12/31/15

Old Lame Sigh, My Dear: Goodbye 2015

This is it. The last post of 2015. Monumental? Nah. Not even to me and I'm one of those sappy milestone tracker types. This one is going to be pretty much only for me, because the last day of the year is always one of deep reflection, and tends to get pretty thick with the feelings. It's not comfortable for anyone, not even for me and I'm the one putting it all out there.

This has been a good year for some people, a shitty year for others. That's how it always goes, right? I doubt there has ever been a year that was great across the board. So some of us are spending this Thursday thanking their lucky stars or their God or whomever that it's almost over and they're still able to have a cohesive thought in their brains. Others wish it wouldn't end because life has been bountiful. Fortunes have been made, love happened, health and happiness overflowed in their cups and made beautiful messes on the floor. The dates are the same for all of us, though, regardless of happiness or sadness; fortunes good or poor. 2015 will end, forever, at the close of this day.

Every year I wonder how we'll make it, and so far, every year we have. Without fail.

I'm tired. So, so tired. Tired of the struggle to keep afloat, tired of being the only parent who truly parents my children, tired of putting out fires and tired of keeping fires lit. Tired of holding my hurt loved ones close when they're breaking, tired of wishing I had someone to do the same for me. Tired of being the only one who seems to understand how things like "dishwashers" and "light switches" work. So, so tired.

I'm so, so happy. Happy to have four healthy people who call me Mom. Happy to have a dog who greets me after a twenty-minute errand like it was twenty days. Happy to have friends who are always a phone call, text or message away. Happy that despite the inevitable agonizing on the first of the month, somehow the rent always gets paid and somehow, we have food to eat and clothes on our backs. Happy to be alive. So, so happy.

I have a job I love. I love it, but it doesn't pay me enough to support my family. And so I will enter 2016 with a tough choice to make. Do I suck it up and get a second job? Or do I try to find a better paying one? When I can't sleep at night, I play different scenarios in my head. In some of them I'm waitressing, snapping gum and channeling Flo from the old show Alice...telling people to kiss my grits and coming home with tired feet. In others I'm back on eBay, snapping pictures of thrift-store Eileen Fisher tunics in my living room and trying to come up with better descriptive terms than "artsy" and "flowing". And then there are the darker pictures, the ones where I'm packing up a house again, this time to a smaller space. A cheaper space. A different space.

To be honest with you, the only one of those I don't hate is the eBay one. And they kicked me off the site for filing bankruptcy so Houston, we have a problem.

I can't even discuss the whole RELATIONSHIP and SEX things of 2015. Okay, I can, but once again I am ending the year without a lovah situated next to me for the night. And that's fine! It really is. I haven't had a beau on New Year's Eve since my divorce. Walter has been here for the past seven of them and he's the perfect date as far as I'm concerned. Fuzzy socks and no bra? Shake them noisemakers loose, my friends. RING IT IN WITH STYLE!

I've slipped up a few times this year, as far as men and promises and goals are concerned. Last year I promised myself to know my worth but apparently there's still some confusion as to what that actually is. Some of my actions reflect a pretty low number as far as worth goes, and that's disappointing. A few times, though, I've made choices that prove I really am worth more. Worth more than booty calls and being second choice. Worth more than late night texts and sloppy, vodka-fueled dalliances. Worth so much more than feeling anything less than loved. And yet, despite all of this Stuart Smalley crap, I still find myself wishing and hoping for that text, for that little nudge, for a morsel or a crumb from one of them, one last motorboat ride in the deep dark night. I'm conflicted it seems, between wanting to get my freak on and not wanting to hate myself when I do. I want the intimacy without the strings but that's when I have to ask myself, "How's that working out for you?" Looks like the old self-worth still needs some work in 2016.

I didn't talk to my mom in 2015. Not once. The guilt is killing me but I haven't had a nightmare about my stepdad this year. Not once.

Another person I haven't spoken to, face-to-face, is my ex-husband. We have become skilled in the art of Parallel Parenting. Or perhaps we should be truthful and call it what it really is: Uneven Bar Parenting. 2016 will be the year he becomes a father for the sixth time. Let that sink in for a moment, friends who know the whole story:

The sixth time.

I don't care what the courts say, what the world says. Your kids may grow up but the parenting never ends. When they turn 18 they no longer get child support but they sure as hell still need all kinds of support, child or otherwise: love and time and conversations. Show me a self-sufficient 18 year old and I'll say "hi Doogie!" and then show you my kids. When I made the decision to have four of them I didn't do so thinking I would be the only consistent parent in their lives. I mean, who in their right mind would? But look at us go...another year down, two in college, one about to be in college and a high schooler who will still hang out with mom. Not too shabby.

As this year nods off for good, I will have all four of my baby birds back in the nest. One of those birds has struggled mightily this year and it's been tough on this old mom's heart to watch it happen. I don't write about it out of deference to that person but it's been hard. So, so hard. I wish, more than anything, that there was more I could do. Like I wrote on the facebook page for this blog, I just wish I had more. I'd give these kids my last cent, my last breath, my last piece of gum. Someday I will have more. I know it. Someday I'll be able to be there for them like they deserve. Someday I will make it all up to them, fill the gaps and patch up the holes in our little family quilt. It didn't happen in 2015...and I don't know how it could happen in 2016. Miracles still show up, right?

But hey! It was a good year, in many ways. Let's not get all Debbie Downer up in here. So much good happened. I'm thinking, just a minute.

Oh! Yes! I reconnected with my old timey BFF from high school. My soul sister Anne and I hugged again after many years of separation. We cackled like not a second had passed and called each other "Polly" like we used to (it's an old Joe Piscopo reference and like, three of you would get it). Thanks to a super kind and generous friend, we even got the chance to see the sweet little Ginger Gnome Ed Sheeran together:


The Force was Awakened and I got to see it with a very enthusiastic 15 year old:


I was in a REAL LIVE BOOK. And got paid for it! AND did I mention it's a real book, available on Amazon?:


I spent so much time with my good friends and took many selfies:


This shit happened on Halloween and it was awesome:



Speaking of getting paid to write, this happened too. I am getting real good at signing contracts ;)


These sexy little beasts showed up at the painting party on my birthday (and came to the restaurant with us afterward):


I got to see this Oddball Crush live again, and although he doesn't get me as tingly as he used to, boy is funny:


My bestie made this DIY kickass Pinteresty gift for me, out of wine corks. It's for the Golden Girls Porch of Love and it's amazing:


And I was able to buy this stuff at Costco, more than once:



My apologies for the self-congratulatory photo collection. I needed it and yes, of course I'm getting a little weepy thinking back on all the good that happened in 2015. Sometimes we need a few reminders, ya know?

I wish for all of you the same things I wish for everyone I love: peace in spades, love endlessly, laughs innumerable, good dreams realized and the eyesight and heartsight to acknowledge and embrace all of it.

Thank you, as always, for being here. You are the best things to have come from this blog and whenever I think, Gah this is so stupid. I'm going to quit writing and pull the whole thing offline someone will send me an email in the middle of the night that will make me cry and remind me of what it felt like to be standing in front of a future that is so scary and unknown. Not that I'm like the Joan of Arc for Divorced Ladies but it's so important that we keep reminding all of the newcomers they are not alone.

So here's to us, my dears. Here's to another year under our belt and a big, fat fresh slate before us. Time to hit Play again. Let's go!





12/29/15

Minnesota Medium



Dreams have always fascinated me. It pains me when someone will say, "Oh, I don't dream" or "I never remember mine" because I wish everyone could enjoy them like I do. Every single night, I dream. Some are so vivid and real, I can recall the tiniest details months, sometimes even years, later. When I was little, like maybe 5 or 6, I had a dream that my cousins and I were all gathered in the big red barn on my paternal grandparent's farm. There were about ten of us, and we were all in our pajamas. Some of us were sitting on bales of hay, and some of us were huddled on the floor, wrapped in those thick, scratchy wool blankets they used to keep the baby animals warm during frigid cold snaps.

One of my uncles walked into the barn, and closed the big doors behind him. Then, as my cousins and I watched, he began the horrifying transformation into a freaking werewolf. Uncle Gary, please forgive me but for many years after that dream, I always made sure there was a clear path to an exit when you were around (love you).

The idea of dreams being something other than "head movies" (what? Yes, it's a Tropic Thunder quote, thank you very much) is intriguing as well. I love a good supernatural dream story...unless we're talking about the movie Inception which just made me feel really dumb. I adore the idea of our subconscious minds holding keys to problems or concerns our very wide awake brains grapple with. The old idiom, "sleep on it" makes perfect sense to me.

