Divorce Warriors: You Will Survive Being Left...My Messy Beautiful

Note: my regular readers will recognize that this post is an amalgamation of the two, yes TWO times my husband left me (so much fun the first time we did it AGAIN!). I blended both stories into one for the Momastery Messy, Beautiful Warriors Project, which I am absolutely honored and humbled to be part of. It's my hope that the women who NEED to read this, will.  



How long has it been? You should really be over it by now.

You need to move on.

You're better off without him! Time to live it up! Hey...it could be worse!

I could live to be 124 years old. Older, even. I could live forever and there are things about that evening I will never be able to forget.

How the August air hung low and thick over the patio that night. How the single candle we had burning flickered, back and forth, even though I swear there was no wind. How I could see inside the house from where I was sitting, see the warm inviting glow of the kitchen light fixtures spilling out onto the lovely hardwood floors. How I could hear a neighbor dog barking, barking out to everybody and nobody in the dark. How the spot on my abdomen, the same area where my numerous c-sections happened, was still sore and tender from the tubal ligation I'd had the week before.

How cool and smooth the wood of the patio table felt on my forehead, and how odd it was that I couldn't cry.

How time slowed down, and then for a few seconds, stopped. That must have been when I cataloged all of these memories. All of these sights and sounds and feelings, filed away under the heading, "The Night He Left Me".

We'd been married for 12 years and there were four children made during the first half of those years. Was our marriage perfect? Were we happy?

No. And yes. At least, I thought we were happy. I thought he was happy. I assumed I was happy.

Were there warning signs? Did you know? Come on. You must have known.

I was up to my armpits in kids. They were little and active and oh my god there were FOUR of them! Our house was old and falling apart, we had cats who sometimes peed in it and my husband left in the morning and came home at night. I wasn't looking for signs of anything other than maybe a sign that this too shall pass or that someday I'd have a few minutes to myself so I could stop and BREATHE and remember to ENJOY the beautiful chaos that surrounded me.

No. There were no signs. No. I didn't know. I had no clue.

And then, that night. The words flew fast and slippery into the air and like a little black thunderhead they floated over to me:

"Jenny...I'm not happy. I feel like I live in a prison. I need some time to myself. I'm leaving."

He didn't apologize. He couldn't look me in the eye. He had sunglasses in his hand, I remember that. And as he talked, as he gave me his goodbye speech, he tapped them on the hard table in perfect cadence with his words. Like a fancy expensive metronome made in Italy with the finest polycarbonate glare-resistant lenses.

Tap. Tap. Tap. Tap. Tappity--tap. 

He said he'd call me later in the week to "figure things out". He went inside the house, he was swallowed up in that warm inviting kitchen light and he said goodbye to our babies and then he left.

He didn't say goodbye to me.

Sometime later, after the lawyers had joined our merry little party, after the shock of being left had begun wearing off, I found out about her. I had done a good job of convincing myself, and probably nobody else, that he'd left because of a mid-life crisis, or because he was depressed or because he needed to find himself and a two-bedroom apartment with a tiny balcony and free cable was the place to do that.

But then. I found out about her. The woman he went to, when he left me.

All divorces are different. Those that involve another person though, a Plan B who waits quietly (or not so quietly) in the wings...those are particularly awful. The scars these divorces leave are jagged and ugly and oh-so-slow to heal.

They are disfiguring, at first.

You see it every time you look in a mirror. You used to see YOU when you lifted your gaze to meet the one in the bathroom or the bedroom or the hallway. YOU. Maybe you were a young and pretty and tired mama. You might have been a woman of a certain age, with some mileage around your eyes and lines on your cheeks that deepened when you smiled big. It doesn't matter what you used to see in that mirror.

Now you see the woman who was left. You see the one who lost, the one who didn't measure up. You see the one who was too old or too fat or too cold or too busy or too lazy. You see the one who just couldn't compete with the Other.

You see the one who was left.

I'm not going to lie or sugarcoat or get all Polly-freaking-Anna on you here. If you're going through this, if you've been left, you need to know the truth.

It hurts. It's humiliating and degrading and there will be moments (or hours or days) when you will want the world to open up and swallow you whole. You will maybe do what I did, and think about ending it, ending your life. Write eloquent, tear-stained goodbye letters to your children, your parents. Your husband. Hopefully, you will also do what I did and throw them out after writing them.

Because you need to stick around. Your kids? Oh, I could write a book about what this does to your kids. But the words here, the words I'm clickety clackety typing out right now, these words are for you. The one who was left. I'm telling you, you need to stick around.

I'll tell you why: after some time passes, after the lawyers have collected their fees and you've signed and initialed a stack of papers that are taller than Jack's giant beanstalk, after you've stopped wearing your wedding band and you've downloaded "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor onto your iPod...

You'll look in the mirror one day.

And instead of seeing the one who was left, the one who wasn't chosen, you'll see someone else. A familiar face, a strong and beautiful face. There might be a few more worry lines on that face, maybe there's a new strand or two or twenty of gray in the hair...but you'll know that face.

It's YOU. And you will smile at your reflection, you'll admire the determined tilt of your chin, the knowing and proud look in your eyes. You'll remember what it felt like to be left. You'll remember how sad you were and how mad you were and how desperately you wanted things to be different.

You'll remember feeling like it was the end of the world. And now-- you'll know you were half right about that. One world did end. The world of your marriage, that world filled with promises and hopes and dreams, it did end when he left you.

But oh, my sweet, strong warrior friend...oh my goodness. While that world disappeared into a black hole of grief and endings, a whole new world was born. And this new world, the one you are in right now?

It's yours.

Is it the one you pictured yourself in, all those years ago? The one you imagined while resting your head on the chest of your husband, after the sex happened and the two of you shared that lovely afterglow, embraced in the dark and whispered about the future?

No. It's not. But again, I tell you:

This new world is YOURS.

I won't bullshit you. This new world can be scary. It can be intimidating and overwhelming and at times it can feel impossible to navigate. You will make some mistakes. You will mess up. But that's okay. Because like a baby who stumbles while learning to walk, you recover from each misstep. You get up and you start over. One freaking foot in front of the other, sister.

With every day that passes, milestones will be reached. While your old world ended with a whole lot of "lasts", this new world is full of "firsts":

The first time you don't think about him, not once, from the time you woke up until your head hit the pillow.
The first time you don't think about her. About them. About what they did and where they did it.
The first time you realize you didn't cry that day.
The first time you laugh. Hard. Like, pee-your-pants laugh.
The first time your kids mention something about "dad's house" and you don't wince.
The first time you feel the first-date butterflies. And the first kiss bliss.
The first time you realize that somehow, some way, you seem to have forgiven him.
The first time you understand what "moving on" means.

The first time it hits you, and I mean really HITS you:

You survived being left.

And that is MY Messy Beautiful. Thank you for letting me share this, Glennon. I hope it helps someone.

