12/1/21

In This House

 


“In this house” LOL. If you’ve spent any time in groups for parents of college aged kids, you’ll see this phrase used a lot. Sometimes in a hokey meme, sometimes used as a sort of creed by a certain brand of Mama Bear. IN THIS HOUSE, WE LOVE/WORK/PLAY/PRAY HARD you get the gist. Like a mission statement. Those groups are better than most reality shows, by the way. I had no idea how many parents use Life360 to track their adult children. 

But that’s beside the point today. 

Today, my point is this: I’m leaving this house. Our house. The ramshackle rental that provided a roof over my head and the heads of my four young kids for just about 12 years. 

I knew this day was coming, knew it from the time my shaky hand signed the lease. Nothing is forever, right? Especially when you’re renting. 

Knowing something is coming is a lot different from having the exact date of when that something is actually arriving. The expiration date on this particular home is April 1, 2022. 

My landlord, who has been written about a few times in this old blog, came over Sunday night and we had a nice talk. He’s no spring chicken (as he’d readily nod and agree, lol) and his health has not been great. He had tears in his eyes when he told me that he and his wife have made the decision to sell. 

Me? I had tears in my eyes, too. Also on my cheeks and down the front of my shirt and surely a few soaked into the rug beneath my feet. I sobbed, of course. As I said, this was a sure thing. This was the end game that we knew was inevitable. But just knowing the timeframe, knowing the exact end date was a wee bit gutting. 

Dave and I talked for a long time. We laughed and cried a little and reminisced. We cackled over the time I wrote him the very first rent check- it’s been $1650.00 a month since day one, and that first check was written for $1600.00. When I handed it to him, he looked at it, then said “Oh, actually it’s 1650.” And my dim ass replied, “Ahh, I bet I have a couple quarters in my purse.” Seriously. Poster child for naΓ―vetΓ©, folks.

After Dave left, I made a martini. Of course I did. And I wept. Walter had a front row seat to that Sunday night extravaganza, lucky boy. I’ve made the Miss Havisham comparison here before but that night I did some deep role playing, minus the wedding dress (and the riches, of course). It was ugly and raw. I had another martini which means there were two martinis total which also means my mission to numb was successful.

I gave myself 24 hours to wallow. Wallowed on the couch, wallowed in my bed. Wallowed like a champion! On Tuesday I woke up feeling better. And hungry! Wallowing kills the appetite. 

Here’s my shoutout to a few people: the besties, of course, who once again had to deal with a smaller but still pretty mighty mental crisis from me. Luckily they are experienced in this sort of situation and know how to handle it. They know that my first and most visceral reaction to news of major change is a doozy. It’s panic laced with fear, tinged with sadness. They listened. Which was what I really needed. They tried to calm me, which I also really needed. And last night, there was a quick dinner at the Anchor Bar for fish and chips which is ALWAYS NEEDED. 

Second shoutout is to my babies. My kids. I sent out a group text telling them and in their sweet, individual ways they commiserated. One son replied simply, “Damn.” Another asked if this meant I’d start looking into finally buying a house. Yet another immediately began researching grants and loans for first time home buyers. And the very practical one made a list of To Do’s for his mom. It’s been said before but it always bears repeating: these kids are such gifts. I love them way beyond the moon and back. 

Third shoutout? My therapist. As luck would have it, we had an appointment scheduled for Tuesday and she not only talked me off the ledge, she managed to pull me back and zoom out on the myopic dystopian vision I’d created in my head. 

Because, as I’m learning in therapy (OMG I’m learning so much you guys, it’s incredible) we are made up of many parts. When she first brought this up and had me acknowledge my different parts it was super awkward and I actually thought to myself  “what is this woo shit and how can I pretend to go along with it?”. But I’ll be damned. She was right. And this shit, woo or not? It’s working. 

One of my parts is the same chick who, 12 years ago, was penniless and about to be homeless with four grade school aged kids. She (me, lol, it’s still hard for me to do this) ran on pure fear and adrenaline for years. She’s the part who freezes when danger is detected. This is the part of me that instantly decided I was going to be homeless and living in my car with a 16 year old dog. This is the part of me that threw her hands up in the air and said “Enough. I’m done. I cannot do this again.” Because she is stuck back there. Iced in a frozen lake of uncertainty, unable to do much more than pound on that impenetrable, frigid surface with reddened cold fists. She is permanently afraid. And with good reason, you know?

So the therapist had me try to get allll the parts together to help that one. And it sort of worked. The scales were lifted from my eyes, so to speak, and I was able to step back and see that all is not lost. I’m still fucking terrified, but not in an “end of times” sort of way. More like “this is going to be a challenge but it’s not impossible and most likely, will not lead to me and Walter sharing the tiny Subaru (what? A Subaru? Yes! All of my parts got a new(er) car. Details later, I promise. Can’t wait to introduce you to Lil Prezzy)

So my assignment was to honor and hold this part for all the grief and fright she’s carried for allll the parts allll these years. And to understand why that part is like this. 

Trauma brain is real. And it’s freaking wild. 

Also: I’m not too proud to admit that for a few thankfully brief moments I went back to Divorce Rage. Yep, who knew that I could still muster up some anger towards that dusty monster who put me and the kids into such a precarious situation all those years ago? Okay so we all knew but still. It was weird to have his face pop into my brain again. I thought of his stupid self and his stupid wife sitting in their stupid million dollar home without worrying about packing up and finding shelter and leaving what has become comfortable and secure. But then I remembered that I have a heart. One that works. And I let that shit go. Cue the song, I guess. 

Today I’m okay. Today this news still hurts, still pokes with cold fingers, still whispers “the end is nigh, bitch” but today I’m able to understand and cope better than the day before. That’s what those of us in the therapy world call PROGRESS πŸ˜‚

Oh, about the pic at the top of the post: it popped up in my Facebook memories the day after sweet Dave gave me the news about the house. I don’t remember under what context I had saved it, or if I even shared it anywhere. But it came along just when it was needed. 

I am low key dreading the rest of this chapter. Going to keep reading, though. I hope you’ll join me. 



11/17/21

Little Ditty ‘Bout My Martini Glass

 


Ahhh. There it is. That’s my martini glass. THE martini glass. It’s a single solitary glass, not part of a set. I found it at a thrift store (SHOCKER) for less than a dollar, a few years back. 

It’s solid. It has heft. Girth πŸ˜‚. It’s simple and serves a purpose and while it’s not something I’d grab if the house caught fire in the middle of the night, it is something I’d grab if there was a smallish disaster and we had time to go back in.

You all know me by now, so you are painfully aware that I put a lot of significance in random everyday objects. The bowl! A box of hodgepodge paperwork. An old alarm clock. What can I say? In this whackadoo brain of mine, pretty much everything has a degree of meaning and sometimes, a story. 

Here’s the story of my martini glass.

Last year, my dad was dying. He was in hospice at his home, and despite a number of years of estrangement, I was welcomed back into the fold to help Dad get through his last task on this planet. I was honored- felt lucky to be there. And those 7 weeks were the hardest and best and saddest and most love-filled days I have been through. 

And I doubt I would have made it through if it weren’t for my two besties. Cringe! Old lady using dated slang! LOL. But, my besties are truly that. My bitches, the three musketeers, whatever you want to call them…they’re the best. They know the absolute worst about me, and still want to hang out. They deal with my incessant texts about the asshole in my neighborhood who cannot stop blowing his leaves. They talk me off the ledge at least once a week. They trust me. I trust them. 

So, these besties and I have a years and years-long tradition of reserving Friday nights for each other. For real, I’m sitting here trying to remember when Fridays became Homie Night but it’s just…always been? 

To quote those feathered foxes of Loverboy on MTV circa 1981, Everybody’s Workin for the Weekend and our little cluster of three is no exception. Sometimes, the only thing that gets me through the week is that sparkly, twinkling, far-away glint called Friday Happy Hour. Whether we’re in my living room or in a cozy booth at Yard House, it is one of the highlights of the week.

