Amway's Olive Branch: How One Amway Lady Made My Day

I despise open letters. I have made fun of the "open letter" style blog post, mostly in reference to Matt Walsh who bugs the everlovin' crap out of me. I think they are lame, kinda lazy, and rife with potential to be several shades of passive aggressive and self-serving.

And yet, I wrote one. I wrote an open letter to an Amway saleswoman who made a rude comment to my son while he was working. It was lame, kinda lazy, and yes, there was some passive aggressiveness in there along with a healthy dose of self-service. The only excuse I have is that I wanted to complain about what had happened, and that seemed like the most effective way to do it. There were also emails exchanged, which I'll get to momentarily, but truth be told, I was pissed and wanted Amway to hear about it. 

Oh, they heard. 

The woman who insulted my son, now immortalized as "Amway Jennifer", received an email from me. I wrote it the day after the incident, shortly after I had published my post. The email was civil, probably a little too wordy since it came from me, and laid it all out to Jennifer. I explained to her that what she'd said to my kid was wrong, approaching someone to sell products while they are at work is wrong. I also told her I was proud of my son for being polite in the face of such crassness. I may have also mentioned something about how if I'd been the one who received her "advice" and her business card, she'd be picking pieces of said card out of her hair for several days. 

Now, if Amway Jennifer had responded to me with anything even remotely resembling an apology, or admitted even just a little bit that what she did was out of line, the "Dear Amway Lady" post might have been deleted. I might have fumed about it a little, but my level of pissed-offness would have been down in the safe zone.

She didn't do either of those things. Her reply to me started off with "Hi Jenny, I'm sorry you feel offended" and ended with "Be blessed". In between those two statements were a bunch of sentences about how she teaches people to deal with acne and how dermatologists don't get to the root of the problem. She stated that she has "a heart that wants to help" and "I only wanted to help if he needed it or wanted it". 

I let the post stay, and there you have it.

It first gained attention on Twitter, and several people retweeted a link to the story directly to Amway. Amway, the company, responded to me in a public tweet and also in a private message. THEY APOLOGIZED. I thanked them, on behalf of my son, for the apology. They also asked me to give them Amway Jennifer's contact information. I declined to do so, saying that I'd been in touch with her and the matter was settled. I had said my peace, she (hopefully) would think twice before approaching a kid at work, my son was 100% over it. All was right in the world of teens and mama bears and Amway.

The post, however, kept right on going. It was published on a few different sites, and received lots of feedback. 

Almost all of the feedback was positive. Heartbreaking comments from people who had been approached the same way when they were younger. One woman, who said she was in her 60's, recalled how a man had made her feel over 40 years ago when he said something about her skin while she waited on him at a restaurant. So many men replied, telling me that "that could have been me" and "tell your son it gets better!". Countless remedies and suggestions of medications and diet advice (some of which we've implemented...). 

A wonderful woman contacted me via Twitter and sent my son a box full of skin care from the line she represents. (it is fabulous, by the way)

My inbox was full of sweet emails. The cutest one was from a woman who wrote to tell me she was pretty sure my son had waited on her at the grocery store that evening. "He was so polite, and so handsome" she wrote, "I wanted to tell him that no matter what, he's a good kid". My heart fluttered and then she mentioned she was in Texas. We're in Minnesota, but you know what? Some Texan kid with zits was treated nicely while he was at work. And that's a win.

The biggest surprise came via facebook. A woman named Stephanie messaged me. She apologized on behalf of Amway Jennifer, and Amway in general. She was kind and positive and obviously passionate about her company and her product. We wrote back and forth a few times, and when she asked me if she could send me something from Amway, I said yes. Why? Three reasons:

#1: Because I'm a broke ass, hard working single mom and I've learned to never turn down an offer like that.
#2: I had a less-than-stellar opinion of Amway based solely on what had happened to my kid. Stephanie (and several other Amway people who contacted me) seemed like a really decent person, so I wanted to give her products a try. 
#3: I thought this would be a great way to show my son the good side of big companies and the human beings who work for them. We didn't get that with Amway Jennifer.

