31 October 2013

Quality Control

She's not a baby anymore.

I was browsing through old pictures the other day and completely amazed at how quickly time has passed; amazed at how "a ton of hair" looked at 6 months of age; amazed at how her nose hasn't changed a bit; amazed at how she still acts a little surprised when I get excited about one of her accomplishments, "I'm sitting, Mom, NBD."

Obviously we just want a healthy baby. But if God was like, "Hey, you pick," I'd pick girl. I wanna keep doing pink for a little longer.

You can never take too many pictures. Sometimes the pictures I hated at the time turn out to be my favorites. I need to do one of those Shutterfly picture books or something because with each new push toward independence, I love remembering her baby chubs.

* * * * *

So Cinderley Designs and I are going in together to do our very first craft show in December, and I'm pretty stoked about it. I think the target audience is perfect, and I'm working hard to build up a good quantity and diversity of product in time.

Boy hats and girl hats in infant, toddler, child, and adult sizes. Lots of color palettes. High quality. Inexpensive pricing.

Of course, Quality Control was on site 24/7 to be sure everything could withstand the fury of a two-year-old.

I guess Quality Control needs a babyccino break. Anyway, I'll publicize the details when the date approaches in case anybody in the Michigan area would like to swing by : )

* * * * *

29 October 2013

From Now Until 2014

I'm fully recovered from the Stent From Hell. It took a good 2.5 days longer than the doctor said it would, but I haven't had any lingering pains in three days now. We're back to "just" first trimester symptoms. On week 11 now - which is one week and two days longer than the second pregnancy - and this is still the worst of all three pregnancies. I'm a miserable pregnant.

Last week, I was contemplating taking a hiatus from my blog for a few months, and I wanted to explain why and what my decision is. Back when we were in law school, the focus of my blog was always "law school." Eventually I incorporated some "special needs parenting" in there and slowly my blog began to shift to more of a "Jacqueline's Life" blog and that has made me really uncomfortable at times. I don't want to blast my personal life on the Internet. I struggled as we settled into Chicago with what direction to take my blog, but never came to any conclusions. Now I feel like we're finally stable and can move on with normal family life, so the only things I have left to talk about are personal stuff! Going through everything with the kidneys and pregnancy and setting our #1 goal financial makes for some really personal blog fodder. And Abigail is getting older and I have to start thinking about her privacy. So I was thinking about taking a break for a bit and doing some deep thinking. I still plan to do the thinking part, but I figured out a way to keep the blog up while doing so.

I have a huge heap of craft projects going on with the final deadline falling on Dec 25th, so from now until the new year, I plan to blog about crafting. My long-term plan would then be to return to the memoirs until the baby is born (if, of course, we don't have another miscarriage). Lots of time to figure things out. Regular readers will be rewarded with occasional Chica and baby updates. In the meantime, I plan to stop posting about my blog on Facebook to add an extra layer of "laying low"-ness.

So. Crafty. Part of the reason I ceased the memoirs is to put my Etsy shop first and foremost.

Things started with a bang when I opened on January 31st of this year; I had quick, frequent sales, was up to a sale a week almost instantly, and more than half of my sales came from random buyers (ie, people I didn't know in real life). As the weather warmed, sales started declining, so I created a line of light-weight hats and play fruit, but there were no takers.

I seriously expected this stuff to fly off the shelves!
In the five hottest months of the year, I had one sale. I was pretty bummed. The only thing holding me back from closing up shop was the desire to get Sheep & Co solvent before calling it quits; I didn't want an ugly red number staring back at me from Excel for the rest of all time. I told Matt I'd give it one more winter. Then late September hit. Bam! Back to a sale a week instantly.

So just as I decide to handmake all eight of my nieces and nephews Christmas presents (again), make one of Abigail's presents, and make two sets of parents presents, Sheep & Co is like, "Yay, winter hats!" Plus Sheep & Co will be doing a craft fair in early December (I will reveal details closer to the fair date for all those of you who live near by!) So I will have lots to blog about in craft world.

It's a good thing lying on the couch feeling all "first trimester-y" is super conducive to getting lots of crafting done.

Coming on Thursday (or Friday. I only promise to blog again by the end of the week!), pictures of craft fair preparations!

25 October 2013

Little Steps

I'm feeling better. Which is to say I less awful than I did yesterday, but not to say I'm feeling as good as those three days in between sea-band discovery and stent-hell. When they pulled the stent out on Wednesday, the doctor promised I'd be feeling back to normal within a day. We are almost to day #3 now, and I'm still dealing with residual pain.

"Oh goodness, whoops, oh dear. Well, oh my. Well, I think this is going to leave a bruise."
Almost immediately after the procedure-reversal, I was able to walk again, and about 24 hours later, I could lift things, and the two together are really good for child-rearing. Although I still can't ride in the car yet (the vibrations, g-forces, and bumps turn my insides to mush and make a doggie bag very necessary), Matt went back to work yesterday and Abigail and I managed just fine. But we did spend the entire day in our pajamas. The occupational therapist was like, "So...have there been any...interruptions...in your routine lately?"

* * * * *

My husband is a very principled person. I wouldn't say Matt is any more disciplined or focused than the average person, but he is certainly more loyal and committed, and these two factors keep him strong when he goes into battle. He has much more objective/right vs. wrong view of the world than my post-modern subjective/relative world view that does not embolden one to hold to their principles, but makes one more compassionate and empathetic. While I think too much of either would be terrible, Matt's principled influence has kept a lot of stability in our otherwise turbulent lifestyle.

