Happy New Year to you, my friends

You may know that I'm a huge Erma Bombeck fan. Loved her.

I don't have anything mushy or inspirational or life-affirming to say regarding the demise of 2010 and the birth of 2011. Only that I wish nothing but the best for my friends, nothing but justice for those who have it coming to them, and nothing but hemorrhoids and maybe a yeast infection or two to those who cause woe.

I wish that the people in my life who are ill find a cure, or at the very least, comfort. I wish that those in my life whom I've hurt can forgive. I wish that those who have hurt me can forgive themselves.

For my kids, I wish them sweet dreams and best friends and warm beds. I hope that this year is better for us, and for everyone who dealt with demons real or imagined in 2010.

I want to close this brief little "Adios, 2010" with what I believe is my favorite thing that Mrs. Bombeck wrote. I remember reading it in an ECFE class a billion years ago, and even though I was a bit too young, a bit too blessed to fully understand it then, it resonates deeply with me now.

Have a Happy New Year. Thank you all for reading my thoughts, for chiming in now and then, and most of all, for your kind and supportive words.

Be safe tonight.

And now, Erma (due to copyright stuff, I can only post the first few lines of this gem, click the link to find not only the rest of the work but also some interesting fact about Erma as well):

If I Had My Life to Live Over

By Erma Bombeck

If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

Finish reading here

Aside from the parts about the teased hair and the husband, words for me to live by.

Have a wonderful year, friends.




It's not over til the Fat Girl sighs....

I'm sighing. Or am I confusing sighing with wheezing? Whatever.

I received an Old Navy gift card for Christmas. I love Old Navy. It's cheap, they have cute things for girls of every size, oh...and it's cheap.

So...I went there and perused the selection. Have I mentioned that I'm getting a wellness coach in January? I am. And I'm determined to let her in. I have gotten fat over the past few months.

How fat? Pretty fat. Fat enough that I have more than one chin. Fat enough that I'm finding it hard to reach the nooks and crannies (and I'm not talking about cleaning the house, bitches). Fat enough that I am down to two pairs of jeans I can button, and one pair is entering the phase of life I call "About to die from Chub Rub". You know what Chub Rub is? It's when the inner thighs of your jeans start to disintegrate from the constant rubbing of your corpulent thighs whilst walking. Your first symptom is feeling cooler air on that region. That's because while the rest of your lower torso and legs are wrapped in normal weight denim, the roughly 3" section on each inner thigh that is affected by Chub Rub is clad only in a tissue weight denim. Hence the breeze.

Anyhoo. I'm feeling rather linebacker-ish lately and although it's been fun, it needs to end.

What better time to turn a new leaf than a new year? How original am I? Super original.

I hate resolutions. Seriously. I don't think I've ever made one...although given my tendency to greet the New Year with a decidedly boozy gaze, perhaps I have. We'll never really know.

Resolutions are made to be broken. They are doomed to fail. Unless you have one of those Earth Mother, granola, bullshit resolutions like "I will send out only positive feelings to the universe" or "This is the year I recycle". Those are the ones that you can kind of keep, the ones that don't implode the second you sneak into the drive-thru at McDonald's and order large fries or the moment you light a cigarette.

We are human beings. And that alone is reason enough to not make ridiculous resolutions. I know, I know...your intentions are good. Guess what? Apparently the road to hell is paved with intentions such as these.

Why not just do this: decide to make some changes. Nothing major, nothing drastic. Maybe just a shift in attitude.

Instead of: "I'm going to cut out all carbs and workout every day", how about, "I'm going to think about what I'm putting in my mouth. And more importantly? WHY I'm putting it there."

That's what I'm going to do.

I'm doing this for several reasons.

Reason Number One: I'm worried about my health. When Big Daddy cut me loose, I lost about 65 lbs. in a little less than a year. I looked good. But more importantly? I felt AWESOME. I was working out almost every day, walking every morning, really watching what I ate. It was the best I have felt or looked since my twenties. Moving around was practically effortless. I swam, I ran, I biked. I did it all and I felt positively exhilarated afterward. I craved movement, I lusted after exercise. If I was exhausted, it was because I had run on the treadmill for an hour after lifting weights and then worked in the yard.

Now? I think I have gained back just about every pound I'd lost. I don't own a scale, so I don't know for sure. And I'm not planning on getting one anytime soon. But clothes don't lie. And neither do bathroom mirrors.

Unfortunately the bulk of my weight has deposited itself around my waist, like a big old cinch belt made of fat. Of course there is a nice layer everywhere else, but it's the belly that worries me. That's the scary, heart-hurting fat.

My kids need me around, and they need me healthy. I need me healthy.

Reason Number 2: I have some really cute clothes. Granted, I'm not Sarah Jessica Parker or anything; I have things that I'm dying to wear but can't due to the fact that I'd look like Chris Farley trying on David Spade's coat in "Tommy Boy". YouTube it, you'll laugh. Go ahead, I'll wait. Wait...you can even watch it here, if I can figure out how to add it.

Right now my wardrobe consists of jeans and whatever big shirt I can find that doesn't make me look pregnant. Or worse, my lumberjack look of jeans and a fleece jacket. Standard wear here Da Northland, to be sure, but it's not exactly attractive. Which brings me to my third reason..

Reason Number 3: I do believe that it's almost time for me to mate again. And not just fumbling, "I've had a few margaritas so I'll overlook the fact that Mr. Happy seems to be in a coma if you overlook the fact that I won't take my shirt off" mating. But the whole song and dance. One of my friends is dying to hook me up with the guy who has a cabin next door to hers in Wisconsin. He's a little bit older, recently divorced and actually called her and mentioned that he's almost ready to date. And I've met him...when I met him, he was married. So obviously there was no love connection because I don't go that way. Of course, when I met him, I was also thinner. If he saw me now I'm afraid that the only connection to be made would be him connecting me with Roseanne Barr. Not good. (disclaimer: Roseanne actually looks pretty good now. I'm talking about the early Roseanne, like from the first couple seasons of her show. Which I loved, by the way.)

I feel like I'm just about ready to take the leap again. Just about but not quite. I can't even look at myself in the mirror at this point, not without wanting to barf. They say you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you. At this point I'd be willing to settle for being able to make eye contact with myself.

