Divorced And STILL Not Dating

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post about being divorced and not dating. It ran on HuffPost Divorce and has always been one of my favorites.

Just prior to writing it, I'd been on the last, gimpy leg of my on again, off again relationship with the beau I called John McCain. We had taken a trip to Amsterdam and things just kind of fell apart afterwards. After a few dateless months, I declared myself SINGLE AS HELL and wrote about it.

Well, well, well. Here we are, almost exactly two years later. And not much has changed.

Oh, yes, those of you who have read my looney tunes updates know there's been some late night activity here and there. My as-for-now nameless booty call lovah scratched an itch or two or seventy for a nice long length of time. But that ended as 2015 began, so I am once again officially not dating. Climbing the walls? Yes, very much so. But totally not dating.

In the original post, I was quite confident my lack of love was due to prioritizing. Kids first. It was true then, as it is now. I do put my kids first...only now, their needs aren't as time consuming as they were just a couple short years ago. Yeah, I still do 100% of the parenting. They only go to their dad's house for a few hours on certain holidays, and sometimes he provides transportation if I absolutely can't. The parenting ball is always, always in my court. I've been doing it like this for so long it's the only way I know how to function.

The thing about your kids getting older is this: they leave. Charlie and Molly were both gone for the entirety of the school year. The other two, Henry and William, are still here, but more often than not they're busy with jobs, sports, activities and friends. We still have a packed basement on many weekend nights, but again...they don't need me like they used to. They can drive to get their own Taco Bell. Excuse me as I weep softly and also think about how good a 7-layer burrito sounds right now.

So, with the parenting gig winding down, I'm finding myself alone. A lot. The hermit in me is LOVING it. Those of you who fall under the introvert umbrella know exactly what I'm talking about. Before, socializing served two purposes: it was fun, and it got me the hell away from home for a few hours at a time. Now, I don't want to get away from my home. My home is quiet. My home is comfortable. My home has Netflix and my weekend uniform of leggings and sports bra and big sweatshirt.

I've found myself falling into a Loverboy routine of "workin' for the weekend", only everyone's not wondering if I'll come out tonight. They know I'm probably not. (Those of you who are younger than 40 will have to go to YouTube and look that shit up. I can't explain it.)

I still get invited out, thank God, and usually I accept those invitations. It's a tricky timeline, though...if I get an offer too far in advance, it gives me too much time to come up with a reason to not go. Not enough prior warning and I go into what experts call "hermit shock". It's what happens when a recluse imagines not sitting on their couch for two solid days.

I've become a really good napper, too. Were naps always so wonderful? My nap ritual is a thing of beauty: crawl on top of my made bed, pull a fuzzy blanket over me, turn on the fan (the remote control fan I bought for myself at Costco last year was THE BEST purchase ever), slip the eye mask over my baby blue/grays and drift away for an hour or two. Let me know if you hear of any paying sleep studies, okay?

But here's the catch: now that I have all this free time, it kind of feels like I'm supposed to be getting back out there. Sticking my toe back in the big ol' dating pond. I mean, it has been over 8 years. Most women have remarried by this time, if not well before.

Those of us who are still single this late in the game run the risk of becoming that eccentric, unmarried auntie who wears chunky necklaces and drapey Eileen Fisher tunics. "Yay! Aunt Jenny is here! I hope she brought that yummy spinach dip again!"

This is where I pause, and recite all of the self-soothing lines that have consoled me for so long: "It's okay to be alone." "Gurlll...dating takes so much time and effort. You're overbooked!" "If it's meant to be, you will meet Mr. Right." and the one that pops up with ever-increasing frequency: "You know, Jenny...you don't need a man to be happy."

I do believe that last one. Men don't equal happiness. However, lately I'm wondering if I'm not dating because I don't want to, or if I'm really afraid to. I worry that I don't know how to flirt anymore. Did I ever? And I'm scared that I am so rusty, I've forgotten how to tell if a guy really is that into you. What are the signs? For all I know, men are throwin' down the love gauntlet in front of me everywhere I go and I'm blind to it. Not very likely, I know. But still. You never know.

If my dating skills were a cluster of grapes before, they are most certainly a box a raisins by now.

I'm so out of the love loop, I don't remember the rules. How do you tell the difference between someone flirting with you vs. someone just being nice? Are all men without wedding rings fair game? Who is it okay to talk to? Is it alright to be chummy with my friend's husbands, or is that taboo simply because I'm single? Do I really need to join eHarmony again or should I hold out for two more years and check out the one for people over 50? Is it impolite to gently decline when someone says "There's this guy I know, I think you'd like him."?

Of course, since I'm me and I'm the person who compares herself to Hagrid, there's a tiny bit of insecurity involved. After a long stretch of being alone, it's hard to imagine letting someone in. Physically and emotionally. I'm so used to sleeping with a dog. It's one thing when the snoring and Dutch ovens come from a 75 pound Yellow Lab. It's going to be so weird having a guy next to me, doing those same things. The way I feel about putting myself out there again is a lot like the bit Amy Schumer did on her show, about actresses over a certain age. In case you haven't seen it (WARNING!! So, so many swears. Completely not safe to watch at work, on a bus w/ out earbuds or around children of pretty much any age):

Oh, I know! I know that was all about Hollywood's gross attitudes towards women and aging, but it sort of captures how I feel about having to go through the rituals of dating again. Am I still f**kable? Do I care?? (and P.S. what does it mean that as I watched this, I said out loud oooh look at that! Mismatched wine glasses! How cute!)

One other aspect of being divorced and not dating is how to deal with being a singleton in a sea of couples. Up until recently, this part of the single life hasn't really bothered me. There have been a few times here and there when my singleness has been like a big scarlet S on my chest...the most significant ones being "classy" evening events, such as the silent auctions held by the elementary school my kids once attended and where I now work. If ever a girl notices the absence of an arm to hang onto, it's at a party where she's surrounded by well-dressed duos.

Luckily, I don't attend silent auctions or really, any other fancy soirees on the regular. The other gatherings, like plain old parties or holiday things...they're not set up in such a way that being there by myself is a big deal. If I have to be, I can be charming and outgoing and even make small talk. My lady friends are fine sitting next to me around a bonfire while their men chat elsewhere. But...I was recently invited to a friend's birthday bash, which is taking place at another friend's cabin. As my friend explained the weekend to me, I was all "oooh yes! Girl's weekend at the cabin!" in my head. Until my friend said:

"So it's going to be us gals, the husbands, and whichever kids decide to come up as well."

Wait. Back it up, sister. Husbands? A testosterone filled monkey wrench was thrown into my plans.

I pictured all of us up at the cabin. Me, my girlfriends and their men. Everyone laughing and drinking, gathering around the fire, two by two, arms wrapped around shoulders, legs touching. And then me, sitting in a camp chair, probably brushing a kid's hair and checking facebook on my phone.

When did that happen? When did I become afraid to be somewhere sans date? This new development is kind of annoying.

I thought about all the single men I know (haha, all three of them) and wondered how strange/creepy/pushy it would be to ask one of them to come up with me. Not exactly as a date, of course, but with the understanding that we'd probably have to sleep in the same room, or on adjoining couches. I decided it would probably not be a wise thing to do. And so now, I'm considering not going. Who have I become??

All of this is my very long-winded way of saying yes, I'm divorced and still not dating.

