Entries categorized "Divorce"

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.

 

 

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Parents: Start Laboring Now for a Seemingly Labor-less Labor Day


DSC08554Labor Day weekend, the last glimpse of summer, is right around the corner. For control freaks like me, Labor Day weekend actually requires a great deal of labor to appear labor-less for the broods we love. It's an iconic American holiday marking the end of summer, so there’s serious pressure to have the most family fun EVER. I’m talking idyllic, Norman-Rockwell-painting-fun. Kennedy-Camelot-football-tossing-fun. Corn-on-the-cob-lobster-salad-and-peach-pie-buffets-appearing-out-of-thin-air-fun. You get the picture.

This very minute, tightly-wired moms are maneuvering grocery carts at dangerously high speeds and ticking items off their iPhone list faster than the average man could read it. Coolers, koozies and kites are loaded for their final summer outing, while school shoes and soccer cleats rest quietly in the corner 'til Tuesday.

Concerned not enough fun is planned for the weekend, or worried too many Uno cards are missing from the deck, anxious parents scurry to purchase last minute Mad Libs and Bananagrams for the road trips, and insanely fork out cash for that unsightly PVC pipe game involving nunchuck golf balls.

True perfectionists desperately Google Martha Stewart articles regarding not only how to pack the perfect picnic, but how to embellish it as well, because nothing says family fun like a blingy, decoupaged, origami picnic basket.

On a previous Labor Day getaway to Chicago as a single parent, I left nothing to chance. I created a detailed itinerary to maximize fun for my three sons: the John Hancock Building, Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier, Chicago-style pizza, Nike on Michigan Avenue, a steakhouse, shopping at 900 Michigan and tickets to Mary Poppins.

IMG_0055Sure, my boys thought some initial sights were interesting, but beyond the bullet-proof divider in an old taxi, they weren’t wowed. I began to think they were a tough crowd to please. However, just when I thought the trip was a fail, they began to show enthusiasm for the magic of the city.

On the quaint carriage ride back to our hotel after Mary Poppins, the boys oohed and ahhed over the horse’s steamy dump. Ten minutes before, Mary Poppins had flown over our heads in a twinkling starlit theater. I mean, she seriously flew, umbrella in hand, and all. The boys gave flying Mary Poppins a raised eyebrow and nod. Splattered horse shit on a city street received a standing ovation, an obnoxious “Yeah, baby” and a “We love you, Chicago!”

In the Nike store I lost all three. Filled with panic, I hoped I’d see them, around each corner, arms heavy with merchandise. Instead, I spotted my boys two stories up, riding the escalators. “Hey-“ I shouted, “if you guys aren’t gonna try on any shoes, let’s move on to the next thing on my list.” Only to hear in response, “Mom! Escalators! We’re on an escalator! This is awesome! Can we ride a little longer?” I quietly mumbled, "Yeah, we don't git to the city often" and covered my “Appalachia is for Families” t-shirt. 

At the top of the John Hancock Tower, my youngest son announced, “You guys GOTTA check out the urinals in this bathroom. Come on!” They admired the Chicago skyline for three minutes and the public restrooms for ten.

Mary PoppinsThe pricey steakhouse did impress. “Mom, you picked a great place. The restroom is awesome. Huge peppermints are floating in the urinals. Did you know you can even pay a guy to watch you pee here? Seriously. They have combs you can keep.” Yes, well, along with the free matches, that’s why the guidebook recommended it, boys.

To parents who want to provide a memorable Labor Day weekend for your children, I wish you well. After you vacuum the minivan, drop the dog at the kennel, and hunt down one damn DVD that isn’t scratched to death, you might want to toss out your laminated itinerary, bedazzle your noise-reducing headphones and prepare for Plan B. 

In the meantime, I’ll be at home charting our next family vacation: the Public Restroom Tour of America. 

 

 

Liesl Testwuide, publisher of the website Hairpin Turns Ahead, uses humor and humility to write about navigating life’s twists, turns, and inevitable changes.  A divorced mom of three, she has come to accept that even though her white-picket-fence life blew up in her face, it was the best thing to happen to her.  Follow Liesl on FacebookPinterest,and Twitter.


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! 

 

 


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."

Continue reading "Dear Friend, Abuse Is Never OK" »


Alone for the Holiday? You're Not Alone

As a divorced parent, I dread the holidays my children spend with their dad. When other families are going to church, gathering around the table and sharing stories, my loneliness is indescribable. Even if I'm a welcome guest at a gathering, I'm lonely. It’s painful to watch other families be together and not know what my children are doing.

A couple years ago there was a billboard in town that read: “Divorce is contagious. Don’t catch it.” Driving past one day, my 9 year-old asked, “Is that true, Mom? You caught the divorce?”

“Yep, that’s why I tell you to never sit on public toilet seats,” I said. 

