Old Lame Sigh, My Dear: Goodbye 2015

This is it. The last post of 2015. Monumental? Nah. Not even to me and I'm one of those sappy milestone tracker types. This one is going to be pretty much only for me, because the last day of the year is always one of deep reflection, and tends to get pretty thick with the feelings. It's not comfortable for anyone, not even for me and I'm the one putting it all out there.

This has been a good year for some people, a shitty year for others. That's how it always goes, right? I doubt there has ever been a year that was great across the board. So some of us are spending this Thursday thanking their lucky stars or their God or whomever that it's almost over and they're still able to have a cohesive thought in their brains. Others wish it wouldn't end because life has been bountiful. Fortunes have been made, love happened, health and happiness overflowed in their cups and made beautiful messes on the floor. The dates are the same for all of us, though, regardless of happiness or sadness; fortunes good or poor. 2015 will end, forever, at the close of this day.

Every year I wonder how we'll make it, and so far, every year we have. Without fail.

I'm tired. So, so tired. Tired of the struggle to keep afloat, tired of being the only parent who truly parents my children, tired of putting out fires and tired of keeping fires lit. Tired of holding my hurt loved ones close when they're breaking, tired of wishing I had someone to do the same for me. Tired of being the only one who seems to understand how things like "dishwashers" and "light switches" work. So, so tired.

I'm so, so happy. Happy to have four healthy people who call me Mom. Happy to have a dog who greets me after a twenty-minute errand like it was twenty days. Happy to have friends who are always a phone call, text or message away. Happy that despite the inevitable agonizing on the first of the month, somehow the rent always gets paid and somehow, we have food to eat and clothes on our backs. Happy to be alive. So, so happy.

I have a job I love. I love it, but it doesn't pay me enough to support my family. And so I will enter 2016 with a tough choice to make. Do I suck it up and get a second job? Or do I try to find a better paying one? When I can't sleep at night, I play different scenarios in my head. In some of them I'm waitressing, snapping gum and channeling Flo from the old show Alice...telling people to kiss my grits and coming home with tired feet. In others I'm back on eBay, snapping pictures of thrift-store Eileen Fisher tunics in my living room and trying to come up with better descriptive terms than "artsy" and "flowing". And then there are the darker pictures, the ones where I'm packing up a house again, this time to a smaller space. A cheaper space. A different space.

To be honest with you, the only one of those I don't hate is the eBay one. And they kicked me off the site for filing bankruptcy so Houston, we have a problem.

I can't even discuss the whole RELATIONSHIP and SEX things of 2015. Okay, I can, but once again I am ending the year without a lovah situated next to me for the night. And that's fine! It really is. I haven't had a beau on New Year's Eve since my divorce. Walter has been here for the past seven of them and he's the perfect date as far as I'm concerned. Fuzzy socks and no bra? Shake them noisemakers loose, my friends. RING IT IN WITH STYLE!

I've slipped up a few times this year, as far as men and promises and goals are concerned. Last year I promised myself to know my worth but apparently there's still some confusion as to what that actually is. Some of my actions reflect a pretty low number as far as worth goes, and that's disappointing. A few times, though, I've made choices that prove I really am worth more. Worth more than booty calls and being second choice. Worth more than late night texts and sloppy, vodka-fueled dalliances. Worth so much more than feeling anything less than loved. And yet, despite all of this Stuart Smalley crap, I still find myself wishing and hoping for that text, for that little nudge, for a morsel or a crumb from one of them, one last motorboat ride in the deep dark night. I'm conflicted it seems, between wanting to get my freak on and not wanting to hate myself when I do. I want the intimacy without the strings but that's when I have to ask myself, "How's that working out for you?" Looks like the old self-worth still needs some work in 2016.

I didn't talk to my mom in 2015. Not once. The guilt is killing me but I haven't had a nightmare about my stepdad this year. Not once.

Another person I haven't spoken to, face-to-face, is my ex-husband. We have become skilled in the art of Parallel Parenting. Or perhaps we should be truthful and call it what it really is: Uneven Bar Parenting. 2016 will be the year he becomes a father for the sixth time. Let that sink in for a moment, friends who know the whole story:

The sixth time.