This essay and I are part of the Messy, Beautiful Warrior Project — To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE! And to learn about the New York Times Bestselling Memoir Carry On Warrior: The Power of Embracing Your Messy, Beautiful Life, just released in paperback, CLICK HERE!


Parenting Before There Was Social Media: Did We Have It Easier?

This picture was developed at Target, not on Instagram.

WARNING: I'm about to get all kinds of Grumpy Old Lady on ya. Well, maybe not Grumpy but definitely the kind who begins sentences with the phrase "Back in my day...". You've been warned, lovelies.

I just read an article on Huffington Post, titled "I'm Done Making My Kid's Lives Magical" by the woman who created the absolutely brilliant and hilarious Honest Toddler website (and soon to be book!), Bunmi Laditan.

For the record, I thoroughly enjoyed her post. It was well written and fun to read. And yes, she made her point.

But one paragraph in, I found myself chuckling (see? CHUCKLING. That's what old people do, right?). It was this paragraph that finally made me turn all Grizzled Old Mom:

"Since when does being a good mom mean you spend your days creating elaborate crafts for your children, making sure their rooms are decked-out Pottery Barn Ikea masterpieces worthy of children's magazines, and dressing them to the nines in trendy coordinated outfits?"

I pushed up the sleeves of my sensible cardigan, and said out loud to nobody:

SINCE NEVER, BUNMI. Never. Nobody EVER said being a good mom meant that you killed yourself planning a chevron-themed birthday party for your one year old, including hand cutting the fondant elepahnt for the cake. Nobody EVER said good parenting was proven by the fact that your kids are wearing casual-chic mini-versions of your clothes. Nobody EVER said that if a child's room is too pretty to play in, mom and dad must be like, the best parents of all time!

I began to lament our society and social media and all of the mother effing first world problems in it. The overdose of images and blog posts and commercials and Pins and everything else that saturates, completely saturates our lives. Stupid Elves on Shelves and hipster parents taking pictures of dinosaurs in compromising positions and then posting them on Instagram and getting all sorts of accolades for it, most of the compliments along the line of "Yeah buddy! Those are some great parents!" and "Now THAT is some good parenting!".

I thought back to the hoopla over the little girl who designs fashion gowns out of paper with her mom and then mom posted the pictures and all of the people saying what a great mom she is and that YEAH that is some good parenting and how very lucky that little girl is to have a mom like that.

I started to get pissy and Grumpy Old Ladyish and then I started to feel kind of sorry for Bunmi and all of the other parents of this current flock of babies and children. I looked back on the days when my kids were infants, and toddlers, and elementary school-aged. I thought about what kind of pressure I felt, as a mom, to be perfect. Did I feel any at all?

Yes. Of course I did. I felt some of it while sitting around in the countless ECFE classes I attended. Some other mom would say something about how her kids had done something special or cute, or how she'd spent the weekend smashing teacups so she and her daughters could make mosaic picture frames...and for a few seconds I'd be all "Well crap. Here I thought I was a rock star because I cut an apple in half and had the kids paint with it."

I remember feeling inadequate when I'd take one of my kids to a birthday party and the house was super organized and tastefully decorated AND there were recent pictures of the family IN FRAMES. But then I'd go home and realize that my house was not going to be super organized while I had four kids under the age of 6 and a husband who worked all.the.time.  And the pressure lifted.

This is when I started to feel really bad for Bunmi, and all of the parents out there like her. I guess the cool thing to call them is millennial parents? Whatever they're called, I felt bad. Because I realized that the pressure I felt, back in my day, was from ONE mom in a parenting class or ONE glimpse into a magazine-cover-perfect home. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a newer, younger parent and be faced with hundreds of thousands of other moms and other magazine-cover-perfect-homes. I think I may have shed a tear.

I joined Facebook in 2008. My kids were 13, 12, 10 and 8. Before that, my dalliances online were limited to eBay (I was quite the seller, back in the day), a few chatboards, and downloading angry divorce music on iTunes. The bubble I lived in was populated by the other families at school, my neighbors, and to some extent, the celebrities I read about in the gossip magazines at the gym.

The one book I read when I was pregnant was the inane "What To Expect When You're Expecting" and I threw that thing away when it told me that "colic almost always ends by the third month, if your baby still cries more than an hour or so a day after that, you should consult your pediatrician because you've probably given birth to a future serial killer" (I was holding a screaming 6 month old at the time)(and most of that sentence really did appear in the book, at least back in 1994)

The births of my babies were announced with phone calls and were videotaped on actual videotape. If I said I "posted a picture" it would have meant that I sent a photo of the new baby to grandma via snail mail. Chatting with friends meant we all sat in the same room and gabbed. Pinning something? Please. Like I know how to sew.

And as far as making my kid's childhoods magical? To be honest with you, that wasn't something I thought about. I was so very, very fortunate to be a stay at home mom during those first several years, and like a lot of the young moms today, I was exhausted and worn out and wished some of the hours and minutes away. We spent some days at the park. Some days with friends. Some days I gave the kids a bunch of daddy's golf tees, their Playskool hammers, a chunk of styrofoam and let them pound the shit out it for hours (and no, I didn't even think about the chemicals in the foam bits that were lodged in the carpet and their ears and my bra because I hadn't just read 68 articles about it).

But here's the difference between my early parenting years and Bunmi's and all the other parents out there: at the end of the day, I didn't open up my laptop and see pictures of my friend Lola and her kids making sandals out of coconut shells and pipe cleaners. I didn't look down at my phone at any point during the day (because it was a Sony cordless, and there was no screen) and get an email from my cousin Bree that contained 30 pictures of her kids during their latest photo shoot, the one where they met the photographer at the local dairy farm and the kids got to milk cows and they all had the cutest matching cowboy boots on!

There wasn't a HuffPost that reminded me every single day about "The 10 Things You Should Never Say To Your Kids Unless You Want To Ruin Their Lives" and "These 4 Moms Are Doing EVERYTHING BETTER THAN YOU!" and of course the "Open Letter To The Judging Bitch At The Playground".

At the end of the day, I sat down on the couch and tried to keep my eyes open long enough to watch Friends or Frasier or CSI. Some days I felt great about what I'd done as a mom, other days I was sure I'd damaged each one of my kid's psyches. But I did so quietly, and without all of those thousands of voices in the background either telling me that I hadn't done enough or that yes, indeed, I had ruined their lives.

I'm not saying that social media is bad. I use it every day, and for the most part, I enjoy it. But it sucks you in, people, into a shiny vortex that has walls made of the same thing the walls were made of in that machine that Charlie and Grandpa Joe were stuck in, in the original (and the best, of course) Willy Wonka movie. You just keep going and going and it's so hard to pull yourself out.

Look, social media can be all kinds of awesome. I'm a blogger, for God's sake. I have received hundreds of emails and messages and comments thanking me for sharing my horror stories (and funny crap) about divorce and single parenting and what it's like to be 47 and look like Hagrid and trying to find true love. My friend and all-around fabulous person Jill Smokler started her super successful website, Scary Mommy, just for parents who want to admit that it's freaking impossible to sprinkle magic fairy fart dust all over every single day of our progeny's lives. There are invaluable online communities where real, live friendships are formed every single day. The internet is a lovely thing.

