How someone else’s book launch party launched me

You are one decision away from an entirely different life. 

I’ve scribbled this Mel Robbins quote at least a dozen times since I came across it. I understand how one choice is all it takes to change the trajectory of a life. While I have many examples, bad and good, the one that springs to mind revolves around a book launch party.

I should start by saying that I am a true introvert who needs time alone to recharge and avoids new social situations at all costs. But a year ago, I promised to stop dragging my feet and make my writing a priority in 2022. When Tammy, a local author I had met once, scheduled her book release party on January 16th, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to further my 2022 goal.

But true to my introverted nature, panic shot through my nervous system as I drove to the launch party. I willed myself to keep the car moving forward instead of slamming on the brakes and going back. While I was nervous about this new social situation, I was terrified by the prospect of derailing my writing goals yet again.

I parked around the corner from the event and called Chris, my husband. I told him I couldn’t do it. It was going to be a disaster. My hands shook. A swelling lump suffocated me. I was sweating even though it was a mild day. Chris (always the calm to my storm) reminded me why this was important for me to do. He told me how strong I was, how cool it was that I got to do this and that he would get in the car and meet me in half an hour if that’s what it would take for me to go inside.

As he talked, my legs inched closer and closer to the door. Before I hung up, I told him I could do it but made him swear not to leave the phone just in case. And then there was nothing else for me to do except step inside. So, I did.

Here’s the thing that happens when you get brave—the universe somehow catches that wave of courage, and it rewards you. For me, it came in the form of Sheila, another writer I met at the local Women’s Fiction Writers Association get-together months before. She stepped right up and introduced me to two other writers with her, Kristi and Christel.

Before I knew it, I agreed to attend a write-in (whatever that was) at Sheila’s condo the following day. I remember calling Chris on my way home, giddy and saying something like, “Not only didn’t I die, but I’m going to hang out with them again tomorrow!” I felt like a kid coming home on the first day at a new school. Meeting people with the same passion and creative energy fed my own. Plus, it was nice not to feel so alone.

At Sheila’s the next day, she, along with Kristi and Christel, encouraged (read: FORCED) me to join a virtual WFWA write-in through Zoom. I didn’t know what it meant, but I knew I didn’t want to do it. Before I could come up with a viable escape plan, we were all Zooming and meeting with a larger part of the WFWA tribe. And again, a decision I made (albeit via peer pressure) sent my life further down the writing path.

In the year since my first write-in, I have come so far in this writing journey, buoyed by the connection with fellow writers, in-person and across Zoom. I’m querying a book I am proud of and want people to read! I’ve published essays! I’ve cannonballed into the deep end of the freelance writing pool and am building my business and creative portfolio. 

My journey isn’t anywhere near done. In fact, it’s just getting started. But, had I not walked into that book launch party, I would have still been stuck wanting what I now have: a group of friends and writing allies who mean the world to me and for whom I will always carry a heart full of gratitude.

Remember, You are one decision away from a completely different life.

And once you make that decision and start living that life, you will never want to go back.

The Santa picture that broke me

We’ve all seen those silly Santa pictures and chuckled. I did, too, except I was also relieved that none of my kids behaved that way on Santa’s lap. Getting the perfect picture meant a lot to me. So much so that I would literally break a sweat making sure everyone looked as perfect as possible.

And then my youngest kid totally threw all of my planning out the window.

A month before his second birthday, I sat him on Santa’s lap, and, well … he absolutely was not having it. At all. Not even a little. And after about thirty seconds of absolute embarrassment and horror, something inside my tightly wound body snapped. It broke me. And it made me so much better.

I no longer put a whole lot of stock into catching my kids at their worst. It meant more to me that each picture captured who they were at that particular moment in their lives. My daughter’s kindergarten picture day came exactly three days after she launched herself from the swingset and scraped her chin all to hell. My oldest’s third-grade picture day happened right after his dad shaved his head down to the scalp. My youngest has blessed us with some of the most memorable pictures purely by being his emotive self.

Insider gave me the chance to talk about how that Santa picture broke me and made me better. I now have a deeper appreciation for those snaps that capture authenticity rather than obsessing over the appearance of perfection.

Did you have a moment like this in your parenting journey? I would love to hear about it if you do.

Divorce as a SAHM

If your relationship has been declining, you may not want to consider that you’re headed toward a divorce. But this is exactly when you need to start thinking about your future without your spouse. A little preparation can go a long way in formulating and executing a successful exit strategy. This is especially crucial when you have children and no tangible financial way to independently support them.

I know a little bit about this because, in the year preceding my divorce, the alarm bells continuously sounded. Every day, there was some further sign that my marriage was ending. Soon, instead of wondering what would happen if I got a divorce, it changed to what would happen when I got a divorce. And that forced me to make some plans.

I was a stay-at-home mom then, with three kids from 10 years old down to a newborn. We didn’t have a ton of money, but not having any of my own was downright terrifying. I let the terror paralyze me for a little while until one day, I knew I had to act. If I wanted to put myself in a better financial (and mental) place to go through a separation and divorce, I needed to build up some resources.

Mother Untitled gave me some space on their website to share how I got through those trying times. Divorce is an emotional and mental rollercoaster. But doing it when you don’t have a paycheck in your name feels like you’re riding that coaster without a seatbelt. With a little planning and a few actions, you can give yourself a lap bar to provide some measure of stability during your divorce.

Do you have any pre-divorce preparation tips you wish you knew at the time?

We’re Not Blended …

My husband and I came into this marriage with a whole lot of battle scars and fresh divorce decrees under our belts. While we muddled through to find our footing, we dragged our combined five kids along. What could possibly go wrong? We loved each other and our kids. And isn’t that all it takes to succeed at this blended-family thing?

Nope. As it turns out we were wrong. So.Very.Wrong.

Scary Mommy gave me the chance to pull back the curtain on parenting in a more scrambled than blended situation.

Have you been successful at blending your family? Or is yours a little more scrambled and scattered like mine? Maybe you vacillate between the two. Whatever it is, I would love to hear about it. Drop me a line and let me know whether you’re killing the step-parenting gig or it’s killing you.