I Am Because … Essay Finalist with Skirt! Charleston

Several weeks ago, I read about a Mother’s Day essay contest hosted by Skirt!, a Charleston area women’s magazine. The basic assignment was to answer the following: “I am the woman I am today because my mother …” I clipped the page from the magazine and put it on my desk. Of course, it was inevitably buried under a pile of papers, where I unearthed it about two days before the deadline.

 

Finally, the day before the deadline, a Facebook post promoting the essay contest reminded me again – I either needed to write something today or forget it. So, while waiting for Kate at her gymnastics class, I started writing about how motherhood is hard. Hard for me. Hard for own mom. Probably hard at times for you too. And, yet, we can learn from the hard times, the good times, the everyday moments. I sent off the essay and figured, if nothing else, I’d put it in a Mother’s Day card for my mom. So, imagine my surprise to learn that my essay was one of the finalists.

 

As a finalist, I was able to participate in a Lisette L Fashion Show at the Volvo Car Open in April, and in May, all the finalists will be recognized at a luncheon. I’m honored my own mom will be able to join me at that event on May 11. You can pick up the May issue of Skirt! to read a little of each finalist’s essay. And I’m publishing mine below:

 

I Am Because …

 

If you ask my mom, she’ll probably give you a list of all the ways she thinks she failed at motherhood. That’s the way it is when you’re a mom, isn’t it? You second guess every decision. You struggle with guilt and feelings of inadequacy. You get tunnel vision on the times you lost your temper or forgot a school function. Like my own mom, I worry daily that I’m not doing enough, that I’m not being enough for my own daughter.

 

I’m 40 years old and my mom probably still wonders the same thing: was I enough for my daughter?

 
Yes, Mom, you were enough. It’s because of you I grew into the woman I am today. It’s because of you I have a beautiful life filled with accomplishments, possibilities and love.

 
Mom, you may focus on the faults, but I choose to focus on the many ways you shaped me. You were an example of a single mom with two kids who went to college to become a social worker. You’ve spent years helping people through incredibly difficult situations as they overcome addictions and personal crisis.

 

Because of you, I recognize and appreciate strong, dedicated and caring women.

 

You took me to Sunday school and church. You taught me bedtime prayers and the importance of reading the Bible and listening to that still small voice that guides us in our decisions.

 

Because of you, I can fulfill the calling laid out for me.

 

Mom, you encouraged me in everything. I believed I could do anything I set my mind to and, that with hard work and determination, I could conquer the world.

 

Because of you, I have done just that.

 

You instilled in me a sense of personal confidence and a value that any man worth having was one who pursued, respected and valued me.

 

Because of you, I have the most incredible husband. He’s loved me unconditionally and supported me for almost 17 years.
As a grandmother, you’ve demonstrated a mother’s love and what it means to cherish and adore a precious child.

 

Because of you, I can pause and appreciate my role not as a caretaker who schedules swim lessons and packs lunches, but as the caretaker entrusted with raising another young woman poised to take on the world.

 

So, thank you, Mom, for all the big and little ways you molded me, my character and my passion. For without those promptings, I wouldn’t be the woman I am today.

An attitude of gratitude

Last November, I took part in the #30daysofgratitude social media campaign. Each day (mostly on Instagram), I shared a post of thanks. I was grateful for something as simple as a good cup to coffee to much greater blessings like my husband and daughter. It was a wonderful exercise in pausing to count your blessings. Sounds cliche, but it worked.

 

#30daysofgratitudeThis year I’m doing it again! So follow me on Instagram and Twitter @hollyannfisher to see how I’m expressing my gratitude during the month of November.

Go ahead, say ‘yes!’

There’s something about turning 40 that makes you say, “Why not? Life’s short!” That’s why I decided this would be the year of “yes.” I was going to say “yes” to experiences and opportunities I may have said “maybe” or “no” to in the past.

 

Earlier this year, Garth Brooks came to town and I said “yes” to immediately buying tickets. There was no pause to consider the cost or the timing. I haven’t been able to attend SPJ’s Excellence in Journalism conference for a few years so, guess what, I’m signed up to attend in September.

 

The Dixie Chicks announce a U.S. tour, and I immediately get in touch my friend Ronda about when we can go. We traveled to Nashville 10 years ago for a Dixie Chicks concert, and I wasn’t passing up a chance to see a favorite band again. So in August, I drive to Ronda’s home near Orlando, and we hit the road for the concert in Tampa. No hesitation about the expensive tickets. No worrying about taking a couple days off work. It was just “yes, we are doing this!”

