I'm Grieving about BlogHer, and I'm Not Ashamed to Admit it

As a snarky person, I'm usually the first one to point out the ludicrousness of people whining about their awful First World Problems (usually in a sarcastic tone, too). "Oh no! The last 10 seconds of the American Girl movie were cut off due to NBC announcing the Zimmerman verdict? Hell yeah, Mattel should pay for the counseling your kids will need!"

"You mean, you ordered extra ranch with your chicken strips and that stupid waiter forgot it? That SUCKS. You should totally not tip him."  You get the gist of it. Whaaa.  

But I'm here today to tell the world (okay probably not the WHOLE world but a little sliver of it) that I'm wallowing in my own swampy puddle of First World grief:

I'm not going to BlogHer in Chicago this week. And I'm sad. I'm actually mustering up a few tears over this, if you can believe it. And as pathetic, and self-pitying these tears are...

they are real.  

This whole blogger thing was not on my radar when I started writing The Happy Hausfrau. As I've said before, the whole bloggy community seemed cliquey and foreign and difficult to navigate. I was quite content to sit in my own little bubble and float about the blog universe completely oblivious and unawares of things like networking and awards and recognition. 

Until I got recognized, that is. And then it lit a little fire under my previously clueless buns. Suddenly, I felt like part of something, like a member of something. AND I WANT TO BE THERE. I want to meet the ladies who write the words that make me laugh and cry and think. I want to see my name on a list of talented writers who were acknowledged as the Top of The Class. I wanted to arrange my schedule and pack my bags and pose for pictures and pop out #BlogHer13 tweets like a Duggar pops out babies. For the first time in what feels like forever, I wanted to stretch my wings and take a chance and go outside the box and whatever other trite analogy there is for someone wanting to go out and experience something new and cool.

I did the math early on, and it was woefully obvious that I couldn't afford to go. I mean, come on..reality check here: my kids get reduced price lunches at school. It's not feasible for me to drop $1,000 on a three day weekend trip for mommy. Not feasible, not practical. And totally not happening.

I gave it the old college-dropout try, folks. I crunched the measly numbers in my checking account, and truth be told, had I not dropped almost $500 on my car in June? I might have been able to squeeze by. Of course, I'd also be skateboarding everywhere, but that's beside the point. 

Some of my kick ass friends tried their hardest to help me come up with ways to raise the money. And they found out, the hard way, that no matter what I'm always going to find a way to put my kids first. "Well, if I did manage to come up with that kind of money I'd rather spend it on my kids!" was my standard response to well-meaning suggestions for fundraising. "Henry needs a new backpack! Molly needs her senior pictures taken! I still owe money for William's hockey! Yada yada yada!".

And that's the truth. At the end of the day, I have to weigh the Maybe column (maybe going to BlogHer could be the next step in my "writing career", maybe I'd make new friends and learn new tricks and be inspired and smitten and all that good stuff) against the Definitely column (kids gonna eat).  Guess which column wins?  Hint: it involves food.

My plea to Kotex got an answer and it was nice to know they listened, but in the end Glenda the Feminine Protection Fairy didn't wave her SuperPlus wand over me and drop a sponsorship in my lap. For a few fleeting moments, I actually thought it would happen. And I'd like to think that for a few fleeting moments, someone at Kimberly Clark actually considered it. That's pretty cool.

So I decided to turn this into a learning experience, and a lesson in life. After all, I'm the woman who spends her days telling preschoolers "You get what you get and you don't have a fit." I allowed myself to have a little fit, and now I'm going to get up and get over it.

I'm gonna PollyAnna the shit out it, folks.

I've made some new friends, found some fabulous blogs to read and recommend (list at the end of this sob-fest) and yes, I found a lot of self-confidence and a little bit of pride. My fellow Humor Honorees who will be in Chicago this weekend will be bringing a paper version of me (a picture of yours truly, she's been dubbed Flat Jenny and I'm hoping they get her liquored up like there's no tomorrow) and I know my Funny Girls will keep me updated. 

I was floored by the generosity I experienced: from a fellow blogger offering up a hotel room, to VIP bloggers trying their hardest to help me get sponsorship to my friend Mary offering to DRIVE TO CHICAGO with me to one of my hens actually whipping out her checkbook and asking, "How much?". I'm reminded of the sweetness in this life, my friends. Thank you.

And I know I'm in some good company. Not everyone can get to BlogHer. Some have family commitments, some have financial restraints like me. Some just aren't going. 

I have friends who have experienced real grief. I know this doesn't compare. In fact, I feel some hesitation to even label this sadness, this selfish little tantrum I'm having as actual "grief". But dammit, it feels like it.  Part of me is on the floor, pounding with my fists and kicking with my feet, screaming out "I WANT A GOLDEN GOOSE TOO, DADDY!". Well...maybe not the Golden Goose part but you know what I mean.

