Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Forgiven--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, July 3

     “Brenda. I hope you are all enjoying a great week up there,” JB texted.

     “I've forgiven you,” I replied. “I pray for you, too. But I don't want you in my life beyond what is absolutely necessary.”

     “I will try to respect that. I am grateful for your prayers and forgiveness. Every day I wish for you to be happy.”

    I bought a jet ski battery. The old one won’t keep a charge. Blake and I’ll install it tomorrow. I laid on the dock and read a book.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Within--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Sunday, June 30

     We jet skied, shot the compound bow, and I went for a three-mile run down pine-lined roads before grilling steaks for dinner. It was a perfect day, except for JB’s texts.

     “Hi. I hope you are all having fun and good weather up there. I hope you will give my email some thought. I want peace.”

     “Peace and happiness come from within,” I texted.

     “I know all too well now I am trying,” he replied. “I need to try harder. Maybe it's too soon, but I am going to come to you periodically seeking your forgiveness.” 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Having Fun?--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, June 29

     Blake and Chad were charging the jet ski battery, drinking beer, and smoking cigars by the lake when Tom and I arrived at the cabin. Seeing Blake smoke and drink for the first time made me feel uneasy then disturbingly sad that I’d never have a drink with him. I began thinking about the times I got drunk with my dad on that pier. The heart-to-heart conversations. The laughs.

     “Are you having fun?...silly question, I'm sure you are,” Golf Guy texted.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Hot--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, June 28

     My cousin, Cindy, rode with the boys and me to Edie’s cemetery funeral. Edie’s pastor and three people from her church were the only ones there besides my mom, my aunts Lori and Tess, and another cousin. Edie’s two daughters didn’t come. It was warm, sunny, and we stood under a shady tree next to Edie’s casket. It was sadly beautiful.

     “How are u?” Golf Guy texted while we were at the luncheon.

     “Gorgeous day. You've got to be loving it. Crazy busy?”

     “Not crazy today, left a little bit ago, now running errands.”

     “Gotta run errands too. Typical I leave stuff till last minute.

     “We are the same...but you are way hotter.”

     ‘I think you're hot.”

     “I think you need glasses, but thanks.”
     I’d planned to leave for Minocqua today but will leave tomorrow instead. Blake invited his friend, Chad, to vacation with us, and those two are headed up today.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Fireflies--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Thursday, June 27

     Yosef, in town from California, met me at the Kabbalah Center this morning.
     “I feel like I’m falling down a lot,” I told him. “My thoughts and emotions toward JB, they’re not God-like, and I’ve been beating myself up.
     “That’s typical,” Yosef said. “We are human. The bar constantly changes. There are always new challenges. The more spiritually fit we get, the greater the challenges become. I’m moving back to Israel and you’ll be getting a new teacher.”
     My heart sank. I walked out of Yosef’s office and passed Mac on his way in. Mac was going to be told the same thing. He and I got to be friends during Good Morning Kabbalah classes. I like Mac. I like his company. It feels like he may be romantically interested in me and while I’m not romantically interested in him, I’m trying to stay open to it. It’s weird considering guys as possible love interests. Angie was in the lobby waiting for me and we went out for brunch.
     “I’ve been in a funk over a guy I’ve been dating,” Angie said glumly. “He seems interested but not interested at the same time.”
     “Like Golf Guy," I said. "I met him after a Good Morning Kabbalah class and thought it was a sign.” I laughed. “I’m pretty sure he’s not good for me. Maybe he’s on my path to teach me discernment, listen to my gut. It’s just, I’m physically attracted to him and I’m not attracted to that many guys. I don’t know. There’s not much I do know these days.”

     I wrote for a while then checked email.

     “Brenda,” JB wrote.
     “I hope you and the boys have a great week up in Minocqua. I'll plan on picking up Tom sometime in the morning on the 6th. Will confirm the day before.
     “I hope one day soon we can sit down and talk.
     “I believe bringing peace back to this family will be good for all of us. I want to find a way to get there. There is no getting around that this will require a combination of my humility and your forgiveness. 
     “I am working on being a kinder and more empathetic person. I am trying to be honest, which isn't easy when I have so much to be ashamed of. But I know that I need to stop lying to myself and others.  I also understand that selfishness and narcissism were at the root of my behavior, and these qualities are a part of me as well. I need to confront and manage them every day. I don't want to be the person who destroyed our marriage and family. 
     “You need to believe that my desire to make amends is sincere. I am open to your suggestions on what you require to forgive me. 
     “Please think this over.”

