Little Hausfrau in the Netherlands...some Monday Musings

Ok, "little" meaning "short".  Because here's a fun fact:  People in Amsterdam are freakishly beautiful.  Tall, statuesque, willowy yet athletic,  with big white teethy smiles and a casual elegance that all the J.Crew in the world couldn't help me attain.  I can't quite put my finger on what it felt like to be a short, squat albino with hay-like hair strolling amongst these attractive giants.  Let's just say, if I ever go back there I will pack a more sleek wardrobe.  Yoga pants and sexually ambiguous fleece jackets do not cut the mustard in the Netherlands.  And scarves.  Everyone wears scarves with demure panache.  Even the grandparents.  

So here's the scoop:  John McCain took me on a dreamy whirlwind trip to Amsterdam.  We left on Thanksgiving morning, and let me tell you..I was a neurotic banshee up until the second the plane left the ground.  And for a little bit after that, too. 

Of course I was worried about the kids.  I was worried about the dog.  I was worried that this was too much, too soon.  I worried about pooping, of all things.  Yes, I just said "pooping".  Because I don't have any sort of boundaries, I will tell you all about my borderline-obsessive fretting about going number two.

Call it "Fear of Farting" if you will.  In fact, my homie Danielle and I had one of the funniest text exchanges about this very subject just prior to my departure.  You know how you can tell when someone is a good friend?  Like, a really good friend?  When they will take screen shots like this one:

And also, when they will humor your insane bowel movement fears.  Love you, Danielle!

Were you eating while reading this?  I'm sorry.  But no more poop talk, I promise. 

Like Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes are wont to say, I had the time of my life.  It was a SHORT trip (three days) but we packed a lot of sight-seeing and even more eating into those three days than I would have thought possible.  The sharing-of-the-room thing wasn't awkward (although the fact that I am more man than woman was woefully apparent...like when I came out of the bathroom at bedtime wearing a big t-shirt, my glasses and had my sleep mask wrapped around my head like a do-rag).  He's also very neat, very organized, which is a stark contrast to how I roll.  Kind of a Felix/Oscar thing going on there. 

I spent a lot of time thinking.  I thought about how funny life is, how it came to be that my broke ass was strolling through the streets of Amsterdam, eating in the yummiest restaurants and sleeping under a down comforter that surely cost more than all of my earthly possessions combined. 

I felt like an imposter, at first.  The mommy guilt played a big part in that.  I saw families on vacation, kids in tow, eating at restaurants and posing for pictures.  It caused a big pang in my heart, thinking about the fact that my kids have never, ever gone anywhere, and here I was drinking $15 dollar martinis and walking down charming cobblestone streets hand in hand with my fella like I hadn't a care in the world. I found myself starting to look at John McCain and thinking of all the reasons we shouldn't be together.  All of the reasons he shouldn't like me.

And then I decided to do something so many people have told me to do: 

I got over it.  I told the guilt and the shame and the negative stuff to take a walk.  This was a once in a lifetime trip, something that should be enjoyed and relished and LIVED.  So I did all that.  I enjoyed every second of it from that second forward.

We took a canal tour, at night, in a boat that was built in 1909.  We toured the house where Ann Frank and 7 other souls lived in hiding for 2 years (that place was rife with spirits...talk about an emotional morning).  We took turns down little alleyways and ate in tiny restaurants and got tipsy in the hotel bar (they filmed Oceans Twelve at the hotel, by the way).  We talked about us and our history and where we are now.  As each minute ticked away, I felt the walls around my heart start to fall down, brick by brick.

Funny how I had to travel 4,000 miles in order to see things clearly, huh?  This must be one of those "can't see the forest for the trees" deals.  Mayhap I had to get away from the craziness that is everyday life in order to appreciate what it feels like to have someone treat me like a queen. 

Here are some highlights of the trip, with fancy bullet points:

  • File this one under "It's A Small World After All":  One of Danielle's BFF's, who is a flight attendant, happened to be working on our flight to Amsterdam.  His name is Todd and when I introduced myself (I recognized him from pictures) he hooked us up real nice.  Todd doesn't know this yet but I am destined to be the Grace to his Will.  Or maybe the Karen to his Jack?  We shall see.  Thank you, Todd!
  • I was shocked to see that they have little televisions in every seat on the planes now!  Actual moving pictures, the talkies!  For a few minutes I was all "we are now a nation of ADD riddled toddlers who have to be electronically pacified in order to sit still for more than ten minutes" and then I got sucked into "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter". And then "The Avengers" followed by "The Green Lantern". Little t.v.'s FTW!
  • Here is when I think I started to fall a little bit in love with my travel companion:  He's growing a beard/mustache thing for Movember.   Personally, I think it's hot, but apparently it's driving him insane.  We were discussing the facial hair and how long it will last, and after I pleaded with him to not shave it off, he said, "Well, the least you can do is change my blog name to Grizzly McCain."  
  • I almost got hit by a tall, attractive person on a bike.  Several times.  They bike EVERYWHERE there.  No wonder there wasn't a muffin top in sight.  Except for in the bathroom mirror at our hotel.  
  • I am now addicted to Stroopwafels.  Apparently they sell them at Trader Joe's.  I'm going to get some and eat all of them. 
  •  You know your trip is officially over, you know you are really and truly back home when you find yourself in the middle of a kid smackdown.  A smackdown that started over the big bag of miniature Toblerone candy bars I brought back as a souvenir for the angels.  Sometimes I feel like I am living with the cast of Little Orphan Annie.   
  • I have learned that when my kids miss me, they show it in varying ways.  One kid cried real tears when she and I finally saw each other, one was PISSED and let me know it, one played it cool but snuck (sneaked?) in a few extra hugs last night and one displayed a maturity and strength that I always knew was in him.  I missed them, with every fiber of my being..but I think this little break was good for all of us.  Even Big Daddy had to step up to the parenting plate, which apparently he did.  
  • And that's a good thing, because on the way home from Amsterdam, McCain started talking about a 2 week long trip around the world.  Details to follow.
And there you have it.  My trip of a lifetime, the condensed version.  I brought all of you there with me, sort of.  Several times I had to tell myself to stop narrating experiences, blog-style, in my head.  Did you know that they don't check for crazy at customs?  Mine got through just fine.

Happy Monday, friends. 


Thum Thtuff on Thursday

Yes, lame, I know.  But it's early and I'm doing this with only one coffee in me so cut me some slack, okay?

We are officially one week away from my BIG TRIP.   One week from today, I will be even more insane than I am today. 

That's kind of scary.

For those of you who live in a semi-normal world, travel probably isn't a big deal.  You buy your tickets, you get on the plane, and you go have fun or do your business or whatever.  And a million years ago, that used to be how I lived.  Spring break?  Hell yeah!  Let's go to Cancun!  What's that?  We should go to New York for the weekend?  I totally agree.  Let's go!

I haven't been on anything that remotely resembles a "vacation" since before Charlie was born.


When Big Daddy and I were married, the farthest we ever traveled was to South Dakota for a wedding.  Oh sure, we talked about taking family vacations, but remember...I was the first wife, the one who loved him in his "Willy Loman" phase.  We considered a family dinner at Fuddrucker's to be a treat of epic proportions.  By the time he started pulling down the big money, he was already groin-deep in Secretary...so a family trip was not very high on his To Do list, if you know what I mean.  He had other things To Do.

John McCain and I did go to Chicago for the weekend once, about 4 years ago during one of our other times together.  That was the last time I was on an airplane.  I found out I had lice three days after we got back.  That was one time I'm sure he was grateful to have less than a full head of hair. 

So suffice it to say, I am all kinds of crazy right now.  There's trip anxiety, packing panic, and oh so much GUILT.  My friends and acquaintances (which means, all twenty two of you) have told me to knock it off.  That it's high time I have some fun, and to relax and to leave the guilt here at home. 

I'm trying.  But it's not easy.  I even have Dog Guilt.

I think the bulk of my guilt is stemming from the absolute absurdity of it all.  Broke ass Jenny going out of the country on a whirlwind four day vacation.  The same Jenny who, just this morning, checked her bank balance on her phone before getting out of bed (and saying "Shit." after seeing said balance).  The same Jenny who has begun feeling the annual Holiday Dread creeping in already.  The same Jenny who talks in third person.  That's me, by the way.

It smacks of hypocrisy, it reeks of fraud.  The poor person inside of me is absolutely weeping over the cost of it all.  Granted, it's not my money, but still...

Anyhoo.  So there you have my travel rantings.  Sadly, there will be more. 

In the meantime, here's thum thtuff.  Some random thoughts and observations. 

1.  I'm thinking that at some point on the trip (yes, here I go again..told ya), I'm going to have to ask McCain to pee all over the toilet seat in our hotel room.  Just so I can feel at home.

2.  Can I tell you how much I hate those Hyundai  "Don't tell mom" commercials?  They need to show Dad getting a lap dance, and then looking over at his kids saying, "Don't tell mom".  I dare them to do that.  Gauntlet thrown down, Hyundai. 

3.  Did you see I mentioned commercials up there?  Yes, that's right.  I have officially become Comcast's bitch again.  Please don't judge.  It's getting cold here.  They had a deal I couldn't refuse.  It lasts six months and then it will be getting warm again so I'll cut it off again.  Until then?  I am awash in television. 

