Entries categorized "Change"

The Five Words No One Wants to Hear. Ever.

As Big Ben and I walked along the river's boardwalk recently, I caught a glimpse of a little girl waving and pointing in our direction. She had just come out of the ice cream parlor and gripped her overflowing waffle cone tightly with both hands. Smart girl. 

"Hey!" she shouted between licks of her Blue Moon. Not the flavor I would have picked, but since she was about six years-old, I cut her some slack.

"Hey" I waved as I approached. I didn't recognize her, but little kids often get a kick out of Big Ben. Her blue lips were moving as if she was talking to me, so I stopped and pulled out my earbuds. 

BigBen on bed"Hey lady," she said, "you look like your dog."

I froze. 

She turned to her mom, giggled, and then a little louder said, "Mama, she looks like her dog, doesn't she? Doesn't she?"

The smattering of mid-day ice cream-eaters turned and stared.

I looked left and then right, but most unfortunately, I was the only person present with a dog. 

Dumbfounded, I managed to say "I look like my dog? Really?"

 

Dear reader, I must note that I was wearing earth tones.

The little girl continued, "Yeah, you've got that white streak in the part of your hair. You know, where it's a different color from the rest of your hair. And it's all dark and stuff around your eyes."

Seriously? No mention of the earth tones?

"And you both have those big white arms. And--"

I looked at Ben's arms. I looked at mine. He wasn't wearing nail polish. Hardly the same. 

I wanted to get out of there. I wanted to run, but Big Ben and I don't really do that running thing.

The girl's mother laughed nervously, "Honey, stop."

"See Mom? They both have big cheeks, too. See their big cheeks?"

The mom put her hand on her hip. She looked like she was about to mean business. But--

"And BOTH of their big cheeks droop. They droop, Mom! They drooooooop!"

Big Ben's tail wagged as the devil-child spit sticky, blue venom on his snout.

Olive upcloseEmbarrassed, the mother pulled her child along and said nervously, "Oh dear, out of the mouths of babes..." 

"Babe" is not the term I had in mind. 

In any event, it was a life-changing moment.

After that day I knew exactly what to do in light of the fact we end up looking like our dogs.

Dear reader, you may think I went on a diet or brought home Jenny Craig.

Screw that.

I got a new dog.  

Meet sleek-cheeked Olive, 30 pounds soaking wet. 

  

Ben and Olive in yard
 


Met My Old Lover in the Grocery Store

Remember that old Dan Fogelberg song? When he runs into his old girlfriend on Christmas Eve? 

Met my old lover in the grocery store. The snow was falling, Christmas Eve.

This just happened to me. Well, sort of.

Granted, it wasn't Christmas Eve. I wasn't in the frozen food section and we didn't share a six-pack in my car.

BUT, the rest was just like the song.

Not long ago, completely out of the blue, I received an email from an old boyfriend. It's true that right after my divorce I may or may not have tried to find him in the usual places: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I might have even Googled him. Oh come on. Don't judge. You've done it with your exes, too.

Anyway, back to the email. For once, his timing was impeccable.

Twenty-six years ago, in May of 1990, I had just graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in English. As I waited for the job offers to pour in (who doesn't want to employ a girl who can read a good book like a biatch?), I spent the summer waitressing at an old-fashioned summer resort and fell in love.

And I had the time of my life.

*cue Dirty Dancing music*

He was like Patrick Swayze (without those stretchy dancer pants they try to pass off as regular pants but you can totally tell they're dancy-pants) with a million dollar smile, great hair, and an Australian accent. He was a race car engineer. I didn't even know what that was, but his accent was so dreamy that when he talked about Midnight Oil, even though I knew nothing about cars, I could listen to him all night.  


FullSizeRender (25)By August, I had packed my belongings and moved with him to San Francisco. I was high on romance, and a trek across America was the ultimate trip. I was ready for adventure. What girl didn't want to move to California with an Australian instead of get a regular job? I had big hair, bigger shoulder pads, and a red Cabriolet filled with mix tapes.

And although motorsports was an exciting lifestyle, it turned out to be quite stressful and unpredictable as well. After a couple years, I began to crave routine and security. My friends were marrying accountants and buying starter homes. We were long on love, yet short on money, maturity and wisdom. Good mix tapes only get you so far.

If we had met three years later, we may have had a chance. A darn good chance. But as he traveled and I went back to school, our dreams conflicted. He needed to be on the road. I needed to be in class. Love wasn’t enough, and eventually, through a lot of tears and hugs, we parted ways. That was over twenty years ago.

In his email, he explained he'd be in town for one night on business and invited me to dinner. Before saying yes, feelings of insecurity plagued me.

Would he still like my smile? My laugh? And the way I talk with my hands?

Would he hear resilience in my voice?

Would he see the extra weight I carry as armor against my loneliness?

Would my laugh lines remind him of my humor and not my age?

Would he see that under my tough exterior and crutch of humor there is still a great deal of pain from a hurtful marriage? 

Seriously, I went on overthinking the whole thing for a good hour, asking myself these ridiculous questions, because before I do anything, I've got to complicate the shit out of it. In the end, I channelled my inner Stuart Smalley and said, "Yes." 

The minute I walked through the door, I saw the same 20-year old with whom I fell in love. He wasn’t looking at my thighs or examining my wrinkles. He flashed that same toothy grin and I immediately felt decades younger. My heart warmed with relief as we hugged. 

I told him about my boys, my writing, and my xxxxx, xxxxxxxx marriage (phrase redacted per wise divorce attorney). He was visibly surprised and concerned. Pouring out my heart to him was different than sharing with a long, lost girlfriend. Here was a man who had loved me very differently than my husband. Being in his presence again reminded me that I am worthy of goodness and that I can be a good judge of character. Not everyone is xxxxx, xxxxxx, xxxxxx (yep, she made me remove that part, too).

I listened as he told me about his mum, who I remembered fondly. He showed me pictures of his beautiful daughter and wife. It turns out he did find success as an engineer for a racing team and also became a world champion jet ski racer. (Seriously! Right!?!) He told me about the life he had built for himself. It all came together for him and I could not have been more happy for him. He was clearly content and fulfilled.

We reminisced for hours. We laughed about how I couldn’t figure out how to turn on our first vacuum cleaner and that time some pervert stole my underwear from the laundry room of our apartment complex. We lamented that the pay phone from which he used to call me had been taken down. 

I hadn’t expected to reconnect so easily. The longer we talked, the fewer years seemed to have passed. For a moment, I could have walked right back into that life.

But that’s what love does. In my head I knew that chapter in my life was closed. He has a wife and I have… Well, I have my sons and they need me.

I fell into a funk in the days that passed. My loneliness seemed magnified and harder to manage. It had felt so good to sit across the table from someone who had loved me so much. Someone who could finish my sentences. Someone who didn’t take so much work. Someone who made me a better person. I had forgotten what that felt like.

I was teary, and before we parted he said, “You look exactly the same, except without the big shoulder pads.” And from that moment on, I knew I'd love him forever. 

Just for a moment I was back at school,

And felt that old familiar pain 

 And as I turned my way back home, The snow turned into rain.

 

 

Not familiar with some of the references? Click on the highlighted text. 

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Liberty For All

American-flag-2a

It's a gift to wake up each day as a woman in America, sweet land of liberty. 