Here are the things I'll do this week to take my mind off of the fact that I'm not where I really really really want to be:

  • Working a billion and a half hours, subbing at preschool. Can't wait to see those kids and get hugs and hear "It's Miss Jenny!" when I walk in the room. See, I really do have fans!
  • Helping one of my best friends get ready to move from the house she's lived in like, forever. Having gone through it myself, I know how it feels.
  • Spending time with my kids, who have not yet made me feel murderous. Last year I made it through mid-August before snapping. I'm enjoying this non-wall-crawling lull.
  • Walk my poor dog who needs Xanax after the heat wave we just had. Because mama don't walk in the heat and both of us sorely need the exercise.
  • Rejoice in the fact that I've recently reconnected with two of my cousins. We haven't seen each other in about 15 years and they surprised me by coming to the Listen To Your Mother show. We had dinner this week and I am so grateful to have them back in my life. Family ties are strong, ya'll. Thank God.
  • Console myself with the fact that I'm going to get my period this week, and if I'd been in Chicago, surrounded by orgasmic deep dish pizza, the results could have been lethal and would have been shameful. So there's that. But I do have to add, OMG KOTEX, DO YOU SEE WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY YOU MISSED? I'D ACTUALLY BE USING YOUR PRODUCT AT THE CONFERENCE! Not only would you have been there in spirit, you'd have been there, literally, in my nether-regions. Your loss, Kimberly Clark.

See? I can channel PollyAnna. It's all good. 

Maybe this year isn't the year it's supposed to happen. Maybe next year? The year after that? There's no expiration date on hope, you know. And I'm not a quitter. Just ask my ex-husband.

I'll leave you with a list of blogs that I think you need to check out. Some are my fellow Humor ladies, a couple are just really awesome ladies who tried really hard to get my broke ass to BlogHer. Basically, they all rock and I know you'll like them as much as I do.

Lisa at Back to Allen (my sister from another mister...)
Jen (People I Want to Punch in The Throat) (I really, really wanted to meet her, you guys. And just stand in the same area as her. Not in a stalkery way, though.)
Mandy Fish (I adore her and wanted to have an A-frame hug with her!)
Victoria Barnes (this chick got me lurking on craigslist for ottomans)


Six Signs That You Are Middle Aged

I'm going to be 47 in eight weeks. That's close to 50. Sometimes I forget that I'm no longer considered "young", except by really old people. In the eyes of society-at-large, I'm middle aged. It's easy to ignore the fact that time does indeed march on...but like Ace of Base, I saw the signs. And here they are:

Sign #1:  You find yourself entrenched in potty-training mode again...only this time the training is for YOU. You remind yourself to use the bathroom before you leave the house. Sometimes you can't remember if you've relieved yourself recently (like within the past 10 minutes), so you shrug, and try to go "one last time".  Oh, and that faint odor of human urine? It's not a Pull-Up this time, honey.

Sign #2: You are growing a mysterious and unsightly roll of back fat. You seriously consider buying one of those bras that looks like a Kevlar vest. 

Yeah baby!
Only they need to expand this Kevlar bra, so that it covers the entire area from the top of your armpits to the waist. Because this mysterious and unsightly roll of fat is like hot-effing-lava...if it runs into an obstacle it simply oozes around it. For a while I thought I had some weird glandular issue, then I realized that my back fat was just being pushed up and through my armpits.  Yes, in case you were wondering, IT'S SEXY.

Sign #3: When you watch an awards show or page through a gossip magazine, there are only six people you recognize: George Clooney, Oprah, Brad Pitt, Jennifer Aniston, Johnny Depp and Louis CK (okay maybe that last one is just me). The rest all look vaguely familiar but you can't place them. 

Have you met my pretend boyfriend?
When you look at Jennifer Aniston, you think, "I should really start doing yoga." You'll go online to find local yoga classes but end up watching videos of twin pandas being born and accidentally wake up the whole house because apparently twin pandas are loud little effers.

Sign #4: Next year, The Cosby Show will celebrate its 30th anniversary. Rudy is 34. If you remember settling down on the couch on Thursday nights and sighing over how cute she was, you are middle aged. 

Sign #5: You have taken an interest in bird watching. Not just noticing our fine feathered friends in their natural habitat, but YOU WATCH BIRDS. On purpose. You have even thought about buying a pair of binoculars and a bird-watching book. Seriously. This just happened, en masse, to me and a few of my lady-friends last night. We were out on my friend Kathryn's deck, gabbing about tattoos and mean little kids and the wine at Trader Joe's when one of us exclaimed, "OMG! Look at the bright yellow bird!". We then had a discussion about birds and their habits. Then there was a moment of awkward silence and we quickly changed the subject to which guy from "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" we'd sleep with. I chose Mac. Fat Mac, specifically. We may be old but we still watch cool shows, people.

Sign #6: You think, "Geeze that guy at Office Max was kind of flirty! I STILL GOT IT!" and then you remember that your 17 year old daughter is with you. Boom. If it's any consolation, the 70 year old Ed Asner look-alike who asked if you knew which aisle the ballpoint pens were in? He was totally flirting with you. 

And a bonus sign that you are middle aged: You will read this post and think of funny things you'd add but by the time you get back from the bathroom you will have forgotten them. 

But, I'm pretty sure that's a Pileated Woodpecker in your backyard!!! You'd better take a picture of that bad boy and post it on the facebook. Your friends will love it.


