8/29/13

I can turn ANYTHING into a single mom rant...

I posted this on my Facebook page, but thought I'd put it here, too, for those of you who aren't stuck in the social media quicksand. 

It's a mini-rant that was born after I read a blog post from a dad to his son. You can read it HERE

I'm off to work now. Please share your thoughts, opinions or crockpot recipes. All are welcome.

Love,

Jenny

Although I'm not a huge fan of "Dear So and So" blog posts, I like the message in this one. Sadly, it's not just Robin Ick that I don't want my boys to get their Manhood Lessons from. It's their own dad, and every other man who has been given a "Get Out of Jail Free" pass from society after treating the women in their lives like disposable pieces of non-human trash. Our culture turns a blind eye towards men like Robin Thicke, who ooze into the public eye and rake in millions for spewing vitriolic anti-woman nonsense and yet somehow, a sad 20 year old woman/child is getting trampled by a full-on hate parade.

Yeah, I know there wasn't a gun pointed to Miley's head, and yeah, I'm aware of the fact that what she did on that stage set the women's rights movement back about 100 years. And although I will admit to not watching the performance, I have yet to hear about Robin Thicke dropping his microphone in disgust and exclaiming, "Dammit, I have a wife! I have a mom! I won't be part of this travesty!". No, apparently he was just fine with having an underage, former Disney golden girl rub up on his package. In front of a million kajillion people. And BTW, have you seen the video for Blurred Lines? Actually read the lyrics?

He's no saint. Miley isn't either, but I guess the fact that she has a vagina makes her more culpable for the decline of modern civilization.

Every single day I hear from women who find themselves barely keeping afloat after the men in their lives decide to walk away. I hear stories exactly like mine, stories about women and kids left to pick up the pieces of shattered lives after their husbands and fathers decide to hit "rewind" and give themselves a mid-life do-over. And when I read this blogger's words to his son, I cried:

"A man is defined by how he treats women, by how he keeps his promises, and by how he protects and serves the ones he loves. That’s what makes a man a man. My dad taught me that, he taught it by example. I pray I can do the same for you."

Now, I'm not comparing myself to Miley Cyrus (actually LOLing at that one). But this blog post made me think about my boys, who are, for all intents and purposes, growing up without a dad. Single moms...we do it ALL. And I think most of us do it well. But we can't be men. We can't be dads. We can teach them, by example, what a good woman is, but there is no way we can even begin to teach them what it takes to be a good man. They have to learn it from friends, from relatives, and unfortunately, from what they see and hear via the media. It's not just Miley and Robin. It's every song lyric, it's every movie, it's every tv show and stupid t-shirt and meme and whatever else is floating around out there that gives them the message that it's okay to crap all over women. Because they are women, and men are men.

And that makes me sad.

Now I promise I won't talk about Robin Thicke anymore. :)

8/25/13

My Daughter's Birthmark Looks Like A Hickey. Does That Bother You?

My daughter, Molly, had a very traumatic birth. It was like a scene from ER, actually, the episode where sexy Bradley Whitford's wife was having a baby and the baby got stuck. Only in Molly's case, both mom and baby lived. And there sure as heck wasn't any sexy Bradley Whitford there, either. 


I wish.


Anyhoo. My point is, after having a less-than-ideal birth, the last thing you're going to stress about is a birthmark. Molly had a tiny mark on her neck. It was less than an inch long, red, and slightly raised. Our pediatrician looked at it and announced that it was a small hemangioma, also known as an angel's kiss or salmon patch. "It'll be gone by the time she's five" he assured me. But like I said, after almost dying from blood loss, all I cared about was the fact that my baby girl and I were both alive. Birthmark, schmirthmark. 

Molly is now 17. And so is the birthmark. Yep, it's still there. Over time it changed, and went from a small little red bump to a flatter little cluster of red dots. 



It looks exactly like a hickey. And it's exactly where a hickey might end up on a girl's neck. 

When she was younger, like before age 10? No big whoop. A little red mark on a little girl's neck didn't cause much uproar. But as she got closer to puberty, the comments started. Funny little comments at first, "Haha! That thing on her neck looks just like a hickey!" and "Hoo boy...that's going to cause some trouble when she's older."

And then, the not so funny comments began. "Do you know your daughter has a hickey on her neck?" "I can't believe she's walking around with a hickey." "Mrs. Molly's Mom, this is Teacher Busybody. Just calling to talk to you about the matter of Molly's hickey." Yeah. The beginning of the school year always brings a few calls or emails. Seriously.

But through it all, Molly has been remarkably nonchalant about it. I've asked her, probably way too many times, if it bugs her. If she wants to have it removed. Her answer is always the same:

"Nope. Doesn't bother me. I think it's kind of funny, actually."

Have I mentioned how much I love my daughter? 

So, the birthmark hasn't been much of an issue. Until she started working at the home improvement store. 

This summer, she got a job at the local Home Depot-type store in our neighborhood. It's been the perfect summer job for her. We live about two blocks away, the hours are great and she loves her coworkers. 

She loves everything about it, except for some of the customers. Apparently, the fumes from paint and light fixtures and plumbing material does some damage to the filters in some customer's brains. Because they like to comment on her birthmark.

It's always men, and the comments range from jokey to downright asshole-ish. One dad, holding his kid, said, "Oh wow, Johnny, look at the owie on that girl's neck! I know what she was doing!". And just the other night, one man had the balls to say to her, "I don't mean to be rude, but nice hickey." (you don't mean to be rude????)

Molly handles all of this so much better than I would. She's polite. Unfailingly polite, and calm. "It's a birthmark" she explains. "Everyone thinks it's a hickey." She says they usually apologize, which is good. And I secretly hope they feel sheepish and ashamed about it. But the "don't mean to be rude" guy just said, "Uh huh. Sure." 

He's so lucky I wasn't behind him in line. With a pipe or hammer. 

My worry is that the more Molly steps out into the world, the bigger of an issue her birthmark will become. When she goes to college next year, when she starts interviewing for her first real job, when she starts dating. It's all well and good here in our little suburban bubble, but how many "don't mean to be rude" people are out there? And for every single person who decides that it's perfectly okay to remark on a person's appearance, how many are silently tsk tsking, judging and making all sorts of assumptions and presumptions about my baby girl?

