9/10/14

Dumb Stuff I Did

Just in case you're feeling low, feeling like you need to know there's someone out there who does things...really dumb things: this post is for you. It's like a public service announcement from me to the world. I started out writing a "Oh, hey, so this is what I've been up to" kind of post and then realized that I have been walking around doing dumb things. Thinking dumb things. Buying dumb things. And I wondered to myself, "Self? Am I the only one who does this shit? Or do other people do things just as spectacularly dumb only they don't talk about it?". Self was too busy lighting a candle to reply (you'll understand the candle reference in a sec).

You ready for the dumb (and dumber) things? Here we go:

I bought a pregnancy test at Walgreens. You might recall that I am suddenly period-less. And my brain is having a hell of a time accepting it. So naturally, I began to think, "Hmm. Maybe somehow I'm pregnant." Yes, it was a lucid thought, and it came to me while I was completely awake and sober. But guys, buying the pregnancy test, while surely a sign that I'm losing my mind, that wasn't the worst part. (one might argue that me actually taking the test when I got home was the worst part, and that might be a winning argument). For me, the worst part was that I had a story made up just in case the cashier questioned me. Actually, there are so many "worsts" in this story I will give up trying to decide which one is Queen of Them All.

I'm 47, I am pretty much celibate and I took a pregnancy test. I had a story about a fictional niece ready to go if the cashier looked at the test, and then at me, and blurted out, "Okay, the Starburst and the Frizz-Ease Hair Spray I understand. But seriously...a pregnancy test? Come on, Grandma Moses. I don't even know you and I can tell you with 100% certainty that there ain't no bun in that oven."

Oh, and because I don't want to leave you all hanging? IT WAS NEGATIVE.

Another dumb thing I did: I bought yet another candle with the word "Linen" on the label. People think I'm fairly intelligent but there's a slight chance that I was hypnotized at one point in my past and the hypnotist implanted into me the inability to walk past a candle that is labeled "Linen" and not buy it. It doesn't matter what other words are on it. It could probably say "Dog Turd Wrapped in Clean Linen" and I'd pick it up. Later, as it burned merrily away on the mantel, I'd sniff the air and say, "Kids? Did the dog crap in the house?". But I'd also catch the crisp, clean undertones of fresh linens so there's that.

Here's another dumb move: I signed another two years of my life away with AT&T. And I went back to iPhone. In my defense, I'd been dealing with this phone for a year:

I didn't slam this one down, I swear! 


Since the new iPhone is coming out, the old ones are dirt cheap. Did you know you can buy phones and get it all set up with most carriers at Target? You can. Add in a gift card and the extra 5% off when using the Target RedCard and BOOM mama gots herself a new talkie device. Now all I need is for the Targets in Minneapolis to start selling booze and I'm pretty much done shopping anywhere else, ever.

An added bonus was that somehow my entire iTunes library, which had disappeared, came back to me on the phone. I am awash in memories and music again. P.S. When did I love Maroon 5 so much?

Another really dumb thing I did might end up being kind of smart. I'm really behind on my blog reading. It's been a cuckoo two weeks! Moving Molly into her dorm, Charlie moving out into a house with his friends (oh yes you read that right. I AM DOWN TO TWO KIDS!!!), getting the other two yahoos ready for school and me starting a new job. It's been a whirlwind.

So anyways. A couple of weeks ago, I made myself a delicious gin and tonic and sat down to catch up on the blogs. I stumbled upon one of my favorites, Mommy Shorts, and saw that she was running a giveaway thing. Normally I can't be bothered with giveaways, because it's SO.MUCH.WORK. "Like so-and-so on Facebook" "Follow me and my grandma on Twitter" "Share this post twelveillion times" "Blog about it!". Sorry, I just want to win something and not have to move my fingers so damn much.

Well, yay for Mommy Shorts, because she made this one so easy. Just come up with a funny quip about what your house smells like, and which Method air freshener scent you'd like it to smell like instead. I'm always talking about how I smell like divorce, so naturally I wrote about that. She liked it, she really liked it! And now I'm in the running for a $1000 Target gift card. DO YOU KNOW HOW MANY LINEN SCENTED CANDLES THAT WILL GET ME?

I'm way behind on there because I loathe posting reminders for people to vote. I don't care, really, because no matter what I win a $50 Target card and the whole line of air fresheners. #FreeStuffRules  However, if you feel like voting for all the divorcees in the house, go here and scroll down. I'm "Jenny and Middle-Aged Dating" and you have to vote down below all the pretty pictures. Here's mine:

Nobody has to know that by "dating" I mean "spooning with a body pillow"

I know there are several more dumb things I've done, but my fingers are now exhausted. Plus, I have to get back to work. Here's to being employed, right?

Dumbly yours,

Jenny

P.S. Please tell me your dumb stuff.


9/2/14

Dude, Where's My Period?

Well. I'm late.

For the first time since I was in my breeding years, my period is late. Time was, a late period sent me into an ultrasound-imagining, baby-naming, "was that a kick?" tizzy. I loved being pregnant and would have done it more than four times if things had been different. A late period was exciting!

Now? Ugh. No. Not exciting. When I realized it had been a while since I had run, hemorrhaging, into the bathroom, I checked my period app and realized with a big Shaggy Rogers "ZOINKS" that my period was a week late. For a brief flicker of seconds I got those baby butterflies going again. And then I remembered:


  • I'm 47 years old. 48 in less than a month.
  • It's been a long, long time since I've had sex. I mean, the kind that makes babies. 
  • My tubes are tied (yeah, this one is kind of a biggie, huh?)
  • Did I mention it's been a while since I've done the bump-and-grind? Played hide-the-sausage? Experienced a Close Encounter of the Penile kind? IT HAS. A pregnancy at this stage in the game would be something of biblical/National Enquirer proportions.

So this can only mean one thing: menopause is approaching. It's not just a far-off phenomenon, something my friends and I can joke about when we're sweating our asses off or trying to remember what it was like to have an actual waistline. It's a reality, and with every day that passes, it's getting closer.


Of course, I brought this upon myself. Just over a week ago I bought three giant boxes of my beloved Kotex SupahSize tampons (I cannot resist a 'Buy 3/Get a $5 Gift Card Free' deal at Target). Swear to God...as I stacked the boxes in the red plastic cart I thought to myself, "Now watch me hit menopause, lololololol.....". They are now sitting on a high shelf in the bathroom closet and they mock me every time I go in there for something. (yes I still have the receipt)

From what my doctor WebMd tells me, this is not just the "oh my gosh I'm such a bitch this week" peri-menopause stuff. This, the first missed period, is kind of like the first horseman of the menopausal apocalypse. It means that the rattling sound you might hear when I walk by is not a pack of Tic Tacs in my purse, it's my shriveled ovaries, which are now like two macabre maracas flopping around inside my pelvic cavity.

I'm waiting for the night sweats to begin. The insomnia has already been here a while, but oddly enough hasn't affected me very much. I'm one of those super annoying morning people and even skidding by on 3 or 4 hours of sleep doesn't seem to dampen my "HEY! GOOD MORNING!" vibe. And of course I'm always a little bit psycho. That has been my modus operandi since before Aunt Flo made her appearance. 

