Happily Ever Never Available Now!

Happily Ever Never is now available on Amazon, iBooks and Google Play!

Google Play

Janna Hargrove’s life wasn’t a fairy tale, not even close. She’d never imagined her life would have it’s happily ever after moment. Until she met Ryan. The moment their eyes met, everything changed. She knew he was the one – he was her happily ever after.

Five years into their two-year plan, Ryan finally popped the question. The moment was everything Janna had dreamed of. She had the man, the ring, the wedding date, the house, the career and the plan for 2.5 kids living in suburbia bliss. Everything was just as she’d always dreamed, designer dress and all.

Everything she’d ever wanted was within reach.

Until it wasn’t.

Adventures in Breastfeeding

The familiar feeling of an impending letdown alerted me that I was now thirty minutes past my normal pumping time. My shirt and bra were getting tighter and the pain was beginning to distract me from my current task. I glanced towards the back of the office to the room that was supposed to be reserved as the “Mother’s Room.” It had a sign posted and a reservation schedule by the door – because my boss thought it would be too awkward to have the room listed on the calendar as “Mother’s Room.” He’d nearly vomited at my original suggestion of “The Milk Barn.”

I sighed audibly and got up. As I walked back to the room I contemplated all the mean faces and side eyes I would give the person who’d ignored every sign and was occupying the very room I needed. My irritation was growing by the second and I almost pitied the person on the other end. Almost.

I knocked quietly and waited. No answer. I knocked again. After the second non-response, I tried the handle. The door was locked. Awesome. I knocked one last time, but again, no answer. Someone had locked the door and closed it behind them as they left. I could feel my eyes starting to burn as my breasts reminded me again that I desperately needed to pump. Taking a deep breath to quell the tears, I found our office manager and asked for the key to the room.

“We don’t have one,” he said. “How badly do you need in there?”

My face flushed and I had to again force back tears, “Pretty badly.”

My co-workers, sensing my frustration, sprung into action. They tried to jimmy the lock with a paperclip, personal credit cards and random keys found in the office. Nothing worked. My pumping room was locked down tighter than a white collar prison, with my pump and supplies inside. Had they been at my desk, I likely would have just popped by boobs out and started pumping in front of everyone.

Maintenance finally showed up an hour later and I ran into the room to relieve the pressure. I may have also given in to the tears that I’d been fighting.

Now that I am nearly seven months into my second go-round as a working, breastfeeding mother, I am quite used to the variety of hurdles that come with this.  am committed to providing for my daughter as I did for my son. I do believe that breast is best (for my children) and worth every sacrifice. But this does not mean I am immune to feeling the stress and frustration.

With both my children, I started new jobs around their fifth month of life. Both times I agonized more about when to tell them I needed to have a space and the time to pump than salaries or benefits. I constantly worry that my need to pump will be an inconvenience to others, but I also find myself becoming highly annoyed when they are inconvenienced or weirded out when I mention my need.

image2While I was pumping for my son, I started traveling for work. Thankfully, I produced enough to have a freezer stash to use for him. Work travel as a pumping mom is a challenge – calling ahead to ensure your hotel room has a refrigerator only to find out upon your arrival that they do not, but you can bring your breast milk down here and we will store it (and accidentally freeze it, meaning it will thaw and spoil before you make it back home), getting excited to learn the airport has a mother’s room only to learn it is in the terminal you are not flying out of. You haven’t fully lived if you’ve never had a twenty-something TSA agent ohh and ahh over how thick your breast milk is, “WOW this looks like whole milk! I normally see watery milk, but this is THICK! And, dang, it’s like a gallon!” all while your boss and co-worker wait patiently for him to finish scanning the bags so everyone can make it to the gate in time.

Aside from the travel challenges, far too many companies do not consider the needs of working mothers. The law requires companies with 50 or more employees to provide a private space that is not a bathroom for mother’s to pump (the laws are a little more intricate than that, but I am going to skip the legal ease), but many either do not care or do not have the space for it.

I am fortunate to work in a corporate setting, but I have seen how difficult it can be for mothers that work in retail or restaurant environments. My career has led to be in those positions momentarily as I am pumping and starting new jobs. During those times, I pumped in my car because the restaurant or store I was in did not have a private space that wasn’t a bathroom or monitored by cameras. These instances were rare inconveniences for me, but for many moms, this is a reality of life every single day and most don’t fight it.