The past couple of years have left me with zero reserves for any relationship that requires more than the ones I have with my girlfriends. And as close as we are, none of them are expecting quality naked time with me. That I know of. But my reserves are starting to regenerate. Not enough that I want to start anything right now, but they're building up a tiny bit day by day.

Now, I think I mentioned Old Navy, right? Back to that: so I went to Old Navy and was about to use my gift card to buy yet another tunic-like top and yet another pair of fat jeans. But something stopped me. A window opened.

If you're fat, or have ever been fat, you know what I'm talking about. Overweight girls feel a window of opportunity open from time to time. It's a window in time when you've simply had it. You've had it with the Chub Rub, you've had it with worrying about whether or not your fat ass will fit in certain chairs, you've absolutely had it with trying to hide your body. It only stays open for a moment, so usually I ignore it. Most likely because I just bought a bag of Red Vines and what's the point of starting anything then, right? But at that precise moment in Old Navy when I was holding up that black flowy tunic in size XL (trust me, it was a generously sized XL), I almost felt a breeze. My window was open again.

I put the tunic back. I went over to the little workout section and picked out some stretchy, comfy yoga pants, some workout-y type shirts and yes, even a new workout bra.

My finances are not healthy enough for me to justify joining a gym right now. A good friend suggested the JCC (Jewish Community Center) here in our town, and even though they have a kick-ass single parent membership (seriously, JCC..right on!) I can't do it. Maybe a month or two down the road, whenever I can get Big Daddy to start paying, but not now. That said, I have a treadmill here. I have a lovely set of kettlebells. I have small weights. I have a dog who is so desperate to walk he comes up to me with his leash in his mouth.

I have no excuses to not jump through the window this time.

That sound you hear? It's me, the Fat Girl. Sighing.

Stay tuned.

Something's in the Air

And no, it's not the smell of a dried out pine tree in my living room. Nor is it the unfortunate aftermath of eating candied sweet potatoes for 4 days in a row (why do I make them, when I know I'm the only one who will eat them?).

It's the "New Year Smell" and it starts wafting its way through my sinuses every year about this time.

It's the smell of change. Sometimes it reeks of loss and regret, other times, like this year? It carries with it a bouquet of hope and positiveness. A cautious hope, though.

The last time I felt hopeful like this, I mean like capital H Hopeful, Big Daddy came out of the shadows and hit me with a surprise left-hook that not only knocked me down for the count but to be honest with you...almost killed me. So nowadays I look to the future with eyes wide open, but also with my arms held up defensively. Maybe that's the right way to do it?

I remember last year at about this time I proudly crowed that 2010 was going to be the year that Jenny got her groove back (my apologies to Ms. McMillan). Looking back now I have to laugh. Get my groove back? Please. This was the year I found the tattered and torn remains of my groove. Getting it back will take some time.

I think it's time.

Last year at about this time I had officially given up in the fight to keep my house. Our Christmas last year was, for lack of a better word, tragic. It was almost Dickensonian, with the poor, tired mom huddled with her four little Tiny Tim babies trying to find scraps of good in the pile of bad we'd been dealt. I was exhausted from the beating I'd taken financially. I'd lost a friend or two, lost the relationship with my dad that I had treasured, watched my mom decline even further in the clutches of Parkinson's and iffy life choices.

Last year I had hit the bottom.

But...2010 was the year that I started crawling upwards instead of clinging to the sides. 2010 was the year that not only did I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I felt it. I felt it on my face like you feel those first warm-ish rays of sun in April.

It felt good.

2010 was the year that I formed new friendships and old ones were strengthened. Toxic relationships were pruned like gnarled, unproductive branches on a rose bush. As far as friends go, 2010 was the year that I realized how lucky I am. I've said it before but I'll say it again...I may be a risk financially, but friendship-wise I'm in the black.

Our Christmas this year was wonderful. Oh, don't get me wrong..I'm still tired and if you squint your eyes a bit I bet you could see Tiny Tim lurking around here somewhere, but it was wonderful. It was the polar opposite of last year. I had saved a little here and there and was able to get each child one or two things. They had each told me one thing that they really, really wanted and I made sure they had it. I didn't get out to do my shopping until days before the 25th, but I did it.

But something started happening a week or two before Christmas. A gift card arrived in the mail. And then another. And another. Gift cards for our favorite pizza place. Gift cards for our grocery store. Some were anonymous, some were signed. And if you're reading this, gift card givers? Thank you. I want you to know that your gift was appreciated and that you, my friends, are loved. More than once I was lucky enough to be standing next to one of my kids when I opened the mail, and more than once I had a child say to me, "You have the best friends". I would smile through the waterworks that came with each card and say, "Yep. I do."

One day, about 5 days prior to The Big Day, a large manila envelope was deposited in my mailbox. In it was another gift card to our grocery store, and the following note:

"Dear Jenny,

We at the North Pole hear that the Grinch threatens to dampen your Christmas this year. We also know that you and your children have been very, very nice and keep the spirit of Christmas in your hearts no matter what. So, we've decided to make your Christmas a little brighter.

Enclosed is a gift card with which to buy the Christmas feast: the roast beast, pudding and hash.

Please don't worry about your children this year. Santa will send a special elf on Christmas Eve to your house with gifts for all. Enjoy the season. Keep them safe and warm. Love them as you do. We'll do the rest.

Merry Christmas,

Santa's Elves"

I also received a phone call from a friend who has silently supported me through the past year. She's one of my quieter friends, we don't socialize as often as I wish we did. Her daughter goes to my school and she and I have a special relationship.

This soft-spoken, beautiful friend called and said that her family wanted to help me out. "Tell me what your family needs this year" she said.

That letter, and that phone call both had the same affect on me: of course I cried, because that's how I roll...you know that by now. I'm a big crybaby. But more than that...they lifted me up. They took a big old flash light and pointed the beam at the good in my life, at the good in this world and said, "Here ya go, Jenny. Proof positive that things will be ok."

More important than that...they showed my kids the good. These people, my quiet friend and the anonymous Elves and the gift card mailers, they did what I've been trying to do for the past couple of years.

