7/20/14

Momastery, Me and All The Divorced Ladies: What I Learned This Past Week

In case you didn't hear me screaming from the couch last week, my Messy, Beautiful post about surviving divorce was featured on Momastery. I was shocked, I tell you, seriously shocked. Not saying that I wasn't pleased with how my essay turned out, because I do love it. But, like I told my rockstar friend, Laura, who ordered gently nudged me to submit, I didn't think my style of writing was going to fit with Glennon's vibe. I'm kind of crude, a little racy and I swear. I also don't talk much (okay, at all) about my religious beliefs. I know, right? I keep the God stuff private but I will tell anyone with ears all about the sexy times. Contradiction, thy name might be Jenny.

As every neurotic writer does, I obsessively checked my email and Momastery for signs of acceptance. I heard crickets. What she is doing with selected Messy, Beautiful essays is featuring a couple every week, under certain themes. The first week's theme was Parenting. "Okay," I thought to myself. "You still have a chance. Your essay was totally not about parenting. Carry on, Freak."

Week number two was Authenticity. Hmm. Well, my post was authentic, I guess. But I wouldn't classify it as such. "There's still a chance," I thought to myself. "Why doesn't she like me?" I also thought to myself.

Week three? Augh. The topic was Marriage. "Hooo boy," said that inner voice of mine, the one I sometimes think might benefit from some padded walls and some fine pharmaceuticals. "This is what the essay was about. And guess what? You're not there." I consoled myself, mentally curling up like a cooked shrimp and telling myself "Hey! You tried! And your good ol' crew of regular readers loved it. YOU DONE GOOD, Shrimp Lady."

Imagine, then, how it felt when I received an email from Momastery (not from Glennon herself, because she's so big she has PEOPLE. She has people, people!). They loved my essay and it was going to be featured during Week Four, which was all about...wait for it....Beginning Again. I was at school when I read the email, from a lovely lady named Amy. There might have been a strange noise made by yours truly, followed by goosebumps and an immediate urge to cry.

Amy stayed in touch, letting me know when the post would be on. It changed a few times, and for good reason. That Monday, Glennon wrote a heartbreaking post about a woman who lost her daughter, and it kind of went crazy (you can read it here....and grab a tissue for me too, okay?). Amy told me that they wanted to let that one ride for a couple of days, and she'd let me know when "You Will Survive Being Left" would be live.

Oh, and she also instructed me to keep all of this under wraps. Do you know how hard that was? IT WAS HARD. But like the Monkees often say, "We Can Do Hard Things". And so I sat on it (okay, I might have told my friend Laura, the person who was totally responsible for this whole thing. And maybe my kids, who are so used to me blathering on about bloggy stuff I'm pretty sure all they heard was something about monasteries and monkeys and Glenn Campbell). But secretive I was, and on Wednesday the 16th of July, my cuckoo words were there on the site.

I was worried, at first. Would the Monkees be kind? Would they respond well to my tale of a marriage gone bad? Would they respond at all?

Still waiting to hear from these guys.


Turns out the answer to all three of those questions was: Yes. Oh dear, were they kind. MY FAVORITE COMMENT SECTION, EVER. So much love, so much support and unfortunately, so many stories just like mine. So, so many.

So, what did I learn? Here we go:

1. Don't be afraid to go for it. A direct quote from me, to my friend who urged me to submit: "I might not be her cup of tea." Turns out, Glennon appreciates all kinds of tea. I almost didn't do this. So glad I did.You never know whose cup of tea you are, and you won't, unless you put yourself out there.

2. There are still people out there who think it takes two to destroy a marriage. Sorry, but no. Nope. I agree that it takes two people to keep a marriage going, and that marriage isn't like a hosta that you can just plop into the ground and not tend to at all, and will get pretty leaves and delicate purple flowers year after year. I know now that marriage is hard work, and I'm the first to admit I didn't do enough work on mine. But I will never, ever think that I had a hand in my marriage dying. I tried. And most of the women who have gone through this slice of fun tried, too. We went down swinging and to suggest that we left our fingerprints on the murder weapon is kind of like spitting on us. It takes two to make a marriage work, but all it takes is one to pull the plug on it.

3. The month of August seems to be the favorite month for husbands to leave. WTF. Is it the humidity? Also, some men leave on Christmas, which makes me want to hunt them down and kick them in sensitive places. Christmas? Really, asshole? Way to not only dismember a marriage but also ensure that your kids will get a sick feeling every time December 25th rolls around.

4. Monkees write good. Several of the comments are basically mini-essays, many of which made me cry. Damn, girls. There are some good books that need to be written.

5. Speaking of books: when a publishing house follows you on Twitter, you might scream.

6. This one is kind of off-topic: does anyone else find Lifetime movies addicting? The Canadian accents, the vaguely familiar actors, the soap-opera like commercial breaks at just the right moment...sadly, I have passed this sickness on to my children. William and I found ourselves alone one night this past week, and we decided to turn on the t.v. "How about a Lifetime movie?" I suggested, half-joking. Okay, maybe 1/3 joking. "Ooh..sure" he said, without a trace of sarcasm. I'm sorry, future wife of William. Or maybe...YOU'RE WELCOME.

