Weight update

Almost a month into my latest stab at joining the thinner ranks. I am trying to fit some exercise in whenever possible. I used to belong to the local YMCA and absolutely loved it, but unfortunately I had to dump that luxury. They do have a "pauper's membership" which I am considering, but given the nice run of weather we've had lately I'm trying to make do without.

Walter (my dog/significant other) is always up for a walk. So I've been taking him out on 3-5 mile jaunts just about every day. I walk to the post office with him, when the number of packages I have to mail can fit in my little UnderArmour backpack (when worn with my Keens, I think I make a pretty convincing outdoorsy lesbian). I've also been biking to work. Yes, I know I only "work outside the home" three days a week, and that said "work" is less than a mile away, but give a fatty some credit for trying. Plus it's green. Makes up for the fact that I do indeed ask for plastic at the grocery store checkout, despite getting the hairy eyeball from some sleek, cloth-bag toting, lululemon wearing enviro-bitch behind me. I use them for poop bags, judgy.

The walking, combined with my dramatically different (sorry Clinique) food choices, have resulted in a thinner face, smaller boobs and two days ago I officially fit into my size 14 collection of Gap jeans. Granted, they were air dried and when I did get them on I had to do some rigorous calisthenics, but dammit I got 'em buttoned. My size 14 collection was once considered my Fat Pants, so I am taking this little victory with a non-fat grain of salt.

I have to keep telling myself: It took me over a year to get this freaking fat, it's not going to fall off in a month. But I am admittedly making progress, which is enough to keep me away from Taco Bell for now.

This rollercoaster we call life

As I sit here in front of my computer, coffee at hand, windows open, birds chirping, I think back to what I was doing exactly 24 hours ago.

If I recall correctly, I was either screaming or crying...most likely doing both simultaneously, whilst trying to get my 10th grader out of bed. This has become a sickening ritual, something that started when he began 7th grade and has continued ever since.

Charlie was, ironically enough, the baby who didn't sleep for a year. And when I eventually did get him on a semi-regular sleep schedule, he was always the one who woke up at the ass-crack of dawn, regardless of what time I finally got him to sleep the night before. We are in a school district with staggered start times, the kids from kindergarten up to 6th grade don't start until 9:33 a.m. The rest (7 through 12) start at 7:43 or so. Which means a bus pick up at around 7:00 a.m. In a perfect world, the younger kids would start early, since we have known since about 400 B.C. that teens don't tend to be morning people. But hey, can't fight the power all the time, right? So that leads me to my daily struggle with the Man Child.

Charlie is a complicated, scary/smart, funny, frustrating and wonderful person. I knew pretty much from the start that he would be all of the above, from the first second they opened up my belly and that big melon-head was pulled out he was wide awake and very obviously pissed about it. He was the child who made me a mom. A wedding planner, too. Big Daddy and I were co-habitating at the time my pregnancy was discovered...we were planning on getting hitched but "Nugget", as we called early Charlie, pushed the plans up a bit. Shotgun wedding followed, I was about 5 months pregnant and all I could find to wear on such short notice was a huge, tent-like black velvet dress from Banana Republic. Big Daddy and I were so poor at the time that I kept the tags on the dress (this was before retailers got smart and tagged OUTSIDE, not in) and returned it after our nuptials. Don't judge, that was a long time ago. Yes, the knocked up bride wore black. You'd think someone would have pointed out this somewhat stereotypical omen, eh? Oh hindsight, why are you so clear?

Anyhoo. Charlie was due on St. Patty's day in 1994 but that day came and went. I remember not answering the phone after that, and to this day I know better than to ask an overdue preggo, "When is that baby coming out?" We waited, and waited some more, until my OB finally decided to induce on April 1st, 1994. Yes, April Fool's Day. Ha ha.

