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Sometimes Cookies Will Crumble and Owning Up to Imperfection

CookiesI’ve got to fess up. I’m in burnout mode. My posting here on Melanie In The Middle has been sporadic at best lately. Not the way I like to do things. Usually writing is a joy. Sharing my thoughts and experiences with you usually makes me happy. I’m not even entirely sure what the issue is. Part of it definitely has to do with the holiday prep and actual meal execution that has rendered me useless ever since.

Another part of it is keeping up with the Joneses. But I’m jumping way ahead of myself. Let me tell you about this past weekend and then I’ll move onto deeper thoughts…

This past weekend I competed in a cookie baking competition called The Cookie Takedown. Basically I had to bake 150 of some type of cookie which would be judged against a dozen or so other competitors. And it sounded like so much fun when I signed up. But little did I know how exhausted I would be the weekend after Thanksgiving. Certainly not up to baking 150 cookies. That’s a lot of cookies.

But I said I’d do it, so I got to baking. Usually when I enter these types of things I go all out. I study what ingredients are trending and I develop my recipe to be a serious contender. This time I just didn’t have the energy to do that. So instead I picked a very Pinterest popular recipe I shared on A Beautiful Bite, Espresso Snaps. Not trendy, but a big hit with the people who’ve made them.

As I packaged the cookies up for the trek to Boston, I told my family not to expect a win. The cookie recipe wasn’t trendy enough to guarantee a victory. But I liked the idea of being part of the bake-off. Sometimes just being a part of something is enough of a win.

Boston Cookie TakedownAnd the experience was pretty nifty. It was held in the most unlikely of places. A metal band club in Cambridge. And while Metallica was blaring overhead, people milled around in the dark room sampling cookies while drinking milk or spiked egg nog.

Shannon CookieAnd as strange as that sounds, it sort of worked. Funky, sweet and edgy. Just what you’d expect from a cookie competition in Cambridge.

Boston Cookie TakedownAs predicted, I didn’t win. I didn’t even place in the top three. And that is totally fine. You can’t win them all. My kids were sort of shocked that I didn’t win and even more incredulous that I didn’t even place.

And what I told them was that you just can’t be the best all of the time. It’s just not possible. Sometimes it’s ok to fail. To be not as good as the next guy. Which leads me to what I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Keeping up with the Joneses…

Blogging is tough work. I know it seems like a simple thing to do. Jotting down your thoughts and opinions. Slapping up some Pinterest worthy pictures here and there.

Well, let me tell you, it’s exhausting. There are tons of great blogs out there to read. Beautiful blogs loaded with inspirational thoughts. Pictures of perfectly dressed kids. Wisdom on parenting/relationships/life.

A lot of competition for your eyeballs.

Us bloggers are keenly aware of that. That we need to offer you something to keep you coming back for more.

Sometimes I feel like I’m not quite enough. That I’m not interesting enough. That my kids aren’t perfect looking enough. (note the crumbs on Leela’s face above) That my writing isn’t good enough. That I’m not young/thin/perfect/smart enough. And I could go on and on. Self doubt is a persistent enemy.

But I know in my heart of hearts all of that doesn’t really matter.

I’m me. I may not like the hippest music (I get criticized on that one often). I might not write the most inspiring posts. My punctuation and writing style sort of sucks. And lately I’m not feeling all that inspired to say anything at all.

But you know what? That’s ok. Sometimes I’m not enough to satisfy everyone’s needs. And as much as I’d like to change me to make others happy, it isn’t really possible.

So I’m starting to look at this blog the way I looked at that cookie competition. I’m not in it to win it. I’m never going to be The Pioneer Woman or Bakerella or Dooce or The Bloggess. I’m just not able to compete with that at this point in my life. Or maybe even ever. And some people would consider that a total fail.

But you know what? I’m ok with that fail. I don’t need to win, but I sure like being a part of the game. And for me, that has to be enough.

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  1. You don’t give yourself enough credit. On the other hand I love your perspective and that you’ve got two feet on the ground.

    As for the competition. The plane jane winning cookie did have perfect taste and texture. Other winners I don ‘t even remember their cookies. Many that I enjoyed were not even mentioned. It just reminded me how subjective taste and food really is. It is why I am never a food critic just a person who shared food experiences.

    P.s. Your cookies were amazing and I hope the margaritas were too!

    • Actually Leah, I could care less about the results of the competition. I really meant it when I said I was happy to participate. This was more about the constant pressure to compare with the more “successful bloggers”. That’s part of my issue. Not winning a cookie baking competition. By the way, your cookies should’ve won.