Right now in Saudi Arabia, women are banned from driving cars, going to the movies, and traveling unaccompanied by a male. 

As a divorced, single mom, I just drove 1600 miles on a road trip with my children. Movies ran non-stop in the DVD player; and I happily asked for directions twice, which never would've been allowed if I'd been accompanied by a male. 

Saudi-women-saidaonlineIn Yemen, girls as young as eight are forced to marry. 

At eight, I was focused on Girl Scouts, Barbies, and Scooby-Doo. 

In Nepal, if a girl is not married by the time she is 12, she is commonly sold to a sex trafficking ring.

When I was 12, my 10-speed bike was king, and I thought The Love Boat was too mushy.

Every year honor killings, dowry killings, and sanctioned rape are the cause of death for millions of women from Asia to Africa.

American girls will perform in parades across the country today. Wearing sparkly short skirts, belly-baring tops and carrying pom-pons, they'll worry about keeping the beat, not getting a beating.

In Afghanistan only 12% of women can read. 

Sister Noreen taught me to read in first grade. At the time I had no idea she had given me the key to unlocking infinite doors.

Today in Egypt, almost 95% of women ages 19- 49 have experienced female genital mutilation. At the very least, their clitoris has been sliced off. 

I'm grateful to have the ability to enjoy fireworks all year long.

I hope American women continue to fight for causes which benefit women worldwide. We must use our freedom to free others from their suffering. In doing so, we honor those who have fought and sacrificed for our country.

Happy Independence Day!


Even Goo-Be-Gone Can't Destroy This Bond: Happy Mother's Day!

Mom and Mrs. BeasleyMy mother and I were born opposites. She's a Felix and I'm an Oscar. She's OCD. I'm ADD. Her passport is filed under "P" and mine...well, mine is around here somewhere.

Growing up, I'd purposely do the opposite of what Mom suggested. If she said, "Boy Liesl, your natural hair color is so pretty," I'd dye it darker and darker. If Mom said, "You know, Liesl, you so look nice with long hair,"  I'd cut it short. And then even shorter. I went way too far with the asymmetrical cut in the 80's.  

When Mom would mention, "Skirts are so flattering," I'd wear the Guess jeans with pockets up and down each leg. I could fit 9 beers in those jeans. And when Mom said, "Liesl, if you'd wear a bit of a heel, it'll give you a nice, long, slimming leg,"  I'd put on my coveted hiking boots with the bright red laces. 

As the female Felix Unger, she speaks a language that is foreign to me. Recently smiling, she said the words, "Just for fun, why don't you and I wash all the crystal in the dining room." I have no idea what that sentence means.  

Hiking bootsAlthough I give her a hard time, Mom has been quite a role model for being organized and keeping a clean house. Every piece of paper brought into her home is filed within a minimum of 90 seconds. She regularly bleaches the cleaning rags. She's on her 17th label maker. The last one died while labeling the light bulb cabinet shelves. It made a fizzing sound and broke into seven pieces just as she was starting on the 30-70-100 watt three-ways. 

I didn't inherit that clean gene.  

When Mother visited me in San Francisco, she asked where I kept the scissors in my apartment.

Without blinking I said in a tone, like duh, "Under the sofa." 

"How can you possibly be my daughter?" she said. "Most people keep a scissors in the kitchen or maybe in an office or laundry room."

"Yup, but I keep mine right under the couch. That way you don't even have to get up."

On the same visit, I accidentally dropped a bag of flour on the carpet. 

"No problem," said Mom. "Just get the vacuum. It'll take two minutes to clean up."

"Right...the vacuum cleaner," I said casually.

Mom, Liesl and boysPanicked, I scoured four closets until I found the damn thing. Out of breath, I plugged the machine into the walI. Like a hawk, Mom watched my every move as if she doubted my vacuuming prowess. I nonchalantly kicked my foot around the sides and corners of the thing with no luck. Then I patted my hands along the handle but nothing happened. I unzipped and then rezipped the bag part. I unplugged and replugged the machine.


About to pull out her hair and transform into Mr. Clean right before my very eyes, Mother Unger exclaimed,
"Oh my God! You don't know how to turn on your vacuum cleaner, do you, Liesl Margaret?"

"Yeah, um...well, no. I usually just get out a lint roller."

But at 27 when my boyfriend dumped me while the rest of my friends were tying the knot like a row of dominoes, I called my mom.

When I woke up July 21, 2004 and needed help with my drinking problem, I called my mom.

When I knew my spirit was dying and it was time to file for divorce, I called Mom. 

Gaga Augie meSo although I give my mom a tough time for being the clean freak she is, I'm also very grateful. I've come to her with plenty of messes and she's always helped me put the pieces of my life back together. She doesn't shy away from the debris of a storm. She's like a human SOS pad. Trust me, she will view that as a compliment.

It took me almost 40 years, but these days I listen to my mom. My hair is long. I wear heels and a skirt every chance I get. My scissors are stored safely in a kitchen drawer. It's a messy drawer, but it's progress, not perfection, right?

My mom and I look like an odd couple on the surface. She never has a hair out of place. I'm usually covered in dog hair. She plans ahead. I know I am typing this sentence at this very moment. She's 5'2", barely 100 pounds and always has my back. I'm 5'6" and weigh dis-girl-don't-shop-petite-section and lean on her heavily. Yep, an odd couple connected by the most amazing bond there is: unconditional love. Even Goo-Be-Gone can't destroy that shit.**

Not so long ago, when I became a single mother, who'd been out of the workforce for 15 years, I called my mom.  

She said, "You have a gift. Keep writing. Follow your dream. Oh, and here are some extra vacuum cleaner bags."  

Thank you, Mom. I love you! Happy Mother's Day! 

 

**Mom, sorry I swore in the Mother's Day post. I don't know where I learned such language!

 

 

 




A Good Dog Is Better Than A Bad Date


Ben near bath

It's a bad sign when I'm on a date and I miss my dog.  If I look forward to drooly, droopy jowls, rather than Mr. Comb-over's kiss, it's time to call a cab. Don't get me wrong, I love men. It's just that in a lot of cases, I love my dog more.

This wasn't always the situation. I was a confirmed cat person for years. However, heading for divorce and in need of some serious extra credit to get into Catholic Heaven, I promised my sons they could have a dog. After researching breeds with the shortest life span, 6-8 years max. (I had no intention of living with another mistake for 15 years), they decided on a St. Bernard. In January 2009, we brought home Big Ben.

Boys and big ben on porchWe went through the typical puppy years. He ate pencils, rolling pins, and a table or two. He broke through the same screen door weekly. In six months he gained 106 pounds. He learned to jump out the car window. I chased him through intersections, a golf course, school parking lots, tennis courts, and soccer camp. He became so strong, instead of walking the dog, the boys quickly learned to body surf. Realizing he was too big for the boys to handle, by default, Big Ben became my dog. 

After nine months I'd had enough. I was depressed about the state of my marriage, the kids sensed the tension, and drool was everywhere. It hung from lamp shades, chandeliers, drapery rods and most often, unknowingly, from the back of my head. At one time I owned 17 lint rollers. I called rescue shelters to take him. But each shelter Ben and me in carencouraged me to work with him to properly bond. Eventually he obeyed a couple commands: sit and... Well, ok, maybe he just obeyed one command. But when the boys went back to school that fall, Big Ben and I clicked and became inseparable. 

