Would You Watch A Mommy Blogger Reality Show?

There's a big buzz going on in the Blog World (yes, we have our own world). Word on the street, and online, is that there's a new reality show in the works. And thank God, because there can never be enough reality shows, right?

This time, however, it's all about them Mommy Bloggers. I know, I know, my second post in a couple of weeks about this particular branch of the Blogging Family Tree. I promise I'm not out to get them. And truth be told, some people do consider yours truly a Mommy Blogger. I won an award for it and everything (2013 Top Single Mommy Blog from Parenting.com, yo)(and what's with the tiny font size, guys?!). While I don't consider myself a mommy blogger, apparently other people do.

And so I began thinking about this concept, this crazy idea of a show that features Mommy Bloggers in their day to day life. I like a good reality show as much as the next television addict, but what in the world would this program look like? Would it show an Instagrammy-pretty Mommy playing with her cute kiddos, getting dinner ready and carving a few moments out of her hectic day to sit on the couch with her laptop and type out some cute musings about motherhood and marriage and life? What if it was going to be like that fingernails-on-a-chalkboard Honest Company commercial featuring Valley Girl/Cute Mom Ryan McGee?

It, like, started with their suuuper cute diapers? And like, now we totally use like, alllll of their ahhhmazing products!

Or would it be more Duggar-like? Mayhap more along the lines of John and Kate Plus 8? I mean, really...I love women who write just as much as the next person but is there enough fodder in our lives for an entire 30 minutes of airtime?

The kids and I were in the kitchen a few nights ago, me getting dinner ready and them gathering like a pack of starving hyenas who have detected the scent of an injured animal. As I held them at bay while putting the finishing touches on another healthy, made-from-scratch meal (ha! Spaghetti and garlic bread, homies)...I said to the hyenas kids, "You guys...there's going to be a reality show about bloggers! Can you imagine if we were on it?"

Their reactions were all pretty much the same: rolled eyeballs, laughs and the unanimous declaration that we are quite possibly "the most boring family, ever". I protested a little as I drained the noodles. "Oh come on! Think of all the funny talks we have! What about the fun parties that happen and all the witty banter between us?"

Molly, the 19 year old freshman home from college, laughed and said "Mom, seriously? What would they show? You, falling asleep on the couch while watching a Lifetime movie?" Bazinga, Molly.

Henry, 17, paused while spooning sauce onto his plate long enough to tell me "if this ever happened, I can guarantee you I'd never be here. Like, ever."

And then young William piped in. "What would they show? Me in my room playing Xbox? Nobody would want to see that, Mom." William, you don't know how many people are fascinated by the habits of 14 year old adolescents. As long as the smell of your room isn't detectable through t.v. screens it's all good.

The kids got me thinking. Of course, they had valid points. But so did I! True, we are kind of boring. But we have discussions and debates that rival my least favorite over-talking family on television, the Bravermans. Molly and I go back and forth with the cute dialogue just like the Gilmore Girls! And what about my hens? There are stories I could tell about what happens when my friends sit down on the porch and the wine flows. What happens on the porch, stays on the porch...unless there's a check from a production company involved.

I began thinking what the plot summaries would sound like if our life was put on television:

Hilarity ensues when Jenny decides to do a kettle bell DVD in the living room...unbeknownst to her, Henry records it and uploads the video to Twitter where it blows up with the tag #workthosebellsmom 

Join us tonight for a very special episode. Jenny asks the age-old question "Who keeps taking these huge dumps and doesn't flush??" 

Things get crazy when Jenny comes home from Costco and yells at the kids to help her bring the bounty into the house. Watch what happens when a mom who just spent $250 on food hears one of her brood mutter, "There's never anything good to eat in this house". 

On tonight's episode, Jenny thinks about re-opening her eHarmony account. Luckily she's distracted by some cute squirrels playing in the yard. Will she ever find love? And how do squirrels stay warm in the winter?

It's Friday night! As numerous teens fill the basement with Taco Bell and laughter, Jenny colors her hair and makes a martini. Things get emotional when she watches a video of a giraffe giving birth and wonders just how tough it must be to push out something with hooves. 

I can't even begin to imagine the deluge of applications the production company is getting. Mommy Bloggers are quite possibly the most prolific of all web-based writers, and their numbers are only increasing: a recent study revealed that over 4 million babies are born every year, and roughly 80% of those babies will end up with a mommy who blogs.* Anyone who writes online and makes it public isn't shy, people. Oh sure, a lot of us may be introverts but deep down, we just want to be loved. By millions of people. I blame Dooce.

Did I apply? Maybe I did. And maybe I didn't. I don't know if the world is ready for the nonstop hilarity and tender moments that fill the hours of my days. But we did manage to make the freakshow Kardashian clan famous, right? Stranger things could happen.

Oh, and if you happen to be a blogger and want to throw your laptop into the ring? Here's a link to the application. Good luck, ladies!

*I made this up. There was no study.


Fat Shame on Me: When Your Biggest Critic Is YOU

Last night, I did something I haven't done in a long time.

I stepped on the scale. It had been shoved under the vanity at some point last year, when I declared to be "done with numbers"! It was dusty, but those numbers I've been avoiding were easy to read.

If you've read more than a handful of blog posts here, you know that weight is one of the subjects I touch upon now and then. I could post links to at least a dozen emotionally-charged missives about how I loathe myself, about how hard it is to lose weight, about the myriad of excuses I'm able to come up with as to both WHY I'm fat and WHY I can't seem to lose that fat. But I'm not going to do that. If you're really curious and have some time to kill, enter the words "fat" or "weight" or "Hagrid" into the little search box up there on the left.

Nope. This entry into my online journal isn't going to be another one of those. Nor is it going to be a solemn, empowering declaration of CHANGE and me stating that this will be the last spring/summer/fall/winter I spend hiding under layers of black and gray clothing. Been there, done that...got the piles of big girl yoga pants to prove it. Talk is cheap, writing online even cheaper still.

I'm doing this because of things I've read over the past several months. All of the articles encouraging women to love their bodies no matter the shape or size, all of the open letters to fat shamers, skinny shamers, shamer shamertons everywhere who cast hairy eyeballs upon any fat person who dares to go out in public. The online discussions that happened after my pretend boyfriend Louis CK "bravely" aired an episode that dared to explore what goes on in the mind of a *gasp* fat woman. And just a few days ago, I read something by a writer guy who calls himself the "Anti-Jared", about how, if someone doesn't love you when you're fat, their love is not wanted.

You know what I said to myself after reading that last one? I said, out loud, "I don't even love myself at this weight. Why would I expect someone else to do it?".

I joke about being fat. Self-deprecation is my middle name and if there's going to be any allusion to my girth, dammit, I'm going to be the one alluding. I spent five days in December doing nothing but laying on a couch like goddam Jabba the Hut. I could actually feel the fat growing on me. And yet, I did nothing about it. Nothing but complain loudly, to anyone within earshot (my kids and my poor, long suffering friends) about how fat I was getting and OMG the chins and hey do these look like bedsores to you?

I joke about it because I don't want to acknowledge the harsh reality of it. Because I'm in denial. I find it easier to poke fun at the fat bear rather than look at that poor cowering creature and try to figure out why. Everybody loves the funny fat girl, right? She's just so mother effing jovial.

But get this: these are the tears of a fat clown. After I saw the numbers on the scale last night I immediately began the ritual: damning myself for letting it get so out of hand. Blaming myself for being so self-indulgent and slovenly and stupid. I thought about Weight Watchers and cutting out carbs and kicking my beloved martinis to the curb. I began mentally writing the blog post where I shared with the world my weight and my woe and yet another "hear me roar" announcement that THIS IS IT! I'm done being fat!