So- back to hospice. Although I didn’t make every Happy Hour during those weeks, I did attend a couple. One night, about halfway through Dad’s ordeal, we decided to go to this amazing Thai place, Lemongrass. It’s been one of our favorites for ages because the food is SO GOOD. Seriously. Locals? They’re takeout only now but may I recommend the Pad Thai, the Lemongrass Special Fried Rice and the Wild Curry (with fried tofu OMG). Ha! It’s currently 6:30 a.m. and I’m longing for it. 

Anyway. There is one thing I don’t like about Lemongrass: they don’t have proper martini glasses. Part of the Friday ritual, for me, is a dirty martini. Extra olives and if they have some blue cheese all up in them, even better. But please, for the purists, have a decent glass. The ones they use are those weird little bowl types, not sure what their official name is but they’re hard to drink out of and the aesthetics are just plain wrong. 

That Friday, I was spent. Emotionally, physically, every-ally. And I wanted a martini out of a normal glass. So, I wrapped my beloved thrift store glass in some tissue and stuck it in a little gift bag (happy Friday from me to me lol). I’m sure it’s against rules and weird archaic Minnesota laws or something, but with everything else in my world doing a slo-mo crash and burn, all I wanted was a good filthy martini sipped out of a passable martini glass. I figured the worst they could say is “Nah”. And I’d still be shoving noodles in my face so that was an acceptable loss. I’m all about the risk-taking, you guys. 

We were seated and were catching up with each other when the server approached our table. The other two gave their orders and then it was my turn. I pulled out the gift bag and withdrew the glass. “Okay” I began, “this is going to sound weird but I have a small favor to ask.” And as I quickly summed up, well, EVERYTHING I of course started to weep. 

This is where many servers would likely roll their eyes or go on autopilot and start questioning their life choices. But our server…she also got misty eyed. She said, and I’m kind of spacing out what exactly took place, but something along the lines of “you can certainly pour your drink into that glass when nobody is looking”. She put her hand on my shoulder, not in a creepy no-boundaries way but in a kind, loving manner.

And that’s what I did. Super stealthily, I’m sure. But it did happen and out of all the shit that went down during those agonizing weeks, this memory stands out. 

Oh, and that server? She also insisted on buying the martini for me. Yes, I cried some more. The tears are always on call, people. Always ready! 

One thing I’m learning in therapy is how our brains work. Mine, in particular, works differently than most due to the stacks of trauma that are stored in there. I’d like to think that even without having gone through what I’ve gone through, my brain would still be a little quirky. A bit unconventional. 

Attaching emotion and memories to just about every object in one’s life is surely the basis for every episode of Hoarders but I think it’s also a way for people like me to remember when life didn’t hurt. When something as innocuous as a heavy secondhand glass holds not only my beloved cocktail but also a reminder of the kindness that exists in this volatile world.


Cheers, friends. 

PS yes that’s the fabulous Hannah Waddingham in Ted Lasso on the television. I’m rewatching it. We’ll chat about that later.

10/28/21

Middle Aged Woman, Interuppted

 



Oh hey there! It’s been a minute, right? I know this is the part where I present the binder full of excuses, and fill you in on everything that’s been happening since…yikes, when was my last post here? Just checked. Since October 22, 2020. 

A year.

365 days! Actually, 370-ish days. Oof. 

As I was saying, this would be the point in the post where I tell you why I quit writing. Why I suddenly stopped posting on the Hausfrau facebook page (aka Jennifer Ball, Writer)(lol). 

That would be a waste of your time, and quite frankly, mine as well. I’m going to do something very uncharacteristic and just jump in like we’ve been hanging out together here uninterrupted, okay? This has been said before but my god I miss writing and I miss hearing from you five or six dedicated readers and honestly I really miss unloading my never ending brain dialogue here. Are any of you like that? Do you have a constant narration going in your head? Maybe it’s just me. 

Anyway. Hi. 

I’m currently on a long term disability leave from work. And as grifty as that makes me feel (it probably sounds griftier than that) it’s something that has been a long time coming, and something that has been desperately needed for a while. I keep telling myself, “that’s why they have these policies in place, ding dong, stop feeling guilty” but as some of you know, guilt rides shotgun most days. And on the days someone else like anxiety or self loathing is in that spot, she’s in the backseat. 

I didn’t get physically injured. I’m still healthy in body. Mind? Ooooh my friends. 

I am not okay. And probably haven’t been for a very long time. 

Don’t misunderstand; it’s not like I had an obvious breakdown. I wasn’t screaming in the middle of town square, I didn’t strip naked and run down the aisles of Costco (although that would be a hell of a way to get those spanakopita sample gobblers out of the way, right?). I didn’t try to harm myself or anyone else. 

This was a quiet one. It was conceived ages ago and the gestation was finally complete this summer. Let me tell ya, labor was a bitch.

I am tired of the word TRIGGER for a plethora of reasons but it’s applicable in this case. There was definitely a trigger, a defining moment. If we’re going to continue along with the pregnancy analogy, what happened this past June was the membranes being stripped and me being sent home to see how thing progressed.

Not sure of the legalities or confidentiality of disclosing the event that pushed me over the edge, but here at the Hausfrau blog it’s always been “my story, my truth, my right to tell it” (remember when my ex found this little confessional? Yeah, I became an armchair attorney after that, ha). And I am a public school employee and as far as I know, our employment contracts are not private. So. Here’s the scoop.

I’ve written before about how I love my job. That’s the truth. I do. Being a school secretary might sound like a dead end road to a lot of people, like a meaningless and low-end career. It kind of is, but it also isn’t. It is not a way to wealth but it is a way to connection with community, with families, with amazing kids and the best coworkers anyone could want. It provides excellent health insurance and until recently, stability and security. 

Pretty sure I’ve written here before about the challenges of making ends meet on a secretarial income. It’s not always easy. And that was before Covid. 

Our entire work landscape has been mutating and been reinvented since the country came to a slow motion halt in March of 2020. Almost everyone I know has had some significant change in how or where or what they do to earn a living. 

In our school district, we were sent home. And stayed there until the next school year began. It was, as all of you know, surreal and unsettling and more than a little scary. I mean, who could have called this one? A pandemic? Yes, there were scientists and researchers and doctors warning us about this for years but surely I’m not the only one who thought that was a worst-case, dystopian scenario. HAVE YOU WATCHED CONTAGION? πŸ˜‚

So, during the lockdown, we stayed home like we were supposed to be. We checked our emails, we texted, the badass teachers learned how to teach virtually overnight. We stumbled along and somehow made it through. During that time our little clerical contract was being negotiated. Communication was spotty. The people in the association let us know, periodically, how it was going. And then it was settled. Boom. End of story.

Only, there was one very small but very significant change made. We have always received a bonus of sorts, in our last school year paycheck. It’s not Tesla buying money, but for people who are not paid a heck of a lot, it certainly came in handy. Especially for me, since my summer position had been eliminated due to Covid and a restructured summer program. The summer job was one I’d had for years, a full time gig that kept the paychecks coming. And one that, after I had to fight for a couple years, provided me with vacation days and extra sick days. 

During negotiations that bonus was restructured and renamed. No longer a bonus, it became a stipend. A restriction on who was eligible for the bonus stipend was written in. It had historically been for all full-time employees. 30 hours a week or more, you are considered full-time. Which I’ve been for years. 

They added a single line in the contract, specifically under the stipend section, that only people working 1300 hours or more would receive the stipend. It stated “full time employees working over 30 hours a week + 1300 hours a year are eligible”. Yes, I probably should have known exactly how many hours I work. But come on. We were under stay-at-home orders, there was a shitshow countrywide division happening, my dad died, menopause hit, I HAD COVID, the world was basically on fire. 

Anyway. I ended up only working around 1260 hours in the 20-21 school year. Yep. I missed it by less than a couple weeks of work. And that was due to my hours being involuntarily cut. So. No stipend, bonus, whatever you want to call it…I didn’t get it.

For the record, I was okay without it. Thanks to my side hustle, Poshmark, I had been able to survive a second summer of no work (summer of 2020 I did file for unemployment which was another red tape rodeo but we can gab about that later). I was okay but I was concerned and upset. It didn’t feel ethical. It didn’t feel like the “kind, equitable, empathetic” values that our district espouses. 

It felt a lot like the tactics my ex enlisted during our divorce. 

Knock knock!

Who’s there?

Trigger.