We made the decision as a couple that we wanted a family more than we wanted money or a career. And we wanted our family to be raised by a stay-at-home parent. And we decided that we wanted to be debt-free. We've made other little decisions, of course, but these are a few of the big ones I wanted to talk about today.

And while there are many different ways to go about fulfilling these desires, we're doing ours this way because of hard work, luck, trial and error, and habit.

I thought once we finally stopped moving, Matt had the same job now that he'll have next Christmas, and we had employer-provided insurance, that finances would stop being an issue. But the truth is that we're still talking about money every few weeks! Matt and I are both on the Dave-Ramsey-Pay-Off-All-Our-Debt-As-Fast-As-Possible plan, so we do weird hippie frugal things, like only have one car, give really inexpensive gifts for Christmas, and ask for practical things for birthdays. It's the same things we did in law school, but we make more money now, so I thought the pressure would be off. But just as quickly as the money comes in, the responsibilities appear. Instead of paying lump sums of $3000-$5000 for Abigail's specialists' appointments, we pay monthly social security tax and insurance premiums. Food and gas in Michigan are (significantly) cheaper than in Chicago, but now Abigail eats more, we drive more, and car insurance is more expensive. Matt's student status expired (something we could still utilize during his fellowship in Chicago), which means we don't get student discounts on our Internet bill or for online purchases and now we have to pay bar dues. All these pressures I expected to disappear once we entered "the real world" are still present, just with different names.

There are a lot of occasions when I feel really indignant. I feel like we've paid our dues in law school: we skimped, worked our asses off, struggled, and now I want some release. I want to go out to eat once a week and buy new heels for a special event. I want to buy little $15 gifts for people's birthdays and new makeup when I go grocery shopping just because. And Matt wants to give me these things, but his loyalty and commitment to our goals keep him in check. It's teaching me this new, un-American concept: making due.

Since Matt and I are doing the no-debt thing, if a month arrives with an unexpected bill, we don't shuffle the expense to a credit card. We trim other budgets: make last month's razor blade last another four weeks, use personal spending money instead of food budget money to buy a pizza on a Friday night, bail on a girls' dinner out. It's really difficult sometimes, but most of the time, I realize that I didn't need whatever it was I thought I did.

It hurts, but it feels good too: like the burn you get from working out. I feel like I'm singeing out the remaining spendthrift habits I still have. Sometimes it really sucks, like when I get to the end of a grocery trip and I have to put something back because I've got more in my cart than Matt and I budgeted. My pride stings badly as it crumbles in aisle 2. But usually when I get home and recount the experience to Matt, his comforting, "You did the right thing, I'm proud of you" makes me feel better and when we sit down to figure out the next month's budget and we are that much closer to our goal, all the pain becomes worth it.

One of the hardest things for us (the one with the worst sting/reward ratio) is eating out. Matt and I are both suckers for squeezing an A&W burger out of the car repair budget. This is definitely the category we fail the most at, in part because having the same weakness makes us more likely to succumb to one another's pleas.

One of the easiest things for me is actually buying Abigail less toys. You see, her overstimulation with food carries over to just about everything. If she has a toy on every shelf, every single one of those toys is going to end up chucked across the room. My obsessive desire to have a clean house at least once a day means I'm picking up 50 little wooden blocks three times a day. It got old fast. I found that suppressing the urge to buy her something every time she had to get bloodwork done or had a rough doctor's appointment was heavily rewarded with a clean house. Instead we go out of ice cream (if I've got enough personal spending money), cuddle up together and watch Blues Clues, or read books.

Chugging away each month in real life is like the stretch between the excitement of the new semester and the flurry of finals. It's boring, but the little steps add up. They're hard to see at the time, but when I look back every few months and see how much more law school debt we've paid off, it makes the reward worth the pain.

23 October 2013

24 Hours of Hell

Life has been very difficult for me lately. Five weeks of extreme discomfort culminated in a day and a half of very intense pain. I would love some prayers.

I've been talking for a few weeks now about some pain in my kidney. Sometimes it's just a dull ache, other times, the fire-like burn and sharp stabbing pain of a kidney stone. After many weeks of frustratingly far-apart tests, we finally reached a diagnosis that involves a kidney stone 4x larger than is safe to pass and enough backed-up fluid in my kidney to cause it to swell. All this translates to fever, chills, and back/kidney pain. Fun, right? So how about a complication?

We're pregnant! Yup, a little over 10 weeks. This pregnancy is honestly the worst of all three of my pregnancies so far. The nausea, fatigue, and food aversions are incredibly debilitating. I haven't been able to function probably for the last five weeks. My body is in starvation mode and as my waist grows thicker, my arms, legs, and face are thinning out. I feel weak, exhausted, and in constant discomfort.

The kidneys combined with the pregnancy had me feeling like I wasn't going to make it through the day on a daily basis. Every afternoon I wanted to just curl up in a ball of tears and ask Matt to come home early. Every night I would go to bed feeling like it took everything I had to make it through that day, and I had no clue how I was going to pull it together in the morning. I did everything the books say, eating frequent small, bland meals, drinking lots of water, taking naps. Nothing was helping.