I think the thing that really irks me about this is that Molly is probably the last girl on earth who would end up with a hickey. She's a rarity, a 17 year old girl who doesn't party, who isn't boy crazy and who spends the majority of her time either home or at work or with her small cluster of good girlfriends. Maybe if she was the type of girl who'd have a hickey, it wouldn't be so offensive. If she was one of those girls who parties nonstop or sneaks boys into her bedroom, then maybe the judging and the comments would be more appropriate. More deserved. 

But really, does anyone deserve these kind of remarks? If it was a real live hickey on my girl's neck, would those people have some kind of free pass to say those things? Sure, we can judge all we want within the confines of our skulls, or on the phone to our friends or with our spouses over dinner. But is it ever okay to voice your obvious disapproval about what someone may or may not have done to a complete stranger?

I don't know. Maybe I'm overthinking this. Maybe I'm letting mommy worry take over. Maybe what I really need to do is accept the fact that my daughter is growing up and so far?

She seems to be handling this one just fine all on her own.

(but I'll still help her get it removed if she changes her mind)



8/22/13

My Phone Died...AND I LIVED



Okay, so the title of this post is a wee bit melodramatic. But it works, ya know?

For those of you keeping score, yes. Yes, this is the second phone I've destroyed in just under two years. And my temper is to blame for both deaths. 

My Android didn't go out quite as harshly as the iPhone did, however, both met their premature ends because I was pissed at my kids. I guess in hindsight, better a broken phone than a broken kid, but for all of my talk about being mellow and a "go with the flow" kind of gal, two mangled phones doesn't exactly make me the poster child for Chill Moms.

But you know me. I'm always looking for that silver lining, for that lesson, and let's be honest, for a blog post, in pretty much everything that happens to me or my kids. And today's lesson isn't about anger, or temper tantrums, or the fact that despite my years of loyal watching, I am NOT Judge Judy and my damn phones are NOT gavels.

No. Today's lesson is about our smartphones and how they are making us stupid. And how I woke up from my techno-fugue when my phone died.

My foxy and brilliant friend Nina Badzin actually wrote a four-part series of blog posts about how she fared when she decided to put her phone down. I loved it, and not only because I was super impressed that she has the attention span required to do a four-part series of ANYTHING. I tried to do a two-parter about sex, and it took me like, four months.

I'm not one to pussyfoot around (yeah, I'm bringing pussyfoot back, people). I don't do much of anything half-assed. When I put my smartphone down, I did it with such aplomb that it just died. 

And I grieved. I actually wept a little. The five stages of grief? Yep. That happened. It went a little something like this:

Stage One, DENIAL: Ha! Okay kids, sorry about that outburst. Mommy just gets mad when you guys fight over phone chargers, that's all. What? What do you mean I just broke my phone? Nah. I'm sure it's okay. I didn't slam it down that hard. The screen is totally black? Huh. No, see? Look! It's lighting up a little bit. Here, let's take the battery out. For like ten minutes, and then it resets. I've heard that. Shit. Someone go get that bag of rice in the cupboard. This phone is totally NOT broken. 

Stage Two, ANGER: Mother effer! I broke my effing phone! See, why do you guys have to fight over your stupid phone chargers? Why do you have to make me so mad??? What do you mean, it's my fault? I wasn't the one tearing apart the house looking for a phone charger, was I? Dammit. SHIT. Why do I get so mad? And why do I always take it out on my freaking phones???

Stage Three, BARGAINING: Alright. You know what? I promise to not slam my phones down on hard surfaces, ever again, if this stupid screen would just light up. Because I really need my phone. What do you mean, the rice didn't work? You sure that only works for water damage? Okay. It's going to be okay. Maybe it just needs to rest. You guys, I'm sorry I get so mad. But you really need to keep better track of your phone chargers. Maybe we need to get a couple of extra ones. How's my phone look now? Any better? Crap.

Stage Four, DEPRESSION: Oh my God. It's gone. It's really, really gone. I can't believe I did that. What's wrong with me? Once is bad, but twice? That's a pattern. What am I going to do without my phone? I can't play Ruzzle. I can't check my emails. Sweet baby Jesus, how am I going to know when someone tweets me? *cradles phone in hands* I'm so sorry. 

Stage Five, ACCEPTANCE: Well. That's that. The guy at the AT&T store told me we don't have any upgrades, but I could buy a new Android for $500. So yeah. Bring me one of your old phones, you guys. Really? They're all slider phones? Why are your screens all cracked (this is where we learn a lesson about apples not falling far from trees)? Okay. This'll work for a while. What do you mean, I can't go online with this one? Seriously? Aughh. Okay. It's going to be just fine. I mean, as long as I have a phone, and I can text. What the hell? How do you text on this keyboard? Really? I really have to tap the key three times to get an exclamation point? Crap. Okay. Well, bottom line is, all I really need to survive is a phone. Right? Right. It's all good. Ooooh look at that sunset. I gotta take a picture on Instagram. Shoot. I forgot. Oh well. Let's just look at it, like we did back in the old timey days. It sure is pretty.

You know what? That sunset really was beautiful. 

Now, just so you know, I'm not totally ready to go all Pioneer Lady. I did find an exact duplicate of my Android on Craigslist, and I'm supposedly going to meet this "Meg" (please oh please Meg, don't be a serial killer) on Friday to buy it from her. And the kind folks at AT&T said they can hook a sister up with all of my old apps, and most importantly, my contact list. 

But I'm on day four without a smartphone, and it's honestly been okay. I think my friends have figured out that I can't stand texting on this thing, because I am one who insists on using whole words and punctuation, even on texts, and it takes me approximately a half hour to send a message that says "Not much! What are you guys up to?". I've learned to just say Bye Bye to my fear of actually calling someone when I need to get in touch with them. I've also learned that emails really can wait. And that Twitter exists even on laptops. 