The skin/hair thing? That's another symptom I'm having trouble dealing with. On one hand, if you have spent any amount of time with me, you probably know that I have beard envy. Seriously, if I could be a guy for just a month or two? Oh the beard I would grow! I imagine running my fingers through a thick, bushy Grizzly Adams size hairball on my chin. How warm it would keep my face in winter. And mine would be red, like Dexter! Or Yukon Cornelius' in Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer.


Ha! Remember him licking that icepick?



Ginger-riffic!


On the other hand, thus far I've only had to deal with about 4 hairs on my face. What they lack in numbers, though? They make up for in girth. I think I could grow those four hairs out and string a ukulele with them. They don't just grow, those suckers crown. I am actually terrified of the whole beard thing now. Hold me.

And please, don't get me started on that "vaginal dryness" and even more daunting, "thinning of the vaginal walls" business. Yep. It figures. Just when I finally have the time and energy to start getting my freak on again, I'm going to have to worry about a vagina made out of dollar-store tissue paper. You thought buying economy sized boxes of gigantic tampons was awkward? Wait til young Bobby at Walgreens has to ring up your bottle of "Lady Lube". Gah. 

For all of my bitching and moaning about my period, the thought of it never happening again fills me with a weird sense of loss. Oh sure, how nice to never again be standing there talking to someone, and have a shrill voice screaming in my head OH SWEET BABY J THERE IS A CRIMSON WATERFALL IN MY PANTS. It will be super great to not fumble around in my purse for a tampon and finding nothing but hair elastics and chewed gum wrapped in receipts and then having to MacGyver a maxi pad out of toilet paper in the bathroom stall at work. 

And yes, it will be refreshing to not have packs of bears and dogs follow me around for that week or so of intense menstruating. 

But it is the first time I've ever truly felt old. And I hate that. I already feel like a creepy interloper any time my friends who have younger kids are sitting around talking about adorable things like kindergarten and bedtimes and my dusty Crypt Keeper voice chimes in, always starting with the phrase, "Back when my kids were that age...". 

Because even if my kids are getting older, it kind of felt like I wasn't. My brain seemed to have found a comfortable resting place somewhere between 33 and 40, and my body has been playing along. 

Until now. While living in a world where I can co-exist with white sheets again sounds a little bit exciting, it's going to be tough for me to separate myself from something as big and as final as menopause. 

Then again, I thought divorce was going to kill me. Menopause can't be scarier than that, right? 

At least there are no lawyers involved. 







8/31/14

Rearview Parenting: Dropping My Daughter Off At College

I built this one up good, friends. Ever since she got that official "Welcome to college!" letter from the university all those months ago, I've been mentally rehearsing it. I've been dreading it and anticipating it and fretting like a mofo about it.

Dropping her off at college. And then driving away.

I imagined the sobbing, the clinging, the sweating (always, with the sweat). I thought long and hard about what my last words to her would be, what nuggets of wisdom and warm gooey maternal love I'd leave her to hold and examine and cherish.

As the pile of her "college stuff" grew in our weird little nook by the sliding glass doors, it became woefully obvious that my tinny little Ford Focus would not be able to carry all of it, plus my daughter and me and the one brother she requested to accompany us. No way. One of my friends, my young pal Alex whom I met at trivia many moons ago, stepped up and said he'd drive us in his SUV. Again, my friends save us. It never fails to get me all kinds of verklempt when it happens.

The BIG DAY arrived...so, so quickly and if a day could sneer, it would have been sneering at me. I woke my girl up, one last time, and as we finished packing the last-minute things, Alex arrived and we began the Tetris game of packing up the vehicle. Alex won:

All clear, Alex! Bravo. 


There was just enough room left inside for Alex, me, Molly and Henry:

If you squint, you can see the college freshman.

Molly's school is about 2 hours away from our house. Two hours! That's all the time I had to chat with my girl before she and I parted ways until Thanksgiving. So, naturally we all played games and facebooked on our phones most of the way.

Are you imagining the tears? Do you think I was like a human sprinkler with the crying that must have been happening?

Nope. There were none. There had been a few the day before, when William gave Molly a goodbye hug before setting out to a sleepover. And several the day before that, when I read a text from a friend, who was sending her little girl off to France:

"Enjoy your time with her as your little girl, she will have changed the next time you see her."

But my eyes were dry that morning. And during the drive. There might have been a few tears shed when we drove down the streets leading to the dorm, past the throngs of rental houses where the older students live. They were all out on their lawns, kegs and camp chairs galore, and several of the students stood, holding signs that said things like:

YOU HONK, WE DRINK!
I'M GOING TO TEACH YOUR SON BULLDOGGIE STYLE! (held by a girl) (the college mascot is a Bulldog, obvs)
AFTER 18 YEARS, I'M HER DADDY NOW (this one was kind of chilling, actually, but made me laugh)
MILFS DRINK FREE! (Alex, slow down! I'm parched!)
V-CARDS SWIPED HERE!

And so on and so forth. I'm not a pearl-clutcher, so those signs didn't give me a case of the vapors. In fact, they gave me my first rush of nostalgia as I remembered driving down those same streets 28 years prior. There is no feeling like that in the world, is there? Knowing that you are about to embark on one of the most transforming life-journeys of all...the freedom, the fun, the responsibility...and oh yes, the parties.

It was those feelings I was thinking about as we unloaded the carefully packed car, and with just two giant rolling carts and some manpower, we moved Molly into her new home. I think that's why I wasn't crying. This whole experience is hers, and hers alone. I'd had my time, it was over and done. I was sad, yes, sad that my lone girl-child wasn't going to be around me like she's been for the past 18 years, sad because there was nobody else who would sit on the couch and watch awful television with me, sad because there are always going to be regrets and piles of "should've, could've and would've" thoughts during milestones this enormous.

But this time? It's Molly's time and knowing this kept my head in the right place. Not in the past, not bemoaning my loss...but right there, in the present, helping my daughter take her first steps in this new life. Just as I stood beside her when she first began toddling on her achingly adorable chubby little baby feet, so I stood beside her as we met her roommate, as we put her mattress pad on and made her bed, as we organized and plugged things in.

The pride that filled my heart was colossal. Proud beyond description of my daughter, my sweet lady who overcame painful shyness and some pretty intense anxiety and was now moving to a new city without any of her close friends in tow. Proud of her for not becoming one of the stereotypical "children of single mothers", those kids who, according to some asshat people and politicians, are doomed to a life of hardscrabble times, drugs and alcohol and teen pregnancies and gun violence.

Oh shit. Here come some tears. But not the big ugly cry I've been anticipating. Nope. I don't think that one is going to happen, folks. Maybe it was me preparing myself for this event months in advance. Maybe it was reading other mama's experiences with this scenario and weeping over their photos and words (like my new favorite blogger friend, Amy, and her piece about the drop off...read it here and then when you're done crying come back here to the place where THERE ARE NO TEARS).

Maybe it's because I've done with these feelings as I've done with so many others throughout my life: shoved them down somewhere deep and dark and covered them with Ling Ling's Potstickers and martinis. I am a wee bit worried that this is exactly what's happened and that something is going to trigger me at the wrong place and the wrong time: mayhap it'll be at school when I'm working and I'll see a mama and her kindergarten girl walking out to their car, hand in hand, talking about butterflies and new friends. note to self: don't look at them.