They showed my kids the power of love. The power of love wrapped up tight in a layer of Christmas spirit. Tied with a bow made of friendship.

I couldn't have done it by myself.

2010 was a good year for many reasons. It was a scary year, too. But as it limps slowly towards the end, I am riding high on the rush my friends have given me. I'm still aglow with the memories of my kids having multiple presents to open on Christmas morning, of being able to sit there and watch their faces as they held up sweatshirts and lounge pants and gift cards and books that they probably didn't think they'd get. Watched as my daughter quietly read the words of Emily Dickinson and my youngest son pored through a book about the late, great Minnesota North Stars. Saw my handsome manchild smile as he tried on his new clothes. Saw my sweet Henry do fist pumps when he found not one, but three coveted books under the tree.

We were alone on Christmas morning. Physically alone, but the room was crowded spiritually. Elbow-to-elbow, in fact. Standing room only.

It was a good crowd.

I'm keeping that letter, and in less glowy times I'll read it just to remind myself that I'm not alone. I'm also keeping it because I know that someday it will be my turn to be someone's elf. It will be my turn to find someone who is struggling and who needs my help.

And it will be a pleasure to lend a hand. I can't wait.


Quandary, resolved.

So I hemmed and hawed and procrastinated. I wanted to say just the right thing to my Former Mother in Law.

This is what I ended up sending today, after she sent a follow up email asking if I'd received the first one:

Hi Former Mother in Law

I did get your email, my apologies for not replying sooner. I have been thinking about how to reply, and it's been tough.

Christmas Eve is my favorite time with the kids. They were with Big Daddy last year for the first time since the divorce, and it was really hard for me, and also for them. It pains me to think of losing even a minute of time with them again this year. It especially pains me when I look back at this year and think about how much the kids and I have gone through together.

I don't know if you're aware of what is happening with me and the kids. Since Big Daddy stopped paying child support in 2008, we have been slowly circling the drain (at least financially). This year I lost my house, the house that my dad bought back in 1969 and passed on to Big Daddy and I. The only house that my children ever knew. I had to pack up 15 years worth of memories and life and move to a rental house. I'm grateful that I have a roof over the heads of my children, but also very angry and saddened that things worked out this way. I am in the middle of declaring bankruptcy, which will hopefully grant me the opportunity to crawl out from underneath the huge financial black cloud that has been hanging over me since Big Daddy stopped helping support his kids.

Throughout all of this, making sure that my children were ok was my number one priority. I have been working non-stop, saving all I can and doing whatever needs to be done to make sure that they are happy, healthy and thriving. The kind things you said about the kids in your email gives me great hope that I have succeeded thus far.

That said, I hope you can understand my hesitation to "give up" my children on our favorite family holiday.

HOWEVER. My affection for you and FFIL, and my love for my kids far outweighs any negative feelings I have regarding this situation. I want only what is best for my children, and being with grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles who love them is truly what is best. I will use this unexpected "free time" to prepare dinner and wrap presents for my kids.

Thank you for including them in your celebration, and thank you for allowing me to vent a little. I always, always loved you and FFIL and some of my happiest memories from the past include both of you and the times we shared. I have been through a pretty dark phase in my life but am finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. My kids are my life right now, and knowing that there are others in this world who love them and are there for them means the world to me.

Merry Christmas!


I took a deep breath and hit Send.

If they don't already know about the dirty deeds of Big Daddy, now they do.

And if they already know, well....now they have heard my side of it.

Either way, my kids will go there on Christmas Eve. They will see their new baby cousin, get hugs from a wonderful grandma and shoot the shit with some cool uncles.

I will enjoy the quiet of my house with Walter, wrap their presents and get our roast beast ready for dinner. I will drink a nice glass of wine (or two) and make a silent toast to all of the good people in my life: former in-laws who love my kids, friends who have made this season bright, and to my kids.

And you know what? I am going to toast myself, too. For responding with a bit of assertiveness, for standing up for myself.

For finally, finally feeling a little like a grown up.




In the old days we called it Christmas vacation, but then again that's when our elementary school principal would dress up as Santa. So winter break it is.

Whatever you call it, it's here and I'm PSYCHED. I've been working my ass off lately and although it's helped patch some of the leaks in my checkbook, it's done nothing for my energy level.

I've said it before. I don't know how you moms who work full time do it. Kudos to you. Really, kudos to all of us but damn, working girls, you have my respect.

Anyways. Back to WINTER BREAK. Yes, I'm yelling. I am so excited. I love this little school break the most out of all of them. The Thanksgiving one is too short. The spring one makes me sad because every.single.person in the world besides us goes somewhere fun or warm. Summer is just too freaking hot and I'll be honest with you, about a month too long.

Two weeks is perfect. If you celebrate, you have the whole Christmas thing to keep the angels occupied for at least a day or two. Since it's the dead of winter, there are fun and cheap activities that can be enjoyed indoors: bowling, second-run movies (weeeeee I splurged and took advantage of a Groupon for the Cinema Cafe near here...I'm going to surprise the kids with a movie!), sleepovers, taking the brood shopping to spend Christmas money from grandparents, etc. And of course we'll do some sledding and ice skating (If I can get my fat ass into my snowpants).

Then, just as the wheels start coming off, it's back to routine we go.

Sometimes I see these two bright and gleaming weeks as a challenge, as if the calendar gods are saying, "See here woman, you have two weeks free...you must set some goals." And then I'll set goals. Nothing crazy, like working out every day or doing a basement-to-roof cleaning. But I'll make a mental note that this would be the perfect time to clear out every drawer in the house and get rid of things we don't wear/use/enjoy. Or that this will be the perfect time to start my meal planning system. Or that I will have the kids do an hour of silent reading/homework every day.

Pffffffft. The only goals I'm making for myself for the next two weeks are:

1. Relax.

2. Enjoy the season. We still don't have our Christmas tree...there hasn't been a time when we were all here. Tomorrow is the day.

3. Pay Charlie and his mechanically inclined friend, David, to put our treadmill back together. In the long ago days when I had disposable income, I bought myself a treadmill. Nothing fancy, but it was pretty nice, and several of us used it. When we moved, it mysteriously came apart (no one will admit to the dismantling, and honestly, I no longer care). I want Charlie and David to try and get it back in working order. Even found the manual in case we need to order extra screws or bolts. Treadmill is getting done.

