TEN ON TUESDAY (only this Tuesday looks an awful lot like a Wednesday)

So, there's a two hour late start here due to icy/snowy weather.  Two hours, dropped in my lap like a "just because" gift from Mother Nature and Old Man Winter (aww, you shouldn't have, guys!).  What's a woman to do?  Laundry?  Read?  Go back to bed?  No.  Today is your lucky day, lovelies.  TODAY I SHALL BLOG.

I have a lot to say.  There is some gray area here, and I hate this gray area.  Do I write about what's happening?  More importantly, CAN I write about it?  I mean, I know that legally I can write whatever I want here, as long as it's the truth and as long as nobody is maligned (beyond the maligning that happens when the person you have screwed over for several years decides to tell the world about it, that is.  That's kind of like sun exposure.  It just happens, naturally.)

There's really no cloak and dagger stuff going on.  It's not me, having secret meetings with some Deep Throat in shadowy parking garages.  Everything that is happening is legal, and just.  And...everything that is happening is a direct consequence to actions that a certain someone did (or more to the point, DIDN'T do).

I'm finally getting some justice.  And please note, I call this "justice" and not "revenge".  Two different things.  I want to talk about it, and want to share the whole story, and I will, very soon.  Let's just sum it up like this:

It's a very, very interesting story.  I'm finding, once again, that the man I was once married to is like a rotting onion.  With seemingly endless layers of stink.  A bad onion that has made me cry for the last time, sisters.  Oh...and Secretary?  She's right there with him.  Like Batman and Robin.  Or Beavis and Butthead. Pinky and "The Brain" (that one made me GOL, guffaw out loud).  I'll come up with some more monikers this weekend, when I have my hens gathered 'round and we toast this good news.

Before I get on with my Ten, there is one thing I want to say.  And this is directed at the women like me.  The women who have gone through the humiliation of betrayal, the hurt of being left.  The anger of watching your kids cry.  And those who have experienced the pain, the physical and emotional pain of trying to stay afloat when your ex not only stops loving you, but stops helping you raise your babies.  You amazing, strong ladies out there, who are reading this on ancient laptops, or library computers, or while you're on your lunch break at work, eating your can of Progresso soup or your hard boiled egg and drinking water not only because it's good for you but because it's FREE.  Ladies?  My friends?  My comrades?  HANG IN THERE.  Do not ever, ever give up.  Don't you ever stop fighting for what's right.  Don't you ever stop advocating for your kids.  And don't you ever, ever get to the point where you look up at the heavens, tears streaming down your cheeks, and say out loud, "Well, I guess he's just going to get away with it."

He won't.  I'm going to make it my life's work to see that other women, just like me, get help.  I went to food shelves to feed my kids while my ex-husband and his shiny wife bought new iPhones and Kindles and new cars and got new windows on their house.  I lost my house while my ex-husband and his shiny wife went on trips and ate out at 5 star restaurants and bought diamonds and designer dogs.  But you know what?

None of that matters.  I kept records.  I kept track.  I kept my eyes open.  And now?  Lady Justice is makin' it RAIN up in here.  It's been hard, and at times I wanted to give up.  At times I looked up at the heavens, tears streaming down my face, and said out loud, "Well, I guess he's just going to get away with it."

Ladies?  Guess what.  HE'S NOT.


1.  Yesterday I found this exact same coat at the thrift store: Lands End Down Chalet Coat.  Except mine was $10.00.  If you live here in the Midwest, you know what a score that is.  And yes, it's one size too small but I will fit into it next winter.  The coat I have now is losing feathers rapidly, due to a big rip in the side that happened when I first zipped it up this year.  Zipped it up over my fat ass.  So yay for me.

2.  Elisabeth Shue is now on CSI.  One of my first girl crushes...she had me at the black frumpy one piece she wore in "Cocktail".

Curly haired girls around the world, rejoiced.  One of US got the guy!  And it was Tom Cruise!  Before he went whackadoo!  Love that movie.

3.  I went to my first shiva on Monday night.  My friend's brother passed away.  It was lovely, and they had cookies.  All went well, and uneventfully, until my friends and I were leaving.  As we made it to the front door, one of the ROCK GODS from my youth walked in.  John Munson, bass player for the most ultimate Minnesota band Trip Shakespeare, was just inches away from me.  He's Adonis-like and beautiful up close.  And tall.  So tall.  Yes, that was me looking through a window at him as my friends loaded themselves into the car.  Like, "hands planted on the glass, peering through the pane" window peeping.  I have zero shame.  I'm a shiva window peeping fangirl.

4.  If we could play Scrabble using celebrity names?  I'd love to use "Zachary Quinto".  That would be awesome.

5.  Every light bulb down in the mancave bathroom is burned out.  Last night, I went to the store to buy more and left with half and half, a container of strawberries, a gallon of milk and a bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos (I'm an enabling mother effer).  And no light bulbs.  The mancave bathroom is the one toilet in the house that can handle the freakishly huge poops that some* of my kids produce.  So this morning, one* of those kids had to poop in the dark.  He said it was like a bad dream.  Today I shall get lightbulbs.

*you know it's just one of my kids, but I don't want to make him feel bad.  His overstretched colon already does that.

6.  Wheat belly update:  I fell off the Wheat Whagon.  It started with a few innocent funeral cookies and beer this weekend, and ended with an unsightly take-and-bake pizza binge.  And you know what?  I think those Wheaties (as I have come to call the followers of Wheat Belly) are on to something.  I felt like crap the next day.  I don't want to sound like someone on a Betty White fan chatboard, but I had been getting unreal heartburn.  When I started the no-wheat no-gluten thing, it disappeared, completely.  It came back with a vengeance, so bad I had to go buy some extra strength Tums (I was going to by some of the stuff with more scientific sounding names, like ZYRTEC or REFLUXBEGONE but that shit is expensive..holy buckets).  Back on the Wheat Whagon for this fatty.

7.  I tried to watch Hugo last night and just couldn't get into it.  It was all very lovely.  But so very "OOh look at this.  Look at how artsy we are!  I am MARTIN SCORSESE."  I'll try again tonight after church.  But I may be too lowbrow for this movie.

8.  Speaking of the Oscars, bleah.  About an hour into it, the kids wanted to watch Walking Dead.  I protested for just a second and then I realized, I DON'T CARE.  I don't care about any of the award stuff.  Pretentious, entitled buffoons who have too much money and not enough sense celebrating themselves.  If I have to see George Clooney's big smug face once more I'll scream.  The funniest thing I've read about the Oscars is a comment someone made about this picture:

"What a cute father/daughter shot!".   Again, GOL.  But I'm still going to see The Descendants.

9.  Two reasons I'm so freaking happy about my new little car:  parking in the garage (there is like an inch of glaze ice outside today.  Try scraping the windshield of a truck that's 9 feet tall when you yourself are just over 5 feet tall.  Good times) and the fact that gas is almost $4.00 a gallon.  Sure, my Ford Focus may be little more than a Starkist Tuna can with the label peeled off and four wheels attached, but it's saving my ass a ton of money and morning misery.  And it's paid for.  So glad I sold my truck.

10.  Hug your kids.  The funeral I attended this past weekend was for a 16 year old boy who took his own life.  A handsome, popular, athletic, all around good kid is no longer here.  His mom can never again kiss his forehead, his big brothers can no longer give him shit about anything, his dad can never take him fishing.  He's gone.  Parents of teenagers, this is a big scary world.  Much bigger than the one we grew up in, with so much stuff flying at our kids 24 hours a day.  It's up to us to be there for them, talk to them, hover if we have to.  My friend buried her son this weekend.  I will never, ever forget her wails as we sang one last hymn for Wyatt.  Rest in peace, sweet boy.  

That's my 10.  Now go out and do something fabulous with your bad selves.    


