Monday, September 15, 2014

5 Minutes Inside a Mom’s Head in the Grocery Store

Inspired by this article: 5 Minutes Inside a Mom’s Head

What's next? Cereal, here it is. Wait, that box over there costs less. But is it the same amount of cereal or is there less in it? Hang on, mental math…3 divided by 2 is…

"Stop hitting your sister!"

Where was I? 3 divided by 2…okay, I think it's cheaper. But he might not like this kind…last time I got a different kind he didn't eat them and it ended up going stale before we could use it up...Well, part of that was because it got shoved in the back of the pantry. Ugh, the pantry is such a mess. Look at all this food in my cart, how am I going to get it all in there? I'll have to clean it out. Like I'll have energy for that after all this shopping.

"Seriously, if you two don't knock it off we're leaving right now!"

Who am I kidding? We won't leave right now. Look at all this stuff in my cart!

I should just skip the cereal. Shouldn't we be eating more fresh fruits and veggies anyway? Wait- I don't even want to think about what the veggie drawer in the fridge looks like. It's like a science experiment in there. Even the mold has gone bad and is growing its own mold. Maybe I should actually go put these cucumbers back…but I already went through the produce section. And it's so far away. And they actually like cucumbers. When I remember they're in the fridge.

Wasn’t I going to grow cucumbers in the garden this year? Whatever happened to that plan?

Oh, right. Weeding. I hate weeding.

What's next on my list? Dangit, I forgot the eggs. Do I have enough eggs at home to get through the week? I never know, because when I don't get enough eggs then everybody wants them, and when I do get a ton, nobody eats them.

"No, we're not getting that. Because it's not on our list. Put it back. Put it back NOW. Do I need to count to 3?"

Wait, which meals did I need cheese for? Didn't I need mozzarella for something? All I got was cheddar…well, maybe I could just use cheddar in the recipe instead. Cheese is cheese, right? But mozzarella has that whole melty, stringy thing going on…

Heck, I'll just go back to the dairy section and get more eggs AND the mozzarella. You can never have too much cheese. If worse comes to worst I can make omelets for dinner one night. Omelets are healthy, right? Kind of?

Ooh, cookies. I could totally go for a cookie right now. But they're four bucks a box. It's much cheaper if I just make my own cookies.

Like I'll get around to that.

$4 a box? Is an hour and a half of slaving in front of an oven and another half hour of cleanup worth $4? Heck yes, it is. More, even. Okay, cookies in the cart. Kids deserve a treat too. Maybe I can even use the cookies to bribe them to clean their rooms….

"Get your hands out from under there! They'll get caught in the wheels!!"

What was I supposed to be going to get?

Man, I'm tired. I need a checkout line. That one's short- oh wait, that's the cashier who talks too much and takes forever to bag everything. He creeps me out. I’ll just scoot over here…no way, that lady's cart is packed. Moving on…two people in this line, but they only have about 20 things between them.

Man, I have a lot of stuff. I wonder how much this is all going to cost? I forgot to check the bank account this morning. But there should be enough in there. As long as it's not more than $200. Or maybe $150.

I should use coupons more often. Look at that lady over there- she has all those coupons. I'll be she's getting that whole cartload of groceries for ten bucks. But who has time for all that cutting? I should really make time. For couponing AND weeding. Our grocery bills are getting crazy.

I should put the cookies back. I don't need the cookies.

But don't I deserve the cookies? I mean, I planned a whole week's worth of meals, wrote up a list, drove to the store, spent an hour walking around getting everything, will spend another hour loading it into the car, driving home, unloading it and taking it into the house and then putting it away…

"I TOLD you that was going to happen if you kept putting your hands down by the wheels!"

I'm getting the cookies.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Writer's Gratitude

Recently our family has been going through some, well, we'll call them "learning experiences." If I were prone to whining I would tell you all about them, but you'll understand more about why I'm not exercising my whiner muscles in a bit.