Part of the issue is the fear of asking – similar to one of the arguments of why women are paid less – because we are afraid of making requests or asking for what we deserve. This is something I struggle with regularly, both in pay negotiations and asking for time and space to express milk for my child. At some point, we as women need to stop apologize for existing and start demanding for our proper space.

However, like any mom, I make the best of the situation and make it work. Even if that means pumping in my car in the heat and humidity of a Nashville summer.

An excerpt of this originally appeared on Our Epic Blog and can be found here. 

Happily Ever Never

“Deep down, I knew that you were too good to be true
But every piece and part of me wanted to believe in you
But now it’s happily ever never”

The words played over my car speakers as I sat in traffic. I’d been listening to “Peter Pan” by Kelsea Ballerini on repeat for weeks now.  I’d crank it as loud as my Camry would allow and sing along at the top of my lungs (horribly, sorry fellow commuters).

On this particular day, sometime in early 2017, I heard those two lines a little louder than normal. I started the song over and listened again. The wheels in my brain started turning; a story was unfolding. Who was this girl and how had she fallen for this Peter Pan? How had she ignored the voice that nagged at her?

I sat in traffic and pictured this girl, a girl I’d now named Janna, and the boy, whom I called Ryan. What was their story and how did it fall apart (no spoilers here folks, the book is called Happily Ever Never, you know it’s coming), and more importantly, how does Janna grow?

As I pulled into the parking garage at work, I had a good idea of their story. I pulled out my phone and started making notes as I walked to the elevator and then through downtown Nashville. Their story was so perfectly clear.

When an idea or story comes to me, usually as snipers of scenes or conversations and, almost always inspired by a song, it consumes me (more apologies to those around me) until I get their stories out. The characters nag and nag, filling my brain with dialogue and backstories.

To some, this idea may seem foreign. But, to my fellow imagineers, this is the process. For so long, I ignored these stories or simplified them into short lyrics or stories I told myself and then let fly away. Every once in a while, these stories become too big to stay in my brain and I start writing. And writing. And writing.

That’s what happened with Happily Ever Never. It happened when I wrote it in early 2017 and again now as I’m editing it to share with you.

When I was trying to decide which book to publish next, I’d initially chosen a different manuscript. I had it printed, started editing and stopped. I didn’t love the characters, they didn’t speak to me anymore. Janna kept nagging. I opened the preface that I wrote and started reading. Then chapter one, two, three … you get the idea. She pulled me right back into her story and I knew this was the book I had to share. I’ve now read it four times in the editing and revision process. Four times in a month and I still love it.

My plan is to release in October, so be sure to sign up for my newsletter to get early access to the first three chapters (starting 9/21, I’ll be sharing the first three chapters exclusively with my subscribers).

Stay tuned 💗



The Threenager

My son turned 3 in June. Everyone warned me about this age. Two isn’t the terrible year, they told me, the year of the threenager is. I remember thinking, yeah, two hasn’t really been that bad. I braced myself for three. At least I thought I did.

Nothing could  have prepared me for three. Especially the three that comes after your sweet, gentle soul of an only child becomes a big brother in the months leading up to the big third birthday.

The tantrums. The mood swings. The willful disobedience. The potty training regression. The sleep regression. The behavior regression. The yelling, the hitting, the arguing … I was not prepared for any of it.

Lord, help us all.

I am going to be brutally honest here (judge me if you must), no age or moment has challenged me as a parent more than three. I doubt my decisions daily – both my parenting decisions and my decision to become a parent. This boy tests me in ways I’d never even imagined were possible and I fully understand the words my mother used to say to me when I was a teenager – “I love you always, but I don’t like you right now.”

Typing that I realize just how big of an ungrateful asshole I sound like. But until you’ve been kicked, slapped, screamed at and peed on by your adoring child all within the span of a minute, you have no idea how trying these moments are.

Every once in a while I will start to wonder if maybe my child is worse than the other threenagers I know. Could there be a bigger issue? Then, as if the Facebook Mom Group Gods are listening, a fellow threenager mom posts a story that mirrors the one I’d just barely survived.