7. Here's another off-topic one: check my Google search history and you'll find three things:

protection for vulnerable adults in MN
how to care for orphaned bunnies
why does my cleavage sweat smell like vinegar?

The first one was for my mom. And what I've found out is, I can't help her. You know why? You can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped. I am finding this to be one of the most difficult situations, ever, and am mourning so much. More on this later.

The second one was because Walter (my dog) is a murderer. We shall discuss this one further, too.

The third one? Self explanatory. And, ewww. Thankfully it's not life threatening. Romance threatening? Yeah, maybe. If anyone got close enough to catch a whiff of the sourdough factory that seems to have sprung up between my breasts, that is. Summer heat, I loathe thee. 

And on that lovely, appetizing note, I shall close. Thank you so much, all of you. Those of you who have been here from the beginning, and those who have just hopped on board this runaway train of whackadoo. I am so glad you're all here.









7/6/14

Ribs and Birthdays and Neverending Hurts

The smell of the ribs filled our house. It was late, almost 8:00, and they still needed another 20 minutes in the oven. It had been one of those insanely busy nights and somehow I'd put off making dinner until the screeches of my nestlings became too insistent to ignore. But now...mmmm....good things come to those who wait, and we were proving that worn-out old saying true.

Charlie's girlfriend was there, as she often is. I like her. A lot. She feels like one of my own now, almost. Charlie has blossomed since she's been around. Maybe he would have, even if she hadn't been a part of his life, but I think she's been a good thing for him. And therefore, good for our family. She and I were standing in the little area between the living room and the sliding glass doors that open to the deck. It's a weird spot of real estate, that area...not quite big enough for a usable table, not quite small enough to brighten up with a few tchotchkes and call it a day.

"Oooh they smell so good!" she said, her pretty brown eyes so open and kind.

"Thanks" I replied, "Wait til you taste them!" Modesty is my middle name, yo.

"So it looks like Charlie and I will be having ribs a few nights in a row" she said. "Tomorrow we're meeting his dad and his grandpa at Market Barbecue."

Me, being diplomatic: "Oh, nice! Have you met Charlie's dad before?"

She didn't miss a beat, and nodded as she said, "Yep. Charlie and I were at Spawn's birthday party yesterday. Wow, it was the most lavish party I'd ever seen for a three year old."

Cut back to me, frantically gathering up any and all remaining bits of diplomacy I could find. Dammit it's harder than you'd think.

"Oh. A birthday party? Fun. I guess that means you met the stepmom, huh?" I'm sure at this point I had a decent case of the Crazy Eyes setting in.

She nodded again, and added, "Yes! She was really warm and welcoming. And she's so young!" Bless her heart, I thought. And I also thought, don't. Don't say anything bad, Jenny. Don't. DON'T.

"Yes, I'm sure she was really warm." Warm from the hellfire that surrounds the skank, right, Jenny? STOP IT! Seriously! Just go into the kitchen. Walk away from this conversation! 

Charlie's girlfriend is a child of divorce, just like he is. Her situation is similar to ours, complete with a dad remarried to someone much younger, and a half brother just a couple years older than Spawn. Her parents, however, have somehow managed to keep things civil, amicable. I'm guessing it's because although the situations are similar, they aren't exactly alike. Meaning, the new, younger wife isn't the one who helped dismantle the marriage. I think that makes the concept of civility somewhat more palatable.

I felt that old, familiar warmth spreading. No, I wasn't peeing my pants. I was feeling that hot anger spill out of nowhere. Where does it come from, I wonder? Where does it hide? Nothing else on this planet can draw it out like one of these seemingly innocent conversations. And then, BOOM. There it is. All the old hurts. The pissy anger. The shitstorm of emotions that flies right out of left field and lands, with a sick thud, on my heart.

She continued on, oblivious to the tsunami of feels that were welling up behind my eyes..."There was a bouncy house and so much food and we went swimming in the pool..."

At this point I did waddle back into the kitchen, to check on the ribs. They were done, perfectly done, so I pulled them out of the oven and began cutting them apart and placing them on a big serving platter. "They're done!" I yelled out to everyone, and stepped aside as the stampede came forth and dished up plates of saucy goodness.

Henry was there first. I asked him, "Did you go to your dad's house on Sunday?" He turned around, sauce already smeared on his face, licked a finger and looked at me quizzically.

"No. Why would I have gone there?"

Almost immediately I regretted asking him. The naysaying Jenny in my head was already shrieking at me to SHUT UP! But I had to. I had to find out.

"Apparently they had a big party for Spawn. Didn't your dad call and invite you?"

His eyes answered me before his mouth. "Nah. Wow." He shook his head, and then backed it up by saying out loud, "Shake my head." Which, by the way, is kind of a little joke between the two of us. I try to be hip and stay up to date with all of the acronyms the kids use. SMH is one of my favorites to use with Henry. So of course he does me one better by saying the phrase in its entirety, when appropriate.

It was appropriate that night, I guess. Shake my head.

