All of These Must Go

She was tall and had the longest, thinnest legs I’ve ever seen. She was like a giraffe, a giraffe with a pixie cut, anyway. Her delicate fingers held her cell phone as she snapped photos. She walked in whispers, in waves. And then in one fell swoop, she saw my books. “Oh,” she said. I could smell the distaste as the word dropped from her lips and hung there. “These, all of these must go,” she said, and one of her arms gestured, as if I could use a magic wand to POOF them away.

 

Giraffe lady’s business card was shiny, waxy, and I folded it over and over upon itself. Her leopard-print kitten heels clicked along our scuffed up wood floors. They sneered at my New Balance tennis shoes from Costco.

I couldn’t keep up with her. She wanted our life put into boxes, compartmentalized, hidden, camouflaged. Like only the house existed, not the people inside of it. No evidence. Clear the crime scene, no human beings have deigned to breathe within the confines of these walls! No children or adults have sullied this place, look how pristine it is!

Giraffe lady emailed a to-do list of eleventy billion things that needed attention before proceeding.

I heaved myself up and began. What else was there to do?

 

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Happy Tenth Anniversary, Postpartum Progress!

 

I’m a little fuzzy about the first time I stumbled upon Postpartum Progress, yet I’m certain it was long before Piper was born in October, 2011.

My episodes with postpartum have blurred together, making the lines foggy for me…because I’ve also struggled with regular depression off & on since I was in college.

But I can say that PPD and PPA (and depression in general) are isolating. Those who haven’t experienced it themselves often have trouble relating or knowing what to do, say or how to help. I remember stumbling into my two-week post-op appointment after the twins were born via c-section. I couldn’t stop crying and my Ob/Gyn handed me a pamphlet about PPD. And at my six-week checkup after our youngest was born, pretty much the same thing happened.

Depression is not only a liar, but it’s lonely. Which isn’t a winning combination.

I’ve felt all alone, like no one understood. I had nobody to confide in or share with (aside from my therapist and my mom).

Then I found Katherine’s site and her community of survivors, support, and strength.

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If you’re reading this and you’re suffering in silence, you don’t have to.

Find & “like” Postpartum Progress on Facebook. 

Looking for a little inspiration? Follow Postpartum Progress on Pinterest: Postpartum Depression Hope.

And here, you can read personal stories from fellow WARRIOR MOMS, moms who are just like you.

If you need more, you can join the Warrior Mom Community Private Forum where you’ll find plenty of peer support and information.

I’ve met Katherine Stone in person and have had the honor of hearing her speak at several conferences. She is easy to talk to, always willing to talk and help, and she’s a fighter and a mama and someone I admire. I’m proud to support Postpartum Progress and to be a part of this special week in her honor!

CONGRATULATIONS ON TEN FABULOUS YEARS, KATHERINE!

WE LOVE YOU!

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Just Write: Gutted

Gutted.

It’s how I feel in a papery hospital gown. I can’t stop thinking about how it’s been worn by hundreds (thousands?) of other naked people.

Gutted.

It’s how I feel when my braless breasts go sagging out to the sides as I lie down on the gurney.

Gutted.

It’s how I feel as the nurse tap tap taps on my hand to get the vein after she ties the tourniquet.

Gutted.

The needle shoves past my freckled skin. The prick of pain and the breath I yank in and the tears that gather.

Gutted.

It’s freezing in the OR and although I can feel some medicine starting to work, I’m hyper aware that someone is tying each of my ankles to something hard and cold at the foot of my narrow bed.

Exposed.

The medicine makes me feel wonky and swirly but my brain and body are strong and fighting it. I’m acutely aware that now my ankles are being being cranked up by pulleys, drawn to the top of each of two skinny poles.

Exposed.

Everyone knows there is nothing on underneath a hospital gown.

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Exposed.

I start to cry. The anesthesiologist peers over me with his blue mask and tells me it’s going to be okay. But how is it okay when strangers can now see my most private parts?