I've learned that sharing stuff is nice and all, but so is just experiencing that same stuff, without tagging anyone, without Instagramming it, without #hashtagging it. I've learned you can accomplish just as much with a phone call as you can with a text, and bonus! You get to hear your friend's beautiful voices, too.

Of course, I say this somewhat smugly, as I sit here on my porch clickety-clacking away on my laptop.

If this thing dies? That's a whole 'nother story. Let's hope all of my kids know where all of their phone chargers are until Friday.  

Until then, if you really need me? Just reach out and touch me. I mean, call me. Sorry, Rod. 


8/19/13

Do These Pans Make Me Look Racist?

You gotta love Target. I mean, embrace it, drink it in, bury your face in its bulls-eye bosoms and motorboat to your heart's content.

I often refer to Target as a shopping casino. There are no windows, no clocks...you can cruise the aisles for hours and time somehow stops. You leave the store in a daze. Thirsty, hungry, looking at your phone and thinking, "Holy crap. How long was I in there?"

When you get home, you unload your precious parcels. The endless bags! Coffee and Flaming Hot Cheetos and toilet paper and dog treats and tampons and printer ink and socks. We put our goodies away, now-empty bags go into the dog poop bag collection and life goes on.

Shopping at Target has never caused me to face a moral dilemma. Until last week. Last week, I shopped at Target and I wrestled with my conscience. In front of a clearance end-cap.

You see, I need new pans. The ones I use daily are relics, vestiges from a life I used to live. A splurge from 2001, if I remember correctly. My then-husband would get once-a-year bonus checks from the company he worked for, and we lived large for a few months afterwards. That year, we bought pans. A set of Calphalon non-stick pans, with tempered glass lids, hard anodized heavy gauge aluminum exteriors...these were the CADILLACS of pans, folks. I swear the mac and cheese tasted better when made in these luxurious saucepans. 

So I've had these pans for a dozen or so years. They've seen a lot of life. A lot of curry chicken and ramen and pot roast and boiled eggs and more pasta than a set of pans should ever have to see. They're old, and in terrible shape. The non-stick surfaces are peeling off, leaving little black chunks of teflon floating in our meals. Kids: "What's this black stuff in our mac and cheese, mom?"  Me: "I don't know. Maybe pepper. Are you going to finish that?"

New pans have been on my Wish List for quite some time. But, as you know, I'm not one who can run down to Williams Sonoma and pick up a new set of designer pans. At the end of the day, I can think of at least a hundred other things we need with greater urgency. Food and electricity come to mind. 

The new pans, I always figured, would have to wait.

UNTIL I WENT TO TARGET LAST WEEK.

I was cruising down the back aisle of the housewares section, checking out dish towels and spatulas, when I saw them. PANS. A big huge box of beautiful pans and lids. 15 PIECES IN ALL. Lovely white ceramic non-stick interiors, charming cherry-red exteriors. TEMPERED GLASS LIDS, Y'ALL. And get this: IT WAS ON THE CLEARANCE SHELF. I'm drawn to the Target clearance end-caps like a sad little moth to a flame.

I had just been paid, and thanks to a slew of subbing hours in late July/early August, I was feeling flush. Feeling like the kind of woman who can indeed buy herself some new pans if the price is right. I approached the end cap with a curious hope, wondering just how far down these beauties had been marked. I negotiated with myself, saying "Okay Jenny...calm down. If they're less than $50, we'll think about it. I said THINK about it, alright?" Sometimes I'm so strict with me. 

I saw the price tag. $30!!!  Marked down from $119.00!!!! I think I heard a choir of angels singing...or that might have been my stomach growling. I'd been in the bowels of Target for so long.

And then I turned the box around and saw this:



Just kidding. I actually saw this:





Yes. The pans that I had already mentally purchased were PAULA DEEN PANS. I'm not going to go into detail about the "troubles" Ms. Deen has had of late. Let's just recap it by saying that she may be a wee bit o' racist. Like, "Hey y'all! Let's have black servers at the weddin'! And let's dress 'em up like old timey plantation servants!" And I think she also dropped the N word a few times. 

But let's not turn this into a cultural debate, okay? I'm not trying to be all aware and sensitive here. We don't need a discussion about whether or not Ms. Deen is a victim of an era and her geographical upbringing or whether or not she's basically an ignorant bigot. I don't even want to get started on the Pandora's box we open when we dig deep into the past and pull out bad decisions and ill-fated choices for all to see. 

I just needed new pans.

I thought about it. I clogged up that aisle with my cart and my conscience and my thoughts. I worried what my fellow Target shoppers would think of me, if they saw that crazy-eyed face on the box of pans in my cart. Would they think I supported Paula Deen and all that she represents? Or would they simply think, "Wow. Three boxes of tampons? Really?" (hey...it was buy three/get a $5 Target gift card, people). I thought about the ramifications of my purchase. How much of the $30 I'd be spending would go to Paula Deen? Would this be like donating to her cause? 

And then I got really deep. Who's to say that we don't give our hard-earned money to people and causes that we don't agree with ALL THE TIME? Do you research every single product you buy? How am I to know that the CEO of every company I've supported with my dollars is on the exact same page as me, character-wise?  That the spokesperson who advertises the products I buy has the same morals and beliefs as me?

Bottom line is, I don't know these things. But this I do know:

I needed new pans. 

And so I bought them. We no longer have black bits of teflon floating in our food, but I'll admit...there are bits of something floating in my conscience. 

8/15/13

Mama, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Housewives




A few nights ago, I stepped knee-deep into a pile of Mommy Wars. Thankfully, it was a wholly internal incident, so the only witness to my slip into the eternal debate between working moms and SAHMs was me. 

But still...it was unsettling. You know me, right? I'M SWITZERLAND. I'm a very kumbaya kinda lady. If what you're doing isn't hurting anyone? Keep right on doing it and I'm not gonna judge. That's what I thought about myself, until the other night.

Cut to the CAbi party I attended Tuesday evening. We will wait until a later date to discuss the fact that I am way too fat and way too poor to even BE at a CAbi party, okay? For now, let's just focus on the fact that I was there. Along with a few of my really good friends, some I've known since I was a fresh, young stay at home mom. 