Finally last Friday, I reached my breaking point. When Matt got home, I ran to the grocery store and bought everything I could find for nausea: ginger pills, ginger snaps, ginger ale, and sea-bands. I bought the sea-bands on a whim, figuring they were just a gimmick, but I was at the point where I was willing to give a gimmick a try.

Not. A. Gimmick. Within 20 minutes of putting on the accupressure bands, I went from 24/7 debilitating nausea to only 2-3 nausea spells per day. The best I expected was for them to take the edge off, but instead, they are the sole thing that returned my sanity to me. I still take the ginger pills a few times a day, but when I forget (or vomit them back up), I still totally have the nausea under control.

I was still having all the other pregnancy symptoms, but at least the worst was significantly diminished. Meanwhile, I spoke with a physician's assistant about the kidney. She advised that my options while pregnant are incredibly small. I can either do nothing and we'll just keep an eye on things until we have no choice, or I could choose to put in a stent now to drain the fluid and bring the swelling and symptoms down. The stent would go through already-existing openings and internal plumbing, meaning no incisions. I would still have to be knocked out and would need a breathing tube due to the nausea, but the only side effect, she said, is the urge to pee a lot. "Big deal," I told her, "I'm pregnant and peeing all the time anyway." She laughed and agreed.

So I went in yesterday to have the stent put in. The procedure went well. I woke up an hour after they put me down feeling relatively great. My throat was pretty sore from the breathing tube and I definitely felt like I had to pee right that second, but there was no pain. As I worked my way through recovery units, the discomfort grew stronger and stronger. A few minutes before I was to leave, I was begging for a pain killer. The nurse assured me that I would be able to get home and take some Tylenol sooner than they would be able to page the doctor and have him write a script for me. By the time Matt got the car from the top floor of the parking garage and to the front of the hospital, I was in tears from the pain. He sped the whole way home, me sobbing and shaking in the passenger's seat. When we got home, I tried to lay down, but no position was comfortable: walking, standing, sitting, laying down all hurt. A friend of mine started researching the type of stent I had and pregnancy and discovered a number of chat boards where every single person aside from one described the stent as the worst pain in their lives. These women were farther along in their pregnancies and talked about how once the baby gets bigger and can kick the stent, they would just lie in the bed screaming from the pain.  They were in the ER every 3-4 days for pain management. I seriously regretted the stent with every fiber of my being.

I called the urology clinic, I called the outpatient care line, I called whoever would listen and begged for help. I had about four pages in to the doctor to call me immediately. Whenever I would tearfully explain my level of pain to a nurse, she would say, "Well, you know, stents do cause discomfort." But this was more than discomfort. By the end of the 24 hour period, at least twice, the stent pain would rival labor pain. Pain bad enough that I couldn't talk during it. Pain bad enough that my back and stomach hurt from clenching.

The doctor finally called me back and ordered a prescription for vicodin. I asked if I went to an ER, if they could remove the stent, but he said they couldn't. Nearly sobbing, my voice almost gone from the breathing tube, I begged him to take it out. He put me down for an 11am appointment for the next day, which was today.

I slept about 3 hours last night, punctuated by wakeful spells of pain. I have one prescription to help my bladder and the vicodin, but alone, the pills did nothing. Together they could take the edge off, but I end up incredibly dizzy and barely able to walk straight. It was terrible, terrible, terrible pain and if I didn't have an appointment scheduled to have it removed, I don't know how I would have made it through the night. There is no way I could have made it through a second day with that level of pain.

There were some complications with the appointment (apparently doctors aren't allowed to schedule their own appointments), but it finally happened. The damn stent is gone. I told the doctor that I can't believe anyone would get a stent put in unless they were in danger of loosing a kidney. I personally can't believe this procedure even exists - I would seriously consider having them remove a kidney before I would get a stent put back in. He responds: some patients don't feel anything.

Those patients must be doing crack cocaine. There is no other explanation.

I am home now and have been stent-free for about 4 1/2 hours. There is still residual pain, especially when I first got home, and tons and tons of blood - perfectly normal, they say - but it tells me that my insides are very scraped up. The doctor said I should be back to normal within 24 hours. I'll give it 48 hours, but even this level of pain is more intense than just the ache I was getting from my kidney before I put it through hell. I just took a long nap and my pain level fluctuates rapidly with no notice, so at any given moment I could be doing good or bad, but right this second, things feel pretty manageable.

So all this is why I had to re-arrange my priorities and end my 31 Days commitment. Of course, I made the decisions back when I thought the stent would be the magic cure-all, and after the last 24-ish hours, I'm even happier that I made the decision I did. Anyway, I would really appreciate prayers for me and this baby. Everything I've done so far has been approved by the OB/GYN, but there are so many things I took with "very minor risks" and I worry that there have been too many very minor risks. I saw the baby at 9 weeks - lots of movement and with a super strong heart beat, but obviously, things can change quickly this early. Prayers are appreciated.

21 October 2013


I tend to think I'm Super Jacqueline. It's a "classic Jacqueline" scenario in which I find myself often: I volunteer to host a girls' night the same month I move in. I decide to throw Abigail a 50 person birthday party on a $150 budget (I'll just make everything from scratch - it'll be so cheap!) I agree to babysit when I'm so sick all I want to do is cry. I seem to think that by sheer will power and making everything from scratch, I'll be able to do what I want, how I want, in the time-frame I want, with whatever budget is available. It's complicated by my intense fear of confrontation. I want everyone to like me, so I never say no when people ask me to do something. It's really stupid.