Much to the delight of those around me, I talk about my dreams. A lot. My poor kids are usually the ones who have to endure my early morning coffee-fueled babbling about where I went in my head the night before. They're very polite, though, and do a great job of feigning interest in what Crazy Mom is saying. It probably helps my cause that I tend to do my dream-talk while preparing breakfast. Captive audiences are my favorite.

So, this past Christmas Eve I had one of my super-vivid dreams. In this particular one, I received a phone call from my ex-husband. When I answered, it wasn't actually him...it was his lovely wife. She and I haven't spoken on the phone since a disastrous evening many years ago, when she called to let me know one of my kids was in an ambulance, en route to the hospital. She also chose that moment to call me a "fat bitch" but that's another story for another time. Also, one of the reasons she's not the first person I reach out to when I want to talk.

Her voice was raspy and in the dream she said to me, "We all have strep throat here, just wanted to let you know before the kids come over."

So, Dream Secretary is polite! I love that. But Dream Jenny can be a grudgy shrew so I was all pithy and cold with my reply, which was "I don't want everyone to get sick, so they'll be staying home." And that was that.

Of course I relayed this gripping tale to my brood the next morning as I iced the cinnamon rolls. They laughed (or was it grimacing? I can't tell anymore) and then the day played out as was planned: we opened presents, hung out for a while and then they were picked up by Big Daddy at 11:30.

Three hours later, they came tumbling through the front door, gift bags in hand(s). Molly whipped off her coat and exclaimed, "OH MY GOD MOM. You're never gonna believe this. Right when we walked in the door, Dad told us they had strep."

Chills? Maybe a little. Even though I knew it was pure coincidence, it was still freaky. For a second I imagined myself as a brunette Patricia Arquette in Medium, conjuring up messages and lessons from the Twilight Zone. And also wearing cute pajamas like she did in the show. I thought about other dreams I'd had and wondered just how many of them were only dreams and how many were previews of what was to come? My recurring dream where Melissa McCarthy finds my blog and decides she wants to make it into a movie and PLAY ME and we become the best of friends? Could it be true?

We all marveled over my new, fortune-telling abilities for a moment and then life went on. The kids and I had a beautiful, long weekend.

And now Molly has a sore throat. As much as I want to dream about me owning Kate Winslet's cottage from The Holiday and having Jon Hamm's car break down on the deserted road out front, I have a sneaking suspicion the film in my brain will look more like a trip to Urgent Care.

Or, it might be Uncle Gary the werewolf. We shall see.


Sweet dreams, my friends.






12/9/15

Not A Creature Was Stirring: Surviving The Holidays After Divorce



There you are, just chugging along...life is working out despite some serious roadblocks. Your divorce, while unfortunate, happened and somehow you've managed to pick yourself and your kids up, dusted everything off and are making nice headway into your New Normal.

And then the holidays arrive. Your divorce-spidey-senses start tingling, sometime around Halloween. You make furtive glances towards the calendar, knowing in your heart that although it seems so far away, those biggies we call Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye.

You get out that decree, which, if you're newly divorced is probably still smooth and stapled together (you should see mine now, lol. Highlighted, wrinkled and stained with blood, sweat and wine.) and you go over the holiday stipulations. Most of us divide up the holidays on an even/odd year structure. Sometimes, you and your ex are agreeable to changes and swap certain dates with a smile. Sometimes, you and your ex can barely speak to each other and cling to that schedule like Rose hung onto that freaking board in Titanic. Sometimes you even join forces with your ex and decide to toss that schedule into the wind and hold your own Big Happy Holiday, providing your children with a united front.

All of these situations are normal. All of these situations are okay. You must know this, right now: ALL OF THEM ARE OKAY. There is no absolute right or wrong when it comes to piecing together a family holiday post-split. What there is, is black and white and fifty-thousand shades of grey. And you need to do what is not only best for the kids, but what is healthiest for you. These two objectives are like big circles in a Venn Diagram. Sometimes they overlap so much they look like one and that's awesome. When they don't? Well, that's life.

If you are in the Big Happy Holiday camp, bravo! From the bottom of my heart, congratulations. What you're doing is remarkable and wonderful and will no doubt instill some lovely, warm memories into your children's brains. They will look back on these times and be grateful their parents were able to put differences aside and go all kumbaya.

For those of us who don't fall into that camp, and who couldn't even find the freaking campsite with Sacagawea and GPS, don't sweat it. What works for some people doesn't work for everyone. To quote all the cool kids, "You do you."

A lot of you are still in survival mode, and during the holiday season you have to kick it into high gear. The absolute worst part of this season will be letting go of the kids. Whether it's for one night or a week, most of us will be apart from our babies for a while. That first time is like nothing else. I can't really describe it accurately except to say that watching them drive away felt like my heart was a big ball of yarn and someone was slowly, deliberately unwinding it.

Waking up on Christmas morning to a silent house. No hot kid breath in your face imploring you to WAKE UP MOMMY SANTA WAS HERE, no little feet pounding down stairs and no squeals of joy when that lusted-for toy was discovered under the tree. For some of us, this is the stuff of nightmares. And guess what? It sucks. I could pussyfoot my way around this one for you, drape some garland over it and say oh honey it's not so bad but my friends...that shit hurts.

The good news is, you'll survive. The better news is, so will your kids.

And each year, it gets better. Does the hurt ever go away? For some, yes. For others, it doesn't disappear completely but it shrinks down to a manageable size. Some of us take time to reflect. Go back over the pages in our brains and press our hands over memories, remembering long ago moments and noises and faces. It's fine to do that. It's normal to look back. But what you really need to do, what is best for you is to also look around your now. Look at their faces, they've changed so much but you can still see those little kids inside them. Enjoy the moments you're given, and really let them sink in so when they're not with you, you can close your eyes and see them.

As for what to do with all of that quiet time? Girl. The options are endless. You go ahead and wallow that first year, and okay...maybe the second one, too. That's your God-given right and nobody can tell you otherwise. But eventually you'll tire of being the Divorced Christmas version of Miss Havisham and want something different. Here are a few ideas:


  • Get the word out that you're going to be alone. You might be surprised at the invitations you receive. Whether it's from a friend inviting you to her big family shindig or a fellow single who needs some companionship, embrace the offers. They are symbols of love and caring. 
  • Eat something you love. If you're poor, this might be the perfect time to go big and buy a few crab legs. Try making a cheesecake and eat that sucker right out of the pan. Buy a bag of Red Vines, let them get a little stale (please god tell me I'm not the only one who prefers them that way) and chow down without having to hide them from the kids. 
  • Binge watch something on Netflix or Amazon. I always joke that I need a good blizzard in order to really get my binge-watch on, but my best watching times were when the kids were with Big Daddy. I've heard good things about the Aziz Ansari show on Netflix, and I'm currently sucked into The Wire on Amazon. Idris Elba has become the face of my body pillow. 
  • Move your ass. Go for a walk. I once took my dog for a walk on a lonely Thanksgiving. The smell of turkey dinner and intact families hung over my city like a fog and I walked through it like I owned it. It felt good and my dog-mom guilt was relieved for a day. 
  • Go see a movie. I have never mastered the whole "go alone" thing but I've heard it's not so bad. Theaters are open on the holidays, yo. Even if you just go and sink into a plush seat and don't cry for approximately two hours, it'll be worth it. 
  • Have you a lovah? (say that with your best Downton Abbey accent) If so, yay! Now is your chance to do something crazy, like go get a glass of water in the middle of the night completely naked or make out in the living room. Get ur freak on, friends. It's what Santa would want for you. No lovah? No problem. This would also be a great time to shop for a new shower massage
  • Do something nice for someone else. Babysit a dog, volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter or surprise a sad neighbor with a basket of goodies. Nothing on this planet will chase away the woes like doing a good deed. Although pretending your body pillow is Idris Elba does a fine job, too.



Whatever you do, remember this: holidays come and go. Your kids will, too. One day there won't be a decree telling you who goes where and what days are yours. What you do with these dates now is entirely up to you. I encourage you to make the best of it, regardless of how crappy you feel or how mad you are or how much it hurts to see so much change. It may seem impossible, but you can make the holidays happy.

In closing, I'd like to invite you to watch this video. My dear friend and Listen To Your Mother director (producer? GAH) Galit Breen is part of the fabulous VProud network. They made this video featuring women JUST LIKE US talking about co-parenting during the holidays. Some good tips in there and also some funny.



With that, my dears, I will leave. But not before I give you a big hug and my most sincere wishes for a good holiday season. If it makes any of you feel better, I broke down yesterday and cried yet again, this time while driving around. And I've been at this for 9 years now. The good news is, I was fine when the floodgates finally closed and today my eyes hardly look puffy at all. Sometimes you just have to let it out.

