Letter From A Monster

It's been five months since my mom died. I had a remarkably difficult time with it, which is weird because of the whole estrangement thing. You'd think two years of zero communication would have made it easier to handle but oh no. Quite the contrary. Looking back now, with days and weeks and a few months worth of perspective, I see what a complete psycho I was. Like, I now kind of want to go around apologizing to the people who had to interact with me on a daily basis during that time. My poor family! My aunt who had to endure ranting, grief-struck texts. My kids who wondered when their mom turned into Jabba the couch-sitting Hut. And oh criminy: my co-workers. I can't believe I still have a job. I was prone to crying at my desk, used up gobs of sick days because I just couldn't function and was a paranoid, sniveling wretch. I'M SORRY YOU GUYS.

Anyway. The lowest point was over winter break, when I was home for two solid weeks and did absolutely nothing. I pulled off another Christmas wherein I played the part of Loving Mother but other than that it was basically me sitting around growing new chins, watching every British show on Netflix and discovering just how long one can go without showering before people driving by your house can catch a whiff of your sad stench. (side note here: how is it possible that I am still single? 😂)

Things began changing after that. The new year truly did bring in a new me, and I haven't looked back. My teenager's unflagging attempts to actually get me to join him at the gym* instead of just dropping him off finally paid off, and on January 13th I steeled myself for a moment before walking into the workout room of the YMCA. It was almost as hard as walking into the food shelf for the first time, you guys. I tugged at the giant shirt which was, despite its size, uncomfortably tight around my belly. Certainly everyone was looking at the frizzy haired giantess approaching the weight machines, right? But guess what...nobody cared. Not one person pointed and laughed at me as I did arm curls and leg presses and there wasn't a crowd of people snapchatting fat shaming pictures of me as I got on the treadmill.

Nope. Not one person cared except for me, and after a few minutes my worries melted away as the endorphins rushed in like rainwater after a drought. That was the first night of many that my kid and I loaded into the car and made our way to the gym in the dark, when I used to be finishing the dinner dishes and deciding which show to watch before falling asleep in front of the t.v.

In the days since that first anxiety-ridden gym trip, so much has changed. My mood is a thousand times better. I am losing weight, although this time around I refuse to step on a scale (the fact that my boobs now resemble freckly deflated footballs is really all the proof I need). One of my favorite work friends commented the other day, "You have a really beautiful glow around you lately" and I replied, "I've never felt better" and it's the truth: I have never felt this happy or this healthy or this hopeful.

Hope was hard for me to find after mom's death. Add to that the insane election and the aftermath and it felt as though it would never come back (I know we steer clear of politics here but come on, friends- I'm a low income single mom who works for a public school district...it's not hard to figure out why I'm scared shitless). Since I started exercising again, though, I'm finding it easier to see the good. I'm laughing again, smiling real smiles and even the old writing urge is slowly coming back to life.

I lost all of that for a little bit earlier this week. All thanks to a letter. A letter from someone I was done with, or so I thought.

When my mom died there was one silver lining: it meant that I'd never have to see her husband, the man who terrorized me as a child and teenager, again. It was a relief to hear he'd hightailed it out of Minnesota just a few weeks after her memorial service, leaving for the warmth and golf courses of Arizona. He was the main reason for the degradation of the relationship between me and my mom. Seeing him, hearing his voice brought me back to those dark, nightmarish years of abuse. Walking into their house sent me spiraling down a funky rabbit hole of despair: the stench of cigarettes in my hair and on my clothes, the cobwebs of awful memories clinging to my face and limbs.

Her dying freed me of him. Apparently, he didn't get that memo.

His letter stunned me. It also made me laugh. Not because it was funny (although it is kind of hilarious) but due to the absolute absurdity of it. The gall! The huge font! The "over" at the bottom of the page just in case I'd been reading it and couldn't figure out I had to turn the paper over to find his closing remarks.

His narcissism has never been more obvious. Actually, I think someone teaching a class on personality disorders could take this letter and use it as a teaching tool. "Class, let's dissect this one: first, let's count how many times the writer of the letter uses the words I, me, and my."

For a while his words stuck to me like those icky memories. I composed a reply in my head...the first one was simply "Fuck you." The second one was wordier.

Here's the letter. I blocked out his information because even assholes deserve some modicum of privacy. But the rest of it? Fair game.

Yes, it was addressed to both my brother and me. He sent one to my brother, too.

Bottom lines:

  • You are the enemy.
  • My kids are not your grandchildren. They never were.
  • Maybe you should have let mom move to California to be with you. Just saying.
  • You were 22 and you entered into a relationship with a married, 35 year old woman who had two kids. Cry me an effing river, dickhead.
  • Your parents failed miserably. 
  • There is no line a 9 year old kid can cross that would make it okay to hit them. Or kick them, slap them, throw ceramic coffee mugs at their heads and chase them through a house while they scream for help. 
  • The only thing I'll give you credit for are 40 years worth of nightmares and trust issues. Also, the fun way I flinch when someone near me raises their voice. Thanks!
  • You'll get our social security numbers right about the same time we invite you over for Sunday dinner. In other words, don't hold your breath. (or, do hold it? For a long time? Please?)
In the end, I decided to not respond. A friend of mine burned the letter for me, in my kitchen sink. I worried about starting a fire so it didn't finish burning completely, but my daughter put the charred pieces in the recycling bin. It's over.

What distressed me the most about this letter was how it made me mad at my mom all over again. Five months have passed and while there are still tough moments, for the most part I have come to a kind of peace with all of it. After reading this letter I felt the resentment, felt the betrayal, felt the impotent rage. It has taken a few days, several miles walking the dog and some good late nights at the gym to get rid of it, but it's gone.

We now return to our regularly scheduled happiness.

* an explanation of the gym, since there are a few people out there who like to keep track of how I spend my money: we have the pauper's scholarship at the YMCA. For $60 a month all five of us can use the gym to workout, take classes or just go play basketball. We use our membership, on average, four days a week. The health insurance I get through work has an incentive group that I participate in...aside from getting Amazon gift cards for simply exercising, they also offer a gym rebate of $350 a year. So, our membership ends up being about $30 a month. Less than two therapy co-pays! #winning


Ex-ual Healing

One would assume that ten years post-divorce every wound would be healed. Each hurt feeling would be long-tended and recovered. All those damages wrought by the jagged shards of shattered trust, imploding self esteem and broken vows...nothing but scars and memories now.

One would assume that, yes. And one would be kind of-sort of right. At least in my case.

As alike as our divorces and the series of unfortunate events that led up to them may be, we are still all unique. That goes for how we recover from our divorces, as well. Some of us are truly able to shed that skin like a snake, leave the husk behind and get on with gettin on. Some of us simply patched up as best we could, enough to blend in, enough to get through the days without sticking out too much. Regardless of our rate of healing, I think we all do it eventually but just like any other trauma, it does leave a mark. Maybe that mark is the self-doubt you feel when you look in the mirror. Maybe it's the "what if" game you play every once in a while.