4. Walter will get walked. He is going completely insane. We've had so much snow that taking him on a walk was simply not an option for the first few days of this week. Add to that my working most days and the fact that it's pitch black outside by 5:30 p.m. and the result is Canine Seasonal Affective Disorder. CSAD. Symptoms include pacing, standing behind your owner and staring at her, trying to eat your friend's husbands and becoming even more obsessed with food. Tonight I caught him tenderly licking the open door of the dishwasher. You will be walked, boy.

4.2 Walter did get his Christmas present early this year, and I believe it is the one thing that has kept him from breaking down the bathroom door like Jack Nicholson (heeeeeere's Walter!). It's called a Skinneeez and it's hands down the best toy he's ever had. He loves it. He even rolls around on it like he does with real life dead animals we come across on our walks. This one doesn't have decomp or maggots on it, so it's a winner. Highly recommended.

5. Ok so I won't set a goal to work out every day, but I'm going to start doing something. After the holidays I have a very wonderful new blog collaboration planned. One of my old high school homies is now a Wellness Coach (meet her here) and has very, very generously offered her services to me. We are going to work together to get me and the kids on a better, healthier track. I'm going to start writing a regular weekly blog post that focuses on my new Wellness coach and the progress I'm making. I had been doing a pretty decent job earlier this year..buying more whole, unprocessed and organic foods, exercising every day, etc.


Things got tough and I started holing up. Eating my feelings. My feelings tasted like cheese, Taco Bell and candy. Not good. I won't go on about how squishy and soft I've become, or how I get winded taking the garbage can down to the curb, or how I'm becoming a jowly mother effer. It is what it is. And it's going to change.

6. Have I mentioned sleeping in? Now I have. I'm going to sleep in. Granted, for me "sleeping in" now means sleeping past 8 a.m., but I'll take what I can get. I am going to stay up late and not worry about it. I'm going to unplug my alarm clock for two weeks and allow myself to stay asleep and finish up whatever zombie/hot fireman/running around looking for something I lost dream I'm having. Seriously, I've been having zombie dreams lately. What's up with that?

For those of you with kids who are now embarking on two weeks of no buses, no "I need lunch money" wails as they walk out the door in the morning, no last minute book reports or dioramas, I say ENJOY. If you're a local, let's get together and gab. Let the kids play in these glorious Mt. Everest snow piles. Even better, let's get out there with them. If we can fit into our snowpants, that is.

Let's enjoy this break.


A Christmas Quandary

So I check my emails this afternoon, and to my surprise saw one from my wonderful ex-mother-in-law.

I wrote at length about her before...and shared her kick ass lentil recipe, here.

I love her. Always have, always will. When I see an email from her, my heart jumps a bit. Sad, right? But it's good to hear from her now and then.

Anyways. She was writing to me to ask about Christmas. This year, the kids are with me on Christmas Eve, with Big Daddy on Christmas Day. Last year was my first Christmas Eve without my kids, EVER. It was tough. But I survived.

This year, I was planning on making one of our old school Christmas Eve dinners, just for the five of us (Party of Five, anyone? Dear God how I loved that show). No biggie, just some ham and some pierogies and good cheer. The usual stuff. The important part about Christmas Eve, really, is Christmas morning. Going to bed, knowing that in the wee hours of the morning we'll all stumble out to see what Santa has left under the tree. Those comfortable, relaxed a.m. hours when we're all in our pajamas, being a family. Christmas morning.

My mother in law wrote a lovely email. Telling me that although she and former father in law don't see the kids as much as they'd like, they love seeing how my babies are growing up. She described the light in their eyes, their maturity, their intelligence....words that make a mommy's heart darn near burst with pride.

And then the point of the email: She and FFIL (former father in-law) are hosting a brunch/lunch thing on Christmas Eve. From 11:00 a.m. until about 3:00 p.m. They'd love for the kids to attend. Without me, of course. She said that FFIL could come retrieve them and then drop them off.

I felt a pang. The origins of that pang? I dunno. Part of it was sadness, to be sure. I remember so many holidays spent at my in-laws. I remember being pregnant with my first baby and sitting on their living room couch, talking about hospitals and deliveries and baby toys. I remember lugging infant car-seats through their front door, whichever new baby I had all bundled up, ready to be cuddled and held and photographed by the eagerly awaiting in-laws. I remember later holidays, when things had started going downhill between Big Daddy and I. My mother-in-law and I would sit in the kitchen, drinking wine and trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with my husband.

I miss those holidays. I miss my in-laws.

The pang also felt quite a bit like anger. Anger over the cowardice of my former husband. Making her write the email? Grow a set, you baby. Ask me yourself. I thought of him telling her that it was "Jenny's day" and how it would be better if she asked me. Not the first time he's done it, and certainly not the last. But still, so typically juvenile and weak.

And jealousy. There was some jealousy in that pang. I thought of Secretary in my place, gabbing with my sister-in-laws, helping my mother-in-law dish up the brunch and clean up afterwards. I wondered if my mother in-law would agree with the general consensus that Secretary is essentially ME, minus 10 or so years and about 45 I.Q. points. Based on a few of our conversations, I'd say she agrees. But still, it's not my ass sitting on their lovely chairs, supping with them and laughing and feeling the love of extended family. It's the flat ass of a classless, J.C. Penney* clad homewrecker, reaping the benefits of my many years of daughter-in-law-ness. I feel like a pitcher who threw a near-perfect game being pulled out at the last minute so a newbie from the farm team can have a chance. I am Bull Durham, dammit.

I read the email, felt the pangs and then went to church. We watched "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown" and while my group of girls tittered and squirmed next to me I thought about it.

The rational part of me knows that the right thing to do in this situation is to reply: "Of course." 11 to 3? That actually makes my day kind of easy. Farm the angels off with them, get stuff ready for our Christmas Eve. The kids get some awesome food and get to spend time with people who love them. It's really win-win.


The bitchy, irrational part of me wanted to take a different path. Bitchy Jenny wants to sit down and type this:

Dear Former Mother in Law,

Good to hear from you! So happy that you and FFIL can see how beautifully my children are growing up. I am so proud of them. I think it's especially wonderful to see how well they're turning out, when you consider the fact that Big Daddy provides little emotional support and absolutely zero financial support.

