Letter From A Monster

It's been five months since my mom died. I had a remarkably difficult time with it, which is weird because of the whole estrangement thing. You'd think two years of zero communication would have made it easier to handle but oh no. Quite the contrary. Looking back now, with days and weeks and a few months worth of perspective, I see what a complete psycho I was. Like, I now kind of want to go around apologizing to the people who had to interact with me on a daily basis during that time. My poor family! My aunt who had to endure ranting, grief-struck texts. My kids who wondered when their mom turned into Jabba the couch-sitting Hut. And oh criminy: my co-workers. I can't believe I still have a job. I was prone to crying at my desk, used up gobs of sick days because I just couldn't function and was a paranoid, sniveling wretch. I'M SORRY YOU GUYS.

Anyway. The lowest point was over winter break, when I was home for two solid weeks and did absolutely nothing. I pulled off another Christmas wherein I played the part of Loving Mother but other than that it was basically me sitting around growing new chins, watching every British show on Netflix and discovering just how long one can go without showering before people driving by your house can catch a whiff of your sad stench. (side note here: how is it possible that I am still single? 😂)

Things began changing after that. The new year truly did bring in a new me, and I haven't looked back. My teenager's unflagging attempts to actually get me to join him at the gym* instead of just dropping him off finally paid off, and on January 13th I steeled myself for a moment before walking into the workout room of the YMCA. It was almost as hard as walking into the food shelf for the first time, you guys. I tugged at the giant shirt which was, despite its size, uncomfortably tight around my belly. Certainly everyone was looking at the frizzy haired giantess approaching the weight machines, right? But guess what...nobody cared. Not one person pointed and laughed at me as I did arm curls and leg presses and there wasn't a crowd of people snapchatting fat shaming pictures of me as I got on the treadmill.

Nope. Not one person cared except for me, and after a few minutes my worries melted away as the endorphins rushed in like rainwater after a drought. That was the first night of many that my kid and I loaded into the car and made our way to the gym in the dark, when I used to be finishing the dinner dishes and deciding which show to watch before falling asleep in front of the t.v.

In the days since that first anxiety-ridden gym trip, so much has changed. My mood is a thousand times better. I am losing weight, although this time around I refuse to step on a scale (the fact that my boobs now resemble freckly deflated footballs is really all the proof I need). One of my favorite work friends commented the other day, "You have a really beautiful glow around you lately" and I replied, "I've never felt better" and it's the truth: I have never felt this happy or this healthy or this hopeful.

Hope was hard for me to find after mom's death. Add to that the insane election and the aftermath and it felt as though it would never come back (I know we steer clear of politics here but come on, friends- I'm a low income single mom who works for a public school district...it's not hard to figure out why I'm scared shitless). Since I started exercising again, though, I'm finding it easier to see the good. I'm laughing again, smiling real smiles and even the old writing urge is slowly coming back to life.

I lost all of that for a little bit earlier this week. All thanks to a letter. A letter from someone I was done with, or so I thought.

When my mom died there was one silver lining: it meant that I'd never have to see her husband, the man who terrorized me as a child and teenager, again. It was a relief to hear he'd hightailed it out of Minnesota just a few weeks after her memorial service, leaving for the warmth and golf courses of Arizona. He was the main reason for the degradation of the relationship between me and my mom. Seeing him, hearing his voice brought me back to those dark, nightmarish years of abuse. Walking into their house sent me spiraling down a funky rabbit hole of despair: the stench of cigarettes in my hair and on my clothes, the cobwebs of awful memories clinging to my face and limbs.

Her dying freed me of him. Apparently, he didn't get that memo.

His letter stunned me. It also made me laugh. Not because it was funny (although it is kind of hilarious) but due to the absolute absurdity of it. The gall! The huge font! The "over" at the bottom of the page just in case I'd been reading it and couldn't figure out I had to turn the paper over to find his closing remarks.

His narcissism has never been more obvious. Actually, I think someone teaching a class on personality disorders could take this letter and use it as a teaching tool. "Class, let's dissect this one: first, let's count how many times the writer of the letter uses the words I, me, and my."

