Don’t Call It A Comeback.

The other day, I published my first blog post in over a year. I was stunned by the wonderful feedback I received. In fact, I met someone this week who said to me, “the really magnetic thing about you is that you’re so charismatic but also so genuine.” Of course I was flattered, and to a large extent, I openly attribute my successes in my life and relationships to the fact that I don’t work too hard to force anything.  Blame it on my idyllic childhood and the blind sense of confidence it’s afforded me, but in truth, there wasn’t a whole lot of adversity I had to overcome as a kid. This is apparent to me now more than ever as Americans collectively face truths about the disparity between our walks in life, many of which start out purely circumstantial upon birth and are beyond our individual control.

During quarantine, I ordered myself a journal called Burn After Writing by Sharon Jones. The idea is that you open up a page at random and fill out whatever question/writing prompt you happen upon that day. The deal is that you make a vow to yourself that you will answer honestly, no matter what.

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Some of the questions are no-brainers for me.

MY LEGACY IS…

“-My children.”

Some of them I just don’t have the courage to face in that moment and I have to come back to them a different day.

THREE THINGS MY ALTER EGO WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY:

*(blank)*

When I figure it out, maybe I’ll let you know. Probably one of them is to wash my face before bedtime.

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My husband was the first person to ever teach me the phrase “virtue signaling,” which you can look up yourself, but it basically means making your social/political views known online for the sake of getting “Likes” from people who agree with you and possibly baiting or passive aggressively shaming those who don’t share your viewpoint.

I have tolerant, kind, generous family members that love each other very much; they share recipes, stay up laughing and playing cards, loan each other money, and make a point to show up for important moments in life, big or small. But if you judged them solely based off what they share on Facebook, you’d think they were philosophical, moral, and idealogical enemies. This, to me, is the condensed picture of virtue signaling. It’s not that they aren’t well-meaning. It’s not that they wish harm to those who disagree. For some reason they feel the compulsion to define and declare themselves publicly over and over and over again, even though pretty much everyone on Facebook is just preaching to their own choirs.

When it comes to me, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to be genuine without sounding like I’m virtue signaling on whatever is the topic du jour. And I’m getting so paranoid about saying something versus not saying something I’ve considered just randomly ‘shouting’ out all-caps status updates of abhorrent things I’m against, just to be “on the record.”

I AM ANTI-INCEST!

END PUPPY-KICKING!

I DO NOT APPROVE OF PEDOPHILIA!

I BELIEVE THAT A PBJ SHOULD BE MADE BY SPREADING PEANUT BUTTER ON ONE SLICE OF BREAD, USING THE SLICE OF BREAD APPOINTED FOR JELLY TO WIPE THE EXCESS PEANUT BUTTER OFF THE KNIFE, THEN DIPPING THAT KNIFE IN THE JELLY TO COVER THE SECOND SLICE. AND THEN, AND ONLY THEN, EVER THE TWO SLICES SHALL MEET.

But I think my biggest problem with virtue signaling is the same problem I have with people constantly announcing that they are “praying for you” over the slightest inconveniences.  I’m not sure everyone is taking the time to make sure they are actually being genuine. Before you can be genuine, you have to know yourself. I think a lot of us get swept up in sharing what we think people will like, versus what we truly mean. My mom used to have a magnet on the refrigerator that said, “No, thyself.” I think it had a picture of a slice of chocolate cake or something like that. Clearly the manufacturer of the magnet thought, hey, let’s take an Ancient Greek philosophical saying out of context and turn it into a pun we can print on a tchotchke we can sell to women to remind them and their friends that they shouldn’t eat. Their young daughters can see it and internalize it without having the slightest bit of context. Now lest you think I am blaming my mother or that magnet for my 15+ year eating disorder, I am not. The real crime is that the “joke” isn’t worth the payoff, and neither is a lot of the virtue-signaling clickbait online. To be clear about the magnet, I can tolerate the monetizing of widely accepted unattainable beauty standards portrayed in advertising, but what I cannot and will not stand for is lazy punnery (TM).