A little over a week ago, I was editing the section of my memoirs where I explain how incredibly over-committed Matt and I were after Abigail was born / I had my c-section. We had just moved back (for the summer) to a state filled with family and friends we hadn't seen in two years. And we just had our first kid. Who had serious health issue. Everyone wanted to visit with us and we never said no. It was really, really bad and I was in a lot of physical pain from both needing to pump and the incision not being healed enough to be away from a bed that long. It took about a month before we finally wised up and started saying no, but even then we were still over-committing. Anyway, as I was editing, a loving friend of mine who has no qualms about telling me the truth texted me a tough-love text, yelling at me for over-committing myself again. I literally had to put down my pen on top of the passage in my memoir to check the text message. The coincidence of the message of the chapter in the book and my friend's identical text really hit home.

There are a bunch of things in my personal life right now that are getting in the way of me hitting all the goals I originally set. So I started turning down commitments, some of which were really hard for me to do, either because it hurt the person I had committed to or because I personally had been looking forward to the event.

Then I read the blog post of a friend who recently had to face the same dilemma.* She had to end her commitment to something really meaningful to her, all the while raging inside about giving up. But she recognizes that she needed to create some healthy boundaries in her life. And those boundaries are more important than the pride of staying committed. A younger Jacqueline would have scoffed at the silliness of the words "healthy boundaries" and insisted that I could do it all. But this Jacqueline is just a little bit less prideful, letting in more space for wisdom than that Jacqueline. This Jacqueline has seen the real and serious consequences of violating healthy boundaries. The one word that kept coming back to me as I read her post was "courage." She is so very courageous to be able to stand up and say, "I need to put me and my family first. This is too much." And I would be willing to bet that she doubts her decision over the next few days/weeks, wonders if she made the right call, wonder if she really is a quitter. And it will take even more courage to stick by her original principle. I am inspired.

So, because I learned my lesson after my c-section, because a friend warned me that I'm going down the wrong path, and because I just witnessed someone do the right thing, I'm making some changes in my own life. And one is that I'm ending my 31 Days commitment. I do still plan to pursue the book (and get it published before I'm 30!). I will revisit the memoirs after the holidays, in January, and determine if I'm ready to recommit at that time.

I'm contemplating a hiatus from my blog and Facebook as well, but I'll give my other changes time to take effect first.

In the meantime, no big changes coming, no exciting new projects. Just a re-arrangement of priorities, probably less blogging, and definitely more time doing the right thing for me and my family.

*I'm not going to link to her post because it's one of those honest-vulnerable posts that some people wouldn't appreciate having blasted everywhere, so I want to be respectful. I'll just reference sections that I found particularly touching to me.

18 October 2013

Project Restoration

So I haven't blogged in a bit. It was a conscious choice. My writing was crappy, my posts were boring, and my readership numbers indicated that daily posts weren't appealing. It makes sense for me to write higher quality posts less often than crappy posts daily. So be it.

I haven't been feeling well for the last few weeks and it's been really hard to get anything done around the house, let alone something mentally demanding, like a book. I finally got some relief last night, but instead of feeling rejuvenated, the realization of how run down I've gotten over the last few weeks hit me like a truck today. I feel like I'm running on empty and I need to do something this weekend to fill back up or else I don't think I can face another week of Daily Life. I'm not exactly sure what the doctor ordered, but I'll think it over this afternoon and commit to it tomorrow. Certainly a coffee shop coffee and a good book are in order. We'll see what else Project Restoration holds.

14 October 2013

31 Days - Editing the Fresh Stuff

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and am finally going to finish my memoirs. About her.


Surprisingly enough, I did get a bit of time last night to continue editing. I got through all the work that had already been heavily edited, so I was able to move quickly, but then I slammed into the fresher material and could feel myself slowing down significantly. Re-reading, re-writing, trying to figure out where paragraphs would be more logical. I think I need to make a clearer outline so that I can keep things organized.

On top of the book, I've also been working on Christmas presents (I'm hand making a lot of them), my Etsy shop (the orders started flowing in again once the temperatures dropped!), and I'm going to start working on product for a craft show I'll be in this December pretty soon. It's going to take some effort on my part to be sure nothing stays on the back burner too long.

In the meantime, I realized recently that we really hate Mondays around here, so I concocted the idea to try to do something fun, even if it's small, on Mondays to give us something to look forward to. Tonight we're having BBQ pork ribs in my new slow cooker. Ribs is easily one of my favorite meals, so I find that pretty exciting.

13 October 2013

31 Days - Why Now?

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and am finally going to finish my memoirs. About her.


I won't get anymore editing done on my book, aside from my productive streak on Friday. My husband has been out of town on a guys' trip all weekend, so I've been swamped with 24/7 toddler duty. Thankfully I'm ahead of schedule, so I could burn these few days. In the meantime, on to another question : )

Q: Why publish a book now, covering only a few years of Abigail's life, instead of waiting until we've walked more of this journey?

A: This book is really my memoirs, and for me, a majority of the emotional instability, changes, and major adaptations occur early on. It's really the same for any new mom too: you give birth and your whole world gets all shook up. But eventually the baby sleeps through the night, your stomach shrinks back, you figure out how to make dinner with an extra one underfoot, and you kinda forget what life was like without the new addition. These last few years are the exciting ones.