The point is, it's been bad enough and we've tried everything we can think of to improve our situation for long enough, that the most effective of all weapons has now been in play for several months:

The Visiting Teacher.

My amazing visiting teacher has been praying for me, like always, but has been specifically praying for inspiration in her role as VT for ideas to help me in my current situation. A visiting teacher is a woman, part of a two-gal ensemble, who is charged with the care (spiritual, mental, physical, what-have-you) of her own little flock of ladies. It is a function of the Relief Society of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (oldest and largest women's organization in the world, woot woot!) and since each "companionship" has several sisters, everyone gets a little extra watching-out-for and we care for each other. So, MY particular visiting teacher takes her job very seriously and has been praying for ways to help me and my family.  She came up with this idea:

You think of the blessings you need, and you find the promise in the scriptures. Then, you work backwards from there. SO in my case, we needed financial blessings. We've got tithing down. She found scriptural promises attached to keeping the Sabbath, we are on that like gangbusters. In my studying, I found a biggie:

And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more.  
                                       Doctrine and Covenants 78:19

So that's what has been on my mind, every channel, all day and night. How can my family be more grateful. I'm reminded of President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talk about gratitude from the last General Conference, and how we have to have gratitude not just for THINGS, but for ALL things (same as the scripture above), and how it becomes not just "counting our blessings" but a true spirit of gratitude.

SO, how does this help me/you/everyone as a writer? I propose these ways. There are more, these are just my top three:

1) Look at the scripture. Made glorious. Things added--an hundred fold and more.  That's sorta self-explanatory.  There are promises made to the grateful heart. 

2) Having a spirit of gratitude colors your world. As my family and I have been concentrating on gratitude--true gratitude--and as I have been conscientiously seeking to find ways to improve my grateful spirit and heart, I find that trials don't weigh me down. The stinkin' finances don't occupy my every thought. There's more room in my brain for deep thoughts. I have more happiness and more inspiration. 

3) This is a developing idea--kind of my "next stage" in my gratitude studies. If we are grateful, we care for the gifts we are given.  We are good stewards of our blessings. So, we budget our money. We hug our kids and act like we actually are thankful for them, not that we want to strangle them and oh-my-heck will they just HUSH... sorry.  Work in progress.   

We GUARD our time. We DEVELOP our talents. We know we are blessed with the ability to put pen to paper and express ourselves, and because we are grateful for that gift, we don't squander it with clever Facebook posts and angry letters to school administrators.  I'm not saying don't do those things, just don't make that ALL you write.

What's holding you back from really diving in to your talent that the Lord has given you? Fear? Lack of time? Motivation? GET RID OF IT. Don't you bury that talent--there's no excuse for that. 

IF we are truly grateful for our writing talent, we will develop it and use it and turn it into a gift for the Lord. 

What better motivation is there than that? 

Gratitude is the ultimate writer's muse. 

(I have more on gratitude, but that's for another day) :)  Write on, my friends!


Friday, September 12, 2014

Book Titling Today- The World of ‘Of’

On the B&N website, there is a link to a blog page listing their top anticipated Sci-Fi and Fantasy book titles for 2014.  Even though the year is half over, I recently noticed a trend regarding book titles.  Here are some examples:  Words of Radiance, Veil of the Deserters
Notice anything yet?  Here’s another clue; Goodreads has a list of over one hundred Fantasy titles that share this similar trend:  Doors of Stone, The Winds of Winter, The Thorn of Emberlain, Prince of Fools, and Shadows of Self.   
Got it now?  Yep, ya’ll are intelligent authors.  It’s the mighty ‘OF’.   Like a literary virus, the ‘OF’ in book titles has been growing in momentum recently.  I’m tempted to blame G.R.R. Martin, but he might take offense and further delay his next much-anticipated book in the G OF T series. 
Why this titling trend?  We know that the word ‘OF’ is a preposition.  Beyond that, definitions range from showing relationships between parts and whole topics (foot of the bed), showing age (girl of 15), expressing a cause (died of cancer), or indicating a substance (made of logs and mud).
Therefore, we should give a closer look to the word(s) immediately following the ‘OF’ in these titles.  Perhaps we’re seeing key indicators of social significance therein.  Using the Goodreads list from above, we find that we’re dealing with stone, winter, fools, and self.  For the record, I’m not reading anything into the order of the words.
The Amazon top 12 list of ‘OF’ Fantasy books coming out in 2015 has us focusing on the connectivity of… silent things, fallen angels, the king, and Hollywood.  Again, not my order, but interesting to see them play out this way. 
Of special significance is a very special companion book to the Bible with an ‘OF’ title; only, this book is not recent.  In fact, this ‘OF’ book transcends all of the others.  It is the ultimate ‘OF’ book, but without Hobbits or sword-welded thrones.  It reigns supreme in demonstrating the connectivity between the great and small, light and dark, the glorious and grotesque.  The best part is, it’s not a Fantasy novel.  It is real; it is truth.   