For a while his words stuck to me like those icky memories. I composed a reply in my head...the first one was simply "Fuck you." The second one was wordier.

Here's the letter. I blocked out his information because even assholes deserve some modicum of privacy. But the rest of it? Fair game.

Yes, it was addressed to both my brother and me. He sent one to my brother, too.

Bottom lines:

  • You are the enemy.
  • My kids are not your grandchildren. They never were.
  • Maybe you should have let mom move to California to be with you. Just saying.
  • You were 22 and you entered into a relationship with a married, 35 year old woman who had two kids. Cry me an effing river, dickhead.
  • Your parents failed miserably. 
  • There is no line a 9 year old kid can cross that would make it okay to hit them. Or kick them, slap them, throw ceramic coffee mugs at their heads and chase them through a house while they scream for help. 
  • The only thing I'll give you credit for are 40 years worth of nightmares and trust issues. Also, the fun way I flinch when someone near me raises their voice. Thanks!
  • You'll get our social security numbers right about the same time we invite you over for Sunday dinner. In other words, don't hold your breath. (or, do hold it? For a long time? Please?)
In the end, I decided to not respond. A friend of mine burned the letter for me, in my kitchen sink. I worried about starting a fire so it didn't finish burning completely, but my daughter put the charred pieces in the recycling bin. It's over.

What distressed me the most about this letter was how it made me mad at my mom all over again. Five months have passed and while there are still tough moments, for the most part I have come to a kind of peace with all of it. After reading this letter I felt the resentment, felt the betrayal, felt the impotent rage. It has taken a few days, several miles walking the dog and some good late nights at the gym to get rid of it, but it's gone.

We now return to our regularly scheduled happiness.

* an explanation of the gym, since there are a few people out there who like to keep track of how I spend my money: we have the pauper's scholarship at the YMCA. For $60 a month all five of us can use the gym to workout, take classes or just go play basketball. We use our membership, on average, four days a week. The health insurance I get through work has an incentive group that I participate in...aside from getting Amazon gift cards for simply exercising, they also offer a gym rebate of $350 a year. So, our membership ends up being about $30 a month. Less than two therapy co-pays! #winning


Ex-ual Healing

One would assume that ten years post-divorce every wound would be healed. Each hurt feeling would be long-tended and recovered. All those damages wrought by the jagged shards of shattered trust, imploding self esteem and broken vows...nothing but scars and memories now.

One would assume that, yes. And one would be kind of-sort of right. At least in my case.

As alike as our divorces and the series of unfortunate events that led up to them may be, we are still all unique. That goes for how we recover from our divorces, as well. Some of us are truly able to shed that skin like a snake, leave the husk behind and get on with gettin on. Some of us simply patched up as best we could, enough to blend in, enough to get through the days without sticking out too much. Regardless of our rate of healing, I think we all do it eventually but just like any other trauma, it does leave a mark. Maybe that mark is the self-doubt you feel when you look in the mirror. Maybe it's the "what if" game you play every once in a while.

For me, the mark is my gut. No, not the front-butt that has hung out on my belly since all those c-sections...like the divorce, I've come to terms with that too. The gut thing for me is that "pang". Are you familiar with it? It's the invisible fist that gets you right in the stomach, when faced with reminders of your past. At first, those fists are huge and powerful. The pang can take your breath away then, can bring tears to your eyes and cause you to recoil in physical pain.

After a while, the pang mellows. Oh, it's still there but over the days and months and years it becomes less fisty- more like a poke than a punch.

These are the divorce healing pangs, my friends. And they never end. They just get quieter, harder to feel and see. But I think it's important that we still acknowledge them, and give ourselves credit where it's due.

My latest milestone? It was something so silly I'm almost embarrassed to share it with you. I'm going to, of course, but still...it's with a little hesitation.