Exposed.

My body is on display. They’re used to it, they see all kinds of naked bodies day in and day out.

But I’m not used to it.

I don’t remember what else the anesthesiologist says to me, but I remember getting hysterical. The embarrassment of the surgery I was about to have rivaled the level of pain my fissure was causing. I cried hard. I wanted to disappear. I didn’t want people looking at my lady bits, my flabby white cellulite-ridden ass.

All I know is that the medicine is working, but it’s not enough because I’m still awake and conscious enough to feel the cold air hitting my bare body. I’m conscious enough to feel gross and ugly and inexcusably human. All my parts.

So it has come to this.

I sob as the room spins so much I feel like retching.

And then from somewhere above my head comes a mask and I’m told to inhale deeply and count.

At long last, everything goes black.

When I wake up, there’s scalding, searing pain like an iron. Sharp like the tip of a knife.

There’s no one there with me, and I try to call out for someone, but I can’t even make my mouth move.

I roll to my side and pull my knees up, fetal position.

I’ve been gutted.

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A Lady in France : A Review

Jennie Goutet is not only my friend, but also the author of a brand new memoir: A Lady in France. Her book appealed to me on multiple levels, and I’ve always been drawn to Jennie’s openness and honesty when it comes to addressing tough subjects. I have felt a kinship with her for several years now, and so I eagerly devoured each chapter, always yearning for more.

If I’m being completely up front, I was apprehensive about reviewing her book because I knew a big piece of it was about religion and Christianity. And I’m not a very religious person. I’m Jewish, but for me, it’s more about the culture, heritage, and the traditions, and less about the spirituality, prayer, and God. Jennie chronicles her journey to God in a way that didn’t feel preachy or condescending at all; in fact, if anything, it’s made me question the depth and breadth of my core religious values.

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Jennie’s book opens when she’s 19 years old, studying abroad during her junior year of college.

Why did I go to France in the first place if I was so fearful? 

And I am one of the most fearful people you can meet. I have been terrified of

everything outside of my small life, haunted by the “what ifs,” accosted by

worry and the fear of flying or of grief, ever since I can remember.”

Jennie is painfully honest throughout her book, and confessions like these bring us closer to her. The irony of it, however, is that time and time again, she comes up against something so scary and instead of running away, she confronts the very thing that terrifies her. It’s also inspiring to read about someone (whom I can so closely identify with) abandoning everything to chase after her dreams…literally, since Jennie dreamed at age 17 about meeting and marrying a French man. And she sets out to find him and do just that.

Jennie will hold your hand and bring you along with her as she comes up against loss (suicide and death), depression, and addiction. She’ll describe the cultures and scenery with such vivid detail that it seems as if you’re right there with her; you’ll feel the monsoon, curse the Celiac disease, weep for the dying baby in her arms. You’ll fight back tears when she loses her brother and her fourth child, Alistair. You’ll cheer when she marries Matthieu and they bring their babies into the world. And you’ll laugh with recognition as she appreciates the little things (Fanta and hot showers), schleps strollers up and down stairs, and deals with construction workers and their endless dust.

Jennie manages to woo us with her grace and her immense well of gratitude…that never runs dry despite the many miles she travels, the experiences she has, and the life lessons she learns along the way.

What are you waiting for? Buy your paperback copy of A Lady in France on Amazon! (you can also get it on Kindle there!)

Want to connect with the author, Jennie Goutet? Of course you do!

Follow her on Twitter: @aladyinFrance

Read Jennie’s blog.

“Like” Jennie on Facebook.

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Jennie Goutet

Jennie blogs at A Lady in France and is a contributing author to Sunshine After the Storm — A Survival Guide For the Grieving Mother. She was a BlogHer Voice of the Year pick two years running, and her writing has appeared in Huffington Post, Queen Latifah’s website, and BlogHer, among other places. She lives just outside of Paris with her husband and three children.