Already in a stressed, anxious state of mind, the stipend circus and the gaslighting responses I received not only opened the little trapdoor to the years of well-hidden and not-so-well-hidden trauma and fear and anger and all of the other feelings I’d managed to stuff away, it ripped that goddam door right off its freaking hinges. 

You know the scenes in horror movies when portals to hell or other demonic spaces open wide and a howling, ethereal parade of ghosts and goblins flow out like neon green lava? That was basically my brain in June of 2021. 

It was not a good time. It felt like reliving all of the past shit: the bruises and shattered trust left by my gross stepdad. The gut punch of being left to care for four little kids with no job, no money. The crappy relationships with my parents. Being lied to and shit on by people who were supposed to be on my side, who were supposed to care for, and love me.

It was a summer of depression. Of nightmares. Flashbacks. Panic. It was a summer where I felt as if life was no longer working for me and I pondered my options. I had a plan, one that thankfully I was either too scared or too brave to follow through with. 

And as the coming school year drew closer, these feelings intensified. My friends and family were becoming increasingly concerned. The two women I’ve been blessed with as besties confessed to me, at a later time, that they had considered finding emergency assistance for me. Sleep was a joke: like a newborn I slept in tiny increments and woke to cry and feed at all hours. Panic attacks sprang up at really fun times, like on my daily walks with Walter, and while driving. 

I decided that it was finally, finally time to deal with me. 

For the past however many years- 40 have passed since I last ducked under my bed to avoid the punches of a monster, 12 or so have slid by since losing everything but my life and my kids in a nightmare divorce- I’ve done a decent job of pretending. Pretending that I’m okay. I’m tough! I’m resilient! I’m Miss Jenny, dammit! Dogs love me, kids love me, I had everyone fooled. Nobody really knew what was always there, just out of sight beneath the masks of Brave Single Mom or Always Happy Secretary. Plucky Survivor, lol. My goodness I had a veritable Halloween store, didn’t I? 

Well. That’s over. No more masks. No more pretending. No more burying feelings like a dog hiding treats in the yard. 

After a false start and a ridiculously long waiting period, I’ve found a therapist who is trained to deal with PTSD and other traumas. I’m abiding by my employment contract and taking advantage of the policies that are in place to assist with situations like mine. 

For the first time, in what feels like a lifetime, I’m taking care of me. 

It feels so weird and so good to be in this little corner of the internet again. 

Thank you for being here with me. 




10/22/20

I really CAN quit you, Facebook!




Come sit next to me, little ones, while I regale you with the tale of Facebook.

Oh! The days of yore when it was a seemingly benign place for people to gather. We tended our make-believe farms, posted lengthy "10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Me" notes, friended that guy we drank chocolate milk with in kindergarten and answered promptly when Facebook asked us what's on your mind? even if what was on our mind was something as banal as how tired/hungry we were or "watching CSI".

My babies, it was FUN. It was bonding and millions of us reconnected with long-ago friends, shared pics and updates with Aunts and Uncles and followed our favorite celebs. Personally, it helped me through the dark post-divorce times. As cringey as my vintage status updates are, reading them now is a not-so-gentle reminder of the hell that my life was for a long time and how much love friends gave. 

Facebook grew. And like a baby who once elicited gentle oohs and ahhs, it became a tantrum-prone toddler: still cute but my gosh super annoying at times. The toddler stage came and went, and we hung on for the ride. It became less about staying in touch with everyone and more about taking stances, advertising and living that Fakebook life. We joked and collectively yiked when our conversations off of the internet spurred suggestions and ads about the very things we had mentioned in supposed-privacy. 

Facebook became less fun and more stressful. At least, that's how it was for me. 

It was also addicting. It was often the very first app I checked in the mornings, and it wasn't uncommon for scarily large chunks of time to slip away while I scrolled, commented and liked. It was almost ritualistic, the initial check of notifications, answering (or sometimes not answering, lol) the messages, checking up on people we were worried about or crushing on or disagreeing with. I found myself turning to Facebook when I was feeling cagey or ragey or bitchy. 

Do you remember the first time someone you thought you knew, someone you thought you liked unconditionally, posted something that shocked you? I'm not talking about someone who admitted they loved Hallmark Christmas movies or preferred black licorice over red. I mean something that at the time seemed uncharacteristic, like another personality had taken over their profile.

I'm trying to recall the first time I did one of those cartoon gasps, when a "friend" publicized something that took me by surprise. I can't think of the original OMG moment but whoa- there were many more to follow. 

Politics. It started with the politics, naturally. It was one thing when someone declared their hatred for the Green Bay Packers, something entirely different when that ire was directed at a group of people based on their political leanings. And when it turned towards race/religion? Ugh. 

We learned how to unfollow, how to mute chats, how to block and sometimes, how to unfriend. I have always prided myself on being Little Miss Sunshine, the uniter, the glass-half-full person. Switzerland! Why can't we all just get along? But it became increasingly harder to be that person. I found myself fighting with friends and strangers, pretending to be a hardass when inside I'm the softest ass you'll ever meet. 

I was judged, and I judged right back. Facebook became a boxing ring instead of the inviting front porch it had always been. 

There was still fun to be had, though. I started a private group, The Porch, which quickly filled up with fellow divorce survivors and supporters (hey porchers!!! I miss you all!!). The public Happy Hausfrau page was a little oasis from the pettish din. I started a weekly Meme Roundup and Friday mornings quickly became my favorites as I posted meme after meme. People commented and liked and shared and we LOLOLOLed together and it was a blast. 

But even the meme roundup became stained with acrimony. And when the meme roundup became more of a chore than anything else, I realized it was time to step back.

When clicking on that innocent little blue and white icon filled me with trepidation over what I'd find in the notifications rather than that old timey excitement, I knew a choice had to be made. And it wasn't because I wanted to bury my head in the sand and pretend that life is a gd walk in the park. It was self-protection. 

Some of us are able to scroll past the stinky stuff. To ignore the baiting and the lying and the downright awfulness. I'm not one of those people. I'm a sponge, you guys. Whatever I'm around gets soaked up, absorbed. Both good and bad. It's not the worst trait but it's a doozy. Especially when our world is such a raging cluster of vein-popping scream-fests and hills that are so NOT worth dying on. 

And so, a day after my birthday, I removed the app from my phone. Yes I'm laughing about how dumb that sounds but it was harder than you might think. The worst of it was my writing stuff. Even though writing has become more of "used to" thing with me, it was good to be in touch with fellow bloggers and editors and fans. I've been threatening to write a book for what feels like centuries now, and it sucks that unless you have a preformed fan-base, an influential platform, you are almost certainly doomed to fail. For that reason I didn't delete my pages. (okay also because it's a hell of a time capsule, right?)

Breaking up with Facebook was easier than I thought it would be. Also harder in ways I hadn't anticipated. I worry that people who only knew me through that particular realm would think I just fell off the face of the earth or worse, cut ties. The temptation to log back in has been real. But I've resisted. My rebounds have been twitter and Instagram. Twitter for the bitchy days and Instagram for the warm fuzzy ones. 

Some days, I miss it. But in this case, absence isn't making the heart grow fonder. It's making my heart happier. 

Maybe, juuuust maybe, after the election and if we get a handle on the 'rona, I'll check back in. I'm sure my beloved aunt has tagged me in countless wine memes, Scary Mommy comment sections are still rife with combat and high school friends are still posting scary/hilarious conspiracy theories. That FOMO feeling is fading with each passing day, though. It's refreshing to not have that weird compulsion to check in on the Facebook and see what's happening. 

I miss it, but I don't. 

It's also really nice to be back here again ❤

10/18/20

Hospice Post Follow Up: yeah there was some wine involved

 



You know how it goes, after a night of grief-wining, you check to make sure you didn't leave any messes...physical and/or otherwise. 

Texts: all good, no regrets there!

Social media: phew. One twitter post that thankfully didn't get past the draft stage.

Kitchen: as clean as it gets, LOL. 

Dog: still alive and flatulent.

Ooh but wait...

Blog: Ahh. There it is. My first post in eons and it was the love child of chilled rose and the always-fun Saturday night sobs.