Or maybe, just maybe, all of this growing and changing that my daughter is doing, is also happening within me. Maybe the two of us are approaching separate, but equally major, developments in our lives. She's becoming an adult, living on her own without Mommy in the next bedroom. And me?

I'm watching the city disappear in my rearview, the city my daughter will call home for the next year...and there are no tears. Only love and pride.



P.S. I received my first text from her about 5 minutes after I took that picture. It read, "OMG Mom. I forgot to pack a toothbrush."  She's still my little girl.


















8/25/14

Pepper Spray and Bravery: Talking About Rape




"Mom, someone said I need to get pepper spray."

This was my daughter talking. She's 18 and mere days away from leaving home for a college campus a couple hours away from here. Away from home. Away from me.

We were at the local Home Depot-ish store, doing one of our seemingly never-ending shopping trips to get her geared up for dorm life. Closet organizers? Check. Command wall hooks? Check. Underbed storage containers? Check.

Pepper spray? Oh God.

We asked the salesperson where we might find pepper spray, and without batting an eyelash, he led us to the correct aisle. There it was, a small section, maybe three rows down, three rows across: protection against attackers.

Just the simple act of picking up a package and placing it in our already-stuffed cart was a wordless affirmation to my girl. An acknowledgement that yes, she might need it. She might find herself being hurt by someone, and she might need to spray them in the eyes with this noxious chemical in order to save herself.

"Mom...how do I even use this?" She was looking at the package. We'd picked out a pink pepper-spray dispenser, just because. Shouldn't your anti-rape arsenal be pink? I looked at the package with her. "Oh...there's directions on the back. We'll read them when we get home." Pepper spray? Check.

We didn't read the directions when we got home. Our days have consisted of checking lists, procuring the items a young woman needs to make herself a home-away-from home. I didn't think about talking to my daughter about what she should do if she finds herself being attacked.

But now I know I have to. I have to tell her my story, and I have to make sure she really, truly understands that there is a very real threat out there. A threat that might look like a cute athlete or a shy bookish sort or a sensitive hipster. A threat that is just waiting for her guard to be down, not lurking in bushes but walking down the same hallways she will be walking, eating in the same cafeteria and shuffling laundry to and from the same washers and dryers.

Last week, I wrote an essay. I wrote it from my perch on the couch, on a drizzly Sunday. In between laundry and Lifetime movies and getting my daughter packed and trying really hard to remember that I have other kids who needed me, I wrote an essay about rape.

My rape. There. I finally, finally said it. Well, typed it. But...phew. 

I wrote it, cried a tiny bit, and then found myself struggling with it. It was powerful, at least to me, and it seemed to be something that would help other women, other girls, who had been through it. But. I struggled over whether or not it was something I wanted to put here, on my silly little blog where I talk about Louis CK and single parenting and giant tampons.

The truth? I was afraid. Afraid of my kids seeing it, because although I play dumb sometimes, I know at least two of them have been here. I mean, really...who can blame them? I remember holding my breath, listening to my mom talk on the phone about me, about her life. My ears would catch the words Jennifer and she and I'd strain to hear. The modern day version of eavesdropping is done online, right? This wasn't something I wanted them to overhear.

Another truth? I was ashamed. I thought about different people in my life, besides my children, and imagined their reactions. "You were a slut!" "You totally got yourself into that situation, Jenny. Duh." "Oh my gawd...who was it? Tell me their names!" "You have no proof. It's your word against theirs!" and the worst of all..."Well, you were drunk. You asked for it. You deserved it." Yes. I was ashamed to divulge something awful that had been done to me, because I thought it would make me look bad. Make me look whorish or loose or like a lush. In this age of oversharing and TMI, this was the ultimate overshare. Was it too much information?

I'd never done an anonymous post before, but this one seemed like it would be a good candidate.

So, I consulted three women. The first? Kristen, who writes at Abandoning Pretense. I chose her because she's younger and hipper and is infinitely more current on what's happening in the blog scene. And I trust her. The second? Jill, who is better known as Scary Mommy. I chose her because I trust her with my words, and if I did decide to pursue the whole anonymity route, her website was my first (and really, only) choice. The third? My homie/bff Danielle. I chose her because she's not involved in the blog world, not one bit. I jokingly call her my moral compass but it's not really a joke. She has a level head, she doesn't ever judge me and I trust her more than just about anyone else I know. Let's just say, if you need dirt on me? She'd be the first place you dig. You dig?

All three of them readily agreed to read it. And all three responded immediately. Interestingly enough, one of the first thing all three of them said to me was this:

"I'm so sorry this happened to you."

They all liked it. Two said, almost immediately, "Fuck it. Fuck them. Put your name on it. You owe those guys nothing." The third one came around to that, eventually. They collectively coddled me while I fussed about the anonymous thing. They put up with facebook messages and texts and my super annoying habit of hand-wringing and second guessing myself. Most importantly, though? They all supported me. I am so grateful for that. There wasn't a shred of disapproval, not one little voice asking, "Are you really sure this is something you want to do?". And that was the nudge I needed.

Jill ran my article on her site. You can read it by clicking here on the title: "Why Hello There, Old Rapist In My Facebook Newsfeed." 

So there it is. I'm admitting it. I'm coming clean. I'm doing this because I have a daughter, and I have sons. I am doing this because of the hundreds of comments on that piece, the comments like, "I saw mine at the store" and "You are not alone" and "The song Funky Cold Medina makes me want to vomit." The comments from women who were once 16 and went to a party and had bad things done to them, women who were once 5 and were violated by men with whom they shared DNA. Women who have been carrying around this hot coal of embarrassment, of self-blame and doubt and all those other things our culture has taught us about victimization and sexual offenses and being female.

And most of all, I'm doing this because we need to talk about rape. We need to educate our daughters, we need to educate our sons and we need to stop being so mother-effing ashamed of it, and of ourselves.

One of my best friends says that part of us just stops growing when something traumatic happens to us. Like, say you're ten and your parents get divorced. She thinks that for the rest of your life, there will always be a sad ten year old somewhere inside of you.

I think about the bad things that have happened to me, and about how many sad versions of myself there are:

The 9 year old me, looking down at the angry red hand print my stepfather left on my thigh.
The 15 year old me, stuck on the floor between a bed and a wall, feeling indescribable dread.
The 39 year old me, watching my husband leave our house, leave our family before dawn on the last day of school.

But now there's this brave, 47 year old me...the one who has been through some hell but who has lived to tell about it.

I'm ready to tell, folks. And it feels great. Scary, but great.








8/20/14

Blogging Anonymous: Brave or Not?

It was one of those essays that just happened. Those of you who write, you know what I'm talking about. Like a baby that is coming out NOW, there was no stopping it. On a lazy Sunday, while watching Lifetime movies and pretending that life wasn't about to change drastically at our house, I wrote what I think is one of my bravest, darkest posts ever.

It's going to be published on another site in the next few days. But my name will not be on it. For the first time in my very short "writing career", I am publishing an anonymous piece.

