Happy New Year to you, my friends

You may know that I'm a huge Erma Bombeck fan. Loved her.

I don't have anything mushy or inspirational or life-affirming to say regarding the demise of 2010 and the birth of 2011. Only that I wish nothing but the best for my friends, nothing but justice for those who have it coming to them, and nothing but hemorrhoids and maybe a yeast infection or two to those who cause woe.

I wish that the people in my life who are ill find a cure, or at the very least, comfort. I wish that those in my life whom I've hurt can forgive. I wish that those who have hurt me can forgive themselves.

For my kids, I wish them sweet dreams and best friends and warm beds. I hope that this year is better for us, and for everyone who dealt with demons real or imagined in 2010.

I want to close this brief little "Adios, 2010" with what I believe is my favorite thing that Mrs. Bombeck wrote. I remember reading it in an ECFE class a billion years ago, and even though I was a bit too young, a bit too blessed to fully understand it then, it resonates deeply with me now.

Have a Happy New Year. Thank you all for reading my thoughts, for chiming in now and then, and most of all, for your kind and supportive words.

Be safe tonight.

And now, Erma (due to copyright stuff, I can only post the first few lines of this gem, click the link to find not only the rest of the work but also some interesting fact about Erma as well):

If I Had My Life to Live Over

By Erma Bombeck

If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more.

I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.

I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.

Finish reading here

Aside from the parts about the teased hair and the husband, words for me to live by.

Have a wonderful year, friends.




It's not over til the Fat Girl sighs....

I'm sighing. Or am I confusing sighing with wheezing? Whatever.

I received an Old Navy gift card for Christmas. I love Old Navy. It's cheap, they have cute things for girls of every size, oh...and it's cheap.

So...I went there and perused the selection. Have I mentioned that I'm getting a wellness coach in January? I am. And I'm determined to let her in. I have gotten fat over the past few months.

How fat? Pretty fat. Fat enough that I have more than one chin. Fat enough that I'm finding it hard to reach the nooks and crannies (and I'm not talking about cleaning the house, bitches). Fat enough that I am down to two pairs of jeans I can button, and one pair is entering the phase of life I call "About to die from Chub Rub". You know what Chub Rub is? It's when the inner thighs of your jeans start to disintegrate from the constant rubbing of your corpulent thighs whilst walking. Your first symptom is feeling cooler air on that region. That's because while the rest of your lower torso and legs are wrapped in normal weight denim, the roughly 3" section on each inner thigh that is affected by Chub Rub is clad only in a tissue weight denim. Hence the breeze.

Anyhoo. I'm feeling rather linebacker-ish lately and although it's been fun, it needs to end.

What better time to turn a new leaf than a new year? How original am I? Super original.

I hate resolutions. Seriously. I don't think I've ever made one...although given my tendency to greet the New Year with a decidedly boozy gaze, perhaps I have. We'll never really know.

Resolutions are made to be broken. They are doomed to fail. Unless you have one of those Earth Mother, granola, bullshit resolutions like "I will send out only positive feelings to the universe" or "This is the year I recycle". Those are the ones that you can kind of keep, the ones that don't implode the second you sneak into the drive-thru at McDonald's and order large fries or the moment you light a cigarette.

We are human beings. And that alone is reason enough to not make ridiculous resolutions. I know, I know...your intentions are good. Guess what? Apparently the road to hell is paved with intentions such as these.

Why not just do this: decide to make some changes. Nothing major, nothing drastic. Maybe just a shift in attitude.

Instead of: "I'm going to cut out all carbs and workout every day", how about, "I'm going to think about what I'm putting in my mouth. And more importantly? WHY I'm putting it there."

That's what I'm going to do.

I'm doing this for several reasons.

Reason Number One: I'm worried about my health. When Big Daddy cut me loose, I lost about 65 lbs. in a little less than a year. I looked good. But more importantly? I felt AWESOME. I was working out almost every day, walking every morning, really watching what I ate. It was the best I have felt or looked since my twenties. Moving around was practically effortless. I swam, I ran, I biked. I did it all and I felt positively exhilarated afterward. I craved movement, I lusted after exercise. If I was exhausted, it was because I had run on the treadmill for an hour after lifting weights and then worked in the yard.

Now? I think I have gained back just about every pound I'd lost. I don't own a scale, so I don't know for sure. And I'm not planning on getting one anytime soon. But clothes don't lie. And neither do bathroom mirrors.

Unfortunately the bulk of my weight has deposited itself around my waist, like a big old cinch belt made of fat. Of course there is a nice layer everywhere else, but it's the belly that worries me. That's the scary, heart-hurting fat.

My kids need me around, and they need me healthy. I need me healthy.

Reason Number 2: I have some really cute clothes. Granted, I'm not Sarah Jessica Parker or anything; I have things that I'm dying to wear but can't due to the fact that I'd look like Chris Farley trying on David Spade's coat in "Tommy Boy". YouTube it, you'll laugh. Go ahead, I'll wait. Wait...you can even watch it here, if I can figure out how to add it.

Right now my wardrobe consists of jeans and whatever big shirt I can find that doesn't make me look pregnant. Or worse, my lumberjack look of jeans and a fleece jacket. Standard wear here Da Northland, to be sure, but it's not exactly attractive. Which brings me to my third reason..

Reason Number 3: I do believe that it's almost time for me to mate again. And not just fumbling, "I've had a few margaritas so I'll overlook the fact that Mr. Happy seems to be in a coma if you overlook the fact that I won't take my shirt off" mating. But the whole song and dance. One of my friends is dying to hook me up with the guy who has a cabin next door to hers in Wisconsin. He's a little bit older, recently divorced and actually called her and mentioned that he's almost ready to date. And I've met him...when I met him, he was married. So obviously there was no love connection because I don't go that way. Of course, when I met him, I was also thinner. If he saw me now I'm afraid that the only connection to be made would be him connecting me with Roseanne Barr. Not good. (disclaimer: Roseanne actually looks pretty good now. I'm talking about the early Roseanne, like from the first couple seasons of her show. Which I loved, by the way.)

I feel like I'm just about ready to take the leap again. Just about but not quite. I can't even look at myself in the mirror at this point, not without wanting to barf. They say you have to love yourself before anyone else can love you. At this point I'd be willing to settle for being able to make eye contact with myself.

The past couple of years have left me with zero reserves for any relationship that requires more than the ones I have with my girlfriends. And as close as we are, none of them are expecting quality naked time with me. That I know of. But my reserves are starting to regenerate. Not enough that I want to start anything right now, but they're building up a tiny bit day by day.

Now, I think I mentioned Old Navy, right? Back to that: so I went to Old Navy and was about to use my gift card to buy yet another tunic-like top and yet another pair of fat jeans. But something stopped me. A window opened.

If you're fat, or have ever been fat, you know what I'm talking about. Overweight girls feel a window of opportunity open from time to time. It's a window in time when you've simply had it. You've had it with the Chub Rub, you've had it with worrying about whether or not your fat ass will fit in certain chairs, you've absolutely had it with trying to hide your body. It only stays open for a moment, so usually I ignore it. Most likely because I just bought a bag of Red Vines and what's the point of starting anything then, right? But at that precise moment in Old Navy when I was holding up that black flowy tunic in size XL (trust me, it was a generously sized XL), I almost felt a breeze. My window was open again.

I put the tunic back. I went over to the little workout section and picked out some stretchy, comfy yoga pants, some workout-y type shirts and yes, even a new workout bra.

My finances are not healthy enough for me to justify joining a gym right now. A good friend suggested the JCC (Jewish Community Center) here in our town, and even though they have a kick-ass single parent membership (seriously, JCC..right on!) I can't do it. Maybe a month or two down the road, whenever I can get Big Daddy to start paying, but not now. That said, I have a treadmill here. I have a lovely set of kettlebells. I have small weights. I have a dog who is so desperate to walk he comes up to me with his leash in his mouth.

I have no excuses to not jump through the window this time.

That sound you hear? It's me, the Fat Girl. Sighing.

Stay tuned.

Something's in the Air

And no, it's not the smell of a dried out pine tree in my living room. Nor is it the unfortunate aftermath of eating candied sweet potatoes for 4 days in a row (why do I make them, when I know I'm the only one who will eat them?).

It's the "New Year Smell" and it starts wafting its way through my sinuses every year about this time.

It's the smell of change. Sometimes it reeks of loss and regret, other times, like this year? It carries with it a bouquet of hope and positiveness. A cautious hope, though.

The last time I felt hopeful like this, I mean like capital H Hopeful, Big Daddy came out of the shadows and hit me with a surprise left-hook that not only knocked me down for the count but to be honest with you...almost killed me. So nowadays I look to the future with eyes wide open, but also with my arms held up defensively. Maybe that's the right way to do it?

I remember last year at about this time I proudly crowed that 2010 was going to be the year that Jenny got her groove back (my apologies to Ms. McMillan). Looking back now I have to laugh. Get my groove back? Please. This was the year I found the tattered and torn remains of my groove. Getting it back will take some time.

I think it's time.

Last year at about this time I had officially given up in the fight to keep my house. Our Christmas last year was, for lack of a better word, tragic. It was almost Dickensonian, with the poor, tired mom huddled with her four little Tiny Tim babies trying to find scraps of good in the pile of bad we'd been dealt. I was exhausted from the beating I'd taken financially. I'd lost a friend or two, lost the relationship with my dad that I had treasured, watched my mom decline even further in the clutches of Parkinson's and iffy life choices.

Last year I had hit the bottom.

But...2010 was the year that I started crawling upwards instead of clinging to the sides. 2010 was the year that not only did I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I felt it. I felt it on my face like you feel those first warm-ish rays of sun in April.

It felt good.