So we watched the presentation, ooohed and aaaahed over the clothing. Honestly, it's cute stuff, and if I had a few less chins and few thousand more dollars, I'd be all over it. Instead, I focused on the huge bowl of Greek pasta salad and the red wine. Because, it was free. And delicious. And I didn't have to try it on. I already know it fits like a glove.

Then the chatting started. Some of us hadn't seen each other for a while, so the gabbing was catch up talk. Where are your kids going to school, how's your hubby, and that one question that starts coming up when mommies of a certain age get together:

"And what are you doing these days?"

Which is code for: Are you working at all or are you still "just" a stay at home mom?

Now, as I have stated before, I'm not one to judge a woman by what she does all day. Or so I thought. Because when I overheard one mom, who happens to have two adult children (her youngest is my oldest's age, 19), reply to that question by saying, "I'm still just a slave to my family!", I felt something so foreign and cold and icky...no, it wasn't my ex-husband rubbing up against me...

it was judgment. I heard her say this, and something in me bristled. And a shrew-like voice in my head actually said these words:

WHAT IN THE HELL DO YOU DO ALL DAY???

(to clarify: I didn't say this out loud. Thank God.)

Almost immediately I felt bad. I felt shameful and regretful and worst of all, I felt mean. 

See, I like this woman. She's a great person who has raised great kids. And if her job of raising her family continues on despite the fact that her kids are, for all intents and purposes, raised, whose business is it? She is lucky to have that choice, to have the (yes I'll say it) LUXURY of not having to work outside the home. And that doesn't make her any more of a woman or any less of a woman than you or I. 

I think what bothered me most about my knee-jerk reaction to her seemingly innocent statement was the sheer indignation I felt. It was only there for a moment, true...but the fact that it was there for even THAT long bothered me. 

So much for my Kumbaya Lady status, huh? 

Maybe one of the reasons it stirred such emotions in me is the fact that I once WAS her. I was the woman who was told by my husband, "You'll never have to work." Hell, even after our divorce, when things were still amicable and we still spoke and he still paid child support, we sat across from each other at a little sports bar and he said to me, "I don't understand why you got a job? You don't need to work." 

Maybe another reason was due to the whole Opt In/Out discussion that's happening all over the freaking place. I read these stories with a somewhat jaundiced eye, seeing as I'm part a demographic which isn't discussed much at all...those of us who never had anything from which to Opt in or Out of at all. 

Women like me didn't make an agonizing choice between a high paying, satisfying career and motherhood. Women like me, we basically went from Friends to Parenthood without batting a well-mascaraed eyelash. Some of us have degrees, some of us never finished college. Some of us never started. We had jobs, some of us had really good jobs. But we also had boyfriends, serious ones. 

These boyfriends became our husbands and then the fathers of our children. And most of us were told, like I was, that working wasn't something we had to worry about. Ever. My ex and I used to lay in bed, after the kids had finally conked out and after the comfortable married sex happened, and we'd talk about The Future. We discussed remodels and vacation homes and golf and how crazy it would be when those four snoozing kids became teenagers. We talked about college and cars and sometimes we even talked about what would come after all of that...retirement and Florida or Arizona and even more golf.

What we never talked about was what would happen if he decided to leave us. What would happen to me, and our children, if he decided that the co-worker he had started screwing in parking lots after Happy Hour was his soul mate. 

We never got around to having that discussion. And I think that might be what triggered such big feelings in me at the party that night.

I try to not dwell on the less than positive aspects of my life. There are slips, now and again, because I am only human and because even the crappiest parts of my life make me who I am. I think I do a good job of living in the here and now, and not thinking about all of the should-have-beens and the could-have-beens, although there are times when it happens. 

Like when I'm sitting in a room full of chatty women, eating pasta salad and listening to a stay at home mom talk about her life. That's when I see things a little differently, with a little more emotion.

That's when I want to stand up, toss my fork aside and proselytize to these women, to all women who were and are like I once was: comfortable and safe and complacent in their roles as stay at home moms. I want to shake them and sit down with them and make sure they have a Plan B. And a Plan C, D, E and yes, even a Plan F. I want them to look at me, and my life, and the shit I've slogged through and see that you can Opt in or Opt out or Opt sideways and somehow still find yourself struggling just to make it from paycheck to paycheck. 

I know that the majority of these women are going to be just fine. They lucked out, they chose wisely and ended up with solid men. Men who really do take care of them and who love them and their kids and want to stay with them until death truly doth part. But I know that there are some who aren't going to be just fine. Some will end up like me. I had great alimony and even better child support, and a five year plan that would have left me with a house that was paid off and plenty of time to think about finishing my education. And then, after about a year and half, it all stopped. My ex left his high paying job and therefore, left me almost penniless. I lost my house, my credit and for a while...my confidence and dignity and hope. It didn't have to be that way. It never should have been that way.

I want to make sure that what happened to me doesn't happen to my daughter. And the daughters of my friends.

I was sitting on my best friend's couch the other day. One minute we were laughing about something trivial and the next minute I surprised both of us by bursting into tears. I know, I know...me crying isn't a surprise. This time, though, it was. 

I had just spent the morning sending out emails to the hockey association my youngest son plays with. Last year, they graciously allowed him to play via a scholarship. Only the details of the scholarship were never really ironed out, which was as much my responsibility as theirs. I was so desperate to have my sweet boy play, play this damned sport that is so out of reach for poor kids. This sport that he loves. One of the moms on his team was the Team Manager, and it's her job to take care of the financial end of things. Which meant she had to deal with my broke ass. 

There was some confusion as to how many of William's expenses were covered, and how much there was leftover, for me to pay. This woman, who I consider to be a good friend, ended up covering our last piddly expenses out of her own pocket. Verklempt? Yes, I was, along with grateful. She sent an email asking if I would be able to pay her back, which I of course said YES to. The kicker was, and I had to explain this to her, if I wrote her a check she'd have to wait until Friday to cash it. 