The ridiculous message “Divorce is contagious” is akin to telling my kids our family was unlucky – like getting stuck next to the kid with the gooey eye in reading group, or being sent home from school with lice after sharing a piano bench with Bedbug Barry in music.   

Our divorce, on the other hand, was no accident. It didn’t happen because we had a compromised immune system and ate at a Sizzler. Quite the contrary, our divorce was a decision I made after years of sober consideration, thousands of dollars spent on marriage counseling and two years of sleepless nights on the couch.

Unintentionally people make ridiculous comments: “That’s kinda nice to have every other weekend to yourself.” I think, you're not divorced. You can't fathom the empty feelings I get walking past clean bedrooms, living in deafening silence and not tripping over soccer balls. I’m a parent. I chose to have children because I wanted to raise them. I didn't check the part-time parenting box. So when a billboard looms overhead like a black cloud and sends the message to my kids, that if only their mom had used her high heel to flush the toilet at the Kwikie Mart, this all could have been avoided, I get kind of upset.


Mr-bean-turkeyIn 2010, James H. Fowler released a study called “Breaking Up is Hard to Do, Unless Everyone Else is Doing it Too” which claimed divorce is contagious.  What a turkey!  Although the study received a lot of hype and media attention upon release, (Fowler sat on the couch at the Today show and Good Morning, America) all the hoopla was premature. The truth is, it was only hoopla, as Fowler’s study remains unproven. The study still hasn't passed the peer review process, has never been published in a scientific journal, and has since come under increased criticism and attacks from colleagues.  M
aybe I'll erect a billboard that announces, "Being a self-righteous asshole is contagious."  I'd sure love to sit on the couch with Hoda and Savannah.

Sleeping feetWhen children are involved, divorce is rarely an easy decision, but rather, one that is toiled over for months and possibly years. Having to live apart from one's children for any length of time is devastating. Not being together for birthdays or holidays physically hurts. Unless you've been through it, it's hard to fathom.  

I get it. I feel your pain. A couple days ago I ironed my boys' shirts, packed their fancy shoes and belts, so they'd look nice for the holiday with their dad and his family. I'm not there to make sure their shirts are tucked in or to smooth their hair with my spit. And sometimes the loss feels like it will tear me in two.

However, I will make it through the day. It's just 24 hours, like any other day. Besides, it's the one day emotional eating gets a get-out-of-jail-free card.

So if you're not with the ones you love today, please know you're not alone. 

 Besides words of comfort, I offer these coping tips*:

  1. Wear sweatpants. You might as well be comfortable while your family whispers in the kitchen about your poor choices. 
  2. Think of others. Call someone else who may be alone today. Although you don't feel like doing a good deed, it will make you feel better. I promise.
  3. If you're around people, be generous with the hugs. They're cheap medicine. 

                    

*Liesl Testwuide is not a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist, or board certified in any field for that matter.  However, she sometimes wears glasses which make her look smart, and, like a doctor, she has poor penmanship. 


Every Dog Has His Day

(This post was written for Week #1 of Blogger Idol in 2013. The challenge:  Introduce yourself to the Blogger Idol audience by writing your own eulogy. )

 

Hey folks-

Big Ben with remote control
I'm so depressed after Liesl's death, I don't even want my own reality TV series anymore.

I never imagined I’d stand before you at Liesl’s funeral. Since I’m a 150-pound St. Bernard, you likely never expected it either. By the way, sorry for sniffing your crotches as you arrived. My OCD (odoriferous crotch disorder) acts up in a crowd.

Liesl’s three sons asked me, Big Ben, her long-time companion, to remember her on their behalf. It's true I'm just a dog, but I knew her better than most and loved her dearly.

I found Liesl, a.k.a. Sleazel (the 80s), That Mess In a Dress (pre-sobriety), or Hurricane Liesl, with her hand still clutching a Diet Coke, dead on her office floor. She drowned beneath a raging sea of divorce lawyer bills. Although I attempted CPR, my excessive drool made matters worse, so I licked her face, and laid beside her.

Liesl may have been Wisconsin’s only lactose intolerant, recovering alcoholic resident. Rumor has it she attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison in a complete blackout for seven years and still graduated with an English degree, but that was way before my time. On a recent trip to Madison, the boys told me Liesl said, "I'm not really sure where the library is..." as they walked past the library.

After college, Liesl followed the Australian boyfriend she had known all of three weeks to San Francisco. Always up for adventure, she applied to the San Francisco Fashion Design School. No doubt her Bob Mackie-sized shoulder pads made a good first impression in her interview. However, the two forgotten Clairol rollers, still tightly secured to the back of her head, may have her hurt her chances. I can hear her now: "Oh Christ! Details! I hate 'em!"