Only this time, I can't say for certain why. For a good long while, I could give you a few very strong reasons. My kids. My work. My fear of being hurt again. Now, I seem to have even more reasons. And unlike my kids, these don't appear to be the kind of reasons that will grow up and move on.

Now, about that 7-layer burrito....


Close Encounters Of The Ex-Husband Kind

First of all, I must offer an apology. To all of you who have come here seeking advice and reassurance from me, to all of you who have emailed and messaged, pouring your hearts out and thanking me for showing you that it is possible to get through a really hard divorce and be okay:

I'm sorry.

Because I am always the one waving the flags, cheering loudly and preaching about how you will survive, how you will be able to forgive and how you will get over it. I'm the one answering your heartbreaking pleas for help with paragraphs full of empowerment and hope.

"You've got this, sister!" and
"Yes, it hurts like hell when your hopes and dreams are blown to bits but you WILL rise again and be fabulous!" and
"There will come a day when seeing him won't be like a sharp knife being thrust right between your shoulder blades."

I crow about how well parallel parenting has worked for me. How basically pretending my ex-husband doesn't exist has made everything okey-dokie. Peachy keen. The bee's freaking knees!

I'm sorry to inform you that I'm full of shit. Kind of.

Why do I say I'm full of shit? Because a couple of weeks ago, I came face-to-face with my ex, and I didn't handle it the way someone who is fully recovered would have.

I handled it like an immature tween. Or worse, like a temperamental preschooler.

Let me set it up for you, okay?

Three nights a week I work late. Our elementary school has a before/after school childcare program, and there needs to be someone in the front office until they are closed, for security purposes.

Our gymnasium is used by our local Park and Rec department after school hours. There are a variety of programs offered, everything from adult volleyball leagues to martial arts to toddler gymnastics.

When I'm in the office those three evenings, sometimes I encounter the people coming into our school to participate in the Park and Rec programs.

See where I'm going with this?

So there I was, in the office that is essentially my home-away-from-home, doing what I do. Making copies, filing stuff, entering super important facts onto super important spreadsheets. Minding my own sweet business.

There's a Park and Rec employee who has a desk outside of our office. He is the one who usually buzzes people in for those non-school activities.

That day, his buzzer was broken. So, every so often I'd hear a little bumpy noise at my door, and I'd buzz the people in.

I was walking back to my desk from the copy room, and I saw a person standing outside the door. I rushed over to hit the button, to let them in. And that's when I saw who it was.

It was my ex. I froze, people. Like a mother effing popsicle. Did I mention that he wasn't alone?

He was there with his child, his little toddler/person he made with Secretary.

It was like a scene from the Matrix, only instead of Keanu Reeves in a long black coat dodging slow motion bullets, it was ME in a flowy black burka top and leggings, begging the universe to rip open so I could escape.

Our eyes met, and his face showed some shock. And some disbelief. Here's what my face looked like, at first:

image: Salon.com
Yes, the Rachel Dratch/Debbie Downer look is hot, y'all. I was trying really hard to process the moment. In those few seconds, every single thing that has gone down over the past decade tumbled over and under and through me. The good. The bad. And oh my God...the ugly.

Seeing him knocked the air out of me. Seeing him being all fatherly and sweet with a little kid who looks SO MUCH like our sons? I'll be honest with you. It made me sick. It dug up the bones of all my supposedly dead issues and they did a macabre little jig, right there in that little school office. Neither of us said anything.

What was there to say? I suppose I could have played it cool. Played it like most mature people would have done. I could have said:

"Oh, hey. How's it going?" or
"Hello." or maybe
"Well, fancy meeting you here!"

I could have gone the really snarky route and said something bitchy.

"Wow! So you're actually parenting this one?" or
"Oh my gosh what a cutie. How long until you walk out of his life?" or perhaps
"Hi, Satan."

Of course I didn't say any of that. The mature things I didn't say because obviously, I'm not mature. The snarky things I didn't say because I do have a heart, and I respect my place of employment too much to drag that crap in there. Also, it's not cool to be a dick in front of kids.

But, what I did do is something I'm not proud of. It wasn't even something I did with any intention, it was a physical response. I swear on all things holy and pure, it was a knee-jerk reaction.

I made a face.
I made a freaking face at my ex-husband.

Now, like I said, it was something organic. It happened naturally, without any thought behind it whatsoever. I have scoured the internet looking for the perfect picture, but couldn't find one. So, I tried to replicate it in selfie form. Here's what I looked like:

Yes. It was the look of someone who had just stepped in dog poop. Barefoot.

He looked at me, and then looked down at his boy. I suppose to make sure none of the scathing lasers from my crazy Marty Feldman eye had burned the lad. He looked back at me, one more time, and I was still in face mode.

Only by that time, the shock was beginning to wear off and I'm sure the sadness showed.

After he left my office, I began shaking. Not like, withdrawal shakes or anything, but a trembling-hand sort of thing. I felt sick to my stomach, just a little bit. And there was something else.

I felt ashamed.

Ashamed that I didn't just say hello. Ashamed that there he was, enjoying a fun night with his child and there I was, working in an elementary school office, buzzing people in like a nightwatchman.

Ashamed that after all these years, after all these words, after all of my HEAR ME ROAR proclamations and after all of the so-called bravery and forgiveness and recovery I'm always spewing...

I made a face. That's all I had.

On the brief drive home I ranted to myself. Beat myself up a bit, and also, calling him out. Telling the imaginary him in my car what a shitty person I think he is, what a cruel man he is, what a heartless meanie he is. I gripped the steering wheel hard, like I was on the Autobahn instead of a little Minneapolis suburb street.

When I got home, the boys were gone. Out with friends, playing basketball at the park. I was alone with my shame and my anger. I texted my best friend and poured out the contents of my heart. She listened. She comforted.

I made a martini, and then I sat out on my porch and I cried.

How's that for "moving on"?
How's that for "getting over it"?

After I recovered from FaceGate '15, I decided a few things. Number One: maybe this parallel parenting thing isn't all it's cracked up to be. Perhaps if I was forced to interact with him on a more regular basis, seeing him wouldn't be such a shock. But there's the rub...we don't have many opportunities to be face to face. And as much as I'd like to nudge my maturity along, I sure as hell am not going to call him up and invite him to coffee just to desensitize myself.

Number Two, is that I need to admit to myself, and to those of you who are here seeking advice and support, that I'm not that strong. I'm not as far along in the healing process as I claim to be.

Number Three...this shit is hard. And some days are harder than others. We need to be forgiving, not only to those around us, but to ourselves. It's like I tell so many women just beginning this trek: You're going to screw up. And that's okay.

We are all going to be okay. Right?


Just Another Mother's Day

There are about 8 year's worth of good memories of my mother. In the soft, warm glow of the lamp on my nightstand, she'd sit on the edge of my bed and brush my hair.

"One, two, three" she'd count, all the way to one hundred. "One hundred brushes a night, Jennifer." She told me it would make my hair soft and shiny.

She'd curl up in bed with me, sometimes. She'd read books using funny voices and there were nights she'd read a dozen of them. Sometimes I'd fall asleep to the sound of her reciting the words of Maurice Sendak or Shel Silverstein or Beverly Cleary.

She would give me her leftover teaching supplies so I could play school. I'd create small, uniform rows of dolls and stuffed animals and I'd stand in front of my "class", going over the alphabet and counting by fives.