But it's not where or how we determine who is a good parent. Is the paper dress mom a good parent? Do the Dinovember parents love their kids? Yes and of course, yes. But what about the dad who lives down the street from me? He isn't on facebook and has zero clue as to what Instragram is. This guy meets his little girl at her bus stop and gives her a piggyback ride home. Every damn day. The only difference is, nobody posts pictures of them doing this, and nobody has written a poignant, viral blog post about it. He is most certainly making his daughter's life magical, but he (and his daughter) are content with keeping the magic just between them.

And that's the thing: do these parents, the dress-making, fondant-rolling, dinosaur-posing ones...would they do all of this if there was no place to post pictures? If the only likes or comments or shares they got were from their children? I'd like to think that they would. And I'd like to think that this pressure these parents are facing today, this awful YOU MUST BE PERFECT, YOUR KIDS MUST HAVE AMAZING AND MAGICAL CHILDHOODS pressure, will ease up as more and more of them realize that magic and kids kind of goes hand-in-hand. A package deal. It doesn't have to be forced, or photo-shopped or posted anywhere to make it that way. You. Some time. Love. That's all they really want from us. Everything else is just gravy, and we all know that too much gravy isn't necessarily a good thing.

So, Bunmi, I wish you well on your quest to let your child live a life that isn't picture-perfect every day. I hope you get to stand at your backyard windows and watch her like I used to watch my son William, talking and playing and jousting imaginary foes with a stick. I hope that you, and other smart, creative parents just like you, are able to separate the good from the gilt on social media and all the marketing campaigns and tv shows and realize that when it comes down to magical childhoods, it's not getting the perfect shot of your kids at Disneyworld or having the Instagram pic of your daughter's birthday cake shared 1,000 times or making sure every single holiday is Pinterested to the nth degree.

Like Bunmi said, so wisely, in her post...magic is something you discover on your own.

And we won't discuss the fact that directly above her lovely post was the headline, "DAD TURNS VIDEOS OF HIS TODDLER INTO INSANELY COOL VIDEOS!!!". Sigh.


Ain't No Clean Like A Rage Clean

My friend plopped down on the seat next to me at the restaurant. We were out for a rare Saturday fun-day, and OMG did we both need it.

She took a sip of her Bloody Mary, passed me her olives and began to gab.

"Everyone was pissing me off today. I woke up mad, and it only got worse."

I speared her discarded olives and plopped them into my dirty martini, took a swig and smiled. "I know exactly how that feels. Some days it's like that's their job, right? 'Let's make mom insane'. What did you do about it?"

She smiled, the crafty smile of a mom who is enjoying an afternoon of freedom, a good cocktail and the companionship of a friend. And then she said:

"I cleaned. I started in the kitchen and I cleaned the shit out of that house. And then I called you."

I laughed, dipped a french fry in some ketchup and took a bite.

"Ahhh...yes. The Rage Clean. I know it all too well."

If you know me at all, you know I avoid cleaning as often as possible. I do it, but not with much enthusiasm and usually right before I have friends over. My kids, of course, have followed suit. I know, I know, I have been a poor role model for them, I should enforce a cleaning schedule and assign them specific cleaning tasks. But I haven't. I coddled them like injured birds after the divorce, and hooo boy has that come back to bite me in the ass. Bite me in the ass AND leave dirty dishes in the living room. That's not the focus of today's discussion, though. We're talking about a very specific kind of cleaning, one that's different from your run-of-the-mill housekeeping.

THE RAGE CLEAN. Cleaning when angry. As I stated above, I loathe cleaning. But there's something about being mad that gets me all hot and bothered. As my temper flares, messes that need conquering almost glow with a heavenly aura in front of me. The dishwasher gets emptied with loud purposefulness. Dust is sprayed and wiped with forceful intent. Shoes are deposited by the front door with angry aplomb. Baseboards are scrubbed, the Swiffer gets abused and my God the toilets...those mother effers GLEAM when Angry Jenny is done with them.

And the wonder of it all is, that when I'm done cleaning, I'm also done being mad. Win/win.

And yes, I can hear some of you whispering, "You should get mad more often, Jenny!" 

Unfortunately (or is it fortunately?) I don't get mad a lot. Maybe I should keep a pile of things that need dusting or folding in the car, because that tends to be the place I rage most often.

But back to the restaurant, the moms and the cocktails. We cackled mightily about the phenom known as Rage Cleaning. We shared what sets us off most often (for both of us: the kids not helping as much as they should and coming home to a messy house after a long, tiring day of work. For her: her husband not helping as much as he should). We wondered if we were alone in our Rage Cleaning...and then two of our friends showed up.

The first friend was another mom, and YES BY GOD she knew all about the angry cleaning. She regaled us with tales of her terrified children running ahead of her, picking up toys and clothes and oh the humanity, the SOCKS. Seems that the socks are the trigger for her. And I understand that one. I find socks everywhere: balled up in the couch, shoved under the vanity in the bathroom, lounging very casually on the stairs leading down to the mancave. Very rarely do I find them in pairs. Yes, socks are rage inducers.

Our second friend, though...surprised us.

He is young. Like, in his 20's young. And single.

Here's the kicker: he not only knew all about Rage Cleaning...he had JUST DONE SOME THAT MORNING. He told us about his roommates and their utter inability to clean up after themselves. And so, he Rage Cleaned the kitchen in his apartment.

Rage Cleaning transcends genders, and age and marital status. It affects married people, divorced people, single people.

It even happens in the movies! I watched "American Hustle" the other night, and this scene made me laugh out loud. I thought about my rage cleaning homies and reminded myself to crank some 70's tunes during my next episode of angry dusting:

JLaw rocked those yellow rubber gloves, yes?

How about you? Have you ever Rage Cleaned? Please share your stories. It helps to know we're not alone.


Bad Mom Thoughts (Just Write)

I had a really un-momlike thought in the car today.

On my break, headed towards Old Navy to buy a pair of Super Skinny jeans (not for me! For my 13 year old son, silly), driving along the highway and doing that random-thought thing that happens. You know, when you're focused on the road and where you're going and what you have to get done when you get there and everything else you have to do after that...those scenarios that play through your mind. Sometimes I finish arguments during these drives, sometimes I pretend I'm famous and give interviews (shut up! It's fun. Try it sometime).

Today, though...today was different.

Today I thought about what life would be like if I didn't have kids. And I don't mean just a fleeting thing, a "gah can you imagine how much easier things would be" sort of thing. I think a lot of moms, if pressed and mayhap plied with a cocktail, would admit to sometimes thinking about life without children. But mom guilt and love for our progeny quickly smother such evil thoughts.

Not today. Today I spent the majority of my car ride fantasizing (YES I said fantasizing because I thought of this much like I think about winning the lottery or sleeping with Louis CK) about a child-free life.