Despite her disdain for other people’s children, Liesl became a high school English teacher and worked in Milwaukee area schools. She married and blah, blah, blah, history, schmistory, let's just fast forward... divorced in 2011. For most folks, I hear divorce is devastating. In Liesl's case, it led to freedom, rebirth, and self-discovery. Was that too over-the-top? I'm a St. Bernard. We tend to like drama.

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The last family photo. Liesl sure knew how to put the fun in dysfunction.

Liesl and I both struggled with our weight and despised exercise. We were really good at sitting on the couch. Liesl concocted crazy diets. The I'll-Eat-As-Much-Cherry-Pie-As-I-Want-Since-I'm-Getting-Divorced-You-Skinny-Bitch diet was a favorite. We rarely went for walks. I preferred sleep and Liesl believed that wearing her 1979 Dr. Scholl’s - the Original Exercise Sandals- counted as a work out.

I remember when one of Liesl’s friends bugged her to come to an aerobics class she taught. Finally Liesl acquiesced, and arrived in her signature pink bathrobe, with two-dozen doughnuts and a lawn chair. No slacker, Liesl stayed and smoked her Marlboros and drank Diet Coke until the very end of class.

 

FullSizeRender (20)
Photo credit: Boutique Photographer

Liesl’s motto was "go big or go home," and no doubt I'm a testament to that. In fact, when I spoke to some of you to prepare for today, many mentioned Liesl’s big smile, big hair, big parties, and big heart. One thing is certain, she had an infectious spirit and sense of humor. In my darkest days, when the snow had melted and there were no more rolling pins to eat, Liesl could still make me laugh. I bet she had the same affect on you.

Although she liked to do things BIG, the private Liesl liked the little things in life. She insisted hugs with her boys be a minimum of 6 seconds. She said it had to do with releasing oxycontin or something like that. She loved to tuck the boys in at night and say their prayers. She often added an extra Hail Mary for yelling “Holy F*#k!” after stepping on Legos in bare feet.

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Liesl drove the boys to South Dakota to see "Rount Mushmore."

After her divorce, she fought loneliness and hoped to find love again, but she put her needs on the back burner to focus on her boys. She figured she'd have time for herself when they went to college. She was their rock, even though she sucked at story problems.

Liesl loved to be a bit naughty. We'd drive the boys to school and, not being a morning person, she'd wear nothing but a trench coat. If a student's father gave her a compliment on her coat, she'd reply, “You should see my sheared beaver," and peel out of the parking lot laughing.  It sounds kind of pervy now, but it wasn't. She was right. Her sheared beaver coat is gorgeous.

Just like her parents taught her, she instilled a sense of individuality in her boys. Liesl wanted them to do their own thing, not follow the crowd. If there was a road less traveled, Liesl took it. She planned quirky road trips, started strange traditions, and made the boys try new foods at teeny-tiny diners. They'd say, "Where are we again?" And she'd answer, "We're in Appalachia. Be grateful for what you have." Or, "We're in Kentucky. Try those grits." Or, "We're in South Dakota. It's called an antelope, not a cantaloupe." Then she'd finish with:  "Let's just take in this awesome moment of togetherness. This is what it's all about. I love you guys."

She loved us deeply and reminded us often. No better legacy exists.


A Letter To Mrs. Weiner

Weiner phone

From the Very Messy, Can-Barely-Find-Sh*t, Yet Amazingly Functional Desk of

Liesl M.Testwuide

 

August 4, 2013

 

Dear Mrs. Weiner,

I feel compelled to send you a note on behalf of women who have been betrayed. Last week, we watched you stand beside your husband, New York City mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner, as he apologized once again for sending naked photos (not impressive), sexting, and having cyber affairs with complete strangers. You stoically supported your manscaped-man and announced you love him, forgive him, and plan to move forward with him. But seriously, come on! 

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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. 

 

 


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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Excess Baggage? You've Got It Too


Recently on my way home from New York, I was cursing myself for oversleeping and getting a late start to the airport. I'm a procrastinator and hate mornings- a bad High stack of luggagecombination for early departures. When I arrived at the airport, I raced down the walkway, rolling my suitcase, and landed in the skycap line out of breath.

"You're overweight" said the skycap.  

"Jesus. Well, good morning to you, too," I said, shrugged my shoulders, and mouthed a "What the fu-?" to the guy behind me.

"Ma'am," the skycap continued "you've got excess baggage."

"Seriously?" I asked. "Is it that obvious I'm marginally, or maybe somewhat f*cked up just from looking at me? You can eyeball me in an instant and know I've got issues without any knowledge of my parents' divorce, my test anxiety, a bullying ex-husband, and my I've-just-about-had-enough-of-happily-married-couples? Are my fears and resentments really that palpable?"  

"Lady, you have multiple bags and they each need to weigh less than 50 pounds. This first bag is tipping the scale at 102 pounds."