All of that changed, though, when she left us. Left me, my brother and my dad. She left us to be with a man, and sometimes when I play the game "What If" I wonder what life might have been like if she'd just disappeared with him, driven off into the sunset with her new beau. My dad did his best with two young kids, making dinners and getting us ready for school in the morning. We were sad, but we were okay. We were safe.

And then she came back for us. According to relatives, my dad fought, and fought hard, for custody. But this was the 70's, and unless mom was a derelict or in a mental institution, dads rarely got the kids. I wonder why she wanted us? Was it a final fuck you to my dad? Some sort of maternal urge she couldn't stifle?

Whatever it was, she won. My brother and I were packed up and moved into the tiny two bedroom apartment with my mom, and the man I soon discovered was a monster.

It wasn't long after that when the same woman who used to brush my hair and read to me stood by, silent, while her new husband beat me up. While he screamed at me, spit flying, fists clenched, she was there. Watching. Smoking a cigarette. Sometimes she'd shame him into apologizing afterwards. Other times, she'd tell me how I'd asked for it. She'd scold: "You shouldn't roll your eyes at him, Jennifer."

Mother's Day meant nothing back then, and it didn't until I got married and became a mom myself. Back then, we'd buy hanging baskets of geraniums and shuttle the kids to all of the grandmother's houses. We'd drop off flowers and cards and have the kids tell their grandmas, "Happy Mother's Day!" My own mother's house was part of the circuit, I'd done a fabulous job of blocking out the shit storm that had been my childhood. I'd watch as my own little babies would lean into her for a hug, watch her put her omnipresent cigarette down and, in her stained housecoat, receive the little arms that reached out towards her. The monster was always there. Always, always there. Standing off to the side, making small talk with my then husband. The absurdity of the situation went wholly unnoticed by everyone. Except me.

I had let my husband and children know, from the start, that I had no expectations for Mother's Day. A hug, a kiss, maybe a card they'd made. The fact that someone had picked a day in May and deemed it to be the one day we all celebrated our mothers didn't seem like a big deal to me. It was a way for restaurants and flower shops and the good folks at Hallmark to make a buck out of obligation and guilt. No thanks, I decided. Count me out.

After the divorce, there was exactly one Mother's Day when my now-ex-husband took the kids shopping. The kids later told me that he'd taken them to Target, pointed them in the direction of a clearance end-cap and instructed them to "pick something out for your mom. Make sure it's less than $20.00." They came home with two framed prints of cherry blossom trees. Done in black and pink. They were hideous, but I hung on to them for many years because they were, in essence, from my children.

From then on, the good teachers my children were lucky to have took care of Mother's Day presents. Little hand painted terra cotta pots with sprigs of Swedish Ivy, poems about mommies decorated with tiny handprints, tissue paper flowers. I loved all of these things, and saved a few of them.

Once they were out of elementary school, however, the teacher-guided, handmade presents ended. My kids always made sure to mention the day, always wished me a happy one. There were breakfasts in bed, attempts at best behaviors and all-around sweetness, adolescent-style.

We'd still visit my mom, although as both of us aged, it became harder to force the affection. I'd clench up as we pulled into the driveway, and my smiles were small and perfunctory as we walked through the threshold and into the cluttered, stinky house. Memories smothered me, and seeing my kids all tall and gangly and awkward just like I had been, within arm's reach of The Monster...it filled me with an unnamed dread.

The recovery time from these visits became longer and tougher. A few years ago, the nightmares started coming back, and the very sound of his voice would trigger black moods in me. I began letting her calls go to voicemail, and sometimes it would take me a day or two to finally listen to the message.

Always the same. The television droning on in the background. Her heavy breathing, then asking me in that Harvey Fierstein voice "Can you get me a few packs of cigarettes, Jennifer?" And ever so faintly, under the combined din of the voices on the t.v. and her wheezing, there'd be his voice. I could hear it, and it scared me even though I was sitting in my own living room and it was simply a recording.

"WHO ARE YOU CALLING NOW??" The voice would get closer and I'd hear my mom fumbling with the phone. "GODDAMMIT, WHO NOW?!" And then nothing.

Mother's Day fills me with many feelings, none of which they make cards for: overwhelming guilt. Sadness. Regret. And always, the wondering about how it could have been. How it should have been.

For a long time, I felt shame about my reaction to this day. I'd hide my real feelings, gloss over the pain and put on a happy face when that Sunday in May rolled around. My kids, who are all old enough to make their own gestures, treat me well. They tell me they love me, they call. They buy me lunch and small gifts.

And they always put up with my annual plea to do nothing. They listen, quietly, to my diatribe about how I am lucky to have so many Mother's Days throughout the year.

I am, you know that? I am so lucky. I had no idea how to be a mother to children past the age of eight, and somehow I have kids who like me, who aren't afraid of me. Kids who write moving, beautiful tributes to me in classes, kids who tell me their friends love coming over because "you're nice to them", kids who will go to The Avengers movies with me. Even a 21 year old kid who wants to move back home "for a couple of months" because he knows this is a soft place to land.

Despite all of that, I still can't stand this day. I look at my phone and I count down the hours until it's almost too late to call her. I can picture her, cigarette in hand, looking at her own phone, waiting for it to ring. I can see him, poking his head in the door of her room, making a comment about me and my ungratefulness.

I breathe in. Breathe out. I'll call her, and over the sound of the local newsmen yammering in the background I will wish her a Happy Mother's Day. I'll hear her breathing. I'll shut my eyes, tight against the threatening tears, as I fight to not see her sitting on the edge of my bed, brushing my hair.

"One, two, three..." 


Imitation Is Not Flattery. It's Stealing.

Image: stephanyfolsum.com Used with permission.

The infinite monkey theorem doesn't have anything to do with what I'm going to blather on about here, but it makes me giggle and, if twisted a bit, I can make it fit.

I can't be bothered to look up the exact quote, but it is something along these lines:

"A monkey hitting keys on a typewriter for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare."

In this instance, I'd change it to read:

"A million bloggers hitting keys on a laptop for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type something similar." 

I'm not naive. Nor am I full of myself. In the blogging world, there are many people who write about the exact same topics. You have your parenting bloggers, homeschooling bloggers, fashion bloggers, DIY bloggers. And each of those niches has smaller, more defined categories: single parenting bloggers, parents of multiples bloggers, special-need parent bloggers, plus-size fashion bloggers, budget-conscious fashion bloggers.You get the gist, right?

My little niche is divorce blogging. Divorce isn't the only topic I write about, but it is one I revisit frequently. Because I'm divorced and it has affected not only my life, but the lives of my kids. Five years ago, when I first started writing here, there weren't a ton of us. My favorite divorce/single parent blogger was Single Mom Survives. I loved reading her stuff because our stories were ickily (it's a word now, spellcheck) similar: husbands who left us for, and married, coworkers. Hers even got remarried on their old wedding anniversary date, which I was pretty sure had only happened to me. She's no longer writing (or Tweeting, I just discovered) which is a shame. I miss her.

Over the years, more blogs about divorce and what happens after divorce started popping up. When the editors at HuffPost Divorce reached out and asked me to write for them, I squealed with joy. Once immersed in that world, I was officially a Divorce Blogger. And I wasn't the only one. To quote Chandler Bing: "Doy".

