I don't think I've shared this news with all of you here...God knows I bragged it up to the poor souls I interact with in "real life" but for those of you who know me only through this blog, I have something fun to share: one of my essays has been published in Family Circle again!

It's in the December 2015 issue, the one pictured above. In the magazine the essay is titled "Present Tense" (which I thought was brilliant, by the way) but those of you who have been around for a while will remember it as the feisty declaration I called "I'm A Divorced Mom, And I'm Taking Christmas Back" or something similarly way too long. It's been tweaked a bit to better flow with the Family Circle way, but I still love it.

If you are so inclined, please pick up a copy the next time you're out and about. Just please don't do as I did and torture everyone within earshot by shouting "HEY I WROTE THIS! THESE ARE MY WORDS HERE IN THE FAMILY CIRCLE!"

While I am so pleased and proud and honored and all that jazz, I'm also feeling kind of sheepish. Because a lot of people liked that essay when it first appeared here and on Huffington Post. It gave them hope that they would also relearn to love the holidays. I'm glad about that, you should know. Any time someone says that I've helped them cope or move on or just plain forget about their worries for a bit, my tiny hard heart grows a little bit. It's validating, y'all.

Here's where the sheepy part comes in: I am currently feeling blah. Not just the "meh" blah, but a deeper one. A darker one. And it's scaring me a little bit.

See, I think Christmas was the easier of the big holidays for me to tackle. Most of my demons fly the coop by December 25th, it was just a matter of me reclaiming that whole FA LA LA thing and pulling myself up by the proverbial boot straps and dammit, taking it back.

It seems to me that the bigger issue might be this week. The week of Thanksgiving. I started feeling angsty and sad a couple weeks ago but chalked it up to PMS and me being a flake in general. But the past few days have been tough. Not going to lie...they've kind of sucked.

If anyone knows how to put on a happy face and smile through the downpour, it's me. I should teach classes at this point. "FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT 101" or something like that. And here's the kicker: it usually works. Normally I can outfox those stupid sad feelings and convince them (and myself) that they are nothing. Dust bunnies in my brain, is all, something a little Swiffer action and some good old Midwestern laughter will take care of in a jiffy.

This time it's not so easy to shoo away. The smiles are harder to force, the laughter doesn't come as easy. And oh my god...I'm crying again! Yeah, tears are never far away with me but I'm talking about real crying, like the kind that screws up your face and leaves you with those weird post-cry hiccup things.

For instance: today was a relatively warm day, given that it's late November in Minnesota. We haven't had any snow yet, therefore the deck furniture has not been put away. Today, I did it. I put on my boots and some gloves and also a bra and heaved all of the ancient teak chairs into the garage. Covered up the fire pit and tucked it away. Stacked up the plastic Adirondack chairs and moved the firewood under the deck where it will wait until that first kinda-warm spring night in 2016.

It felt good, to be outside, to be moving, to be accomplishing something. Which is why I was so surprised to find myself stifling sobs in the garage. It wasn't a prolonged weep session, it passed in just a few minutes, but that fact that it happened at all is puzzling and bothersome.

Aren't I the strong one? The warrior who has battled long and hard and came out smiling? The independent lady who doesn't need anyone or anything to make it?

Apparently not. It seems as though I am just as soft and weak and vulnerable as ever. Only now, I know this:

It's okay. Crying isn't surrendering, feeling sad isn't giving up. It's a sign, though. That maybe things need to be looked at, adjusted...like the essay in Family Circle, maybe something in my life needs to be edited. Just a bit.

This week is hard because it's the week of the dreaded wedding anniversary. It's on the 25th and I preemptively bought a ticket to a concert that night, hoping to dance and sing away the darkness at my door with some friends and a legendary Minneapolis band. But I still can't help looking at those numbers on the calendar and feeling some loss. I know, I know! GET OVER IT ALREADY! Lordy. I'm trying. I really enjoy being happy, people. 

This week is hard because it's a time for family gatherings. For far-away relations to walk through the door, stomping the snow off their feet and holding out pumpkin pies covered with tinfoil and for warm flannel hugs and catching up with Uncle Steve and Cousin Sue. It's time to hold new babies and give out lame parenting advice to people who smile politely like we once did.

I don't have family like that. I do have a sizable troop of friends, however, and was once again invited to an annual gathering with some of them. And that's good news, right? The kids are with me, as far as we know...they haven't heard from their dad and I forgot if I had even or odd years a long time ago. But again, with the loss. I used to have that family. I used to get and give those hugs and sit around and talk about the kids and life and my dog's persistent ear infections.

Life is always changing, isn't it? I think, though, that as we get older, as our kids get older, as the world gets older- the change becomes more obvious. Time has acquired a sickeningly speedy gait and I can see all of it, all of this change, the flux of it all, so clearly now.

When the kids were little and even when they were not so little, time did that odd crawl/fly thing where the days would take forever to pass but you'd look around and suddenly one kid was almost as tall as you and the voices were deepening and oh, sweet Hay-Zeus, the shoes you tripped over were getting so big.

But now? Now that they are 21 and almost-20 and 18 and 15? My God, you guys. It's incredible to see them grow and change right before your eyes. It's beautiful and heartbreaking all at once and crap, here come the tears again. Trying to hold onto this silken strand of time is one of the most arduous tasks I've ever attempted and even as I feel it slipping through my clenched hands I am acknowledging the loveliness of it all. Even through the weeps I see that this is the way it's supposed to be and while I know this is it, the end goal, the reason I became a mom in the first place, it's so freaking bittersweet.

And for some reason, this week amplifies all of that bittersweetness (not a word, by the way, but I'm using it anyway).

So what's a bummed out lady to do? I suppose I could mope around, really get my hands dirty in all of these feelings. I could cry some more, and probably will. I could put that giant fake smile on, and when someone asks me how I'm doing I could answer with my usual "FABULOUS! HOW ABOUT YOU?".

What I think I shall do is this: a little bit of all the above. Let those feelings flow along with the tears. I'll go to that concert and laugh with my friends. I'll whip up three batches of my famous Roadside Potatoes and take my kids to the friend's gathering on Thanksgiving and count each face there as a blessing in my life.

The flux is scary. But I've faced scary things before. Scarier things, just like some of you. And I think we're all going to make it through this just fine.

And just because I love you, here is my Roadside Potato recipe. It's literally gone in minutes so this year I'm tripling the recipe. Yes, my arteries hardened as I typed that, and not in a good way. Happiest of Fluxgivings to you, my friends. 

JUDY'S FAMOUS ROADSIDE POTATOES (who is Judy, you ask? A former boss of mine.)

1 (30 oz) package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (I use sharp)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup half and half 
1 medium onion, grated (I just chop fine)
paprika (I use an all purpose Penzy's spice)
additional 6 T. butter

Combine potatoes, melted butter, cheeses, cream, onion, salt and pepper. Spread mixture in a 9x13 inch well-greased baking dish. Sprinkle with paprika, dot w/ butter. Bake 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Tastes like butter and self loathing.


Always Something There To Remind Me

The receptionist at the dental office looked at me over her glasses. When she spoke, her voice wavered slightly somewhere between exasperation and incredulity.

"What do you mean, you don't know his address?" Her brightly painted fingernails hovered above the keyboard of the computer where she'd been entering all the facts and figures that would become my son's patient chart.

I felt stupid, and petty, and also kind of incredulous myself. Why the hell would I know my ex-husband's address? It's not like my kids spend any time there. I don't send him cards or flowers. It's kind of like asking a person if they know the address of a long ago lover. Someone with whom they shared a lot of history, but nothing current.

I gave her my own look. The one that, in my head, says I dare you to say something about how lame I am for not knowing this man's address but in reality probably says something like aughhh you're right I'm the worst parent/ex-wife of all time! Condemn me please! Judge me! And please, pretty please, tell me to get over it already!

