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Let’s Get Personal: 2016 Reflection & Year in Review

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Images: Mathy Shoots People

Well Romancers, we survived the holidays, a long 8+ hour drive back from Vermont, and the roller coaster year that was 2016. Next week I plan to break down my business goals for 2017, but for today, my first post in the new year, I thought I would reflect on the insanity that was last year.

I’ll try to stay away from the political things (I think I’ve posted enough about that) and instead focus on my business – what went right, what went wrong, and what we could have done better. It was a year of change for my business – I said goodbye to my workshops, started new recurring posts (hello Mompreneur series), worked on growing my social media presence (woo hoo hitting 2K+ followers on Instagram!), and tried my hand at a little thing called eCommerce.

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The CapRoShop was (and continues to be) my biggest challenge and growth point from 2016. It was a completely new arm of my business and is something I knew very little about going in, but consequently that means I learned SO MUCH this past year about launching an online ecommerce business. How to stand-up the online instance (SSLs, WooCommerce, Printful, Designs, Penning Product Descriptions, and more), and how to attempt to market the shop (giveaways, collaborations, and OH THE MARKETING) were challenging, stressful, and still very much both of those things. I could have never done with without the help of so many and honestly by the end of 2016 I was mostly just glad I finally was able to launch the damn thing. I have a LOT MORE on my plate with the shop for this year (more in next week’s post on 2017 business goals), but for now I’ll just say that it was one of the biggest things that came out of 2016 for Capitol Romance.

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But really the thing that started it all with regards to CapRo going eCommerce would be that we launched our first ever PRODUCT in 2016, the infamous Capitol Romance Wedding Planner! Born out of an idea that came to me during the Blogcademy, it took a long time to write out all the content and work tirelessly with the insanely talented & amazing Typecase Industries to bring the planner to life. We’ve sold out 3 printings of the planner & released new cover color options. Our “All We Do is Plan Plan Plan” cover is by far our most popular & we look forward to continued sales in 2017!

On the wedding coordination side of the house, we officially welcomed Kara to the CapRo team for 2016 weddings and are excited to share that we hope to have ANOTHER kickass rockstar coordinator on board the team for 2017! We collectively worked 26 weddings last year (up 9 from 2015) and I know we’ll top that in 2017. We continually have the BEST clients in the DC area and I can’t wait to see what our clients cook up for us this year.

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On the personal side of things, I tried to take a step back from the business in 2016. I said goodbye to the DIY workshops (which still live on, thankfully with District Bliss!), and took only a handful of coordination clients. I cut back on blogging too, which will likely continue in 2017 as those with blogs know – blogging is time consuming with a capital T. I hope to continue to have guest bloggers to help (please! submit posts!), but will spend the time instead with that cute ole family you see in this post today.

As always, I have to thank YOU, my readers & supporters for keeping this business alive. It’s the only way this business has survived since 2011 and it’s the only reason it’s still forging on for another year. So thank you guys and I look forward to a new year of learning, challenges, and growth.

stay nasty,

Bree

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Let’s Get Personal: Coming to Terms With Privilege

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Image: Mathy Shoots People

Ever since the election, I’ve found myself reading more think pieces, reflection posts, and opinion articles than my brain & emotional state can handle. Pieces that attempt to explain what the hell happened, why rural Americans voted how they did (and how we should or shouldn’t feel about that), how women & immigrants could vote for him, and what the heck we should do, feel, think, say …. yes it’s exhausting, but it seems to be all I can do these days as I STILL wake up wondering when I will no longer feel like I am in a bad dream. Because honestly, most of my days, I still cannot believe we elected this man to be our President.

But of the countless articles I’ve read, there is a topic that has caused me to do the most soul searching and questioning: the topic of privilege.

Privilege is a layered topic and one that is not always easy to discuss. I acknowledge that being a women puts me at an immediate disadvantage in some realms, but on the whole, being upper middle class and white, puts me at a certain level of privilege that many are not afforded. And while I can say that I empathize with those that are less fortunate than me, or aren’t afforded the same luxuries as me, I can’t truly know what it’s like to not have a certain level of privilege.

And I’ll admit that this is challenging for me. Sometimes I feel like apologizing to the world (“I never asked for this privilege”), sometimes I feel the need to get super defensive (“But I am also disadvantaged in other ways”), and sometimes I just sit at my laptop, reading, and not at all knowing what to do or so. If you know me you know that having nothing to do or say isn’t exactly in my nature.

