8/5/19

Walter and the chicken wing


If you're not familiar with this blog or the characters in it, this is Walter. I've written a lot about this good boy: how he's better than my ex, our "how we met" story, and even that time I called him an asshole. He's one of the lights in my life and sometimes just looking at him brings me to tears because I love him so much. Although right at this moment, we're both on the porch- I'm on the couch clickety clacking away here, he's on the floor - and he's farting with such horrendous gale force that the tears in my eyes are because they are on fire.

So. This is my dog. We walk just about every day. During the week we head out at the asscrack of dawn, but on the weekends we get out later...before the heat sets in but after the sun has come up. This picture was taken on a Saturday. I slept in a tiny bit, had some coffee, made myself go to the bathroom not once but three times (dude I have actually wet my pants while walking him, and one particularly awful time almost did more than that)(I wrote about the latter one but never published it because who needs to read about it??). 

I call our walks "Walter's Choice" because think about this: dogs are so amazing and we love them, but what a life! As my son Henry has said, imagine being absolutely dependent on someone else for the simplest of things in life: water, food, exercise. Dogs really don't have much say in anything that impacts their lives so, when I walk this boy I let him choose our route.

There are many different passages we take, this city we have landed in is wonderful for a myriad of reasons and the sidewalks/trails are one of them. That morning's journey took us to a local park. It's a sprawling chunk of land which boasts a golf course, a few ponds, several picnic shelters and a playground where my very own babies used to frolic.

Walter loves this place mainly because of the excellent selection of tall grass. He is half cow, I believe, and spends several minutes on each walk eating it. Depending on the time and my mood, I either stand there and let him indulge while swinging my arm to get steps 😂 or else I tell him that we have perfectly good grass at home and mommy has to get to work.

On the weekends, we have nothin' but time so I let him go to town. Eventually we got going, though, and headed to Walter's second favorite part of the Park Experience. Just beyond the large picnic shelter, there's a shaded and cool grassy area. Once upon a time, Walter found an abandoned chicken wing there, nestled in the grass like a greasy baby Moses in a basket.

He ate the wing before I could get it from him. That was a while ago, so no harm done. Besides, he's a lab. I'm convinced he could eat a bag of rusty nails and *maybe* get a little extra gassy and that's it.

But now, Walter pulls hard on the leash to explore this once-bountiful patch of grass. He knows that at one point in the past, it was awesome and he found something wonderful there.

It makes me smile because here is this magnificent creature who is blessed with a brain the size of a smallish peach and he remembers that ONE time this place made him feel good. That ONE time he happened upon something delicious and satisfying.

Oh my sweet dumb doggo I think to myself.

Except, wait. Who am I to stand there and be all superior and big-brained while Walter forages for something good in the grass? Don't I do the exact same thing? Don't we all?

True, maybe it's more than a chicken wing we're seeking but the more I think about it, the more I can relate with my old dog and his peachy brain.

I do the same damn thing. Only instead of a cool swath of lawn, I sniff around the places where I once found my version of the chicken wing.

Whether it's the texts from a tired old booty call or a bunch of episodes of Sex and the City that I've seen dozens of times, I go back to the places (and people) who once made me feel good. It's why I will forever be a sucker for a linen tunic and European clogs and poncho sweaters and tall overgrown frat boys with nice big hands and fidelity difficulties. It's why, decades after countless nights of yammering with other drunk 20-somethings in the ladies room, I still yearn for a night out at Gluek's Bar in downtown Minneapolis.

Because at one time or another, each of those things brought me some joy. A bit of happiness. Comfort, laughter, maybe an orgasm or two (that would be the frat boy, you guys, not the poncho sweaters).

Like Walter, I remember. And just like Walter, I keep looking.








8/1/19

The (Forgiveness) Struggle is Real



I recently posted something on the Hausfrau facebook page about why I'm in absolutely no rush to be friendly with my ex husband and his wife. No, I don't think they are either but it's a topic I like to revisit regularly in order to temper the maddening social media trend of glorifying BFF co-parents.

*read this next paragraph in the same tone of the voice-over in a pharmaceutical commercial, where they say you might experience dry mouth, rectal discomfort and/or grow scales as side effects of the drug* 

Yes, blissful co-parenting situations exist and yes, many people are truly blessed to have a very friendly relationship with their ex. When that happens? Yay! Celebrate! It's working for you! How wonderful for the kids!

But as I have said, ad nauseam, that is not possible nor is it healthy for all. My gosh sometimes I feel like that might have to be etched on my tombstone. Along with "hey it's not as hot down here as I expected it to be" 😂

So in that above-mentioned post, I detailed one of the many reasons why I don't feel comfortable with the idea of weaving friendship bracelets with the ex, which is a pretty substantial one: that time he lied about reconciling in order to get me sterilized. Let's be real, friends. Allowing someone to go under the knife in order to ensure there aren't any "loose ends" before you officially leave is pretty shitty, even for him. I prefer to take the high road when I can but as far as that incident is concerned, nope.

Anyway. Someone in the comment section dropped a quote about forgiveness. The one about setting a prisoner free and discovering it was you. Trust me when I say there isn't a forgiveness quote I haven't heard over the past several years. And they aren't without merit, okay?

Forgiveness is a very personal, and very touchy subject. For whatever reason, when I read that platitude, I felt bristly. I know, I know! A touched nerve, perhaps?

Perhaps. But it got me thinking about forgiveness and friendship and past hurts and just plain old pasts. It had me mulling over this mission of mine, to help other women who are going through the same old bullshit that I did all those years ago. And it made me wonder...

