Divorce & Separation

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I Left My Toxic Relationship –Now What?

I Left My Toxic Relationship –Now What?

The Step-By-Step Guide to Starting Over and Living on Your Own
edition:Paperback
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Small Town Divorce

Small Town Divorce

A Road Map Through Devastation, Despair, and Drama
edition:Paperback
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Alone: A Love Story
Excerpt

Chapter One: Falling
LOSS

So, here I am on the edge of thirty-nine. Petulant, drunk, and obsessed with a charming but frustrating man in a white shirt and perfect jeans. I‘m taking my one-millionth fancy cocktail, and stumbling down a hallway to go see a tarot card reader. My friends all rolled their eyes, but I like the idea of someone telling me who I am and what my path is based on randomly turned up cards. Because seriously? Fucked if I know these days.

The Man with the White Shirt is mingling so excellently and effortlessly with my friends. His smile and those dark eyes and that body in those jeans —God, it hurts to look at him too long. He‘s so handsome I can hardly stand it sometimes, and whenever he‘s around everything softens in me. Usually. Tonight I‘m all edges. I‘m being a bit rude to him even. I‘ll tell you why later, stick with me.

Right now, I‘m stumbling down the hallway to see the tarot card reader. She‘s, like, twenty-five, max, and drinking a gigantic glass of red wine. She locks the door and it‘s quiet and all fortune teller-y in this closet we‘re in. I‘m drinking my strong fancy French cocktail as she shuffles the cards and thinking about how this is going to be such bullshit, but it‘s my birthday so fun! fun! And then she turns over the first card.

LOSS. It says loss.

More cards come and it‘s like they are shouting at me. FEAR. FUTILITY. What. The. Fuck.

They may as well say Your husband cheated on you and Now you think no one can love you.

“You used to know exactly who you were,” she says. “You were stable, confident. But now you have a veil of uncertainty over you. That‘s because you‘re being tested. To help you figure out how you say yes to things, and how you say no.”

Whoa. How I say yes to things, how I say no. Not if. How. It‘s as if she‘s telling me I have choices. Some control over my life. I know that probably seems obvious to you, but right now? In this year? In this bar? This is news. This bullshit card reading has suddenly become really fucking real.

I return to my friends and try to be cheerful. White Shirt is there to greet me, all gorgeous and sweet. He‘s searching my eyes for a sign, but I just say, “It was fun! She said freaky things!” Inside I think, Fuck, why can‘t this real thing he says he feels for me be real enough?

I wake up the next morning in his bed, my head bashed in by booze I don‘t even know the name of. My veins filled with lead instead of blood. Hungover. Massively. It‘s my thirty-ninth birthday. I look at White Shirt as he lies sleeping, and I already feel far away. How did I get here? I used to be married, for God‘s sake! What happened to my life, to love?

I wonder this all the time now.

Y2K

It‘s 1999. I‘m twenty-four years old and living an artsy city-girl‘s life. I work all day in public radio and spend my free time in used bookstores and going to see bands. Every Wednesday night you‘ll find me and my friends here in this bar, before we head out to a well-known dive for dancing. They all drink and party and stay in school forever, but not me. I rarely drink, and certainly don‘t drink to get drunk. I‘m not being pious, I just love to experience life, and I feel like I‘d be missing out if I put a filter on it.

I also, with every part of me, love love. I mean, I love it! Being in love and falling in love and writing about love and singing about it and living it. I‘ve had one boyfriend after another since I was fifteen years old. All long, committed relationships. I haven‘t slept in a bed alone in years. Relationships are everything to me; I know no other way. I just love to get lost in another person, to learn everything about what interests them, to see what they see and feel what they feel.

And that‘s how it is with my boyfriend right now. We‘ve been together since I was nineteen. He‘s a musician, and four years older than me, and so intelligent and mystical that, probably out of youth or just abject insecurity, I defer to him on just about everything. I think he‘s so much better than me —he‘s read every book, he knows every song, he‘s knowledgeable on all subjects, every topic imaginable. He‘s an atheist, and a passionate altruist. He‘s a vegetarian, so of course now I am too. He‘s a devoted boyfriend, a real partner; we are honest and expressive and artistically inspired by one another. We have matching tattoos, because it‘s the nineties. It‘s been a perfect, symbiotic relationship. We say we‘ll be together forever.