So here I am, admitting that I am a privileged individual, that is conflicted and unsure of how to deal with that privilege. The think pieces and opinion articles written by those that are less privileged than myself have opened my eyes to the experiences of others that I hadn’t considered before. I am now potentially more aware, but still completely unsure of how to rectify or come to terms with my privilege. Do I read more articles? Do I try to have hard discussions? Do I ask questions?

I am worried of looking insincere, or offensive, or worse, ignorant. And if I don’t know how to deal with this, how the heck am I going to properly teach my daughter about the topic?

At this point I think the thing I’ve come back to the most, is the power of listening. Not always trying to defend myself or needing to say something in response – just listening to other points of view, trying to understand what it’s like from another, less-privileged perspective, and learning all I can from the varying pieces. I won’t ever be able to erase the privilege that my race, my upbringing, or my gender has given me – but I can continue to try and understand how that privilege might affected the way I react, the things I do, or the things I might say. I can challenge myself to listen more, understand further, and challenge others to do the same. Because what’s really the point of being granted something like privilege if I don’t try to use it for the betterment of others?

Let’s Get Personal: I Won’t Give Up, I Won’t Give In

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Any time something major happens in our country or our world, I always struggle to get back to the standard “wedding blogging” routine. These events feel huge and they consume me. This election somehow feels like one of the strongest.

Maybe it’s because the election outcome seems to be one of the most personal. Hurricane Sandy affected my parents and their neighborhood, mass shootings always gut me & leave me feeling hopeless (and then angry), other tragedies take place daily, but none of these have affected me personally (and I thank goodness for that). But this election feels different. I tried to find a way yesterday to compare the feelings I am feeling. I have yet to find an appropriate comparison. This one is new. This one is incomparable. I think it has something to do with the shock.

I think I experienced all stages of grief at the same time yesterday. And I think a good part of me is still in disbelief. I am still trying to sort out my feelings, my thoughts, my plan for action. Because if anything good comes of this, it needs to be the action. We have so much work to do. As women, as white people, as a divided nation, as anger & fear seem to be crushing kindness and community.

I’ve read more articles, tweets, Facebook posts and text messages these last 24+ hours than I care to admit. The three themes that have stuck with me the most are these:

  • It’s absolutely OK to grieve
  • Every woman I know is just SO tired
  • It’s time to get to work

So let’s start with the first: grieving. I can’t remember the last time I cried this much. And no, I am not speaking in hyperbole here (as I so often love to do). I am sure the 3 hours of sleep isn’t helping, but it’s been a nonstop tearfest over here since 11:30pm on election night when shit started to get dire. Almost everything sets me off into another fit. Loving texts from my amazing sisters. Seeing my husband for the first time since the results were confirmed. My boss showing me his muslim-american brother’s facebook post. Thinking of all my LGBT friends and clients. Writing this post.

I am grieving. I am sad. I am not (currently) OK. And that is OK. I don’t have to be strong today, I don’t have to be strong tomorrow. It is 150% OK to be sad right now. There will be plenty of time to fight after the grieving process is over.

Second: I’m exhausted. Leading up to the election I wasn’t my best self. I was moody, I was low energy, I wasn’t being a great partner to my husband – and any time he asked what was wrong, I couldn’t explain other than saying, I am just SO tired. I am tired of proving myself as a female in a male-dominated tech project at my day job. I am tired of fighting the men who tell me sexism wasn’t at play in this election. I am tired of trying to understand how women could vote for a man that wants to take away their rights, and has no plan to ensure we are paid fairly. I am tired of fighting all the damn time, to only continue to see the rich, smug, privileged, white guy win.

So that leads to the third. It’s time to get to work. After I cry (and get some sleep) until I literally can’t anymore. Action. Doing. Leading. It’s what we as women have always done, and as a woman, what I will try to continue to do. More donating (Planned Parenthood & Human Rights Campaign come to mind), more supporting of women-owned businesses (Stitch & Rivet, Handmade Habitat, Denada Design, Rachel Pfeffer Jewelry … I’m coming for you), more kindness, more supporting couples & clients of any race, religion, or sexual orientation, more love.