What if forgiveness is fluid? What if it's not a still pond, but instead it's a sea that's always churning and moving? What if it's like a tide that ebbs and flows?

What if forgiveness and whether or not we feel it is a day by day thing, instead of a permanent state?

A few years ago, right in this very spot, I wrote about forgiveness and I basically said it's something we HAVE to do. Quote: "The only person I think you truly NEED to forgive is your ex."  

Forgive me.

This blog is almost a decade old and there are a lot of things I wrote that now make me cringe. I described someone as a "a Latino Mike Meyers", you guys. Some of what I wrote back then was how I felt back then. Some of it was so bad I'm embarrassed to go back and read it. But people (and blogs!) evolve over time. We learn, we grow, we experience new things and see the old ones through hopefully wiser eyes.

I used to be a Republican, too. So there's that.

My stance on a lot of things has changed, and forgiveness is one of those. I don't believe it's something we should ever feel obligated to do, and I really don't believe anyone has the right to tell you that it's necessary.

I mean yeah, okay. Your friend backs out of plans at the last minute. In that case, we will probably forgive and forget. Because that's your homie! You love them, they love you and shit happens.

But there's big stuff that really leaves a mark. And when those things happen, we may need time to process, to feel, to decide if forgiveness feels right. If it feels necessary.

And one other thing. Just because someone talks about their past experiences doesn't mean they're dwelling. It's perfectly normal to want to hear how others have handled difficult times and it's also perfectly normal to share how we've handled them.

Don't ever feel bad about airing your laundry, dirty or not. There will always be someone who needs to hear they aren't the only one.








7/30/19

Listening



Remember the kite eating tree from Peanuts? Every spring, Charlie Brown would launch a new kite into the air and every year, that damn tree would eat it.

Sometimes I feel like that tree, only instead of kites flown forever-optimistically by ol' Chuck, it's words that get snatched up. Words that have been flung my way via other eternally optimistic people (aka, my friends/coworkers/readers). Yeah, I may look kind of tree-like while they're talking. Just standing there, or more realistically, sitting there, while they speak. I'm not known for being overly animated in person OR online and it's always been a little frustrating for me. I want people to know that I'm feeling things, whether it's gratitude or seething resentment or simple receptiveness to whatever they're dishing out.

Instead I feel like what they're seeing is Tree Jenny. With a smile on my face and instead of the tail of a kite hanging out of my mouth, it's the tail end of a sentence.

BUT I AM LISTENING. I swear. The words go in one ear and then they stay there, steeping until I have time to really savor them. To pull them out and inspect them. To devour them.

That's one of the blessed curses of ADD. We process things differently. We also don't miss much despite having the appearance of someone who misses e v e r y t h i n g 😉 Ask me what I wore yesterday and I will struggle, ask me what a child on the playground once remarked as she touched my arm and I can repeat it not only verbatim but by god I can still hear her saying it just as clear as the day it happened sometime back in 2006: ooh Miss Jenny your arm feels just like my grandma's Okay so maybe the more traumatic, the more memorable but I digress.

Recently a few people have talked to/at me and I'm not sure they know how much of what they said sunk in. I want them, and therefore you, to know that all of the words made it through and I have been mulling them over.

First up, my bestie told me that I'm stuck. She was referring to my housing situation and also an unfortunate dude situation. I'll be purposely vague about both because 1: the housing thing will be a blog post soon and B: the dude situation is gross and embarrassing. And even though you all know gross and embarrassing is basically what I should have tattooed on my lower back, this one is not worth writing about.

My dear homie, I heard you. And you're right: I am stuck. Apparently when one has been flailing just above water for ages, when it's okay to stop flailing you simply float. And that's kind of where I'm at, and have been, for the past couple of years. Enjoying the scenery and enjoying not fighting to survive.

Being Minnesotan, when the word stuck comes up, the image that pops into my head is that of a car up to its bumper in snow. Funnily enough, when I do get stuck in the snow the first panicky thought I have is ALWAYS this: I'm just going to leave it here until spring.

And that's kind of where I've been.

So I need to unstuck myself. Time to start digging out, time to get moving. Maybe literally? Which provides such a slick segue into the second part of my listening prose...

A few weeks back, there was a party to attend. One of my regulars and I were going to be each other's date, and then, another friend asked if she could tag along. Of course! The more the merrier. We stopped for a cocktail en route to the bash and while we were sipping, this other friend regaled us with story after story about how she had used her voice and told the universe exactly what it was she was seeking. Like, she says it OUT LOUD to the universe, not in her head. She showed us exactly how she did it, using hand gestures and everything and then she proudly proclaimed how it had worked. She'd told the universe what kind of house she and her girls needed, and the house showed up.

"I'm telling you," she said, in a very confident tone, "this shit works."

Well. I'm certainly not one to scoff at shit that works. So, in my own tortoisey way, I've been trying to emulate her universe-speak. It's hard for a quiet introvert (shush, I am too one of those, I swear!) to do something so...verbal. And yet, I'm doing it. I listened to my friend, and now I'm hoping the universe is listening to me.

I walk the dog at an obscenely early hour in the summertime. Work, for me, starts at 6:30 a.m. Monday through Friday so the alarm goes off shortly before 4:00. I chug a cup of coffee, get the running shoes laced up and then Walter leads me on a dark, peaceful tour of our fair city. It's hands down my favorite time of the day (a close second is the splendid cool slide into bed at night) and one that is almost reverent with the silence and nothing but the clicks of the sweet old boy's nails and the soft scuff of my shoes on the sidewalks.