I agonized over this one. Truly, agonized. I called in some trusted advisers, let them read the essay and then gathered opinions. The majority (of three, ha) said it was okay to put my name to it. In fact, two of them actually said, "Fuck it. Put your name on it!". But all three agreed that going anonymous would be okay, too.

Putting my name on it almost happened. Because I know that it's an important piece, something that I should be proud to be associated with as a writer, and as a woman. But something took precedence, something was more important than pride or acknowledgement.

Actually, four somethings. Four someones. My kids.

When I first started writing here, at my lowly little blog, privacy wasn't much of an issue. I used my real first name, and the names of my kids. In fact, the only people I really afforded ANY privacy to were my ex husband and his lovely wife. Now that I look back on it, that doesn't make sense. I was worried about legal repercussions that could result in revealing details about who my ex is, and had very few concerns about what, if anything, could affect my children. Of course, I did ask them if certain subjects were okay for me to write about. And four years ago, they said yes. Four years ago, this blog was "mom's stupid online thing" and not anything to be concerned about.

I never dreamed that anyone outside of my little circle of hens would read this thing, to be honest with you. In fact, I'm still somewhat amazed that perfect strangers find this site every day, and stick around. Almost a million visits? Gah. Blows my little mind, folks. And considering the stuff this mind has seen, that's not an easy feat.

It also blows my little idyllic mindset that this is a private sanctuary, exclusive to friends and supporters.

Because of this, I've been going through old posts, and hiding those that might be considered embarrassing or invasive to my children. When I find enough time, I'm going to go through the whole thing and change names. I always used to roll my eyes when fellow bloggers used pseudonyms for their family members...now I totally get it. My apologies for any eye rolls, friends. YOU WERE RIGHT.

But back to the whole anonymous thing: so the post that's going public is nothing I am embarrassed about. I'm very proud of it. However, it's not something I want my kids reading. Not now. Considering the gravity of the subject, and the topicality of it, yes...I think it's worthy of discussion. And I'd like to decide when it's time to discuss it.

Those of you who are regular readers will probably figure it out. Writing styles are like fingerprints, right? And who knows. Maybe after seeing it "live" I'll change my mind and decide that it's okay to own it. To make it mine. In the meantime, I don't want to risk having my (very) well-intentioned friends linking me to the post, or linking it to this blog. I hope that doesn't sound pretentious, and I certainly hope it's not insulting.

Thank you, so much, for your support and understanding.


8/7/14

Doormat No More: Behold, My New Balls!

Forgive me for such blatant Vague-Blogging, but I'm going to keep this one opaque.

I have been dealing with a difficult personality for the past 18 months. It's someone I see on a daily, Monday through Friday basis. When I first encountered this person and their personality, it was with lots of forewarning: "Watch out, you're in for it" and "Good luck with that!" and "Don't let it get to you."

I remember laughing and saying to myself, "How bad can it be? I can get along with anyone."

Oh dear. It was pretty bad. In the interest of being vague, we'll just leave it at that.

However, I am not one to give up without a fight. Some of my favorite students at school are those who present me with the biggest challenges. The tougher the nut is to crack, the more I enjoy what's inside (or something like that...sounds kind of icky, now that I see it all typed out).

So I persevered with this person. Asked a lot of questions, joked around with them. Got to know them. I found bits and pieces that I liked, and ran with it.

"It's not so bad!" I exclaimed to the previous naysayers. "There's good in there!" I crowed. "I WILL LIKE YOU, DAMMIT" I said in my head while spending time with the difficult one.

And for a while, it worked. I think the person in question was surprised by my friendliness, by my willingness to chat and laugh and hang out. For a while, I really did like this person.

I think it started changing when the stress in my life flared up. When I found out that I was losing my job, to be precise. At first the stress was a long ways out, and I could barely hear it. "Yo, Jenny!" it called out. It was faint. As the days flew by on the calendar, it became louder. I heard it when I tried to sleep, it interrupted conversations, it talked over the songs on the radio as I drove hither and yon. About three weeks ago, it became the loudest it had ever been, and I found myself feeling low. The job interviews were not panning out, and the panic over what my next move would be worsened.

That's when the difficult person really began to irk me. Little things, things that had been happening for months prior, suddenly became big things. Control issues that had been quirky were now glaringly bizarre. It was like going from having a roommate who kind of bugged you to living with Julia Robert's husband in "Sleeping With The Enemy" (remember when she opened the cupboards and all of the cans of food were arranged just so? Yeah. Like that.)

Run, Julia!RUN!!!

And it was more. It was being treated like shit, in a very passive-aggressive, Nellie Oleson, "oh I'm sorry, did that bother you?" kind of way.

Here's the deal with me: I have always been a doormat. A Libra through and through, conflict terrifies me. Take it, suck it up, go with the flow...that's always been my way of living. Even when I was going through my divorce, after proof of my ex-husband's affair had been shoved in my face, I kept up my Doormat facade and tried to not rock the proverbial boat any more than I had to. "No need to be a total bitch," I'd tell myself. And always, always: "Take the high road, Jenny."

I am very familiar with the High Road. If the High Road had a Frequent Flyer program, I'd be flush with points. My kids hear it from me all the time, and it's a virtue I extol ad nauseam here on my blog and when discussing divorce and co-parenting elsewhere.

But does taking the high road sometimes equal allowing yourself to be shat upon? I think so. I think we, as women especially, are taught to turn the other cheek, take the high road, be the better person. And that's GOOD, believe me, in most situations. In some situations, however, I think it allows the Nellie Olesons and the Regina Georges of the world to keep on being mean girls and bullies. And also allows difficult personalities, like the one I've grappled with over the past year and a half, to carry on with their cuckoo behavior without getting called on it.*

Sometimes you need to take a detour. And that's what I did. The difficult personality person did one of the things that has caused me many headaches and stomachaches over the past 18 months. And as I felt that old familiar stress ball start forming in my gut, I decided to fling the doormat from my forehead. I approached the difficult one, and I said exactly what was on my mind. Gesticulating like a mofo, I made my voice heard.

I closed with, "And THIS is exactly why I find it so frustrating to be around you." (cue the applause)

You would not believe how good it felt. The stress ball in my gut was gone, my heart was racing in a good way and I felt like a half ton of bricks had just been lifted off my shoulders.

You know that feeling after you've held your bladder for far too long, and you finally make it to the toilet without having tinkled even just a little in your pants? That release, that relief??

That. It felt that awesome.

Me: Oooh! What's that tingling sensation in my nethers?
Also Me: Oh honey. It's your balls. They're growing. (Also Me sounds just like Karen Walker, btw)
Me: They're so cute! And shiny!

See? I'm crazy, too. Only my crazy is kept inside most of the time. Hopefully, it doesn't cause anyone stress. If it did? I hope they'd stand up for themselves and let me know.

So watch out, world. I have lost my stand-up-for-yourself virginity. And I'm dying to do it again.