Nope, he’s a normal threenager. Thank you Jesus. I think.

But, three isn’t all bad. We have so many amazing moments and are making lifelong memories – this kid is a steel trap and remembers everything. EVERYTHING.

He adores his baby sister and loves to help with her. He can make her smile and laugh in a way neither her father nor I have mastered yet.

He shows compassion for his friends, sister and family. I can already tell he is going to be empathetic and caring towards others.

He gives the best hugs and is always up to a bedtime snuggle. His favorite thing is to give “Avengers” hugs … we have a Hulk big, a Black Widow hug, a Spider-Man hug … you get the idea.

 My son has become his own person – he has ideas and an amazing imagination. He makes up stories and loves telling them to us. My favorite? The one he insisted his teacher hit him and his friend on the head with a broom and ended up in timeout. It took some work, but we finally got him to tell us he’d made up the story. We’re working on learning the difference between the truth and a lie and when and how to use our imagination to make up stories.

We can hold real conversations and he is capable of telling me what he needs. He’s observant to the world around him and can, for the most part, hold his own.

Some days it’s hard to remember that he’s still a toddler. He uses complete sentences and has moments of pure genius as he works through his own logical approach to life. At times, he’s so mature that I forget how quickly he can slip back into threenager mode. I have to constantly remind myself that he is still just three years old and he has all these big emotions that he’s just now learning to cope with and process.

And, I am still learning how to parent a threenager. I’m sure I’ll figure it out sometime around his fourth birthday.

The Simplified Planner

I am and always have been a complete and utter office and school supply addict. I love the feeling of writing with a new pen on a new notebook. It is only rivaled by the feeling of cracking open a new book. Despite this, I’ve never quite found a planner that I could stick with and actually enjoy using.

I have always been scattered between appointments on my phone, work email and calendar and random to do lists. But, as my maternity leave with AB was ending, I knew I needed a better solution. I needed a way to simplify my schedule, the kids’ schedules and my husband’s. Oh, and keep on top of every day tasks at home and work.

Just writing that brings back the anxiety I felt then. How in the world was I going to keep it all straight and organized without losing my mind.

Enter Emily Ley and The Simplified Life. I saw the book at my sister in law’s and fell in love with the aesthetic. Yes, I totally judged the book by its cover … y’all, it’s gorgeous. So, I looked it up on Amazon and read the description. I knew it was exactly what I needed and I ordered it. This was around Christmas time, well before AB was born, and it sat on my dresser unread until April. I had a few weeks left of my leave and I decided to crack it open.

It spoke to me in a way I don’t know that I can explain. They way Emily writes is so relatable and the tips are so easy and simple (it is called the Simplified Life) that I immediately took action. I decluttered my house like a pro. It was cleansing and I was sold. I’ve been following the principles since I returned to work in May. The difference it has made in our life is immeasurable.

I started following Emily and Simplified on Instagram and absolutely fell in love with the Watercolor Floral Planner cover that launched in the 2018-19 Academic Planner. I ordered the daily edition on launch day and not-so-patiently waited until the August 1 launch day … which was just two weeks after I started my new job (more on that in a later post).

Let me start by saying this Planner is gorgeous. The cover is perfect and I need this pattern in every aspect of my life (thanks to May Designs, I’m gettting close with notebooks, tumblers and a phone case). It’s legit one of the prettiest things I have ever seen. The gold accents on the corners and coil are both practical and beautiful.

Aside from the obvious aesthetic benefits, the Simplified Planner is loaded with subtle, simple planning tips. There is prepwork that helps you think through your routines and build a plan that is executable in your daily life. This was crucial for me as I set up my planner.

I start each month by filling in all the important dates – birthdays, work commitments, kid events, etc. – and then on Sunday, I transfer those to each day.

The daily layout is by far my favorite planner layout. The time layout is great for keeping track of work meetings and family commitments and the To Do on the right helps me keep track of daily deadlines and chores.

In addition to the planner, I also purchased the color coding dot stickers, flag stickers and a few other sticker accessory packs … what can I say, I went all in on this Planner madness. Oh, and the Happy Stipe Pilot V5 Pens. I’m a G2 girl, but these pens are amazing as well. I flip between both now.