This morning, I talked. I gabbed with the universe. My words sounded foreign at first, echoing off of darkened houses and bouncing on the small pools of light beneath the street lamps. I'll tell you a little of what I told the universe. Not all of it, because maybe this is like that birthday wish you make while blowing out the candles.

"Universe!" I wanted to get its attention, you know. "Universe! Here's what I am looking for." And then I began my small but immense wish list.

I told the universe that more than anything I want a home. I want a place with a yard and with a cute kitchen and with at least two windows in my bedroom so I can get a sweet cool breeze on spring and fall nights. I want room for whichever kid needs a soft place to land and I want a backyard for Walter or whichever good boy comes next. And a porch, universe. Oh man. I want a porch.

And I'll be really honest with you...I figured as long as I had the ear of the entire universe, it was time to go big or go home.

I told the universe that I love our house right now. And that if it (the universe) was in a giving sort of mood, maybe some magic planet realignment could make my wildest dreams come true and make that my forever home.

Yep. Told ya I went big. I went implausible and let's face it, most likely impossible, but what the hell. How often do you get to walk around a city before dawn, barking out wishes like a lunatic carny?

I don't know if the universe heard me, but I do know for sure that the guy enjoying a cigarette out in his driveway at 5:01 on a Tuesday morning sure did. Let's see if he has any pull.

Oh and there was one more time I listened recently: when one of you sent me a message. Actually, many of you have reached out over the past couple of years, since I've gone radio silent here on the old blog. Some of you have been subtle, gently inquiring, wondering if there will ever be fresh words here again. But one of you sweet humans were way more direct. Via instagram, a private message that read, in part:

where are your posts and blogs about the hell that is divorce and life afterwards? I need/miss them.

This one was loud and it was clear as crystal.

I'm listening.

And I'm back.










7/2/19

Mad About You?



"Why don't you write on the blog anymore?"

It comes up now and then. The emails used to show up almost daily, now it's one or two a week.

"Hey, where'd you go? I miss reading your stuff."

*sigh* I miss writing my stuff. I know, I know...every few months there's a blip of activity on this old site and the few of you still out there, the few of you still reading blogs, get to hear my tired excuses for not maintaining this space. No time! No energy! No fresh ideas!

I was talking to a friend this past weekend and she mentioned the blog. Actually, she mentioned writing in general and how I was going to do big things with the words and how she missed perusing the daily/weekly rants and ramblings I used to proffer right here in this very spot. The excuse I gave her was a surprise, even to me:

"I'm not mad anymore."

HUH? How's that, Jenny? You're not mad anymore?

I elaborated. Told her that back in the day, when instead of mentally blogging I actually, you know, BLOGGED, I was pissed.

Heartbreak and shock still lived and breathed in me but the anger, oh shiiiiiit, the anger was my skeleton, it was the blood and the veins and the nerves. It snapped and crackled like a well-tended fire in a roasting hot hearth and it fueled every aspect of my life. Literally, every.single.aspect.

The rage woke me up, it tugged the covers and yanked at my feet and shoved me into the shower and it pushed the gas pedal of whatever hooptie I was driving. It parented my kids and steered shopping carts and walked the damn dog. It poured wine and vodka and bummed smokes and chose disastrous mates and stabbed forks and spoons into soft warm bowls and plates of carby comfort foods.

And it guided my fingers over various keyboards, each one pressing a single letter which would form a word which would build a sentence which would become a paragraph which would forge

this blog.

The writing came fast and furious, for a long time it felt like a bottomless pit of woe and wrath. I was so mad at my ex-husband and what his dumbass choices meant for me and our children. It was my own personal Olympic flame, blazing endlessly.

Until it went out.

Did it go out all in one fell swoop? Nah. In fact, if you poke at me and hit just the right spot, I'll still take a swipe at ya. There's anger but it's either buried so deep or worn so thin that it couldn't fuel a hamster wheel, let alone a middle aged lady. Now it comes out as indignant protests over long waits at traffic lights or eye-rolling annoyance at the person who's taking too long on the equipment at the gym.

The anger subsided. And so did the words.

That sucks. Because I enjoy writing. I enjoy entertaining people, I enjoy helping others. I like doing this. And while I love to pull out a good Hulk reference and say "that's my secret, Cap, I'm always angry" (because who doesn't enjoy a Marvel reference) I am most definitely not always angry. Not anymore.

(cue Carrie Bradshaw voice) And it makes me wonder...can I write without being mad?

I mean, let's get real. There is SO MUCH to be mad about, right? Politics and the bigoted sexist politicians who politic, mosquitoes, calories, bodies falling apart, dogs getting old, the high price of feta crumbles (FOR REAL THOUGH!!), people who run over baby geese and turtles and possums, people in general. Hell I could be mad all the live long day, now that I think about it.

But I don't want to. I do, however, want to write. I want to write and make people laugh and think and cry. I want to write and help women who are where I was all those years ago. I want to write and let someone out there know they aren't alone.

Also, I'm trapped in a quiet office for 8 hours a day this summer and I can't afford to shop online so, yeah. I could write.

I'm going to hit publish on this one, right now, before I start the second-guess dance and self doubt sets in.

Stay tuned for more. Unless I get mad. LOL.

4/9/19

The Name Game



What's in a name?

So, so much. Our names are saturated with history, soaked with stories and steeped in all kinds of identity. They are bestowed upon us at birth and they traipse alongside us for the rest of our days, sometimes staying absolutely the same, sometimes morphing into something kinda/sorta the same and other times, becoming something completely different (Monty Python reference intended).