* HUGE CAVEAT HERE: I wouldn't be a real Libra if I didn't stress that sometimes people are difficult to be around because of underlying issues: true mental illness, going through a sucky situation, health problems, etc. And if that's the case, the High Road, with lots of compassion and empathy, is your best bet. BUT. To quote Gordon Gano and the rest of the Violent Femmes, "De-derange, we've all been through some shit". A lot of us deal with mental illness, with sucky situations, health problems and other life "stuff" that can make us less-than-pleasant to be around. I've been cut miles of slack by my friends, family and coworkers during low points in my life, and I'm eternally grateful. It doesn't, however, give us an excuse to act like turds.






7/31/14

Picture Them Doing Nothing: The Search For Super Henry

Today is my son Henry's birthday. He's 17. A strapping 17, almost 6'3" with a voice so rumbly and deep that sometimes I'll hear him from another room and think "Oh my god there's a man in the house! Who let him in?" We've come to the point in our mother/son relationship where his friends are riding shotgun, and I'm in the backseat. And that's okay, since he's my third child to reach this almost-grown stage it's getting easier to not only accept it, but to kind of enjoy it. Emphasis on the words "kind" and "of".

He's spending his birthday night with his friends. We'll celebrate this weekend, as a family, most likely at the hibachi restaurant down the road, where we'll get steak and shrimp and fried rice and leave reeking of oil and with a slick sheen on our faces. We'll laugh together, all of us, as we always do. We will talk about funny things from our conjoined pasts and gloss over the less funny parts, as we always do. Going out with my four kids now feels almost like having dinner with a group of friends. Except nobody fights me for the check at the end of the evening.

It's become a tradition of sorts for me to write something pithy on facebook as an acknowledgement of each child's birthday. I'll search for the perfect picture to post along with the words, and both of us (me and whichever kid it is) enjoy all the likes and HAPPY BIRTHDAY comments. I'll get a little misty-eyed as I reminisce, for a few whiles, about their day of birth and all the anniversaries of that day that have passed.

Which I was all set to do this morning. I thought about which picture I'd use for Henry's birthday ode. That's when I thought about Super Henry. When he was about 3-ish, I bought him a little Superman costume. One of those cheap, thin one-piece deals, that tied at the back and came with a separate,but identically thin and cheap, cape.

Henry became obsessed with that costume. He wanted to wear it all the time. And because he was my third child, I let him. One of the first things I learned as a mom was to choose your battles. Wanting to wear a Superman costume day after day after day? Totally not a battle. 

I'm an old mom. How old? So old that I have actual shoeboxes full of actual photographs taken with an actual point-and-shoot camera. I'm sure at one point in my dewy young mothering career I envisioned all of those photographs either gracing the pages of sweet, memory filled baby books or adorning a wall in a tastefully kitschy collection of mismatched frames.

Ha. The shoeboxes (there are about 5 of them) are shoved in a small cabinet that sits in my bedroom. You'd think there would be some modicum of organization, right? Like, all pics of Kid #1 in the Cole Haan loafer box, or all pics from 1995-97 in the Converse box. Ha, again. Have we met? My ADD has ADHD, folks. That's what I'm dealing with.

So, I knew there had to be a few pictures of Henry wearing the Superman costume in one of those boxes. I mean, the kid wore it nonstop for a year...how could I have not snapped a shot or two of my feisty three year old clad his beloved superhero garb?

I began the search, keeping one eye on the clock. I had to get to work, but that wasn't as pressing as my need to get Henry's picture all Instagrammed up and posted on the Facebook. Priorities, you know. I gots 'em. 

The search became a little more intense with every minute that ticked away. I became angry at my unorganized self. Why the hell do I have pictures of me, drunk in Mexico in 1989, mixed in with pictures of me, holding my newborn babies in the hospital? And glossy 4x6 reminders of how much fun my ex and I had before our marriage went to shit mixed in with faded 70's prints of my brother and I sitting on my grandma's couch?

I could see him in my mind, dammit, see his white-blond hair, his chubby cheeks and his tiny limbs clad in pilly royal blue and red fabric. I could feel the weight of his small body, leaning against me as I knelt next to him and tied the cape back on for the hundredth time that day. I could hear him crying in the morning, as I rushed to get his big brother, his big sister, him and my pregnant self ready and out the door in the morning, crying because his "SUPAman" outfit was in the wash.

I had all of these things as clear as lead crystal in my head, but where were the mother effing pictures?

The sweat began flowing as I flipped through stacks of memories. WHERE THE HELL WAS SUPER HENRY? There was a slippery Henry being pulled from my belly, Henry elbows-deep in his first birthday cake, Henry sleeping on the floor with his eyes open (that was the creepiest phase, ever). Henry playing t-ball, Henry tubing on a lake, Henry wearing a Buzz Lightyear costume and a hippie costume and of course a ninja costume. COME ON, SHOEBOXES! Where was my kid wearing that godforsaken Superman costume?

Finally, finally. There in the Nike box. I found him. I found Super Henry. One picture:


I smiled. I laughed. I might have shed a tear or two. There he was, cape and all. Super Henry. Just as I had remembered him.

The picture, with the accompanying birthday tribute, was posted. The likes and HAPPY BIRTHDAYS rolled in. All was right in my cuckoo world.

Except, I was mad at myself. Still am, a dozen hours later. I was mad at my current self for not having anything in any sort of order. And I was mad at my younger self, Super Henry's mom, for not stepping back a few more times and getting just a couple more pictures of her toddler who was sure he could fly, sure he could leap tall buildings in a single bound. For not having the foresight to know that somewhere down the line, when that little boy was towering above her and spending more time with his friends than with her...she'd want to see him again. See Super Henry, with his white-blond hair, smiling and wearing a cheap little costume like it was the most natural, the most everyday thing in the world.

The lesson I learned today, aside from the one about how being unorganized can turn the most benign morning into a frenzied clusterfuck, was this:

My favorite memories of my kids are the seemingly mundane, no-big-deal moments in their childhoods: eating freeze pops in the shade of the apple tree that used to stand in front of our old house. My daughter, wearing nothing but a tiara and her underwear at the breakfast table. A determined preschooler pushing his Fisher-Price Bubble Mower behind daddy as he mowed the lawn on a summer evening.

And a little Henry, all cheeks and big eyes, just chilling in his Superman costume. Cape and all.

Mamas? Stop the action now and then, won't you? Take a minute out of those neverending days and catch your babies doing nothing. Nothing but being themselves. Trust me when I say... you'll be glad you did.









7/20/14

Momastery, Me and All The Divorced Ladies: What I Learned This Past Week

In case you didn't hear me screaming from the couch last week, my Messy, Beautiful post about surviving divorce was featured on Momastery. I was shocked, I tell you, seriously shocked. Not saying that I wasn't pleased with how my essay turned out, because I do love it. But, like I told my rockstar friend, Laura, who ordered gently nudged me to submit, I didn't think my style of writing was going to fit with Glennon's vibe. I'm kind of crude, a little racy and I swear. I also don't talk much (okay, at all) about my religious beliefs. I know, right? I keep the God stuff private but I will tell anyone with ears all about the sexy times. Contradiction, thy name might be Jenny.

As every neurotic writer does, I obsessively checked my email and Momastery for signs of acceptance. I heard crickets. What she is doing with selected Messy, Beautiful essays is featuring a couple every week, under certain themes. The first week's theme was Parenting. "Okay," I thought to myself. "You still have a chance. Your essay was totally not about parenting. Carry on, Freak."

