Posts Filed Under cohabitating with a man.

My husband and I went to Chicago and remembered we don’t hate each other.

by renegademama

How the fuck is somebody supposed to stay married and happy while raising children? Is that even a thing?

Oh, whatever. Fine.

Mac and I are “happy,” sure. In the bigger picture, if you zoom way out and look at us from, say, Saturn, we’re the happiest motherfuckers who ever lived.

But on a daily basis, we more resemble two individuals who low-key hate each other. I’m something of an irritable, impatient asshole, and he eats chips too loudly.


No for real though, I don’t get to shred my husband online because I’m not that big of an asshole, but he has idiosyncrasies that often make me want to stab myself in the eyeballs with small sharp sticks, and I have those too, and we’re just fucking over our lives a good portion of the time.

Maybe we’re defective. We’re definitely defective.

We bicker a lot, lash out at each other regularly, but the big shit is gone. Separation is not on the table. We haven’t been a question in at least 9 years. And yes, if you do the math, we’ve been together 17. IT HAS BEEN A LONG ROAD, OKAY?

It isn’t that we don’t like each other, it’s that our daily lives don’t offer many opportunities to remember how much we like each other.

We are overwrought in general, and he’s the closest person to me, and I’m the closest person to him, and thus, we take that shit out on one another. We aren’t having BIG problems: cheating, abuse, total and complete emotional distance.

We have more of what I’d call: I’m tired and you’re irritating me.

Those Instagram couples traveling around the world with their legs entwined and chakras aligned, enjoying deeply spiritual sex next to a lake and strategically placed canoe, are living a slightly different life than we are.

We work. We drive. We take care of kids. We clean the house. We cook. We try to pay off student loans. We plan.

And in between, we try to be a married couple.


It’s a lovely idea that we “put marriage first,” but in my experience, this is easier to say than do. Kid needs are more immediate. It’s easy to set marriage aside when being pummeled by ninety different kid issues.

And yet, we’ve done okay at it.

Sort of.

If you lower the bar significantly.

I’m not sure if it’s self-centeredness or a mature devotion to Keeping Our Marriage Alive, but Mac and I have always insisted on going out together, alone. Let’s say it’s the second one, although really, does it matter? We are vaguely old and definitely tired, and it’s often a huge pain in the ass, but fairly regularly, we go hear bands or see plays or go to dinner, alone, or with friends” sans small people.

We didn’t fucking disappear when we had kids. We’re adults, goddamnit. We like things. We like things that don’t involve children.

We are primarily able to do this because we have grandparents nearby. Lots of them. That was part coincidence and part choice. One of the reasons we’ve never left our area is, um, to have grandparents nearby, lots of them.

But the truth is, even with our little “dates,” which often leave us doubly exhausted the next day, we sometimes spend our time together rehashing bullshit in our family – talk the whole time about some kid, or some situation, or a fight we had five years ago but must address again just for funsies.

And sometimes, if we go on long enough like this, I can forget what we are, what we were, what we’ve always been.


For the first time in fifteen years, Mac and I went on a trip together, alone, for more than a weekend. We spent five nights away together, in San Francisco for a night, then Chicago.

And we remembered we like each other.

It was a celebration for the publication of my book. I wanted to make sure he came on tour with me at some point, and since neither of us had really been to Chicago, and it’s quite far from our lives (and thus feels pretty special), I rented us a fucking 39th floor condo (with a rooftop hot tub) in downtown Chicago and we went to Hamilton and ate the best food in the world (for real, wtf, Chicago? How is your food so good?), and we strolled around the Art Institute and slept in and had a lot of sex (sorry for saying that, Dad), and held hands walking down the street at 1am and at one point, I looked over at him and realized I was remembering that he’s the best friend I’ve ever fucking had.

And still the hottest man I’ve ever seen.

And maybe the kindest, and warmest, and with everything stripped away, with a few days of “just us,” I saw our 17 years together, with all the distraction and mayhem and separation and beauty and pain, as nothing much beyond “just us.”

At its core, it’s always been “just us.”

We went to Chicago, and remembered we don’t just love each other. We really fucking like each other.

