Oh my goodness gracious WHAT. A. YEAR. Clearly a pretty hellacious 2020 for literally the entire world. Is that not so crazy to think about? The entire Planet Earth at a complete standstill. Life as we knew it halted on a dime. Three short months ago what seemed like an impossibility to most became our everyday lives. And in some ways I can take that “WHAT. A. YEAR.” back literally a solid year to May 2019 and say the very same things about my personal life. Life halted on a dime. What seemed like an impossibility in my own personal life became my reality. So I wanted to do a little LIFE UPDATE… one full year later. It’s been a little bit since I’ve chatted about all the things so I wanted to do what I love doing and just write away. So here goes…
Me… I am good. Really really really good. I wish the me of today could tell the me of last May that I would say those words today… one year later. I so wish I could tell her that she would in fact be good. And not just good but really happy and really really really content. Yet I also know that she needed to go through all of the motions to get to today. To go through the bad days to realize that I could do it. That I could weather the storm and force myself to stay positive and be alone and be OKAY. I can honestly say that growing up and watching my mom be such a pillar of strength and level headedness (is that a word?!?) and just pure GRACE has been true #goals for my own personal roadmap trying to navigate life. There have been moments where I have wanted to shout all the things from all the mountaintops but I had to go back and quite literally delete paragraphs and paragraphs from these very pages and just call it a “win” simply for allowing myself to vent. To myself and only myself.
Over the last year the two things that I have had to allow myself the most are grace and forgiveness. Grace in letting myself be and feel whatever I needed to be and feel in the moment yet also making myself come right on back to who I am and who I strive to be. And then forgiveness. Forgiveness for not loving myself sooner and for not standing up for myself and for letting myself be here today at 38 years old. I was 28, Addie was a toddler and I was a stay at home mom who had just taken a “side gig” with a clothing company as a trunk keeper to make extra money as we navigated through the recession as small business owners. I was 28 and I should’ve walked out then. I could have had my entire 30’s to start life over. Still to this day I kick myself sometimes. Yet then I remember and remind myself all that I wouldn’t have today. First and foremost and really just the one and only thing… I of course wouldn’t have had Winnie. The End. Regret over. Yet if I allow myself to continue the regret even for a second I remember that I wouldn’t have had years to grow as a woman, years to find myself and years to experience so much hurt that as I sit here today I am able to experience that much more joy. I also wouldn’t have this career. This career that continues to allow me to pursue my dreams and do what I love and most of all… stay home with my girls. Forever and ever and ever thankful for that.
I started this blog almost six years ago now during one of the worst times of my life and I can honestly say once again that this blog “saved me”. It gave me an outlet and a voice and a career and over the course of years… confidence. Confidence that allowed me to walk away when it all happened all over again. Yes, I so wish I could be 28 again and restart life as I have done this past year. Yes, I so wish I could have had a lifelong marriage to the father of my children BUT I can’t and I won’t and this day… one year later… I can honestly say that I am 1,000% okay with all of the above. I have seen the other side of being hurt over and over again and that other side is full of everything I have ever wanted. Which leads right in to the next part of my life update… my boyfriend.
My Boyfriend… Ugh that word is soooo not my favorite. LOL. As I said above, I think that once you go through crap, your appreciation for better days brings next level joy. Forging ahead in my personal life and then forging ahead into sharing that on social media and my blog was terrifying at first. But then again, I had to remind myself that I have shared so so so much over the last six years so hey… what’s sharing one more part of my story? Once again, y’all have given me so much additional strength in doing so. In sharing my next steps in life. I know from sooooo many IG DM’s that lots of you are in the same boat. Navigating life as a newly single woman and/or newly single mom. I absolutely LOVE being even the tiniest beacon of hope that it’s okay to walk away and it’s okay to move on and it’s okay to trust again and it’s just plain OKAY.
I can jump in with all of the disclaimers and say all of the things about how I know we’ve only been dating for six months and it took me decades to discover things in my last relationship so who knows and who knows what the future holds for us and all the things… BUT what is life if we don’t move forward with open arms and an open heart? For me, moving forward with trust alone seemed an impossibility. An absolute impossibility. Then last October I met the most wonderful man. The kindest man who is as appreciative for me as I am for him. A man who fills me up in every way that I have been let down. A man that treats me and my girls with so much love and respect that I have had to pinch myself daily. Quite literally. We have SO much fun together and we have SO much in common that it all seems like a dream at the moment. I remember walking through New Orleans with him last November and just feeling so early on that we had something special. An emotional connection and an attraction that has quite honestly been a true Godsend.
It’s so strange because in some ways, last May seems like yesterday. And then in other ways, it seems like another lifetime. I truly feel that over the last year, I have started life completely over and it has quite honestly made me giddy. There’s just something about him and about us that has given me a perma-smile from deep within my soul and for the first time in a loooong time, I am SO excited about the future. There aren’t enough words for me to describe how precious he is. Everyone in my life who has spent any time with him absolutely adores him. He is so level headed and real and genuine and just freaking nice. So nice and loving and… okay I will stop now 😉
Like I have said time and time again, I don’t know what the future holds but I do know that he makes me freaking HAPPY. Next level HAPPY. And we are most definitely taking steps forward. Marriage is not in my even remotely immediate plans but we are moving forward one day at a time with a future together in the back of our minds and the “back of our plans”.