She kept her eyes on me and told me that she needed it. "We can't take him on as a new patient unless we have all of this information." 

I wanted to tell her that this wasn't the worst part of my awkward and dysfunctional co-parenting situation. I wanted to tell her about the time we ended up in a courtroom in order to ensure that he would be the one who'd provide health insurance for the kids. I wanted to tell her how it befuddled me, his strong and unrelenting insistence to have the kids on his health insurance until a friend explained things to me, things like "tax breaks" and "write offs" and "people who love money so much they'll do just about anything to save it".

Instead what I did was pull out my phone and in a sheepish, shamed voice said, "I'll Google it." And Google it I did, standing there in front of the receptionist with the tanned skin and the shellacked nails. I Googled that motherfucker and tried to act like it was the most normal thing in the world.

Hey Jenny! What are you doing?
Aw, hey there friend. I'm just Googling my ex-husband!

And there, in between pictures of him from his company's website, in between a sickening blurb that said "Big Daddy and his wife Secretary live in Adultery Valley with their four children" (uh, note to the webmaster...time to update that bio)...there was his address. I read it out loud to the receptionist and when she was done entering it she sighed and said, "I suppose you don't know his date of birth, either." 

At this point I was hulking out just a bit and said back to her, "Is that a question or a statement? Because I do know his birthday." I rattled that one out to her with only the slightest pause (because he and my former BFF were a day apart and I always confused them...) and then she handed me the standard clipboard with instructions to fill out the front and back and turn it in when I was done.

These are the kinds of situations you find yourself mired in when you're divorced. If you had a sane, amicable one, the kind where both parties truly parted on good terms, I suppose it makes sense that you'd know each other's addresses and social security numbers and maybe, just maybe, even stats about the new spouses.

A few days prior to the above-referenced appointment, I'd called to see if my son's insurance was accepted there.

It's not bad enough that every time I look at the kid's insurance cards I have to see the name of the woman my husband dumped me for. It's lost the shock value after all this time but part of me still winces. Her name also appears on the child support payments, which again brings up some pangs but also some wtf as well. But to add insult to winces, when I call and arrange appointments for any of the kids there's almost always the barrage of questions about her. The insurance is provided through her employer, therefore it's her information they need.

No, sorry. I don't know her date of birth. (if I'm in a joking mood I'll add, "all I know is that it's like twelve years after mine, hahahahahahahaweep")
Nope. I also don't know the name of her employer or that address or anything else other than the fact that my ex insisted on providing their insurance and now I have to do this song and dance a few times a year.

I don't know much about her other than the fact that when I see or hear her name, all I can picture is her, bent over a desk and my then-husband standing behind her. Sorry. A friend of mine told me a story once, about someone opening an office door and stumbling upon that very scene and I have never been able to erase it. It's half-hysterical, half-tragic and for some reason it's the thumbnail my brain keeps on the file marked "Them".

There was an article somewhere, not too long ago, about divorce and the length of time it takes to recover from one. As usual, there were comments on it from people who were adamant about "getting over it" and admonishing those who expressed sadness or anger or anything other than a giant Xanax smile about being divorced. Lots of "let it go" and "you should really move on". And yes, I agree with them. Somewhat. I believe it's possible to get over a divorce, even a bitter, hurtful one bearing the scent of betrayal and lies and deep wounds. You can get over it. You pick up the pieces, wipe off the blood and shit and take inventory of what you have left and you wake up every day and get the frick over it.

But just like that sweet 80's jam by Naked Eyes taught us, there's always something there to remind me. Some days it's easier to let those reminders bounce off, roll off our backs and slither down into the gutter where they belong. Some days, it's not so easy.

Please be kind to those you know who have gone through this crap. Know that when they do let it get under their skin, it bothers them and it's definitely not them wallowing in it.

And if you're the one, like me, who sometimes lets these little reminders become big fat thorns in your side, please be gentle with yourself. Our reactions to these triggers depends on so much and just one little bump in the road can make it all that much harder to bear: maybe you've had a harrowing morning with the kids, maybe you're PMSing, maybe you were road-raged on the way to the appointment. Maybe you're just plain exhausted. No matter. The thorn will work itself out, and you'll be wince-free again. Until the next reminder comes along. But that next thorn will be just a fraction smaller and duller, and you will find yourself plucking it out with greater ease with each passing year.

Hang in there, my friends. You are not alone in this.

This post dedicated to Kristin J. and all the others who have sent emails thanking me for letting them know they aren't alone. You totally aren't, Kristin. xoxo


Diddle, Rinse, Repeat: The Monotony That Is My Middle Aged Dating

Snap on those latex gloves, ladies, and join me as I perform the postmortem on my latest fling. Yes, this one has run its course, now all that's left to do is analyze it and him and me, assign the moniker and file it away along with the others.

I like to dissect these so-called "relationships" because I am that hopeful fool who thinks there's something to be gleaned, some deep lesson to be learned from each one. And this one didn't disappoint, as far as education goes. I'm going to share with you the most valuable nugget of information I took from it:

If someone tells you they're an asshole, believe them.

Like, if they actually put it out there, in, say...a text: "I'm an asshole." There are many ways we, as women, are hardwired to respond:

The Affirmer: "Oh no! No! You're not! You're awesome."
The Nurturer: "I'm sure you're just woefully misunderstood."
The Trumper: "You're an asshole? Well, I'm an asshole AND I'm crazy! LOLOLOL"
And my personal favorite:
The Fixer: "Challenge accepted."

Ladies? There's really only one proper response to that proclamation. You say, "Thanks for the heads up" and then you walk away. Thank them for whatever they've given you, along with such a fair warning. Thank them for the dinner or the drinks, for the tingly orgasms or the flirtations that made you blush, for the compliments and the whispered sweet nothings. Thank them and then, girl, you hightail it away from them as fast as freaking possible.

Sometimes the scooter cannot drive away fast enough.

Our time on earth is limited and one of the suckiest things about life is how late in the game we realize this. It's one of the reasons we try to placate ourselves by doing things like trying to see each timesuck as some sort of after school special. It's why I sit here on my morning off, writing about yet another disastrous trip down Lover's Lane.

Because I am, like everyone else, running out of time, I've decided to take the advice given to me by two of my favorite humans. Both of them have stood by me, one physically, the other figuratively, while I've tiptoed through the minefield that is post-divorce love.

The first person is, of course, my best friend Danielle. My moral compass, the one who knows all the dirt and still talks to me. I look to her for guidance because she's managed to not only remain married and still loves her husband despite all of their differences- but also because she tells it like it is. She won't soften blows to avoid bruising my ego, and she is absolutely my fiercest defender and my loudest cheerleader.

The second person is a guy. A friend's husband, actually, whom I've never met face to face but has become my go-to for a guy's perspective. I told him I wouldn't name him here but just for shits and giggles I'm going to give him his own moniker: Casey Jones. I owe his wife a drink and quite possibly more, because she has allowed me to borrow her husband's brain for my picking pleasure.

Danielle and Casey have almost always given me similar advice. The one time they differed was (and still is) in regards to my quasi-relationship with The One Without A Moniker...the guy I trysted with off and on for five long years and decided to stop seeing at the end of 2014. Yeah, that guy. We'll get back to him in a bit.

When this latest fling began a couple of months ago, both of my advisers were pleased. Danielle met him and gave me the thumbs up. Enthusiastic thumbs, no less. She found him to be funny and smart and charming, like I did. Casey Jones was all guy-like, wishing me fun times, good sex and lots of laughs. Both of them supported the venture.

When my gut started telling me this fling was flung, they both advised me to wait a bit. To bench my cuckoo nature and just go with the flow. When it became so completely and hilariously apparent that once again I'd cast my net into yet another shallow, silty pond, they were there with consoling words and encouragement to just keep on trucking.