 

My latest “yes” comes in an amazing shade of orange fully loaded with a Hemi and black racing stripes.

 

Dodge Challenger 2016

 

I’ve been drooling over the Dodge Challenger for probably three years. As my current Jeep Liberty approached 10 years old, it was time to start thinking about a new car. So Clint and I began putting aside some savings. When he suggested to go look at Challengers, I almost hesitated. Was it utterly ridiculous and impractical for a 40-year-old wife and mom to buy a muscle car?

 

Probably.

 

But this is the year of “yes” so at the end of May – just a couple weeks after my 40th birthday – I sat in the Dodge dealership placing the order for my dream car in a newly released paint color called “Go Mango.” (Pretty sure, I’m the first person in Charleston with this color.)

 

She arrived this week and is as awesome as you might expect. In fact, I may have left people in my dust at a couple stoplights.

 

Sometimes it’s tough to say “yes” to these things that seem frivolous. But when we take a step back, we realize there’s nothing wrong with treating ourselves to things that bring a smile to our face. Whether it’s a girls’ road trip to enjoy a concert or buying a sports car, it’s OK to say “yes.”

 

And if someone wants to drag race down the highway, well, I just might say “yes” to that too! 😉

 

(P.S. My CrossFit friends will appreciate that I named the new car Fran in honor of a classic CrossFit workout. Seemed fitting for a muscle car.)

Dodge Challenger 2016Dodge Challenger 2016

Newly renovated Colonial Lake is showstopper

For several years, I’ve had the honor of working with a great nonprofit, the Charleston Parks Conservancy. Its mission is simple: to connect people to their parks. It’s an easy mission when people truly love their local parks. Since its founding almost a decade ago, the Conservancy has renovated several Charleston city parks in a partnership with the City of Charleston and with the support of volunteers, private donors and neighborhood groups interested in seeing their parks and playgrounds brought to a new level.

 

In my early days with the Conservancy, there was talk of renovating Colonial Lake, a well-known and historic space on the Charleston peninsula. The park was a large lake bordered by a small sidewalk. There were a few trees and benches sprinkled throughout. The park was well used and lovely but it had the potential for so much more.

 

After years of planning and meetings and months of fundraising, construction began in January 2015. About 2 months ago, the construction was nearing completion and the Conservancy gathered scores of volunteers to aid in putting 20,000 plants, trees and shrubs into the garden beds around the lake. Today we gathered for a media breakfast, inviting local reporters to learn more about the project, the volunteers and the people behind the scenes that made all this happen.

 

I had a great time organizing the media event:

Colonial Lake Media Breakfast (3)

Colonial Lake Media Breakfast (2)

Colonial Lake Media Breakfast (4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stop by Colonial Lake soon and see what’s been done. There’s a grand reopening celebration and ribbon cutting from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 4, with music, food trucks, activities for the kids and much more.

Dads discuss dilemmas during PPD

It’s not always easy to talk about tough times in your life, but it’s worth it knowing your story may help others. While I’ve been vocal about my struggle with postpartum depression, I was proud of my husband for being interviewed by The Post and Courier about how PPD is tough on dads too. They know something is wrong with their wife or partner but just aren’t sure what to do. In my work with Postpartum Support Charleston, we try to educate dads (and other family members) about the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression/anxiety so they can reach out for help – especially if it’s too tough for the mom to ask for help on her own.

 

Here’s an excerpt from the May 3, 2016, article by Derrek Asberry and you can read the full piece online:

 

Despite how commonplace the condition may be, there is still a lack of discussion about postpartum depression and even less openness on the trickle-down effect it has on fathers, say Holly and Clint Fisher.

 

For the better half of a year, Holly suffered from postpartum depression after her daughter, Kate, was born in 2008. Meanwhile, Clint performed a balancing act of work, caring for his daughter and wife, and wondering if things would ever return back to normal.

 
“I was lucky because I don’t think I ever fell into depression or anything,” Clint said. “But I was definitely feeling more stressed because I wasn’t understanding where all of her stress was coming from.”

Someday is here: This is 40


In my early 20s, I loved this clip from the classic film “When Harry Met Sally.” It was exactly how I felt about turning 40. Sure, it would happen … someday. A very far, far away “someday.”

