Working in the Dark


You’re washing dishes in the evening, the sunlight through the window is slowly fading, paling, and gone. Your eyes adjust, they strain a bit more to see the task at hand. You pull the dishes up a little closer to examine them. And then, suddenly, someone switches on the overhead light. “Oh! I can see again!”

As a child, I switched the light on for my mother and shook my head, wondering why she hadn’t noticed she was working in the dark. As an adult, I’ve done it enough times to know why. Darkness approaches slowly, you compensate, you work a little harder, and then the light turns on and you realize, it didn’t have to be that hard.

Mental health is often the same. Depression and anxiety come slowly, weaving into your mind, making you forget what you felt like before. They dim the lights, bit by bit, until the light is hard to find and you even wonder if it was ever there at all.

When my first daughter was born, the lights went out. I was angry, I was desperate. One minute I was tempted to leave her stroller in the park, thinking surely somebody, anybody, could do a better job than me. The next minute I was panicking. What kind of mother would think that? I could tell no one.

After four months of this, I asked my doctor about postpartum depression. I didn’t check enough boxes on the screening form to qualify. (There was no screening form for anxiety.) My doctor shrugged and suggested good sleep, a break, and time with friends. Things that sounded lovely… to a young mother whose baby didn’t sleep, who had no babysitter or nearby family, and who didn’t have any close friends in her area. I was too ashamed to admit my apparent incompetency, so I nodded and said I would try. I took my impossible to-do list to the car and cried.

My daughter was over a year old when the light began to dawn again. We were both sleeping more, my hormones were leveling out, we had moved and had a more supportive community and some help. As the lights turned on, I realized I wasn’t a horrible mother, and I did love my child. It was only in the light that I could see how dark the past year had been.

In the light, I found out about other postpartum mood disorders like postpartum rage and postpartum anxiety. And that anxiety doesn’t look sweet—it’s not checking the baby’s breathing or fretting over their first rash. It’s horrifying intrusive thoughts, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and anger. Regardless of the diagnosis, I swore I would never go back there.

My newfound love for motherhood soon led me to my second child. And halfway through that pregnancy, the lights began to dim. There were nightmares, panic attacks at the sound of a baby crying, and toe-curling pain at the very thought of breastfeeding; the PTSD that came from operating in survival mode for an entire year. Counseling helped for a bit, but eventually it wasn’t enough. My new doctor prescribed a low dose of Zoloft, which was my flashlight through the postpartum stage, even if I was embarrassed to carry it.

A little over a year after my second daughter’s birth, I was sleeping again, and had the time and energy to properly take care of myself. I started running, improved my diet, took a break from social media, added supplements, and finally felt healthy.

That’s when I started writing fiction. With the lights back on, I wrote about things like anxiety, depression, and PTSD. I finished two novels, one of which was Outside of Grace.

Now, pregnant with my third and last, the light is dimming. I can recognize it a bit more this time, though it’s still subtle and confusing. Full thoughts won’t form, everyday tasks seem impossible, my mind is spewing lies that I’m battling at every turn. And as my eyes strain and fight to adjust to the darkness, my writing has stalled. It’s exhausting and infuriating, and I hate admitting it, because I just want to be normal. But normal will have to wait.

(Note: There’s a difference between common and normal. Just because prenatal and postpartum mood disorders are common doesn’t mean they are normal or should be accepted. Suffering through it does not make anyone better or stronger—rather, it often leads to long-term trauma and unhealthy coping mechanisms. We would never tell someone to “just deal with” a broken leg. Neither should a mom have to “just deal with” massive serotonin drops.)

I have another novel I’m passionate about, more than two-thirds complete, but I’ve set it aside. While there is certainly value in creative writing and journaling through difficult seasons, I want my published books to be stories of hope; stories that show both the darkness and the light that overcomes it. And I cannot help others turn the lights on if I’m writing in the dark.

I know there’s a light ahead, and one day, it won’t be this hard. So until then, I’m waiting—waiting for the lights to come back on.

The Day I Signed My First Book Contract


Outside of Grace officially entered a publishing contract in what was simultaneously the most monumental and mundane Monday of my life. It was a day of parenting, full of wiping noses, bottoms, and tears—in no particular order.

After preparing an afternoon snack, I checked my phone and saw an email confirming the contract and welcoming me to the publishing house. I looked up, mental confetti raining all around me, to find a very upset four year old who had dropped her orange slice in the dirt. Showing her my phone and telling her that momma was going to be a published novelist was no use. She really wanted me to wash off her orange.