I’m not telling you to do that. We were lucky as hell and it was a great privilege (as I say, once in 15 years), but I guess what I’m saying is that such things are possible, and I wonder if we really tried, if I could pull from those moments a little more often, to look at him and see my friend – my friend, apart from the rest, always, just a touch – and trust he’ll see me the same.

Or that we can, at least, head back to Chicago, if not in body, in a little bit of soul.


I took a selfie but caught him looking at me instead of the camera which kind of gives me feelings.


Hey friends, you’ll notice that there’s a little slide-in pop-up with my dog’s face asking you to subscribe to my newsletter. I have written this blog for seven fucking years and never engaged in such behavior (the pop-up. dog face is irrelevant).

In short, I’m doing it now because Facebook is a fucking dick who shows my posts to virtually nobody, and I don’t have $2k per post (not kidding) to throw into ads, so IN OTHER WORDS, I have been forced by The Man to invent ways to get my work to you to feed my family and sell my book to keep writing and you know what?

I hate this. It’s weird.

But the facts remain. Here we are, and I’m immensely grateful for every single one of you.

Also, your messages and emails and comments about said book. I am overwhelmed, but more on that later. I think I need to talk to you in a Facebook live video (and…back to that bastard). I can’t explain it all right now.

Also, when you sign up for this shit (my newsletter), you will get an ebook I wrote called “To the Mom who Thinks She’s Disappeared.”

No answers, of course, but I definitely see you.


15 things I’ve learned over 15 years of questionable marriage

by renegademama

1. The top-secret trick to staying married is not getting divorced. (You can thank me later for that little gem.)

2. Sometimes, the reason you don’t get divorced is because the thought of going through this process with yet another human makes you want to bury yourself alive. And yet, that is somehow enough.

3. The thing nobody tells you though is that if you keep going for whatever reason, you may wake up one day and realize all the shit that used to plague you is gone, though it hasn’t necessarily been resolved. You just don’t care anymore and it’s freeing as hell.

4. I spent a lot of years trying to change Mac into more of what I had in mind. Eventually I realized there is one question to ask myself: “Are his flaws deal-breakers?” If yes, leave. If not, accept that shit and move on. HE WILL NEVER ORGANIZE THE CLOSETS, JANELLE. But you will probably always yell on Sundays.

5. Playing the “who’s a bigger dick/does more work” score-keeping game ends in nothing but hellish resentment (and somehow me always being the “better partner” even though let’s be honest I’m pretty much always the asshole). For example: “I did the dishes 9 times so you owe me 6 laundry loads also I birthed the children so you owe me your entire goddamn life but then again you have done ironwork for 10 years to support us but still I’m higher on the pole of marital glory because, well, from my perspective I’m the victim here. Also, I multi-task and you can’t find shit in the fridge. Ever.” No. This is a pointless routine. He sucks and I suck but we suck differently and therefore we will be perpetually annoyed. Cool. Now let’s watch Netflix. (Also, sometimes I AM in fact capable of doing more and sometimes HE is. There is balance, but never spreadsheet “equality.”)

6. It’s not about deciding how I need to be loved and punishing him for failing to meet my fantasy. It’s about opening myself to the ways he shows love, in gestures and songs and movements perhaps I never even thought of, and could never see before because I was too damn busy focusing on the ways he was failing. Mad love is built, not found.

7. In related news: I thought partners were supposed to “fulfill me” and “make me whole.” Now I know I have to make myself whole so I can love another completely.

8. You can base an entire marriage on friendship and it will still mostly work, even if you suck at being adult life partners (e.g. “sound decision-making,” general maturity, budgeting, “household organization,” keeping dog shit off the lawn, et fucking cetera). Last weekend we celebrated our anniversary by Christmas shopping for our kids, eating sushi, and hanging out in a hotel room naked watching movies and eating gummy bears in bed. We are really good at hanging out, and sometimes that’s all we’re good at, but it’s ENOUGH.

9. Which reminds me: Fuck Hallmark cards. Fuck Meg Ryan movies. Fuck commercials. Fuck the neighbor’s marriage. Fuck all the comparisons. We are us.