For me, the mark is my gut. No, not the front-butt that has hung out on my belly since all those c-sections...like the divorce, I've come to terms with that too. The gut thing for me is that "pang". Are you familiar with it? It's the invisible fist that gets you right in the stomach, when faced with reminders of your past. At first, those fists are huge and powerful. The pang can take your breath away then, can bring tears to your eyes and cause you to recoil in physical pain.

After a while, the pang mellows. Oh, it's still there but over the days and months and years it becomes less fisty- more like a poke than a punch.

These are the divorce healing pangs, my friends. And they never end. They just get quieter, harder to feel and see. But I think it's important that we still acknowledge them, and give ourselves credit where it's due.

My latest milestone? It was something so silly I'm almost embarrassed to share it with you. I'm going to, of course, but still...it's with a little hesitation.

So, my ex mother in law. I LOVE HER. This isn't a bash against her, not one bit. I miss her and other family members so much. Way more than I ever missed her stepson. Yes, she's his step mom. His "real" mom, meh. She was great while we were married, afterwards, not so much. It's become a running joke in our house that she's still trying to kill me by sending chocolate chip cookies loaded with walnuts home with the kids at Christmastime every year.

The other mom, though? To quote Tupac, "nothin but love". To this day she continues to keep in touch, along with some sisters-in-law. They have been an integral part of my healing and I am forever grateful to them. When you've been rejected, wholly and completely by someone, it can be a lifesaver to know you're still worth enough to keep the lines of communication open.

Every year, right before Christmas, they have a big brunch at their country club. A holiday/December birthday celebration. I used to attend back in the olden days, and my kids continue to do so. This year, apparently, there was a photographer there to capture the fun. My mother in law sent me a link to the pics, because that's what kind people do. "Hey, your babies are in these pictures...thought you'd like to see them!" is what I imagine she was thinking.

I clicked on the link. And there she was. The woman who decided, a decade or so ago, that she wanted to get herself a man and set her sights on the one I happened to be married to at the time. There she was, smiling and holding her children. They were the first photos in the lineup, you guys. It's not as if I searched for them. Click and BOOM.

Here's the good news, though. It wasn't the gut punch. It wasn't even much of a pang, honestly. I did look because I'm human. Wouldn't you?? I looked at the kids and felt relief that they don't look anything like mine. I looked at her and for a flicker of a second thought "well she looks pretty pleased with herself". 

And then I kept on clickin'. Found pics of my brood and looked at them, thought how cute they were and how proud I am of them and then glanced at a few more and then closed the link. Not a slamming, close, either...just a run of the mill "click".

It gets better: I didn't think much about it, not really at all until a friend and I were discussing exes last night. I wanted to show her one of the pics but decided against it because holy Doritos, I might actually be a grown up. Well...we may want to hold onto that proclamation for a sec because I did also consider, for more than a few seconds, meme-ing the crap out of one of the pictures. "INSPIRATION TO SIDE CHICKS EVERYWHERE". Or, "I USED TO BE THE OTHER WOMAN, NOW I WORRY ABOUT HER" (don't worry, I didn't) (oh but we could have some fun with this one...😂)

If this had happened ten years ago, it would have immobilized me. It would have pushed me down a dark and cobwebby rabbit hole of anxiety and self-loathing and grief. I realize by writing about this, how proud I am of myself for not losing my shit after seeing a picture of my ex-husband's wife, that I'm inviting some of the "get over it already!" and "cripes, loser, it's been a decade!" comments. That's okay.

Because I know there are others out there who go through this. Whether it's been a month, a year or twenty years since your world was shaken down to its molten core, there are always going to be these reminders, these tests, if you will.

Pangs. Pangs and gut punches and pokes, oh my. They may hurt, but don't worry, my dears. They aren't fatal.


Winter Break Down

Not enough Febreze in the world.

In an unprecedented and spectacular calendar event, this year our school district's winter break included two four-day weekends thanks to Christmas and New Year falling on Saturday/Sunday. Normally, I work even on non-school days, but this year I decided that mama needed a break. So I took those four beautiful paid holidays, a couple personal days and thanks to a migraine, one sick day, a couple days of just straight up no pay and I carved out the longest stretch of days off I've had in years.

Last night, whilst sitting in the nest I made on the couch (see photo above), I started to feel kind of crappy about what I'd done with it. Like, this chunk of free time was a glorious, hopeful bundle of hours and days full of potential. Not unlike a newborn baby, really. So many wishes and dreams and plans!

Oh the plans! I was going to tackle the mess in the laundry room. One of my children had a bed with drawers underneath it. What are those called?? CAPTAIN'S BEDS! Yes. They had one of those and got a different one and decided to plop the drawers- still full of clothes- in the laundry room. This was over a year ago.

I was going to clean my own room. Right now it looks like my dresser, my closet AND my clothes chair* are suffering from a violent bout of the stomach flu. *clothes chair: a chair that exists to hold the clothes that are neither dirty nor clean. And which are eventually forgotten until the owner of said clothes suddenly can't find that one black top. You know, the black one? 

I was going to work out and clean and read a book and have a slumber party with a friend. The Christmas tree was going to get taken down and dragged outside. At least one of the three four junk drawers in the kitchen were going to get gone through and organized.

Naps were going to be taken. The dog was going to be walked every single day. IT WAS GOING TO BE LIKE A MILLION WEEKENDS PACKED INTO TWO WEEKS.

I made a nest.

And I sat/layed/lied in that nest for many hours. I napped in that nest. I did read a little, I wrote a little and corresponded with friends. All from the comfort of the nest.

I watched approximately a shit-ton of televison. Movies! Shows! Netflix! Hulu! A couple DVDs!

So many pretend boyfriends, some old and some new. Here's a sampling:

Kal Penn and Kiefer Sutherland, both in "Designated Survivor"
Chandler in the first season of Friends (I love all of them in the first season, they're still hungry actors hoping to make it big, plus I love smoking Chandler)
Young Dennis Quaid as the a-hole in "Postcards from the Edge"
Several random slurring guys who seemed vaguely familiar on "Drunk History"
Jack Black in "The Holiday"
Tea Leoni in "Deep Impact" (lady, yes, but come on! She was the epitome of angular preppy cool chick...like the J Crew catalog took up acting)
and everyone on The West Wing

Nothing super constructive was accomplished.

Of course, Christmas happened, and I did pull that off again. Somehow. Molly and I had a long shopping day together, one of the best times I've had with her in ages. My kids are old now, so the magical part of Christmas doesn't happen like it used to. I still do the stockings, the gifts from Santa (stockings taken from the mantel, filled up and the Santa presents, unwrapped, next to them). This time I woke up around 4:00 a.m. and did the stocking stuffing part. Made coffee, waited a while and then they all gathered to open presents. The kids went to Big Daddy's for their requisite 2-3 hour Christmas visit and then we ordered a million pounds of Chinese food as a nod to our wonderful Jewish friends.