My Listen To Your Mother Video: Stuart Smalley & Free Bird

So, the videos from every 2013 Listen To Your Mother show are out! They're all up on the YouTube and now, for the rest of eternity, so am I.

If you know me, you know I am the first to jump in with criticism or a snarky comment about my chins or my linebacker physique or whatever else I can say to win the title of BEST AT SELF DEPRECATION. Like my homegirl Rebel Wilson says in Pitch Perfect (quickly becoming one of my favorite movies of all time), "I do it so twig bitches like you don't say it behind my back." Not saying that YOU GUYS are twig bitches, of course. It's a shield that a lot of people with self esteem issues lug around. "If I point out all of my flaws first, then I beat you to the punch!". That sort of thing.

I'm working on it. Baby steps, ya know? The woman who photographed our Listen To Your Mother Journey (Jennifer Liv, who kicks AAASSSSS) actually got kind of fed up with all of us Fat Amy's clucking away about extra chins and bad hair and goofy posture. She sent out an email, to all of us, asking us to knock it off. She said she saw NONE of these supposed "flaws" we were all harping about, and in so many words she reminded us that us complaining about this crap was kind of an insult.

An insult to her, of course, because she was the one taking these photos. Who are we to look at these beautiful pictures and instead of noticing how exquisitely she captured our essences, the gleams in our eyes and the wisdom behind our smiles, we only see our perceived imperfections? She was right. Not only is it belittling to someone like Jennifer, who exposes both inner and outer beauty for a living, but it's also a slap in the face to everyone who loves us and is proud of us.

So when I gingerly clicked "play" on my video, I forced myself to watch it wearing my Stuart Smalley goggles: "I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. AND DOGGONE IT PEOPLE LIKE ME!". Instead of pointing out to myself the number of times I swayed back and forth I commended myself for not curling up into the fetal position and reading my essay from the floor. Instead of saying, "Could your nerves have been any more obvious?" I said to myself, "Dang girl, it's cool to watch yourself becoming comfortable up there!". Instead of thinking, "OMG did I put my makeup on in a dark closet?" I decided to love the moment in the video where I look up into the crowd and see my kids.

Folks, I am the person who feels self conscious walking through a parking lot. For me to get up on a stage, and talk in front of 500+ people, and allow myself to be recorded while doing it was HUGE. Being in this production was remarkable for so many reasons: the friends I've made, the people who talked to me after the show, learning so much about books and covers and judging..but maybe the coolest lesson of all was learning to be proud of myself.

One of my dear friends watched the video and then commented: "You look just like Karen Walker!". I stifled to urge to reply, "Um yeah, don't you mean I look like I ATE Karen Walker?" and instead I basked in the glow of that compliment. Yes, in my world that is one of the highest accolades you can give me, people. I love me some Megan Mullalley.

And where, pray tell, does Free Bird fit in here? I'll tell ya. "The Broken Bowl" is one of my favorite pieces I've written..but not my absolute favorite*. To be honest, on my list of favorites it's not even in the Top Five. I remember the morning I wrote it, I was almost late to work because it was one of those things that just demanded to be written. And I loved it. But...it has truly become my Free Bird and I bet Lynyrd Skynyrd felt kind of the same way about their beloved song. When people would come to their concerts and scream out "FREE BIRD! SING FREE BIRD" I know how they must have felt..kind of like, "Damn..yeah, that's a sweet tune but listen to some of this other stuff we sing, man. It's awesome!". Not saying that I imagine throngs of people standing in my front yard, lighters glowing and chanting "broken bowl...broken bowl" but you get the point.

Here's the video. If you find yourself with some free time, with a box of Kleenex and mayhap a Depends on hand, please peruse the entire collection of Listen To Your Mother videos. Each one is moving and special and gorgeous. Each and every one. I couldn't be more proud of myself, yes. But I'm also just as proud of all these brave and beautiful people who decided to step up on stage and tell their story.

* my most favorite post, ever? I think it's this one.


Spammy Spammers and the Spam that they Spew

So, if you're not a blogger, this post might be lost on you. If you are a blogger? Can I get an amen?

Let's discuss spam. No, not this:

I'm talking about the spam that we get in our comment sections. If only it were the pressed meat substance. I could feed NATIONS.

I have my comment section moderated, meaning: when someone leaves me a comment, I get the privilege of looking at it before I decide to publish it. Most of the time it's from one of you guys, and it makes me laugh or sigh or get a little teary. I've never received an outright nasty comment, which you should know comes as a complete surprise to me given these two factors:

1. There is a German porn queen named "The Happy Hausfrau" and dozens of boner-fueled men come here every day looking for her. I'm utterly amazed that I don't get more angry comments like "DIESES IS NICHT DIE PORN ICH SUCHTE!" (translation: THIS IS NOT THE PORN I WAS LOOKING FOR!)  (say it in an angry German Obi Wan voice..it's kind of funny)

2. Every single divorced man who trolls the Divorce section of the Huffington Post hates me. When one of my articles gets posted over there, they come out in droves. Like gays to a Lady Gaga concert*. I'm just waiting for the day they come here and go through my posts and comment on each one with "There are two sides to every story! Let's hear Big Daddy's side!". Or "It's a fact that most divorces are initiated by women! WOMEN SUCK".  