After lying in a hospital bed for 6 hours, pitocin dripping into my system but having no effect at all on my body, my doc decided to do an ultrasound to find out if maybe my cervix had been superglued shut, or if maybe I was just really, really fat and there wasn't a kid in there. She peered at the screen, back at my belly, and then back at the screen. "Ummm...this kid is bigger than I thought" she finally said. Turns out that the extra time in the oven was kind of like adding Miracle Grow to my uterus. She announced that I could drink pitocin cocktails for the next 2 weeks and there was still no way a head that size was going to fit through my pelvis. So much for my years of "birthing hips" jokes. A c-section was ordered immediately and a couple hours later a giant screaming Charlie was born.

Our first night home with him will forever be ingrained into my memory. That was when I learned firsthand why you sometimes need to wake a sleeping baby. Charlie slept on the way home, and for the entire day, and then for a good part of the evening. Big Daddy and I ate dinner, watched t.v. and discussed how easy it was to have a new baby. This was just like having a big goldfish, actually. Until those tiny black eyes opened up, and we were ushered into what is known as Colic Hell.

At one point, I was wearing nothing but a big t-shirt, the massive mesh underwear that the hospital gives you and a maxi pad the size of a twin mattress. I remember clutching this wailing, red bundle of joy to my chest and frantically calling the Nurse Line. When some poor RN answered, all I could get out was a garbled "IS THIS THE NUMBER I CALL ABOUT THE BABIES????". I still wonder if the Nurse Line ladies had a good laugh that night.

Obviously we made it through that night, and many more afterward. Charlie of course became a Big Brother roughly 18 months after that infamous Nurse Line night, proving that a: my memory has never been one of my strengths, and b: Big Daddy finally convinced me to have sex again. Molly was conceived during a commercial break while we were watching E.R. I remember this only because I had entered the phase of my life where sex had become a bargaining tool in our marriage, it was no longer something that I looked forward to with starry eyes. Having a child latched onto a nipple for a good part of the day gave me just about all of the "touchy feelies" that I could handle. Thankfully the act with Big Daddy was short-lived, thankfully for Molly it was also all that my eager eggs needed. Baby number two was made.


Musings of a creepy old lady

Monday night, my son Henry had an orchestra concert at the high school. It's my favorite concert to watch...all of the orchestra kids in the ENTIRE school district perform together (grades 5 through 12). That many kids playing Ode To Joy...unless you have a heart made of stone you will be moved.

Anyhoo. My friend Carol and I were seated behind an unfairly gorgeous family. Picture Mike Myers as a good looking Latino, that's the dad. Mom looked like the love child of Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz, and the two little ones with them looked like darker versions of the Campbell Soup kids. Mom was cuddling the sweet chubby baby, and when he got fussy she handed him over to Dad. As they walked by us, I said to Carol "Ohh my GAWD how cute is he??". Carol said, "Which one?" and I answered, "Well, both. But sadly I'm too old for either one of them."

I have been blessed with four healthy children. I would have had more, if the option had presented itself to me, but that door is not only closed now-it's locked, boarded shut and securely wrapped in police tape.

During the months after Big Daddy's initial departure, I did everything I could to get him back home. I cleaned the house from top to bottom, redecorated, painted, worked out, changed my hair, etc. I tried so hard to make him want to be part of the family again. And after a few months, it seemed to be working. He started spending more and more time at home. We talked, and eventually started acting like a married couple again. He still had his apartment, but spent nights at our home. We even started going out on "dates" again. I thought for sure we had made it through the worst of things. I started asking him to put his notice in at the apartment and move back home. He kept saying he would, then said he did. I exhaled for the first time in months...things were going to be ok.

But Big Daddy wanted one thing done before he made the big move back...during a conversation we had at dinner one night, he said that he wanted to make sure we were done having kids. I don't doubt for a second that he loves our children, but he made it clear, many many times, that he didn't want any more. There was a pregnancy scare shortly after #4 was born. I remember telling him about it and very clearly recall what he said: "If you're pregnant, we have two options. Abortion or my suicide." Crystal clear, right? Thankfully it was nothing more than a scare. You would think that if someone felt that strongly about keeping babies at bay, they would do something about it. I had asked him a few times to consider getting snipped, but he balked. I figured that I had been the one to carry the babies, I'd had 3 c-sections and one vaginal birth that almost resulted in a dead mom and a dead baby...I was not thrilled at the idea of having anything else cut, stitched or opened. But, if it meant that things would go back to normal..