10. Kids don’t make a marriage better, but they sure as hell make it bigger.

11. When I focus on not being a dick, somehow my husband becomes less of a dick. (Weird.)

12. Once, Mac told me, “I can always trust you to be exactly who you are” and that’s the most romantic thing he’s ever said because he trusts me to be me and sticks around anyway.

13. The other day, after helping me the ten-thousandth time with the same ridiculous task, Mac teased me but said, “It’s okay, Janelle. I will always help you again.”

14. And I think that is what this whole thing becomes: Two people who say, “I will always help you again.” I will always come back, come near and come close, to be with you because you are you, and I am me, and together we have something worth keeping.

15. I always thought love felt like floating in the clouds. Now I know it feels like the ground beneath my feet, and the sense of a friend sharing the sunlight.

Happy 15 years, Mac.

I will always help you again.

oh, and you can start your marriage drunk, stoned, and too young, and still turn out alright. THEY LIED. ALL OF THEM. (Don’t do drugs, kids.)


51 Comments | Posted in cohabitating with a man. | December 19, 2016

“Can two people be in love forever?”

by renegademama



“Can two people be in love forever?” – CL


Dear CL,

First, I don’t know shit about marriage.

Second, I somehow ended up in a happy one.

Overall. Generally speaking. Mostly.

As you may have observed, cohabitating with one human is never fun all the time and anyone who says it is is definitely lying. I realize these fabricators seem real on Instagram with their sun-kissed beach photos, but All-the-Time-Blissful Marriage is not a fucking thing.

Generally Happy with your Life Partner, though, IS a thing.

And that’s the thing I have.


I’m not sure how or why we ended up here, and while I’d like to say we fell in love got married bought a house and built a life in some organized trajectory of soul-mate goal-setting, the truth is we did everything wrong.IMG_8045

Well, apparently not everything. I mean, look at George. >>>

We met too soon, had a kid too early, and separated for a year or two, here and there. And yet, on December 19 we will celebrate our 14th anniversary, and I will probably think “Well I’ll be damned, I’m happy,” and I love him, a lot, even more than 14 years ago, which surprises me, and feels odd.

Sometimes, I want to kick him in the shins because he drives me around the bend. But I don’t want him gone. And I never think of my life without him because I don’t want it. At the last, he’s my best friend, and I like hanging out with him, and I like the life we’ve got going together, and that’s enough for me.

So I don’t know if people can be in love forever. I don’t know much about marriage or love, but I’ll tell you everything I’ve learned so far.


I think we’re sold a lie about marriage and romance. I think it starts with romantic comedies. I think we grow to believe “real love” looks like the first 6 months of a relationship extended over a lifetime.

I think that’s bullshit.

I think we’re told that if our love doesn’t look like the end of a Meg Ryan movie, all the time, even 7 years into it, there’s something wrong with our relationship, when actually nobody’s love looks like that. So in other words, YES, there is in fact something wrong with it.

There is always something wrong with it. The point is to get okay with the shit that’s wrong, or leave. We spend so much time trying to “fix” what’s wrong. What about asking ourselves “Can I live with what’s wrong?” And if the answer is “no,” then I guess we work like hell to get better, or we leave.

But often, I’ve found, the answer is “yes.” I can live with that. It’s not perfect, but it’s okay. It’s not a deal-breaker.

I think a lot of Happy Marriage rests in letting shit go that doesn’t matter, even though our egos may tell us it super dupes matters. And this extends to personality flaws. Sometimes giant ones. For example, my tendency to yell and swear-off our marriage altogether at least twice a year, and his, well, flaws. I’m sure they’re there.

I jest. He’s not perfect. But I don’t feel compelled to put Mac up here on the chopping block since he can’t defend himself. I will say, “He will never be the man who straightens the fringe on the carpet” (we have no carpet with fringe but I’m using that as a metaphor people). He will never be the one carefully planning shit in our lives (wait. I don’t do that either. WHERE IS OUR FAMILY PLANNER? Oh right. Ava.) He will probably never organize the garage. He will definitely always forget to put the kids to bed on time.