And then I told myself to shut the fuck up. Shut up with the hatred, and shut up with the idea of throwing money I don't have into the well of Weight Watchers or NutriSystem and please, for the love of all things holy, shut up with the pronouncements already. I took a deep breath, and for the first time in ages, looked at myself in the mirror (while wearing my pajamas, not nude. Because I may be strong but Christ on a pony I'm not that strong). Only this time I didn't focus on everything that's wrong (and trust me, there is so much wrong staring back at me). I didn't put on my rosy acceptance glasses, either, the ones you wear when you want to avoid reality and go all kinds of Stuart Smalley on yourself.

I looked at myself honestly. I don't like what I saw looking back at me.

And that's okay. It's okay to not accept what you see in the mirror. It's okay to not want to embrace your curves. It's okay to give yourself some shit for letting things get out of hand.

The only thing that isn't okay about it? Is if you settle into a rut of self-shaming, and not doing anything about it. People can crow from the tops of the tallest tress about loving the skin you're in, about self-love and acceptance and how fat doesn't equal unhealthy or unlovable. If you're considerably overweight and you're okay with that? More power to you, sister or mister. I'll have what you're having, seriously. I envy those of you who are able to look past the layers and give yourself a break, give yourself the love you so richly deserve.

But I'm not able to do that. Yes, I can see that I'm not hideous, I can see the positives, I can see the beauty that others claim to see. It's there. Only it's buried under way too much ME. It's hard to see through the rolls and the bumps, the slopes and the flab.

I love the skin I'm in, I really do.

I'm just not comfortable in it. I'm tired of struggling to get a bra hooked, of pulling muscles in my stomach while I strain to pull my boots on, of feeling short of breath after walking up the stairs. I'm tired of feeling parts of me jiggle as I walk down the halls of my school...and not the parts that you expect to jiggle (have you ever felt the backs of your arms wobble to and fro? It's not awesome.). I'm tired of ducking when someone says "Let's get a picture!" and of knocking crap off tables and counters when I turn around. I'm tired of feeling my underwear roll down my hips and knowing it's not because they're too big, but rather they've just given up.

I'm tired of it, but I've been here before. Exactly here, in this same spot, lamenting the same thing. Time for a change? Hell yes. Will there be a change?

I don't know. It sure would be nice, but my history tells a tale of strong beginnings and weak endings that are smeared with artichoke dip and late night Taco Bell feasts. I'm good at planning but pretty bad at follow-through. My closets and drawers read like some insane archaeological dig, filled with bras that range from 34B to 40DD, size 6 jeans and size 20 pants. Underwear that is undeniably sexy and some that could double as sails on a schooner.

The reality is, I like myself better when I'm smaller. That's it. I'm shaming myself for the fat because it really, truly is a shame.

Shame on me.


Come Frye With Me: My Sweet Boots

Okay. It seems as if the impossible has happened. No, I haven't met Mr. Right, and no, I haven't figured out what's happened to all of the spoons in my house. The spoon thing is killing me, people. We have two regular sized spoons left. I'm sick of eating my yogurt with those giant spoons (what is the technical term for those massive things? Soup spoons? Who uses them, anyways??).

No. When I say impossible, I mean impossible in the "hell freezing over" way.

I've fallen in love with something kind of fashion-related.

Yes, it's true. Me, the one who considers my black Danskos  my "dressy shoes", has taken a shine to some footwear that isn't coveted by seniors and people who earn their living on their feet.

It all started this past fall. I was starting my new job and discovered that my preschool-teacher garb, while perfectly functional, looked a little out of place in an office setting. Yoga pants, hoodies, and my sensible running shoes were great when I was sitting on floors and chasing 4 year olds all day. But in the office? I looked like I had dropped by after a Low-Impact Aerobics class at the YMCA. It was time to do some shopping.

The clothes? That was easy. Old Navy is a boon to the woman who hovers between regular and plus size (although what's the deal with big girl sizes online only, Old Navy? Don't like the fluffy ladies cluttering up your stores?). Handkerchief hem cardigans, soft knit tops, legging and jeggings, and the best friend a busty girl could ask for, the sweater poncho. Throw in a bunch of scarves and necklaces and voila...an office worker is born.

But the shoes. There was the rub. As I've mentioned before, my clunky ankle-breaking Danskos are pretty much all I have left in my footwear arsenal (and my summer version of Danskos, FitFlops, but I'm in Minnesota so summer is approximately 2 months long). You know what you look like when you wear Danskos with leggings? Like you're wearing Danskos with leggings. It's not good. So I began to look around, to see what other women were wearing.

They were all wearing boots. Tall boots, short boots, black boots, brown boots. Boots as far as the eye could see. And I liked the look. It was perfect for my day of work, which consists of sitting on a stability ball in an office, running down hallways and wandering between lunch tables in the cafeteria. I had to get me some boots.

I went to my go-to place, the Disney of retail: Target. I grabbed a pair of black boots, mid-heel, with a couple of straps and pointy toes. $29.99 with a Cartwheel discount, yo. I wore them to school and felt transformed. I had boots! For cheap shoes, they were okay. Until that night, when I realized that pointy toes and man-made material don't bode well for my feet. I tucked them away and began my search anew. (the pointy toed Target boots came out of the closet for my Slash costume on Halloween)

One day, I saw a mom at school wearing the cutest little boots. I asked her where she got them, and she laughed and said, "Ugh. They're Frye boots. So expensive but I love 'em!". Of course they were expensive. The best footwear always is, and I've always been a "champagne taste, ice water budget" kind of gal.

But there are ways around financial constraints, right? And one of the best ways is Craigslist. Oh yes, I know...I've found other bargains there but this time my feet were going to benefit. And so the search began. Apparently Minnesota isn't full of Frye fans, because the pickings were slim. The prices, though? Right up my impoverished alley.

My first purchase was a pair of the Cindy Slouch Boots. I met the seller at Trader Joe's and we giggled nervously as I tried them on amongst the fresh-cut flowers. They were size 8 1/2, which is my size, but I could tell they were too tight. I wouldn't be denied, though! I squeezed my hooves in there and said to the woman, "I'll take them!". And I wore those for a while, even though they pinched my poor toes and the soles were really thin. They were cute and a huge bargain, but for all the time I spend on my feet, they missed the mark. My search continued.

The Frye Cindy Slouch. Not for me. Photo: www.heels.com 

I discovered that research is a good thing. I read online reviews and found that many styles of Frye boots run small, which would have been good to know before trying to make the Cindy's fit. I read about the different grades of leather they use, which soles were best for comfort (because yeah, that's important) and what to expect as far as stretching out is concerned.

I met my next pair of boots at a Starbucks near my house. These were the Veronica Slouch boots and the woman who was selling them wore them for about an hour before deciding she didn't like them. She brought them in their big huge box and swear to God I felt like it was Christmas morning right there in the coffee mecca. I slipped one on (the right one, because my right foot is like my shoe-divining rod) and pretty sure I heard a chorus of angels singing. Or maybe it was the milk frothing machine but whatever. These were BOOTS, with sturdy heels and pebbly leather and buckles! They fit like a glove, like a sassy tall black glove and this time the seller and I hugged and exchanged emails. It doesn't take much for me to bond with someone. I'm like one of those baby monkeys in the Harlow comfort vs cupboard experiments. Only this time it was boots and not cloth that comforted me. 

Veronica. Non-slip soles, bitches! Photo: Frye Boot Co.