So, my ex mother in law. I LOVE HER. This isn't a bash against her, not one bit. I miss her and other family members so much. Way more than I ever missed her stepson. Yes, she's his step mom. His "real" mom, meh. She was great while we were married, afterwards, not so much. It's become a running joke in our house that she's still trying to kill me by sending chocolate chip cookies loaded with walnuts home with the kids at Christmastime every year.

The other mom, though? To quote Tupac, "nothin but love". To this day she continues to keep in touch, along with some sisters-in-law. They have been an integral part of my healing and I am forever grateful to them. When you've been rejected, wholly and completely by someone, it can be a lifesaver to know you're still worth enough to keep the lines of communication open.

Every year, right before Christmas, they have a big brunch at their country club. A holiday/December birthday celebration. I used to attend back in the olden days, and my kids continue to do so. This year, apparently, there was a photographer there to capture the fun. My mother in law sent me a link to the pics, because that's what kind people do. "Hey, your babies are in these pictures...thought you'd like to see them!" is what I imagine she was thinking.

I clicked on the link. And there she was. The woman who decided, a decade or so ago, that she wanted to get herself a man and set her sights on the one I happened to be married to at the time. There she was, smiling and holding her children. They were the first photos in the lineup, you guys. It's not as if I searched for them. Click and BOOM.

Here's the good news, though. It wasn't the gut punch. It wasn't even much of a pang, honestly. I did look because I'm human. Wouldn't you?? I looked at the kids and felt relief that they don't look anything like mine. I looked at her and for a flicker of a second thought "well she looks pretty pleased with herself". 

And then I kept on clickin'. Found pics of my brood and looked at them, thought how cute they were and how proud I am of them and then glanced at a few more and then closed the link. Not a slamming, close, either...just a run of the mill "click".

It gets better: I didn't think much about it, not really at all until a friend and I were discussing exes last night. I wanted to show her one of the pics but decided against it because holy Doritos, I might actually be a grown up. Well...we may want to hold onto that proclamation for a sec because I did also consider, for more than a few seconds, meme-ing the crap out of one of the pictures. "INSPIRATION TO SIDE CHICKS EVERYWHERE". Or, "I USED TO BE THE OTHER WOMAN, NOW I WORRY ABOUT HER" (don't worry, I didn't) (oh but we could have some fun with this one...😂)

If this had happened ten years ago, it would have immobilized me. It would have pushed me down a dark and cobwebby rabbit hole of anxiety and self-loathing and grief. I realize by writing about this, how proud I am of myself for not losing my shit after seeing a picture of my ex-husband's wife, that I'm inviting some of the "get over it already!" and "cripes, loser, it's been a decade!" comments. That's okay.

Because I know there are others out there who go through this. Whether it's been a month, a year or twenty years since your world was shaken down to its molten core, there are always going to be these reminders, these tests, if you will.

Pangs. Pangs and gut punches and pokes, oh my. They may hurt, but don't worry, my dears. They aren't fatal.


Winter Break Down

Not enough Febreze in the world.

In an unprecedented and spectacular calendar event, this year our school district's winter break included two four-day weekends thanks to Christmas and New Year falling on Saturday/Sunday. Normally, I work even on non-school days, but this year I decided that mama needed a break. So I took those four beautiful paid holidays, a couple personal days and thanks to a migraine, one sick day, a couple days of just straight up no pay and I carved out the longest stretch of days off I've had in years.

Last night, whilst sitting in the nest I made on the couch (see photo above), I started to feel kind of crappy about what I'd done with it. Like, this chunk of free time was a glorious, hopeful bundle of hours and days full of potential. Not unlike a newborn baby, really. So many wishes and dreams and plans!

Oh the plans! I was going to tackle the mess in the laundry room. One of my children had a bed with drawers underneath it. What are those called?? CAPTAIN'S BEDS! Yes. They had one of those and got a different one and decided to plop the drawers- still full of clothes- in the laundry room. This was over a year ago.

I was going to clean my own room. Right now it looks like my dresser, my closet AND my clothes chair* are suffering from a violent bout of the stomach flu. *clothes chair: a chair that exists to hold the clothes that are neither dirty nor clean. And which are eventually forgotten until the owner of said clothes suddenly can't find that one black top. You know, the black one? 