I hated my last name as a kid. Absolutely hated it. My full name, back then, was Jennifer Ball and trust me, I've heard every "clever" nickname possible. I was Bouncy Ball, Ball-head, Jenny Ballsalot, Ballface, Jenny Nut, etc. I learned to live with it, obviously, and even learned to make fun of it myself (still kinda wishing my old timey grade-school friend Ann Sachs and I had married and hyphenated our last names)(not too late, my friend, LOL).

But I remember thinking how awesome it was going to be, to get married and find out what life was like without a cringey surname. Wow, can you imagine making reservations and saying uh yeah that's a party of five, at seven, last name Sloane. Or being able to say, it's Ford, like the car instead of yes, that's Ball like football or basketball. Ball.

Boys and girls, you know what happened. I got married and took his last name and shed that Ball like a snake sheds its skin. I reveled in the glory of a name that couldn't possibly be made fun of. It couldn't in any way shape or form be compared to a part, any part, of the human body.

It was good.

Until the person who let me take his name decided to give it to another.

Even then, I kept it. IT WAS MINE FIRST. 

It was a hill I was prepared to die on, that last name. It mattered to me, quite a bit, at first. I wanted to match my kids. I wanted to cling to the identity that was mine, that I had worn for so long. It sounded cute, too, such a nice ring to it, as opposed to Jenny Ball, which just sort of fell out my mouth and wobbled in the air like a Weeble.

I will admit that part of my desire to stay with that last name was like my sweet old dog peeing on every utility pole on our walks. THIS IS MINE. CAN YOU SMELL ME HERE, SUCKAS? I WAS HERE. When the new wife, my replacement, began brandishing the same name, like it was some shiny badge of honor, it made me cling to it all the more. Even when I was handed her plastic-wrapped dry-cleaning by mistake, I hung on.

Life went on. The kids got older and aged out of the time of school directories and yearbooks and it no longer seemed as important to be able to identify the members of our little clan based on half of our names.

I gradually, hesitatingly, pulled out the old last name and tried it on for size.

It became my writing name when I discovered that the internet has this search function and people could find out who I was, and therefore, who the other people in my life were. For the sake of my children's privacy and for the avoidance of making the ex and his harpy mad, I became Jennifer Ball again.

At work and on some social media platforms and to my friends, though, I was still the Other Jenny. It was a somewhat harmonious existence.

Until I went to get my drivers license renewed.

Minnesota has a new ID system kicking in, one that requires approximately 906 pieces of identification when you renew. I carefully downloaded and printed and accumulated the information they requested. Passport, old license, bank account statements, W2s, paychecks, the blood of my firstborn, fingernail trimmings and strands of hair with root-bulbs attached.

The woman at the DMV took my pile of Jenny-ness and began loading it all into her magic computer. It was all going well! Fast, even, by DMV standards. Until her fingers stopped clicking keys and she said, "Hmm. That's weird."

There are a thousand times in your life you don't want to hear "Hmm. That's weird." Like during a gyno exam or in bed with a new lover or while getting your oil changed. "Hmm. That's weird" is also something you don't want to hear at the DMV.

"It says here that this social security number doesn't match with your name." She said this to me as she backspaced and tried it again. Nope.

Here's the deal, you guys: apparently I never got around to changing my last name on my social security number. According to our government, I was still, and always had been, Jennifer Ball. I guess I should have figured it out. All these years of doing my taxes, I used my old last name. We did that when I was married, too, and yes I realize that most people would have thought to themselves at some point yeah I need to figure this out but I'll tell ya what, in my world if it ain't broke YOU DO NOT FIX IT. So it was never addressed.

The government had absolutely zero trouble taking checks from New Jenny to pay Old Jenny's tax bills, you know? Also my bank never batted an eye when someone named Jennifer Ball deposited a check into that other Jennifer's account. It was all copacetic.

Until Minnesota had to get all fancy with their IDs. The woman at the DMV was great, she tried different approaches, she even had me go print off one more new and exciting document that had not only my old name on it, but the new one too. None of it worked.

So, it would appear that I need to go completely Ball again. It's either that, or go to the Social Security Office and bring another stack of papers to another person with another magic computer in front of them. Have you ever sat in a Social Security Office? I have. And I'm never doing that again, if I can help it.

It's easier to just get everything back to matching what the Social Security number says. Hence, the name change at work. And on my bank account. And alllll my other accounts. It's tedious but it sure beats driving downtown, paying for parking and giving up a personal day from work to sit in a loud and crowded waiting area for hours.

It it was pretty funny when I told our veterinarian that the dog's name is now Walter Ball. He's not psyched about it.

One thing I've discovered, on this road back to my roots, is that I don't hate my last name anymore. I kind of love it. It's me. It's short and easy to spell and it doesn't bear the stains of a lousy marriage to a lousy man. It's mine now.

It's mine, again.