So after I stop crying, find time to rest & catch up from the exhaustion, I plan to get to work. Love will always trump hate, we are indeed stronger together, and I plan on being the nastiest woman possible for as long as I can. Expect more donations, more proceeds from the shop going to good causes, more posts here that spread love, and more volunteering.

I see you racism, sexism & bigotry and I won’t give up or give in.

Let’s Get Personal: In the Company Of Women Recap & So Much Damn Inspiration

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Last night I had the pleasure of attending Design Sponge‘s In the Company of Women book tour at Dock5 at Union Market. The evening consisted of a room FULL of women, listening to 5 women business owners answer a Q&A by Design Sponge CEO & In the Company of Women author, Grace Bonney.

It was, to say the least, downright inspiring. We heard from 5 different women (which included DC locals, the 2 owners of Gordy’s Pickle Jar & the founder of Salt & Sundry) from different backgrounds, all hustling as the owners of their own businesses. They talked about the meaning of success (and how none of them actually felt wholly successful), the trials and tribulations of being not only a business owner – but a WOMAN business owner (yes it’s different), and how they find time for themselves. It’s always refreshing to witness women at different levels of businesses (either by size of business or years in business) mention feeling the same way I do – that there’s ALWAYS work to be done, that you never feel like you’re fully on top of things, that you struggle to be SO MANY things all at once …. and the list goes on.

There were two parts of the night that REALLY stuck with me (well, other than thinking that panelist & author, Ashley Ford deserves her own TV show). The first came when the panelists were talking about the barriers they face purely because they are women business owners – and Grace explained that it often results from the fact that women are expected to be SO MANY THINGS at the same damn time. We need to be nice, but commanding, we have to direct but not be bossy, we need to smile (always) but not too much, and so on and so forth. At my day job recently I was on a call with my team and things were not going well. The men on my team were not listening to me, and after 40 minutes of back and forth, we ended up finally agreeing on the direction I put forth within the first 5 minutes of the call. Besides the fact that I was irritated that no one seemed to listen to me and the 40 minutes seemed wasted because had they just listened at first, we could have had that time back … a male colleague in my workspace commented, “wow, I’ve never heard you yell at your team before”.

I was slightly taken back – I am a loud person by nature, but nothing I thought I was doing on the phone call constituted “yelling”. I was firm (because I believed my direction was the right one) and I was persistent (because the others on the call kept pushing back) and yes I was loud (because I always am), but it sort of bothered me that that equated to “yelling”. I’ve heard men in my office use commanding voices before and no one tells them they are yelling at their team ….

So yeah, the never ending cycle of contradictions that women are expected to be as leaders and business owners, is very real to me and it was comforting to hear the panelists last night that us talking about it, is what will help effect the change.

The second part of the evening that continues to swim in my head, was when Grace shared that she is not actually a creative person – though her blog features the work of talented creatives & makers – she is not one of them. And because of that, she sometimes feels less than, when she is in a room or in the company of creatives & makers.

This is how I feel – ALL THE TIME. I’ve had the privilege of meeting SO MANY amazing business owners in DC (men & women) that are creating and making the things they sell in their businesses. I am in awe of their talent and I wish I had the skills some of them do, to be able to MAKE or CREATE products. I am not a coder, a graphic designer, a leather maker, or really a creator AT ALL and that often leaves me feeling somewhat inferior to the DC makers I meet.

When I got my book signed, I told Grace that her quote really resonated with me, and she told me straight up that though we might not be makers or creators, we have skills (like bringing people together) that are just as awesome and we are all still better together as a community with the different skills we bring to the group.

What an evening, I won’t be forgetting any time soon and I cannot wait to dive into the book. Happy Wednesday Romancers.

Let’s Get Personal: My Husband is My Equal, My Partner

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Image: Maggie Gaudean Winters Photography

Something I’ve seen lately in the wedding vendor space, are vendors posting about their spouses in a certain way. What’s wrong with that you might ask (as I often do it too)? Well, it’s the way they talk about their husbands and the words they use that has come to bother me enough to write my thoughts down about it.

I find that vendors seem to be putting their husbands up on pedestals, saying they are so “lucky” to have gotten the chance to marry them. The language they use seems to insinuate that they are less than their husbands; that their husbands are such higher beings that it’s almost incredulous that they chose their wives to marry.