Both of them also told me this, and it's taken a while for it to finally begin to sink in:

I'm worth more. I'm not saying this most recent guy isn't a worthwhile person. He's not a bad man. He's not evil or icky. He threw it all out there for me right at the beginning with that one little sentence (remember, the one about being an asshole) but I was too blinded by butterflies and the reverberations of my freshly tickled ivories to really grasp it. Like so many women in my sensible but well-worn shoes, I lug around this tattered bag of hope wherever I go. Life has proven to be less than kind but we optimists...we never give up on that little girl fairytale dream. Someday my prince will come. Someday he won't leave right after he does.

Getting back to the other guy, the five-year-long one night stand? Yeah. We had decided, mutually, to stop doing that as of last year. December 30th, if you want the exact date. It was hard to quit him, not gonna lie to you. He is funny and smart and tall and dare I say, dashing. But I did it. I stood my ground and he stood his and we avoided each other for a nice long while.

We slipped up in May. And then in July. And then again on my birthday which was just a couple of weeks ago. By that time I had realized the Ivory Tickler was done tickling and when I got the message from Mr Five Years my martini-filled belly did those sick flipflops and BOOM there he was. There I was, too, reveling in his dash and his arms and all the excitement.

Until the next morning, when I fessed up to Danielle and Casey Jones. Danielle finally let me have it. She didn't mince words and when she was done I was, for one of the first times ever, speechless. No words but plenty of tears. And then I read Casey's response. Cut to me, standing over a birthday cake shoving spoonfuls of marbled goodness into my mouth while sobbing. Not exactly the way I wanted to usher in my 49th year but pretty much nailed it.

Why the tears? They weren't shed over the most recent lovah. Not one salty drop lost there. They weren't trickling down my cheeks due to remorse over the previous evening's tete a tete, either.

Nope. I was crying because my friends were trying to tell me something and despite all of my resistance, I was finally hearing them.

I know a lot of you are in the same gross boat as me. We are women of a certain age. Our bodies are not what they were the first time we went through this insane dating ritual. We have worries and kids and jobs and so little time to take care of them, let alone ourselves.

We've been hurt. Betrayed by loved ones and some of us are more healed than others but we can all still feel the pain. We love big but we're also terrified of what happens when that big love leaves our grasp, when we stand there on the grass and watch it float away into the clouds. Sometimes it comes back to us intact, but there are times we get nothing other than shreds in return.

If you're like me, you feel ruined by the past. My wholeness is gone, and I don't know if I'll ever get it back. The men I choose to let into my life are so obviously not the right ones, and yet, there they are. And me complaining about it is akin to a fisherman bitching about no bites when he keeps going back to the same barren lake.

My girl Danielle made me cry because she loves me so much it actually makes her sick to see me making the same dumbass choices over and over. My guy Casey Jones made me cry because he managed to sum up, in one Facebook message, what my problem is. Three different therapists have taken a crack at my crazy but only Casey Jones managed to hit it out of the park. I'm going to cut and paste his words here. Obviously they are meant for me and my whackadoo situation but I think there are many of you out there who would benefit from reading them too. With his permission, here it is:

I look at you and Big Daddy, and I see you comfortable in your routine, in the life you two worked hard to construct...but I see him dissatisfied with his lot in life, having given marriage and fatherhood of 4 little ones a half-assed run and found it wanting, leaving him vulnerable to the wiles of Secretary (whom, I'm certain, finds him equally boring nowadays). That's fuckery on a grand scale, to do that to your wife and children, and inexcusable. But what I see sometimes are harsh thoughts on your behalf that you could have done more, should have done more, to prevent the dissolution of your marriage. I can tell you all day long that once BD made that decision, there wasn't a damn thing you could do about it, and I think to an extent you do recognize that cold but honest truth, but I still see you being harsh on yourself at times.  

Where I'm going with this is, because of that fuckery by BD, it's inhibiting your ability to find and maintain a healthy relationship, and leaving you vulnerable to exciting but assholey men without substance and commitment. And I'm thinking that you are OK with those relationships... because you feel like that's all you deserve. And I can tell you all day long that you deserve better than that and be uplifting as your friend, but YOU have to believe it, too. I have faith that in the fullness of time, you'll come to believe it, and you'll find it.

I'm starting to believe it. Look, I'm no prize. I'm filled to the brim with anxiety and insecurity. Even after years of practice, anything over two cocktails turns me into a hot mess with limited bladder control. I'm poor and I drive a hooptie-type car and I'm going to have to work full-time until approximately ten years after my demise. I have a front butt and ham-hock arms and despite good intentions I'll probably always be the "before" picture.

But all of that doesn't mean I'm not worthy of good. Good luck and good friends and good fortune and good love.

Like Casey Jones said, I deserve better. And so do you, my friends. Believe it.


Adventures in Oral...

Not my mouth. 

...ORAL SURGERY. Ha! Did I have you going for a minute or what?

Yes, I had oral surgery this week. I had to have a tooth extracted. Ironically enough, it is exactly 2 years after I had my very first root canal, on the very same tooth.

I'm having trouble processing this whole thing. For some reason it's almost shameful to me, to have had this happen. Like I told my homegirl Danielle, I feel like this is the first step towards becoming a toothless, bearded hag.

I actually wept in the chair yesterday, and not because of pain. This time around, there was zero pain although it turns out I had a pretty serious infection. The beauty of having issues with a root-canaled (?) tooth, I guess. No, I cried because of the shame. I mean, who has to have a tooth pulled? I pictured meth addicts and Ted Kaczynski-type people. Or little kids who are put to bed in their cribs with bottles of Mountain Dew. Not middle aged suburban moms who drink fluoridated water and have great dental insurance.

But there I was, wiping tears away as the left side of my face became numb and number. My new dentist and the hygienist were very kind and offered me Kleenex and put comforting hands on my shoulders. They assured me that aside from that janky, broken tooth, the rest of my mouth was great and this type of tooth trauma can happen to anyone, not just people who play the banjo on the front porch of a dilapidated hunting shack in the backwoods of Georgia (sorry my Georgian friends, but I will take any chance to use a Deliverance reference).

Is it just me or does he kind of look like Lance Armstrong?

So here's what happened: about three weeks ago, my tooth broke. I was chewing gum and I felt it happen. It was the farthest back molar on the lower left side. Now, most normal people would think, "Holy hell. I'm pretty sure that was a tooth breaking. I'd better call my dentist now and get in there." But, I'm not most normal people, am I? It was an extremely busy week of work, and I am probably the world's most anxious person in general, let's not even begin to describe the heart palpitations I get when it comes to anything invasive (literally, anything). I've been told by a therapist that victims of childhood abuse often experience this kind of medical/dental anxiety, so there's a valid reason for my nuttiness. But you know who doesn't care how scared you are? A BROKEN TOOTH. It doesn't sense your discomfort and say, "Yo. It's cool. I'll just seal myself up and we can both avoid being poked and prodded. Okay?"

No. The tooth is very much honey badger in that it doesn't give a shit. It's broken! No shits left to give as far as old Timmy the Tooth is concerned.

I worked up my courage and called the dentist. My former dentist. I was 3/4 of the way through the initial appointment when the receptionist peeked her head into the room and giggled, "Oh em gee Jenny! Guess what I just found out...we are now out of your network! Sorry!" I failed to see the humor in the situation. My former dentist sighed, and said "So I guess you're going to need some referrals." I nodded, and mumbled, "Probably a prescription for painkillers, too." Because although the mouth wasn't hurting I was pretty sure untangling the bill and doing the insurance-two-step with Giggle Pants was going to be a giant pain in my ass.

