep going. That’s my takeaway from Saturday’s first day of writing for NaNoWriMo…

Yes, your time’s up. But that’s how it should be. Regardless of whether or not you’re ready, the work needs to get done.

Fearing the Unknown


Growing up, I had a serious fear of missing out.

Here I was a little seven years old, enjoying a doughnut hole during Sunday school when our teacher introduced me and my classmates to the concept of Judgement Day. Excuse me, I thought, my little second grade heart racing. How have I been alive for seven, or eight, whole years and I haven’t heard about this…event? I had a dozen questions. My hand shot up into the air. I didn’t wait for my name to be called because my concerns were urgent. Urgent! In my little world, I was scared of being left behind in the bathroom. I was sure that come Judgement Day, I would be at the wrong place at the wrong time. My teacher thought I was being silly but my fear of missing out was real. So real, that I was kicked out of Sunday school for “causing others to panic.”

My fear of missing out only intensified over the years. I was the roommate who was always game for a late night workout, a late night popcorn break, a late night search for flights to Japan. Yes, most of my housemates were night owls and had unrealistic Spring Break expectations. I said yes to everything and in doing so, I overextended myself and filled my calendar. A decade later when my family and I moved into our first home, I listened to myself and the needs of our family and got comfortable saying no. Missing out is bound to happen. It’s a fact of life that we can’t do it all, at least not all at once.

Once I stopped overextending myself, I was left with some alone time. Why was I so afraid of being alone? Being alone is a glorious treat. Before my daughter arrived, I loved background noise. Giada’s Everyday Italian kept me company while I cleaned and cooked. Now, I love the silence of an empty house.

Fast-forward to today and I now have a fear of failure. When “older people” talked about failure, I envisioned life-altering events (or worse, a personal mistake) that lead to a lost job or failed marriage.

Now that I’m no longer checking the “20-29” box on surveys, I understand that the fear of failing isn’t about failure at all. It’s failing to not start.

My fear of failure is so real it cripples my ability to start. To start anything – a complicated recipe or a complex house project. It’s the reason I have a dusty sewing machine, a vintage doctor’s bag full of yarn and a handful of calligraphy pens. It’s the reason I’m drawn to books featuring underdogs and do-it-yourselfers. It’s the reason I’m inspired by friends – my husband included – who pursue their dreams over a well-paying job. It’s the reason I love people who chart their own course. It’s the reason I love Shark Tank and roll my eyes at people who brag about their parents’ accomplishments.

When I left my first ad agency job, my coworker gave me a really touching card with the following, edited, quote from Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

I took a leap and trusted my gut when I decided to leave that job. This quote validated my decision and that little piece of paper remains tacked on my cube walls. It’s a daily reminder to be myself and remain confident (even if I have no idea what I’m doing).

To me, this year feels like a lot of baby steps in the right direction. This blog is a baby step in the right direction – to encourage consistency, practice writing and create connections. Ragnar was a series of physical and mental failures that added up to an overwhelming feeling of success.When I discovered that other women were in my boat and felt like a fraud at work, I somehow gained (a little) confidence.

Small baby steps (infant steps? crawls? scoots?) take energy. It takes a lot to put yourself out there and take that leap (or carefully calculated step) into the unknown. But, I want to be successful and happy. There, I said it! I want to feel like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone when he shouts:

“Hey, I’m not afraid any more! I said I’m not afraid any more! Do you hear me? I’m not afraid any more!”

Successful, happy and not afraid. Oh, and I also want to be cool with making mistakes while practicing calligraphy because for fucks sake – they are swirly letters!  

Happy…but tired…but happy


I call this one, "Sanctuary."

I call this one, “Sanctuary.”

I had great intentions of writing a more in-depth post about some things rumbling around in my head, lately, but it’s takes too much energy and this week has me spent. Anyone else feeling like that?

So here’s a quick run down of some things that make me happy

Note: I’m purposely not adding friends and family because this list would get really long, but ya’ll know who you are that make me happy.

  1. Puppies. Especially those named after Seinfeld characters. RIP Uncle Leo!
  2. Red Moscato wine. Call me trashy, I don’t care!
  3. My green blanket
  4. Running
  5. Writing
  6. Watching cartoons with my son
  7. Netflix bingeing with my hubby
  8. Any form of baking with apples – Apple crisp or applesauce anyone?
  9. Disney princesses (and Disney movies, in general), there I said it!
  10. The show, Once Upon a Time. Don’t judge!
  11. Getting a jump start on the day. Alarm goes off at 4:45. Time to rise and shine! (and pass out at 9pm, promptly)
  12. Beyonce.
  13. This short clip of Jackson showing off his half yoga/half bodybuilder skills at my cousin’s wedding.

There’s a lot more, per usual, but I think that’s a pretty good list for now. Anything weird or funny make you happy today? Share it in the comments below!

Happy Sunday night, everyone.

#TBT Dream Jobs: Now and Then

BBGs at Wimbledon

BBGs at Wimbledon source

What was your dream job when you were a youngster?