This language makes me feel strange. It feels off and wrong and I just only realized why it made me feel that way – because it makes it feel like the individual members of the couple are not equals; that the male is greater than the female. That the wife is not worthy of her husband.

A long time ago I wrote about my husband on this blog and I used the word partner more than once in the post. Andy is very much my partner and my equal in life and in our relationship. We are both flawed individuals that work hard to be better people for ourselves, for each other, for our families & now for our daughter. This isn’t a matter of deserving each other – it’s a matter of working hard because we want to be together in a committed relationship that lasts.

Putting your husband on a pedestal seems a bit dangerous to me. It sets unrealistic expectations and though I am not a doctor or psychologist, I can’t imagine it’s healthy to imagine your husband as someone who is better than yourself; or who is someone you don’t deserve. I also am not sure it’s so great to constantly build your husband up into this space of perfection, where he might feel like he can’t ever actually live up to the expectation you have put out there.

I’d also say I can’t help but feel that there’s a social media lens being put over these posts. When women posts images with captions like “OMG this guy! What did I do to deserve him?!” – they get likes & comments. I want to respond, um – you’re a hardworking, beautiful, successful business owner … let’s start there.

I doubt this post will change many minds or stop those posts I see from happening, but I couldn’t help myself from sharing my opinions on this and wondering if others felt the same way. Personally for me, recognizing that Andy and I were equals in our relationship, not only helped my self-esteem but helped me to not put him in some unattainable atmosphere of husbandry. Andy “chose” me to spend his life with because I was worthy of being chosen. We are partners, equals, and perfect compliments to each other and we both deserve each other because we are both willing to put in the work it requires to stay together.

 

[editor’s note: I wrote this post using heterosexual examples and terms because the examples I referenced were all women speaking about their husbands. As you know I’ve always tried to make this blog an inclusive space for ALL couples, so I just wanted to share why I used the more hetero speech/example here.]

Let’s Get Personal: A Letter to My Daughter

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Today is Evie’s first birthday (happy birthday nugget!). And I’ve had this post brewing in my mind for quite some time. Little pieces here and there, but never found the time to actually sit down and write the whole thing out. So as we got closer to the big mile marker, I figured I would wait until her actual birthday to blog it. So here it goes:

For some reason I cannot at all remember now, Andy & I both agreed (secretly and not so secretly) that we wanted a boy. I have doodles from college that show mine & Andy’s family with 2 boys and our youngest being a girl (we even had names – wow we were young and in love!). Boy, boy, girl. That was the order I thought would be perfect for our family. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The second you were born, before the midwife could even tell me your sex, I knew you were a girl. That might sound unbelievable but it’s true. Instead of asking “what is it?”, I asked “girl?”, confirming what I already knew. And from that point on, the thought of so vehemently wanting a boy for our first child was gone forever.

When I try to think back on the reasons why I wanted a boy, I think it was mostly fear. Fear that I couldn’t handle a girl’s emotional being. Fear that I couldn’t handle the way other girls might treat mine (girls can be so mean!). Fear that my daughter might get the same insecurities I possess. Fear that I couldn’t properly raise a strong, independent woman.

But instead of the fear I once felt initially, I am instead filled these days with so much determination instead. I am determined to raise a woman that can absolutely handle female emotions (even if her mother can not). That can absolutely handle other girls and the way they might treat her. That can absolutely rise above the insecurities that so many women possess. And that will be as strong and independent as she wants or needs to be.

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(Evie at 9 months)

As I reflect back on this past year with you, I can’t help but realize how much you’ve changed me and caused me to grow as a person and as a woman. I’ll admit that I expected motherhood to change me (how could it not?) but I thought it might give me more patience or help me to cut back on my sarcasm. It hasn’t, (sorry Andy!) but instead it’s given me something I did not expect to gain: confidence.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have the time anymore to get lost down the social media comparison clickhole or maybe it’s because when you have a whole other human to worry about, worrying about competition or not being as good as someone else, seems trivial, or perhaps it’s that my energy these days is completely maxed out between caring for you, my marriage, my day job, and this side hustle business of mine. There is no energy left for feeling sorry for myself or less than others.

You’ve already taught me so much in this first year I am excited (and ok, a tad apprehensive) at what year 2 will bring. But between your spunky, yet laid-back nature, and my newfound determination & confidence, I have a feeling that the exciting times will far outweigh the apprehensive ones.