  2. You are you and THAT is why we are here. That is enough.

  3. I used to read PWs blog way back before she was such a huge deal. And you know what, I barely read her blog anymore. I love the personal, down to earth blogs where people just talk about life. When they start doing tv, and books, and talk shows, and appearances…etc. it just isn’t the same to me! It’s like they become a brand or something. I’ve read your blog for a long time, way before the accident. I followed you over to your new blog too! But you know what…I like the real you the best. I love reading about your girls, catching sneak peeks of your boys (who are the same ages as mine). Reading about couponing, and recipes, and life in general. You are a great writer, keep doing what you love. Don’t try to be PW or bakerella… Be you, be Melanie. We like you, that’s why we come by and read what you have to say, whenever you feel like saying it!

    • Stephanie says:


    • I agree completely. There are many bloggers that I started out following, and just kind of stopped reading once they got big. They lost the personal touches that made the blogs their own, and eventually it seemed like they were writing primarily for their sponsors. I love Melanie’s openness and honesty.

    • Thank you Sara (Stephanie and Afasana too). Sometimes I don’t feel like such great writer. And that’s quite comical considering I COME from a family of great writers. The women in my family who came before me had so much genuine talent. The ability to express themselves and do it fluidly. I feel choppy in comparison. Raw like them, but choppy. Brash even. I should’ve paid better attention in English class.

    • You basically took the words right out of my mouth! Wow

  4. I have (just yesterday) stopped following at least one of those blogs you mention, it just wasn’t doing it for me. In fact, I had quite a clear out including several well known “big” blogs. BUT notice, I am still following you, and I didn’t even give a second of thought to stopping following you Melanie!!!! I often ramble on (it seems to me) on my blog, but people come back and read and comment again and again. I am lucky, but I hope most of all that it is became I am honest and real. Just like you are.

    I feel that you have had a lot of personal turmoil for a variety of reasons this year, so I wish for you that next year you will find more peace within. Easier said than done, I soooooo realise.

    Keep blogging and keep being Melanie! xx

    • Turmoil. Yes. That’s a good way of putting it. Even more turmoil than when I was on death’s doorstep. And I don’t expect for it to improve anytime soon. That said, I have the ability to see the beauty in difficult times if (and only if) I purpose myself to do so. That takes tremendous willpower, let me tell you. I have no doubt that once I get through this phase I’ll be back to my vibrant self again. It’s just going to take some time and some serious effort to focus on what’s good and lovely.

      • It is so hard sometimes when you are bogged down to even think of trying to see good things, so even though you have to make yourself, the fact that you try amazes me Melanie! So you should certainly give yourself a big pat on the back for trying. When I get bogged down I retreat and hide and don’t try at all, so I am humbled by your efforts.

        I wish that I could sit with you and have a chat and give you a hug so very much, and you are so often in my thoughts Melanie. All I can say is that I have had good times and bad, and that the good times do come after the bad in the end, they just seem to go by the long way sometimes!

        Keep on keeping on I guess – which is darned hard work isn’t it. xxxxxoooooxxxxxooooo

  5. You are more than enough. Never, ever forget it.

  6. Great post Melanie! I think every blogger can totally relate.
    Thank you for being you and sharing your thoughts with us.

  7. Melissa T. says:

    I love to sing. It is a passion of mine. I am told I am fairly good, but I have never thought of myself as good enough to do anything with it in my life. I have been in chorus’ and choirs since I was a child and have even done solos in church on many occasions. It would be a thrill to go further with it, but my children came and they are my priority. I am content now to use my talent when I can. It wasn’t always that way and I am very critical of my voice. I am content with me and what I can accomplish. Be content with you, Melanie. You don’t need to fit into anyone’s idea of you. I keep coming back because I have found you to be a very grounded person. Even if you only had a handful of readers, you are a success. You have captured someones interest. As Sara, above, said “We like you, that’s why we come by and read what you have to say……” You don’t need to try to be someone else and you don’t need to try to do it all either. Be happy with who you are; that’s all you need to be.

    • Hmmmm. You’ve made me think. Certainly I’ve tried to tailor myself to please other people. Not entirely, but just enough to compromise who I really am. Sometimes I feel like if I just tweaked a little bit about me that I could sell myself better. Not to my readers, exactly. But to people in my everyday life. That if I changed myself just a bit, that people would also tailor themselves a bit and meet me halfway. And I’m learning that it doesn’t work that way. People need to loves us for who we are. Not for who we could become. And letting go of people who expect more from us is so very hard to do. It’s something I struggle with.