Sure, he has annoying habits, like drinking out of toilets, snoring louder than a freight train, producing poop larger than sandcastles, and consuming nine cups of food plus five hot dogs a day. He hides his treats all over the house, like a squirrel preparing for winter.  I find string cheese under drapes, hot dogs in sofa cushions, and once I found a three-day-old piece of pizza behind my pillow.

But he loves me. Unconditionally.

He lets me talk for hours, never interrupts, and five minutes later, still gets excited at the sound of my voice. He sticks to his word. He never says he's going to clean the garage and then doesn't do it.  He never commits to cutting the lawn and then watches a ball game instead. And he certainly knows when to keep his mouth shut. If my jeans are a little tight or dinner is a bit late, he never voices his disdain. We don't argue about politics, religion, or who drank the last Diet Coke.

Big Ben on my lapMy divorce required so much change. The kids needed my attention to help work through their anger and anxiety. Not being part of a couple, the dynamics of many friendships changed. Saying goodbye to a beloved home was heartbreaking, and the fear of the unknown seemed to hover over our heads the entire first year. However, one thing never changed. My dog was always by my side. No matter my marital status, my mood, my bank account, my home, my tears, my laughter, my disastrous dates, and the many nights home alone when the boys are with their dad, Big Ben has been next to me.

I don't believe it's a coincidence my boys chose a St. Bernard. St. Bernards are said to instinctively anticipate avalanches and storms. They rescue people who are lost or stuck. Big Ben walked into a doozy when he came to our house. And he rescued me. He continues to remind me that loneliness is a choice. A full life takes many shapes and forms. The Joneses have theirs, and I have mine. The sky is the limit with a companion that provides unconditional love. 

Enjoy the video. And by the way, Big Ben insisted I remind all readers that the camera adds at least 10 pounds.  After viewing it, he said probably more like 15! 

 

 


10 Reasons the Gym Denied My New Year's Resolution Application

Woman with alarm clockI had good intentions for my New Year's resolution. Really good intentions. As a single mom, four years post-divorce, it's time to get back on the proverbial horse. Call it a horse, a rooster or whatever you choose, but it's time for me to get on something.

I decided to get back in shape to avoid being alone for the next decade, so I filled out the membership paperwork at a fancy, schmancy fitness club and awaited their response. In the meantime, I was so serious about this resolution, I shopped online and almost bought a 17-hook-and-eye sports bra made of steel. Turns out I'm not only off the hook; there likely won't be any eyes on me, either. The following arrived in the mail today:

Fitness app 2


A Boy's Life: Talk About The Pits!

When I noticed the incoming call from our elementary school, I knew I had to take it. 

But I never have the guts to answer on the first ring when school calls. I immediately have to take several deep breaths and then mentally run through worst case scenarios. 

"Your son has #4 pencils. We require they each have at least one #2." That wouldn't be bad. I could have some fun with that.

"Your child shouted, 'Beast-mode' at the top of his lungs, ran to the boys' bathroom and announced 'Evacuation imminent' while a family touring the school was in the hall. For safety reasons, ma'am, kids must walk in our hallways."  I could handle that, too. It probably happens in everyone's house. Well, almost everyone's.

"Your child thought his math compass measured circumference and therefore shoved it-- Well, Ms. Testwuide, maybe you should come to the office so we can discuss this." Probably happens all the time. Or, at least a couple times. For sure once.

In the movie, We Bought a Zoo, based on the true story of Benjamin Mee, the main character tells his son, "You know, sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage, just literally 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery, and I promise you, something great will come of it."  

I remember getting a little teary at that point in the movie. I was moved by the father/son inspirational discussion. However, in real life, it's total bullshit. Mr. Mee may have bought a zoo, but he never met our principal. 20 seconds of courage would never be enough. 

I ducked out of the New Parents' Tea at my oldest son's boarding school to take the call.

When my ringer sounded, "Oh, it's nothing," I mouthed to the three women having a conversation next to me, but not with me, about monogram fonts. I continued, basically telling no one, "I'm sure it's nothing...probably just my decorator," and I chuckled at my own snarky joke as I stepped away from the ladies on the terrace for some privacy.

"Hello, this is Liesl." 

"Yes, hello. I hope I'm not catching you at an awkward time, Liesl. I know you're out of town, but we're having a problem here at school. It's kind of embarrassing, but your son is terribly stinky."

"Excuse me? I've got a bad connection. I'm in the Berkshires. Kinky? As in...well, as in kinky?" The other mothers suddenly noticed me and strained their necks my direction. "Did you say my son is terribly kinky?" I repeated.

I hadn't been prepared for that one. My future worse case scenario repertoire was just about to super-size. 

"No, not kinky, Liesl. He's not kinky," she emphasized like I was some freak. "Well, not that I'm aware of anyway. But he's stinky. Really stinky."


Stinky post 2"Ohhhh, he's stinky!" I laughed nervously. "WelI, I suppose at this age stinky beats kinky, right?" The principal didn't laugh. I turned toward the eavesdropping, perfectly-coiffed New England mothers, and did one of those nod-smile-I'll-be-just-another-minute moves with my pointer finger.  

"I know you're traveling in Connecticut, Liesl, but you must get your son deoderant before school Monday. He needs it. He needs it baaaaad."

When I came home, I explained that at this age, bodies go through changes. Boys need to use products. I bought the deoderant, the shower gel, the hair gel, the mouthwash, the you-name-it-I-bought-it-hygiene-product, but honestly, they don't get much use. My boys think maple syrup is a perfecty good substitute for hair gel, so God only knows what they're putting on their arm pits. 

Truth be told, being smelly is kind of a badge of honor around my house.

"Dude, smell my pits."

"You gotta come in here and smell this."

"No, no, Mom. Keep the windows up, it's totally nasty. Awesome."

"I played soccer in the rain, so I don't need a shower. Water's water."

 

Stinky postAbout a week later my son came home and said, 

"Mom, do you know that a lizard can grow another tail if its breaks off?"

"Nope, didn't know that."

"Yeah, it's pretty cool. We learned it in science. It's called asexual regurgitation."

I said, "Honey, I think you mean reproduction. Asexual re-pro-duc-tion."

"Reproduction. Regurgitation. Pretty much the same thing. Whatever."

"Well," I said, "while we're on the subject, do you know what sexual reproduction is?"

He thought for a second and then said, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure it has something to do with poverty."

"Poverty? Really? Where'd you hear that?"

"You know, Mom, poverty:  when you get all hairy, smelly, sleep really late, eat junk food, and then wanna do stuff to have lots of babies."

"Um, I think you mean puberty. Pu-ber-ty. Not poverty."

He quickly changed the subject. Thank God.

"Mom, can I have $15 to go to the movies with some friends? I'm broke."

"Fine," I said, "if you pull out those weeds, I'll give you money for the movies. After that, you need to shower because you're really stinky." 

As he walked away, over his shoulder he said, "See, Mom? Pov-er-ty. Pu-ber-ty. Same thing."

 


Back Where I Belong

Today I returned to the Erma Bombeck Writer's Workshop in Dayton, OH. I came to the three-day conference in 2012 before I started writing Hairpin Turns Ahead. Two years ago, sitting in that first session, I remember thinking, This is where I belong. 