 

Well, my friends, “someday” did indeed arrive. I am actually 40. I’ll admit, starting in January, I was thinking, “This is the year I turn 40″ and maybe I was starting to freak out a little bit. Big birthdays have a tendency to make us reflective, don’t they? We ponder what we’ve done and where we’re headed. We feel a sense of urgency, asking ourselves, “How much more can I squeeze out of my life?”

 

I’ve done a lot with my first 40 years. I have two college degrees (never mind I’m still paying for those darn things). I have pursued my dream of working as a journalist and have had the privilege to work with incredibly talented reporters and editors. Now, I run my own business combining my love of writing and working with nonprofits and business on their PR and marketing.

 

For more than 15 years, I’ve been married to the most amazing husband and we have a fabulous daughter and three sweet dogs. My life is filled with incredible friends and a supportive family. I live out my days following Jesus and doing the best job I can as a wife, mother and business owner. Thanks finding CrossFit almost six years ago, I’m in the best physical shape of my life. I have all the comforts of a nice home in a beautiful city.

 

I’m one lucky 40 year old! And those are just a handful of the highlights.

 

And yet I know there’s more on my bucket list – places to visit and experiences awaiting me. I have more to contribute to this world and, I hope, several more decades to make it all happen.

 

So, here’s to “someday” and turning 40 – a time to take stock of my amazing life and to know that the best is yet to come!

20 years of improving, protecting journalism

Just after Christmas I received a package in the mail from the Society of Professional Journalists. I opened it up and found this:

 

SPJ 20 Year Pin

A 20-year member pin.

 

I honestly wasn’t sure whether to be proud or dismayed. I joined SPJ as a sophomore at Ohio University, so I’ve essentially been a SPJ member for half my life. The letter accompanying the pin reminded me of what was happening way back in 1995 when I joined: The New York Times and Washington Post published the Unibomber’s 35,000-word manifesto, Ebay launched and the DVD came into existence.

 

“Geez, I’m old,” I thought.

 

The pin arrived in the mail the day after I’d been to the see the movie “Spotlight,” the story of a team of Boston Globe reporters who uncovered the massive child sexual abuse cover up  in the Catholic Church. The movie was excellent and a reminder about why journalists do what they do. It’s certainly not for the paycheck or the 40-hour workweeks. It’s for the chance to make a difference.

 

I thought back to my 19-year-old self taking the SPJ oath, thrilled to be joining an organization dedicated to lofty pursuits like First Amendment rights, ethical journalism and freedom of information. I couldn’t wait to begin my career as a newspaper reporter, telling stories and righting wrongs.

 

After I graduated, I spent the next decade conducting interviews, recounting stories and maybe even righting a few wrongs along the way. I remained an active SPJ member, even serving six years as a regional director on the national board. During that same decade, the newspaper business went through an incredible shift as the Internet grew and competition for readers and advertisers became more challenging. The economic crash of 2008 rocked my world – along with many of my colleagues and SPJ friends around the country.

 

Suddenly, I was a laid-off reporter – a far cry from the life that 19-year-old idealistic young woman had envisioned for herself.

 

Life goes on, right? It does. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s hard to have your identity snatched away. It’s sad to see the career you’d planned for yourself vanish in mere minutes. Like countless other journalists during that time, I forged out a new path for myself.

 

In November 2011, when I launched H.A.F. Creative, it was largely so I could do more freelance writing. Even though I use my writing skills in a variety of ways that I truly enjoy (marketing, public relations, copywriting, blogging), I desperately need to stay connected to journalism. Fortunately, I’ve been able to, I hope, make a difference by sharing the stories of leaders, parents, businesses and organizations in our local community. Even though I no longer work in a newsroom on a daily basis, I am just as passionate about a free press and its watchdog role in our society.

 

So, here’s to you, SPJ, for reminding me of a time when Ebay and DVDs were new and so was my calling to something so much greater.

A month of giving thanks

Holly at the Charleston Coffee Cup
Holly at the Charleston Coffee Cup

Over the last couple of years I’ve seen people on social media engage in month-long expressions of gratitude during November. It seemed a lovely way to approach Thanksgiving and the Christmas season – pausing daily to reflect on our many blessings.

 

Clint and Kate 11.22.15
Celebrating Clint’s birthday with dinner out.

So this year I decided to be part of #30daysofgratitude. So far, I’ve only missed a handful of days (not because I wasn’t thankful that day but just forgot to post!). Plus, I tried to go beyond the basics. Of course, I’m thankful daily for food, clothing and a roof over my head. I’m thankful for my health, my family and a job I enjoy. Those seem obvious expressions of gratitude, and I wanted my November social media campaign to be truly unique to me and my life.