Week number two was Authenticity. Hmm. Well, my post was authentic, I guess. But I wouldn't classify it as such. "There's still a chance," I thought to myself. "Why doesn't she like me?" I also thought to myself.

Week three? Augh. The topic was Marriage. "Hooo boy," said that inner voice of mine, the one I sometimes think might benefit from some padded walls and some fine pharmaceuticals. "This is what the essay was about. And guess what? You're not there." I consoled myself, mentally curling up like a cooked shrimp and telling myself "Hey! You tried! And your good ol' crew of regular readers loved it. YOU DONE GOOD, Shrimp Lady."

Imagine, then, how it felt when I received an email from Momastery (not from Glennon herself, because she's so big she has PEOPLE. She has people, people!). They loved my essay and it was going to be featured during Week Four, which was all about...wait for it....Beginning Again. I was at school when I read the email, from a lovely lady named Amy. There might have been a strange noise made by yours truly, followed by goosebumps and an immediate urge to cry.

Amy stayed in touch, letting me know when the post would be on. It changed a few times, and for good reason. That Monday, Glennon wrote a heartbreaking post about a woman who lost her daughter, and it kind of went crazy (you can read it here....and grab a tissue for me too, okay?). Amy told me that they wanted to let that one ride for a couple of days, and she'd let me know when "You Will Survive Being Left" would be live.

Oh, and she also instructed me to keep all of this under wraps. Do you know how hard that was? IT WAS HARD. But like the Monkees often say, "We Can Do Hard Things". And so I sat on it (okay, I might have told my friend Laura, the person who was totally responsible for this whole thing. And maybe my kids, who are so used to me blathering on about bloggy stuff I'm pretty sure all they heard was something about monasteries and monkeys and Glenn Campbell). But secretive I was, and on Wednesday the 16th of July, my cuckoo words were there on the site.

I was worried, at first. Would the Monkees be kind? Would they respond well to my tale of a marriage gone bad? Would they respond at all?

Still waiting to hear from these guys.


Turns out the answer to all three of those questions was: Yes. Oh dear, were they kind. MY FAVORITE COMMENT SECTION, EVER. So much love, so much support and unfortunately, so many stories just like mine. So, so many.

So, what did I learn? Here we go:

1. Don't be afraid to go for it. A direct quote from me, to my friend who urged me to submit: "I might not be her cup of tea." Turns out, Glennon appreciates all kinds of tea. I almost didn't do this. So glad I did.You never know whose cup of tea you are, and you won't, unless you put yourself out there.

2. There are still people out there who think it takes two to destroy a marriage. Sorry, but no. Nope. I agree that it takes two people to keep a marriage going, and that marriage isn't like a hosta that you can just plop into the ground and not tend to at all, and will get pretty leaves and delicate purple flowers year after year. I know now that marriage is hard work, and I'm the first to admit I didn't do enough work on mine. But I will never, ever think that I had a hand in my marriage dying. I tried. And most of the women who have gone through this slice of fun tried, too. We went down swinging and to suggest that we left our fingerprints on the murder weapon is kind of like spitting on us. It takes two to make a marriage work, but all it takes is one to pull the plug on it.

3. The month of August seems to be the favorite month for husbands to leave. WTF. Is it the humidity? Also, some men leave on Christmas, which makes me want to hunt them down and kick them in sensitive places. Christmas? Really, asshole? Way to not only dismember a marriage but also ensure that your kids will get a sick feeling every time December 25th rolls around.

4. Monkees write good. Several of the comments are basically mini-essays, many of which made me cry. Damn, girls. There are some good books that need to be written.

5. Speaking of books: when a publishing house follows you on Twitter, you might scream.

6. This one is kind of off-topic: does anyone else find Lifetime movies addicting? The Canadian accents, the vaguely familiar actors, the soap-opera like commercial breaks at just the right moment...sadly, I have passed this sickness on to my children. William and I found ourselves alone one night this past week, and we decided to turn on the t.v. "How about a Lifetime movie?" I suggested, half-joking. Okay, maybe 1/3 joking. "Ooh..sure" he said, without a trace of sarcasm. I'm sorry, future wife of William. Or maybe...YOU'RE WELCOME.

7. Here's another off-topic one: check my Google search history and you'll find three things:

protection for vulnerable adults in MN
how to care for orphaned bunnies
why does my cleavage sweat smell like vinegar?

The first one was for my mom. And what I've found out is, I can't help her. You know why? You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped. I am finding this to be one of the most difficult situations, ever, and am mourning so much. More on this later.

The second one was because Walter (my dog) is a murderer. We shall discuss this one further, too.

The third one? Self explanatory. And, ewww. Thankfully it's not life threatening. Romance threatening? Yeah, maybe. If anyone got close enough to catch a whiff of the sourdough factory that seems to have sprung up between my breasts, that is. Summer heat, I loathe thee. 

And on that lovely, appetizing note, I shall close. Thank you so much, all of you. Those of you who have been here from the beginning, and those who have just hopped on board this runaway train of whackadoo. I am so glad you're all here.









7/6/14

Ribs and Birthdays and Neverending Hurts

The smell of the ribs filled our house. It was late, almost 8:00, and they still needed another 20 minutes in the oven. It had been one of those insanely busy nights and somehow I'd put off making dinner until the screeches of my nestlings became too insistent to ignore. But now...mmmm....good things come to those who wait, and we were proving that worn-out old saying true.

Charlie's girlfriend was there, as she often is. I like her. A lot. She feels like one of my own now, almost. Charlie has blossomed since she's been around. Maybe he would have, even if she hadn't been a part of his life, but I think she's been a good thing for him. And therefore, good for our family. She and I were standing in the little area between the living room and the sliding glass doors that open to the deck. It's a weird spot of real estate, that area...not quite big enough for a usable table, not quite small enough to brighten up with a few tchotchkes and call it a day.

"Oooh they smell so good!" she said, her pretty brown eyes so open and kind.

"Thanks" I replied, "Wait til you taste them!" Modesty is my middle name, yo.

"So it looks like Charlie and I will be having ribs a few nights in a row" she said. "Tomorrow we're meeting his dad and his grandpa at Market Barbecue."

Me, being diplomatic: "Oh, nice! Have you met Charlie's dad before?"

She didn't miss a beat, and nodded as she said, "Yep. Charlie and I were at Spawn's birthday party yesterday. Wow, it was the most lavish party I'd ever seen for a three year old."

Cut back to me, frantically gathering up any and all remaining bits of diplomacy I could find. Dammit it's harder than you'd think.

"Oh. A birthday party? Fun. I guess that means you met the stepmom, huh?" I'm sure at this point I had a decent case of the Crazy Eyes setting in.

She nodded again, and added, "Yes! She was really warm and welcoming. And she's so young!" Bless her heart, I thought. And I also thought, don't. Don't say anything bad, Jenny. Don't. DON'T.

"Yes, I'm sure she was really warm." Warm from the hellfire that surrounds the skank, right, Jenny? STOP IT! Seriously! Just go into the kitchen. Walk away from this conversation! 