I would love for the kids to spend some time with you on Christmas Eve. Nothing would make me happier. Nothing, except maybe some child support from Big Daddy. I've tried asking him in every way possible to cooperate. I've suggested payment plans, told him that I'd accept random here-and-there-payments. He refuses to cooperate.

I would love to be flexible, my lovely Former Mother In Law. I think my flexibility would improve, and improve quite a bit, if perhaps you could get FFIL to have a man-to-man with Big Daddy and tell him how important it is to be responsible. How important it is to provide support for the children you've made, even if you no longer lay next to their mother every night.

I know that Big Daddy has been working for FFIL for the past couple of years. I think that's wonderful. Big Daddy always spoke of someday working with FFIL.

It would be really unfortunate if Big Daddy's choices in life led to FFIL's business being put under a microscope by a forensic accountant. And let's not even get into how awkward it will be when Big Daddy's wages are garnished.

Do you see where I'm going with this? I hope so.

I love you, Former Mother in Law. You were once a single mom, yourself. I remember you telling me about your ex-husband and how awful he was. Never in a million years did I think I'd be in the same boat, but here I am. Toss me a life preserver, huh? Please?

I wish you the merriest of Christmases and a healthy, happy New Year.

Much love

Your former Daughter in Law

If you know me, you know which one I'll send.

I only want what is best for my kids. And at the end of the day, I know it's best for them to be with their grandparents, with their aunts and uncles and cousins. I wouldn't rob them of that.

But it would feel so damn good to send the bitchy one.

* I ♥ J.C. Penney, only referred to it here because a friend who happened to look evil in the eye (met Secretary) said she appeared to have shopped from a clearance rack of bad suits at Penney's. It stuck, sorry.


Friendship and Borrowed Husbands

Let me preface this post by admitting: as far as friends go, I've been in a high-need pattern lately. For like the past 2 years. I don't blame any of my friends for walking away, for becoming sick and tired of helping me put out fires big and small. I don't know if I would last with a friend like me. Thankfully none of my friends has been in deep shit like mine in recent years, so I haven't been tested.

I'd like to think that I would make it, though.

I try and do what I can for people. My resources are limited, my desire to help and give aren't. Sometimes the best thing a friend can do is just be there for you. Just to listen. Make you laugh, pull you aside and whisper "Your crazy is showing" once in a while.

God knows I've leaned pretty hard on my friends as of late. I've lost one friendship thus far, and I'm starting to feel the edges curl up on another one. The first one hurt, hurt bad. Like divorce bad. I still feel my chest seize up when I see her, and my eyes must look like they do when I am forced to see Big Daddy: hurt, angry..sad. Things are awkward socially. Due to the fact that we have kids who are the same age, and said kids still hang out with one another, our paths cross quite often. Sometimes we will say quiet and terse hellos. Sometimes we both quite literally look the other way. Other times, when I'm pms-ing and feeling that old familiar "reach out and hurt someone" feeling, I'll just look right at her, as if I'm saying, "See? I'm still here! I didn't fall completely apart without you!". Told you; the similarities between this now-defunct friendship and my marriage are almost eerie.

I love deep. If you're my friend, I love you. That's it, that's the bottom line.

The anger and the distrust and the dislike are handed out very sparingly. I don't like to have those feelings stored up inside of me. I much prefer the light.

I don't have time for games anymore. I believe that if we're friends, we're friends. And it takes a lot to break that belief.

This past week I've again had some stuff happen that once again found me asking for help. And again, my friends answered. I know, you're probably saying, "How weird, Jenny has had some sort of crisis....that's odd." But yes, once again the fates looked down at me, pointed a gun at my feet, told me to DANCE and started shooting.

I danced my ass off.

We had a blizzard here. My truck, which is the absolute bane of my existence 11 1/2 months out of the year, was actually my buddy over the weekend. My driveway is huge, and it's a horseshoe shape. My sweet landlord has a plow guy come through and clear it out for me whenever it snows. The only downside to this is the fact that my truck doesn't fit in my garage. It has never fit in any garage. In ten years.

So I'm a park-outside kind of gal. And when Blizzard '10 struck, my vehicle was parked where it always is: front and center, right at the midsection of the horseshoe.

Plow guy came once, during the first wave of the storm, and plowed the best he could on either side of the horseshoe. It left some piles on either side of my truck, but they were small. Passable.

After the next wave, the wave in which we were socked with 15 or so inches of snow, plow guy came and did the same thing. Which left drifts that weren't so passable on either side of my truck (front and back). In hindsight I now think it would be a great idea for plow guy to have my phone number and for him to give me a jingle a few minutes before he gets to my driveway. Time for me to barrel out and give him full clearance.

But that's hindsight. Let's hope we don't need to put that plan into action again this winter.

So anyhoo. Long boring story just slightly shorter and possibly a bit less boring: I got snowed in. Big ass truck and all. I spent a few blessed hours shoveling (and here, I'll admit it: I LOVE SHOVELING. It's right up there with doing laundry. What's wrong with me?) and got what I thought was a pretty clear path between my truck and freedom.

She got out just fine. We made it to the grocery store, bought all the fixings for a huge pot of chili, and started on our way home (and yes, I am referring to my truck as "she" and us as "we". I need to start dating again).

Made it halfway up the driveway and started around the bend of the horseshoe....BAM. Slid into a rather impressive snowbank. I tried. I tried really hard to get out of it, did the revving of the engine, the rocking, put it into 4WD. All of that. Finally I said, "Fuck it", grabbed my bags of groceries and headed inside. Made the best pot of chili I've made in a good long while and every so often I'd gaze out the front window just to make sure that my truck was still stuck out there.

I didn't panic. I figured I'd let it settle, and then go out to coax my big bad truck onto terra firma. Like letting tempers cool before beginning mediation, I wanted my truck and I to have some alone time before getting back at it.

So I tried again. And I'm pretty sure I just made matters worse. The ocd part of my brain kicked in at this point and the nagging thoughts flew around my head, jibbering and jabbering like crows..."You're going to burn out the engine!" "You're just getting yourself in deeper!" "You're going to use up all of your gas!". And so on.

