Burnout.

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I woke up this morning in Chicago and remembered that I am an hour behind my normal schedule here, and kind of freaked out.  I was busy yesterday and last night and didn’t have time to prep a post for today.  And I woke up completely exhausted to boot.  Between finishing my book, other random shoots and projects, keeping up with client work, writing this blog, taking care of the dogs, Christmas preparation craziness and attempting to maintain friendships and a marriage I have to admit, I am burned out.  In Blogland I feel like everyone seems to do everything perfectly in perfect outfits with hair and makeup done to Pinterest perfection, but my truth right now is this: I feel and look like hell because I’m so freaking tired.

Really, really tired.

I love being busy and I thrive under the high pressure environment I create for myself, but I’ve gotten to the point where I have lost the understanding and ability to truly relax and shut off. And that isn’t good.  I cannot remember for the life of me a day in the past 7 years where I just laid on the couch and read a book.  Even when I try to sit down and watch a movie with my husband, I find myself get anxious if I don’t check my email and typically end up turning on my computer to start working again.  I feel like “down time” is “wasted time” and I know that’s not healthy.   The constant feelings of guilt are something I live with daily. I ask myself to do more, more, more and when I don’t get an absurd amount of things done I berate myself for not “living up to my potential”. I really need to tell that little perfectionist voice in my head to give it a f*cking REST.

On top of the work pressure I put on myself, I pile on the stress and guilt of not being able to get pregnant as of yet. And I know that these things are probably linked- stress is no good for babymaking. All aspects of it!  And I approach it like I do my work with tons of research and action plans and to do lists.  I’m doing all the right things technically, good doctors, acupuncture, eating right but the key for me, I think, is going to me learning to give myself a break. About everything- about work, pregnancy, wanting to be the perfect, wife, daughter, sister,  friend, blogger, writer, dog mom, etc. etc…. I can’t help but see this one thing I cannot manage to do as a failure, and I DO NOT deal well with failure. No, sir.

So this comes a bit early, but I am determined to take a massive chill pill this year as my resolution.  To give myself more breaks and attempt to alleviate the guilt and pressure just a little. To make time to go to yoga or take an afternoon to just drive somewhere new or just take a walk without my damn phone. Or maybe even sit on the couch and DO NOTHING, which is such a foreign concept to me. This will not make me lazy, but rather a more productive creative force.  The brain needs a rest in order to be at it’s best, and so does the body. Instead of operating in constant panic mode, I want to do things slower, more deliberately and with more depth.  This doesn’t mean I’ll do less, in fact I already have tons of ideas for more projects, books and such for this year, but I want to enjoy the process more. I need to remember that not everything has to be done RIGHT! THIS! MINUTE! I need to say no more but also yes more, and be able to discern what’s truly important from what’s something I’m just doing so I can say I’m doing MORE.

I need to breathe.  I need to reboot.

How about you?

82 Responses to “Burnout.”

  1. Katie B. says:

    Word.

    You should check out an article from the Harvard Business Review many years ago entitled “Who’s Got the Monkey.” I am trying to stop taking on other people’s monkeys, say “yes” a little more slowly, and say “no” to things that will not help me achieve my goals as much as some other things might.

  2. Michelle says:

    Oh hon, that is the worst. All the pressure. I am just the same way and I learned the hard way (I got adrenal fatigue from pushing myself past my breaking point b/c I haaaaad to get work done) to relax. I wonder if anti anxiety meds might work for you, and you can still conceive on them too. You can also take herbal relaxants like Max Relax, or a Magnesium relaxing drink, all natural. My therapist once said after I told her I feel like I am clinging to the side of a mountain as hard as I can trying to to fall off “what will happen if you fall, visualize it…” It was very revealing to me, b/c in my imagination nothing really happened, I was only like a foot off the ground. I hope you find some peace!

  3. Allison says:

    this post could not have come at a better time. i too am feeling like there is a constant fire lit under my ass, and i’m the one who lit it. i “don’t have any time” to relax, regroup, recharge. but the truth of the matter is, i don’t have time because i don’t make the time.

    i took a yoga class this weekend that started with a meditation. we were to count up on each inhale until reaching the number 21, however if you got distracted and let your mind wander, you had to start back at the number 1. i couldn’t get past 5. WAKE UP CALL right there in shavasana.

    thank you for always being honest with us, your readers. i hope you have a happy and RESTFUL holiday season!