I scheduled my tubal ligation for a Tuesday in August of 2005. Big Daddy was going to be off on a company golf trip so my mom volunteered to take me for the procedure. I made dinner for him the night before he left on the trip, the eve of my sterilization. As he helped dry the dishes I said to him, "This is a really big deal for me. I need to know that you are serious about coming back and getting things right between us." I will never, ever forget him bending down, putting a pan away and saying, "It's all good."


Monday, bloody Monday

You know that you've had a pretty craptastic day when you've already popped a Xanax, wept in the car, dropped the F-bomb at a kid and sat on a toilet seat liberally sprinkled with urine...all before 9:00 a.m.

Monday can kiss my big white Irish ass.


More anatomy of a foreclosure...

Our divorce was finalized in December of 2006, and in January of 2007 the nice big alimony/child support checks started rolling in. As I said, things were sailing rather smoothly. I was now down to the thinnest I'd been in years, the kids were about as adjusted as they could be and I smiled more than I cried. Life was fine.

The house was falling apart, of course, the roof was so full of holes that we had buckets whose sole use was that as "rain collectors" for the many leaks inside the house. Every single room had at least one broken window and the siding was rotting off in several sections. There were countless unfinished projects that Big Daddy left us with as well, everything from rooms half wired to floors that weren't nailed down. But this was small stuff as far as I was concerned. I had a plan, and the house projects could wait until I pared down the marital debt that was now mine and mine alone.

Then, in the summer of 2008, Big Daddy sent me a cryptic email: "My payments may be late and smaller than usual, sorry. I was let go." And that was it. I later realized that "late and smaller" meant "non-existent and invisible". So I went from receiving close to 6k a month to receiving zip. See how it can happen? Yes, he was ordered by the fine upstanding Hennepin County Family Courts to pay these amounts until 2014, but try telling that to the companies that expect money from you every month.

At the beginning of the decline, we were ok. I had a cushion in my checking account, and that got us through the first two months. Another saving grace during this time was my little hobby, which was selling things on eBay. I had started doing that when child #3 was in pre-school...his teacher complimented me on his adorable wardrobe and mentioned selling his out-grown things on eBay. Turns out she was an established seller herself, and she ended up teaching me how to sell. And since I am a Type-A, black and white, compulsive being to my very core, I ended up learning how to do it well. But more on that later.

Big Daddy would toss a check my way here and there, sometimes for $500.00, sometimes less. Before the snow fell that year, I had to apply for the reduced price school lunches for the kids. By January of 2009, I was at the point of paying only the things that were necessary for us to survive...this entailed mortgages, electricity, gas, etc. I sold everything that wasn't nailed down on Craigslist or eBay. The absolute lowest point was when I had to ask the kids if it was ok to cash in the savings bonds that my dad had been sending each of them for every birthday and Christmas from the time they were born. You want to know humiliation? Try walking into your local bank with a stack of US Savings Bonds, made out to your kids, and sit there for an hour, signing and dating each one while the bank lady looks at you with sad/slightly judgy eyes. Those savings bonds, which were intended to help my kids pay for college, or a senior trip, or whatever, were used to pay one of my three mortgages for a couple of months. On my bucket list now is "making it up to the kids".

So...as the days turned into weeks, and then into months, my credit rating sank right along with my hope and morale. Bill collectors started calling. I grew so sick of the constant trilling of the phone that I hid all the handsets and told my friends to just call my cell.

You may be wondering how Big Daddy was getting away with this? Me too. The day before Thanksgiving in Nov. of 2008, his greasy attorney knocked on my front door and handed me a summons. He was taking me to court to have his child support obligation permanently changed to ZERO. According to newspaper reports published at the time, the company he was working for was having some "troubles" and Big Daddy decided that abandoning ship was a better alternative to going down with it. I don't think I have mentioned it yet, but by this time he had already married Secretary (took her to Bermuda to do it, too, and I think it was on or scarily close to the date as our nuptials...more later). Secretary had been lucky enough to have someone paying her bills while she finished school and now was managing some office building in our beautiful downtown. They had purchased a nice house about a mile away from the kids and I, complete with an in-ground swimming pool. Daddy was driving a brand spanking new Audi crossover thingie, and didn't appear to be starving. The fact that he not only had a house full of shiny toys but also had another grown up helping pay for life expenses didn't matter. According to the summons, he was barely scraping by. Honestly, even as scared and angry and doomed as I was feeling, this made me laugh.