I called my awesome Catholic Old-School neighbors. The man of the house said he'd be happy to help, only the woman of the house was gone somewhere with their big truck. "It's not life or death" I told him. "Whenever is fine. Thank you!".

She didn't get home until really late. By this time the temperature was dropping to zero. "Tomorrow, after work" they said.

And then I got a call from a co-worker. Asking me to sub the next morning. Shit. Of course I said yes. I figured that I could walk to school, it's less than a mile.

The next morning it was about 5 degrees below zero. I caved, and put out a little plea for help on facebook.

BOOM. Offers popped up. I was verklempt. Got a ride to school from a fabulous friend, got offers from other fabulous friends. What a reminder of how truly lucky and blessed I am.

But it doesn't end there. (Sorry).

Another kick ass friend waited around for me and gave me a ride home from school. AND she offered up her husband, his truck, some chains and a snowblower to help me out. When she and I pulled up to my house, another friend and another husband were there, waiting for us.

This friend and this borrowed husband were there to drop off a t.v. (a hand me down t.v., bigger than the one we have now. Televisions are like men..sometimes just a few inches make all the difference in the world). Borrowed Husband jumped out and immediately began helping me with my stuck truck. And right as the other Borrowed Husband pulled into the driveway, the first Borrowed Husband got it out. I ran out, hugged him, thanked him, etc. I cried a little.

The tears were for sure gratitude-based, but there was a bit of shame mixed in there. Shame that I have to ask for help like this. Shame because out of almost all of my friends, I'm the only one who doesn't have a partner in this messy life. But I got over it. There was hockey to get to!

William and I were halfway to hockey when the engine started making an awful sound. At first I thought there were police behind us, sirens wailing, but quickly realized the sound was coming from under the hood. And I couldn't accelerate. We got up to about 45 mph and it felt like the whole truck was going to explode. I pulled off the highway and made it to a parking lot, and then, because it just seemed like the thing to do, I got out of the truck to look at the wheels.

Like that helps. But that's what a man would have done, right? Fiddled with the wheels? Borrowed Husband #1 had mentioned that there was a dial-thingy on my hubcaps that had to be messed with in order to get the four wheel drive engaged. So I tinkered with them a bit, wept into my big furry mittens a bit, and then gave up. William and I drove slowly home, taking the back roads, making sure not to go too fast.

This is when the angst set in, fast and furious. In my oh-so-vivid imagination, I pictured my poor truck being inspected by some random mechanic guy. I imagined Mechanic guy waddling over to where I sat and telling me, "It's not good." I tried to think of how I'd handle this new crisis...where I'd get the money to fix my broken car. What about work? Manchild's new job? Hockey? Church?? Oh the dark thoughts, they were flocking.

I called Borrowed Husband #1 and asked if I had done something wrong with the wheels. "Bring it over" he said, "Let me take a look at it."

Ok so long story even longer: Borrowed Husband #1 fixed it. It took him about an hour of his precious evening time, an hour he could have been spending with his kids and his wife. An hour that I'm sure he didn't think he'd sacrifice trying to help my broke ass with my behemoth truck. But he did it. Came into the house and said, "Good as new!"

"And honey, you need an oil change."

This time I cried for real. The dark thoughts went away as quickly as they had come. Once again I had some money for Christmas, rides to school and work, my independence. All thanks to a Borrowed Husband. He returned my bordering-on-creepy-hug and told me to never hesitate to call for help.

Once again I am humbled. Once again I am grateful.

Grateful for Borrowed Husbands, for rides to work, for helping hands that somehow are always extended.

Grateful for friendships, old and new. Even the ones that are broken.


Blizzard, not just a sick treat from Dairy Queen. A gift from Mother Nature.

If you're in my part of the world, I'm sure you're saying..."Umm..gift? Really?".

Minneapolis was hit with a pretty impressive blizzard that started Friday night and continued all the way through Saturday evening. For a little while the "we're not going to let a little snow stop us" mentality reigned, but by mid-afternoon on Saturday we all collectively waved the white flag. Not that a white flag was visible, but we waved it anyway.

Buses stopped running, the airport closed, businesses closed up shop...it was official. We were snowbound.

I was all set to host a birthday party for one of my newest and bestest friends. She wanted a mellow night, featuring lounge attire and John Hughes movies. We had a nice little group arranged, a mutual friend baked a pumpkin cheesecake for us. It was going to be fabulous.

And then the blizzard hit. We didn't officially give up until just a couple of hours before it was due to start, even though my front door was (and at this moment, still is) blocked by a 5 foot tall snowdrift. One particularly hardy chick claimed she needed to get out so badly that she'd hoof it over to my pad. But it had gotten to the point where it wasn't just foolish to head out, it was downright dangerous.

Which left me snowbound. Alone. With my dog, my television. And with an entire pumpkin cheesecake.

To be honest with you, I'm not sure what scared me more: being alone with my thoughts, or with that damn cheesecake.

In the end, both of them got the best of me.

As the snow fell and the wind blew, I started to feel a wee bit sorry for myself. And that's allowed, you know? I firmly believe that our feelings are all valid, no matter what. Even self-pity. Because without self pity we wouldn't get to the point that we are so freaking sick of hearing our own whiny voice that we tell ourselves to snap out of it.

I was sad because the kids were with Big Daddy. Or rather, it was his weekend. At least two of them had been on sleepovers, but the point is, they weren't with me. This was a momentous occasion here in the Northland, where we pride ourselves on being so tough, so resilient, so damned Minnesotan. It takes a lot for us to hunker down and wait it out, apparently around 20" of snow.

It's something that they will remember forever. I wanted to be part of it with them, wanted to be the one in the kitchen with them, making cookies and bars and all kinds of comfort foods. I wanted to be on the couch with them, huddled up under a blanket while we watched Christmas shows and cheesy movies. I wanted to see their faces when we opened the front door and our eyes fell upon the crazy snowglobe world we'd landed in.

I wanted to experience it with them.

So I gave myself about an hour to mope, cry a few bitter, angry tears. And then got over it.