We all write about the same things. Divorce, dating after divorce, parenting during and after a divorce, the financial aspect of it, etc. Being divorced can touch just about every facet of one's life, and boy do we like to write about it.

The thing is, while we may all write about the same topics, we all do so in our own voices. We have our own opinions, our own quirks. Our own style of writing. Our words are like fingerprints: uniquely ours. We are indeed special snowflakes. Special divorced snowflakes.

I recently stumbled upon an essay written by a fellow divorce blogger. It was divorce-related, and as it so happens, it was subject I've written about. One of the essays I wrote about this particular subject went on to become one of my more popular posts, both here and on HuffPost. Coincidence? Maybe. Then, as I read her post, I couldn't help but see the striking resemblance to the piece I'd written over a year ago. The cadence was almost identical. The flow was the same. There was even an exact turn of phrase used. It was like reading something I'd written, only not about my life. About somebody else and their life.

That brings us back to the monkey/bloggers. Sure, the other writer's post was very similar to mine. Including the title, yo. But, let's put ego and feels aside and remember: there are millions of people writing billions of words every single day. It was bound to happen. I wept upon the shoulders of a couple friends, friends who write and one who doesn't. They comforted me, they assured me I wasn't too off-base to think my words had been borrowed. I retreated into the bushes to lick my writery wounds and all the ragey water flowed under the blogging bridge.

Until I saw another article a few weeks later. Written by the same person. Covering the exact same topic I'd recently written about. She'd reworked it quite a bit, added a lot more flowery words and a few "mamas" here and there. But the bones of it were too close for comfort. Not only was the skeleton identical to the one I'd typed out a few weeks ago, but the message was a twin, too. Again, it was as if she'd read my words and then set out to rewrite them, rearrange them to her liking.

What was it George W. once misquoted? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice...we won't get fooled again? Now I have to dig up that soundbite. God I miss that man's way with words. Anyway. What I was trying to say is this: one strikingly similar piece...yeah. Okay, it happens. And even if it was deliberate, what are you going to do about it? Go on the Blogger's Small Claims Court show and plead your case?

But twice? Two pieces, so very similar, by the same person? I call foul. And I also call plagiarism.

Look. I get it. You read something, it hits you, you're inspired to write about your own experiences. I do that ALL THE TIME. But the good thing, the right thing, the ETHICAL thing to do, is give the other person credit. Mention what you read and how it made you feel. Provide a link back to the person's site. Send a note or email to the author of the original piece, telling them how much you liked it and OMG you moved me to write about my life!

What you shouldn't do is read it, rework it just enough so it's not blatant stealing, and not only post it on your blog but submit it to a bigger site. Putting your name on it, presenting it to the world as something you created? I don't know how people can do that and look at themselves in the mirror. It's like cheating when you play Words With Friends. Yeah, you might win, but did you really?

It's a gray area, this blogging biz. We can make sure we put a blurb on our blogs, telling the world that these are OUR words and YOU can't steal them. But there is no way an idea can be copyrighted, is there? Imagine the red tape we'd have to swim through if one single person owned all the rights to the concept of blogging about any particular subject. It's like a jungle sometimes: it makes me wonder how...oops, sorry. Off on a Grandmaster Flash tangent. We're insane if we think anything we write about is truly original. But...how we write it is original.

When my kids were little and still in diapers, I confessed to a friend that in a crowd I was able to tell, by smell alone, if the source of a stinky odor was one of my little darlings. That's how intimate the relationship between a mother and child can be. The same goes for a writer, and their words. Gross analogy, I know. But it works.

Don't try to pass my shit off as yours. It's not cool, and I can smell it a mile away. A mama knows.

And now, for some comic relief, I will close with George and his quote.


The Girlfriend's Guide To (A Realistic) Divorce

Photo: BravoTv.Com

Yes. Yes, I was one of those women who had my babies at the very height of Vicki Iovine's Girlfriend's Guide to Pregnancy and all of the spawn books which followed it. Like, her first book came out when I was swollen with my second child, in 1995. Since I'd already read my one-book-per-year at that point, I didn't read her pregnancy book. The one I chose to read was the insipid What To Expect When You're Expecting, which, by the way, made me feel like a fine failure after I read that "excessive crying rarely lasts beyond the first month. Consult with your pediatrician." Oh, and this one: "Some women find that having an orgasm during sex is difficult during the later months of pregnancy." Because, mother-effing colic, and I was (and still am, if you're into TMI) one of those women who had never, ever had one during sex without major assistance. Add pregnancy hormones, 50 pounds and a fetus to the mix and guess what? A miner's helmet, a sex toy made by Dyson and a randy octopus armed with a barrel of lube wouldn't have helped.

First comes love, then comes marriage, then the baby arrives and nobody comes. Oh wait, that's wrong. What happens next, for some of us, is after the babies show up, so does a younger co-worker or a naughty neighbor lady or an addiction to drugs, booze or online gaming, or some other distraction and then comes...DIVORCE. Mine was due to the co-worker. I was a SAHM to four kids who were 6, 9, 11 and 12 when all the shit hit the fan. No, I didn't see it coming and no, I don't want to hear all the ways I could have prevented it. That ship has sailed, and hopefully nobody noticed that I tampered with their lifeboats.

So, you can imagine my delight when I discovered that Vicki Iovine was also divorcing! Alas, she didn't write a book about it, which was okay since I'd already devoured my two-books-per-year at the point (you get an extra book after the kids learn how to wipe their own butts). And then, Bravo announced their new scripted series based on Iovine's split. I was in heaven! Finally, a show that would pull the pants down on the divorce beast and show everyone the real nuts and bolts.

One fine weekend, when there were no practices or games or concerts or teenage drama to referee, I shook up a martini, sat down on my dog-hair covered couch and had a Girlfriend's Guide To Divorce marathon.

I laughed, of course, because I was buzzed from the martini, but also because some of it was funny. I crinkled my brow and made a sad face because some of it was sad. But mostly, I shook my head because it was so completely, totally, UNREALISTIC. Yes, I know, the basic premise of divorce is pretty much universal: a marriage ends. And yes, I know, this is Bravo, home of the Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules and Million Dollar Listing. And yes, I know, this is television.

But come on. Maybe this is how the One Percent divorces. For those of us in the real world? Things go a bit differently. Here are some of the biggest discrepancies:

Girlfriend's Guide Divorce: Her husband is cheating on her. With a hot twenty-something CW actress.
Realistic Girlfriend: Her husband is cheating on her. With a skanky administrative assistant. Or a person he met while playing an RPG in the basement. Or with porn. Or maybe a bottle. Might even be one of her friends.

Girlfriend's Guide Divorce: All of her friends are divorced. They guide her through it.
Realistic Girlfriend: She's one of the few divorced women in her circle of friends. Some of her friends are afraid they'll catch her icky Divorce Disease and pull away. Some of them are awesome, though, and stick around. They help her through it.

Girlfriend's Guide Divorce: One of her first post-divorce lovers is a father at her children's posh private school. He's a famous screenwriter.
Realistic Girlfriend: One of her first post-divorce lovers is a guy she found on eHarmony. He drinks four Manhattans on their first date and brings along his CPAP machine "just in case this goes well".