4/4/19

Haunted (by) Houses




**This was a post I made in a private group. The feedback was notable so I thought I'd put it out here, you know, because it's important to know that we aren't alone in this messy life. For those who are new to this particularly cuckoo corner of the internet, here's a synopsis for ya: husband/father walked out and divorce was final in 2006. Funny thing, though, is it didn't really end in 2006. He left me with four kids, which was tough, but he also left me with a mountain of debt. Our little house, which was worth less than $100k, had been used to take out a few loans (home equity, second mortgage,golden parachute for him when he retired from our marriage, blah blah). I "got" the house in the divorce because I thought that was all I needed. The loans on the house exceeded $300k. I'd been a stay at home mom for the entirety of the marriage and raised the kids while he worked his way up the ol' corporate ladder. At the time he bolted, he was making decent money and I was awarded generous child support and spousal maintenance, which I had planned on using to pay off debts, finish school and get back to living life. He stopped all payments about a year into it. Cold turkey, all I got was a one-sentence email saying something like "i'm experiencing some difficulties so payments may be slow or stop completely." Turns out the difficulties were deciding which Audi to buy and also getting his pool fixed 😂 Anyway. He found the money for an attorney and somehow managed to get his child support obligation reduced to zero. I found a pro-bono attorney and for almost 6 years tried to get him to help take care of his kids. By the time "justice" was served (justice, it turns out, comes to about 19 cents on the dollar of what he owed), two of the kids were 18 or over, I'd lost our little house, had to file bankruptcy and my credit was shattered. No. Not shattered. It was like Thanos got a hold of it and *poof* it was ashes. Since then I have done what I could to keep things normal for the kids. I work full-time, was there 100% for my kids and now all four have graduated from high school and are either in college or working. Three of them live at home (two in college full-time) because they are trying to save money. They help out as much as they can. I pay almost $2k a month in rent, have paid in full and on time every month for 9 years. That's about as good a price you'll get here in Minneapolis for a rental house in a city that's close to busing, schools and our places of work (for real, you find a three bedroom house or townhome or apt in a first/second ring suburb of Minneapolis for less than $1500 a month that isn't made of cardboard and get back to me) . I'm 52. I'm a good mom, I think I'm a somewhat decent person and I represent a large swath of the United States population: those who are productive citizens, gainfully employed, living paycheck-to-paycheck. Every time I get a little bit tucked away into savings there is something that needs to be taken care of: one of our ancient cars breaks down, a tooth cracks, someone's tuition is due, we need heat in the winter (lol), etc. I am absolutely, 100% blessed to actually have some bootstraps to pull, but my arms are tired and on the day I saw this house and then came home and wrote this post, I was ragey and pms-ing and dammit I just needed to vent. ***EDIT*** since then, the amazing people in my group have rallied and donated and offered credit counseling help and names of realtors and just straight up loved and cheered and commiserated.I will do this, I swear on all that is good and holy- I will get a house and I will plant those gd lilacs. **

Warning: contains swears, angst, some wailing and minor gnashing of teeth

Ughhh you guys. I want to buy this house but there’s no way in hell I would qualify for any sort of loan because that mother effing bankruptcy and foreclosure are still showing up.

This is what I want to tell people who insist that I’m bitter. Who tell me to get over it, who shake their heads and say “I can’t believe you still think about this”. Who look at my ex, in his million dollar house, livin’ the dream and then at me, livin’ the nightmare of financial insecurity and terror over things like “where will I live when our sweet landlord gets smart and decides to sell?” and see nothing unfair or unjust.

“Jenny, he’s moved on. Why can’t you?”

Because every.single.day there is a reminder. Some days I’m SO GOOD at ignoring them. I line up my blessings and kiss them on the forehead as I count them. I laugh and curl up with the good fortune I do have and the reminders slink away.

But the houses. Shit. The houses, they won’t be ignored (I wonder if they sound like Glen Close 😂😂). They are structures built of possibilities and dreams. They are carnies calling out to me as I try my hardest to just keep walking, eyes focused on the sidewalk, the sky, anything but these homes. “Step right up! Feast your eyes on this little beaut! Too bad you can’t qualify for a gd thing, Jenny! This coulda been yours if only you’d made some better life choices! If only you’d ignored that tall asshole singing along to REM at the bar that night!” (it was The End of the World As We Know It, hahaha)(cry)

I lost the home my dad bought and remodeled with his own two hands thanks to my ex husband’s fuckery. A home that welcomed our new babies, that was framed with plants and trees we put into the ground with love, that kept us safe and warm through seasons of cold and rain. A home I had planned on living in for the rest of my life. Gone, because some dude couldn’t keep his dick in his pants.

People comfort me and say “aye you don’t want to own a home anyway, too much work and responsibility” but dammit I want that work and that responsibility. I really do. I want grass that’s mine and walls I can paint whatever color I want and a yard that is crying out for some lilacs and a little screened in porch. I want to stand outside at night, not in a creepy stalker way but you know, after hauling the garbage to the curb or something, and look in the windows and see glowing lights in a cozy living room that belongs to ME.

I want it and it’s not going to happen no matter how hard I try. And I know the day will come when my dog and I traipse past this one and the sign in the front yard will say “SOLD” and one more little sprig of excitement and hope will be crushed.

We’ve walked by so many of these houses and each time I’ve thought “augh I should just ask, I should just try” and then I remember that I have the credit of a ghost. A ghost who was so spectacularly screwed over that my credit, like my sense of self and the hope of ever truly, I mean- wholly-recovering, is irretrievably broken.

It’s not even that great, this house. That’s what I’m telling myself.


And I keep walking.



2/17/19

Self Care, Tax Refunds and Messy Bun Gurus

The Self Care and Messy Bun Gurus Part

I am SO OVER privileged women telling me to be still, wash my face and to practice "self care". I'm here to testify that life sucks hard sometimes and it will be miserable and scary and washing your face won't do shit. It's actually hilarious to me that people who don't, and can't really understand what it's like to struggle become these icons of inspiration. 

I'm not saying that everyone has to struggle in order for their stories to be important or valid. ALL of our experiences as humans are important, even those that are fairy-tale pretty. 