I was content with my new boots. They worked perfectly with my burka/sweater collection and they were super comfortable, to boot (pun). Ten hour days? No problem. And yet...there was something missing.

Something brown. Yes, it's true that 99% of my wardrobe is black or grey. But there are two or three tan/brown pieces that needed their own accessories. So I went back to Craigslist and entered my now-familiar search words: Frye boot 9.

And that's when I found them. My most favorite boots. The Frye Harness 12R Boots, in Tan. I'd read that this style, the quintessential Frye boot, ran big and they stretch out over time. These were an 8 1/2, and I was sure they'd be perfect. I met this seller in the parking lot of a local grocery store and we chatted for a bit before the "fitting". Her name was Cindy and she was about my age. I asked her why she was selling these beauties and she said that she'd had cancer, and during treatment she'd gained a lot of weight and the boots no longer fit. Tell you what...I felt really bad about this, like I was benefiting from somebody's terrible misfortune. She told me the treatment was successful, though, so that alleviated most of the angst. The boots? They were perfect and of course Cindy and I hugged it out, right there in the parking lot. I might have slept in those boots that night.

The ones.

Here's the thing with these Harness boots: you just feel different wearing them. I may be a mild-mannered, chubby mom who works at an elementary school, but when I put these on I feel fierce. I feel badass and tough and all sorts of other words that describe anyone other than me.

They make me feel like this:

Photo: Rogue Pictures

Even though I'm pretty sure I look more like this:

But that's okay. I love my Frye boots and am a convert for life. I'm now on the hunt for a pair of the Harness boots in black...they have to be a bargain, though, so it might be a while. Until then, I consider myself lucky to have found these fabulous toe-holders at such great deals. Don't forget about Craigslist when searching for your sole-mates, my friends.

If you need me, I'll be over here hankerin' for a hunk of cheese in my kick ass boots.


The Shower Massage and The Divorcee: A Love Story

Photo: Overstock.Com

I found myself in a strange position last night. No, filthy minds, there was no nudity or even another person involved.

I was standing, fully clothed, in my bathtub. I had a wrench in my hand and I was swearing profusely, not unlike a drunken sailor or a feral child. The object of my contempt was the shower head in said bathtub. It's your typical Motel 6 fixture, meaning all-function and no fun.

On the vanity lay one of my prized possessions, the most dee-luxe shower head I could find back in 2006. My dad had been helping me remodel the little bathroom in my old house and I will never forget the day he and I made a trip to Home Depot to pick up a few things.

I was resplendent in new-found singleness, the sting of divorce was still fresh but no longer debilitating. After a dozen years of less-than earth shattering coitus, I was raring to experience all things sexy at the tender age of 40. If my life had been a cheesy soft-core porn, it would have been called "Jenny's Awakening", "The Dawning of the Divorcee" or something along those lines.

I'd read stories about methods in which to reclaim your lusty side, made the vibrator purchase on Drugstore.Com and already had my first post-divorce roll in the hay. The beast had been stirred from her slumber and there were so many new territories left to be explored. The infamous shower massage was next on my list. I'd already discovered it was the perfect place to sob the silent cries of the newly split, now I wanted to make it a happier space, filled with the muffled moans of the newly sated. 

Anyhoo, back to Home Depot: As we walked down the bathroom fixture aisle, my eyes settled on a shiny, stainless steel monster with a diameter as wide as a human head. There were knobs and levers and oh, oh so many tiny nozzles. Just writing about it makes me floaty. I remember blushing a tiny bit as I reached out and plucked that knight-in-shining chrome from the display and placed it, delicately, in the cart next to the boxes of tile and tubs of grout. Like Katrina and The Waves, I walked on sunshine all the way out to my dad's truck. Visions of steamy sessions and lip-biting ecstasy danced in my head, the grown up versions of sugarplums, I guess. It 'twas the day before Lustmas and the only thing stirring was my libido.

Needless to say, that shower head was all I expected, and more. There were 20 or so speeds and pressures and did I mention it was handheld? It was. My water bill soared as did the length of my showers. I learned to tune out the pounding on the door and the plaintive cries from my children, begging me to "hurry up!" and "feed us!". It was truly a golden age.

And then, as divorce tales often do, things went south. I ended up having to leave that little house, and as I did a final walk through, sorting out memories and deciding what to take with me, I stopped in the bathroom. The little bathroom my dad had helped remodel, with the twilight purple walls and the hexagon tiled floor...and Old Faithful, the shower head. I gasped as I realized this was it, our final goodbye, the last time my eyes would gaze upon the splendor of the jets. Common sense prevailed at the last second, though, and I said to my friend, "Hand me that wrench. He's coming with me."

We got it loose, and left that bathroom with nothing more than a stunted pipe protruding from the wall. I felt no guilt, knowing the new owners would be able to find their own fixture at the Home Depot just down the road just as I had done a couple years prior. I held the shower head in my lap as we drove to the new house, comforted by the fact that if nothing else, my morning (and afternoon, and sometimes evening) showers would remain the same.

Except, of course, I never got around to installing my shower massage at the new house. Life got busy, and there was a long time when my showers were strictly utilitarian. My magnificent shower massager, once mighty and well-loved, was tucked away in a bathroom cupboard, his once brilliant sheen now dulled and dusted with the passage of time. I'd see him, under there, every so often as I scrambled to grab a new roll of toilet paper or pluck a bottle of Windex from the jumble of cleaning products. I'd see him, and for a moment, remember the times we'd had together. I made mental notes to find a wrench and see about a reunion, but middle age and my raging Adult ADD lost those notes almost as quickly as they were written.

Until last night. You see, I'm in between real life lovers at the moment, and as I was cleaning out a drawer last night I happened upon a large, ancient wrench. A randy red-lightbulb went on over my head and I decided, right then and there, that it was time for action.

And that's how I ended up, arms akimbo and profanity spilling out of me like sputtering lava, in the bathtub last night. Try as I might, the old, useless shower head wouldn't budge. I had nearly dislocated my shoulder and finally surrendered when my 19 year old daughter, home from college, pounded on the door and asked if I was having a stroke or something.

"No, Molly." I answered, rubbing my aching shoulder. "No. I'm fine." But was I really fine? No. A fire had been lit and this time life and it's busyness wasn't going to put it out.

I'm off to Home Depot again. This time, I'm bringing home a different tool. A plumber's wrench, the finest, toughest one available for less than $40.00.

Wish me luck. And maybe, the name of a skilled handyman who knows how to keep his mouth shut.


Goodbye Winter Break

I didn't know whether I should have put an exclamation point in the title, or a sad smiley face. Winter Break 2014 is officially over. And I'm torn between wanting to run through the house with a smudge stick of burning sage to cleanse it of the foulness which has permeated every corner, cushion and crevice...or curling myself up even deeper into the couch and mourn the passing of the 14th Winter Break I've survived since becoming a mom. (and yes, I am keeping track. 14 down, only 3 to go. When you look at it that way, it's a little different, huh??) (Sorry, I'm out of Kleenex. There's toilet paper in the bathroom down the hall.)

This was the second Winter Break I've held a full time job and had to work while the kids were home from school. Since they're older, and in my mind very responsible, that's not a big deal. Besides, I leave at the ass-crack of dawn and work a split shift so by the time I got home around noon every day, they were basically just waking up. And kind of looking like this:

So it wasn't with any great sorrow that I hustled back to work. I love these babies dearly but for the love of God I'm not making breakfast at high noon. Pop Tarts are in the cupboards, my dears!