Thanks to Delta Dental's fab website, finding a new dentist was easy and in the long run, is going to be a good thing. The first thing she said after looking inside my maw was "So, you obviously grind your teeth at night." This was news to me. I laughed and said, "No way, my dentist never mentioned that before..." New Dentist shook her head and pointed at the computer screen where the ethereal x-rays of my mouth were displayed. "Here, and here, and all along here-" She made circle motions over the pictures of my shadowy teeth. "You have little tiny fractures in all of these molars. And that's most likely what caused this one tooth" here, she placed her index finger on the picture of my broken chomper, "to break down. It was already weakened by the root canal. And, whoever performed that root canal, by the way, didn't do a very good job."

She smiled and said to me, "I can't believe nobody has mentioned your grinding to you." I was torn because there were so many places I could go with that statement. But I decided to respond, "You know what, for the past several years my most consistent bed mate has been a dog. And he's totally not Scooby Doo. So there's never been a time when he's elbowed me awake and said Rut Roh Renny! Rinding reeth again!" She laughed in a way which I'm sure was not uncomfortable or forced at all and then laid it on me.

"At first I thought we could save it. But now I see it's cracked completely down the middle." She looked at me and said the words I was dreading:

"We have to take it out."

Jumpin' Jack Flash started playing in my head along with images of the witch-as-old-lady in Snow White.


I've prided myself on being intact after all these decades of living. On not having to take medications or have anything replaced and on being, for the most part, insanely healthy. This did not fit into my plan.

It had to happen, though. Aside from the fact that I had a broken tooth and an infection, there was also the matter of my stanky mouth. I was pretty sure my breath was starting to smell like the restroom in a poorly managed Old Country Buffet. My friends and family assured me that it wasn't true, but it's hard to ignore something that is literally under your nose. And there were moments when I know for sure it wasn't orchids and unicorn glitter farts I was smelling. To those of you who may own stock in the Eclipse gum company, YOU'RE WELCOME.

I had the procedure performed yesterday. It was relatively painless, and I even got to watch part of Legally Blonde while it happened. After all was said and done, we discussed fun things like saltwater gargling and dental implants and then my dentist said, "I think you deserve a cocktail tonight. But not if you take a Vicodin, okay?" talk about a no-brainer, right? Martini for the win. 

I love her.

Today I woke up with just a little extra chin and cheek, not much pain and a blessedly feces-free mouth. I was also filled with gratitude. I'm grateful for health insurance, for paid sick days, for flexible and caring coworkers, for sweet dentists who know what they're doing and for my loved ones who put up with my porta-potty breath.

Now I just need to survive the next couple of days, what with doctor's orders like "soft foods" and "no sucking". I've never wanted to inhale a bag of Stacy's pita chips so bad in my life. I'll let you guys take the sucking comment and go to town with it, okay? I'm still focused on the grinding thing.


Pots, Kettles and Strangers on the Internet

You'd think by now I'd know better. When I see little bursts of traffic coming to my blog from certain sites, you'd think I would have learned to just leave it alone. The last time I snooped on one of these mystery sources it turned out to be a weird culty website full of fapping basement dwellers who had made a bunch of hysterical memes using my headshot from HuffPost. They were all in a tizzy because I wrote about one of my kid's brushes with Amway and were having a field day on their cuckoo little internet hangout (which, by the way, was done in neon purple letters on a black background; it hurt my old hag eyes reading all of those insults).

But I don't know better. Apparently I'm one of those slow-learner types. Because when I happened to see my blog traffic spiking like crazy one day and noticed that it was coming from one of my favorite fellow blogger's sites, Chump Lady, I was all "oooh let me go take a look-see and find out what's cooking!" 

Chump Lady has been several things to me over the past few years: an inspiration, a source of comfort, a guaranteed laugh when I needed it most, and a huge supporter of my writing. She's recommended my stuff several times and I'm always happy to recommend her work to people. Always.

So when I discovered that the swarms of clicks were coming from a pretty hateful little thread in one of her comment sections, I was taken aback. Literally: I think my head did one of those cartoon jerk-back movements.

I'm not going to post a link to the exact post because dammit I do have some pride. But I will disclose what it was about: one of Chump Lady's readers apparently read my blog upon her recommendation. And this particular reader declared something like this:

I liked Happy Hausfrau until I came upon this post (cue my first SAY WHAT?):  she then linked to something I wrote a long time ago about one of the fellas in my life. It was about the one named Andy, the man I had a short but intense relationship with before I ended up married to Big Daddy.

This Chump reader decided that I was a hypocrite. She and another reader then went to town, calling me lots of fun names and basically saying that what went down during that summer put me on the same level as my ex. And all the other exes they discuss on Chump Lady's site.

One guy in particular seemed very upset with me. It appeared as though he kept coming back here, reading more and then going back to deposit little vitriolic comments about my character. At one point he described me as a "steaming pile of shit". That's a new one for me, by the way.

At first I was defensive and hurt and considered chiming in with a "Hey! You're WRONG! I'm NOTHING like those other people!"

But then I read the Andy post with different eyes. And I could see where someone might come to the conclusion that yes, yes indeed I was one of them. I was a rationalizing asshole who cheated on a loved one.

Except, no. I wasn't.

If anybody understands what it's like to see things with an angry, jaundiced eye, it's me. I still, to this day, can't read anything or watch anything about affairs and mistresses and cliched stories about "I love you, but I'm not in love with you anymore" type divorces without interjecting my own hurts and sadness into it. I GET IT. Being figuratively shat upon by someone you loved and trusted turns your rose-colored glasses into a more brownish hue.

But, what I did 25 years ago in that sweaty Uptown apartment doesn't even come close to what my ex-husband, and countless other exes, have done. Was it honorable? Decent? Fair? Probably not.

Did it break up a marriage?
Did it ruin one person financially, emotionally and spiritually?
Did it take four innocent children's lives and play a game of Yahtzee with them?

Nope. It was a flighty 24 year old in an off-and-on-again relationship (during one of those "off" times) falling for someone else.

There were no vows.
There were no kids.
There was nobody living together. Cripes, there wasn't even anyone DATING at the time it all went down.

In the Andy post I did do some musing about whether or not what I did could be construed as cheating, and at one point I believe I surmised that yes, I guess it could. I came to that declaration because I had been dating Big Daddy for a while prior to what happened that summer and he was still carrying a pretty big torch for me when all of this went down.

What I didn't write about in that post was the fact that Big Daddy knew about Andy. He and I had discussed the state of our relationship and dating other people and at one point I just flat-out told him. Not only told him I was seeing someone else, I told him the guy's name. They met, at my apartment one night. Big Daddy would sometimes drop in because this was before cell phones and internet and there was no way to shoot someone a little text giving them a heads up (although some of my friends still do that terrifying ambush "pop in" and there is so much awkwardness).

He did one of his drop ins one night, and as we were standing at the front door of my apartment, Andy showed up. He showed up because we were going out that night. If I remember correctly, they introduced themselves to each other, Big Daddy gave me a wan and kind of heartbreaking smile and said "Have fun" and then left. and now I'm wondering if this is weird, the fact that I can recall almost every single detail of that evening and yet cannot remember to pay my freaking utilities bill.

When you write online, and especially when you write about your personal life, there are always going to be critics. There will be trolls who troll and lurkers who lurk and really cool people who relate. What there is never going to be, is 100% transparency. Nobody is ever going to know everything. Sweet Jesus, even I can't remember squat and I'm the one who lived it.

What really sucks, though, is that you are going to be judged and sometimes, sentenced, by strangers who think they know it all. You might get your face photoshopped onto a picture of a porn actress doing her thing (yeah, that was the basement dwellers) or you might have some oddly angry guy on a divorce blog compare you to a fresh pile of feces.

If you have feelings, some of it will bother you.

If you have a brain, you will understand that none of it really matters.