I can honestly say I’ve never been this organized in my entire life. I could say this is all thanks to the planner, but it’s truly a combination of reading The Simplified Life and using the planner – it’s an unstoppable combination.


Another weird side effect … I actually look forward to finishing tasks so I can mark them off. Pilot Frixon Highlighters are beyond perfect for this … pastel and erasable.

FYI The Calendar year version launches on September 5 at 10am Eastern.

My Kid Won’t do THAT

Y’all remember life before kids? Back when you were on the outside looking in and full of wild ideas and judgement … you know, all those “when I have kids …” moments? Don’t look at me like that, we all thought it. We’ve all said it.

So, to make us all feel better and laugh at ourselves (or, maybe, just at me), I wanted to make a comprehensive list of all the things my kid won’t do that he does, in fact, do.

  • Eat McDonald’s. Weekly. Sometimes twice.
  • Know there are toys in the Happy Meal & he certainly won’t play with them before he eats.
  • Watch TV.
  • Have a tablet.
  • Throw a tantrum.
  • Throw a tantrum in the middle of Target.
  • Scream in a restaurant.
  • Run away from me in a restaurant.
  • Wake up at 4am. Every. Single. Day. Of. His. Short. Life.
  • Have a pacifier.
  • Suck her fingers/thumb.
  • Have play weapons.
  • Take over the house with toys.
  • Eat different dinners/meals than the rest of us. I will NOT cook two dinners.
  • Eat candy. Definitely not as an entire meal.
  • Be bribed. I would NEVER bribe my child with any of the above tactics. Nope. I will never negotiate with candy, toys or screen time.
  • Eat in the car.
  • Tell strangers about his penis.
  • Lick the handicap railing in the restroom at Costco. )Wait, that’s super specific. Who’s kid did that? That’s horrible. Yeah, that was my kid and I had no idea I was supposed to add that to the My Kid Won’t do That List.

What are some of the things you swore your kid wouldn’t do, but totally does?

Girls’ Night Out – Lisa Steinke & Liz Fenton

It’s been a hot minute or year since I read an actual, physical book that wasn’t nonfiction. Audio books have been a staple of my life for the last year and I found that I can only listen to nonfiction while driving … because I like to imagine the fiction and that doesn’t exactly bode well for being behind the wheel. If you check out my Good Reads list you’ll see a plethora of political memoirs with a few fun books mixed in. Not going to like, this makes me feel a wee bit smarter than I was before. Can’t say for sure whether or not that statement is rooted in actual fact.

I recently took a new job with a nine (9!!!!) minute commute, which all but annihilated my audio book time. So, I needed to fill that void and to be honest, I have really missed getting lost in a good women’s fiction novel. I suggested an online book club to my mom group and BAM I’m back in the business of reading for FUN!

But, I digress.

The first book we chose to read was Girls’ Night Out by Lisa Steinke and Liz Fenton. The book is centered around three friends – Ashley, Lauren and Natalie. Ashley and Natalie have a business together called BloMe (for real) and have a big offer from Revlon that could change their lives for the better, if only they both agreed on the outcome. Lauren is recently widowed and we quickly learn that she had a falling out with her two best friends at her husband’s funeral – but, we don’t learn the details until much later in the book.

I have read a few of Lisa & Liz’s books and I have enjoyed each one. I love their method of storytelling from multiple characters and perspectives. The writing is seamless, but each character’s personality is distinct. The same is true in GNO. Early on Ashley, Natalie and Lauren are all well-developed and defined. And they stay true to character throughout the book.

When I first started reading GNO, I was afraid I was about to embark on the female version of The Hangover. Natalie wakes up along on the beach after a night of drinking. Her dress is wet and she is covered in sand and has no memory of how she got there. She also quickly discovers that Ashley is missing. From there the book turns into the mystery thriller I was expecting.

(I am going to attempt to write this review without giving away any spoilers … but, just in case, you’ve been warned).

Although the book dives right into Ashley going missing, I felt the first few chapters dragged a little and I was speed reading to get to the reveals (Why was Lauren so mad at Ashley? Why was Natalie so desperate for this Revlon deal to happen and why was Ashley so against it?). The book wove in and out of timelines as well as character POVs in order to set the stage for Ashley’s disappearance, so it takes some time to get to the juicy bits of the plot. Normally, I can guess the answer to the mystery (an annoying trait I am sure comes from my own desire to be a writer), but not in this case. I was way wrong on what happened with Lauren and Ashley at Lauren’s husband’s funeral and I was only partially right on what happened to Ashley.