Stephanie asked what I'd be interested in. I mentioned to her that we had a graduation party coming up and I'd be in cuckoo cleaning mode until then. She got back to me and said that she, along with Jose from Amway Customer Service, had handpicked a bunch of products to send out. 

This was on my front steps just a few days later:

Now, if you know me, you know I loathe cleaning. I only do it under great duress, the threat of company or when I cut my hand on one of the hardened clumps of toothpaste on the bathroom counter. But this box? It enticed me. I opened the products, smelled them (because it's all about the smell), and slowly, deliberately...began cleaning. 

And it's good stuff. All of it. I especially like the kitchen cleaner, the bathroom cleaner and the laundry detergent. 

What I liked the most, though? The kindness shown to my family by Amway Stephanie. Now, am I going to be an Amway customer after this? I don't know for sure. I don't make a lot of money and I'm the kind of person who, when I need laundry detergent, I need it NOW because there is a pile of laundry in front of the washer and nobody has any clean underwear left so I run, commando, to the store. Amway products seem to cost more than the stuff I usually buy, and it's something you have to order (which means one needs to plan ahead...so obviously not my specialty). 

The thing is, I might buy Amway products in the future. And that wouldn't have happened if Stephanie hadn't reached out. She let me try the product, and she also presented stellar customer service. If I do decide to purchase the products in the future, guess who I'll buy them from? Yep. Stephanie.

The moral of the story is, if you sell for a living, sell the right way. Don't prey on people's "flaws" and for the love of all things holy and decent, don't approach ANYONE, especially teens, if they're on the clock. Look, I get it. I think everyone gets it...this economy is scary, and we are all doing what we can to keep roofs over our heads and food in our kid's bellies (and martinis in our shakers, or is that just me?). You gotta do what you gotta do. But there are lines that shouldn't be crossed.

Side note: someone asked me this question: "So, what if Amway Jennifer had been a dermatologist, and your son had a suspicious mole. Would you have freaked out if she'd mentioned something to him then?"

Short answer: no. Medium-length answer? No, because a dermatologist is a doctor who has gone through years of schooling to get where they are today. And because a dermatologist who is knowledgeable about skin cancer is working, every day, to save lives. There's a huge difference between a skin-care saleswoman telling a kid "Wow, you have a lot of acne" and a doctor telling someone, "I have a medical license and have treated skin cancer before. I would strongly advise you to have that mole checked out." My guess is, the dermatologist wouldn't be out trolling for business while grabbing milk and bread at the grocery store. The situations might be similar, but the motives are as different as night and day. (that was the long answer, I guess)

I can't end this without a shout out to my new friend, Stephanie. I'd write an open letter to her but I feel like that's kind of been done to death. Instead, here's a link to her site. She's good people. 

Oh! I almost forgot. I also wanted to pass on my favorite mean comment from the whole Amway thing. It is on the About Me page here on my blog, and of course, it's anonymous (because, aren't they all?). It's like a big rancid onion of a comment, layer upon layer of ignorance. For your reading pleasure:

Jenny, Im heartbroken that you've taught your son to be such an emotional kid. He would never last in the real world. I can see that your divorce has made a negative impact on your sons life because he is clearly a mamas boy. That's NOT a good thing. He is 16 not 6. He needs to grow a pair and frankly so do you. I'm so sad that the draft no longer exists in out country. Your son will be nothing but a pussy if you continue to raise him alone. He needs the military or another form of discipline to step in and undermine your soft liberal attitude. People say things they shouldn't all the time. We're only human. But the reaction your son had, and the way you coddled him... Pathetic. My husband and I read this to our 15 year old son. He was dumbfounded that your child is so sensitive. If your son has acne perhaps you should be helping him. Washing his face, taking him it the dermatologist etc... Sounds like you were just upset that Jennifer called out your poor parenting skills. You already also divorced... Not a very good example for your children. I'm sure you have a solid reason to why you are no longer married, yadda yadda yadda. You should have chosen a better husband to have children with so your children could grow up in a two parent home. P.S. Calling your son Cartman? Now that's hurtful. Why is it your children even know about South Park? Just because it's animated doesn't mean it's for children. But I'm sure as a single parent you just park your kids in front of the tv.

