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)
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.


  1. I like my self-loathing buttered. I'll try it.

    Sorry about the blues. I think Thanksgiving is a hard holiday -- it's like the Valentine's Day of Intact Family-ness.

    I remember one awful one (after my first divorce, I was 34), and my friend killed himself a few weeks before, and my parents bought me a plane ticket to Detroit out of sheer pity. Spent the weekend on my brother's spare bed, where I could hear my SIL puking her guts out the night before Thanksgiving. (She was probably hungover). Woke up the next day (she was hosting) to realize she couldn't really pull off a huge dinner party, so my mother and I cleaned her house and SIL did that learned helpless thing and the turkey was cold. And it was all depressing as hell.

    Years later, the miscellaneous girlfriend Thanksgivings were much more enjoyable. Sometimes family bonhomie isn't all it's cracked up to be. ((Hugs))

    1. You are such a good storyteller, my friend. I was right there with you listening to the girlfriend heaving, cleaning with resentment and oh snap, the depressingness of it all!

      You know, I think the thing that hurts the most is when I let myself go to that dark place, and I picture my ex walking into the big family gathering with a pregnant woman, exactly as he did with me 22 years ago. And the absurdity, the absolute grossness of it is almost overwhelming. I'm hoping someone calls him out on it, makes a comment about the 22 year span and yet another one of his spawn being born. There were a few awesome, sarcastic people in that clan. Here's to hoping he gets some shit on Thursday along with the turkey. (BUT I'M NOT BITTER)

      Thanks for being you and for helping so many, me included. xoxox

  2. I've been in the dumps too some days, not sure why... but I get it. However, I do not get hung up on any holidays because I have no expectations and no family that I want to be with and vice versa. This t-day Reub and I, and his two adult children are going out for sushi/thai. It took me a long to not give a crap and my kids will just enjoy being with their older sibs and have sticky rice than try to force some traditional garbage on them. I wonder if my sad days are due to perimenopause?

    1. Where are you going for sushi?? Sounds like a good plan. I bet we can blame a nice chunk of this stuff on hormones. I blame them for everything else, why not this? LOL.

      Love ya Gail. Thanks for being here.

  3. 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.......This is EXACTLY how I am feeling. My oldest son is getting ready to graduate college and is considering the Peace Corp or a similar program and while I am extremely proud that he feels the call "to be the change", I am terrified of letting him out of my sight. The next two are also in college and a can feel them searching/reaching for their future as well. Thankfully, there are still two home, but it is so fleeting. Gone are the days of counting the minutes to 8:00 when I could put them all to bed. I didn't know it at the time, but those days were so much easier.

    1. BOOM. We are proud of these babies and all that they have/will accomplish but it's terrifying to imagine them no longer underfoot and within reach.

      You know what I really miss, and it KILLS me to admit this? I miss toys. I don't miss picking them up and finding them broken, but I miss wrapping them and watching the kids playing with them. Such a stupid thing to miss, right?

      Hope you have a lovely week, my friend. Hug those babies :)

  4. So happy I found your article in Family Circle last weekend! Where have you been for the past 6 years?! I sure could have benefitted from your words and similar experiences. I felt like I was traveling that horrendous road alone. I have plenty of well- meaning friends, but none that really "got it".
    I read your article about Christmas and I was laughing and crying at the same time. Then I came to the blog and started on those. I was at my boyfriend's house and he thought I was crazy! And as you know, you can't explain your feelings about our situation, because even though you are "over" your ex, you kind of still aren't "over" it.
    Our situations, from the little I've read, are way too similar. I am also the product of a mid-life crisis, where my husband left me and our three girls for a new, much younger model and new family. Oh, how I could write a country song about them!!
    I have online dated, been set up, struggled with all of the same issues! Even the story about the dentist office cracked me up! You googled him and I've had to do that too!!
    After reading this article this morning, I totally understand where you are coming from. It's hard to explain the loss of the "family". It's not fair. I miss that the most, too. Even though I don't want him. I feel sad for my children not having a real relationship with their dad. I feel sorry for me not having a husband to share this life with. I have a sweet boyfriend, but it's not the same. I have pity parties sometimes, then I cry it out, or drink some wine and go to bed. The next day is usually better. The other thing that helps some is to look at what a good job I have done by myself with my girls. They are 22 (graduated college already), 17 ( a senior), and 13. I remind myself that they look up to me to keep it all together and I want them to see how strong I am for them. I want to raise strong women that can take care of themselves. I'm not saying they don't see me sad sometimes, they do. That's normal, for everyone. But they see me trying my best. I want to recommend a book to you that really helped me. Not sure if I can put it out on your blog, so let me know! It really put some things in perspective, and we all need that reminder sometimes.
    But I am a new loyal fan/friend of yours! Maybe we should write a country song together and make some money! But I want you to know, that I am Thankful to have found you! I am counting you as a blessing to me this Thanksgiving! Hang in there!

    1. Oh Sherri (LOLOL I bet you never get sick of that one, signed, 867-5309)

      Well, girl, now you're here so it's time to hug and become besties. You nailed it, regarding the "missing". It's not THEM, it's what they brought with them to the table. The cheating and the disrespect were awful, of course, but oh my stars there is so much more MISSING now. We can be cheerleaders and go all rah rah with each other and tell ourselves how much better it is without them...and that is true in some respects.