Know that you are not alone in this. Always, always know that. You are not alone.

11/30/15

10 Ways My Dog Trumps My Ex Husband



Oh no! A listicle! I know, they are the lowest common denominator in the writing world. They are to writing as McDonald's is to food: fast, cheap and they just kind of make you feel like less of a human whether you're the one reading, writing or eating it. I KNOW.

But sometimes a lady is in bed, and starts thinking and it's late and maybe she's had a glass of wine (only because the beef stew she made needed a half cup of it and who can pour just a half cup?). And maybe she's making herself giggle thinking of all the ways her dog totally kicks ass as a life force when compared to the person to whom she was once betrothed.

That lady is me, that dog is my beloved Walter and these, my dear friends, are ten ways Walter trumps Big Daddy:

1. He's fixed. Enough said, amirite?

2. He's loyal as a...well, doy. As a dog. Walter's got my back, and if I'm laying down, he's usually got my side and part of my front as well. He's a warm yellow blankie. Dude won't leave me, except to chase squirrels and if someone has food. But he always comes back.

3. When I can't find Walter late at night, I don't worry that he's hunkered downstairs, texting some floozy. He most likely heard someone opening the fridge and had to investigate.

4. He spends time with the kids. (burn? yes. If the flame fits...)

5. He's honest. You always know where you stand with a dog. They either like you or they don't.

6. He listens. He really does! He'll look at me when I'm talking and even though my brain knows all he's hearing is BLAHBLAHWALTERBLAHBLAHWALKBLAHBLAHBLAHTREAT my heart knows if he could talk back, he'd sound like John Goodman and be full of funny anecdotes and loving platitudes.



7. He loves me no matter what phase I'm in. Of course he likes Exercising Jenny a great deal because LOTS OF WALKS but he also chills with Couch Jenny because WARM YELLOW BLANKIE. This past weekend Showtime had their Free Preview and I watched approx. 200 hours of the show The Affair. Have you watched it? Jesus. Except for the money and the murder it's way too much like my story. Walter watched with me and every time I muttered "oh my god what an asshole" he looked at me with his soulful brown eyes and basically was saying, "I know, right??"

8. When I undress in front of him or he walks in on me while I'm using the bathroom, there is zero critical judgment. He doesn't jiggle my arms or make a cutting remark and has never once exclaimed "UNLEASH THE FEEDBAGS!" (you think I'm kidding, don't you?). Although I did confess to my friend Danielle that sometimes I get a little freaked out because what if Walter is one of my relatives or a hot guy reincarnated? I will admit to sometimes saying to Walter, "Please look away" during more intimate moments.

9. Feeding him is so easy. He's never once pushed a dish away because it contained celery and by God I have never had to make tater tot hot dish for him. Haven't made that ish in 8 years! Rejoice! He is pretty gassy, though. They have that in common.



10. Walter has yet to break my heart, or the hearts of my children. I know he will someday, and I try to not think about that. But you know what? The love and memories we'll have of this wonder dog are so vast and beautiful. We will take so much comfort in that. So, I guess his legacy trumps, as well.

This is, of course, a farcical post. I know Walter is just a dog and not a replacement for human companionship. But I call him my Divorce Dog because we got him from the Humane Society shortly after the divorce was finalized in December of 2006. He's approximately the same age as my divorce. And truth be told, I also call him my Divorce Dog because he saved me. He showed me (and the kids) how much love we still had to give and how worthy we were of love in return.

Good boy.

11/22/15

Fluxgiving

I don't think I've shared this news with all of you here...God knows I bragged it up to the poor souls I interact with in "real life" but for those of you who know me only through this blog, I have something fun to share: one of my essays has been published in Family Circle again!


It's in the December 2015 issue, the one pictured above. In the magazine the essay is titled "Present Tense" (which I thought was brilliant, by the way) but those of you who have been around for a while will remember it as the feisty declaration I called "I'm A Divorced Mom, And I'm Taking Christmas Back" or something similarly way too long. It's been tweaked a bit to better flow with the Family Circle way, but I still love it.


If you are so inclined, please pick up a copy the next time you're out and about. Just please don't do as I did and torture everyone within earshot by shouting "HEY I WROTE THIS! THESE ARE MY WORDS HERE IN THE FAMILY CIRCLE!"

While I am so pleased and proud and honored and all that jazz, I'm also feeling kind of sheepish. Because a lot of people liked that essay when it first appeared here and on Huffington Post. It gave them hope that they would also relearn to love the holidays. I'm glad about that, you should know. Any time someone says that I've helped them cope or move on or just plain forget about their worries for a bit, my tiny hard heart grows a little bit. It's validating, y'all.

Here's where the sheepy part comes in: I am currently feeling blah. Not just the "meh" blah, but a deeper one. A darker one. And it's scaring me a little bit.

See, I think Christmas was the easier of the big holidays for me to tackle. Most of my demons fly the coop by December 25th, it was just a matter of me reclaiming that whole FA LA LA thing and pulling myself up by the proverbial boot straps and dammit, taking it back.

It seems to me that the bigger issue might be this week. The week of Thanksgiving. I started feeling angsty and sad a couple weeks ago but chalked it up to PMS and me being a flake in general. But the past few days have been tough. Not going to lie...they've kind of sucked.

If anyone knows how to put on a happy face and smile through the downpour, it's me. I should teach classes at this point. "FAKE IT UNTIL YOU MAKE IT 101" or something like that. And here's the kicker: it usually works. Normally I can outfox those stupid sad feelings and convince them (and myself) that they are nothing. Dust bunnies in my brain, is all, something a little Swiffer action and some good old Midwestern laughter will take care of in a jiffy.

This time it's not so easy to shoo away. The smiles are harder to force, the laughter doesn't come as easy. And oh my god...I'm crying again! Yeah, tears are never far away with me but I'm talking about real crying, like the kind that screws up your face and leaves you with those weird post-cry hiccup things.

For instance: today was a relatively warm day, given that it's late November in Minnesota. We haven't had any snow yet, therefore the deck furniture has not been put away. Today, I did it. I put on my boots and some gloves and also a bra and heaved all of the ancient teak chairs into the garage. Covered up the fire pit and tucked it away. Stacked up the plastic Adirondack chairs and moved the firewood under the deck where it will wait until that first kinda-warm spring night in 2016.

It felt good, to be outside, to be moving, to be accomplishing something. Which is why I was so surprised to find myself stifling sobs in the garage. It wasn't a prolonged weep session, it passed in just a few minutes, but that fact that it happened at all is puzzling and bothersome.

Aren't I the strong one? The warrior who has battled long and hard and came out smiling? The independent lady who doesn't need anyone or anything to make it?

Apparently not. It seems as though I am just as soft and weak and vulnerable as ever. Only now, I know this:

It's okay. Crying isn't surrendering, feeling sad isn't giving up. It's a sign, though. That maybe things need to be looked at, adjusted...like the essay in Family Circle, maybe something in my life needs to be edited. Just a bit.

This week is hard because it's the week of the dreaded wedding anniversary. It's on the 25th and I preemptively bought a ticket to a concert that night, hoping to dance and sing away the darkness at my door with some friends and a legendary Minneapolis band. But I still can't help looking at those numbers on the calendar and feeling some loss. I know, I know! GET OVER IT ALREADY! Lordy. I'm trying. I really enjoy being happy, people. 

This week is hard because it's a time for family gatherings. For far-away relations to walk through the door, stomping the snow off their feet and holding out pumpkin pies covered with tinfoil and for warm flannel hugs and catching up with Uncle Steve and Cousin Sue. It's time to hold new babies and give out lame parenting advice to people who smile politely like we once did.

I don't have family like that. I do have a sizable troop of friends, however, and was once again invited to an annual gathering with some of them. And that's good news, right? The kids are with me, as far as we know...they haven't heard from their dad and I forgot if I had even or odd years a long time ago. But again, with the loss. I used to have that family. I used to get and give those hugs and sit around and talk about the kids and life and my dog's persistent ear infections.

Life is always changing, isn't it? I think, though, that as we get older, as our kids get older, as the world gets older- the change becomes more obvious. Time has acquired a sickeningly speedy gait and I can see all of it, all of this change, the flux of it all, so clearly now.

When the kids were little and even when they were not so little, time did that odd crawl/fly thing where the days would take forever to pass but you'd look around and suddenly one kid was almost as tall as you and the voices were deepening and oh, sweet Hay-Zeus, the shoes you tripped over were getting so big.

