Forgive Me Martha by Becky M. Pourchot
What a wonderful guest we have today on Out of Control Characters. Becky M. Pourchot, author of Forgive Me, Martha, shares an excerpt and answers a few questions in addition to giving us some of her advice. Wow! Becky is a woman after my own heart, and I can't wait to get started.
First, though, we have to learn a little about our visitor today. Take it away, Becky!
Becky M. Pourchot is the author of two semi-autobiographical humor books and the Hungry Ghost Series, a collection of paranormal books for young adults. She lives in Flagler Beach, Florida with her husband, fourteen year old son, and six year old twins and completely blames her demanding writing career for the state of her messy home.
Where can you find Becky on the web? Check out these links:
Here's a bit about her very funny, and all too true (for me) book:
After the birth of Ms. Pourchot’s twins six years ago, life seemed to slip into chaos. The family was eating Toaster Strudels for dinner, the house smelled of dirty diapers, and an infestation of moths descended on the kitchen like a team of unfed sumo wrestlers. She did what she could, but in her mind it was never enough. Rather than crumple under the unreachable demands of her new life Pourchot began a blog, confessing all of her hilarious shortcomings to Martha Stewart the “Great Goddess of Domesticity.”
The result became Forgive Me Martha an outrageously funny collection of short stories and poems full of honesty, humor, and humility, sending hope to those of us who fall short of being perfect.
The Roots of Imperfection
One afternoon in a moment of sleep deprived delirium I decided to create a floral arrangement out of scraps of colored paper. Martha Stewart was on the TV, demonstrating the complicated steps for making an arrangement that would look perfect in my home. Never mind that I had newborn suckling twins attached to my boobs or that that I was healing from a c-section, I was going to make a vase of paper flowers.
On that afternoon, postpartum psychosis had wiggled its way into my mind, and I believed wholeheartedly that my value as a woman depended on making that craft. But why stop there? I thought in a flash of grandiosity. Maybe with a little extra effort I’d decorate the entire dining room—no, the entire house—as divinely elegant as Martha’s television studio.
As my time exiled on the couch beneath an oversized nursing pillow progressed (and my psychoactive medications began to take effect) the reality of my situation sank in. The truth was my sweet and adorable angels were destroying all semblance of order in my home. There was no time to craft, let alone do the dishes. And ultimately my busy life with three kids, a job as a freelance writer, and only a weak desire to clean out my refrigerator left me little hope of ever becoming a domestic diva.
Life during the early months with my twins was far from perfect. My husband, seven-year-old son, and I were eating fast food regularly—sometimes for both lunch and dinner. In our neglected pantry weevils took over, forcing us to eat oatmeal riddled with spidery web-like castings. The smell of dirty diapers and curdled milk permeated the house, and stacks of laundry towered to the ceiling. Meanwhile due to the hours I spent caring for my needy infants, my self care went down the tubes. Large mouse sized knots filled my hair, entwining themselves like cocoons at my neck. Fortunately I rarely left the house.
My one hope at salvation was Martha Stewart, who seemed able to do it all. She was everything I wasn’t—well composed, organized, crafty, and her cakes always came out so much lovelier then mine. I was in awe of her mastery of everything I could never do. When I watched her show, I fantasized that I wasn’t tied down to my little ones, and imagined all of the charming things I would do with my home, all the parties I would host, all the perennials I would plant. But deep down inside I knew I could never be as good as Martha.
As the babies grew, summer came and we were able to step outside into the light of day. I connected with the neighbor ladies from my upscale suburban neighborhood—a neighborhood for which Martha would certainly approve. I joined these stylish ladies and their families for potlucks, attended their kitchen supply home shows, and exchanged recipes for Jell-o dishes.