Again, using Goodreads, I part the curtain into the ‘can’t wait’ Fantasy 2015 books that are forthcoming.  But now, I see fewer ‘OF’ books.  This time, it looks more meteorological: Skybreaker, Autumn Republic, Shadow Study, and Winter

Do these titles ebb and flow with the unspoken undercurrents of society as a whole?  Do these prophets of prose portend the future?  Perhaps.  They look fun.  But even if we move off towards another book-title trend, I’m at least keeping my special ‘OF’ book on my current read list, and nightstand; the others will soon go back to the library or sold at a garage sale.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Interview with Jolene Perry: Traditional vs. Self Publishing

by Katy White

I recently had the chance to interview the lovely and talented Jolene Perry about the differences between traditional and self publishing. She graciously took the time to answer question after question, and I'm beyond grateful for the perspective and information she provided. Enjoy!

K: So first off, hey! Thank you so much for being willing to let me interview you!
J:  And thank YOU for wanting to interview me :) 

K: You’re a successful author with, like, a bunch of fabulous books (and some seriously gorgeous covers) under your belt. *blushes furiously* Yet you’re also a wife and mother. How do you do it all?
J:  I have these house elves. Hermione is endlessly cross with me over the situation ;-) I’m kidding. I write in small spurts. I play with kiddos or do laundry, and think about what I want to write next. That way when I sit down to write, I really use that time – usually just 45-60 minutes at a time, or less. Getting a 3 hour “break” to write, doesn’t really work for me. I also separate “author” stuff – social networking/monies/contracts/emails with the FUN stuff “writer” stuff. Helps my brain. The “author” stuff I can sort of do while hanging with the family (sort of) but then I’m like – Mom needs 30 minutes to write. NO TALKIE TO ME. And for 30 minutes? That’s really good for my kids’ independence, and really great for me and writing. Also. Both my kids are in school now, and I’m at home… (Yes, it’s so very awesome and makes every single late night feeding and/or diaper change worth it).

K: In which type of publishing did you get your start? Traditional or Self?
J:  Traditional. Cedar Fort Industries published my first book and Tribute Books published my next two. Then I left my agent and had all these finished books, so I published a few of them on my own :)

K: What have you learned about publishing since then?
J:  This is about a month of blog posts. But I’ll simplify: I’ve learned that authors are basically professionals at waiting. I’ve learned that all the marketing in the world might not help and sometimes no marketing at all ends up being your best seller. Also. Publishing is first and foremost a business. If you think art will win, you are wrong. I know. I sound so jaded, but it’s true and I’m okay with that. I have to be or I’d go insane. The final thing is that sometimes it’s just the right book to the right person, at the right time – this goes for agents as well as editors.

K: Why do you pursue both traditional and self-publishing?
J:  They serve different purposes for me now. I’ve separated it slightly further than I did a few years ago. My self-published books are my fun romance books that I don’t want to rip out and stomp on my heart (like I do with my YA). The publishing process with being on submission and round after round of edits and the nerves involved in waiting for covers and releases are STRESSFUL. So my non-YA books I self publish, and it’s SO much more relaxing.  