Girlfriend's Guide Divorce: She writes an article for Huffington Post Divorce and is made Senior Editor.
Realistic Girlfriend: She writes an article for Huffington Post Divorce and three angry men in the comment section remind her that "75% of all divorces are initiated by women!". But she gets a bunch of new followers on Twitter, which is cool.

Girlfriend's Guide Divorce: The uniform of choice for this pack of divorced women consists of crop tops, skinny jeans and Birkin bags. They drive luxury SUVs and live in mulit-million dollar mansions.
Realistic Girlfriend: The uniform of choice for this pack consists of Old Navy tops, sweater ponchos with leggings and well-loved Coach bags they bought ten years ago. They drive minivans or economy cars and live in either their marital homes with a mortgage they worry about paying or a rental. And they still worry about paying the rent sometimes.

Girlfriend's Guide Divorce: She loses her shit at one of her book readings and says out loud how much easier it would be if her ex had just died. Someone records it, the video goes viral and she comes very close to ruining her career.
Realistic Girlfriend: Doesn't ever say this out loud.

Bottom line: this show is wonderful escapism. Nothing more, nothing less. And really, how many of us would want to watch a show depicting the soft, white underbelly of a realistic divorce? Would I have made a martini and hunkered down to watch a woman who looks like me wander around a food shelf or cry in her pro-bono attorney's office? I might have. I did watch Boyhood, after all.

Here's what I think: let's wait until Amy Schumer gets married, has kids and then gets divorced. She'll kill it.

Until then, I'll be here on my dog hair covered Ikea couch, dispensing realistic divorce advice and watching how the other half divorces on Bravo. Carry on, girlfriends.


My Brother In The Mirror

How in the world did we know anything before Facebook? I had no idea there was a National Drink Wine Day. Or a National Bird Day. Did you know April is National Pecan Month? I have a severe tree-nut allergy so I won't be celebrating that one.

A few weeks ago, I noticed everyone posting pictures of their siblings. Apparently, April 10th is National Siblings Day.

Who knew?

So I started thinking about my one and only sibling. I don't write about him very often, but that night I hunted down one of the few pictures I have of him and posted it on Facebook. Yes, I'd had a martini...hey, it was Friday. But I posted it, and I wrote a little bit about my brother. Quite a few of my friends liked it. I liked it. And I hope you like it too. With a teeny bit of editing, here is what I wrote on National Siblings Day:

Sibling Day.

This is my brother Jon getting his first American haircut. The local newspaper did a story on this, because back in the 70's adoption wasn't as common, or as accepted, as it is now.

This picture breaks my heart. Jon's birth mother made the incredibly difficult decision to send him to the U.S. because she loved him. And she desperately wanted him, her youngest of three children, to have a better life than the one she could have provided for him.

Almost exactly a year after Jon joined our family, my parents divorced. It wasn't pretty and it wasn't fun. My new brother and I turned inward, towards each other, to try and deal and cope. You've heard of survival mode? We were in it.

Jon lives in Las Vegas now. We don't talk very often. He called me about a month ago, and we had the best conversation we've ever had.

We cried, because that's what happens when you talk to me for more than five minutes. But...we also laughed. It was one of the best things ever, laughing on the phone with my brother on a Saturday as I emptied the dishwasher with tears streaming down my cheeks.

We were little again. My new Korean brother and I, huddled under a haphazard blanket fort in our tiny bedroom in our tiny apartment, listening to our mom and her boyfriend scream at each other. I missed our house and my bedroom with the blue rose wallpaper. Jon must have missed so much more. What did it sound like to him, to this little boy still struggling to understand and speak our language? These foul words and hateful phrases being slung through the air. I bet he missed his mom. I bet he missed his brother and sister. I bet he missed his house.

We held hands, and even though this kid with the shiny black hair and the almond-shaped eyes had totally rocked my Only Child world, I loved him. And I wanted to protect him.

I wish more than anything that I could go back in time and give that little boy in the mirror the kind of life he deserved. I wish, for both of us, that things had been better. Easier. Less dark and less painful.

I wish we were the kind of siblings who talked more frequently. Who spent more time together. Who had good memories together.

We aren't those kind of siblings. But- we are siblings. When we do talk, it's good. It's "laugh and cry" good. That works for us.

Jon isn't on Facebook, so he probably won't see what I wrote. But I wanted to put it out into the universe...that I love my little brother. And I just might give him a call tomorrow, while I empty the dishwasher.


Ashes to Ashes, Mom to Mom

Many moons ago, I was a bright and squeaky new kindergarten mom. I stood in the hallway with the rest of my youthful tribe: fresh faced (mostly) moms, clutching carefully filled out paperwork in our smooth young hands. Several of us were pregnant, a few were wearing Gap overalls in a totally non-ironic way. My hair was dark back then, with no thanks necessary to the fine colorists at L'Oreal. Completely natural. The innocent I was sending off into the wilds of public education that day was my firstborn, Charlie. He was clean and fed and most definitely wearing matching socks. I had taken approximately 250 pictures of him that morning, and was dying to drop off the film at Walgreens so I could get his "First Day Of School" pictures sent out to all the grandparents. Charlie's two younger siblings were there with us as well: Molly was almost 4, Henry was 2. Oh, and I was one of those pregnant ones. Just barely, though. It was September, the year was 1999. (yeah, go figure, the one New Year's Eve we really could party like it was 1999, I was knocked up.)

The school looked huge, our 5 and 6 year olds seemingly dwarfed by the gigantic kids swarming in the hallway. We watched as our babies filed into their respective classrooms, shiny virgin backpacks with nary a rip nor stain strapped onto their little shoulders.

A few of us cried. Some of us smiled, so excited at the prospect of TWO AND A HALF FREE HOURS. A few of us picked up a puddle from the floor, a puddle which resembled a cranky and petulant younger sibling. Those were the ones with TWO AND A HALF FREE HOURS in a thought bubble as well, only in a sarcastic font. Because they knew damn well that exactly six minutes before it was time to retrieve the kindergartner the puddle-sibling would have settled into deep REM stage sleep.

And then there were the other moms. There weren't as many of them, and they kept their distance from our enthusiastic pack.

They were the Older Moms.

I'm not saying these moms were chronologically older, although to be fair most of them were. They were the Older Moms because they had Older Kids. Some of them had one or two or more children in the elementary school we stood in. Others had actual teenagers who went to the terrifying junior high. And there were a couple who had high school kids. When we, the newbie moms, said high school we whispered, because to us they might as well have been on the moon. Or in an old timey jailhouse, like the one Elvis sang about. Thinking of our kindergartners, our babies, being old enough to attend high school was scary.

These women were (mostly) kind, but were not rushing up to console us or invite us out to Mom's Night Out. They regarded us with wise eyes. Knowing eyes. Tired eyes.

Later on I ended up becoming friends with one of the Older Moms. She took a liking to my crazy self and we spent many afternoon pickup minutes gabbing about our kids, our husbands and our lives. I learned so much from her: time-budgeting tips, the Gap Kids store with the best clearance rack, the best (read: easiest) volunteer gigs to sign up for.

But the best thing she ever said to me was this: "Jenny, you'll understand this one day. Probably not now. In fact, when I say this, you'll quite possibly think I'm either a terrible mom or clinically depressed." Dear God. What was she going to tell me? Should I alert the school counselor?