As much as I love Lisa & Liz and their writing and dynamic characters, I could not find a single redeeming quality in any of the girls. I found Lauren to be too whiny, Ashley too demanding and Natalie too much of a doormat. I kept reading and waiting for something to flip my opinion, but even in the end, the girls didn’t evolve. They left vacation the

same as they came to it, well almost – can’t really spoil that part for you. This disappointed me. These three girls went through a major life changing event not only on this trip but in the year leading up to it and none of them learned anything or made any efforts to change. Perhaps this is grounded in real life, but I was missing the “lesson,” if you will.

I devoured this book in three days – even stayed up past midnight reading and woke up early to finish it the next day (as a working mom with two kids, midnight is WAY past my bedtime). I enjoyed the shifting perspectives and timelines and the writing kept me turning the page to get to the next reveal. The one negative is that I never actually cared what happened to the characters – I wanted to, but I was more interested in the what than the who. If that makes sense. I loved the story, but not the characters.

In all, I enjoyed GNO and it was a great first read in my return to fiction journey.


Setting the Tone

I try to make my bed every morning. I don’t always succeed, but I try. I do this for two reasons … first, because my son absolutely loves messing up the pillows and it’s his bedtime “treat” and because it helps set the tone for my entire day.

I haven’t done any scientific research, but anecdotally, I have noticed a dramatic difference in my level of productivity on days I make my bed versus days I don’t. I believe (also, not scientific) that this is all psychological.

The visual of the bed being made is usually the last thing as I see as I head out the door and one of the first things I see when I get home. When the bed is made, I feel like I have my shit together. The bedroom feels more orderly and it’s almost inspiring.

Same goes for the dishes. My husband will be the last person to tell you this … though he should be the first, he’s just too nice … I suck at dishes. I suck at cleaning. I suck at housework.

I’ve found that when the dishes and laundry pile up, I won’t do it. Period. I will leave it for him to do. (Sorry hubby).

Conversely, if the dishes are caught up or there’s just one load of laundry, I am all over that shit. I’ll unload the dishwasher and get (unjustly) irritated when my husband leaves dishes in the sink if the dishwasher is dirty and not full. One load of laundry? I’ll fold that bitch as soon as the dryer buzzes.

Since returning to work after AB was born, I’ve been making an effort to stay on top of these things because I know they won’t get done if I don’t. Well, they will, my husband will just do it all (sorry, again). Part of this is due to being insanely inspired by The Simplified Life by Emily Ley (its life changing y’all), but also because I have always felt guilty for not helping more with housework.

That said, I’m still not mopping the floors and I won’t stop asking for a house cleaning service. But, I will (try to) make the bed every day and help keep the dishes and laundry from exploding (like they did this week).

Fears and Anxiety

Worrying comes naturally to me. The worst case scenario always plays first, no matter how hard I try. I’m not a negative person, for the most part, but when it comes to the potential for something bad to happen I always jump strait to that conclusion. This is especially true when it comes to my family.

This summer one fear has haunted me more than others … drowning. It seems every day a new story pops in my feed about a child my son’s age drowning or experiencing dry drowning. We don’t have a pool or even easy access to one, but we’ve been swimming twice this summer and the anxiety I feel leading up to those events is paralyzing. I want to cancel plans. Find excuses. Anything to keep my children far, far away from water.

The worst part of the anxiety is simultaneously worrying that my anxiety will rub off on my child and make him or her afraid of water or anything remotely daring. So, for the most part, I do my best to bury that fear and try not to project it onto them. But, I know it happens. He can hear it in my voice when I tell him to not run by the pool, to stay back, to wait for Mommy and Daddy. He is timid and fearful in the water. It’s my job to make him comfortable and sometimes, my fear causes me to fail.