I thought about where I might be working, what kind of home I'd have and yes I thought about what my body would look like if it hadn't produced and fed four human beings in six years. I thought about education (mine) and money (again, mine) and traveling and OH MY GOD what it would be like to not live and breathe motherhood every second of every day.

I thought about what it would be like to not worry about things like lunch money and grades and shady friends and judgy adults and financial aid forms and junk food and mother effing cell phone bills.

I thought about clean bathrooms and guest bedrooms and what it would be like to have to save up dirty clothes to get a full load. What it would be like to always know where the freaking remotes are and to live the kind of life where you don't open the fridge and find a milk carton with half a tablespoon of milk left in it.

All of these thoughts happened. All of them paraded through my cranium as the gray road was consumed in front of me and the gray skies gloomed above me. Big deal, right? Who doesn't think about this kind of stuff every once in a while, right?

But here's the kicker:

This time, I didn't feel bad. There was zero guilt for allowing myself to pretend for just a moment, for just a drive's worth of time. I didn't picture my children's faces and curse myself for being such an ungrateful heathen.

In fact, I was envious. Jealous of this Jenny in my mind, this Me living in Bizarro world, childless and flat-bellied and perched upon a toilet not decorated with amber splotches of dried pee. I even felt a little sad, not because I'd had these awful thoughts but because I'd never know what life would have been like if I'd chosen what was behind Door B instead of pushing Door A open without a moment's hesitation.

But this is what I did: I bought the jeans for William, and then I stopped at Trader Joe's for some Orange Chicken. Because my kids love it and dinner isn't going to make itself, right?

I forgave myself for having the kid-free fantasies and also for not feeling bad about having them.

I decided that as nice as it would be to have all of that stuff I thought about on my drive to Old Navy, I'm certain that choosing to have kids was the right choice for me.

And my children would probably agree.


This post is my first attempt at free writing in conjunction with my friend Heather and her blog The Extraordinary Ordinary. Do you blog? Have a stab at it. Write free and then link up at Heather's blog.


Three Moms Drive Into The School Parking Lot.....

It was one of those mornings.

My level of smug has been pretty high this week, listening to the parents at my preschool and other friends of mine kvetch about the havoc that Daylight Savings Time has wreaked upon their lives. The view from my pedestal was lovely. Teenagers? Hah. We are so not affected by a measly hour's difference, people.

I got this.

Yeah. Until I realized how much I don't got this. It hit me this morning, right about the same time I hit the snooze on my alarm for the third time. As I slipped my sleeping mask back in place and dug my feet deeper under the dog for warmth, it occurred to me that I hadn't jumped out of bed with my usual "TIME TO MILK THE COWS" fervor. I was getting up later and later, finding it increasingly difficult to leave the cozy clutch of my bed in order to begin waking the kids for school.

And the kids. They, too, have been harder to rouse. Molly, who usually gets herself up and ready without any intervention, lies motionless in her bed as her phone chimes away next to her head. Henry, who is usually the easiest to wake, now requires more than the usual flick of the lights and a "Time to get up!" cheer. And we won't discuss the 13 year old, who clings to sleep like a Kardashian does to attention.

So this morning was rough. I've been given the okay to come into work a bit later, in order to make up for some overtime, and decided that I'd drive the kids to school. This way, we could relax a tiny bit, not be so rushed. Maybe even sit down to eat a bagel.

As if.

Oh, it was less rushed, at first. And yes, it was even a bit relaxing. William was the first out to the car, Molly and I following him out to the garage. I warmed up the car and we waited for Henry.

And waited.

"What the hell?" exclaimed Mother of the Year. I looked back at Molly and asked her "Where's Henry?". I don't know why I assumed she'd know. It just seemed logical. She looked at me in the rearview mirror and said "How should I know?".

Then, Henry's 6'3" frame appeared in the doorway that connects the house to the garage.

Now, Henry is the child who earned the moniker "Mr. Furious" before he reached the ripe old age of 3. His anger management issues were legendary, so much so that the game "Chutes and Ladders" was banned in our household, permanently, after we discovered that his biggest trigger was losing. Losing a game, losing a race, losing a shoe or a cup or the dash to the good swing in the backyard. Had I been a better parent, I'd have done more to assuage his obvious temper issues, but in my mind removing the triggers was easier than dismantling the gun, so to speak. I have a few regrets in life, and yes, that's one of them.

His temper has subsided, quite a bit, over the past few years.He's 16 now and at times is my favorite child. I credit maturity, no more video games and my much-improved parenting. But when it does show up? Oh, it's ON. On like Donkey Kong, suckers.

The giant manchild in the doorway was gesticulating wildly. "Oh no" William said. "He's mad." I opened my window and shouted out, "Come on, we're going to be late!" because our previously relaxed and effortless morning was quickly becoming yet another race against the clock. He screamed back at me, "I CAN'T FIND MY FREAKING PHONE!". His voice cracked and he kicked the doorjamb.

For the sake of brevity, I'll sum up the next 7 minutes: Scream. Swear. Kick garbage can. Push chair over. Mom chanting to herself, "don't engage, don't engage, don't engage". Couch cushions EVERYWHERE. And finally, phone found.

I made a mental note to talk to someone about these rare-but-whackadoo outbursts and then we drove to school. Miraculously, the kids would all be on time and if I hustled, I'd be able to get home, put a bra on, and head to work. Luckily my shower from the day before hadn't expired.

The tension began lifting. Big kids dropped off at the high school first, and then it was on to the junior high to deposit William. Now, I've written about my experiences at the junior high parent drop off before, so I won't go into much detail. But the place is a cluster-eff even under the best circumstances. William and I had discussed his game plan for dealing with an assignment that seems to have disappeared into cyberspace, we exchanged our "I love you's" and "See ya laters". He disembarked and that was that.

But the two cars in front of me weren't budging. I waited, thinking surely they'd go, but no...no dice. So, I did what I had to do: I pulled out, and began driving past them, into the exit lane.

That's when I met Mom #1. She was in a silver GMC Acadia and we found ourselves side by side, trying to exit. I smiled at her, the "hey I know I'm doing an asshole move here, please, go ahead! My bad!". Our eyes met, and she smiled back at me, and gave a little friendly "thank you!" wave. Or maybe it was more of a "thank you for acknowledging your assholeness! Have a great day!'. But whatever. I found myself smiling genuinely, glad to have met up with a friendly person there in one of the most unholy circles of Hell.

"Gee I like nice people" I thought to myself. And then, HOOOOOOOONNNNKKKKK. My blissful kumbaya moment was shattered by the honking next to me.

Enter Mom #2. She was in her maroon Honda Pilot. I looked over, again with my "Yep! Guilty as charged! Please go ahead! Have a nice day" look but this time, there was no smile in return.

Mom #2's eyes narrowed. Her lips were pursed and she shook her head at me. I think her nose crinkled up a bit. She gunned it and pulled ahead, and I could see her gesturing to me. She wasn't flashing the peace sign.