Our Christmas was perfect.

In fact, the whole stretch of time was perfect. No, the laundry room didn't get taken care of. To be completely honest with you, I haven't been down in the laundry room for days. I've been going commando because I can't find any clean underwear.

Going commando on winter break? Sounds about right. If not then, when?

I'm going to stop beating myself up for not "accomplishing" anything because when you think about it, I accomplished everything.

I relaxed.
I hung out with my kids.
I spent some time with friends.
I napped with my dog.
I cooked some good food and some mediocre food and ate way too much of both kinds.

I also grew a new chin and what is starting to feel like a hump on my back.

The one thing I did kind of mess up was personal hygiene. The youngest kid and I were in the car last night. I said, "Sweet Jesus, what stinks?" and he replied, "Pretty sure that's you, Mom."

Winter Break: that's a wrap.


2016: Triple Berry Jam

(This was supposed to publish on New Year's Eve but I fell asleep. At ten. While watching Friends on Netflix. Sigh.)

Yes, we get it. This year was very similar to a dumpster fire: stinky, flaming and hard to look away from.

But come on. It wasn't all bad, was it?

I mean, yeah. Personally it was a tough one. I lost my mom and although it felt as though I'd lost her years ago her actual death gutted me in a way I didn't think possible. Loss is loss is loss and I'm still feeling it. My lifelong obsession with sci-fi and fantasy and ghost stories groomed me to be ready for otherworldly signs from her, apparitions or whatever. My aunts saw white feathers everywhere and were convinced it was Mom saying hi. I found nothing. I saw nothing. The one time I did truly feel her was when I found an old Joan Walsh Anglund book she'd given me for Valentine's Day in 1970. I read this page:

And I'll be damned if I didn't feel her right next to me. I can't explain how it felt, exactly- the air around me was thick and felt charged with something. There was a sensation of someone, of HER, and for a moment I felt truly at peace.

Speaking of death, many of our beloved celebrities flew the coop this year as well. It started off with Bowie and Snape and Prince and OMG as 2016 gasped her final raspy breaths she managed to hook both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in her gnarled, tear-stained talons. My daughter and I were discussing the almost simultaneous exodus of the mother/daughter duo...Molly laughed and said "I suppose that's how we'll go out!" I laughed for a second but then the absolute and utter sadness of her statement walloped me in the face and in my head I screamed "NO! I will go first and you will have many years of life before you cross over! HEAR ME, DAUGHTER...I WILL GO FIRST."

So the celebrity deaths were sad too but sweet gadzooks can you imagine the conversations happening up there now?

Also I want to put Louis CK, Jon Hamm, Hall and Oates, Molly Ringwald and Melissa McCarthy in protective bubble wrap and hide them until it's safe. Jon and Louis, there's room under my bed.

What else was there that made this year, out of all years we've lived through prior, so bad? Ahh. Yes. That election. Yeah yeah. I know! This is a relatively politics-free space because I know we are all different and I value each and every one of you for who you ARE, not who you vote for. That's true. Always has been and always will be. Therefore I expect it in return. Most of you who have read this blog for a while or know me in real life are aware that I am a democrat. I dated, and was married to, conservatives for the entirety of my adult life. Last year and for a very brief but regrettable chunk of time this year I had a gross and embarrassing roll in the hay with a liberal guy. Let me tell you what I took away from it, ladies: liberals can be a-holes, too. Thank God that's all I took away from that disaster, if you know what I mean.

Anyhoo. I'll refrain from going into my hand-wringing, knitted-brow mutterings about how the uncertainty of it all is giving me some anxiety. I will go on record, though, and say WTF.

But let's talk, for a moment, about good things. Although 2016 did have moments of sheer shittiness there was sheer beauty, too. Babies were born! People fell in love! Jokes were told and hugs were had and even in the darkest moments there were shafts of light...some very slim, yes, but light nonetheless. I have discovered, during my own trials, that it's not until you hit rock bottom (or get pretty darn close to it) that you find out how lucky you really are. It took me losing everything but my health and my kids to realize exactly what matters.

So I gave myself a task: go through the camera roll on your phone (I have a phone! It works and the bill is paid! How lucky am I???) and hit "select" on the pictures that brought you joy or happiness or made you laugh. Since I am not a deleter of anything, including photos on my phone, this took a while but guess what? There were at least a hundred pictures on there that at the very least made me smile...and many of them made me laugh, for real, out loud. And some that gave me the happy kind of tears, which while they aren't ever a surprise, are always welcome.

I had a grandiose vision of sharing some of them here and pinpointing exactly why said photo brought me joy but I realize that you all have lives and probably don't want to commit several hours of those lives to looking at pictures from your crazy blog friend's phone. So I pared it down to a few, and promise to keep the pinpointing to a minimum.


This creature, this smelly, shedding old boy- he has my heart. Walter the Divorce Dog. I think he should have his own book. He has no manners and thinks he's a cat. He also saved me. He cries when one of the kids comes home and howls at the door to the garage when I pull in from work. I can't sleep without him. He is as old as my divorce so that makes him a little over ten. One of the suckiest deals in life is how little time we get with our dogs. I try to not think about it but sometimes the fatalist in me comes out and *boom* I'm trying to imagine life without him. I don't want to know.

Also, artichoke dip from Costco. It's the best.


Aha. Another two-fer! This photo illustrates two things that brought me great happiness in 2016. My sweet youngest child, William, and Snapchat. He was my last baby and therefore I forced myself to remember the little things about that pregnancy, about his babyhood and each milestone. Birth order dictates that he is the kid who got the most one-on-one time with mom, whether or not he wanted it. And lucky me: he still plays along. He is my standing movie date, the car-ride conversationalist and reluctant-but-willing Snapchat accomplice.

Snapchat gives me life many days. My best friend from high school and I use it, religiously, every day to at least say "Hi" and on good days we have entire dialogues through 10-second snaps and videos. I'm quite certain the smooth-faced babies who devised the whole concept of snaps/chats didn't have middle aged moms in mind but I am thankful that they did it. Please bring back the old man with the newspaper filter, guys.


These ladies. Again a picture that contains multiple reasons for joy: this was taken on the night of my 50th birthday. The silver-tressed goddess on the right pulled off a surprise party for me! My first one. And the hilarity of it all was only eclipsed by the love I felt. I'd been feeling sorry for myself the whole day...I mean, it was a MONDAY for cripes sake! Turning 50 on a Monday should be illegal. But I muddled through the day, with a bit of Eeyore in my heart because the entire day felt so anticlimactic. It didn't seem right for a woman who loves a party to let this major birthday pass without a bang but, dinner with my homie was going to be fun as it always is. So we walked into Yard House, "our" place, and what do you know. A room full of my friends and co-workers. Love, love, love. The one in the middle is my work wife. And yes I was sweating. I'M FIFTY YEARS OLD. That's what we do. I don't know how you thank someone for a gift like this? 