But now? Now that they are 21 and almost-20 and 18 and 15? My God, you guys. It's incredible to see them grow and change right before your eyes. It's beautiful and heartbreaking all at once and crap, here come the tears again. Trying to hold onto this silken strand of time is one of the most arduous tasks I've ever attempted and even as I feel it slipping through my clenched hands I am acknowledging the loveliness of it all. Even through the weeps I see that this is the way it's supposed to be and while I know this is it, the end goal, the reason I became a mom in the first place, it's so freaking bittersweet.

And for some reason, this week amplifies all of that bittersweetness (not a word, by the way, but I'm using it anyway).

So what's a bummed out lady to do? I suppose I could mope around, really get my hands dirty in all of these feelings. I could cry some more, and probably will. I could put that giant fake smile on, and when someone asks me how I'm doing I could answer with my usual "FABULOUS! HOW ABOUT YOU?".

What I think I shall do is this: a little bit of all the above. Let those feelings flow along with the tears. I'll go to that concert and laugh with my friends. I'll whip up three batches of my famous Roadside Potatoes and take my kids to the friend's gathering on Thanksgiving and count each face there as a blessing in my life.

The flux is scary. But I've faced scary things before. Scarier things, just like some of you. And I think we're all going to make it through this just fine.

And just because I love you, here is my Roadside Potato recipe. It's literally gone in minutes so this year I'm tripling the recipe. Yes, my arteries hardened as I typed that, and not in a good way. Happiest of Fluxgivings to you, my friends. 

JUDY'S FAMOUS ROADSIDE POTATOES (who is Judy, you ask? A former boss of mine.)

1 (30 oz) package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (I use sharp)
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup half and half 
1 medium onion, grated (I just chop fine)
salt
pepper
paprika (I use an all purpose Penzy's spice)
additional 6 T. butter

Combine potatoes, melted butter, cheeses, cream, onion, salt and pepper. Spread mixture in a 9x13 inch well-greased baking dish. Sprinkle with paprika, dot w/ butter. Bake 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Tastes like butter and self loathing.





10/21/15

Always Something There To Remind Me



The receptionist at the dental office looked at me over her glasses. When she spoke, her voice wavered slightly somewhere between exasperation and incredulity.

"What do you mean, you don't know his address?" Her brightly painted fingernails hovered above the keyboard of the computer where she'd been entering all the facts and figures that would become my son's patient chart.

I felt stupid, and petty, and also kind of incredulous myself. Why the hell would I know my ex-husband's address? It's not like my kids spend any time there. I don't send him cards or flowers. It's kind of like asking a person if they know the address of a long ago lover. Someone with whom they shared a lot of history, but nothing current.

I gave her my own look. The one that, in my head, says I dare you to say something about how lame I am for not knowing this man's address but in reality probably says something like aughhh you're right I'm the worst parent/ex-wife of all time! Condemn me please! Judge me! And please, pretty please, tell me to get over it already!

She kept her eyes on me and told me that she needed it. "We can't take him on as a new patient unless we have all of this information." 

I wanted to tell her that this wasn't the worst part of my awkward and dysfunctional co-parenting situation. I wanted to tell her about the time we ended up in a courtroom in order to ensure that he would be the one who'd provide health insurance for the kids. I wanted to tell her how it befuddled me, his strong and unrelenting insistence to have the kids on his health insurance until a friend explained things to me, things like "tax breaks" and "write offs" and "people who love money so much they'll do just about anything to save it".

Instead what I did was pull out my phone and in a sheepish, shamed voice said, "I'll Google it." And Google it I did, standing there in front of the receptionist with the tanned skin and the shellacked nails. I Googled that motherfucker and tried to act like it was the most normal thing in the world.

Hey Jenny! What are you doing?
Aw, hey there friend. I'm just Googling my ex-husband!

And there, in between pictures of him from his company's website, in between a sickening blurb that said "Big Daddy and his wife Secretary live in Adultery Valley with their four children" (uh, note to the webmaster...time to update that bio)...there was his address. I read it out loud to the receptionist and when she was done entering it she sighed and said, "I suppose you don't know his date of birth, either." 

At this point I was hulking out just a bit and said back to her, "Is that a question or a statement? Because I do know his birthday." I rattled that one out to her with only the slightest pause (because he and my former BFF were a day apart and I always confused them...) and then she handed me the standard clipboard with instructions to fill out the front and back and turn it in when I was done.

These are the kinds of situations you find yourself mired in when you're divorced. If you had a sane, amicable one, the kind where both parties truly parted on good terms, I suppose it makes sense that you'd know each other's addresses and social security numbers and maybe, just maybe, even stats about the new spouses.

A few days prior to the above-referenced appointment, I'd called to see if my son's insurance was accepted there.

It's not bad enough that every time I look at the kid's insurance cards I have to see the name of the woman my husband dumped me for. It's lost the shock value after all this time but part of me still winces. Her name also appears on the child support payments, which again brings up some pangs but also some wtf as well. But to add insult to winces, when I call and arrange appointments for any of the kids there's almost always the barrage of questions about her. The insurance is provided through her employer, therefore it's her information they need.

No, sorry. I don't know her date of birth. (if I'm in a joking mood I'll add, "all I know is that it's like twelve years after mine, hahahahahahahaweep")
Nope. I also don't know the name of her employer or that address or anything else other than the fact that my ex insisted on providing their insurance and now I have to do this song and dance a few times a year.

I don't know much about her other than the fact that when I see or hear her name, all I can picture is her, bent over a desk and my then-husband standing behind her. Sorry. A friend of mine told me a story once, about someone opening an office door and stumbling upon that very scene and I have never been able to erase it. It's half-hysterical, half-tragic and for some reason it's the thumbnail my brain keeps on the file marked "Them".

There was an article somewhere, not too long ago, about divorce and the length of time it takes to recover from one. As usual, there were comments on it from people who were adamant about "getting over it" and admonishing those who expressed sadness or anger or anything other than a giant Xanax smile about being divorced. Lots of "let it go" and "you should really move on". And yes, I agree with them. Somewhat. I believe it's possible to get over a divorce, even a bitter, hurtful one bearing the scent of betrayal and lies and deep wounds. You can get over it. You pick up the pieces, wipe off the blood and shit and take inventory of what you have left and you wake up every day and get the frick over it.

But just like that sweet 80's jam by Naked Eyes taught us, there's always something there to remind me. Some days it's easier to let those reminders bounce off, roll off our backs and slither down into the gutter where they belong. Some days, it's not so easy.

Please be kind to those you know who have gone through this crap. Know that when they do let it get under their skin, it bothers them and it's definitely not them wallowing in it.

And if you're the one, like me, who sometimes lets these little reminders become big fat thorns in your side, please be gentle with yourself. Our reactions to these triggers depends on so much and just one little bump in the road can make it all that much harder to bear: maybe you've had a harrowing morning with the kids, maybe you're PMSing, maybe you were road-raged on the way to the appointment. Maybe you're just plain exhausted. No matter. The thorn will work itself out, and you'll be wince-free again. Until the next reminder comes along. But that next thorn will be just a fraction smaller and duller, and you will find yourself plucking it out with greater ease with each passing year.

Hang in there, my friends. You are not alone in this.

This post dedicated to Kristin J. and all the others who have sent emails thanking me for letting them know they aren't alone. You totally aren't, Kristin. xoxo






10/7/15

Diddle, Rinse, Repeat: The Monotony That Is My Middle Aged Dating

Snap on those latex gloves, ladies, and join me as I perform the postmortem on my latest fling. Yes, this one has run its course, now all that's left to do is analyze it and him and me, assign the moniker and file it away along with the others.

I like to dissect these so-called "relationships" because I am that hopeful fool who thinks there's something to be gleaned, some deep lesson to be learned from each one. And this one didn't disappoint, as far as education goes. I'm going to share with you the most valuable nugget of information I took from it:

If someone tells you they're an asshole, believe them.

Like, if they actually put it out there, in, say...a text: "I'm an asshole." There are many ways we, as women, are hardwired to respond:

The Affirmer: "Oh no! No! You're not! You're awesome."
The Nurturer: "I'm sure you're just woefully misunderstood."
The Trumper: "You're an asshole? Well, I'm an asshole AND I'm crazy! LOLOLOL"
And my personal favorite:
The Fixer: "Challenge accepted."

Ladies? There's really only one proper response to that proclamation. You say, "Thanks for the heads up" and then you walk away. Thank them for whatever they've given you, along with such a fair warning. Thank them for the dinner or the drinks, for the tingly orgasms or the flirtations that made you blush, for the compliments and the whispered sweet nothings. Thank them and then, girl, you hightail it away from them as fast as freaking possible.