K: Do you have a preference between them?  
J:  No preference. Just different experiences for different types of books.

K: Do you ever feel burned out writing? How do you reignite the flame, so to speak?
J:  I sometimes feel burned out on a specific project, which is usually okay because I do not sell on proposal (even though my publisher would be fine with it). BUT when I want something out or done, I find a way to fall in love with my characters. If I love them enough, I’ll have to tell their story and I’ll have to tell it well. For this I run, walk, Pinterest, or use iTunes.

K: Self-publishing is still fairly new and still often criticized. Where do you think self-published authors typically go wrong?
J:  The number of covers I see that look cheap is just staggering. SPEND THE MONEY ON A GOOD COVER. And editing… If you don’t have amazing editor friends, hire an editor. My trad pubbed books go through usually 3-4 readers and then through my agent. And then I usually do 3-5 rounds between first pass, copy edits, and final pages with my publisher. People do not take the time to edit properly. (Typos even happen in books from the big 6, but a lot of edit rounds will weed out sloppy writing).

K: What do you think successful self-published authors do differently?
J:  They write more sex?? Lol. I’m teasing. (a little). I think a lot of it is having an online presence that’s more than just pushing books. Covers are HUGE. And being nice goes a LONG ways. (Katy's note: Jo has some seriously GORGEOUS covers. She knows what she's talking about.) 

K: How does your process differ in getting a book published traditionally versus self-publishing? Do you go through the same editing/critique partner/beta reader process?
J:  I go through ALL the same process aside from I get to design my own books covers (or have my genius friend Allie do them). I do the same rounds of edits that I would before sending to my publisher. Although, I cannot imagine a time when I will ever read one of my own books and not want to tweak things.

K: Where would you recommend someone interested in self-publishing start?
J:  Google, lol. I think good critique partners are a must. The first time you format and upload, it’s frustrating and baffling, so find a friend who has been through the process before. Or hire out formatting and cover and stuff. I know there are a million resources out there, but since I do it all myself, I’m not the best person to ask.

K: One of the advantages people often cite to traditional publishing is the marketing support. How do you go about promoting your books that are self-published? Do you do any personal promoting for your traditionally published books?
J:  Honestly? I used to pay for big blog tours, but my two biggest tours are my two least selling books. No joke. It’s a little different for me now because I don’t have to do as much to sell the same number of books as I used to. I’ll give you my random secret… but only here... I make the book free for the first day and say NOTHING. Then I do 0.99 for a couple days for my friends, and that 0.99 sale I’ll post about. Usually that gets me a few reviews, and some buzz, and then I let it ride. I’m not great at marketing b/c it stresses me out, and I find that almost nothing determines the success or failure of a book. I self-publish because it’s much less stressful, so if I spent a ton of time marketing, that would negate the low-stress factor.

And people who walk into a book contract thinking they’ll get publisher marketing support are dreaming. I know that’s rough, and of COURSE a publisher puts some money behind marketing, but most don’t put a ton. Let’s say a particular publisher puts out about 50 books a year (I do have one in mind, an imprint of a big 6), probably 10 of those books gets pushed. The other forty are primarily left to their own devices.

K: Any last words or advice for authors looking to publish? 
J:  Find a good support group of other people doing what you’re doing. Don’t forget about your awesome family. Always remember that you’re making up stories, not performing brain surgery. Don’t take yourself too seriously. HAVE FUN.

K: Huge thanks to Jo for her fabulous help and fabulous books! (Side note: I ended this with a weird kissing sound, so if we never hear from her again, you completely have me to blame. But she's a rockstar and a total pro, so...meh. I'm banking on her forgiving me.)

All: If you have any questions about self or traditional publishing, please comment below and we'll try to get them answered in future interviews!

Also, for more information about how to connect with Jolene and about some of her books, including her new release, Stronger Than You Know, check the links below. 