4.  video

Pardon my lack of centering. I not computer so good. This is a video of the tiny hands. They were a gift from my aforementioned high school friend and they truly are the gift that keeps on giving. I've had more fun with these little plastic hands than I have with my real ones. 


Pretend boyfriends. They're basically all I've got now and somehow that's okay. This one is Rob. And as you can see from the marked-up picture, which happened during a facebook exchange with my friend, he's tall AF. I like them tall and swarthy and preferably with a five o'clock shadow. Can someone find that for me in real life? Thanks. 


Boobs. Hahahaha! Just kidding. This shirt! One of my favorite co-workers had matching shirts made for us and we actually wore them out to dinner one night. It was hilarious. I love SATC in an almost-unnatural way, despite the fact that every quiz I take tells me I am Miranda. I don't want to be Miranda but Buzzfeed quizzes don't lie. 


There were no words for this one. Save for these: the person who sent this insanely generous gift hasn't met me, or my kids. She only knows us from this space. She knows we've seen some tough times and despite the fact that she has faced immeasurable loss this year she did this for us. I am still trying to think of an appropriate thank you. Because the mere words don't feel adequate. 

Oh my friends. You should have seen me at Target the week before Christmas. I still Cartwheeled, despite feeling really rich that day. I did two things with this card: shopped for my family and also shopped for someone else. I paid it forward, dear one. And there's still some left over ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤


If you've read this blog for a while you know way too much about me. One of those things is that I am frugal. As in, I hate spending money on things that aren't hard and fast "NEEDS" vs "WANTS". A week or so before Christmas, the hand-me-down coffee maker a friend had gifted me with years ago met its demise. I wept about it on the facebook, not to get another one but because that's the kind of crap I post there (you want to be friends? LOL). But of course another benevolent and generous friend stepped up with yet another gently used old timey coffee maker, which I used immediately. 

Unbeknownst to me, there was a child plotting something. A 16 year old kid who went onto Amazon, read umpteen reviews and used almost $100 of his hard-earned teenage money to buy his mom a brand new, not even slightly-used coffee maker. You know why?

"Because you deserve something new, Mom." 

Oh, sweet child of mine. I deserve something, that's for sure. But I don't know if I truly deserved any of the good fortune that rained down on me in 2016. I don't know.

This I do know: I know how lucky I am. Lucky to have healthy and kind kids. Lucky to have not just one but a handful of the best friends a woman could ask for. Lucky to have a good dog. Lucky to have a saintly landlord and a roof over my head and Netflix and a Costco membership. Lucky to have eyes that can still see, a heart that keeps on ticking and legs that, if I asked them to, could get my ass up off the couch. 

Oops...forgot the last photo.


There's a boy at my school who gifts the office ladies with homemade jam every year. I forget about it, every year, until his lovely mom walks in and deposits the small bags of deliciousness on my desk. This year, I remembered and made sure there were English muffins on hand at home and the first day of Winter Break this was breakfast. English muffins with triple berry jam. 

The boy is in 6th grade now so this was the last year for the treat. I will miss it, and him and his lovely mom.  

Happy New Year, my friends. May we all have some Triple Berry Jams in 2017. Love you!


How You Doin?

Please, please tell me you read the title of this post in your best Joey Tribbiani voice.

So. It's been a while since I've written here. Well over a month, I think (I'm too ashamed to look right now). There have been several nights where I spent all of my dreamtime writing on this very page. I can't remember exactly what the subject was but man, it felt good. And so real! I'd wake up and for a few seconds, truly believe that I'd woken up in the middle of the night and spent time writing.

Of course, it wasn't true. The poor neglected blog just sat here, gathering virtual cobwebs and so many spammy comments from love spell-casters it took me about half an hour to delete all of them.

I want to tell you, if there's anyone still reading here, I'm sorry. I wish I had an excuse. Of course, I do have some excuses. My mom died. We had a really insane presidential election. I have two teenagers and two adult "children", three of whom live under the same roof as yours truly and just between me and you, they're driving me batshit crazy. More on that later.

The mom thing? Oy. Thanks to all of you who reached out, sent messages, sent a card, sent good vibes. A very special thank you to my friends who made it to the memorial service. Losing my mom was tough. And I can't help but wonder if it was harder because of our twisty and knotted and complicated relationship? Would it have been somewhat less painful had we been super close? Or is it this difficult for everyone? Sweet Jesus. The pain. The guilt...augh. Time has helped and the sadness has abated. But that guilt. It's real.

Her service was lovely. It was somewhere just east of WTF Egypt, because her husband "knew a guy who knew a guy who owned a funeral home" and gave him a sweet deal. My brother was here from Vegas, and I was able to get up at the end and say a few nice things about my mom and the years we had that were good. Her husband managed to paint himself as a saintly caregiver rather than the sponging, abusive load he really was. So be it, we are done with him. When my mother died, so did any obligation to acknowledge him as anything other than a wretched memory. Oh, but this happened:

After the memorial service, he had a gathering at their house. Now, I swore I wasn't going to set foot in that nightmare chamber ever again, and so my sweet aunt and my badass daughter went to gather the few things I wanted- her original wedding rings from my dad, an old painting she'd had in her bedroom and any old family photographs. My daughter, Molly, approached him and mentioned the wedding rings. She said he disappeared into a room for a bit, and finally emerged with a dusty jewelry box. He said to her, as he handed the box over, "The stuff in here can't be worth more than a couple hundred bucks. She can have it." I found the rings, an old locket that my grandmother had worn, and the rest went to the trash. My mom didn't wear a lot of jewelry and most of the rest were kitschy costume pieces that had no real meaning. I held each piece, studied it, tried to remember my mom wearing it. Nothing spoke to me other than the rings and the locket, and so that's what I kept.

He's selling their house and leaving Minnesota. As I used to say back in my flight attendant days, as the passengers filed off the plane..."Buh bye."

The election. Shall we discuss? Nah. I'm not going to get into it here. I've said my peace with like-minded friends and respectfully talked about the weather with my other friends. I am not one to bash others for their opinions and feelings and I'm not going to start now. I did kind of lose my freaking mind in some comment sections for a while there, and if any of you happened to stumble upon that, my apologies. I was grieving, dammit. I'm a divorced mom hovering at the poverty line in Minnesota who happens to work for a public school so I'll let you guess if I'm celebrating or shuddering.

My sweet old college boyfriend talked me off the ledge via facebook messenger one night. He sent me links and talked in short sentences and convinced me that I really won't lose my job and my house and end up in a van down by the river. So thank you, old college boyfriend. That was kind of you and you made me feel better.

We'll be okay. I mean, we have to be, right? As I am wont to say, my superpower is optimism. Naive as it may be, it's saved my butt in the past and it's basically all I have to cling to now so it's on.