Today I arrived in Dayton, two years later, tired and stressed. It takes so much work to prepare for a trip without kids, I don't even call it a vacation anymore. Halfway through the drive, I realized I forgot the one thing I didn't want to forget -- my business cards.  And while dressing for dinner, I realized I forgot one other thing-- my right shoe -- and unfortunately I had the gaul to take it out on my left shoe.  Feeling fat in my Eileen Fisher, and uncomfortable in my back-up shoes, I finally left the safe haven behind my laptop and headed to dinner to meet my online writer friends in real life.

During the seven-hour drive to Ohio, I reflected on my writing and Hairpin Turns Ahead. In nineteen months, I've written thousands of words, was cast in a Listen To Your Mother show, finished fourth in Blogger Idol and built a loyal following through social media. In addition, I've made a lot of mistakes. And to be perfectly honest, since the new year, I've had trouble finding the funny. I've worried so much about readers liking my posts, that it's paralyzed my writing.   

Quotation-Erma-Bombeck-laughter-courage-humor-tragedy-Meetville-Quotes-34090Lately the most common question I'm asked is, "All this writing you do....so, what's it all for?" Is the writing for me? Is the writing for my readers? Is it for mere entertainment? Is it for some greater good? I'm not sure.

However, there are two things I do know for sure. I need to write. There are words and stories and ideas and just plain kooky thoughts that I need to get out of my head and onto paper. And most importantly, humor is my coping mechanism. When things are uncomfortable, painful, scary, unknown, or upsetting, I rely on humor -- not as a diversion, but as a path to accepting certain truths

Tonight at dinner, our keynote speaker Phil Donohue spoke about his good friend and former Ohio neighbor, Erma Bombeck. He reminded us that Erma wrote the truth about topics that were often full of pretense. She opened the door for American women to be honest about their roles by using humor. And tonight I think Phil Donohue reignited the writing spark in me when he said, "The opportunities to skewer balloons of pretense are everywhere." Thanks, Phil. That was just what I needed to hear. And once again, I found myself thinking, This is where I belong.

 

 


Waiter: Please, Just Give it a Rest

Waiter would you just shut the hell up:
 

Recently my old college roommate, Ann, and I made plans to catch up over dinner.  I hadn’t seen her in years and she was finally going to be in town. I was starving for adult conversation after long days spent fielding unending questions from my kids.

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

“Mom, where’s my catcher’s mitt?”

“Mom, do I have to wear pants just because you’re hosting book club?”

With three sons, I am constantly up to bat, and their pitches come from all directions. However, after years of training, I’ve become a seasoned vet at quick answers.

“You get three hots and a cot. Don’t push it.”

“It’s in the basement, top shelf, next to the pilgrim hat piñata.“

“Yes. Pants are mandatory. That’s my final answer.”

 

Continue reading "Waiter: Please, Just Give it a Rest " »


You CAN Handle the Truth -- Now Go Give a Hug

I've always been drawn to war movies. Platoon, Black Hawk Down, Apocalypse NowThe Thin Red Line. The raw intensity moves me. The grittier, the better. When I re-watch those first 27 minutes of Saving Private Ryan, I still have a visceral reaction. The courage and fear in those boys is palpable as they approach the beaches. I wince knowing their fate. 

I couldn't find anyone to see Lone Survivor with me, so I finally went by myself. 

That's too hard to watch.

Too much violence. 

It's just too real.

Such a downer.

I go to the movies to escape. Teleport me to an alien planet for a couple hours.

To each his own. Yet, for some reason, I embrace that raw reality-- the insanity of war, the pain, the frustration, the anger. I respect it. As a citizen of the world, I actually feel it's my duty to watch these movies. It seems un-American to avoid


them as "too messy." No doubt they're difficult to watch, but our unease seems a small price to pay considering the immense human sacrifice.

I can't change circumstances. I can't erase pain and suffering. And I've certainly learned I can't change history. However, I can bear witness and say, Yeah, that happened. That was real. And it was God-awful. Take note, damn it.

Shelter from the stormThe truth is, every day I'm surrounded by people fighting battles. I don't need a big screen to remind me of the tough realities of life people face daily. No, they are not on a grand scale, like a war, but they are still epic in the true sense of the word --heroic and impressive in quality. I have a friend who has a child addicted to heroin, a parent with a progressive disease, a friend undergoing chemo, a friend who just lost her husband, a neighbor dealing with heart-breaking betrayal, a colleague with a severe special needs child.

 

I know firsthand these battles aren't won or lost in a day, a month, or a year. Often these storms rage for years - alternating between chaos, a new normal, more chaos, another new normal, more chaos, the next new normal and on and on. For many, living day to day in chaos and fear is completely normal. 

 

When bad news is delivered, a tragedy occurs, or an accident happens, resounding support is often close at hand in the form of meals, cards, notes, hugs, flowers, donations -- whatever is needed. I don't have to look far to find little armies of support giving rides, making meals, picking up the phone, sending a note or just sitting and listening. Those are the actions that fortify my soul.

However, over time, support systems can fade. It's not that people don't care. It's just that very few people have the emotional energy or stamina to hang around for the long haul. 

You're STILL dealing with that?

Isn't it time to move on?

I've been meaning to call.

C'mon. It's time you get over it.

Can't you let it rest?

Isn't it over YET?

You still need those meetings?

You still have no ________ (justice, answers, relief, diagnosis, etc.)?!?!?

Supportive friendsWhen there's no quick fix, no light at the end of the tunnel or no sure thing, the momentum of support can die. Let's face it, after a while, some folks just don't want to hear about it anymore. I'm guilty of this. I get wrapped up in my own problems and frustrations and sometimes think I just can't send a card, make a meal, or watch her children. But I need to remember, it's not the size of my offering - it's the offering itself that matters. Sometimes just a few kind words -- the mere acknowledgement of a friend's pain, can send the message: Hey, I know you're going through something tough, but the world hasn't forgotten you. You're situation is not too messy. I'm not avoiding you. I care. I can't fix it, but I got your back, no matter how many years it takes.

No doubt there is too much human suffering in the word today. Let's not be those people who insulate ourselves from it. Let's have the courage and compassion to join the battle, no matter how big or small our contributions. Pick up that phone. Send that note. Make that pot of soup. And give that hug. You can handle the truth. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Dear Friend, Abuse Is Never OK

Dear friend,

First, I want to tell you that you're not alone. You may feel alone. You might think no one else could possibly understand the chaos you endure on a daily basis. But please take heart knowing there are people of all walks of life who understand

Someone you know needs helpyour pain,

your fears,

and your confusion.

Let us help. 

Abuse comes in many forms-- physical, emotional, economic, sexual. Your deepest pain may not be from bruises, neglect, empty bank accounts, broken bones or ruined credit. Your deepest pain is likely caused by the incredible trauma your heart has endured from being repeatedly betrayed by someone you loved and trusted. 

Maybe you've begun to feel like you're crazy, but you're not. If you're in an abusive relationship, it's normal to doubt your own sense of reality. Your abuser may tell you things that fuel your inner confusion. Things like-

"You've got it all wrong."

"I tried to help you."

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Wonder WoMom

My every move is monitored these days. I'm under complete surveillance- my tone of voice, my eating habits, how I like my eggs, the way I load my dishwasher, my Tide-stick-from-handbag reflex, and my half-naked, tippy-toe trips to the laundry room. I know what you're thinking: my mom moved in. Nope.

