A month has already whizzed by and it is time for another Maven, so for my June Maven I want to introduce to you Mandi, a woman I admire quite a bit. I am excited to introduce her to you. Some of you already know her and I’m excited for you to get to know her even more!
Mandi, for those who might be meeting you for the first time, tell us a bit about the websites you run and the writing you do:
I am the founder and publisher of Life…Your Way, a magazine-style site with 10 channels and 20 contributors. We talk about everything from organizing and decorating to success and motherhood, all with the underlying theme of being intentional in the decisions we make.
You live in beautiful West Virginia. What would you say that you love about that area the most?
We moved to West Virginia almost four years ago and built a house on our own little piece of heaven. For a long time, I was embarrassed by the stereotypes and what people might think when they heard that we lived in West Virginia, though — so much so that when people asked where I was from, I would almost always reply, “I’m from the D.C. area, but we live in West Virginia.”
However, I’ve come to appreciate the rich heritage of this state (West Virginia was actually formed when the people stood up and refused to secede from the Union with the rest of Virginia during the Civil War), and there’s no denying that it’s one of the most beautiful states in our country. Now I proudly call wild, wonderful West Virginia my home, and I hope I never take the beautiful landscape that surrounds our home for granted!
One of the things I love most about your websites is how I can tell marriage is very important to you. Through your eight years of marriage what have you two learned that helps you continually grow together and strengthen your relationship?
Sean and I married young, and — maybe because of that — it seems like all we heard from other people was that marriage was hard and a lot of work. There’s no denying that that’s true, but I’m also continually surprised by how happy and in love we still are. We’ve had our rough times, but my husband can still make my heart beat when he walks into a room or touches me, and I try not to take that for granted!
One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is that without care and intentionality, everything in life deteriorates over time, and it’s true for marriages as well. We’ve learned to talk about our relationship, and I’m not afraid to say, “We’re not really connecting; can we make some time to just focus on each other?”
Another lesson is one that I talk about often and that’s never, ever speaking poorly about my husband in public. I don’t participate in husband-bashing, and I don’t share my frustrations or gripes with other people. There’s a big difference between having a trusted confidante — one who is willing to give you honest feedback — and bashing just for the sake of bashing. I’m so thankful that my mom taught me that lesson through her own example.
How do you make working from home work for you? Any tips for the rest of us?
You know, I’m in a place now where I really have the best of both worlds: I work from home as our family’s primary breadwinner, but that also means that my husband is home all day to help with the kids, chores and design projects.
I did, however, work from home for many years without the benefit of someone else watching out for the kids, and I’d say having clear non-negotiables — things you’re not willing to give up for work, no matter what — and being willing to sacrifice “me time” rather than family time are both really important principles. I share a lot more of my tips for balancing work and family in my ebook, How to Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too, as well.
When you DO get to relax, what is your guilty pleasure to let yourself wind down?
Well, I love a “triple nonfat white chocolate mocha with no whip” from Starbucks, and sipping one of those is definitely a treat I look forward to from time to time, even when I don’t have a lot of time to relax. I also love to read, and with the advent of e-readers, I find myself reading several books a week once again, which is really my favorite way to relax and recharge.
With your four beautiful girls what little moments are really special to you as a mother?
I really love to watch them interact with each other. There’s plenty of bickering and fighting, but when I look out the window and see all four of them swinging and singing, “I’m walking on sunshine, whoa-oh” at the top of their lungs, or when I discover two of them huddling in the corner whispering back and forth, that really just makes my heart want to burst.
As a homeschooling mom, I’ve had the privilege of teaching two of them to read so far, and there’s really nothing better than that light bulb moment when they sound out their first word!
You run extremely successful blogs. What advice would you give to someone that wants to gain readers and make them “stick” (come back for more)?
I think the key to building a loyal readership is to inspire your readers. Your blog could inspire them through tutorials and how-tos for organizing and saving money, or it could inspire them to pursue their creative outlet through beautiful pictures and words. Whatever your passion is — whether it’s motherhood or decorating or living a green life — look for ways to inspire and empower your readers, and that will keep them coming back for more.
Lastly, what is your #1 thing you hope to accomplish this summer with your family?
Coming out of an extremely busy work season, we have a “good-busy” summer planned with lots of activities, adventures and field trips as a family. Even though being busy and on the go adds a little bit of extra stress to my life as a working mom, I want to use this time to focus on my family rather than work. I’m determined to capture as much as I can in photos and create a summer photo album in the fall so that we can look back and remember this as a fun summer!