Oh yeah. The kids. I kind of vowed to not talk smack about them here anymore. So let's just say that sometimes I worry about their skills as roommates and leave it at that. One of them is living in a dorm but comes home almost every weekend. Right now he's my favorite. Oh shush. They rotate.

There you have my apology and my excuses. I offer them to you along with my gratitude. I don't know how many of you check in on the hausfrau facebook page but a whole bunch of people there made this crabby old divorced lady feel very loved today. They also gave me that little itch to write something here and while I don't know if anyone else is glad about that, I sure am. Thirteen or so paragraphs and I'm starting to feel like the real Jenny again for the first time in many long, dusty ages.

You are my tribe. And I've missed you.



I hesitate to wax on about my mom any longer for fear of boring others. Isn't that crazy?

She is ashes now. Her memorial is later this week, a memorial I have had zero hand in planning...yes, I do realize that's of my own doing. Had I been a better daughter, a more caring one, my opinions and feelings would most likely have been taken into consideration. Or maybe not. 

Her husband wrote a lengthy tribute to her, wherein he revealed details such as how long she was married to my father (11 years), her teaching career, how they met and how much they loved each other and oh yeah...she loved frogs and sports. 

I guess most people will just assume that for some stretch of time she enjoyed being a mother and grandmother, and that her four living siblings are sad she's gone and we will all miss her very much. Will anyone know that she loved poppies? That she taught her daughter how to make Betty Crocker fruit-shaped marzipan cookies? That her favorite treat was calamari from a restaurant called Thanh Do? 

In the end, there weren't too many people still in touch with her. Only one of the aforementioned siblings will be able to attend the memorial service. Her son, my brother Jon, is flying in from Vegas. 

Since I work for the school district she labored for over the course of 4 decades, some of her old coworkers have been in contact with me. Most of them have smiled as they did so, mentioning first and foremost that she was funny. Not a bad way to be remembered, if you ask me. It's reminded me that for all the crappy times, there were golden ones as well. Thank you for the sense of humor, ma. I hope someday when people are telling my own kids what they liked best about me, the laughs will be right up there. 

Grief is lonely, especially when it's grief over someone you ignored for a couple of years. There are people, friends of hers and her husband, who shunned me prior to all of this "ending" stuff. They believed that what I did (and didn't do) was wrong. It was cruel and inhuman. A couple of them work in or around my school and they have made it abundantly clear that this is not my loss. I get that. And again, I hope someday I, too, will have supporters like that. Despite the facts, they are true and loyal friends. We should all be so lucky.

Even if this isn't my loss, it sure feels like one. I have never felt so alone. I found a voicemail from her, left this past summer. I vaguely remember receiving it, and in my usual bitchy cold callousness, not listening to it. Later. I'll listen to it later.

"Jenny? It's your mother. I just miss you so much."

For some reason I do most of my crying in the car. I do a great job of pretending I'm fine...but for some reason when that garage door goes down behind me, all pretenses go down as well. I listen to that voicemail, over and over again. And each time, I answer it. 

"I miss you too, mom."

I hope to be back to my old self one of these days. Or maybe, a better self. My old self wasn't the nicest me. Perhaps my mom had one more thing to teach me, one last lesson. 

Like some fool in a trippy book, I've been on the lookout for signs from her. Like what? I don't know. Maybe a frog on the front stoop or a flock of doves serenading me from the trees. A heart on the bathroom mirror revealed in the steam from a shower. 

Or maybe, a voicemail I was too busy, too hurt, too proud to hear before. 

I just miss you so much. 


Estranged Love

My mom died with whiskers on her chin. I noticed them as I sat with her body just over two hours after she passed.

White whiskers on her chin. If I needed proof, irrefutable evidence that I was a horrible daughter, that was it. What kind of daughter lets her mom die with facial hair?

As I sat there, holding her slowly cooling hand, rubbing her arms, touching her face and stroking her hair...I sobbed. I sobbed because of the whiskers and all that they symbolized, I sobbed for the lost years between us and I sobbed for what was and what could have been. The tears fell on her hospital bed and as they did I talked to her. I spoke to my mom's body in desperate hope that some part of her was still in there. Still listening, still able to hear a remorseful daughter beg for forgiveness.

Memories crawled out from the shadows and sat vigil with me. My mom, sitting in my bed and reading to me. My mom, letting me help sew sequins onto the felt Bucilla Wizard of Oz Christmas tree ornaments. My mom, letting me go barefoot and get dirty with the neighborhood kids. My mom, sitting patiently with a squirming little me, spraying No More Tangles on the rat's nests in my hair (I will never forget that metal comb, mommy).

The other, not-so-sweet memories? They were there too but not as big and bold as they have been before. My mom and her husband fighting. Every holiday dinner imploding in a mess of curse words and thrown dishes and slammed doors. My mom, standing silently while the man she left us for kicked and hit me, chasing me through the house, forcing me to hide under my bed.

I wanted to think only of the good but sometimes the bad demands to be heard. I shut my eyes, hard. Whispered to them to go away, for now. Please just go away and let me be with her and our good times.

Two years ago I made the awful decision to stop interacting with my mother. Seeing her, being with her...meant being with him. Seeing him. I'd tried to help her leave a few years prior. Went so far as involving the local police, in fact. That was when I learned that you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped. I often wondered if he was hurting her, physically, but now I am seeing it was something different. She was as vulnerable as one can be, during her last years. Unable to walk, virtually imprisoned in what used to be my bedroom. Her world was reduced to four dirty walls, a small screeching television, her laptop and a phone.

Going over to see her became an exercise in restraint. Every fiber in my being called out for some kind of justice whenever I walked into that house. Justice for her, justice for the little girl who hid under her bed, justice for all of the daughters and mothers everywhere who didn't have the kind of relationship they wanted.

For two years there were phone calls that went unanswered, birthdays and Christmases and Mother's Days unacknowledged, days and hours and minutes of life that ticked away: a mother and a daughter caught in a sticky web of hurt and betrayal and anger.

When her health sharply declined a month ago, he left a message for me. Telling me that it didn't look good for my mom, that this might be it and I'd have to live with myself if I didn't go see her. Three of my four kids and I made the trip one night, to the hospital where they all took their first breaths and where my mom would ultimately take her last.

We gathered around her. I touched her shoulder and said "Mom, it's me. I have the kids here." Her eyes opened, and I saw a universe of sadness in them. Planets of pain, a solar system of a life dotted with injured stars. My mom's eyes. We looked at each other and the anger which had built a seemingly impenetrable wall around my heart slipped away. I told her then how sorry I was. I told her what a walking disaster I was and I begged her to forgive me.

I said to my mom, "Maybe we will get a second chance somewhere else and then we will get it right."

I said to my mom, "I love you, mom."

I said to my mom, "Please, please, please forgive me."

I promised my mom that I would love my children fiercely for the rest of my days and that I'd never, ever let anyone hurt them.

