7/31/23

The Divorce Blogger: Notes from one of the first (edited with an apology)


***I posted this yesterday and immediately felt something was wrong. Turns out, I was wrong lol. In the original post I made very inaccurate claims regarding a beloved and badass woman and for that I am deeply sorry. Offering up as an explanation, but not an excuse- in therapy we are opening some long-locked doors and my brain, which on the best of days resembles closing night at Coachella, now is more like a packed theater right after someone has yelled out FIRE. Dates and timelines of events are screwed up more than usual and in my haste to get a very impulsive post written I failed to do the right thing and run it by the one sane part of my head, The Fact Checker. So. I apologize profusely and humbly and with a bunch of shame. Truly my bad. ***


Back when I first started this blog, in 2010, there wasn’t much out there about divorce. Oh, sure, there was a little. Most of it was centered on reconciliation, getting your man back, etc. There wasn’t a whole lot of honest, upfront writing about how divorce really felt. 

In fact, the only other woman I could find out in that toddler-aged internet was Single Mom Survives. Found her on Twitter and reached out after reading a few of her posts. We had a lot in common: ex husbands who cheated on us, left us for the affair partner (according to literally everyone back then “they never leave” LOL), raising a child on nothing much more than wishes and dreams. Her ex even got remarried on their original wedding date, just like mine! 

When you’re dealing with a life altering blow like divorce, you just want to know you aren’t alone. And when it’s divorce due to betrayal, it’s even more important to find your peers. All divorce is tough but the ones that are born out of lies and fuckery are decidedly jagged little pills (all hail Alanis, please). It makes you become an analytical mofo to the nth degree. It takes your self esteem, makes a thousand little cuts in it, and rolls it around in a bed of salt. That shit hurts. And while you’re out there, bleeding and raw, you’re expected to show up. Like, daily. Show up for your kids, show up to work, show up in court. Show up and suck it up and be a good little lady who is “so strong” and “so brave”. 

So I started writing. It felt weird at first, exposing myself and my shitacular life to dozens of people. But then it started feeling GOOD. Like, it helped. It became a release that I didn’t know I needed. It was like sitting in a living room with a bevy of friends, only the living room was massive and had no walls, no ceiling. The friends came and went, some stayed longer than others and some barely had time to find a spot on the couch. But for me, it was life changing, this blog. Even though Melissa McCarthy never read it and called her agent to play me in the HBO limited series, even though Nora Ephron never sent an email saying “nailed it, queen”, even though Reese Witherspoon hasn’t called Jennifer Aniston and said “girl check this out, she got divorced at the same time you and Brad did”. Even though none of that happened, so much did happen.

It was kind of lonely out there in the blog world. In a dizzying, crowded web full of messy bunned, stay at home mommies hiding in their pantries while eating Ben and Jerry’s and bitching about their hapless husbands, we divorce ladies were relegated to our own little category. Literally, The Divorce Bloggers. 

The world doesn’t exactly welcome women who don’t have an uplifting tale to tell. The world doesn’t want to know, intimately, how it feels to be gutted and left for dead by the person you trusted the most in this world. Ugh, right? It’s just so messy. 

And so we kind of kept to ourselves. Sometimes, our essays and posts got attention and that was great! I was featured on Scary Mommy a bunch of times, which was an absolute trip. It felt like the big time, baby! There were only a couple of us in the SM stable who wrote about divorce. It was me and another woman. She had one of those glossy divorces, the kind where you end up with killer alimony and the luxe marital home. I was the poor one, lol. 

If you think the world is not kind to women who are angry, let me tell you this: it’s even unkinder to women who are angry and broke. 

So there I was, a poverty stricken, pissed off blogger. I wasn’t Dooce, I wasn’t The Blogess, I wasn’t any of the cute, smooth and witty writers who filled auditoriums for bloggy awards and conferences. Like the real world, the blogging world wasn’t super kind nor was it particularly welcoming. People didn’t want to peek behind that ugly curtain, the one where life tastes less like premium ice cream and a lot more like a big ol shit sandwich. We divorced ladies were like distasteful reminders of what could be, we cast light into dark corners which most of the world wanted to be kept in the shadows. 

We represented the worst case scenario. 

I fumbled a few times, and a couple other times, hit it out of the park. Going viral was not on my to-do list, but it happened a few times. I deeply regret one of those- the tongue in cheek yet supremely gross post about what women need to stop saying after a certain age. I meant it as satire and it came out as an ageist piece of shit. The other ones, zero regrets. Pleading with mothers to not let their daughters be stay at home moms, recalling my first trip to the food shelf, and telling my ex husband exactly what he missed- those are all keepers and so far, I’m not embarrassed by them. 

As time wore on, more of us began emerging. One woman in particular stands out- Tracy, aka The Chump Lady. If you’re a divorced, cheated on woman, you have probably heard of her. If you haven’t, you should. She has made a huge difference in the lives of so many people. Her loud and funny voice, and her well written and powerful book, have helped countless people who previously felt unheard and alone. Brava, my friend. Thank you for being you. 

Remember when all the bloggers started talking about how sometimes they hated being moms? That was considered groundbreaking- startling too! And then all of a sudden it started becoming a thing to talk about mental health. Again, groundbreaking. Everyone was depressed! Anxiety became famous! Everyone, this divorce blogger included, had at least one facebook post featuring a sad faced selfie and words about not feeling happy. FINALLY. We were putting down the ice cream and picking up some real life. 

The same thing is happening with divorce now, too. In my little private Hausfrau group, someone mentioned yet another former Mommy Blogger getting divorced. And it got me thinking about the old days and not being able to find other voices that kind of matched mine. 

While it still chaps my hide, just a little, knowing that less than a decade ago writing about divorce wasn’t considered cool or significant…I’m glad to see it’s not so taboo now. 

Because divorce is that club, man. It’s a club that’s existed for an eternity and one that will forever be welcoming new members.

I’m not happy to hear of yet another marriage biting the dust but you know what? 