I Blog  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Just Keep Writing

I published a book a couple of weeks ago. It's called Emon and the Emperor and it's my first attempt at science fiction, and only the second book I have self-published. (Click here to buy it in the US, and here to buy it in the UK.)

I'm a "hybrid" author in that my first five books have been traditionally published (that is, published by a publisher with whom I sign a contract giving them rights to the book in return for a royalty payment) and two have been self-published (that is, I retain the rights and publish the book myself using a platform such as Createspace or Kindle Direct Publishing, and there is no publisher involved).

One of the "problems" with self-publishing is that you can log onto Kindle Direct Publishing, or Createspace, or Nookpress, click on "Sales" or "Reports" and find out exactly how many people have bought your book so far. The temptation to do that all the time is overwhelming and soul-destroying because, on the whole, self-published books don't do well. Most self-published authors sell only a handful of copies and, despite the higher royalty rate, don't make very much money.

Compare that with traditional publishing which sends you a statement occasionally. One of my publishers sends a statement faithfully every month, occasionally accompanied by a cheque. Another does so just once a year. It means I can't get all worked up about how well my book is selling, because I don't know. My traditionally published books generally sell a lot better than my self-published books despite being more expensive because they look more professional, and they are actually available in physical bookstores.

The upshot of all this is that if you think you've written the next Harry Potter or Twilight, the scope for enormous disappointment is far higher if you've self-published than if you have been traditionally published. You can check your reports and see day after day tick by with no sales.

But we writers don't let that stop us. We're an optimistic bunch, and we know that there is no expiry date on our self-published ebooks. They're not going to get remaindered, thrown in the discount bin or taken off the shelves to make space for something new. There is plenty of time for them to get noticed and start clicking up steady sales.

More than that, in the meantime we're working on something else.

We know, you see, that the next big thing is exactly that - the NEXT big thing. Okay, so that last novel we published has slipped under the radar, but we're not worried because we're already halfway through something new, something wonderful, something exciting, something even bigger and better. We write because we have to, and we know that the next book is always going to be better than the last. Writing, like any other talent, gets better with practice.

Emon and the Emperor has been out for over a week, and I'm still waiting for Stephen Spielberg to call and ask for the film rights (maybe it's because he hasn't got my number - pass it along if you see him, will you?) but I've just signed a contract for a new book, and now I'm more excited about that one. I have the next five lined up after that one too. I'm not wasting time stressing about whether Emon is selling (although actually it's not doing as badly as I'd feared) because I am looking ahead -several years - to what's coming next.

Each new book also serves to promote every other book. As new readers discover your work and like your style they look to your back catalogue for other reading material. The more books you have available - even if they're only selling a handful each - the more successful you are as author.

Whether you prefer traditional publishing (as I do) or self-publishing, the trick to success is to just keep writing.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The (Face)Books That Stay With You

by Merry Gordon

Every few years or so a trend cuts through Facebook like a hot knife through butter.

Not viral cat mash-up parodies.

Not hashtagging (#saveitfortwitter).

Not vaguebooking, or humblebrags or Farmville invitations*.

Not even Ice Bucket Challenge videos.

No...I'm talking about lists.  You know, when someone is challenged to make a list of (insert random category here) and then challenge a handful of other friends via tag to do likewise.

I generally ignore these and scroll on like the cyber misanthrope I am, but the recent "10 Books That Have Changed My Thinking" list has stopped me in my digital tracks.  I love hearing what other people are reading.  I'm all over knowing what books move my friends, what words stick with them—and so is everyone else, judging from the number of times this post shows up in my news feed.

Facebook Data Science crunched the numbers and came up with an interesting master list.  Rounding out the top?  The Harry Potter books, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Lord of the Rings—no surprises there.  On the other hand, Huffington Post invites us to stop lying about our favorite reads on Facebook in a snarky-but-true** post that extols the virtues of the "fun" book.

(That said, I'm a lit teacher.  My list probably reads a little geekily highbrow, but hey, I binge read Harry Potter and threw the last book in the Hunger Games series across the room with all the rest of you.)

