FAQ Me My Life The Blog


I’m the sole provider for our family now. Officially.

I posted a single political link out of a dozen cute and fluffy links in last Friday’s Honor Roll, and it got people all riled up. One person was so incensed that she tried to insult me personally, calling me out for enjoying my “fancy shopping trips” while Brandon was collecting unemployment. That’s not true, but I hadn’t realized the misconception I may have been fostering by not providing an update sooner. It’s hard stuff to write about and I’d been putting it off, but no longer. Here’s what’s going on with us.

Brandon and I met in 1999, when we each worked full-time at Barbara’s Bookstore in Oak Park (making just over $6/hour in the beginning — go us!). We began dating in 2001, moved in together a while after that, and were married in May of 2004. Just before we were married, Brandon left the bookstore for a job in printing that paid more. He was there until he lost his job in January.

I left the bookstore in late 2004. I had already been working a second job which was to continue for a little longer, and I took a seasonal retail job at the first west elm store. When that was over, I decided to pursue my dream of owning a stationery business and I started Pink Loves Brown. I also took on freelance web design projects as Smart & Lovely while the stationery business took off. I started this blog in 2007, and I realized that the blog would eclipse the stationery shop a couple of years into it. The money I made from advertising was a nice bonus at first, and eventually it became enough to call the blog “a job” with a straight face.

Brandon liked the work that he was doing (managing prepress), but the environment was a bad one. We’d always hoped that he could quit eventually, but it helped support our family and provided health insurance. When he unexpectedly lost his job earlier this year, he was on unemployment for a few months while he looked for work. As I took on more projects though, it became clear that we could make it work if he wanted to be a stay-at-home dad. In July, he stopped collecting unemployment. We got rid of COBRA and bought our own health insurance (which was difficult and expensive). It’s scary to be the sole supporter since I have such a non-traditional job, but it’s working right now. If we need to reevaluate in the future, we will.

I make money in advertising and sponsored posts here on Making it Lovely, and I also write for Babble, Better Homes and Gardens, and Glidden. I’m saying yes to a lot more work than I would have before and I’m working a lot, but we’re doing well. Last year was the first year in which I earned more than my husband. This year I’ve been doing even better, and I hope to eventually be able to replace his lost income.

It wasn’t under ideal circumstances, but it seems I’ve managed to cross another item off of my Lovely Life List. A big one.

Life List Item: Make Enough Money to Support My Family

Thank you, everybody, for all of your support over the years. Especially recently. We wouldn’t be able to do this without you, and I’m humbled by you and grateful.

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  • Carly
    September 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    This is a success story! You get to do something you love and support your family. Your children get to have a stay at home dad. That is AMAZING, not something you need to justify. Congratulations.

  • Katherine
    September 26, 2012 at 6:04 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I am a sole provider for my family as well and I find it very inspiring to hear the stories of other women in the same position. You are awesome and amazing. Keep rocking out.

  • Erin
    September 26, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    You go girl – as someone now trying her hand at living on her website I respect all that you put into it and empathize with the fear and stress of it all! I may have to pick your brain for tips one of these days. Cheers to you and your lovely family!

  • Anne
    September 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I just want to say that went I read that someone wrote that comment I said out loud, “What a bitch.” I’m sorry you have to deal with that kind of stuff. Keep being awesome.

  • Jess
    September 26, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    GO you! You deserve it, this is a lovely blog and I’m glad you are making a living doing something you love!

  • Carrie254
    September 26, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I think it’s really admiral that he voluntarily quit un-employment. Many people would milk the system as long as they could.

    I think that people who judge are generally jealous because they are not happy. At least that is how I used to be. Now I’m very happy, much nicer and way more easygoing.

    You do you, and don’t worry about the rest.

  • Sarah
    September 26, 2012 at 8:05 pm

    Thank you for your courage and vulnerability in posting this. I love the blog and am so happy that you have found what works for your family. It saddens me that people can make such cruel and insensitive comments simply because they disagree with you politically. But I am also proud that our president is taking an active stance in the preservation of free speech. Keep posting about topics that are important to you.

  • Nicole O
    September 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm

    Thank you for sharing such an honest and transparent post. When you write things like this, it reminds the reader that on top of being a great creative mind, you are also a real family who deal with some of the same real and difficult issues that many of us deal with. Just like me. Except that your house will always be much much more well decorated than mine. ;)

  • Dottie
    September 26, 2012 at 10:50 pm


    I’ve been doing this for awhile too and it is great and really empowering, but very stressful at times (hello health insurance). I give you a lot of credit for doing it as graciously as you have.