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More Grammar Mistakes (a follow-up post)

 

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I wrote a post recently that resonated with many people: Top Eight Grammar Mistakes . It went over very well and in the comments, several of you left suggestions for other common grammar errors. So I decided it would be helpful to do a Part II, a follow-up post of sorts.

It’s important to master proper grammar because your writing is often the first thing people see about you.

In no particular order, here’s a(nother) list of commonly made grammatical mistakes:

1.) Pique, peak, peek

Three totally unrelated words. Pique is a verb, peak is a noun, and peek can be a noun or a verb, meaning a quick glance (noun), or to look at something furtively (verb).

Examples: Her blog post about social media mavens piqued my interest.

He hiked all the way up to the peak of the mountain.

If I’m worried about burning dinner, I just peek into the oven.

2.) Lay vs. lie

Lay means to put or place in a horizontal position, to set something down (or to lay eggs!). Lie is a noun and a verb. As a noun it means a false statement or an untruth. As a verb it means to either tell someone something untrue or the act of resting or being in a horizontal position.

Examples: I asked her to lay her book down before taking the test.

When his son came home late, he lied about where he’d been.

Whenever I have a bad headache, my mom tells me to lie down for awhile.

3.) Principal vs. principle

Principal can be a noun or an adjective; as a noun, it’s the head or director of something, i.e. the school principal. As an adjective, it describes something that is first or highest in rank. Principles, on the other hand, are guidelines or rules.

Here’s an example to help you remember: The high school principal is your PAL. Get it?

The principles behind calculus have always eluded me.

4.) Then vs. than 

Then is a noun (time), an adjective (being such at that time), & an adverb (at that time, next, or soon). Than is a conjunction used when referring to a comparison or a preference of some sort.

Examples: They did their homework, then they went outside to play.

The then president was impeached.

I’d rather jump off a cliff than eat bell peppers. He’s smarter than I.

5.) Faze & phase

Faze means to worry, bother, or disturb. Phase refers to a stage in a process of development; OR the phases of the moon.

Examples: She was so used to being bullied that the mean words didn’t even faze her.

My toddler throws tantrums all day long; they say it’s a phase, and I can’t wait until it’s over!

6.) Piece vs. peace

Piece is a part of something, or a slice of pie. Peace is the absence of any strife, war or disagreement.

Examples: Do you have a piece of gum?

As the mother of three, I often wish for peace and quiet.

 7.) Your & you’re

Your is possessive and you’re is a contraction, short for you are.

Examples: Is that your glass of wine or mine?

You’re going to drive me crazy if you don’t stop that.

 

So what am I leaving out this time? Be sure to leave me some examples in the comments! And thanks again for your suggestions for this post!

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Talking to Kids About the Holocaust.

I didn’t plan to launch into a discussion about Hitler and Nazi Germany.

Last month I read an article about the actress who plays the role of Liesel Meminger, Sophie Nelisse. Her performance in the film belies her age (13 years). According to our local newspaper,  Nelisse turned down some serious gymnastics dreams in order to pursue this part. My daughters saw that I was engrossed in something and asked me what I was reading. So I told them about Nelisse, and explained that the book was so good I couldn’t wait to see the movie.

I was too impatient to put off seeing The Book Thief any longer, so I suggested they play in the basement for awhile. When they asked why, I told them there might be some scary parts. When they asked what those scary parts would be, I suddenly found myself in unfamiliar territory.