     I don’t want to sit down with JB and talk to him. I want to be done with him. I saddled up BlackJack and rode in the woods. It was dusk when we turned back and the fireflies were out. Jack and I galloped through the green glowing luminaries. It was magnificent.

       “How are u?” Golf Guy texted as I was getting ready for bed.

     “Galloped through the fireflies on the trail tonight. Pure magic. The stuff you live for, you know? How are you?”

     “That's amazing! You must have loved it.”

     “The church of Brenda.”


     “You have a good day?”

     “Long but good...worked straight from 7-8:30.”

     “Wow. Exhausted or wired right now?”

     “How did u know...both What are u up (sic) this weekend?”

     “Going to Minocqua with the boys. Coming back the 5th. What are you doing next weekend?”

     “No plans yet”

     “Want to do something before I fly to NC to hang out in the mountains with the shaman?”


     “What should we do?”


     “Okay. What else?”

     “I was joking, whatever you want”

     “I wasn’t" 

     “Maybe play nine holes at Strawberry Creek, then dinner?”

     “I'd love that. Saturday or Sunday?”

       “Prob Sunday”

       Bet he cancels.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Pilgrimage--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Monday, June 24

     I watched a video on finding your soulmate that Yosef recommended. Here’s what it said.

     —Relationships provide us with opportunities to create unity with others and transform ourselves.
     —We need to go beyond our five senses when choosing someone. How does this person carry himself in the world? Is there passion, excitement? Is there only imagination or is there consciousness for achievement?
     —Don’t look at the potential of a person, look at what is.
     —Falling in love fades. True love is the byproduct of work. 
     —We don’t get our soulmates each lifetime but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have a relationship. Our relationship should help us grow and achieve our divine purpose. If the other person is not where we are spiritually, that needs to be addressed. It will not go away. Our relationships exist to move us along. They are not there to provide comfortable complacency.
     —A true soulmate is a very difficult relationship. We are brought together to really work something through. The sign of a true soulmate is that it feels like a virtual ocean has been or must be crossed to be with that person. How is it possible that I should be with this person?
     —A soulmate relationship moves us to a higher spiritual goal.
     —Being physically together is not the glue. Being apart shouldn’t matter. You should still be fueling each other to grow, develop, and strengthen the partnership.
     —The relationship should help build unity in all other relationships, not create distance and selfishness for the love relationship.
     —A falling-in-love relationship can be like a drug. It may briefly fulfill you in one area but not long term. And it hurts other areas of your life.
     —Have no expectations or conditions on the other person. When we have expectations, we give our power away to the other person. We put ourselves in the backseat and hope the other person will drive where we want to go.
     —Don’t look for someone to complete you. Soulmates have the same work to do. We help each other transform. We don’t look for someone to do the work for us.
     —No matter what, we are the cause. Even if we have a signed agreement with someone and that person doesn’t live up to it, we created the space for that to happen. We are not victims. We have choices about how to deal with situations.
     —Always be giving. Give because it elevates our consciousness. We’re not to keep track of how much we give and how little the other person gives. There are right ways to give and wrong ways to give. But give because it makes us grow.
     —A physical relationship develops as the result of a spiritual connection. You do the work before getting physical. You know it will work before getting physical. Most people start with the physical and think everything should work out. No. You put the work in first and see what’s there.

     I sat for a long time letting that sink in. Then I checked email.

     “I'm not supposed to share these emails, but I would love for you to join me the weekend of August 30 to share this experience,” Lila wrote. “I CAN'T WAIT to see you in a couple of weeks!!”

     Below, Lila forwarded this.

     Dearest Devine Friends:

     Warm and loving greetings to you from the Auspicious Tour Department. We hope all of you are well, enjoying the start to summer, and each day feeling more and more committed to your spiritual paths!

     We are happy to announce that our Beloved Master Shaman, Don Pedro, will be returning in late August for the Fall Pilgrimage, and you are all cordially invited to participate in the Sacred Ceremonies and Pujas that he will be sharing with us during this time. 