I was going to work out and clean and read a book and have a slumber party with a friend. The Christmas tree was going to get taken down and dragged outside. At least one of the three four junk drawers in the kitchen were going to get gone through and organized.

Naps were going to be taken. The dog was going to be walked every single day. IT WAS GOING TO BE LIKE A MILLION WEEKENDS PACKED INTO TWO WEEKS.

I made a nest.

And I sat/layed/lied in that nest for many hours. I napped in that nest. I did read a little, I wrote a little and corresponded with friends. All from the comfort of the nest.

I watched approximately a shit-ton of televison. Movies! Shows! Netflix! Hulu! A couple DVDs!

So many pretend boyfriends, some old and some new. Here's a sampling:

Kal Penn and Kiefer Sutherland, both in "Designated Survivor"
Chandler in the first season of Friends (I love all of them in the first season, they're still hungry actors hoping to make it big, plus I love smoking Chandler)
Young Dennis Quaid as the a-hole in "Postcards from the Edge"
Several random slurring guys who seemed vaguely familiar on "Drunk History"
Jack Black in "The Holiday"
Tea Leoni in "Deep Impact" (lady, yes, but come on! She was the epitome of angular preppy cool chick...like the J Crew catalog took up acting)
and everyone on The West Wing

Nothing super constructive was accomplished.

Of course, Christmas happened, and I did pull that off again. Somehow. Molly and I had a long shopping day together, one of the best times I've had with her in ages. My kids are old now, so the magical part of Christmas doesn't happen like it used to. I still do the stockings, the gifts from Santa (stockings taken from the mantel, filled up and the Santa presents, unwrapped, next to them). This time I woke up around 4:00 a.m. and did the stocking stuffing part. Made coffee, waited a while and then they all gathered to open presents. The kids went to Big Daddy's for their requisite 2-3 hour Christmas visit and then we ordered a million pounds of Chinese food as a nod to our wonderful Jewish friends.

Our Christmas was perfect.

In fact, the whole stretch of time was perfect. No, the laundry room didn't get taken care of. To be completely honest with you, I haven't been down in the laundry room for days. I've been going commando because I can't find any clean underwear.

Going commando on winter break? Sounds about right. If not then, when?

I'm going to stop beating myself up for not "accomplishing" anything because when you think about it, I accomplished everything.

I relaxed.
I hung out with my kids.
I spent some time with friends.
I napped with my dog.
I cooked some good food and some mediocre food and ate way too much of both kinds.

I also grew a new chin and what is starting to feel like a hump on my back.

The one thing I did kind of mess up was personal hygiene. The youngest kid and I were in the car last night. I said, "Sweet Jesus, what stinks?" and he replied, "Pretty sure that's you, Mom."

Winter Break: that's a wrap.


2016: Triple Berry Jam

(This was supposed to publish on New Year's Eve but I fell asleep. At ten. While watching Friends on Netflix. Sigh.)

Yes, we get it. This year was very similar to a dumpster fire: stinky, flaming and hard to look away from.

But come on. It wasn't all bad, was it?

I mean, yeah. Personally it was a tough one. I lost my mom and although it felt as though I'd lost her years ago her actual death gutted me in a way I didn't think possible. Loss is loss is loss and I'm still feeling it. My lifelong obsession with sci-fi and fantasy and ghost stories groomed me to be ready for otherworldly signs from her, apparitions or whatever. My aunts saw white feathers everywhere and were convinced it was Mom saying hi. I found nothing. I saw nothing. The one time I did truly feel her was when I found an old Joan Walsh Anglund book she'd given me for Valentine's Day in 1970. I read this page:

And I'll be damned if I didn't feel her right next to me. I can't explain how it felt, exactly- the air around me was thick and felt charged with something. There was a sensation of someone, of HER, and for a moment I felt truly at peace.