I asked William, and then Molly. Neither one knew about it, neither had been invited. I felt myself beginning to seethe, the thought of sitting down and enjoying a good ol' summertime dinner completely clouded by thoughts of mother effing bouncy houses and young, welcoming homewreckers and splashes in a pool.

Molly smiled at me. And then she laughed a little. "Mom. I can tell you're pissed. Don't be!"

I looked at her, my sweet girl who is mere weeks away from embarking on her college career. My sweet girl who has taught me so much about rolling with punches. "Doesn't it bother you?" I asked her, "Doesn't it make you sad that your dad wouldn't ask you to be there?" Her answer broke my heart.

"It doesn't matter to us anymore. We don't care." She spoke on behalf of herself, and her younger brothers. William, who was listening, just nodded.

Charlie chimed in then, his anger stepping up to spar with mine. "Mom...knock it off." It was too late, though. I had already opened this can of worms and they were everywhere. "Charlie, I'm sorry, but this kills me. Why weren't the other kids invited? Why just you? Didn't anyone ask where the other kids were?"

Charlie put down the rib he was devouring. His eyes were dark. I'd seen this look on his face before, and it made me feel shameful and defensive.

"He might have told me to ask them. I don't know. You need to stop it, Mom. Stop making this into something it isn't." The tone of his voice, coupled with that shadow in his eyes...I retreated. I backed off. But I had to say one last thing, had to get it out there so my kids know that it's not jealousy or bitterness that causes these small outbursts.

"I'm sad for you guys, that's all." I said quietly. "I think it's sad that you weren't invited, and Charlie, I think it's sad that your dad put it on you to invite your siblings. That's not your job."

Charlie looked at me, the other kids in the room looked at me. Charlie's girlfriend, who had been silent through this brief but intense interaction, looked at me.

"I'm sorry." I said. I gathered up plates, crumpled up napkins, began stuffing the anger and the hurt back down from whence it came. I wanted to put a fan on, blow away the residue of this mini-explosion, turn back the clock just far enough so I could shut my big mouth and not say anything.

"I'm sorry" I said again. And I was sorry. I meant it. I am always sorry, it seems, sorry for the divorce and sorry for picking their dad to be their dad. Sorry for not being a better wife, sorry for gaining weight and not being attentive and sorry for finding it hard to accept the fact that sometimes shitty things happen. Sorry for wanting everything to be fair and even and nice for them, sorry for their dad for not knowing exactly how much he has hurt them, sorry even for the shiny stepmom who might or might not realize what she's done to these kids. And sorry for myself, truth be told. Sorry that I don't have the maturity or the balls or the grace to suck it up and let things like this just roll off my back and onto the floor and out the door. Sorry that I feel so much, and then on top of that, feel it 4x more for each of my children.

Here's the thing: these are the vapor trails of divorce. Like those white fluffy lines left behind jets, arcing in the sky long after the plane is out of sight, these insults and injuries follow you even after the divorce is buried in days, months and years. They go away and then they ambush you, rain all over something as sweet and simple and normal as a late night summer dinner of ribs.

I wonder if they'll ever disappear completely? Will they ever just go the hell away and never come back? Or will they slip in under closed windows and locked doors even when we are past the time of birthdays and bouncy houses and teens who are so used to being treated like afterthoughts that they don't care anymore?

The good news is, although they haven't disappeared completely, they don't stick around as long as they used to. That night, Rib Night, continued on in relative peace. The kids finished two slabs, and even left me a few morsels. I apologized to Charlie, and to his girlfriend. The dishes were done, the mess in the kitchen cleaned up and by the time I went to bed that night my sleepy time thoughts were focused on the upcoming weekend and not on exclusive birthday parties for three year old half-siblings. I thought about spending the 4th of July with my kids, at my friend's cabin, and how grateful I am that I have a friend with a cabin and kids to bring there.

And you know what? I slept really good that night. Take that, vapor trails.










6/24/14

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. 






6/22/14

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.

THINGS I'M SO GLAD I DID:

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.








6/20/14

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.

Phew.

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.



5/22/14

I Am Not A Chimpanzee. And You, Ma'am, Are No Jane Goodall

Imagine, for a moment, that your husband has just told you he's leaving. He's in love with another woman, and he's leaving you.

Now, imagine that he says, "But before I go, I'd like my girlfriend to come over here and observe you going about your day. So she knows what to do when she takes over."

This was one of the many scenarios that I imagined the other day. The day that the woman who is getting my job came to "observe" me, so she knows what to do when she takes over in September.

When my boss, the lead teacher, told me about this plan, I kind of giggled. I thought it was funny. "How odd!" I thought. I tried to remember which woman it was who observed chimpanzees. I get the chimp one and the gorilla one mixed up, okay? Jane. Jane Goodall was the chimps, Dian Fossey had the gorillas. So I started calling my replacement "Jane Goodall" in my head because I am more chimp-like than gorilla like. I have small shoulders.

So I imagined Jane Goodall coming to our classroom, and hunkering down behind one of the little shelves...furiously scribbling in a small notebook as she took note of my fascinating workday. In my imagination, she also wore a pith helmet.