Secondly, and less importantly, it's kind of an industry standard. Most Ds memoirs are written before the child hits teenage years. That being said, I do know of one that was written after the person with Ds died. While I pray I never have that chance, I am very open to a sequel once Abigail's an adult : )

Gotta get back to real life now, my friends. Have a great weekend end!

12 October 2013

31 Days - Blog v. Memoir

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and am finally going to finish my memoirs. About her.


31 days is a lot of days to write about this memoir, so if you have a question or would like me to talk more about a particular subject, just leave me a comment (on a post of your choosing between now and Oct 31!) and I'll make sure to answer it during this campaign. (And Mrs. S, I have your question in my arsenal of blog topics, so don't think I forgot!)

A lot of my material comes from posts I've already written on this blog. Emotions I felt, problems we worked through, that sorta thing. To me, it begs the question: why buy the book if you read the blog? To be honest, I'm not sure the answer is very clear.

1. For starters, the book is the condensed version. If you wanted to know everything I went through, you'd have to read years worth of blog posts and that would be time consuming.

2. Hindsight bias is more insightful and more eloquent.

3. Blogs don't have organized conflict, climax, and resolution. It doesn't have to have character development. And sometimes it doesn't even have a plot. But the book has to. That makes it a more interesting read.

4. I am more open and honest in the book than on the blog, mostly thanks to aforementioned hindsight bias. Do you remember when I very first told you that Abigail had Down syndrome? When Matt read the post, the first thing he said was, "wow, you really couched that." At the time, I got all defensive and denied it, but looking back now, it's totally true. I also felt like if I wasn't okay with Down syndrome that it meant I didn't love Abigail. I healed over time, so now I can approach things now in a more honest way than I could before.

5. There are a few things in the book that aren't on the blog, but I'm not sure how much of that new material is particularly juicy. Maybe I should add a few scenes that didn't appear on the blog? That's actually a pretty good idea...

11 October 2013

31 Days - The Editing Begins

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and am finally going to finish my memoirs. About her.


I had it printed today. It's 125 pages; I was wrong before. I impulse-bought a box of those super cheap pens that actually write really smoothly for, like, an hour before they run out of ink or explode. If there was a term for "office supply nerd," like "Star Wars nerd" or "math nerd," I would be it. Thankfully, so would Matt, so I know he won't be mad at me for my indiscretion.

After Abigail went to bed, I made it through part 1, or 47 pages, editing for grammar, typos, and to make it more vignette-y. It was already more so than I gave it credit. It appears that descriptive, poignant, melancholic vignettes are my writing style.

Reading my story still makes me cry. All the moving, the diagnosis, the terrible day nurses. I cry for all the pain that that Jacqueline went through, remembering how devastating it was to be pregnant for the first time talking about open-heart surgery, when Ds felt like a death sentence. Reading about the pain of the past makes me love her more. The pain that that Jacqueline felt is gone, now replaced by the pain that comes from loving someone until it hurts. A love that isn't truely understand until you have a child.

10 October 2013

31 Days - Talking About People I Know

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and am finally going to finish my memoirs. About her.


Writing about real events inevitably involves real people who sometimes don't say or do the best of things at a time of great vulnerability. It's hard to write about those events without hurting the person who said or did them.

For example, shortly after Abigail was born, a person very close to me said something with the most loving of intentions that really hurt. In fact, it still kinda hurts today.

That was a really bland, vague, boring two sentences. But it hints at something really juicy. Something that readers would probably find way more touching to read about. But if I do get really explicit, I'm gonna hurt people's feelings. I don't want to memorialize people in a book as "the one person who said that one mean thing." And how terrible would it be if it turned out that I just mis-interpreted someone's actions and they really didn't mean what I thought I heard?

But the blatantly honest truth is that almost everyone I know said something that hurt. No one's life turns out how they were expecting, but my life got turned upside down in a way most people's don't. So most people don't understand the turbulent pain, frustration, depression, hopelessness that overcame me at the time. So they said stupid things. But the truth is this: I don't even know now what I wished people had told me. I'm not even sure I know what I would tell other people going through this. I think I'd say something along the lines of: "Welcome to the club. It sucks at times. A lot. But it gets better too. Eventually, you'll even feel good again." Mostly I'd just be there for them. Promise to watch their kids. Promise to go with them to doctor's appointments. Promise to make them dinner. Promise to let them cry. Promise to gather whatever resources they were craving at the time. Not many people were just there for me because I shoved everyone away as my form of grieving.

So I can't really blame them for saying mean things/things I took as mean things. And I don't want to call them out on it in real life. Sometimes, when I felt a story was really important for a reader, I just changed some key details. Now it goes something like this:

Shortly after Abigail the nurses brought up the suspicion that Abigail might have Down syndrome, I confided in my friend, Michelle. As I stood there, about to break, tears welling up in my eyes, ready to fall, she tried to console me: "I'm so glad my children will be able to grow up around someone with Down syndrome!"

What an awful, shitty thing to say, amiright?  Now the real Michelle might remember saying this to me, might realize it hurt me, and might feel bad. But I gotta talk about some of these things and this seems like a respectful compromise. And hopefully if she is mad, she won't be on the defensive because no one knows it's her.

