Thursday, September 29, 2011

My (Not So) Storybook Life Advance Copies Giveaway. Also? This Makes Me Nervous.

Thanks for all the entries! The giveaway is now closed and the winners will be announced tomorrow.

I have ten advance copies of my book, sitting on my desk, signed, just waiting for someone to take them home. It's the perfect giveaway storm. I've also included an excerpt of the book below for those of you who are curious. Whew. I'm nervous. I spent a lot of time writing and not a lot of time thinking about the fact that people would actually one day read this. *deep breath*

I usually have "no strings attached" giveaways, this one does have an teeny tiny string.
1. Repost the pic of my book and the excerpt below on your blog.
2. Leave a comment, including a link to your blog post, and you'll be entered to win.

For those of you without blogs, you can link to this post on your Facebook page, and also leave a comment to let me know. So I hope that's not too much to ask. I hope you'll like the excerpt. And for those ten winners, I hope you like the book!

Once one has breathed in the deep pungent aroma of sewage, you never again forget the nose-hair singeing, eye clawing, throat gagging experience. It comes over you slowly. You begin to feel like a character in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as your muscles involuntarily jerk and you run screaming and blowing raspberries. Anything to get away from the mind-numbing stench.
But let me explain.
It was 6:30 a.m. I was standing in my retro pink tiled bathroom trying to open my bleary eyes and ready myself for work. As I stood there, peering into the mirror and wondering what demented nighttime fairy had planted four new wrinkles on my face, I paused and sniffed.
“Matt… what’s that smell?”
Matt staggered from the bedroom in his underwear, eyes half shut. “I don’t smell anything.”
I pointed my nose into the air like a hunting dog. “Seriously? You can’t smell that? Did you go to the bathroom in here earlier? I told you to use the room spray when you do things like that.”
Matt puffed out his bare chest and gathered his pride as best a man can with sleep in his eyes and a small hole in the side of his underwear. “I just woke up!”
I frowned, catching a glimpse of my makeup-less hot-rollers-in-hair state and tried not to think about the fact that I looked fifty instead of twenty-nine. “Well, help me figure this out. Because something smells ripe.”
We sniffed the sink drain and ruled it out as a suspect.
“Is it coming from the toilet?” Matt asked, examining it from top to bottom.
“No, that’s not it,” I snapped. I’m not known for my milk of human kindness in a disaster. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a survivor. I plan on eating my radish like Scarlet and clawing my way out of the nuclear dust while dragging my loved ones with me. But I won’t be doing it with positive phrases and a smile.
“Hon, I just don’t know. We’ll call a plumber after work, maybe it’s coming from under the house.” Matt staggered a little, trying to get past me and out of our tiny bathroom.
“Well, that’s just great,” I moved aside and pulled the shower curtain back so I could perch on the side of the tub and give Matt room to move out the door.
That’s when the full brunt of nastiness filled the air around us, a swirling mix of excrement and acrid stench that would have brought the sewer dwelling Ninja Turtles to their knees. Where the normally slightly-clean-with-a-hint-of-soap-scum bottom of the tub should have been, there sloshed gallons and gallons of brown sewage.
I clutched the front of my sweatshirt and held my breath. Matt began to dry heave.
“Get out and shut the door!” I screamed as we bumbled into the hallway.
“I’ll deal with this,” Matt grabbed my shoulders, trying to talk and hold his breath at the same time.
I could feel my eyes glaze over, the horrors of typhoid and hepatitis in our bathtub filling my mind. But more importantly, I could envision our evaporated savings account. In my mind’s eye I could see the long, gray hallway at the bank. A worker shrouded in a black suit pulled a set of keys from his pocket and unlatched a small locker labeled “Owen Bank Account.” Inside were two small stacks of quarters and a few crumpled dollar bills. It was bleak, not only because the banker with an unimaginative wardrobe gazed at me with an expression that could only be interpreted as “You’re a Big Fat Loser,” but also there was a very definite possibility we wouldn’t be able to pay for a plumber.
I wasn’t necessarily a spend thrift. In fact, I was downright frugal when it came to decorating with thrift store furniture and rewired vintage lamps. But the fact was, we were poor. We were starting out at starter jobs with starter salaries. We were starter adults with a starter bank account.
“Okay,” I nodded numbly, thankful that Matt was taking the lead on such a disastrous biohazard. “But make sure the plumber is super cheap. We don’t have much money!”
I left for work like a wino stumbling through a fog, not really remembering my commute, not really doing any work as I sipped my coffee and stared blankly at the computer screen. A disaster of such gargantuan proportions had previously been unthinkable in my life, and now I found myself attempting to push the image of a vast sea of bathtub poop from my mind. But I was sure of one thing: Anne Shirley never had to get ready for work while breathing raw sewage.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