The Girls… My girlies are really really good. The last year has been a huge transition of course but they have handled it all in their own unique ways and I am so beyond proud of them both. In having the impossibly difficult divorce conversation with each of them, I shared the future but not the past. I shared the facts but not any reasoning. Winnie, at seven years old and as one of the naturally happiest kids on Earth, has just remained Winnie. Just plain happy and oblivious to life’s struggles. She is just happy to have more people in her life and another place to call home and all the things. Addie has had a bit more of a difficult time. But she is coming around now and with a good bit of counseling and honestly just time is doing really good.
Lots of what I am sharing is me having all of y’alls DM’s on IG in the back of my mind and trying to answer it all with as much grace as possible. One question that I have gotten over and over again is how I introduced my boyfriend to the girls. I think that coming out of a divorce and into a new dating life with kiddos is soooooo different from situation to situation. For me, Winnie is always just “happy to be here” and loves everyone so it was nothing for her to have someone new in her life. And then with Addie, she had BEGGED me to simply keep her informed and involved in everything that I did moving forward. She was terrified of me jumping into something serious with someone I had not let her meet early on so I have made a point to chat with her and check in her with her at every step along the way. She is one of those kids that needs to know “everything” to feel safe and secure so meeting who I am dating early on was really important to her. Oh and I have to add that she was just named to the “Top of School” list for 6th grade meaning that she had a cumulative average of over a 95 for 6th grade. So so so proud of her particularly after such hard year.
Work… Whew, I feel like I have been typing all day! Next up on my update list is WORK. My blog and my store and all of my new adventures.
First Up, My Blog… Still up and running of course! It’s been a transition for me over and over again from juggling the blog while working on opening my brick & mortar store last Fall to juggling it with being a single mom to now juggling it with homeschooling BUT my blog is and will continue to be a top priority for me as a platform for my career overall. And like I said, I am forever and ever thankful for that!
Next, My Store and Event Space… Gosh it has been a roller coaster to say the least here lately. I had always wanted to turn Addison’s Wonderland into a brick & mortar but of course who knew that a freaking pandemic would hit?!? I made a pretty early decision to close our doors back in early March and although Georgia has somewhat “reopened”, we remain closed today. It hasn’t exactly been ideal to continue on with rent and utilities and such with now being closed for close to two months but I know that most small business owners are in the same boat and I just pray that we can resume business before it all takes too much of a toll on each of us!
Finally, Upcoming Projects… We have quite a few in the works actually! One really exciting one, all fingers and toes crossed, is something that I cannot chat about quite yet but I PROMISE to share the details once I hear one way or another! Another is the along the same lines but I will share more soon. I say all of that to say that Abigail and I have been working on lots here lately. It’s just not all seen and posted. Which of course makes for an even crazier year with two kiddos at home! But no complaints… thankful for any and every opportunity that is thrown my way!
Of course one big project that Abigail announced a week or so ago is her new home!!! It is such a cute cottage that has sooooo much potential! Her and her boyfriend have been working so many nights and weekends fixing it up. She will be sharing more updates on the blog and on my IG stories SOON!
And FINALLY, A BIG ANNOUNCEMENT… I have a new renovation project under contract! A cabin that I absolutely fell in LOVE with last week. Real estate is deemed essential here in Georgia and Abigail is a real estate agent on the side so we had the opportunity to get out of the house last week, literally the day before Georgia officially “opened back up”, to go with her and my man up to my favorite North Georgia mountain community to view some vacant properties on the market. I had narrowed my list to five and shared all of the tours on my IG stories last week. I am thankful that we did because it had quite a few showings the day after I went and looked at it! I got my offer in quick and it was accepted!
Navigating life and then work/business this last year has been a tricky one. It is now just me, myself and I so financial and business decisions weigh a little heavier now. As I shared way back several years ago, when I was 20 years old, my now ex and I started a kitchen company. From literally nothing. It was a ROUGH go full of lots of learning and lots of failures but also in the end, a lot of successes. In our divorce I sold my half of our company to him. For those successes and what I was in turn able to take away in our divorce with that sale, I am forever grateful. I do not take lightly the opportunities and experiences I now have in life due to the company we built and the success it has had. In moving forward now without ownership in that company, I am carving a new path for myself. One that I am continuously praying about and quite literally just crossing my fingers all falls into place.
Having said all of that, I have like I chatted about above, decided to purchase an investment property. My dream and goal over the last few years was to scoop up, fix up and rent out quite a few properties and that goal has not changed. It just now looks a little differently. I had a wonderful experience renting out a cabin we had renovated several years ago and I now hope to recreate that once again. Our cabins were sold after our divorce so I am excited to hop back on that train once again. An investment like this is kind of two or three fold for me. For one, it is lots and lots of blog content! And then of course for another thing, it is rental income and and then of course a long term investment. I am not blind to the fact that blogging will not likely be a forever career for myself or possibly anyone in this same industry. Therefore I am trying my best to slowly build up what I can with this platform while I can. And one last part of this business puzzle is that Abigail and I are praying into tackling interior design. Interior design has and always will be a first business love for me but it has just looked differently these last few years than when I first graduated with a degree in design. I was all about a career in interior design way. back in 2005 but that has slowly of course evolved into something else. HOWEVER, it is always still in my heart and on my mind and something that very well may be a part of Addison’s Wonderland sooner than later!
Oh and one last thing… I need a project name for the cabin! I had “named” my last one “Our Wilderness Wonderland” so I need some fun new ideas!
Whew, thank y’all SOOOO much for reading and following along and here is a tour of my new renovation project!
XOXO, Brittany Hayes