    Sorry some haters have to hate on all the hard work you put into this blog and doing a lot of other work to make this lifestyle work.


    – Dottie

  • Josephine
    September 26, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    Yay you! All of you, in fact. And I’m sorry you feel you have to justfy yourself.

  • Bethany
    September 26, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    I’m glad this post was more framed around gratitude and less around justification.
    It’s great you want to share about how your family is making their way through the world. Particularly as a woman running her own business. I mean I appreciate the transparency, but there is no shame in unemployment while looking for work.
    And to folks wanting to shame you for your posts, your sponsors or an unemployment check, well… shame on them.

  • shelley
    September 26, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    You. Are. Awesome! Ignore those mean comments, you’ll always get some. But keep your head high and keep right on going. Love your blog.

  • Holly
    September 27, 2012 at 12:00 am

    I have more respect for you than ever! Isn’t it great making a living at doing what you enjoy?

  • kate
    September 27, 2012 at 12:06 am

    I’ve been visiting your blog for years and it’s my all time favorite, just beautifully done in every way. Your success is so deserved!

  • Mrs. Davis
    September 27, 2012 at 12:33 am

    Thanks for sharing! I’m SO glad that things are going well with all of your “Lovely” pursuits and you are providing for your family! My husband and I have a very non-traditional schedule, and although he works, he is able to spend tons of time with our kiddos, and I think it’s so awesome. The kids are really going to benefit by having a stay-at-home dad and such a wonderful mom, too! And, for what it’s worth, I found your “offensive” link absolutely inspiring and shared it on Facebook and e-mail. Way to root for your hometown guy! I always look forward to checking in with your blog. Thanks!

  • Kate Challis
    September 27, 2012 at 6:58 am

    I was saddened to hear that someone would make such personal comments. Try not to take it to heart and don’t let it change how you blog. Keep being yourself (including putting in the occasional political comment). It’s what makes your blog so wonderful. If some readers don’t like it so be it, there are more that admire and respect you for it.

  • Lindsey
    September 27, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Thanks for sharing Nicole. It’s sad when the ugly side of the internet rears it’s head in unexpected places. But it does happen. You have so much to be proud of. Keep the beautiful posts coming!

  • Barb Boyack
    September 27, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Nicole I guess I am a lone dissenter here, you have a lovely blog and I appreciate all your hard work, but I don’t come to ready decorating blogs for politics anything. Doesn’t matter if I agree with you, or disagree, I just think politics belong somewhere else..

    Keep up the good work, and I am not a hater..Just a grandma who thinks politics is a personal choice and doesn’t need to be on a blog of this type..

  • Stacy Hofman
    September 27, 2012 at 9:53 am

    You rock, Nicole! Brandon rocks, too! Keep going with your head held high!

  • Katherine
    September 27, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Geez, I was kind of hoping you’d put MORE political stuff along with your awesome design and family entries. That 90/90 thing was so cool. I hope the haters don’t silence you! You’re the greatest! We all love your blog at my house!

  • vernonlee
    September 27, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Thanks for sharing this in particular and the work you do in general.

    I imagine there’s a solid market for a specific how-to that you might sell as a printed and/or ebook. A year in self-employment on the web – a work & occasional personal diary with an occasional interview with other people in adjacent careers who manage to make it work. And, since by you, goes without saying that it’d be beautifully designed :)

  • katiedid
    September 27, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    You are amazing and I am happy to say one of the very first blogs I started to read. It has been so fun to see your life changes and see your family grow. You keep on going and you are allowed to have an opinion! It makes you a whole person…..and not everyone has to agree. They do need to show respect however! You go!

  • la petite maison
    September 27, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Hi Nicole. I have followed your blog for many years. I’ve long known that you and I fall on different ends of the political spectrum, but in spite of this I’d like to think that we could be friends in real life. I’m always up for a civil discourse! Anyway, I think it’s great that you and Brandon have found a way to provide for your family while still doing what you love. Cheers!

  • Courtney
    September 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    I also forgot to mention a shout-out to Brandon. I come from parents who are teachers (teaching Child Development no less) and many statistics show that fathers who stay home with their children during their formative years (0-5 especially) raise more well adjusted children and have a stronger bond than most. Best of luck to you and your family, you’re doing an amazing job!

  • Krissy
    September 27, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Congrats Nicole!! That’s awesome news and good for you. (Also, boo on the mean people, I think you should shop more, you have excellent taste.)

  • laura
    September 27, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    you go girl!