She smiled her sweet smile and said to me: "There will come a time when you get burned out. Believe it or not, it will come. You'll tire of all the 'firsts', you'll dread volunteering and you'll actually look forward to your kids getting older." I looked at her, thinking to myself, whatever. I was born to be a mommy. I am going to volunteer so hard at this school. Teachers will love seeing my kid's names on their class lists. The principal is going to respect me and call me by my first name. My kids will be so grateful to have such a loving, involved mother. This Older Mom is nucking futs. 

And then she said what has stuck with me. Sixteen years have passed since I first heard these words and I can still hear her saying it:

"Then you pass burnout and become a pile of ashes. That's what I am now...a pile of ashes that used to be just like you are now." I looked at my friend, and imagined her as a tall pile of gray ashes. Then, I tried to see myself the same way. Nope. No! Never.


Last week I bought Charlie his very first legal cocktail as we celebrated his 21st birthday at the Japanese restaurant down the street. Yes, I wrote "legal" and not "first". Because I not only used to watch The Real World, I live in it (hausfrau trivia: I almost applied to be on Season 2 of that show. Seriously.) Molly wasn't able to join us because she's half a state away, finishing up her first year of college. Henry, who is now 17 and a junior in high school, was there. And so was William, who was just a bean-sized embryo when Charlie started kindergarten. He's now almost 15. They are all taller than me. One of them by a whole foot.

I was there, too. In all my ashy glory.

Yep. Yes! It happened to me, just like my wise friend had said it would. I too became a pile of ashes. Somehow, when I wasn't looking, someone pressed fast-forward on my life and the children grew up. My raven hair turned about fifty shades of gray and those once smooth, young hands that held all that paperwork are now kind of crinkly and adorned with what I call big freckles but what realistic people call age spots. Don't misunderstand: I still volunteer, to this day, when I can. But it's not with the fiery eagerness I once had. Now I do it because I know in a few years, there won't be any more opportunities. There won't be any more picture days or lost and found to be sorted. My red-hot enthusiasm has been replaced with an ashy sense of obligation, and the sober realization that this time in the lives of my children...this time in my life...is finite. And unlike that pregnant, dewy-complected youthful mama who stood in the hallway outside of the kindergarten rooms 16 years ago, this plump, legging-and-long, flowy cardigan wearing mama can see the edge.


The smell hit me before I saw it. My dog was pulling me down a path at one of our local parks. It was the acrid remnants of a recent fire, thick in the air. We traversed a long bend in the path and came upon a little pond, the home to wood ducks in the summer and fall. Instead of the tall grasses and weeds which normally encircle the pond, there was a ring of scorched earth. Nothing was left save for a few singed stumps and several small clusters of rocks. Because I am Gladys Kravitz, nosy neighborhood nature photographer, I snapped a pic with my phone.

When I got home, I posted the picture on Facebook and asked if any of my landscaping-savvy friends could clue me in as to why someone would incinerate this little peaceful area. God forbid I do anything rational, like call the city and ask, right? That would entail speaking to another human. As I figured, I got my answer almost immediately. A friend who works in the forestry field told me:

It's most likely a controlled burn. They do that to clear out all of the old, weedy plants from the past season. It makes it easier for the new season's plants to grow. Don't worry, Gladys, it's all good!

Okay, so I added the Gladys part. But I thought about what my forester friend had written.

It makes it easier for the new season's good plants to grow.

Motherhood is a controlled burn, isn't it? That's what my Older Mom friend was telling me, all those years ago. We start out as green as a new blade of grass, flexible and full of vim and vigor and collagen. Burnout isn't a fair word, if you ask me. That implies someone tiring of something, smoldering unattended until there's nothing left.

No. I like controlled burn so much better. Because that's what happens. It's a natural progression, one you can't understand...hell, you don't want to understand until the day comes when you look down and realize that time has been preparing you for the next season.

That pile of ashes you see, the one with the grayish hair and the dog-fur sprinkled Old Navy leggings? That's me. I'm one of those Older Moms now. I am trying so hard to avoid being the creepy one who sidles up to you and glazes your eyeballs with my stories that begin with "Back when I was your age". Sometimes I slip up though, and catch myself tipping my head back like I'm a giant Pez dispenser, only instead of candy you get nuggets of Older Mom wisdom.

Please be patient with me. You see, it's scary just like that first day of kindergarten. Scary, and exciting. I don't know what to expect anymore. Time has taught me to never become complacent, to never stop anticipating the big thunderclap of change. I look back at the picture of my three kids and me, four if you count William the fetus. Knowing what the future holds for that woman and her kids almost knocks me on my ashy ass. Not knowing what the future holds for that woman now?

It's keeping me on my ashen toes. 

Love to all of those piles of ashes who went before me, and to those who will follow in our sooty-footsteps. Here's to our new seasons.


The Box

When we moved out of our old house, we did so in a hurry. It wasn't a lengthy, well thought-out process involving movers and special crates and lots of careful packing. Our belongings were thrown into a hodgepodge of cardboard boxes and then into the backs of various cars driven by a throng of helpful friends. Most of my furniture bears scars from the hasty exodus: chips and dents and scratches, a large spot of motor oil on my quilted box spring cover. That's what happens when a desperate woman flees a house so far underwater it may have well been a submarine.

Now, five years later, we are home. The kids say that this is our real house because "all of our good memories" are here. I think they're downplaying just how much of our old house still lives in us, and maybe that's a good thing. Maybe they're keeping the good stuff from that house somewhere safe for now. Maybe five years isn't long enough to forget how difficult it is to be uprooted.

Since my physical in January, the one where I found out I'm remarkably healthy but also a little fat, I've been enjoying daily walks with the dog. Through snow and slush and now mud and sun, every day Walter and I head out. We go between 3 1/2 and 6 miles at a stretch, depending on how much time I have and how long the sun stays up. 

Lately, we've been meandering down around our old neighborhood. Not through it, no...but skirting it. Walter strains at the leash when we get close. He pulls me towards our former street, like he has urgent business ahead. But something stops me, just shy of the sidewalk that would take us straight there, right up to the yard I used to tend. I can't even look, I avert my eyes as if the neighborhood is an old lover I left on bad terms. 

"No, Walter" I say to him, as he plants his paws stubbornly into the path. "Not yet. I can't." He looks at me and I swear to God his eyes are judging. If he could talk he'd tell me what a psycho I am. He'd tell me to get over it, to grow a set for Christ's sake. But I can't. And so we turn left instead of right, and walk away. 


William has claimed what was once my office as his bedroom. It's a funky little room, with 50's style wood paneling covering the walls and the ceiling. There's a built in dresser and cabinet, and a small closet. Back when we first moved in, the closet became a catch-all place for things I knew I had to keep, but didn't want to see. So there are old art projects from the kids, eBay inventory I never got around to selling, some old photography equipment of mine. And, there's a box. 

The box was one of dozens given to me by a neighbor all those years ago, a neighbor who worked in a grocery store. She supplied me with large, cardboard produce boxes, which were perfectly suited for my "stuff 'em and run" moving method. Nice and roomy, but not too big, they had handles on the sides and were sturdy. 

William is entering that magical adolescent period of time known as The Great Awakening, when teenage boys begin showering, applying product to their hair and caring about what they're wearing. He had some new clothes and since this was The Great Awakening, he decided the new clothes deserved to be hung up instead of piled haphazardly in eternally-open drawers or worse, piled on the floor. So, he was cleaning out the closet one night, and carried this particular box out into the living room. "Where should I put this?" he asked, holding it by the handles and using one knee to balance it. 