There have been a few passive-aggressive comments, but hey...I am in Minnesota. This is where passive-aggressiveness was born, don'tcha know (also the game of Twister. And the stapler. And Post-its.). I don't mind the passive-aggressiveness. It's part of living in the Land of 10,000 lakes. Like mosquitoes.

I get a lot of spam regarding High Priests and Priestesses and Spellcasters who conjure up spells guaranteed to get your wayward lover back into your arms. It must be because of the divorce stuff, I guess, but really? Spellcasters? I read each of these comments using the voice of that voodoo priestess from Pirates of the Caribbean:

"my name is Julie life indeed is a misery i never thought i will be happy again after the love of my life dumped me for a fellow lady in a restaurant it was indeed a disgrace shock to me after been in a relationship for five years i became so miserable and downcast so i confided in a friend who told me to do something but what could i have done so he got me introduced to dreromspamspelltemple@spammy.com that it was the
same man that helped him when his mother in law almost threw her out of her matrimonial home so i contacted him but when he ask me to pay for the sacrificial items i became skeptical because he was from Africa so i told my friend then she told me that was the same way he felt when she met him online so i sent the money lo after the 3rd day of the spell my phone rang and my love eyes was opened to see how much i love him and he came back to me crying and asking for forgiveness i just ordered a promotion spell again from dreromuselaspelltemple@spammy.com and i know is still going to be perfect cause now i believe his saying that he never fails i believe in you dr Eromspam"

Ahhh...Julie. I feel your pain, sister. There truly is no disgrace shock like when the love of your life dumps you for a fellow lady. IN A RESTAURANT, no less! And while I'm beyond giddy that Dr Eromshamalamadingdong got your love eyes back open, I have to tell you: we don't need no stinkin' love spells around here! And P.S...Sacrificial items? Are we talking chickens, goats, firstborns...what? Sounds like a lot of work to me. 

Tell you what, Julie and Dr. Ermosiouxsieandthebanshees, find me a spellcaster who will produce a calorie-free martini and then we'll talk. 

The other spams I get actually crack me up. Because I read these using the voice of this guy:

Mr. Chow from The Hangover. These are the short and sweet spams, they are quite pleasant and when you read them using Mr. Chow's voice, quite hilarious:

"Thіs site ωaѕ... how do I say it? Relevant! ! Finally Ι have found sоmеthing that hеlped me. Mаny thаnks! Ѕtop bу my web blog plus size clothing stores in michigan"

"Hi it's me, I am also visiting this web site daily, this web site is genuinely nice and the people are actually  sharing fastidious thoughts. My webpage :: ルイヴィトン財布"

"Good ԁay! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would be ok. I'm definitely еnjoуing your blog and look fоrward tο new poѕts. Feel frеe to surf to mу sіte: legal Ecstasy"

By the way...I love me some Ken Jeong (the actor who portrays Mr. Chow). Did you know he's like, a real life DOCTOR? And he's married to a doctor! He went to Drake. And he's also on one of the funniest shows ever, Community. Check it out sometime. 

Then I get some weird spam comments, which appear to be chunks of conversation overheard between two pretentious semi-hipster IT guys, one of whom looks and sounds like sexy Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber:

Only Hans Gruber with a more douche-y mustache and maybe a black wool knit skull cap. Here's a sample of this kind of spam:

"The different models of phones, while all capable of making calls, actually have very different features and capabilities for many different uses. Interestingly, the rise in sales of smartphones will come at the expense of declining cell phone sales, currently 90% of the market. You can convert more than hundred different types of currencies and will be able to keep up with the currency rate changes. Feel free to surf to my site: samsung galaxy"

Blah blah blah, Hans. Spice it up a little for me next time, okay? 

All in all, these spammers are harmless. What really sticks in my craw about them is the false hope they give me. When I log into Blogger and see that I have 7 comments awaiting approval, and then find out it's Mr. Chow and The Spellcasters, it breaks my fragile joy bubble. And that makes me hate them.

The edible spam? I haven't had that in a million years. Maybe it's due to me being on day 2 of Weight Watchers again (yeah, let's hope the 3rd 4th time's the charm) but let me tell you...you haven't lived until you've had a fried Spam and egg sandwich. Seriously.  

*I was at the Lady Gaga concert this past February...attended with one of my best friends from high school who happens to be a lovely lesbian. She wore a smart plaid-ish top and a buttery leather jacket. I wore my sparkliest Karen Walker top that showed off my freckled and ample cleavage. We looked like The Odd Couple. She drank whiskey, I had vodka. And I loved every second of it. We left early to avoid traffic...because let's face it: we are tired middle aged ladies, regardless of sexual orientation. Mwah to my wonderful friend Terri.  


Dear Kotex: Please Sponsor Me at BlogHer '13.

Desperate times require desperate measures. I want to go to BlogHer '13 in Chicago. Like, really bad (badly? Sometimes I wish I had finished college).

A funny friend of mine has been working her brain into a smoking frenzy trying to figure out ways for me to raise enough money to get to BlogHer. We've discussed kidney selling, webinars, plasma donating and although we haven't mentioned "fetish niche" out loud, I have a feeling that's on her radar too.  

