B&H Publishing (June 1, 2013) 240 pages
Ever After: Life Lessons Learned in My Castle of Chaos by Vicki Courtney
Most every woman dreams about having a family and a building a home. We grow up on a steady diet of fairytales and chick flicks that drive our dreams . . . and leave us with a sugarcoated version of reality. We want it all: the prince, the kiss, the proposal, the ring, the castle, and eventually, the kids in smocked rompers playing cheerfully on the perfectly manicured lawn. Our hopes and dreams are pinned on the world’s version of happily-ever-after.
The problem is, the fairytales and chick flicks end where real life begins. We never see that follow-up scene where the prince and princess argue at 3 a.m. over who will get up with the colicky newborn. Or the princess reluctantly returns to work to help pay the bills and feels the stress of juggling work and family. And you certainly won’t see that part where the princess moves her last child into the dorm and realizes the bulk of her identity has been based on being a mother.
The truth is, marriage and motherhood are hard. Few of us are prepared to handle the balancing act of being a good wife and a good mother, without one or the other getting the short end of the stick. No matter how much we give or how hard we try, we never quite feel like it’s enough. And heaven help us, we always imagine every one else is doing a much better job.
In Ever After, best-selling author Vicki Courtney addresses the realities of marriage and motherhood, the difficulties and the blessings. It offers women a behind the scenes glimpse of what a fairytale really looks like on the average day for the average wife and mom. Poignant, funny, and even cathartic, Vicki shares mistakes made, lessons learned, and memories to keep. Most of all, she reflects the hope and promise that God meets us in the middle wherever we are in the journey.
My Rating: 5/5 stars
*I told all of you the first time I posted this that when I got a final copy(as opposed to the e-ARC I read first), I would re-post with quotes. That time has come. :) I've edited a bit and added in quotes, so if I didn't convince you to pick it up the first round, maybe this time will convince you.
"We all walk into marriage with a mental list of expectations. When those expectations go unmet, we feel let down. Whether your husband fails to fulfill a request on your honey-do list, forgets to pay the cable bill on time, doesn't spend enough time with the children, fails to read your mind that you could use a little help in the kitchen, or puts on an extra thirty pounds since your wedding day, it is only a matter of time before he lets you down in some form or fashion."
I love my fairy tales so much that just the title sucked me! I started reading it, and wouldn't have put it down if not for the demands of 3 little ones. I loved it so much that I've already bought one of Vicki's other books with plans to read it *very* soon!
I always feel the need to defend my fairy tales. Despite loving fairy tales and sweet romance stories, I don't leave them with unrealistic views of real life. Now, anyway. I KNOW that the day after that fairy tale "I Do", they probably argued over something stupid. I've been married 8 years and I have 3 little ones 4 and under. I know life is hard! My husband doesn't read fairy tales or romances. In fact, about the only thing he MIGHT read is something sports related. I *guarantee* you he gets just as annoyed at me as I sometimes get at him. It doesn't matter how "prepared" a couple walks into a marriage, there's still a rude awakening to be had.
That said, if you're a newlywed, this book is a magnificent wake-up call as to what marriage *will* be when the newness wears off. I might have been just a tad bit delusional when I first got married. Okay, so I admit I was highly delusional! I was given lots of great *realistic* views of marriage before I got married. I should have known better, but I was convinced my marriage would be almost perfect. Ha! I remember telling someone that when I found my "soul mate", he would never make me cry. Ha, again! Not possible, ladies!
In my first post, I recommended that single girls not read this book. I take that back! I actually *highly* recommend it, so you can get a realistic picture of married life to compare with the perfect men and lives that romance books and movies create in those that don't know better. ;) I was once that person, so don't take offense. I'd just recommend skipping the chapters on sex. But, each and every person has to decide for themselves how pure their mind can stay while reading, so it's for you to decide.
"Imagine the disappointment for women who, in the aftermath of their romance binge, encounter a husband who is laid out on the sofa, more mesmerized with the football game on the TV than their cute selves. Or a boyfriend who would rather focus on his fantasy football team than take them our for frozen yogurt and tell them how wonderful they are...again, for the third time this week."
Vicki has a casual, down-to-earth, *humorous* way of writing that I just fell in love with! I seriously LOVED her writing!
This is more of an inspirational memoir more than anything. It's amazing how far I've came with the world of memoirs. I remember at one point not too long ago that I couldn't even finish one of the things, I disliked them so bad. Now, give me a great humorous memoir written by someone as imperfect as me, and honest about it, and I can devour the thing!
One of my favorite parts is when she talks about her daughter revealing the night before that if she brings an example of mold, she would get extra credit. A trip to the fridge, and "Hello, extra credit!". There was even enough for her friends to get extra credit, too. I love it! It makes that bag of lettuce I found in my fridge a little easier to accept.
I took a great deal away from this book! So often, I read books that are awesome, but I forget it by the next day. I don't take away a great deal that I can easily put into practice. THIS book is different. It's filled with so much simple, PRACTICAL advice that it makes it so much easier to remember and attempt put into practice. For example, she discusses the difference between a dream house and a dream home. She talks about having to close a magazine when she starts daydreaming about changing things in her house that she's no longer content with after seeing beautiful new pictures. Now I *try* to do the same thing. When pinterest/magazines/book reviews starts making me not content with what I have, I try to step away. Honestly, finding contentment with my books are my biggest struggle!
"Do we put more time and energy into filling our home with things that will perish or memories that will last? Do we treat the Lord as a regular member of our household or an occasional visitor that is only welcome when invited? If walls could talk, would they tell stories of open Bibles and bedtime prayers or Bibles with dusty covers grabbed on the way out the door on an occasional Sunday morning? Would they talk about the laughter shared around the dinner table or meals eaten alone in front of a TV or computer? Would they say that the Lord's name was spoken often or uttered in vain? Would they share about raised voices and slammed doors or sinners who lose their temper, but are quick to apologize and ask for forgiveness."
This book has caused *change* around my home and for that I am grateful! It's small change and a work in progress, but change none the less! I'm *still* thinking about the things I've read in it. The great thing is that while the book is filled with Vicki's imperfections, which makes us all feel more normal, she also always keeps the focus on God. It's filled with practical advice on how to grow closer to the woman God intends us to be, be a better wife/mother, AND we get to laugh at Vicki's journey(which is also ours to an extent) to that goal.
A few more thoughts I enjoyed:
"We need to cut ourselves some slack when it comes to the pressure we feel to measure up to an impossible standard to do everything and do it perfectly."
"Don't think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us. When we succumb to playing the pretender game and only allow others to see the cherry-picked Stepford moments(some even staged), we miss the opportunity to share life with others on a deeper, more meaningful level."
"Oh, we can gather enough highlights to put together a montage of happy moments and make our lives look like a fairy tale if we really want to fool our audience."
I think you can tell how much I enjoyed Ever After: Life Lessons Learned in My Castle of Chaos. Married ladies, I highly recommend it to you!
*Note to author: *Thank you* for including the picture of "Bubba"! I laughed so much, I had to show Jonathan, which gave him a good laugh, too. *I* now want a picture of "Bubba", so I can laugh every time I see it. :) (After receiving the final copy, I automatically flipped through hunting the picture!)
*I was provided a review copy through Shelton Interactive in exchange for my honest opinion.