I'm Writing My Book...and I need your help!

Before I get too rambly and start babbling, can I get a moment of silence in honor of a great woman?  Nora Ephron died this week, at the age of 71.  I loved her, for so many reasons, but most of all because when I read her stuff, it wasn't like I was reading.  It was like one of my favorite hens was perched next to me, sipping from a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) and gabbing.  She was wise, she was honest, she was so incredibly good at what she did for a living.  The world lost a wonderful voice this week.  Rest in peace, Nora.  I'd like to imagine that she's up there in heaven right now, on a cushy couch, clucking with Dorothy Parker and Erma Bombeck.  Now that's a group of hens for ya. 

Ok, now back to me.

There's a guy who went to my high school, we were in the same class (85, bitches.  That's right. 1985.).  We didn't really interact much back in the day, but thanks to Mark Zuckerberg we have become what is now known as "facebook friends".  This particular guy grew up to become a best selling author.  He wrote a book about cold-calling, and I don't pry about money but I'm pretty sure it's made him a very, very comfortable man.

Anyhoo.  So not only is he a best selling author, he's also a pretty awesome guy.  He had seen some people mention my blog on The Facebook and sent me a message, asking for a link.

This always makes me pause.  Because, although I'm not embarrassed or ashamed of what I write about (ok, there are a few things I've written that make me cringe now.  But hey, that's life.) But it's kind of like if say, you're a teacher and one day while you're sitting in the teacher's lounge, eating your Lean Cuisine, another teacher says to you, "Hey, didn't I see you dancing at that Gentleman's Club last night?".   Ok, maybe not exactly like that.  Maybe more along the lines of Peter Parker getting caught in his Spiderman suit.  What I'm trying to say, is that it's kind of awkward exposing yourself to someone who only knows you as your Public Self. 

But I sent the link.  And assured him that, if we ever met in public, I'd totally understand if he couldn't make eye contact with me.

He wrote back, and told me that he liked my writing.  Again, this makes me pause.  Now, I'm not so delusional that I fancy myself to be a Writer, like with a capital W.  I like to write.  I write what's on my mind, and with me it's pretty much what you see is what you get.  I'm not well educated, I haven't taken classes or studied writing.  But I do enjoy stringing words together in order to tell a story.  When someone compliments me on it, I get a little flustered. 

After he told me he liked my writing, he told me another thing:  He thinks I should write a book.  And then, after that, he told me something else:  He wants to help me get it written.

We met for coffee last week.  He shared with me how he got to where he is today, and gave me some invaluable advice and motivated me like I've never been motivated before.  He told me about the post he read, the post that convinced him to contact me about the whole book thing.  It was the post I wrote about getting my new-to-me Ford Focus.  I wrote about how proud of myself I was, for buying a car with cash, for finally dumping my gas-guzzling SUV.  And then I wrote about how Big Daddy pulled up into my driveway in his new car, and how I felt my pride bubble deflate.

This man, who took time out of his busy life to have coffee with little old me, looked at me and said, "I want to be there when you're buying a $40,000.00 car, and paying for it with cash."  He said some pretty funny things about comeuppance and how living well is the best revenge, and then he said that he thinks my book is pretty much already written.  It's here, in my tiny blog.  It's a story of survival, of finding the silver linings in big black thundery clouds, even if it means dissecting said cloud and peering at the remains with a magnifying glass.  I write about divorce, about adultery, about hairy legs, about how agonizingly hard it is to parent teens, about eating your feelings, about that Smug Bastard George Clooney, about sex (and not having it.  And sometimes, having it.).  Some of you like it, and my friend from high school thinks that there are more people out there like you. 

So my friend and I came up with a sort of skeleton for my book:  it's going to be short stories, blurbs, essays, whatever you want to call them.  Basically, blog posts.  We're going to tweak them here and there, but like he said, most of it is already written.

Here's where you come in.  If you have a few minutes, could you please chime in and tell me if there is a particular post in here that resonated with you.  Maybe it was a post that made you laugh, or cry, or both.  Maybe it was a post that grossed you out (meaning any post that discusses my sex life) and made you oh so grateful about that fact that you're not me. 