He will never have the Type A, assertive, GET ER DONE attitude that say, his wife has, and that annoys me sometimes because I can’t do everything! But then again now that I think about it you’re totally going to do it wrong so please just let me do it.

For example, he lives with that. And I live with his tendency to leave giant metal objects on our front lawn. No, leaning against our house. He’s moved on from the lawn.



No but seriously, we have some differences in communication (in short, I move IN YOUR FACE and he moves IN HIS SHELL) that are tough, and sometimes we go months in this push-pull thing of me demanding WE ADDRESS SHIT and him pretending I’m not there.

But eventually, we come around. Both of us. He talks to me and I remember I’m sane and the truth surfaces and we end up together, maybe in tears, maybe holding hands or hugging, but for sure remembering who and what and why we’re here, and that we fucking like each other and our kids as a little unit and would rather have each other than not have each other. And that’s our Meg Ryan movie.

We know we will get okay again, and that it will be enough.
I think we’re told our partners need to “fulfill” us. I think this is bullshit. I think we “fulfill” ourselves and bring that to the motherfucking table, as a service to our partner, and ourselves. I don’t want to be responsible for “fulfilling” anybody. I’m a broke-ass broke down human. I can support the shit out of you, and tell you the truth, and be your friend and kiss your lovely lips, but I don’t want your identity on my shoulders. I can hardly handle my own thankyouverymuch.

Nobody can fill the gaping hole in me because they’re too busy running around trying to fill the gaping hole in them and we’re all just pathetic little humans full of fear and wonder and selfishness and I will absolutely let you down. I gotta fill my own shit. I gotta get okay with the tragedy and beauty of my own gut situation before I can look at you, be your friend, your lover, your anything.

I think this is a truth nobody talks about but we should teach in schools: If you want your life to change, look within.

It’s not fun. It’s much more fun to blame everybody us, but in my experience I am pretty much always the problem. Even if I’m in a genuinely fucked-up situation, one may ask “Um, okay Janelle, sure this situation sucks donkey balls, but what got you here in the first place?”

Or, my personal favorite: “Why, pray tell, are you still here if you hate it so much?”


Then again, sometimes things happen for no reason other than because life is a torturous bitch. One IMG_8316day she’s got three of your kids watering the Christmas tree under the light of your son’s headlamp. The next day she’s taking your friend in a car accident. That actually happened. RIP, beautiful Vanessa.

These are times I need you. And you need me. Let’s be there. That matters. That’s friendship and support, not existential fulfillment.

There’s a difference.


I spent a long time analyzing Mac’s faults. I spent a long time trying to fix him to meet my expectations, mold him into my vision of Perfect Fulfilling Life Partner. I spent so much time focused on that I failed to see him for what and who he is: A damn good, loving, loyal and kind father and husband. Things started to change when I got so desperate I stopped looking to him to “make me feel good” or “make my life meaningful.” I said “Fuck it. Fuck everything I know about ‘love.’ Fuck the Hallmark cards and Meg Ryan movies. I guess this is it.” I decided to focus more on what I could give than what I could take.

And I finally felt in love. This was weird. I did not understand this.

I think we misunderstand love. We think it flows from outside into us, which is true, we feel it from others, but mostly in my experience if flows from me outward but the effect is the same and I can only see clearly without resentment and expectations and fear. And love is the only thing that gets rid of resentment and expectations and fear. It seems very active to me. Like a choice, not a thing that merely exists or doesn’t exist between two people. It’s not passive. It moves. It lives.

I guess I learned that my ability to love comes from me. Not him.

Love flows out. And then it flows in. Can that last forever? Maybe. I don’t know.

But I think it’s enough for today.


I think sometimes we give up too soon. I think sometimes we stay too long. I think it’s hard to face the truth. I think mistakes can end up in beauty. I think sometimes our love gets buried beneath so much fear and resentment we can’t see which fucking way is up. I think sometimes love goes underground and we have to just keep showing up until it pops up again and I think over the years love changes from gazing into each other’s eyes to seeing your whole history in somebody’s eyes and that transition isn’t expected.