My top 10in no particular order, and not counting books of scripture because those are givens:

Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte

Great Expectations - Charles Dickens

The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro 

The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje

Little Women - Louisa May Alcott

The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Hamlet - William Shakespeare

A Prayer for Owen Meany - John Irving 

Cold Mountain - Charles Frazier

These aren't all necessarily favorites.  Some I read by choice, others by compulsion, but they're all books that have haunted the corners and recesses of my mind since I first picked them up.

So, Mormon Mommy Writers, Readers & Friends, what's on your nightstand?  Please comment below!

*Or Candy Crush Saga.  Or Farm Heroes.  Or Criminal Case....<sigh>

**Okay, maybe not Gossip Girl, and definitely not Fifty Shades, and I still haven't hopped on the whole Game of Thrones bandwagon yet.  But the rest....guilty as charged.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

How bad do you want it?

I get asked all the time, being a single mother with an absent ex-, "How do you do it?  I don't think I could do it if I were in your situation."
Now, I'm sure that most of you married peeps can think of your own version of this question that you have been asked.  Maybe it is juggling 6 kids and a husband that is going to school AND working... shoot, I think about me and my mentality and doubt I'd be able to do it.  But do you know what I've learned?
I could.
You could too.

Because if the stakes for NOT doing it are high enough, you'd find a way.  My children depend on me.  Heavens is it hard sometimes... some days I have to really dig deep to just get out of bed in the morning.  In my mind, and I choose to keep it this way, I am their only hope.  In that respect, how can I fail?  That's the point.  I can't.

Thankfully I know that I have the LORD on my side, and whenever I truly need him, he comes through for me.  He loves my children too!  I find patience when I have run out.  I find understanding when my mind tries to close up.  And I find time, for them, when I feel like I'm running out of it.  I also have a very loving and supportive family that truly believes in the responsibilities of family members towards each other.

Not all of our challenges will seem like a life or death situation.  Hopefully most of them won't.  But I believe that the idea behind it stands.  What if your goal is to loose weight (like me) and are struggling with it?  The idea is to create an extreme need in your mind.  You may feel strongly enough about it, but if you aren't out there working at your goal, then the need, or absence of that need, isn't strong enough.  Put it this way; what if your doctor or the LORD stands in front of you and tells you that you must run once a day, or you would die?  This would create a strong enough need to get out there, wouldn't it? Running would probably be one of the first things on your list for the day!

Now of course that's an extreme situation that hopefully we wouldn't find ourselves in, but in your mind, you have to find your own extreme reason to do whatever it is that you want to get done.  If you are writing a story, how badly do you want to get it done?  Bad enough to do what it takes?  My dad always asked me that all the time,  "How bad do you want it?  Bad enough to do what it takes?"  and if I didn't achieve or get it, he'd say, "I guess you didn't want it bad enough.  If you did/do, you will find a way."

There is a season for everything and I encourage righteous pathways to it... but I know it can be done.  There's a book that really has helped me further in this area, that I highly recommend, that is called  Take the Stairs  by Rory Vaden.  He has an abundance of useful knowledge in that book.

You want something... get out there and find a way!  Go get it, and then come back here and write about it!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Guilt, Sanity and House Cleaning

By Lacey Gunter

I used to think the phrase, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness" was a tool OCD cleaners coined to guilt those of us who don't meet their standard of cleanliness into trying to clean more. Recently I have come to a different conclusion. Having a truly clean house seems like a Godly feat to me. I think it would take a near act of God to get and keep my house truly clean.  So perhaps what it means is that it takes near superhuman strength and endurance to keep everything clean.

Even as I try to lay this obvious imperfection before the Lord's feet, I can't seem to shake this deep-seated sense of guilt for not being capable of doing it. 

I am fully aware of the fact that if I spend every waking moment not demanded by my husband, kids or job, doing house cleaning, I will go insane. Yet, every time I take a moment for myself, to be creative or sit down to write or just to relax for a minute, there is this nagging voice in the back of my head saying "Don't you have laundry to do?  Your house is a pigsty.  You're shirking your responsibilities for playtime. Get to work!"
Feed me, Seymour!