2010 was the year that I formed new friendships and old ones were strengthened. Toxic relationships were pruned like gnarled, unproductive branches on a rose bush. As far as friends go, 2010 was the year that I realized how lucky I am. I've said it before but I'll say it again...I may be a risk financially, but friendship-wise I'm in the black.

Our Christmas this year was wonderful. Oh, don't get me wrong..I'm still tired and if you squint your eyes a bit I bet you could see Tiny Tim lurking around here somewhere, but it was wonderful. It was the polar opposite of last year. I had saved a little here and there and was able to get each child one or two things. They had each told me one thing that they really, really wanted and I made sure they had it. I didn't get out to do my shopping until days before the 25th, but I did it.

But something started happening a week or two before Christmas. A gift card arrived in the mail. And then another. And another. Gift cards for our favorite pizza place. Gift cards for our grocery store. Some were anonymous, some were signed. And if you're reading this, gift card givers? Thank you. I want you to know that your gift was appreciated and that you, my friends, are loved. More than once I was lucky enough to be standing next to one of my kids when I opened the mail, and more than once I had a child say to me, "You have the best friends". I would smile through the waterworks that came with each card and say, "Yep. I do."

One day, about 5 days prior to The Big Day, a large manila envelope was deposited in my mailbox. In it was another gift card to our grocery store, and the following note:

"Dear Jenny,

We at the North Pole hear that the Grinch threatens to dampen your Christmas this year. We also know that you and your children have been very, very nice and keep the spirit of Christmas in your hearts no matter what. So, we've decided to make your Christmas a little brighter.

Enclosed is a gift card with which to buy the Christmas feast: the roast beast, pudding and hash.

Please don't worry about your children this year. Santa will send a special elf on Christmas Eve to your house with gifts for all. Enjoy the season. Keep them safe and warm. Love them as you do. We'll do the rest.

Merry Christmas,

Santa's Elves"

I also received a phone call from a friend who has silently supported me through the past year. She's one of my quieter friends, we don't socialize as often as I wish we did. Her daughter goes to my school and she and I have a special relationship.

This soft-spoken, beautiful friend called and said that her family wanted to help me out. "Tell me what your family needs this year" she said.

That letter, and that phone call both had the same affect on me: of course I cried, because that's how I roll...you know that by now. I'm a big crybaby. But more than that...they lifted me up. They took a big old flash light and pointed the beam at the good in my life, at the good in this world and said, "Here ya go, Jenny. Proof positive that things will be ok."

More important than that...they showed my kids the good. These people, my quiet friend and the anonymous Elves and the gift card mailers, they did what I've been trying to do for the past couple of years.

They showed my kids the power of love. The power of love wrapped up tight in a layer of Christmas spirit. Tied with a bow made of friendship.

I couldn't have done it by myself.

2010 was a good year for many reasons. It was a scary year, too. But as it limps slowly towards the end, I am riding high on the rush my friends have given me. I'm still aglow with the memories of my kids having multiple presents to open on Christmas morning, of being able to sit there and watch their faces as they held up sweatshirts and lounge pants and gift cards and books that they probably didn't think they'd get. Watched as my daughter quietly read the words of Emily Dickinson and my youngest son pored through a book about the late, great Minnesota North Stars. Saw my handsome manchild smile as he tried on his new clothes. Saw my sweet Henry do fist pumps when he found not one, but three coveted books under the tree.

We were alone on Christmas morning. Physically alone, but the room was crowded spiritually. Elbow-to-elbow, in fact. Standing room only.

It was a good crowd.

I'm keeping that letter, and in less glowy times I'll read it just to remind myself that I'm not alone. I'm also keeping it because I know that someday it will be my turn to be someone's elf. It will be my turn to find someone who is struggling and who needs my help.

And it will be a pleasure to lend a hand. I can't wait.


Quandary, resolved.

So I hemmed and hawed and procrastinated. I wanted to say just the right thing to my Former Mother in Law.

This is what I ended up sending today, after she sent a follow up email asking if I'd received the first one:

Hi Former Mother in Law

I did get your email, my apologies for not replying sooner. I have been thinking about how to reply, and it's been tough.

Christmas Eve is my favorite time with the kids. They were with Big Daddy last year for the first time since the divorce, and it was really hard for me, and also for them. It pains me to think of losing even a minute of time with them again this year. It especially pains me when I look back at this year and think about how much the kids and I have gone through together.

I don't know if you're aware of what is happening with me and the kids. Since Big Daddy stopped paying child support in 2008, we have been slowly circling the drain (at least financially). This year I lost my house, the house that my dad bought back in 1969 and passed on to Big Daddy and I. The only house that my children ever knew. I had to pack up 15 years worth of memories and life and move to a rental house. I'm grateful that I have a roof over the heads of my children, but also very angry and saddened that things worked out this way. I am in the middle of declaring bankruptcy, which will hopefully grant me the opportunity to crawl out from underneath the huge financial black cloud that has been hanging over me since Big Daddy stopped helping support his kids.

Throughout all of this, making sure that my children were ok was my number one priority. I have been working non-stop, saving all I can and doing whatever needs to be done to make sure that they are happy, healthy and thriving. The kind things you said about the kids in your email gives me great hope that I have succeeded thus far.

That said, I hope you can understand my hesitation to "give up" my children on our favorite family holiday.

HOWEVER. My affection for you and FFIL, and my love for my kids far outweighs any negative feelings I have regarding this situation. I want only what is best for my children, and being with grandparents and cousins and aunts and uncles who love them is truly what is best. I will use this unexpected "free time" to prepare dinner and wrap presents for my kids.

Thank you for including them in your celebration, and thank you for allowing me to vent a little. I always, always loved you and FFIL and some of my happiest memories from the past include both of you and the times we shared. I have been through a pretty dark phase in my life but am finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel. My kids are my life right now, and knowing that there are others in this world who love them and are there for them means the world to me.

Merry Christmas!


I took a deep breath and hit Send.

If they don't already know about the dirty deeds of Big Daddy, now they do.

And if they already know, well....now they have heard my side of it.

Either way, my kids will go there on Christmas Eve. They will see their new baby cousin, get hugs from a wonderful grandma and shoot the shit with some cool uncles.

I will enjoy the quiet of my house with Walter, wrap their presents and get our roast beast ready for dinner. I will drink a nice glass of wine (or two) and make a silent toast to all of the good people in my life: former in-laws who love my kids, friends who have made this season bright, and to my kids.

And you know what? I am going to toast myself, too. For responding with a bit of assertiveness, for standing up for myself.

For finally, finally feeling a little like a grown up.




In the old days we called it Christmas vacation, but then again that's when our elementary school principal would dress up as Santa. So winter break it is.

Whatever you call it, it's here and I'm PSYCHED. I've been working my ass off lately and although it's helped patch some of the leaks in my checkbook, it's done nothing for my energy level.

I've said it before. I don't know how you moms who work full time do it. Kudos to you. Really, kudos to all of us but damn, working girls, you have my respect.

Anyways. Back to WINTER BREAK. Yes, I'm yelling. I am so excited. I love this little school break the most out of all of them. The Thanksgiving one is too short. The spring one makes me sad because every.single.person in the world besides us goes somewhere fun or warm. Summer is just too freaking hot and I'll be honest with you, about a month too long.

Two weeks is perfect. If you celebrate, you have the whole Christmas thing to keep the angels occupied for at least a day or two. Since it's the dead of winter, there are fun and cheap activities that can be enjoyed indoors: bowling, second-run movies (weeeeee I splurged and took advantage of a Groupon for the Cinema Cafe near here...I'm going to surprise the kids with a movie!), sleepovers, taking the brood shopping to spend Christmas money from grandparents, etc. And of course we'll do some sledding and ice skating (If I can get my fat ass into my snowpants).

Then, just as the wheels start coming off, it's back to routine we go.

Sometimes I see these two bright and gleaming weeks as a challenge, as if the calendar gods are saying, "See here woman, you have two weeks free...you must set some goals." And then I'll set goals. Nothing crazy, like working out every day or doing a basement-to-roof cleaning. But I'll make a mental note that this would be the perfect time to clear out every drawer in the house and get rid of things we don't wear/use/enjoy. Or that this will be the perfect time to start my meal planning system. Or that I will have the kids do an hour of silent reading/homework every day.

Pffffffft. The only goals I'm making for myself for the next two weeks are:

1. Relax.

2. Enjoy the season. We still don't have our Christmas tree...there hasn't been a time when we were all here. Tomorrow is the day.

3. Pay Charlie and his mechanically inclined friend, David, to put our treadmill back together. In the long ago days when I had disposable income, I bought myself a treadmill. Nothing fancy, but it was pretty nice, and several of us used it. When we moved, it mysteriously came apart (no one will admit to the dismantling, and honestly, I no longer care). I want Charlie and David to try and get it back in working order. Even found the manual in case we need to order extra screws or bolts. Treadmill is getting done.

4. Walter will get walked. He is going completely insane. We've had so much snow that taking him on a walk was simply not an option for the first few days of this week. Add to that my working most days and the fact that it's pitch black outside by 5:30 p.m. and the result is Canine Seasonal Affective Disorder. CSAD. Symptoms include pacing, standing behind your owner and staring at her, trying to eat your friend's husbands and becoming even more obsessed with food. Tonight I caught him tenderly licking the open door of the dishwasher. You will be walked, boy.

4.2 Walter did get his Christmas present early this year, and I believe it is the one thing that has kept him from breaking down the bathroom door like Jack Nicholson (heeeeeere's Walter!). It's called a Skinneeez and it's hands down the best toy he's ever had. He loves it. He even rolls around on it like he does with real life dead animals we come across on our walks. This one doesn't have decomp or maggots on it, so it's a winner. Highly recommended.