Happy Birthday Evie. Love you so much!

Let’s Get Personal: Marriage is Not a Solution to Your Relationship Problems

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Image: Maggie with Pop! Wed Co.

This post has been forming in my mind for a week now. But really it started back in college when I took a sociology class (man I LOVED soc classes) about relationships and families. One of the things we covered in class one day, stuck with me all this time, the differing views that men and women tend to have on what marriage means. Now let me preface by saying that I am paraphrasing because I don’t remember the exact details of the article/study we read and talked about (I was in college/this class like 10 years ago guys …), and the study focused only on heterosexual couples. So pardon the potential gross generalities here.

The gist was that one of the issues of couples cohabitating before marriage was that they each had different expectations and views on what would happen once they got married. In general, most men expected nothing to change – that the relationship would stay the same, and they would “just be married now”. But on the other hand, most women expected A LOT would change once they got married.

Now I am not exactly sure why women would think that getting married is like some sort of wizardry. That the act of getting married means their partner would suddenly become neater, more attentive, less grumpy, etc. But I see this happening first hand (not with my clients!) but with friends of friends and hearing of relationship qualms post-marriage.

So let me put this out there for any engaged, soon to be engaged, or maybe someday engaged in the distant future, couples out there: marriage is NOT a solution to your relationship problems. When you get married, it’s not magic, it’s not easy, and it most certainly doesn’t mean that your problems go away. I might argue that getting married might even bring you MORE challenges because there is no longer an easy out, as you have vowed and promised to be in this together, but that is probably a separate blog post in itself.

Now don’t mistake my words here, I LOVE being married. I love having a life partner in my husband, who is really my partner in all senses of the word, but we did not go into marriage lightly, nor did we go into it blindly. We went in with the understanding that it was going to be hard, it was going to be trying, and it was going to be something we would have to work at, often.

I have a hard time understanding how others don’t see this. Like when you hear that people divorce because one didn’t want kids – isn’t that something you talk about BEFORE you get married? I think some people think “oh once we get married, so and so will change their mind about kids”. They might, or they might not. But in either case, marriage won’t be the reason that that person will or will not change their mind.

So I invite you, engaged, soon to be engaged, and possibly engaged in the distant future, couples, to think about your relationship and the challenges you face (and might face) now. I invite you to talk about these challenges and find out where you might disagree with your partner on certain big ticket items, before you get married. Because while being married is truly a wonderful thing, it most certainly will not be a solution to your relationship problems.

Let’s Get Personal: Changes Ahead! How I Plan to Reach Those Lofty Biz Goals

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Image: This Rad Love

A couple weeks ago I took the plunge and put my (rather lofty) business goals for 2016 out there into the internets. The response was awesome and super uplifting and I am excited to see how it all pans out. We already knocked a big one off the list with the Capitol Romance Wedding Planner coming to life (and now on sale) and the launch of the online Capitol Romance Shop.

But there’s still SO MUCH MORE to do and so I must admit to you all, that in order to reach these goals, things will have to change. I will have to let go of somethings that I started and I will have to start to lean on others more (something I must admit, as a Type A control freak, I have a hard time doing). So here’s some of the changes coming our way:

1. I am saying goodbye to the Capitol Romance DIY Workshops

Now before you shed a tear, I am happy to tell you that the workshops won’t be ending, they are just going to be under new direction with the ladies over at District Bliss. And I will be helping to promote the workshops (dates/topics coming soon!) so you will still get to do your DIY thang, and meet awesome local vendors, and hang out with other rad couples in DC, they just won’t be fully run by yours truly any more.

This, I must admit, has been WAY harder for me to let go of than I initially thought. I always thought the workshops were a great idea (I still do!) and I feel like they were just starting to gain some steam, however, I just could not put myself into them 100% and that’s not fair to me OR you guys. I know the ladies at DB are going to take good care of them, and I cannot wait to hopefully attend a few and hear how you like them all. They’ve already got some GREAT topics & vendors in mind. So more to come there.