I mean, I've posted worse completely sober so I'll let it stay but I do have to offer apologies for several things: my redundant use of the phrase "here we are", for one. And a huge apology for any visuals you may have had when I mentioned a sex dream about Tucker Carlson. I'm not proud of that one.

I guess I should explain the politics thing a little better, now that I am upright, fed and able to string a few words together coherently.

Obviously I am still your favorite bleeding heart liberal divorced mommy blogger. I hope so, anyway. If anything about me has stayed the same, it's that I am unashamed to express my support for all things left-leaning. We've discussed it here before, I think, and we've all remained buddies (again, I hope so). 

It's been argued that we, as liberals, should cut out any and all relationships with people who are trump supporters. I'm no longer on Facebook but it wasn't uncommon to read that someone had disowned family members because of who they voted for. I don't remember it being that way prior to 2016, at least in the bubble I live in currently. Friends and family didn't like Obama but aside from one particularly loathsome high school acquaintance I don't recall a whole lot of animosity. And from the racist assholes but those types are always around no matter who is running the country. They just had a much bigger target with Obama. 

Trump has changed all of that. I'm not gonna get into the pointing of fingers over who has been the loudest and most divisive, but I will say that it still blows my mind that we're here in 2020. I find him to be a bad person and in general I don't like bad people. For me it was all the cheating he did on all of his wives. That was bad enough for me, let's not even start with allll the other stuff. 

So it turns out my dad is not in the same political boat as me. I've spent days and nights at my dad's house and he watches Fox News. At first I was afraid. I was petrified. Oh wait that was Gloria Gaynor. Anyway. I really was uncomfortable hearing that in the background 24/7 but guess what: my dad is literally on his deathbed. If you think I'm going to try and get him all woke before he goes, nope. I disagree with all of it, every last bit of this current administration and their policies and all of the garbage they spew out by the second but I will not go down that road with my dad. I can and I will love him, love my new/old family and hope that they love me back despite our differing beliefs. 

I will say this: holy propaganda. It's not a stretch to see how people have been brainwashed by this "news" outlet. Every single issue is BREAKING NEWS and ALERT!!! and nothing but high praise for 45 and his cronies. It's easy to see how people get sucked into it and start believing it. Raise your hand if you've ever considered buying something simply based on an advertisement...let's be real you most likely haven't pondered purchasing a Klan hat or a story about a wealthy guy in California dropping off not one but three macbook pros to a monocle-wearing computer repair guy in Delaware but still. It's marketing, baby, and sometimes it works. 

Trump has destroyed so much. I can't let him destroy what's left of my time with dad.

Some clarification re: Tucker Carlson. So one night, we were all gathered in the living room where dad's hospital bed is set up. Fox News was on, and it happened to be Tucker's turn on the mic. Because I am me I said, "You know, he's not super awful looking. I mean, if you're into that kind of thing." And a Tucker conversation began. Henry, my 23 year old, mentioned that one of his friends went to school in DC and would see Tucker out and about sometimes. "He's short and round, ma. Not your type." (gosh I love my kids πŸ˜‚). This led to an intense Google search to find out more about this thin-lipped talking head. We found out he is a trust fund baby, married to a walking J Crew ad and the father to four astoundingly good looking children. 

My taste in men is legendarily awful. Not every time, but the majority of it for sure. I like 'em tall and funny and for some reason, Republican. It's not like that's what I seek, because if you know me I'm not out there seeking. It's what falls into my lap on occasion. I pictured Tucker Carlson, with floppy hair and a bow tie, on a taller, more athletic frame and I guess one of the exhausted neurons in my brain sent it down to the dream factory because there I was a few hours later, engaged in lustful acts with him. Hey, it's been a doozy of a few weeks, friends. I'm not myself. Or am I? 

There ya go. Some explanation for a sloppy return to blogging. Thank you for being here. I promise to do more writing and less tippling in the future ❤

10/17/20

Hospice Notes: Chapter 1

Wow. Hello, friends.

Quick update to keep everyone up to speed.

I've quit Facebook. My dad is dying. I promised to write more so here we are.

Hospice, man. It's a trip. Especially when the dying person is your dad with whom you've had a very estranged, very strange, relationship. 

My dad is a good man. He really is. Our estrangement was over something so stupid and so petty that I'm uncomfortable discussing it but here we are. I've come to find out that the silent treatment is nothing new for this branch of my family tree. My grandpa didn't speak to his brother for years following the death of their mom (my great-grandma Ruth). My dad and his brothers didn't speak for years following the death of their mom (my grandma Grace). This newfound knowledge made me both sad and happy. Sad because what a fucking legacy, ya know? Silent treatment. Grudges. A legacy that is a bit different from freckles or stubbornness. Happy because it's good to know you're not an anomaly. Happy because I know this is not some weird out-of-the-blue characteristic that landed on my lap.

The history with my dad is like this: we had a great, normal, healthy thing happening for a long time. He was my hero. He was the quintessential daddy, the man we hope to have in our lives. The strong silent type who did the yardwork and who had a shop in the basement. The man who comforted my pathetic ass as I cried on the shag carpet over gazelles getting eaten on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. The man who came down to my bedroom, sat on that pilly blue and white flowered blanket and held me while I wept after hearing that mom and dad were getting a divorce. That was the first time I saw my dad cry.

After the divorce things got weird and they got ugly. My mom had left him for her first cousin. Yep. Here we go, friends, curtains are being pulled back. I'm dragging out skeletons that haven't seen the light of day or internet. My mom had an affair with her cousin and she decided to leave my dad for him. In a perfect world, my brother and I would have ended up with my dad. In a perfect world, an abusive young man who had no business raising children wouldn't have ended up with two impressionable, sad kids who needed a dad. 

In a perfect world, none of this would have happened. But we live in a beautifully imperfect world. 

My mom raised us, my brother and I. And so did that monster. My dad tried, he tried really hard, to get custody of us but it was the 70's and back then unless the mother had been caught eating babies or whatever she got custody. My dad gave up and settled for whatever he could get. Which wasn't much, considering that my brother and I were being told over and over again what a horrible person our dad was. This is why, despite all I've been through, I will always give the dads the benefit of the doubt when hearing stories from women about divorce and exes and acrimonious relationships. I give them the benefit of the doubt until I hear all of the facts. I know that in most cases, these dads are truly shits and they don't want to be part of their children's lives but there is always the chance that they want to be there but they can't. 

I know this is not always the case. I know that there are men who don't want to be there, who believe that kids are like razor blades or diapers and are truly disposable. Ask me how I know (LOL). But my dad did try. 

Anyhoo. Here we are, dad and me. It's 2020. The world is a fiery dumpster shitshow and I got a call a couple months ago that he wasn't doing great and it would mean the world to him if my kids and I showed up to offer him support and love. We did. And he was happy.

Then I got a call, on my birthday of all days, that dad was dying. It was my stepsister and we sobbed together on the phone. Sobbed to the point of not being able to breathe. We took the first shaky steps to repair a lifetime of grudges and silent treatments and withholding of love and attention and just being there. 

It was then that I decided to drop all of the shackles that had been constant companions for so many years. It was then that I cast my pride and my anxiety and my grudges aside and decided to be a daughter. 

Nothing more. Nothing less. Just a daughter. A daughter whose dad was dying.

In the days since then, I've tried my hardest to be there for him. I've held his hand. I've slept on a loveseat just inches from his head, waking up when I hear a hiccup or a weird breath or anything that sounds like a distress call. I've helped him drink water. I've rubbed his back. I've talked with him in a dark quiet house and I've laid my head on his chest and begged for forgiveness and I've listened while he cried about our tattered relationship and how happy it's made him to have me there. 

These minutes, these moments, they are priceless. They are gorgeous slivers of seconds in a timeline that is dotted with silence and blank spaces. We have joined forces, my dad and I. Together we have taken broken strands and rewoven them into a new and improved quilt of life and love. "You and me- we're back together and it makes me so happy" is what he said one night, tiny tears rolling down his gaunt cheeks while I gripped his hand, sobbing. Dad. My dad. Daddy.