Sometimes the scooter cannot drive away fast enough.



Our time on earth is limited and one of the suckiest things about life is how late in the game we realize this. It's one of the reasons we try to placate ourselves by doing things like trying to see each timesuck as some sort of after school special. It's why I sit here on my morning off, writing about yet another disastrous trip down Lover's Lane.

Because I am, like everyone else, running out of time, I've decided to take the advice given to me by two of my favorite humans. Both of them have stood by me, one physically, the other figuratively, while I've tiptoed through the minefield that is post-divorce love.

The first person is, of course, my best friend Danielle. My moral compass, the one who knows all the dirt and still talks to me. I look to her for guidance because she's managed to not only remain married and still loves her husband despite all of their differences- but also because she tells it like it is. She won't soften blows to avoid bruising my ego, and she is absolutely my fiercest defender and my loudest cheerleader.

The second person is a guy. A friend's husband, actually, whom I've never met face to face but has become my go-to for a guy's perspective. I told him I wouldn't name him here but just for shits and giggles I'm going to give him his own moniker: Casey Jones. I owe his wife a drink and quite possibly more, because she has allowed me to borrow her husband's brain for my picking pleasure.

Danielle and Casey have almost always given me similar advice. The one time they differed was (and still is) in regards to my quasi-relationship with The One Without A Moniker...the guy I trysted with off and on for five long years and decided to stop seeing at the end of 2014. Yeah, that guy. We'll get back to him in a bit.

When this latest fling began a couple of months ago, both of my advisers were pleased. Danielle met him and gave me the thumbs up. Enthusiastic thumbs, no less. She found him to be funny and smart and charming, like I did. Casey Jones was all guy-like, wishing me fun times, good sex and lots of laughs. Both of them supported the venture.

When my gut started telling me this fling was flung, they both advised me to wait a bit. To bench my cuckoo nature and just go with the flow. When it became so completely and hilariously apparent that once again I'd cast my net into yet another shallow, silty pond, they were there with consoling words and encouragement to just keep on trucking.

Both of them also told me this, and it's taken a while for it to finally begin to sink in:

I'm worth more. I'm not saying this most recent guy isn't a worthwhile person. He's not a bad man. He's not evil or icky. He threw it all out there for me right at the beginning with that one little sentence (remember, the one about being an asshole) but I was too blinded by butterflies and the reverberations of my freshly tickled ivories to really grasp it. Like so many women in my sensible but well-worn shoes, I lug around this tattered bag of hope wherever I go. Life has proven to be less than kind but we optimists...we never give up on that little girl fairytale dream. Someday my prince will come. Someday he won't leave right after he does.

Getting back to the other guy, the five-year-long one night stand? Yeah. We had decided, mutually, to stop doing that as of last year. December 30th, if you want the exact date. It was hard to quit him, not gonna lie to you. He is funny and smart and tall and dare I say, dashing. But I did it. I stood my ground and he stood his and we avoided each other for a nice long while.

We slipped up in May. And then in July. And then again on my birthday which was just a couple of weeks ago. By that time I had realized the Ivory Tickler was done tickling and when I got the message from Mr Five Years my martini-filled belly did those sick flipflops and BOOM there he was. There I was, too, reveling in his dash and his arms and all the excitement.

Until the next morning, when I fessed up to Danielle and Casey Jones. Danielle finally let me have it. She didn't mince words and when she was done I was, for one of the first times ever, speechless. No words but plenty of tears. And then I read Casey's response. Cut to me, standing over a birthday cake shoving spoonfuls of marbled goodness into my mouth while sobbing. Not exactly the way I wanted to usher in my 49th year but pretty much nailed it.

Why the tears? They weren't shed over the most recent lovah. Not one salty drop lost there. They weren't trickling down my cheeks due to remorse over the previous evening's tete a tete, either.

Nope. I was crying because my friends were trying to tell me something and despite all of my resistance, I was finally hearing them.

I know a lot of you are in the same gross boat as me. We are women of a certain age. Our bodies are not what they were the first time we went through this insane dating ritual. We have worries and kids and jobs and so little time to take care of them, let alone ourselves.

We've been hurt. Betrayed by loved ones and some of us are more healed than others but we can all still feel the pain. We love big but we're also terrified of what happens when that big love leaves our grasp, when we stand there on the grass and watch it float away into the clouds. Sometimes it comes back to us intact, but there are times we get nothing other than shreds in return.

If you're like me, you feel ruined by the past. My wholeness is gone, and I don't know if I'll ever get it back. The men I choose to let into my life are so obviously not the right ones, and yet, there they are. And me complaining about it is akin to a fisherman bitching about no bites when he keeps going back to the same barren lake.

My girl Danielle made me cry because she loves me so much it actually makes her sick to see me making the same dumbass choices over and over. My guy Casey Jones made me cry because he managed to sum up, in one Facebook message, what my problem is. Three different therapists have taken a crack at my crazy but only Casey Jones managed to hit it out of the park. I'm going to cut and paste his words here. Obviously they are meant for me and my whackadoo situation but I think there are many of you out there who would benefit from reading them too. With his permission, here it is:

I look at you and Big Daddy, and I see you comfortable in your routine, in the life you two worked hard to construct...but I see him dissatisfied with his lot in life, having given marriage and fatherhood of 4 little ones a half-assed run and found it wanting, leaving him vulnerable to the wiles of Secretary (whom, I'm certain, finds him equally boring nowadays). That's fuckery on a grand scale, to do that to your wife and children, and inexcusable. But what I see sometimes are harsh thoughts on your behalf that you could have done more, should have done more, to prevent the dissolution of your marriage. I can tell you all day long that once BD made that decision, there wasn't a damn thing you could do about it, and I think to an extent you do recognize that cold but honest truth, but I still see you being harsh on yourself at times.  

Where I'm going with this is, because of that fuckery by BD, it's inhibiting your ability to find and maintain a healthy relationship, and leaving you vulnerable to exciting but assholey men without substance and commitment. And I'm thinking that you are OK with those relationships... because you feel like that's all you deserve. And I can tell you all day long that you deserve better than that and be uplifting as your friend, but YOU have to believe it, too. I have faith that in the fullness of time, you'll come to believe it, and you'll find it.


I'm starting to believe it. Look, I'm no prize. I'm filled to the brim with anxiety and insecurity. Even after years of practice, anything over two cocktails turns me into a hot mess with limited bladder control. I'm poor and I drive a hooptie-type car and I'm going to have to work full-time until approximately ten years after my demise. I have a front butt and ham-hock arms and despite good intentions I'll probably always be the "before" picture.

But all of that doesn't mean I'm not worthy of good. Good luck and good friends and good fortune and good love.

Like Casey Jones said, I deserve better. And so do you, my friends. Believe it.













9/23/15

Adventures in Oral...

Not my mouth. 



...ORAL SURGERY. Ha! Did I have you going for a minute or what?

Yes, I had oral surgery this week. I had to have a tooth extracted. Ironically enough, it is exactly 2 years after I had my very first root canal, on the very same tooth.

I'm having trouble processing this whole thing. For some reason it's almost shameful to me, to have had this happen. Like I told my homegirl Danielle, I feel like this is the first step towards becoming a toothless, bearded hag.

I actually wept in the chair yesterday, and not because of pain. This time around, there was zero pain although it turns out I had a pretty serious infection. The beauty of having issues with a root-canaled (?) tooth, I guess. No, I cried because of the shame. I mean, who has to have a tooth pulled? I pictured meth addicts and Ted Kaczynski-type people. Or little kids who are put to bed in their cribs with bottles of Mountain Dew. Not middle aged suburban moms who drink fluoridated water and have great dental insurance.

But there I was, wiping tears away as the left side of my face became numb and number. My new dentist and the hygienist were very kind and offered me Kleenex and put comforting hands on my shoulders. They assured me that aside from that janky, broken tooth, the rest of my mouth was great and this type of tooth trauma can happen to anyone, not just people who play the banjo on the front porch of a dilapidated hunting shack in the backwoods of Georgia (sorry my Georgian friends, but I will take any chance to use a Deliverance reference).



So here's what happened: about three weeks ago, my tooth broke. I was chewing gum and I felt it happen. It was the farthest back molar on the lower left side. Now, most normal people would think, "Holy hell. I'm pretty sure that was a tooth breaking. I'd better call my dentist now and get in there." But, I'm not most normal people, am I? It was an extremely busy week of work, and I am probably the world's most anxious person in general, let's not even begin to describe the heart palpitations I get when it comes to anything invasive (literally, anything). I've been told by a therapist that victims of childhood abuse often experience this kind of medical/dental anxiety, so there's a valid reason for my nuttiness. But you know who doesn't care how scared you are? A BROKEN TOOTH. It doesn't sense your discomfort and say, "Yo. It's cool. I'll just seal myself up and we can both avoid being poked and prodded. Okay?"