Think global. Potential international relations implications:  I'm hosting a foreign exchange student. And during the wee hours of the night, under the cover of darkness, reports detailing my actions and habits are relayed via Skype to Frau X. And Frau X, like any other mother, loves her baby, and wants to be sure he is in good hands. 

There are certain requirements one must meet for hosting a foreign student. I must provide wi-fi, a private sleeping area, a decent selection of video games, unlimited mini-corn dogs, Pop Rocks, a skateboard, CNN, and toilet paper. But that only scratches the

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Videos Released: Drum Roll, Please!

 

Sure, my boys get a bit embarrassed having a writer as their mom, but I think they secretly like creating great material for me. Trust me, they keep it comin'. And when I recently did a live reading of my favorite piece, "I've Got Something In My Pocket" about boys and their underwear, in Ann Imig's 2013 Listen To Your Mother production in

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My Dad Led Me Out On A Limb


Dad and me little
My dad and me in 1968.

My dad likes to live on the edge, and he raised me to feel comfortable out on a limb, too.

 My dad always says, "Rules are meant to be broken."  It drove my mom a little crazy, but I know what he meant. If someone tells you no, find another way.  Think out of the box. Don't let others tell you something can't be done. 

My dad always says, "C students rule the world." That didn't go over well with my mom either, but I know what he meant. Be a well-rounded person who can carry herself in the real world. Meet people. Know people. Don't spend your life in a carrel at the library studying theories. Get out there, experience life and do stuff.

My dad always says, "Do your own thing. Don't follow the crowd." That was a hard one for me. I wish I woud have followed this advice earlier in my life. But I wanted to fit in, while my dad urged me to stand out. Thankfully as an adult, I have come around and found it's a lot more exhilarating and fulfilling to forge a fresh path.

My dad always says, "The early bird gets the worm."  I still tune that one out. I don't want a worm - not even laced with tequila. 

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Bark Less, Wag More


Ben near bath

It's a bad sign when I'm on a date and I miss my dog.  If I look forward to drooly, droopy jowls, rather than Mr. Comb-over's kiss, it's time to call a cab. Don't get me wrong, I love men. It's just that in a lot of cases, I love my dog more.

This wasn't always the situation. I was a confirmed cat person for years. However, heading for divorce and in need of some serious extra credit to get into Catholic Heaven, I promised my sons they could have a dog. After researching breeds with the shortest life span, 6-8 years max. (I had no intention of living with another mistake for 15

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I'm So Mad, I Must Run

Long ago I decided running would not be my sport. I tried it. I didn't like it. Bad outfits. Too much sweat. Too much jiggle. So running joined my long list of Never-Agains, with the likes of tequila, Jägermeister, Marlboro reds, eating Taco Bell while driving, and Alberto VO5.

Running shoes

As my friends hit the big 4-0, one by one, they started to run 5Ks, do tough mudders, and train for mini-triathlons. "Join us" they'd say. Yeah, right, sure wish I could, but I must get started on the hazelnut gelato in my fridge. Promised myself I'd finish it by tomorrow. I always follow through.

Actually I had loads of excuses:  

"My boobs are too big for running. You wouldn't understand. You barely have boobs. Is that from running? I don't want these girls to droop to my muffin top prematurely."

 "I don't want my nipples to scab up and fall off like frozen warts."

"Listen, you gals can run all you like, but I've got grave concerns about leaving my uterus (splat!) in the cul-de-sac. Wouldn't be neighborly. I've gotta take care of these lady parts.  At some point they may see action again."

"When I'm 65, I want my butt in a hammock, not my bladder."

"Hey, I'm divorced. If I ran, I don't even know what would fall out of my vagina. It hasn't been used in so long, it'd be like a mini antiques roadshow."

Trial run in my shoes- edited
At the store giving my boobs and the shoes a trial run.

Eventually my friends stopped bugging me, and I gained 20 pounds from divorce comfort food in peace. If they asked me today, I couldn't run if I wanted. I wouldn't need a funny excuse. I could be honest. "Hey girls, would love to run, but I'm just too fat."  

But over the last two years, I've watched a good friend lose over 100 pounds through diet and exercise. She ran a lot and still does. So as I looked over my spring wardrobe and remembered none of it even fit last year, I decided it was time for shopping change. Inspired by my friend, I invited her to lunch (she: salad, me: not). She insisted that running hadn't caused anything embarrassing to fall out of her vagina in public. And since I like to eat, she convinced me to give running another try.

A week later, I was "outfitted."  I had the shoes, the tights, the bra, the headband. I was set.  And then Thursday passed... and I didn't run.  And then Friday... And of course, the weekend is never a good time to start anything new. 

Sports brasMonday was THE day. I put on my gear and I ran. I felt empowered from having the courage to take those steps. Try something new. Risk looking stupid. Risk feeling old. But in all aspects, the run energized me.

My industrial steel bra, with its nine hook and eye closures, was so damn tight, my boobs didn't bob.  My tights, like sausage casings, secured my lady parts. All bodily fluids and organs stayed put. I left no trail of urine. My nipples didn't chafe.

 

I ran. I survived. I was safe. I felt alive. 

And then I turned on the news.  

I heard news of the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  I was stunned and then the irony hit me. I begrudgingly began my running journey the exact day others were prematurely forced to end theirs. Deaths. Amputations. Brain injuries. Burns. Who could imagine getting blown up or losing a leg while out for a run? Such evil acts can't even be anticipated. As good people, we don't have the capacity to imagine such horror.

I'll never be a marathon runner. In truth, I'll never even be a runner. Yet each day I'm grateful for still having the ability to chafe my nipples and leave a trail of urine through my neighborhood. 

 

 


Don't Dis My Kid

Recently my sons and I waited patiently in a restaurant.  Let me clarify. Patiently = the boys made pyramids with creamers on their heads, had sword fights with knives and said at least 39 times,

“Mom, I’m starrrrrving.”                                                           

“Mom, I’m dying here."

“Mom, totally parched... need wa - t e r..."

Servers buzzed by. Didn’t notice the wielding knives, incredible cranium creamer buildings or the “hi-yaaa” karate-chop sound effects. Eventually patience turned to impatience.  My oldest wrote S.O.S. on his placemat, made a paper airplane, and launched it toward the sky. My youngest fake stabbed himself, fell to the floor and proclaimed, "There...is...another...Sky...walk...er."  

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Jesus, Jammies, and Norman Rockwell

As a divorced, single mother, I feel the need to create new traditions for our reconfigured family.  It's a last ditch effort to provide my sons with some happy-normal-we-all-get-along memories of their childhoods.  Some traditions, like decorating Christmas cookies together, have been a hit.  And some, like the Elf on the Shelf, have been a bust.

JesusA few years ago, I felt our Easter weekend traditions were weak. Sunday was full. Every year we hunted for Easter baskets, went to church, and then had a ham dinner at my aunt and uncles's home. but Friday and Saturday were thin.

However, Friday and Saturday were a little thin. Therefore, one day in the checkout line at Office Max, everyone's go-to place for hit movies, I picked up Jesus starring Jeremy Sisto. My Norman Rockwell Easter weekend began to take shape. On Good Friday, I envisioned us curled up on the sofa in our jammies, bellies full of perch, completely engrossed in Jesus, the movie. No arguing. No name-calling. No electronic devices. Just peace, quiet, and Jesus. In fact, because my fantasy seemed so ideal, I had already decided that Jesus from Office Max would be a Good Friday family tradition for years to come.  