Imma scoot over here on the couch and make some room. Someone new needs a place to sit.



*photo is the crappy little Chromebook that helped me survive. Thank you, crappy little Chromebook ❤



6/12/23

Smells Like Broken Teen Spirit




This is another post prompted by my dear friend Beth. Apparently she’s not only my Tuesday night movie partner, she’s also a muse of sorts. Lol sorry Beth.

Anyway. After a long break followed by a shorter one (winter and then I had the weirdest virus for a couple weeks) we finally got back to the theater last week. We saw the Julia Louis-Dreyfus film “You Hurt my Feelings”. I braced myself to be annoyed by privileged white people with made up problems but in the end, we both enjoyed it. Beth was mildly horrified to see the bad guy from Outlander as the main character’s husband. I have not yet watched Outlander (hey now remember I finally watched the Sopranos just a couple years back) so the only thing I thought about him was how he looked kind of like how I imagine Heath Ledger would look if he was still around. 

So we chatted a bit after the lights came up and Beth asked me a few questions about writing (Julia L-D’s character was a writer). Like, how did I start. And of course, that got me thinking. 

This is where we play the Wayne’s World Dream Weaver music…as I float back through time.

This post is a warning, or maybe more like some advice, to all adults who are in any sort of educator/supervisory role in the lives of teens. Maybe this applies to kids of all ages, but this is about something that happened to me when I was in high school. Something that might have completely altered the course of my life. Feel free to share it with friends or acquaintances who may benefit from reading it. 

I was a troubled student. Not so much in elementary and middle school, definitely in high school. A combination of a spectacularly shitty home life, mind-numbing depression and anxiety and just being a teenager turned me into an angry clown, always making jokes to try and desperately hide the despair and rage in my heart. 

One thing that brought me comfort was writing. It started pretty early on, I had piles of notebooks in my room filled with short stories, poems, skits, etc. There was a brief stint as a reporter for the Minneapolis newspaper’s weekly pull out kid-centric magazine, The Smile Factory. There was always a story being told by the narrator in my head. Still is!

Before I discovered booze and pot, writing was my escape hatch from a brutal life. It led to a place where parents weren’t divorced, moms didn’t marry monsters and nobody was punching me. I wrote science fiction stories, cringy poems about boys, opinion pieces, concert reviews, letters to the editors. Writing was the one and only thing, besides jokes, that came to me without much effort. Like a secret wordy wellspring hidden deep within that angst ridden brain of mine. 

High school was awful. I tried really hard to do it right, but always missed the mark. I was a cheerleader for a couple years, but not one of the cute/pretty rah rah girls. I was the smoking one. The one with a six pack of 3.2 beer from the gas station tucked away in the trunk of my car. The one who had Sex Pistols buttons on my sweater alongside the HOMECOMING 84!! pins. 

My grades sucked. In every subject except English-related ones. I hated school. But I loved writing.

Back then there wasn’t the cutthroat pressure to know exactly what you wanted to do with your life. There wasn’t a whole lot of college prep stuff happening, at least in my world. But I did absorb a thing or two from one of the awkward meetings with my guidance counselor and one of those things was trying to figure out what I liked, and what I was good at. 

There was really only one thing which covered both of those points. Writing. 

We took these inane aptitude tests, I think in our junior year. Mine came back with two possible career choices: journalist or flower arranging. 

So in my very hazy and half assed way, I tried figuring out how best to get some more writing experience that would also maybe prop up my saggy GPA. 

This was the eighties. There were basically three methods to get your words out into the universe: books, newspapers, and magazines. In high school, there were two ways.

The yearbook, and our adolescent version of the literary magazine that was produced a few times a year (my memory is foggy, haha. So some of these details may be off. That’s okay, you get the gist).

I went ahead and decided to try to make it onto the yearbook staff. 

The staff advisor for the yearbook was a woman named Sharon Something. Wish I could say last name withheld due to privacy and decency but truth is, I can’t remember it. 

Sharon did not like me. Not one bit. Having worked in a school myself, I know it’s impossible to truly like every kid. But it’s not super hard to pretend you do. It’s part of being an adult amongst children. Not every kid is likable but they all deserve some good acting from you. 

Not Sharon. I’d taken one of her lit classes and that’s when she seemed to have decided that I was not worth her efforts. In her defense, I was an asshole. Remember, I was a joker (and a smoker and also a midnight toker). Just the joker at school though, and Sharon did not approve. She gave me my lowest grade ever in an English class, and made it abundantly clear that I was a waste of resources. My mom cried at that conference. 

So of course she was the yearbook advisor. And of course my interest in joining the staff was met with a quick and resounding NO. I knew she didn’t like me, but at that time I still thought the majority of the adults in the world were good, so I figured it was a capacity thing or maybe I just wasn’t good enough.

No worries. There was the literary magazine. That was probably a better fit, I told myself. Because I was all literal and shit. Do you want to guess who the staff advisor was? Here’s a hint:

IT WAS SHARON.

Once again, rejection. This time I had a feeling the dismissal wasn’t because of too many applicants for too few spots. I had a feeling Sharon was giving me some sort of hint. 

Oh well, I thought. Maybe I’m just meant to be a contributor, that’s all. 

So I gathered up several of my best written pieces, and even wrote a special new poem and handed them in as submissions for the magazine. This time the spurning came with a handwritten note.

Across the front of one returned submission was a sloping, cursive message:

Jeni: Your writing is not good enough for publication. Mrs XXX.

That was the day I quit writing. 

My best friend at the time, Anne, was also a jokester and we had a fantasy about becoming writers for television. Like Saturday Night Live! We’re still in touch and have talked about how we should have taken that big huge risk after graduation and gone to New York. Yes, it was naive and we most likely would have ended up not as Tina Fey and Amy Pohler. More likely, as tragic characters in a Jay McInerney novel but still. We were young and hopeful and the world was supposedly our oyster. 

Unfortunately a massive chunk of my hopes and most of my confidence died on that piece of paper next to the pithy note from ol’ Sharon. 