It makes me happy that both of those thing apply to me in this case. I'm not a saint, not by any stretch of anyone's imagination. But I'm not a Big Daddy. And I never will be.

Before I close, I have to give my girl Chump Lady a shout out. She's awesome and I know her readers are fiercely loyal. This in no way diminishes my opinion or feelings about her, her (mostly) awesome fans and her oh-so-helpful blog and books. Please check her out if you haven't already. But if you happen to see someone referring to me as a poop head, do me a solid and let it pass.


How I Ended Up With Bert In My Pants, or: How Not To Shave A Lady

So. I have taken a new lover. Mum's the word on it, completely, so don't try to pry any information out of me. Okay you guys, I'm so giddy because for the first time EVER I'm having my ivories tickled by a Democrat.

That's all I'm going to give you for now.

Him, however? I'm giving him more. Which means there's a certain amount of tidying up to be done. You know how, when you have friends over, you do crazy things like vacuum and lint off all the dog hair from the couch and spray Febreze on the pile of shoes by the front door?

I'm trying to do the equivalent for my latest inamorato. Because let's be real: mama ain't had company in a while. I might have asked him if he had cobwebs stuck in his hair after our first tryst. Why am I perpetually single, I wonder?

Back in the day, like, waaaay back in the days of eHarmony and free weekends and a waistline, I tended to my nethers like a proper lady. I had the whole thing waxed, from stem to stern (or is it stern to stem? Isn't there something about a little man in a boat, and sharks and tuna? What is it with nautical references and female anatomy? I'm so lost). It was smooth and hairless. Like a newborn gerbil. Sexy, I'm sure.

That was back in the day. Here we are in 2015 and things have changed. I've gone from a pink baby rodent to something much different. Something less innocent. Years have passed, things have happened. I've become lazy in the maintenance area of my...err...area.

But I'm nothing if not a gracious hostess. I don't know how long or how often this lovah will come a calling, but dammit, I want to be nice. Welcoming. More tended garden and less haunted forest.

So I had a thought. This thought occurred to me in the shower, and after two glasses of wine (OMG the kids start school soon and I'm hanging on by my short man-like fingernails, people). I'm in the shower, shaving my legs and I thought, "Hmmm. I wonder if I should try shaving my crotch?" Because isn't that the way it is when you're showering late at night with a little buzz? Hey let's shave stuff!

Several of my friends do it. Two of my very closest friends are huge proponents of the Kojak look. They talk about it as if it's nothing, as if sliding a lethal razor blade over the VERY intricate landscape that is a woman's outer genitalia is like shaving a bowling ball.

Bolstered by the wine and the smell of the shaving cream, and the fresh memory of intimacy that didn't involve batteries and carpal tunnel syndrome, I decided to go for it. How hard can it be?

Sweet Jesus. I should have known better. I should have remembered what it was like changing my daughter's diaper when she was a red wrinkly newborn. I couldn't get over how many folds and crevices and tiny dungeons and hidden passages a miniscule baby vulva/vagina contained. You actually needed a miner's helmet. Or a flashlight. And that was a brand new V, fresh out of the oven. Mine has been on this planet for almost half a century. It's seen a lot of life, literally: four of them were created in there. I am not from the whole "take a hand-held mirror and explore" generation but I'm guessing the nooks and crannies are still plentiful. I might be picturing Prune Face from Dick Tracy. Sorry.

The first swipe of the razor wasn't so bad. But then I met with some resistance. I plowed ahead, pulling things taut and trying to remember if it was "go with" or "go against" the grain. Which way does my grain go, anyway? DO I HAVE A GRAIN?

Things were getting steamy and not in a good way. Panic started setting in. How far back do you go? Was I getting it all or was I leaving some freakshow haphazard pattern in my wine-addled wake?

And then, I cut something. Like a lawnmower gliding blithely over an unseen garden hose, I nicked a nubbin. Was it an essential nubbin? I guess I'll find out, eventually. But regardless, that was the end of my impromptu barbershop experiment. RAZOR DOWN, HANDS UP, SWEENEY TODD!

This was totally me in the shower. 

There was blood. There was sadness. There was almost instantaneous regret. And there was itching.

I didn't finish the job because I was afraid of inflicting permanent damage. I don't know how my friends do this without the aid of mirrors and stirrups. Is there a trick? A secret? Maybe it involves using a razor that isn't a year old. Maybe it requires the use of something other than Neutrogena for Men shaving gel. Maybe it requires sanity.

I don't know. All I know is, I was going for sleek and smooth and velvety, and instead I got this:

Complete with the eyebrow, I'm sure.

I'm sorry, lovah. But if you're a fan of Sesame Street, we may be onto something here.

Itchily yours,



Again With The Spawning

"I hate him." 

This is what my daughter said to me, after returning home from an afternoon birthday party with Big Daddy's extended family. 

It had been momentous occasion, from my perspective, because all four of my kids had gone. For the first time since May, I'd had the house entirely to myself. Two and a half hours of me time. It took all of my self control to not dance around in my underwear and an oxford while lip syncing to Bob Seger...instead I did crazy things like enjoy the silence and read entire chapters in a book.

Obviously, in my daughter's eyes, it was momentous for entirely different reasons.

As I've blathered on about before, the relationship between the kids and their father has been sporadic. With my daughter, it's been basically non-existent for the past few years. She's said, many times, how she has no interest in her father. How she has no desire to spend time with him, and even less than no desire to be around his wife and their child. 

So when she left for the party, along with her three brothers, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, of course, because it meant a little bit of much-needed solitude for me, but it also meant that maybe, just maybe, she was taking those difficult first steps towards repairing the father/daughter relationship (and we won't get into how strange it is that she's the one who is making the effort, right?). After all, she is almost 20 now and about to leave for her second year of college. It's never too late to build bridges and I've always encouraged my kids to keep an open mind, and heart, where their dad is concerned.

I knew something was up the minute they filed back in after the party. The boys were their usual selves; making a beeline towards the fridge, on their phones making plans for the evening and giving each other brotherly crap. 

But not my girl. I always, always know when she needs to vent. Instead of heading back to her nest as she usually does, she'll hover. Just like she did when she was little and something was bothering her, she stood near me, not saying anything. Yes, kind of creepy but look at the poor girl's family tree.

That's when she said it. "I hate him." She just blurted it out, no prefacing statement, no decorative words hung on the branches of the sentence. Just that. I hate him.

My internal dialogue? It was something like this:

Why does she look so sad?
Did someone say something bad to her?
Did he ignore her? 
Did that twit say something to her?
Why would she hate him? Will she ever not hate him? 
Why is he such a dick?

The external talk? It was just this:


She said it quietly. 

"Mom, they're having another baby." 

That was it. The good news, at least for me, was how much I didn't care. The first time they spawned, and one of the kids let it slip, it hurt. My mind spiraled back to the time he was toying with the idea of coming back to me, to our home. He'd been gone for a year, living with his then-girlfriend and I'd been trying with all my might to woo him back. 

How can I convince you to come back? To stay?

He'd looked at me and I could see him weighing the pros and the cons. I could practically envision his Plus/Minus columns, the Should I Stay or Should I Go theme song playing quietly in the background. Then, he spoke.

"No more kids." That was it. The one and only requirement. And I made sure there would be no more kids...at least, none for me.

So yeah. When that first baby was announced, it stung. The reality of what he'd really meant to say that day finally sank in. "No more kids" he'd said, but what he should have added was: "with you."

This time, however, zero stings. Donald Trump running for President hurts me more than this news ever could. 

My ex reproducing doesn't faze me. You want to make more babies? Go for it. Go on with your bad Tony Randall self, Big Daddy. Keep coating those deviled eggs with baby batter until the well runs dry. You want to be the 70 year old dino at your kid's high school graduation? CONGRATS. I'll be over here enjoying going to movies at the spur of the moment, taking naps and not smelling diapers. Oh yeah, and also, being a parent to your first four attempts at fatherhood. Mazel tov, mother effer.