5. Ok so I won't set a goal to work out every day, but I'm going to start doing something. After the holidays I have a very wonderful new blog collaboration planned. One of my old high school homies is now a Wellness Coach (meet her here) and has very, very generously offered her services to me. We are going to work together to get me and the kids on a better, healthier track. I'm going to start writing a regular weekly blog post that focuses on my new Wellness coach and the progress I'm making. I had been doing a pretty decent job earlier this year..buying more whole, unprocessed and organic foods, exercising every day, etc.


Things got tough and I started holing up. Eating my feelings. My feelings tasted like cheese, Taco Bell and candy. Not good. I won't go on about how squishy and soft I've become, or how I get winded taking the garbage can down to the curb, or how I'm becoming a jowly mother effer. It is what it is. And it's going to change.

6. Have I mentioned sleeping in? Now I have. I'm going to sleep in. Granted, for me "sleeping in" now means sleeping past 8 a.m., but I'll take what I can get. I am going to stay up late and not worry about it. I'm going to unplug my alarm clock for two weeks and allow myself to stay asleep and finish up whatever zombie/hot fireman/running around looking for something I lost dream I'm having. Seriously, I've been having zombie dreams lately. What's up with that?

For those of you with kids who are now embarking on two weeks of no buses, no "I need lunch money" wails as they walk out the door in the morning, no last minute book reports or dioramas, I say ENJOY. If you're a local, let's get together and gab. Let the kids play in these glorious Mt. Everest snow piles. Even better, let's get out there with them. If we can fit into our snowpants, that is.

Let's enjoy this break.


A Christmas Quandary

So I check my emails this afternoon, and to my surprise saw one from my wonderful ex-mother-in-law.

I wrote at length about her before...and shared her kick ass lentil recipe, here.

I love her. Always have, always will. When I see an email from her, my heart jumps a bit. Sad, right? But it's good to hear from her now and then.

Anyways. She was writing to me to ask about Christmas. This year, the kids are with me on Christmas Eve, with Big Daddy on Christmas Day. Last year was my first Christmas Eve without my kids, EVER. It was tough. But I survived.

This year, I was planning on making one of our old school Christmas Eve dinners, just for the five of us (Party of Five, anyone? Dear God how I loved that show). No biggie, just some ham and some pierogies and good cheer. The usual stuff. The important part about Christmas Eve, really, is Christmas morning. Going to bed, knowing that in the wee hours of the morning we'll all stumble out to see what Santa has left under the tree. Those comfortable, relaxed a.m. hours when we're all in our pajamas, being a family. Christmas morning.

My mother in law wrote a lovely email. Telling me that although she and former father in law don't see the kids as much as they'd like, they love seeing how my babies are growing up. She described the light in their eyes, their maturity, their intelligence....words that make a mommy's heart darn near burst with pride.

And then the point of the email: She and FFIL (former father in-law) are hosting a brunch/lunch thing on Christmas Eve. From 11:00 a.m. until about 3:00 p.m. They'd love for the kids to attend. Without me, of course. She said that FFIL could come retrieve them and then drop them off.

I felt a pang. The origins of that pang? I dunno. Part of it was sadness, to be sure. I remember so many holidays spent at my in-laws. I remember being pregnant with my first baby and sitting on their living room couch, talking about hospitals and deliveries and baby toys. I remember lugging infant car-seats through their front door, whichever new baby I had all bundled up, ready to be cuddled and held and photographed by the eagerly awaiting in-laws. I remember later holidays, when things had started going downhill between Big Daddy and I. My mother-in-law and I would sit in the kitchen, drinking wine and trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with my husband.

I miss those holidays. I miss my in-laws.

The pang also felt quite a bit like anger. Anger over the cowardice of my former husband. Making her write the email? Grow a set, you baby. Ask me yourself. I thought of him telling her that it was "Jenny's day" and how it would be better if she asked me. Not the first time he's done it, and certainly not the last. But still, so typically juvenile and weak.

And jealousy. There was some jealousy in that pang. I thought of Secretary in my place, gabbing with my sister-in-laws, helping my mother-in-law dish up the brunch and clean up afterwards. I wondered if my mother in-law would agree with the general consensus that Secretary is essentially ME, minus 10 or so years and about 45 I.Q. points. Based on a few of our conversations, I'd say she agrees. But still, it's not my ass sitting on their lovely chairs, supping with them and laughing and feeling the love of extended family. It's the flat ass of a classless, J.C. Penney* clad homewrecker, reaping the benefits of my many years of daughter-in-law-ness. I feel like a pitcher who threw a near-perfect game being pulled out at the last minute so a newbie from the farm team can have a chance. I am Bull Durham, dammit.

I read the email, felt the pangs and then went to church. We watched "Merry Christmas Charlie Brown" and while my group of girls tittered and squirmed next to me I thought about it.

The rational part of me knows that the right thing to do in this situation is to reply: "Of course." 11 to 3? That actually makes my day kind of easy. Farm the angels off with them, get stuff ready for our Christmas Eve. The kids get some awesome food and get to spend time with people who love them. It's really win-win.


The bitchy, irrational part of me wanted to take a different path. Bitchy Jenny wants to sit down and type this:

Dear Former Mother in Law,

Good to hear from you! So happy that you and FFIL can see how beautifully my children are growing up. I am so proud of them. I think it's especially wonderful to see how well they're turning out, when you consider the fact that Big Daddy provides little emotional support and absolutely zero financial support.

I would love for the kids to spend some time with you on Christmas Eve. Nothing would make me happier. Nothing, except maybe some child support from Big Daddy. I've tried asking him in every way possible to cooperate. I've suggested payment plans, told him that I'd accept random here-and-there-payments. He refuses to cooperate.

I would love to be flexible, my lovely Former Mother In Law. I think my flexibility would improve, and improve quite a bit, if perhaps you could get FFIL to have a man-to-man with Big Daddy and tell him how important it is to be responsible. How important it is to provide support for the children you've made, even if you no longer lay next to their mother every night.

I know that Big Daddy has been working for FFIL for the past couple of years. I think that's wonderful. Big Daddy always spoke of someday working with FFIL.

It would be really unfortunate if Big Daddy's choices in life led to FFIL's business being put under a microscope by a forensic accountant. And let's not even get into how awkward it will be when Big Daddy's wages are garnished.

Do you see where I'm going with this? I hope so.

I love you, Former Mother in Law. You were once a single mom, yourself. I remember you telling me about your ex-husband and how awful he was. Never in a million years did I think I'd be in the same boat, but here I am. Toss me a life preserver, huh? Please?

I wish you the merriest of Christmases and a healthy, happy New Year.

Much love

Your former Daughter in Law

If you know me, you know which one I'll send.

I only want what is best for my kids. And at the end of the day, I know it's best for them to be with their grandparents, with their aunts and uncles and cousins. I wouldn't rob them of that.

But it would feel so damn good to send the bitchy one.

* I ♥ J.C. Penney, only referred to it here because a friend who happened to look evil in the eye (met Secretary) said she appeared to have shopped from a clearance rack of bad suits at Penney's. It stuck, sorry.


Friendship and Borrowed Husbands

Let me preface this post by admitting: as far as friends go, I've been in a high-need pattern lately. For like the past 2 years. I don't blame any of my friends for walking away, for becoming sick and tired of helping me put out fires big and small. I don't know if I would last with a friend like me. Thankfully none of my friends has been in deep shit like mine in recent years, so I haven't been tested.

I'd like to think that I would make it, though.

I try and do what I can for people. My resources are limited, my desire to help and give aren't. Sometimes the best thing a friend can do is just be there for you. Just to listen. Make you laugh, pull you aside and whisper "Your crazy is showing" once in a while.

God knows I've leaned pretty hard on my friends as of late. I've lost one friendship thus far, and I'm starting to feel the edges curl up on another one. The first one hurt, hurt bad. Like divorce bad. I still feel my chest seize up when I see her, and my eyes must look like they do when I am forced to see Big Daddy: hurt, angry..sad. Things are awkward socially. Due to the fact that we have kids who are the same age, and said kids still hang out with one another, our paths cross quite often. Sometimes we will say quiet and terse hellos. Sometimes we both quite literally look the other way. Other times, when I'm pms-ing and feeling that old familiar "reach out and hurt someone" feeling, I'll just look right at her, as if I'm saying, "See? I'm still here! I didn't fall completely apart without you!". Told you; the similarities between this now-defunct friendship and my marriage are almost eerie.

I love deep. If you're my friend, I love you. That's it, that's the bottom line.

The anger and the distrust and the dislike are handed out very sparingly. I don't like to have those feelings stored up inside of me. I much prefer the light.

I don't have time for games anymore. I believe that if we're friends, we're friends. And it takes a lot to break that belief.

This past week I've again had some stuff happen that once again found me asking for help. And again, my friends answered. I know, you're probably saying, "How weird, Jenny has had some sort of crisis....that's odd." But yes, once again the fates looked down at me, pointed a gun at my feet, told me to DANCE and started shooting.

I danced my ass off.

We had a blizzard here. My truck, which is the absolute bane of my existence 11 1/2 months out of the year, was actually my buddy over the weekend. My driveway is huge, and it's a horseshoe shape. My sweet landlord has a plow guy come through and clear it out for me whenever it snows. The only downside to this is the fact that my truck doesn't fit in my garage. It has never fit in any garage. In ten years.

So I'm a park-outside kind of gal. And when Blizzard '10 struck, my vehicle was parked where it always is: front and center, right at the midsection of the horseshoe.

Plow guy came once, during the first wave of the storm, and plowed the best he could on either side of the horseshoe. It left some piles on either side of my truck, but they were small. Passable.

After the next wave, the wave in which we were socked with 15 or so inches of snow, plow guy came and did the same thing. Which left drifts that weren't so passable on either side of my truck (front and back). In hindsight I now think it would be a great idea for plow guy to have my phone number and for him to give me a jingle a few minutes before he gets to my driveway. Time for me to barrel out and give him full clearance.