When I was in middle school, I had serious hopes to someday be a “ball girl” (BBGs for short) for Wimbledon. Not for the U.S Open, or any of the other tennis majors. No, I pictured myself whipping balls at Pete Sampras as he went on to win his next championship. Then, in my dreams, he would credit me helping him win the title. My painful inner dialoge went something like: “Thanks to Lindsay’s quick reaction time, I was able to secure the win.” It’s an odd choice to chose a profession where success is defined by “blending into the background and get on with the job quietly.” I’m not good at being quiet. Also, there’s a lot of kneeing and sprinting involved. I just thought it would be fun to have a front-row seat and would be issued a sweet new uniform. I also assume BBGs get their first pick at the strawberries. Not good qualities when selecting a profession.

Things got serious in high school. I wanted to be a high school English teacher but quickly realized I didn’t want to teach teens literature. I just really admired our high school English teacher and gave her the title: Best Teacher Ever.


In college I was a hot mess when it came to nailing down a major. Weren’t we all jealous – or rather, annoyed – at those students who walked onto campus knowing that in four years they would graduate with X degree? I was not one of those people and went from elementary education to nothing to “maybe journalism?” to advertising.

Advertising. That’s what I’m now doing today and I love it but, it’s a far cry from a dream job.

To me, a dream job means being genuinely happy regardless of pay. My dream job is to be a writer, specifically to write children’s books.

Isn’t it funny how dreams become narrower and more realistic as we age?

I don’t dream of being a famous or popular writer, I want to wake up and write. Write about topics near and dear to my heart and somehow, someone will pay me for words on a page.

Think: Colin Firth’s character in Love Actually: rustic cabin, cable-knit sweaters, impractical typewriters and never-ending cups of tea (or in my case, coffee).

We often get in the way of our own dreams. I’m a learner and a planner. I like to read about writing – or calligraphy or yoga or house projects or cooking – or any of my interests. Plans are made on how to best incorporate these passions into my schedule. Then, that’s where I like to stop.

I’m trying to stop stopping.

This challenge – to blog or write every single day – is an example of moving out of my comfort zone and into the zone of potential failure (what I like to avoid!). Like the BBGs, I have to get in a few hours, days, weeks (months or years) of practice before I can step onto the main court.

We’d love to hear from you! Silly, serious or just plain odd – what was your dream job when you were little? What is it today? 

Welcome to Blogtober

Happy by Design | #Blogtober14

October 1. The leaves are falling. Sweaters are getting chunkier. I’ve already made two batches of apple crisp. Guys, it’s officially fall. And with the new season comes a new challenge for the writers here at Happy by Design (I sound professional, right?). This October we’re going to be posting every day.

That’s right. BLOGTOBER, baby. 

The rules? Well it’s pretty simple. Blog every day in October.

Now, the great ladies over at The Daily Tay and Helene in Between have been kind enough to come up with prompts for each day, so we’ll be using those and throwing in our own posts here and there when the mood strikes us.

Want to join in on the fun? More details on #blogtober14, here.

So let’s get started already!


Today’s prompt: If you won the lottery you’d…

…Be really stupid and over the top with 2% of it, spending it on trips with friends and family and buying toys, cars, puppies and house stuff. And then spend the next year planning exactly how to spend or invest the other 98% of it. That’s what the responsible and logical me says.

If I were to break down the other 98%, here’s what comes to mind…

  • At least half of a million in an EdVest account for college.
  • A really good financial planner and stock broker that would be responsible for continually growing 20% of the money on various investments so that we could stop working if we really wanted to.
  • Charitable donations.
  • Buying or building our own house on Lake Drive in Milwaukee overlooking Lake Michigan.
  • Travelling around the world to various destinations.
  • A big fat check for our parents, at the very least.
  • A cabin up north, a place out west and probably a small corner of an island in the Bahamas to call our own.
  • At times, silly extravagant “on a whim” purchases …not to exceed more than 5% of the winnings, though.

So all in all, kind of predictable. Don’t get me wrong, I would be over the moon if the hubby and I won the lottery. Even if it was just a couple thousand, I’d be stoked. But I know that winning the lottery is only a means to giving us the freedom we want in order to pursue the things that will make us happy in the long run.

For today, both of us are lucky enough to have full-time jobs that pay us for our time. Granted, we’re not pursuing our dreams 24/7, but we know how to find time to pursue those dreams while also paying the bills and putting food on the table.

I didn’t mean for this to be a sentimental post, it just seems like the lottery sounds a lot more appealing when your world is crumbling around you and don’t know how to dig your way out. It’s the helping hand many need, but so often don’t get. And right now, even though there IS a lot going on in our careers and our lives, it seems manageable, so I’m thankful for that.

I have a lot more to update you all on, but I’ll save that for another post because my head is still a bit foggy from the cold meds I’m on (Thank you Zyrtec-D!). For those keep tracking of my book progress, though, I’m happy to tell you that I’ve written 32,000 words to date. I have four weeks left to hit my first 50,000 word goal and then in November I have to write 50,000words  in JUST FOUR WEEKS. It’s going to be insane. But I’m prepared. Happy October 1, everyone!

The Daily Tay
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