  • Valerie
    September 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Nicole, Kudos for being honest and breaking the mold. Love reading your more personal posts :) Keep ’em coming!


  • Cristina
    September 27, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    Nicole, haters are gonna hate. Keep doing what you do. We love and support you!

  • Jayme
    September 27, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    I think that person wanted to pry. It was a little bit unclear from the last post how your family was going to pay the bills. So insulting you was their way of making you spill the beans. Still what a @$/!! Totally mean and uncalled for. People need to mind their own business and not get so upety. No one is forcing them to read your charming, well designed, well maintained and interesting blog.

  • Ilene
    September 27, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    Good for you! What a great ole model you are for your kids, and the rest of us! You go girl! And how lucky of you to have such a supportive husband!? Thanks for sharing.

  • judy
    September 27, 2012 at 9:37 pm

    You know, Nicole, I find your work life as fascinating as your blog (and I think I’ve been reading your blog pretty much since the beginning). You’ve created such a unique and imaginative way of making a living. I have nothing but admiration for you and your lovely family.
    Keep up the great work and don’t let the negatives get you down. You are a real trailblazer. And so is your dear husband.

  • Ila
    September 28, 2012 at 4:11 am

    You are making a great job! It is so enjoyable to come visit and read your blog. You deserve evey bit of your success!

  • Azra
    September 28, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Good for you Nicole! You can’t please everyone, so why not try to please yourself.

  • Cara
    September 28, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Congratulations on all your success! I’m in a different field but am currently the sole breadwinner and I understand the pressure.

    I missed the original political post so I just skimmed the comments. I doubt I could have bitten my tongue and responded with as much grace and good humor as you did. I also follow Capitol Hill Style. I have different political views than that blogger and her opinions are occasionally shared because of the nature of her blog. Despite that, I still read it because she respects other viewpoints and the content of her blog is just too amazing to miss. Hopefully, those who had a negative reaction to your link will come to realize the same thing applies to you.

  • nic
    September 28, 2012 at 10:09 am

    Nicole – I have immense respect for couples who don’t let being straightjacketed into traditional the male/female roles determine their lives. And I thank you for your honest post. It makes you more relatable when we see that your life is not all “shiny and perfect” (just like us!)

  • raeleneb
    September 28, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Good for you Nicole. Be you. And be proud. Woot!

  • Jeanne
    September 28, 2012 at 11:54 am

    What all the nice people already said! But really, what happened to civil discourse? When did it become acceptable to spew and hate those with a different political view? I read blogs from people who are conservative, liberal, republican, democrat, independent, mormon, baptist, catholic, muslim, hindu, black, white,pro-homeschool, pro-traditional school, creative and not so creative. I may not agree with every opinion hat every author has, but I usually learn something from them all and it helps me to understand their viewpoint. Long live free speech! Celebrate our differences!

  • Jacqueline Ashby
    September 28, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Nicole, you don’t have to justify your financial situation to anyone. Your husband paid into the system and he deserves to collect what contributed (like the rest of us). You just keep doing what you are doing and don’t mind the distraction.

  • Sharon
    September 28, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I think it took GUTS for you to put that link on your blog. It also takes GUTS to blog and put yourself out there for the world to judge. You don’t have to justify to anyone how you, or your family, spends your money. Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and unemployment are all safety nets that were developed by LIBERALS because we recognize that sometimes, bad things happen to good people, and we have to help each other out. We are all in this together and sometimes, it takes a little while to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and some people (disabled, children, elderly) won’t ever be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. We have to help each other. That’s what it’s all about! Not judging others. I have visited your blog several times but never officially “followed” you. I am officially one of your proud blog followers now. You go girl! We’ve got your back.

  • Nicole Busick
    September 28, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    Nicole, I love your blog and I’m so happy to have found it. You are an inspiration! Creative work, kids and a husband! It’s so much work and now you get paid. It’s a great accomplishment. I did like to hear about where you started. It’s encouraging. You are one of my favorite blogs. Loving your striped dresses lately. Cheers!

  • Nicole RJ
    September 28, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Thank you for sharing such intimate details of your life with us, and boo to whomever felt the need to so cruely rain on your parade. Go you for doing such an amazing job and being able to support your family with your blog and freelance writing!

  • Zaida
    September 28, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Wow, thank you for sharing, but truly it’s really not my business how you make your money! I’m sorry you were insulted with a bunch of political rhetoric. People want to jump to illogical conclusions. Honestly, I find it downright hateful that someone insulted you and your husband. You have the right to post who you are voting for–it’s America people, last time I checked it was a free country. Long live the right to vote!