No. The tooth is very much honey badger in that it doesn't give a shit. It's broken! No shits left to give as far as old Timmy the Tooth is concerned.

I worked up my courage and called the dentist. My former dentist. I was 3/4 of the way through the initial appointment when the receptionist peeked her head into the room and giggled, "Oh em gee Jenny! Guess what I just found out...we are now out of your network! Sorry!" I failed to see the humor in the situation. My former dentist sighed, and said "So I guess you're going to need some referrals." I nodded, and mumbled, "Probably a prescription for painkillers, too." Because although the mouth wasn't hurting I was pretty sure untangling the bill and doing the insurance-two-step with Giggle Pants was going to be a giant pain in my ass.

Thanks to Delta Dental's fab website, finding a new dentist was easy and in the long run, is going to be a good thing. The first thing she said after looking inside my maw was "So, you obviously grind your teeth at night." This was news to me. I laughed and said, "No way, my dentist never mentioned that before..." New Dentist shook her head and pointed at the computer screen where the ethereal x-rays of my mouth were displayed. "Here, and here, and all along here-" She made circle motions over the pictures of my shadowy teeth. "You have little tiny fractures in all of these molars. And that's most likely what caused this one tooth" here, she placed her index finger on the picture of my broken chomper, "to break down. It was already weakened by the root canal. And, whoever performed that root canal, by the way, didn't do a very good job."

She smiled and said to me, "I can't believe nobody has mentioned your grinding to you." I was torn because there were so many places I could go with that statement. But I decided to respond, "You know what, for the past several years my most consistent bed mate has been a dog. And he's totally not Scooby Doo. So there's never been a time when he's elbowed me awake and said Rut Roh Renny! Rinding reeth again!" She laughed in a way which I'm sure was not uncomfortable or forced at all and then laid it on me.

"At first I thought we could save it. But now I see it's cracked completely down the middle." She looked at me and said the words I was dreading:

"We have to take it out."

Jumpin' Jack Flash started playing in my head along with images of the witch-as-old-lady in Snow White.



I've prided myself on being intact after all these decades of living. On not having to take medications or have anything replaced and on being, for the most part, insanely healthy. This did not fit into my plan.

It had to happen, though. Aside from the fact that I had a broken tooth and an infection, there was also the matter of my stanky mouth. I was pretty sure my breath was starting to smell like the restroom in a poorly managed Old Country Buffet. My friends and family assured me that it wasn't true, but it's hard to ignore something that is literally under your nose. And there were moments when I know for sure it wasn't orchids and unicorn glitter farts I was smelling. To those of you who may own stock in the Eclipse gum company, YOU'RE WELCOME.

I had the procedure performed yesterday. It was relatively painless, and I even got to watch part of Legally Blonde while it happened. After all was said and done, we discussed fun things like saltwater gargling and dental implants and then my dentist said, "I think you deserve a cocktail tonight. But not if you take a Vicodin, okay?" talk about a no-brainer, right? Martini for the win. 

I love her.

Today I woke up with just a little extra chin and cheek, not much pain and a blessedly feces-free mouth. I was also filled with gratitude. I'm grateful for health insurance, for paid sick days, for flexible and caring coworkers, for sweet dentists who know what they're doing and for my loved ones who put up with my porta-potty breath.

Now I just need to survive the next couple of days, what with doctor's orders like "soft foods" and "no sucking". I've never wanted to inhale a bag of Stacy's pita chips so bad in my life. I'll let you guys take the sucking comment and go to town with it, okay? I'm still focused on the grinding thing.


9/10/15

Pots, Kettles and Strangers on the Internet



You'd think by now I'd know better. When I see little bursts of traffic coming to my blog from certain sites, you'd think I would have learned to just leave it alone. The last time I snooped on one of these mystery sources it turned out to be a weird culty website full of fapping basement dwellers who had made a bunch of hysterical memes using my headshot from HuffPost. They were all in a tizzy because I wrote about one of my kid's brushes with Amway and were having a field day on their cuckoo little internet hangout (which, by the way, was done in neon purple letters on a black background; it hurt my old hag eyes reading all of those insults).

But I don't know better. Apparently I'm one of those slow-learner types. Because when I happened to see my blog traffic spiking like crazy one day and noticed that it was coming from one of my favorite fellow blogger's sites, Chump Lady, I was all "oooh let me go take a look-see and find out what's cooking!" 

Chump Lady has been several things to me over the past few years: an inspiration, a source of comfort, a guaranteed laugh when I needed it most, and a huge supporter of my writing. She's recommended my stuff several times and I'm always happy to recommend her work to people. Always.

So when I discovered that the swarms of clicks were coming from a pretty hateful little thread in one of her comment sections, I was taken aback. Literally: I think my head did one of those cartoon jerk-back movements.

I'm not going to post a link to the exact post because dammit I do have some pride. But I will disclose what it was about: one of Chump Lady's readers apparently read my blog upon her recommendation. And this particular reader declared something like this:

I liked Happy Hausfrau until I came upon this post (cue my first SAY WHAT?):  she then linked to something I wrote a long time ago about one of the fellas in my life. It was about the one named Andy, the man I had a short but intense relationship with before I ended up married to Big Daddy.

This Chump reader decided that I was a hypocrite. She and another reader then went to town, calling me lots of fun names and basically saying that what went down during that summer put me on the same level as my ex. And all the other exes they discuss on Chump Lady's site.

One guy in particular seemed very upset with me. It appeared as though he kept coming back here, reading more and then going back to deposit little vitriolic comments about my character. At one point he described me as a "steaming pile of shit". That's a new one for me, by the way.

At first I was defensive and hurt and considered chiming in with a "Hey! You're WRONG! I'm NOTHING like those other people!"

But then I read the Andy post with different eyes. And I could see where someone might come to the conclusion that yes, yes indeed I was one of them. I was a rationalizing asshole who cheated on a loved one.

Except, no. I wasn't.

If anybody understands what it's like to see things with an angry, jaundiced eye, it's me. I still, to this day, can't read anything or watch anything about affairs and mistresses and cliched stories about "I love you, but I'm not in love with you anymore" type divorces without interjecting my own hurts and sadness into it. I GET IT. Being figuratively shat upon by someone you loved and trusted turns your rose-colored glasses into a more brownish hue.

But, what I did 25 years ago in that sweaty Uptown apartment doesn't even come close to what my ex-husband, and countless other exes, have done. Was it honorable? Decent? Fair? Probably not.

Did it break up a marriage?
Did it ruin one person financially, emotionally and spiritually?
Did it take four innocent children's lives and play a game of Yahtzee with them?

Nope. It was a flighty 24 year old in an off-and-on-again relationship (during one of those "off" times) falling for someone else.

There were no vows.
There were no kids.
There was nobody living together. Cripes, there wasn't even anyone DATING at the time it all went down.

In the Andy post I did do some musing about whether or not what I did could be construed as cheating, and at one point I believe I surmised that yes, I guess it could. I came to that declaration because I had been dating Big Daddy for a while prior to what happened that summer and he was still carrying a pretty big torch for me when all of this went down.

What I didn't write about in that post was the fact that Big Daddy knew about Andy. He and I had discussed the state of our relationship and dating other people and at one point I just flat-out told him. Not only told him I was seeing someone else, I told him the guy's name. They met, at my apartment one night. Big Daddy would sometimes drop in because this was before cell phones and internet and there was no way to shoot someone a little text giving them a heads up (although some of my friends still do that terrifying ambush "pop in" and there is so much awkwardness).

He did one of his drop ins one night, and as we were standing at the front door of my apartment, Andy showed up. He showed up because we were going out that night. If I remember correctly, they introduced themselves to each other, Big Daddy gave me a wan and kind of heartbreaking smile and said "Have fun" and then left. and now I'm wondering if this is weird, the fact that I can recall almost every single detail of that evening and yet cannot remember to pay my freaking utilities bill.

When you write online, and especially when you write about your personal life, there are always going to be critics. There will be trolls who troll and lurkers who lurk and really cool people who relate. What there is never going to be, is 100% transparency. Nobody is ever going to know everything. Sweet Jesus, even I can't remember squat and I'm the one who lived it.

What really sucks, though, is that you are going to be judged and sometimes, sentenced, by strangers who think they know it all. You might get your face photoshopped onto a picture of a porn actress doing her thing (yeah, that was the basement dwellers) or you might have some oddly angry guy on a divorce blog compare you to a fresh pile of feces.