"I only have $35.00 in my checking account right now" I typed. "So it's in both of our best interests if you wait until Friday to deposit it.". I think I added something lighthearted or semi-funny in an attempt to soften the pathos, but sweet baby Jesus. It was that moment where I felt myself just kind of break. Hence the weeping on my friend's couch.

The reason I'm in this situation, this bleak financial one, isn't my ex-husband's fault. Oh, there is no question about it, he made certain choices that helped me get here, but ultimately the blame for all of it: for the desperation, the worry, the scrambling, all of it...lies squarely on my shoulders. 

I should have had a career. Or should have learned a trade, or honed a talent. I should have had a Plan B of my own before I settled into my short-lived role as a housewife and a stay at home mom. I should have finished that last year and half of college, if for no other reason than now I'd be able to check the box that says "college" instead of the one that says "some college". I should have been able to respond to my then-husband's statement "You don't have to work" with "Yeah, but if I ever do have to work, I'll be okay".

I also find myself with one surprising feeling here...a weird sort of respect for that woman my ex used to have secret parking lot liaisons with. The day he moved out of our family home, he moved in with her. And she immediately took to finishing her degree, while she had someone else to pay the bills. She may be a homewrecker, but the girl isn't dumb. I'll give her that, along with my ex-husband. And my retirement. 

But I digress. I did have a point when I started this post, and it was this:

No matter what you do in life, whether you aspire to career greatness or whether you embrace motherhood and housekeeping with open arms, or whether you find yourself doing both of these things at the same time, do it well. Do it with everything you have, with all your heart and with great gusto. But do it wisely. 

Don't ever make the same mistake I did, and put your life in someone else's hands. And always, always, ALWAYS have a Plan B. 

Tell your daughters and your granddaughters and all the other girls in your life this: it's okay to fall in love and have babies and be the homemaker. It's also okay to go to law school or business school or medical school or to beauty school or trade school. In fact, it's more than okay if you want to do BOTH. Better than okay...it's the smart thing to do. Tell our girls that they really can have it all, but ALL on their terms. 

I never, ever want my daughter to write an email pleading with someone to hold off on cashing a check because she only has $35 dollars to her name. I never want her to look at her own children and have to say "No, I'm sorry, we can't afford that" over and over again. I want her to find herself and her passions, whether it's at a four year college or at a community college or at a school that's sandwiched between a Chipotle and a Starbucks at a strip mall. I want her to have something, ANYTHING she can fall back on if she finds herself falling at any point in her life. I want my girl to have a Plan B. No matter how amazing and lovely her Plan A ends up being.

As for me? I'll be okay. I need to finish my schooling, which is something I should have started doing the second my husband left me. I have eleventy million excuses why I didn't: I was scared, my kids were traumatized, blah blah blah. One thing I have learned, even without a degree, is that you're never too old to start anew. 

Today, I got an official full time job. The first full time job I've had since my first sweet baby was born over 19 years ago. It's a real job, with vacation time and sick days and health insurance. Just writing this brings tears of joy to my eyes, tears of pride and relief. I'm not going to be making much money, I might even have to figure out a way to supplement my new income.

But dammit, it's a job. It's all mine, and I did it myself.

I finally found my Plan B. 



8/7/13

Over the River and Through The Burbs..To BFF's Cabin I Go

So, this morning I totally bent my thumbnail back while trying to stretch/wrestle a mattress cover over a mattress corner. I was temporarily blinded by the pain, and almost fell backwards in the process of reeling from it as well.

I'd post a picture of my offended thumbnail, but then I'd have to use "NSFW" and I don't want to go there. 

Where I do want to go, however, is Wisconsin. To my best friend's cabin (lake home, really). She graciously gives me and my kids a chunk of time there, every summer, to have a mini-vacation. Relaxing, tubing, jet-skiing, sleeping in...yeah. It's pretty much awesome.

So, we're headed there today. I was a little worried about my injury and how it will affect the aforementioned activities, but I think it will be okay. 

My BFF, however, will not be doing any of those activities this weekend. Or for the next 8 weeks or so. 

Because she always has to outdo me, she took my bent thumbnail and raised it by one bent ankle: (WARNING! GRAPHIC PICTURE. Totally NSFW unless you're in the medical field)


Yeah. I hope you see now that I was being ironic (or is it sarcastic?) with the whole bent thumbnail thing. This picture actually makes my eyes bleed a little.

She did it doing a Mud Run, folks. Sliding down a fireman's pole while slick with mud. BAM down on the ankle. She told me "I almost pulled a Kevin Ware" to which I replied, "Huh?" and then Googled Kevin Ware. If the picture above made you queasy, please don't Google Kevin Ware. 

My thumbnail and Michelle's ankle are all the proof I need. Housework and exercise are deadly. Avoid both like the plague, I say. 

After emergency surgery, which resulted in 9 pins and one metal plate, this is what they sent Michelle home with:


I told her it looks like the world's ugliest newborn. No offense, of course. She laughed but then again, she was on Percocet. 

She chose to stay at the cabin this week to get some rest. Her twin sister, Janelle, and I are going up today to hang out with her and clean (ha) and most of all, sit on the couch with her and watch Judge Judy and Law & Order. 

The hardest part of roughing it at Michelle's cabin is the fact that their neighbor's wifi sucks. There's one chair you can sit in and get semi-decent access to it, but you can't see the t.v. from that chair. So when I say "roughing it", you know it's the truth.

My kids are now all too cool or too busy to go to the cabin this summer. Except for the one who's too young to fight, William. This morning he was grousing about going, saying, "But there's only 4 weeks of summer left! And when we get back from Michelle's, Papa wants us to go to his cabin! And then Grammie and Grampa are taking me and Henry to a cabin for a whole week! THE REST OF MY SUMMER IS RUINED!"

Of course this was one of those times I used some of the reasoning techniques learned in every parenting class I attended and parenting book I've read....just kidding. I naturally pulled out some heavy bags and sent my boy on a really twisted guilt trip.

I gently reminded him that there are kids who get stuffed into Rubbermaid bins and starved, and that maybe being forced to spend time at cabins with people who love you isn't the worst thing that could happen.