I drove behind her for almost a mile after that. As I passed her at a stoplight, I glanced in her car. She glared back at me and again shook her head.

Here's the point in the story where I could fold my arms, jut out a hip and go off on this woman. I could go all "Open Letter Blog Post" on her ala' Matt Walsh or any other blogger who has made vilifying perfect strangers online a new fangled art form. I could make presumptions about the woman in the Honda Pilot. I could assume many things about her: she's a rude person. A bitch. A cold hearted shrew who eats the souls of babies for breakfast and washes them down with kitten's tears and puppy breath. I could go into a rant about how angry people are these days, and how she made me feel bad and how I hoped she would spill her coffee later or maybe get her period and not have any tampons in her purse and have to suffer the burn of wadding up toilet paper in her underpants until she got home.

But that's not what I'm going to do. Instead, I'm thanking her. I'm thanking both of those moms from the parking lot. Even in my agitated, rushed state of mind, I learned something this morning.

Mom #1, the Acadia mom? She taught me the value of a smile. A wave. She reminded me that even the people making asshole moves in the parking lot are deserving of some grace now and then. Her wave was like a blessing, actually, and it took away some of the sting of a shitty morning.

Mom #2, the Pilot mom? She taught me the power of a look. Her obvious disapproval of me, of my driving, of my assholery...for whatever reason, it affected me. It might have been due to the polarity of her reaction compared to the first mom. Or perhaps it was my nerves, still raw from dealing with Hurricane Henry earlier. Whatever the reason, when she gave me that look, I decided to not get mad in return. I didn't get defensive. Instead, I wondered if she, too, had just been through a morning like mine. Maybe she was on her way to a job she can't stand. Maybe she's dealing with an ailing parent. Maybe she's scared because her mammogram results weren't normal and she needs to go back.

Or, maybe she just wasn't in the mood to put up with yet another a-hole parent not following the flow of things in the school parking lot that day. God knows I've been less-than gracious in that situation before.

I cut her some slack, the same kind of slack Mom #1 had cut me.

It ended up being a good morning, after all. Thanks to the moms in the school parking lot.


Back in the Adderall Saddle Again: Dealing with Adult ADHD

I've been blasted for my support of ADD meds. I was unfriended by someone on the facebook for it. I've had marathon discussions (debates) with dear friends on the subject. I've been accused of breaking my child, taking away his personality and my favorite, of being a drug pusher.

I can take it.

My one child who has been diagnosed with ADHD began medication in first grade. This was after preschool teachers and a kindergarten teacher and then, finally, his first grade teacher brought up the possibility that he had ADHD. I ignored them at first. Blew it off. Chalked his behavior up to skipped naps (as if he'd taken one since he was 2), too much sugary cereal and the fact that he was "just a kid acting like a kid".

But, we had him seen by a doctor. We filled out questionnaires, his teacher filled them out, I read every book on the subject. We (I say "we" because I was married back then and it was a mutual decision) decided to give the meds a try.

And they worked. Like a boss.

The kid who was constantly being reprimanded for not being able to keep his hands to himself, for blurting out whatever was on his mind, for not being able to focus longer than a minute on anything that didn't immediately grab his interest, for being "that kid" in the classroom...he changed.

He was able to sit for longer periods of time. He stopped hitting kids. He stopped interrupting his teachers and his parents and his friends. He picked up a Harry Potter book and began reading it. AND FINISHED IT. His handwriting improved drastically, we discovered he was good at math because, for the first time ever, he sat down and was able to focus on the worksheets in front of him.

It was a miracle, for him. And for us, as parents. And I'm sure for his teacher (who cried with me at his next conference, by the way...God I loved her! Hats off to you, Mrs. Hall)

But this isn't about my son and Adderall and ADHD. It's about me, and Adderall and my ADHD.

You see, while he was being diagnosed, I was too. It hit me late one night, as I was reading my ADD bible, "Driven to Distraction". I elbowed my sleeping husband and said "Holy shit. I HAVE IT TOO!". Reading the symptoms list was like reading something titled "All About Jenny!". My life flashed before my eyes like an old timey slideshow. All the punishments in school, the frustrated parents, the lost or unfinished homework. The messy rooms and the tardiness and the inability to see a project from start to finish...all of it.

I sought out a doctor who dealt with adult ADHD and had a diagnosis, and a prescription, within the week.

In our family, we joke that Adderall brings out the gardener in us. The first time my son took the meds, he grabbed a rake and methodically raked the entire front yard. Me? I transplanted about 30 hostas. There's an adjustment time with ADD meds, not long but it does take a couple of days for your body (and brain) to get used to it. To get used to the quiet inside your mind, get used to that initial rush you feel when the drugs hit your brain and the fog starts dissipating, the whirring blades of thought begin to calm down. I think by doing something physically repetitive, we were allowing our brains time to become familiar with the feeling of not being on fast forward.

But more than the landscaping, what the drug did in my brain was life changing. For the first time, ever, my thoughts slowed down. I didn't feel the unstoppable urge to interrupt friends as they were talking. I could start a project, and finish it. And I didn't start 20 more in the middle of it, either.

I found patience where before, I'd had none. I listened to my kids instead of jumping ahead and trying to guess what was next.

I yelled less. I no longer said the sometimes-biting things that used to pop out of my mouth before I realized what I was saying.

My house was tidier. The laundry got done. Meals were planned and not the panicky, rushed last-minute affairs they'd been. I didn't need an entire pot of coffee in the mornings (for those of us with ADD, the caffeine actually slows things down). I didn't need those two glasses of wine at night to help muffle the noise.

My time belonged to me again. I didn't lose chunks of it here and there, shaking myself out of a fugue and wondering, "Where the hell did that last hour go?". 

For the first time in my life, I could think clearly. I could have a thought, an actual thought! And not have to search for it in a pick-up-sticks jumble of words and sentences and feelings in my brain.

I mourned my "lost" childhood and education. After seeing how it had helped my son, and feeling how it had helped me as an adult, I couldn't help but think about what a difference it may have made for me, all those years ago. Would math have been easier? Would my grades have reflected my intelligence instead of my attention span? Would I have been kept in the Gifted and Talented program instead of being told "Oops. We made a mistake! Sorry. Back to the average pool you go, grasshopper."

Would I have finished college?

I'll never know. I do think it would have made my life better, that's for sure. You see, ADD doesn't travel alone. It usually brings some friends to the party, the most common ones are anxiety, depression and low self esteem.

It's kind of like the chicken/egg thing: which came first? Did the ADD and all the social/personal ramifications of having it cause the others, or are they all just another random gift from our genetic makeup? Certainly years of being told by parents and teachers and friends that there's something "not right" with you, of always being the kid scolded and punished, of finding yourself frustrated at your inability to just finish that goddamned book or paper or job does a number on you.

Those other maladies hit me, too. They intensified after my husband left. He walked out, and took his sweet healthcare benefits with him. I found out that the cost of Adderall without insurance was almost as much as a mortgage payment (I kid you not...at one point it was over $400 for a month's worth sans insurance). 