Speaking of death, many of our beloved celebrities flew the coop this year as well. It started off with Bowie and Snape and Prince and OMG as 2016 gasped her final raspy breaths she managed to hook both Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in her gnarled, tear-stained talons. My daughter and I were discussing the almost simultaneous exodus of the mother/daughter duo...Molly laughed and said "I suppose that's how we'll go out!" I laughed for a second but then the absolute and utter sadness of her statement walloped me in the face and in my head I screamed "NO! I will go first and you will have many years of life before you cross over! HEAR ME, DAUGHTER...I WILL GO FIRST."

So the celebrity deaths were sad too but sweet gadzooks can you imagine the conversations happening up there now?

Also I want to put Louis CK, Jon Hamm, Hall and Oates, Molly Ringwald and Melissa McCarthy in protective bubble wrap and hide them until it's safe. Jon and Louis, there's room under my bed.

What else was there that made this year, out of all years we've lived through prior, so bad? Ahh. Yes. That election. Yeah yeah. I know! This is a relatively politics-free space because I know we are all different and I value each and every one of you for who you ARE, not who you vote for. That's true. Always has been and always will be. Therefore I expect it in return. Most of you who have read this blog for a while or know me in real life are aware that I am a democrat. I dated, and was married to, conservatives for the entirety of my adult life. Last year and for a very brief but regrettable chunk of time this year I had a gross and embarrassing roll in the hay with a liberal guy. Let me tell you what I took away from it, ladies: liberals can be a-holes, too. Thank God that's all I took away from that disaster, if you know what I mean.

Anyhoo. I'll refrain from going into my hand-wringing, knitted-brow mutterings about how the uncertainty of it all is giving me some anxiety. I will go on record, though, and say WTF.

But let's talk, for a moment, about good things. Although 2016 did have moments of sheer shittiness there was sheer beauty, too. Babies were born! People fell in love! Jokes were told and hugs were had and even in the darkest moments there were shafts of light...some very slim, yes, but light nonetheless. I have discovered, during my own trials, that it's not until you hit rock bottom (or get pretty darn close to it) that you find out how lucky you really are. It took me losing everything but my health and my kids to realize exactly what matters.

So I gave myself a task: go through the camera roll on your phone (I have a phone! It works and the bill is paid! How lucky am I???) and hit "select" on the pictures that brought you joy or happiness or made you laugh. Since I am not a deleter of anything, including photos on my phone, this took a while but guess what? There were at least a hundred pictures on there that at the very least made me smile...and many of them made me laugh, for real, out loud. And some that gave me the happy kind of tears, which while they aren't ever a surprise, are always welcome.

I had a grandiose vision of sharing some of them here and pinpointing exactly why said photo brought me joy but I realize that you all have lives and probably don't want to commit several hours of those lives to looking at pictures from your crazy blog friend's phone. So I pared it down to a few, and promise to keep the pinpointing to a minimum.


This creature, this smelly, shedding old boy- he has my heart. Walter the Divorce Dog. I think he should have his own book. He has no manners and thinks he's a cat. He also saved me. He cries when one of the kids comes home and howls at the door to the garage when I pull in from work. I can't sleep without him. He is as old as my divorce so that makes him a little over ten. One of the suckiest deals in life is how little time we get with our dogs. I try to not think about it but sometimes the fatalist in me comes out and *boom* I'm trying to imagine life without him. I don't want to know.

Also, artichoke dip from Costco. It's the best.


Aha. Another two-fer! This photo illustrates two things that brought me great happiness in 2016. My sweet youngest child, William, and Snapchat. He was my last baby and therefore I forced myself to remember the little things about that pregnancy, about his babyhood and each milestone. Birth order dictates that he is the kid who got the most one-on-one time with mom, whether or not he wanted it. And lucky me: he still plays along. He is my standing movie date, the car-ride conversationalist and reluctant-but-willing Snapchat accomplice.

Snapchat gives me life many days. My best friend from high school and I use it, religiously, every day to at least say "Hi" and on good days we have entire dialogues through 10-second snaps and videos. I'm quite certain the smooth-faced babies who devised the whole concept of snaps/chats didn't have middle aged moms in mind but I am thankful that they did it. Please bring back the old man with the newspaper filter, guys.