(now taking referrals for really good, long-term therapists)

So William and I are off for our cabin vacation. Michelle's hubby and her three kids will be there, along with our friend Andrea and her two boys, and Janelle's husband and three kids are meeting us there too. The menfolk will be kept busy taking all the kids waterskiing and tubing and jet skiing, while us ladies will keep Michelle company and clean and prepare fabulous food (although it won't compare to Michelle's cooking..girlfriend could make a baseball mitt taste like heaven). Fun will be had by all! 

I just hope nobody asks me to help with a mattress cover.

8/5/13

You Say Depression, I say Tomato

I can't ignore it anymore. Four days of wearing the same clothes, falling asleep on the couch and feeling my heart seize up in my chest at the thought of socializing has made it painfully, blatantly obvious:

Something is not right.

If I were a younger gal, it would be pretty easy to diagnose: either you're depressed or there's something more...postpartum depression, maybe. Stress-induced anxiety/panic. 

But I'm middle aged now. And that means it could be so many things. Or nothing. 

I could be legit depressed. It could be yet another sign of menopause. It could be the thing I've referred to for years...my thyroid. Every time I gained weight in the past I joked about it being my thyroid. This was during my WebMD years, when I spent many sleepless night clicking on "Symptoms of" and diagnosing myself with a vast array of maladies. At one point I had heart disease, hypothyroidism and HIV. That was a scary week.

My favorite part of hypothyroidism is "unexplained weight gain". The other symptoms aren't as convenient, and honestly I'd probably be really worried if my hair started falling out. But unexplained weight gain is right up my alley. 

Only problem is, my weight gain is very easily explained. It's what happens WHEN YOU DON'T MOVE and YOU EAT A LOT. 

Here's the thing about feeling blue when you're in your forties: It's kind of common. From what I've heard through the old lady grapevine, these awful mood swings are fairly typical. And when I say mood swings, I mean mood swings. 

Like, picture my moods wearing sparkly unitards and swinging on trapezes like this:

And this is on a good day....

There are days I am "normal". I shower, I get dressed, I put makeup on and leave the house. I work, go to Target and sometimes even meet friends for cocktails or conversation. Laundry is done, I vacuum a room or two, clean the bathroom.  And all is right with the world.

Then there are the bad days. The days I don't shower, I don't get dressed (just keep the same clothes on that I most likely slept in). I leave the house only under duress, and then it's with a cloak of anxiety wrapped around my shoulders. "What if I run into someone I know? How will I explain the fact that I look and smell homeless?". These are the days I don't cook or shop for groceries. The days I heat up the oven and put in a few Party Pizzas and say "DINNER IS SERVED, MONKEYS" to the kids who are at home.

And even worse than the bad days? Those are the empty days. The days I go about business as usual but I'm like a corpse dressed up and walking around. There is no sadness, no despair. There is NOTHING. I literally feel nothing. Those days are the worst. I'd rather have any feeling, any one at all. The non-feeling days scare me because it makes me wonder how many people are like this all the time.

I don't want to be like that.

I'm not dumb. I know what depression is, I know how it presents itself, I know the treatments. I've talked myself off the ledge before, I've helped my son off that very same ledge. It's not rocket science. 

Sometimes exercise helps. Sometimes medication helps. Sometimes just the act of NOT sitting on the couch, feeling paralyzed and exhuasted and eating soft warm comfort food makes all the difference in the world. 

Today I put on clean yoga capris. I have socks on. My hair is up, my contacts are in. I'm eyeing my running shoes and the dog's leash which hangs from the closet doorknob. And here I sit. I see the sunny sky and I see other people outside, walking their dogs and driving their cars and I think to myself, "You can be one of them. Just go."

And myself thinks back to me: "Oh. But I've gained 12 pounds. Look at my fat legs and my mushy belly! What will people think of me?". I think of all the things I should be doing. My mom needs me to color her hair. One of the kids needs to be picked up. We are down to two Party Pizzas! Then I look at my dog who is curled up, sleeping on his chair (yes he has his own chair). I worry that he's getting depressed too. The thought of having a depressed dog is depressing me even more. 

This is the wheel of nutty that spins in my head all the live-long day. Thank God people can't hear what's going on between my ears, can't listen in on the back and forth that keeps up at such a frenetic pace it's hard for me to decipher it. 

I think of what doctors have given me in the past. Adderall for my ADD. Which I loved. LOVED. I loved it too much, I think. I found myself becoming so in love with it that I stopped taking it. When your mouth starts watering at the sound of pills shaking in a bottle? Either you are Karen Walker or you may like your amphetamines just a little too much, yo. I also worried about something someone once told me, about the effect of Adderall and Ritalin and other ADD drugs on the heart. Did I mention that I had heart disease once? That was because of the Adderall. My chest used to hurt at night. When I took a breath, it hurt. That, combined with the drooling, was the reason I quit.

I was on antidepressants for a while. Citalopram. That was prescribed to me shortly after my husband left. When I was in the "can't get out of bed, and here are some suicide notes I wrote" phase. I will admit that the Citalopram helped me get out of that funk. But what I didn't like about it was, it took me out of one funk only to plop me right into another one. A less "I want to die" funk but a funk just the same. My most vivid memory from this pharmaceutical adventure was the absolute lack of emotion I felt. I didn't cry every day, but guess what? I didn't laugh, either. I was Zombie Jenny. I quit taking Citalopram after ten months. When I stopped, I felt again. I felt sad, yeah. But not as sad as before. And even better...I felt happy some days. I'll never forget how it felt the first time I laughed, I mean really laughed after that. It felt like clouds breaking and warm sunshine.

I'm not a fan of medicine. I'm the mom who questions every vaccine, the one who said no to antibiotics for repeated ear infections and sinus issues in my kids. I'm the one who got through 3 c-sections with nothing stronger than Advil. 

Medicine does help in some cases, of course. Duh. It's a miracle for some people. Some people in this house, in fact. But for me? I'm one who will try every other option before getting pilled up again. Could it be as simple as moving my body? Maybe. It could be that simple. It could be cutting out sugar. Or carbs. It could be all I need is a conversation with a friend. Or it could be much more than that. It could be something deeper, darker, harder to pinpoint. Who knows? For once, it COULD be my thyroid (although I think it takes more than one symptom, Jenny). 