Searching for the Good in a world that can be so Bad.

Hello friends, sorry I've been missing in action.  The past week and a half has been like one of those old fashioned picture-by-picture movies, you know those contraptions?  You'd look through a viewer and flip cards, one after the other, to see a "movie". 

Last week I received some very startling legal news.  I was floored.  But right on the heels of that, was good news.  Kind of like, "Let me help you up after I just knocked you down.".  And so I was riding high on that news for a while.  Even had an impromptu hen party on Saturday night just because.  I want to shout about it, I want to share it with EVERYONE, but I have to keep mum for a while.  Just because.  Keeping my mouth shut, in all ways, is a big challenge for me.  But I have to do it for now.  Let's just say that the big creaking sound you may have heard last week?  It was the wheels of justice finally turning.  Or my knees.  (but really, it was the wheels!)

And then the bad showed up.  First it was more news of young people dying too soon, four girls from Minnesota on their way back to their freshman dorms at North Dakota State.  One car, four girls, three roommates.  One crash.  Gone.  The world seems to shrinking by the day, everyone seems to be playing Six Degrees of Separation, only now instead of Kevin Bacon we play it with ourselves.  Friends of mine knew these girls, their kids were friends with them, worked with them. 

Then I read a story out of Wisconsin, about a 15 year old girl who had been starved, almost to death, by her 250 lb. dad and her 340 lb. stepmother (and the reason I think their weights are a significant part of the story?  The sheer irony of a person starving to death in the same house as someone who is over 300 lbs. is tragically, comically significant.).  And as if that wasn't bad enough, her stepbrother sexually abused her.  The girl escaped her home, and was found by a motorist who "thought she was a 9 year old" when he saw her.  Really?  Most 15 year old girls are worrying about their hair and their jeans.  This one was relieving herself in boxes in a basement, and if she made a mess...was forced to eat it. 

These things made me sad, utterly sad.  Then, I read a post on facebook from an old friend from high school.  I had come home for a quick lunch break on Tuesday, and as I inhaled my lentil soup I saw the words:  "My baby has gone home to heaven...".  Her son, her 16 year old son, was gone.  Just like that.  One minute I'm sitting there bemoaning my kids and how they are "computerminators" who have managed to eff up every single computer we've ever owned, and the next minute I'm crying into my lentils over the loss of a child. 

Life is funny.  It's scary, it's ugly, it's sweet and it's beautiful.  Sometimes things aren't even.  Sometimes the ugliness covers up the beauty so completely that it's hard to believe there was ever any beauty to be found.  And luckily, sometimes it's the opposite. 

But most of the time, it's a toss up.  It depends what you're looking for.  I guess it could be compared to the Glass Half Full theory.  If you're looking for ugly?  Oh man.  You're gonna find it.  In spades.  Google "Syria killings".  Graze the headlines of any news website or watch your 10 o'clock news.  The ugliness is out there, folks.  I'll be at a 16 year old boy's funeral tomorrow morning, the second teen funeral I'll have attended within the past year.  You want ugly?  Watch teenagers weeping over a casket.  Watch a boy's mom try to make it through her son's funeral.  Watch a man, a father, saying goodbye to his boy.  There is tragedy so black and deep it's bottomless.

That's when you need to seek out the beauty.  When all of that badness is pushing down, threatening to drown us all, that's exactly when we need to avert our eyes; look up or down or to the side.  Or inward.  There is beauty to be found, trust me.

As news of my friend's loss spread, people came out of the woodwork.  Messages, posts, emails, texts.  People wanting to help, wanting to be there, wanting to offer love and prayers and support.  I had a brief, but amazing, message exchange with another old high school pal that touched and humbled me and once again proved my theory that nothing is ever as it seems. 

My awesome Wellness Coach, Faith, started a Random Acts of Kindness group on facebook after a few of us were discussing Lent and what there was to do besides give something up.  We decided to perform random acts of kindness all throughout Lent, at least one per day.  I encourage you to try it...so far I've surprised a lovely friend who was having a shitty day with flowers, I've gone outside and said a face to face "Thank you" to my recycling guys (and folks?  I am the Queen of Recycling.  These guys earn their pay at my curb, believe me).  I've opened doors and made eye contact with strangers and said "Thank you for all you do" to every person who has crossed my path.  Performing random acts of kindness is kind of like working out.  The first few days are somewhat awkward, and you may find yourself flexing muscles that haven't been used in a while, but then it becomes a habit.  And that's a beautiful thing.

Last night, I did the usual bedtime routine with my kids.  Said goodnight to Molly, and knew that even though I got only a slightly annoyed "Goodnight" in return that she knew I was there for her, and then went downstairs to tuck the two younger boys into bed (yes, the 14 year old still lets me tuck him in).  I kissed their foreheads like I do every night.  Felt their smooth, warm skin under my lips, and inhaled their stinky boy-ness.  I wanted to preserve this moment, like casting a handprint in cement.

And then I approached Charlie, my own boy who almost lost his fight with those inner demons.  The boy who still struggles.  I told him that I loved him, and told him how I am so very glad that he's here.  Hugged that manchild, tight.  Then said goodnight. 

I try to remember that for every act of ugliness, somewhere there is an act of beauty.  Sometimes it's easy to see, sometimes it's not.  Sometimes, we have to go create that act ourselves.  But no matter how hard it is to find, no matter how deep you have to dig or how high you have to climb, beauty is out there.  And the irony of it is, sometimes it's the ugliness that creates the beauty. 

Hug your babies.  Lend a helping hand.  Rejoice in the good, revel in the gorgeous.  Accept the ugly stuff, wade through it, get through it however you can... and don't forget:  there is beauty everywhere.


My Valentine's Day Was Complete by 8:00 a.m.

I wish there was a way for me to put my facebook status on here, without having to white out all the names...

Because it went like this:

7:23 a.m., 2/14/2012

"Yes dear?"
"You know how you asked me if I needed Valentines for my class?"
"Yes, and you said no, no Valentines for class."
"Yeah well I guess I need Valentines."

And then I made a comment about "what time does Target open?"  And of course wrapped up with HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY.

What I didn't write, was this:

So I'm leaving for Target at 7:43 a.m. William, the child featured in the above status update, is insisting that he tag along.  "No!" I yelped.  "I'm sure you have some homework to do!" (since he is the KING of the 'forgotten assignment suddenly remembered 10 minutes before the bus comes').  But the boy persisted.  My will is weak at that hour of the 'morn, so off we went.

As we waited by the front door of Target, me in my dog-hair covered 'yoga' pants, the two women next to us wearing sexy "Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife"-ish pantsuits and high heel boots, a thought occurred to me.  No, not "Maybe I should have brushed my teeth" although that would have been nice.  It was, "Gee...I remember William telling me about a girl he likes in his class."  Actually, it went a little something like this...(cue Garth and Wayne waving their fingers in the air to segue into a flashback sequence):

One day, I was down in the mancave bedroom putting clothes away (that happens sometimes!  I swear we don't always pull clothes out of the baskets when we get dressed in the mornings...).  William was kind of lingering about in the background.  I asked him if he wanted to help, but I don't think he heard me.  Instead, he said, "Hey mom."  I answered, "Yes my dear boy." (or maybe it was "WHAT??").  He continued:  "If I had a girlfriend, would you want to know?".  Ok, for context, I will interject here that William is my baby.  He's 11 years old.  So far, in my parenting career, I have had the subject of boyfriend/girlfriends come up exactly ZERO times.  This was new territory for me.  I decided to tread lightly.  Or as lightly as I can.

"Oh William!!  YES!  For sure I'd want to know!!  WHO?  Who is it?" 