I knew I should keep it simple. I mentioned a mean man named Adolf Hitler. They remembered hearing a bit about him from one of their favorite movies, The Sound of Music. I told them Hitler didn’t like Jewish people and he wanted to separate them from everyone else. Apparently that fact alone wasn’t intimidating enough; I gently told them that he managed to kill many Jews during World War II. I didn’t talk about Auschwitz, Dachau or Bergen-Belsen. I didn’t tell them about the tattoos, the gas chambers, the labor camps or starvation. I didn’t tell them about the six million. But I did tell them about Sophie Nelisse’s character, Liesel, and how her family hides a Jewish man, Max, in their home during the war. Their hearts warmed and grew lighter upon hearing that non-Jews were willing to put their own lives in danger in order to do the right thing and help others. These are the lessons I want to teach my daughters.

I don’t believe in hiding everything from my kids, and I don’t like lying or sugar-coating reality. They’re old enough to know and understand plenty of things; and while they don’t need to hear the gritty, gory details, I’m doing them any favors by shielding them from something like this. They’re mature enough to handle the basics. After all, the Westboro Baptist Church is very much alive in Kansas City, and, well…history is doomed to repeat itself unless we educate our youth. They need to know that the world isn’t always such a pretty place. They need to know that even in 2014, people don’t respect differences.

My mother-in-law found an age-appropriate book for them, but it’s long and they’ve already peeked inside and decided they aren’t ready for it. And so we’ll wait until they bring it up again.

My friend Holly Rosen Fink interviewed Nelisse and Emily Watson, who plays her adopted mother, Rosa, in the film. Watson says something profound and critically important:

“And that’s why you have to keep making films like this– because there’s a whole generation of kids who think that Adolph Hitler is a football coach.”

And that’s just it. My kids may not be learning about the Holocaust in school yet, but eventually they will. In the meantime, conversations can and should start in the home when children are ready. This is only the first of several such discussions we’ll have with our daughters.

 Have you talked about the Holocaust with your kids? Have you brought up other difficult topics? I’d love to hear what you said and how it went!

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Top 10 Things Every Parent Should Keep in the Car

Last week reminded me that it was time to (re)stock my car with some essential items. One of the girls came down with a stomach bug and nearly got sick in the car. Fortunately  I had a few things to help until the inevitable happened, and by that time we were coincidentally at the pediatrician’s office, where they gave me the best thing ever. Which brings me to number one on my list:

1. Plastic bags  (and preferably some hospital-grade barf bags like this!)

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The nice thing about these is that they’re molded to fit right around the mouth and they can hold A LOT. So older kids can use these pretty efficiently should the need arise. But if you have a toddler, you may have to wing it with regular old plastic bags. And you’ll want a few of those anyway for your regular kiddie trash, i.e. wrappers, gum, dirty wads of Kleenex, and fallen french fries. And also to put the used barf bags in.

2. Antibacterial wipes

My minivan does have a built-in DVD player, but until the day they start making them with a sink in which to wash hands, we’ll have to make do with some antibacterial wipes. For tough jobs involving any sort of bodily fluids I prefer Clorox wipes (go ahead & call me a germaphobe), but otherwise Wet Ones or something similar will do.

3. Hand sanitizer

After you finish cleaning up car barf on the go, you’ll want to get those pesky microbes off your hands, and everyone else’s, too. So get thee some Purell!

4. Baby wipes and Kleenex

For less worrisome or minor yucky things (“Mommy, I have a booger!”), I always keep a pack of baby wipes or Kleenex handy. I vote for baby wipes because sticky hands are quite common.

5. Bottles of water

I don’t love plastic, so I don’t buy bottled water on a regular basis. Don’t get me started on how we can “just recycle” (that’s another post). But I will buy a few bottles to store in the car. I often hand them out to homeless people I encounter while we’re out and about. And the rest stay in the trunk or center console for times I hope we’ll never need them, i.e. if we get a flat tire, have an accident and need to wait for a tow truck, or there’s a traffic jam. Because inevitably that’s when at least one of your kids will decide to throw a tantrum because of thirst.

6. Snacks

See # 5. Kids are always whining about being hungry or needing something to munch on.  Also, I keep a bag of high-protein snacks in the car year round for handing out to the homeless. For my own brood, I stock potable applesauce (it’s more fun to drink it and less mess for me), Goldfish crackers, and granola bars in my ride.