So now, when I find myself stuck in a shitty rut like I've been in for the past 3 weeks, I start to wonder. I wonder if I'm becoming depressed again. I wonder if this is just one of those mood swings, only my swing is stuck on Low. 

One of the benefits of getting older is that your toolbox is bigger. You have gone through more and you know what to try before waving the white flag. 

That's what I'm doing today. I am opening up my toolbox and tinkering and seeing if this is a DIY job or one for the pros.

First step is one that I learned when I first found myself alone with four kids and house to run: 

Lists. I make lists. Right now, I am pretty certain that a lot of this mental paralysis I'm experiencing is due to the OVERWHELMING amount of things I need to do/buy/make/arrange/set up/complete. So here's what's on my list so far:

  • Get taxes done. My tax lady was on hiatus in April, so I filed an extension. Now Charlie needs my 2012 tax info for his FAFSA form. In like, three days.
  • Figure out why I still don't have the title for my car after a year and a half
  • Get caught up with last year's hockey dues in order to sign William up for this year
  • Get William signed up for Cross Country but only after they say it's okay if I wait until after the 15th. You know, so I can pay for it.
  • Color my mom's damn hair
  • Get Molly's senior picture session set up
  • Lose the twelve pounds I've gained this summer. And then the forty I needed to lose before I gained the twelve.
  • Color my damn hair
  • Walk my depressed dog. Oh and get him into the vet for his check up. Which was due in May
  • Get the house in order so it's all good when I leave this week to help my BFF in Wisconsin. She broke her leg and needs help. I will need 24 hour police patrols in front of the house to make sure Risky Business 2 isn't being filmed here while I'm gone (I'm bringing the two younger boys with me, leaving the two older kids. Ugh.)
  • Vacuum. So I can say I did it in August.
  • Find an outfit to wear to my job interview tomorrow. Did I mention that? Life changing job interview tomorrow. No pressure!
  • Try to stop thinking about the fact that I received my first official "REJECTION" notice from a literary agency. They liked my writing but my book isn't a good fit for them. They asked me to submit future works to them, which in my opinion is the same as telling someone "We can still be friends" when you break up. Sigh.



I think I'll start with that walk. 






8/4/13

Week in Review: Sweet Sixteen, TV, Lululemon and Robin Ick

Thanks to my uber-fan, Kirsten, for posting a sweet request on my personal facebook wall: 

"wishing for a new post on HH (smiley face)"

Firstly, did you know that's what all the cool kids call my blog? Short and sweet..HH. Now you know. Secondly, I have been absent for over a week! I'm sorry. I've been swamped with things: jealousy, mostly, but I've also been working many many hours. Yes, there is preschool in the summer and luckily they still need subs. Want to know what summer preschool entails? Sunscreen. Lots of sunscreen. And innocent little preschool farts. 

They fart a lot. But you have to love 5 year olds and their farting etiquette. THEY HAVE NONE. It's fart as you please, folks, and although I will admit to laughing about it at first, it works for them. I can't help but wonder what the world would be like if we all carried on like preschoolers. Sitting at dinner with friends, and in the midst of conversation one of you breaks wind. Loudly. And nobody bats an eye! Of course, gas produced by a person who eats nothing but Goldfish crackers and string cheese is a lot less offensive than that which is produced by a person who indulges in coffee, eggs, Brussels sprouts and craft beer. But still. There'd be no need for Beano or GasX. No more women looking 6 months pregnant because they are holding in the mother of all farts. No more passing up on the roasted cauliflower because you have a date later that night (what, is that last one just me?). What a relaxed, albeit stinky, world this would be.

Jealous, you ask? What have I been jealous about? Pretty much everything. Normally, I am not prone to jealousy. Normally, I'm a live and let live kind of gal. But lately, I have found myself in the grip of the green eyed monster. And I'm envious of EVERYTHING. Maybe it's a new symptom of peri-menopause (along with periods that last 4 days, go away completely and then COME BACK out of nowhere a couple of days later. WHAT THE HELL IS THAT??). I think it stems from my sadness about not going to the BlogHer conference, and trying to be all Zen and accepting of it. But I think me trying to squelch that disappointment was like trying to get rid of a muffin top with a Spanx camisole- you can squish it down but sister, it's going to come out somewhere (with the Spanx I have found that the muffin top ends up saying "Hello world!" on the backside of my armpits, also affectionately known as Back Boobs). 

So I've been writhing with internal envy over everything from people who drive nicer cars than me (85% of the population, including most of my kid's friends), bloggers who have massive followings, anyone who hasn't gained 12 pounds this summer, people with hair that doesn't resemble gray and orange cotton candy, anyone younger than me, women who can still make babies...you name it, I've envied it over the past couple of weeks. I've been treating this the way I'd treat envy in my kids: reminding myself to count blessings, putting things into perspective (oh you don't like your hair? Let's talk to someone undergoing chemo. I bet they'd feel real sorry for you, Bozo), and trying desperately to figure out ways to flip my half empty glass over so it's half full again. 

Luckily my blessings are blissfully easy to count since there are so damn many of them. One of them, of course, is my son Henry. He turned 16 this week and we celebrated by going out for dinner at Benihana. No, I shouldn't have spent that kind of money, and yes, we'll be eating light for the next two weeks but my boy wanted Benihana on his 16th birthday so he got it. Sometimes I get sick of saying no, ya hear?  Here's a picture of us (Molly had to work so maybe someone can photoshop her in for me?). Please disregard the sheen of hibachi grease on our faces and PLEASE tell me you like it...I paid $140 to get this picture and guess what? WORTH EVERY CENT. 



Gahhh! I love my kids so much. And yes, Henry's t-shirt says "This Guy Rocks". Truth. 