I know, I know. Don't feed the trolls and all that. But I thought maybe my fellow divorced/single moms might get a kick out of this one. You know, yadda yadda yadda and all that.

So now, the Amway saga is over. Unless, of course, Amway Jennifer makes another sales pitch to one of my children.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go park my pussy kids in front of the tv while I try to grow a pair. Because that's what we single parents do. 


MomBrags: Things I'm So Glad I Did As A Parent

I've raised my kids the best I could. Made some mistakes along the way, but overall I think so far, so good. Two of my kids have made it through high school, and this fall I'll be the one convulsing with ugly cry face as I pack up my daughter and plop her on a college campus a few hours away from here (my eldest goes to college here in town so he was spared the theatrics). The other two will be 11th and 9th graders. As we sat at my daughter's commencement ceremony a few weeks ago, my son Henry whispered in my ear: "Just think, Mom. In four years you'll be sitting at our last high school graduation!". Thanks, Henry. I didn't need that mascara anyway.

At many grad parties, it's common for people to put together collages or videos of pictures featuring their child throughout the years. As I sat on the living room floor one night, getting the collages ready for my daughter's party, I found myself reminiscing about those chaotic, crazy times when the kids were younger, the days were never-ending, and my knees didn't make those gross crunchy sounds when I walked up stairs.

There is a never-ending barrage of experts telling us what we, as parents, are doing wrong. Lists of all the ways we're ruining their psyches, their immune systems, their futures. All of these so-called "experts" are so quick, and eager, to point out our shortcomings as parents. I call bullshit on this current trend of parent-shaming.

We need to brag a little bit. No, not the annoying hipster parent humblebrag crap: "This. Barnee taught himself Mandarin over the weekend! Potty training should be a breeze!" (complete with an Instagram shot of the diaper-clad linguist conversing with a panda. Valencia filter.) Sometimes the best things we do as parents are the things we do without intent, the things we say and do and model for them on a daily basis. We need to look for these things, and pat ourselves on the back for doing them.

As I looked over 18 year's worth of pictures, I decided to do a little MomBragging of my own.


1. On countless spring and summer days, I picked my kids up by the arms (and sometimes by an arm and a leg) and swung their impossibly light, tiny bodies around and around out on the front lawn. We'd twirl around until we were too dizzy to continue, and we'd fall together, into a heap on the soft, cool grass. I remember looking down at their wee faces as we spun around, and the sweet symphony of their voices crying out "One more time, mommy!". Oh man. If only I could pick up one of these 6 footers now...

2.  Took them to see a midnight premiere of a loud, action-filled movie of questionable appropriateness. More than once. I will never forget how excited they were to break all the rules and stay up way too late and eat popcorn in a theater in the middle of the night. And neither will they.

3.  Let them fail. Let them lose. Let them experience the natural consequences that their actions and choices cause. Now, I'm not saying I kept a bonfire burning in the living room or stored silverware next to the outlets. But they have learned some valuable life lessons: if you don't do your homework, your grades suffer. If you decide to skip a practice, your coach might not let you play in the next game. If you lie, the truth will probably come out at some point down the road. You want to spend that whole paycheck? Okay. But don't come to me when your friends want to go see a movie and all you have is some pocket lint and that awesome Playstation game that you just had to have.

Not all consequences are bad, though. They know that working their butts off for a good grade results in...you guessed it! A good grade. That lending a hand to someone in need not only feels good, but chances are that person will be the first in line to help you when you need it. Choosing to say no to that beer or that joint at the party means your parents get the good kind of call from a cop in the middle of the night.