Those were the words I said to her again, to her body. The nurse who had been with her at the end sat with me, with us. She cried with me and she told me that my mom went peacefully and that she wasn't alone, that she and other nurses held her and talked to her as she left this place. This beautiful woman (Christy? Cindy?? Methodist Hospital ICU, 3 North, October 3rd) hugged me and told me she was sure my mom knew I loved her. I hugged the woman who helped my mom die and then I turned and kissed the forehead of the woman who was my mom. The woman who helped me live.

The night my mom died, my own daughter and I were on our way home from a Target run. As we drove down the highway I had a sudden, overwhelming urge to lay my head on my mother's lap. I could see it, in my mind, could feel the warmth of her hand on my hair...the softness of her body on my cheek. According to the angel nurse and her timeline of my mother's last hours, this sense of my mom hit me just as my mom began failing.

My grief-wracked heart is telling me this was my mom reaching out to me, letting me know it was okay. Telling me that she, too, held our sweet memories dear just as I did.

Maybe it was her, saying goodbye.

Nancy. 10/03/2016. I love you, mommy. And I'm so sorry.


Uncommon Goods and the Bird Necklace

How's this for coincidence (and high five if you pronounced it co-INKY-DINK like my grandpa used to):

A while back I became smitten with a necklace I'd seen in one of those goofy Facebook sponsored posts. You know the ones? "You might also like" and then an ad for something that is either custom made for you or else oddly not so much.

Apparently it's all about the algorithms so it's a little depressing, but understandable, when all I see are ads for period underwear, senior dating sites and Danskos. Therefore, when something different and not a cold harsh reminder of my messy, peri-menopausal singleness pops up I'm all kinds of intrigued.

The necklace was this one. Called the "Mother Nestling Birds Necklace" it's basically that: a mother bird, perched on a branch with her babies. Simple and tasteful, this small silver necklace summed up what is most important to me in this world: my kids, and the fact that I get to parent them.

Did I buy the necklace? Uh, no. I'm not one to throw dolla bills around, and especially not on something that we, as a family, don't really need. The necklace was beautiful and I wanted it, but the same can be said for Idris Elba and we all know that ain't happening any time soon. If I were vlogging, this is where I'd look directly into the camera and mouth Call me, Idris.

I shared the link to the necklace on my blog's facebook page because the tribe there is made up of many other women doing this parenting gig mostly-solo. I knew it would resonate with a lot of them and naturally, it did. Those of us who have several children rejoiced in the fact that you could customize the necklace with however many nestlings you have (up to four because the branch is only so big, yo). We discussed its beauty and how nice it was that there was jewelry celebrating not only our kids, but us as well.

Imagine, then, my shock when I got an email from someone named Rocky at Uncommon Goods, the fabulous site that sells my sweet little birdie necklace. Rocky said that they liked my blog, and wondered if I'd be interested in writing a post for them. Squee! I sat on my hands for a few minutes lest Rocky catch a whiff of my desperation. Then I replied and was all casually cool about it. "Sure! I'd love to do this for you and Uncommon Goods, Rocky!" because I'm going to be 100% transparent here: I've never done a sponsored post but I have heard that if you do, you sometimes get products in exchange for doing so. Normally I dislike the idea because way too many people would be inclined to lie or pretend in order to get said gifts. But this? THIS WAS BASICALLY SERENDIPITY.

Now, you all should know this: I think of my readers all the time and therefore, I bounced an idea off Rocky: how about a post AND a giveaway? Like, my sweet readers get a crack at something from Uncommon Goods (I was thinking how cool if we could all have a chance to get those damn Nestlings on our necks)! Alas, Rocky gently declined but informed me that I'd get a little something-something for my literary contribution.

You're reading this so it's not a spoiler alert to say I accepted Rocky's proposal.

This is probably not how one is supposed to write a sponsored post. In fact, it's probably the exact opposite. I suppose I should have sweet Instagrammy pictures of my favorite items from Uncommon Goods but I don't have anything from them. Yet. What I do have are two eyes that kind of work, a lazy Sunday afternoon and their fabulous website open on another window. I'm perusing it, you guys, and it's making me wish I'd made better life choices.

Because I want it all. And if you go there I guarantee you'll want it all too. Cut to us wearing red dresses like Veruca Salt and telling Daddy that WE WANT THE GOOSE. 

Seriously. It's one of those "stores" you kind of stumble into and then end up staying until they shoo you out at closing time. You pick things up, hold them in your hand and are struck with the realization that life up until this point was meaningless and empty.

This store has a backstory that made me love it even more. According to their website, it all started when a guy named Dave Bolotsky went to a craft show at the Smithsonian Museum and fell in love with the idea of artists connecting with customers, finding homes for their unique creations without having to schelp all over the world. Dave started Uncommon Goods and ran it out of his house for a while before settling the headquarters in Brooklyn. I've never been to New York (well, I have but it was Buffalo) but I think Brooklyn sounds like a really cool and hip place to be.

Before I regale you with their offerings, I wanted to point out that they have their staff bios listed on the website. And yes I did go through and look for Rocky. Sorry Rocky, I'm creepy that way. Rocky's bio wasn't on there, hence my decision to not provide gender-specific pronouns. Because I can totally see some cute hipster lady named Rocky working for a website in Brooklyn.

So. Where to begin? I guess their business skyrockets over the holidays, and I can see why. This is the perfect place to shop for those people in your life who are hard to shop for...they either have everything they already need, the means to obtain it or they are that ENIGMA person who is hard to read. I mean, let's be real: 90% of us would be thrilled to get a Target gift card. But sometimes it feels good to pick something out for someone that just feels like them.

This is the website for doing exactly that. Or, if you're in the mood to treat yourself, look no further.

Let's discuss your gift-giving needs. How about birthday presents? Uncommon Goods offers a plethora of unique and lovely birthday gifts. You can check out their selection of birthday gifts here. Of course I can't stop myself from sharing my favorite thing from their birthday gift collection.

I love wine. Sometimes I joke about how much I love it, and sometimes the jokes devolve into me wanting to bathe in it. Therefore, I was overjoyed to find WINE SOAP. You can literally wash yourself with vino. Okay, so it's not actually soap made from wine, it's made using the "notes" from popular white and red varieties. But still...yum. If you're having a bad day all you have to do is smell your arm and remind yourself there's a bottle of relief waiting at home. Check out the wino soap here.

How about weddings? No, I'm not going to sulk. Despite my own disastrous attempt at matrimony I still relish a good love story. Let's say one of your favorite coworkers is getting married. Yeah, you're going in on the office gift but I'd want to get the happy couple something special just from me. The Uncommon Goods wedding gift selections can be found here.

I'm not bitter, I'm practical. Therefore when looking for a wedding gift sometimes I think, "Yeah. But what if? What if one of them has to utilize this thing in their space if things don't work out?" I'd never say this out loud, you guys, but let's be real. It happens. So if I had a wedding gift to buy, I'd choose something cutesy and fun but also practical: like a picnic backpack, which looks like this. They could totally use it as a couple, they could use it if their family grew (yeah it's for two but we all know kids don't need silverware or plates for the first 14 years or so) and, in the unlikely event of a split. one of them could use it for their Tinder dates. See? Practical.