One day you look at a man and realize they’ve been with you since you were 21, and damn near all your memories hold their face and rather than a fiery romance of hot sex on the couch your love becomes steadily burning flames in the old woodstove nobody notices, but realize it’s just as powerful and hop in the fucking sack at year 14 of marriage, 4 kids, 2 people, taking it easy in a bit of love.

Can that last forever?

Who the fuck knows. I don’t know about forever. I only know I’m happy to meet him today for falafel, with my other dear friend Sarah.

And that’s enough for now. And old Emily Dickinson says “forever is composed of nows.”

Oh god, I’m quoting poetry. Way to make me soft, CL.






Heyyyyy, there are only 5 spots left in  my January writing workshop.

You should probably grab one of them. Or all five. TELL YOUR FRIENDS.


34 Comments | Posted in Ask Janelle, cohabitating with a man. | December 10, 2015

Hey! Let’s stop telling women to have sex against their will! Sweet thanks!

by renegademama

I don’t have a problem letting the internet know I drank Ancient Age whiskey alone in my Ford Taurus for two show-stopping years, but talking about sex makes me feel weird.

Leave me alone I was raised Mormon.

But it must be done. Take this is a sign as my love for you.

The first time I heard it (what I’m about to say, not sex) I thought I had entered some anomalous reality where women forgot it’s not 1953. “Or,” I thought, “Maybe they were dosed by their Mormon grandmothers.”

THAT WAS A JOKE. Mormon grandmothers do not dose children.

Or they’re super religious themselves. Like this guy, who explains (complete with scriptural “evidence,”) all the things a “Christian man” should do to his wife (call her out in front of people, stop taking her out, deny her finances – basically abuse her psychologically) if she fails to perform her godly wifely sex duty.

One can only hope a beaver mistakes his penis for a log and has at it.

Small log?


But it appears my assumptions were wrong. Turns out there are actual, non-dosed, non-religious-zealots out there who think a woman should provide sex whenever her husband wants it because it’s her duty as a wife and if she doesn’t do it he’ll start boning his doctor. (See how I didn’t say “secretary?” Overturning gender stereotypes at every turn!)

Thus, in the interest of a lasting marriage, the Traveling Vagina must be open for business at all times, should the Brave Penis come a’knockin’. So many puns, so little time.

Recently heard a woman tell a room full of other women that wives should “suck it up for 15 minutes” and “get it over with” because it “ain’t that bad” and “he needs it.”


Call me old-fashioned, but I’m pretty sure we should not be telling women what to do with their bodies or casting them in the undisputed service of other bodies because those other bodies are more important than theirs.

That is, perhaps, not the finest sentence I’ve written. But I digress, because I’m nervous.

I’m pretty sure a woman’s body IS HER OWN and if she doesn’t want a penis in it, SHE SHOULD NOT HAVE A PENIS IN IT, even if it ruins somebody’s day.

What the hell is wrong with people?

I’m trying to like you, humans, but you make it so hard. (See what I did there?)


Dear teenaged girls: This is your body. You own it. It’s yours. You have total and complete agency over what happens to it. UNTIL YOU’RE MARRIED AT WHICH CASE YOU LOSE ALL RIGHTS HEREIN BECAUSE YOUR HUSBAND’S DICK IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU.

 Look, I’m married with four kids *edging toward that uncomfortable feeling*. I know every time a married couple has sex it’s not hanging-from-the-sex-swing exciting. We’re old. We’re tired. I know there are times when one partner or the other isn’t super into it but we’re like “alright cool let’s do this” because it’s cool. Let’s do this. We love each other.

But that is the exception, not the rule, and it’s certainly not out of a sense of threat, obligation, or duty. It’s out of a place of “Well I’m not SUPER into it but I’m not NOT into it either.” The way these people depict it, it doesn’t matter if you have zero interest and the idea of sex sounds as appealing as a root canal without anesthetic, you do it because he wants it. Full stop.

Yes, that’s right. You submit to him no matter what. Whenever however forever.

I’ll be damned (and in the eyes of some, that’s in the bag) if the only factor in the do we or do we not have sex question is “Does the male want it?” And the woman’s job is to “suck it up” because she’s been told her marriage is at risk if his rocks aren’t blowin’ off enough times a week.