      But I think it's so important that we acknowledge the mourning. All too often we are told to stop wallowing, to move on and all of that. Which is good to do, of course, but dammit, it's okay to admit that you're sad.

      You can totally recommend a book here. It's a great place to share :)

      I'm so glad you're here, and also so thrilled you've found some comfort. To learn you're not alone is a beautiful thing.

      Thanks for this lovely comment, I look forward to more chatting.

  5. Love these potatoes! Make mine with sour cream instead of half and half.

    1. Ooooh sounds decadent! I might have to go that route since SOMEONE used the half and half for cereal. Love my roommates!

  6. I.could.have.written.this. Lawd hep me, I am going through the exact same thing... crying at the drop of a hat, thought it was PMS until I was post-MS and it was/is still happening. I only have two kids but one is about to finish grade school and move on to high school which means less than 5 years until the kid LEAVES MY HOUSE. Everything makes me melancholy these days. It's kinda starting to piss me off! Holidays surely don't help, I hate to say, but it's true. I am trying to FEEL my feelings (rather than eat, drink or Netflix them) but I still can't help wondering why I'm having these feelings? My current plan of action is "just keep swimming." And I am SO making the roadside potatoes.

    1. Yes, just keep swimming is an excellent plan of action. I took the dog out for a long walk today, that helped immensely. Last night was the lowest I've been in a looooong time, and that was scary.

      And yep, feeling them instead of stuffing ourselves with them is exactly what we need to do. It just hurts so much :(

      Hope you have a beautiful Thanksgiving.

  7. I love ya, homes. I'm always here for whatever.
    Whatever is whatever you need it to be.

    1. You are one of the constants in my life and I am forever grateful for that. And you! Smooches.

  8. Love your posts! Is there still a book in the works? Your fans want to know!!!

    1. Thank you so much! And aughhhh. In the works, yes. Will it ever get out of the works? Who knows. Lots of self doubt and not a whole lot of spare time equals a half-finished draft.

  9. Congrats on the article! Now that I'm done w/ school, I find myself at odds and feeling horribly mopey and blaaahhh. Add to that extreme job dissatisfaction/uneasiness, the kids at their dad's from Wed-Sat this week (so just Jay & me for TG), and it being the first TG w/o my mom, and I'm a hot mess!! I'll be eating my way through this holiday season (and hating myself come January--hahaha).


  10. Hey Jenny, so sorry about the pre-Thanksgiving blues but not at all surprised this is happening. Thanksgiving is hard enough for anyone who's experienced a major loss (through divorce, death in the family, job, etc.) but add in the fact of your wedding anniversary being this week also and it's a double whammy. And anybody who'd expect you to "get over it already" is just an insensitive jerk. Especially because I am guessing part of this is probably good ol' midlife hormones messing with you (same for grenee229, btw). Depression is extremely common and normal at our stage of life (oh joy, right?)...I've definitely had my battles with it. If those sad and teary spells persist after the holidays, chat with your doc about it, OK? But otherwise, I'm glad you have peeps to be with for Thanksgiving -- and the Suburbs on Weds! And you are a very, very strong woman even when you don't feel that way! Oh, and congrats on the Family Circle article again, AND thanks for the Roadside Potatoes recipe, YUM! It may taste like self-loathing...but buttery, cheesy self-loathing is so worth it! Hugs!

  11. What a wonderful and timely post for me.....feeling the same right now and it smacked me out of nowhere. Did some soul searching with wine and finally decided (admitted) I'm envious of the "family unit" the ex is giving the kids with his new wife. And to be really honest....I'm worried the kids are liking it with them more than me.....(wow that was even hard to type) This is the first time in 5 years I have ever felt that my ex had a step up on me with our kids and I feel shitty even thinking it....

    More wine please!

  12. Ok now I am sobbing but in a good way:))))

  13. Jenny - you aren't alone in your feelings - as we get older, the passage of time and our lives moves more to the forefront of our minds - it does mine, anyways. You are an amazing person - a great mom to your kids. I know you'll be counting your many, many blessings this Thanksgiving. Congrats on the FC article - I'm picking up a copy tomorrow! ((HUGS))

  14. I don't have a post divorce world to blame my tears on. I'm blaming the menopause hormones and the fact that my "children" (32,29 and 26) are going off and making the holidays their own and I feel like they're leaving me behind. I know change has to happen but damn, it does bring on the tears.
    Have a peaceful Thanksgiving. I plan to eat too much and try to laugh too much and we're going to play Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (which seems oddly appropriate)

  15. Thanks again, for letting me know that all these weird emotions aren't just a "me" thing. Between you and the people who comment, it's nice to know that I'm not alone in feeling so down, even though things are generally great. I did see your article in FC--knew it was you before I saw the note about the author :o)

  16. Bonjour Jenny from sunny France, and a very happy Thanksgiving to you and all your loved ones! Many many congratulations on your article in Family Circle, that's fantastic news - a real testament to your talent and hard work! Very best wishes, Charlotte x

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