It's Time

When the sun starts to sink, and the late afternoon light streams through the windows like this, I know it's getting close to the time when our whole family is together under one roof. It's time for rice cereal and reading books and football watching with Matt. The sun tells me when it's time. It makes me so happy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Thoughts on Postpartum Depression

I always thought postpartum depression was something like this.

You wake up.
You roll over.
You stretch.
You say, "Gosh, I'm feeling suddenly depressed. I bet I have postpartum."

Um. Not so much.

I've never ever encountered depression. I'm like the Energizer Bunny. I always keep keeping on. But when it came to this, there was no keeping on. It came on slowly, creeping into my daily life without notice. But over time I grew sadder. I stopped wearing makeup. I didn't want to shower. I began to cry. Then I couldn't get out of bed. I looked in the mirror and didn't recognize myself.

Since I was dealing with major health problems and job worries, I kept thinking, "Once these things get better, I will too."

Then one day I was sitting in a chair, looking at Jane, and thought to myself, "She would be so much better of without me."

And that scared me. It scared me bad. That thought wasn't me. Something awful had taken over my brain. I had to finally admit it. I wasn't just battling migraine related vertigo, I was battling depression too.

So my doctor put me on antidepressants. I hated it. I didn't want to need drugs. But as I began a slow climb out of the valley I was living in, I realized it was necessary. I've also come to have a deep feeling of camaraderie with other women who have experienced this. Until you've lived it, you just can't know.

But life is looking up. I may still be battling health issues, but my mind is clear. I can watch the sun go down each evening without feeling a seed of dread in my stomach, or overwhelming waves of loneliness. I can enjoy things I used to. I can laugh. I can smile without forcing it.

And I know that Jane would never be better off without me. Because while I may not be in tip top shape, I'm a darn good mom. She loves me, and I love her. Depression tried to steal that. God gave it back.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Today I could concentrate on the fact that I'm dizzy and feel weird.
Or I could concentrate on this bowl of popcorn.

Or even better, I could concentrate on this face.
Because as you can clearly see, she's locked in on me.
Or maybe it's just the bottle in my hand.
She loves to eat.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Flowers Make Everything Better, Or Funny

Lately I've felt like I lost funny. I can usually crack a joke or laugh in almost any situation. But these last few months sapped me. I wasn't laughing any more. I couldn't brainstorm anything funny to write about. It made me sad.

But apparently flowers make everything better. Or bring the funny back. I'm not sure which one. Let me explain.
Jane had a cold and gave it to me. But whereas little kids get the sniffles, adults apparently spike a 102 fever and roll around on death's doorstep. Anyway, Mom brought me flowers. They cheered me up. And as I walked into the living room looking like a cross between Swamp Thing and Big Mama, I decided to open the blinds and let the sun shine in. And there, on my doorstep, was the mail man.

We were eye to eye. He with his headphones and shocked expression, and me, pants-less, feverish, and un-showered for two days. I dropped to the floor like a bomb had gone off. I know he saw me. I can read horror in a man's eyes. I've seen the same expression in Matt's when I have PMS and scream, "YOU PUT THE TOILET PAPER ON THE WRONG DIRECTION."

So anyway, there I was, on the floor, belly-crawling away from the window and the freaked out mail man. And then I started to laugh. I'd found funny again. Like I said, flowers make everything better.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I Blinked

I blinked and it was fall. How can I describe this summer? Imagine entering Space Mountain. It's just starting to be summer. You're wearing shorts and flip flops. Then you're plunged into the dark, spinning roller coaster. When you come out, it's raining and you need a sweater. The leaves are falling and you're confused, staring at your flip flops muttering, "Wait a minute..."