"This morning, I observed the subject feeding breakfast to approximately 15 young. She displayed great patience while they cried out her name repeatedly and asked for more pears."

"At 9:00 a.m., the subject suddenly left the room. I was able to follow her trail and found her relieving herself. NOTE: after this mid-morning elimination, the subject was much more relaxed."

"After she had successfully gotten approximately 20 young to sleep for 'nap time', I noted the subject peering into the screen of a laptop. I approached the subject carefully, not wanting to disturb her. I noted that she was looking up 'FOOT PAIN' on a website called 'WebMd'. NOTE: Subject was wearing flip flops and a crude pedicure."

"The subject was wary around me. At times she showed her teeth and I was unsure if this was an attempt to be friendly or a warning."

A few things crossed my mind that day. One of them was, OMG. Could this be any more awkward or humiliating? I mean, it's bad enough to get laid off. But then, they expect me to be all shits and giggles while the person who is taking my job comes to watch me do it?

I know, I know. IT'S NOT HER FAULT. Her only crime is having more years under her belt than me. But dammit. It was really hard to be kind. Especially when she kept asking me the same question, over and over, in a very hard to understand, very heavy accent:

"What are you doing?"

She must have asked me this question a hundred times. The first forty times or so, I answered her. I had to explain to her, very slowly, what I was doing, why I was doing it. There was a slight communication issue. Aside from giving her a blow-by-blow account of my every move, I also had to do my actual job. The kids didn't turn it down a notch because Jane Goodall was in the room observing their Miss Jenny. They went about their day, being kids. Loud, active, brash and bold and did I mention loud?

My kindness waned.

Again, I reminded myself, IT'S NOT HER FAULT. But you know what? I'm human. And while she stood there, staring at me, writing things down, and asking me over and over,

"What are you doing?"

I felt an ugly wave of emotions rolling over me. I was mad. I was sad. I found it absolutely repugnant that someone thought this was a good idea. I started to think about how much I like my job and how much fun I have and how this past year has been so freaking good. So good for me, for my kids. I thought about the job search and how hard it is and what it's like to be middle-aged and scared and how sick and tired I am of being middle-aged and scared. And then I thought:

"Fuck this." (sorry) (actually, not sorry. This was a fucked up situation, folks. F-bomb entirely called for.)

I stopped answering her and I did my job. I decided if the powers-that-be wanted her to learn the ropes, they could give me a paid day off and have Jane MotherEffing Goodall come in and do it.

She wanted to observe me? Fine. I felt zero obligation to stop what I was doing and tell her "NOW I AM ORGANIZING THE CHILDREN'S JOURNALS" or "NOW I AM CUTTING THESE STRIPS TO MAKE LITTLE GRADUATION CAPS FOR THE CHILDREN" or "THAT CHILD WAS UPSET SO I WAS COMFORTING HER".

She asked me, one more time:

"What are you doing?"

I looked at her, looked at this Jane Goodall person, this person I was having trouble understanding. This person I was having trouble liking.

I looked into her eyes and I said,

"I'm doing my job."

Jane Goodall's visit happened earlier this week, and it affected me more than I thought. Today I lost it at work. No worries, the kids were napping. But I straight up lost it, crying and dabbing my eyes with paper towels in the lead teacher's tiny office. I told her how shitty this was, how freaking scared I was. How it felt like I was getting dumped by my husband all over again, and having Jane G. there to watch me was so wrong. I told her I'm scared that I won't find a good-enough job, and I won't be able to stay in this house and how I don't want my kids to ever have to move again, ever have to pack up their stuff and leave. How I'm terrified that we'll have to move somewhere small and cheap and give Walter away and how Molly will have to leave college and she'll hate me.

Oh, and the handle on my car broke. The one on the driver's side. So while I try and figure out how to get that mother effer fixed, I'm going to have to either leave the window down all the time or else swing into my car like freaking Bo and Luke Duke.

It's all going to be okay. I'm just going to keep telling myself that. Everything always works out okay.



"Subject has calmed down since her last episode. During my observations, I noted that she has big feelings and cannot hide them, no matter how hard she tries. Her obvious contempt for me was overshadowed only by the guilt she exhibited for having such contemptuous feelings. She approached me, at the end of my observation period, and reached out. I was afraid, at first, until the subject spoke: "I'm sorry if I was rude to you." she said, slowly. "This is hard for me. I'm not a mean person. I hope you like working here."  







5/20/14

My Side of the Bed




Ahhh...the advice you get when going through a divorce. It's plentiful. Some of it's useful.

"Start dating, NOW. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to find another husband!"
"Say goodbye to your in-laws. Even the ones you thought were friends. Blood is thicker than water."
"If you don't already have one, get a vibrator. NOW."
"Go through all of your pictures and get rid of every single one of him! No reminders!"

If you know me even a little bit, you can guess which pieces of the above advice I took to heart. I'll give you a clue: only one of them. A couple more clues? I love my in-laws, to this day. I have pictures of my ex...not on the walls, but in books and in boxes. Because he's the father of my children and they will want them. And we all know how it's going for me on the dating front, 7 1/2 years later.