So, not only was I going to debtor's prison, I also had to face Big Daddy and Attorney McSlime in court...I couldn't even afford health insurance, obtaining an attorney was nowhere near my realm of possibilities. Finally a good family friend volunteered his law firm's services, to help with the child support case and to try and negotiate some modifications with my mortgage company.

My three house payments totaled over $2,000.00 every month. One was automatically withdrawn every month, so that was the one that stayed current the longest. The other two were quickly tossed to the side in favor of keeping the kids fed. My pro-bono attorney had managed to communicate with the other two, both held by Bank of America (although after talking to people named "Johnny" and "Susie" with distinct Eastern Indian accents, I don't think America had much to do with their collection department). That's when I found out that modification was just a fancy word for adding years and interest onto your already bloated, humongous obligation.

By March of that year, Big Daddy had been ordered to start paying his alimony payments, but was officially off the hook for child support. But by then the hole I was in was too deep. I flailed along for a few months, but by the time school started that fall, I knew it was over. Under the advisement of my attorney, I completely stopped paying the mortgages and started building up a pitiful little financial cushion that would hopefully soften the landing for me at the end of this free-fall.

And that's it. In less than a year, I went from having a near-perfect credit rating to having someone from the Sheriff's Office knocking on my door with a "Notice of Auction" for my home. I had hit the bottom; physically, mentally, financially, spiritually...there was nowhere else to go but up. And so I did.

The anatomy of a foreclosure.

If you have read or watched the news over the past year and a half or so, you know all about "this economy". I remember when the commercials started in with it...when Target started talking about "Recessionistas" it was almost cool. Now every other ad mentions "this economy" and tries to make a moving, encouraging statement by showing a doctor and a construction worker sharing the same park bench for lunch. Whatever.

One of the more focused-on aspects of "this economy" is foreclosure. It's always happened, but never before has it been happening to so many people. I became one of those people this year.

My name is Jenny, and I lost my house. Nice to meet you.

Truth be told, I didn't lose it, I gave it back. I never sought out to become one of the statistics, but due to circumstances beyond my control, I did. I am not proud of it, nor am I ashamed. It does not define who I am, and it also doesn't define my worth as a person. I decided to speak out about it even before it happened in order to give this mysterious, scary experience a human face. I want to show people that it's not just lazy, irresponsible homeowners who end up in this situation. It could very well be your neighbor.

So, to paraphrase one of my favorite bands in the universe, "Well, how did I get here??". Let me tell ya about it.

If you've read thus far you know that Big Daddy and I bought our little house from my dad. It was the house that Dad and Mom bought in 1969, when they were fresh transplants from an Army base in Virginia. A tiny, 4 bedroom house with a nice big yard in the heart of suburban utopia. I was 3 at the time. We lived there up until my dad and mom went their separate ways, after which my dad kept the house and rented it out right up until that little 3 year old came back with her own hubby and baby.

Big Daddy, as I've mentioned, refinanced twice, and took out one huge Home Equity line of credit. Yes, how awful of the mortgage company to borrow money to people like that, but boo freaking hoo. It happened. I have vague memories of him doing this, we had a very Ozzie and Harriet-type lifestyle which kept me pregnant and in the kitchen and him being The Man. He paid the bills (most of the time) and I took care of the hearth and home. Which is all well and good, unless The Man is spending a lot of time preparing to split, and then things get icky.

So, the last big loan was taken out after Big Daddy had left me for the first time, and had set up a "bachelor pad" in a nearby apartment. We were still married, but things were awful and well on their way to becoming irreparable. After the wheels of divorce started turning, I had a chance to see exactly what kind of hole I had been dug into. That's when I got my first real stab of fear.