But lately, things are different. The Musician has been talking about us having an open relationship. Like, open open. He thinks we‘re mature enough and secure enough to handle sleeping with other people while still maintaining our committed bond. I‘m less sure —a big part of me feels like true love doesn‘t want to be shared. But that seems old fashioned so I start to entertain the thought. Could I really do something like that?

The only guy I find even remotely interesting is this weird, brooding graduate student. A friend of a friend, who always seems to be around but doesn‘t exactly fit in. He‘s completely different than all the downtown artsy guys I know. A small-town boy, a scientist, here in the big city doing his master‘s degree. We‘ve never really talked, but I find him kind of cute. He‘s tall, with awful glasses and the worst long hair. But there‘s something about him. I kinda like that he gives zero fucks about what anyone thinks of him.

The Scientist drinks three pints of beer to every regular guy‘s one. He whistles to get the waitress‘s attention, which we all find mortifying. He sits with us, but doesn‘t really talk to anybody. He hasn‘t seen the latest Thomas Vinterberg film. I don‘t even think he reads books! You can tell he thinks we‘re all a bunch of big-city snobs, which of course we totally are. But he likes Top-40 music. And watches football. The Musician can‘t stand him, but I have been completely awakened from my elitist stupor by his very presence.

On this Wednesday in the bar, The Musician is holding court as he always does, orating on some political issue or another with everyone‘s rapt attention. Bored, I look across the table and find The Scientist just staring at me, his arched eyebrow indicating he thinks my boyfriend is a blowhard and also that he knows that deep down I agree. And so I smirk at him, and he smirks back, and this is all it takes for us to fall in love.

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Alone
Excerpt

Chapter One: Falling
LOSS

So, here I am on the edge of thirty-nine. Petulant, drunk, and obsessed with a charming but frustrating man in a white shirt and perfect jeans. I‘m taking my one-millionth fancy cocktail, and stumbling down a hallway to go see a tarot card reader. My friends all rolled their eyes, but I like the idea of someone telling me who I am and what my path is based on randomly turned up cards. Because seriously? Fucked if I know these days.

The Man with the White Shirt is mingling so excellently and effortlessly with my friends. His smile and those dark eyes and that body in those jeans —God, it hurts to look at him too long. He‘s so handsome I can hardly stand it sometimes, and whenever he‘s around everything softens in me. Usually. Tonight I‘m all edges. I‘m being a bit rude to him even. I‘ll tell you why later, stick with me.

Right now, I‘m stumbling down the hallway to see the tarot card reader. She‘s, like, twenty-five, max, and drinking a gigantic glass of red wine. She locks the door and it‘s quiet and all fortune teller-y in this closet we‘re in. I‘m drinking my strong fancy French cocktail as she shuffles the cards and thinking about how this is going to be such bullshit, but it‘s my birthday so fun! fun! And then she turns over the first card.

LOSS. It says loss.

More cards come and it‘s like they are shouting at me. FEAR. FUTILITY. What. The. Fuck.

They may as well say Your husband cheated on you and Now you think no one can love you.

“You used to know exactly who you were,” she says. “You were stable, confident. But now you have a veil of uncertainty over you. That‘s because you‘re being tested. To help you figure out how you say yes to things, and how you say no.”

Whoa. How I say yes to things, how I say no. Not if. How. It‘s as if she‘s telling me I have choices. Some control over my life. I know that probably seems obvious to you, but right now? In this year? In this bar? This is news. This bullshit card reading has suddenly become really fucking real.

I return to my friends and try to be cheerful. White Shirt is there to greet me, all gorgeous and sweet. He‘s searching my eyes for a sign, but I just say, “It was fun! She said freaky things!” Inside I think, Fuck, why can‘t this real thing he says he feels for me be real enough?

I wake up the next morning in his bed, my head bashed in by booze I don‘t even know the name of. My veins filled with lead instead of blood. Hungover. Massively. It‘s my thirty-ninth birthday. I look at White Shirt as he lies sleeping, and I already feel far away. How did I get here? I used to be married, for God‘s sake! What happened to my life, to love?

I wonder this all the time now.