I don’t think Sharon’s treatment of me, as gross as it was, led directly to any particular failure or bumble in my life. But it stomped out that precious spark of magic that just might have become something good. Something better.  

When my mom died, among the few belongings of hers that I was allowed to have was a large manila envelope. She had saved all of the little newspaper stories I’d written, along with some other pieces of my writing. It wasn’t something that will be published and loved after I’m gone but it was pretty damn good for a kid. With the right guidance, with the encouragement and support of a trusted adult…ugh. Who knows what could have been? 

The hibernating writer in me woke up, crabby and rarin’ to go, in 2006. No longer a scared and insecure teen, in 2006 I was a scared and insecure 40 year old mother to four who had just been left by her husband. The words demanded to be written. They pounded on the walls of my head and poured out of me- not into stacks of spiral notebooks but into a computer and they filled up the screen and one day, I hit that little icon that said PUBLISH

This time, there was no Sharon. 

No, Lorne Michaels didn’t read my blog and hire me on the spot. No agent called. No books with my face on the back cover have been published. 

But through writing, I have met hundreds of incredible people. My words were in magazines, they were in an actual book, they went viral. To this day, I receive emails and dms from women who found comfort and sometimes a few giggles here in this blog or in a post or an essay. My writing has made a small difference in this world. 

Sharon was wrong. Turns out, my writing was good enough. Good enough for me. 

So- this is the advice I want to give to anyone who might be a Sharon to some Jeni out there (yes I spelled it that way in high school but people always got it wrong so I caved):

I don’t care if you hate that kid. Yep, I know. They are zero fun to be around. They are sullen. They are combative. They waste your time and the time of the other kids in the class. They might push every button you have. 

But I beg of you. Don’t kill their spark. Read their stuff. If it’s even halfway decent, LET THEM KNOW. Try to see beyond your frustration and through their armor. Push them, challenge them, accept them exactly as they are. See their potential even if it means holding your eyeballs with your hands to keep them from rolling back inside your head. 

I know you are not paid enough, you’re most likely dealing with a clueless and inept administration, and that behavior is at an all time atmospheric level of cuckoo. But I guarantee that at least one of those kids needs just a taste of your approval. A smidgen. It might be the nudge they need to take a chance, that really big one. 

Or it may just make them feel seen. Win/win.

And on the very off chance that there is a young Jeni out there reading this:

Your writing is good, kid. Good enough for publication even. 






6/7/23

Hittin the Pause



It would seem that I did hit pause on my valiant effort to make blogging part of my daily (monthly? YEARLY?) routine, yeah? I’m going to keep pecking away at this, though. 

Pause. Of course it’s about menopause. That was always a subject I avoided in these pages. Which is weird because there was no hesitation on my part to wax on about my iconic Elevator Doors From The Shining Periods. You’d think someone who spent a good chunk of every month reeking of pennies and constantly checking chairs after getting up would embrace the pause of the menses like a 56 year old reseller embraces senior day at the thrift store. 

The truth is, for a long long time I worried about how others saw me. Specifically, I worried a lot about how men saw me. Even though it’s doubtful that any men read this, especially now, but even in the Hausfrau Heyday there certainly weren’t throngs of dudes eagerly awaiting new posts. 

Thanks to therapy and the passage of time, men and how they see me (if they see me is still up for debate) is slowly becoming inconsequential. Oh, don’t let me get too haughty about this, lol. I still do worry about it at times. Dare you to tag a picture of me on Facebook. A bitch will break her ankle running to remedy that. 

I stopped coloring my hair a little over a year ago. That was the very first step I took in my effort to begin living for me and not for anyone else. Trust when I say this: I still wrestle with it. Not a day goes by where I don’t see the greys in the mirror and hear at least one little voice squeak I miss how we used to look. 

I would LOVE to blame my insecurities on being left for a younger woman. And I do, ha! But when doing a deep dive into my entire life and how men fit into it, I see that it’s a pretty big onion with oh so many layers. 

Most of my life has been spent trying to be someone who attracts and pleases men. I was never pretty enough or skinny enough or smart enough and eventually, young enough. As women age, it’s like we turn into vapors to society. I used to call it The Invisibling and it is 100% truth. Yeah yeah, women are finally being celebrated, right? Look at Martha Stewart on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. But she’s being lauded because she still LOOKS YOUNG. Or knows a lot of special ways to make it look that way. No shade at all to Martha! But we have miles and miles to go until there’s truly a woman version of Sam Elliott or Sean Connery. Sigh. 

But that’s what therapy is for. This blog is to let off some steam and also get these words out of my head.

Where was I? Ahh. Yes. 

Menopause. 

Women are finally talking about it, and not just in whispered conversations or making jokes about aging. Like there are podcasts and TikToks and everything. 

I was always kind of afraid of it. The only intel I had regarding this rite of womanly passage were images of my mom and stepmom fanning themselves and the episode of Golden Girls where Blanche thought she was pregnant but whoops it was that dang change of life.

(Quick aside- I actually did have one of those Blanche moments myself, post-divorce. Never been so happy to see a negative pregnancy test because that guy and I would have made the ugliest babies. Like Ron Perlman mixed with a cabbage patch doll. SHUDDER.)

I can’t tell you when my last period happened. Hi! Literally a gynecologist’s nightmare patient right here! I think it was either right before or early on in the 2020 lockdown. I remember having cramps and sharing this momentous event in the group chat with my two best friends. We liked to joke about getting that “wood tick about to pop” feeling every month. 

Anyway. It was obviously not a memorable thing, and to be honest, there weren’t any of the classic symptoms. It was just like someone turning off a faucet. 

The one thing I feared the most was having thinning vaginal walls. For some reason that gave me such a horrific mental image of a vag lined with crinkled reused tissue paper. 

Happy to report that the only thing thinning on me is my patience. And the hair on my left temple but that’s because the readers I keep there love eating it.

There were some weird little hot flashes, but not the rip off your clothes type. I remember a couple times at work my head got hot. Yes, just my head lol. 