Our house was valued at around $200,000.00. The three loans that were taken out on the house equaled approximately $300,000.00. This is what's now called an "upside down" situation, or in my words, a "totally fucked" situation.

I now know that the number one mistake that women make when getting divorced is demanding to keep the family home. I even remember barking out at Big Daddy, "Fine, you get the bills, I get the kids and the house!!". Even in the best situations, taking over a home is too much for most women. At the time we split, Big Daddy was making a nice income. I received a pretty decent alimony and child support amount (one friend referred to it as "movie star" alimony, lol). That said, I also received full custody of 3 house payments, one car payment, one furnace/central air loan payment, and a plethora of other nickel and dime debts. Whenever I figure out how to travel back in time, my second stop will be back to that moment, where I will whisper in my ear, "Give up the house."

Things were actually going pretty smoothly for about a year after we were finalized. I discovered that I was fairly adept at running the finances for a family. This was a pleasant surprise...prior to this, I didn't even know our checking account number. I had a budget, stuck to it, and was on track to be debt-free in less than five years. Things were just peachy.

And then, the peach went bad. And like a box of strawberries from Costco, once it started going bad it went FAST.


Weightier and weightier...

Ok, so I left you with the size 4 Jenny, gearing up to be a flight attendant. That lasted about a year before I realized that a: the job isn't glamorous and b: I had dependency issues with my then boyfriend (the college-era lover, Tom, who I refer to as "The One I Should Have Married"). I quit, moved back home (sorry mom) and began the journey that led me to here.

The size 4 suit went into the closet and once again I found myself perched on the little ledge between 10 and 12. And that's where I stayed, through several jobs, a couple more boyfriends and a few apartments. And that's where I was when I first met Big Daddy. Stayed there, too, up until...


You think weight is an issue when it's all about you? Try growing a human being in your body, then you go from the Bunny Hill to the Black Diamond of weight mountains. Being pregnant, to me, was a nine month pass to shove whatever looked, smelled or tasted good straight into my gaping pie hole, chewing optional. Granted, I was starving most of the time, but looking back now I think maybe eating two Party Pizzas at a time was overkill.

I think I may have mentioned this before but I gained exactly 70 lbs. with all four pregnancies. To the pound. It's as though my body got to a certain point and some metabolic bouncer stepped in. The babies ranged in weight from 8 lbs. 2 oz, to 10 lbs. 3 oz. but that old magic number 70 stayed the same. I topped 200 pounds for the first time, I believe the biggest I got was 220. The weight usually came off relatively quickly after each baby, but after the last one I had a harder time of it.

Ironically enough, it was at this point in time that I think Big Daddy started his secret life. Maybe part of me knew what was a-brewin' and was insulating in anticipation of the big storm. Who knows..but either way I was up to about a size 18-20 when he dropped the bomb on our life.

There had been signs that he was less than pleased with my girth. One night, at dinner, I reached over the table to pour a glass of milk for one of the kids...Big Daddy flicked the blob of fat hanging from my upper arm and said, "Boing!". I know, what was he doing in insurance and finance when obviously a career in stand up was calling, right? Oh well. This was one of his special ways of saying, "Hey, Fatty...I'm screwing a shiny faced secretary and this ham-hock is the reason why." Well, maybe not in those exact same words, but you get the idea.

A weighty issue

I am not skinny. I have been skinny twice in my life, slender a few more, but the bulk (ha ha I'm punny!!!) of my life has been spent as a bigger gal. Not morbidly obese, I've always been able to fit in airplane seats and I do manage to be mobile, but more often than not, I am less than pleased with the numbers on my jeans. I would say numbers on my scale but truth be told, I haven't owned a scale in over a decade. So I go by which jeans fit. Hey, it's what Cher does.

I am currently in my size 16 jeans. Yes, I have sets of jeans in different sizes...I have a set of size 6, a handful of 8's and 10's, several size 12's and a pair of size 14's. You see, the more I detest and resent a size, the fewer things I will buy. So I have a single pair of 16's. Going by this insane barometer, one could deduce that I am at my most comfortable in 10's and 12's. So that is now my goal. Only this time, I will get rid of the bigger sizes as I go along. I am done letting my weak, fat side enable me.