That was how my lifelong dream was set in motion. After many months of writing and editing, querying and dealing with rejection (and loads of doubt and despair), it all catapulted into publication while toddlers wiped grimy hands on my legs. While the ink on my contract was still drying, my two year old set her wet sippy cup on top of it. Honestly, it was a perfect picture of what this entire process has been like. Jotting notes on my phone while we walk to the park, daydreaming while folding laundry, and working late after the kids go to bed. I frequently hear of people writing their first book in retirement. I’ve even heard plenty of advice that I should wait until then. That I should wait until I’ve lived enough to have a story to tell (and how long is that?). And yes, it’s been hard to get it all done in the 12 hours a week of childcare we have. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love being a writer mama.

So I wrapped up those sticky-cheeked and tangled-hair babies in my arms and rained all that confetti on them in the form of kisses. They didn’t have a clue why, but they knew mama was happy and they were too. And God knew. He knew we had finally found a publisher who caught the vision for this story (two, actually! I got two offers within a week). He knows were it’s going next. And I know I’ll be there, signing books and bribing toddlers with lollipops. It will be wonderful.

Save Some for Me

My daughter and I

Save Some For Me

I know you want to do big things, to make a difference, to be the change.
I know you pour out your heart and energy into our community.
I know you love people well.
So save some for me, Mom.

Save time for slowing down, for eye-to-eye moments, and heart-to-heart talks.
Save space to play with me, to listen to me, to hear me.
Save room for me to have needs too.
Save some for me, Mom.

You’re managing a home, cooking and cleaning and caring.
You’re working a business, earning and sharing.
You’re learning, growing and making.
Please save some for me, Mom.

Don’t run yourself ragged before you’ve chased me around.
Don’t wear yourself out before I come in the door.
Don’t tire of loving before you love me.
Save some for me, Mom.

In all you do, can I be your most important charge?
In all you do, am I a task or a delight?
In all you do, may I be a part?
Save some for me, Mom.

Keep achieving, Mom, I’m learning from you.
Keep going, Mom, I’m growing with you.
Keep resting, Mom, I find peace in you.
Just save some for me, Mom.

As I head into the new year and set my eyes on goals ahead, this has been on my heart a lot lately. Like many moms (all moms?), I’m subject to Mom Guilt. Balancing life and motherhood is difficult. I frequently have to remind myself that it’s okay for my girls to see their mother work hard and achieve other things. It’s also okay to know when to draw the line and remember that they’re my first priority.

This idea of “saving some” for my kids has been guiding my decisions lately. When I wonder if I can add in one more thing, I have to ask myself—will I be able to save space for my kids? Will this add energy to my life that I can then pour into my children, or will it drain me and leave me empty at the end of the day when they come running into my arms?

I find that my children will demand every bit of me—even when I’m home with them all day, on my hands and knees playing with them for hours on end, they’ll ask for more. It’s okay, healthy even, to show them what boundaries look like. To show them that Momma does more than just play games. But at the end of the day, I need to have saved some space for them. I need a day off where I can spend it playing. Even thirty minutes off, where I’m not worried about my to-do lists, and I can see things through their eyes again. Because the world through the eyes of a child is a beautiful thing. They are beautiful gifts. So I will save some for them.

Rundle Press Update: New Busy Book!


There’s a new busy book in the Rundle Press site! This winter activity book has 12 activity pages with a variety of activities from decorating a snowman to working with vowels. It can be used as a simple fine motor activity book for young toddlers, or a preschool workbook for 4-5 year olds.

My kids have loved these quiet books for car rides, waiting in restaurants, and doing “school” in the morning (while mommy works). Bonus: three-ring binders with clear covers can be used as dry erase pockets. So we keep a stash of coloring pages and dry erase crayons on hand with these. They’re so easy to pull out and have a quick half hour of quiet.

The only thing not quick and easy is all the cutting and laminating! (File that under Homeschool Mom Problems.) I prepped one today for a local mothers group giveaway, and once the hand cramp goes away, I’ll be making more for my own kiddos! They’re still using their autumn ones, but I’m obsessed with the little woodland animals filling the winter one. I’m also thinking they might make good gifts for nieces and nephews. Once that hand cramp goes away…

If you’re interested (or need a digital gift for a far-away-friend), head over to the Etsy shop to check it out. These are sent as a digital download to be printed and laminated on your own. Trust me, a little time cutting and prepping will go a long ways towards a quiet house. And that, my friend, is always worth it.