  4. Andrea says:

    I get it. Running my own business, starting a new branch, and keeping the family happy is a monumental undertaking – for so many of us. I mean, who else will do the work if not us, right?

    But don’t let “chilling the F out” be yet another thing on your to do list, or something else that you beat yourself up about if you don’t do it everyday.

    It’s funny though – babies have a way of putting everything into a harsh perspective. It’s amazing how much you can let slide in order to keep family first. Most of the time;)

    Best wishes!!

  5. Min says:

    Hi Erin, definitely take a breather, but also don’t be hard on yourself for being stressed. I have been trying to get pregnant for 2 years, and I’ve hesitated going the IVF route – I may, but right now it still doesn’t feel right. I tried acupuncture, eating well, meditation, all that jazz – and it still didn’t work, and I realized I was stressing myself about doing all the things I was supposed to do and getting even more heartbroken when I still was not getting pregnant. To a certain degree, getting pregnant is all about luck – no matter how much you prepare – and it’s out of our hands. Sure, you can take control and do things to help create a fertile environment, but take some comfort, too, in the fact that it is partly out of your hands. It will come, when the right time comes, and everyone has a different route and timeframe. Stress is certainly not helpful, but I stress myself out about being too stressed, so I’ve learned to just put my hands up in the air and just go with it and not be too hard on myself. Not sure that’s the best approach, but it’s where I am today. Putting all that aside, it seems like you may be better at steering your mental and emotional energy, and I applaud you for taking steps to pause, relax and generally take things slower while still being deliberate and thoughtful. Good luck, it’s a great goal for 2014!

  6. Pru says:

    I write this reply from my sick-bed Erin. So burnt out am I that I wonder if I’ll get any of my to-do list done before Christmas! Please, please take a break. I think all of your blog readers would much rather you wish us a merry Christmas and tell us you’ll be back in 2014 raring to go, rather than keep going like this. Take a rest, read a good book and enjoy Christmas and the New Year. Please!

    Love from burnt-out Pru
    Xx

  7. Caryn says:

    Erin,

    I hear you. Trust me. I continue to find myself in the exact same spot that you are in right now. As for maintaining stress and anxiety (I suffer from both), I know what works for some people doesn’t always work for everyone else. What’s important is that you listen to your body and take the necessary steps to improve yourself in the moment. Yoga always help. It has saved my life.

    I’m going to C2 class at Corepower Yoga tonight with Beth (one of my all-time favorite instructors). I invite you to join me.

  8. Jenny B says:

    Great advice. I bet your brain and body would learn pretty quickly that it is okay to relax, be bored even, and give you a rest. The spaces in between all those great things that you’re doing are where a lot of life happens.

  9. Johane says:

    Take my advice and put your feet on the couch. Take a giant breath, take an other giant breath. Take a break from your blog (even though I will suffer from this!!!) but take time for you, your hb and the baby to come because this baby will come when you will let go on everything! Sending you love from Montreal

  10. Betsy says:

    I feel really great, but it’s been a long road to loving the holidays, learning to say no, and not comparing myself to other people.

    You do great work because you’re talented and you work hard. But there’s room for peace in your life. Make the room. Find yourself some peace. It makes everything sweeter. Happy Holidays and here’s to good health and great living in 2014!

  11. Anna says:

    Try reading “Taking control of your fertility” while resting on the couch with your pups.

  12. Erin…. I often wonder HOW you do everything you do. And do it so well! But at the end of the day, you have to take care of YOU. Our health is the thing we most take for granted I think. No one will think less of you for needing to take time to yourself, to relax, rejuvenate…. and decompress. Happy holidays lady!! So inspired by you.

  13. Kathryn says:

    I totally relate to “It doesn’t all have to be done RIGHT NOW!” My mother always says: “Right now is not forever,” and I try to remember that when I am feeling stressed. But telling people like us to take it easy and relax is almost counterintuitive. Maybe start very very small, like leaving your phone in your bag hanging on your shelf for a few hours when you get home. I’ve stopped checking mine on weekends sometimes and, guess what: THERE ARE NO EMERGENCIES. Anyway, drinks on me. Soon!