4.  Lost my shit in front of them. And I mean, really lost my shit. They've seen me crying, seen me mad, seen me grieve. More importantly, they've seen me get over the crying, the anger and the grief. I've let them know when I'm feeling blue, and that sometimes it's just a blue kind of day. I've also shared my joys with them, and let them see me squeee with excitement when something good happens to one of us. I want my kids to know that emotions are like a roller coaster: they go up and down, they can be exciting and terrifying. And we all experience them.

5.  Learned how to manage money, and as I did...they did as well. I went through a divorce that was financially devastating. After being a stay-at-home mom for a dozen years, I found myself without an income and without many opportunities to earn one. Going through bankruptcy and foreclosure meant I had to start from scratch. It's been a struggle but also one hell of an education; when you're broke you figure out pretty quickly the difference between Wants and Needs. As soon as my kids started earning money, whether it was from babysitting, helping grandpa with his rental properties or their first jobs, we marched into the bank and opened accounts. My two oldest are paying for a big chunk of their college educations with their own money...and the other two are on track to do the same. Proud mom here.

6.  Hugged trees, saved baby squirrels, helped turtles cross roads and recycled like a mofo. My friends give me all sorts of crap for being the bleeding-heart nature freak I am, and I guess it's kind of deserved. But my kids have known right from the get-go that we share this planet with all sorts of other living creatures and it's our duty to treat them with respect. You may think our catch-and-release policy for bugs in the house is cuckoo, but like I say to my doubters...if we get to heaven and find out spiders are in charge I won't look so crazy, will I?

Rocky and Bullwinkle on their way to the Squirrel Rehab lady.

7. Pushed, and I mean REALLY pushed saying "Please" and "Thank You". You can say what you want about my children, but they are unfailingly polite. Ever been out with someone who is an a-hole to servers or cashiers? It's embarrassing, and it's rude. I'm happy that my kids won't be that a-hole.

8. Taught them the value of a heartfelt apology. And also, that an apology isn't a guarantee of absolution. Some hurts are so big that it may take days, months, even years to recover. Some hurts are irreversible. But by saying "I'm sorry", and really meaning it, you let the other person know where you stand.

9.  Laughed with them. Often. One morning my daughter missed the bus because she couldn't find her glasses. I ended up having to drive her, which meant I had to skip my shower or be late for work. I was seething a little as we set out for school, and she was still bitchy after her "can't find my glasses" meltdown. The car ride could have been an icy one, but I decided to warm it up. I told her about the time I was on a date with the guy we now call Mullet Man. Mullet Man and I were in his car, on our way to a restaurant. The windows were down, and we were chatting away when, out of nowhere, a plastic bag blew into the car and wrapped itself around his face. Luckily, he removed it quickly and we weren't in danger, but OMG. The laughs. As I told my crabby girl this story, her face softened and as she got out of the car we were both giggling. Laughs win.

10. Tell them how much I love them. As often as possible. When things are going good, it's nice to hear. When things are going bad, it's essential. Phone calls are usually closed with an "I love you." When someone leaves the house they are accompanied by an "I love you!" and much to their chagrin, usually a "Make good choices!" too. Always say I love you.

How about you? I bet you can rattle off plenty MomBrags of your own. Go ahead, take a few moments and think about the good things you've done as a parent. The things you don't need an expert to tell you whether it was wrong or right.

You deserve a pat on the back, my friend. We all do.


Hello From Under My Rock

Is anyone still here?

I have started, and not finished, about 20 posts in the past few weeks. None of them have seen the light of day. A couple of them might. I've written one about how someone from Amway totally made my day, one about how MomBragging needs to become a thing, one about secrets, one about how long it's been since I've done anything that even remotely resembles sex (dreams involving Louis CK and/or Googling "Jon Hamm commando" don't count) and one about how being laid off and then looking for a job is WAY too much like getting divorced and having to start dating again. Any of these sound interesting?