  8. We love you (and your blog) just the way you are. You come first and everything else is second. Enjoy and be blessed.

  9. I honestly dont know why I read your blog. We have absolutely zero in common (I live in saudi arabia) but I’ve been reading since 2009. Theres something about your blog that keeps me coming back! First or second time I comment by the way.

    • Lol, I don’t know why you read my stuff either. I don’t know why ANYONE reads my writing but I’m really glad you do. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  10. I wish there were like buttons on everyone’s responses. I agree with them all. :)

  11. Melanie, your blog really cheers me up on a daily basis. I could be having the worst day and yet somehow when I go to see if you’ve posted something new, it makes my day better. Some of my favorite posts are your most down to earth ones and also the shopping ones. I’ve followed you for manyyy months now. I’ve watched as you’ve done bake sales to raise money for a family in need and so many other amazing posts….the good, the bad, the ugly. You’re my favorite blogger Melanie!!

    • And here I am thinking that I’m depressing the hell out of everyone on a daily basis. Thank you for reading. I especially thank you for getting me. Not everyone understands who I am. I treasure the ones that do.

      • Quite the opposite Melanie :) You’ve encouraged me and inspired me so much! In July I made a decision to get healthy. I’ve read your posts and followed your journey to get healthier and followed you as you started running and talked about how your lungs were burning, etc. Since July I’ve lost 90 pounds. That is just one of the ways you’ve inspired me. :) Always know you’re an amazing woman and an encouragement on a daily basis. Thank you Melanie.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Good morning Melanie. Your blogs are the first two I check on every morning with my first cup of coffee. You have some very loyal readers and some of us even leave comments but not all of us and not every day. But that doesn’t mean we aren’t following your blogs and reading about your adventures, experiences, frustrations, joys and sorrow. You know, life. You write well and as others have said above; you keep it real. You share your thoughts and feelings and we can all relate in one way or another. As Katie says above; you’re my favorite blogger!

    • Anonymous says:

      P.S. I had these cookies last year and they are marvelous! I will have to try them again this year!

      • Thank you for all of that. But especially thank you for liking the darn cookies. :)

        • Melanie, I’m quite sure all of your readers would have lovedddd your cookies! Cookie party anyone? :) Oh how I wish we all lived closer together and could do this. :)

  13. I think one of the draws to a smaller blog is that the writer is the one actually reading and responding to readers comments. While I do read larger blogs I only ever comment on the smaller blogs where I know the person writing the blog will be reading my comment.

    I think doing the cookie bake off even when you really weren’t up to it was a good lesson for your kiddos. It also shows them how much hard work goes into a winning entry. I also have to say I love those cookies. I made them last year for a cookie swap and everyone loved them.

    • Responding to comments has always been a challenge for me. I try really hard to do that, but with four kids, two blogs and a day job, I can’t always respond although I want to. I can understand how impossible it is for a big blogger to respond to the thousands they receive. I’d lose my mind. Thank you for liking my cookies. They’re one of my favorites. :)

  14. Cheryl L. says:

    I LOVE your posts – all of them. I love the way you write, and share, and make me smile. So, don’t worry about being the best – just be YOU. That’s what we love.

  15. I LOVE this blog and all of your posts. I can relate in so many ways, you are wonderful, don’t ever change!!

  16. Love this post Melanie – we all feel like that sometimes and it’s so refreshing to hear someone say it!

  17. Lee Ann Diehl says:

    I have to agree with what everyone else is posting. We all came for one reason or another and all stayed for Melanie. I check the blog daily to see if you have posted anything. You are you and come across that way in your posts. You are probably more critical of what you post that anyone who reads the blog. I had to go back and look for the crumbs on Leela’s face because I din’t notice. You have a very nice family and I for one enjoy that your share your life with us the way it is.

    • Yes, critical. Very. It’s been an issue my entire life. That said, I’m also a realist. I’m educated enough to know that my writing could be better. Also, I would love to have a gorgeous blog like other bloggers. But the truth is that my life is too busy to allow me to invest any more time into my blogs than I already do. So could the blog be prettier? Yes. Could it be better written?Absolutely. But for now it’s either this or nothing. So I’ll keep doing it this way until my life allows for a better way. :)

  18. I agree with all the comments. I have read your blog for a long time, in fact it’s one of the few blogs I check daily. I love your writing style and you post about real life stuff, which is why I keep coming back :-)

  19. Michelle L. says:

    I came to your blog years several ago from frugalsuz. She no longer blogs.