But that's hindsight. Let's hope we don't need to put that plan into action again this winter.

So anyhoo. Long boring story just slightly shorter and possibly a bit less boring: I got snowed in. Big ass truck and all. I spent a few blessed hours shoveling (and here, I'll admit it: I LOVE SHOVELING. It's right up there with doing laundry. What's wrong with me?) and got what I thought was a pretty clear path between my truck and freedom.

She got out just fine. We made it to the grocery store, bought all the fixings for a huge pot of chili, and started on our way home (and yes, I am referring to my truck as "she" and us as "we". I need to start dating again).

Made it halfway up the driveway and started around the bend of the horseshoe....BAM. Slid into a rather impressive snowbank. I tried. I tried really hard to get out of it, did the revving of the engine, the rocking, put it into 4WD. All of that. Finally I said, "Fuck it", grabbed my bags of groceries and headed inside. Made the best pot of chili I've made in a good long while and every so often I'd gaze out the front window just to make sure that my truck was still stuck out there.

I didn't panic. I figured I'd let it settle, and then go out to coax my big bad truck onto terra firma. Like letting tempers cool before beginning mediation, I wanted my truck and I to have some alone time before getting back at it.

So I tried again. And I'm pretty sure I just made matters worse. The ocd part of my brain kicked in at this point and the nagging thoughts flew around my head, jibbering and jabbering like crows..."You're going to burn out the engine!" "You're just getting yourself in deeper!" "You're going to use up all of your gas!". And so on.

I called my awesome Catholic Old-School neighbors. The man of the house said he'd be happy to help, only the woman of the house was gone somewhere with their big truck. "It's not life or death" I told him. "Whenever is fine. Thank you!".

She didn't get home until really late. By this time the temperature was dropping to zero. "Tomorrow, after work" they said.

And then I got a call from a co-worker. Asking me to sub the next morning. Shit. Of course I said yes. I figured that I could walk to school, it's less than a mile.

The next morning it was about 5 degrees below zero. I caved, and put out a little plea for help on facebook.

BOOM. Offers popped up. I was verklempt. Got a ride to school from a fabulous friend, got offers from other fabulous friends. What a reminder of how truly lucky and blessed I am.

But it doesn't end there. (Sorry).

Another kick ass friend waited around for me and gave me a ride home from school. AND she offered up her husband, his truck, some chains and a snowblower to help me out. When she and I pulled up to my house, another friend and another husband were there, waiting for us.

This friend and this borrowed husband were there to drop off a t.v. (a hand me down t.v., bigger than the one we have now. Televisions are like men..sometimes just a few inches make all the difference in the world). Borrowed Husband jumped out and immediately began helping me with my stuck truck. And right as the other Borrowed Husband pulled into the driveway, the first Borrowed Husband got it out. I ran out, hugged him, thanked him, etc. I cried a little.

The tears were for sure gratitude-based, but there was a bit of shame mixed in there. Shame that I have to ask for help like this. Shame because out of almost all of my friends, I'm the only one who doesn't have a partner in this messy life. But I got over it. There was hockey to get to!

William and I were halfway to hockey when the engine started making an awful sound. At first I thought there were police behind us, sirens wailing, but quickly realized the sound was coming from under the hood. And I couldn't accelerate. We got up to about 45 mph and it felt like the whole truck was going to explode. I pulled off the highway and made it to a parking lot, and then, because it just seemed like the thing to do, I got out of the truck to look at the wheels.

Like that helps. But that's what a man would have done, right? Fiddled with the wheels? Borrowed Husband #1 had mentioned that there was a dial-thingy on my hubcaps that had to be messed with in order to get the four wheel drive engaged. So I tinkered with them a bit, wept into my big furry mittens a bit, and then gave up. William and I drove slowly home, taking the back roads, making sure not to go too fast.

This is when the angst set in, fast and furious. In my oh-so-vivid imagination, I pictured my poor truck being inspected by some random mechanic guy. I imagined Mechanic guy waddling over to where I sat and telling me, "It's not good." I tried to think of how I'd handle this new crisis...where I'd get the money to fix my broken car. What about work? Manchild's new job? Hockey? Church?? Oh the dark thoughts, they were flocking.

I called Borrowed Husband #1 and asked if I had done something wrong with the wheels. "Bring it over" he said, "Let me take a look at it."

Ok so long story even longer: Borrowed Husband #1 fixed it. It took him about an hour of his precious evening time, an hour he could have been spending with his kids and his wife. An hour that I'm sure he didn't think he'd sacrifice trying to help my broke ass with my behemoth truck. But he did it. Came into the house and said, "Good as new!"

"And honey, you need an oil change."

This time I cried for real. The dark thoughts went away as quickly as they had come. Once again I had some money for Christmas, rides to school and work, my independence. All thanks to a Borrowed Husband. He returned my bordering-on-creepy-hug and told me to never hesitate to call for help.

Once again I am humbled. Once again I am grateful.

Grateful for Borrowed Husbands, for rides to work, for helping hands that somehow are always extended.

Grateful for friendships, old and new. Even the ones that are broken.


Blizzard, not just a sick treat from Dairy Queen. A gift from Mother Nature.

If you're in my part of the world, I'm sure you're saying..."Umm..gift? Really?".

Minneapolis was hit with a pretty impressive blizzard that started Friday night and continued all the way through Saturday evening. For a little while the "we're not going to let a little snow stop us" mentality reigned, but by mid-afternoon on Saturday we all collectively waved the white flag. Not that a white flag was visible, but we waved it anyway.

Buses stopped running, the airport closed, businesses closed up shop...it was official. We were snowbound.

I was all set to host a birthday party for one of my newest and bestest friends. She wanted a mellow night, featuring lounge attire and John Hughes movies. We had a nice little group arranged, a mutual friend baked a pumpkin cheesecake for us. It was going to be fabulous.

And then the blizzard hit. We didn't officially give up until just a couple of hours before it was due to start, even though my front door was (and at this moment, still is) blocked by a 5 foot tall snowdrift. One particularly hardy chick claimed she needed to get out so badly that she'd hoof it over to my pad. But it had gotten to the point where it wasn't just foolish to head out, it was downright dangerous.

Which left me snowbound. Alone. With my dog, my television. And with an entire pumpkin cheesecake.

To be honest with you, I'm not sure what scared me more: being alone with my thoughts, or with that damn cheesecake.

In the end, both of them got the best of me.

As the snow fell and the wind blew, I started to feel a wee bit sorry for myself. And that's allowed, you know? I firmly believe that our feelings are all valid, no matter what. Even self-pity. Because without self pity we wouldn't get to the point that we are so freaking sick of hearing our own whiny voice that we tell ourselves to snap out of it.

I was sad because the kids were with Big Daddy. Or rather, it was his weekend. At least two of them had been on sleepovers, but the point is, they weren't with me. This was a momentous occasion here in the Northland, where we pride ourselves on being so tough, so resilient, so damned Minnesotan. It takes a lot for us to hunker down and wait it out, apparently around 20" of snow.

It's something that they will remember forever. I wanted to be part of it with them, wanted to be the one in the kitchen with them, making cookies and bars and all kinds of comfort foods. I wanted to be on the couch with them, huddled up under a blanket while we watched Christmas shows and cheesy movies. I wanted to see their faces when we opened the front door and our eyes fell upon the crazy snowglobe world we'd landed in.

I wanted to experience it with them.

So I gave myself about an hour to mope, cry a few bitter, angry tears. And then got over it.

Which led to the first "sampling" of the pumpkin cheesecake. Followed soon after by the second sampling. And it was good. Like lick-the-fork good.

Thank God for facebook, too, I was able to communicate with my other stranded friends. I played Scrabble, chatted with a few homies, you know the drill. One friend invited me over, and even though she lives just a few blocks away I decided to stay put. It just seemed like a night to be home. Even home alone.

Eventually I gave in to the reality of my situation, and made the best of it. I wrote, I finally got around to watching the season finale of "Sons of Anarchy" (and what is wrong with me that I actually teared up a little bit when that FBI bitch got her comeuppance???). I did laundry, answered emails and made a fabulous giant salad. I took Walter outside and laughed out loud at my big sweet dog bounding through the snow like a porpoise. I gabbed on the phone with friends and had a couple glasses of some really good red wine.

I enjoyed this gift of solitude from Mother Nature.

I got to thinking...we all believe that we're in control of our lives. We schedule stuff, make plans, dream (or fret) about the future...but we're not really the ones in control.

We are like the people on the moving sidewalks at the airport. Blithely moving forward, confident that at some point we'll reach our destinations.

But things happen sometimes, things that remind us of how little we actually control.

Blizzards. Illness. Bad economies. Bad spouses.

We need that, sometimes. We need the little "ahem" from whom-or whatever it is that really does call the shots. We need to be made aware that life can change at any time.

We need a blizzard now and then. Like a giant mommy giving us a time out, that blizzard showed up and sent us all to our rooms. Some of us had our families to keep us company, some had friends, some had nothing.

I had my dog, my thoughts. And a cheesecake.

And it was fine.

Time for me to go dig out now. Enjoy your blizzards, my friends.


I love my job

I'm pretty certain that if I worked a 9-5 job in some cubicle I would never hear this stuff:

"You have a booger in your nose."

"You are the most beautifullest person I know."

"I need you! My feelings are so hurt!"

"Jenny! Watch!! Watch me!! Jenny? Jenny!! Watch!!!"

"Your arms make me think of my grandma" (said while child was rubbing one of my ham hock arms)

"My mom and dad keep yelling at each other. Dad is sleeping on the couch."