Side note: What I DO blame my parents for can be summed up in two words: Kindergarten Circus. Marlis and Glenn, I know you say that you had already “taken off work so you could move us from our tiny rental house to our new house and couldn’t get back the deposit so you had to spend the day moving our furniture by yourselves to make a new home for our family blah blah blah,”  but honestly, I SHINED on that gym mat in the middle of the playground that day and I hope it haunts you for all your days that you never got to see my vague, haphazard ballerina moves and and faux, but extremely convincing tightrope walking. I digress…

Easing into summation here, there is a line from one of my favorite movies, Love Actually, when Billy Bob Thornton (the antagonist) casually says to Hugh Grant in their diplomatic negotiations, “I’ll give you anything you ask for, as long as it’s not something I don’t want to give.” The second I heard that line, I recognized myself immediately, and not in a good way. In a Truman Show-esque moment, I became acutely aware of the bubble around me; all the times I’ve behaved badly and gotten away with it where others might have been harmed, or worse, killed for doing the same or less.

There is a plethora of reading you can do on the psychology of how you can hone your strengths to build virtue. We are all works in progress. I often remember the old adage, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all, but I believe strongly in communication, and sometimes what we genuinely have to say isn’t “nice.” So what if we began conversations about what and why we have our beliefs within our own minds and then posted them if they still felt authentic within our hearts. Let’s vet our posts and reposts to be in favor of working toward peace, instead of controversy or the selfishness of virtue signaling. Because isn’t it in all of our best interest to create peace where we can? Sometimes the most powerful peaceful act you have at your fingertips is something as  mundane-sounding as not sharing a hate bait article online.

To hopefully put a non-offensive bow on my musings here today, I encourage those of you who have looked within, thought, prayed, and meditated on what you genuinely care to spend your time on earth representing, by all means, share it proudly. Let your genuine voice be heard. But please don’t feel pressured to post polarizing things from unreliable sources just to virtue signal your commitment to your side of whatever cause is trending that day whether it be race relations, the wage gap, immunization, or the proper way to make a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, MARISA!

So may peace be with you. And also with y-I mean, and with your spirit. (That’s a little inside for the Catholics out there.)

In the spirit of a call for peaceful change, I’ll leave you with a quote by James Todd Smith:

“Don’t you call this a regular jam. I’m gonna rock this land. I’m gonna take this itty-bitty world by storm, and I’m just getting warm.”

Thanks for checking in,

Em

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I’ve Been Poisoned.

 

Hello you,

Thanks for being so patient with me as I upended my entire life. Quick recap: I got remarried last year and am the proud bonus mommy to two extra daughters, bringing my total to 4. My husband and I refer to them as The Blondetourage. They are so close in age that they will all someday be in high school at the same time. Please start praying for us now.

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I’m honored that you’re checking back in with me after all this time. I have journals filled with topics I’ve wanted to talk about with you. Whenever I’ve thought about sitting down to write to you, my brain swirls with words that evoke very deep emotions within me and I get caught in a rip tide of memories that can never fully reach the surface; words like divorce, one-bedroom apartment, going back to work, making ends meet, child support, coparenting, betrayal, lawyers, courtrooms, humility, disappointment, and abandonment by friends I thought would stand by me through anything. I pride myself on the fact that what I share with you is real, so trying to sugarcoat anything just for the sake of explaining it seems like a boring waste of time for all of us.

But today I feel inspired because I have something important to declare…

Happily, I’ve been poisoned.

With Botox.

These past few months trudging through the trenches of blending a family of 6 during the unprecedented restrictions of life in quarantine, I’ve often lamented, ‘when, oh when will this deadly virus be over so I can safely leave my home to go pay someone an exorbitant amount of money to inject poison directly into my face?’

And today was finally that day. Vain and frivolous? Obviously. A sign of return to normalcy? Also yes.