I'm trying my best to reconnect with the family that was always there but also, never there. I'm hearing stories of what a good dad he has been, the memories of him being THAT GUY. The crusty dude who rarely cracked a smile but who was there nonetheless, the one who answered the phone late at night and who taught life lessons and who was always, always there. I didn't have that guy and it's hard for me to sit there and hear these stories. It's hard but I do it and love them for loving him. I love them for being lucky enough to be the recipients of this man's special brand of caring. Of his love. 

It's hard. Oh shit you guys, it's SO HARD. My stepmom keeps telling me, "God put him in our lives for a reason" and it's so fucking hard to not cry out, "WHAT DID GOD HAVE AGAINST ME", ya know? Why would a good and loving God take him from us and give him to someone else? Does this mean my stepmom and her kids were more deserving of him? My brother and I were somehow not good enough, not special enough, not deserving? This is a long, crooked, winding road you guys. The thoughts in my head are so convoluted under the best of circumstances...this has been like a massive data dump and trying to process everything has been challenging. To say the least. 

*disclaimer: I adore my stepmom and my stepsister/stepbrother. ADORE. They have welcomed me back without a second's hesitation and have been nothing but supportive. I am grateful to them for accepting the black sheep back into the fold ❤ I just have a lot of baggage to unpack and put away, ya know?

But I am not someone who takes shit. I'm not someone who rolls over, who turns the other cheek. I am me. I am that woman who has been through some tough stuff and who wants to make things right. 

I. Am. Me. 

I am his daughter. He is my dad. We have been given this awful opportunity, this rare gift of time. 

Time to repair. Time to forgive. 

Time to love.

I'm heartbroken. I'm grieving. I'm the saddest I've been in a long time.


But I'm grateful. And I'm appreciating every second I get with my dad. Every laugh we have. Every tear shed. Every hand squeeze, every eye contact. Every word. I'm appreciating it and loving it and embracing it.

We've lost years. We've lost countless memories, pictures, snippets of time together. We'll never get those back, for sure, but oh my gosh. We've gained so much in the past few weeks. It's not the same as the filmstrip of memories my stepsister and stepbrother and all of the grandchildren have, not even close.

It's what we have. It's golden chunks of time. It's a chance to make things right. 


It's a gift. And I'm unwrapping this gift slowly, trying to encapsulate every single second of it. I know that this will not end perfectly. It will not end happily. But I am determined to make the best of it. 

It's also been a learning experience, my friends. I'm learning as this experience unfolds. Learning about differences and tolerance and understanding.

I've watched Fox News for the first time. I've had a sex dream about Tucker Carlson. 

Shit has gotten weird, friends. 

Stay tuned. Promise there's more to come.


8/16/20

The Tears of a (white) Clown

 


Wow. So the last time we chatted, I had run into a colleague from the past who nudged me about this blog. About writing in general. As we parted ways I had a spring in my step, a fire in my belly, a bag of poop in my hand...dog poop, remember I was walking Walter.

And you guys, I did feel inspired. That old tickle came back, the one that I imagine is caused by the words and the stories that are dying to get out of my head. "Dammit" I thought to myself. "I do want to get back at it. Okay, let's do this." 

I had a draft or two started, and was gearing up to go full blown blogger again, when tragedy struck.

George Floyd. 

He was murdered about 8 miles from the very spot where I sit here with the ancient laptop and play writer. Eight miles. The outrage and the grief turned Minneapolis into a burning epicenter of protests, demonstrations and yep, riots. 

I closed the laptop because at that chunk of time, the last thing anyone wanted to hear was a middle aged white woman babbling on about tv shows and quarantine weight. 

It wasn't time for me to write or speak. It was time for me to listen and try to help. And so I did. 

George has been laid to rest, his killer(s) are in custody. Racism is still going strong but I am hopeful that some eyes have been opened, including mine. A lot of us white people think we're pretty freaking woke but I'll tell ya what: we're still snoozing, my friends. There is a lot to do, so much to learn and omg so much to unlearn. 

I had a little wake up call when I posted something on this blog's Facebook page. Every Friday I post a meme roundup. At this point I don't remember how it started but honestly it was the only real way I had to mark time during the quarantine for a while. "Oh shit it's Friday isn't it? I have to do the memes." I was like the Dunkin' Donuts guy from the old timey commercials except instead of "time to make the donuts" it was "time to post the memes". 

Anyway. So obviously it wasn't the right time to post memes, you know? Instead I posted a pic of Minneapolis in flames and said something like "no memes today, our city is burning". Well. A follower on the page, who happened to be a Black woman, called me out. And did so with great gusto and ferocity. Her grief and her rage were tangible in her words as she took my ass to task for not addressing WHY the city was on fire. She let me have it and I was defensive, so defensive. I think I swore at her in my reply. I cried- tears of a white clown. Because SHE WAS RIGHT. I sat with her scathing criticism for a bit and let it sink in. SHE WAS RIGHT. Why didn't I say why Minneapolis looked like Dante's Inferno? Why didn't I use my platform, my admittedly tiny platform, to call attention to the atrocity that had taken place 8 miles from where my big ass sits and scrolls through the Netflix menu and where I complain about the toxic farts my ancient dog lets rip 24/7?

I'll tell you why: because I was, and honestly still am, scared. Scared to rock the boat, scared to speak up, scared to stir the pot, scared to offend people. Chicken. Cowardly. 

But I'm trying to change. I am speaking up, I'm trying to use my voice to help open up some more eyes.

If you've been here for a while, you know this about me: I'm a people pleaser. I'm Switzerland, I'm the one who likes to smooth feathers, not ruffle them up. Okay, yeah, I've given my ex and his lady friend some shit, along with a few unfortunate dudes. But in general? My Minnesota Nice is almost as thick as my Minnesota accent. 

I joke about it, about the Lutheran Libra who will say something funny and then offer up a drink or snack. The one who tries to diffuse tension vs acknowledging the bleeding and screaming elephant in the room. We can blame my upbringing for this, we can blame centuries of white DNA, we can blame it on the rain. 

I'm changing. There's not much I can do about being Minnesotan, there's nothing I can do about being white or a Libra. But there is so much I can do about everything else. 

That woman, the one who let me have it on Facebook? I reached out to her, privately, and apologized. And thanked her, profusely, for taking the time to school me. In the middle of one of the most important civil rights movements in our history, she stopped grieving and fighting and tried to pry open my stupid eyes. I think we ended on good terms. I sure hope we did. 

And so, now you know why I didn't check back in here for a while. It was learning time. And it will be, for a lot longer. 

Don't worry, if things work out and that tickle is still tickling and the laptop holds up and I keep running into Ellen, there will be more action on this page. I'll still talk about life after divorce and what it's like to be alone during a fucking pandemic (oh yes we are so totally going to talk about the "hahah omg i want to smother my husband" stuff, I promise). We will talk about how I'm pre-mourning the loss of my beloved dog and how my unemployment hasn't kicked in yet (no paycheck since June...oh honey we will totes talk about that). For sure we'll talk about my angel landlord, the 12 pounds I've gained and what skills I hope to hone before the Civil War starts. I'd love to talk about the anxiety I have about my orchids. And how my friends and I have become Poshmark obsessed (and maybe how it kept a roof over my head this summer). Ooh and we can talk about kids growing up and being ADULTS and tv shows and how much I miss going to movies. 

But we're also gonna talk about Black lives. About how they matter and about the racism we white people have to drag out into the daylight and stomp to death. 

I owe it to that beautiful woman who kicked my ass, virtually. I owe it to the Black people I know and love. I owe. And so that's where we're at here on this dusty old blog. 

Black lives matter. I'm trying to be a better person. I'm trying to be an ally. 

I'm trying. 

I also really can't stand trump. But we can talk about that later, too. πŸ˜‰






5/24/20

Sidewalk Nuggets



A few days ago, I was out on my daily quarantine walk with Walter. Back in the PC days (pre Covid, ya know), I used to feel anxious when the tiny outline of an oncoming person would appear on the horizon. The whole eye-contact thing: do I look them in the eye as we approach each other? no that's fucking creepy, Jenny. A small sideways glance as we pass? Ugh. LOOK DOWN. No that's rude. By the time the person was actually within eye-contact distance I'd already worked myself into a small, silent frenzy and would usually end up giving them that weird muppet mouth grimace/smile.