But there was one nugget of wisdom that surprised me. It made me think, and to this day it still whizzes through my mind almost every time I reach over and smack the snooze button on my alarm clock at 4:45 a.m.

"Start sleeping in the middle of the bed." 

It was handed to me during a long phone conversation with another mom at my kid's school. We weren't particularly close then, or now, but for some reason she reached out and wanted to talk. We chatted about marriage and affairs and fractured families and our children. We giggled about dating and sex, and about being tired mothers. And then she asked:

"Which side of the bed was yours?"

I remember the irony of that moment, as I had been clutching my cordless phone while perched on the end of said bed. I had looked up, and over at the head of the bed, at the four pillows neatly arranged there. Two on the left, two on the right. The lone nightstand was as it had always been, before and during the marriage. On the right.

Back in the Time Before Lawyers, my husband had the right side. He was the one who had to be up and out of the house, before my day as a stay-at-home-mom began. Our tiny master bedroom, in the old house we used to live in, barely had room for the queen bed and the tipsy nightstand and a big dresser. There was a long closet, with sliding wooden doors that became swollen and nearly impossible to move in the summer humidity. The alarm would go off, he'd silence it and then I remember, he'd sit on the side of the bed for a few moments. The right side of the bed, nearest the closet.

In the dark, I'd sometimes reach out and touch his back, a wordless good morning. Sometimes there would be a child between us...sometimes more than one. As the end of our marriage neared, I stopped reaching out, and instead would pull the covers tighter over me and turn to face to cool wall on the left side of the bed. A different kind of wordless good morning.

When he first left, I had trouble sleeping. I was scared and certain that at any given moment during the night, bands of thieves, sexual predators and serial killers were convening outside, playing rock-paper-scissors to see who'd get first dibs on the single woman and her babies. I spent most nights on the couch, with an aluminum baseball bat.

On those nights when I did use the bed, I was rarely alone. Although my children will vehemently deny it, for a while we had a family bed. The five of us would become a human Tetris game, fitting seamlessly together as we dreamed the dreams of a family in flux. The left side was still my territory though, even if it meant traversing a small mountain of long, bony arms and legs and soft, sweet smelling heads to smack the snooze button.

I tried sleeping in the middle, tried taking my friend's advice. And every single morning I'd wake to find that during the night there was a migration to the left. I often say that I enjoy living on the edge; apparently I like to sleep there, too.

Time has passed, and the unfamiliar has become the norm. Oh, a kid will still sneak in now and then, sometimes just to talk, sometimes falling asleep like they did when they were little. Most nights I butt up against Walter, my dog. He snores, and when he dreams of chasing squirrels and bunnies, his paws twitch. I don't mind it at all.

On rare occasions, someone else will join me. Note the word "rare". Some of these bedfellows (I love when a word can be used super literally) you know by their monikers, some will never be written about. A girl has to play a few cards close to the vest, you know.

But for the most part, my bed is mine. The sheets are cool and clean and soft, and the four pillows are almost always arranged neatly at the head of the bed. Two on the left, two on the right. The master bedroom in this house is large, there is plenty of room for the queen bed, a nightstand and a big dresser.

Only now, the nightstand is on the left. My side of the bed.

5/18/14

Video: "Voice of the Child of Divorce" Now With 100% More Guilt!

Several people have shared this video with me over the past couple of days. I didn't watch it for a few reasons...mainly because I thought it would make me sad. One morning, however, I decided to give it a go. The friend who shared it with me (a wonderful and loving person, by the way, this post is not meant to disparage her) warned me to "grab a box of tissues" before watching it.

Turns out, I didn't need tissues. Go ahead, watch it now:


Am I the only one who thinks he looks a little like the youngest kid on Weeds? Shane Botwin? Amirite?

Okay. No way a child wrote that. Nope. Not unless there's a Doogie Howser of Divorced Kids out there. This was a script written by an adult with an agenda. Read by a kid in order to tweak emotions and to drive the point home. And that point?

Divorce is bad. If you get a divorce, your children are screwed. Children of divorce are doomed. Selfish people who get divorces are ruining their children's lives. And so on, and so forth. Got it?

A little bit of research led me to the maker of the video, Monica Epperson. Epperson is the co-founder of a non-profit called The Child of Divorce. The mission of this non-profit is "to give children of divorce a voice- and age is irrelevant". A little bit more research led me to discover that Epperson is, not surprisingly, a child of divorce herself. Her parents divorced before she was one, and her mother remarried, and divorced, 4 more times before she was 12.

She experienced 5 divorces. In an interview she spoke about the revolving door of men, of step-fathers in her life, and how she learned from a way, way too early age that eventually, everybody leaves. My heart goes out to her, however, I think I see where the agenda comes from.

Listen, I'm not going to argue with anyone about how bad divorce is for kids. Having gone through it as a kid, and watching my four children deal with it for the past several years, I know firsthand how crappy it is. No matter how great the ex-spouses get along, no matter how evenly divided the parenting times are, no matter how well-cared for the children are, it's going to suck.