  14. deb says:

    i can relate as a small business owner,….. you can learn to give yourself “permission” to relax on the couch and read (winter’s the bets time for this) much the same way you give yourself “orders” to get-it-all-done! oh, and sipping on your fave wine at the same time also helps speed along the relaxation process!! best, deb

  15. Patricia says:

    I just had this conversation with my very wonderful daughter-in-law. Trying to be “perfect” is a horrible trap. Ever consider “good enough” to be good enough? Love yourself a little more and us a little less and consider taking a break from posting every day. Maybe take a week or two off and come back after Christmas.
    We’ll welcome you back, refreshed and recharged.

  16. G says:

    People swear by Clear Blue, and I am going to try it this year. I too was surprised I am not getting pregnant!
    And for someone who wasted many productive years lounging and daydreamin before I was diagnosed with ADHD I think “turning off” and doing nothing is over rated, and frankly depressing. People would do anything to be as accomplished as you! Instead try putting a no electronics evening, day, weekend on your calendar regularly, and appreciate that time without distraction!

  17. Cheryl says:

    Erin, I for one want you to be around for the long haul. That means you have to learn to rest as well as all the other good things you are doing for your health. I struggle in the same way and I am 57! Learning to rest and enjoy life where you are in this moment is an essentional lesson. I keep learning and pursuing that goal. Give yourself permission for a sabbatical at least weekly! One day truly off per week will help. I love your blog, your genuineness, and your creativity. God bless you!

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  19. Beth says:

    My therapist made me trick myself and SCHEDULE my downtime to start. Literally put it on your calendar. Giving yourself time is, in fact, a business investment. If you burn out your work product and home life will suck donkey butt :). Hugs.

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  21. Kate says:

    Goodness, I feel for you! You need to get off that damn hamster wheel for your own health. You may call it selfish, lazy, unproductive but call it necessary.

    Quit beating yourself up – the desire to be perfect is exhausting! Who wants to live with a constant expectation of busy-ness and perfection anyway? There is something beautiful about imperfection.

    Take a break from this blog, as much as I love reading your blog it forces your readers to unplug too!

  22. Nancy Iriye says:

    Dear Erin, be kind to thee. It’s ok, it will all be fine, and you are as perfect as is possible. Merry Christmas!

  23. CC says:

    Your readers love you and want you to enjoy your life! Trim out the non-essentials; take time to put down electronic devices and social media and live in the now; treat yourself to a spa day. It’s your life, and no one will do it for you!

    I have a very high-pressure job in NYC, and fantasize all the time about informing my bosses and clients that for my vacation this year I will be backpacking for 5 days in the wilderness with no access to electricity or a BlackBerry. It disturbs me that in order to truly unplug, I literally need to make it impossible for myself to plug in. I hope I can get the courage to take my own advice above.

  24. Anita says:

    Erin,

    I can help you not look tired, I have an amzing anti-aging skincare regimen I would love to send over to you…let me know. http://www.innarah.com.

  25. F says:

    I love this post! The world needs more people like you, hard working and you care about what you do! People like you let the rest of us slack and take naps!

    I am kind of a failure at heart and I love it. I set the bar very low and then if it comes out better than expected it is frosting on the cake! See failure as a good excuse to take a break. When you fail most people don’t want anything from for a little while. I call it preemptive failure. It works like a charm.

    Seriously, stay the course but say “oh well” a little more!

  26. Dana says:

    Erin, Turn off the computer. Turn off your phone. Turn off the tv. Put on some classical music, put your feet up, close your eyes and just day dream.
    You are over-stimulated.

  27. Jessica says:

    I love your blog, and as always your honesty is such an inspiration. I wish you the best and if you saw yourself how I do you would see how pretty perfect you are. Even the sweatpants you put up are stylish….mine are from my mom, and she bought them at Kohls. Best of luck with the baby making. I know it’s hard, I’ve experienced it and so have many of my friends. But then you DO get pregnant and have babies and all that trying is a faint memory.
    PS – try Robitussin, the plain kind. Sounds crazy but it works.

  28. Zoe Royall says:

    For lack of wiser words, you need to be able to take a load off so that you can watch things like Amy Poehler and Billy Eichner sing Christmas carols, aggressively. Oh, and a few wise words just came to me: You are great.