My kids might tell you having their mom work at the school they attend is "cool" or sometimes "alright" but usually it's "embarrassing" and sometimes even downright "nightmarish".  But it's true, I know EVERYONE they go to school with (at least when they're in elementary school.  After that, I know about 70% of their classmates.  Which is still good, I think.).  So naturally, I couldn't wait to hear who it was.  I had a couple of ideas...

I finally got it out of him and then spent the next few minutes picturing them in their 20's, getting married and giving me tall, skinny grandchildren.  Then I snapped out of it and finished putting the laundry away.

But I kept my eyes open, believe me.  And I have figured out that when a 6th grader has a boyfriend or girlfriend, what it basically means is that you look at each other every once in a while on the playground, while clumped into your little group of hens or roosters.  Sometimes a hen and a rooster will branch off and talk or kick each other, or one of their friends will go grab the hat off of one or the other, but that's pretty much it.  So I know it's all innocent and sweet. 

(and now Wayne and Garth are doing it again, segueing back into present-day)

So as we're booking it towards the Valentine's Day section of Target, I casually mentioned to William:  "Maybe you want to get a little something special for XXXX?" (her name isn't really XXXX but I do have to show some restraint here).  He turned crimson and said, "Duh mom.  That's why I wanted to come with you."

Can a woman with fuzzy teeth, wearing black pants that look light yellow due to the volume of dog hair matted on them, racewalking down the main aisle of Target actually feel her heart melting?

Yes.  Yes she can.  And it melted some more as I watched my baby, my sweet William, trying his 11-year-old-hardest to pick out the perfect gift for his girlfriend.  And yes, that was me, maybe or maybe not weeping a little when he picked out a Dove long-stemmed chocolate rose.  And it was me, again, sighing a little bit of relief when he put the rose back and picked out a little teddy bear wearing a heart sweater instead (no need to get too serious, ya know). 

So we grabbed the couple of bags of candy, the teddy bear and a special little card just for XXXX, checked out and went home. 

William got to work on the math sheet he had totally forgotten about, I wrapped the teddy bear in pink tissue and put it in a very non-Valentine's Day looking bag for him, and deposited both that and the bags of candy into his backpack. 

And now, I sit here, and I am still aglow over what transpired this morning.  Valentine's Day can suck.  It can suck not only for singles like me, but I know from experience it can suck even when you've got a ring on your finger and a non-expired marriage certificate.  But...it can also be very sweet. 

I'd be a big fat liar if I said that having a significant other wouldn't be kind of nice on this day, that making reservations for an intimate dinner wouldn't be exciting, that picking out some Valentine's lingerie (or at least something that doesn't look like prison-issued underwear) wouldn't get the old romance coals all glowy.  Yes, as nice as that stuff would be, it's still ok to be FINE with being alone.  It's still ok to NOT GIVE A HOOT about being single on Valentine's Day. 

But today, my son gave me a little glimpse into Valentine's Day, as seen through fresh eyes.

I saw, for a minute, how Valentine's Day looks when seen for the first time by someone who is just beginning to tread the waters in The Sea of Love.  For someone just starting to notice those little butterflies, that "funny feeling" you get when someone you like walks into the room.  

And it made me forget about broken hearts, broken promises, and spending the two weeks leading up to this day grimacing over Hallmark and Kay Jewelers commercials...it made me forget about being ok with my singleness.

It made me love this day.  And that made my day complete by 8:00 a.m. 

Thank you William ♥


The Old House, and Did You Know that I'm a Glutton for Punishment?

So the other day I was dropping William off at his friend's house.  They live down the street from my old house, the house I lost last year.  You can read my love letter to that house here (oh the weep factor is high on that one, friends...).

As I pulled out of their driveway, I heard a little voice inside me whisper, "Drive by it.  Go see it."  Like a tiny, invisible backseat driver, it was.  Perched over my right shoulder and goading me to just keep going straight.  "Just whiz by, quick.  Just to see.." the voice said.

And so, against my better judgement, I did it.  As the house came into view, I was shocked to feel my heart seemingly slam against the confines of my chest. The air in my lungs froze, my knuckles turned white as my hands tightened into a deathgrip on the steering wheel.  The car slowed itself down to a crawl and I looked at the house.  The house that I loved, the house that is no longer mine. 

I barely recognized it.  Oh, sure, the shape is the same, the hosta and lilacs and hydrangeas I planted over the years are still there.  But the roof...that old, leaky roof is gone, replaced with a new coat of shingles.  Those drafty windows, the ones with cracks and broken grout, the windows my cat would sit in on breezy spring days..those have been replaced too.  The siding, that worn out, exhausted wood siding has been given the heave-ho as well.  Now it's covered in new cedar shakes, in an eye-pleasing shade of greenish taupe. 

Somehow, I ended up in the parking lot of the apartment building directly across the street from my old house, haphazardly sprawled across two parking spaces.  The sob that was caught in my throat came out then, a cascade of tears pouring down my cheeks along with it.  I cursed that little voice, the voice that had forced me to drive down this street, forced me to look at what was once my home.  I cursed it and cried even harder. 

What did it look like inside?  I wondered.  Did they replace the ancient pegged oak floors?  Did they find the layers of paint in the living room and marvel over the variety (white, then red, then green, then yellow)?  I wondered if the person who bought the house could feel any of our old ghosts in there.  Can they sense the pain?  The joy?  Or did that leave with me and the kids? 

As I sat there, and cried, I felt the New Jenny, the one who has grown so much, who has learned a billion life lessons in just a couple of short years, I felt her give way to the Old Jenny, the angry, hopeless me.  The one I thought I had lost for good.  Feeling that old rage slip back in, as easy as one slides into bed at night...it scared me.  The depth of the rage I felt scared me, too.  It's been a long time since I felt so completely enraged, felt that deep black well of hatred open up like some evil haunted well in a horror movie.  I wanted to stand there, with Big Daddy, and force him to look at what I lost, compel him to confront what could have been, what should have been, what is now gone and lost forever. 

I wanted to shake him and point his expressionless, jowly face at that house and MAKE him feel my anguish, feel those tears hot as lava coursing down my cheeks, feel my heart breaking all over again.  I wanted to ask him, as I shook him and watched his stupid Prince Valiant hair flip back and forth, "WAS IT WORTH IT?".  or maybe, "HOW COULD YOU??". 

I closed my eyes, and let that imagery fade.  The tears stopped coming, my breath resumed a normal pace.  My heart, which felt as though it had stopped, started beating ba bum ba bum ba bum again.  I felt that old black well close up, felt the anger dissipate, like a receding fog.  Felt it all roll back, back to wherever it had been hiding. 

I opened my eyes again, and looked at the house.  It looked so cute.  So lovely.  So new.

It didn't look like mine anymore.  And that's when I knew I was me once more, the New Jenny.  I knew it was ok to drive again.  Drive away from that sad spot...

Drive home. 


Shut up and run

I have a lot of friends.  And a lot of those friends?  They're runners.  Ironically enough, most of my very attractive, very fit friends are runners.  If they weren't my friends, I'd most likely be jealous of them and their taut, thin thighs, and sometimes I'd say things about them like, "ooooh I'm so pissed...my size 2 jeans were tight today..FML" all said in a snarky whine.

But the reality is, these women are amazing.  I see some of them running, some days, in the rain.  On icy sidewalks.  In the snow.  At the ass-crack of dawn.  These women walk out of their front doors, stretch a little, and then take off running.

And they always come home safe and sound, right?  Ready to tackle the day....get the kids up, get them fed, off to school.  Some of these women go to work, put in their 8 or  9 or 10 hours and then come home and work some more.  Some volunteer at school; they teach kids to read, kids who don't have a single adult in their life who will sit down and look a a book with them.  They organize food drives, they attend PTO meetings, they help clean out the puppy cages at the Humane Society, take care of their parents, etc.

There was one woman, a woman in Sidney, Montana, who didn't come home from her run.  She left her house, and about one mile into her run, she disappeared.  All that was left was a shoe.  A single shoe.