And God help all of you if it's a messy divorce. Because "suck" doesn't even begin to describe that.

However, this video does nothing to help anyone. It's shaming those of us who have had to make the tough choice to divorce and it's giving fodder to those who think parents who divorce are selfish, awful people who don't give a shit about their kids.

Are there people like that? People who put themselves, their wants and needs before those of their children? Of course there are. Every divorce is different, but they all end the same: a once intact family is broken. Does that mean, as this video says, that parents who divorce are telling their children that "it is better to be right that to be loved?" Or that parents who divorce are "robbing their kids of their childhoods"? Or that when a parent decides there is no other option left but divorce, they are "not thinking of their children's futures"?

No, no, no. A thousand times no. Making the choice to pursue a divorce is not made lightly. You don't wake up one morning and say to yourself, "Gee...I have this extra $20,000 here and some spare afternoons. Say, why don't I get divorced!". There are always going to be those who do it and convince themselves that the children will bounce back, unscathed and absolutely tickled pink about having two houses and two Christmases and two Playstations. But the majority of parents who divorce do so with great trepidation and oh, oh...oh so much guilt.

In my case, I had no choice. My husband had moved out and into a home with his girlfriend. He refused to begin the proceedings, seemingly content to remain married on paper but apart in life. Calling a divorce attorney was one of the hardest things I've ever done.

But I had no other options.

Was I doing it to prove how right I was? Did I do it to rob my children of their childhoods? Did I sign the papers with nary a thought regarding my children's futures?

No. I did it in order to move on with my life. In order to keep life moving forward for myself, and more importantly, for my kids. I thought of my children's futures, and little else.

Most people in the throes of divorce are going to make some mistakes. Some big ones, some little ones. But mark my word, for people like me, people who fought for their marriages tooth and nail, who dragged their feet into that attorney's office...each mistake is like a tiny dagger in the heart. Things between the ex and I are quiet and civil now, but back when feelings were raw, self-doubt was rampant: "Did I just seal my daughter's fate as a spinster with daddy issues?" I'd ask myself if I slipped and said something derogatory about my ex. "Did one of my boys just become a misogynistic narcissist?" was the question du jour when it was revealed that their father had come up with a new, not-so-nice nickname for me at his house.

And what of those people who know, without a doubt, that their children would actually benefit from a divorce? What about the woman who is married to an abuser? Or the man struggling to keep his family together despite his wife's chronic substance abuse?

What about the couple who have tried, valiantly, to work on their marriage but both know it's not going to help? Are the children in these scenarios going to benefit from staying in a stressful, unhappy environment?

Or by making this choice, are these parents doing what Doogie says in the video: "At times you are risking my safety to fill a void in your heart."?

Thing is, those of us who worry about this kind of damage don't need anyone handing us more guilt. To quote Eddie Murphy in Trading Places, "There's plenty, you know."



And those parents who do go through the divorce process without considering their children's psyches and futures? They aren't watching videos like this. They aren't reading books about it, or consulting experts or even sitting at red lights, wondering, "Hey. My actions and choices may be harming my kids...should I check in with them and see if they're okay?"

This message is lost on them.

Like I said before, divorce isn't a fun thing. People don't torture themselves trying to decide if it's "divorce or DisneyWorld this year? Which one would the kids enjoy more?". But it is not the end of the world.

For some of us, it's the beginning of a new one. And pointing fingers isn't going to help us...or our kids.



INTERESTING TIDBIT: I was writing this on the porch, and my eldest child (20 years old) walked in. We were chatting a bit and I decided to bounce this post off him...you know, to get another "child of divorce" opinion.

He agreed with many points in the video, adding that as a child he would have preferred knowing nothing about the proceedings while the divorce was going down. He mentioned how awful it was having to go to school and listen while other kids talked about their moms and dads and families, while his world was being shaken up. Which gave me a lot to think about. And of course, some more guilt.

Sigh.










5/14/14

My Mother's Day Getaway Tale: Time Off, Ticks and Tattoo

I don't think most moms get enough time off. Oh, sure, we get quiet time here and there, sometimes we get babysitters and sometimes our kids are old enough so we can lock our bedroom doors and binge watch episodes of Louie while clenching the body pillow just a little too hard (what? only me?).

But actual time off, like the kind where you go to sleep at least two nights in a row somewhere that is far away from your kids? That's hard to come by. For those of you who have wee little ones and are recoiling in horror and thinking "I would never want to be apart from my baby! What is wrong with you? DON'T YOU LOVE YOUR CHILDREN??", please print this out and read it in ten years. Or after you have the kind of day that ends with you curled up on the bathroom floor, trying to muffle your sobs and also shove a sleeve of Thin Mints in your mouth while your kids gather at the closed door like an irate mob of torch-wielding villagers descending upon Frankenstein's castle. Whichever of these happens first.

I know for a fact that I don't get enough time off. The last time I took a really substantial chunk of time away from mothering was in 2012, when I went to Amsterdam with John McCain. The guilt was killer but folks, it was so good for me. And for my kids. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, you know.