2. I am bringing on more people to the Capitol Romance Team

You guys already know my right-hand woman, Alesha, on the wedding coordination side of things. She is a total rockstar and there is just NO WAY I could have continued the wedding coordination biz without her this year dealing with pregnancy and Evie’s arrival. I feel lucky EVERY day that I found Alesha and that she wanted to join the CapRo Team. So in order to keep doing big things, I am really excited to announce that there will be MORE people joining the team. I am in process of bringing on another coordinator (more to come there), someone to help with the Capitol Romance Shop & product designs, AND a marketing intern for next spring.

I am so pumped, but obviously apprehensive too – as I’ve never led so many people before! Capitol Romance has been a 1-woman show for so long, it’s going to be such a learning experience with bringing other people on in different ways. More to come here too!

3. I am shifting blog content away from just a wedding focus

Yes I have already started this shift, and yes I have been saying this for a while now, but this time I mean it (and you might have already even noticed) that the content here on this blog is going to change and shift away from just wedding related inspiration & resources. For one, my life has changed in the past few years and for two, I know I have readers out there that are long since married, and for three, I am VERY very interested in peoples’ lives past the wedding day. I want to hear stories from couples in DC that are at ALL DIFFERENT points in their relationships. The wedding scene (IMO) has become too focused on just the one “big day” and has forgotten the point of that day – the life you are promising to create, nurture, and grow, TOGETHER.

I feel it’s important to share stories of struggle, of happiness, of anniversaries, of challenges, of milestones, of singledom, and all kinds of other things related to human relationships. And honestly this was always in the back of my mind when I started this blog, and a big factor in why I chose the word “romance” over weddings or brides or something so wedding-centric. I knew my life would move beyond my wedding day and I wanted to have the option to move the blog there too.

I am sure I might lose some readers because of this, but that’s ok. Thanks to the internet, there’s literally A MILLION places to find wedding inspiration, ideas, and resources. There aren’t, however, a million places to share stories of REAL couples in the DC area and how they are living their lives.

…. so there it is. The changes are coming and I am equal parts excited and terrified about it. But I am 110% confident that these are the right things to do, right now. And I always take comfort in the fact that the best part about being a small business owner is that I am (mostly) in control. If these things don’t work, or don’t pan out like I thought, I can oh-so-simply change my mind or direction again and try something else.

That’s the beauty of it all for me. So here we go!

Let’s Get Personal: A Loss of Direction & Need for New Goals

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 Image: This Rad Love

As I sit on my couch next to my (almost) sleeping 2.5 month old, I find myself in the midst of a whirlwind of emotions and thoughts. The 2016 wedding inquiries are coming in, my 2nd to last workshop of 2015 is drawing near, my blog editorial calendar is nearly empty, and I have to admit that I am struggling.

I am struggling with a focus for how to keep up on all the things I planned for this year, how to better align my priorities (both personal and business), and how to plan my 2016, when that seems nearly impossible with a new top priority in my life. I know there are parts of Capitol Romance that I want to continue (the blog, working weddings, new ventures), but I think I am struggling with ones that I should probably let go of (the workshops, working weddings).

I think a lot of this stems from a problem I have had with Capitol Romance since Day 1 – not having a clear goal or business plan for this little biz and while flying by the seat of my pants worked before, it’s just not going to work going forward. Having Capitol Romance as my “fun side gig” worked when my day job was stable, and my life was fairly free. But with the new addition to mine and Andy’s lives, I know I need to refocus for 2016 on what I REALLY want to do with CapRo and honestly, what’s worth pouring my (slightly tapped) energy into.

And here’s where I am REALLY struggling – I have literally NO idea how to do it. I’ve started some things – a blog, a wedding coordination business, a workshops venture, a forthcoming collaboration with Typecase Industries and I’ve really enjoyed all of them, but something has to give. And I’ll be honest, I am terrified to let any of them go because it will seem like a failure – like I couldn’t succeed. But honestly, it’s just that I don’t have the time anymore to put myself 100% into ALL of these things and as the great Ron Swanson once said “never half-ass two things, whole ass one thing.” (god I miss this show).

So it’s time Romancers. It’s time to finally do something I should have done MANY years ago (and probably kept up with each year). It’s time to say goodbye to some parts of Capitol Romance and re-focus on what I really want to do with this business for 2016. I have some thoughts lingering and I think I just need to sit down this weekend and really write it out. I hope you guys will all continue on the ride no matter what I decide :)

Thanks for listening.

 

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