She was a wife.  A mom. A cousin. A friend.  A teacher.  And now she's gone.

I'd like you to read her story, here:  Shut Up + Run

And on February 11th, I'd like you to run or walk or waddle along with me.

It's the least we can do.

I Missed A Day (and I don't like it). Ten on Tuesday Wednesday Thursday

Told you this every day thing was hard.  I went to a show at the Guthrie Tuesday night (it was AMAZING, by the way, about the end of Judy Garland's rainbow...more later) and when I got home a little past 10, the angels were up and needed me.  I fell asleep next to William (yes, we will have a therapy session just for this but whatever).  Wednesday night I oversaw my confirmation class at their turn with Feed My Starving Children and again fell asleep in a place other than my bed (this time is was the couch).  I'm pulling the Mom card excuse, folks.  That's all I got.

Now on to the Ten:

1.  I'm convinced that me + running water = instant need for a child to have a conversation with me.  Seriously.  Shower, dishes, washing machine, flushing toilet...for some reason, put me in the same room with any of the above factors and there will be a child in the vicinity who all of a sudden has a desperate need to chat.  I think I could go to Niagara Falls, all by my lonesome, not telling anyone where I was headed, and as I stood on one of the observation platforms, the mist of the falls peppering my face, I'd hear a faint voice yelling "MOM?  MOM?  WHERIOUSFDJKSSL??" (because that's what it sounds like when a kid is yelling to you from another room/behind a closed door when there's water running).

2.  Speaking of kids, I'm trying to convince one of mine to go into plastic surgery...not only for my benefit but because someday, in the not-too-distant future, a million of these hipster guys are going to wake up with regret:

Can you say "earlobe rejuvenation"?

3. Please tell me I'm not the only one who has a pre-wash cycle like this in their house?

I'll understand if none of you ever want to eat over.

4.  I had lunch today with two of my dearest friends from my childhood/teen years.  We laughed, I cried a tiny bit (oh what a SHOCK), we laughed some more.  If I can teach my kids anything, I hope it's this:  I want them to hang on to their friends, cultivate those friendships and never let them wither.  I have a few regrets in life, one of the biggest is allowing some of my friendships to go untended.  In the words of my beloved Winnebago Man, "No more!". 

5.  New show that I'm liking so far:  Alcatraz (Fox, Mondays 9/8 central).  It's a little X-Files, a little CSI.  It's just hard to watch Jorge Garcia sometimes...he's so big that my pancreas aches a little when he's onscreen.

6.  When I started this post it was Wednesday, I swear.  Now I'm two days in the hole for the NaMoBloPo thing.  Bad blogger. 

7.  Watching the play "End of the Rainbow" on Tuesday (the show about Judy Garland) I was struck by two things:  the guy playing Judy's last fiancee' looked a lot different from my seat than he does in real life (because I thought he was kind of a beefy, Ben Affleck-y looking guy but when I got home and stalked Googled him he was more of a Joseph Gordon-Levitt-y guy).  But he was on Guiding Light.  Also, it made me miss having a good gay guy friend.  I have had some great ones over the years, but that sparkly light has been missing from my life since the Big Daddy era.  Where does one go to find a new gay guy friend?  I spend too much time at Target.  Time to shake things up.

8.  So, today on facebook I'm seeing a lot memorials for a guy from my high school class who died in his twenties (heart attack, I think?).  He was an "all around" good guy, I guess, but my clearest memory of him is the time he said a slew of unspeakably cruel things to me in the cafeteria, in front of a crowd.  I went home that day and cried my eyes out.  That day?  I hated him.  When I heard of his passing, I regretted the hate and only wished him peace.  In the end, he taught me that our words will outlive us.  Something to think about.

9.  Smokers?  I see you, driving and smoking and I have two things to say:  Firstly, opening your window a little bit and blowing the smoke through the crack is not helping.  You still smell like a giant cigarette butt when you arrive at your destination.  Secondly, use the ashtray in your car, or keep an ash receptacle of some sort in there.  I have never been able to understand the concept of "I'll just throw this out on the road when I'm done with it." 

10.  I've been getting small spousal maintenance (the new term for alimony) checks from Big Daddy for a while...believe me, nothing near what he needs to be paying, in fact, they are spent well before I get my claws on them (and conveniently, since they are called 'spousal maintenance' payments, I get taxed...even though they are spent entirely on 'maintaining' my kids).  But I'm finding it funny and weird that the last few checks have been from Secretary.  She has pretty checks.  Sometimes I write "THANK YOU ♥ !!" in the memo section, because I'm mature like that.  The whole thing has me wondering exactly what's up with this.  The Encyclopedia Brown in me is thinking that he's closed his checking account in anticipation of some legal action on my part.  And that makes the Evil Queen in me laugh and rub my hands together in a villainous way.  Because you can go ahead and bury your money in mason jars in the backyard, sir...but just like Debbie Harry said, one way or another...I'm gonna find ya. 

And with that I'm going to close before Friday gets here.  Have a good day, people. 


This "Writing Every Day" Thing is hard.

Oh it was easy the first couple of days, I was all writery like and scrawling post ideas on scraps of paper around the house, sending myself emails with BREAKTHROUGH thoughts and HILARIOUS random observations.

But it's hard to carve out time to sit on my fat ass and force myself to write.  Don't get me wrong, it's rarely difficult for me to find the time to sit in this very spot and watch a Law and Order marathon for an entire Sunday.. but to have to come up with something to say?  Something that will be entertaining and/or thought provoking or something that will make one person out there smile?  It's tough.

Ok, here's some random thoughts:  I'm sitting here watching The Learning Channel.  "My 600-lb. life" is on.  And all I can think is, "Seriously?  Even the 600 pound chick has a husband?  WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME??".  But she seems like a sweet girl. 

Another random thought:  I've been eating so much cheese that I'm pretty sure if I cut myself right now, warm rivulets of melted brie would flow out of the wound instead of blood.  I'm kind of over cheese.

Mitt Romney now scares me.  Should I be afraid?  Why does he give me the heebie jeebies?  I hate politics.  Too bad we can't have like a Super Heroes cabinet or something like that and let them run things.

Now I'm actually stealing ideas from myself, ideas for my next scintillating Ten on Tuesday post.  So I guess I'll close this truly awful jumble of words with two things:

First one is, can I get an amen?  There's a new lawyer in town.  And she's on my side.  That's all I'm going to say about that one.  But if there was any doubt in my mind that I am surrounded by angels, both above me looking down and here on Earth, walking next to me...that doubt it gone.  Angels are real, folks.  And thankfully, so are attorneys who really, really enjoy helping women just like me.  Stay tuned.

Second is a visual, because it's easy and also usually good for a giggle.  Enjoy.  And I'll be here tomorrow with my Ten.

Yes, I've pinned this picture AND made it my facebook profile picture, so my crossover Pinterest/Facebook/Blog friends are now rolling their eyes and groaning.  Sorry, hens.  But this is funny.  If you're not laughing, it's because you must not have ever watched "Parks and Recreation".  So you need to watch it.  And then check back here, confide in me that you, too, have a secret crush on Aziz Ansari, and then laugh at this funny picture.  Then we'll chant/worship in my Amy Pohler/Tina Fey shrine and have a glass of wine.  It will be lovely.

P.S.  And now I'm sitting here bawling about the 600 lb. lady.  Damn you, TLC.  You get me every time.


Hens, Hairnets and Haiti




What do these three random things have in common?  Tonight, a few good hens and I went to my church and helped pack meals for Feed My Starving Children, a Christian-based non-profit organization that provides much-needed food to kids around the globe.