And that was it. 

Oh! One other thing was b.o. I’ve always been a sweaty gal, come by that naturally via my sweet dad and his southern Minnesota farm boy genes. But it was never a stinky thing. Until the past few years. It hit me, like truly hit me, one day when I was taking pics of clothes for reselling. A horrible onion smell. The last time I smelled something like that was when one of my kids, in the throes of early puberty, stood in the kitchen next to me and I immediately began searching for a rotten potato or onion in the cupboard until it dawned on me that it was the precious baby before me stinking up the joint.

Well, I don’t do photo sessions in the kitchen so it wasn’t decomposing produce. It was me. 

That one is easy to fix with a shower and some extra Native in your pits but hoooo boy that was rank.

And now, that was it. 

OH WAIT. Forgot about weight. I guess maybe there was some weight gain? But pretty sure that was from Pandemic Nightly Happy Hour or maybe Pandemic Daily Gorging. My body has changed (no shit) and I’m probably shaped more like a snowman wearing pale peach freckled nylons filled with marbles as arms buuuuut, nothing super abnormal. I’ve always had a belly, even when my hip bones and collarbones and xyphoid process stuck out. A lot of women do mention gettin a little thick around the middle but that’s not something new in these here parts. I suggest stretchy pants. My go-to summer uniform is a pair of stretchy joggers and some random tee. Last week I wore a Neil Diamond t-shirt to senior day at the thrift store and had no less than 3 chatty old dudes strike up a conversation with me, all of which ended with the riff from Sweet Caroline. 

That about wraps it up.

Oh, I guess there is some moodiness. But again, nothing new here. Moods are my thing.

I did Dry January this year, which bled into (lmao pun time) Dry February and also March and April. Go figure, when you stop putting a known depressant into your body you tend to get less depressed. SCIENCE! Since April, I have had a couple drinks…one martini, a few glasses of wine and two margaritas. Which, back in the day was a Friday night for me so this is progress. 

That makes me wonder if alcohol tolerance might be tied to menopause? Because as the years have marched on, booze has become pretty gross to me. I mean, it still tastes good! Last weekend my daughter’s boyfriend made these amazing margaritas and they hit perfectly since it was as swampy as Satan’s balls in corduroys outside. But in general alcohol was making me feel really sick. So I’m happy to now check the box “occasionally” when asked about how much I drink. Maybe even “rarely” which is so foreign and kind of cool.

So there’s My Menopause Story © 

It certainly hasn’t been the shitshow I envisioned and I cannot tell you how nice it is to not run to Target for those pool noodle sized tampons anymore. Kind of like how you one day realize it’s been ages since you’ve stood in the toy aisle saying oh that’s cool about every freaking Lego set in stock. 

Only sometimes I do miss those Lego days. 

So to sum it up: periods are gone, hair is gray, deodorant is good. 

And like my fertility, this post is over. 






4/11/23

Spring Hopes: Eternal


Here in Minnesota it’s what we wait for all winter long, it’s the light at the end of the cold, snowy tunnel.

Spring. 

According to the calendar it officially begins on March 20th, but in Minnesota, it begins on the first day people start wearing shorts. Which was this past week. So much pasty flesh! I even saw my first topless runner. I wanted to stop him and ask “my god, man, it’s 60 degrees. Wtf do you do when it’s 85 and humid? Pull the skin from your bones?”

Now, there is an unspoken agreement among most who live here: you must love spring. No substitutions, no exceptions. You have to not only love it, but it helps if you celebrate it and also you probably should mention it to every person you interact with throughout your day!

“WHOOO BOY IT SURE IS NICE OUT! FINALLY LOL”

“Did ya see it’s gonna be close to 80 later this week?”

“THIS IS WHY WE LIVE HERE”

I get it! Really, I do. Winter is a harsh and defeating time for those of us who, for whatever reason, call this chunk of the United States home. 

We staunch the flow of despair and desolation with the holidays but round about the second week of January it really hits us. There is no escaping it. Well, obviously for many there is a way to escape- vacations, winter homes, indoor water parks, etc. But for a good number of us, we are stuck. Physically and mentally embedded in the frozen banks of ice and snow. 

This year I decided to try Dry January and in an effort to not botch that I kind of took my hermit game to a new level. Sub level, you could call it. I just stayed in, except to go sourcing for inventory a few times a week. I holed up and to be totally honest with you, it wasn’t so bad! I missed seeing human faces and sliding into restaurant booths and general socializing but also, I kind of didn’t. 

Taking that month to just reset was one of my better ideas. And I plan on trying it again next January. 

PS: the whole dry thing worked, too. Still is in fact. More on that later I guess.

But after January comes February! Which typically has 28 days but this year had approximately 208. 

This was the third snowiest winter in Minnesota, and we have been known to get blizzards in April so it’s not official yet. In fact it’s really supposed to hit 80 here this week but I see snowflakes on next week’s forecast. Again I wonder who lives here intentionally? 

Anyway. Spring hits fast and like the goober next door who is already using his gd leaf blower for an hour every morning, I am trying my best to summon up hope for a new season. A season without snow and windchill. But, it’s hard.

I know a lot of my hesitation to embrace all things spring can be traced to the whole body image/low self esteem stuff. The thought of coming out from under the layers of clothing and camouflage is daunting to those of us who cringe at the thought of hot sun and sweat. It’s getting better as I get older, it’s true when people say you just don’t give a shit about what others think and for real, it’s kinda glorious. Old habits die hard, though. So fretting about my freckled, spotted batwing arms being seen by others still occupies some brain space. 

It’s not just that, though. If you’ve read stuff here in the past, or had the rare opportunity to sit down and chat with me (LOL for real at that one) you know that I’m a tender hearted animal lover. I brake for squirrels and turtles and leaves that look like animals. It’s how I’ve always been and it seems to be intensifying as time marches on. 