The first week went by in a heartbeat. How funky was it, to have Christmas fall on a Thursday?? I had both Christmas Eve and Day off, but had to go back on Friday. So I had a mini-weekend within the week. And had no clue what day it was at any given moment. Our Christmas celebration was lovely and simple, a little feast at my house on Eve, with just the kids and also Charlie's lovely girlfriend. They had their annual 6 hour visit with Big Daddy on Christmas Day and Winter Break went on with nary a hitch.

And then, the next week, I had my own little Winter Break. I was off New Year's Eve and Day, and used a vacation day for that annoying little Friday wedged in there. Which gave me 5 days off. The longest stretch of time off I've had since August. To say I was looking forward to it is like saying the Republican party is looking forward to being in control of the Senate. I worked until after 6 p.m. that Tuesday night, and eyed the clock with a creepy frequency until the magic moment arrived. Quitting time! I floated out to the parking lot, visions of sleep and Lifetime movies and no bra dancing in my head.

And that basically sums up my 5 day Winter Break. I slept in as much as I could, although I have been plagued with this weird thing of waking up at 2:30 or 3:00 a.m. and not being able to get back to sleep. Luckily I keep my phone by my bed so I can keep myself entertained by playing Words With Friends and my latest obsession, Trivia Crack (Geography category? Bite me.) It's been a long time since I didn't have to be anywhere at a certain time, and I took advantage of this small whiff of freedom.

By doing absolutely nothing.

At first I felt guilty about it. I told myself that there were things I should be doing, people I should be hanging out with, movies I should be seeing. But I didn't do any of that. What I did was put myself on modified couch-rest, which is kind of like bed-rest except you're not pregnant and you don't have to stay on your left side. Our couch in the living room is sinfully comfortable and if you claim the center corner early enough in the day, a nest rivaling Big Bird's can be made. Don't think the thought of drilling holes in the bottom of the couch so bathroom breaks could be avoided didn't cross my mind.

I had my contacts out, my hair up and my pajamas on for several days straight. I should divulge that my pajamas differ from my normal day wear only in the width of the legs on my pants. It's all Ninja Black, baby, and when I throw a scarf on and put my long down coat over everything, trips to the grocery store can be made and nobody is the wiser that there's nothing but some modal and a jog bra purchased before my eldest was born underneath it all. Aside from the slight musk of homelessness that emanated from my every pore, I didn't stand out one bit.

And here it is, the last night before Normal returns with a bang. I'm having some wine, which is pretty much taboo on Sunday nights for me, but part of my brain is still in Break mode and my liver is too. I'm going to regret it when my alarm goes off at 5:00 tomorrow morning, but for now all is good.

It may have felt like I did nothing, but in reality a whole lot happened. My kids and I spent hours together. Something rare and special, if you ask me. We laughed and reminisced and talked and laughed some more.  I prepared a New Year's Eve crab leg dinner, and didn't ruin it. We shared meals and memories and space and just existed with each other.

It was pretty awesome.

So tomorrow morning, I'll put my contacts back in, make my hair look less crazy-librarian and put one of my bras back into commission. I'll pretend that there's not really an extra layer of me and that the reason my pants are tight is because I accidentally put them in the dryer and not because I made sweet sweet love to a container of artichoke dip. I'll make sure the boys are awake for the bus and I'll greet the kids at school with hugs and smiles and grace, knowing that this next week will be one of almost-tortuous transition for just about everyone.

And I'll be looking forward to our 15th Winter Break...11 1/2 months from now.


Saturday Night Stream of Consciousness Writing Exercise

I said I'd do this every day and dammit I'm not going to fold only three days in. I opened up the laptop and placed it, solidly, on my lap. There it sat, open and bright and hopeful, just waiting for me to deposit something great and profound or maybe something just meh. I put it off as long as I could. Watched the end of "Dazed and Confused", which I love so much but almost pains me to watch because it makes me ache, physically ache for my youth. But watch it, I do, and let myself feel the pangs while I notice how the characters no longer remind me of me and my teenage years cohorts but now, they are my kids. And that gets me to thinking, like I usually end up doing, about time and how crazy it is that it somehow manages to taunt us by going so slow (is there anything slower than the clock when you're sitting at your desk the day before a five day vacation?) and then in a flash speeds things up with an almost-audible WHOOSH (is there anything faster than the time going by on a five day vacation?). I think about the fact that two of my kids are now legit adults, like, voting-age, if-there-was-a-draft-they'd-be-called, we don't need no stinkin' parental permissions anymore, ADULTS. How the holy eff did that happen?

And then I notice Dazed and Confused has ended and I gasp when I see that The Big Lebowski has taken its place. This puts my blog post in serious jeopardy because for one, Jeff Bridges, whom I've been in love with since Tron, and two, every single other thing about this movie. It reminds me of the time, years ago when I kept food on the table by selling stuff on eBay, when I found The Dude Pendleton sweater at a thrift store for $3.00 and sold it for about $300. We needed the money, so badly, but part of me is so pissed at myself for selling it. Life is a lesson though and that's when I learned that kids need to eat more than a misty-eyed movie buff needs a cool sweater. Although I would have worn the crap out of that thing if I'd kept it.

Then Julianne Moore shows up in the movie and I think about her and how I've heard she's in a really good movie based on a really good book that of course I haven't read. Something about Alzheimer's and then I get mad at myself because I really miss reading. The last time I read, like "buried my nose in a book and didn't come up for air" was in August at my friend's cabin when I read Gone Girl, The Fault in Our Stars and If I Stay in one weekend. And it felt like I had been at a 5 star spa instead of holed up in a bunkhouse at a cabin in Wisconsin. I miss reading. I've been trying to read Unbroken now for over a month and damn if I don't fall asleep every single time I lay down in bed and start reading.

I look over at Walter, my dog, who is curled up on the couch, all 90 pounds of coarse yellow lab hair and juicy nose. I think about how happy he's been these past two weeks, with all of his people home. The boys were off for winter break and my daughter is home from college for a whole month. And then I had five days off. I start to think about how lonely my poor dog must be when I'm at work and the kids are at school and I feel guilty and then a mother effing commercial comes on about abused animals and I console myself with the thought that Walter is warm and fed and loved and the guilt slinks away.

And then another commercial comes on and I almost blush when I see that it's Kate Upton dressed up as Athena for a video game and hand to God I am enthralled by her breasts. I'm as straight as the proverbial arrow but oh my stars those heaving bosoms! It makes me think of the one email I still have saved from my ex, the one he once sent me from work and how when I opened it and read "I love your boobs" it made me warm and bothered. If I had to name the things I loved most about my body I'd cringe and then I'd mention my slim and shapely ankles and calves, and then I'd decide to go for it and say that I love my breasts. They are big and full and milky white and despite years of pregnancy and breastfeeding they are still truly lovely. It's not something you notice about me, not right away, because I'm not a "plunging v-neck" kinda gal. My clothes conceal way more than they reveal and therefore they are like a soft, pretty secret. Sometimes at night as I drift off into the twilight my hand will rest on one of them, not in a grabby masturbatory manner, more like a comforting pat and I'll fall asleep that way (because let's face it, they are nice to touch). Of course I sleep in an ancient sports bra because even though the ladies are a sight to behold they also get in my way. And I like my sleep to be as streamlined as possible.

I begin to wonder what my dreams will be like tonight, what with Jeff Bridges and Kate Upton and dog guilt and the gangly, groovy kids from Dazed and Confused. I think it's time to just hit publish on this thing and go to bed. Because I'm tired and honestly, I'm kind of looking forward to the stories Mr Sandman might be bringing me.