Y2K

It‘s 1999. I‘m twenty-four years old and living an artsy city-girl‘s life. I work all day in public radio and spend my free time in used bookstores and going to see bands. Every Wednesday night you‘ll find me and my friends here in this bar, before we head out to a well-known dive for dancing. They all drink and party and stay in school forever, but not me. I rarely drink, and certainly don‘t drink to get drunk. I‘m not being pious, I just love to experience life, and I feel like I‘d be missing out if I put a filter on it.

I also, with every part of me, love love. I mean, I love it! Being in love and falling in love and writing about love and singing about it and living it. I‘ve had one boyfriend after another since I was fifteen years old. All long, committed relationships. I haven‘t slept in a bed alone in years. Relationships are everything to me; I know no other way. I just love to get lost in another person, to learn everything about what interests them, to see what they see and feel what they feel.

And that‘s how it is with my boyfriend right now. We‘ve been together since I was nineteen. He‘s a musician, and four years older than me, and so intelligent and mystical that, probably out of youth or just abject insecurity, I defer to him on just about everything. I think he‘s so much better than me —he‘s read every book, he knows every song, he‘s knowledgeable on all subjects, every topic imaginable. He‘s an atheist, and a passionate altruist. He‘s a vegetarian, so of course now I am too. He‘s a devoted boyfriend, a real partner; we are honest and expressive and artistically inspired by one another. We have matching tattoos, because it‘s the nineties. It‘s been a perfect, symbiotic relationship. We say we‘ll be together forever.

But lately, things are different. The Musician has been talking about us having an open relationship. Like, open open. He thinks we‘re mature enough and secure enough to handle sleeping with other people while still maintaining our committed bond. I‘m less sure —a big part of me feels like true love doesn‘t want to be shared. But that seems old fashioned so I start to entertain the thought. Could I really do something like that?

The only guy I find even remotely interesting is this weird, brooding graduate student. A friend of a friend, who always seems to be around but doesn‘t exactly fit in. He‘s completely different than all the downtown artsy guys I know. A small-town boy, a scientist, here in the big city doing his master‘s degree. We‘ve never really talked, but I find him kind of cute. He‘s tall, with awful glasses and the worst long hair. But there‘s something about him. I kinda like that he gives zero fucks about what anyone thinks of him.

The Scientist drinks three pints of beer to every regular guy‘s one. He whistles to get the waitress‘s attention, which we all find mortifying. He sits with us, but doesn‘t really talk to anybody. He hasn‘t seen the latest Thomas Vinterberg film. I don‘t even think he reads books! You can tell he thinks we‘re all a bunch of big-city snobs, which of course we totally are. But he likes Top-40 music. And watches football. The Musician can‘t stand him, but I have been completely awakened from my elitist stupor by his very presence.

On this Wednesday in the bar, The Musician is holding court as he always does, orating on some political issue or another with everyone‘s rapt attention. Bored, I look across the table and find The Scientist just staring at me, his arched eyebrow indicating he thinks my boyfriend is a blowhard and also that he knows that deep down I agree. And so I smirk at him, and he smirks back, and this is all it takes for us to fall in love.

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Blissfully Blended Bullshit

Blissfully Blended Bullshit

The Uncomfortable Truth of Blending Families
edition:Paperback
More Info
Excerpt

Prologue

Where the fuck is my confetti? Where is my celebratory dinner? Oh, right. I’ve forgotten about the less-than-thrilled response I received from some members of my blended family when I told them I’d signed a book deal. I suppose breaking the news that it was about them might have had something to do with that. They didn’t seem overjoyed that I was going to write about the cold, hard, uncomfortable truth of what really happens behind the closed doors of blended families. Welcome to my life. Even before I sat at my computer to compose my thoughts on what this book would look like, certain members of my blended family already had their backs up, wondering what the hell I would be writing about and, of course, how they would be perceived. It’s not that they weren’t happy that I’d got a book deal. They just weren’t exactly enamoured with what they thought, or assumed, I was going to share. They were anxious. And, honestly, they should be.

I was “gently” advised by my partner to “be cautious” when writing about all of us — all of us being myself, my partner and his two biological children, the son we have together, and my daughter from my first common-law marriage. One big happy-ish family! I felt like a child being told to think before I speak. I “gently” reminded him that I’m a grown woman. So, no, there was no dinner, no champagne toast, not even dying roses from a gas station in my honour when I got the go-ahead to tell my story about what it’s like to be in a blended family.