Ahh. But these are the Covid days. The anxiousness is now a constant sidekick, the moment we step foot off our driveway and onto the gray cement sidewalk. Because now I worry about so much more than eye contact. jesus they're awfully close, neither of us are masked up oh my gawd JUMP and off I go into a tangle of tall weeds or into the bike lane (usually with the muppet grimace, some things haven't changed). 

So this particular day, we were about a third of the way through our walk- half a mile from home. I saw another person and did the sane thing which that day was cross the street. I find it easier to do than leaping into thickets. As this person drew nearer, I realized it was someone I knew. Or rather, someone I used to know. A million years ago I worked in the cosmetic department of Dayton's in downtown Minneapolis. This was the early 90's, before I was married and when I still believed babies were abhorrent, noisy nightmares contained in ankle-cracking strollers. 

We had a fun crew there at the ol' Prescriptives counter. There were four of us: me, the 20-something party girl; Kim, another 20-something but with a live-in boyfriend and more sense; April, yet another 20-something who modeled and dated older, wealthy men; and Ellen. Ellen was our resident makeup artist and unbeknownst to her, one of the wisest people I'd ever met. She was willowy, with a gorgeous thick, stick-straight shock of black hair that was streaked with silver. I remember so much about her, from the way she'd stand there, one hip leaning against the counter, arms folded with one slender hand curled under her chin, to the hypnotically rhythmic way she'd smash up the pigments we used to custom blend powder. 

Ellen was married, with two young children. I'm sure she listened to the rest of us, with our tender Gen X tales of woe and joy, and internally shake her head. She dispensed wisdom, but not in a condescending, wise-old-owl way. No, her nuggets of worldly enlightenment often came at us stealthily, buried in the layers of small talk that we makeup ladies partook in during the slow moments of the day.

There was the time one of the girls from the Origins counter was fired after only two week's employment. Ellen and I were working, and as we observed the unfortunate employee being given the bad news (the cosmetics department was a cold place), Ellen leaned her hip against the counter and sighed, "Some people are just too soft for this world." Those words would pop into my head for years, in fact they still do. Oftentimes they pop into my head when I find myself crying over something like baby geese or the thought of my dog dying and I think well I'll be damned! Ellen was right, some of us really are too soft for this awful world.

My time at the counter ended when my whirlwind relationship with Big Daddy got serious and we decided to move to the suburbs, together. I traded the makeup brushes for a folding board at The Gap, inside a bland mall across the street from our new apartment. After we had one kid and were expecting a second, we moved into my old childhood house that my dad still owned. Rented at first and then bought it from him. It was in a charming postwar neighborhood, and one night as we were pushing little Charlie around in our very own ankle-cracking stroller, I saw Ellen standing out in a yard. Yes, we were neighbors around-the-block, and after we caught up we'd say "hi" now and then but never much more than that. She was busy with her pre-teen kids and I, of course, was afloat in a sea of babies and toddlers and preschoolers. 

After all the shit hit the fan with my marriage, and especially after losing that damn house, I never really saw Ellen anymore. 

Until last week. 

As Walter and I made our way up Glenwood Avenue, there was Ellen, making her way down. In the days of old, I most likely would have not even noticed it was her, what with the cuckoo inner monologue and all. But these are different days. These are the Covid days and I miss talking to people so damn much that I manage eye contact sometimes and that day I was feeling positive and kind of happy so as we passed on opposite sides of the street I exclaimed, "ELLEN!". She looked over, and I thumped my chest like mother effing Tarzan and said "Jenny!" (yes I'm laughing too because could I be any more awkward?). She smiled and we stood there, on our respective sides of the road and caught up a tiny bit. 

Her gorgeous hair was still thick and straight but now it was completely silver, with a swoop of lavender. Other than that, she was the same. The same as she had been almost 30 years ago, one hip on the counter and her elegant hand perched under her chin. 

Before we parted she said one more thing, and over the past few days I've come to realize that she is still a dispenser of wisdom, even in a setting as casual as a mid-morning sidewalk encounter. 

She said:

"I really enjoy reading your blog."

Now, this isn't the first time someone has brought up this blog, or my writing, in casual conversation. It happens now and then. Not as frequently as it did when I was, you know, actually WRITING, but it does come up. My reactions vary a bit but are usually along the lines of "oh that old thing? I never write anymore. I should do that more often..." And then life goes on and I shove all thoughts of blogging and writing back into the dark dank corner of my heart where they've lived for a while now.

But something different happened when Ellen said those words to me. I don't know what it was, if it was her voice, or just that momentary clutch of time and air and sidewalk and plague or what...but something different happened. Oh, yes, of course I still mumbled something about "oh yikes yeah I haven't written there in ages" but more than that. Her words stuck, just like they did decades ago in that long-gone department store. This time it wasn't me, half listening while thinking about what I was going to wear to the bars that night, this time is was me, struggling to feel something...anything, out for a walk with my geriatric dog.

Ellen's words reminded me that once upon a time, I wrote. And that I loved doing it. 

And so, reader(s?), here we are. That little sentence spoken by a long-ago colleague was the nudge I needed to do this. 

You'd think two and half months of quarantine would have been enough of a nudge, huh? Turns out I just needed to hear someone say it.

So. Thank you, Ellen. For everything. 

Buckle up, friends. We have a lot of catching up to do.





9/29/19

A Love Letter to Crappy Cars and the People who drive them


Isn't it strange how some snatches of conversation, words another person have uttered somehow stay firm and fresh in your mind? Like our brains have a weird crisper drawer that houses seemingly random clips from years past?

There's one bundle of words in my brain crisper that come out every once in a while despite several years passing. Not only do I recall the sentences, I can also remember the lighting of the room, where I was sitting and the face of the friend who produced them.

We were in my friend's living room, it was early evening and dusk was just lurking. My friend and I were perched on her couch, bodies turned towards each other and eyes facing out the large picture window which faced the street.

Another friend of mine was pulling up out there, in her old car. I am not a motorhead so forgive me for not knowing things like makes and models. The car was old, no question about it. Tiaras of rust adorned the wheel wells, various dents and dings on the teal blue paint job cast a pebbled texture over the hood and the door panels. We could hear her before we saw her, the trademark sound of an overtaxed muffler announcing her arrival.

My couch friend turned away from the window, looked at me and said:

"That's her car?"

She said this with a look of shock, almost horror, on her face. Looking back now, it's almost comical. Almost. I shrugged in response, as I mentioned above, cars are not my jam so I didn't really notice or care what my friends drove. "I guess?" I question/answered. She grimaced. I smiled and said, "What? It works, right?"

This friend pursed her lips, raised a brow and spoke again, the words going directly from her mouth into my head drawer:

"I judge people by their cars. Sorry."

I guess it didn't matter that our mutual friend had just gone through a gross divorce from a rough guy. I guess it didn't matter that our mutual friend was just now getting back on her feet and also trying to get two small kids on solid ground, either. I guess it didn't matter that given the choice between no transportation and transportation that isn't pretty, most women in that situation would say "HAND ME THE KEYS, HOMIE. I GOT A LIFE TO REBUILD."

At that moment in time, I was also rebuilding a life post-divorce. The shitshow part of my divorce hadn't happened yet, I was still floating on CEO alimony and clinging to the vestiges of a marriage to someone who had annual bonuses and who also loved keeping up with the Joneses.

My ride at that time was the newest vehicle I'd ever driven. A 2000 Ford Excursion my ex had picked up one night after work, on a whim. A whim and a loan of 25k. It had all the bells and whistles and also a gas tank the size of a hot tub. Which was all well and good whilst riding the wave of spousal maintenance and the last bits of guilt from a husband who left.

When both the guilt and the support disappeared (at the same time, imagine that), things became a bit more challenging. Maintaining a vehicle took a backseat to maintaining five lives and before I knew it, that sweet Excursion with the all-leather interior and butt-warmers and spacious third row seating began deteriorating. It was too big for the garages at both our family home and the new rental home the kids and I ended up in after the foreclosure, so the Minnesota winters took their toll. I put off oil changes in lieu of feeding my brood and extravagances such as new brake pads and tuneups were delayed until rent was paid.