Maybe it’s because of the aforementioned feeding of the backyard critters? I get bags of peanuts, seeds and corn a few times a month and throw them out back for the neighborhood animals. They come up to the patio door now and wait. Sometimes they crawl up the screen looking for the cuckoo human who calls them sweeties and babies. I started naming a few of them, and as insane as that sounds I’m not going to delete that. Batty is my favorite. This squirrel lost most of their tail at some point and they look like a chonky gray wombat running around out there. So that’s how Batty got their name. Regina is the mean one. 

With springtime comes animal activity and so many babies. And also increased sightings of smushed creatures on the roads. Roadkill has always made me sad but over the past couple of years it’s become a source of anxiety for me. I start to go down some morbid tunnels of thought, like “do they suffer” and “what if that one was still alive, maybe I should go see”. And then I get angry at people for hitting them. It’s a weird spiral thing and yes, it’s being discussed in therapy which helps, but it’s still hard. 

Don’t get me started on the turtles, okay? 

So yes, as a Minnesotan, I agree to be happy that spring has sprung. I concur that this winter was brutal and never ending and depressing. 

But I also have the toxic trait of being able to find the dark even in a daylight savings scenario. And so there is dread mixed in with the relief. As I eye up the t-shirts in the drawers, as I think about finding my capri length leggings, as I tromp through my new yard looking for signs of life where the ferns and hosta grow…I also brace myself for this season’s collateral damage. 

It’s a work in progress, folks. Maybe this spring will be different. Maybe I’ll be different! 

Hope really does spring eternal, doesn’t it?


Oooh Batty is outside. Gotta go. Until next time, friends ❤



4/2/23

Not All Divorced Parents Can Be Like Demi and Bruce- here’s why

 


Yep, I’m still divorced and I still have big feelings about it!

One of these days, mayhap in my next life, I will learn to just stay the hell out of the comments. Comment sections are such a weird deep dive into the collective mentality of our fellow humans, aren’t they? Aside from confirming my fear that we are headed into a real world Idiocracy, they give us a glimpse into the minds of strangers. 

If you are familiar with this blog, or have read any of my rants on Facebook or Instagram, you know that the subject of co-parenting is a hot one for me. It’s something that isn’t on my mind 24/7. But when I make the mistake of tiptoeing into the comments on posts or articles about divorced parents who have managed to not only remain amicable but who have gone one step further and become one big blended happy family, it’s trigger time. 

Some would say that I’m super defensive about this topic, and they aren’t wrong. I am really defensive about it. With good reason. 

Take a look at the collage of comments up at the top. This is standard fare on just about any public presentation of a divorced couple who have remained friendly. 

What is the underlying (and not so underlying) message that is being delivered here? I’ll give you a few examples:

  • You are not parenting right if you aren’t friends with your ex
  • You are not a real family if you aren’t friends with your ex
  • You are harming your children if you aren’t friends with your ex
  • You are not a good role model if you aren’t friends with your ex

And that’s just a few. There are also those who believe anyone who doesn’t co-parent like Bruce and Demi, or any other couple who stay friends, is bitter. Angry. Immature. Grudgy. Unable to “let go”. 

Honestly I could go on and on, lol. And I have. Over and over, in this blog, of course, and to this day I still make the mistake of jumping in and offering a different perspective, an explanation as to why not all of us can be buddies with the other parent (or steps) of our children. I’m an optimist at heart and sometimes so unbelievably naive that I think people might listen. 

Even here, I’m preaching to the choir. 

But you know what? I’m gonna stand here on this rickety pulpit and keep on preaching. 

Because the Divorce Club is unfortunately always open, and always accepting new members. Every single day, another marriage or relationship disintegrates and leaves two freshly cleaved parents wondering how in the hell they’re going to manage.

Imagine that you’re one of these newbies and you’re still reeling and maybe in shock and you are justifiably angry or sad or terrified. And then you see comments like those above and wonder, “What the hell is wrong with me?”

Darlings. There is nothing wrong with you. And that’s why I will never shut up about this.

Let’s start with the obvious, shall we? What’s the biggest factor in these fairytale co-parenting scenarios? No power imbalance. It’s that simple. 

Did Bruce and Demi, or Gwyneth and Chris, or Glennon and her ex (sorry G I can’t remember his name) or literally any other rich & famous couple who post their kumbaya moments on social media ever have a moment where one half of the couple feared for their survival? 

Nope. Not even for a split second did Demi wonder how she was going to care for her girls. Gwyneth didn’t even consider how she was going to afford a home. Glennon’s ex might have been scared for a sec, lol. But I’m sure he was given a very comfortable and fair settlement. Glennon is nice like that.

When there is no imbalance of power, when one half of the couple doesn’t have an insanely unfair financial advantage over the other one, it’s easier to accept the dissolution and to put on a happy face for the cameras and for the world at large. 

We can call it Divorce Privilege maybe? The definition of privilege is “a special right, advantage or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group”. I know that word has been beaten into the ground lately but hey, if the expensive shoe fits… 

BUT JENNY THERE ARE REGULAR FOLKS WHO HANG OUT AND GET ALONG AND SIT BY EACH OTHER AT T-BALL GAMES

Yep. There are! I know some of them! And I’m so so happy that they are able to make that arrangement work. It’s really nice to see. 

It’s not possible for everyone, though. For many reasons. And not all of those reasons have dollar signs attached to them.

In my situation, which is really the only one I’m qualified to discuss, it was a matter of self respect. 

My ex, and the mistress he ended up marrying, lied to me. Over and over and over. He abused his power in our relationship. He denied support to our children. He hid money, he played dirty, he cried poor behind the wheel of a shiny new car and while renovating one house and spending nearly a million on another one. They mocked my appearance. They made fun of my attempts to fix things. They broke me. 

The damage he did to my mental health, and ultimately, to our children, was a classic example of the imbalance of power that I keep referring to here. I had nothing. I was a stay at home mom without a degree or any formal training in a marketable skill. All I had was a spouse and his income and his retirement and his…everything. 

Even now, a thousand or so years later, the ripples from our split cause some little earthquakes. It’s in no way as obvious or awful as it was in the early years, but they are still around. Shaking things up every once in a while. 