I quickly realized that keeping my scattered thoughts in straight and orderly lines took a backseat to keeping my kids fed. And thus ended my love affair with Adderall.

Until now.

I've put up a good front. I've pretended to have my shit together. And for a while, it worked. Oh, don't get me wrong. It still takes an act of God for me to finish reading a book. Piles of stuff still sit, unattended but thought about on a regular basis (usually in the form of, 'ooh I need to go through that one of these days!'). But I manage to get to work, go grocery shopping, get the bills paid and keep the kids fed, clothed and warm. I'm functioning.

But I've been unraveling. Like a wayward thread being pulled ever-so-slowly, my life and my poor old flaky brain have been coming undone. It's starting to become a hindrance. For a long time I was able to live with the 8 lane highway coursing through my cerebrum 24/7. I self-medicated again, with the pot of coffee in the morning and the cocktails on Fridays and Saturdays (and sometimes Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays).

Now it's become too much. I have a lot on the line. Finding a new job while still working 40 hours a week at the one I'm going to lose, trying to finish my book, dealing with the ups and downs that go hand in hand with raising four kids on my own. Everything, all of this life stuff, it's taking a toll. My ADD is rearing its ugly head and so are the others: the self doubt, the depression, the anxiety (oh my sweet lord, the anxiety).

So I'm doing what I should have done a long time ago. What I should have done the minute I got my new job with the fabulous benefits.

I'm going back on Adderall. I made the call this afternoon, and I see the doctor early next week. And I'm positively giddy about it.

Now, before I settle into bed and start to read the same paragraph over and over in the book I'm currently trying to read (The Bloggess/Jenny Lawson's book "Let's Pretend This Never Happened"), I want to stress this:

I'm not a big fan of pharmaceuticals. I studied each vaccination my babies got, and objected to a couple of them because I didn't like what I'd read. I frown upon antibiotics unless they are absolutely the last resort. My kids are all taller than me and could probably flip me over like a cheese omelet but they still know that they need to check with me before dipping into our ibuprofen/cold and flu meds stash. I'm not a pill popper! In fact, I probably fall more on the anti-medication side of things.

But I think that sometimes, they work. Sometimes they fix what needs to be fixed. I am nearsighted, therefore I wear corrective lenses. I'm wired wrong in my head, therefore I need to take something to help reconnect things. Is this the perfect solution? The best one? The right one? Maybe. Maybe not.

It is, however, the perfect, best and right one for me.

I'm looking forward to the quiet.


Cry Me A River: Confessions of an Easy Weeper

If you know me at all, whether it's in real life, or just from hanging out here, you know I am a weeper. A crier. I CRY. At the drop of a hat.

I cry happy tears, sad tears, joyous tears, frustrated tears, relieved tears. You name a tear, and I've cried it. I have spent countless midnight Christmas Eve church services hiding behind a program because the songs move me so deeply that I start sobbing, like deep hitching sobs. While sitting in a pew. With other people.

I cry over songs on the radio. My kids insist on listening to our local "cool" station, KDWB in the car. Therefore, I know all the lyrics to, and sing along with, a plethora of angsty feels songs that are so not directed towards women my age. I sing along to "Say Something" by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera and when they get to the line, "And I am feeling so small...It was over my head...I know nothing at all" the signs on the road get all blurry due to the excess water in my eyes.

The commercial about the Olympic athletes and their moms? TORTURE. I picture me and every one of my non-athletic kids, and I think my tears are a combination of guilt over not having more Sports Kids and and sappy relief over the fact that I made some pretty good memories with them while we figured out that they weren't future Olympians. Molly was signed up for t-ball when she was about 4. She hit the ball, and started running. First base! Going for second! Rounding to third..and kept on running, straight to me and the blanket I was sitting on along the third base line. Her first and last t-ball game and we laugh about it to this day. Sniffle.

The song "Fix You" by Coldplay is a trigger. I need some time alone after hearing that one. Time alone with a towel to mop up the mess running down my face.

Tell me your birth story and I'll show you my ugly cry face. Tell me your adoption story and it's even uglier. At the last hockey tournament this year, I sat in the hotel lobby sharing wine and baby stories with a few other hockey moms. The "standard" birth tales got me in the gut, but when one mom regaled us with not only the story of her son's adoption but about his life leading up to the adoption? Gah. I blamed my uncontrolled blubbering on the wine.

I've banned myself from ever watching The Learning Channel's "A Baby Story" in the best interests of everyone, everywhere.

This facebook page is a no-no if I'm out in public. Or if I am wearing any eye makeup.

One of the biggest downfalls of being an EW (easy weeper) is being blindsided by an attack of the tears. Case in point, the following conversation I had at the dentist office just this past week:

Cathy, the receptionist: "Jenny, that William sure is a nice boy."
Me: "Oh thank you. He really is a sweet kid."
Cathy: "All of your kids are so polite and kind. You've done a really good job with them. You wouldn't believe some of the behavior we see in here."
Me: "Thank you! I don't know if it's because of me, though. They were pretty awesome right from the start."
Cathy: "You're a single mom, right?"
Me: "Yep."
Cathy: "Wow. Four kids? How long have you been doing this on your own?"
Me: "Hmm...it's been about 7 years now."
Cathy: "Do they spend much time with dad?"
Me: "They used to spend every other weekend with him. And a couple weeknights. But that hasn't happened for at least 4 years. He helps with rides sometimes. And they hung out with him at Christmas for a few hours."
Cathy, shaking her head, "Well, I want you to know that you're doing a really great job with your kids."
Me: "Oh my God. I'm sorry...can I get some tissues?"

I was full-on crying. In the waiting room of our dental office. Luckily the only other person waiting was an elderly gentleman who was polite enough to just smile into the copy of National Geographic he was reading.

When the kids at school hold my face in their hands and say "I love you, Miss Jenny" I oftentimes get something in my eye that requires immediate attention. Same goes when I feel a tiny hand spontaneously grab mine as we're walking down the hall. Or when I watch one of them figuring out how to write a certain letter, or sound out a word in a book. Excuse me for a sec, I can't type anymore. I'll be right back....

When I think about Molly leaving for school this fall I break down. When I look at pictures of the kids, random snapshots of them doing random things (the car wash in the driveway, with the Little Tikes cars and wagons all lined up, little Charlie and little Molly standing there, all serious and soapy? OOOOMMMMGGGG.

The passage of time leaves me verklempt. Thoughts of the future, so exciting and scary, does it too. Pretty much every video featuring dogs and/or babies and/or soldiers returning home is like a shot in the heart.


I used to be embarrassed about this affliction, this inability to hold my emotions at bay until a later moment, a more private moment. It made me feel flawed and weak. But then someone said something to me, and it made me feel better.

"You cry really easily, don't you?" she said, with a kind smile on her face. Go figure, at the time, I was dabbing at some tears.

I smiled back and said something like, "Yes! I can't help it. I'm sorry."

