My Aunt Peg #empoweredWritten

It can be hard sometimes living so far from Vermont, my childhood home. When I decided to go to The College of Wooster back in 2005, my parents and I pretty seriously underestimated the difficulty and expense of getting me back and forth to Ohio multiple times a year for 4 years. After I spent half of my Thanksgiving break (and therefore my 18th birthday) stranded in the Cleveland airport due to a snowstorm, we agreed that it didn’t make much sense to fly me home for a few days in November when a month-long winter break was just around the corner.

As it turns out, this decision had the surprising outcome of bringing me closer to family. My aunt Peg and uncle Bud have taken me under their wing nearly every Thanksgiving since then, and visiting their home outside of Cincinnati has become one of my favorite holiday traditions.

Walking into Peg’s home in the middle of an ordinary, suburban Ohio neighborhood feels like I’ve been transported 800 miles east, back to the quiet Vermont town both she and I grew up in. Her kitchen is stocked with every product The King Arthur Flour Company has ever released, her walls are decked with dreamy landscape photos taken at The Shelburne Museum, and her backyard has been transformed into a verdant oasis, complete with artsy garden shed.

I love Columbus, and I’ve loved it since I moved here, sight unseen, in July 2010. But it hasn’t always felt like home. I miss Vermont's mountains, rivers, lakes and ponds with a visceral ache. I’m not shy (though you probably figured that out, considering the vulnerable, public nature of the #empoweredWritten project), but I am a quiet introvert with some social anxiety, and it’s been hard to find and make lasting friendships. I hadn’t ever been to or watched a football game before living here, which seems to be a dealbreaker to a lot of Buckeyes. (If I’m going to watch sportsball, I’d rather be at Fenway Park.)

Peg’s home is a beautiful refuge for a homesick Vermonter — but it’s also representative of an important lesson: home is what you make of it.

About a year and a half ago, my husband and I relocated from charming, urban Victorian Village to quirky Clintonville, and now I can walk just three minutes to the Olentangy bike path or Walhalla Ravine. Having such easy access to nature has had a truly profound impact on my day-to-day happiness.

Also in the past couple years, I’ve been lucky enough to become friends with some wonderful women, and that’s made Columbus feel more like home than ever before. Having strong female friendships locally has made a significant difference in my confidence levels, and I absolutely think that it was a big part of what enabled me to make the leap and launch Written Paper Goods. In turn, this has opened up a whole new side of Columbus: the flourishing, friendly creative community. In the 10 months since launching Written, I’ve met more like-minded, inspiring people than I had in the previous 6 years combined.

My aunt is a true inspiration to anyone who knows her. Yes, she’s the hospitable aunt of my dreams, with a passion for French baking and a generous wine pour, but not long ago she was a hard-working, award-winning lawyer. Peg has overcome immense obstacles to become the amazing woman she is, and I’d like to take a moment to publicly request that she please begin writing her memoirs posthaste.

But today I want to express my sincere gratitude that she has taught by example that you can be both a badass professional and a creator of a warm, inviting home life. This lesson has had a serious ripple effect in my life, and I honestly don’t know if I’d be as happy and fulfilled as I am today without her influence.