When we first divorced, we did try to stay friendly. For the kids. When he finally began taking the children for his parenting time, we’d chat in the driveway or by the front door. We would exchange civil emails or texts. 

That was before all of his shenanigans came to light. And that was before I knew that I was worth more.

That was before he quit paying child support, before I lost that front door and that driveway. Before I found out what it felt like to not have the means to feed my kids.

That was when I decided to establish and enforce some lines in the sand. BOUNDARIES, baby. Boundaries are so so good and so so healthy. Not only in situations of divorce and coparenting but in literally every other relationship there is. Boundaries can make the difference between giving yourself an ulcer and allowing yourself to heal. 

I look at it this way: if one of my besties decided to take a massive shit on me one day, and tried to ruin me, and tried to make my survival and the survival of my kids precarious…dude. Our friendship would be over. And not just over, it would be doused in gasoline, lit on fire and then buried in a shallow, unmarked grave.

You don’t have to be friends with someone who has hurt you. 

And I really don’t believe that my boundaries and lack of a buddy relationship with my ex and wife no. 2 did any harm to our kids. 

I believe that it actually modeled healthy behavior, self respect and empowerment. Especially for my daughter but now that my boys are grown, I can see that they also learned from my example. 

There are moments when I think about future scenarios, like weddings and grandkids, where our nice little compartmentalized worlds may collide. I’m confident that when these situations present themselves, I’ll do the right thing. Which is panic, worry and sweat. And then the nice mask will be donned and those beautiful boundaries will hold me up. 

Having boundaries doesn’t mean being an asshole (says the woman who has blogged about her divorce for years lol). It means protecting yourself from harm or distress. Physical and mental, financial and emotional. 

If Big Daddy and I had Bruce and Demi money, I’m sure things would have turned out differently. I have no idea if one or both of them cheated on the other, or if there was massive betrayal, or if one of them made the other one feel like a worthless piece of dung. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. But I am absolutely sure that neither one ever worried about the survival and care of their babies. 

As I’ve said repeatedly and on many different platforms: If you are able to do the blended family co-parenting one-big-happy thing, that’s WONDERFUL. It’s admirable and it’s certainly good for your kids.

It’s just not the only way to do it. And the fact that some folks can do it doesn’t mean folks who can’t are doing it wrong. It’s just a different way.

Different does not equal wrong. It’s just another way to be.

And now I’m going to be working on a new boundary. Involving comment sections. 

I wish you all peace, in whatever way you can find it. I finally have mine and it’s good.

❤ 


3/27/23

How I Became a Full Time Reseller


Quick recap for those just joining us, or for those who may enjoy hearing about my bumpy life journey: For several years I made my living working for a public school district here in Minnesota. Started out as a playground lady when my kids were all attending elementary school, and along the way added many different job titles. I subbed for Special Education paras, supervised the loud circle of hell known as the lunchroom, taught preschool, was a glorified door opener and eventually ended up as one of the secretaries in the very school where I began my own elementary school journey way back in the seventies. Talk about life coming full circle!

I was, and am, grateful for all that the various positions gave me. A regular paycheck. Hours that mostly coincided with those of my children. Holidays and vacations that also matched my kids. Health insurance!

It was good until it wasn’t. And when it got bad, it went full scale rotten in a hurry.

I found myself having to decide between my mental health and a paycheck. The fact that the paychecks were small, and I was working for an administration that said one thing but practiced quite another made the decision relatively simple. 

Know your worth. That phrase is kind of tired but still remains very true. I tell it to women who are struggling with lousy partners, and when I realized that being stuck in a crappy job is a lot like being stuck in a crappy relationship I practiced what I preach.

The important thing to keep in mind here is that I had a backup plan. Without it, I’d still be dealing with the whole OVERWORKED UNDERPAID drama. Or, maybe I would have eventually stood up for myself. Who knows? 

But now, I am doing something that I love. I make a living selling clothing, shoes, accessories and pretty much everything else, online. 

This was not a new venture for me. I began my reseller journey way back in the year of our lord 2000. The woman who taught one of my kids in preschool had pulled me aside one day and mentioned his vast and adorable wardrobe. “You could make a lot of money selling his outgrown clothing on eBay” she said. 

Now, keep in mind- at that time I was (supposedly) happily married and doing the whole stay at home mom thing. But my husband was working a lowly insurance job and was in graduate school at night. He also had a short lived temp gig delivering pizza for a little extra cash. When this teacher told me about a potential money making venture, I ran with it.

For many years I had worked part time for The Gap. And as anyone who was employed there in the nineties can tell you, it was the shit. We scored clearance and marked down items for pennies, all day long. At Gap Kids, too. So when I say that my kids had a lot of clothes, lady, I mean they had A LOT OF CLOTHES. I realized that I was sitting on a goldmine and also, a way to help out with the family finances.

We didn’t even have a computer at the time (oh hi, I’m old!) but we finally got one and within days I had created an eBay account and almost immediately began pulling in a nice profit every month. Big Daddy was thrilled, at first. He quit delivering pizza and focused on getting his career path paved and smooth. 

And I sold. I have always been an avid thrifter and garage saler, like from childhood. Secondhand shopping was in my blood and when I realized the veritable mountains of clothing to be found and sold, I began thrifting with gusto. 

I’d drop the bigger kids off at kindergarten or preschool, give the little ones a snack and a sippy cup and off we’d go. I began participating in the eBay chat boards, and not only did I find a bunch of new friends (including my current bestie), I learned. 

I discovered fashion and textiles and vintage and measurements. I picked up photography tips, selling techniques and an encyclopedic knowledge of style names, fabric contents, patterns and designers. On weekends, when that wonderful husband of mine wasn’t “golfing”, I’d get the newspaper and the map book and hit rummage sales. 

And I was very successful. I think at the height of it, before my marriage imploded, I was bringing in at least $2500.00 a month in profit. Which doesn’t sound super exciting now, but back then, it was a huge help. Especially considering the four little kids I was raising at the same time. 