  • Nikki
    September 28, 2012 at 8:57 pm

    I only know you through your blog, but I’m proud of you. This year my husband quit his (very unhappy) job to pursue music full time. My little Etsy shop and upcycled clothing business has taken off, and right now it’s the only income we have. It’s not nearly enough, and we don’t have insurance, but it’s kind of amazing to even consider that I could be the breadwinner. It’s been a big shift at our house. I can’t overstate that. But it’s also been a pretty amazing journey. So happy for you, Nicole… keep up the great work!

  • caitlyn
    September 28, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    Nicole, I am sorry that someone lashed out at you so viciously. Thank you for sharing openly and honestly about a situation that is really none of our business. How exciting that things are working out for you and your family!

  • stevie
    September 29, 2012 at 12:02 am

    1) That link was awesome
    2) I like to know my bloggers politics
    4) Anyone who says this is not the type of blog for that is being silly, this is YOUR life/lifestyle! This is the “type” of blog for everything anf anything that you have to say!
    5) CONGRATS cause the whole situation that you guys have going on sounds preeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeety awesome.

  • RebeccaNYC
    September 29, 2012 at 12:09 am

    I am just catching up on my blog reading, so I am a little late to comment on this. As total strangers, your financial situation is none of our business and yet you have shared such a personal part of your life with elegance and candor. I am sorry that your passing reference to a very interesting political website caused such a firestorm of hate. Even if people disagree with your political beliefs, hatred is not an acceptable response, and I am really sorry. You handled the whole thing with such grace. xoxo

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  • catherine
    September 29, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    unemployment is called “unemployment insurance” for a reason – you pay into it. it’s amazing how ignorant people can be about the so-called “forty-seven percent.” you deserve to collect that! and most people who complain about unemployment have likely never been laid off. good for you for making it work.

  • Emma
    September 29, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Amazing history you must be so proud !
    After reading it I feel more motivated and inspired. You and your husband are such a wonderful team <3

  • Mandy
    October 1, 2012 at 8:56 am

    I just read some of the comments from that post. What a bunch of meanies! Whatever, your blog is awesome and you are one talented lady.

    Party on, Nicole!

  • Ser
    October 1, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Way to go, mama!! I really enjoy your work, so thanks!

  • Daryn Murphy
    October 2, 2012 at 9:46 am

    I think you are amazing…have for years. Keep doing what you are doing…no press is bad press even from haters!

  • Marisela
    October 5, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I love your blog and appreciate all the hard work you have put into it. Keep up the great work!

  • Jessie {My Mod Style}
    October 7, 2012 at 8:53 am

    GO YOU! You are just living your life. People need to get over themselves.

  • Sara Rose
    October 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm

    I am very sad that you feel the need to justify yourself. There will always be trolls, darlin’. People who never ‘get’ that we live and write how we do because it makes us happy and is ours means to an end that is soul satisfying. I’m proud of you. We’re so close in age and working hard through our DREAMS to support our families whereas a lot of people would take completely unsatisfying jobs to do that. Good for you.

  • Lise
    October 8, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Why others would feel entitled to judge your family’s finances and choices through the window that is your blog I don’t know. It is only a window: where closets are always perfectly organized, children dressed like perfect models of behavior and every project ends in a perfect after photo. As readers we thrive on this limited perspective. Like a perfect book that tells only part of a story and inspires us, we know its not the whole story or even completely real, but we enjoy it nonetheless.

  • Jane
    October 9, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    All I can say is “good for you” you should feel incredibly proud of all you have done. I’m sure it’s not always easy so celebrate the good days and keep doing what you do.

  • Lori
    October 13, 2012 at 5:13 pm

    Ay, ay, ay… half the country is NUTS. :) Don’t let them get you down. Congratulations on your success!

  • GreenieWeenie
    October 14, 2012 at 6:24 am

    you know, I’m not one to comment on blogs. But THIS post…I couldn’t resist. When my friend’s fb status update saying “I have cancer” was eclipsed in comments by her status update saying, “I’m watching the VP debate with my parents and why does Joe Biden have to laugh like that?”, I was just so….SAD. And this is sad, too. And it reminds me of that last sad, and I had to comment. I don’t know when politics became so bitter, so divisive and so overwhelming. It’s okay, world. It’s okay if you don’t agree with someone. It’s okay if they don’t agree with you. That doesn’t make it okay for YOU to insult them/their mothers/ad nauseum. Remember, for ages people didn’t talk about politics or religion at the dinner table FOR A REASON. And that reason still holds true. There ARE other things that are more important: personal relationships, the sources of things you enjoy (whether that be a blog or something else). Take a deep breath and BE POLITE or just can it. Your opinion need not ALWAYS be aired.