The box was red. There was a cartoonish apple on the side, along with the brand name, Superfresh Growers. I eyed the box, and noting the binders and notebooks, decided it was probably full of old tax paperwork and other miscellaneous office flotsam I'd been unsure about throwing away five years ago. Although I dreaded the idea of poring through ancient financial history, the thought of my teenager giving enough of a shit about something that he was cleaning moved me to say, "Put it down here, on the coffee table. I'll take care of it." I moved the remotes and the laptop out of the way, and the red box was placed in front of me. The apple was shiny. Superfresh.


Our brains are funny things. They are basically gray, mushy blobs which enable us to see and think and breathe and move. But they are also museums. Only not the kind of museum you have to walk through slowly and quietly, being very careful to not touch anything or get caught with a look on your face which might reveal that you think some of what you're seeing could have been created by a toddler armed with a paintbrush and a sugar high.

The museum in my brain is crowded with sounds and sights and smells. There are dark hallways and trapdoors and rooms without windows. I try to avoid those places because I'm the kind of person who will get lost in them, who will sit down among the cobwebs and the dust and let the darkness swallow me whole. I wasn't even thinking about my brain or museums as I sat down in front of the box. And then, as I began sifting through the vinyl binders and the crinkled manila envelopes, it started. The door to the museum creaked open and I wandered in.

This wasn't just a box. It was a portal, my own personal TARDIS that took me back, five years and before that. There, in that envelope? The papers in there represented a home equity line of credit. Dated just a year before my husband left me, with our signatures nestled snugly next to each other, together at the bottom. Oh, the things we were going to do with that windfall! The new kitchen, the new patio! The potential for so much newness was practically jumping off the pages. I didn't know it back then, but that line of credit was going to finance my husband's new life. And also, a shopping spree at the Coach store for his girlfriend.

Oh, and in that binder there? The blue one? Our original mortgage. The OG of our debt. I thumbed through the stack inside and felt the bony hands of the past pulling at me. Claws digging into my arms, dragging me down into the cellar of my museum. 

The box had more to show me. I found our second mortgage, and underneath that, two battered notebooks. I flipped open one of the notebooks and saw my handwriting, columns of scrawled numbers and words. Ahh. It came back to me, then. After he left, this was how I kept track of money and bills. Row after row of pluses and (mostly) minuses:

Charlie- lunch money  -$40.00
Molly- lunch money     -$40.00
Target                         -$56.00
Visa                            -$135.00
Countrywide Mort.    -$1,150.00

The words were scribbled and written in all sorts of shades of blue and red and even green. Some of it was written with colored pencils. I noticed then: even my handwriting looked terrified.

This box in front of me was a collection of milestones. Not sweet milestones, the kind you look back upon and smile fondly...no, these were awful milestones, shitty ones: past due notices, bills, a foreclosure notice. It was a box of sadness. A box chock full of betrayal and intentional fuckery.

I was deep in the bowels of the museum now, the living room around me had faded away and I was back in the old house. Hunched over the notebook, trying to figure out how I was going to stretch that $500 dollars out for another week. Trying to decide what I could cancel or cut or disconnect....

Apparently five years isn't long enough to erase the memories, to scrub the walls of the museum clean. I felt it that night, sitting there in front of the box. I touched the pages of the notebook and strands of worry wound up and encircled my fingers. My breath became shorter and goddammit, tears threatened. I started to get mad again, mad at that man and what he did and sad for me and so, so sorry for what the kids went through. And then, I turned the page and saw this:

"I love my mom" it says. There, amidst the wreckage of an old life, something beautiful. A child had picked up a pencil and then drew a picture. "I love my mom".

I smiled. Faint shafts of light appeared on the museum walls, and as I studied the drawing I found myself back in our living room. The bad feelings were scurrying away, back to the murky recesses they'd crawled out from. All of the other papers were tucked away, out of sight and out of mind, sheathed in their binders and folders and envelopes.

Back into the box.



The Landslide of Forgetting

It dawned on me in the toddler toilet-training aisle at Target, of all places. I was looking for a baby shower gift and was wandering through the baby section with a somewhat-annoyed 14 year old boy walking a safe distance behind me. He was mumbling something about "when can we go" and "you promised you wouldn't do this" and "you owe me Taco Bell now" (oh how I love when they tell me what I owe them. Someday I might type up a bill for services rendered and hand it over).

It was there in the sea of grinning cartoon characters and ohmygod so much chevron. A little section of those padded mini toilet seats you stick over the regular one. I pulled one down off of the display hook and held it for a second (really the only time it's okay to do so without rubber gloves and a surgical mask). I expected a flood of memories to wash over me, and was kind of disappointed when all I got was some fuzzy snapshots of little legs dangling from the big potty, and a muffled clip of hands clapping while a young mommy voice cheered "GOOD JOB".

The teenager was beside me then, the mumbling ceased momentarily. "Do you remember, William?" I asked him. "We had a seat just like this for all of you to use when you were little." He regarded the seat, and a small smile inchwormed across his face. "Yeah" he said, clear as a bell. "It was soft. I totally remember that." We sat there for a second, and if anyone had glanced over they would have seen an unusual sight: middle aged-mother and tall, gangly teen son, smiling at a toilet seat.

"I can't remember what ours looked like." I finally said. "All I can recall are bright colors and cartoony faces. What did ours look like?" William pursed his lips, thought about it and then replied, "I don't know." I put the miniature seat back on its hook and as we continued on down the aisle it began to bug me.

That seat had a spot, front and center, in the bathroom of our home for a good seven years. Four tiny tushies did their business on it countless times. God only knows how much time I spent cleaning it.

And here I was, well over a decade later, wracking my brain to remember. The teenager offered up a few suggestions: "Maybe it was Disney characters" he offered. "No!" I replied, because I remembered one thing for certain and that was I abhorred Disney characters on my kid's things. Don't even get me started on the cloyingly pastel baby versions of Mickey, Goofy, et al. Gah.

As we made our way to the infant-wear section, we batted ideas back and forth. Barney? Dear Lord. No. William suggested that maybe there weren't characters on it at all. Maybe just colorful shapes? Nah. There were forms, not human, but figures with heads and eyes and I think, limbs. Dammit.

Why was this bugging me so much? Gnawing at my brain, pinching my mind. "I know!" I announced, standing there in the middle of racks adorned with soft footed sleepers and eensy weensy outfits. "I'll call Molly." Molly is 19 and is a freshman in college. She possesses a keen recollection of days gone by, and also, millions more brain cells than me.

So there we stood, in Target, the again-restless boy shifting his weight from one foot to another while his mother called a girl in a dorm room 300 miles away.

Molly answered, and when I asked her what was hands down the most inane question, ever, she answered immediately:

"Sesame Street."

Boom. Yes. I saw it again, those maniacally happy heads of Big Bird, Elmo, Cookie Monster floating on a vinyl sea of white. There had been a removable plastic shield to catch the spray from the little boys (and hello, any way we can invent a giant spray-catcher for older boys??). I could see it there in our old little bathroom in our old little house, leaning up against the vanity waiting for the next toddler-sized offering, the next round of applause from a long ago version of me.