"Hey Jenny if we found some candy on the ground but it was still in the wrapper could we eat it? WE DIDN'T REALLY find any but IF WE DID could we eat it?" (asked with hands behind backs)

"Can I go to the nurse's office?" "Why?" "I think I may have a transfusion." (child smacked head and was looking for the word concussion)

"I'm so hot that I'm sweating like a meatloaf!"

Ok, so maybe I would hear all of this if I did work in a cubicle. But then it would be creepy, not sweet.

I love my job.


Elizabeth Edwards

I don't profess to know a whole lot about Elizabeth Edwards, only what I've gleaned from articles and interviews. But she was an inspiration to me.

Aside from the everyday grind that we all face, she endured three separate incidences that, each on their own, could have very well driven her past the breaking point.

Her son Wade died in a car accident. He was 16. I have a 16 year old son. I cannot imagine what losing a child feels like. I can't even begin to imagine.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer. While her husband was on the campaign trail for the Presidency of the United States, she found a lump. She never quit stumping for her man, though. And even when she faced the fact that this wasn't the kind of cancer that she could beat, she put on her game face and kept on going.

Then, as if losing a child and finding out you have incurable cancer wasn't enough, her husband admitted to her that he'd had an affair.

Oh, and the person with whom he'd been affairing? She had a baby.

At that moment, with all eyes on her, Elizabeth could have taken a deep breath, screamed at the top of her lungs and then gone full-on Betty Broderick. She could have hired the sharkiest, most blood-thirsty attorney out there and ripped John Edwards a new one. And she could have made sure that the "filmmaker" who hosted the love-child had a miserable existence from that day forward.

But she didn't.

She took the high road. Yeah, she wrote a book, yeah, she did interviews, but she did all of it with dignity and aplomb. She never once mentioned the other woman by name, a tactic that I myself have employed. When you call someone by their given name, you acknowledge their presence. You humanize them. She chose to do neither.

She had been bracing her children for her inevitable death for the past few years. She said that when the family first sat down to address the severity of her disease and the certainty of her losing the battle, she said, "Everyone here who isn't going to die raise their hands" (or something to that effect). She started a letter to her children back then and supposedly added to it often. A letter that her children will be able to read for the rest of their lives. Although it won't replace having Mommy there, it will be almost like a phone call or an email. A reminder that she loves them.

She showed us how to live, how to forgive with grace. She showed us all how to deal with adversity, how to face it with a brilliant, quiet ferociousness. And in the end, she showed us how to leave. Surrounded by family, her children and her estranged husband.

Rest in peace, strong woman. Finally, you can rest.


How I Met my Molly

It was fifteen years ago today.

My second pregnancy was picture-perfect, aside from that killer heartburn that fooled me into thinking I was dying. My first kid, Charlie, had been 2 weeks overdue and the size of a breadbox, so he was born via c-section. My doctor had encouraged me, right from the first prenatal visit, to try for a VBAC.

VBAC= vaginal birth after ceasarean. I'll be honest with you, I had been dreading the whole birthing process during my first pregnancy. Absolutely positively dreading it. I could not imagine pushing a person out of my vagina. I worried about the pain, about the aftermath, about pooping in front of strangers (goodbye, my one or two male readers. I'll be back later with a funny/non-vaginal post). I feared having a big flappy crotch, to tell the truth. And after seeing the size of Charlie's head, I realized that my fears were all very legit.

The c-section was a breeze. Seriously. I had very little pain afterward, if I remember correctly the only medication I took was an Advil or two. I was up walking within a couple of hours and recovered in record time. The one and only thing I hate about c-sections...actually there are two. The first is that damn catheter they make you wear. As if the whole poking/prodding/spread-eagled in front of the world thing isn't humiliating enough, you then get a couple of nurses shoving a hard plastic tube up your urethra (the last hole on a woman's body that she wants ANYTHING shoved into. And if you read my stuff, you know I have issues with holes and having things shoved into them).

The second thing I hate about them is the scar. And not even the scar so much, but the flap of skin that develops over the scar. I've had three c-sections now, so I am blessed with what I lovingly call my "front butt". It looks for all the world like a flabby ass perched just over my girly parts. No amount of exercise or dieting can get rid of it. Shortly before Big Daddy left, I had talked my OB into recommending a therapeutic tummy tuck (for reals. They exist.). I met with the plastic surgeon, and was just about to schedule the surgery when Big Daddy pulled the insurance out from under me. Fucker. But now, having lived the life I've lived, I realize that having a front butt isn't the worst that can happen to a girl. I have learned to co-exist with it.

So obviously I was just fine and dandy with the c-section process. I did get annoyed by the Mother Earth bitches who claimed that I wasn't a real mom, that I hadn't really experienced childbirth because of the way my child was birthed, but I figured that breastfeeding for what felt like all of eternity evened things up in that arena.

Anyhoo, back to Molly and how she arrived: My doc was very rah-rah about VBAC and didn't let a single appointment go by without mentioning it. She measured me every month, and even let me have a few extra ultrasounds to make sure that I wasn't brewing another Paul Bunyan in my womb. It was during these ultrasounds that we first found out Molly was a she. I remember the technician pointing out the gender-bits on the little fuzzy screen: "See, this looks like a hamburger? Like two buns pressed around a patty? That's her vagina. If it looked like a turtle we'd be saying penis right now." And so my pink party was started.

I was over-the-moon THRILLED to be having a girl. I debated girl names endlessly. For a while she was Sydney. For a long time she was Grace. I also loved Phoebe, Meredith and Lucy. But my love for all things 80's won out, and I (umm I mean "we") chose the name Molly. Yes, I named my daughter after Molly Ringwald. Go ahead and judge...I love the name. I've never met a Molly I didn't like.

So Molly gestated and kicked and hiccuped for 9 months, and finally it was time to see what we'd made. My doctor won the VBAC battle, and I was scheduled to be induced at 8:00 a.m. on December 1st, 1995. Leaving 1 1/2 year old Charlie in the capable hands of my former mother-in-law, Big Daddy and I set out for the hospital.

At first it was great. Like a party where I got to stay in bed and eat ice chips. The stuff they gave me to start labor started kicking in around lunch time, however, and by dinner time (you like how I relate everything to eating?) I was in a fair amount of pain. By second-dinner time? I was in pure hell. That's when I got the epidural. And I loved it.

The rest of the night is fuzzy, but I remember distinctly when my doc came into the room at about 2 a.m. and told me to start pushing. And it hurt. It hurt like hell. I pushed and pushed. I remember Big Daddy standing next to me, and then I remember a nurse commanding him to "get down here and hold her leg". Because that's where you want your lovah to be, down where all of the wide open orifices are. Childbirth is a miracle, but it's a messy one. And if you're married to someone who goes through life judging everything on looks, that's the last place you want their gaze to settle. It's too late for me, but I put that out there for posterity.

She wasn't coming out. At first my doctor was playing it cool, had me change positions, had me push different ways.

And then the cool started melting.

There was a problem. By this time they had attached a monitor to Molly's head, and her heart rate was becoming erratic. She was stuck. After the next push, the activity in the room intensified and I heard the doctor say something about "meconium" and "we need to get this out NOW". I remember looking up at Big Daddy for assurance and feeling, for the first time, scared.

I love my doctor. She's still my doc, to this day. I trusted her then, and I trust her now. But I remember looking at her and saying, "VBAC, huh?".

She tried forceps. I saw the cold glint of the contraption between my legs and winced as they jammed it in, trying to get my baby's head. No luck.

Next up was the vacuum extractor. I remember they had to push a pedal on the floor to get it revved up, like an old-school sewing machine. Seriously.

By this time I was exhausted. I hurt, I was hungry, I was pissed. I wanted my daughter out of the birth canal and in my arms.

The vacuum seemed to work. After just a few minutes of intense pulling and twisting and yanking, my darling baby girl was finally freed.

And that's when the terror set in.

I didn't hear her cry. In fact, they didn't even let me see her. They had a team of nurses swoop her out. They assured me that she was going to be ok, but they wanted to check her over.

The pain was gone. I was ready to exhale, ready for all of this to be over. That's when my doctor said, "Call in any available docs immediately. I need help." There was one of those code things called, I remember that. People were running into the room, running out, getting carts and talking in very hushed tones.

My doctor looked at me from between my legs and said, "Jenny, there's a problem. We have a lot of bleeding and we can't stop it. I need to get you into an operating room right now." She asked Big Daddy to leave. I remember hearing a splish-splash sound as people moved about the room. Big Daddy told me later, much later, that what I was hearing was the sound of footfalls on a floor covered in blood. Splashable amounts of blood.

I remember very little after that. I was crying. I wanted to see my baby. I wanted to get up off of that bed and get into some of those big mesh undies and hold my baby girl. I wanted to see Charlie, wanted my husband. I wanted this to be over.

They whisked me to an operating room. The bright lights, I remember those. The last thing I can recall was them giving me something and then passing out as a team, an actual TEAM of doctors gathered at what used to be my crotch.

When all was said and done, Molly was fine. And so was I. Turns out I had suffered some sort of gigantic tear, from inside out, which required 2 hours of surgery and hundreds upon hundreds of stitches. According to my doctor, I was about 1 minute away from needing a transfusion.

Molly Elizabeth was 8 lbs., 2 oz. and 21 inches long. She had a light dusting of dark brown hair, big beautiful blue eyes and the prettiest little lips I've ever seen.

My former mother-in-law was an OB/GYN nurse and demanded to see the records of the delivery. She was convinced that somehow, the vacuum extractor was responsible for slicing and dicing my nether-regions.

At that point, I didn't care. I had a very healthy baby whose only side effect was a big mushy bruised spot on her head, and believe me, I had plenty of cute hats for her. As for me, I was fine too. My doctor did tell me that I probably wouldn't be able to have any more babies, but I told her "we'll see about that".