  • Jennifer @DreamingofJune
    October 14, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    This post brought a tear to my eye! It is women like you that serve as an inspiration for relative newbie bloggers like myself! So thank you! And congratulations on all your accomplishments.

  • Telma
    October 16, 2012 at 3:35 am

    Hi Nicole, I’ve been following your blog for a few years now but I never commented before. I just want to give you a word of support, my country is going through a major economic crisis so I really know how it is to live with the stress of financial instability.
    After all this years I still can’t believe people are so nasty online.
    I wish you and your family the best and keep up the good work. :)

  • Jane
    October 22, 2012 at 8:53 pm

    You go girl. Y’all are lucky to have each other and those beautiful babies! I hope the little people with insulting comments don’t get to you for long. I know I would be arguing with them repeatedly in front of the bathroom mirror, wasting time, and raising my stress level for no reason. I hope that’s not you. You are so fantastic.

  • Natalie In Oklahoma
    November 16, 2012 at 10:05 am

    I just found your blog on the link of YHL, which I follow daily.
    While sitting here having my coffee this a.m, I just skimmed through page after page..and found this post…
    I just wanted to drop you a note of admiration and a sisterly-hi-5!!!

    My husband lost his job in August 2009. We weren’t really prepared to be “one income” at that time, but I am an RN with plenty of opportunity to work overtime to make extra money and make ends meet.
    He suffered a few months of depression, and he too, had to go on unemployment for a short time while he searched (unsuccessfully) for another job. He held a bachelor’s degree in business at that time, but literally couldn’t even find a job at our local Wal-mart.
    What we found was that this was actually a door that opened for him to find what he truly wanted to do, which was become a school teacher. With my encouragement, he went back to school and got his Master’s degree in education. Three long years later, he just started his first teaching job, and couldn’t be happier.
    It was a tough three years, but I wouldn’t change it for anything… because it made us stronger as a couple, gave him the chance to follow his dreams, and now we have a really great sense of who we are, and how we can work together through anything.
    I am proud of anyone who can adapt to the changes and challenges that being “unemployed” brings, and my hope is that anyone that falls on harder times will lean on each other and try to make it as positive an experience as possible. My husband “loosing his job” turned out to be a gift and a blessing.
    Best of Luck to you and your husband,
    With joy,
    Natalie In Oklahoma

    • Making it Lovely
      November 16, 2012 at 10:39 am

      Thanks, Natalie. We’re finding that it has worked out for us too. I’ve found that this story is happening and has happened to a lot of us out there.

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    January 16, 2013 at 4:03 pm

    I love your blog, its an inspiration! The economy forces us to find new ways to put food on the table. The way you got it and works for you and your familly is the right way for you and your beloved ones right now. Go ahead girl and don’t look behind!

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  • Jessica @ The Budget Savvy Bride
    January 17, 2013 at 8:05 am

    I am just catching up on some of these older posts, but I have to tell you that your story is so inspiring. I so appreciate the fact that you are willing to share these details of your life and finances with your readers. I hope to someday be able to start a family and can’t fathom not working on my blog or design projects… but my hubby wants to start a family sooner than later. He jokes about wanting to be a ‘stay at home dad’ and it has always terrified me- the thought of being the sole provider for the family. Your drive and passion has really encouraged me today. Thank you!

  • Surprised
    November 20, 2013 at 8:45 am

    This sits really poorly now that you’ve bought a $700,000 mansion that you’re filling with brand new furniture. :/

    • Making it Lovely
      November 20, 2013 at 11:25 am

      I’ve addressed concerns like yours here. I’ve worked incredibly hard, replacing Brandon’s lost income and then some, and we are now doing well financially. I wrote that post before the Q4 hit, and that period was a huge turning point for the business of the blog. I know that you left your comment anonymously, so I’m not sure that you will be back to read further, but if you see this, please know that I have always been honest and transparent when discussing personal matters.

  • Shawna
    January 1, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    Thank you for your inspiring post!!

  • Geysel
    May 23, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    It’s great to see that you’ve been able to provide for your family. Some people might see is as unconventional and it saddens me that your received bad comments. I’ve loved seeing your blog and family grow throughout the years and I’ve come to look forward your post about your beautiful house and adorable family. It’s a normal thing in life to go through difficulties and its great to see someone get through it with such a positive attitude.

    Best of luck to you and your family!


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