All of this came in real handy when the husband walked out. And came in even handier when he decided to quit paying child support.

I like to say that used clothing kept my kids fed, and it’s the truth. 

When the shit hit the fan, I hit Goodwill. 

I ramped up my business and kept our little family afloat for a long time. Of course I lost the house, but that was because of the three loans that had been taken out on it. A nearly $4,000.00 house payment would have been a hard reach for most people. For a stay at home mom slinging gently worn Chico’s, it was impossible.

That was when I started working part time at the school. I still did eBay, right up until my account was suspended and then banned, when I had to file for bankruptcy. I will never forget receiving that email- I was on a 15 minute break at the preschool and cried like a baby for approximately 10 minutes. Probably ate my lunch simultaneously, because even when life throws a gut punch a bitch has to eat.

So reselling was paused. And it stayed paused until a happy hour with my two best friends, in 2017. Our girl Joyce said something about Poshmark. I had heard of it in passing, but hadn’t given it much thought. How could you do reselling on an app? Oh lord. Sometimes it’s fun to look back on those old timer moments, isn’t it?

Anyway. I did figure it out, and before long my sales on Poshmark outpaced my secretary paychecks. The extra money was a godsend, and the adventures my friends and I went on in search of thrifted bargains are some of the best memories I’ll ever have. 

It ended up being not only a safety net, but a new career. When the school district placed that last straw on this old camel’s back, I knew it was time to take the leap. 

And now I am a full time reseller. I pay my mortgage with this income. A car payment. All the other bills that grownups have, too. 

I would not recommend this job to anyone, though. At least not to 99% of the population. It takes a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career (do you know how long I’ve been trying to work a Liam Neeson quote into this blog?)

It’s hard work. It’s stressful. Bookkeeping, and doing my own taxes, is a panicky organizational nightmare. My employment hinges on a few apps staying in business. It can get lonely at times. There are no sick days, vacation days, or paid holidays. I know that I could wake up tomorrow and find out Poshmark has gone poof into that good night. Or that Depop has become like most of its users and ghosted me. 

But for now, it’s working. I can work a 15 hour day or a zero hour day. My coworkers are cats. I get to shop for a living. My work wardrobe consists of leggings, sports bras and sweatshirts. If I’m having an awful mental health day, I don’t have to suck it up and pretend everything is fine. I can work while watching Ted Lasso or listening to BeyoncĂ©. I have incredible flexibility. I work my ass off on my own terms and without having to put up with hypocrisy and toxic personalities.

I remind myself that even while having a reliable income and the support of a union I somehow managed to get screwed. I remind myself of how it felt when people who supposedly had my back stayed silent when there was a knife sticking out it. I remind myself that I have done some really scary shit and survived.

Life is never predictable and now, more than ever, I know that. Thankfully I also know that you may find my picture in the dictionary under the word resourceful. The bumps and roadblocks along the way have taught me to not only roll with the punches, but to turn that punch into a paycheck. 

This is so not the life I pictured for myself all those years ago, when the future was vast and wide and I had a faster metabolism and plenty of collagen. But it’s my life, and for now, I’m loving it.

Gotta go- while writing this I sold a sweet pair of overalls from Anthropologie for $85. That’s what I used to make in one day as the person who enrolled children in school. Go hug a school secretary, my friends.




3/12/23

The Dog Shaped Hole in my Heart




This is the one. This is the story that has been blocking all the other stories, a virtual plug. It’s a cold snowy Sunday in March and this feels like the day to try and yank it out. Bear with me, or not. Like labor, this one may be long and erratic and there will be crying at the end. Also during.

For those who know me in the real world, and for those who have followed along online, Walter has been one of the main characters in this cuckoo production called My Life. One of the constants. Like sunshine and snow and happiness and sadness, Walter was always there. And if he wasn’t around, he was just outside. Or napping on the porch. 

Fifteen years. That’s what we had with him. It’s so much longer than many people get with a beloved pet. And somehow it feels like such a ripoff. I wanted more time. I wanted him to be around forever and then some. 

For those who don’t know me in the real world, Walter was a dog. The dog, actually. My one and only. I think there’s a search bar in this ancient blog- find it and type in Walter and you will find many posts, mentions, pictures. Walter was as thoroughly interwoven into this story as his fur was into our clothes and furniture. 

We got him at the Humane Society thanks in part to a crusty but sweet old friend who told me, as we stood there in the cold back Big Dog room with the various yaps and barks echoing off the cinder block walls, “every kid needs a dog”. Also thanks in part to an immediate connection. 

I will go to my grave knowing that Walter and I were supposed to find each other. It was destined. I needed him more than anyone could have ever convinced me, and he surely needed me. We were like two bruised and damaged planets that happened upon one another in a vast and desolate galaxy. Which one of us held the other in their little gravity grip? I’d like to think it was equal forces. We held each other down.

And now I’m floating in that dark black hole again. My gravity is gone.

Whoa. That’s what you’re thinking, right? This chick is nuts.

Well yes. Have we met? I am indeed nuts. That’s part of my charm.

But I’ll argue with you if you feel that grieving a dog classifies someone as crazy. Grief is no stranger in these here parts. It’s a frequent visitor and as I get older I realize that grief comes in all shapes and sizes and intensities. 

Grief is shaped like a dog. It has velvety soft ears that flap happily on walks. It has coarse fur that comes to a downy little swirl on a barrel chest. Grief stands next to me in the kitchen, eagerly awaiting for some chicken to accidentally fall to the floor. Grief is a grimy blue collar that now rests atop a wooden box.

I’ve lost people and it hurt. I miss my mom with such a deep, primal stab so huge and raw that it still takes my breath away after several years. I miss my dad. The feelings with him aren’t as painful as the mom ones, they are softer and less sharp but just as deep and they poke me with just as much frequency. 

I’ve lost grandparents and aunts and uncles and acquaintances. Favorite musicians and writers and actors. They are all missed and well loved. 