I’m telling you this because writing makes me really happy. Your feedback makes me feel seen and understood. Your comments make me laugh out loud. I’ve missed you so much. Let’s get back to sharing and laughing. And in the words of one Mr. James Buffett, “If we weren’t all crazy, we’d all go insane.” (Source: Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes)

Expressive and expressionless,

Emily

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Remember How It Feels

Stigma is a word we don’t talk about much these days when it comes to divorce. It’s completely glossed over on TV or movies. Divorced women are always portrayed by a middle aged lady who was the perfect wife crying in a bathrobe over her husband who left her for his secretary but then wins a five star vacation on a radio contest and transforms into an empowered, red lipstick-clad world traveler. OR it’s an empowered, red lipstick-clad business woman who was the perfect wife but her husband never appreciated her dedication to her career and also he cheated on her with his secretary because he’s intimidated by her wild success and she reclaims herself with a five star vacation.

But hear me out…

Some of us are regular moms. We don’t get to embark on three month long jungle trips to find ourselves. We are struggling to find socks before school in the morning (don’t even think about asking for matching) and we are making pasta for dinner (again) before soccer practice. And we don’t all have sassy gay friends to give us makeovers. And we don’t have a crew of girlfriends to take us out dancing every weekend and do yoga in the park. Because our crew of girlfriends are still regular moms too and sitters are hard to come by.

I CHIME IN with a haven’t you people ever heard of…a normal suburban divorced lady with two kids just doing her goddamned best? (Did you sing it?)

There were things I had to deal with in the wake of our divorce that I didn’t expect.

For example, if you’re not dating, you’re constantly encouraged to get on a dating app (I didn’t.) If you are dating, you’re questioned about whether it’s going too fast.

Other moms that you thought were your friends “report” back to your ex-husband when you’re in the late line for school pick up, which is a lot because guess what, you have to work now. (Also, joke’s on you because I was frequently in the late line when I was still married, thank you very much.)

Some people just stop talking to you all together. And to them I politely say, don’t let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya. (I believe that is Psalms.)

Perhaps my favorite anecdote of all happened a couple of weeks ago when I was at a Women’s dinner at my church. A mom friend of mine gave me a big hug and said to me in front of a group of people, “Hey! I’ve been following your Instagram and you seem happy, but are you really?”

Excuse me, Brenda?

Is my non-shared life just cocktail party fodder now because I’m single? Do I ask you if you and your husband are as happy as you seem on Instagram? Honestly. The audacity. “Hey, I saw that you guys went to Disney, but between you, me, and these other dressed up ladies sipping white wine at this church dinner, how is Bud’s porn addiction, did you guys get a handle on that yet?”

My point is this…whether you’ve been through the process of coming out of hibernation after a divorce and all the social awkwardness that comes with it or not, remember  how it feels when you’re vulnerable. Remember how it feels when you’re fragile. Remember how it feels when someone has embarrassed you and you have no idea what to say. Remember how it feels to have something in your life implode publicly. Remember how it feels when people you thought were your best friends don’t call you for months. Remember how it feels to be humbled, to look back and realize you weren’t perfect and you’re not a victim and you’re just a normal person like everyone else.

And use those memories to recognize and help other people get through those times.

And no matter what -if you possibly can -take a five star vacation. And post all that ish up on Instagram.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Actual Things: Unmarried Dot Com

Dear friends,

I’ve had a cold so long I can barely remember what it’s like to not have a cold. As I was lying in bed last night still hacking after a second dose of Nyquil and some good old fashioned night soup*, I started to get really fed up. (*Night soup is that thing where you are so desperate to stop coughing you get up at 1am, make soup to eat in bed, spill some of it on yourself and then pray you don’t die of an accidental cold med overdose leaving your children to find your puffy-faced body in a bed full of used tissues in the morning.) I decided to refocus on tranquility by saying all my thank you prayers. Since I’ve been Catholic most of my life I have a habit of ending my prayers with the sign of the cross, only last night instead of the traditional “Amen” I realized I accidentally ended my prayer with, “In the name of the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit, Dot Com.”