But it seems almost dangerous to blithely toss around a few platitudes and call it self help. It's not that easy.

The worst part of this gross trend (yeah to me it's gross) is that some women will look at themselves and their lives and and their situations and wonder why the hell they can't just pull harder on the ol' bootstraps because duh, our problems are so easily dissolved with some soap, water, prayers and a lil me time. And then the guilt starts.

I've faced some terrible stuff (spouse leaving, bankruptcy, poverty, abuse) but even I wouldn't assume to become some guru of messy bun wisdom. Because I know my struggles look like a trip to freaking Disney compared to what others have gone through/are going through.

One more thing that bugs me about this: these are the voices that get amplified and shared and turned into glossy books because they have the means to get heard. Connections and money and time- we are DROWNING in insta-inspo fluff and will never hear many truly powerful women's voices because they don't have even a speck of those means. 

I guess the thing that saddens me about society's current obsession with these affluent women who can't seem to ever get their gd hair tucked just right behind their ears is this: would someone like JK Rowling make it if she was just starting out now? Would Oprah? How many Harry Potters is the world missing because the brain they live in is too broke and exhausted to pay for a social media assistant or attend a writer's workshop at noon on a Tuesday? How many stories that would actually help are we never going to hear because the person who lives it isn't married to a hedge fund investor or has a trust from mom and dad? 

I know this may come across as a poor person crying and pouting because *newsflash* rich people have advantages but, man. I'm just saying it would be nice to hear from more women who have truly clawed their way to the top from somewhere lower than omg remember that time we couldn't afford to get the dog groomed

The whole premise of self-care, self-love, self anything is picking YOU over all the other stuff.

The reality for many of us is that WE are it. We alone bear the responsibility to keep our families, and ourselves, afloat. And when it comes down to choosing between our kids and ourselves, it’s pretty obvious who wins. 

I screw up, a lot, still. You’d think after so many years of living without much money I’d have figured this shit out. But despite knowing just how hard and how desperate things can be...

I
Still
Screw 
Up

I tend to go overboard at Christmas, for example. Obviously not like, “a Lexus in the driveway with a big bow on it” overboard but for some reason even with grown ass kids I’m always trying to fill some empty space with just one more present. Just one more thing and they will see how much I love them and how sorry I am that the other 364 days of the year are spent with a mom who grinds her teeth at night and who reminds people to turn off lights and who stands in the grocery store deciding if that pint of ice cream is worth it or is way too self indulgent.

Last fall I bought a ticket to see the Foo Fighters. It was definitely way too self indulgent. It was way out of my price range. It was absolutely worth it. I lived on lentil soup for a week or two but my goodness- it’s been five months and I’m still able to close my eyes and go back to that night like it’s a sweet spring water well and draw so much joy from it. That $120 dollar ticket might have been one of the stupidest things I've spent my money on, but it was also one of the smartest. 

That, my friends, is what self-care looked like for me last year. Dave Grohl, loud music, and a night out with a small side of guilt.

The Tax Refund Part

Tax refund season is upon us and with it will come comments and sighs and fist-shaking at all of the poors who run out and spend everyone else's hard-earned money on televisions and manicures and iPhones and who then find themselves broke and struggling again soon after making yet another stupid choice. 

And you know what? That's true for some. Some people do make less-than wise decisions when a chunk of cash that's not already earmarked for rent or food or new tires or prescriptions shows up in their checking account or in the mailbox. It's hard for me to describe what it's like to get a tax refund after months of holding your breath as you swipe your debit card at the grocery store. 

I guess it's like being so hungry that you want to gnaw your arm off and then someone saying "hey open that door over there my friend you won't believe your eyes" and you open that door and there is a neverending buffet of comfort food: buttery mashed potatoes, all the pad thai a girl could ever want to shovel into her gullet, ice cold martinis...wait. That might be an actual dream I've had. 

Anyhoo. It's like that. And I guess I can't blame someone who has only tasted struggle and worry for months on end to want a smidgen, just a nibble, of something better. 

But not me. I've only been getting a refund for a few years, before that I had to pay in thanks to my ex-husband's lawyer and also irony. 

The refunds I get might look big and exciting, but here's the deal: I break the refund down and divide it into 12 parts. My income as a secretary is just barely over the poverty line and a huge chunk of that goes to rent. I'm very fortunate to have kids who are able to pitch in now, honestly when I think back to where we were just a few years ago it hurts my heart. I don't know how we did it. I don't know how we survived. 

So the refund, once flayed open and cleaved into pieces, doesn't look so big and exciting. It looks like help. It looks like a late utility bill finally being paid off. It looks like a depleted savings account getting some padding. 

It looks like this pair of earrings I treated myself with last night. My daughter and I, bored out of our minds on a Saturday, went to the mall. She had a sweater to return at H&M and that's where I saw these. Yeah I know the company is garbage and we shouldn't buy from them but here we are. 

This is the poor chick's version of self care. $6.00, and because I don't learn from past mistakes I'm sure they'll break in less than a week but they made me happy.

I'm sure someone will chime in with a Dave Ramsey/Suze Orman tidbit and remind me that those six dollars could have been a spaghetti dinner or three gallons of gas. But last night, they bought me these earrings. And they were worth every penny. All 600 of them. 





If you're still here, thank you for reading this far. It's been a long stretch of time since I sat and typed and the words came so easily. This is certainly not my finest work but it sure felt good to write. I hope it lasts. And I hope you stick around.