I'm supposed to present him with five chapters, five posts that I think best represent The Happy Hausfrau.  I have a few ideas but I'd like to hear your opinions.

Thank you in advance for whatever input you provide, even if it's to tell me that I need to get my head out of the clouds and stop dreaming.  Or that you saw me in the Taco Bell drive thru the other day.

I'm kind of excited about this. 


It's not you, Comcast..it's me. How I cut the cord and got rid of cable.

Actually, it was them.  It was their lousy, sporadic service and their ever-increasing prices. 

I was a Comcast customer for 15 years.  Considering they were the only cable people in Minneapolis for over a decade of that time, that's not a huge deal...but still. 

I paid my bill on time, month after month, for all those years.  I didn't complain when my bill would go up, in little tiny increments, without warning or without explanation. 

I think the last straw was my April bill.  It was $180.00, up almost $30 from the month before.  Now, you may be wondering, what the hell was Broke Ass Jenny doing, paying over $150 a month to Comcast?  I was getting these services:

High speed internet  (that would go down (and not in a good way) at least four times a week)
One receiver upstairs (non HD, not a DVR, no premium channels...but there was On Demand)
One receiver downstairs (HD, not a DVR and again no premium channels)

That's it.  I justified it as an Entertainment expense, figuring that the kids and I aren't regular movie goers and let's face it, we love our t.v.  Ok, I love my t.v.  Give me a break, people.  Sometimes a lonely lady needs her stories to give her comfort. 

But back to the price hike:  This time I called 1-888-Com-cast and asked why my bill went up.  The Comcast rep, who was very nice (they are always pretty nice.  I can't say a bad thing about their phone people), explained to me that there was a price increase on the package I was currently subscribed to.  "Don't you tell people when their bill is going to go up by that much?"  I asked.  He said, "No."  I expressed my repulsion and anger (which, since I'm Minnesotan, went something like this..."ooooh.  Okay.  Have a great day now.").  When I hung up, though, the gloves came off.  I decided it was time to start the breakup process.

Like any breakup, this one wasn't easy.  I went over it in my head for days.  I thought about my other options...did my research, read tons of articles about "cutting the cord" and bidding adieu to cable.  We already had Netflix streaming, which we used mostly on the PS3 that is down in the mancave.  I decided to get a Roku player for the upstairs t.v.  I got mine at Target for about $60.00 and Charlie hooked it up in less than 5 minutes.

Then came the moment I was dreading.  The breakup call.  My finger shook as I pressed the number to Downgrade.  The customer service rep answered, all chipper and happy, not knowing the world of hurt that was about to invade her space.

"Umm...hi...hey, listen...I'd like to get rid of my cable television."  I paused, because I had heard allll about what Comcast will do when you call and ask to downgrade.  I'd heard the stories about credits, free Showtime and HBO, incredible bargaining on their part.  I wondered what Comcast would offer me, what they'd put on the table in order to keep our relationship going. 

The Comcast lady said, "Ok!  Let me just note that on your account.  Now, you want to get rid of all of it, right?  You'll have to return your equipment, ya know.  Let me look up the closest service center for you."

It was like when you work up the guts to tell a lovah that "It's time we go our separate ways" and instead of them crying or trying to convince you to stay, they say, "Yeah, you know what...you're right.  Hey, we can still be friends!". 

I felt a little bad.  Like Comcast was just waiting for me to do the dirty work.  Like they were feeling the same way and didn't say anything.  She was so quick to agree...

So anyhoo.  That was it.  I kept them as my internet provider because I hadn't thought that out yet, and of course they increased that price by about $20, but my new monthly bill was going to be about $60 total.  A nice change from the previous month's charge of $180. 

And then they came to cut my cable. 

Somehow, the guy who came to do the cutting thought his orders were to COMPLETELY cut us off.  So imagine my surprise when I tried to go online that afternoon and discovered that we no longer had internet.  No computer, no Roku, no wifi for my phone.  We were cut off. 

When I called Comcast this time, I was a little pissed.  The first person I talked to had me get down on my hands and knees, had me disconnecting and unplugging routers and modems.  She even had me outside at the actual cable box, unplugging stuff out there (really...let me know if you need some work done on your cable box.  I know my way around in there).   Nothing worked.  They sent another guy out to physically reconnect the internet line, but still...nothing that required internet worked.  I was going apeshit, and the kids were heading there with me.