I clearly remember the first time I was embarrassed by my weight. I must have been about 7 or 8, and I was looking over a pile of snapshots that my mom had just received back from Walgreens or Snyders or whoever developed our Kodak film back in the day. She had taken pictures of my brother and I as we cavorted on a beach. I had been wearing a jaunty little two piece with a nautical theme, I can see the little embroidered anchors and red button accents with amazing clarity. Why can't I remember what my kids were wearing yesterday??

Anyhoo. So we (my mom, brother and I) were looking over the pictures and we came upon a shot of me, alone, skipping along the sand. My brother said, 'Look at your fat tummy." There it was. The first 5 words from someone pointing out my flaws. I remember scrutinizing that photo, and realizing that he was right. I was fat! My belly was round, my legs were soft and chubby, my arms were like a Kewpie doll and not like my Barbie. The seed of self loathing was planted, and if you're not familiar with this particular strain of mental weed, it's similar to Creeping Charlie. It overtook my brain before I knew what hit me.

Fast forward through the next few years. Mom put me on a Weight Watchers plan in the fourth grade. I look back on pictures from those days, and honestly, I was not what we now call "fat". I was never one of those stick like girls, but I looked healthy, and more importantly, I looked happy. Beginning in that year, however, I began to look at myself differently. Food became something other than a source of nutrition. It became my nemesis. Actually, I became my own worst enemy. It was when I started hating myself for what I craved. It was when I first felt guilt and shame over who I was.

Another nudge to the fast forward button: High school. Again, when I look back at pictures, I was what most people would consider "normal". But that shame and self loathing was there. I had a scrapbook that I filled with pictures of what I wanted to look like: Phoebe Cates, who smiled at me from every issue of my Seventeen magazine...Christie Brinkley, steering a boat in a bathing suit, actually sitting down and nothing from her belly was flopped over the front of her bikini bottoms. Oh how I wanted to look like them...I'd stand in front of my full length mirror and look at my round ass, my soft midsection, my Rubenesque arms. And I hated what I saw.

I actually tried to psych myself into either anorexia or bulimia. I remember watching Jennifer Jason Leigh in a "very special" movie, "The Best Little Girl in The World", and reading an article in People mag about how she had to starve herself to get into the world of the anorexics. I tried so hard, but my love of food and disdain for starving won out. My experiment with bulimia lasted less than a day. Ever self-induce a tuna melt barf? I just didn't have the right stuff for eating disorders.

Moving along, we are now in college. I gained the Freshman Fifteen, the Sophomore Ten and the Junior Twelve. That was when I decided that college wasn't for me..I wanted to fly the friendly skies. I dropped out of college and moved back home with mom, thus officially claiming my spot as Black Sheep, but that's a whole nother post.

That was when I learned that my body responds remarkably well to exercise. We had an old stationary bike in the basement, and I would ride that thing for hours while watching Mtv. I took our poodle, Duffy, out for long walks and fell in love with the endorphin rush combined with the mental clarity. Before long I was slender, for the first time. The suit I bought for my airline interviews was a size 4. Like a tender young alcoholic taking my first sip, I fell in love with Skinny Me. That's when the crazy dance with weight and all things caloric started up in full force.


Adultery, dissected.

Even before I became part of the divorced crew I had a low opinion of adulterers. I remember back in the early 80's, reading my mom's People Magazine about Michael Landon leaving his wife of umpteen years for someone new and thinking, "Nice, Pa." It's such a cliche', the old starter wife theory, that it's almost funny. Until you go through that particular shit storm yourself.

Friends often ask me if I suspected, even for a second, that there was another woman involved with my marital woes. And I answer, honestly, no. When Big Daddy started acting differently I thought it was the result of either alcohol or depression, or a wicked combination of the two. He had always been one of the Good Guys. The guy who ushered at church, the guy who spent hours on warm summer nights going up and down the sidewalk with a shaky kid learning to ride a bike, the guy who always did The Right Thing.

