Six Months Later …

Happy six-month-aversary to What to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting!! In many ways, it seems like this labor of love (and hate) hit bookshelves no less than six years ago. In zero ways, well, there’s just no way that it’s only been six months. In all ways, it feels like a good benchmark to note while offering a bit of a welcome, a bit of an introduction, a bit of reflection, a bit of a thank you, and a bit of a sale.

First, Welcome!

Many of you boarded this ride post-WTEWYWE-publication and I am truly honored that you felt compelled to hit “follow,” whether on the blog, on the socials, or with a simple click of add-to-cart. I do not take it likely that my words have found a home in your thoughts. My poor fingertips are often put under immense pressure, each week, as I urge them to put something good to digital paper once again. 

Of course, the reality is that not every entry was, is, or will be a slamdunk but stick around long enough and there will be something that resonates in the form of laughter, tears, or that “oh, preach girl” spot.

Second, Who am I?

If you already know, just scroll right by. We have some new followers in this online living room and it’s only fair that I catch them up real quick. 

It’s me. Hi. I’m the writer, it’s me. 

On a personal level, I am a wife, a stepmother, a daughter, a daughter-in-law, a sister (okay, that’s a long story these days), an aunt (okay, evidently, also a long story), a grand-aunt, a cousin, and, most importantly, a friend who tries to live by grace but is not immune to hiccups that most accept as a nice balance. 

Professionally, I am a writer. I am the author of What to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting (Parenting Tales from the Most Unqualified Stepmom Ever), a book I wrote because I needed it so desperately when I became a stepmom. I knew there were others either in my shoes, trying them on, or who might come across them at some point and that they, too, would need an ally in a path full of landmines. I needed someone to tell me that it would all be okay, eventually and, though this book is loaded with my own mistakes, it also offers that promise to those who read it. 

I am an Adventure Specialist which is a super fun way to say “Travel Agent,” because, well, writing doesn’t actually pay for anything at all. 

I am currently toying with a dive back into the real working world because, well, sometimes being a writer is super, duper boring and lonely.

I have been married for nearly a decade to quite literally the best person I have ever known and who gifted me two children from a previous marriage who I absolutely consider to be my own. Our family fought ferociously to beat the odds as we navigated the road to eventual success in a second marriage (for him) and a first marriage (for me). There were loads of not-so-great moments that are now the foundation of our amazing life today. 

My kiddos are both baby adults. We are prepping to launch the last from the nest which is both terrifying and exciting. They were quite broken when I arrived into their lives and we are all grown up enough to admit that I wasn’t always helpful in healing their wounds, but good grief, it has made our love for each other that much better.

A year ago, I might have called myself an amateur athlete often seen on the tennis courts or at the gym or in the pool but age recently submitted its vote and I am currently learning to bring down my exercise routine to something more appropriate for my joints. 

I am a dabbler. I have found a joy in doing arts and crafts, something my husband uncapped though it truly does run in my blood (thanks, Mom). I am a wiz with the Cricut or a can of paint. I am in a huge argument with my embroidery machine but have recently entered a very nice relationship with my sewing machine. 

I have become a wonder in the kitchen (thank you, pandemic). Anyone who knew me way back when understands what feat that truly is. 

I am making progress in the world of botany and currently have three (four?) houseplants that are still alive. Outdoor plants are still a crapshoot but I blamed the weather and completely understand why some opt to use decoy, plastic flowers. 

I am funny. I am loyal. I am a helper. I am horrible at idioms and cliches. I have become happy with my ability to evolve as I find better versions of myself appearing quite regularly. I try. I try, always, but, gosh, these days … if I’m being honest, I am quite tired of all the trying. 

I live with a constant low level of anxiety – something that used to exist at a much higher level but those spikes are only reserved for the most inconvenient moments. 

I write with the aim of being wide-open though that does mean occasionally exposing some shitty truths. Ironically, it is always those articles that get the most feedback and I love knowing that I am not alone just as much as you love knowing that you are not alone. 

Third, Reflection? Yes, please!

Oh gosh. Was it really only a year ago that I didn’t even know when that dang book was going to live beyond my computer? That is so hard to believe. I know, it’s not a “dang book.” Well, at least it didn’t start out that way. I suspect every author is just completely over whatever they are writing as approach the finish line. No really. You get to this point where you will slap any cover around your book’s content just so you can be done with it all. The further that elusive publishing date is pushed, the less you actually care about the finished product because by then, yes, it is more of a product than a work of love.