He was 15 once. HE’LL BE FINE.


It is a lie that men will die without sex. It is a lie that they can’t control themselves. It is a lie that they are hapless victims of penile drive and just can’t help it because biology. Until they prove that unused semen travels to the brain and starts consuming life-giving tissue at an alarming rate, you won’t convince me that a dude can’t just take a visit to the shower on occasion.

Not only is it a lie, it’s the root of rape culture. It reinforces “Well, she was drunk. There was an unprotected vagina just lying there! What’s a boy to do?” mentality, which perpetuates and justifies rape, placing the woman’s body under ownership of the man while reducing his conscious act of violence to “an uncontrollable urge.”

This is why nobody likes you, humans.

Maybe, instead of telling women it is their duty to provide physical gratification to their partner no matter how they feel about it, we suggest that couples ask themselves and each other what the problem is if one person is routinely not interested in sex.

I’m no genius but I think if a husband or wife loses interest in sex, there may be a problem that needs to be addressed in the marriage. 

Go ahead. Hire me for a life coach. I charge a lot though. We can talk about everything except sex because sex talk makes me uncomfortable.


Why don’t we try to get to the root of the problem rather than look at it as merely some deficiency on the part of the human in question? I don’t know. Maybe get some counseling. Maybe there is something emotionally lacking. Maybe depression. Maybe one of the people sucks in bed (obviously not in a good way). I feel weird.

I don’t fucking know. I know approximately four things about marriage, and three of them are questionable. One of them though is for sure that the solution to sex problems is NOT “have sex against your will.”

Grow up, people. Women want to get laid. Men want to get laid. Some men want it more than some women and some women want it more than some men, whatever, but I don’t see too many essays telling men that it is their job to meet the sexual needs of their wives at all times whether or not they feel like it.

So don’t fucking tell me this isn’t rooted in patriarchy and the assumption that women don’t have sexual needs but rather a whole bunch of fee fees. FEELINGS. Women are overly emotional, illogical creatures. Men need sex. Women need heart-to-heart talks while sipping chamomile and watching their tiny special snowflakes play in the sand. Duh.


But wait. If that’s true, and we’re all about equality, then there should be lots and lots of literature, articles and religions and “godly leaders,” telling men that if they don’t cater to their wives’ every emotion they aren’t doing their duty as a husband and she’s gonna run off to bone her secretary because he’s cute. AND CARES ABOUT HER FEELINGS.

Right? Where is that stuff? Oh that’s right it doesn’t exist.

Because women are looked down upon for this alleged/invented/bullshit “irrational, emotional” nature. Men don’t need to cater to it because it’s a weakness. A fault. A shameful sad thing that makes us unfit for politics, capitalism, and STEM. But virility, oh, manliness, oh, the mighty dick, that is a “need” and if it’s not satisfied, obviously you have to go bone your favorite computer engineer.

Newsflash: I am for sure irrational, emotional, and sensitive. Just like my husband. I am also fiercely intellectual, logical, and insensitive. Just like my husband.

Why? Because that’s how brains work, asshole.

ALL OF THEM. All the brains. Penis or vagina downstairs. No matter.

Okay. Pull it together, Janelle.


So let’s break this down. Here’s what society tells women about marriage. (I just want the young girls to have something to look forward to):

Ladies, you have profound emotional needs but men don’t need to meet them because they’re a sign of your flawed brain. We value reason and logic in this country. Act like an American! If you go out and find a man to be with because your emotional needs aren’t being met, you are a lying whore and family-ruiner.

Men have profound sex needs and you must meet them because you have a vagina and they want it. If you don’t give them that vagina, they will have no choice but to run out and find another vagina. This will be your fault because you locked away what’s theirs. Way to be a family-ruiner.


You know what? If a person is a cheater (I’m assuming we’re into the whole monogamy thing here) – man or woman – they’re a fucking cheater and no amount of listless sex is going to save that. And if a person is devoted to you and your marriage they’re going to invest in some quality shower time and ask you WHY you don’t want to have sex rather than finding the nearest willing human to cheat on you with.