Aside from projecting my fears onto my child, I am also hyper aware of how much my anxiety annoys my husband. The eye rolls and audible sighs when I reiterate precautions we need to take and things we should be aware of  (rub in the spray sunscreen, watch for dry drowning symptoms after he randomly jumps face first into the water, etc.) don’t help my anxiety, quite the opposite actually. Knowing that he dismisses my fears makes me feel as though I am 100% responsible for ensuring safety, even when I rationally know I am not. By acting as if my anxiety is trivial, he signals his lack of caring or attention. Whether that is the intention or not, that is how I perceive the reaction.

Partners of people with anxiety, don’t do this. As trivial as it may seem to you, it’s not at all trivial to your partner. By ignoring it or dismissing them all you accomplish is exacerbating their anxiety. Be supportive. Listen.

I wish my brain wasn’t wired this way. I wish I could be carefree and cavalier. But, I’m not. Becoming a mom has only compounded this anxiety. Having people I care about gives me more to worry and fret over.

After the fact I can usually see and understand my fears and anxiety were not realized and usually I can start to move forward. Like with flying, the more I have to travel, the quieter my anxiety gets. But, it doesn’t take much to trigger it.

To help the pool anxiety for both my son and me, we’ve signed him up for swim classes. I’m sure I’ll still have anxiety and fear, but I hope I can Chanel that into more productive areas rather than worrying about drowning every single time we head out for a fun day at the pool.


Big Plans

Y’all, I had big plans for my postpartum body. I planned out a year of workouts to get my body back to a state it’s never been in – super fit, toned and in single-digit pants. I was going to be a hot mama and I was going to be the fittest bitch on the block.

This wasn’t my first go round. I should have known better.

But, I didn’t realize that I would need a c-section and a longer recovery. I didn’t account for the fact that I’d be home alone with a newborn in a house full of toddler snacks. Side bar: why the hell are fruit snacks so addictingly delicious.

So, here I am, almost 6 months postpartum and back up to my pregnancy weight (give or take a few pounds). I’m miserable. Not just because my pants don’t fit and my asthma is acting up. No, I’m also really freaking tired. Like, even quad venti lattes don’t keep me going. Two o’clock rolls around and I’m ready for a nap, a pound of chocolate and a caffeine IV.

I so want to love my body where it is now. It grew two humans. It’s still feeding one. It’s accomplished a lot. But, I can’t. I don’t want to look in the mirror. I don’t want to button my pants … if maternity jeans had pockets, I’d still be living in them. I miss being a shape rather than a blob.

I’ve never had self control when it comes to food. If I want it, I eat it. All of it.

My husband loves to say to me, “just don’t eat it, save it.” As if I have a choice. That’s not how my brain works and I want to throat punch him every time he says it. Like, dude, I get it, you are the king of willpower, so it must be that way for everyone, right? Wrong.

My tendency to obsess when I do start controlling my diet leads to a whole slew of other problems. Restriction does not work for me. Period.

So, I have no willpower and will overindulge all day, every day and when I restrict, it becomes an obsession. How do I find balance?

This is the part where I should reveal my secret weapon. The mantra I repeat when I want to eat my weight in Welch’s fruit snacks (“nothing tastes as good as skinny/fit feels” or “fuel your body” or “bullshit, bullshit, bullshit”). The magic bullet. The switch I flip.

But, I don’t have any of these. At least none that stuck.

I’ve tried all of them. More than once. Nothing became permanent.

You know what I haven’t tried? Being happy.

That was weird to write. It was weird to think too, but the second I did, I felt better. Not quite an “A-HA!” moment, but maybe a “hmm, that’s interesting” moment.

It is true, though. I’m always focused on the “when.” I’ll be happy when … I’m skinny, my hair is long, I stop biting my nails, my husband does x, y and z or my kids sleep through the night. Why does happiness have to be centered on attaining something other than what you have now or on becoming someone other than who you are now?

There is always something else to work towards, some way to change something about myself.

If I am not happy now, why do I think a dress size or other external factor will suddenly fix it all. Why is my happiness tied to how I look? Why does my fitness level or body fat percentage define my self worth?

Truth be told, I don’t know the answer to that any more than the answer to why I can’t just not eat something.

What I do know is that I have to change the way I think about myself. I have to learn how to stop letting my decisions be driven by desire for short term happiness or satisfaction.

I need to focus on finding my happy in who I am now because changing the outside will never fix the inside. No matter how big the plans are.