I can't talk about all the touching, tragic, and memorable stories because sometimes I can't change the details without it affecting the impact of the story. Like, if the offender is a family member. Changing it to friend or acquaintance takes away the impact, but if I leave it as family member, everyone whose a member of my family will know who I'm talking about. Significantly stickier.

Anyway, this is one detail I'd really like to research as I go through the editing process this month. There must be advice from other memoir writers on this delicate topic. If you know of any in particular, feel free to send them my way.

09 October 2013

31 Days & A Chica Update

If you're in this for Chica updates and you're sick of me writing about writing: skip to the end. A Chica update follows.

* * * * *

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and am finally going to finish my memoirs. About her.


When I was in college, I worked at a place called The Writing Center. I've never felt so useful, needed, grown up, or responsible at a job as I did at The Writing Center (although, humorously enough, my favorite job was actually at a coffee shop, where I worked prior to The Writing Center). It is thanks to The Writing Center that I became a designer, blogger, editor, grammarian, and pretty much everything else I do related to writing. It is thanks to one of my coworkers that I became an Apple lover and learned about computers. If you can believe it, prior to The Writing Center, I used to be kind of scared of computers.

Anyway, I worked as a Digital Peer Consultant, which means that I was qualified to help you with your digital projects as well as your traditional ones. You, as a student, faculty, or staff at Michigan State University could come in with anything you wanted (resume, essay, powerpoint presentation, thesis) at whatever stage you wanted (brainstorming, editing, proof-reading) and get whatever help you wanted (Is it logical? How are my transitions? What is a thesis statement?). We also did classroom-based presentations and workshops, and I eventually got pretty good at standing up in front of a hundred underclassmen and talking about how to write a paper. My least favorite person to work with the entire time I was there was this middle eastern graduate student working on his thesis for his Ph.D. who was fully convinced that women were foolish imbeciles. I got stuck working with him one afternoon when he came in without an appointment and all of our male consultants were busy. I couldn't tell this man where to put a comma without getting the third degree. When we completed the session, he announced that he was going to book an appointment with a male consultant to go over everything we just did. Peachy.

My second least favorite person to work with was me.

You see, I'm what is called in this buiz "married to my work," and people who are married to their work a really big pains in the ass difficult to work with. People like me:
1. Think everything they write/edit is excellent
2. Think editing it your way would make it bad
3. Thank what they intended to say is perfectly clear and you're an aberration if you don't get it
4. Can also be perfectionistic, which is an annoying combination to have

I think being married to one's work is really a defense mechanism. If everything you say is perfect and no one else get's it, you won't get hurt when they suggest an edit because clearly they don't get what you were trying to say.

Ugh. Now, any volunteers want to help me edit this thing?

* * * * *

Moving on. For those of you who only read my blog to hear about my small and adorable child...

Abigail is so obsessed with being helpful that she'll pull my clothes out of my dresser one-by-one and bring them to me. Even if I'm in another room. I think this is her way of doing the laundry on non-laundry days. The laundry is pretty much her favorite-ever chore.

We're all sick over here. Like congestion, runny nose, and coughing. Plus I still haven't figured out what the hell is going on with my kidneys yet, so I've added fever, chills, and back pain to my cold. Gotta be unique, ya know.

Anyway, we're doing a whole lotta this:

And my house is pretty much a mosh pit of blankets, stuffed animals, and books. Abigail's a big fan of an old Cat Fancy magazine I found. And yes, I now realize that is a copy of Anne Frank half hiding underneath that blanket. Kid likes to steal books and run away with them so I don't catch her. Lastly, if you know what that blue and white cat-looking thing is, I think you're way cool.

I managed to throw up a few fall decorations (haha, get the sick reference there? Totally didn't intend that. My bad). We don't like to spend money on non-essentials, so a vast majority of our five fall decorations are things I made with clearance and coupon items last year and the year before. We also only have fall and Christmas decorations. Sorry, Easter.

And, just for the heck of it, we have a Chicago city flag.

Most people who come over think it's a religious flag. Not sure if it's just because we're religious or if they get the stars mixed up with Israel's flag. (Israel is the #1 guess). But it's not. It's a Chicago city flag. I wonder what all the people who walk by our apartment outside and peak in think of us. Maybe we're the religious fanatics of the complex and I didn't even know it.

Lastly, a video of Abigail saying her first word, which she did about a week-ish ago, before we all got sick.

08 October 2013

31 Days - A Rough Draft

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and am finally going to finish my memoirs. About her.


I think my rough draft is done. A good solid 88 double-spaced computer pages divided up into three sections. The first 1.5 sections have been heavily edit (by me) and I consider them ready to be sent out to friends for a peer-review. The last section is pretty choppy - more like vignettes that range anywhere from early in the diagnosis to present day. It has a certain artistic quality that I feel clashes with the chronological "first this, then this" method of the first 1.5 sections. I'm not sure how they work together, but I know that I don't edit well on the computer, so I plan to take my flash drive to Office Max and do a little printy-printing. I have printed out my memoirs once before, when I came back to them after about an eight-month hiatus when I had forgotten what I'd already said. I can't remember exactly how much it cost, but it was under $15, including the cover and spirally-thing. Which I plan to take off the last printed copy and have them re-use it on the new one.

No need to waste money and resources.

I'm getting close and I'm getting nervous. Finishing means sending it out to people to read. People reading means my vulnerability getting judged and critiqued. Hmmm...I need to get some thicker skin before this book hits the masses!