That's what happened to me. I stepped out onto the patio to chilly air and a end-of-summer bumper crop of basil and muttered, "Wait, what happened to July?"

I stood there, breathing in the moist chilly air and admiring how herbs always make a final flourish of growth at the end of the season.

I put on a sweater and listened to the wind rustle the trees.

All the plants are lanky and spent.

And turning red.
I blinked and it's fall. It will be good. It will be beautiful. I will be present.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Cheesecake

Since the day she was born, we've referred to Jane as "The Cheesecake."

So when my mom bought us this ornament, it was perfect.

A cheesecake for The Cheesecake.
But I'm not jumping the Christmas-gun.
There are Halloween decorations begging to come out of the attic.
The trick will be to keep my balance long enough to climb the ladder.
I'm thinking that's a job for Matt.

Monday, September 19, 2011

I Did The Thing I Always Swore I'd Never Do

I child-proofed. Down came the white shutters and wall lamps.
Out came a dining table leaf to make room for Jane's gigantic high chair.

I swore I'd never be that person.
The person amending their decor around a baby.
I was dumb.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Good Medicine

Jane Margaret is good medicine.
She wakes up smiling.
She laughs every time we change her diaper.
She blows raspberries to get my attention.
She makes me forget about my troubles.

I'd like to think I'm not doing such a bad job either.
I can put her to sleep just by holding her.
I saved her from a bee.
I've mastered the art of applying Diaper Goop to a flailing, giggling five month old.
I can change out the Diaper Genie in fifteen seconds flat.

It's good medicine.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Life Is a DollHouse. Or Not.

This was by far my favorite possession when I was a little girl. My very own dollhouse.

I arranged and rearranged furniture in all it's 1980's glory. I played out different life situations with the dolls. It was not based in reality.

"Mom, I know I'm only 15, but want to go out with Billy."
"Oh OK dear, that's fine with me."

I thought this was what the future held. A two story house. An always clean house. Unmovable plastic hair. Just kidding.

But the older I get the more I realize that God is sending me lots of lessons.

And this time I've realized life is not a dollhouse.

You can't plan enough. Or work hard enough. Or be smart enough.

Sometimes life just happens and you have to roll with it.
Sometimes you roll with it in what feels like a tiny life raft bobbing in a typhoon.

But no matter the hardship, no matter the hurdle, it's still our life.
It's still a God-given blessing.
And if we're breathing air, then we have a purpose.

So maybe life isn't a dollhouse.

Maybe it's not always full of beautiful houses with arch doorways and plastic people who have permanent smiles.

Maybe it's messy and we all feel a little broken and battered from time to time. But it's still good. God is still with us. And the sun will shine again. Right now the dryer is running, the house smells good, and my sweet girl is sleeping. The window is open and it feels like fall. Maybe I was dizzy yesterday. And maybe I'll have vertigo tomorrow. But today, right at this moment, is good. I don't want a dollhouse. I like what I have just fine.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Books and a Voice Over

books are a big hit with my girl. or maybe it's just matt's special voices that she loves. i know they're my favorite part, especially when he glares across the room and never breaks character as he snaps "don't laugh at me" in a high-pitched voice. either way she kicks her legs and slaps the pages.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Two Reasons To Smile

matt brings me flowers and jane likes to chat with me while she eats. thank you lord for letting me live with these two.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Baby Steps

mabel longs for the good old days. the days when there weren't baby toys everywhere. the days when our attention was reserved just for her. sometimes, when matt and i are talking to jane and she is chirping back, mabel stands in the middle of the living of the living room and howls. but we made progress this morning. she jumped up next to jane and me and stayed there. i guess that's what they call baby steps.

Friday, September 9, 2011

I Love

i love how he talks to jane and she gets so still and listens. i love that he doesn't wear skinny jeans (i just can't talk myself into liking those). i love how much he adores his mom. and i love how patient he is with me.