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7. Cell phone charger

If you have my kind of luck (which is to say no luck at all), you’ll find yourself stranded with screaming kids, no gas in your car, and your cell phone will be dead so you won’t be able to call AAA for reinforcements. I keep my charger in my  minivan all the time, and whenever I head out I usually plug it in just to be safe.

8. Medication for you & kids

You never know when two Advil could save your sanity. Or some Benadryl could convince your toddler to nap instead of scream in her carseat. In all seriousness, I keep Children’s Advil with me, too. Just be sure to check the label because sometimes extreme temperatures can affect the medication. I stash it in my purse or baby bag just to be safe.

9. Towels (or an old blanket or two)

You might have to make friends with the cold, wet, or dirty pavement so you can change a tire or dislodge a giant tree limb stuck to your vehicle’s underbelly. Or you might need to drape it on the lap of a sick kiddo in transit.

10. Hand warmers

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My husband introduced me to these when we moved to KC and went to a Chiefs game when it was snowing. I’m sure I’m a worrywart, but I do have some of these in my car as well. It would suck to get stranded with a dead battery and kids with chattering teeth. You can find these at most drugstores or on Amazon.

 

 

 

Do you keep some (or all) of these in your car? What would you add to the list? 

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Top Eight Grammar Mistakes

Sad but true fact: people judge you when you use poor grammar. I am one of them. Your writing is often one of the first things people see, whether it’s in an email, cover letter, resume, or even just a Facebook status. We all learned these rules in school, and if you didn’t get them then, or if you’re rusty, there’s still time.

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image credit

Let’s clear up the confusion, shall we?

1.) Should of, would of, could of

NO SUCH ANIMAL! You are hearing the sound “of” made by should’ve (should have), would’ve (would have), or could’ve (could have).

Examples: I would’ve brought you some Talenti gelato if I’d known you wanted some.

She should’ve told me she wasn’t coming.

2.) To, too, and two

To is a preposition, too means  “also,” or “in addition to,” and two is a number.

Examples: Let’s take the kids to the park this afternoon.

I have brown eyes, too.

He ate two pieces of pepperoni pizza.

3.) His, hers, its, theirs 

Possessive pronouns! No apostrophe required. Have you ever seen “her’s” used? I know, it’s shocking and disturbing.

Examples: His hat was green.

I think that scarf is hers.

The owl’s wing broke, so it lost its ability to fly (assuming you cannot determine the owl’s gender — I cannot!).

That’s not our car, it’s theirs.  <– bonus: it’s = it is!

4.) Their, there, they’re

Three completely different words with different meanings. Their is possessive, there is a place, and they’re means “they are.”

Examples: We went to their house for dinner.

I think he saw your book over there.

They’re going to the football game tomorrow.

5.) Effect & affect

Effect is a noun. Affect is a verb. It’s that simple (99% of the time).

Examples: Nausea is one of the side effects of that medication.

The documentary Food, Inc.” really affected me.

6.) Loose vs. lose (kudos to my friend Travis Sloat for this one!)

Two completely different words with entirely different meanings. If you can’t remember them, memorize them!

Examples: Your pants become loose when you go on a diet.

If you lose your wallet, you’re in big trouble.

7.) Fewer and less

If you can quantify (count) it, use fewer. If you can’t, use less.

Examples: I ate fewer cookies today than I did yesterday.

I used less sugar in my coffee today.

8.) Who and Whom

If it refers to the subject of the sentence or phrase, use who. If it refers to the object, use whom. An easy way to remember it is that both him and whom end in “m.” So if the answer to your question is him, use whom. If it’s he? Go with who. Or ask yourself “Who did what to whom?”

Examples: Who fed the dog a candy bar? (you’re looking for the subject here)

(everyone should know this one) To whom it may concern:

 

What would you add to this list? What are your grammar pet peeves? Leave them in the comments!

