In June, we will hear many thoughtful, compelling voices.

The first is Christine Vick, a stay-at-home to four kids who also enjoys editing and writing for the organizing website Store and Style she and her sister co-founded last November.  If she has a spare moment, she loves to cook, read and take walks.

After you read Christine's story, will you share your thoughts with her and us?  In leaving a comment, not only will you be eligible for a $75 gift certificate to a spa of your choice, you will be listening to another's voice — and what better gift can we give to another than to listen?

***

My college self would be disappointed with my life today.

Back then, I had it all mapped out:  graduate in three years with a B.A. in English (check).  Serve a mission for the L.D.S. church (check).  Get an M.A. in English Literature (check).

But then I started to go off course:  Get a PhD (ummm…)  Secure a tenure track position by the time I'm 28 (ummm…again).  Have three kids (oops, four) and a white picket fence (nope).

Turns out my 18 year-old self couldn't see the whole picture.  Like that I'd be burned out by academia after my master's degree and feel miserable about applying for PhD programs.  Or that I'd quite like what I imagined then would be very mundane tasks:  cooking, decorating, organizing and hanging out with my kids.  I rarely say this out loud, but I don't even mind cleaning (except for doing the laundry–which is my Achilles heel).

ChristineVick1
Image courtesy of and copyrighted by LaNola Kathleen Stone.

When I was younger, I dismissed any field or career that was less than rigorously academic as “fluff”.  I don't know where I got this idea, because my parents have encouraged all my efforts and never pushed me in any direction. Nevertheless, this philosophy guided my early decisions and left me feeling like a failure when I found my studies unfulfilling.

By the second year of my MA program, I was unhappy, frustrated and fed up, but I couldn't admit (even to myself) that I wanted to quit.  The dream of being a professor had always defined me, and letting it go made me panic.  What would I do?  How could my life be relevant?

Pride played a big role too.  I'd always been so vocal about my goals (I'm still learning the value of saying less, a lot less) that I was just plain embarrassed not to follow through.  Especially when my fellow students were busy being accepted into PhD programs across the country.

My pain eased a bit when I moved East and took a part-time job with a small community newspaper.  I was no longer surrounded by academics and it became clear that most people aren't concerned with the roles of Renaissance women, applying continental philosophy to modern texts or deconstructing old English manuscripts.  They're just trying to earn a living, balance hectic lives, and find a little free time.

Two years ago I was approached by a friend of a friend who was starting her own magazine about organizing (a favorite topic and hobby of mine).  She was looking for part-time editors and wondered if I'd be interested.

I said yes immediately.

One of the highlights of the job was a trip to North Carolina to interview the Flylady, Marla Cilley.  It was my first “business” trip, albeit with my 6 month-old in tow.  I enjoyed meeting Cilley who was fun, vivacious and full of empathy, hanging out with my boss, eating out, overcoming my fear of prop planes, and seeing the Biltmore Estate in Asheville.  It actually seemed more like a vacation than work, since I normally spend my days in Cinderella mode;  scrubbing, cooking, chauffeuring and trying to be patient with lots of little people with lots of needs.

ChristineVick2  Image courtesy of and copyrighted by LaNola Kathleen Stone.

Being a part of Organize not only gave me the experience to start my own website Store and Style, it taught me a valuable lesson:  for a task to be valuable, it doesn't have to be weighty, solemn, or make history.

It just has to be important to me.  If it's fun too, even better.

I love editing–knowing what to add, move around or rework so an article shines. I love organizing–helping people see how a little order can make life easier and more enjoyable.  And I love making school lunches, reading to my son on the front porch while waiting for the bus, baking cookies and painting my daughter's fingernails.  Lucky for me, my life can encompass all of these activities.

Looking back, I'm glad I didn't pressure myself into starting a PhD program–I know I would have quit.

I'm also glad my college self is no longer in charge.

***

Christine's comment about what she likes to do versus what she thought she should like to do is a valuable insight.  Have you ever made a list of what you enjoyed doing each day (made you happy/was satisfying) and subsequently compared that list with what you've stated publicly makes you happy.  I have. Yup — there were a few surprises.

And yes, LaNola Kathleen Stone's images are of Christine and her children in their home.