07 October 2013

31 Days - No Excuses

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and am finally going to finish my memoirs. About her.


I got in 30 minutes of writing today. No joke. And half of that time I was also playing Katy Perry in the background to pacify a certain unnamed toddler who was pretty sure I needed to deleted entire sections at random (don't worry, command + z exists for a reason). But every time I want to beat myself up for only clocking 30 minutes, I remind myself that that's 30 minutes more that wouldn't exist if it weren't for this 31 Days Campaign. You see, my kidneys have been offering me some trouble, then Matt got sick, and today, Abigail woke up sick. Plus now I'm back to feeling under the weather. I pretty much only got two things done today. And if dinner didn't involve my fancy new slow cooker, it wouldn't have gotten done either. A bulk of my to-do list had to wait until Matt got home from work, which doesn't leave me with much writing time today. But I got in 30 minutes. That's 30 minutes that I wouldn't have clocked if I hadn't made a very public commitment.

06 October 2013

31 Days - Birthday Style

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and am finally going to finish my memoirs. About her.


Today is my birthday! And I am not ashamed to tell you all that I'm 27-years-old today. Google even noticed.

Turning 27 officially moves me from being in my "early twenties" or "mid twenties" into my "late twenties," which means the big 3-0 is on the horizon. When the big 3-0 is around the corner, you get excited when the hubby buys you a slow cooker for your birthday. (Seriously, though, when it's this cute, how could anyone complain?) But it's also getting me thinking about all the things I want to do before I leave the "twenty-somethings." Like have two more kids. And pay off all our law school debt, making us completely debt-free. And buy a house (which will mean our only debt will be a mortgage). And publish a book. I've long wanted to publish a book before I turned 30.

I'm not getting much writing done this weekend, but the beginning of next week finally slows down a bit for me, so I'm planning to spend an hour each evening banging on some keys. And blogging afterward.

Until then, I'm off to eat cake.

05 October 2013

31 Days - Inspiration

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and am finally going to finish my memoirs. About her.


A little while back, a friend of mine recommended a book called The War of Art. A super-quick read, it is an incredible resource for writers with tons of recommendations to get through writer's block and best the inner critic. The book does get a bit kooky toward the end, but the first three-quarters of the book more than make up for it. I checked it out from the library and raved about it so much that my husband bought it for me for Christmas last year. I lent my copy out to a friend, but I think I'm going to ask for it back because I think it'll help me with this final push.

04 October 2013

31 Days - Getting Published (Plans A through C)

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and am finally going to finish my memoirs. About her.


I would really like my memoirs to be published by a book publishing company. That is Plan A. Thus far my "how to get published" research includes an hour on Google and a few publishers' websites a few months back. But I got the distinct impression that in order to get published from a company worth its salt, you need an agent. I also got the impression that non-scammy agents only charge money if you get a publishing deal. More research is needed.

I've been following the journey of a fellow member of the Ds community who just recently succeeded in publishing her memoirs. After watching her long, arduous battle, I got the impression that the Ds memoir market is pretty glutted. This concerns me.

Plan B is to try submitting my memoirs to a less mainstream company, and maybe those religious in nature. Although, I don't know how much religious companies will love me because my book doesn't have any overt religious undertones (or overtones, for that matter). Not by design, but just because that's the way things went down. I was never mad at God about Abigail's diagnosis or heart surgery. I didn't find magic healing at Mass one Sunday. I didn't have an epic insight moment where I realize God placed a child with Down syndrome in my life for a particular purpose. Not that I want to get into the details of my relationship with Jesus in the middle of a 31 Days Campaign blog post, but suffice to say, I'm a devout Catholic who didn't struggle with her faith in the face of uncertainty.

Plan C is really more like Option C. I could always self-publish. I'm not a big fan of self-publishing because nothing cheapens a field like unrestricted access. (Which isn't to say all self-published books are bad or that they couldn't have been published via a traditional publisher). I also don't know if I could cross "publish a book" off my dream list if I did it myself. From where I'm standing right now, I don't think I'd be very proud to say "I'm a published author!" if all I did was upload a file to a website. Deep down I don't think I'd believe I really earned the title. (Again, which isn't to say that a self-published author couldn't be a good writer or have been published via a traditional publisher). But I don't know how I'll feel after 20 rejection letters or if holding my published book will become more important to me than how it got in my hands. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it, I suppose.

03 October 2013

31 Days - Eking Something Out

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and am finally going to finish my memoirs. About her.


I wrote today. And I totally wouldn't have if it weren't for the 31 Days Campaign.

You see, I tend to feel that if I can't dedicate a huge chunk of time to writing, I shouldn't even bother. And I don't have all of tonight to work on the memoirs. But I decided to squirrel away for an hour and do some key-pounding. It was pretty difficult at first. Trying to remember where I was and what I had already written. My writing was choppy and transitions awkward. At one point I decided the memoirs are the most terrible thing I've ever written and should never see the light of day. Then I nearly fell into the "maybe I'll just re-read and edit what I've previously written" trap. But I managed to climb out and get some actual writing done. And by the time an hour was up, I was on a roll. But I have to stop. Because I have other things to accomplish before the night is over. I don't want to burn out. And I need to save something for later.