Molly became a big sister not once, but twice. Two more pregnancies, two more births.

And you better believe, I had two more c-sections. VBAC, my ass. Or rather, VBAC, my reconstructed bionic vagina.

So, Happy Happy Birthday to my lovely daughter. Her arrival was less than harmonious but I'd do it all again just to have this same perfect girl.

I love you, Molly.


Something cynical this way comes....

And I'm trying to keep her away!

Here we go again. 'Tis the season and all that jazz.

I used to LOVE the holidays. When Big Daddy and I were young parents, early homeowners, I met the holidays with ham hock arms wide open. I decorated our little crack den from top to bottom. We went to a tree farm and cut down our trees every year, fighting angels wrestling in the snow while Big Daddy swore under a tree wrestling with a hacksaw. We did the requisite Santa visits, videotaped all of it, even Molly seizing up in sheer terror when Mommy plopped her down on a big fat stranger's lap.

We would go to the late night service at church on Christmas Eve. I remember getting choked up and sometimes, crying as the already-beautiful hymns were enhanced by the dark, candle-lit sanctuary and the chorus of voices swelling around me.

We hosted Christmas. Oh, the fun we had, preparing the menu, going shopping for the honey baked ham and the pierogies and the pies, getting out our "good" china.

But my favorite part? Getting things set up under the tree on Christmas Eve, and the wondrous, glorious feeling the next morning when the kids would wake up at the ass crack of dawn and toddle down the stairs. I'll never forget the hot little faces next to mine, waking me up, telling me that "SANTA WAS HERE!!!!". Sitting on the floor in my pajamas, a cup of coffee and a big garbage bag at hand, watching my sweet babies enjoy their Christmas. I burned these memories into my head. Still remember Charlie holding Buzz Lightyear like a newborn baby, I can still see 1 year old Molly opening up her first baby doll (a girl she named Adam, and still has, by the way) and gasping with all the delight someone that age can muster. I remember ice skates and Barbies and books and bikes and chemistry sets all being unwrapped and loved and played with. I remember looking at my husband and smiling, and finally feeling like I was home.

Of course all of that ended.

Enter the cynical me. The first couple of Christmases, they were ok. Big Daddy was still playing nice, and letting me enjoy Christmas Eve. The first one? I fell asleep with the kids and woke with a start at about 4:30 a.m. on Christmas morning. I kind of wish someone had videotaped that scene...it was a classic "Welcome to Single Parenting" moment that I am finally able to laugh about. Never before has a Santa visit been so quickly staged.

But then things got icky. Big Daddy had unveiled his Dirty Little Secret-ary and she became the head of the household over there. The kids were confused, because "over there" Santa wrapped presents instead of leaving them out. "Over there" they had a fake tree and they put it up before Thanksgiving. We always wait until Molly's birthday has passed before we put up the tree "here". I never wanted her birthday to get lost in this insane holiday fog that encompasses the world from mid-October. And our tree? Always real. Always.

Gone were the hosting days. In the old days, our guest list consisted mainly of Big Daddy's family, and inviting them over to my Single Girl Soiree would have been slightly awkward.

And then the money stuff hit. Prior to becoming poor, I managed to fill some of the voids I felt, real and imagined, with presents. Charlie got a Mac one year, Molly had box after box from American Girl. We had the Xbox 360 Christmas and the Wii Christmas. I couldn't keep all of our traditions alive, but dammit, I could still spend money like I was married to a CEO.

Our first poor Christmas was actually so pathetic it was almost funny. First of all, there was the lice. Henry, William and I had been dealing with the scalp marauders for 3 weeks when Christmas popped up. Our sweet neighbors George and Katherine had invited us over, with one caveat: "Keep your buggy heads covered." We now refer to that year as "The Hat Christmas". At that point I had become desperate and had covered our heads with olive oil. And then wrapped said heads in plastic wrap. And then perched jaunty chapeaus on our plastic wrapped noggins before heading over to the neighbor's house.

I can still feel the olive oil slowly dripping down my neck.

I had managed to scrimp and save and buy a few goodies for the kids that year. They'd been warned, we'd had a family talk about our tight finances and the fact that Santa was most likely going to be a little less generous than in years past. And they survived. That was also the year that a "Secret" Santa had gifted us with bags of goodies, including a big old grocery store gift card and get this...NEW PILLOWS. Unless you've had lice, you have no idea how AWESOME new pillows can be.

The year after that? That was last year. And that wasn't so great. I hadn't gotten Molly a decent present for her birthday (which falls on the first week of December) so I had put together the remains of various gift cards and bought her an iPod. The other kids got a few presents, nothing awful...I made sure that they each had one thing they had asked for. But the tone was different. I knew, in my heart, that was going to be the last year we put our tree in front of that particular picture window. I knew that I'd never again hear the squeaky old wooden staircase in the morning as the kids would sneak up for their morning ambush attack. That was our last Christmas in our house. And as brave and strong and resilient as I pretended to be, part of me was dying.

And so I am starting to feel that blackness creep in again. But this time, I'm ready for it. I was without kids for Thanksgiving, and instead of sitting in a darkened room watching crime shows and drinking wine, I headed out. Out to my mom's house for an interesting meal (it still blows me away how fast a 44 year old woman can become a 12 year old girl again just by walking through a door) and then on to one of the most fun weekends ever. Two impromptu nights with very good, old friends, and then I hosted a hen party at my house on Saturday.

My house was filled to the rafters with cackling ladies, and it was good. At one point I looked around my house and was almost physically pushed back by the warmth and love I felt (or maybe it was that third margarita that pushed me back..whatever). The blackness was swept far away, under imaginary rugs and into pretend corners. I felt normal, and happy and good. Did I miss my kids? Damn straight I did. But instead of wrapping my loneliness around me like a shawl, I spread it out on my good old Ikea couch and got cozy with some of my best friends, old and new.

But now, late at night, after everyone has gone to sleep....I find myself alone with my old friend again. My old buddy, Cynic. I can feel it bubbling up now and then, like a tickling cough in the middle of a super quiet room. Watching commercials about what everyone wants and needs this Christmas, seeing actors assembled to make up perfect families...I watch and worry and fret. My mind goes to that dark cell, the one where I stew and stir up all the bad thoughts. How unfair I think it is that my kids are taken away from me on holidays, spending these precious moments of their childhood with a shallow homewrecker with whom they have no history, no shared love. How I miss my dad, and my stepmom, and my stepsister and stepbrother and all of their kids. How I miss the days of hosting.

So far I'm doing a decent job of kicking myself in the ass and getting away from that dark place as fast as I can. And I think I can keep it up. I have my hen posse to keep me occupied, my strong kids to keep me focused and that may be all I need. I know that mourning the loss of my children's childhoods, and the things that used to be, is natural and that I have to acknowledge it, but I'm not going to let it overshadow the good and the fun that this season has to offer.

In fact, I may go ahead and have one of my old-style Christmas Eve celebrations right here in our new house. Just for me and the kids. Honeybaked ham, pierogies, pie.

All dished up on the "good" china.

Happy Holiday season to my dear friends and readers. I wish you all the best. And if you want to come keep me company while I pretend to be fierce and strong? Please, do.


Shameless self-promotion alert:

My writer's block has been horrific lately...I'm assuming due to stress (l.o.l.). But I watched one of my favorite movies of all time with one of my favorite kids a while back and mentioned it on facebook.

My darling friends crawled out of the woodwork and we had a tiny little 16 Candles party on my wall.

I was inspired to write about it.

Read it here.


Getting all of my ducks in a row....

It's cathartic. It's hard, but cathartic.

I'm the kind of person who waits for things to happen. Now I am finding out that I need to try and be the kind who makes things happen. Not an easy task for a quiet wallflower to accomplish, but I think I'm starting to get the hang of it.

Well, that's kind of a lie. I don't know if I'll ever get the hang of it. Let's just say I'm learning how to pretend that I have the hang of it. Inside I'm still the child, wishing that someone would just come rescue me, and I suppose that's ok. But that child needs to learn to deal with some of life's crap like a big girl.

And that's what I'm doing.

Kind of like how a mom will cut up the food on her child's plate, to make it easier for them to navigate dinner....I'm getting all of my duckies set up in a nice neat row. To make it easier for me to pick them off, one by one.

I'm a nature lover, but these have got to be some of the nastiest ducks I've ever encountered. The foreclosure one stinks, the bankruptcy one scares me. The duck I call "debt" is a menacing one. But once you look these ducks in the eye, you realize that they aren't the be all and end all of anything. They're just ducks. Hurdles. Or whatever other metaphor you can come up with.

I'm saving the biggest, ugliest, meanest duck for last. That's the one I call Big Daddy.

He and Skankenstein are having a cozy, romantic getaway this weekend, to celebrate their anniversary. Our old anniversary, if you want to look at it that way. We would have been married 17 years.

I'm not bitter. Not anymore. I have found that it helps to think of myself as the pioneer in Big Daddy Land. I'm the owner of so many firsts with him: first lay, first house, first (and second and third and fourth) kid, first divorce....if he was the moon I'd be Neil Freaking Armstrong. Hell, if it wasn't for me being such an awful wife, he wouldn't have been so hard up and started sniffing the seat of the office bicycle. Now that I think of it, they have me to thank for this anniversary. Where is my cozy getaway?

Oh yeah, mine is going to be in a little town called Chisago Lakes, where I'll be watching William play hockey in his first tournament of the season. Which honestly sounds like more fun than faking orgasms and celebrating an event that, after just 3 short years, has profoundly affected so many lives. And not in a good way.

So anyhoo, back to the ducks.

I was glad to hear that Big Daddy has the financial means to take his sweetheart on a lover's retreat. Very glad. That means his finances (or his household finances) are healthy. He's going to be needing them.