"Oh," I responded, "Yeah, that one is filled with resentments. It's actually lightened up quite a bit in the last year, but I've got a way to go."

Whatever, lady, your baggage is clearly over the limit. You wanna take a moment and remove some of the excess?"

"Oh, I see.  So let me get this right," I said. "On this cold, windy morning, you want me to get down on my knees on the rough ground in my brand new $27 Donna Karan tights, bend over, despite a line of nine businessmen behind me, unzip my suitcass, reveal my unconventional packing methods to the world, risk the possibility of my unmentionables catching a gust of wind, at which time I would have to chase my Hanky Panky stretch lace panties into oncoming traffic where I'd likely be hit by a bus full of South Koreans fresh off the plane for a great exchange rate vacation in America. Yeah...  No, I don't think so."

"Ma'am," he said, "you've got too much baggage. You've got to deal with it."

Woman on couch"Right here and now, on the curb at LaGuardia, you want me to deal with my excess baggage? Really? And just how do you suggest I magically deal with it? Do you have a leather couch beyond that conveyor belt? Can you just deduct years of emotional abuse from my Sky Miles account? I've made a lot of progress post-divorce, but 45 years of baggage, that's gonna more time than a layover in Detroit."

"Ma'am, we try to keep this drop area a drama-free zone, see the sign over there? You look resourceful, I'm sure you can find a way to reduce your excess baggage."  

Emotional-baggage-claim"Buddy, I'm a divorced, 45-year old, single mom of three boys. I'm seriously at the bottom of the food chain. Read plankton, dude. I'm shocked you can actually even hear my voice."

I continued my rant, "I've got an entire bag filled with resentments. Another is cholk-full of divorce lawyer and therapy bills. You think I can just stuff the excess baggage into another bag to lug around? Or, worse, convince a sweet, lonely man to take these things off my hands for a while?"

"Um," piped up the guy behind me in line, "I don't mean to be rude, but I can't take on her excess baggage. I'm on my second mortgage, third wife and my son was expelled from another school last week. I've hit capacity."

"I guess you're stuck with it" said the skycap. "I'm gonna have to charge you $135."

"I'm good with that," I said, "Those carry-on types are total bores. You see, that fourth bag is my bucket list. I'm headed to all kinds of unknown destinations on the next leg of my journey. I can't wait to see what happens next as I continue to get stronger, more confident and adept at leaving the past behind."


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.

 

 


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!

 

 

 


Have You Had “The Talk” With Your Kids?

Recently I had "the talk" with my kids. I had put it off too long, which was truly irresponsible. Although my children are still relatively young, it's best to have certain discussions before they know everything and I'm just another embarrassing mom.  

I knew the subject matter of our discussion would be uncomfortable. Some could argue that not drinking, not smoking or not having sex are far more pressing topics.  But with three boys, I've got to pick my battles.  My gravestone and final resting place are far more important than teenage pregnancy or drug addiction.  

Instructions at graveAs single mom, I ponder what my final resting place will be like.  Walking through the cemetery, I panicked to realize I might land in the bumpy last row of our family plot, next to old Augusta Bach. A distant cousin, Augusta was a pathetic case who had no husband. My great-grandma begrudgingly agreed to toss her in the back for eternity. 

When I filed for divorce, I felt relief in being alone.  In fact, my epitaph might have read:  Beware of Dog.  However, now that time has passed, I can't deny I fear being alone forever.  I secretly yearn to have the words, "Beloved and super hot wife of...." engraved on my stone for all my posterity to see. 

The fear of being alone causes me to have unusual reactions around happily
married folks. When I witness couples holding hands at the grocery store, I want to smack that happiness right off their faces. Permanently dressed in a black turtleneck and yoga pants, like a middle-aged ninja, although lacking any sort of stealth, I fantasize about nailing three perfect flips at warp speed down the baking ingredient aisle and karate-chopping their hands apart.  Swish, swish, swish, hi-yahhhh!!  In my fantasy, at the last minute a bag of flour drops off the shelf providing a smokey veil into which my cart and I would vanish.
 

As a result of hating the happily mairrieds, I don't want to be stuck next to those annoying, well-adjusted couples for the next 200 years. Therefore I took the boys to the cemetery for a simple "do and don't" session.  Don't get me wrong, they don't need to go overboard.  I don't need a "statement" grave.  

I don't have issues about the size of a penis.

Boys at penis grave

Nor do I have a Napoleon complex. 

Napoleon complex FS

I don't need to pay homage to a lost testicle.

Indirect kick

But after walking the cemetery, surrounded by so many unique symbols of love,  I've decided not to give up on finding true love, the sequel.  And in the event I do get that second shot, all of eternity will know. The boys have strict instructions to order a hot pink, grossly bedazzled gravestone which reads:  "She's Goin' Down."

 




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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