I thanked Molly and we laughed about potty seats and olden days. William and I finished up our shopping trip (gift card for the expectant mommy, because sensory overload for me). Our brief trip down memory lane ended and life continued on as usual.

Sometime later, maybe that evening, maybe the next day, I thought about all the other bits and pieces of the past I've forgotten. How many toddler outfits I'd loved, with their matching hats and socks, that are now obliterated from my memory banks. What was the book Henry had begged me to read at beditme for months on end? What truck did Charlie absolutely lose his shit over when we left it at the park that time? Toddler Molly used to have a collection of pacifiers, but only one would lull her to sleep. What did it look like??

My children are getting older, and to quote Stevie Nicks, I'm getting older too. The minutiae of our day to day life, those old timey days when I was so busy with four little kids who were constantly challenging me and a house that always seemed just a bit too small and a bit too messy...those things I thought I'd never be able to forget are now forgotten. Like the Diaper Genie and the booster seats and adorably adorable wee backpacks they'd proudly donned for those first days of kindergarten, they served their purposes and then faded into oblivion.

For a while there I was unsure whether or not I'd be able to handle all of it, the changes that were happening at a breakneck pace. The round faces giving way to cheekbones and whiskers, the hormones and the new friends and the late nights no longer spent wishing they'd go to sleep but wishing they'd get home. Graduations, proms and FAFSA forms and shopping for dorm bedding. It hit me, hard, exactly like a landslide and I didn't know if I'd survive. I mean, the kid who once had me crying with worry because he pushed a little girl over with his chubby three-year-old hands in the sandbox is now a junior in college who can stop at the liquor store to pick up a bottle of wine for me before he comes home to visit. (note: the sandbox incident did not result in a future bully and/or a life of crime)

But the thing is: just as the children have grown, so have I. After the initial shock of it all, that moment when I could no longer deny the seasons of my life were changing? It became painfully, beautifully clear.

I can handle it. And I remember just enough.


Oddball Crushes Part 3: Chef Turns Up The Heat

I watched the movie "Chef" a few weeks ago. With my 14 year old son. And we both loved it. The story was familiar and basic, which some of my friends said was a turnoff for them. For me, though? The entire movie was a major TURN-ON. Yes, I'm shouting.

What wasn't to love? The food...oh sweet Daniel snoring with the lions, the food! I've never had a Cuban sandwich, but am now on a quest to find one (here in Minnesota, though, because there is zero chance of me going to Florida anytime soon). The soundtrack? Muy awesome. It includes a cover of the Marvin Gaye song "Sexual Healing" by a group called "Hot 8 Brass Band" that now resides on my iTunes playlist 'Sexy Time'. Yes, that's a real playlist and no, it's not used very often. I'm thinking the marching-band sound might be hysterical when paired with lovemaking, though. So watch out world, if you hear the sound of tubas and snare drums emanating from my bedroom, please don't knock. Here's the song (and my apologies to mobile readers, I can't get videos to work for you):

So yeah. The food and the music were reason alone to watch the movie. But there were three more reasons, at least for me.

Three, yes THREE of my favorite Oddball Crushes are in this movie. One is usually great! Two? Guaranteed to keep me watching til the end credits roll. But three? Three means I get excited when I know all the kids will be elsewhere for the evening so I can make a martini and watch it again, in the dark.

For those of you who are new to this blog, or who haven't had the time (or emotional strength) to go back through the archives of crazy, "Oddball Crush" is what I call it when you have impure thoughts or lustful feelings towards a person who doesn't fit the typical Hollywood mold of attractive. I first wrote about it back in 2010 in a post called "My Odd Taste In Men", and then again last year in "Oddball Crushes Part Deux".

Not that I don't appreciate your more typical Beautiful Person. I can spend hours stalking Shemar Moore online and not break a sweat. I've even gone so far as to program my phone to address me as "Baby Girl", which any die-hard Shemar stalker fan knows is what he calls his lady groupies (it's also what his character on Criminal Minds calls the uber-quirky and also oddball-crush-worthy Penelope Garcia).

Now if we could just get Shemar to join with Apple and become the new voice of Siri my life would be complete. Finally.

And in case you have no idea who I'm talking about here:

There's something to be said for those who have been hit with the pretty stick a few times.

But man...I love me some quirk. Give me a little paunch here, a snaggletooth there, a receding hairline or a prominent beak. Character, people. Character is SEXY.

And Chef had it. Chef presented me with a three-way oddball mashup, a trifecta of quirky fantasy boyfriends:


He is often eating in this movie. Which is exciting to me.

First off, we have Jon Favreau. Please tell me you've seen Swingers? If you haven't, let me know. I will find a way for you to watch it. I have the DVD here and will gladly sit on the couch with you and take it in. Take it allll in, you beautiful babies. Swingers introduced me to two pretend boyfriends. Vince Vaughn (so young and so skinny!) and Jon Favreau. In the almost 20 years since Swingers came out, Jon has forged a pretty decent career: writing and directing and acting in everything from Elf to Wall Street Wolf to Zathura. But most recently, he wrote, directed and acted in Chef. In this movie, he's a little chubby, he sweats a lot and he has that cliched but still awesome knife tattoo that we see several versions of every season on Top Chef. Nobody plays determined sad guy like Favreau.

Oddballs are often seen wearing jaunty hats.

Next up in the trio of OC (oddball crushes) is John Leguizamo. He's been in a million movies and done a bunch of voice work (Sid the slot in the Ice Age movies). He even played Luigi in the live-action Super Mario Bros. movie, which I will admit to seeing (mother of three boys, hello).

LOL. And also, RIP Bob Hoskins.

John L. gets the oddball nod because like a lot of them, he's played villains. He was the guy who shot Harrison Ford in Regarding Henry, people! While he isn't super quirky or paunchy or anything like that, he's usually cast as a screw up or someone's flaky brother. He's also about 5'6", which does put him in Pocket Person range, too. I think it might be the voice that does it for me. Whatever, he floats my boat and did it again in Chef.

In Chef, he plays a sorta-asshole. Which only adds points, in my book.

The third jewel in this Oddball Triple Crown is Oliver Platt. I first felt stirrings over this moon-faced actor way back in 1990, while watching the movie Flatliners. While my friends were squirming in their seats over Billy Baldwin, Kevin Bacon and Kiefer Sutherland, I was sitting there thinking, "I'd totally make out with the smart one. His lips look super juicy."

It takes a strong oddball to stand tall next to Billy Baldwin.
I also loved him as the husband in the Showtime series The Big C, opposite one of my favorite lady-crushes, Laura Linney. It's worth mentioning that The Big C was one of a handful of t.v. shows which absolutely gutted me with the series finale. Not unlike Six Feet Under, which coincidentally starred a classic OC, Richard Jenkins. 

Chef also features Robert Downy Jr. but he's not an OC so we won't delve into him right now. There's also Sofia Vergara but she's so opposite of oddball that inanimate objects like sticks and batteries think she's hot. She's not a lady crush of mine. Yet.

So there you have it. Sexy marching band music, food porn and three oddballs. I loved this movie and highly recommend it. Word of warning, though: if you tend to like the Oddballs, you will most likely end up horny and hungry after watching it and if you're like me, you'll satisfy both of these urges with a thick grilled cheese sandwich. Therefore I recommend a quick trip to the market beforehand to make sure you have plenty of cheese, bread and butter.

Bon appetit, my friends.

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