4.  Speaking of television, my beloved daughter had a health scare this weekend.  We spent some time in the emergency room and she missed three days of school.  She is 100% today though, and going back to school with glee (ok not with glee but she is going back).  I learned a lot while we dealt with this little illness...

a.  Put pretty much any guy in scrubs and he gets a little bit hotter.
b.  When the guy starts talking about his wife, he's no longer hot.  At least to me.
c.  I love my daughter so much, it hurts. 
d.  I don't know about you guys, but if I got a text saying one of my kids was in the emergency room, I'd be there so fast there would be smoke tendrils trailing from my heels.  I probably wouldn't wait and hour and a half before responding.  And then not show up.  Just saying.
e.  Kidney stones are excruciating.
f.  Moms and dads who are caring for a child who is critically ill are heroes.  And their kids are, too.  Do you know anyone in this situation?  Give them some love.

5.  Three of my favorite hens have lost their fathers recently.  They all had very close relationships with their dads, and are understandably devastated.  My heart is breaking for them...but I want them to know that one good thing is coming from this:  I am patching things up with my own dad.  I can't let another day go by without telling him that I love him, and that I'm sorry for being a cuckoo daughter and that he means the world to me.  Watching my friends deal with the loss and the grief was a big eye opener.  Now go hug your dad, if you can.  Or at least give him a call.

6. I have some amazing friends.  One of them showed up at our front door a couple of days ago, with a bag of "get well" groceries (from Whole Foods, yo...I have classy, organic friends, too) and some travel size goodies for me.  I guffawed out loud when I found the "air freshening" candle in the bag.  You know that sucker is coming with me for sure.  I'm already feeling the bathroom anxiety, folks.  The candle should help.  Poor McCain.  Who knew I could pack so much crazy into a carry-on?

And now I must get ready for my exciting day.

I'm livin' the dream, people.  You try and do the same. 


The Day After. And Everything Else.

It's alive!

I've been missing in action lately...my apologies to the four or five of you who have expressed concern.  I'm here!  It's been an intense and grueling couple of weeks and to be honest with you, I just didn't have the oomph to write here.

Everything I started to write sounded hollow and echoey, like I was yelling through a megaphone filled with socks.  I don't know what the deal is..is it the gloominess of November triggering some Seasonal Affective Disorder crap already?  Is it this damned election and the absolute WORST it's bringing out in people?  Or perhaps it's just me.  I feel drained and exuberant, jumpy and listless all at once.

I had my day in court with Big Daddy on Monday the 29th of October.  A huge and heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you who sent love and prayers and good vibes along with me that day.  I needed them, bad.  Talk about nervous.  Sweaty pits, nausea, stuttering...I was a class act.  Thank God my sexy attorney held it together, though, and I am declaring a winner.  Not me, not Big Daddy...but my kids.  They might actually come out as the victors in this one.

Don't get me wrong.  The judge wasn't like Tinkerbell in a black robe, spreading joy and fairy dust all over the courtroom.  In fact, she was a steely lady.  Tough.  Tough like boot leather.  She scared me so much I couldn't remember how much I make an hour, and as I spoke into the microphone in response to her question regarding my income, I stammered out: "Umm I think I make $XX.XX an hour.  Around that.  I think."   So obviously it wasn't my sparkly personality or firm grasp on facts that won me any favor.

Out of respect and a slightly murky idea of what is legal for me to gab about, I won't divulge any more detail.  I will say that my attorney was slack-jawed as we walked out.  I looked at him and said, "Are you surprised?  Is this a good ending or a bad one?"  He looked at me with his dreamy, vaguely ethnic brown eyes and said, "It's good."

I am, for the first time in a while, cautiously optimistic.  Because I know, very well by now, that ordering someone to pay doesn't mean they'll pay.  But this does mean that I will have, at the very least, a piece of paper signed by a judge saying my kids are owed money.  And that piece of paper?

That's a win.

Don't think that this is a windfall for me and the kids.  It's not, not by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, it's not going to change my present day finances very much at all.  Enough to maybe take the edge off a week or two every month.  What he will be paying in child support is probably less than the average car payment.  But I'm not complaining.  As I have said before, I'd be happy with an extra twenty bucks every week.  When you're stuck in a blistering hot desert, even the tiniest bit of shade is a welcome relief.  I'm grateful to have anything.

I'd be a shitty friend if I didn't take a second to thank my friend Danielle for coming with me that day, and to the others who offered to come, and to those who sent texts and messages and support and to the amazing Emily who joined us at lunch afterwards and gave my sexy attorney his new nickname, "Aladdin".  I have the best friends in the world.