I don't care what the courts say, what the world says. Your kids may grow up but the parenting never ends. When they turn 18 they no longer get child support but they sure as hell still need all kinds of support, child or otherwise: love and time and conversations. Show me a self-sufficient 18 year old and I'll say "hi Doogie!" and then show you my kids. When I made the decision to have four of them I didn't do so thinking I would be the only consistent parent in their lives. I mean, who in their right mind would? But look at us go...another year down, two in college, one about to be in college and a high schooler who will still hang out with mom. Not too shabby.

As this year nods off for good, I will have all four of my baby birds back in the nest. One of those birds has struggled mightily this year and it's been tough on this old mom's heart to watch it happen. I don't write about it out of deference to that person but it's been hard. So, so hard. I wish, more than anything, that there was more I could do. Like I wrote on the facebook page for this blog, I just wish I had more. I'd give these kids my last cent, my last breath, my last piece of gum. Someday I will have more. I know it. Someday I'll be able to be there for them like they deserve. Someday I will make it all up to them, fill the gaps and patch up the holes in our little family quilt. It didn't happen in 2015...and I don't know how it could happen in 2016. Miracles still show up, right?

But hey! It was a good year, in many ways. Let's not get all Debbie Downer up in here. So much good happened. I'm thinking, just a minute.

Oh! Yes! I reconnected with my old timey BFF from high school. My soul sister Anne and I hugged again after many years of separation. We cackled like not a second had passed and called each other "Polly" like we used to (it's an old Joe Piscopo reference and like, three of you would get it). Thanks to a super kind and generous friend, we even got the chance to see the sweet little Ginger Gnome Ed Sheeran together:

The Force was Awakened and I got to see it with a very enthusiastic 15 year old:

I was in a REAL LIVE BOOK. And got paid for it! AND did I mention it's a real book, available on Amazon?:

I spent so much time with my good friends and took many selfies:

This shit happened on Halloween and it was awesome:

Speaking of getting paid to write, this happened too. I am getting real good at signing contracts ;)

These sexy little beasts showed up at the painting party on my birthday (and came to the restaurant with us afterward):

I got to see this Oddball Crush live again, and although he doesn't get me as tingly as he used to, boy is funny:

My bestie made this DIY kickass Pinteresty gift for me, out of wine corks. It's for the Golden Girls Porch of Love and it's amazing:

And I was able to buy this stuff at Costco, more than once:

My apologies for the self-congratulatory photo collection. I needed it and yes, of course I'm getting a little weepy thinking back on all the good that happened in 2015. Sometimes we need a few reminders, ya know?

I wish for all of you the same things I wish for everyone I love: peace in spades, love endlessly, laughs innumerable, good dreams realized and the eyesight and heartsight to acknowledge and embrace all of it.

Thank you, as always, for being here. You are the best things to have come from this blog and whenever I think, Gah this is so stupid. I'm going to quit writing and pull the whole thing offline someone will send me an email in the middle of the night that will make me cry and remind me of what it felt like to be standing in front of a future that is so scary and unknown. Not that I'm like the Joan of Arc for Divorced Ladies but it's so important that we keep reminding all of the newcomers they are not alone.

So here's to us, my dears. Here's to another year under our belt and a big, fat fresh slate before us. Time to hit Play again. Let's go!


Minnesota Medium

Dreams have always fascinated me. It pains me when someone will say, "Oh, I don't dream" or "I never remember mine" because I wish everyone could enjoy them like I do. Every single night, I dream. Some are so vivid and real, I can recall the tiniest details months, sometimes even years, later. When I was little, like maybe 5 or 6, I had a dream that my cousins and I were all gathered in the big red barn on my paternal grandparent's farm. There were about ten of us, and we were all in our pajamas. Some of us were sitting on bales of hay, and some of us were huddled on the floor, wrapped in those thick, scratchy wool blankets they used to keep the baby animals warm during frigid cold snaps.

One of my uncles walked into the barn, and closed the big doors behind him. Then, as my cousins and I watched, he began the horrifying transformation into a freaking werewolf. Uncle Gary, please forgive me but for many years after that dream, I always made sure there was a clear path to an exit when you were around (love you).

The idea of dreams being something other than "head movies" (what? Yes, it's a Tropic Thunder quote, thank you very much) is intriguing as well. I love a good supernatural dream story...unless we're talking about the movie Inception which just made me feel really dumb. I adore the idea of our subconscious minds holding keys to problems or concerns our very wide awake brains grapple with. The old idiom, "sleep on it" makes perfect sense to me.