Which led to the first "sampling" of the pumpkin cheesecake. Followed soon after by the second sampling. And it was good. Like lick-the-fork good.

Thank God for facebook, too, I was able to communicate with my other stranded friends. I played Scrabble, chatted with a few homies, you know the drill. One friend invited me over, and even though she lives just a few blocks away I decided to stay put. It just seemed like a night to be home. Even home alone.

Eventually I gave in to the reality of my situation, and made the best of it. I wrote, I finally got around to watching the season finale of "Sons of Anarchy" (and what is wrong with me that I actually teared up a little bit when that FBI bitch got her comeuppance???). I did laundry, answered emails and made a fabulous giant salad. I took Walter outside and laughed out loud at my big sweet dog bounding through the snow like a porpoise. I gabbed on the phone with friends and had a couple glasses of some really good red wine.

I enjoyed this gift of solitude from Mother Nature.

I got to thinking...we all believe that we're in control of our lives. We schedule stuff, make plans, dream (or fret) about the future...but we're not really the ones in control.

We are like the people on the moving sidewalks at the airport. Blithely moving forward, confident that at some point we'll reach our destinations.

But things happen sometimes, things that remind us of how little we actually control.

Blizzards. Illness. Bad economies. Bad spouses.

We need that, sometimes. We need the little "ahem" from whom-or whatever it is that really does call the shots. We need to be made aware that life can change at any time.

We need a blizzard now and then. Like a giant mommy giving us a time out, that blizzard showed up and sent us all to our rooms. Some of us had our families to keep us company, some had friends, some had nothing.

I had my dog, my thoughts. And a cheesecake.

And it was fine.

Time for me to go dig out now. Enjoy your blizzards, my friends.


I love my job

I'm pretty certain that if I worked a 9-5 job in some cubicle I would never hear this stuff:

"You have a booger in your nose."

"You are the most beautifullest person I know."

"I need you! My feelings are so hurt!"

"Jenny! Watch!! Watch me!! Jenny? Jenny!! Watch!!!"

"Your arms make me think of my grandma" (said while child was rubbing one of my ham hock arms)

"My mom and dad keep yelling at each other. Dad is sleeping on the couch."

"Hey Jenny if we found some candy on the ground but it was still in the wrapper could we eat it? WE DIDN'T REALLY find any but IF WE DID could we eat it?" (asked with hands behind backs)

"Can I go to the nurse's office?" "Why?" "I think I may have a transfusion." (child smacked head and was looking for the word concussion)

"I'm so hot that I'm sweating like a meatloaf!"

Ok, so maybe I would hear all of this if I did work in a cubicle. But then it would be creepy, not sweet.

I love my job.


Elizabeth Edwards

I don't profess to know a whole lot about Elizabeth Edwards, only what I've gleaned from articles and interviews. But she was an inspiration to me.

Aside from the everyday grind that we all face, she endured three separate incidences that, each on their own, could have very well driven her past the breaking point.

Her son Wade died in a car accident. He was 16. I have a 16 year old son. I cannot imagine what losing a child feels like. I can't even begin to imagine.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer. While her husband was on the campaign trail for the Presidency of the United States, she found a lump. She never quit stumping for her man, though. And even when she faced the fact that this wasn't the kind of cancer that she could beat, she put on her game face and kept on going.

Then, as if losing a child and finding out you have incurable cancer wasn't enough, her husband admitted to her that he'd had an affair.

Oh, and the person with whom he'd been affairing? She had a baby.

At that moment, with all eyes on her, Elizabeth could have taken a deep breath, screamed at the top of her lungs and then gone full-on Betty Broderick. She could have hired the sharkiest, most blood-thirsty attorney out there and ripped John Edwards a new one. And she could have made sure that the "filmmaker" who hosted the love-child had a miserable existence from that day forward.

But she didn't.

She took the high road. Yeah, she wrote a book, yeah, she did interviews, but she did all of it with dignity and aplomb. She never once mentioned the other woman by name, a tactic that I myself have employed. When you call someone by their given name, you acknowledge their presence. You humanize them. She chose to do neither.

She had been bracing her children for her inevitable death for the past few years. She said that when the family first sat down to address the severity of her disease and the certainty of her losing the battle, she said, "Everyone here who isn't going to die raise their hands" (or something to that effect). She started a letter to her children back then and supposedly added to it often. A letter that her children will be able to read for the rest of their lives. Although it won't replace having Mommy there, it will be almost like a phone call or an email. A reminder that she loves them.

She showed us how to live, how to forgive with grace. She showed us all how to deal with adversity, how to face it with a brilliant, quiet ferociousness. And in the end, she showed us how to leave. Surrounded by family, her children and her estranged husband.

Rest in peace, strong woman. Finally, you can rest.


How I Met my Molly

It was fifteen years ago today.

My second pregnancy was picture-perfect, aside from that killer heartburn that fooled me into thinking I was dying. My first kid, Charlie, had been 2 weeks overdue and the size of a breadbox, so he was born via c-section. My doctor had encouraged me, right from the first prenatal visit, to try for a VBAC.

VBAC= vaginal birth after ceasarean. I'll be honest with you, I had been dreading the whole birthing process during my first pregnancy. Absolutely positively dreading it. I could not imagine pushing a person out of my vagina. I worried about the pain, about the aftermath, about pooping in front of strangers (goodbye, my one or two male readers. I'll be back later with a funny/non-vaginal post). I feared having a big flappy crotch, to tell the truth. And after seeing the size of Charlie's head, I realized that my fears were all very legit.

The c-section was a breeze. Seriously. I had very little pain afterward, if I remember correctly the only medication I took was an Advil or two. I was up walking within a couple of hours and recovered in record time. The one and only thing I hate about c-sections...actually there are two. The first is that damn catheter they make you wear. As if the whole poking/prodding/spread-eagled in front of the world thing isn't humiliating enough, you then get a couple of nurses shoving a hard plastic tube up your urethra (the last hole on a woman's body that she wants ANYTHING shoved into. And if you read my stuff, you know I have issues with holes and having things shoved into them).