On Friday, after threatening to take away the XBOX and ban them from Minecraft for eternity, I finally bribed them with popcorn to gather on the sofas in their jammies to watch Jesus. My Norman Rockwell fantasy sons were a tad bit more excited about the movie.

My fantasy sons said:

Wait for me!

C'mon, Mom, we'll make the popcorn for you. Just put your feet up. 

I know we haven't even watched this movie yet, but I hope we can watch it every year. Can we, Mom? Can we?"


Stop playing video gamesMy actual sons took a different approach:

“Seriously, Mom, if there are talking vegetables in this movie, I'm outta here."  

“Indiana Jones suffers and has a whip. Why can't we just watch that?"

"They pooped in pails back then, right?"

Eventualy we settled in to watch Jesus. And as Jesus was brutally whipped by the Romans, one by one, they snuggled a little closer.

“I don’t want Jesus to die.”

“Why are people just standing there?"

"Don't they see he's a good guy?”

In silence, they watched a struggling, bloody Jesus carry his cross through the crowd and up the hill. As nails were driven through his hands, I noticed a few tears in the boys' eyes. As Jesus hung on the cross, clearly in pain, more tears streamed.

They demanded answers:

“Why won’t God save his son?”

“Why won't someone do something?”

And not unexpected, "He's totally in pain. What if he's got to go to the bathroom up there? That'd be awkward.”

I had originally envisioned my Norman Rockwell fantasy sons moved and touched by the movie, but certainly not as moved and touched as my actual sons had become. I was unprepared for their strong reactions. Had this been a mistake? Would they have nightmares for weeks? They sobbed as Jesus suffered on the cross. I thought, how long is this death scene going to last? My kids are sobbing for Christ's sake. Geezus, Jeremy-Sisto-playing-Jesus, just die already to save my sons.

And that's exactly what he did. 

Augie in jammiesAt the end, we moved to the kitchen. His mouth stuffed with banana cake, my middle son asked, “Mom, do they make Jesus jammies? I want some. Jesus was tough.”

I, too, was stirred by the movie, but even more from the reactions of my children. My oldest looked at me thoughtfully and quietly said, “Jesus’s friends were lucky. They got to see him after he rose from the dead. We just have to believe.”  

My youngest was unsure, “I think we might be luckier than Jesus’s friends. We've got toilets.”

Yep. It’s a keeper.


Yep, You Should Probably Listen To Your Mother, Too

Mom and LieslMy mother and I were born opposites. She's a Felix and I'm an Oscar.

Growing up, I'd consciously do the exact opposite of what she suggested. If she said, "Boy Liesl, your natural hair color is so pretty," I'd dye it darker and darker. If she said, "You know, Liesl, you'd look nice with long hair,"  I'd cut it short. My experimental asymmetrical look almost sent her over the edge. When she'd mention, "Skirts are so flattering on you," I'd wear my Guess jeans with pockets up and down each leg (I could fit 9 beers in those jeans). And when she said, "Liesl, if you'd wear a bit of a heel, it'll give you a nice long, slimming leg,"  I'd put on my hiking boots with the bright red laces. 

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Alone for Christmas?

In about an hour I'm heading to Christmas mass alone.  I'll see families gather, little girls in their holiday dresses, little boys with wet hair, trying to keep a stubborn cowlick down. I admit, it's hard to watch. My little boys are in a different city with their father.  It will be this way every Christmas Eve so I need to learn to accept this new normal. God, I hope he wet down their hair.

Lonely woman at christmasDespite the holiday ads, TV music specials and festive decorations, the holidays can be the loneliest time of year for many. The pressure to be happy and excited can be overwhelming! If I think about past years or the way I imagined the holidays would be I get emotional. I get all wound up in what I thought life would be and that precludes me from the ability to just stay in the moment and be grateful for what I do have. 

If you are alone this holiday, without friends or family, the good news is that like any other day, Christmas is just 24 hours. When I break things down into 24 hour increments and remind myself to stay in the moment -- not focus on how I want the moment to be, or how it used to be, I can make it through. Admittedly, sometimes I need to break it down further and focus on getting through hour by hour. Nevertheless, knowing the day will pass in 24 hours, just like all the other days that have come before it, helps me weather emotional holidays. 

If you are feeling alone, just know that you are one of many feeling that way today. It's normal. No, I'm not a psychiatrist, but I'm human and therefore speak from experience. It's ok not to dance around with scissors and scotch tape singing, "Fa-la-la-la-la..."  In fact, that's just plain weird. This time of year, I believe it's most important to take good care of myself, so when those happy moments come my way, I'll be healthy and ready to enjoy them, thus no scissors-dancing.  

 Hey-- Merry Christmas. Hang in there.  And remember: you are not alone.

 

 


God Bless Our Mess on the Anniversary of Sandy Hook

Crazy boys

Written December 14, 2012 following the mass murder at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT.  Reposted December 14, 2019 for the fifth anniversary. My heart continues to be heavy: for those who will forever mourn, for the gratitude I have for time with my children, and with frustration that so many more continue to lose their lives as a result of gun violence.

 

 

The last couple days my sons were with their father and the house was quiet.  I found myself repeatedly walking in and out of their bedrooms, just to feel close to them.

There were underwear, socks, shoes, Lego figures, Webkinz, jeans, shin guards, and sheet music strewn about their bedroom floors. Clean and folded laundry, yet to be put away the previous week, was gathering dust. I found pistachio shells, an empty juice box carton, and Popsicle sticks under one bed. Under another, I discovered a crumpled blue sport coat, two overdue library books and my missing phone charger.

In the bathroom, the floor was nearly covered. Underwear. One damp towel. A Hardy Boys mystery. A massive hamper sat less than an arm’s length away. Toothpaste streaked the countertop. Dixie cups arranged in a pyramid and dental floss wrapped intricately around the empty toilet paper holder were clear signs they needed a magazine rack. The spatters on the mirror made me smile. I knew they were a result of laughter as they brushed their teeth. 

No doubt it was a bit of a mess, but I loved it. I savored it. In that moment, I took pleasure being surrounded by the messiness of childhood humanity. I walked back in the room of my youngest child, just 8, crawled under his covers, bruised my butt on a light saber and closed my eyes. I prayed for all the families in Newtown, CT, and humbly gave thanks for receiving the gift of more time on this earth to relish the disarray of being the mother of three boys.

Bring on the chaos

 

 


Embrace Adventure? Easy For You To Say, Helen Keller

Woman as super hero

 

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all” according to Helen Keller. Yeah, sure, easy for her to say.  Ok, I take that back.  Probably not so easy for her to say. But let’s be honest, just finding the ladies’ room was likely an adventure for Helen Keller.

I’ve had plenty of adventure in my life.  Waking up on a park bench in Monte Carlo with my passport (and a few chips) tucked safely in my underpants. Jumping on a handsome stranger’s motorcycle in Greece to get to a nightclub open even later.   Finding myself alone on an empty, docked ferry, unsure of which country’s port I had reached and when. I could go on, but I think you get the unfocused picture.