So there I was, wheeze-laughing in the dark in m’soup-stained tank top…

This brings me to my second actual thing. I overslept. Which means my kids overslept. Which means we had approximately 9 minutes for a 12 minute drive. By some miracle of traffic patterns, we coasted up to the door with about 15 seconds to spare as I tossed backpacks into the backseat like they were life jackets on a sinking ship. As I watched my sweet blonde cherubs head for the front door I rolled down the window and started shouting things like, “LET’S MOVE! LOOK ALIVE! I WANNA SEE KNEES TO CHEST!” It really put a pep in their step and I’m thinking that maybe I should start wearing a coach whistle to drop off.

It’s a good thing I’m such a natural motivator because kids can be so inconsiderate, am I right? Like, I didn’t leave the house bra-less in a soup-stained tank top and accelerate through four yellow lights for you to mosey in 20 seconds after the bell and make me look like a bad mom.

Thirdly, and this is a biggie: I got unmarried a while ago. For months now I’ve mulled over when and how to share this information publicly, but the more I thought about it, the more all of your comments over the past years came flooding back and reminded me that I should just keep it real. It wasn’t in the plan for the original fairy tale ending, but I still got a lot of fairy tale moments over the years that can never be undone.

So I’m back to writing. As a single mom, I assure you I have a backlog of material to share with you. If you’re reading this, please know that I appreciate you. I hope you’ll forgive my absence and come back with all of your hilarious feedback I treasure so much.

And those are the actual things.

Love, Emily

 

Alternate Titles:

Working On My Night Soup

Accelerating Through Yellow Lights: A Philosophy For Life

Unmarried With Children

Fairy Tale Middles

I want to sneak in a HUGE thank you shout out to the many, many supportive women friends who have been true bright spots through this cloudy, unpredictable season of my life. Here are a few of them:

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My House Is For Sale!

Hi friends…

I know I’ve been away for a few minutes, but this should partly explain why. Remodeling then getting a house ready to sell is no joke. Confession: I’m one of those creepy people that likes to go through open houses when I’m not even house hunting just to see (and judge silently) what other people are doing with their decor. So today I give you a peek into my own house, which has been painted “neutral” for mass appeal which I don’t Love-love, but I’m still very proud of the home I raised my babies in for five years, creating a lot of wonderful mommy memories and putting a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into the details. The open house is this Sunday from 1pm-3pm. Please share with your friends who may be looking in the Overland Park area!

https://www.reecenichols.com/homes-for-sale/9500-W-144th-Terrace-Overland-Park-KS-66221-266936976

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Actual Things: Werk + The Auto Professor

Hi friends! I know it’s been a while and I’m sorry about that. About a month ago I got the opportunity to go back to work for the traffic engineering firm I worked for when I had Avery and it’s been a bumpy yet rewarding adventure for my new life as a non-preschooler Mommy while my girls are in school all day.

Actual things that have happened since I came back to a professional office environment:

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Of Pie and Bravery

Thankful For Pie

I remember my first crush in Kindergarten. I also remember the first and last names of each boy I had crush on in subsequent grades up until middle school when I had THE BIG crush on one boy for like four years. He was the Winnie Cooper of my Wonder Years. I’ve had countless crushes in my life, most of whom never even knew. I suppose that is the gift of the combination of a big imagination and intermittent shots of anxiety to keep you practical.

I know some parents balk at the idea of little grade schoolers having crushes, raising eyebrows and saying how they are way too young for that, etc. But to these parents I ask, do you show your kids Disney movies? Continue reading

Holding It Together: Getting Your Head Straight Without A Head Injury (Preferably)

Yesterday I had six staples removed from the back of my head. (I am going to spare you the gross “before” pictures but let me just say, getting them pried out was no picnic either.)

About a week and a half ago, I was scooting a chair out when I fell backwards onto my neighbors’ stone tile floor. Continue reading