So finally they transferred me to one of their Tech Specialists, who looked over my account and said, "Oh wow..your router is totally obsolete.  That may be your problem."  I said, "You mean the router I've been paying $7.00 a month for, for the past 2 years?".  He said, "Yes."  I asked him if it was standard Comcast policy to charge customers a monthly fee for obsolete equipment and he was all like, "Umm..no. Not usually."  I asked him if they ever provided updated equipment to their customers and he said, "Well, yeah, we can do that but if I was you?  I'd go buy a new router.  And probably a new modem too.  It's going to be cheaper that way in the long run."

Off I waddled to Target, again, to fetch a new router and a new modem (about $100 total).  Again, Charlie hooked both of them up in less than 5 minutes.  We were golden.  Online and feeling fine. 

So now we are a cable-free family.  We have our Netflix streaming, which is about $8.00 a month, and I did sign up with Hulu Plus for another $8.00 a month.  I'm not crazy about Hulu though...it's very glitchy and freezes constantly.  So I think we're going to ditch that. 

We are doing amazingly well without it.  I am flabbergasted by how fine the kids are doing without it, and as for my poor t.v. addicted self?  I'm doing fine too.  William and I watch a lot of Mythbusters on Netflix (oh yes, I'll bust a myth with you, Adam Savage, you bespectacled nerdy ginger), of course I've been weeping over Army Wives...and we supplement with the free codes from Red Box now and then. 

Oh, and about two weeks ago I got a call.  A call from Comcast, asking me how I'm doing.  Some old feelings came rushing back up to the surface but I pushed them back down.  I wanted to show Comcast how well I was doing without them.  They asked me if I've considered coming back, asked me if they could offer me anything, like maybe a premium channel.  Maybe a free DVR for a few months.

"That's sweet of you, Comcast," I answered.  I was gentle, kind.."but we're doing ok without you."

Before I hung up, I thanked them for calling me.

"Be well, Comcast", I said.

"Be well."


Happy Father's Day to The Single Mom...my 2012 version

If you are a regular reader of mine (hello all 12 of you..smooches), you know that on occasion I will check the stats of my blog. It's nothing fancy, I can't see IP addresses or anything like that, but it does show me how many people have checked in for the day, words they plugged into a search engine, what part of the world they're from, etc.  I've even had those search terms become the theme of a couple posts (my all time favorite was "big hairy hausfrau"). 

Today I just happened to glance over at that stats section of my blog dashboard, and for the first time (well actually the second time, if you count the first time I realized someone other than ME was reading this) I gasped.  Surely I was seeing things...the page views were way off.  Now, to give you a little background, my daily visits usually hit about 75 or so.  During my dry stretches, that number can dip as low as 40. 

Today that number was over 1000. 

Yes, 1000.  At around noon today. 

And 99% of those visitors were all reading the same thing.  My post about Father's Day, that I wrote last year.  You can read it here if you want. 

Now, the stats feature can't tell me much, and it doesn't show me how all these people are finding my blog.  I can only assume that someone, somewhere posted a link to that particular post.  I'm freaked out a little, I mean, I'm getting more hits on this one day than I usually get in a week. Two weeks, sometimes.  Makes me all flustered, like when someone drops by your house unannounced and there are dishes on the countertops and dirty socks in the living room and hair all over the bathroom sink.  Makes me feel like I should straighten up.  You know, be a good hostess and all.

But here's what I've got instead:  some musings about the whole "Happy Father's Day, single mom" thing.  Since my divorce, my kids have taken to the custom of wishing me a Happy Father's Day.  At first it made me uncomfortable, but then I got to liking it.  Enjoying it.  I felt as though I deserved it.  After all, who was the one who dried their tears, made their lunches and cleaned their underwear?  Me.  I did it all.  Dammit, I was both mother and father.  Or at least that's how it seemed.

But I've had second thoughts.  Don't get me wrong:  I do the work of two people, just about every day of my life. I was talking to my attorney the other day, and he said something that really hit home: 

"You take care of the kids 90% of the time, Jenny." 