If you have feelings, some of it will bother you.

If you have a brain, you will understand that none of it really matters.

It makes me happy that both of those thing apply to me in this case. I'm not a saint, not by any stretch of anyone's imagination. But I'm not a Big Daddy. And I never will be.

Before I close, I have to give my girl Chump Lady a shout out. She's awesome and I know her readers are fiercely loyal. This in no way diminishes my opinion or feelings about her, her (mostly) awesome fans and her oh-so-helpful blog and books. Please check her out if you haven't already. But if you happen to see someone referring to me as a poop head, do me a solid and let it pass.




8/18/15

How I Ended Up With Bert In My Pants, or: How Not To Shave A Lady

So. I have taken a new lover. Mum's the word on it, completely, so don't try to pry any information out of me. Okay you guys, I'm so giddy because for the first time EVER I'm having my ivories tickled by a Democrat.

That's all I'm going to give you for now.

Him, however? I'm giving him more. Which means there's a certain amount of tidying up to be done. You know how, when you have friends over, you do crazy things like vacuum and lint off all the dog hair from the couch and spray Febreze on the pile of shoes by the front door?

I'm trying to do the equivalent for my latest inamorato. Because let's be real: mama ain't had company in a while. I might have asked him if he had cobwebs stuck in his hair after our first tryst. Why am I perpetually single, I wonder?

Back in the day, like, waaaay back in the days of eHarmony and free weekends and a waistline, I tended to my nethers like a proper lady. I had the whole thing waxed, from stem to stern (or is it stern to stem? Isn't there something about a little man in a boat, and sharks and tuna? What is it with nautical references and female anatomy? I'm so lost). It was smooth and hairless. Like a newborn gerbil. Sexy, I'm sure.

That was back in the day. Here we are in 2015 and things have changed. I've gone from a pink baby rodent to something much different. Something less innocent. Years have passed, things have happened. I've become lazy in the maintenance area of my...err...area.

But I'm nothing if not a gracious hostess. I don't know how long or how often this lovah will come a calling, but dammit, I want to be nice. Welcoming. More tended garden and less haunted forest.

So I had a thought. This thought occurred to me in the shower, and after two glasses of wine (OMG the kids start school soon and I'm hanging on by my short man-like fingernails, people). I'm in the shower, shaving my legs and I thought, "Hmmm. I wonder if I should try shaving my crotch?" Because isn't that the way it is when you're showering late at night with a little buzz? Hey let's shave stuff!

Several of my friends do it. Two of my very closest friends are huge proponents of the Kojak look. They talk about it as if it's nothing, as if sliding a lethal razor blade over the VERY intricate landscape that is a woman's outer genitalia is like shaving a bowling ball.

Bolstered by the wine and the smell of the shaving cream, and the fresh memory of intimacy that didn't involve batteries and carpal tunnel syndrome, I decided to go for it. How hard can it be?

Sweet Jesus. I should have known better. I should have remembered what it was like changing my daughter's diaper when she was a red wrinkly newborn. I couldn't get over how many folds and crevices and tiny dungeons and hidden passages a miniscule baby vulva/vagina contained. You actually needed a miner's helmet. Or a flashlight. And that was a brand new V, fresh out of the oven. Mine has been on this planet for almost half a century. It's seen a lot of life, literally: four of them were created in there. I am not from the whole "take a hand-held mirror and explore" generation but I'm guessing the nooks and crannies are still plentiful. I might be picturing Prune Face from Dick Tracy. Sorry.

The first swipe of the razor wasn't so bad. But then I met with some resistance. I plowed ahead, pulling things taut and trying to remember if it was "go with" or "go against" the grain. Which way does my grain go, anyway? DO I HAVE A GRAIN?

Things were getting steamy and not in a good way. Panic started setting in. How far back do you go? Was I getting it all or was I leaving some freakshow haphazard pattern in my wine-addled wake?

And then, I cut something. Like a lawnmower gliding blithely over an unseen garden hose, I nicked a nubbin. Was it an essential nubbin? I guess I'll find out, eventually. But regardless, that was the end of my impromptu barbershop experiment. RAZOR DOWN, HANDS UP, SWEENEY TODD!



There was blood. There was sadness. There was almost instantaneous regret. And there was itching.

I didn't finish the job because I was afraid of inflicting permanent damage. I don't know how my friends do this without the aid of mirrors and stirrups. Is there a trick? A secret? Maybe it involves using a razor that isn't a year old. Maybe it requires the use of something other than Neutrogena for Men shaving gel. Maybe it requires sanity.

I don't know. All I know is, I was going for sleek and smooth and velvety, and instead I got Bert from Sesame Street, complete with the unibrow.

I'm sorry, lovah. But if you're a fan of muppets, we may be onto something here.

Itchily yours,

Jenny



8/16/15

Again With The Spawning



"I hate him." 

This is what my daughter said to me, after returning home from an afternoon birthday party with Big Daddy's extended family. 

It had been momentous occasion, from my perspective, because all four of my kids had gone. For the first time since May, I'd had the house entirely to myself. Two and a half hours of me time. It took all of my self control to not dance around in my underwear and an oxford while lip syncing to Bob Seger...instead I did crazy things like enjoy the silence and read entire chapters in a book.

Obviously, in my daughter's eyes, it was momentous for entirely different reasons.

As I've blathered on about before, the relationship between the kids and their father has been sporadic. With my daughter, it's been basically non-existent for the past few years. She's said, many times, how she has no interest in her father. How she has no desire to spend time with him, and even less than no desire to be around his wife and their child. 

So when she left for the party, along with her three brothers, I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, of course, because it meant a little bit of much-needed solitude for me, but it also meant that maybe, just maybe, she was taking those difficult first steps towards repairing the father/daughter relationship (and we won't get into how strange it is that she's the one who is making the effort, right?). After all, she is almost 20 now and about to leave for her second year of college. It's never too late to build bridges and I've always encouraged my kids to keep an open mind, and heart, where their dad is concerned.

I knew something was up the minute they filed back in after the party. The boys were their usual selves; making a beeline towards the fridge, on their phones making plans for the evening and giving each other brotherly crap. 

But not my girl. I always, always know when she needs to vent. Instead of heading back to her nest as she usually does, she'll hover. Just like she did when she was little and something was bothering her, she stood near me, not saying anything. Yes, kind of creepy but look at the poor girl's family tree.

That's when she said it. "I hate him." She just blurted it out, no prefacing statement, no decorative words hung on the branches of the sentence. Just that. I hate him.

My internal dialogue? It was something like this:

Why does she look so sad?
Did someone say something bad to her?
Did he ignore her? 
Did that twit say something to her?
Why would she hate him? Will she ever not hate him? 
Why is he such a dick?

The external talk? It was just this:

"Why?"

She said it quietly. 

"Mom, they're having another baby." 

That was it. The good news, at least for me, was how much I didn't care. The first time they spawned, and one of the kids let it slip, it hurt. My mind spiraled back to the time he was toying with the idea of coming back to me, to our home. He'd been gone for a year, living with his then-girlfriend and I'd been trying with all my might to woo him back. 

How can I convince you to come back? To stay?

He'd looked at me and I could see him weighing the pros and the cons. I could practically envision his Plus/Minus columns, the Should I Stay or Should I Go theme song playing quietly in the background. Then, he spoke.

"No more kids." That was it. The one and only requirement. And I made sure there would be no more kids...at least, none for me.

So yeah. When that first baby was announced, it stung. The reality of what he'd really meant to say that day finally sank in. "No more kids" he'd said, but what he should have added was: "with you."

This time, however, zero stings. Donald Trump running for President hurts me more than this news ever could. 

My ex reproducing doesn't faze me. You want to make more babies? Go for it. Go on with your bad Tony Randall self, Big Daddy. Keep coating those deviled eggs with baby batter until the well runs dry. You want to be the 70 year old dino at your kid's high school graduation? CONGRATS. I'll be over here enjoying going to movies at the spur of the moment, taking naps and not smelling diapers. Oh yeah, and also, being a parent to your first four attempts at fatherhood. Mazel tov, mother effer.

The ex reproducing DOES bother someone, though. My daughter. 

And that does faze me, friends. 

Because an almost 20-year old woman shouldn't be feeling weird about her dad and his sow's ear/silk purse wife making yet another child. Because it cut me, deep, when she whispered so quietly it was almost inaudible, "at least it's another boy". 

She has found the saddest silver lining, ever, in this grotesque situation. 

She's still his girl. His only girl, so far. 

I didn't know what to say to her. Do you make light of it? Do you commiserate? What does a mom do when her baby is hurting?