Much to the delight of those around me, I talk about my dreams. A lot. My poor kids are usually the ones who have to endure my early morning coffee-fueled babbling about where I went in my head the night before. They're very polite, though, and do a great job of feigning interest in what Crazy Mom is saying. It probably helps my cause that I tend to do my dream-talk while preparing breakfast. Captive audiences are my favorite.

So, this past Christmas Eve I had one of my super-vivid dreams. In this particular one, I received a phone call from my ex-husband. When I answered, it wasn't actually him...it was his lovely wife. She and I haven't spoken on the phone since a disastrous evening many years ago, when she called to let me know one of my kids was in an ambulance, en route to the hospital. She also chose that moment to call me a "fat bitch" but that's another story for another time. Also, one of the reasons she's not the first person I reach out to when I want to talk.

Her voice was raspy and in the dream she said to me, "We all have strep throat here, just wanted to let you know before the kids come over."

So, Dream Secretary is polite! I love that. But Dream Jenny can be a grudgy shrew so I was all pithy and cold with my reply, which was "I don't want everyone to get sick, so they'll be staying home." And that was that.

Of course I relayed this gripping tale to my brood the next morning as I iced the cinnamon rolls. They laughed (or was it grimacing? I can't tell anymore) and then the day played out as was planned: we opened presents, hung out for a while and then they were picked up by Big Daddy at 11:30.

Three hours later, they came tumbling through the front door, gift bags in hand(s). Molly whipped off her coat and exclaimed, "OH MY GOD MOM. You're never gonna believe this. Right when we walked in the door, Dad told us they had strep."

Chills? Maybe a little. Even though I knew it was pure coincidence, it was still freaky. For a second I imagined myself as a brunette Patricia Arquette in Medium, conjuring up messages and lessons from the Twilight Zone. And also wearing cute pajamas like she did in the show. I thought about other dreams I'd had and wondered just how many of them were only dreams and how many were previews of what was to come? My recurring dream where Melissa McCarthy finds my blog and decides she wants to make it into a movie and PLAY ME and we become the best of friends? Could it be true?

We all marveled over my new, fortune-telling abilities for a moment and then life went on. The kids and I had a beautiful, long weekend.

And now Molly has a sore throat. As much as I want to dream about me owning Kate Winslet's cottage from The Holiday and having Jon Hamm's car break down on the deserted road out front, I have a sneaking suspicion the film in my brain will look more like a trip to Urgent Care.

Or, it might be Uncle Gary the werewolf. We shall see.

Sweet dreams, my friends.


Not A Creature Was Stirring: Surviving The Holidays After Divorce

There you are, just chugging along...life is working out despite some serious roadblocks. Your divorce, while unfortunate, happened and somehow you've managed to pick yourself and your kids up, dusted everything off and are making nice headway into your New Normal.

And then the holidays arrive. Your divorce-spidey-senses start tingling, sometime around Halloween. You make furtive glances towards the calendar, knowing in your heart that although it seems so far away, those biggies we call Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye.

You get out that decree, which, if you're newly divorced is probably still smooth and stapled together (you should see mine now, lol. Highlighted, wrinkled and stained with blood, sweat and wine.) and you go over the holiday stipulations. Most of us divide up the holidays on an even/odd year structure. Sometimes, you and your ex are agreeable to changes and swap certain dates with a smile. Sometimes, you and your ex can barely speak to each other and cling to that schedule like Rose hung onto that freaking board in Titanic. Sometimes you even join forces with your ex and decide to toss that schedule into the wind and hold your own Big Happy Holiday, providing your children with a united front.

All of these situations are normal. All of these situations are okay. You must know this, right now: ALL OF THEM ARE OKAY. There is no absolute right or wrong when it comes to piecing together a family holiday post-split. What there is, is black and white and fifty-thousand shades of grey. And you need to do what is not only best for the kids, but what is healthiest for you. These two objectives are like big circles in a Venn Diagram. Sometimes they overlap so much they look like one and that's awesome. When they don't? Well, that's life.

If you are in the Big Happy Holiday camp, bravo! From the bottom of my heart, congratulations. What you're doing is remarkable and wonderful and will no doubt instill some lovely, warm memories into your children's brains. They will look back on these times and be grateful their parents were able to put differences aside and go all kumbaya.

For those of us who don't fall into that camp, and who couldn't even find the freaking campsite with Sacagawea and GPS, don't sweat it. What works for some people doesn't work for everyone. To quote all the cool kids, "You do you."