 

I started the month grateful for my business, which marked its fourth anniversary on Nov. 1. To celebrate, I launched my new company website (which I’d been chipping away at for months). The month continued with gratitude shout outs to H.A.F. Creative clients, my Sisterhood small group at church, my fellow volunteers at Postpartum Support Charleston, supportive grandparents, my husband on his birthday, my daughter in her Girl Scout uniform and simple things like books and coffee.

 

You can check out my posts on Instagram (@hollyannfisher).

Moms Night Out
Postpartum Support Charleston event

 

This was such a fun exercise. It really got me thinking everyday about what to highlight. And it’s a reminder that even on hectic, crazy days where it seems nothing is going right, there is indeed a moment for which we can pause and give thanks. I think I’ve started a new November tradition. In fact, I’ll try to keep the practice going year round.

 

Even though I might not post daily on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook, I can tuck away those little moments – my daughter’s smile, my husband’s laugh, a hot cup of coffee – and let my heart fill with gratitude.

Celebrating 4 years

It’s hard to believe I launched H.A.F. Creative on this day four years ago! I’m so grateful to my clients who keep the business growing and moving. And a thank you to colleagues, people who refer my work to others and my family who makes life beyond work so great.

 

As I celebrate four years in business, I’m also launching this new website. Enjoy!

Website screenshot

Walking to the school bus is more than a walk

Kate walking to the busAt least once a week, Kate and I walk to the school bus stop. It’s about 5 minutes from our house and now that the weather is starting to cool, we like making the walk. Plus, I love the early morning chats with my precious girl.

 

This morning, I was telling her about an arts-related event in downtown Charleston on Sunday I thought she might like to attend. She asks, “Can we go with someone?”

 

I teasingly reply, “What, you don’t want to go with your ol’ mom and dad?”

 

She does, but … it’s fun to take a friend.

 

I tell her someday she’ll be driving off with her friends and won’t want to go anywhere with us.

 

“Well,” she says, “I will be moving to New York.”

 

I ask, “Can we come visit?”

 

Kate says, “Sure.”

 

I ask, “Will you call me every day?”

 

“No,” she says. “I’ll be busy with all my jobs.”

 

At least she’s honest.

 

At age 6, she has mapped out plans to move to New York where she’ll be running both her own art gallery and a zoo/farm of exotic animals. Granted, she hasn’t been to New York, but many famous artists live there, so seems like a good idea. And why not?

 

She’s shared her plans with some friends at school and already has two friends willing to move to New York with her and work at her zoo. She’ll be the leader, she says, and give them jobs to do.

 

Of course she shares all of this in a very matter-of-fact tone with complete confidence in her plans.

 

I love it.

 

I love her spirit, independence and self-confidence.

 

Sweet girl, don’t ever lose that.

 

I don’t want her to reach middle school only to see her confidence wane as is the case with so many young girls. It is my life’s mission to keep her believing in herself, her abilities and the fact that she can do absolutely anything she wants in life.

 

And in the meantime, I’ll take advantage of the fact she still holds my hand as we walk to bus, sharing her life’s plans. I tuck these conversations away so in 20 years I can remember a darling little girl who is in the process of fulfilling all her dreams …. and, I hope, has time to call me at least once a week.

Word of the year: Peace

Last year I hoped on a trend of picking a word of the year. I choose “strength” and as I read my post from a year ago, I didn’t feel as if I’d totally blown it over the year. In fact, I needed a little more strength than I anticipated last year to survive a move, adjust to life with a school-age child and to support Clint as he entered the land of the self-employed.

 

So, what’s my word for 2014? A few possibilities had come to mind but the one that struck me the hardest was “peace.” For the most part, my life is anything but peaceful. It’s busy, chaotic and crazy – and most of the time I thrive in that kind of environment. At times, I feel myself relating to this verse in Job: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” (Job 3: 25-26)

 

That’s a slight exaggeration, of course, but still I could use a little more peace – and not just peace and quiet (although I’ll take some more of that!).

 

Peace in my family. Having a strong-willed (almost) 6-year-old can suck the peace right out of your life. She can be argumentative and demanding and loving and precious – all in the span of 5 minutes. It’s tiring. I need to find peace in me to create peace in her. And part of that means making peace with motherhood – a part of my life that hasn’t been easy. I need to make peace with those first years so I can be present for what’s to come.