And not just any food...they send "MannaPacks", small pouches of easy-to-prepare food (rice, soy, vegetables and vitamins/minerals).  These MannaPacks were developed with companies such as Cargill and General Mills, and are specially made to help provide instant nutrition to severely malnourished children.  Even better, if the kids that get it are no longer in immediate danger of starving, these MannaPacks provide important nutrition to keep them growing and healthy.

Feed My Starving Children relies on donations and volunteers to keep things running smoothly.  One way you can do something is to volunteer to help create these MannaPacks.  They organize groups, like the group my hens and I were part of tonight, at tables and for two hours, you pack meals.  Chicken flavoring, vegetables, soy and rice, in that order..over and over again.  You have someone holding the bags, someone else pouring the ingredients into the bags, someone weighing the bags, someone sealing the bags and last but not least, someone packing the bags into boxes.

It's two short hours out of our lives, that will make a difference in the lives of some kids halfway around the world.

To say that this can choke a girl up is an understatement.

While we packed, we gabbed.  We laughed.  We talked about our kids and school drama and life.  And every once in a while, we got quiet.  I thought about what a crazy planet this is, where things are so scary and awful for some people and so easy and carefree for others, simply because of where we happened to be born.

I thought about how much money American spend every year in the pursuit to get thin:  money spent on Weight Watchers and NutriSystem and Medifast and Jenny Craig.  Money spent on gym memberships and yoga classes and exercise equipment.  Money spent on stomach stapling and liposuction and even hypnotizing.

All because it's so easy to be fat in this country.

And then, I thought about the people in Haiti, the kids who would be eating this very food we were packing up. 

Before we got to packing, the people in charge showed us some pictures.  One of the pictures was of a little girl named Marilyn.  Marilyn was 3 years old when she was brought to a malnourishment clinic in Haiti.  She weighed 14 pounds.

3 years old, 14 pounds.  My sons weighed 14 pounds at their 6 week well-baby checkups.

They showed us a picture of Starving Marilyn.  Gaunt face pulled back in a grimace, the pain she was most surely feeling reflected in her eyes.  Stick arms, swollen belly.  And then they showed us a picture of Marilyn just a few months after receiving treatment, including meals from Feed My Starving Children.  Her face was plump and smooth, her body filled out, arms and legs sturdy and strong.  She was smiling. 

Now, I don't know from experience, but from what I understand, starving to death hurts.  Starving to death is a slow, excruciating way to die.  And to imagine a child going through that pain, that hopelessness, that death?  It's difficult, if not impossible, to do.  Especially as I sit here on my couch, me, the poor single mom who has never once been even close to starving no matter how broke I am.  I sit here with a full belly, a warm laptop in front of me, a television talking to nobody in particular and a cell phone at my side. My kids have certainly never been in danger of malnutrition. 

It doesn't make sense that somewhere, right this very second, a child is in agony because they don't have enough to eat.  I think about all the food we throw away every day here in the land of plenty.  All the sandwiches we pack for our kids that get tossed into the lunchroom garbage, the veggies that turn into fuzzy, unrecognizable lumps in the drawers of our fridges, the leftovers that get tossed into trashcans or scraped into dog bowls in kitchens in every city in every state of this country.

It doesn't make sense, and yet it's happening.  Right now, as I type this, as you read this.

If you're like me, it makes you feel small and helpless and powerless.  There isn't much we, as individuals, can do.

But tonight, my hens and I did a little, tiny bit to help.  We took two hours out of our lives and stuffed food into plastic bags that will be loaded onto a cargo plane and flown across an ocean and then, someone will unpack it, add water to it, cook it, serve it up.

And a child will eat it.

It's not much, I know.  But it's something.

If you're a praying sort of person, please say a couple, or a dozen, or a hundred for all the hungry kids out there.  And if you can, go pack some meals for a couple of hours.  It's not much, but if we all did it, it would make a little dent.


Use the "Good Stuff"

A few weeks back, on a Friday night, one of my favorite hens came over.  We had a few glasses of wine, gabbed on the couch and at one point I gestured over to the small dining table by the patio door.  Said table was covered with a variety of picture frames, some filled with photographs, some empty.  I told her how I'd been meaning to assemble a "Picture Wall" but never quite got around to it.  Well, this hen of mine, she's a doer. And so we rounded up some nails and a couple of hammers and we got hanging.  As we were hanging frames, we looked through some boxes of old photographs to find more pics.  Old pictures brought up old feelings, and talk turned to divorce and how one deals with the "leftovers" from a dead marriage.

I told her that when he left, he didn't ask for anything.  Not a single photograph.  Not any artwork the kids had made.  He wanted nothing, not a single remnant nor reminder of our fifteen years together.  And then I said to her, "I still have our wedding china, it's downstairs all packed up."

My friend looked at me for a second, a nail held firmly between her lips, hammer clutched in her hand.  She took the nail from her mouth and said to me, "Let's go unpack it. You're going to start using your china."

I balked at first; told her how expensive it was, and how I was sure the kids would have it chipped and cracked and marked up in no time.  How I should save it for special occasions.

She stopped me on the stairs leading down to the storage closet where the china slept, swaddled in packing peanuts and gauzy memories.  "Jenny," she said, placing a hand on my shoulder, "really.  What special occasions?".  And she was right.

I mean, what had I been saving it for, anyway?  For the intimate Christmas meals that I make for the kids every other year?  For all of the sweet romantic dates I have, where I make one of my trademark man-catchin' meals for the man du jour (ha!)?  For the tea parties I have?  In a life where special occasions are few and far between, does it make sense to keep a special set of dishes for them?

No.  It makes zero sense.  And so we unpacked it, piece by piece, and set it on the big table in the kitchen.  The tea cups, the saucers, the bread plates, the dinner plates, the soup bowls, the serving bowls.  The salt and pepper shaker.  The boxes seemed to be bottomless, and with each piece that was unearthed, I felt another little hole in my heart heal.  I remembered the wedding, the reception, remembered opening all of the gifts and writing all of the thank you notes.  I remembered going to the store with Big Daddy, wandering around and looking at dozens of china patterns before we finally settled on this one.  "Claire" by Ralph Lauren for Wedgewood.  Looking at it now, it seems dated and oh-so-1990's-Laura Ashley, but its beauty is not lost on me. 

I cried a little, as we washed each piece and put it away in the kitchen cabinets.  My friend hugged me, told me that this was a good move.  The right thing to do.

"This used to be yours and his.  Now it's just yours...make new memories with it.  Use it, every day."

And so we've been using it.  It was difficult, at first, seeing a piece of the hallowed "good china" in the sink, smeared with peanut butter and jelly, or the remnants of a sunny-side up egg.  But every day, it gets easier.  Those old memories are fading, they are being replaced with new ones, better ones.

Good ones.


My Best Halloween Costume EVER: Box of Wine. Seriously.


Halloween in February?  Yes.  Because I have to come up with 29 posts this month, I'm going to be reaching for topics, folks.  And this is one I had planned on writing about anyways..maybe closer to Halloween but I can always repost it then.

Anyhoo...I used to really dig Halloween.  When the kids started elementary school, I'd dress up and go to their little classroom parties (much to their dismay after like, 2nd grade).  One year I was Medusa, one year a witch (that was the year I actually made Charlie cry out of embarrassment. Luckily he was in third grade, the last grade with class parties).  One year I was a clown, complete with full face makeup.

I think I'm finally realizing why the kids don't like Halloween as much as I do....

But the kids got older, and my opportunities for dressing up diminished.  I resorted to the lame "Halloween theme shirts" or "look I'm wearing a devil horns headband! I'm a devil!  Haha get it?".  I missed dressing up, figuring out a costume, embarrassing my kids.

So, I was completely thrilled to be invited to a couple of parties this past Halloween.  One with an actual costume contest!  I felt the old costume-adrenaline start coursing through my veins as ideas flew through my head. 