But the loss of Walter has been the one that sticks. It’s the stringy blobs that cling to your fingers while kneading dough. It’s that quote I love about the scent of a violet that’s been crushed by a nonchalant heel.

It didn’t even occur to me that he was aging. He was a puppy, in my eyes, up until the end. 

He was innocence and purity and forgiveness and unconditional love. 

He was walks. He was hilarity. 

He was the king of finding food literally EVERYWHERE. 

He was patiently impatient. He was a foot warmer and sometimes tried to be a lap dog and a shoulder dog.

He waited in the front window and he was the first thing you saw when you pulled up to our house. That sweet yellow face, more white than yellow in later years. Those hopeful brown eyes with the ginger lashes. He was always waiting. 

He loved snow. He loved the first warm days of spring and rolling in dewy grass. 

Walter never played fetch. He didn’t give a shit about sticks. 

He had exactly one toy he liked, a stuffed Grinch, and when that toy was destroyed he was finished. I once found the exact same Grinch at a thrift store and when I triumphantly presented it to him, he looked at it and then walked away. Been there, done that. Movin’ on. 

I was not a good dog mom. Far from it. We were poor and there were times I could barely feed my human kids. Walter got what was available. But he survived. We all did.

When I wrote an essay about having to go to the food shelf, and it went all kinds of viral, there was a comment from someone that said “pretty dumb to have a dog if you can’t feed your kids” and while they were not entirely wrong, it still shook me to think of cutting corners that way. 

As I said earlier, I was blissfully unaware of time stacking up on him. Oh, for sure I saw the fur on his face turning lighter and lighter. I noticed how it took him a while to stand up. I felt his lumps and bumps multiply and grow. 

But it didn’t really sink in until a woman we were passing while on a walk paused and said “he’s getting around great for being such an old man!” 

THE AUDACITY. I was actually offended for him. That was the first time I looked at him through a stranger’s eyes. And I saw his winter white face, his bony back, his lumpy bumpy body. And I loved him even more. But I also started thinking about the things we try really hard to not think about. 

Soon after that he could no longer hop up onto my bed, even with the ottoman I’d brought in from the porch. He slept on the couch, and more often than not, I’d sleep out there with him.

Walter bore witness to the raising of four feral children. He helped a depressed lonely woman (that’s me!) get outside and exercise. He was a reluctant viewer of a few awkward trysts with shadowy lovers. He loved us all without a shred of judgment or pity or obligation. 

I am not ready to talk publicly or I guess, write publicly, about his last day or his last hour. I still haven’t looked at the pictures that our dear friend Whitney took that evening. Looking at them will cement it. It will be the final goodbye and I cannot do that, not yet. 

I will say that while I am haunted by guilt, even now with 14+ months passed, I know deep down that we sent him off with the dignity and the fanfare that he deserved. Hell, I’d be okay with a last day like that. 

A good walk. So many good treats. And surrounded by those I loved, and who loved me.

Death was something that I feared greatly. It was the ultimate terror, the worst thing that could happen. But now, it’s a little less scary. 

Because even though I am probably one of the least spiritual or religious people around, the thought of seeing him, waiting there at the window for me, is comforting. 

For now, I wait. I take walks that aren’t as fun. I smile when I see random food on the ground. I sometimes absentmindedly reach down about mid-thigh to scratch a knobby furry head that isn’t there. I feel him sometimes, just like I can tell when my mom is riding shotgun with me or my dad is shaking his head at my high pitched panic over a minor household crisis.

I wait. And I miss him. 

                                                   ***************************


We made up a song for Walter back when we were all younger. For the life of me I can’t recall the tune we based it on but the words were:

Walty McWalterton, prettiest dog I know

Walty McWalterton, always on the go

He’s pretty

He’s yellow

He’s such a fine fellow (carry that last note with some soprano gusto)

Walty McWalterton, prettiest dog I know

We sang this to him as he passed. And sometimes I find myself humming it just because.



3/8/23

Thanks, Trauma! And also, Lint Rollers



Hey there! Again with the restart, eh? Yeah. Well, there’s a lot to unpack but today the urge to write absolutely pounced on me and I decided to go with it.

Trauma. Every one of us has some. Whether your trauma is that time you cut your toenail too short and it hurt to wear shoes for a week, or you witnessed a fatal car crash, or you were relentlessly abused by a trusted family member, trauma is trauma is trauma. Just like strokes, there’s different traumas for different folks. Whatchutalkinbout, Jenny? 

So this morning, I was getting a darling Boden dress ready to package up and ship out, when I started thinking about my odd personality traits. Like, take my reselling habits, for example. 

I am obsessive about sending out perfect items. I will spend way too long on a pair of jeans that someone has paid $25 for…I’ll turn them inside out. Trim little threads. Use the sweater shaver on the LINING of the pockets. Yeah, those of you who have spent time with me in real life are undoubtedly laughing a little right now. Because I may come across as many things, but a perfectionist is probably not one of them.

It got me thinking what I might have been like if my life had been more “normal”. What if my parents hadn’t divorced? What if there was no evil stepdad who used me as a punching bag? What if I’d had a good marriage to a good man? 

These little quirks that manage to poke out like wispy feathers from a down coat make me think that in the Bizarro Alternate Universe there is a different Jenny, one who can let the tiny things go but who also probably has fewer tiny things to obsess about. 

This BAU Jenny (lol to all my Criminal Minds homies) is most likely an overachiever. She’s surely college educated and maybe even has a successful career in some sort of challenging and lofty profession. Advertising? Writing? I doubt it’s anything in the sciences because trauma free or not, this brain is not wired that way. 

I wonder if she’s fun to be around, though. Does she find the humor in the most unlikely places like I do? Can she make people smile during shitstorms? Because I can. And no matter how I got that skill, it’s one that I appreciate. 

We can’t go back in time. We can’t unscramble an egg. 

But what we can do, is make an omelette with that shit. 

I’ll have extra mushrooms in mine. 

And now back to that Boden dress. I swear I saw some lint in one of the pockets.

❤️

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...