Everyday Icon: Dear Clementine

Finally! Meet the inspiring woman behind our sage advice column, Dear Clementine.

We were introduced to May's Guest Editor,

Karey Mackin

, by

our founder

. There was going to be an advice column on the site and she knew a woman - who was also a writer - that could provide guidance on everything from love and loss to finances and etiquette. At the time we were unaware of how poignant and beautiful said advice would be, but true to form -


hunch paid off. Today we lift the veil and meet the woman behind

Dear Clementine

 - read on to hear Karey's insights on motherhood, behind-the-scenes careers and the importance of creating a life that leaves room for surprises...

We know you as a writer, mother and generous giver of sage wisdom via our advice column, Dear Clementine. Did you always want to be a writer? And how about motherhood - was that a role you always wanted to pursue?

A few days before I learned I was pregnant with our first daughter, my husband and I were seriously considering buying a boat. We had never talked about having kids, except in the most abstract, romantic ways. Like, when my husband proposed, he promised, "We'll have babies and live all over the world so that they understand America's place in it and love her even more." In retrospect, I probably should've mentioned to him that I did not like children, but I was too busy finding the sparkly engagement ring he'd hidden in a cream puff. I would tell him later.

A lot of married years went by, and I somehow kept forgetting to tell him. And then came the first of the three biggest surprises of my entire life.

"Okay," I thought, as I rearranged my two year plan. "I'll have this kid, but I'm not going to enjoy it." Because I very much enjoyed my publishing career, and I couldn't imagine a baby competing with my clients. Gosh, they sure were wonderful. My boss even set up a mini-nursery next to my office in preparation of my baby's arrival and my immediate return to work, oh, probably two weeks after delivery. Yes, that sounded like a perfect plan, and so I signed off on it immediately and began interviewing nannies.

But then Lillie Kate arrived, and I fell hard in love with her and instantly in hate with my clients. Gosh, they sure were boring and whiny. And every nanny I met was dull as dirt, looking at me blankly as I acted out the song and dance my brand newborn enjoyed during diaper changes: "Miss Lillie Kate Kate Kate, on just one skate skate skate, flew down the hall hall hall, just missed the wall wall wall..."

Who knew my life would happen like this? Not me, that is for sure. But I thank my lucky, lucky stars that my two year – or rather my sixteen years and counting – plan has worked out so happily. We added two more girls to our family, Grae Rose and Esme, and they are each so utterly perfect except when they're not. Oh! And my husband's promise came true; we've lived all over the world, from Oman to Jordan and Indonesia and who knows where next. Believe me when I tell you this life I wasn't even dreaming of is so much better than a boat.

As for my career, most days it's a lot of lonely grunt work when all I really want to be doing is standing somewhere warm, selling beautiful things and chatting the day away to whoever pops in and jotting down their stories as soon as they leave. But then I think about that dream career a little harder, and all I truly want out of that perfect scenario is to be surrounded by beautiful stories somewhere warm. Currently, I've got the stories, but we're in Chicago for a few years so I'll have to wait for the warm!

And to be completely honest, I chose and kind of invented my career based on one criteria: Will I be able to make money and stay home with these girls of ours? The answer was "not quite" for many years, and I wrote a lot of different ways before I found my true niche as a ghostwriter. I no longer accept just any old job I'm offered, and I'm a fan of what I'm writing right now. I'm proud of the behind-the-scenes career I've built while making three wildly strong and interesting girls.

I guess who I thought I would be – every little detail, in fact – is crazy different than who I turned out to be. All because of my daughters. Some days that makes me feel like I'm less than I should've been. But then I look as these three someday-women and think, "I flipping killed it. I am genius at my job." There are no raises or awards or my name waving hello from the cover of the books I've written, and very few happy hours with my co-workers except for the ones where I'm watching my girls kick ass at life and pinching my husband next to me. "Look. Look what we've made."

You have a wealth of knowledge, empathy and understanding for your age. (We are seriously in awe.) Is there a particular event or occurrence in your life that provided this insight or have you always been an "old soul"?

I know a few things about myself, and most of them are not fantastic traits. But empathy? I've got tons of it. Judgement bores me. I don't really care about the mistakes you've made or the disastrous directions you've followed – unless you're intentionally mean. Then I'm out. But if you fall and want to start over again, give me your hand. I'll help you up.

I think I just came this way, minus some rude veers off-course during high school, college, and my early twenties. But then my dad died after a short but brave battle with cancer, and then my sister's story ended the same way after a much longer, somehow even sadder fight. They were easily the kindest, coolest, most accepting people I've ever met in my life, and I like to think they left me some of theirs when they left me.

I remember reading some Toni Morrison book that I didn't totally love, even though I pretended that it completely changed my life. In truth, it was the dedication page that changed me. On it, she wrote "It is sheer good fortune to miss someone long before they ever leave you." That's how I've tried to treat people. If I know I'm going to miss you when you're gone...well, then...let me enjoy the hell out of you right now. It saves a lot of time and leaves zero room for regret.

In your opinion, what is the greatest character trait a woman can possess? What is the most overrated?