There was no sudden interest in working out, no weird phone calls, no new silk boxers turning up in the wash. He did begin withdrawing from the kids and I, though. Slowly at first...a few happy hours here and there, a night out with co-workers at a Timberwolves, Vikings or Wild game. When he started at the company that gave him his big break, he latched on to a few mentor-types almost immediately. Most of the men he worked with were a good deal older than him, and all but a couple had been divorced. These guys liked to drink, golf and stay out late, usually in the same day. Which probably explained the divorces.

Then he began going into the office on weekends. Weekends had previously been reserved for two things: my little part time job (I worked at a children's consignment store on Sundays) and Daddy time with the kids. He started golfing. A lot. He'd always been a casual golfer, a few days a month when in season, but it really started picking up. Almost every Saturday became Daddy's Golf Day. Remember, now, that we had four kids already. The oldest was in first grade, the youngest was still nursing. That's a lot of childhood to handle by yourself, and I started feeling a wee bit overwhelmed and a little more than a wee bit resentful.

All the ingredients for Divorce Stew were there.

One early evening, we were all outside. Big Daddy was shooting hoops with #1 kid, Charlie, the middles (Molly and Henry) were tooling around in the Cozy Coupe and I was trying to get Baby William to realize that he could leave Mama's arms for a bit and he'd survive. Big Daddy leaned up against the hood of one of our cars and said, "Hey, have you ever heard of a Jewish Divorce?" Again, most women would probably hear some sort of alarm at this point but I guess the sands of Denial River were clogging my ears. I grew up with many Jewish friends and could quite honestly say that no, I had never heard of a Jewish Divorce. He explained to me that it was when a couple stayed married on paper but lived separate lives. Thus saving the mess and expense of an official divorce. (side note here: I have since asked some of my friends who happen to be Jewish if they have, in their lives, ever heard of one of these divorces. No one answered yes). "What's the significance of this?" I remember asking him. I clearly remember him shooting the basketball up and through the hoop as he said, "Oh, a guy at work has done it. Just wondering if you've heard of it." He shoots, he scores. I would later realize that this was his own special idiot way of "talking" about our relationship.

This was over a year before he made his big announcement that he was leaving. There was still a year left of normal for the kids and I, but it was all going to change. Big Daddy had started falling in love with a girl from work, a girl who spent her time on her tan, her nails and according to some of their former co-workers, casting a line into the pool of men in the office. Don't know what bait she was using, but she caught the Big Daddy.



Let me say this: I despise blamers. I think the blame game is a weak and cowardly way to explain things. When you learn to live with the hand you've been dealt is when you will learn to live, period. I spent many years of my life trying to figure out exactly who made me such a fuck up, which parent I got my short attention span from, my slow metabolism, blah blah. My parent's divorce was my blanket-blame excuse for most everything. It's only been in the past few years that I discovered how freeing and absolutely liberating it is to accept YOUR part in how you've ended up.

Is it Big Daddy's fault that I'm divorced? Well, he was the one who left, so in a way, yeah. But why did he leave? Obviously needs weren't being met. Bottom line: he didn't want to be married to me. That hurt, at first, to even think those words. It meant that I failed. No one wants to fail at anything, and especially not at something so massive as a marriage. The fact that he was nailing a secretary a decade younger than me most likely wasn't doing squat to help our marriage, but again, it just means that something was lacking from me. Ouch.

I spent countless hours mulling, obsessing over what I did/didn't do...I gained weight, yes, but a cursory glance around any big gathering of people shows me that women twice my size are hanging onto hubby. My skills as a housekeeper are legendarily laughable. I am not Typhoid Jenny but you probably wouldn't have wanted to eat off my floors. Again, I watch Hoarders and a good percentage of those chicks are married. And what about the stuff I put up with? God forbid I say anything that may imply anything negative about a certain someone's prowess (or lack of it) in the boudoir, but I will say that I spent twelve years of my life pretending to have my socks knocked off in one minute and hearing "I'm sorry" at the end. I guess you just never know at what point your negatives will overshadow your positives, or more importantly, how much or how little negative stuff your spouse can handle. If I ever do get married again, I think the biggest difference will be better communication.