90% of the time.  That's wild.  Can you imagine missing out on 90% of your child's daily life?  I can't. 

This Father's Day differed a little from last year.  This year, Big Daddy actually made plans with the kids, plans to pick them up.  "They're having a Father's Day pool party, mom!" the kids told me.  He picked them up, all four of them, at the time he said he would. I said, "Have a great day, guys" and then I prayed for rain (yes, I did.  Don't judge.).

It's been raining for several hours now, and that's given me a lot of time to think about things (the fact that I now control the weather is not the least of those things).  I've re-read my Father's Day post from last year, and I felt some of those old feelings again.  The anger at my ex, the disappointment I saw in my kid's faces...all of it.  But something is different this year.  Something has settled in me, mellowed. 

I'm not the father.  Sure, I do the jobs of both mother and father in my day-to-day, but the reality is, my kids have a dad.  Is he Father of the Year?  Hell no.  I'm fighting to get him to pay child support, and he's hiring a lawyer to fight me back rather than just pay up, but at the end of the day, he is still their dad.

And even though he's dropped the ball in the dad game, even though his choices and his actions have had a huge, mostly negative, impact on the lives of my kids, I now know this:  It could be worse.  It could be so, so much worse. 

All you have to do is read some of the news stories that seem to never end, the ones about men who are convicted of horrendous crimes.  Crimes against their kids.  Neglect, abuse, torture.  Murder.  When you compare my ex-husband to some of these turds, he looks like freaking Ward Cleaver. 

It doesn't take a whole lot of work to become a dad.  Hardly any.  Just one tiny little sperm cell drilling into a larger, but still tiny, egg.  Boom.  You're a dad.  But it's what you do after that little miracle occurs that makes you a father.

My kids have a father.  He was there when they were born, he held them when they were babies.  He changed some diapers and pushed the strollers and watched them while I was at work.  Something in him changed, and made him leave us, but he was there, for a little bit.

For a little bit, my kids did have a pretty decent dad.  And that is why I can't take any credit on this day.  Because even though I may do the work of two people, even though he is now more of an extra, a stand-in in their lives, he is their father.  This is his day.

Not mine.

But don't worry, I can still be a snark.  I'm going to leave you with a clip from one of the best movies ever made.  It's a line that made me cringe the first time I heard it, which was way before I had even THOUGHT about becoming a mom.   And it's a line that makes me sad now, but also makes me laugh.  Because I love what he does right after he says it...he kind of shakes it off.  That's what I'm doing, and I hope my kids can someday do it too..shake it off.

So, to those of you who may have stumbled here looking for ways to wish the single mom in your life a "Happy Father's Day", may I politely suggest that you find some other way to honor her today.  Save the Father's Day platitudes for the men, even those that may fall a little short in the dad department.  Single moms, like yours truly, we do work our asses off...every day.  We do the work of two people and we do it quietly, without (too much) bitching.  We do it because we know that nobody else is going to do it, and we do it because we love our kids. 

If you have a single mom in your life, do this:  give her a hug.  Hang out with her.  Go see a movie with her.  Buy her a drink next time you're out (Stella with a lime, or a big old dirty martini would be good).  

But instead of saying "Happy Father's Day", try something different:  tell her that she's doing a good job.  Tell her that you're proud of her, tell her not to give up.  Tell her that her kids are good kids and that they'll grow up to be good adults.  Tell her that what she's doing may be the hardest thing she's ever done, but it will be worth it. 

She'll appreciate it.  Believe me.

Now go give the dads in your life a big hug.  They deserve it. 


Three on Thursday

Greetings, earthlings.  Greetings from Planet SUMMER.  We are just about done with Day Four of summer, and so far, so good.  I have to say, as much as it kills me to watch my kids grow up and farther away from that chubby gaggle of four sweet babies they used to be, there are definite advantages to having older kids.  Sure, they still fight, they still need random things like food, love and shelter...but it's nowhere near as all consuming as it used to be.  I don't panic when I can't pinpoint exactly where one of them is (at least not panic out loud.  In my head they are still chloroformed and folded up in the back of a pedophile's white cargo van).  If I have to be gone all day (I'm getting hours subbing for our school district preschool, yay!!), I can do so and only worry a tiny bit about coming home to a pile of burning rubble where the house once stood.  Yes, folks, the woman who spent the last week of school crying and wrapping herself in a cloak of melancholia is now seeing the silver lining.