My attorney, who absolutely kicked ass all over my checking account issue (got some of the $$$ back, just in time to pay for the duck I call "taxes"...more on that party later), is trying to decide what our next move is. I think seeing me go through this latest round of humiliation and aggravation gave her renewed motivation to seek justice on my behalf. On behalf of my kids.

We're going to wait for the bankruptcy to be officially filed and then move onto the task of making things right in Big Daddy Land. There are a few different options...garnishment, liens, levies, etc. None of which will be pleasant (I know this firsthand) but all of which will be another "first" for me and Big Daddy.

The first time he does the right thing. I guess it's still considered doing the right thing even if Lady Justice is standing behind him, pinning him in a martial arts arm hold, right?

We'll find out soon enough.

In the meantime, if we see each other or talk to each other over the next few days, go ahead and wish me a Happy Anniversary. We can have a laugh over it. I like laughing. I'm planning on doing a lot more of it in the weeks and months to come.


Take a foot of snow, a bus ride with 80 or so Lutheran teens, and what do you get?


A really good tired, though. For my non-local friends, Minnesota was smacked upside the head with our first snow of the season on Saturday. I won't get into what a sadistic shrew Ma Nature is, seeing as how it was 70 degrees just FOUR DAYS beforehand, but it was a shock. Yes, I know, snow in November in Minnesota? Weird! But come on. Even for a warm weather curmudgeon like myself it was pretty nice to see kids wearing shorts 2 weeks before Thanksgiving.

We're done with the shorts, for now.

So I volunteered to go on a 2 day retreat with the 7th grade confirmation students at my church. I'm not going to get into religion with you today, those of you who "know" me know that I don't talk about it much. Like my political views, my religious views are kept close to my vest (and although I am a walking fashion nightmare I don't really wear vests...really). But I do go to church, I've taught Sunday school for several years and this year I took on the role of Confirmation small group leader for an amazing group of 7th grade girls.

I do it for a couple of reasons, one very selfish reason and the others not so much. Selfish reason: I love it. I love the fact that when I first met these kids, they were goofy 4th graders. I've watched them grow up a little, and go from giggly, round-faced 9 year olds to tall, gangly teens. Our discussions have covered every topic from death to Happy Meals and everything in between. I have had the honor of becoming part of these kid's lives, and it's my most sincere wish that somehow I have made or will make an impression on them. Sometimes I think how different my life could have been if only there had been an adult I could have talked to back when I was the same age as these kids. So I do it for 13 year old Jenny, too.

Another reason I do it? For my kids. I don't push the Sunday School experience with them, Big Daddy has a different view about religion than I do and it's hard getting a kid involved in something they are only allowed to attend every other week. But I do require their attendance at Confirmation. I think having this structure, a structure that is based on something so hopeful and positive and loving, can only be good for them. I like our religion, and I love our church, because it is a positive place and gives reinforcement to children of all ages.

So anyhoo. We left on Saturday morning, two buses packed to the gills with 80 7th graders and about 8 adults. In the middle of a blizzard. We were counting how many cars were in the ditches and/or involved in fender benders and stopped at 40. That was just before we came upon the car that had flipped over and was now resting on the side of road...upside down. Our bus drivers were awesome though, and we made it.

It was beautiful. About an hour and a half outside of Minneapolis, on a little lake in Wisconsin, we let the kids out and watched as they ran and screamed and laughed and pelted each other with snowballs. I was able to watch my Henry having fun out in the white, wet great outdoors. He had a smile on his face the whole time.

Then we ate and talked about God and Jesus. Slept on mattresses that were approx. 2" thick and covered with ripped aqua blue vinyl. Woke up, ate more, talked some more about God and Jesus and then came home.

It was a good weekend.


Chapter 7= New Chapter

So yesterday was a very significant, very relieving day.

Yesterday I met with my bankruptcy attorney. And it's all good. I wish I had done this many months ago, before my meager funds were frozen by a big bad collection agency, before I ate my way up to a size 16. Before I turned into a freaky, deer-in-the-headlights lady who could barely force a smile, let alone be a semi-decent parent or friend or daughter.

But it's started. And it's like someone removed a giant boulder from my back. Am I pleased with this final resolution? Yes and no.

I'm ashamed. Ashamed as hell to be doing this. I have never thought highly of people who shuck their responsibilities and head for the hills. I am very big on "doing the right thing" and "sucking it up". I have always, always told my kids that if you make a mess, you clean it up.

But I had no other choice. Seriously. I'm not going to justify what I'm doing, or go into a long winded, serious and melancholy explanation. I had too much debt. Way too much. There was no way that I was ever going to claw my way out of this hole, ever. Unless I found myself a very rich, very blind, very senile dude. And even then it would have been questionable. Because I would have invariably found some way to alienate the blind old senile guy before things got too serious.

So I did it. A friend recommended this bankruptcy lawyer, and since I am a giant wuss and a total baby, my friend Michelle called him and made the appointment. He sent me a 15 page form to fill out and in my usual Jenny style, I put that off until yesterday morning. Just for shits and giggles, I printed out a couple of credit reports.

Seeing just how much crap you're in, in black and white, it's weird. Weird because I knew I was in deep, but didn't really know how deep. Weird also because of this:


I thought for sure I was going to find pentagrams and death threats and all sorts of damnations and curses on my credit report. You know what I found? A tangible, black and white record of my fall from grace. Nothing more, nothing less.

There it was. A time line of my life over the past two years. Everything up until November of 2008? Perfect. Green light. A model citizen. And then, after that, it was like a hundred-car pileup on a foggy highway that started with a single, innocuous fender bender.

To put it simply, it was a chart that said, "This chick was really good at paying her bills. And then she got the shaft. And then, she sucked at paying her bills." Simple as that.

I sucked at it. And then I met Mark.

Mark is my bankruptcy attorney. I like Mark. Not like him in the "I'd leave him alone in a room with my kids" way, but I like him. He asked me about 5oo questions, looked at my credit report and then announced that I'm pretty much the perfect candidate for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. I have, quite literally, no assets.

No savings.

No 401K.

No life insurance.

No offshore bank accounts, no jets, no boats, no designer wardrobe.

Nothing. All I have is my sparkling wit, my four sweet babies and the skin of my teeth.

That's all I need. In 90 days, I will be rid of this last giant, stinking monkey on my back. When my friend and I walked out of this guy's office, I just looked at her and started crying. Not sad tears, not tears of fear or woe.

Tears of relief. I cried because I have felt it almost impossible to breathe for just a bit over 2 years. I cried over the fact that when I accepted Mark as my bankruptcy attorney, I was officially saying YOU WIN. I was saying "I give" in this fumbling wrestling match between me and my stupid pride.

It's time to start over. Time to wave the white flag, time to cry Uncle.

And that's ok. This isn't exactly the life I pictured for myself, it's certainly not the life I had hoped for all those years ago, while resting my head on Big Daddy's chest and listening to his heartbeat while he fell asleep and I drifted off to dreamland thinking about our future life together. I had pictured a sunnier, easier life. A life filled with granite countertops, vacations, shopping sprees and new-car smell. I had pictured myself as the smiling, relaxed matriarch presiding over a clan of happy, well-adjusted kids who never once wanted for anything and oftentimes stopped what they're doing just to proclaim that they are indeed the luckiest, most fortunate kids in the universe.

I never thought I'd be a worn out, thick-waisted middle aged woman crying into her friend's shoulder outside a bankruptcy attorney's office. If you had allowed me a million years of dreaming, I probably never would have come up with me being alone in this big scary world, protecting my little family with nothing but my fierce determination and my unflagging will to survive.

But as we all know, life is never what we expect it to be. Life is full of changes and mishaps and forks in the road. Life keeps us guessing, keeps us on our toes. Life likes to sneak up on us and poke us in the ribs or pull the rug out from under us when we least expect it.

Life can suck, but living a sucky life certainly beats not living life at all, right?

So, I am feeling good. Not super proud of myself, but good. I think things are finally going in the direction that they should be going...which is up.

Up is good.


Toyota needs to rethink the message....

Anyone else want to smack the smug out of the entitled little shit in the new 2011 Highlander commercials? *

Or is it just me?

I know, I know! He's an "actor" saying lines. And the first one was cute, in a "oh look, a hipster kid, precocious and smart and sardonic. Ha ha!". But as they keep rolling out new ads, I find myself feeling more and more annoyed, and yes, a little angry.

What do these commercials really say? Are they saying, "Our Highlanders are awesome! Go buy one!". Or are they saying, "Hey, modern parents. Don't you desperately want to your kids to think you're cool, and don't you desperately crave and seek their approval and the approval of their friends?".

I'll tell you the message I'm getting from it, and this is ONLY from my perspective. The perspective of a lower-income single mom who is grateful to have a vehicle that works...it's pandering to the breed of parent that is currently the darling of advertisers: the younger, somehow always affluent, tragically hip, good looking (or at least as good as a Brazilian blowout and Anthropologie can make them look) and of course, always accessorized perfectly with their darling moppets who are dressed in shrunken versions of mommy and daddy's casually yet oh-so painfully choreographed put-together outfits. Right down to the skinny jeans. It's not emphasizing the things that should really be at the forefront of any decision making involving a new car: is it safe? Economical? At least the tiniest bit enviro-friendly? Not, will this make my kids look up to me and respect me? If I buy this vehicle, will I be the Cool Dad/Mom?

And on another note, what message is it sending to the oodles of kids who see this? In the wake of the recent bullying epidemic which has led to the actual DEATHS of some kids, is it really wise to encourage kids to toss about monikers such as "dorks", "lame" and "nerd"? Yes, I realize that MoppetBoy is using these words to brand his parents, but imagine if it was him describing a classmate whose parents had the audacity to drive anything less than the giant, shiny rolling great-room that is the Toyota Highlander?