It’s a story worth telling. Holy shit, have my experiences opened my eyes, not just to the gargantuan reality of adjusting to life in a blended family, but also because of what I’ve learned about myself and relationships while blending. You kind of get a crash course in reality when trying to manage all the bullshit that comes along with this rapidly growing family dynamic.

Sometimes what happens in a blended family really is stranger than fiction. The fights and slights can be so ridiculous, I’m not sure anyone would actually believe me. Which is why I’ve never truly shared, nor have I found any book out there that can commiserate with me about what a shit show it is to be in a blended family.

This is not a memoir about being a step-parent or having stepchildren or the step-parent–stepchild relationship. Not that I don’t touch on it. But this is more my account of how blending families affects everyone, including people you’d never consider, like our exes, or our ex-in-laws, our new in-laws, and even the dog.

The truth about blending families can be fucking harsh. Those who haven’t gone through it and are dating others with children, are thinking about blending, are embarking on blending, or are just curious about what it’s like to blend families probably just figure it’s an … adjustment? Perhaps a process to learn, a path to travel, a mountain to climb, a field to plant, a knot to unravel, a Coen brothers movie to fully understand. In other words, a difficult but seemingly surmountable challenge.

Ha! Challenge. Living it, I’d probably use a much different word. Every single one of us in my blended family has our own perception of our roles in each other’s lives and in our blended household. We may all live under the same roof, but our experiences are totally different and can even be contrasting at times. Our truths may have discrepancies and may even have zero basis in reality. Everyone else’s sense about what it’s been like for them to blend is a reflection of them, just as my reactions while blending reveal a lot about me.

My family — the kids, the grandparents, the Boyfriend, and the exes — know that honesty and candour are my MO. This memoir is my truth, and, unfortunately, truth can sound an awful lot like criticism. Some people — yep, I’m gonna go there — can’t handle the truth. Or, at the very least, they would prefer to ignore it than to admit and confront it. Believe me, I’ve been on that side, too. But I know my truth from talking to others in blended families — some successful, some not so much, some not at all — and comparing notes to see if I’m just batshit crazy, or if they could relate to a lot of the bullshit I’ve found comes along with blending. I mostly know about the bullshit of blending from living it, from being honest about the way I feel in certain situations and the way I think everyone else feels in my blended family, and, also, from the hundreds of texts and email exchanges over the years with the cast of characters in my blended family. Thank you, iCloud!

So, yeah — blah, blah, blah — the truth will set us free. But first it will piss someone, or everyone, off. Or, who knows? Maybe everyone in my blended family will let out a huge sigh of relief that it’s not just us who thinks navigating our new roles is a bit of a shit show. Maybe they’ll even have a good giggle. What screws most of us up is a picture or the fantasy in our heads of how a family is supposed to be, how we are supposed to treat each other, and how we are supposed to look. I hope that when my family looks back on the most difficult times, we’ll also remember the awesome memories we’ve created and continue to create. I know I will. Even for all of our scars and bumps and bruises and imperfections and missteps, it hasn’t all been all bad.

There is one thing I’m pretty sure we’d all agree on, though — and I do mean just one! The process of blending families comes with a considerable amount of bullshit.

Still, knowing that the people who have been in my life now for years — the family I’ve gained after blending and as we continue to blend — are, for lack of a better word, perturbed over what I’m going to write kind of stings. I’m not going to lie. I’m legit hurt by their lack of enthusiasm.

So, okay, I don’t exactly have a cheering section. There is no confetti. No bouquet — flower, fruit, balloon, or otherwise — in my future. But maybe, just maybe, this book will be like blending families: completely unexpected, with some WTF, but also a whole lot of, “Oh, really? I hadn’t thought of it that way!” My family need not fear that they will come off looking like assholes while I come across all roses and rainbows. Quite the opposite, actually. Many times I’m the one who comes across as the schmuck. Many, many times, my dark, jealous, resentful side surfaces, and often my feelings are completely irrational and immature, to the point that it horrifies even me.

But I’m not one to shy away from sharing my account of the hard truths, the less-than-ideal realities, and all the bullshit I was completely unprepared for by blending. I wouldn’t be me if I held back. So I don’t plan to.

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