And now, here's Three on Thursday.  Then I have to start studying for Trivia.  School's out, yo.  Back to my summer routine.  Last week I helped my team by knowing the name of the guy who played Urkel.  It's Jaleel White, and don't ask me how I knew that but on any given day wouldn't be able to tell you what any one of my kids was wearing.  You know, in case they're folded up in the back of a cargo van.  Sigh. 

1.  Have you been waiting with breathless anticipation to hear what my latest television addiction is?  I'm almost ashamed to admit this one.  It's Army Wives.  Yes, the Lifetime soap opera show that revolves around the lives of some women (and a dude) married to military guys.  I have been watching it for DAYS and I cannot stop.  And you know there are sexy military men to ogle at, right?  My favorite is the beefy kosher Delta Force guy, Chase Moran (played by Jeremy Davidson).  He's all kinds of steamy.  I think he looks like that one GI Joe doll, the one with the dark ginger beard...you know, this one:

What the hell is wrong with me?

2.  Mean Girl bullshit, when it happens in high school/college, is hurtful and torturous and a big bag of cruel.  Mean Girl bullshit, when it happens to women in their forties?  It's just pathetic.  Yes, I'm being cryptic because I don't want to perpetuate this garbage, but I will say this:  think carefully about what you say, and who is within earshot when you say it.  I once found a cute little picture at an estate sale.  A faded print with water spots and a dilapidated wood frame around it...it was in sorry shape but I had to buy it.  It shows two old biddies, rocking and knitting, with what has become one of my favorite sayings printed beneath them:

There is so much good in the worst of us
And so much bad in the best of us
That it hardly behooves any of us
To talk about the rest of us

Now, I'm not claiming sainthood here.  I've said things that I know I shouldn't have.  I have been catty, been snarky.  But it kills me to hear good friends being maligned.  Especially when it's coming from another good friend.  Ladies, be kind to each other.  Men have a shorter life expectancy than us, so someday we'll be all we have.  And you know we never forget a thing.

3.  Meet my new best friend:

It was less than $6.00 at Target and if I had to choose between this thing and another thing you bring to bed with you, I'd probably choose this. I may look like Mrs. Thurston Howell the Third when I wake up but it's ok (Walter hasn't complained yet).  Damn you, summer, with your high temperatures and your 5:30 a.m. sunrises.  I may not be able to change the weather but with my stunning new sleep mask I can at least snore a little later in the a.m. 

There's my three.  Now I have to study Dons, Rons, Swans, Johns and Khans.  That's one of the clues for Trivia tonight.  You know there will be a Ron Swanson question in there.  Yum.  We'll talk about that one later.

Stay tuned...I got rid of COMCAST CABLE and I'm gonna tell you allll about it.  If I can do it, anyone can.


Musings on a Monday

Hello homies.  I have had what I think is called "writer's block".  Not sure if I consider myself a writer, per say, but I do know that I love writing this little blog and get some pretty amazing therapeutic benefits from it. The fact that a few people who live outside of my head actually enjoy reading this?  Icing on the cake.

The past month or so has been the emotional equivalent of a bear hug.  From like, a grizzly bear.  I find myself on this, the first official Monday morning of summer, feeling like the proverbial wet dishrag.  Wrung out, strung out, but at the same time, never have I felt more at ease.  More relieved.

Of course, the biggest how-do-you-do has been seeing Charlie graduate.  I've bored you all to tears with the drama surrounding my eldest baby and his struggles and whatnot.  You know the drill.  Well, Charlie has once again rallied, once again pulled himself out from the grips of a viscous undertow and made it to shore.  That kid was doing homework up unitl 4:00 a.m. on the day of graduation.  He did it.  And now, he may not even have to take a summer school class.  He is, for all intents and purposes, a high school graduate.