And don't worry: kids aren't like cats. They won't take a dump on your pillow or in your shoe just to show you how much they don't appreciate you leaving them. They are almost always really happy to see you when you return. And so is the person who's been watching them. So there's happiness all around when Mommy crosses the threshold of home sweet home...it's like your kids have turned into Herve Villechaize and Ricardo Montalban. In fact, this video shows you what it's like right before you walk in the front door:



(now I want to watch Fantasy Island. Especially this episode featuring Lisa Hartman and Dack Rambo.)


Three of my friends and I ran away from home for a few days last weekend. Yes, I'm THAT MOM. I wanted to be far away from my family on Mother's Day weekend. Judge away, haters. It was fabulous. We left for my friend Michelle's Wisconsin lake cabin on Thursday night and came back about 8 pounds heavier and a whole lot happier on Sunday afternoon. I was also covered with ticks but we'll get to that later.

So technically, I did spend most of the actual Day of Mothers with my kids, and of course with my own Mom. But the days leading up to it were spent in blissful peace, drinking dirty martinis, eating delicious meals and watching old movies like "Working Girl" (I have a head for business and bod for sin...oh how I love that movie). Also maybe sending out embarrassing tipsy texts, but what happens at the cabin usually stays at the cabin.

My companions for the long weekend were The Evil Twins (Michelle and her identical twin Janelle) and our friend Andrea. Michelle and Andrea were the cooks, while Janelle and I handled eating and keeping the couch cushions warm.

On Saturday, Michelle and Andrea encouraged me to move take a walk with them. I was starting to worry about bed sores at this point, so I decided to go. We usually walk along the dirt roads that lead everywhere and nowhere in Wisconsin, but this time we lived on the edge and chose to take a hike. Through the wild woods. And I'll be honest here, it wasn't Michelle's or my brilliant idea to tromp through the woods: it was Andrea's. More honesty? I thought she was the smartest out of the three of us. She's an attorney, for God's sake! But noooooo....

There we were. No cell phones, no water and apparently no brains. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but there are three things in this world that scare me: a prolapsed uterus, clowns...and BEARS. I'm so afraid of bears. I have nightmares about them. All I could think about as we noisily trekked through the trees was: "Are either of them menstruating? Because if all this noise we're making doesn't attract all of the bears, the scent of blood will for sure."

Yes, the bears weighed heavily on my mind until Michelle screamed. She was leading our Three Stooges Tour of Wisconsin, and when I heard her shriek I thought for sure she'd stepped in a pile of fresh bear scat. Or maybe on the actual bear who was scatting.

Oh no. Nope. Michelle was standing there, resplendent in her uniform of black yoga pants, black yoga jacket and running shoes, and she was staring down at her legs.

HER LEGS WERE COVERED IN TICKS. Like, crawling with them. Big ones, tiny ones, red ones, black ones.

Did you know that May is the big month for ticks? It's like their Spring Break and Wisconsin is Mazatlan. I didn't know this factoid until Michelle mentioned it while she screamed and brushed away ticks in the middle of the woods. At this point both Andrea and I began inspecting each other like besotted chimpanzees. I found two big ones on the back of her legs, another three on her arms and a few more on the back of her shirt. She found only one on me, but by God I knew there were more. I could feel them everywhere.

This seemed like a good time for Michelle to inform us that she felt like we were lost. I asked them if they had their periods. Nobody answered me and we began walking again, this time brushing our arms and legs like we were a traveling interpretive dance troupe performing "Tick Season In Wisconsin".

After what felt like days (but was really about an hour), we arrived back at the cabin. We undressed at the front door and again checked each other (which really is kind of a bonding experience, now that I've had time to reflect upon it). More and more ticks. Ticks as far as the eye could see! I found a few on my head and several in the hood of my sweatshirt. Michelle announced, "They like to be in places on your body where it's warm and dark and covered in tight clothing."

Well isn't that special. Apparently from the neck down I am considered to be the tick version of Old Country Buffet. "GRAB A TRAY, ASSHOLES. IT'S CHOW TIME!".

We recovered nicely with a few glasses of sangria and after that I hardly felt the ticks crawling on me and attaching themselves to all the dark warm places. Then we watched a few hours of HGTV (Flip or Flop...that show is like crack. Damn you, Tarek and Christina). Before we knew it, it was time for dinner and martinis and by that time all thoughts of ticks were gone for the night. At one point I did say, "You guys! I think I feel a tick on my liver. Wait...never mind. It's just cirrhosis." I switched to mineral water after that.

We had about 60 hours of relaxing, kid-free, responsibility-free time. It was awesome...ticks and all.

The house was standing upon my return, each member of my little family was present and accounted for. Everyone made it to work, the dog was fed and loved, and as far as I know, nothing illegal, immoral or illicit happened while I was gone.

The children were sweet to me that day, Mother's Day. They presented me with gifts wrapped in plastic bags from the gas station down the street: bags of Twizzlers (one bag of strawberry twists, one bag of cherry Pull N' Peel...because nothing says "Thanks Mom" like Type 2 diabetes) (But for real, dem babies know mama so well). It was perfect. Mother's Day isn't that big of a deal to me. I'd rather have several pretty good days spread throughout the year over one day of forced niceties. My kids honor me by being good, kind people. And that's really all I want.