I will leave you with some visuals, so you can try and grasp the crazy stream of consciousness that flows through my cuckoo brain all the live long day:

The rack!

The sweater!

The youth!

The dog!

Can you imagine the slideshow in my head right now?

Sweet dreams.


On Weaning Myself From Mommy Blogs

I am the first to admit that I'm now considered a village elder as far as motherhood is concerned. Been there, done that, drank the vodka, if you know what I mean. Like I always remind my darling 14 year old William (the last of my four kids): "Dude, don't even try to shock me anymore. I have seen it all."

I'm not only over and done with most of the parenting bullshit, I'm also getting more and more tired of reading about it. Yes, I realize I'm no longer part of that dewy, sparkling generation of "New Mommies", but I know I'm not the only one who reads the never-ending posts and articles and manually pulls my eyeballs out of their sockets just so I can literally roll them across the floor.

Before I get a bunch of cool young moms on my old ass, listen up: I am in awe of the support that's available to parents now. When I first became a mom, I felt like I was alone. I hated it at the beginning, if we're going to be super honest here. My firstborn came out of the gate with wicked colic and it lasted almost 6 months. I remember sitting with my lactation group (oh the things you can do when you only have one kid) and describing to them how badly I wanted to hurl my squalling, pinched face demon of a baby against a wall some days. They looked at me like I had just admitted to actually doing it. I'll never, ever forget the one mom sitting across from me, her own baby suckling contentedly at her breast, and saying to me, "I think you're kind of overreacting. He's just a baby." If my stumpy leg could have managed it, I would have crotch-kicked her under that table.

What I'm saying is, I understand what you're mired in. And those of you who are relatively new to this parenting gig, consider yourselves so fortunate that you have an entire Internet full of sympathetic ears. I know you're also exposed to so much more as far as criticism and pressure goes, too, which sucks. It was hard enough being a new mom and only having the skeptical eyes of one small group of lactating women on me.

But here's the deal: I find myself groaning when certain topics are covered in parenting blogs. And no, there is nobody holding a gun to my head, hissing through clenched teeth, "READ THESE POSTS OR SWEAR TO GOD I'LL PULL THE TRIGGER". I read a lot. Not books, oh dear no. The books are stacked up on my nightstand and the coffee table like tipsy towers of papery guilt, reminding me that once upon a time I was a voracious reader. No, these days, most of my reading is done on my laptop and, when I can find my reading glasses, on my phone. And usually while I wait in the car for a kid, or when I wake up at 3 in the morning and have played all my rounds of Trivia Crack and can't fall back to sleep.

The parenting blog posts are everywhere. They pop up in my Facebook feed, they're links on Twitter and I get the e-newsletters in my email. Sometimes they reel me in and I genuinely enjoy what I've read, but like I said one long-winded paragraph ago...sometimes not so much. I've compiled a little listicle describing what I've dubbed "The Five Dead Horses Of Parenting Blogs", and I'm trying to make 2015 the year I stop clicking on links that sound even remotely close to these subjects:

1. Earnest, vaguely hipsterish Stay At Home Dads reminding us of how awesome they are.  Look, we all get it. You are part of the New Wave of Fatherhood. I love it! Time was, a dad would show up at the playground during daylight hours and it was like a Sasquatch sighting. Now, it's run of the mill. How great for your kids that they get to have a parent home with them. But guys...the world doesn't need one more tragically ironic photo of you looking all seriously serious with pony-tails in your big bushy beard, having a tea party with Hazel Louise and/or having your fingernails painted by Axl. And by the by, can people stop with the "Now THAT is a great dad!" comments? Yes, they're great. But so are the dads who are out working their asses off to provide for their families. Hell, in my humble opinion, just being a contributing father, whether you provide income or care or both, makes you a great dad.

2. Bitching about not being able to use the bathroom in peace. I kind of understand this one, up to a point. I was in that boat for a long time, where showers were done furtively and quickly, with constant peeks out of the shower curtain to make sure the baby in the car seat hadn't choked or fallen out. And I have experience in sitting on the toilet, doing my business, while breastfeeding (who knew that learning how to wipe with a baby on my lap would be great training for Future Me and my lovely panniculus? Google it, I can't be bothered to provide an explanation right now. Three c-sections, bitches!)

Look, babies who need constant supervision are one thing. But kids who understand words and are capable of being left in a room by themselves for four minutes have zero reasons to be in the bathroom while you take a dump or change your tampon or scream into a pillow. Are there bathroom doors without locks now? Is this something new? You are the grown up, my friends. Kids don't have to have free reign of your homes. If you don't like eyes on you while you're in there, don't allow the eyes to be there in the first place. My kids knew from the time they could walk that Mommy needed a modicum of privacy now and then. Bathroom doors were, and still are, closed while occupied. And if you are one of the "B-b-but I don't want my kids to grow up ashamed of our beautiful and amazing bodies and what they can do!!" then zip it about how you can't get two freaking seconds to yourself while your beautiful and amazing body does its job.

3. Vagina talk, and the endless euphemisms for the word "vagina". Yes, I know...I wrote an award-winning (LOL) post about this subject. But that was two years ago and it was already getting old (the subject, and also my vagina...ba dum BUM). It's wonderful that we are all confident and secure enough to talk openly...nay, BRAVELY, about these miraculous machines between our legs, and what we endure with them but can we move on? Hooha, vajayjay, lady garden (yes Anatomy Experts I know that's in reference to the pubic hair region), lady bits, meat curtains, poon/tang/poontang, coochie, cloven tuft, moose knuckle, baby cannon, tuna taco, Hairy Manilow, sperm harbor, etc. It's one thing to be loitering outside of a high school boy's locker room and hear these things, quite another to read yet another (almost) middle aged woman spouting the same hilarity ad nauseam.

4. The Mother Effing Mommy Wars. For the love of God, it has to stop. Or at least, the baiting articles and comments need to end. We have become a Harpy Nation of Screaming Sneetches with stars upon thars, desperately trying to win some imaginary competition and figuratively shitting all over anyone who doesn't parent exactly like us. This is one area where social media and mommy blogging and ALL OF THE INTERNETS has hurt. You can be as proud and as pleased with yourself all you want, just know that you can't swing your elbows without hitting someone who thinks you are a magnificent failure. Oh, you had a c-section? Poor thing, you didn't get to really give birth! Oh, you stay at home with your kids? Nice yoga pants, you lazy mooch. Oh, you don't breastfeed? Enjoy your sickly children, loser. Gah, you nursed your baby out in public? Way to expose innocent men and children to your sex-charged milk bags, slut! You work full-time? Must be nice to have someone else raise your kids, working girl. Did I miss any?

I don't know when this crap started, and who knows when it will end. But maybe, just maybe, if we stop being such bitches to each other, it will ease up a bit.

5. All of the Woe is (Mom)Me blathering. "Parenting is hard!' "This isn't what I thought it would be!" "Some days I don't like my kids!" Guess what? This is a song as old as time, my friends. Ever since the first Cave Mom watched her husband walk out at the break of dawn to join in on the mammoth hunt, looked down at her screaming Cave Baby and thought "This not what me envisioned for self", people have been discovering just how hard parenting is. But I think the point has been made. Over and over. And over again. Life changes, sometimes kids are demanding, smelly dictators and we don't get what we expect when we're expecting. That's how the mama cookie crumbles...sweep up the crumbs or let the kids eat them off the floor. It's your call.

And that's where my grumpy old blogger rants ends. I am already envisioning some of the comments: "Don't like it? Don't read it, granny!" "Kiss my shiny waxed yeast cake, Jenny!" "Who asked you, anyway?" and maybe even "You nursed your kids for so long because you felt guilt over the c-sections, didn't you, freak?"