A lot of you are still in survival mode, and during the holiday season you have to kick it into high gear. The absolute worst part of this season will be letting go of the kids. Whether it's for one night or a week, most of us will be apart from our babies for a while. That first time is like nothing else. I can't really describe it accurately except to say that watching them drive away felt like my heart was a big ball of yarn and someone was slowly, deliberately unwinding it.

Waking up on Christmas morning to a silent house. No hot kid breath in your face imploring you to WAKE UP MOMMY SANTA WAS HERE, no little feet pounding down stairs and no squeals of joy when that lusted-for toy was discovered under the tree. For some of us, this is the stuff of nightmares. And guess what? It sucks. I could pussyfoot my way around this one for you, drape some garland over it and say oh honey it's not so bad but my friends...that shit hurts.

The good news is, you'll survive. The better news is, so will your kids.

And each year, it gets better. Does the hurt ever go away? For some, yes. For others, it doesn't disappear completely but it shrinks down to a manageable size. Some of us take time to reflect. Go back over the pages in our brains and press our hands over memories, remembering long ago moments and noises and faces. It's fine to do that. It's normal to look back. But what you really need to do, what is best for you is to also look around your now. Look at their faces, they've changed so much but you can still see those little kids inside them. Enjoy the moments you're given, and really let them sink in so when they're not with you, you can close your eyes and see them.

As for what to do with all of that quiet time? Girl. The options are endless. You go ahead and wallow that first year, and okay...maybe the second one, too. That's your God-given right and nobody can tell you otherwise. But eventually you'll tire of being the Divorced Christmas version of Miss Havisham and want something different. Here are a few ideas:

  • Get the word out that you're going to be alone. You might be surprised at the invitations you receive. Whether it's from a friend inviting you to her big family shindig or a fellow single who needs some companionship, embrace the offers. They are symbols of love and caring. 
  • Eat something you love. If you're poor, this might be the perfect time to go big and buy a few crab legs. Try making a cheesecake and eat that sucker right out of the pan. Buy a bag of Red Vines, let them get a little stale (please god tell me I'm not the only one who prefers them that way) and chow down without having to hide them from the kids. 
  • Binge watch something on Netflix or Amazon. I always joke that I need a good blizzard in order to really get my binge-watch on, but my best watching times were when the kids were with Big Daddy. I've heard good things about the Aziz Ansari show on Netflix, and I'm currently sucked into The Wire on Amazon. Idris Elba has become the face of my body pillow. 
  • Move your ass. Go for a walk. I once took my dog for a walk on a lonely Thanksgiving. The smell of turkey dinner and intact families hung over my city like a fog and I walked through it like I owned it. It felt good and my dog-mom guilt was relieved for a day. 
  • Go see a movie. I have never mastered the whole "go alone" thing but I've heard it's not so bad. Theaters are open on the holidays, yo. Even if you just go and sink into a plush seat and don't cry for approximately two hours, it'll be worth it. 
  • Have you a lovah? (say that with your best Downton Abbey accent) If so, yay! Now is your chance to do something crazy, like go get a glass of water in the middle of the night completely naked or make out in the living room. Get ur freak on, friends. It's what Santa would want for you. No lovah? No problem. This would also be a great time to shop for a new shower massage
  • Do something nice for someone else. Babysit a dog, volunteer at a soup kitchen or shelter or surprise a sad neighbor with a basket of goodies. Nothing on this planet will chase away the woes like doing a good deed. Although pretending your body pillow is Idris Elba does a fine job, too.

Whatever you do, remember this: holidays come and go. Your kids will, too. One day there won't be a decree telling you who goes where and what days are yours. What you do with these dates now is entirely up to you. I encourage you to make the best of it, regardless of how crappy you feel or how mad you are or how much it hurts to see so much change. It may seem impossible, but you can make the holidays happy.

In closing, I'd like to invite you to watch this video. My dear friend and Listen To Your Mother director (producer? GAH) Galit Breen is part of the fabulous VProud network. They made this video featuring women JUST LIKE US talking about co-parenting during the holidays. Some good tips in there and also some funny.

With that, my dears, I will leave. But not before I give you a big hug and my most sincere wishes for a good holiday season. If it makes any of you feel better, I broke down yesterday and cried yet again, this time while driving around. And I've been at this for 9 years now. The good news is, I was fine when the floodgates finally closed and today my eyes hardly look puffy at all. Sometimes you just have to let it out.

Know that you are not alone in this. Always, always know that. You are not alone.
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