I hugged her. And not only did she let me hug her...she hugged me back.

That'll do. For all of us, I hope. 

That'll do.




8/9/15

The Class Reunion: I Came. I Saw. I Peed My Pants.

I am not certain about many things in life. Hardly any, really. But this I can tell you with absolute confidence: you will never find my picture alongside the word "DIGNIFIED". Ever.

The day of the reunion rolled up as days tend to do. The anxiety this event was causing was insane. I started dreaming about it! As someone who claims, repeatedly, to have put the past behind me, it became woefully obvious that maybe I confused "behind me" with "churning the past into a buttery lotion and rubbing it all over my body". Because I was coated in the past. At least that's what it felt like. Air ceased to exist and was replaced with a thick, gooey gel comprised of everything I experienced during those short, kind of hellish high school years. The good, the bad, and the awful.

(can you believe I never took drama in high school?)

So. My mind was pretty much made up to NOT attend. Despite the fact that a friend had purchased my ticket. Despite the fact that there was a hotel suite already reserved. Despite the fact that my texts and messages were blowing up with friends giving me eleventeen thousand reasons to go. Stubbornness isn't a super appealing quality but I gots it.

Then my friend Nancy called. Of course I missed the call because that's what I do, but about twenty minutes later I saw the notification and I listened to her message.

Nancy is a friend I've stayed in touch with over the past few years. We aren't close, given that we are both working women who happen to be mothers and she also has a husband and we don't live just a hop, skip and jump away from each other. But, when we do happen to bump into each other, it's nice. She's nice. She always was one of my favorite people back in the Dark Ages. Funny and sweet and optimistic. Those are my three words for Nancy.

She has cancer. And is fighting it. My fourth word for her? Badass. Or is that fourth and fifth? No matter.

The message she left was brief but powerful. So powerful that it blew through my stubborn brick wall and moved me.

Moved me in the direction of "I'm going." The next day I made an appointment to have my hair shaped into something that didn't look so much like Hagrid with his finger stuck in an outlet. I tried on a couple outfits, one courtesy of my homie Danielle, the other a mishmash of flowy Chico's/Eileen Fisher/Old Navy offerings from my closet which is beginning to look like a thick-waisted nun's, by the way. NEED MORE COLOR.

The hair turned out great, so great that I took a selfie and the kids all wanted to touch it. The hair, not the selfie. People usually need gardening gloves to get through it but that day, it was soft and shiny and straight.

More licorice! I only have four hours to develop Type II Diabetes!

And so I went...with my old pal Anxiety riding shotgun.

Now, here's the thing: Anxiety isn't a new malady. She and I go way back. The ways I handle her are pretty much set in stone. I either close up, I eat or I drink. The last time I went to a social gathering where I had to face people from my past didn't end well. It was my sister-in-law's wedding, many moons ago and it ended with me being drunk in my ex-father-in-law's car. If you want to skip the rest of this post and just read that one you can do so without any hard feelings. 

The pre-party was fun. It was a gaggle of high school friends, nervously twittering and taking pics and of course, drinking. I decided to go whole hog and start out with a gin and tonic. Looking back, it probably would have been smarter to eat something besides the licorice beforehand. Because nerves + empty stomach usually = very bad things.

Nerves + empty stomach + gin and tonics + class reunion?

Asshattery. That's all I can think of to describe what followed. Complete, utter asshattery. Hats are not my friend, apparently.

This lady, however, is my friend. Since 6th grade. We were the poor kids, the ones with not-so-perfect home lives, the ones who were on the fringe most of the time:

"Terri, I have a great idea. Let's drink three of these before we head out."
"Sounds good, Jenny. Hey, tell me more about life in the convent!"
Actually, the hotel room was filled with friends. Some of us were super close back in the day, some of us became better acquainted after all the bullshit of teenage years and school had passed.

Did we linger too long at the hotel, giggling and gossiping and tippling? Probably. But that's just one more aspect of the entire evening which can't be changed. Or erased.

Here's how it went down: we stumbled over to the reunion. We put on our name tags, we made that scary first step into the arena. I know how the Christians being led to the lions must have felt. Last minute regret over not working out very much over the past 30 years dug into my back...or was that the Spanx cami trying to rein in the rolls above and below my bra straps?

It's like a dream now, when I try to remember it. A freaky dream fueled by years of buried memories and the weight of life itself. Flashbacks blew up in my face with every single "Oh my god! Hi!!!" followed by hugs.

Parts of it were good. Hugging my friend Nancy and rubbing her new post-chemo hair was the highlight. A pair of high school sweethearts who are now married were warm and loving and also bought me a few cocktails. Another pal, the one who bought my ticket, was keeping everyone up to their knees in libations. The drinks and the laughter and the fog of conversational din crowded around me.

I'd like to say that Anxiety left the building. I'd like to say that, but it would make me a liar. She never left, she just passed out. Unfortunately, I didn't. Like a zombie wearing a burka, I stumbled throughout the room. My partner in juvenile crime, Terri, kept up with me and we took several bathroom breaks wherein we cried with laughter from adjoining stalls.

There were awkward talks and some that were nice. I could tell some of my more reasonable friends were less-than-impressed with my behavior. Sometimes I stopped and wondered if maybe I should go. Just wander out, call a cab and leave. That's when Anxiety would open one eye and croak, "NO. You have to stay! You're having so much fun!"

So, we stayed. There was a professional photographer there and believe you me, every single time one of my friends would post one of the pictures from that night my heart would seize up in my chest as I quickly looked for the black and white blur that was me. I only caught sight of that blur once, and of course I'm clutching a clear solo cup full of limes and wearing a smile that looks a little more like a constipated grimace.

Eventually one of our more level-headed friends decided it was time for us to go. He loaded our gin-soaked asses into his car and deposited us at the hotel.

This is when things get fuzzy. And super, duper classy.

There was making out. No, not me and Terri although since she's a gorgeous lesbian and I'm basically a sexual amoeba by now, that's not such a preposterous idea. Don't worry, sir, you were (I think) a true gentleman and the moments we shared post-reunion will go to the grave with me. Unless I use it in my book, which I probably will because you can't make this shit up. But please know I will disguise your identity. And thank you, also, for not saying anything to anyone about what it was like to be that close to Drunk Anxiety Girl. Under the best of circumstances me trying to get my sexy on is a stretch: when I'm six sheets to the wind I become Dom DeLuise. And not just everyday Dom, no. Dom when he was around Burt Reynolds. It wasn't pretty and I appreciate your discretion.

There was public urination. At one particularly regal time, Terri and I were sitting on a curb in front of the hotel. Wait, it gets worse! So there we were, two 40-something women sitting on a curb in the wee hours of the morning (and yes, pun intended). Still laughing. This time, I laughed so hard I wet my pants. As in I turned to Terri and said, "I'm actually peeing as we speak." And no, not just a little tinkle. Like my pants were soaked. I drive by that hotel almost daily and I'm pretty sure there was a giant wet spot on the concrete for a few days. The shame of that night followed me like a stalker.

I got lost within the eerie hallways of the hotel and cried like a baby with a full diaper. Which basically is what I was by that point. It was like The Overlook Hotel in The Shining though, and I kept waiting for Danny to whiz by me on his Big Wheel or the murdered twin girls to pop out and ask if I wanted to play with them. Forevah and evah and evah.

When I did find the room, Terri and I ordered two large pizzas. I stumbled into bed and when our lovely and thoughtful friend Kathy attempted to remove my eye makeup I screamed at her DON'T TOUCH ME! Sorry Kathy, when I get like that sometimes I think I'm still married. I love you for trying.

Somehow I survived, and when I woke up the next day I was pleasantly surprised to be alive and that I hadn't lost my wallet, phone or purse. Of course my pride was missing but that's not a huge shocker. For a moment I considered leaving a note of apology to the maid who was going to have the unfortunate task of making up my bed later that day:

Dear Housekeeping:

I'm sorry about the bed on the left. It smells like Aveeno moisturizer, human urine and the tattered remnants of self esteem. Also, there is one eye's worth of makeup on the pillowcase. Fortunately it's all water-soluble and should come out in the wash. If you happen to find a large silver earring that looks like a leaf, please throw it away. I lost the other one somewhere else.

Love, 

The Nun in Room 308.

So yeah. There it is. I went to my reunion, it wasn't so bad. But, I did drink way more than I should have. I'm sorry to those I may have spit on while we were talking and I'm also sorry I missed out on the chance to have real live conversations that made sense. Hopefully when our 40th rolls around I will have procured either a sense of peace or a prescription for Xanax.

Namaste, class of 1985.




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