Love, 

Jenny







11/29/18

When A Ghost From The Past...Is A Ghost




Way back when I first started this blog, I thought it would be a funny thing to call those unfortunate dudes who ended up ensnared in my web, "victims". I wrote many posts about them, and gave each victim a moniker. Some of the monikers alluded to their careers (Professor Plum, Sad Counselor, lol), one was a nod to a stunning resemblance (oh hey John McCain) and a few others retained their real names but with a twist (Curiously Cheap George, Angry Steve). I'm actually cackling over these, you guys. Maybe I do need to get back out there.

When I look back on the fellas I've been involved with during my post-divorce life, it's usually done with a shudder or a regretful sigh or sometimes I go as far as self flagellating ala' Chris Farley in his SNL skit "The Chris Farley Show" (how could you be so stupid!). Sometimes, though, in place of the shudder there's a smile. The afterglow of something that wasn't meant to be but wasn't all bad.

A month or so ago, I had a thought pop into my brain completely out of the blue. One of those random "hey whatever happened to?" along with some fuzzy memory snapshots. This time, the subject was Ben. He was also referred to as Mullet Man on occasion.

We met via eharmony and he was the first man I allowed to meet my kids. Turns out he was also the last man I allowed to meet my kids so there you go. Our relationship happened just prior to the social media explosion (sweet jeeeezus should I be sitting in a rocking chair and handing out Werthers while I spin this yarn?) so when it ended, it really did end. There was no facebook stalking, no Instagram peeking. Ben there, done that, no t-shirt bought.

So. I had this hankering to find out what Ben was up to. Not in a psycho, bunny boiling way, just a nagging curiosity. Wherefore art thou, Ben?

I looked on Facebook. Nada. I dusted off my LinkedIn account. Nope. Put on my CSI coat and did a Google search. Nothing substantial.

I went back to Facebook and did the first truly creepy act: searched up one of his kids. They have very unique names...well, not the names themselves but the spelling. So they were easy to find. And on one of their profiles, there was a pic of said kid (who is now a grown-ass young man like my kids) holding up Ben's high school senior portrait with a caption of "miss this dude". Ooof.

A little further digging around and I learned that Ben had died.

I don't know how, I do know when. Early in 2011. Not long after I had written about him, and approximately four years after we dated.

The news of his death hit me. Not in a grieving-widow kind of way, but it hit me. I've always considered the relationships in my past as something like old coats in the front closet: they haven't been worn in years but if you open that door and flip through enough hangers, there they'll be. Reminders of a time long gone.

Ben wasn't a bad person. He had his flaws just like we all do. But the dude made me laugh and that is how I remember him. In fact, one of the funniest memories I have of ALL TIME features Ben in the starring role, with a plastic bag as best supporting actor.

We were driving somewhere, in Ben's jeep. It was summer and the windows were wide open and we were tooling down the highway with the radio cranked UP and we were singing along...all of a sudden a white bag whipped up from the backseat and wrapped itself, alien-style, around Ben's face. Yes, it could have resulted in tragedy but he snagged it off and we proceeded to almost pee our pants laughing about it. I'm laughing right now, with tears in my eyes, just picturing him with that damn Anoka, MN haircut and that bag plastered on his mug.

Oh Ben.

He's the guy who introduced me to Godsmack and Manhattans and he called my dog Salty Walty. He fell asleep to Spongebob every night and sometimes needed an inhaler in the middle of sexy time. He was a dad and a son and a metal head and now he's gone.

I hope he's in a heavenly stadium right now, rocking out HARD to Van Hagar. I hope his kids are doing okay and I know for certain I will never again be able to look at a white plastic bag without smiling.

8/21/18

Words vs Actions and all that matters



Warning: I'm in a mood.

Why? I can't really tell you. I'm enjoying a rare day off. The summer school office gig ended yesterday and there are a few days before the Back To Life/Back To Reality 2018 tour begins. School secretaries are a good-natured bunch but we do have a reentry process that sometimes involves salty ire.

So yes. I'm in a mood.

And while in this mood, I happened to be looking through a pile of mail that one of my roommates/offspring brought in and left in the living room.

A J Jill catalog (WE MISS YOU JENNY lolol I bet you do, Jill)
A once-in-a-lifetime-offer from Xfinity (maybe once in my lifetime you can offer internet that doesn't blow, xfinity!)(also that doesn't cost a metric shit-ton of cash)
Oh! And what's this?
A letter from the University of Minnesota. Addressed to my ex-husband.

We've been divorced for a long, long time. Almost as long as we were married! And this wasn't an important letter. It was an advertisement, really.

But it was addressed to him. He's never lived here. I don't want to get into all the psychological stuff about moving on and getting over it, but I will say that it does feel good to be able to finally see his name and not feel anything other than annoyance. His presence in my life has gone from scary brain eating zombie to small mosquito and like Kramer going commando, I'm lovin every minute of it.

So no, seeing his name on a piece of paper in my quiet, peaceful and love-filled home didn't push me down a rabbit-hole of sadness and anger like it used to do. It did, however, cause my eyes to roll a tiny bit and for my mouth to open and the following mutterings to tumble out:

why am i still getting that dipshit's mail?

These words were spoken softly and without intention to be shared with any other living being besides my faithful pooch who shadows me on these days off like it's his job.

I didn't realize one of those aforementioned roommates/offspring were awake and within earshot. Oops.

For a second the shrill judge and jury voices of the Greek internet chorus rang through my brain.

omg jenny that's their FATHER you're talking about
never ever ever ever badmouth the other parent it will guarantee that your children will be irreparably damaged and probably become terrible humans
oh honey you gotta love your kids more than you hate your ex
high road high road high road high road infinity

They rang for a sec and then I shooed them outta there.