These ladies. Again a picture that contains multiple reasons for joy: this was taken on the night of my 50th birthday. The silver-tressed goddess on the right pulled off a surprise party for me! My first one. And the hilarity of it all was only eclipsed by the love I felt. I'd been feeling sorry for myself the whole day...I mean, it was a MONDAY for cripes sake! Turning 50 on a Monday should be illegal. But I muddled through the day, with a bit of Eeyore in my heart because the entire day felt so anticlimactic. It didn't seem right for a woman who loves a party to let this major birthday pass without a bang but, dinner with my homie was going to be fun as it always is. So we walked into Yard House, "our" place, and what do you know. A room full of my friends and co-workers. Love, love, love. The one in the middle is my work wife. And yes I was sweating. I'M FIFTY YEARS OLD. That's what we do. I don't know how you thank someone for a gift like this? 

4.  video

Pardon my lack of centering. I not computer so good. This is a video of the tiny hands. They were a gift from my aforementioned high school friend and they truly are the gift that keeps on giving. I've had more fun with these little plastic hands than I have with my real ones. 


Pretend boyfriends. They're basically all I've got now and somehow that's okay. This one is Rob. And as you can see from the marked-up picture, which happened during a facebook exchange with my friend, he's tall AF. I like them tall and swarthy and preferably with a five o'clock shadow. Can someone find that for me in real life? Thanks. 


Boobs. Hahahaha! Just kidding. This shirt! One of my favorite co-workers had matching shirts made for us and we actually wore them out to dinner one night. It was hilarious. I love SATC in an almost-unnatural way, despite the fact that every quiz I take tells me I am Miranda. I don't want to be Miranda but Buzzfeed quizzes don't lie. 


There were no words for this one. Save for these: the person who sent this insanely generous gift hasn't met me, or my kids. She only knows us from this space. She knows we've seen some tough times and despite the fact that she has faced immeasurable loss this year she did this for us. I am still trying to think of an appropriate thank you. Because the mere words don't feel adequate. 

Oh my friends. You should have seen me at Target the week before Christmas. I still Cartwheeled, despite feeling really rich that day. I did two things with this card: shopped for my family and also shopped for someone else. I paid it forward, dear one. And there's still some left over ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤


If you've read this blog for a while you know way too much about me. One of those things is that I am frugal. As in, I hate spending money on things that aren't hard and fast "NEEDS" vs "WANTS". A week or so before Christmas, the hand-me-down coffee maker a friend had gifted me with years ago met its demise. I wept about it on the facebook, not to get another one but because that's the kind of crap I post there (you want to be friends? LOL). But of course another benevolent and generous friend stepped up with yet another gently used old timey coffee maker, which I used immediately. 

Unbeknownst to me, there was a child plotting something. A 16 year old kid who went onto Amazon, read umpteen reviews and used almost $100 of his hard-earned teenage money to buy his mom a brand new, not even slightly-used coffee maker. You know why?

"Because you deserve something new, Mom." 

Oh, sweet child of mine. I deserve something, that's for sure. But I don't know if I truly deserved any of the good fortune that rained down on me in 2016. I don't know.

This I do know: I know how lucky I am. Lucky to have healthy and kind kids. Lucky to have not just one but a handful of the best friends a woman could ask for. Lucky to have a good dog. Lucky to have a saintly landlord and a roof over my head and Netflix and a Costco membership. Lucky to have eyes that can still see, a heart that keeps on ticking and legs that, if I asked them to, could get my ass up off the couch. 

Oops...forgot the last photo.


There's a boy at my school who gifts the office ladies with homemade jam every year. I forget about it, every year, until his lovely mom walks in and deposits the small bags of deliciousness on my desk. This year, I remembered and made sure there were English muffins on hand at home and the first day of Winter Break this was breakfast. English muffins with triple berry jam. 

The boy is in 6th grade now so this was the last year for the treat. I will miss it, and him and his lovely mom.  

Happy New Year, my friends. May we all have some Triple Berry Jams in 2017. Love you!
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