The ex reproducing DOES bother someone, though. My daughter. 

And that does faze me, friends. 

Because an almost 20-year old woman shouldn't be feeling weird about her dad and his sow's ear/silk purse wife making yet another child. Because it cut me, deep, when she whispered so quietly it was almost inaudible, "at least it's another boy". 

She has found the saddest silver lining, ever, in this grotesque situation. 

She's still his girl. His only girl, so far. 

I didn't know what to say to her. Do you make light of it? Do you commiserate? What does a mom do when her baby is hurting?

I hugged her. And not only did she let me hug her...she hugged me back.

That'll do. For all of us, I hope. 

That'll do.


The Class Reunion: I Came. I Saw. I Peed My Pants.

I am not certain about many things in life. Hardly any, really. But this I can tell you with absolute confidence: you will never find my picture alongside the word "DIGNIFIED". Ever.

The day of the reunion rolled up as days tend to do. The anxiety this event was causing was insane. I started dreaming about it! As someone who claims, repeatedly, to have put the past behind me, it became woefully obvious that maybe I confused "behind me" with "churning the past into a buttery lotion and rubbing it all over my body". Because I was coated in the past. At least that's what it felt like. Air ceased to exist and was replaced with a thick, gooey gel comprised of everything I experienced during those short, kind of hellish high school years. The good, the bad, and the awful.

(can you believe I never took drama in high school?)

So. My mind was pretty much made up to NOT attend. Despite the fact that a friend had purchased my ticket. Despite the fact that there was a hotel suite already reserved. Despite the fact that my texts and messages were blowing up with friends giving me eleventeen thousand reasons to go. Stubbornness isn't a super appealing quality but I gots it.

Then my friend Nancy called. Of course I missed the call because that's what I do, but about twenty minutes later I saw the notification and I listened to her message.

Nancy is a friend I've stayed in touch with over the past few years. We aren't close, given that we are both working women who happen to be mothers and she also has a husband and we don't live just a hop, skip and jump away from each other. But, when we do happen to bump into each other, it's nice. She's nice. She always was one of my favorite people back in the Dark Ages. Funny and sweet and optimistic. Those are my three words for Nancy.

She has cancer. And is fighting it. My fourth word for her? Badass. Or is that fourth and fifth? No matter.

The message she left was brief but powerful. So powerful that it blew through my stubborn brick wall and moved me.

Moved me in the direction of "I'm going." The next day I made an appointment to have my hair shaped into something that didn't look so much like Hagrid with his finger stuck in an outlet. I tried on a couple outfits, one courtesy of my homie Danielle, the other a mishmash of flowy Chico's/Eileen Fisher/Old Navy offerings from my closet which is beginning to look like a thick-waisted nun's, by the way. NEED MORE COLOR.

The hair turned out great, so great that I took a selfie and the kids all wanted to touch it. The hair, not the selfie. People usually need gardening gloves to get through it but that day, it was soft and shiny and straight.

More licorice! I only have four hours to develop Type II Diabetes!

And so I went...with my old pal Anxiety riding shotgun.

Now, here's the thing: Anxiety isn't a new malady. She and I go way back. The ways I handle her are pretty much set in stone. I either close up, I eat or I drink. The last time I went to a social gathering where I had to face people from my past didn't end well. It was my sister-in-law's wedding, many moons ago and it ended with me being drunk in my ex-father-in-law's car. If you want to skip the rest of this post and just read that one you can do so without any hard feelings. 

The pre-party was fun. It was a gaggle of high school friends, nervously twittering and taking pics and of course, drinking. I decided to go whole hog and start out with a gin and tonic. Looking back, it probably would have been smarter to eat something besides the licorice beforehand. Because nerves + empty stomach usually = very bad things.

Nerves + empty stomach + gin and tonics + class reunion?

Asshattery. That's all I can think of to describe what followed. Complete, utter asshattery. Hats are not my friend, apparently.

This lady, however, is my friend. Since 6th grade. We were the poor kids, the ones with not-so-perfect home lives, the ones who were on the fringe most of the time:

"Terri, I have a great idea. Let's drink three of these before we head out."
"Sounds good, Jenny. Hey, tell me more about life in the convent!"
Actually, the hotel room was filled with friends. Some of us were super close back in the day, some of us became better acquainted after all the bullshit of teenage years and school had passed.

Did we linger too long at the hotel, giggling and gossiping and tippling? Probably. But that's just one more aspect of the entire evening which can't be changed. Or erased.

Here's how it went down: we stumbled over to the reunion. We put on our name tags, we made that scary first step into the arena. I know how the Christians being led to the lions must have felt. Last minute regret over not working out very much over the past 30 years dug into my back...or was that the Spanx cami trying to rein in the rolls above and below my bra straps?

It's like a dream now, when I try to remember it. A freaky dream fueled by years of buried memories and the weight of life itself. Flashbacks blew up in my face with every single "Oh my god! Hi!!!" followed by hugs.

Parts of it were good. Hugging my friend Nancy and rubbing her new post-chemo hair was the highlight. A pair of high school sweethearts who are now married were warm and loving and also bought me a few cocktails. Another pal, the one who bought my ticket, was keeping everyone up to their knees in libations. The drinks and the laughter and the fog of conversational din crowded around me.

I'd like to say that Anxiety left the building. I'd like to say that, but it would make me a liar. She never left, she just passed out. Unfortunately, I didn't. Like a zombie wearing a burka, I stumbled throughout the room. My partner in juvenile crime, Terri, kept up with me and we took several bathroom breaks wherein we cried with laughter from adjoining stalls.

There were awkward talks and some that were nice. I could tell some of my more reasonable friends were less-than-impressed with my behavior. Sometimes I stopped and wondered if maybe I should go. Just wander out, call a cab and leave. That's when Anxiety would open one eye and croak, "NO. You have to stay! You're having so much fun!"

So, we stayed. There was a professional photographer there and believe you me, every single time one of my friends would post one of the pictures from that night my heart would seize up in my chest as I quickly looked for the black and white blur that was me. I only caught sight of that blur once, and of course I'm clutching a clear solo cup full of limes and wearing a smile that looks a little more like a constipated grimace.

Eventually one of our more level-headed friends decided it was time for us to go. He loaded our gin-soaked asses into his car and deposited us at the hotel.

This is when things get fuzzy. And super, duper classy.

There was making out. No, not me and Terri although since she's a gorgeous lesbian and I'm basically a sexual amoeba by now, that's not such a preposterous idea. Don't worry, sir, you were (I think) a true gentleman and the moments we shared post-reunion will go to the grave with me. Unless I use it in my book, which I probably will because you can't make this shit up. But please know I will disguise your identity. And thank you, also, for not saying anything to anyone about what it was like to be that close to Drunk Anxiety Girl. Under the best of circumstances me trying to get my sexy on is a stretch: when I'm six sheets to the wind I become Dom DeLuise. And not just everyday Dom, no. Dom when he was around Burt Reynolds. It wasn't pretty and I appreciate your discretion.

This is a photo of Burt and Dom for those of you too young to remember. They were awesome together.

There was public urination. At one particularly regal time, Terri and I were sitting on a curb in front of the hotel. Wait, it gets worse! So there we were, two 40-something women sitting on a curb in the wee hours of the morning (and yes, pun intended). Still laughing. This time, I laughed so hard I wet my pants. As in I turned to Terri and said, "I'm actually peeing as we speak." And no, not just a little tinkle. Like my pants were soaked. I drive by that hotel almost daily and I'm pretty sure there was a giant wet spot on the concrete for a few days. The shame of that night followed me like a stalker.