Of course, it is after that elusive publishing date reveals itself that the actual work begins and we are faced with pimping our work when all we really want to do is grab a quick pat on the back on the way to a well-deserved nap. And yes, apologies, but we do have to pimp. 

Being a writer is expensive. It’s more like a cerebral hobby than a way to make a living.

What to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting debuted as a #1 New Release for its category (No, this is not the same category as Colleen Hoover’s. Her books are fiction and written with a formula for mass appeal.). That was a pretty epic debut to my life as a published author and the follow-up invites to participate in a couple of podcasts, a radio stint, and a real-live television interview were pretty epic as well. 

What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming feeling of being embarrassed or undeserving.

Of course, I know now that this was textbook Imposter Syndrome and is quite common and also quite stupid and also exacerbated by people with a limited praise vocabulary. It makes zero sense, logically, to realize there is a huge need for a resource, to create that resource, to receive confirmation that, yes, the resource is valuable … and then allow our subconscious to run off into the “It’s all a fluke” forest. 

At this moment, I am firmly seated on the audiobook struggle bus. My gosh, I just cannot lock down and get it moving. Quick question: Does anyone really want that audiobook? Please let me know. It is just so much monotonous work that I often spend cursing each and every person who ever insisted I record it in my own voice. 

As the second six months of the “debut memoir” timeline kicks off, I do see a finish line. 

A book is considered a new release until the end of the calendar year during which it was published. At that point, I will likely ramp down the pimping a notch. Of course, the content of this book will be relevant for-literally-ever, so who knows what its path will really be. 

I do know that I am ready to write another book though I’m not sure yet if it will be (money maker) or non-fiction (first love).

Fourth, Thank You!

If you want the real “thank you” list, just flip to the acknowledgments pages. Honestly, weeding down those pages was almost more difficult than the actual book. You know what? I’m going to paste the acknowledgment pages below. All of these people deserve another shout-out even if some have gone emotionally rogue. I could easily add dozens of new names – those who have embraced this project and shown up at events and helped with the pimping and encouraged me to keep writing

To you? Thank you. 

If you are reading this, it is because you continue to follow my life and it is appreciated beyond words. I know you are out there, I know you find something relevant in my words and I also know that sometimes you do not, yet you keep coming back. 

Thank you for believing in me. 

Oh, and if no one has told you this – it will all be okay, eventually. 

Just keep trying.

Finally, a sale!

What better way to celebrate than offering my favorite thing in the world … a sale!! Hardcopies of What to Expect When You Weren’t Expecting are now on sale (just click that <<<—). 

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS … as they appeared in the first printing:

Well, this is petrifying. I’ve put off writing my acknowledgments primarily for fear that I would forget somebody important. For a gal with both OCD and anxiety, that’s terrifying. Should I just go with a simple, “To anyone that I’ve spoken with in the last ten years (including strangers at Target, thank you.

But seriously, if you’re not featured, do not despair. My editor has already yelled at me three times for writing a book that is too long, so definitely let’s assume she was the heavy.

Rich: Let’s admit that there is no way to express my love for you in a tiny blurb. I am lucky. I am so, so lucky. Without you, I mean sure I’d be fine, but, my goodness, I am a better person for knowing you. You have taught me what unconditional love really looks like. You have supported me with so many wonky ideas, including the one where you sat me down in front of a new Mac and simply said, “Write.” I love you is not big enough. I do love you more, though, so that’s settled.

Amelia and Max: How do you thank your children for being your children? You had no choice (ha!) in the direction of your young lives. I have learned so much from both of you, both as a mother and a person. You have made me better at both. I will forever be proud of all that we have endured together. I will always claim you proudly as my own. I love you until the end of the earth.

Amy: If I had a dime for every time I’ve cried on your shoulder …You’ve been a part of my life since we were baby adults. I’m still not convinced that we won’t end up roommates again, reverting to washing down raw cookie dough with beer. Until then, I know you will always be firmly planted in my corner. You lift me up endlessly. You also bravely advise me to stand down when I am going emotionally rogue. You are far more than a best friend. I don’t deserve you.