Although I enjoyed their camaraderie, some days when I was with this attractive group of women I felt like I was under a magnified glass. I felt exposed, as if everyone could see how incompetent I really was. No one ate my potluck dishes, invited me to their book clubs, or asked me for a cup of sugar (perhaps they knew about the weevils). Unlike their kids, my children walked around with dirt on their faces, breakfast still on their shirts, and their disposable diapers swelling out of their pants.
Presumably this group of neighbors wasn’t spending their free time adhering seashells to lampshades, but in comparison to my life of total disorder they appeared to have it all together. Their gardens overflowed with flowers and when I visited their homes, specks of stray cracker crumbs didn’t riddle the floor. Occasionally I’d smell the aroma of freshly braised pork chops or lasagna from their kitchens and feel a tinge of shame. I wondered if the neighbors were able to detect the charred smell of take-and-bake pizza as it wafted out my windows.
Although I had been well versed in feminist ideology, and knew my self worth was based on more than the adornments on my cupcakes, I still began to feel that part of my identity was wrapped up in the state of my home, the type of parties I hosted, and even the shade of gloss I wore on my lips.
I began talking with my therapist—with whom I consulted on all my neurotic matters—about my growing concern over my poor performance as a homemaker. She suggested I write about my perceived domestic shortcomings, compiling my humiliating events into little stories. By writing it out, I would expose myself to the rawness of my fears, with the goal of eventually being able to make light of them. Although hesitant at first to reveal myself on the page, I was up to the challenge.
As I formulated a plan for my project, I decided to create a confessionary in the form of a blog, where I would confess the minutia of inadequacies that plagued me. I decided that in order to confess properly, I needed some sort of deity, who in my mind would listen and ultimately forgive me for my atrocious homemaking crimes. But what Supreme Being would care about the pattern on my napkins or the suitability of the wreath on my door? The answer was obvious. The Great Goddess of Domesticity herself— Martha Stewart.
I quickly began writing poems to Martha about the dirt in my house, odes about ruined birthday cakes, and sonnets about my neglected lawn then posted them on a blog that I shared with family and friends. The more I wrote, the more outrageous they became. My friends laughed with me and egged me on. Pretty soon, whenever I felt the shame rising up in me, I was at my computer creating new confessions. As I worked on my new project, my home fell further into disarray, which ironically led to more confessions. Needless to say, I’m glad you cannot see my home right now.
What you hold in your hands is a two year collection of my most disgraceful failures as a suburban housewife. Although some of the confessions have moved from non-fiction into the realm of utter exaggeration, they all most honestly reflect my grand sense of domestic inadequacy.
As you read, I hope you’re able to see yourself in some of my stories (or if you’re the perfectionist type, at least are able to gain the satisfaction of knowing you’re not me). In the days that come, if you find yourself neglecting to sweep beneath your rugs, or baking Christmas cookies that no one will eat, just think of me and my imperfect life and remember there’s no need to worry. Whenever guilt overwhelms you, you can just confess your sins to the world’s most perfect homemaker. I can’t guarantee that praying to her will get the mildew smell out of your bath towels, but it might make you feel just a little bit better.
And now, I have a few questions for Becky. After all, we all want to be not-domestic goddesses. Right?
I'm looking for answers from the Goddess you became in the book, at the end. Please advise my readers how to deliver a punch on a minimal budget with absolutely no talent for being Martha Stewart.1. Have you figured out how to tell a russet from a Yukon Gold? Or does it matter?
I have actually (thanks to Wikipedia)…but the real question is, can you tell them apart when they’re both decayed and rotted at the bottom of your pantry?
2. I'm about to host a party, but then everyone bails? Should I hide or continue with the party, enjoying myself with my family instead of fair weather friends?
Well, the old me would taken all that uneaten food and in desperation try crafting it into some glorious tower on the dining room table—maybe the Eifel tower? But of course cooked green beans and honey glazed meatballs aren’t structurally sound, so it would inevitably all collapse onto itself and at that point I myself would have collapsed into a heaping pile of shame. But now, I’d just leave all those leftovers out to get a nice dry crusty layer on them, turn on the TV and veg out with my husband and some really bad sci fi movie.