Of course these imaginary comments are all spot-on (except for the c-section one. I loved my c-sections, ladies, mostly because my daughter almost died during the lone vaginal birth, but that story has been told).

Please know that this isn't a diss to the Mommy Bloggers out there. They are wonderful and fabulous and serve a purpose. They provide support and camaraderie and many hilarious stories about poop and wine and husbands and dirty minivans and make funny parody videos. I'm just acknowledging that there comes a day in a woman's life when it's time to say goodbye to that phase, and move on. Kind of like when you have that big garage sale where you get rid of the baby gear and maternity clothes, right? It's a bittersweet parting.

I'll list some of my favorite blogs below. Can't call them Non-Mommy Blogs because many are penned by actual parents, but they cover issues that have nothing to do with parenting (and if they do discuss parenting, it's usually not the typical mommy-blog fare). If you have any to add, please do so in the comments.

And please, be gentle and non-judgy if you see me reading yet another tale of potty training or how Caillou is the Antichrist and rolling my tired old eyes. This will be a gradual wean, people. *sniff*


A My Name is Amy: Divorce, single parenting, generally being a boss of life. Love her!
Nina Badzin: Books books and more books! Mom of four, strong voice in the Minneapolis Jewish community, all around fun and smart lady.
The More, The Messier (Suburban Correspondent): Another "seasoned" Mom! She has lots of kids! She's smart and has stayed married a long time and is one of the most down-to-earth, honest bloggers I know. (and she homeschools which I think is the bomb...lucky kids!)
Momastery: Duh. Glennon, Monkees, reality checks daily.
Bitches Gotta Eat: Just give me one Saturday with her, please. Single, no kids, living the single life without a lot of money. Samantha Irby completes me.
Abby Has Issues: I heart Abby. Single, no kids, 30-ish funny woman. She keeps it real.
The Bloggess: It's Jenny Lawson. That is all. (have I bragged about mentioned we're in a book together? We totally are.)
Mandy Fish: A gorgeous, smart Buddhist who writes like a mofo. I wish she'd hurry up and get her memoir published. I'd put that sucker on the TOP of one of my book towers.
Galit Breen, These Little Waves: One of the most genuinely beautiful people I know. She's a mommy, she's a blogger, but I don't think I've ever read the words "poop" or "vagina" on her blog. She's big into craft beer and she's a dog lover. Plus she knows the band teacher at my school so we're 6 degrees and all that.
Tracy Morrison, Sellabit Mum: I love Tracy. She's my period-spirit-animal. Also a mom, she tackles real issues like body image, health issues, marriage and the chick RUNS. Like, 26 miles at a time. A lot.
Smitten Kitchen: I got my kick ass Chicken Marsala recipe from her. And many other things I could actually make and not ruin. Great recipes, fun writing.
Chump Lady: If you've been cheated on, this is the blog for you. And don't tell her, but I have a major blog crush on the author, Tracy Schorn. In my mind she has a raspy voice and an East Coast accent. She lives in Texas.
Shannon Lell Girl is good. She's a mommy, too. But also a writer, an editor, a new divorcee and one of the strongest, smartest women I know.
Domestic Spaz: I've "known" Beth for years, from back in the old eBay chatboard days. She's funny, she's a devoted mom and loves her man fiercely. I want to go to Florida and hang out with her.
Back to Allen: My beautiful friend Lisa's blog. She's a single mom to older kids, a passionate writer and she once sent me homemade preserves. I love her.

So, so many more to add but I'm going to bed. Peace, homies. I love you all!


2015: Same Dreams, Fresh Starts

Oh hey! 2015. Doesn't that sound so space-agey? Like we should all be wearing shiny clothes and driving hovercrafts or little rockets. God help me, I still sometimes slip and start referring to the year as "19..." before my brain catches the error and my mouth corrects it. I still get flashbacks of being pregnant at midnight on January 1st, 2000. I thought the world was going to implode taking me and my unborn child with it. Also, that ATM's everywhere would begin spewing money. 

2014 was a pretty good year. It was a year filled with a sloppy mix of good and bad. Ups and downs, peaks and valleys and any other schlocky term we can come up with to say that it was just another year of life. It was the year I lost one job and got a few new ones just in the nick of time. It was the year I thought I'd hit the big bad menopause but now realize it was something I've dubbed "stressopause". Definition? It's what happens to your cycle when you are simultaneously losing your job, sending your daughter off to college and also negotiating a new and improved child support arrangement with your ex. Apparently my period is smarter than the average bear and knows when to skedaddle for a while. P.S., she came back to stay in October and we picked up right where we left off. Never thought I'd be happy to see her, but I wasn't really ready to embrace that next chapter. Not quite yet.

I made a big decision on the last day of 2014. I decided to stop undervaluing myself. Which means many things. Personally? It means it's time to stop giving myself away to a person who isn't worth it. There was a stupid, cocktail infused last-night with him which involved nosy neighbors, police with flashlights and a stunning, wholly shaming revelation that we really do get what we give in this life. I was with him because it was easy. Absolutely effortless, actually. I gave it the worst of me and that's exactly what I got in return. This ends in 2015. You know any single guys who don't mind dog hair and women with self-esteem issues? This is the year I take off the armor, my friends. Hold me. 

The undervaluing extends into other areas of life as well. How about that writing thing? 2014 was a year of huge accomplishments for me. Being published in a real life magazine? HOWDY! Being in Family Circle was supremely trippy. I still can't believe that happened, but there are several copies of the magazine here to remind me that YES, it did happen (need a copy? There's plenty, you know). One of my writing idols, Glennon Doyle Melton, gave me space on her stage and ran one of my essays in July. Being on Momastery was a Thrill with a capital T. She is just as kind as she seems, people. I received two, count 'em, TWO of BlogHer's Voices of the Year awards. One for Those People and one for the blog post that is like bad sushi: it will haunt me forever: 7 Things You Totes Need to Stop Saying if You're Over 30. And there's a book! No, not mine all mine, but a throng of funny, sweet and fierce writers and I are going to be in a real live book that is coming out in May. Check it out on Amazon and then feel free to read the reviews that mention my essay. One is fabulous and the other one shames me for "not putting up" with a philandering husband (bite me, Big Data Paramedic).

2014 was the first time I've been paid for my writing. Like, real US Dollars. I'd like that to happen again in 2015. Which means this year I will stop undervaluing my words. Just like that dumbass relationship, I haven't been treating my writing the way it deserves to be treated. If I want to make this something worthwhile, I need to work on it, work with it and practice it. I need to be devoted to it and let's face it: my blogging efforts are the writer's equivalent of a booty call. I write when I get the urge, usually late at night and I don't give it 100%. Like one of my pretend boyfriends, Dave Grohl, says, "Is someone getting the best of you?" The answer, Dave, is no. Sad thing is, nobody is getting the best of me. And that sucks. Because my best is pretty awesome. This is the year I do more writing, and try to do it at least 3/4 assed. 

Which brings us to the title of this, my first blog post of 2015. This blog was born in March, 2010. That year I posted on here 135 times. 2014? 40 times. I skipped the month of October, people. SKIPPED IT! Bottom line is, I miss it. I miss the contact with all of you and with the keyboard and how much better life is when we talk about things. So I'm going to try and write here, every day. You've been warned! 