  29. A says:

    Hang in there on the trying-to-conceive thing – it’s so tough! It took us a while, and i was TOTALLY stressing about it, and obsessing. I took a step back, picked up a new hobby (guitar lessons with an instructor) and we took a few vacations and I really moved on, even considered a job in a new state – and of course, then it happened… same happened with my sister, stress was a huge factor for us both! easier said than done – but you’ll get there!

  30. Justine says:

    Hi Erin
    Love your honesty and how much you care about what you do. Yes, we all need to look after ourselves a little more. And I just thought of something random, but it may make you laugh. In South Africa we say that you “fell pregnant” not that you “got pregnant”, so maybe you just need a few little falls, like the one today to keep you going in the right direction. Best of luck falling :-)

  31. Susan says:

    Erin,

    Love and appreciate your honesty…and I think almost everyone reading this can relate to how your feeling. It’s a wonderful time of year, but a tough one too. Rest, relaxation and yoga will do wonders for you. You should definitely check out Dawn Davis’s yoga class at the Windsor club (Weds and Fri at 9:30). Your office is across the street so you have no excuse…and I promise, you won’t regret it! :) Hope to see you there. Merry Christmas!

  32. Yes, you must do this…and just remember that all of these people that post “perfect pictures” and seem “perfectly” put together have days just like you do. You only get to see the snippets of pretty in peoples lives because that’s what we do. We always want to show our best selves or our best outfit, best home…etc. So enjoy your break and REST!

  33. Couldn’t have said it better myself! Wishing peace, patience, and joy in the coming year! :)

  34. Becky says:

    I think most designers end up doing this to themselves, its a curse heightened by the holiday season.

    Don’t think of it as ‘wasted time’ think of it as an investment in the company, because a rested Erin will have more energy and clarity to create. Plan time away with the Hubbs to get inspired and go antiquing in some quiet Vermont town, or down to Florida for some sunshine in West Palm to search for some new treasures. I got pregnant twice on vacation because I wasn’t thinking about it and was actually living in the moment. The drinks helped too.

  35. Julia says:

    Presidents Day in February is the perfect 3 day weekend to get on a direct flight to the Caribbean! I tried for years to get pregnant and finally took the IVF route which ended up working and now I have an 11 month old. Well, about 3 months ago my hubs and I took a week vacation and now I’m pregnant. You’re right; our bodies definitely know when we are stressed! You deserve a vacation. I promise we’ll all be here waiting when you get back.

  36. Maggie says:

    It took me 6 1/2 years to get pregnant. Anyone who has spent more than two years unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant and who has not been given a good reason for things not working needs to check out this website – http://www.repro-med.net. I have no connection with this place except that I owe the existence of my three children (all born after I turned 40) to this place. Dr Alan Beer (who, sadly, died a few years ago) was a brilliant and understanding, compassionate man who’s innovative thinking led to the birth of many babies. The clinic that he started still carries on his work.

    The Alan Beer Clinic addresses an area of infertility that most fertility doctors know little about and never investigate – the immune system. You don’t have to go to the clinic to be treated by them. The first step is a bunch of blood tests to determine if there are any immune issues going on that could prevent someone from getting pregnant or from carrying a baby to term. If nothing comes back positive in the blood tests then they will let you know and you can proceed investigating other areas with other doctors. They only work with fertility problems related to the immune system. They advise and work with your doctors on the protocols to prevent auto-immune issues from preventing your dream of having a baby coming true. It’s possible to have auto-immune issues going on in your body and have no obvious symptoms or idea that you have anything problematic in that area.

    The website is pretty dense with medical information. That’s because they have learned a lot over the years about immunological infertility. Dr Beer told me that he started out as a young man working for a Nobel Prize-winning researcher who was working on a way to prevent organ rejection by recipients of transplanted organs. They hoped to do this by studying the immune systems of pregnant women. In order to get pregnant and carry a baby to term the immune system has to do a complicated series of things to allow an “other” to exist and thrive in the mother’s body. They hoped to replicate the process in the immune systems of transplant recipients.

    Dr. Beer used what he learned during that research to help women whose immune systems are a little, or a lot, aggressive and prevent things from working properly for pregnancy.