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Out of Time

**I’m too late to link up, but I’m using the prompt from Yeah Write.  Since it’s time for a new me & time to stretch myself, I’m shucking my fear & returning to writing.**

Tina’s face shines with sweat. I dab it with a cool cloth and catch a drip of snot before it hits her chest. Her chin is tucked tightly, like a penguin nudging her young into her perfect hiding place. I push the damp hair out of her eyes and gently secure it with a bobby pin.

She reaches for my Sprite.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I say.

She ignores me and gulps it down like a drunk who’s been off the sauce for weeks. Not a minute later she retches, missing the flimsy emesis basin next to her.

I press the call button and move what’s left of my drink out of her reach. The sweat-snot rag is useless as a makeshift mop.

A nurse knocks and enters, her eyes and nose questioning from behind the curtain. I wave her in and say, “Sorry, we had a little accident.” Tina glowers at me, her vomit now a pool on the blanket that’s dripping onto the floor.

The monitor beeps and I watch the spike take over the screen. Meanwhile my best friend moves into another realm of consciousness, one I can’t comprehend. Over the last 20 hours I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut; I’ve learned not to touch her anywhere below the neck; and I’ve learned to hide my drinks. Her breathing is measured, deep, punctuated with low murmurs that seem to come directly from the basketball in her belly.

The nurse stops changing the linens to switch off the volume on the machine. She glances at the last few pages of printouts, then at Tina. She washes her hands, snaps on a pair of rubber gloves, and grabs the lube from the warmer.

“Hon, we’re running out of time. I’m going to check you again, but…”

“I know, I know, alright?” Tina cuts her off. I start to say something and then bite my lip instead.

The nurse leans in from the foot of the bed and I watch my friend’s face contort. Suddenly Tina’s hand shoots out to grab mine. Tears burn my eyes and for a split second we’re nine-year-0lds again who have just patched things up after a fight about something stupid.

“You’re still at a four, and minus two station,” the nurse says, pulling her gloves off over the trash can. I’m going to page Dr. Lewis now.” The curtain swishes and we’re alone again.

“You okay?” I ask Tina, not wanting to set her off. I feel like I’m in the circus, walking the tightrope. One wrong move will upset the balance.

My oldest friend looks at me then as if she’s seeing me for the first time. Her eyes widen.

“You,” she says. “I need you to take this baby. You’re the only one who can.”

 

 

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I Wish (& The Girls Do Good Stuff)

In case you’re wondering where I went…
I popped over to the Listen To Your Mother : Kansas City blog to post there earlier this week. I wrote about wishing for a Motherhood Manual. You know, something bound, concrete, sold at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Something that tells us moms how to do all.the.things.

You can click here to read that post.

And as promised, here are some preliminary photos from this morning. For the twins’ eighth birthday, we asked for donations of food and personal care items in lieu of presents. We were super impressed by all the “loot” we got last weekend!

So this morning, with a trunk full of healthy, organic, kosher, and even gluten-free stuff, we headed to our first destination: Jewish Family Services of Greater Kansas City. The girls were quite pleased as we filled up the barrels at the JCC. And psssst. In case you’re not going to bother reading the links, NO, JFS doesn’t require that all donated food be kosher! Nonetheless, we took care to bring some of everything, careful that ALL of our selections were healthy as a firm foundation. Because, well… you know about “those people.” Jill Smokler (a.k.a. Scary Mommy) & Jennifer Ball would’ve been proud to see the quinoa, organic oatmeal, Trader Joe’s almond butter, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice…

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Next stop? Harvester’s.

This is what the holidays are all about. Giving. And about teaching our kids what’s really important. It’s not the presents, the material things, more “stuff.”

It’s about the way we feel when we give of ourselves, when we do things unasked. We do because we can and because we want to.

We’ll keep right on doing it.

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