In the one ad where the Highlander family pulls up to the Nerd family, complete with NerdMom and NerdDad harmonizing "Angel of the Morning" in the front seat, take a look at the kid in the backseat. He's not sporting the current mod kid hairstyle, he's not wearing anything remotely trendy or hip. He's supposed to be a nerd. And the Highlander kid is telling him this, in his own way.

I think the thing that bothers me about this part of the Highlander Message is that I work around kids. I see kids with parents who are millionaires playing side by side with kids who come to school from one bedroom Section 8 apartments. And they like each other. Their hearts are still good, still pure and still unbiased. That's how it should be.

I know, I may be blowing this thing way out of proportion. After all, it's just a commercial, right?

We all know that no one has ever been influenced by the media. Maybe I do need to chill.

* management would like to clarify that no one is seriously advocating physical harm. Maybe just throwing something soft, like a rolled up sock, at the t.v. screen. Ok?


The Blahs.


I'm the first to admit that this hasn't been what most people would call a fabulous couple of weeks. In addition to my bank issues, I've also had my truck die on a big busy highway on a dark night, school conferences, a 16 year old who put off his Culinary Arts final until, quite literally, the last possible second, butt-loads of public crying...and tonight, my phone rang in the middle of our confirmation sermon. The phone which I distinctly remember turning off. The iPhone which has become a very pointy thorn in my side. The irony of that one is, my ringtone is the song "The Dog Days Are Over" by Florence and the Machine. Dog days are over, indeed.

I did thank the good Lord that it wasn't my other favorite ringtone: "In Da Club" by Fifty Cent. Or as I like to call him, Fitty.

So anyways. I've got the blahs. I'm not sure if it's just my nervous system resetting itself after going completely berserk or what, but I've got 'em.

I'm also pretty sure that I have that psycho version of PMS. I forget the exact name of it, but I do know that they make a pill for it. I'm going to look into it because the past two nights have been kind of icky.

Now, if we know each other even remotely well (and you know we do if you're reading this), you know that although I don't keep track of my female stuff I do know enough to be aware of the biological changes that it brings about every 26-28 days. For instance, if I find myself spreading cream cheese on ham slices and wrapping them around pickle spears and then bawling my baby blue/greens out whilst watching CSI Miami, I know it's time to look at the calendar and also make sure I have a good arsenal of Kotex Supers on hand.

Yes, I said Supers. Yes, those are the tampons that could double as T-ball bats. Judge much? I've had four kids. I was desperate for a plug a few months ago and a sweet young friend gave me one of her Tampax Slims. It was like throwing a tube of Chapstick into the Grand Canyon.

But getting back to the psycho thing. I remember reading something about it, about how it's like PMS on steroids. Like you really do experience a bit of psychosis. And I think I get that every once in a while. Most months it's very mild, and I may find myself going from Happy Jenny to Jenny Who Wants to Hurt You in the blink of an eye but it's over in seconds.

But every once in a while it's bad. Last night was bad. Bad like "make a 10 year old cry" bad. That's the kind of bad that doesn't just hover over your head for a minute and then dissipate like a 20 second sun-shower in July. It's the kind of bad that won't let you sleep. It's the kind of bad that puts itself on an endless loop inside your head for the next day or so. The kind of bad that lingers in your 10 year old's eyes, just behind his beautiful blue irises when he looks at you the next day with an unsaid "Is it safe to come out now?".

The "I shouldn't have done/said/thrown" that kind of thing. If you know what I mean.

Of course I sent the obligatory shrew email to Big Daddy, because he's the biggest, easiest to hit target I have. He replied tonight, but I just read the first sentence which was in response to my offer to drive William to hockey this week. I felt a mixture of embarrassment, regret, rage and shame as I furtively clicked on his reply in the parking lot of the grocery store. Yes, I checked it on my phone, in a dark parking lot. Facing my own inability to control my impulses in the harsh light of my office seemed a bit too daunting.

I'm also feeling rather blah about the election results. Yeah, yeah...I'm not going to bitch and moan and wring my hands over who's out and who's in. Honestly? I don't think it matters much. I think that out of the hundreds of politicos who were ushered in last night, maybe 5% actually give a shit about the people they are supposedly serving. Voting now almost feels like having to choose between your two least favorite dinners. You know you have to eat, but neither dish is floating your boat. So you go with the one that is least nauseating.

That's blah-worthy, isn't it? I remember my first voting experience, the 1984 presidential election. My mom is a die-hard Dem. So of course, I voted for Mondale. Monkey see, monkey do. Then I started dating my sweet college love, Tom. And became a Republican. Tom's parents had money. My next few boyfriends had money, or had parents with it, and so I remained right wing. Because, why not? Allllll the way up to Big Daddy I voted straight Republican. Because it was what I was supposed to do.

And then I became poor. I started seeing things from a different perspective. My kids would only ever know public school, so I started looking for candidates who supported school funding and opposed cutting it. I relied on the government for my health insurance. I was in the midst of trying to refinance three ridiculous mortgages. I was a single mom trying to make ends meet. So my voting shifted to the left again.

I don't like to talk politics. Some of my best friends are staunch Republicans and we get along just fine. Some of my friends are bleeding heart, tree hugging Liberals and we also get along just peachy. Me? I like to think of myself as the Floater. Not like the toilet-bowl floater, silly. I just kind of float around, never really attaching myself to one or the other. Something one of them may say in an ad can stick with me. Something I read about one may make an impression. I voted for two candidates this year just because I have their kids at my school and I adore the kids. Go figure.

I'm kind of blah about it.

I hope you are all well, and I hope that my local friends are enjoying this unbelievable stretch of gorgeous weather we're having. I'm still basking in the glow of my friends and their generosity and their unconditional love...that is still there despite the cuckoo-PMS and the blahhhhhs. I went to Aldi's tonight and thanks to a certain friend who bought a cute J.Jill coat from me, my kids have French Toast Sticks and loads of fruits and veggies for the next few days.

The blahhhhs kind of suck, but they also offer a bit of respite from the hurly burly day to day stuff. I'm not going to lie and say that I enjoy this beige mood, but I'll take it over panic and freaking out any day.

Stay classy, my friends.


I'm like The Terminator. Or the Energizer Bunny. Oh yeah...and go vote, please.

I just keep going and going and going.

No tears today, peeps. I'm feeling good.

Thanks in no small part to the people in this world whom I call "friends", I am going to be ok. Made the bills, made the rent. With $30.00 to spare (woo hoo....hope the kids are in the mood for spaghetti...I know I am!).

My attorney, bless her heart, has found an expert in this whole wages garnishment thing and today we find out if I get my $800.00 back. Keep your fingers crossed for me. If I do, it's seriously a blessing. If I don't? Chalk it up to yet another hurdle, another learning experience...another bump in the road I'm on.

I've learned a lot about myself over the past week.

One: I'm stronger than I believe.

Two: My kids are like little trees in a storm. You stand at your front window and watch them bend so far over that they are defying the very laws of physics when they don't snap in two. But they don't. They weather the storm. After the skies clear you go out and check them over, sure you'll see a fatal crack or at least some trauma. But they're fine. And they will go through many more storms and survive again and again until they've grown so strong and so tough that even the biggest winds won't ruffle their leaves. That's a good thing.

Three: People are good. I have a long list of angels to whom (is that right? To who? Whom?) I owe at least a thanks to, and hopefully someday I can repay them with more than gratitude. You know who you are. You know what you did. Consider yourselves rockstars in my world. Your goodness was not a shocker to me, but it was like Ed Freaking McMahon showing up at my door. You gave me shelter from the howling wind and I will never, ever forget it. And p.s.: I'm not just talking about those anonymous souls who slipped me $$$ and toilet paper and Red Vines. Or even you goofball eBayers who bought some of my stuff. Some of you sent me messages, emailed me or just stopped me in the hall at school and gave me a hug. Some of you called me and just said that you're thinking about me. All of it, every last bit of support, has made an imprint on my heart. I love you guys.

Four: I am not the kind of person who loses weight when stressed. In fact, I'm the opposite. It's as if stress is a mad, dark fetus that inhabits my soul instead of my womb, feeding on the anxiety and terror. Holding on to every last calorie, every single fat gram and multiplying them. How interesting that Halloween came during what was probably the second scariest time of my life, which also happened to overlap with yet another mad-crazy dance with that skank, PMS. William and Henry helped a mother out though...they gave me their peanut butter M&M's and the Twizzlers. Good boys.

Five: I still think that although money can't buy you happiness, it can make the pursuit of happiness a helluva lot easier to...pursue. I hate the fact that my life is currently centered around the concepts of STAY ALIVE. STAY WARM. STAY FED. But it is. I know it won't be this way forever, and so I keep plugging along. I keep trying my hardest to pay it forward in the only way I can right now. Helping out when I'm able, doing the right thing, being the best person that I can be. Being a good mom, a good friend. In my fantasy world we would all be paid with good fortune instead of money. The more you give out, the more you get back. In my fantasy world "tea party" also still means cute little girls drinking pretend Earl Grey out of miniature ceramic teacups and political ads are against the law, but that's a whole nother post.

In the past I've often thought of my sometimes annoying optimism as a character flaw.

Now? I know it's a strength.

On a completely separate note: Please go out and vote today. I rarely, if ever, talk politics with ANYONE (I stopped doing that when my former BFF came to my house and ripped me a new one when she found out who I voted for in the last presidential election. She said, "Four years from now when our country has gone to hell I'm going to come thank you." Why aren't she and I friends anymore???)....but if you don't vote, you have zero right to complain. I'm taking William with me. My kids have accompanied me to just about every voting session I've attended since becoming a mom. Sometimes it's been a huge pain in my ass and the asses of my fellow, childless voters, but it's important. GO VOTE. Just don't ask me who I voted for, ok?
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