    As I said, I have nothing to gain from any connection with this clinic. It’s just that I remember the pain and frustration of the years of trying to get pregnant with no good explanation for why it wasn’t happening — and I’m sorry, but stress isn’t an answer. People under massive stress get pregnant all the time, like victims of rape. Blaming infertility on stress just blames the woman, who’s already suffering enough and doesn’t need any blame but instead, some compassion. I quit my job, tried every alternative therapy and good diet out there, but it did nothing to help me get pregnant.

    Dr.Beer told me once that through his years of research and experience he believed that the human reproductive system was “over-built for success.” So when someone is having trouble getting pregnant there is still a lot of hope, something can almost always be corrected and then the system will work fine. But, the MOST important thing is to get the right diagnosis. IVF by itself will do nothing to help you if you have an immune issue causing you problems.

    Good luck to everyone out there struggling with this heart-breaking issue! I wish I had been more aggressive earlier about getting a good diagnosis for myself. I hope this information saves some other women a few years of needless heartbreak.

  37. Jennifer says:

    I feel the same way and have for at least a year when I started working again. I mistakenly thought that when my kids were school age that I’d have time for myself. Nope! Now, I’m “that mom” and “that employee” who can’t get it together. Actually, if I type any more I’m going to be late for car line!

  38. Ilaria says:

    Enjoy a break. Breath in, breath out…

  39. Jenn says:

    Hi Erin,

    Just wanted to say how amazingly generous I think it is that you share so much of your reality with your readers. All too often, I’ve felt the same way about so much of what you’ve said here, and your honesty, at least for me, is very reassuring and one of the reasons I read your blog every day (and trust me–I have stopped reading a lot of other blogs for this reason). I hope the new year brings you everything you’re hoping for!

  40. Elizabeth says:

    So I started seeing a therapist this summer, mostly regarding my general anxiety. Then when I went through a hugely stressful situation this fall (house flooded, mold, I have kids and am pregnant, ack!!!) she gave me some advice that helped tremendously. I’d been seeing my type-A, perfectionist personality as something I needed to change. I always thought that when it got down to brass tacks, if I wanted to be “better” (happy go lucky never stressed parrot head person) I would have to kick that tight ass person to the curb, or at least down a notch. My husband would say he’d rather I got a lot less done and be less stressed than be an overachiever and occasionally freak out.

    But in my heart I knew I could never do that. I LOVE that I get shit done and it’s excellent. I am not lazy and I take pride in it. I love having things just so and doing way more than the average person. And my therapist saw that. She introduced the idea that I could still be myself, which I (and others around me) get a lot of value from. She asked me to start looking at my reactions to situations. Can I bust my ass and feel calm inside? Can I take away a lot of the stress by participating in less drama? It has been revolutionary because like I said I wasn’t going to fundamentally change a personality characteristic that I get so much out of. But I can try to cut out the extra shit I do that doesn’t serve me.

    I thought this seemed really applicable to you as it sounds a bit like you’re berating yourself for traits that have brought you tremendous and exceptional success.

    Also – there’s likely some explanation for why you aren’t getting pregnant by now, but I would bet almost anything it’s NOT something you’re doing or not doing (besides medical treatments). If it feels good, prepare the womb and all that jazz but it comes down to luck, and in the absence of that, science. This coming from a prenatal yoga teacher who’s as hippy dippy as they get. Blaming yourself and getting on the “what woo woo thing will fix my brokenness” treadmill won’t help, I promise. xo

  41. coopermurf says:

    DEFINITELY read taking control of your fertility-great book- and sit on the couch and eat lots of Ben and Jerrys! it took us a year to have our first child. at first, i was pissed when a dr told me it was probably because i was too skinny. pissed me off! i am naturally this weight how dare she blame me. i was also in a hugh stress job so keeping extra pounds on was not easy. well, i eat a ton of ben and jerrys at night-which was as fun as it sounds, i gain ten pounds. my BMI index went into normal area and we got pregnant! the next three have come easy but i had to get to the magic weight. just my two cents in case it helps. you will have a baby or more!! xo

  42. Squeak says:

    Being almost 60, not particularly pretty and not particularly slim has helped me see life in a whole new light. Life is NOT a competition. If you treat it like it is, you will discover that you always feel like a failure. Because there’s always going to be someone out there who is prettier than you are, slimmer than you are, has accomplished more than you have, achieved success faster than you have, made more money than you have, gotten pregnant sooner than you have, etc. Somewhere along the line, somebody has decided that these are the things we all should strive for, and so we do. And in the process, we make ourselves insane. Decide what it is YOU want the most. Pursue the two or three things that you TRULY want and let all the rest fall by the wayside. Let everyone else compete while you concentrate on being happy.