And then I had a brilliant idea: Hey, how about a sponsorship? Surely one of the corporations in our beautiful capitalist country have some spare change in those deep pockets..enough to send little old me to Chi-town in order to drink watered down martinis with other women who spend too much time staring at screens? Surely they do. I got to thinking..which companies should I contact?

1. An online dating service. And then I remembered, I just wrote a HuffPo piece about how I don't date anymore. Plus, there was that time I wrote about how I met a felon on eHarmony. Yeah. That might not be cool with them.  Next!

2. Alfred Dunner.  Only, I own just one piece of Alfred's couture. Might not be enough. Next!

3. Weight Watchers. I am still paying them every month, but somehow I managed to gain 7 pounds during a 5 day power outage. You know why? Because it's easy to eat a lot of cookies in the dark. That's why. Plus all that cheese was going to go bad anyway.....   Next!

4. Any vodka manufacturer. But then I thought, wait. That might send the wrong message to my kids. And the pathetic Pavlovian-drooling that happened when I started thinking about free vodka made me hate myself. There's enough shame in my life, dammit!  

Oh and then the heavens opened and a silvery beam of starlight made its way down to me. It kissed my forehead, softly and with a slightly opened mouth. And it said to me:

"DUH. Ask Kotex if they'll sponsor you. After all, you and you alone have sent at least one executive to the Cayman Islands. All those boxes of SuperPlus don't come cheap, ya know."

The heavens had a point. After all, the post that BlogHer honored was basically an ode to Kotex. It was practically a love letter to SuperPlus tampons! And don't even get me started on how it sparked a national discussion over women with double-wide nether-regions tossing shame aside and owning it (okay, "national" may be stretching it a bit). Owning the hell out of our big, beautiful birth canals (BBBC? Did I mention fetish niche before? Shudder.).  

Heretofore and henceforth (see..it would have been cool if I had finished college), please find my written sponsorship proposal to Kotex. True story..I sent this puppy. And I even liked them on Twitter, despite my worry that when Louis C.K. peruses who I'm following and sees "Kotex" it might turn him off a little. Because the fact that I've publicly declared I'm the proud owner of a vagina that rivals the Grand Canyon would be a complete turn on, right?  


"Dear Kotex,

My name is Jenny and I write a little tiny blog called The Happy Hausfrau. Recently, the massive and powerful media outlet BlogHer chose a post I wrote about tampons and vaginas as one of their Voices of the Year '13. They are having a huge conference in Chicago at the end of July and they will be honoring yours truly and 99 other bloggers (out of almost 3,000 entrants) at a special ceremony during said conference. 

Here's the deal. I'd love to go and accept my accolades in person, but I'm a single mom to four teenagers. I work as a preschool teacher and pretty much every cent I make goes to keeping these wonderful, hungry kids housed, clothed and fed. I also spend some of my cents on your fabulous product every month. In fact, my post that was chosen for the BlogHer event discusses YOUR PRODUCT by name. And how much I love it. I only have one daughter, but I have made her your customer too (she makes me get the U by Kotex tampons because the packaging isn't as blatant, which is much appreciated). So I'm proposing this to you:

Sponsor me at BlogHer '13. If you find it in your hearts, and your budget, to sponsor me you will get, in return:

1. My undying love and adoration. And you should know, as an exhausted single mom, my love and adoration are very rare entities, indeed.

2. At least two blog posts about how you rock and what an amazing company you are and what fabulous products you provide to women everywhere (guaranteed to be read by at least a hundred people..give or take a few).

3. Free rein to take my words and use them as you wish. I've been watching a lot of Lifetime Television lately and I have to say, if there are commercials featuring incontinent middle aged women dancing in their lady-diapers, you could certainly pull off a campaign featuring chicks like me talking about how we love your giant tampons. Think about it. We are a pretty impressive demographic.

4. I'll even step out of my comfort zone and Tweet to the high heavens about how much I love you. If you send me to BlogHer, I'll even do something I've only dreamed about doing: LIVE TWEETING FROM THE EVENT. I have, like 500 followers on Twitter! Including 3 famous authors. I know 500 doesn't sound like a lot, but did I mention there are three famous authors mixed in there? Surely that makes it all the more impressive.

Here are the numbers for your accounting department (these are approximate since I can't figure out how to work the calculator on this laptop yet. Plus I have number dyslexia):

$150.00   Airfare from Minneapolis to Chicago
$375.00   Two night hotel accommodations in a place that isn't creepy
$375.00   Registration fees for BlogHer '13 (with my Voices of the Year discount!)
$100.00   Martinis (just being honest)


That's it. Just a measly grand. Think about it...the advertising you'd get from this sponsorship would be PRICELESS. I'd even be open to wearing a Kotex tiara or sash or t-shirt. Seriously.

Please think it over. I've included a link to the blog post I wrote about tampons. It contains the word "vagina" a couple of times but I figured in your line of work that's about as shocking as hearing the words "copier", "emails" and "meeting" .  

A sincere and desperate thank you for your consideration.