The second thing I hate about them is the scar. And not even the scar so much, but the flap of skin that develops over the scar. I've had three c-sections now, so I am blessed with what I lovingly call my "front butt". It looks for all the world like a flabby ass perched just over my girly parts. No amount of exercise or dieting can get rid of it. Shortly before Big Daddy left, I had talked my OB into recommending a therapeutic tummy tuck (for reals. They exist.). I met with the plastic surgeon, and was just about to schedule the surgery when Big Daddy pulled the insurance out from under me. Fucker. But now, having lived the life I've lived, I realize that having a front butt isn't the worst that can happen to a girl. I have learned to co-exist with it.

So obviously I was just fine and dandy with the c-section process. I did get annoyed by the Mother Earth bitches who claimed that I wasn't a real mom, that I hadn't really experienced childbirth because of the way my child was birthed, but I figured that breastfeeding for what felt like all of eternity evened things up in that arena.

Anyhoo, back to Molly and how she arrived: My doc was very rah-rah about VBAC and didn't let a single appointment go by without mentioning it. She measured me every month, and even let me have a few extra ultrasounds to make sure that I wasn't brewing another Paul Bunyan in my womb. It was during these ultrasounds that we first found out Molly was a she. I remember the technician pointing out the gender-bits on the little fuzzy screen: "See, this looks like a hamburger? Like two buns pressed around a patty? That's her vagina. If it looked like a turtle we'd be saying penis right now." And so my pink party was started.

I was over-the-moon THRILLED to be having a girl. I debated girl names endlessly. For a while she was Sydney. For a long time she was Grace. I also loved Phoebe, Meredith and Lucy. But my love for all things 80's won out, and I (umm I mean "we") chose the name Molly. Yes, I named my daughter after Molly Ringwald. Go ahead and judge...I love the name. I've never met a Molly I didn't like.

So Molly gestated and kicked and hiccuped for 9 months, and finally it was time to see what we'd made. My doctor won the VBAC battle, and I was scheduled to be induced at 8:00 a.m. on December 1st, 1995. Leaving 1 1/2 year old Charlie in the capable hands of my former mother-in-law, Big Daddy and I set out for the hospital.

At first it was great. Like a party where I got to stay in bed and eat ice chips. The stuff they gave me to start labor started kicking in around lunch time, however, and by dinner time (you like how I relate everything to eating?) I was in a fair amount of pain. By second-dinner time? I was in pure hell. That's when I got the epidural. And I loved it.

The rest of the night is fuzzy, but I remember distinctly when my doc came into the room at about 2 a.m. and told me to start pushing. And it hurt. It hurt like hell. I pushed and pushed. I remember Big Daddy standing next to me, and then I remember a nurse commanding him to "get down here and hold her leg". Because that's where you want your lovah to be, down where all of the wide open orifices are. Childbirth is a miracle, but it's a messy one. And if you're married to someone who goes through life judging everything on looks, that's the last place you want their gaze to settle. It's too late for me, but I put that out there for posterity.

She wasn't coming out. At first my doctor was playing it cool, had me change positions, had me push different ways.

And then the cool started melting.

There was a problem. By this time they had attached a monitor to Molly's head, and her heart rate was becoming erratic. She was stuck. After the next push, the activity in the room intensified and I heard the doctor say something about "meconium" and "we need to get this out NOW". I remember looking up at Big Daddy for assurance and feeling, for the first time, scared.

I love my doctor. She's still my doc, to this day. I trusted her then, and I trust her now. But I remember looking at her and saying, "VBAC, huh?".

She tried forceps. I saw the cold glint of the contraption between my legs and winced as they jammed it in, trying to get my baby's head. No luck.

Next up was the vacuum extractor. I remember they had to push a pedal on the floor to get it revved up, like an old-school sewing machine. Seriously.

By this time I was exhausted. I hurt, I was hungry, I was pissed. I wanted my daughter out of the birth canal and in my arms.

The vacuum seemed to work. After just a few minutes of intense pulling and twisting and yanking, my darling baby girl was finally freed.

And that's when the terror set in.

I didn't hear her cry. In fact, they didn't even let me see her. They had a team of nurses swoop her out. They assured me that she was going to be ok, but they wanted to check her over.

The pain was gone. I was ready to exhale, ready for all of this to be over. That's when my doctor said, "Call in any available docs immediately. I need help." There was one of those code things called, I remember that. People were running into the room, running out, getting carts and talking in very hushed tones.

My doctor looked at me from between my legs and said, "Jenny, there's a problem. We have a lot of bleeding and we can't stop it. I need to get you into an operating room right now." She asked Big Daddy to leave. I remember hearing a splish-splash sound as people moved about the room. Big Daddy told me later, much later, that what I was hearing was the sound of footfalls on a floor covered in blood. Splashable amounts of blood.

I remember very little after that. I was crying. I wanted to see my baby. I wanted to get up off of that bed and get into some of those big mesh undies and hold my baby girl. I wanted to see Charlie, wanted my husband. I wanted this to be over.

They whisked me to an operating room. The bright lights, I remember those. The last thing I can recall was them giving me something and then passing out as a team, an actual TEAM of doctors gathered at what used to be my crotch.

When all was said and done, Molly was fine. And so was I. Turns out I had suffered some sort of gigantic tear, from inside out, which required 2 hours of surgery and hundreds upon hundreds of stitches. According to my doctor, I was about 1 minute away from needing a transfusion.

Molly Elizabeth was 8 lbs., 2 oz. and 21 inches long. She had a light dusting of dark brown hair, big beautiful blue eyes and the prettiest little lips I've ever seen.

My former mother-in-law was an OB/GYN nurse and demanded to see the records of the delivery. She was convinced that somehow, the vacuum extractor was responsible for slicing and dicing my nether-regions.

At that point, I didn't care. I had a very healthy baby whose only side effect was a big mushy bruised spot on her head, and believe me, I had plenty of cute hats for her. As for me, I was fine too. My doctor did tell me that I probably wouldn't be able to have any more babies, but I told her "we'll see about that".

Molly became a big sister not once, but twice. Two more pregnancies, two more births.

And you better believe, I had two more c-sections. VBAC, my ass. Or rather, VBAC, my reconstructed bionic vagina.

So, Happy Happy Birthday to my lovely daughter. Her arrival was less than harmonious but I'd do it all again just to have this same perfect girl.

I love you, Molly.
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