I got lost within the eerie hallways of the hotel and cried like a baby with a full diaper. Which basically is what I was by that point. It was like The Overlook Hotel in The Shining though, and I kept waiting for Danny to whiz by me on his Big Wheel or the murdered twin girls to pop out and ask if I wanted to play with them. Forevah and evah and evah.

When I did find the room, Terri and I ordered two large pizzas. I stumbled into bed and when our lovely and thoughtful friend Kathy attempted to remove my eye makeup I screamed at her DON'T TOUCH ME! Sorry Kathy, when I get like that sometimes I think I'm still married. I love you for trying.

Somehow I survived, and when I woke up the next day I was pleasantly surprised to be alive and that I hadn't lost my wallet, phone or purse. Of course my pride was missing but that's not a huge shocker. For a moment I considered leaving a note of apology to the maid who was going to have the unfortunate task of making up my bed later that day:

Dear Housekeeping:

I'm sorry about the bed on the left. It smells like Aveeno moisturizer, human urine and the tattered remnants of self esteem. Also, there is one eye's worth of makeup on the pillowcase. Fortunately it's all water-soluble and should come out in the wash. If you happen to find a large silver earring that looks like a leaf, please throw it away. I lost the other one somewhere else.


The Nun in Room 308.

So yeah. There it is. I went to my reunion, it wasn't so bad. But, I did drink way more than I should have. I'm sorry to those I may have spit on while we were talking and I'm also sorry I missed out on the chance to have real live conversations that made sense. Hopefully when our 40th rolls around I will have procured either a sense of peace or a prescription for Xanax.

Namaste, class of 1985.


Fear, Loathing and Class Reunions

It's that time again.

Every five or ten years, it happens. Some industrious types from your high school class get to work and begin organizing a reunion. It's like Leap Year, if Leap Year fills your heart with a tarry, black ball of anxious loathing.

My class, the esteemed Class of '85, is having our 30 year reunion this weekend. I'm still on the fence about going. As I told a friend a couple of days ago, it's a matter of the desire to see a few old classmates outweighing the dread of seeing the rest of them.

I blame some of my indifference, and hesitation to commit, on social media. Although I'm not on it 24/7, Facebook has become the water-cooler of my generation. We gather there, share weepy videos about dogs, commiserate with friends who are struggling and learn, courtesy of countless Buzzfeed quizzes, which Disney Princess or member of Entourage our classmates really are (I'm Mulan and Turtle, if you're wondering).

"Seeing" these people day in and day out, liking their statuses and wishing them Happy Birthday has lulled us into a false sense of familiarity. We have some idea of what they look like, who they partnered up with, how many kids they've had (if any), who lives and breathes Fox News and who has serious wood for Jon Stewart. We virtually celebrate with them during graduations and milestones and comment "yum!" and "recipe please!" on pictures of their meals.

We know who has married well, and who has married often. Who is living the single life and who is solo parenting. We see everyone's dogs and cats, and every single one of us knows which friend to mute during elections. Everybody knows who likes to celebrate Fridays with a martini (ahem) and who bikes 50 miles before the sun comes up. Everyone knows who's selling essential oils and LeVel and OMG yes we get it, you're a blogger. We know who found God, who found Bill W. and who found Lululemon.

We all know a little bit about a whole lot of people.

This internet-friendship makes sense for classmates who have ended up in far-flung corners of the country. Facebook, and other forms of social media, are a godsend in these cases.

But what about the rest of us, some of whom live blocks away from each other? A short drive down a highway or two? For a lot of us, we still depend on this odd invention to keep connected. It has convinced some of us into truly believing that despite the busyness of our lives, we're still in touch with one another.

Are we, though? Does seeing someone's cherry-picked existence through a screen on a computer or phone equal keeping in touch?

I've kept in real contact with a handful of former classmates. Some I see once or twice a year, a few more often than that. At my birthday last year, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by women I've called friends for almost 4 decades.

Looking good, Billy Ray! Feeling good, Louis! (name that movie)

And earlier this year a whole gaggle of us had an honest to goodness slumber party, complete with Shrinky Dinks, pizza from our hometown favorite and retro candy (I still have some chunks of Now and Laters in my teeth).

I love these ladies!

But sometimes, I think of people I walked down the same high school hallways with and think, "Ugh." Sorry. I'm being real here, folks. And yes, I'm fully aware that for every person who makes me cringe, there's someone else who is saying, "Yeah well I'd go but there's bound to be people like, Jenny there. Ugh." I get it. I understand it.

Growing up isn't all it's cracked up to be, but one of the best things is we now have the freedom to not be around people we don't like. I mean, yeah, some of us have coworkers who incite the Ugh Reaction but I'm talking about the days when our educational system forced us to be in confined spaces with assholes. And bullies, and bitchy mean girls. (again, in somebody's mind I am all three of those things so I'm not claiming sainthood here)

That's what I'm wrestling with. I've had several messages from old friends, asking if I'm going. One of them bought my freaking ticket (Chuck you are going to get a check from me in your mailbox, I'd cash it real quick if I were you). A few of my closest high school friends are getting a hotel room and are planning on bailing if the reunion is awful.

And I should mention, all of this- the reunion, the hotel rooms- is happening within 2 miles of my house. That, along with the paid-for ticket, should make my decision painless and easy: GO.

Then why am I feeling such animosity towards the whole thing?

Sure, part of it is insecurity. Thirty years is a long time and while nobody is going to look exactly the same, some of us look a whole lot different. You can tell who's been playing with the Botox, which ones have hair plugs and who spends their life in the gym. Flip side of that, you can also guess who has spent a good part of the past several decades giving birth, getting divorced and eating their feelings.

"My upper arms? Yes, I finally said 'screw it' and got Easter Ham implants. Want to touch them? They feel so real!"

But that's me thinking with my withered self-esteem. I had it both ways in high school: being completely ignored, and also, being on the receiving end of particularly cruel behavior. Neither one was fun. It's hard to decide which left the bigger mark.

I talked to my best friend from those days for almost 2 hours on the phone recently. It had been five years since we'd last talked. And within minutes of hearing her say "Hi Polly!" (our old nickname for each other...it involves Joe Piscopo so please don't ask) I was transformed back into that unfortunate teenage girl, curled up under the dining room table, the phone cord twisted and knotted and pulled taut from its perch on the wall.

Talking to her was like a balm on a wound I didn't know I had. 

For both of us, high school wasn't a great time. Don't get me wrong, we had some fun. But we were always oddballs. Our humor was something so different from the norm, people kind of got it but more often than not, we were either made fun of, or dismissed altogether. Boys didn't like us, not "like" like us, you know? We were the ones they hung out with until one of the cute girls came along. And there we'd be, waiting, when that cute girl moved on, with our schtick and a pack of Virginia Slims.

We both agreed that had we done things right, we'd have ended up like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. My favorite quote from the conversation: "What we should have done, is gotten on a bus for New York the day we graduated." I love you so much, my old friend. Dammit, why didn't we?

But one thing she said made me really think about high school, friendships and what it was like to be a teenager. We were talking about the cool kids, the it girls and where we fit into the puzzle that was the Class of 85. "One of my clearest memories is of Homecoming Coronation. Do you remember that?" she asked me. Coronation? Hell yes, I remembered it. I remembered not hearing my name called when they announced the members and I remembered rolling my eyes in the way only an angsty teen can roll them. And then she said:

"I just remember you and me sitting way up high in the bleachers of the gym, watching it, watching our classmates all dressed up and smiling and thinking 'Why the fuck are we even here?'"

And I guess that pretty much sums up my fears about this weekend and all that it entails. Will I be the one sitting in the rafters, looking around at everyone all dressed up and smiling, and thinking:  

Why am I even here?

We shall see. I have at least 30 hours to mull it over some more. I'd love to hear some reunion stories, good and bad. Regale me, people!


Is Late Really Better Than Never?