I've wrestled with the feelings I have when it comes to Charlie and the past few years.  I've always loved that boy.  Always.  And I know when I write about him, I tend to make him out to be some sort of martyr, some victim.  I'm not delusional.  I know a lot of Charlie's demons come from within.  I know he's made some spectacularly stupid choices and that is a big part of what has made life hard for him.

But I also know that another part of what has made this so freaking tough, is something that was never in his control, or my control or his doctors or counselors or whoever.  The mental stuff was always there.  I don't know if the divorce brought it out and gave it a sort of charge, some sort of frog's kiss...or if it was a combination of bad genes or maybe that Irish wedding I attended before I knew I was pregnant...I don't know what it was, what caused my boy to feel things so deeply and get hurt so badly.  Charlie had odds to face, odds that none of us can imagine but odds that nevertheless, should have been considered and respected and taken into account.

I've been talking to my dad recently.  Not anywhere near how we used to talk, but more than we have in the past few years.  He's been having Charlie work with him again, helping him maintain his rental properties around Minneapolis.  So dad and I have had some conversations at the door, a couple of awkward phone calls.  I shared with him my frustration with Charlie, how his graduation was maybe not going to happen, the possible summer school, etc.  He listened.  I thought it was progress.

Charlie wanted my dad to come to his graduation.  He called him, and invited him.  A few minutes later, dad called me.  And he said, "I have some things I have to get to tonight, so we probably won't make it.  But I have to tell you, the main reason we don't want to go is that we're disappointed in Charlie."  I said, "Ok."  He asked that I invite them to his graduation party, whenever that may be, and we ended the conversation.

Charlie asked, "Is Poppa coming?".  Without missing a beat, I said, "He's having some trouble at one of the rentals.  He's going to go fix it but they may not be there."

I get it.  I understand my dad's reasoning.  I've had friends tell me kind of the same thing...that it's not right to allow him to walk with his class at commencement if he hasn't completed the work.  It's not right to celebrate something that hasn't actually happened.  I get it.  Believe me.

I understand the why, I guess I'm just having trouble with the how part of it.  Charlie is not a bad kid.  He hasn't hurt anyone.  He hasn't committed any crimes or broken laws.  Personally?  I'm just elated that my kid is still alive, still functioning, still walking and talking and making me crazy and making me proud.  I know what he's been through, and just between you and me, for a while there I was terrified that we wouldn't make it this far.  I used to tiptoe down to his room and make sure he was breathing.  I consider the fact that he's HERE to be a victory.  The fact that he's stayed in school, gotten this far after so many wipeouts?  I think that's pretty amazing.  I celebrate that.

And so my son attended graduation.  He put on his cap and gown, posed for pictures with friends, sat in that huge, crowded gym and when they called his name and he walked across that stage I cheered.  I cried and I cheered and I clapped, and I felt perfectly ok with it.

He glowed.  His smile that night made all that we've gone through seem so insignificant, made it all seem like a bad dream that we suffered through.  Seeing my son walk with his peers, some of them he's known since they were in infant ECFE classes, seeing him do something so absurdly normal and routine...it was good.

I had signed him up, at the last minute, to attend the lock-in style all night party they throw for the graduating class.  One of my friends, who was on the party committee, convinced me to volunteer.  I balked at first, was indignant in my replies:  "What do you think I am, a vampire?  I can't stay up that late!" and "But I have three other kids to deal with."  His replies:  "Drink a 5 Hour Energy" and "They can handle themselves" (Love you, David).  So I went, and I was so happy I did.  I got to see 600-something 18 year olds celebrating a huge milestone, celebrating their pasts and just being together for what could be, for some of them, the last time.

And as I sat there, in the room I was assigned to watch, I got to see my son play.  I was able to see him get hugs, high fives.  I watched him be a normal, average kid.  Laughing, talking to girls, joking with his friends.  As I watched him I thought about what he's gone through, what he's overcome...I thought about what's in store for him, how he has his entire life before him.

For just a second, he was five years old again, playing at the park with other kids.  He was smiling, happy.

I held back my tears, believe it or not, until the drive home at 1:30 a.m.  And even then, for the first time in so long, they were happy tears.

He's made it.  Life for my boy?  It starts now.

And I couldn't be more proud.

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