And lastly, let's talk about men. I'm pretending that Idris and I do end up together, and *boom* it's his birthday (September 6th, in case you were wondering)(yes, our birthdays are 20 days apart! It's like we were made for each other). Where was I? Oh yeah. Idris is having a birthday and I want to get him something small but personal. So I peruse the Uncommon Goods gifts for boyfriends, right here.

What would I get him? I looked through everything on the site and decided it would have to be this fun little game called Sexy Truth or Dare, which is described here. Why? Well...I've been told that my flirting skills are lacking, and my ability to create sexy talk is pretty much nil (apparently repeating "please love me" over and over again isn't a huge turn-on for the men). I figure, we'd have a cocktail or two, pull out the Sexy Truth or Dare and things would progress from there. My only concern would be that the writing on the sticks is too small for me to see.

Thus concludes my very first, and probably very last, sponsored post. I sure hope you enjoyed it, and I hope Rocky doesn't lose his/her job over this one. It was fun once I started writing it and I am totally being upfront with all of you when I say I really do love Uncommon Goods.

And I cannot wait to wear my new necklace.

Thank you, Rocky.

It's normal to cry over jewelry, right? 


Why Voting Makes Me Cry

sweaty votes count!

Ahhh...politics! Such an engaging, pleasant topic that always brings people closer together.


I don't talk politics on my blog or on Facebook. Many of my friends have differing views and opinions and since I'm both a Libra and a Minnesotan, conflict of any kind makes me twitchy. I will "like" political posts, and depending upon where I am in my cycle, will comment on them (comment sections are like Midol for me)...but I tend to go old school where this type of conversation is concerned: keep it close to my vest. If someone were to ask me, point blank, then yes, I'd spill the beans. But until then, let's stick to generalities.

*starts singing Kumbaya*

I am an Easy Weeper. Tears don't need much coaxing from me, they seem to be at the ready 24/7. It's not really a surprise then, that I found myself dabbing some of those salty droplets from my eyes a few nights ago, after exiting the local polling place.

I had just voted in a seemingly "unimportant" primary: the one which will determine who gets to be on the general ballot for the Minnesota Supreme Court election. My friend Andrea, who is an attorney, sent out an email urging people to vote and I'll be frank: if it wasn't for the email it might have slipped my mind, entirely. Come on: it's August, the summer air is steamy and turbid, we're all already sick and tired of hearing about elections.

But her words touched me, and after I was done with the evening's carpool duties I dragged my swampy ass (sorry, no a/c in my car) to the tiny fire station where I have been voting for a better part of my adult life.

I was the sole voter in there, the election judges and other voting day personnel seemed bored but delighted to see me. The entire process took about two minutes, they gave me my sticker and then I got into the oven/car where I promptly began a soft weep.

Crying a little after voting is nothing new, so it wasn't completely unexpected. I'm one of those moms who proudly dragged a herd of writhing children into the polls with me, daring anyone to make a comment about the audacity of kids being in such an important, adult-ish place. Showing my brood that their mom made her civic duty a high priority was key. And also it was always fun to have them fight over who got the "I VOTED" sticker. GOOD FREAKING TIMES. Bless the hearts of the kindly sticker-givers who handed out more than one, right? More than once I cried in my car after those experiences.

My mom might not have done a stellar job protecting me as child, but one thing she did do was stress the importance of voting. As a teacher and a rider of the Women's Lib wave of the 60's and 70's she was obviously a liberal-leaning Democrat and that's what I soaked up. Imagine her surprise and delight, then, when my succession of boyfriends and then eventual husband/baby daddy were staunch Republicans. And imagine her disappointment when I decided they were right in more ways than one.

As life wore on I learned that my father was a diehard Republican. Aha. Freud is pursing his lips and stroking his beard somewhere right now, I tell you. Vy don't ve discuss your fazzer some more, Jenny.

After my divorce, I no longer had someone there telling me why "we" should vote one way and not the other. During the time I was a financially comfortable SAHM certain issues which didn't affect me weren't even blips on my radar screen. When I became a financially uncomfortable single mom struggling to raise 4 human beings on my own, those same issues not only showed up on my radar, they invited themselves in and had a seat. Shortly after I cast my vote in the 2008 presidential election, and proudly announced it, my former-BFF burst through the front door of my house. She was livid, screaming at me for making such an idiotic choice. She leaned against a wall and sank down onto her haunches, crying "When my family is homeless in four years, I guess we'll have you to thank." Seeing as how now, 8 years later, she and her hubby own two homes, she doesn't work and their kids drive nicer cars than me, I'm thinking they're doing just fine. 

But anyhoo. Let's not get into left and right and all other angles and sides here. As several annoying memes have told us, we aren't going to change anyone's mind with silly things like words and facts and ideas on the Internet.

What we can do, though, and I wish more people would, is TALK ABOUT VOTING. Brag about it, take selfies, share polling locations and times, email, text, post. Social media is such an odd beast, right? Who would have thunk that there'd come a day when we'd be taking pictures of our dinners and putting it out there for all the world to see? If we can use this medium for such trivial things, why can't we use it for more pressing matters? Don't get me wrong: I love a good shot of a cheeseburger just as much as the next lady but I also love to see people flexing their 'Merica Muscles. It may feel as though we don't have voices in this system, that we are less-than cogs in a bloated, vile and corrupt machine but dammit: people died for this right. Women? We have only been able to vote since 1920. For some of us, that means our grandmothers were alive when women had zero say in who represented us in the government. Can you even imagine? I can't.

Maybe that's why I cry when I vote. Thinking about all of those brave, strong ladies who sat there in their un-airconditioned houses, taking care of a million kids and husbands and elderly relatives and doing it all without a single one of the modern conveniences even the brokest of us now enjoy and said "WTF? My voice doesn't matter? Umm...bullshit, fellas." Okay, so they probably didn't actually say that but they did eventually say something, and thank goodness they did.

Or maybe I cry because there are women in other countries who just recently, some as recently as THIS YEAR, were granted the right to vote. Yep. 2016 and women in Saudi Arabia can finally vote. Still can't drive, wear makeup or open up a freaking bank account without their husband's permission, but baby steps, right? (spoiler alert: this might be why I cry because as I typed this out I started bawling. Tell your daughters how LUCKY THEY ARE!)

I do know they aren't tears of regret. Not once have a looked back and thought to myself, Jenny? That was a total waste of time. Even when the results aren't what I wanted, I know that by voting I earned the right to bitch about it.

This upcoming election is already proving to be one of historical importance, even if only for the amount of chaos and mudslinging produced thus far- and we haven't seen the worst of it yet. Just wait until Saturday Night Live comes back!