I had settled on being "Megan" from Bridesmaids.  I was going to get back to my thrift store roots and find one of those men's Nat Nast bowling type shirts, a pair of navy Dockers capris, and of course a little pearl necklace.  Oh, and a wrist brace, and one of those neck pillow thingies.  It was going to be epic, I tell ya!  Except...when I told people about my costume idea, they'd say, "Oh, funny!" but not much else.  Not "That's a great idea!" or "Why didn't I think of that?!".  Also, not one person said, "But Jenny!  She's a big girl.  How can you pull that off?".  Sigh.  So I shelved that idea and glumly accepted the fact that once again, I'd be "Devil Horn Headband Lady".


One night my friend Danielle and I were texting back and forth (I know, I'm 14.  And I'm ok with that.) about costume ideas.  She is one of the the most creative people I know, and has a trillion friends who are equally as creative and fun, so I figured she have some good ideas.  Then I got this text from her:

"How about you go as a BOX OF WINE?"

I wrote back something like, "HAHA.." and then I googled "Box of Wine Costume".

She was on to something.  There were a few out there, all homemade.  Most were *gag* Franzia boxes.  I decided to go for it, so we began plotting the details.

I would be going as a Bota Box, of course, since I practically own stock in that company (not really, but I should).  Not only is their wine yummy, but the box is aesthetically pleasing with muted colors and cool fonts.

If you want to make one, I suggest starting it a week or so in advance.  Danielle and I made this one in ONE HOUR.  I can't remember what happened, but we were both stuck doing other stuff up until just a little bit before I had to leave for the parties.  But dammit, we did it and it turned out great.

Here are the things you're going to need:

A big box that fits over your body comfortably (mine was a box that originally housed a toilet)
A roll of brown kraft paper (I'm the antithesis of 'crafty' so I don't know what kind, what weight, etc. Just get a roll of it at Michaels)
Clear packing tape (lots of it)
Duct tape (doesn't matter what color, it's for inside the box)
Markers...lots and lots of markers.  Get those big, fat Sharpies if you can.  There's a lot of black on the box, and I think we went through at least 3 of those huge black Sharpies.  The different varietals of Bota Box wines have different colors on the boxes, so you'll need to check the box.  Very closely.  And it helps if the box is open and tapped, because believe me when I say that making this costume will be more fun if you have a little buzz.
Heavy Duty scissors
A Box of Wine Yes, a real box of wine, with wine in it.  You'll need the box to copy the design, and you'll need to wine to put inside your costume.

First thing you have to do is cut holes in the box for your head and arms.  Easy peasy.  But, this was actually kind of a time suck, so that's why I want you to start yours way more than an hour before the party starts.

When the holes are cut, you put that box on and you see if you can move everything comfortably.  You most likely won't be able to sit down while wearing the box, so make sure you're not wearing eff me shoes or anything too fancy.  Also make sure you can move your arms easily.  I couldn't get a glass or food up to my gaping mouth while wearing the box, so I had to rely on the kindness of my friends, and straws.

OH JEEZE...I forgot the most important hole of all:  You need to cut a small hole for the spout.  BECAUSE YOU WILL BE SERVING WINE OUT OF IT.  Yes, this wine box is fully functional.  I'll get to the mechanics of it later, but when cutting the hole for the spigot you just have to kind of eyeball it.  On the actual Bota Box, the spigot is on the side, but for convenience, we moved it to the front.  So I could reach it.  (and also because my fat ass and hips took up most of the wiggle room on the sides of the box)

Ok, so now you wrap that box in the kraft paper.  Just like wrapping a present. Tape it up good, because believe me, your box will get handled (oh yeah, get ready for box jokes ALL NIGHT LONG).  But make sure you leave the front, sides and back tape free...the marker will not work over tape. 

And then the artistry begins.  We copied the designs on the box, pretty much exactly.  The front was the most detailed and took the longest.  Danielle is a MASTER and if there was a job out there that called for expert wine box copying, she'd be the Employee of the Year.

I'm sure there are computery ways to do this, but that would require knowledge that extends beyond mine (which is right click, print, ok).  Plus, I think the hand drawn/lettered finished product looked more "real".  But I'm biased.

When the decorating is done, it's time to install the wine.  Take the pouch of wine out of the little box.  I had to empty mine a bit, because it was heavy and I didn't have any duct tape.  So if you have to empty it a little, take one for the team and do it.

Now, you go up inside the costume box, and stick the spigot out of the little hole you cut prior to decorating.  Make sure that the spigot is going the right way, so the wine will pour DOWN.  When that's done, you have to tape the pouch to the inner wall of the costume box.  Tape it up WELL because it will get jostled inside there.

When that's done, put the box on and test it out.  Make sure it works...and heads up, it may drip a little (and here come the "dripping box" jokes.  I told you to get ready for them, didn't I?).  I had to put some tape on mine before I got to the parties.

You will not be able to sit in the car with it on, so make sure you have space to carry it.  Also, I am kind of a freak when it comes to the drinking and driving thing, along with the "open bottle" laws.  I actually panicked a little, because I thought if we got pulled over the open wine thing could be a problem.  So you may want to inquire about your local laws.  And if you've been sampling the wine while making this, like I've suggested?  Make sure you aren't the driver.

Another awesome thing about this costume is that you can wear comfy clothes underneath (it gets hot in there!).  I'm so sick of all the costume options for women being the whore version of things (Slutty Nurse!  Slutty Vampire!  Slutty Julia Childs!) so this one is great if you don't have the body or the desire to dress like a skank.

And now, for the pictures of the final product:

As you can see from this last picture, you will be the life of the party.  And guess what?


Have fun with this one, and if you do decide to be a box of wine for Halloween, please send me a picture!


When Worlds Collide: Crossing Paths with The Other Woman

When Big Daddy first walked out on our family to be with Secretary, I knew literally nothing about her.  And, like most scorned women tend to do, I found myself completely consumed with a sick, twisted curiosity...who was she?  What does she look like?  What makes her so awesome that she's worth throwing your family down the proverbial garbage chute?  I spent a lot of time on this worthless pursuit, checking Big Daddy's old emails, poring through boxes of receipts, old credit card statements, etc.  I talked to former coworkers of his, and through this pathetic Encyclopedia Brown investigation I came up with the whole story:  beginning, middle, and of course, the end. 

Turns out she was a dozen years younger than me, worked alongside Big Daddy for a year or so and then got a job at the office building across the street from his.  Ironically enough, she too was married (no kids though).  I was expecting someone unbelievably hot, someone tall and supple and seductive.  After all, don't you have to be a knockout in order to pull a man away from his wife and kids?

No, you don't.  Apparently the major requirement in Homewrecking 101 is that you have to be ready, willing and able to date a married guy.  Believe me, beauty has nothing to do with it.

So, most of you know how it went:  he left, they moved in together immediately, they got their divorces and began living happily ever after. 

What some of you may not know is that they decided to live happily ever after about 2 miles away from me and the kids.  Some days, when the wind is blowing just right, I swear I can still smell his halitosis.  But that's not the point of this post. 

What I'm rambling on about today is what it's like when your ex-husband and his wife, the woman he left you for, live within spitting distance of you. 

At first, it freaked me out to the point that I looked around at stoplights, wondering if it was him or her or THEM in the car next to me.  I turned corners at the grocery store with my breath held, hoping I wouldn't come cart-to-cart with Secretary.  I'd be walking my dog, having a perfectly blissful conversation with him, and look up to see Big Daddy's car driving by.  Sometimes, to put a bizarre cherry on top of this surreal sundae, we'd wave at each other.  Like neighbors, or acquaintances. 

One memory is very clear, and for some reason I still think about it from time to time:  I went to pick up some dry cleaning, and the clerk handed me a bag of clothes that didn't look familiar...I took a closer look at the name on the slip and saw HER name.  I'll admit, just between you and me, that for a few brief seconds I imagined myself taking the bag home, going out into the backyard, dousing all of it in gasoline and then setting it on fire while I cackled over the flames like a vindictive crone .  But then I handed the bag back and said, "Right last name, wrong first one." 