It felt really good to get some work done on it, and I'm reminded how very true it is that

I'm further along that I thought I was, and I came up with a great "End Scene" that I think will bring a sense of conclusion to a story that we're still living. There are a few sections that I don't think work well together and will need some serious re-writing, but it'll be nice when I can say I have the rough draft complete. Maybe by next week?

My goal is to have the manuscript ready to send to trust worthy acquaintances by October 31st. I'll edit their changes over the holidays and hopefully be out shopping for a publisher after the new year. We'll see, those are my goals.

And as of right now, I'm one hour closer.

02 October 2013

31 Days - My History

I am participating in a 31 Days Campaign and am finally going to finish my memoirs. About her.


I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I wrote my first book series when I was seven. It was about a kid who spins in a circle so fast that he turns into a tornado and wipes out his school so he never has to go back again. An edge-of-your-seat kind of read, my friend. When I was in the 5th grade, my teacher told me I was stupid and could never be a writer. I was pretty depressed for a little while after that. I didn't know what I wanted to do or to be and I thought that meant I was supposed to die before I was old enough to do or be anything. On the first day of high school, my new English teacher gave everyone a reading speed and comprehension test to help her judge the rest of the year. As a ninth grader, I was reading twice as fast as the average person with the comprehension level of a 12.5th grader. But instead of making a big deal out of it, she just treated me like a student who read like someone about to enter college. She just expected more out of me, like it would be absurd for me to give her anything less. So I didn't. Even after we moved to Stockbridge, I had a few really good English teachers who kept building up my self-esteem. I joined the school's literary magazine and newspaper and quickly found myself editor-in-chief of both. By my senior year, I had taken all of my school's English classes, so they paid for me to attend English classes at a local community college. When I graduated and went away to college, I decided to major in English and become a teacher because I didn't know what else to do with an degree in reading and writing. But about a semester in, I realized that I did not want to be a teacher. I loved college and loved learning, but as the years ticked by, I found myself no closer to knowing what I "wanted to be when I grew up." I graduated and found a job as a paper pusher at a 9-5. When the economy crashed a year later, I was laid off. So I went back to what I knew: writing. I became a freelance writer and designer for the next three years. Someone once paid me to write a grammar course pack for non-native speakers. I don't remember exactly when, but at some point between 9th grade and getting married, I decided I wanted to write again. Maybe not as a career, maybe just a hobby, but I wanted to write something that someone would publish.

You could say I started writing my memoirs back in January of 2011 when I wrote my first-ever blog post about the Baby Heart Saga. As things grew more and more intense, I just kept recording all this glorious raw material that I would start to compile in late summer 2012 when I realized what I wanted to do. I worked away, collecting and editing and filling in backstory for a good five months until I finished everything up to our move back to Florida following heart surgery. At that point, I had writer's block and decided to focus on my Etsy shop. One thing led to another, and I had completely fell off the bandwagon. In the late summer 2013, one year after I had initially started working, something sparked my inner writing flame and I resumed working on the book. I edited the first section, re-vamped the middle section, and created an outline for the final third. I was writing the final third of the book when I stopped to pack and move.

And now this is the final push to finish a book. I want to finish writing by October 31st. Then I'd like a few people I know to read it and provide me with some feed back. Then I'd like to start submitting it for publication after the holidays. I'm aware the submission process is fairly complicated and I've looked into it a bit, but I'll save the details for another post.

It is incredibly satisfying to hold a stack of paper full of words I wrote. The memoirs are currently about 90 pages of double-spaced computer pages. I'm not sure what that'll translate into when all is said and done, but I'm not very concerned at this point with how long the book is.

Right now I'm just concerned that it is.

01 October 2013

31 Days - 2013

It's that time of the year again, folks! Rosary Month? Yes! Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Yes! Down Syndrome Awareness Month? Yes! All that and, I'm sure, more, but I mean something a little different.

It's time for the 31 Days Campaign!

I love the 31 Days Campaign. I did it for the first time last year on the theme of frugal living and found three mega benefits:

1. It was a good push to try a bunch of things I'd always wanted to try, and they were pretty life-style changing.
2. I saw a huge increase in readers.
3. The icon I created hit Pinterest! Not only was that mega exciting, but it has continued to bring traffic my way ever since!

So I've been dreaming about this all summer. I came up with a great topic, found a few people to support my endeavor, and mapped out my plan. It was all settled months ago. This is what I was going to do:

Isn't that adorable? I could totally see that hitting Pinterest too! I was hoping to make Abigail a "big girl" quilt in a twin size for a hopeful soon transition to a big girl bed. But the more I think about it, the more I realize she's not yet ready for a big girl bed. And a twin size quilt in a crib is a bit excessive. And even using the equipment of nearby quilting experts, quilts are expensive. Fabric, batting, the border-thing, then paying to have someone do the actual quilting part (my machine couldn't handle that, I don't think). So quilting is out. For now.

So an hour ago, I was walking down the sidewalk with my daughter and husband bemoaning the fate of my 31 Days Campaign when suddenly it struck me:


I am finally going to finish my memoirs.

So you're supposed to blog every day for 31 days for this campaign, something I didn't know last year, so I'll save all the details (how far I am, how it's been going, what I hope to do with it) for tomorrow. Writing a book that someone publishes has been my ultimate goal for my entire life. I'm gonna make it happen. With this 31 Days Campaign. Stay tuned.

Read other 31 Day-ers here!