I gravitate toward people who have overflowing amounts of generosity and confidence. Relationships with anyone less are dangerous to me. Unhappiness and pessimism are, unfortunately, highly contagious.

Overrated? I don't know. Even the worst qualities can be kind of charming if they're honest. In terms of this online life we lead, I'm not too keen on an overly and cautiously edited persona. I like real. I like happy. If you're living like that online and off, good on you.

You have three daughters. If you could only give each one piece of advice what would it be?

Oh, one of them just the other day asked my opinion about what she should do. It doesn't matter the specifics, but I told her to go for it. Just do it. (I got that from Nike.) Just do something. I always tell them that we're only here for a minute, so make it count. Make it matter.

One of my favorite bits of writing is also such a nudge for me when I'm trying to live as much as I can. Alice asks, "How long is forever?" and the White Rabbit replies, "Sometimes, just one second." I want to be sure my daughters pack as much into their lives as possible, you know? We all have a shelf life.

Also, I tell them to wave and mouth the words "Thank You" at people in other cars when they let us pass. To remember that they're the greatest people ever invented, but so is pretty much everyone else, so treat each other accordingly with the utmost care and wonder. And to clean up their crumbs because crumbs are annoying.

You have gotten to know our community well through the Dear Clementine column - if you could offer one piece of advice to the Clementine reader, what would it be?

I was swimming laps the other day, and there was this pregnant lady in the lane next to mine. She asked if I had kids, and when I said yes all she wanted to do was tell me about her birth plans and her plans for absolutely no epidural and all the plans she had for her baby and breastfeeding and all the plans she had for her life after that baby arrived. She was so darn planny. I smiled and listened and felt very ancient when I told her, "Enjoy it. Just enjoy it."

But what I really wanted to tell her was to scrap the plans. Real life is not all about plans – it's about living real.

I should've made sure she knew that she's not a jerk if she needs an epidural or learns she hates breastfeeding and sneaks formula, or decides she wants to take a break from her professional life to make her personal one the priority. That the most interesting part of babies and the best moments of life, for that matter, is how it all disrupts your thoughtfully planned plans. So, whenever possible, set up a life where those disruptions add joy, not annoyance. It might not look like the one you planned, but I can assure you it will be so much more interesting and worthwhile.

Real life is not happening if every day looks the same as the one before and all is going to plan. I say scare yourself as often as possible, and make room for the new and different even if it's a


night and you've got to get up early 


. Life is flying by. Get your hands up and catch some of it.

You have started an exciting and inspiring, newish project on Instagram called The Let's Adventure. What was the impetus for this project and what do you hope to accomplish?

It was New Year's Eve and I was missing writing as myself. Ghostwriting is super lonely. I'd been selling all my words for a few years, and that is an awesome situation for any writer, but something felt off. I knew I didn't miss blogging, but I did miss my own voice in sentence form and I did miss the sense of community. So I thought I'd reinvent my little Instagram space into a place where I could exercise my words a bit and document some of the stories that popped up during my days.

My plan was to choose one word as my theme; hopefully one that would help me skate through the year with a bit of intention and a lot of lovely company. There were a few contenders – umbrella, borrow, and minuscule always put me in a good mood, but they didn't have legs – and I ultimately chose let's. Because when someone starts a suggestion with the word let's, whatever follows becomes a joint endeavor. Even if it's, like, "Let's watch Shahs of Sunset." To me, let's means us together. I can't think of any better way to go through life, can you?

After one hundred days of it, I thought "Well, that was cool. I'm done." I'd gotten it out of my system. But after a few days off #TheLetsAdventure, I missed it. I missed finding my own tiny stories, I missed holding out my hand, and I missed my faraway friends grabbing for it. Isn't that strange? I guess I need that burst of togetherness, purpose, and positivity on the daily. Maybe you do, too. And so now I'm in casual talks about turning The Let's Adventure into something cute for your desk or wall, so let's see what happens with that!

Please complete this sentence: My sister taught me....

My sister taught me to skip the negative. She never saw what was wrong with someone or something. Or if she did, she truly shrugged it off. It just wasn't worth her time. So what she was left with was, oh my gosh, the most stunning take-your-breath-straight-away existence. It wasn't like she was denying the awful parts of life – she had Stage IV Cancer and was a realist – but she put them so far behind all the wondrous parts that they never got any attention. It almost seems too simple, doesn't it, but it's shockingly difficult to live in the sunshine.

A few weeks before she died, I remember her putting on these tiny Calvin Klein jeans. "All my life, I would've died to fit into these jeans," she smiled. Her message wasn't lost on me. I couldn't have been given a better lesson on what's really important in life.

I guess we can all look at our lives and see what's missing. What we're lacking. I'm guilty of that, too. But what if we fell in love with what we have right now? Imagine looking for everything that's perfect. Or even just pretty good. It's there. It's all right here. And I don't want to miss that.

Yes, it sounds too good to be true, I know, but I love stories like that. Especially the ones that end with the happiest of hours and a little pinch for each other. "Look," we'll smile. "Just look at the life we made."

p.s. Feeling inspired? Then you should you meet WNBA player Alysha Clark!