Our little family had one of our craziest, busiest weeks evah. In the span of 7 days, the following happened:

My school-year preschoolers graduated (and I cried like a mofo).
The eldest of my brood, Charlie, finished off another semester of college with near-perfect grades and began working for Whole Foods (yay for grassfed beef 20% off, amirite??) along with starting an internship with my ex-father in law's business.
William and Henry finished 8th and 10th grade, respectively. And as far as I know, both are being allowed back in the next grade up come September.
I got my first haircut since last May. I call it the annual "Shearing of the Duggar" and I'm pretty sure my kickass friend Kathryn, who cut my hair, found a few small animals nesting on my head but had the class to not say anything about it. I heart you, Kathryn!
Family Circle magazine sent a professional photographer out to my house for a photo shoot. They are publishing one of my essays in an upcoming issue and needed pics of me and all dem babies of mine. I was sweating profusely because I was encased in Spanx from my armpits to my knees but the photographer (and his assistant/wife) were kind and let me sip an ice cold martini between shots. Since martinis make me super sexy and funny I'm sure the last few pictures were the best (winky face here). I loathe having my picture taken, so this was a really tough thing. I'm fat; I have a rogue front tooth that's moving forward, giving me a hillbilly smile and there was sweat beading on my face faster than I could mop it up. Please join me in praying that David Bowman is kind with the photoshopping. (David, if you happen to be reading, I'd do just about anything for shoulders and smaller upper arms. Thanks!)

That's my sweat on the driveway. Just kidding. 

Molly, my girl, graduated from high school. She is, as my kids used to say when they were wee, "all dunny". Done. Finito. The end. The school does a remarkable job of getting 600+ kids all graduated in 2 hours. I have to complain about one thing, though: people who take off after their kid's name has been called. Now, I can hear the "BUTS" already: "But we had to get out of there! But our last name is Aardvaark, bitch!" "But we had to go secure the best spot for after-grad pictures!" I don't care. Two of you decided to leave and walked right in front of me at the exact same moment my daughter grabbed hold of her diploma. You know those once-in-a-lifetime things you can't ever recreate? That was one of them. Hope you avoided the traffic successfully, assholes.
Less than 24 hours after she graduated, we had her party. Psycho doesn't begin to explain my state of mind that day. My apologies to my children. And to my BFF's kids, who tried to come over early and nosh on the grub. I might have screamed at them with a horrifying, guttural, demonic voice to "GET OUT!! PARTY STARTS AT 6!!!". I hope that wasn't pee I saw streaming down the leg of the younger one as they booked it far away from the sweaty screaming banshee. The party was a success, despite a lower-than-hoped turnout by people and a higher-than-hoped turnout by raindrops and mosquitoes. I have this amazing circle of hens who have been there for me through pretty much everything, and I was really glad to close the party down with most of them. Molly decided to buy herself a Macbook for college and as I type this I'm giving her dirty looks to finish writing thank you notes. Two grad parties, down- two to go.


I guess I could say that being busy has kept me from writing. But that would be a lie. The truth is, I'm feeling frozen. Paralyzed. The job search is not going so great. Thinking about Molly leaving for school is filling me with dread...not so much because she's leaving, but because I'm terrified about money and all the things it pays for and not having enough of it for everything.

A friend of mine made a comment on a facebook post the other day. We were discussing heroin, of all things, and how it's making a huge comeback (more on this later, but OMG it's bad). I was clueless about this latest "thing" and my friend said: "I think you've been under a rock..". At first I was kind of like, "Say what??" and then I realized that she was right.

I have been living under a rock. Not just about heroin, but about everything. It's safe and cool under here, and I can't see things that are looming: kids leaving the nest, my job ending in two months, the fact that my joy has kind of left the building. I wouldn't call my rock depression, but I would say that it's a close relative. Maybe a second cousin.

I'm glad my friend made that comment, because in turn, it made me think. As cozy as it is under this rock, I need to get out from under it and face things. Life doesn't stop happening just because some of us find it too scary or too unpredictable to handle. And for those of us who hide from it, who do a great job of pretending that everything is JUST FINE when inside we are reeling with anxiety and doubt and worry...that's not good. Because we are missing out.

Thank you to everyone who has commented or emailed or nudged me over the past few weeks. It feels really nice to be missed, even if the reason I've been missing isn't super fun.

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