So please, please stop thinking of people in isolated cells of definition: “Men will die without daily sex.” “Women will die without daily heartfelt sensitivity.” We all need sex. We all need sensitivity. We have got to let go of these rigid and arbitrary definitions that frame women as swooning feelers and men as walking virility, constructing whole societies recasting natural gendered variation as twisted, wrong, and defective.

Our problems reflect our individuality, our humanity. The solutions must reflect that too.

Anything short of that is a discredit to us all.

Wanted to close with something about “blue balls” but couldn’t quite fit it in.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Twigs. Beavers. Logs. Leave me alone.


hey look two married people. (no idea what photo to use)



I know you’ve got something to say. You just have to figure out how and where and when to say it.

Write with me in January. We’re all afraid to say what we need to say.

But we can learn together to do it anyway. 


52 Comments | Posted in cohabitating with a man. | November 17, 2015

There’s a deer hide in my garage, and I’m done caring

by renegademama

The other day, when I arrived home after doing something amazing (because I was alone, so whatever it was, it was amazing), Georgia yells “Hey mama! Look what we have in the backyard!”

I look out the window and see two puppies out there, just chillin’, as if they were home.

“Um, why do we have puppies in our backyard, dearest honey pot?”

I receive only a slightly nervous smile from the “dearest honey pot” (dripping in sarcasm) in question.

“Can we keep ‘em? Can we keep ‘em? CAN WE CAN WE CAN WE?” The kids are like straight out of a movie.

Uh, nope.

They were abandoned at Mac’s parents’ ranch. He brought them to our house knowing they would probably have to go elsewhere, but I’ve been with the man almost 15 years. I know that look in his eye. If he had his way, we would currently have 3 dogs of questionable intelligence instead of one.

And I would be training them.

Later, I check the mail and open a package of tiny compasses and other tiny gadgets I don’t understand. That’s because Mac and Rocket and are making tiny survival kits that fit in Altoid containers. Obviously.

There are approximately one-thousand-three-hundred and forty-seven empty Altoid containers in my house.

I hate empty Altoid containers.

In my garage, there was a bin with a deer hide in it, soaking in an unknown liquid, because Mac and the kids are “making moccasins.”

As in, from scratch.

There are 4 knives on my mantle because they made knives a few months ago out of saw blades. They still need to carve the handles. They will probably never carve the handles. Saw-blade-knives will probably stay on my mantle forever, because where the fuck does somebody put such a thing?

Yeah I don’t know either.

For 2-9 months there were long pieces of taped wood leaning against walls in various locations in the house and garage (including the bathroom) because Georgia found a rocking chair in a magazine that we couldn’t afford, so Mac is making it for her.

There’s a rabbit hutch and chicken coop in the backyard. I’m 90% sure nobody has cleaned beneath them since they arrived, a year ago.


These are not my projects. These are their projects, and I’m not going to lie, sometimes I hate them. It sounds so cool in theory, and it sounds so cool when I tell you about it, but honestly sometimes it just feels like one more thing, one more mess. One more Thing to Put Away, to deal with, to figure out, and I don’t have any reserves, you know? Like I feel already worn to the bone, and I can’t quite handle a wayward, random deer hide in our this-house-was-clearly-built-in-1948 garage.

They start a new “project” before the last one is done. I feel a vague sense of dread and rage.

They huddle together on the couch sitting on the arms and chest of their dad, watching YouTube videos on how to do the next project. They watch video after video.

I’m probably cooking dinner or doing some other thing I think needs to be done. I’m probably cleaning up or emailing or paying a bill or doing some other Thing that I think just must get done now. I’m doing something IMPORTANT. I’m obsessed with IMPORTANT SHIT.

Sometimes I get mad at Mac for the abandoned projects, the messes made and left for how long? HOW LONG? Who knows. They’re still there.

Then I get mad at myself for getting mad about things that don’t really matter (because it all eventually gets done or cleaned up), and sometimes I wonder how or when or at what point I became The One who feels compelled to be the mess cleaner as opposed to the mess maker. The project asshole as opposed to the project beginner.