It really started hitting home when my friends began mentioning their Big Daddy/Secretary Sightings.  "I saw them at the grocery store..." or "my husband saw her at the bar with her friends" or "guess who I ran into at Costco".  For the first time, I thought about what it must feel like, knowing that everywhere you go, there are people who know who you are, and what you've done.  Big Daddy had once written me a scathing email, lashing out at me and my posse of hens for ostracizing him and making him feel like a "pedophile" whenever he darkened the door at school functions or sporting events.  My reaction to that accusation was the same back then as it stands today:  Tough shit.  Everything we do in this life has consequences:  some good, some bad.  I'm guessing leaving your wife penniless, with three mortgages and in charge of four children means your consequences are going to suck.

So, what makes you think of this today, Jenny? Are you asking yourself that?  Or are you thinking, "Crap..I think I left the laundry room lights on."?  Either way, I'll tell you.  Yes, you left the light on, and the reason this is on my mind today is because I ran across Secretary on Pinterest, of all places.  One of the people who liked or commented on one of my "pins" also commented or liked or repinned one of HERS.  And, being the creeper that I am, I decided to check out her boards. 

Yawn.  Lots of baby stuff, lots of Pottery Barn-ish home stuff...blah blah blah.  And then I saw this: 

She had this picture posted, and under it she wrote:  "And your husbands."

Can you smell the irony?  Can you?  It positively REEKS.  I laughed.  Actually, that's a lie.  I snickered.  I snickered the snicker that only a woman who has been cheated on can snicker.  You know why, right?  Because that sweet bitch Karma is coming around. 

I'm sure when you're dry humping somebody's husband in your office or in the backseat of your car in a sports bar parking lot, there isn't a whole lot of concern floating through your mind.  You, after all, are the danger.  You're the one thing wives fear.  You are that scary, unknown element who can crawl out of thin air and snatch up a husband like a fox raiding a hen house.

But now...now the tables are turned, aren't they?  Now you are the wife.  You are the mother of his child.  Now, it's sinking in.  Somewhere out there is a nubile little 21 year old who's just DYING to meet your husband.  She hasn't had kids, her belly is taut and she doesn't have stretch marks on her boobs.  All she has is time, collagen and the desire to make some man feel like he's King of the World. 

Who knows?  You may have already crossed paths with her.  It happens every day.


Ten on Tuesday (or Wednesday, if you want to get all technical about it)

Picture me jumping up from a wipeout ala' Mary Katherine Gallagher and whisper/screaming "Superstar!".  That's me getting over the whole car thing.  (and I may or may not have smelled my hands....).  I tell ya what, I'm finding it easier and easier to follow my own little life mantra, "Cry a river of tears...and then build a bridge to get over it."  Maybe time really does heal all wounds?  Or maybe it's early-onset dementia.  We'll see.

Ready for the Ten?  I am.  Let's do this:

1.  Keeping this one saved.  You know, just in case (insert Dr. Evil laugh right here).

2.  Ahhh.  Honda has resurrected Ferris Bueller.  Yet another golden memory from my youth bastardized by advertisers.  Is there really nothing new to be created or developed or written?  Why do the marketing powers that be have to keep going back to that old well marked "Nostalgia"?  Time for something fresh, people.

3.  This past weekend I chaperoned a confirmation retreat at our church...it was the 8th grader's "Love and Kissing and Sex and Stuff" retreat, started at 9 a.m. on Saturday and ended at noon on Sunday.  73 kids, all 13-14 years old, and sex talk.  Sounds like fun, huh?  It turned out to be absolutely fascinating, eye opening and educational.  Of course the church is preaching abstinence, and I for one am totally on board that train. At one point in the retreat, the boys and girls were separated and the adults were put into panels:  one with all of us women, the other all the men.  Then we had about an hour with each group, first girls with the female panel, boys with the men, and then we switched.  The kids had been given slips of paper and were told to write down any questions they had about sex and love and relationships.  Wow.  Here's where both the "eye opening" and the "educational" came into play.  Do you know what a cream pie is?  I used to think it was a delicious bakery treat, made with whipped cream and bananas or Boston Cream or chocolate.  Guess what?  There's another definition of cream pie.  And I may never eat pie again.  (yeah right.  Talk to me when Dairy Queen brings back the pumpkin pie Blizzard). 

Anyhoo, like I said, I learned a lot.  And I also found myself wishing I could go back in time and do so many things differently.  Even at my age, it's so important to have respect for yourself and to make good choices.  I've made some dumb choices over the past few years...that's going to change. 

4.  So apparently there's some NamBloPopPro (totally screwed that up) thing going on with the "blogging community".  It's a little exercise, a self-challenge, if you will, to write on your blog EVERY.SINGLE.DAY.  I'm feeling like stepping out of the box a bit, so I think I'm going to do this challenge, albeit very quietly and all on my own.  YOU'VE BEEN WARNED.  (here's the link to the NaBloPo thing, in case you're interested in participating)

5.  Wheat Belly Update:  I'm starting to hate cheese.  But I'm sticking with it...because it's working.  I feel incredible.  Wait...I can use this for one of my daily posts!  Stay tuned. 

6.  I haven't had a hen party this year.  The time is nigh, hens.  I'm feeling party-ish lately.  I think I'm going to pick a Saturday in February and just plan it. 

7.  Shameless on Showtime.  So awful, so bad!  SO AWESOME.  You can smell Frank (masterfully and dirtily played by the awesome William H. Macy) through the t.v. and my creepy old lady crush on the character Lips is starting to worry me.  Plus Joan Cusack, people.  Season One is on DVD now...I highly recommend it.  But be warned:  lots of nudity, lots of sex...but even more laughs.  It's so bad it's good. 

8.  I have no clue what's going on in the presidential race.  Someone want to fill me in?  Who is Mitt Romney?  He's good looking in a moneyed, powerful way.  He makes me think of George Clooney in "The Ides of March" (which I found to be dull and plotless...how can a movie with both Paul Giamatti AND Phillip Seymour Hoffman be boring??). 

9.  Dinner tonight is cheese ravioli, take and bake ciabatta bread and a massive salad.  I'll be having salad and trying to pretend that I don't want to take the bowl of ravioli and strap it to my face like a feedsack.  Or take the loaf of bread, stick it in a Baby Bjorn and walk around eating it, hands free.  Sigh. 


Really?  Keep it a secret?  Next they'll be telling us that it's ok to hit your child, if it only happens once.  Did you need another reason to not watch daytime television?  You're welcome.

Ok my lovelies.  That's it for the Ten.  I'm now off to google "Red Licorice on Wheat Belly".  Because mama wants some of that Australian soft licorice.  So.good.

My ex husband is an asshole.

So I got my new car.  I was, and am, very happy with it.  It's a simple car, a six year old Ford Focus.  I found it on Craigslist, and really, it's kind of a funny story.  Not funny like my Craig from Craigslist Segway date, but funny enough.

I saw it, saw the price (around $4000, which was basically all I had) and called the number listed immediately.  A guy with a vaguely Latino accent answered, told me that yes, it was a salvage title (which means the car had been totaled out by an insurance company) but that he had fully repaired and restored it.  He assured me that he had driven several cars with salvage titles, and had never experienced a problem.  I told him I'd call him back in a bit, after I talked to my insurance guy.  Insurance guy gave me the thumbs up, so I called Vaguely Latino Guy back about the car.

"What's your last name?" he asked me.  I started to spell it out for him, but he interrupted before I could finish.  "JENNY!" he exclaimed..."Jenny, it's me, Manfredo!  Silvia's husband, Carlos' dad!".  It took just a second to sink in...this was a man I've known for over a decade, the father to two sweet boys (one in Molly's grade, the other in William's) and husband to one of the most genuinely wonderful women I've ever had the pleasure to meet.