I’m pretty sure Helen Keller wasn’t advocating blackouts when she referred to daring adventures.  Perhaps she was encouraging people to live without fear; to take risks despite our vulnerability.  But let's be honest, Helen Keller never had to hear a biting, “I told you so.”  I’m not saying there are benefits to being deaf and blind, ok? So don’t pull that quote from this piece.  But there's no doubt it’s easier on the ego to fall, fail, or make a fool of one's self when we don’t see eyes rolling or hear a crushing “Duh. Did you seriously think that would work, anyway?"

 

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Attitude of Hurry, Dude!

The time between Halloween and mid-November is a blur.  I moved so fast on auto-pilot from one event to the next.  Book reports, soccer games, hockey practice, Cub Scouts, play practices, math meets, guitar lessons, piano lessons, drum lessons, haircuts, shopping for winter jackets, snow pants, boots...  I need to slow down.  Take a breath. Smell a rose, or at least not another stinky sock.

No time of year is more fitting to reflect and savor life than November, the month dedicated to gratitude.  And do I have an attitude of gratitude? Nope. I'm completely focused on myself:  my lists, my drama, my kids, my life and all the sh*t I need to accomplish between now and January 1st.  I've seen your gratitude lists on Facebook

 

and overheard grocery cart wheelfriends' conversations about feeling thankful for the people and things in their lives.  I have friends with parents in the hospital, friends recovering from knee replacement surgery, friends who have lost loved ones.  Where am I?  I’m like a whirling dervish with a jet pack, covered in Sharpie and Sticky Notes. And I'm going to get it all done, dammit, just watch me.

Yesterday I walked in the grocery store and I couldn't wait to get the hell out of there. There I was, in the middle of America, probably the safest place on Earth, with a wad of twenties in my pocket, able to buy all Beansthe food I wanted. Did I take a moment to be thankful? Did I savor the fact I can provide nourishment for my growing boys? Nope. I swore loudly for choosing a cart with a string-wrapped, uncooperative wheel. Then under my breath, I cursed other shoppers who had the gall to be there and potentially get in my way. 

My crooked cart and I cringed at the endless aisles of food.  Was I grateful for the abundance of available sustenance? Nope,  I was completely annoyed there was so much food.  There are folks starving, having to butcher their goats or pets. And I was up in arms about having to choose some foods over others. Decisions about green beans: fresh, organic, canned, frozen, french-style, whole, cut, mixed with wax, with almonds, without almonds, pickled...

The bread aisle put me over the edge: white, wheat, rye, oat, potato, 7-grain, 8-grain, 12 grain, whole grain, whole grain wheat, whole grain white, split top, flat top, carrot top, Hawaiian, Italian, Texas-style, with raisins, without raisins, reduced-fat, added calcium... Clean up in aisle eight, because I'm going to lose my sh*t.

  Bread aisle

The onset of the holidays makes me anxious. I'm on a schedule, folks. The mother ahead of me with a booger-covered-crying toddler and 75 coupons...  Jesus, for the sake of time management, coupons should be confiscated from parents with annoying children.  The checker with so many body piercings?  Not cool.  I wasn't going to let Vampire Girl check my eggs for cracks. And did I feel sorry for the sap dressed as a turkey handing out deli samples? I ran over his foot on the way out.  This ain't free range buddy, pedestrians rule.

Only when I disengage from the rat-race of the world, am I truly able to reflect and be thankful for all I have in my life. Two years ago, what I thought to be my white-picket-fence-dream blew up in my face;  divorce, custody battle, 20 pounds of comfort food weight gain and a fear of the future that is indescribable. Without the help of family, old friends, new friends, teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, and the kindness of strangers, I'd still be hiding in my bathrobe, dreading the future.

I'm also thankful to you, readers, for your encouragement, enthusiasm, clever comments and inspiring personal notes.  With such a huge network of support, I know I can face any hairpin turn that comes my way, no matter how many turkeys cross my path.

But let's be clear.  Between now and January 1st, when I'm on a self-proclaimed, serious mission, like buying one last roll of scotch tape, or running out last minute for more AA batteries, if you're driving too slowly ahead of me, I'll likely tailgate, beep obnoxiously, and then give you one of those WTF gestures because I need to get through my list. I apologize in advance,  I really do.  So in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd be grateful if you wouldn't flip me the bird if my children are in the car.


My Acceptance Letter for Project Divorcée, Season One!

Dear Ms. Testwuide,

Congratulations!  You have been selected as a contestant to appear on the inaugural season of Project Divorcée.  Modeled after the successful Project Runway series, Executive Producer, Heidi Klum, has decided to try her recently ringless hand, at a new reality show. Project Divorcée will pit women at their lowest point against one another, in order to win a prize package by further losing their dignity.  

We have reviewed your audition tape and processed your application. We feel you embody the perfect mixture of bitterness, apathy, and vengeance. When combined with your delicate emotional state and raging sugar addiction, you make a perfect reality TV character.  

Too tight jeans

We feel your too-tight-sized-14-mom-jeans, high likelihood of developing Type II Diabetes during production, and constant collection agency calls for unpaid therapists' bills will make you an instant fan favorite.

Your file was missing some paperwork. We require all divorce lawyer’s bills be sent to our offices to authenticate your eligibility. We recognize shipping is costly. We understand the pure poundage of your particular legal bills has reduced your transportation options to ground service only. We thank you for chartering a train to transport these documents.

The winner of Project Divorcée will receive $25,000 for Vaginal Rejuvenation, a Lifestyle Lift , a set of Glamor Shots, and a one year supply of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream created exclusively for our show, Manic Xanax. 

Please sign the enclosed documents agreeing to the following:

  1. Continue your diet of saturated fats, high fructose corn syrup, refined sugars and any recipes by Paula Deen.
  2. Purchase a clean bathrobe as it appears from your audition tape to be your signature wardrobe piece. A silk robe with shoulder pads, high slit, and no middle zipper may make you more palatable to male viewers rather than your current Cheeto-stained fleece.

Unlike Project Runway, contestants for Project Divorcée are informed of their weekly challenges in advance in order to schedule therapy sessions as needed. The first challenge requires contestants to don pre-divorce evening dresses that still fit. "Fits" is defined as "zippers to top while contestant breathes continuously." Contestants will then attend a couples’ cocktail party solo. You will be judged on your ability to smile, engage in friendly banter, and remark "I'm so happy for you," at least ten times during the evening. The winner of challenge one will receive two Ambien and be allowed to spend the next 24 hours in bed.

We look forward to your arrival in Allentown, PA for the first season of Project Divorcée.

Sincerely,

Myles Seabrunner and Barton Winkler

Associate Producers

Project Divorcée

 

 


I Bet You're On Fire, Too

Over the years I've chosen theme songs for my life.   Everyone does this, right?  I mean, I can't be the only one who imagines walking in the door of any party, meeting, interview or parent-teacher conference carrying a boom box blaring my personal theme song to drown out my self-doubt and your critical eye. Thankfully Apple has made this scenario a lot less awkward with the invention of iPods and ear buds.

PlatformsWhen I filed for divorce, it's no surprise my theme song was "I Will Survive." Gloria Gaynor knocks it out of the park.  I went to the vintage store, purchased platformed disco shoes and bedazzled the crap out of them.  Not only do they lift my spirits, but man, they look good.

When the boys and I moved out of the long-time marital residence, my song was definitely from The Mary Tyler Moore Show: "You're gonna make it after all...." Can't you hear it now?  "Who can turn the world on with her smile..."