And no, he's not getting his driver's license yet. None of my kids drive. I know it's weird. It's sad for me, I can't imagine how it feels for my children. To my face, they say it's no big deal. Molly has said, "It's not as important to us as you think it is, mom." Bottom line is, I can't afford it. The lessons alone cost around $400, which I could probably manage but the real deal breaker is the insurance. Mine alone is almost $100 a month (one thing they don't tell you in Bankruptcy 101: your auto insurance will probably go up...just because). Each kid added would most likely be at least an added $150 a month. TIMES THREE. I just can't do it. Plus, let's not even begin discussing what it would be like sharing a single car with three teenagers. 

The kids who can work, are working. And are saving. Most of their savings money is being held for college expenses, which I of course am on board with. If they decide to spend some of their earnings on licenses and cars and insurance, I'll support them. I'm proud as hell of my kids and their ability to rise above adversity and just freaking go on with life. I've said it before, but what we've gone through as a family has been character building. We now have more character than a DisneyWorld parade. NO MORE CHARACTER, PLEASE and THANK YOU.

The only thing that chaps my hide is the fact that their father is seemingly oblivious to the fact that he has three kids who, in the big scheme of things, should be driving. He makes jokes about it, which is puzzling and kind of sadistic. For Charlie's graduation, he gave him a card with a picture of a car on the front and the words, "Congratulations! For your graduation I'm giving you a car!" or something like that. And on the inside was something clever like, "But I'm not!" (okay it was probably worded differently but I've aged almost a year since that happened. Give me a break.). 

With Henry, the lovely stepmom joined in on the mirth. "What do you want for your birthday, Henry?" she asked him. "Your driver's license?" The punchline for this one was her and Big Daddy breaking into fits of laughter. Henry said, and I remember this one verbatim: "I'm glad they got a laugh out of it." Is it that Big Daddy is so mired in pregnancies and toddlerhood and just being an all-around swell guy that he's forgotten about his older kids and the rites of passage they should be experiencing? Or is it that he just doesn't care? Either way, it sucks for my kids. 

Anyhoo. On to other things. Fall television shows are being advertised now, and did my eyes deceive me or did I see that my petulant preppy 80's boyfriend James Spader has a new show on NBC? He does! Playing a criminal mastermind (ala Hannibal Lecter, kind of) with some Angelina Jolie looking chick as his Clarice. Can't wait. James is all stocky and chubby now but he's still got it. We have that in common.

In the meantime, I've been catching up on shows. Last weekend I spent most of a day watching Season 5 of Nurse Jackie. The whole season. In one day. Let me just say this: her husband, Kevin, was SUCH A DICK this season. But here's the weird thing..he's HOT when he's being a dick. The bigger dick he is, the more attractive he becomes. I guess I have a thing for dicks. Actually, if someone put a gun to my head and said, "Jenny, you have to sleep with every character on this show" I'd do it. Coop, Jackie, Thor, Zoey, Eddie, Kevin (duh) and yep even Akalitus. I'd happily do 'em all. 


Who's first?



My BFF Danielle and I had watched the other seasons together, so I'm feeling that cheater's guilt. Please forgive me Danielle. I've been receiving Showtime and HBO free of charge for several months now (thanks to a sweet Comcast guy who thought I was funny) but the free ride ends next month so I'm drinking it all in before it's over. Next up is Ray Donovan. Sexy Liev Schreiber. Did you know he's 6'4"? Swoon. 


Is that a baseball bat or is Liev holding one of my tampons?




Okay what's next. Lululemon! Apparently they have come clean and said that no, they will never carry bigger sizes. Right now they stop at 12 (I think?).  Boo hoo. Ladies, if you wear size 12 and up, my advice is to get your sweet ample cheeks to JC Penney's. They have a really great selection of workout stuff and IT DOESN'T COST $100 FOR A FREAKING PAIR OF YOGA PANTS. If you want my opinion, I think Lululemon has every right to make whatever sizes they want. And they can charge whatever they want. Sadly, there are women who will pay for the status of having that little logo on their bodies. Yes, you can tell me that the quality is all amazing and the styles are to die for, but the reality is, you are paying for the name. Hey...I'm not judging you. Not one bit. If you have the money to spend, go for it. I've seen plenty of women who are above and beyond a size 12 crammed into Lululemon apparel so I guess there's some wiggle room there. I will also add that I've seen 12 year old girls at my school wearing it. Like, the reed-thin 12 year olds. I'll admit to exuding a tiny bit of judgment there. I mean, if it's mommy's hand-me-down jacket, that she bought and then decided it made her arms look fat so she gave it to her 6th grader, fine. But if you're buying a $120 yoga jacket for a girl who doesn't need a bra yet? That seems...a wee bit superfluous to me. But again...it's your money, your choice. And P.S. I also think it's kind of a double standard that Lululemon carries Men's size XXL. So I guess it's okay for men to be supersized, but for the ladies it's just gross. 

I have a pair of Lululemon pants I found at the thrift store for $3.00, in a size Large (I think). They fit me when I'm a size 14/16. And while I do like them, I can't say that they are any better than the C9 (Champion) yoga pants I get at Target. In fact, I like my Target pants better because they aren't lowriders, which I appreciate because most of my day is spent bent over and believe me, ain't nobody excited about seeing my faded black undergarments or my shocking white porpoise-like lower back. 

I'm going to go ahead and design my own workout apparel for us big girls and call it MuuMuuMelon. You read it here first. 

And to wrap things up, Robin Thicke. Ewww. The song is, of course, "Blurred Lines" and dammit if I don't find myself jiving along to it when I hear it every 5 minutes on the radio. But something about him makes my skin crawl. I call him Robin Ick much to the annoyance of my children. His dad Alan was on Growing Pains and he made my adolescent skin crawl back then, too. Let's hope his 10 minutes is almost up. And since I am link happy today, I'll close with Robin Ick and Jimmy Fallon and The Roots doing a version of Blurred Lines that I like infinitely better than the original. Mostly because you can't hear much of Robin Ick's voice. And Jimmy is cute. And the guy playing the xylophone cracks me up. But really, "Good Girl"? What, are we puppies? Ick, please.



And this is where I leave you. A pan of roasted cauliflower is calling my name. 

MuuMuuMelon. Remember that one.



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