That, and a little time off once in a while.





5/12/14

Closing Time: Saying Goodbye To My Daughter's Childhood

Closing Time.

Despite the fact that it's been played billions of times and on countless shows and movies (remember when it was on Friends?), it remains one of my favorite songs, sung by one of my favorite singers. Dan Wilson wrote the words and they have been bouncing around inside my head for fifteen years...they've "fit" a few situations but perhaps never as achingly well as they do right now:

Closing time, open all the doors,
 And let you out into the world,
 Closing time, turn all of the lights on,
 Over every boy and every girl.

My daughter, Molly, has less than a month left before she's done with high school. I'm just beginning to feel the pangs of graduation party psychosis (warning: don't go to Pinterest for grad party ideas unless you are comfortable being in the fetal position for several hours at a time). We've ordered her yearbook, paid her senior fees.

She was accepted into the college she really wanted to attend (she only applied to two, so, phew). The housing deposit has been sent and cashed, financial aid forms filled out and the mental list of "stuff she'll need for the dorm room" is already taking up way too much real estate in my crowded brain.

On a recent Saturday night, she and I hung out together. We were at home, along with two of the boys, which in and of itself is a rarity. That weird stage of life has begun, the one where I often find myself with a quiet house, all my babies scattered hither and yon with their friends. So to have not one, but three of the chicks safely ensconced in the nest was a warm and sweet surprise.

Sweeter, though, and more surprising, was where Molly ended up that night. Not holed up in her room, listening to music or reading or texting her friends, but out in the living room. On the couch. Next to me.

"I'm freezing. Are you cold?" I asked her.
"Kind of. Should I go get my pink blanket?" she replied.

The pink blanket was a favorite Target clearance purchase from several years back. From the esteemed "Shabby Chic" collection, it's like a giant grown up version of a child's security blanket: heavy, pillowy-soft, with satin edging. She brought it out from her room, and proceeded to lay down next to me...practically on top of me, pulling the blanket over both of us. We lay there like that for quite a while, me not saying a word lest I break the spell, that magical moment where it wasn't teen vs mom or daughter tolerating mother: it was me and my girl, cuddling together. Like we used to when she was little and things like college and dorms and FAFSA forms were foreign and so far away.

She isn't my first child to step out of one world, the world of high school, and into a new one. Her older brother, Charlie, made the leap two years ago. And yes, I did just as much looking back with watery eyes then as I'm doing now. But like Charlie is wont to do, he did it in his own special way. He chose to approach college in a different manner, and is knocking out all of the humdrum prerequisites at the community college downtown. He lives here at home, does his homework and is diligently racking up credits. He'll transfer to the big state university here in Minneapolis next year, without any debt and with almost half of the credits he'll need for his degree. He's a smart one, that kid.

But he didn't leave. I think that's the biggie here, the thing that stings. The thing that fills me with so much excitement and at the same time, with so much wistfulness. I still see Charlie every day. Hear his voice, make him meals, nag him about leaving his giant shoes everywhere.

Molly, though....she's leaving. I've seen her pretty much every day of her life. Watched her grow from a fuzzy headed baby to a strong-willed toddler to a shy kindergartner to a tall, funny and self-confident young woman. I know when she's at work and when she's out with friends, I remind her over and over again to not leave her hair on the walls of the shower, I make her favorite dinner because there are some days a girl just needs curry chicken. She's been my little girl for so long, the only other she in a house full of he.

I'm going to miss having her here.

You have these babies, you see, and for a long time all you do is raise them. And then one day, you wake up and realize:

They're raised. You get those 18 years with them, which at first seems like a freaking eternity but, when you get to the end, seems to be nothing more than a wink in time.

Eighteen years to teach them right from wrong, how to bounce back from bad times, how to make friends and hopefully how to keep friends. How to make change, how to deposit checks, how to write an essay and how to cut vegetables. How to scrub a toilet and fold a fitted sheet (okay, the toilet yes but gahh not the fitted sheet). How to keep promises and tell the truth and be kind and not mean.

Then it's over and you're left with piles of photos, a room that's eerily empty, leftover graduation party cake and a knot in your stomach that is comprised of joy and worry. You pray that you did your job well, and that the young adult you're sending out into the wilds of the world won't be a terrible roommate or a crappy friend or the kid barfing in the bushes at a kegger. You hope that they listened to your lectures but also heard your laughter. You wish that they find life and all of its messiness to be good and somewhat pleasant and please oh please not too scary.

So gather up your jackets, move it to the exits,
I hope you have found a friend,
Closing time, every new beginning,
Comes from some other beginning's end.


Rumor has it that Mr. Wilson wrote Closing Time in anticipation of his impending fatherhood, which makes lovely sense when you read the lyrics.

But I think it works just as well for those of us who are letting our boys and girls out into the world as the closing time of childhood quickly approaches.














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