Your biggest fan,



Never say Never

Three things I never thought I'd see myself doing:

1. Wearing an Alfred Dunner shirt
2. Calling a dog an asshole
3. Saying, "Man, this veggie burger is awesome!"

Yesterday I did all three. SIMULTANEOUSLY.

It was the 4th of July, and I was down to one kid. I'll be honest with you: for the first time, ever, I didn't have to refer to my dog-eared divorce decree to see whose holiday this was. I knew that the kids were all going to make plans with friends, and if they didn't, they were just going to stick around here. I have no idea if it was technically "my" holiday, and much to my amazement (/sarcasm) I didn't hear anything from Big Daddy regarding plans. So I approached it much like any other day.  

Charlie, Molly and Henry all had big teenager plans. They set off on their various adventures, one.after.another. Until it was just me, and William and Walter. 

I had no plans this year. None. If you know me, you know holidays aren't my favorite thing. Fourth of July seems kind of innocuous when compared to the BIGGIES like Christmas and Thanksgiving, but it still smarts. It's a time of family, of camping and BBQ and picnics. We don't really have "family", the kids and I. At least on my side. My mom and stepfather do nothing. My dad and stepmom have rejected communication from me, and I can't begin to describe to you the pain I feel when my stepsister posts things on facebook about her "awesome dad" and her "amazing family". Because that used to be my awesome dad, and my amazing family. It's not anymore, and before I become mired in a maudlin bawl-fest I'll stop. 

But that's why the holidays, even a "hot-weather, bang-bang let's grill some doggies" one like the Fourth, fill me with anxiety and tooth-gnashing angst.

When I want to beat myself up, I play a mental game called "Which one of my psycho traits will I pass on to my kids?". Yesterday I had a rousing game of it going on. I imagined generations ahead of me, filled to the brim with grandchildren and great grandchildren who face each holiday with trepidation and stress. Like blue eyes or wavy hair, in my head I've managed to burn my whackadoo brand into the DNA of people who have yet to be created.  And the game continued as I watched William just sort of linger around, not saying much but with an unspoken question in the air: "What are we gonna do today?". I did my usual "Hey, buddy. Whaddya feel like doing?" and a couple rounds of my famous "We Should..." and "You Know What Would Be Fun...." and then I busied myself with laundry and watering plants and writing.  

I passed on an invitation to my BFF's cabin, partly because Molly and Charlie both have to work this weekend, and partly because of the fact that my BFF is moving to her cabin until mid-August and I thought this would be a good time to cut down on the cocktails.  It's not easy to do that when your drinkin' buddy lives two blocks away and always has a fun new vodka flavor chilling in the freezer. So of course when the holiday melancholia began settling in, I started having second thoughts about my decision to not go up north. I pictured my kids, tanned and laughing and jet-skiing and I felt like Shitty Crazy Mom. 

See..this is what really effs me up on these holidays. My mind does a great job of painting beautiful pictures of what EVERYONE ELSE IS DOING and of WHAT WE SHOULD BE DOING. In my head, every single person on this big blue earth is out there having fun, bonding with relatives and creating yet another picture-perfect memory for their children. And what I need to remember is that yes, some people are doing that. But others aren't. 

So I announced to William that we'd be taking Walter to the dog park. And so we went. We spent about an hour there, and without the distractions of dirty clothes and dishes to be put away and wifi, we talked a little bit about what we should do that evening.  "You want to go see some fireworks?" I asked him. We were sitting on one of the few semi-shaded park benches, watching Walter engage in his awkward play with a couple of his new dog pals. William was tossing woodchips through the holes in the chain link fence that surrounds the park. He replied, "I dunno. Do you?"

I worry about this 13 year old kid. I never used to. Now I worry a lot about the fact that I haven't been worried about him in the past (go look up self-flagellation in the dictionary and see if my picture is there, mmmkay?). There has been some trouble with this boy and some of the whippersnappers in his posse. Not awful, lethal, "go to the emergency room in an ambulance" sort of trouble, but trouble nonetheless. So a lot of these boys have spent Summer 2013 on some form of lockdown. William included. 

And thus the worry: is he becoming depressed? Does he have any friends anymore? Am I ruining his life? Funny how a question about whether or not we're going to see fireworks causes such introspection, huh? 

I like fireworks. They're awesome. What I don't like are: crowds, sweating, mosquitoes, parking, and crowds. And any fireworks display worth seeing involves all of these things. Did I mention crowds? I will never forget the hour I spent in the car, back when I was married, after seeing a fireworks show not too far from our home. Big Daddy at the wheel, me next to him, and four increasingly fidgety and whiny angels in the back. Big fresh mosquito bites begging for attention on my legs, a husband swearing not-so-surreptitiously under his breath and at least three kids who should have been in bed hours before. Getting out of that parking lot was a Herculean feat, and to this day I can't believe we made it out of there with all four kids and with a marriage (somewhat) intact. For some reason, when I think of fireworks, to this day I am thrust back into that muggy night. 

We decided to discuss the fireworks over dinner, and since we had Walter with us we decided to check out a dog-friendly drive in restaurant in the area. Galaxy Drive In is the place, and if you want my mini review? It was awesome. Super fast, very friendly service, good food that was so cheap I did a double-take at the bill. Plus, they let us bring the dog. So local peeps? Go check it out. 