"Don't be sorry" she said. "It's a really endearing quality. You don't hide your feelings like a lot of people do."

And you know what? She has a point. Our world seems to be growing colder and meaner and more impersonal every day. Maybe being an Easy Weeper really is an okay thing. A good thing, even.

I know there are more Easy Weepers out there. I've met some of you, and the solidarity one feels when wiping tears away with friends is all kinds of empowering. Moving, even.

So for those of you who have a good cry at the ready 24/7, be proud. Embrace your sensitive selves, and know you're in good company.

P.S. Make sure you have Kleenex in your purse at all times. Trust me.


Danskos Be Trippin'

I love my Dansko clogs. Many of my friends love them. They are immensely popular shoes.

Heidi Freaking Klum loves her Danskos (photo: People.com)

They are the beloved, sensible footwear choice of many. Housewives, hipsters, chefs, nurses, teachers and, as noted above, super famous models/television personalities (Tina Fey and Jennifer Garner are also fans, so there ya go).

Are they comfortable? HELLS YEAH. All kinds of comfy. I remember the first time I stepped into these clompy clouds of love: I felt taller, longer, leaner. I also felt kind of Scandinavian.

Are they affordable? NAH. The average price for a pair of Dansko shoes is $120.00. Back when I had disposable income I treated myself to a few pairs. I've lucked out and found a few cute ones at thrift stores (I actually heard angels singing when I found a pair of patent Professionals at Value Village for $7.99), and I have been on the receiving end of generous hand-me-downs from my friends Gail and Whitney (Whitney, I'm still rocking the red suede pair you gave me 6 years ago). The thing is, they wear like iron and if you take care of them (which basically means avoid fire and hot lava) they will last for years.

Are they sexy? ANYTHING BUT. My ex husband used to refer to them as "those big black shoe things you wear". I think they are the modern equivalent of little Dutch boy-type wooden clogs. The opposite of strappy and slinky, these clodhoppers let you clunk through parking lots, grocery story aisles and school hallways with stomping confidence. You want hoofs? YOU GOT 'EM.

I went through an animal print phase. And Dansko was there.

Think of Danskos as the Volvo station wagon of the shoe world. Boxy, utilitarian, yes. However, they are well made and their owners are usually smart, practical people who know that quality costs a bit more. Plus Dansko and Volvo both end with the letter O.

But. There's a secret about Danskos. A secret that you won't find on their website, a secret the salespeople you buy them from won't tell you:


Mine have tried, twice. The first time was so awful and embarrassing that I like to talk about it as often as possible. It was about 7 years ago. I was almost divorced, and still on friendly terms with my soon-to-be ex-husband. I was walking outside to chat with him as he waited in the driveway one fine day, wearing my Danskos, of course. Cleared the top step of the tiny concrete stairway at the front door, and on the second step, I did what is known in certain circles as "The Dansko Roll". I fell off my Dansko. The left one. My foot rolled, I heard a crunch, and I fell down the remaining two steps. No worries though! I got up, Mary Katherine Gallagher "SUPERSTAR" fashion, and limped over to say hi to the father of my children.


After he left, I surveyed the damage. Already swelling, my left ankle had the mottled appearance of a zombie in the first stages of zombie-ism. Kind of purple. It hurt something fierce, but here's the deal: I HAD A DATE THAT NIGHT.

A date with Curiously Cheap George. And I wasn't about to let a painful, puffy ankle stop me from going. So I stuffed that sausage into cute black boots, and walked as little as possible as we were entertained by an AC/DC cover band that evening. Here's where I am going to be a 17 year old boy and add "my giant ankle wasn't the only sausage that got stuffed that night". /end immaturity. I think I cried a little during the lovemaking, which Curiously Cheap George probably thought was me being all emotionally vulnerable and tender but in reality was because he kept bumping my ankle with his shoulder. (I'll let you do the mental imagery on that one).

And yet, I continued to wear my Danskos.

Over the years, I had many close calls. Several near-rolls, an untold number of trips and stumbles. One of my best friends broke her ankle while wearing Danskos, and several more friends have collected twisted ankles and bruised feet along with their own Passive Aggressive Dansko horror stories.

And yet, we continue to wear Danskos.

This past weekend, I was in Bitchy Cleaning Mode. That's where I clean the house while muttering about my lazy kids and about how I am sending the worst roommates, ever, out into the universe.

So I was bitching and muttering as I took two big bags of recycling outside. Down some snowy steps. IN MY DANSKOS (the lovely ones in the first picture above). I was mid-mutter when BOOM. ROLL. My left foot slid, unnaturally, to the side and yours truly slid, naturally, to the bottom of the steps. I got up, winced my way to the recycling bin and limped back inside to see how bad this roll had been.

I iced it immediately, finally finding a use for that bag of edamame beans from Trader Joe's that's been languishing in the freezer. Did a fine job of convincing myself that "Meh...it's not so bad." I consulted with a couple doctor friends, and also decided that nothing says TIME FOR A MARTINI like a sore foot.

But I'm at that age. That certain age where you can no longer jump up and "walk it off". As the day wore on I knew I'd done something to my foot, something that all the edamame, elevation and vodka in the world can't fix.

The next morning, my homie Danielle dragged me to the local hot spot for orthopedic injuries (after I shaved my flowing ankle hair and used a cheese grater on my heels, because February+Minnesota). After several x-rays and having my bruised but smooth appendage handled by a handsome doctor, this is what I'm wearing now:

Diagnosis: BAD SPRAIN. Which, it turns out, can be worse than a break. Yay!

I was telling a co-worker all about the events of the weekend. She cast a glance at my unwieldy stormtrooper/RoboCop foot and remarked, "So I suppose you won't be wearing Danskos anymore?"

"Um, yeah" I replied. "I'm totally going to be wearing them again." She walked away, chuckling, the clomps of her well-worn Danskos echoing softly in the hallway.

Hobble me once, shame on you, Dansko. Hobble me twice? Shame on me.

At least I'll be comfortable until the next tumble.


The Ghost of Emails Past

It was in a box of things from our old house. William found it in the back of his closet. "Mom..." he startled me. I was in the kitchen, searching high and low for something gluten free that would taste just like spongy warm French bread (and having zero luck).

"Mom. I found this in my closet. What is it?" He held out a notebook, one of those report cover things, with the clear plastic pages you fill with papers. This one had a picture in the front pocket, a generic floral picture with the word MEMORIES handwritten across the front.

Ahh. I knew what that was. It was a family history that was written up by my ex-husband's grandmother. It told the tale of his long-ago ancestors and their journey from Norway to the United States. A really cool thing, actually, with lots of old family photos, too. For a second I thought we should maybe give it to Big Daddy, and then I thought, no. This is my children's history. They can keep it.

William began looking through it, turning the pages slowly, seeing black and white faces of long-ago children who shared some of his same DNA. He paused at one page, and pulled something out.

"Uh, Mom...I think this is yours..." he said, and passed me a piece of paper.