Charlie's girlfriend is a child of divorce, just like he is. Her situation is similar to ours, complete with a dad remarried to someone much younger, and a half brother just a couple years older than Spawn. Her parents, however, have somehow managed to keep things civil, amicable. I'm guessing it's because although the situations are similar, they aren't exactly alike. Meaning, the new, younger wife isn't the one who helped dismantle the marriage. I think that makes the concept of civility somewhat more palatable.

I felt that old, familiar warmth spreading. No, I wasn't peeing my pants. I was feeling that hot anger spill out of nowhere. Where does it come from, I wonder? Where does it hide? Nothing else on this planet can draw it out like one of these seemingly innocent conversations. And then, BOOM. There it is. All the old hurts. The pissy anger. The shitstorm of emotions that flies right out of left field and lands, with a sick thud, on my heart.

She continued on, oblivious to the tsunami of feels that were welling up behind my eyes..."There was a bouncy house and so much food and we went swimming in the pool..."

At this point I did waddle back into the kitchen, to check on the ribs. They were done, perfectly done, so I pulled them out of the oven and began cutting them apart and placing them on a big serving platter. "They're done!" I yelled out to everyone, and stepped aside as the stampede came forth and dished up plates of saucy goodness.

Henry was there first. I asked him, "Did you go to your dad's house on Sunday?" He turned around, sauce already smeared on his face, licked a finger and looked at me quizzically.

"No. Why would I have gone there?"

Almost immediately I regretted asking him. The naysaying Jenny in my head was already shrieking at me to SHUT UP! But I had to. I had to find out.

"Apparently they had a big party for Spawn. Didn't your dad call and invite you?"

His eyes answered me before his mouth. "Nah. Wow." He shook his head, and then backed it up by saying out loud, "Shake my head." Which, by the way, is kind of a little joke between the two of us. I try to be hip and stay up to date with all of the acronyms the kids use. SMH is one of my favorites to use with Henry. So of course he does me one better by saying the phrase in its entirety, when appropriate.

It was appropriate that night, I guess. Shake my head.

I asked William, and then Molly. Neither one knew about it, neither had been invited. I felt myself beginning to seethe, the thought of sitting down and enjoying a good ol' summertime dinner completely clouded by thoughts of mother effing bouncy houses and young, welcoming homewreckers and splashes in a pool.

Molly smiled at me. And then she laughed a little. "Mom. I can tell you're pissed. Don't be!"

I looked at her, my sweet girl who is mere weeks away from embarking on her college career. My sweet girl who has taught me so much about rolling with punches. "Doesn't it bother you?" I asked her, "Doesn't it make you sad that your dad wouldn't ask you to be there?" Her answer broke my heart.

"It doesn't matter to us anymore. We don't care." She spoke on behalf of herself, and her younger brothers. William, who was listening, just nodded.

Charlie chimed in then, his anger stepping up to spar with mine. "Mom...knock it off." It was too late, though. I had already opened this can of worms and they were everywhere. "Charlie, I'm sorry, but this kills me. Why weren't the other kids invited? Why just you? Didn't anyone ask where the other kids were?"

Charlie put down the rib he was devouring. His eyes were dark. I'd seen this look on his face before, and it made me feel shameful and defensive.

"He might have told me to ask them. I don't know. You need to stop it, Mom. Stop making this into something it isn't." The tone of his voice, coupled with that shadow in his eyes...I retreated. I backed off. But I had to say one last thing, had to get it out there so my kids know that it's not jealousy or bitterness that causes these small outbursts.

"I'm sad for you guys, that's all." I said quietly. "I think it's sad that you weren't invited, and Charlie, I think it's sad that your dad put it on you to invite your siblings. That's not your job."

Charlie looked at me, the other kids in the room looked at me. Charlie's girlfriend, who had been silent through this brief but intense interaction, looked at me.

"I'm sorry." I said. I gathered up plates, crumpled up napkins, began stuffing the anger and the hurt back down from whence it came. I wanted to put a fan on, blow away the residue of this mini-explosion, turn back the clock just far enough so I could shut my big mouth and not say anything.

"I'm sorry" I said again. And I was sorry. I meant it. I am always sorry, it seems, sorry for the divorce and sorry for picking their dad to be their dad. Sorry for not being a better wife, sorry for gaining weight and not being attentive and sorry for finding it hard to accept the fact that sometimes shitty things happen. Sorry for wanting everything to be fair and even and nice for them, sorry for their dad for not knowing exactly how much he has hurt them, sorry even for the shiny stepmom who might or might not realize what she's done to these kids. And sorry for myself, truth be told. Sorry that I don't have the maturity or the balls or the grace to suck it up and let things like this just roll off my back and onto the floor and out the door. Sorry that I feel so much, and then on top of that, feel it 4x more for each of my children.

Here's the thing: these are the vapor trails of divorce. Like those white fluffy lines left behind jets, arcing in the sky long after the plane is out of sight, these insults and injuries follow you even after the divorce is buried in days, months and years. They go away and then they ambush you, rain all over something as sweet and simple and normal as a late night summer dinner of ribs.

I wonder if they'll ever disappear completely? Will they ever just go the hell away and never come back? Or will they slip in under closed windows and locked doors even when we are past the time of birthdays and bouncy houses and teens who are so used to being treated like afterthoughts that they don't care anymore?

The good news is, although they haven't disappeared completely, they don't stick around as long as they used to. That night, Rib Night, continued on in relative peace. The kids finished two slabs, and even left me a few morsels. I apologized to Charlie, and to his girlfriend. The dishes were done, the mess in the kitchen cleaned up and by the time I went to bed that night my sleepy time thoughts were focused on the upcoming weekend and not on exclusive birthday parties for three year old half-siblings. I thought about spending the 4th of July with my kids, at my friend's cabin, and how grateful I am that I have a friend with a cabin and kids to bring there.

And you know what? I slept really good that night. Take that, vapor trails.










6/24/14

Amway's Olive Branch: How One Amway Lady Made My Day

I despise open letters. I have made fun of the "open letter" style blog post, mostly in reference to Matt Walsh who bugs the everlovin' crap out of me. I think they are lame, kinda lazy, and rife with potential to be several shades of passive aggressive and self-serving.

And yet, I wrote one. I wrote an open letter to an Amway saleswoman who made a rude comment to my son while he was working. It was lame, kinda lazy, and yes, there was some passive aggressiveness in there along with a healthy dose of self-service. The only excuse I have is that I wanted to complain about what had happened, and that seemed like the most effective way to do it. There were also emails exchanged, which I'll get to momentarily, but truth be told, I was pissed and wanted Amway to hear about it. 

Oh, they heard. 

The woman who insulted my son, now immortalized as "Amway Jennifer", received an email from me. I wrote it the day after the incident, shortly after I had published my post. The email was civil, probably a little too wordy since it came from me, and laid it all out to Jennifer. I explained to her that what she'd said to my kid was wrong, approaching someone to sell products while they are at work is wrong. I also told her I was proud of my son for being polite in the face of such crassness. I may have also mentioned something about how if I'd been the one who received her "advice" and her business card, she'd be picking pieces of said card out of her hair for several days. 