So that's one reason for my absence.  I was nervous about court.

Another thing that had me feeling wonky was the election.  No, no...don't worry.  I'm not going to talk politics.  I'm so sick of politics that I would rather talk about football.  Or lawn fertilizer.  I saw friendships end over this presidential race, and that saddens me.  It doesn't seem as though our country has ever been more divided (at least not in the last fifty years or so) and this division is scary.  So much hatred, so much vitriol, so much doom and gloom and in your face and nah nah boo boo rhetoric.  I am trying so hard to teach my kids how to be good citizens, how to be good people.

It's hard to teach your kids things like that when there are adults all around them acting like preschoolers.

I don't see my friends as Democrats or Republicans or Smurfs or whatever.  I see them as people.  I may disagree with some of my friends about certain things, but one thing I do agree with is that we are all entitled to our opinions and our feelings.  I had to take a break from facebook due to the rising tide of anger and the back and forth that was going on (ok it only lasted 24 hours but still..I made a status update about it and everything!). My love of Scrabble and also the sick need to know what's going on in EVERYONE'S LIVES proved to be too much so I logged back on, and like a junkie sinking back into a stained crack-den couch with a needle stuck in my arm I started clicking "like" again. 

I'm glad the election is over, but I will be really glad when everyone figures out how to work together without all of this animosity.  Nothing good can come from so much anger.  Nothing.

I've also been occupied with something else the past couple of weeks, something not so awful and nerve-wracking:

I've been busy dating.  John McCain and I have been dating, and it's been really nice.  So nice, in fact, that he's decided to take me on a very super amazing trip over Thanksgiving.  I'm not going to get too detaily because I don't want Big Daddy and Secretary all up in my business (hi guys!  Henry wants me to tell you, "enough with the Hamburger Helper").  But I will say that it's something pretty darn special and a passport is required.  The kids are supposed to be with Big Daddy for Thanksgiving weekend, and I always get sad.  Doesn't matter what kind of plans I have for the day or the weekend, it's just a bummer for me.  So John, being the spontaneous and very kind person he is, offered to take me somewhere fun for the long weekend.

I hemmed.  I hawed.  I tried to come up with excuses.

But in the end, I said yes.

This might be a good time for me to tell you guys that when I'm with McCain, I sometimes feel like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman.  No, I'm not a hooker, but you know when she's still wearing her whorish clothes and her hair is all prostitute like, and Richard Gere is gingerly leading her into the life of privilege?  Like when Barney the hotel concierge teaches Vivian how to use the silverware for the fancy business dinner?

I kind of feel like that when I'm with him. 

When we're together, I can't help but think of the stark differences in our lives.  He spends more on some of our dinners than I spend on groceries for an entire week.  This trip we're going on, I'm sure it's costing more than what I make in two months.

I feel as though I am somehow being unfaithful to my kids.  Is that insane or what?  But that's the truth.

As I told one of my BFF's....I'm conflicted.  I've been down here in the trenches for so long, covered with mud and dodging bullets and trying to keep my little troop safe.  Part of me feels as if going out and enjoying the Good Life is nothing short of treason.

I know that as I board the airplane with McCain, I will be nervous.  I'll be nervous about a lot of things:  flying, whether or not I packed the right clothes, how I'm going to conduct my morning bathroom business with a roommate (a single woman gets into a routine, folks, that's all I'm gonna say).  But I'll also feel some anxiety about my kids.  How they feel, knowing Mom is living it up, going to museums and seeing sights and being wined and dined while they are left behind.  My kids wear the same few pieces of clothing week after week.  The three still in school are on the reduced lunch program.  My eldest is 18 and doesn't have his driver's license, let's not even dream of him having a car.  They have gone so long without so much and complained so little.  And here I am, thinking about things like itineraries and jet lag.

I feel like Cinderella's stepmother, leaving poor Cin dressed in rags and mopping the floor while I get all glammed up for the ball.  I feel shady and phony and to be honest, like a bad mom.  Everyone tells me that this is awesome, this will be so relaxing and wonderful for me.  Telling me that I deserve to have something special like this.  But I can't quell that little voice in my head saying, "Your kids deserve better, too."

Mommy Guilt.  Making women crazy since the dawn of man.

And there you have it.  Just a few of the nuggets that have been taking up my time and attention over the past couple of weeks.  There was also the demise of a friendship, and of course the daily joy of single-handedly raising three teenagers and one 12 year old who may as well be a teenager.

Life has been crazy.  It's been scary and exhilarating and sweet and sour.  Above all, though, as always...life is good.  I hope YOU are doing well and feeling good and if you're not either of those I hope it passes quickly and that you are soon well and good.

Thank you... for being you. 

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