  43. Leah says:

    Hi Erin,

    Regarding your pregnancy woes…I understand. I have to recommend a book to you that will help empower you (if you don’t already own it). It’s called Taking Charge of Your Fertility. You will learn an amazing amount of information about your body. I highly, highly recommend it. I started reading it when I was at a low point and it really helped, because I was learning something! It was empowering. Pick up a copy asap.

  44. Amy says:

    I’m with you girl. I told my husband this weekend I think I need to be medicated. He laughed. I was serious. My mind never shuts down and it’s gotten worse the older I’ve gotten. I’m only 28. Word. My anxiety can get so bad I get actual chest pain. It’s ridiculous. Anyways- I know how you feel. Hugs.

  45. Meditation, read, walks in all kinds of weather….that’s what I do….in short little bursts….but it helps me to remember that all is well, and that, really, nothing is all that important that i need to have anxiety. That being said, don’t ever stop writing your blog!! ha.

  46. Katie says:

    Hi Erin,
    I am a regular reader and fan, though I never post. Have you read about the research of Alic Domar, a Boston doc who studies the relationship between stress and women’s health issues, including infertility? The research was so compelling to me, I immediately address my work stress situation. I decided to do the “minimally acceptable” level of work – which is hard to do for a lot of us. I find it much easier to make changes/decisions when it is backed by excellent data and research. I definitely enjoyed a change in stress level and was fortunate to soon get pregnant.
    Dr. Domar, whom I never met, has a practice in Boston: http://www.domarcenter.com/about/staff/alice_domar.html
    Best wishes!

  47. Sally Jarvis says:

    Take a break, sweet baby girl.Don’t ever let your identity be wrapped up in your work…RELAX, have fun, and know all those projects, deadlines, etc. will be there tomorrow. The blog/ design world is a rough one and I have concluded not necessarily healthy. Don’t let it get the best of you. Be yourself, and get you priorities right…in the end it will save your life. You are talented, real, and because of that, one of my favorite reads…emphasis on real – not perfection. Perfection is totally unreal and totally unrelateable. Praying for an expanded family in 2014. Let go and let it happen. If it doesn’t, God has other plans. Truly! sally

  48. M says:

    I’m so sorry you’re having trouble getting pregnant. Such a hard and sad thing to experience. I hesitate to recommend something that may increase your stress, but I had luck with the clear blue easy fertility monitor. Another big help was the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility”. It teaches you all about knowing the signs of ovulation. Anyway, Erin, I wish you luck and I have a good feeling that it will happen for you.

  49. diane says:

    Oh Erin, as someone who is much older than you I can understand what you are going through and offer some hope that things do get better. But only you can “train” yourself to stop striving for perfection as you will never get there and to force yourself to enjoy the things around you. That simply comes with experience and wisdom which, sadly, usually comes with time and age. As tired as you are, perhaps you are pregnant now?

    I have been reading a lot this year from bloggers feeling the need to make excuses because their house is not as perfect as what they are seeing on line and they feel they must justify that. Who says that the pics we see are the ones deemed perfect? Beauty and perfection are in the eye of the beholder. As designers we should all know better than to compare ourselves and our spaces with others.

    I wish for you peace and contentment and the newfound ability to find some time to truly stop and smell the roses. It will make you a better designer, a better wife, daughter and friend and ultimately a better mother.

    Enough of the motherly lecture…..have a happy holiday.

  50. Barbara Travis says:

    Someone once said 80% is good enough. Stop trying for perfection – it’s a myth. You’ll be amazed at how relaxed you will feel once you give yourself permission to say “you know it’s not perfect but I’m good with 80%.

    Breathe.

    Barbara (Canada)