Now, if Amway Jennifer had responded to me with anything even remotely resembling an apology, or admitted even just a little bit that what she did was out of line, the "Dear Amway Lady" post might have been deleted. I might have fumed about it a little, but my level of pissed-offness would have been down in the safe zone.

She didn't do either of those things. Her reply to me started off with "Hi Jenny, I'm sorry you feel offended" and ended with "Be blessed". In between those two statements were a bunch of sentences about how she teaches people to deal with acne and how dermatologists don't get to the root of the problem. She stated that she has "a heart that wants to help" and "I only wanted to help if he needed it or wanted it". 

I let the post stay, and there you have it.

It first gained attention on Twitter, and several people retweeted a link to the story directly to Amway. Amway, the company, responded to me in a public tweet and also in a private message. THEY APOLOGIZED. I thanked them, on behalf of my son, for the apology. They also asked me to give them Amway Jennifer's contact information. I declined to do so, saying that I'd been in touch with her and the matter was settled. I had said my peace, she (hopefully) would think twice before approaching a kid at work, my son was 100% over it. All was right in the world of teens and mama bears and Amway.

The post, however, kept right on going. It was published on a few different sites, and received lots of feedback. 

Almost all of the feedback was positive. Heartbreaking comments from people who had been approached the same way when they were younger. One woman, who said she was in her 60's, recalled how a man had made her feel over 40 years ago when he said something about her skin while she waited on him at a restaurant. So many men replied, telling me that "that could have been me" and "tell your son it gets better!". Countless remedies and suggestions of medications and diet advice (some of which we've implemented...). 

A wonderful woman contacted me via Twitter and sent my son a box full of skin care from the line she represents. (it is fabulous, by the way)

My inbox was full of sweet emails. The cutest one was from a woman who wrote to tell me she was pretty sure my son had waited on her at the grocery store that evening. "He was so polite, and so handsome" she wrote, "I wanted to tell him that no matter what, he's a good kid". My heart fluttered and then she mentioned she was in Texas. We're in Minnesota, but you know what? Some Texan kid with zits was treated nicely while he was at work. And that's a win.

The biggest surprise came via facebook. A woman named Stephanie messaged me. She apologized on behalf of Amway Jennifer, and Amway in general. She was kind and positive and obviously passionate about her company and her product. We wrote back and forth a few times, and when she asked me if she could send me something from Amway, I said yes. Why? Three reasons:

#1: Because I'm a broke ass, hard working single mom and I've learned to never turn down an offer like that.
#2: I had a less-than-stellar opinion of Amway based solely on what had happened to my kid. Stephanie (and several other Amway people who contacted me) seemed like a really decent person, so I wanted to give her products a try. 
#3: I thought this would be a great way to show my son the good side of big companies and the human beings who work for them. We didn't get that with Amway Jennifer.

Stephanie asked what I'd be interested in. I mentioned to her that we had a graduation party coming up and I'd be in cuckoo cleaning mode until then. She got back to me and said that she, along with Jose from Amway Customer Service, had handpicked a bunch of products to send out. 

This was on my front steps just a few days later:



Now, if you know me, you know I loathe cleaning. I only do it under great duress, the threat of company or when I cut my hand on one of the hardened clumps of toothpaste on the bathroom counter. But this box? It enticed me. I opened the products, smelled them (because it's all about the smell), and slowly, deliberately...began cleaning. 

And it's good stuff. All of it. I especially like the kitchen cleaner, the bathroom cleaner and the laundry detergent. 

What I liked the most, though? The kindness shown to my family by Amway Stephanie. Now, am I going to be an Amway customer after this? I don't know for sure. I don't make a lot of money and I'm the kind of person who, when I need laundry detergent, I need it NOW because there is a pile of laundry in front of the washer and nobody has any clean underwear left so I run, commando, to the store. Amway products seem to cost more than the stuff I usually buy, and it's something you have to order (which means one needs to plan ahead...so obviously not my specialty). 

The thing is, I might buy Amway products in the future. And that wouldn't have happened if Stephanie hadn't reached out. She let me try the product, and she also presented stellar customer service. If I do decide to purchase the products in the future, guess who I'll buy them from? Yep. Stephanie.

The moral of the story is, if you sell for a living, sell the right way. Don't prey on people's "flaws" and for the love of all things holy and decent, don't approach ANYONE, especially teens, if they're on the clock. Look, I get it. I think everyone gets it...this economy is scary, and we are all doing what we can to keep roofs over our heads and food in our kid's bellies (and martinis in our shakers, or is that just me?). You gotta do what you gotta do. But there are lines that shouldn't be crossed.

Side note: someone asked me this question: "So, what if Amway Jennifer had been a dermatologist, and your son had a suspicious mole. Would you have freaked out if she'd mentioned something to him then?"

Short answer: no. Medium-length answer? No, because a dermatologist is a doctor who has gone through years of schooling to get where they are today. And because a dermatologist who is knowledgeable about skin cancer is working, every day, to save lives. There's a huge difference between a skin-care saleswoman telling a kid "Wow, you have a lot of acne" and a doctor telling someone, "I have a medical license and have treated skin cancer before. I would strongly advise you to have that mole checked out." My guess is, the dermatologist wouldn't be out trolling for business while grabbing milk and bread at the grocery store. The situations might be similar, but the motives are as different as night and day. (that was the long answer, I guess)

I can't end this without a shout out to my new friend, Stephanie. I'd write an open letter to her but I feel like that's kind of been done to death. Instead, here's a link to her site. She's good people. 

Oh! I almost forgot. I also wanted to pass on my favorite mean comment from the whole Amway thing. It is on the About Me page here on my blog, and of course, it's anonymous (because, aren't they all?). It's like a big rancid onion of a comment, layer upon layer of ignorance. For your reading pleasure:

Jenny, Im heartbroken that you've taught your son to be such an emotional kid. He would never last in the real world. I can see that your divorce has made a negative impact on your sons life because he is clearly a mamas boy. That's NOT a good thing. He is 16 not 6. He needs to grow a pair and frankly so do you. I'm so sad that the draft no longer exists in out country. Your son will be nothing but a pussy if you continue to raise him alone. He needs the military or another form of discipline to step in and undermine your soft liberal attitude. People say things they shouldn't all the time. We're only human. But the reaction your son had, and the way you coddled him... Pathetic. My husband and I read this to our 15 year old son. He was dumbfounded that your child is so sensitive. If your son has acne perhaps you should be helping him. Washing his face, taking him it the dermatologist etc... Sounds like you were just upset that Jennifer called out your poor parenting skills. You already also divorced... Not a very good example for your children. I'm sure you have a solid reason to why you are no longer married, yadda yadda yadda. You should have chosen a better husband to have children with so your children could grow up in a two parent home. P.S. Calling your son Cartman? Now that's hurtful. Why is it your children even know about South Park? Just because it's animated doesn't mean it's for children. But I'm sure as a single parent you just park your kids in front of the tv.

I know, I know. Don't feed the trolls and all that. But I thought maybe my fellow divorced/single moms might get a kick out of this one. You know, yadda yadda yadda and all that.

So now, the Amway saga is over. Unless, of course, Amway Jennifer makes another sales pitch to one of my children.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go park my pussy kids in front of the tv while I try to grow a pair. Because that's what we single parents do. 






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