I'm just going to stand over here and look at the water, okay?

My ex-husband always did things at his own pace. Getting his MBA, starting/finishing projects around the house, turning new leaves...all were done in Big Daddy's signature style: sporadically. There were bursts of activity, fires lit beneath him by something he'd seen or been told. But for the most part, he was a very low-key person.

I remember once, before everything went to hell, he took a couple of the kids away to his college roommate's cabin for a weekend. Which was wonderful, by the way. It meant I was left home with just one child, the littlest at the time, and I have no doubt that if I hadn't been breastfeeding he'd have attempted to take that kid as well.

He wasn't all bad, you guys. For a nice long time, he was a decent guy.

When he returned from that weekend getaway, he was bursting with a renewed enthusiasm about marriage and parenting and it seemed, life in general. I recall being a little freaked out, because normally he had the get-up-and-go of a sedated giraffe. Was his old friend in a cult? Did he give him some essential oils?

This was new, to see him excited about being a husband and father. Looking back, it was kind of ominous, I guess. I mean, who doesn't have at least a little zeal for life, right?

The conversation we had that is stuck in my mind happened over, of all things, a litter box. Back in those days I was a cat person, and therefore, we were a cat family. We'd started out with a freebie, an ornery prick of a feline named Reggie whose previous owner had been a manager of the Gap Kids store I worked at. I loved that cat. We added two more to the menagerie, a 20-pounder named Eddie and a snaggletoothed Maine Coon cat who came to us with the name Milo.

So we had multiple litter boxes. Cleaning them out was usually my job, since I was the stay at home parent. The cats stayed home as well, therefore their toilets were my responsibility.

But one night, shortly after the cabin getaway, I was down in our Silence of the Lambs basement, preparing to do the scoop duty. Big Daddy approached and took the tools of the trade (scooper and plastic bag) out of my hands, squatted down and proceeded to sift out the clumps.

While he sifted, he spoke. "Man, I learned so much from Steve this weekend." (Steve is not the college friend's real name, obviously) Intrigued, I asked what exactly he'd learned.

"Well, he was talking about how much he helps out at home. Like, with the kids and stuff." He shifted his weight, the plastic bag in his hand filling up rapidly.

"It made me realize how much you do. And that I don't appreciate you enough."

Now, had you asked me back then, I would have claimed it was the cat pee fumes that were making my eyes water. Truthfully, it felt good to be acknowledged. You know you're living the luxe life when someone else cleaning up kitty droppings is akin to being honored.

He went on, then, about turning a new leaf. Like, literally said, "I'm turning a new leaf." He promised to step up his parenting game, to be a more involved father. To be a more attentive husband.

We enjoyed his new leaf for a nice stretch of time. And then, as leaves are wont to do, it dried out and eventually, crumbled into bits.


My kids haven't had a true relationship with their father for several years. When he first left, even before either of us consulted an attorney, he was adamant about the kids living with me full-time. Back then, I was sure his insistence was due to the overwhelming responsibility that is taking care of four children. As things became clearer, and secrets were revealed, I realized it was more likely fear of overwhelming his new roommate, the woman he'd left our family to be with. Because it's one thing to take on a man with kids, it's something completely different to take on the kids themselves. Hindsight, y'all. It will become one of your most constant companions after divorce. 

At first he was the model divorced dad: dutifully picking the kids up for his every-other weekend shift, and the two weeknights as well. We were each allotted two solid weeks of vacation time over the summer, and that first summer, he did indeed take them up north for a week. 

We adhered religiously to the holiday schedule. Those were the days when I'd sit down on January 1st, take a Sharpie and my new calendar and methodically go through every month, marking weekends with either K or NK, indicating kids or no kids. It's still weird to me, how bizarre acts such as this so quickly begin to feel normal. 

He went to two parent-teacher conferences after the divorce. Two. He did attend concerts and games, oftentimes sitting in the back or standing near an exit. But he was there, and that mattered to the kids. 

They notice, the kids. They can tell when someone is making an effort to be involved. To be part of their lives.

And they definitely notice when that effort is not being made. Some kids will express this in words. They'll ask you, outright: "Where is dad? Why didn't he go to the game? Why didn't he pick us up tonight?". Other children don't say anything at all. But don't let their silence fool you. They internalize it but it always comes out. Kind of like putting on Spanx. You can smoosh and flatten the flab all the live long day, but eventually it's going to ooze out one end or the other.

Sometimes, in the kids, it will become a tantrum. It might be tears. Others find themselves grappling with feelings of abandonment, worthlessness, inadequacies. They might lose themselves in video games or books. Become withdrawn or become the life of the party. Alternate between crying don't look at me! and why aren't you watching me?

I have found that to be the most distasteful of all the fallout from my divorce. Not the hit my self esteem took, not the damage done to my finances. Not the loss of a wonderful bunch of in-laws.

Watching my kids deal with a father who drifted, slowly but surely, out of their lives has been excruciating. I can only imagine how it's felt for them.

I worry. Even though we are open with one another and talk about these things, the casual manner in which their father drops in and out of their lives, I worry. I am terrified that my boys will grow to be men who believe women and families are disposable like diapers or razors. I am scared that my daughter will have daddy issues and/or think it's perfectly okay for a man to so brazenly forsake his wife, their vows and their children without a second thought.

One of my oddball crushes, Andy Samberg, sings a funny little song called "Cool Guys Don't Look At Explosions". It cracks me up because I'm basically an 8th grade boy trapped in a middle aged lady body, but it also makes the divorced me giggle. It's an homage to how all the cool dudes in movies do the whole "tough guy blows shit up and then walks away, usually in slow motion" routine and the video is perfection (including Will Ferrell as Neil Diamond). But it always reminds me of how my ex, and so many others out there, have done exactly that.

They lit a fire and then walked away. They created these families, these people, and then took off right in the freaking middle. Mine left in the thick of things. At the most chaotic, the most harried time in a young family's timeline. Even when he willingly participated in his parenting time, the brunt of it was left for me to deal with. All those Monday mornings. The summers! PUBERTY, TIMES FOUR. The shaving lessons, the attempts at driving, the outbursts, finding bongs on the porch, the sex talks and the mother effing sibling rivalry. The job interviews and the last-minute rush to find black pants for every single freaking concert ever. The forgotten permission slips and science projects, the eleventh-hour run to OfficeMax for the poster board or that very specific plastic folder (7 pockets! MOM IT HAS TO BE 7 POCKETS NOT 10!!!!). Consoling the heartbroken boy after a breakup, dealing with Mean Girls and bullies and non-communicative teachers.

It's been hard, but I did it. The finish line isn't exactly close, but it's in sight.

This would be a perfect time to jump back into the parenting ring, right? After the shrieks of childhood have died down to become monotone mumbles of young adulthood, it would be kind of easy, wouldn't it? Like adopting a dog who's already been trained.


And that's kind of what I see happening. Not with all of the kids, oh no. We don't want to get crazy or anything. But with one of them, there is a relationship forming. Regrowing. 

I'm okay with it. In fact, it brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. I even said, out loud...

Better late than never.

I will keep saying that, to my kids, to people who want to listen. It's better to be part of someone's life no matter what chapter they're in. 

Is it fair? Nope. Not by a long shot. I can't tell you how many nights I'd fall into bed, completely spent after a day of fixing and counseling and cooking and loving four growing human beings without a partner. It's like the Little Freaking Red Hen, busting her ass to make a damn loaf of bread from scratch and then all of those lazy assholes in the barnyard bum-rushing the kitchen to eat it. 

But it's better.

It's better than nothing. 

It's better than never.

(pause for dramatic effect)(LOL)

I don't know about you, but I could use a laugh right now. Here's the video I referenced above. If you're not a teenage boy at heart, you might not enjoy it. Me? I'm LOVING IT.

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