Karen and Jimmy. The universe threw us a golden bone (that’s what she said) when it placed us next to each other, years ago, on the soccer field. To say that the two of you center us, as both parents and spouses, is an understatement. You are our touchstone. There are no words to express the safety net you have generously offered us so many times. I only hope that we have been half as helpful to you. You are our family, forever.

Jenny. Did we really only meet because I boldly signed up as a very unqualified Reading Olympics Coach? I had no idea that putting my name on that paper would spark the formation of a lifelong friendship. I follow your paths so enthusiastically because they are so worthy. To know a mom who has sat on both benches (biological and step) has been invaluable. You have given me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten—yet the most important is always, “Oh, yeah, that’s just a normal kid thing. It has nothing to do with being a stepmother.” You are the Flight Attendant on my Momming Trip. As long as you aren’t panicking, neither will I. And, thank you, for not panicking thus far.

Mom and Dad: Mom, I cannot remember how old I was when you first started telling me that I would write a book one day. You have been a fan of my word work since I first learned sass. Dad, thank you for following along and never telling me when I’ve written something that grosses you out. To both of you, I do think I stalled on marriage and children because the example you offered was just too good to top. Your resilience, your ability to laugh, and your deep love for each other has inspired me for years, and even more so when I realized all that it takes to make this family shit look easy. Thank you is not enough.

Aunt Tonie: My second Mom. You boomeranged back into my life when I needed you the most. Since then, you have become a most trusted source of guidance (and the occasional shove back on course). Thank you for stepping in, without missing a beat, when my own mother couldn’t. You’re stuck with me forever now.

Jeff and Karen: Jeff, I knew when I met Rich that our plan to build a compound away from the annoyances of the world was falling to the wayside. Thank you for welcoming him as a brother, anyway. Karen, thank you for sweeping my brother off his feet. You have both been the recipients of many tearful conversations having been in some of my shoes. Your wisdom and advice will never be forgotten (also, I’m probably not done needing it yet).

Actual Max: Max. Oh goodness. Sometimes think you were put on this earth specifically to tell me, without fail (every Monday night for three years straight), “You are such a good (step)mom, Jyl! I love my (step)mom so much and you are just like her!” I miss you, Max, and I will never forget your encouraging words.

Rachel, Jenee, Donna, David, Alex, etc., etc. … no, really, I’m sure there are more counselors to thank (or from whom to get my money back, depending on the day). Thank you all. Rachel, you are the one who has been with me through the muddiest bits. I know our family would not be intact if it weren’t for you. Never forget that what you do matters.

(Bio)Mom: It took me a minute to understand the trust you blindly put in me with our shared children. Thank you for letting our relationships develop organically. I know that, well, we both could have been awful to each other. I am so glad that you taught me, from the start, to separate our feelings for each other from those for our children.

The Angus Barn: Weird to acknowledge a whole restaurant? Probably, but don’t judge it until you’ve been there. This restaurant holds my heart. This restaurant is run by my extended family, people who have watched me grow and then watched my family form, enthusiastically welcoming my husband and children into their fold. Van, I’ll never forget the day you promised me that I’d meet the love of my life in the Wild Turkey Lounge. I thought you were kidding. Love wins, again.

And also…

To all the shoulders I’ve cried on, thank you.
To those who have shown me that people really can change, I am in awe.
To those who have chosen not to, thank you for showing me the path to walking away, emotionally.

To the wine section of any grocery store, thank you.
To Wednesday Martin, reading your book Stepmonster was like cleaning smudged glasses. Finally, so much made sense to me.

The Atmosphere Press Team:
Marie: Your enthusiasm earned Atmosphere my work. I knew right away that you really did “see” something in my book. You were also brave enough to announce that there was more work to do. You gave me the shot of confidence needed to keep going.

Tammy: You had the unpleasant task of being the first person ever to look beyond my story and at the actual words. I suppose this is like seeing a beautiful home and then being asked to grade the quality of the carpets. Each revision improved my writing tenfold. Thank you.

Proofreader Guy: I’m sorry I didn’t understand formatting dots or squiggly dashes

Oh, yes—and Reed. The only person brave enough to insist on an acknowledgment. Thank you for finding the house that we would make a home. Even though I found it first. Right? Not important. You were my first Richmond friend. Thank you.

Not listed in the acknowledgments, but wanted to be? No worries! Fill in spaces here:

______________ was also essential in my day-to-day survival. Without ______________, there is simply no way I would be here today, on the other end of this crazy decade. 

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