My kids are all chronologically grown. They are all over 18. I did a good job of holding my tongue for many years.

One dipshit does not equal years of badmouthing. So I let it go. I told those voices to leave and I also told them this...

The fact that someone's sperm found an egg and fertilized it does not make them a saint. Nor does being the owner of that egg and growing a human being. The title of Mom or Dad does not equal Superhero, folks. If it did, we'd not be able to exhale without breathing on one.

I am one hundred percent behind the whole "watch what you say around the kids" sentiment. It's truth. Speaking as a child of divorce, I can testify to it! My own mom, rest her soul, used to say some pretty awful things about my dad. And I can remember every single syllable. So I took that experience and tried my damnedest to not hit "rewind" on history. And I think I did a passable job*.

I am also one hundred percent behind the whole "actions speak louder than words" sentiment. It's truth. Speaking as a child of divorce, I can testify to it! My own dad, who is alive and kicking, never said one bad thing about my mom. Nothing. And if anyone had the right to complain, it was him. He fought for custody and lost, and then saw his ex and her lover ride off into the sunset with two confused kids. He took in one of those confused kids when she got tired of being hit and needed a safe place to live. My dad and I aren't as close as we should be but that's because I'm a messed up human and not because of anything he did or said.

My mom was a good person. I loved her. But she wasn't a saint. My dad had his faults too but he wasn't deserving of the awful things my mom said about him. As I grew up and lived more life I realized these things. Realization came a little late and it will haunt me for the rest of my days. There were years I took my mom's words as the gospel truth. I don't hate her for it. I know she was flawed as we all are.

But now I see those past words and actions and I know better.

*I haven't been perfect. I have made mistakes, some huge ones, many small ones. But I know better and so I try to do better.

There are many of you who are in the beginnings of your divorce story. You will receive lots of advice, whether you want to, or not. Oh you'll get it.

If there's one thing I can add to that avalanche of warnings and proselytizing and inspo, it's this:

Watch your mouth. But watch your actions just as closely.

Both matter. And both will leave an impression.



8/3/18

Lonely Head Seeks Chest



You know how it is when you read something that creates such a vivid mental picture it actually freaks you out a little bit? Like, whoa, where has this jabby shard of melancholia been hiding?

I'm just about done with the first true page-turner I've read this summer, "Final Girls" by Riley Sager, and there is a short passage in it that shook me right to my spinster core. It's a scene where the protagonist is seeking comfort from her almost-fiance:

"I press myself deeper into Jeff's chest, his tie slick on my cheek. He mistakes it for distress, which I suppose it is, and holds me tighter. I let myself be held, turning inward..."

That's all it took to send me into a semi-hypnotic state, momentarily, while my brain traveled back in time. Which time? I'm not sure it was any specific one, it almost felt like a "best of chest resting" collection. All the times I was close enough to someone to feel their heartbeat in my bones, hear the warm comfortable rumble of a deep voice at its wellspring. Maybe it was some sort of throwback to childhood and the memory of my dad picking me up, carrying a sleepy little me from the car to my bed. Or the countless times, over the years, of falling into a blissful slumber accompanied by the cadence of a lover breathing in and out.

Whatever it was, it was so clear and so strong and left me so specifically LONGING. Normally this stuff hits me with a little generalized angst, you know? Like a vague sort of wanting, missing.

It dawned on me that the act of resting my melon on a man's chest is something I really love to do and something I apparently miss. Quite a bit. Reflecting on the spastic attempts I've made to mate over the past few years, it occurred to me that I do sometimes attempt this maneuver but am usually thwarted by a: a reluctant/non-compliant chest (or else we're sitting up which is just kind of awkward) or b: focusing too hard on being quiet (the hazards of cohabitation with adult offspring and one overprotective dog).

It's almost enough to lure me back into the dating scene. Almost. Just the thought of finally having a home plate again, having that security and hearing the vibrato of something that's not running on two AA batteries...but then I remember.

Fun single gal looking for dude with chest


I remember that in Dating Years I am approximately the same age as Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker's Dracula and I remember all of the horror stories about men my age who will not even glance at a woman unless she's barely into her thirties. And the all-too-familiar tale of married guys who are just looking for a piece on the side or the ones who seem like they're all that and the proverbial bag of chips but then end up ghosting you.

I remember all of that and it suddenly seems like so much work for such little reward. Finding someone in my age range who isn't just a player or who isn't married or who isn't an emotionally stunted scaredy cat is akin to finding that perfect pair of jeans: we all know they're out there, dammit. They're just so hard to locate!

There's this old song by the group Cracker, it's called Low and I will admit it to you all, I love it (oh early 90's you were so awesome). It pops up regularly in my ears while working out and I hardly ever skip it. My favorite verse in the song is this one:

A million poppies gonna help me sleep
With just one rose that knows your name
The fruit is rusting on the vine
The fruit is calling from the trees

"The fruit is rusting on the vine", my goodness I don't know if there's ever been a more apt description of what it's like to be a middle aged single woman. Sometimes I wonder if that's just how it's going to be, me hanging here, going from ripe to withered to dead on the vine without being able to share it all with someone (god help me for using this word) special.

It makes me think about our time we have on this planet and how we choose to spend it. Perhaps that temporary longing is something I just have to learn to live with. Or maybe it's something I just have to heed.

Yes, my friends, I got all of this from reading a tiny snippet of words in a book about serial killers.

It is exhausting being me.



 





 
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