That truck was a beast in the snow, though, and it held all my kids plus a few extra. It had a cargo hold that was the size of a small powder room. It was the vehicle that carried our dog home from the Humane Society and the one I had a legit backseat makeout session in with one of my first post-divorce dates.

And then one day, it died.

I was freaking out, of course, I mean...here I was, a hustling single parent with sports-playing, job-holding kids, groceries to get and my own patchworked, pieced-together full-time work schedule. My angel landlord offered to buy the dead Excursion for $5,000. I accepted and began the frantic search for new wheels.

That's when I began my life as the driver of a crappy car.

Door handles are for decorative purposes only.


The glow of having transportation lasted quite a while. Just about as long as the spray paint that had been used to cover the rust on the new-to-me Ford Focus. And even then, I was just happy to have a car that started AND fit into a garage. No air conditioning? No problem.

The reality of driving a junker hit home on a chilly spring day. I was driving along Hwy 169, my then-15 year old son Henry and his friend, Jack, along for the ride. Henry and Jack have been friends since kindergarten. Jack's dad was my second divorce attorney, the one who helped me get a portion of the income my ex hid during our first go-round. Jack and his parents live a bit larger than my kids and I, so what happened on that April morning was especially embarrassing.

Henry was in the passenger seat, Jack in back. Me, of course, driving. All of sudden we heard a cracking noise and then a vicious thump on the right side of the car.

The side mirror had fallen off, you see, and was now furiously banging against the door, attached to the car with a single wire. Poor Henry. He opened the window and grabbed hold of the rogue mirror and held onto that sucker until we got home. A cool spring breeze can turn into a skin mottling arctic blast when you're hanging onto a car part while cruising down a highway. Henry learned that lesson the hard way.

The mirror falling off was shocking, but not a complete surprise. I'd backed out of the garage a little too quickly a month or so prior to that, wrenching the mirror almost completely off, and had rigged a "temporary" fix with duct tape and grim determination. This was when we were in the thick of poverty. The food shelf days. You think I could afford to get something as non-vital as a mirror fixed? Nah. But I did have a nice big roll of tape. And up until that moment, the repair had held.

When we got home, I got out the handy dandy roll and fixed it. Again.

Like everything else in my life, the little silver car that had been the symbol of my new life began falling apart. Bit by bit. The passenger door handle broke. No biggie! I'd reach over from my side and open it for whomever was lucky enough to be riding shotgun.

Then the driver side handle broke. That was kind of a biggie. But I can do hard things, and that's when my car became the one with the perpetually open window so I could reach in and open the door that way. In super inclement weather I'd leave the window up like a normal human being who drove a normal car and just open up the back door, maneuver my fluffy body through the backseat and up into the front. People at work took to joking with me about it. I took to pretending they were hilarious. Because that's just what the broke-ass person at work loves, you guys. People hardy-har-harring over their piece of shit car they drive because they can't afford anything better.

Time wore on, and also wore down that car. Last fall, after several months of going to a nearby convenience store on an almost daily basis to fill up the tire that deflated almost daily, I had to suck it up and get all new wheels to the tune of $450. "Safety first!" I screamed in my head as I signed the charge slip at the repair shop. A week or so after that, the steering wheel began vibrating whenever the speedometer hit 50 mph. And not a gentle vibration. So I took it in again and the nice mechanic who had been kindly helping me keep the Focus running as cheaply as possible gave me bad news.

"Jenny" he said, pre-wincing. "We found a crack in the thingamajig that connects the doodle to the dandy (I don't remember the exact term and as I've explained before I don't speak car). It's fixable, and I found a used part online for you, but it's going to be around $2,000." Side note here: if you can, ladies, find yourself a good car repair place. Preferably one that's run by a guy who understands the single mom struggle*. 

Of course my first question was "but is it safe to drive like this?" and of course his response was "no".

At that point I had about $2000 in savings, the checking account was, as usual, beaten down to vapors. I also hadn't had a credit card since the divorce-inspired bankruptcy in 2010. Rock, meet hard place.

This is the difference between the haves and the have nots. One of the differences, anyway. And a huge one at that. The haves might sigh over this news. They might think "well there goes that weekend away in November" or maybe even "shoot I guess we don't eat out for a month". The have nots? LOL. We think "what the everloving fuck am I going to do now?" or "shoot I guess we don't eat for a month."

I told him I'd think about it and get back to him. His parting words? "Listen, I'm not going to lie. You could drive it like this for the next month or so, maybe. But if that thing snaps while you're doing anything over 25 mph, it'll be bad."

And so I did what I usually do in these situations. Nothing. Nothing, and also vent a little to my friends. I had done just that (the venting) in the private facebook group I run, when I got a text from a sweet young woman I'd befriended through trivia years ago.

It said this: "Miss Jenny do you still need a hooptie?" She's in the private group, and had seen my comment about having to find a new hooptie sooner rather than later. She also calls me Miss Jenny despite the fact that we don't work together nor have I ever been her teacher or school secretary.

That, dear readers, is how I came to be the owner of my current ride, The Boo. That sweet young woman had just purchased a new car and GAVE ME her old one. That's right, folks. She not only gave it to me, no charge, she dropped it off and as she was giving me the guided tour of the 2007 Chevrolet Malibu she apologized for things like some dirt on the floor mats and a crack on the bumper and the trunk button that worked intermittently.

Isn't she lovely?


If you've known me for any length of time you know that I cry a lot. Sad tears, happy tears, oh girl, I weep them all. This incredible woman caused a veritable tsunami of salty eye water. I held it together while she showed me the inner workings of The Boo. It was later that night, as I sat behind the wheel of my new car, that the weeping started. You guys, I felt like Beyonce in a Tesla. The door handles worked. There were cup holders! The stereo sounded dope, the AC blasted out fancy chilled air and there was nary a piece of duct tape to be seen.

To the untrained eye, The Boo looks like just another beat up old car. To my eyes, it's a cherry red chariot. There may be 200k miles on it, there may be spots of rust and there may be a shaky bumper but this car...it's beautiful to me.

Being poor has taught me many things. It has left marks that will most likely never leave, even if the fates decide to bestow a more opulent lifestyle upon me someday. But one of the best lessons, the most priceless one, is this: appreciate what you have. Be grateful for kindness, whether it's a soft hearted mechanic or an unbelievable act of generosity.

And never judge a person by what they drive.

So. Here's to my fellow hooptie riders. To those who drive crappy coupes, janky junkers, rust buckets and jalopies...ride on, my friends. I see you. I know you. I know your struggles. I know what it feels like to drive the shittiest car in the lot. I know how the cheeks burn a little when the stroller pushing mom jerks her head at the sound of your old timey muffler chugging down the quiet street. I know the courage it takes to ask the car repair guy to just please try to make it drivable, to patch it up enough to get through the next few months.

I know how you hold your breath while turning the key, praying that today isn't the day that nothing happens. I know the thready strands of panic that shoot through you while idling at a stoplight and that all-too familiar chugging of a dying engine begins. I know how glorious the relief feels when it does start, when your tired tires get you through a snowstorm and when you have a safe, warm way to get your kids to wherever they need to be.

Ride on, my friends. Ride on.

Love,

Jenny and Boo.



* shout out to the repair shop that has treated me with dignity all these years: Golden Valley Tire & Service. 763-541-0569










9/8/19

50, Single & Not Really Feeling the Mingle: Why Dying Alone Doesn't Sound So Bad



Time was, the thought of being single forever and ever was the saddest thing I could imagine. Could there be anything worse? Not being part of a couple for an extended length of time was the stuff of cold, lonely spinster nightmares.

Turns out, there is something worse, my friends. It's called dating in your fifties.

Also, dating in your late thirties and basically the majority of your forties.

Hey, I know! Some of you have absolutely ROCKED the post-divorce dating thing and are living proof that love truly is sweeter the second (or third) time around. Some of my oldest and bestest friends are happily coupled up after surviving disastrous and not so disastrous splits. They are truly happy, and I am truly happy for them.

Also, kind of envious.

Because it's a jungle out here, folks. And not a fun Lisa Frank jungle full of neon parrots and mellow tigers. No, today's dating jungle is dark and dank and overflowing with ghosting snakes, married cheetahs (lol see what I did there?), dick-pic wielding sloths and commitment-phobic dung beetles.