We laughed for a bit over the insane smallness of the world, and then arranged a time for me to come see the car.  Remember, at this time, my truck was already history so I was relying on the kindness of my hens for rides everywhere.  This particular day (and several days before this) my driver was Danielle, who also happened to be recovering from knee surgery.  But Danielle is one of those "It takes more than knee surgery to keep me down" kind of gals, so she schlepped my sorry ass over to Manfredo's house later that day.

The car was tiny, it was a no-frills Ford Focus with cloth seats and a cold, slippery steering wheel and absolutely standard EVERYTHING.  No bells, and definitely no whistles.  It seated five, and the trunk looked just big enough for a couple of big suitcases or one hockey bag.

Danielle and I took it out for a spin.  It had been a long time since I'd been behind the wheel of something that didn't weigh over 7,000 lbs and towered over everything but semi trucks.  It was like getting behind the wheel of a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe...I felt exposed and light and....FREE. 

We drove back to Manfredo's house and I told him I'd take it.  I wrote him a check, I signed a few things and then he handed me the keys to my new ride.  He assured me that it was SAFE and that if I changed my mind, or if any problems arose, to call him and he'd take care of it.  And you know what?  I trust him.  He's that kind of person...kind of like my sainted landlord.  The kind of person you can just trust, you know?

It's an older car, a very very basic car, the kind of car most of you would probably buy for your teenager.  But to me?  This car is a symbol.  A symbol of a new beginning.  I finally got rid of that god forsaken truck, that gas-sucking parting gift that was as full of bad memories as it was full of petrified french fries and chewed gum and candy wrappers (judging me about what my kids eat?  That's what was in the front of the truck, bitches.  I can't even begin to describe what lurked under the back seats.).  I was finally rid of that weight, and it felt awesome.

And for a few days, a week, a week and a half, that awesome feeling continued. I felt like I was taking steps to improve my situation, to improve the lives of my kids.  Like I was finally, FINALLY taking charge and doing what needed to be done to start making positive changes.

It was nice while it lasted.

Tonight was a Big Daddy night for the kids, one of his "dinner hour" visits.  The kids and I were hanging out, talking about stuff and working on yet another art project and every once in a while one of them would peek out the front window to see if Big Daddy was here.  Finally, one of them announced, "He's here!".

Time was, I used to go outside to greet him, to talk about whatever needed to be talked about, share information or give updates.  That all stopped when I found out about the affair with Secretary, when I found out everything.  That's when I began kissing the kids goodbye inside, telling them that I loved them and always, always, "Be good.".

Tonight was no different.  But for some reason, I decided to look out the window.

And that's when I saw Big Daddy's shiny new car.

His 2012, tricked out, BELLS AND WHISTLES Ford Focus.

Really, the irony is not completely lost on me.  It's funny.

But what's not funny is that his Ford Focus costs about $26,000.00 compared to mine costing $4,000.00.  What also isn't funny is that he owes me thousands upon thousands of dollars.  And I don't know how he came to be the proud owner of this shiny new car..maybe he bought it, maybe he leased it, maybe he traded in his soul...but no matter what, he owes me and his kids more than what that car is worth. 

When the boys got home, I casually asked "So did your dad get a new car?" which I am pretty sure falls within the limits of "dad talk" that I've allowed myself.  After all, a new car is an exciting thing, right?  It's novel, it's unusual.  It's EXCITING.

The boys told me about Daddy's car.  "He talks to it, and it answers him!" they said.  "It has a huge big computer control panel!!!" they said.  "It smells like that new car smell!!" the youngest one said.

Now, I've been on a path lately.  I'll write more about it later, but this path I'm on is kind of a spiritual one, kind of a Godly one.  I'm not going to go all born again on you guys, I promise.  But I'm in a place of realization, a kind of soul-centering pit-stop on the road trip we call life.  It's been brewing for some time, giving me hints and clues, but I've only recently begun acting on it.

Point is, it's helping me deal with things like this.  It's calming me, keeping my focus where it should be:  on my kids, on our life together...on what's important.  So tonight, as I felt that old awful "one upped" kick in the belly that always feels like a fresh knife in the back?  I tempered it with a healthy dose of calm and rationality and level-headedness.

But sometimes, bad wins.  Sometimes, the negative steals the spotlight from the positive.  Sometimes those icky feelings just come bubbling up to the surface and demand to be noticed.  Like they were tonight.

Why?  Why can't life be fair?  Why can't my asshole of an ex-husband just be a decent guy and do what's right?  Why can't I be the one picking out a brand new car?  Why can't he be the one driving a six year old, salvage-title holding, generic car?

I want to be the one with the heated seats and the fancy schmancy command center.  I want to be the one who can talk to my car (ok, yes, I've talked to mine but SHE NEVER ANSWERS).  I want to have a car that tells me not only who is singing, but what the name of the song is!  I want a car that is shiny and pretty and hasn't been totaled.

So I cried.  I cried a lot, actually...got so bad that I had to banish myself to the bathroom and listened to my pathetic sobs bounce off of the tile.  The kids did that horrible stand by the door thing and asked if I was ok.  I sucked it up, got them tucked in.  Loved them, kissed them, wished them sweet dreams and told them I loved them.  They told me they loved me, too.   Told me to stop being sad, told me that they didn't care about cars.  Told me they loved our "new" wheels.

And that's when I realized that cars aren't so important.  They get us from A to Z.  They carry our groceries, our pets, our art projects and our stuff.  But they don't have squat to do with the intricacies of everyday life.  They have nothing to do with what makes life, "life".  They have zero to do with the relationship between parent and child.

Here's what I did today:

I sewed a tiny hockey jersey for William's art project.  (and you should know, needles and I don't mix)
I talked to my high school senior about life and what he's feeling about it.
I laughed with my 14 year old.
I helped my daughter with homework and listened to her as she told me, in the way that only a 16 year old girl who is in the absolute THROES of adolescence can, how frustrated she is with some of her friends.
I went into the elementary school this morning, intending to just hand in a permission slip but ended up watching one of my favorite 4th grade girls do a presentation on Thailand and helping her fabulous mom dish up fresh homemade Pad Thai to an entire classroom.  (rice noodles, yo, I'm still wheat-free!!!)
I did 4 loads of laundry before 9 a.m., made 5 beds and walked 4.5 miles with my dog.
Watched Contagion and didn't ONCE go on WebMd nor did I use hand sanitizer while it was on.

So as I sat there, and felt sorry for myself, felt shame for driving an older, less fancy car than my asshole ex-husband, it slowly dawned on me that this wasn't a big deal.

Oh, no, don't misunderstand:  he still owes me thousands of dollars, and that's a big deal.  His kids think he's hot shit, and yes, that's a big deal.  The fact that divorce in the United States is supposed to be fair and just and equal, but it rarely is, is a HUGE deal.

But at the end of the day, at the end of the line, at the end of my run...this isn't even going to be a blip on my radar.  In fact, I would bet you some good money that when both Big Daddy and I are on our deathbeds, I'm going to be the one thinking that my Ford Focus was an absolute kick ass, symbolic, life-saving little car.  I can't speak for him, but I'm guessing that Big Daddy won't be thinking the same thing about his shiny fancy talking new ride. 

And I know for sure I won't be thinking about what an asshole I'd been.

What will he be thinking?  I can only guess.  Maybe he can ask his car what to think about?

Ten on Tuesday will be here tomorrow, folks.  A day late.  Mayhap I'll have to come up with a funny name for it, but it will be here.  Sorry.

Stay happy, stay focused and stay centered, my friends.  Life isn't about what we have.  It's about what we do with all we have.
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