That's where we were when I found myself wearing an Alfred Dunner shirt, raving about the half-eaten veggie burger that was clutched in my talons, and talking about how nice it was that Walter isn't such an asshole around other dogs anymore. Only I said "a-hole" because William is just a child. 

The Alfred Dunner? Judge away, people. It was on clearance at JC Penney's and if you are a woman of a certain girth, you know fat beggars can't be choosers when it comes to summertime clothing. This one is a rarity: 100% cotton, and the neckline doesn't go down to my bellybutton (why, oh why, do so many shirts over a size XL have such deep v-necklines? Because I'm fat means I want to show off my enormous boobies?). And yes, I said fat. I'm not fluffy, I'm not curvy. Right now, I'm fat. There's no pussyfooting around it (you don't hear "pussyfooting" much these days. Please don't Google it.). Maybe when I stop eating my feelings and get off my ass more often, I won't be fat. But for now, I am.  Anyhoo. This shirt is great, except for the fact that I have to wear a cross-body purse with it at all times to avoid giving off that maternity vibe.

The veggie burger? Don't tell anyone but I'm taking baby steps towards becoming a vegetarian. Maybe. Or maybe just switching to buying meat that was treated humanely before it became meat. Don't get me wrong, we aren't big Fred Flinstone-meat eaters around here. Burgers once in a while, sometimes chicken, a fair amount of bacon. But my conscience is telling me things, and also the kids are watching some really eye-opening videos in school. William now refuses to eat McDonald's because of the abhorrent conditions under which their livestock is kept. Molly educates me in the evils of additives like nitrites and hormones and antibiotics every time we go to the grocery store. So yeah...that veggie burger was awesome. Remember..I said baby steps.

And my dog, who used to be such an asshole to other dogs that I'd get anxious if we saw another pup walking ahead of us on the sidewalk...he's not so bad anymore. Besides, you can't really call him an asshole when he does stuff like this:

In the end, we skipped the fireworks. Someone in our neighborhood began setting them off around the time we got home from dinner, and Walter, who has never batted a ginger eyelash over loud noises before, started getting panicky.  William and I sat out on the deck for a while, and every so often, we'd see a colorful bloom of pyrotechnics above the treetops. 

And that was just fine.

I know that missing fireworks isn't going to ruin my son's life. I know that holidays aren't as important as the demons in my soul make them out to be. I know that raising kids is tough and that sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees in teenage-dom. I know that the only one who cares what I'm wearing is ME and I know that all it takes for me to feel better about myself are a few less cocktails and devoured feelings and a few more morning walks with my dog. I know that veggie burgers can be tasty. I know that my dog used to be kind of an a-hole but how can you not love a canine who cuddles with a boy?

And I know that this has been one looney-tunes blog post. My apologies and I promise to get back to "normal" ASAP. These holiday blues can suck it.


What The Heck is #VOTY ??

That's what I was thinking. 

I'm gonna be upfront about this: I'm not a big BlogHer gal. Don't get me wrong: I don't dislike it. It's more a case of me not GETTING it. 

When I first started this blog, three years ago (yep..run the numbers, folks. I get about 30 new readers a year. Jealous, Dooce?), I went over to BlogHer to see what it was all about. All I knew was that BlogHer was THE place to go and hang out and promote yourself and network.

Two key words there? PROMOTE and NETWORK. Neither of which is something I do well.

I write my stories here because if I didn't, my head would explode or else I'd be a huge bitch in real life (yeah yeah, I'm Polly-freaking-Anna, right? Shuddup.).  I write about divorce and betrayal and being poor and raising teens and sometimes I write about vaginas and tampons. 

So when I packed up my bloggy diaper bag and ventured into the BlogHer playground, I was overwhelmed. It was a lot like going to your inaugural Mommy and Me class with your firstborn in tow. Everyone else seemed to know what they were doing. Everyone else had already made friends. Everyone else had experience and connections and yes I'll let my hopelessly insecure 14 year old speak: it felt kind of cliquey. 

The cliquey part of it was most likely stemming from my harrowing lack of self confidence, paired with feelings of never quite being "good enough" that have hounded me my whole life. I don't like cliques, even imaginary ones I've made up in my head. I've never been part of one (that I know of...mayhap there is a clique made up of women who have to lift up body parts to get clean in the shower..if there is, ladies? I don't want to know). 

But it seemed to me that everyone knew everybody. There were groups and women with clever blog names and funny posts. Lots of them seemed to be BFFs and for a newcomer like me (read that as: a newcomer with some issues) it was daunting. I took my diaper bag and left. 

Only recently have I ventured back there. Partly because some of the writers I was lucky to meet through Listen to Your Mother post on BlogHer and I like to read what they write, partly because I find myself armed with more self confidence than before, and therefore, a new-found desire to PROMOTE and NETWORK. 

One of my LTYM friends posted something about "submissions" and "voices of the year" on Twitter a while back. I had to click "can't remember your login name?" on BlogHer but I got on there and decided What the Heck. And I submitted a couple of my posts. 