3. I failed to even show up at my son's cookie exchange in kindergarten. Will this scar him for life, or should I rejoice he enjoyed gobbling the cookies I made and forgot to take, thinking the exchange was the next day?
It will scar him for life, but scars give character…and cookies in the pantry make everyone happy.
4. Is serving lime Kool Aid flavored mojitos in Sponge Bob cups more couth than handing out cans of soda I hastily dumped into a cooler of ice?
5. Oreos sounds like a lot more fun than organic health food. I'm all for healthy eating, and have often agonized over serving that to my child. But isn't it better they eat than shove something that doesn't appeal to them around the plate?
6. I'd love a pair of those "friendship bracelets" so my child and puppy can spend a lot of quality time together. Do you think they'll look nicer if I glue some stars and moons to them?
Absolutely. I like how you think. Just be sure—if you’re using super to adhere your adornments—that it dries before putting the “bracelets” on your child.
7. My SUV looks like what the tornadoes left April 27, 2011, and I can't get my child to help me clean up his mess. He is old enough, seventeen. What should I do? Apologize or do it myself?
Old me would bite my lip and do it myself. New me would take a picture of the mess and post it to his Facebook page.
8. I love your idea of a backyard BBQ. Can you suggest ways to ignore those ever so nosy neighbors who just love to gossip about my lack of creativity?
Scoop up and save the doggie doo your neighbor’s pups left in your yard and sculpt it (with gloves, mind you) into a portraits of their children and place it prominently in their window sill. How’s that for creativity?
9. We have a family get together coming soon. Usually, I slave over a delightful Mexican style casserole along with at least one dessert. After all is said and done, I tote home more than half of what I brought, thanks to the critical commentary of those without taste buds. What should I do this year, prepare the dishes I've done for years, or go all out and bring a crockpot filled with Coney Island hot dog chili with the steamed dogs and buns wrapped in a foil pan, covered with a layer of foil, and a dessert I prepared out of a box mix?
Now don’t forget Martha does approve of kitsch…I can hear her now saying “Coney Island hot dogs chili is a delightful way to celebrate summer with friends.” That said, if you want to appease the Great Goddess of Good Things, Coney Island hot dogs are grand…especially if you have the charming little foil serving bags to put them in. Wonderful kitsch. Now…that’s the old me speaking. The new me would forget all this charming-ness, bring a stack of bowls, a one gallon of milk and a box of Froot Loops from the pantry and put it out there next to Susie’s beloved artichoke dip. Think of it this way: it’s a meal and a dessert combined (and I bet you’ll be a hit!)
Let me tell you, I couldn't stop laughing as I read Becky's book. It's a total winner, all the way around. I'll never apologize for not knocking down those cobwebs that seem to accumulate far faster than a teenager goes through a lasagna again. Nor will I bust my backside decorating my house in the latest pastel colors for a summer barbecue. Nope. It's all about letting it all hang out for me now. Here's my take on Becky's delightful book:
Forgive Me Martha is a tongue in cheek look at keeping house with three children, two of them twins. Becky M. Pourchot tells the tale of failing to fit in with her neighborhood with a mix of poetry (which made me laugh) and tales of certain events sure to have most mothers rolling on the floor and comparing notes.The story is engaging and real. Pourchot's writing muscles are Mr. Universe strong in this book. I constantly found myself nodding agreement with her poems about failed cookie events, children sneaking off to draw on themselves, and laundry stacked to the ceiling. She may have first asked for Martha Stewart's forgiveness, but eventually she is like me – willing to live in hapless clutter for the sanity of the family. This is a book I'd highly recommend for all women trying to balance career and family. It's our reality.
And here's the giveaway, with a catch. You have to comment to get the prize. If you're selected, we'll be calling for your address, so like Becky's Facebook page above to make sure you're in the gold for this drawing!