 

Peace in saying “no.” Part of my lack of peace is my tendency to take on too much. I’ve never met a cause I couldn’t get behind or a project I couldn’t tackle. But I have to remember that just because you can doesn’t mean you should. It’s OK to say “no” sometimes. Interestingly, I tried it a time or two last year and the world didn’t end.

 

Peace in my own mind. Aside from CrossFitting, I don’t carve out a chunk of the day/week that’s just for me. This year I want to work on my personal writing – even if that’s just updating my blog on a weekly basis. Sounds simple but it’s often hard for me to allow myself the peace and quiet to just be with my own thoughts and do some writing.

 

Peace in my God. Each year I look for ways to better my spiritual health and grow in my relationship with God. I’ll be working to stay committed to daily devotional time and tackle some books and studies that help me grow.

 

So, here we go into 2014 with a resolve for greater peace.

 

Her first pair of high heels

For the last decade, Clint and I have been going to the Charleston Christmas Special. It’s become a tradition to attend with some friends, and I look forward to it all year. We took Kate a couple times when she was little but decided this year she was old enough to really enjoy the show with its music, dancing and comedy sketches.

 

The morning of the show, we selected a sparkly red dress for her to wear and I realized she had no matching shoes. Time to pop around the corner to Kohl’s. Before we left, Kate said she needed “high heels” to go with this dress.

 

We found a pair of shiny black shoes with a small heel. Kate tried them on, declared them “wobbly,” but she wanted them. Already she was taking after me and sacrificing comfort for cute shoes. How sweet.

 

She looked so grown up in her red dress and heels. But I didn’t feel a twinge of sadness, worrying she was growing up too quickly. Instead I felt excited for the moments to come – shoe shopping together or picking out an outfit for a special occasion. I look forward to sharing those mother-daughter moments with her and capturing even more “firsts.”

 

Sometimes you just have to jump

I survived my second CrossFit competition, Integrity’s Revenge, earlier this month. I competed in the team scaled division and my partner and I had a great time. As you can see from our photo, we spent a lot of time coordinating our competition outfit.

 

I think my incredible husband, Clint, summed up the weekend best in this Facebook post that I’m sharing below.

 

“I couldn’t be more proud of my wife Holly Henry Fisher. Two years ago, she stepped out of her comfort zone to compete in a local CrossFit style competition, Integrity’s Revenge. It proved to be a tough weekend for her when she got stuck trying to squat and press a barbell and couldn’t. With tears on her face and a crowd of CrossFitters cheering her on, she spent several minutes struggling through until she finally completed the movements. There were many emotions, terror, embarrassment, but ultimately I think one of accomplishment. She came in last place in the workout, but she conquered the barbell, and that was a big moment.

 

After that day, I didn’t know for sure if she’d ever try something like it again. But this weekend, she competed in the same event again, and she did it knowing she would face another very tough struggle.

 

Holly is terrified of jumping on boxes, and for the last workout this year, she had to execute a burpee and then jump to a 20 inch box. The first time she had jumped to a box that height was this week. Today, she faced her fear and completed all her burpee box jumps in front of a cheering crowd of CrossFitters.

 

Many of those watching were in tears to see her complete them, because they saw her struggle through her own tears to jump to the top of that box every time.

 

It was a profound moment, and I was once again reminded of the great example she sets every day. Our daughter Kate was right there in front of the box to see mom conquering another demon with grit and determination.

 

I think sometimes people thing we’re crazy doing what we do, intense workouts and challenges that seem sometimes impossible or ridiculous to others. But when I watch moments like I did today, I realize the importance of getting up everyday and challenging yourself to achieve those things that seem just out of reach, whether it’s fitness or some other pursuit.

 

Today, thanks to my wife, the world has one more great example of what happens when you step out of your comfort zone and truly challenge yourself.

 

We had 15 athletes compete from our gym, and they too all set great examples. I have the honor and privilege to work with them every week, and I couldn’t be more proud.”

 

Welcoming a new addition


Our daughter has been after to us for a year to get another pet. First she wanted a kitten. Clint’s not big on cats and neither are the two Labrador Retrievers already living in our house.

 

So, Kate moved on to asking for a puppy – something small she could carry around and hold in her lap. Enter: Freckles, a parti Yorkie (means she has an unusual coloring) courtesy of my mother-in-law, who raises Yorkies out in Arkansas.

 

Clint and Kate went for a visit in October, and Clint was scouting out the puppy situation. They loaded up 5-month-old Freckles and she flew back to South Carolina.

 

Kate, of course, is delighted. And Freckles is pretty darn cute.