Cut to a couple days ago. I received a facebook message from one of my aforementioned new friends, Nina Badzin (I love this woman. Read her stuff, okay?). She sent me a note that said "Congratulations on your BlogHer VOTY!". Bear in mind that this was at 4:00 a.m. and I had spent the evening with my BFF. Her husband was out of town and we were sampling a new Absolut vodka flavor, "Cilantro with Lime" (meh. Kind of grassy.). So when I read Nina's message, and the couple of congratulatory Tweets I'd gotten from other dear women, I was like, "Huh?".  Truly. I had no idea what they were talking about.

I checked my email, and there it was. A message from BlogHer, congratulating me and telling me that out of over 2,600 submissions, my musings on all things vagina was chosen as one of their Voices of The Year in the Humor category. 

And still, I was like, "Wow. That's pretty cool." I read further into the email and it started dawning on me: this BlogHer thing was kind of a big deal. No, not my being chosen, but the actual CONFERENCE and the Voices of The Year and all that stuff. Like, a super big deal. 

As I read more during the day (the blog posts and the comments and the tweets, oh my) I began to realize that yes, it was indeed a big deal to be chosen. There were a lot of big feelings out there on the interwebz. People were so excited to be part of this, present company included. People were sad to have not been chosen. There was genuine mourning and a little bit of snark. I'm still reading blog posts about it, and the semi-enormity of this thing is becoming very real to me.

I read one very nice, very introspective piece by a woman who had wanted to make it, and hadn't. She mentioned, at one point, something about MY category, Humor. She said that after perusing the titles in the Humor section she decided to avoid it because "certain body parts don't need to be discussed." If you take a gander at the titles in Humor, you will see there are just two titles that contain body parts: Mine, which you know by now is my homage to lady gardens, "A Post About Tampons, Vaginas and Episiotomies" (by the way, spellcheck doesn't approve of the pluralization of "vaginas". Is that wrong? Should it be 'vaginae'? OMG. It is. Ooops..where was I?)...oh yeah. So it was my post and another one by my new blogger BFF, Darcy Perdu

I read that, and I felt a little offended. There, I said it. My panties were somewhat wadded up about this comment.  There was some more talk about potty mouths and swears and stuff like that.  And I took mild offense. I mean, really, the worst I say is vagina. I don't drop the F-bomb, hardly ever, I usually spell it out. Like, mother-effer. I'M NOT A POTTY MOUTH, I SWEAR! Wait, that came out wrong. But I digress. The adult Jenny prevailed, and I wrote a comment to her, praising her decision to make this a learning experience. There's no ill will. We're all just clickety-clacking out our feelings and hoping they stick, somewhere, to something. 

I get what it feels like to not "make" something. My senior year of high school, I didn't make cheerleading. After two years of being on the squad, a couple of the mean, older girls decided they didn't like me and they rejected me. That hurt. When my husband rejected me as a wife, that stung, too. And the crickets I'm hearing from the literary agents to whom I've submitted my book idea, they aren't pleasant. Just a day or two before all the BlogHer hoopla, I received a short and sweet "NOPE" letter from Brain, Child magazine, in regards to an essay I submitted to them (oh did my inner juvenile have a field day with that one..in my head I composed a bitchy reply, 'Sorry I'm not intellectual enough for you, homies. Next time I submit I'll wear my Tina Fey glasses and have a cup of organic green tea cupped in my gluten-free hands'). See, I know what it feels like. It sucks. It HURTS. I'm the last person on this blessed planet to diss anyone's reaction to their feelings. I'm a lover, not a fighter. 

There have been many beautiful posts written about Voices of the Year, and rejection, and how we handle ourselves when faced with the fact that something we created, something we loved writing, something that is kind of like part of US, is turned down. My friend Heather of The Extraordinary Ordinary wrote a great post about it. Ann Imig, who is speaking at BlogHer this year, wrote another lovely post about it.

So that's what I'm thinking #VOTY is. It's a chance for each and every one of us bloggers, whether we have big huge popular blogs or humble little blogs, to feel PROUD of ourselves for everything we have accomplished. Do you know how big and brassy your cajones have to be in order to hit "publish" on one of these things? HUGE AND SUPER BRASSY. It takes guts to offer up a piece you've written and say, "Here. Hope you like it." 

And now you'll have to excuse me. I'm going to go back and play Tetris with my checking account. I want to go to BlogHer in Chicago so badly...I want to be able to say "Thank You" in person to the folks who had the impossible task of reading over 2,000 submissions and making the heartbreaking choices they had to make. I want to hear the awesome speakers speak, I want to go play with other bloggers. I want to rub shoulders with people who live in this goofy world we call the Blogosphere. In a way, that's what's giving ME my biggest feelings about all of this. I have been given this honor, and because of financial limitations I'm most likely going to have to give my thanks from afar. So if any of you have a connection with the Chicago Sheraton, let them know that there is an extremely grateful-but-poor woman in Minneapolis who would do just about anything for a discount. Almost anything.

Okay, let's be honest. ANYTHING.

Congrats to those who were chosen to read, and my fellow honorees in all of the categories. And a special congratulations to every single person who took the very brave step of submitting their work. It's truly an honor to be in your company.

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