I know all the arguments to use against this nagging voice, at least enough to get it to shut up for a moment.  But when someone other than family shows up at my doorstep and I have to invite them in to my chaos, all those arguments fall by the wayside and I am left terribly embarrassed.

It is so hard sometimes, trying to intersect principle with reality. Heaven help me, please! Or, at the very least, tell me the afterlife comes furnished with a large host of angelic maids.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

PPD and Me

- a post by Jeanna Mason Stay
Warning: It’s shocking, I know, but I’m about to be completely serious. Take a deep breath. . .

When my second child was born, we had just moved to a new place where I didn’t have any close friends or family. It was winter—bitter cold—so I got very little sunshine and fresh air. And having a newborn came with all the attendant stereotypical stuff, like wonky hormones and lack of sleep. Surely this was enough to make the situation difficult. Add to that the fact that I have never considered myself a natural nurturer. Being a mother is a challenge to me, even on the best of days.

So I was struggling—more than I was willing to admit to anyone.

In my old days of grad school, studying marriage and family therapy, I was required to use an inventory called “Reasons for Living.” The Reasons for Living inventory was a list of potential things you might discuss with a client with suicidal ideation (the desire to kill oneself)—things it might be worth living for, or at least reasons not to die.

In my postpartum days, these items went through my mind. I don’t remember how often, I don’t remember how long it lasted—but I remember days when I sat in my bathroom, sobbing into a towel, thinking “My family would suffer without me” and “I believe in an afterlife.”

Thankfully, I was never truly suicidal, largely because of those two items from the inventory. Even when I felt like I was contributing absolutely nothing to the well-being of my family, the logical part of me knew that I was at least providing food for my newborn and keeping my husband from having to pay for childcare. And even in my pain I knew death wouldn’t make the hurting stop. (The belief in an afterlife can be a pretty strong inducement to live. I didn’t want to end a mortal life just to pop up somewhere else to suffer the consequences of my bad decision. If I could truly have ceased to exist, though . . . that would have been far more appealing.)

But those weren’t so much “reasons to live” as they were “reasons not to die.”

Did this scare me? Oh yes.

But I didn’t tell anyone.

I’d like to believe that if I had actually been in danger of hurting myself, I would have sought help. But I’m not sure. I had so many reasons not to talk about it: I hated to impose on anyone. I didn’t want to have to deal with therapy or medication or even having friends come over out of pity. I didn’t want to be a drain on my husband’s resources. I didn’t feel like we had money or time to spare on me. Also, I’m not sure anyone knew to really pry into how I was feeling. I’m not sure I would have told the truth anyway, unless someone had asked me repeatedly, seriously, with wholehearted determination to really know how I was doing.

Over time, the feelings faded on their own. It was a miraculous gift, one not afforded to most people suffering from depression. This part of my story is not the norm. It was only when I was starting to feel better that I finally told my husband what had been going on. He knew I’d had a hard time, but he had no idea how much. I was very good at hiding it, and I was functioning at least minimally, so there weren’t enough warning signs.

Now, with another newborn, we both pay much closer attention. So far, I am infinitely better this time around. I am grateful but also determined not to allow depression go unaddressed again.

Why am I telling you all of this? To be honest, I’m not sure. I’ve thought and thought about why I felt compelled to tell this story. Perhaps because I hope that knowing a little of it may help you if you are feeling despair—at least help you know you’re not crazy or hopelessly ruined (I felt that way sometimes). I hope it will encourage you to seek help instead of suffering through. Perhaps because you may know someone who seems to be doing okay, but maybe you wonder sometimes if there’s more going on that they’re hiding. You should go find out.

Perhaps, in the end, because I think that telling a scary secret takes away its power, and because depression doesn’t need any more power in my life or in anyone else’s.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mary Oliver is the SHIZ!!!

posted by C.J. Schneider

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting  
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver 
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver


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