I want to close with something my BFF shared with me. My friend Danielle is the kind of girlfriend I used to dream of having: the confidante, the funny one, the one who always, always has your back. She doesn't judge me even when there is so, so much to judge. She gives me grace, she gives me love and on occasion she gives me food (her chicken and dumplings are to die for). She understands my strange love of Gregg Allman's "I'm No Angel" and Gordon Lightfoot singing "Sundown" and my need to listen to Rush songs, really loud. She has stood by me when others haven't and has never ever stopped trying to get me to see my worth. I love her and I hope I've been at least half the friend to her that she's been to me. Anyhoo. She posted this on my Facebook wall first thing this morning. This, the first day of a new year. I cried, of course, because that's my jam. My one and only real resolution this year? To take the dare my best friend has given me. Here's to 2015 being a magical year.

P.S. Is it just me though, or is "breathe" a typo? Do they really mean "New breathe"? #wordgeekproblems


Sometimes The Truth Hurts

Behold my absolute favorite quote about writing. Anne Lamott wrote it, and those words are like a superhero cape to me. I stumbled upon them long ago, when I felt the first pangs of something that resembled guilt. Someone, anonymously, of course, because that's how critics usually operate, berated me for having the gall to write about my life. For having the nerve to express my outrage and sadness over what had happened to me, and to my children. Four years ago, criticism hurt. Reading comments like that actually caused me physical pain, swear to God. A little "oof" in the gut. It gave me pause, caused me to question everything I'd done and everything I'd written.

Now, my skin is nice and thick. Thanks to a few of my essays going semi-viral on HuffPost, I was baptized by fire as far as taking criticism goes. Having complete strangers express their hatred for you does that, you know. And honestly, it's not a bad thing. If I am going to be a real writer when I grow up, being able to deflect negativity will probably come in handy.

But...I still want to address it now and then. Sometimes somebody will send an email or leave a comment here or on whatever site my work is posted on, and it will again stop me in my tracks. The physical reaction still happens, too, which I blame on my double curse of being both a Libra and a Minnesotan. You can have skin like a freaking elephant and the inherent desire to not offend anyone is still strong, folks.

A couple of months ago I wrote about the ex and his wife visiting my daughter in college. It was well-received, with many of my regular readers chiming in and sharing their own tales about kids and dads and the frustrations involved when the latter doesn't do a whole lot to interact with the former. Par for the course on my blog. The comment section here on The Happy Hausfrau is rich with stories, and it's become my favorite aspect of blogging. The way you all share your history, the way you comfort me and each other, the absolute sense of belonging that one gets when reading these snippets of life is awe-inspiring.

There are always a few naysayers, though. And for the record, I welcome them. It's good to hear from a different perspective now and then. I especially like hearing from stepmoms and second wives. Since I've been neither of those myself, finding out their opinions on subjects like the ones I tackle here is invaluable. Yes, even when their opinions are not big glittery "I LOVE YOU SO MUCH JENNY" Valentines.

There were two comments on the Secretary Goes to College post that kind of stuck in my craw. Okay, not kind of. They were totally wedged in there. I texted my bestie, Danielle, and asked her if I should respond. Her level-headedness always prevails so when she responded "let it go", I did. Kind of. But I can still feel them in there and it's a lot like a piece of popcorn that is stuck between your teeth and until you get some floss and make a bloody mess in the bathroom sink to extract it, it's going to drive you a little bit crazy every damn day.

So I'm going to go all Susan Powter today and STOP THE INSANITY. I'm going to address the critics and say what's on my mind. You've been warned.

Here is the first one:

Now, this one I did respond to in the comment section. I went the "but you don't know my life" route, and tried to defend myself. I also put in some props for my daughter, because I think she handled the situation with way more class than I would have. I'm over-the-moon proud of her and will brag her up any chance I get.

Then the second one came in, as a reply to the first one:

By this time I was kind of wrapped up in my writer's block/I'm so fat/why am I involved with a guy I shouldn't be involved with drama so I didn't respond. But the words, man. That's TWO passive-aggressives! They got to me. Just a little bit. And now I want to defend myself, and defend everyone else who writes about their lives and what they've gone/are going through.

Like the almighty Anne said, this is my story. It happened to me, I felt every second of it. I lived it, I breathed it, I slept with it and I cried over it.

I have earned the right to tell my story. Period.

Are there times when I've looked back on what was written here and felt some regret? Absolutely. For about ten seconds. Because I'm a firm believer in karma, serendipity, reaping what you sow and all that jazz. I think how you treat other people lays the foundation for how you will be treated in the future.

I'm not a saint. I've been a massive dick many times in my life (and am instantly regretting using the term 'massive dick' because OMG the pervs will be here in no time. Thanks, Google.). John McCain? I couldn't have been more evil to him. I still feel guilt about that one. But, here's the thing: I own that evil. I did it. I don't like what I did but there's nothing I can do to change it. If he decides to write about me, about how I treated him, about taking me to Amsterdam, wining me and dining me and then getting the worst possible butt-dial in the history of butt-dials, then so be it.

My actions would be the catalyst for what he wrote, and that is 100% on me. It would sting like a mofo to read about my shitty behavior, for sure. But every bit of that sting would be self-inflicted.

And by the way, Anonymous #2? I call bullshit. It would take a lot more than a passive aggressive ex to make me give up on trying to spend time with my kid. Say what you want about me, and about my blog, but please. Don't make excuses for someone not doing whatever they can to be part of their child's life. Also, regarding the statement "While Big Daddy did serious, gut-wrenching harm, I do feel for him a little bit. It can't be easy to know that your every parenting failure is on display for the whole of the internet to read"...Listen. I appreciate what you're saying. You're right, I can't imagine what it's like, either. I could make a little laundry list here, name all the wrongs, all the atrocities. But I won't. I'll let Ms. Lamott sum it up for me:

He should have behaved better.

P.S. just so I don't sound like a complete bitch (I'm okay with like, 85% bitch though), I hope my critics take note of the times I do speak favorably of my ex. He's making his own kind of efforts, and I applaud that. I've always encouraged my kids to maintain a relationship with their father. Hell, I've actually begged them to spend time with him. But I will never be able to forget the pain he caused. And that's why I write. Because other women going through that same kind of hell need to know they aren't alone, and that they will get through it. He can become Father of the Year, and it will never erase the past. I won't dwell on it, but I will never, ever forget about it.


8 Years a Divorcee: 8 Things I've Learned Since My Divorce

The holiday season is a crazy one. Time seems to move faster, obligations pile up all around us and there are hundreds of things we think we should be doing at any given moment. It's hard to put the brakes on in November and December. But that's exactly what I've been doing.

You see, there are two dates that have special meaning to me during this rushed, exciting season. Not special like the birth of a child or a holiday, but things happened on those dates that have made indelible marks on my life. Kind of made me who I am today. And for those reasons, I acknowledge them. Not with any fanfare, mind you. There are no announcements made, no celebrations to be had. But still. I pause, momentarily on each of these days, and remember.

The first one hits in November. It's my now-defunct wedding anniversary. We got married on Thanksgiving. I was a blushing bride, 5 months pregnant and giddy with anticipation to begin a new phase in life. I have nothing but good memories of that day; despite the giddiness gradually giving way first to complacency and then to much darker emotions, the memories are nice.

Then, just around the corner, is the anniversary of my divorce. That one lands in the beginning of December. Thirteen years, a house and four kids later. The memories of this one aren't pretty or fun or dotted with sweet flashbacks. It was the final blow of a two-years-long beating, and in some ways it was a blessing. The date used to be a black mark on my calendar, THE DAY EVERYTHING ENDED. Now, I see it more as THE DAY EVERYTHING BEGAN.