After putting on my screens at the new house, I was so impressed with myself, I couldn't resist doing an MTM (standard move of mine - throw hat in air, smile MTMand spin.)  Without a doubt, my sons thought I was nuts.  But in my head, I was feeling Mary-Tyler-Moore-screw-you-Mr.-Grant-take-no-sh*t-conquer-the-world-on-my-own vibes. And who can't use a little dose of that every day?

Unfortunately, self-destructive thoughts creep in my brain and camp out.  After receiving negative messages from a spouse for well over a decade, I believed them to be true. Even worse, it became natural to think that way.  If only I was prettier, thinner, smarter, richer.... Oh, you're right, sorry to bother you with my ridiculous thoughts, you've had a long day at a real job... Absolutely, you know best. What do I know?  You get the picture - and it's not a pretty one.

As a rational person (and after a lot of therapy) I know those negative messages are false. My opinions matter. I am smart. Changing my hair color, whitening my teeth or having bigger boobs won't make me more worthy of love. I'm already worthy.

But here's the kicker:  even though my brain knows those messages are false, my body operates on instinct.  When reminded of a past negative message like, "Do not call me, text me or email me at work;  I have paying clients that are way more important than you," my body automatically has a visceral reaction. I physically feel anxiety, loss of breath, and the sensation of being punched in my gut.  

The worst part is, instincts are hard to retrain.  After having the habit of being on the defensive for so long, I am amazingly skilled at interpreting things negatively and not feeling worthy of others' time.  And then what happens?  The old tapes in my head start to play: If only I were... You are right, that was a ridiculous idea...I am sorry I bothered you.

In summer I saw the movie, We Bought a Zoo, in which a father gives his son some words of advice and inspiration. He says:  "You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it."  

You might wonder, how do we muster that twenty seconds of insane courage?  Get yourself a theme song. 

When I've got my theme song playing loudly in my head, it overrides the self-doubt, negativity and fear.  I get a I-don't-give-a-rat's-ass-that-I've-got-a-run-in-my-tights-and-screw-the-man-I-like-who-doesn't-feel-the-same-toward-me-and-yes-dammit-I-do-look-good-with-dog-drool-on-my-boob attitude. I don't have a glamorous life. I don't have a full social calendar. My jeans are too tight. I have fines at the public library. I'm lonely. I spend way too much time at Kwik Trip.

But with Alicia Keys in my head, there is no room for negativity and self-doubt.   As seen in my music video below, her words and music have the power to bring out the positive from deep within.   My overly-sensitive-average-single-mom-life makes me feel like a "Girl on Fire."  Just click the play button and enjoy.  I bet you've got some fire in you, too!

 

 

 


Fitness Club, Schmitness Flub

Dr scholls finalSince I pray that some day, some one will want to be naked with me again, I was encouraged to stop in a local fitness center and fill out an application form. I've posted it below. Sorry it's tough to read. I shouldn't open the mail when my blood sugar is low (which is pretty much never since 9,072Thin Mints were just delivered to my house.)  

Health form final 1
Health form fianl 2


72 Hours to Get Ready For a Date? Yep, at Age 45.

Since I am recently divorced, my friends have nudged me to get back out there and date. Out where? I ask.  I mean, there is not a strong market for the 45-year-old-non-drinking-stay-at-home-mother-of-three-sons demographic – or as I like to call it, “the three penis package deal,” but I have been willing to give it a try.

Friends suggested I try Match.com, eHarmony or HookUpsForMoms. I’ve given a couple of these sites a shot, but to be honest, I just don’t have the energy. In fact, I almost fell asleep on my last date.  Don’t get me wrong, the date was hardly boring; he was an engineer, funny, handsome, grown children – the total package.

The problem is that at 45, it takes me 72 hours to get ready for a date.  By the time he picks me up, I’m ready for a good night kiss.  The days of preparing for a date by adding a second pair of shoulder pads, a half can of Shaper hairspray and my ID are long gone.

72 hours. Can you fathom how long 72 hours is?  It’s twice as long as my kids are in school for a whole week and longer than one of Britney Spears’s marriages. In other words, one little date is a serious time investment all designed to look like it took no time at all! 

 

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I Pledge a Redux to my Sags

Over the last few weeks, just like you, I have spent hundreds of dollars buying school supplies I never needed as a kid.  Strange things like hand sanitizer, entire reams (500 sheets!) of paper and $100 calculators.  I've ordered the Lands' End school uniforms and in a moment of weakness purchased trendy, expensive shoes that will likely not fit any of my sons in six weeks.  

The fridge has been organized.  The take-out containers have been tossed.  Single- Best back to school pic everserving, processed foods I can launch into lunch bags in a fury are stacked high. Each son has received his "back to school" haircut and we have had another lesson on the importance of deodorant.

In addiiton, I've washed my pink, fuzzy bathrobe so I will look presentable driving the kids to school.  It would be beyond embarrassing to have a car accident in a robe covered in chocolate ice cream stains and Cheeto-finger swipes. All in all, I'm feeling pretty prepared for the new school year.

The annual ritual of getting kids ready for school always sparks a desire within me to become more organized, more productive and just get my act  together all around.  The sight of glossy folders, the quick huff off a Sharpie, and the perfectly tipped crayons make me want to label stuff.  But just for a fleeting second.  I ponder properly filing things. I could fish my passport out of the filmy make up drawer and glide it smoothly into a crisp file folder marked "travel" or maybe just "P."  But that feeling passes too, content knowing my passport is safely tucked next to a jar of wax. And since I probably won't need either for a while, why mess up a system that works?

In the past years of experiencing the turmoil of divorce, even armed with the best of intentions, already by the Thursday after Labor Day, my urge to organize, lose weight, and get a bit of exercise, seems to die as easily as slow flies in August.  

But this school year is going to be different.   Not only are my kids going to learn all kinds of math stuff I won't even be able to fake understand, I, too, am going to make forward progress. Newly divorced, I'm no longer in a holding pattern, wondering if I should stay or go.  The tough stuff is behind me and the living is ahead. 

Therefore, on this first day of school, as all students across America will recite the Pledge of Allegiance, I, too shall make a pledge to get my divorce-comfort-food-cherry-pie-very-large-ass off the sofa to declare my goal for the school year.  If you've been "on hold" and let yourself go, come on, get up and say it with me:

"I pledge a redux to my sags and the bloated state of Abdomenia.  And to my stomach... that bitch which expands:  deflation, smaller bod, irresistible with dignity.... til the jugs start to fall."

 

 


Up in Smoke

I'm tossing my life's plans out the window.  For dramatic effect, I'm going to light them on fire, blast "Chariots of Fire" and watch the ashes drift slowly to the ground. I'll only need the ringtone version since I live in a ranch, but the fiery ball of frustration will be something to behold nonetheless.

You see my friends, I need freedom from expectations. I've come to realize that the fewer plans I make, the better, because very few things actually turn out as I expect. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining.  No sir-eeee.  I mean, I've attached a lot of high expectations to a lot of crummy plans.  

In college I set out to be an International Relations major simply because I rocked a trench coat.  Truth be told, I didn't actually take into account it was a white, patent leather trenchcoat, had massive shoulder pads and squeaked when I walked. But a spy has to look good, right comrade?   But alas, I failed Russian, Mr. Gorbachev tore down that wall, and my asymmetric hairstyle grew out.

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