Oh my. I recalled folding that piece of paper and slipping it behind the picture, a lifetime ago. Or maybe it was only 7 years ago.

It was an email. I had printed it, and stuck it behind a picture of three chubby-faced Norwegian toddlers and then forgotten about it. Well, maybe "forgotten" is the wrong word. Like the sheet of paper it was printed on, I'd tucked the memory of this particular email behind other things in my mind. And there it had slept until William found it. Woke it up.

It was an email from my ex-husband, composed just six months before the divorce was finalized. He'd written it after we'd attended a wedding, arriving apart but spending a good deal of the evening together, with all four of the kids. Apparently, it had triggered some feelings in his heart, which prompted him to write this brief but telling note to me on a Monday night in June 2006.

It was an apology. The only apology he's ever offered. And reading it brought tears to my eyes, just as it did when I read it all those years ago, in a different house, in a different life.

I'm not current on the laws about emails and blogs, and I do have a sense of decency, so I won't share the actual email. I'll give him that much because I may be a lot of things, but a monster I'm not. But I will share this: it's the kind of email that revealed things, exposed the regret and doubt and ultimately, the resignation that things were damaged beyond repair. The kind of email that would have probably scared the bejeezus out of his then-girlfriend, now-wife. I know it would scare me to discover my significant other had these kinds of thoughts...not only had them but expressed them, in writing, to the person he'd once shared a life with.

It was painful to read. It hurt when I'd read it back then, and it hurt reading it in 2014.

But this time, it also made me feel something better than hurt. Something positive, and ultimately, something healing.

Because in this email, my ex-husband was giving me validation. He confirmed what I'd known all along: I was the brave one in our marriage. I was the one who fought for it. I was the one who had done the right thing.

Some days, that's all it takes to make you feel better. To allow you to keep going, to give you that push, that nudge, to carry on despite bumps in the road.

I needed to read that email, needed to see it again. I needed to be reminded of my strength and what I've overcome and how much courage I had. Courage I still have.

It was one line in that email that did it for me. No, it wasn't the number of times he said "sorry" (five). It wasn't his admission that he'd turned to the wrong person when he first started having doubts about our marriage. It wasn't even the part where he said that as he watched me, smiling and talking to his family at the wedding, he realized how much he'd messed things up.

It was six words. Six little words...

"I chickened out-- you never did."

I'm glad William found that book in the back of his closet. I needed reminding. With the stress and worry and anxiety that's once again infiltrated my life, it was important for me to see those words, no matter that they were written by my ex-husband several years ago.

I'd like to think that I slipped that folded note into that book, that particular book, for a reason. Maybe I knew I'd need to read it again, some day in the future. Maybe it was because I needed a physical, touchable piece of my own history, something I could hold in my hands and read with my eyes instead of just feeling it in my heart or reliving it in my mind.

I put it in a book titled "Memories". Because that's what it is now.


The Target Plate Saga

The other night I went to Target with Molly and William. Molly needed candy for some Valentine thing at school  (she's a senior in high school...shouldn't this be done?) and I needed to find some fish shaped snack for the valentines I'd printed off some artsy fartsy crafty website. "Out of all the fish in the ocean, I'm glad we ended up in the same school" or something like that. I wanted to get Swedish fish and put a few in a little bag for each kid, but my own children talked me out of that. "Don't give them candy, Mom" Molly said with what sounded a little like incredulous condescension. "Yeah, Mom" William chimed in, "don't be that teacher."

I wondered, "What teacher? Are there weird teachers who give out candy? Why is that weird? I would have loved that teacher!" But I've come to the realization that my kids know what they're talking about so I found Goldfish crackers made out of graham with vanilla cupcake sprinkles. That'll do, Jenny, I said to myself. That'll do.

We were walking towards the checkouts when I stopped at a long clearance shelf full of fancy dinnerware and serving pieces by Target's fancy brand, THRESHOLD. I picked up a plate that was particularly pretty and said to the kids, "I love this plate! Look, they're only $3.98 each." I counted out how many pieces there were. Six dinner plates. Four salad plates. Three cute little bowls.

It was a lovely pattern. Very Anthropologie looking. Kind of. I imagined myself serving up dinner on these plates, the children looking down at the pattern being revealed with every morsel eaten and thinking to themselves, "Mom sure knows how to pick a plate, doesn't she?". They reminded me of the perfect dream kitchen that lives in my head, the one that's kind of like Meryl Streep's kitchen in "It's Complicated". The kitchen I'll build when I "make it", the one where the kids will bring their boyfriends and girlfriends and spouses and I'll be the charming, successful spinster mother-in-law who wears a lot of linen and tunics and can whip up a delicious dinner on the fly...

"Mom, we don't need new dishes." Back to planet Earth, via my daughter's voice of reason. She stood there, next to the cart, and then took the plate out of my hand. "Let's go" she said.

I picked up the plate from where she had replaced it on the shelf. Again, I counted how many pieces there were. The six plates was fine, I thought. There's five of us. That's really all we need. But the others were a problem. I'd have to hunt them down at different Targets. I began processing which Target would be the closest, which one would most likely have my pretty faux Anthro plates.

"Seriously Mom. Stop it. We have lots of plates." This time it was William.

So I listened to my kids. And we left, plateless.

I couldn't stop thinking about the plates. On my break the next day, I went home as I usually do. I work a split shift, so I have two hours free from 10-12 every day. I like to check in with Walter. Sometimes we go for a walk. Some days I finish the laundry I'd started that morning, sometimes I sit on my ass and play Ruzzle for a while (and seriously, folks, out of all of you only 2 play Ruzzle? PLEASE PLAY WITH ME!).

That day, I thought about plates. I thought about my pretty Target plates. I did the math ($3.98 x 6 = $24 ish something, what a deal!). I went online and scoured the Target website for my plates. They weren't there.

I decided that I was going to go get the plates. I wanted them! They were pretty! I started to worry that someone else had bought them. I needed those plates. I felt a wanting I haven't felt in a long time, an urgency.

I had one arm in my coat when I heard my daughter's voice echoing in my head:

"We don't need new plates."

I sighed. Took my arm out, set the coat down. I walked over to the tall cupboard where my haphazard collection of dinnerware resides.

The pretend Fiesta dishes I bought at a thrift store at least a decade ago, an entire set for $12.00. Aside from a couple of casualties, they've survived life with four kids and a mom who slams things to make a point. My wedding china is in there too, creamy ivory mixed in with the pale green, yellow and blue.

Molly is right. We don't need the pretty Targanthropologie dishes. I wanted them, yes. So bad. For some reason, it felt as if new dishes would make me feel better. Less insecure, less worried. When some women get stressed, they like to buy shoes and purses. I like kitchenware.

I talked myself down by imagining how much work it would involve, bringing new plates into this house. "You'd have to move some of these other plates" I said to myself. I imagined getting newspaper and wrapping the china back up and putting it in boxes. Ugh. "You're right" I said back to myself.

Some day, I'll get you, my pretty plates. And the little bowls, too. But we're good for now.

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