It's 8 years now. There were times I didn't think I'd live through the first year, but I did. And each year after that as well. Some were harder to get through than others, but here I am: older, wiser and somehow...happier. I wish I could go back in time and let Newly Divorced Jenny know that things were going to be okay. I'd sit down with that terrified, sad woman, make her a dirty martini (which she didn't know would become our favorite cocktail) and tell her what I've learned:

1. You did the best you could. There will be people who are going to make you feel guilty about being divorced. Make you feel as if you didn't try hard enough, didn't make the right sacrifices. Your ex is going to do this, too. Head games and guilt trips and bizarre behavior that will make you question every single thing you've done to get to this point, this consciously-uncoupled state. Screw them. And screw the notion that you are to blame. You did try, you tried harder than most people would have. You showed more grace than necessary, more class than needed. You became the poster child for dignity, and you did all of that while solo-parenting four children. Own your part in this, my dear: you rocked it.

2. You should sell the house, right now. Sell it, give it to your ex, do whatever you can do to get this albatross off your neck. Yes, I know it's a box full 'o memories, but my friend...it's time to be done. The three mortgages will end up breaking your back, and your credit. You're going to discover, albeit a little bit late in the game, that home is indeed where the heart is. And you can move your heart somewhere better. You're hanging onto it for all the wrong reasons. To quote a movie that your kids will thankfully be too old to become obsessed with, "LET IT GO."

3. Don't rush into the dating thing. Honey, I know you're hellbent on getting back into the game, that you need to show yourself and everyone else that you can still do it, but slow down. Focus on repairing. There is brokenness all around you, and despite the nagging feeling that you're missing Mr. Right, you need to be in fixing mode for a while. Believe me...if Mr. Right is out there, he'll wait until you're ready. That's why he's Mr. Right. Oh, and FYI: when you see the Mullet guy on eHarmony, just say no. Dude did time for domestic assault. And he's still married. A married felon. You're welcome. And now please see #4.

4. You will have sex again. And again, and again. Remember that day, after some of the fog began clearing, and you realized your sole source of all things sex-related was gone? I do. You were getting the mail and actually said, out loud, "Oh my God. Who am I going to have sex with now that he's gone?". Fifteen years of being with just one person is kind of habit forming (well, at least it was for you). For a long time after he left, sex was the furthest thing from your mind. But then it wasn't. It was pretty damn close to your mind. Like, on top of it, in heat and quite possibly humping it. Know that the desire to have sex is natural and the fact that your Sexy Spidey Senses are tingling again is GOOD and NORMAL. But take this advice: choose wisely. Believe it or not, you will have several fellas to choose from. Some of them will be great for scratching that itch. Some will be fun to flirt with, and some will be best left alone. I will tell you that the guy who is remodeling your neighbor's kitchen is definitely one of the latter. I know you're lonely, girl, but do you not see his striking resemblance to Captain Caveman? PASS.

5. You aren't going to hate him forever. No, not Kevin James. It's 2014 and we still can't stand that rotund actor. Seriously, must you pull out the 'dancing fat guy' shtick in every single movie, Paul Blart? The "him" I'm referring to is your ex-husband. Right now, there is nobody on earth you love less. Lucifer himself sounds like a fabulous companion compared to the man who broke your heart. But there will be a day when the hate is just gone. Poof. You will change his name in your phone from "A HOLE" to "HIS REAL NAME". Your lips won't purse and your nose won't wrinkle and your eyes won't scrunch when you speak of him. No, you will never be the president of his fan club, but you will be relieved of the back-breaking burden that is hate. And it will feel all kinds of amazing. In the meantime? Take advantage of that hatey energy. Clean the damn garage.

6. -Wait, what? Another dirty martini? Of course! Didn't I say you'd love them?

6. Your kids will survive. Oh sweet Jesus of Nazareth. The children. It's almost unbearable to look at them right now, isn't it? The pain is so fresh and so vivid in their faces. That's where most of the rage comes from, my dear. I mean, yeah, it sucks to be cheated on, but your kids? The dismemberment of your marriage has hurt your offspring, and that evokes something almost otherworldly from you. Know this, woman: each one of them hurts, that's true. They handle their pain in different ways. Four kids, four ways of dealing with it. None of them are easy, and a couple of them are downright horrifying. You're going to be tested, my friend. Your limits to what you can take are going to be pulled and stretched like taffy, until you think you cannot possibly handle anything else. And then you get more to handle.

Spoiler alert. You handle it like a goddamn boss. The two older ones? They are almost 21 and 19 now. Both in college. Both thriving and healthy and happy. One of them is in love! The two younger ones are your roommates for now, and spending time with them is like a salve on your soul. You have really, really wonderful relationships with all of the kids. Thick as thieves, you are. And you know why? Because you stuck it out with them. You were there for them when they needed you, and you never, ever gave up.

(P.S. For Christmas of 2012 Molly buys you a toaster. You hide in the kitchen so the kids can't see you bawling over a freaking toaster. Yeah, you are still a big crybaby. Sorry.)

7. This is going to feel like the worst thing ever. Until you realize it's not. Your middle name is going to be Woe Is Me for a while, and honey, that's okay. Woe is you, no question. But then you're going to notice that planet Earth has been merrily spinning away while you were embroiled in what felt like mortal combat. People's lives were changing, kids were growing, the economy was getting ready to take a massive dump. Things are going to happen, some bad things, some scary things. People you love are going to get sick. You and the kids are going to hit some hard bumps in the road.

You're going to discover that your divorce, as painful and exhausting and traumatic as it was, wasn't the end of the world. It sucked, no doubt about it. But it didn't kill you. You will learn the difference between "bad" and "awful", my friend. It's not a pretty lesson, but it's something you never forget.

8. There is no limit to what you can achieve. This one is the most important, so I'm going to repeat it: THERE IS NO LIMIT TO WHAT YOU CAN ACHIEVE. Oh, what's that? You say that getting out of bed these days takes all you have? I get it. And that's okay. It's to be expected. Your world was torn asunder, girl, it takes time to recover. Time to work everything out. And when you're living in the aftermath of a brutal divorce, everything doesn't always work out with ease. You're going to face obstacles that scare the crap out of you, challenges that make you feel like a tiny, trembling David staring up at a gnarly, giant Goliath.

You're going to learn how to manage money and balance a checkbook and do your own taxes! You'll figure out how to change the bulbs in your car lights. You'll install a garbage disposal and hook up wireless routers and you'll talk to your teens about sex and love and condoms. You're going to become a fierce advocate for your children, you're going to ask for help when you need it and give help when asked. You're going to be stronger and smarter and tougher and more tender than you ever imagined you'd be. You're going to write like a mother-effer, and find so many friends and opportunities when you do.

You're going to love. You're going to be loved. You're going to adopt a dog who sheds so so much but who will own substantial real estate in your heart (and sadly, in your bed).

The day is going to come when getting out of bed is easy and you do it early every morning and work hard all day and then go home to be with your family at night. You're never going to master cooking much more than your curry chicken and a decent pot roast but that's okay. The kids still love pizza.

Eight years will pass in the blink of an eye even though some of the days and nights seem as if they will never end. Eight years, and look at all the good things that have happened. Look how much light and love and laughter there is in your life. I can't even begin to picture what the next eight will bring.

So, my younger, freshly divorced self (and anyone else who fits the bill), hang in there. You're in for one hell of a ride.

But...I'm here waiting for you at the end. Waiting with a hug and a spot on the couch next to me and an ice cold dirty martini. It's all going to be okay, and it's all going to be worth it.

I promise.

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