The thing I love most about life is that you really do get second and third and two-hundredth chances. I lived so much of my life under a cloud of woe is me, when I finally found the strength to step away from it, I was almost blinded by how much hope and good there is out there. And yes, I am puking a little in my mouth reading my Pollyanna tripe, but that's how I feel.

Before I step down from the pulpit, I will say that there are things I still struggle with. I struggle daily with forgiveness. Part of me wants to forgive Big Daddy for what he did, but a small, bitchy part of me wants him to someday feel the pain and anguish that I have felt. He never had to sit with a sobbing kid in the hallway at school, a sweet kid whose world was falling apart and couldn't get through a school day without breaking down. He never had to bear the brunt of a young girl's anger, a girl so pissed at the universe that she had daily meltdowns which shook the walls of the house. I went through all of that, and go through things with the kids to this day that would not have happened if their parents had stayed together. But again...it's all part of how we got here. I am hopeful that the way I am learning to deal will rub off on the kids and that they will be able to live a freer life than I did. So the battle with forgiveness continues.

But I still have "You're A Mean One, Mr. Grinch" as his personal ringtone on my phone. Baby steps, right?

The Many Jennys and The Beginning

I have worn many hats in my 43 years on earth. Class clown, The Smoking Cheerleader, Good Time Girl, Girl to Play Quarters With, Bakery Girl, Lush...you get the idea. From about 7th grade until the time I got pregnant with my first child (age 26) life was one big party. I thought very little about consequences and aftermaths. Selfish with a capital ME. An IQ over 140 but the sense of the Village Idiot. I have a few regrets, for sure. I wish I had done a better job in high school. I wish I had seized the opportunity that college gave me. I wish I had married my first love. But unless I stumble upon Scott Bakula and his Quantum Leap, those regrets will always remain just that.

My most recent hat is that of New Jenny. Life has been pretty trying over the past few years, and there were some moments that I didn't think I would make it. I am nothing if not tenacious, however, so here I am...a chubby, poor, single mom starting over at age 43. I won't bore you with the sob stories, but just as a fill-in here's some history: Met my future ex-husband at Gluek's bar one night in 1991. Fell in deep like and we were inseparable pretty much until he announced that he was leaving me in 2005. We had a shotgun wedding. As I like to say, "The bride wore maternity"..Charlie was first, the other three followed in rapid-fire succession: Molly, Henry and baby William. Big Daddy was a lowly insurance worker and I folded jeans at the Gap. We had big dreams, Big Daddy and I.

Together we purchased my childhood home from my father. It was a tiny, ramshackle little abode with more character than square footage. Got it for a song and it wasn't long before Big Daddy decided to refinance. The money from that first refinance was meant for a new (and badly needed) roof, but one thing about Big Daddy...money burns holes in his pockets. Instead of a new roof there was a new t.v., a new car (because a dad of four needs a tiny Audi, right?) and lots of new clothes for a certain someone. Cuz every girl's crazy bout a sharp dressed man, apparently.

Anyhoo. Long story short. He got his big break, and we were standing at the precipice of success. Enter The Secretary.

I don't know all the gory details, just enough to make me question every word, every gesture, every single promise he made to me during the last couple years of our marriage. She wasn't his secretary, but the company they worked for really stressed good co-worker relationships. Parties were often held with the caveat "No Spouses"...Happy Hours at the local sports bars were a must if one wanted to stay on the Cool Kids list at this company. This was the very beginning of the year 2000. I was pregnant with our fourth baby. I knew something was up when I fell and broke my leg while 7 months pregnant with #4. I slipped on the ice while walking #1 to the kindergarten bus, and my neighbors saved the day. Repeated calls to Big Daddy all went to voicemail, until he finally showed up at the hospital several hours later. Once I was all crutched up and released, he brought me home, sat me down on a chair in the living room and announced, "I have tickets to the Timberwolves game tonight..I'm going to go, and I'm not going to feel bad about it." Yep, I think that single sentence, when added to the frequent late nights out, the snappy wardrobe and the creepy new goatee, gave me that first scary stab of fear. Which I promptly buried. This was Big Daddy, after all. He was a good guy.

To be continued.
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