I was starting to wonder if it was just me and my anxiety-tinged STAY AWAY vibes I seem to give off combined with my problematic and conflagrant dumpster taste in men, but in my little private hausfrau facebook group, we share our tales from the trenches and guess what? It's not just me. It's a lot of us. It's normal, everyday women who are attractive, kind, employed, smart, funny...and so completely over the dating game.

We share our experiences in there, complete with screenshots and we collectively wonder, WHAT THE EVERLOVING F*CK. WTF is wrong with these men? And please, people, don't @ me with the #notallmen. No, that's not "no tall men", it's "not all men" because guess what? It might not be all of them but sister, it's a scary number of them.

When I was first let loose out onto the singles prairie, I did what you're supposed to do. I took some selfies, wrote a poignant yet hilarious profile and began online dating. I dated quite a bit, in the beginning. Yes, almost all of those dates are chronicled here and they are pretty funny in my biased opinion. I met lots of men. Dating? HA. It wasn't so bad! I even met a couple of them organically (lol no, not at Whole Foods) and those were also easy breezy. Girl meets guy, numbers are exchanged, texting/calling happens, then the dating begins. It was simple, really. Because THAT'S HOW DATING SHOULD BE RIGHT?

After a while, I decided to put the search for true love on hold in order to be more present for my kids. This is what worked for me, I'm not advocating it for anyone else nor am I saying that if you choose to jump headlong into the search for love that you aren't an attentive parent. It's quite possible to focus on yourself AND your kids. I just had a few more fires to put out than most and decided my energies were best spent doing that vs getting my freak on. "i can wait. the men can wait. what difference will a few years make anyway?"

Oh Jenny. Oh you sweet summer child/woman.

The difference is insane. I feel like Sleeping Beauty (okay Sleeping "Looks Good for Her Age").

I woke up and learned that not only is Prince Charming NOT so charming, chances are real good that he's deep into playing games, playing the field and playing dumb.



What's that? Don't knock it til ya try it? Honey. I did try. Let me regale you with the brief tale of Blizzard 2018...

It was a dark and stormy night. Actually it was a bright and stormy day. It was December 1st, a Saturday, and a big ol' Minnesota blizzard was descending, fast. I took Walter out for a walk and when we left the house it was unseasonably warm and the skies were clear. An hour or so later, as we rounded the corner towards home, we were both coated in wet snow.

Now, for those of you unfamiliar with midwestern blizzard mentality, it goes something like this: oh man all the weather people are saying it's gonna be a doozy. But they always say that. Let's wait and see. We'd been warned but it was really nice out, ya know?

Once it really sinks in that the meteorologists did indeed nail it, the blizzard panic sets in. Most people's blizzard panic is along the lines of "okay we need bread and milk and coffee" but for me it's always "okay I guess I need wine".

So I set out to get some wine. Blizzard Wine. Listen, I don't even really like wine all that much anymore. It gives me a headache and also, wine-drunk is THE worst kind of drunk there is, at least for me. Wine turns me into a melancholy-tinged Miss Havisham, only instead of wandering around a decaying mansion in a moldering wedding dress, I stumble through our rental home in worn pajama pants and a giant, pilly Netflix sweater.

Of course wine-drunk Jenny is also the one who decides that it's time to start dating THAT VERY SECOND. It's how I "accidentally" signed up for the Gold Membership on Tinder a couple of years ago (guess what you can absolutely cancel the next morning and they won't charge you)(fist-hand knowledge, LOL). It's also how I found myself navigating Bumble on a Saturday night in December, a box of Bota's finest rose' next to me and a snowstorm howling like a banshee outside.

I guess I chose Bumble because it's supposed to be the women-empowering-women app. Women call the shots, we get to decide if and when a conversation is initiated. Of course there are a few things that would not make sense to me even if I wasn't two goblets of wine deep, like if someone "hearts" your profile, and they also had some weird time limit after swiping left (or right my god who can keep all of this straight) which is not all that different from that horrible game where you had to get all those plastic pieces arranged before time ran out.

this is that game and I have a stomach ache just looking at it
Ugh, the Blizzard story is not as brief as I promised.

Anyhoo. Where was I? Ah yes. Snowbound and wine drunk, squinting at the screen on my phone. Super dignified as usual.

Surprise, surprise. It was a shitshow. My profile was so cringey I took a screenshot of it because even in my vino-impaired state I knew it would be the most effective deterrent available if I ever found myself attempting to mate online again. Don't you love when Drunk You looks out for Sober You? Sometimes it's cleaning the kitchen, sometimes it's screenshotting the dumbassery.

Luckily only one poor soul endured the Jenny Experience that night. I mean, it was late and there was a blizzard so it could have been so much worse. The next couple of days, though? Oh honey.

I lasted less than a week on Bumble.

It's all the same. I know, yes, believe me I KNOW. I know there are decent humans out there, even on the apps! But for the love of cheese- there's so much bleah, too. And not new, fresh, somewhat intriguing bleah...nope. It was pics of guys semi-naked in beds, in bathroom mirrors and restaurant booths. It was the ones who stated, in their profiles, that they were married and just looking for quickies (yeah, high fives for being upfront and honest but come on). It was guttural, semi-literate caveman messages followed by either a request for a pic of my boobs or, lucky me, a picture of a penis.

Because this is me, one of the first faces I saw on there was that of the couch-surfing Lothario I'd taken a chance on a few summers ago. Panic set in. oh shit, if I can see him, can he see me?? GAH. Hard pass. Like, James-Franco-in-127 hours hard pass.

I saw a guy who is one of those local NPR kind of quasi-celebrities. Of course I had swiped whichever way means "interested" and so we had a little conversation wherein I told him I'd followed him on twitter for ages. Which was followed by me deleting the ever loving shit out of my twitter profile.

The conversations were stilted and forced and goddammit, men, stop with the pretending, okay? Stop acting like you're interested in getting to know someone when all you really want to do is fuck them, please? Life would be so much easier if we all just put it out there, you know?

Maybe some of us do just want to find someone to screw. In fact, I know some of us women want precisely that kind of deal. That's literally all I've wanted out of "dates" for the past several years.

And I get that things have changed. This is how it is, according to my kids and coworkers who are single and in their twenties. Some of them will gently remind me that there are age-specific sites/apps, for geriatric hopefuls and middle-aged love seekers. I mean, isn't there a dating app for everyone now? Farmers, furries, the adult-onsie crowd? You got it.

But what about those of us who are wedged solidly in between the boomers and the millennials? And even more specifically, those of us who have zero interest in these modern day reindeer games, the ones where it's okay to just stop communicating, boom, in the middle of a text/message conversation? The ones where it's the norm for a 50 year old dude to be casting his net downwards in hopes of snagging a 20 or 30 year old woman but a 50 year old woman is lucky to get a hello from a man her own age?

Maybe it's just me. Maybe it's all of those Meg Ryan movies I absorbed in the 80's and 90's, the movies where a quirky gal who wears turtleneck sweaters and loves to read stumbles across her sweet soulmate while listening to the radio or in an AOL over-30's chat room (this is the point in the post where I for real wonder if I need to translate this shit for the youngsters).

I realize this post is dragging the menfolk a little. In my defense, I have exactly zero experience dating women so for all I know there is a female equivalent to these guys. Do women do this, too? Are there guys out there somewhere, commiserating over beers at happy hour with tales of woe about the ladies who won't respond after coming on strong or who pepper every conversation with stupid lines like "omg u are srsly so handsome i bet you dont get lonly" or "I can be at your front door in under an hour" 😱

Someone in that facebook group posted about a guy she'd encountered on Tinder. He seemed okay, except for the fact that he'd been single for 12 years. Someone commented, "I bet there's a reason he's been single that long" and that froze me.

Because I've been single that long. Yeah yeah, there have been a couple semi-serious relationships and a few not-so-serious, but I have been single since December of 2006. Like, kids who were born then are now in middle school. I have friends who have been divorced, remarried and divorced again in that time and here I sit, repulsed at the thought of submerging myself into the murky dating pool once more but also, content with 99% of my life right now.

It's that 1% that trips me up. That, and the occasional wine-infused blizzard.



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