    The thing that keeps me returning to your blog is that your writing is so down to earth. It isn’t “commercialized”. I feel like I’m reading thoughts from a friend, who lives in another state. A friend who has similar interests such as cooking. A “real” person who documents challenging times in her life. Her struggles, aspirations, and victories. And that’s what makes it special. We love you and your blog for who you are. Keep up the good work and don’t sweat the small stuff. ;)

    • I’m so sad to hear that Suzanne no longer blogs. I liked her writing very much. But that type of blogging is so hard to do. Coupon blogging is a lonely endeavor which is why I kept my coupon blog in a memoir style. Regardless, I’m glad you stuck around and kept reading after I shed The Coupon Goddess. That title was such a burden for so many different reasons. I like having the freedom to write whatever moves me. A freedom I didn’t have back then. And I’m trying not to sweat the small stuff. It’s the big stuff that’s kicking my ass. ;)

  20. Heather M says:

    What’s funny is that I’m a lazy reader. I only read the blogs that I can subscribe by email to…cause my life is too busy to remember to go to blogs. And I don’t mean this to be ugly…but honestly when you don’t blog, it doesn’t occur to me that you didn’t. I look forward to your posts, but it never occurred to me to expect them daily. So you can just let go of any guilt over 3 days going by without blogging…

    That being said, I did a big clearing about a year ago and I got rid of those I rarely read. But yours, I always read…always! You, P Dub, Bakerella, Mom101, and WeAreTHATFamily are the only ones I read…religiously.

    As a delinquent blogger myself, I know how hard it is to maintain a website. It’s a full time job…and because it’s a job, it’s not always fun. When I was unemployed, my mom gave me great advice for finding a job, and I think it’s applicable here too. Just do 3 things a day. Some days you will feel energetic and more will get done. Some days, 3 is all you can do. That doesn’t mean 3 full posts….that means…1) take pictures, 2) upload pictures and 3) save the pictures to your computer. Three things gives you freedom to not beat yourself up over all the stuff that didn’t get done…and let’s you focus on what you did. It was good for me, I hope it helps you.

    • Your mom is brilliant. I’m going to share something a little heavy with you. When my daughter died I did the very same thing. But it was just one thing in the beginning. Get up. And then after a few weeks it was two things. Get up and do something with the boys. And then it grew to three and four things and after awhile I got out of that hell. I’m nowhere near that place now. Thank God. But that coping mechanism still works. Thank you so very much for reminding me of it. I almost forgot. And I’m BEYOND honored to be in that blogger grouping. Holy heck. Flabbergasted even. Thank you for that.

  21. You are winning, not failing, in my book. I love your writing style and sense of humor. I read your blogs because they are REAL and I can relate. I don’t expect blog posts every day, but I sure am happy when I read one. We all have many seasons in our lives, and I, for one, can certainly understand burnout. I am in it with you for the long haul, I will be here to read your posts whenever you write them!

  22. <3

  23. Melanie, you’re my one and only mom blog that I follow looking for tips and tidbits and parenting advice. Now, I follow many for sales and super online deals, But personally I find your writing true from the heart, your stories bring a smile to my face, sometimes tears to my eyes, but you are truly completely relatable. And in this “Pinterest perfect”Crazy world that we live in, we all know there are very few that are truly who they seem to be. You are one of those, true to who you are. i love the random pictures with the crumbs on the face, And think back to the pictures after your accident when it wasn’t all roses. That’s what grabbed me and has kept me here… Following your journey, from Pennsylvania, And knowing that as a mom, it’s okay to not be “Pinterest perfect” all the time (Or even most of the time). Xoxo Thank you for being real!!

  24. Melanie,

    I just wanted to say your site is one of the best. I have over 150 blogs in my RSS Feed. They concentrate on my hobbies and interests. Internet Marketing, Blogging, Photography, Couponing, Crafting, Entrepreneurship, Freelance Writing, Getting Out of Debt, Personal Finance, Crafting, and News.

    Blogs have come and gone throughout the years. And there is only a few dozen that are as old as your site. And out of those your site is the site that is for me. I simply enjoy getting to know your family. Your blog is my escape.

    I have been reading since way way before your rebranding… and I will continue to read.

    With that said, just know that you are enough to many people.

    With love,

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