This stuff he does, it’s so damn cool: The time with their dad, learning that they can DO THINGS if they just DO IT. Realizing they can have an idea, learn how to execute it, do some work and make it happen. It teaches them patience, endurance, how to get dirty and irritated and inconvenienced. They use their hands. They use their heads. They get creative and active and frustrated and satisfied.

I know all this. I know all of it with all that I am, but it doesn’t matter in the moment sometimes, when I’m 4 days down on sleep and I’m making dinner and thinking of all the things he and the kids “could” be doing and the mess that will be left and even though we clean on Saturdays and maybe Sundays and my husband helps ALL THE DAMN TIME, there’s always more.

There is always, always more.


You know, my life really started 6 years ago, when I got sober. Before that, I didn’t grow or develop or move through things, becoming a new and better person over the years (that’s how life is supposed to work, right?). I pretty much just drank and hoped for the best. Eventually, I didn’t hope for anything at all. I never “moved through” anything in my life. You can’t move through things if you don’t feel them, if you fall unconscious on your pillow each evening, if your reactions are purely self-centered narcissism rooted in attempts to control others in hopes it will fix you. And fear.

But since the day I woke up on March 5, 2009 and realized I was 100% wrong about every aspect of my life, my life has really just become a series of discovering new things I’ve been wrong about. I was always so determined to be right. Oh, shit I’d fight to the death to be right. But I learned through nearly dying of alcoholism that life is really about figuring out how I’m wrong. All the things I’ve been wrong about. One more thing I thought was true that is just not true.

That is where the freedom lies. That is where the growth comes. That is where we find better ways to live and be of service to others, ourselves, our families, our lives.

And I realized recently, due to a trauma to my family, that I’ve been wrong about the shit that I thought mattered. I was very, very wrong.


I’m done being the asshole who’s bitching about the messes. It matters. Yes, it matters, to clean up after one’s self, to treat your belongings with respect, to contribute to the house in a way that teaches you to be a decent human and member of the home, and community, and earth. WORK, matters.

But I’m done using every fucking spare moment to straighten, clean, pay, arrange, organize, text, email, accomplish necessary tasks. I’m done using every spare moment “engaged in a productive activity.” I’m done looking around this house and seeing only and all that’s wrong. When did I make that “my role?”

I’m fucking done.

Tan the deer hide, kids. Sure, start the damn fire with flint and steel. Good thing there’s 75 pinecones by the woodstove (George collected kindling). And yes, I’ll pick out the fabric for that rocking chair. Just stick it on the end of the kitchen table. We’ll push it aside at dinner. Again. And sew it in a month or two.

I still won’t say “yes” to a couple more dogs, and I’ll still care about chores and work, but I’ll get on the floor for a few minutes with my kids, even though there’s 9 days of laundry in the living room, and I’ll forget about the fucking laundry in the living room, because I can, because I CAN.

I’ll still get irritated, and I’ll still make people clean, and I’ll still bitch and moan. SOMEBODY HAS TO BE A FUCKING GROWN-UP HERE PEOPLE. See? Oops.

Yeah, I’ll leave the perfection to those deeply spiritual Zen mamas (that allegedly exist). But I’m done focusing on the work, the mess, the “problem” so acutely that I fail to see the meaning of what’s happening, the life right here in front of me.

I threw the ball with George for 10 minutes in the front yard. I tell you people she damn near fell over from the shock.

Baby steps.

Because you know, these kids are HERE, NOW, and they’re safe, and they’re mine, and it isn’t about “embrace every moment” (impossible), or some “some day you’ll look back and remember the deer hide fondly” theory. Maybe I will or maybe I won’t. It’s about the fact that I realized recently that the joy, life, innocence and cohesion of this very family right here is sacred, and it’s always already at risk, and there’s a whole world out there of pain, threat, tragedy and beauty, all of which will come my way, and theirs, so each fucking chance we have to make Altoid-container-survival-kits is a chance to live, together, in all this mess.

And really, in the end, I don’t have much else.


"What? We're making moccasins." (cutting the fat off the hide)

“What? We’re making moccasins.” (cutting the fat off the hide)