This fall, I will be casting my vote for our next President. Three of my four children will be doing so, as well.

I predict the tears falling after this one will be monumental. Whether they're happy or sad tears, that's up to us.



It's Just Like Riding A Book

One of my earliest, clearest memories is sitting down, book in hand, and reading. It was Richard Scarry's Busytown and the name "Lowly" confounded me. What kind of name is that? How do you say it? In my mind, I have never not known how to read. It came naturally, just like walking and talking.

Lowly wasn't the only bookworm. I was right there, too. Devouring tomes from the library, from my ever-expanding bookshelves at home and those at school. I read whatever I could get my hands and eyes on...even the musty, outdated Encyclopedia Britannica set we had in the basement.

I remember being so stoked for the annual MS Readathon. This was back in the Stone Age, remember, when everything was done via snail mail and when that packet arrived in our mailbox I'd rip it open, grab a pen and start canvassing the neighborhood for pledges.

It was 5th grade, I was ten years old and we were living in a brand new neighborhood. My parents had been divorced for a couple of years by then, and my mom and her new husband had bought a little house in St Louis Park, Minnesota. My already-bookish tendencies were becoming deeper and bookier thanks to the discovery that the new stepdad was a real 'hands-on' kinda guy. When everything you do, including breathing, has the potential to set someone off you learn pretty quickly to try and disappear, to fade into the woodwork so as not to draw attention to yourself. Books, more than ever, became my escape. The portal to places safe and less scary. Or, in the case of the Stephen King novels I discovered that year, places with even more terrifying citizens- which was oddly comforting.

After all, would you rather be dealing with the meaty fists of a mentally deranged mere mortal, or a teenage vampire hovering outside your bedroom window?

Back to the Read-a-thon. If you're not familiar with the premise: kids had a month to read as many books as they could, which they'd record in a folder from the MS Society. Prior to that, they'd go around and gather signatures and pledges from family and friends and neighbors...people usually pledged a nickel or a quarter per book. Sometimes you'd get a real high roller who'd go up to a buck. All the money raised went to the MS Society. So, the month began and I dove in, rarely coming up for air and when I did it was to mark another book on my list and to grab a new one. I read 55 books that month and when it came time to collect my pledges, people were astounded. "Wow!" and "Great job!" and then, from one nasty old coot, "Liar." I was standing there, on her front stoop, my collection-gear at the ready: my reading log covered in the titles and author names and number of pages in my hand and the collection envelope provided by the MS Society. I'd given her my results and explained how much her pledge amount came to and "we take cash or checks, ma'am". Again, she said: "Liar. How dare you say you've read that many books! I don't believe you. I'm not paying." The screen door she slammed in my face was decorated with scrolled aluminum curlicues, which I looked at while quietly stating, "But, I did."

I'd been book-shamed!

That didn't deter me, however, it only taught me that even kindly looking matronly ladies could be dicks. Later that year I received a letter from the MS Society informing me that I'd read the most books in my age group, along with two complimentary tickets to ValleyFair, a nearby amusement park. Suck it, mean lady.

As I grew older, the reading continued and eventually I began writing, too. When I was in the 6th grade the Star-Tribune, official newspaper of Minneapolis/St.Paul, announced that they were starting a weekly pull-out section. It was called The Smile Factory and it was a mini-paper for, and by, kids. I was hired as a reporter and contributor and it was the first time someone paid me for my words. Writing became second nature to me, and in the pre-computer days I filled up journals and notebooks with handwritten ramblings. Of course once Al Gore and his Interweb came along, I set up shop here.

I went through reading phases: poetry, Oprah's picks, historical autobiographies, self-help. Eventually I ended up married with kids and it became my job to instill a love of books into my soft and impressionable babies. Which I did, and succeeded. All the while, I still read. Not at the pace of my youth, of course. Who has time in the midst of homemaking? But the nightstand always held at least one book and when there was energy and quiet, I'd read.

Then, the divorce happened. And just like that, it seemed as though the reader in me died.

Actually, a lot in me felt dead then. It was the equivalent of a deforestation, a clear-cutting of my soul. When you go into survival mode, the tiny luxuries of your past life fall by the wayside and your vision becomes tunneled. I had one goal, and that was to make sure my kids had what they needed. When I wasn't with them or working or sleeping or crying in the shower, I was burying my head in the soothing sands of coping, of getting by, of making it to the next minute/hour/day/week/month/year. Reading was replaced by mindless Netflix binges, nights out (or in) with friends, wine and food being gobbled up instead of words. The old me no longer existed and for a long, long time I didn't crack a book.

But like those decimated forests, the old me wasn't really dead. It was just sleeping. And slowly, as the pieces of our lives started falling into their new places and the matter of the kids and I surviving was no longer up for debate, it woke up. It's almost as if something inside of me switched off in order to conserve power, like the SuperSaver switch on our air conditioning unit. Somehow I knew that for me, reading a book was a little bit like falling in love- and I didn't have it in me to do that.

The ALL CLEAR finally sounded and old me tentatively peeked out...checking to see if it was safe. One book at a time- page by page and chapter by chapter- I came alive again. I had forgotten what it felt like to get lost in another world, to let someone else tell their tale and take me by the hand as we traversed the roads they'd been on. I found my reading spot, which is our porch, and although I now either have to wear my drugstore readers or else take out my contacts in order to see the print on the page it's just as easy as it ever was to submerge myself into those pools of prose and float, peacefully.

I knew I was back when I found myself sobbing, as softly as I could, one night. Over something in a book instead of something in my life. 

This has been my summer of reading. My summer job is a lot like my school year job (secretary) except this summer we are in a different location and there is nothing for me to do aside from help the occasional walk-ins with enrollment questions and to buzz the door open for the summer school families. At first I killed the time by perusing Amazon but after I found a 2 lb bag of Gimbal's gluten-free licorice in our mailbox I knew there had to be a better and less-fattening way to while away the hours.

It all started with a battered copy of Where'd You Go, Bernadette which was languishing in the staff lounge and went from there. I dug out a Jodi Picoult book from the back seat of my car, pried off the grape Jolly Rancher that had adhered to the page edges and ate it up (the book, not the candy- gross!). A lovely parent at school loaned me her copy of The Widow. A blogger friend wrote a steamy novel, Beyond the Break and much to my lonely libido's dismay, I read it. My daughter and I hit the thrift store one day and there was a Jennifer Weiner book I'd somehow never read, Wild by Cheryl Strayed and The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.

You wouldn't believe how many pages you can get through when you're tethered to a desk and all the fun websites are blocked (about 250 pages if you really want to know, figuring in lunch and bathroom breaks and the aforementioned "work").

Next week, it's back to the normal grind: back to school time means a crazy-busy couple of weeks for those of us in the office. I'll be losing this forced quiet time, these rare and beautiful hours with nothing to do but bounce on my ball-chair, greet people and let myself get lost in someone's story.

I won't stop reading, though. Not this time.

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