     Ceremonies will be taking place on August 30th, August 31st, September 13th, September 14th, September 20th and September 21st, and space for each of these is available by pre-registration only. Pujas will be taking place daily throughout the Pilgrimage, and are open to the community.  

     Many of you have already partaken in Sacred Ceremony and Puja with Don Pedro, and have experienced his grace, love and inspiration of the Divine. Having Don Pedro join us again in our community is a blessing and an opportunity to keep advancing in our spiritual paths. Our Beloved Shaman, his Sacred Medicine, and the prayerful devotion he shares during Puja are a great support in the eternal quest for self realization.

     Those of you who are new to this work, we invite you to join us in this transformational and profound experience.  Please read everything carefully, and let us know any questions that may arise.

     Please note, each Sacred Ceremony does not end until the following morning upon completion of the integration circle and lovingly prepared breakfast. Your commitment to stay through until after breakfast is mandatory. In this way, you will receive the most profound benefits from the retreat, ensuring a good integration, and a good work for you and for the rest of the participants. Don Pedro will continue sharing a Divine vibration throughout all this time, so we can take advantage of this precious opportunity!

     Accommodations: You are welcome to sleep in the ceremony space at no additional cost.  Private accommodations are available at an additional cost.  For those who would like to camp on the land, we are asking for a donation of $5-10/night. Single dorm rooms, for $48/night, are available on a limited first come/first serve basis. There are also Private cottages starting at $350/weekend, and if interested, we will assist you to make this reservation.

     Yours in very loving service,
     Auspicious Tour Department

     “I want to do the pilgrimage,” I emailed Lila. “Give them my information.”

     “You won't believe how wonderful Don Pedro is!” Lila responded.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Weezer--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, June 22

     My mother called to tell me Aunt Edie died. My mom had visited Aunt Edie in Tennessee a few days ago. She’d driven Aunt Lori and Aunt Tess to Aunt Edie’s retirement home and they'd spent a day visiting her. Aunt Edie had begged them to stay longer.
     “We said everything there was to say,” my mother said. “Edie kept saying, ‘Don’t go. You can sleep on the floor of my apartment.’ Can you imagine us sleeping on her floor? Like we would do that? We said everything there was to say. You know how she was. She didn’t say much. It was time to go and we left.”
     I hung up and cried. 
     A couple hours later, I pulled myself together and took Tom to a free Weezer concert celebrating the opening of a Microsoft store at an enormous suburban shopping mall. Concert goers had been lining up since last night to get wristbands for early entry to the parking lot stage. The earliest birds got special wristbands for a meet-and-greet with the band. Tom and I parked, walked over to the stage, and stopped outside the guardrails. A guy wearing a Microsoft shirt walked over.
     “You want a couple of wristbands?” he asked.
     “That would be great,” I said.
     He handed me two. One was a metallic copper-colored one. “That one will get you in to see the band,” he said. “Put them on and go in. Don’t tell anyone I gave them to you.”
     “Thanks!” I said.
     Tom was grinning the biggest smile I’d ever seen on his face. I put the regular wristband on Tom and the metallic one on me. We entered the enclosure and were handed Microsoft beach towels and had our pictures taken. We walked to the front of the stage where a small crowed had gathered. People began streaming in, packing in tighter and tighter. Wheezer hit the stage and the crowd started moshing. I hadn’t figured Wheezer for a mosh band. Arms were flailing, people were jumping, bodies were slamming. I looked at Tom. He was petrified.
     “Jump!” I shouted to Tom. I was jumping in my flip-flops and moving with the crowd.
     Tom shook his head.
     “Jump, otherwise you’ll get run over! Bend your arms. Put your elbows out like this.”
     Tom started jumping. I got behind him. I steered him toward a less wild spot. We continued maneuvering like that the rest of the show.
     “That was awesome!” Tom shouted.
     “Well, you can mosh now. Wasn’t counting on that.”
     Tom and I laughed and began walking toward the mall for the meet and greet.

     “Are you watching Blackhawks (sic) game?” Golf Guy texted.

     I texted Golf Guy a  crowd-surfing picture. “At the risk of you thinking I'm a psycho, I took Tom to a Weezer concert. We’re going to meet the band now!”


     Tom and I walked to the line in front of the Microsoft store and a mall cop stopped us by the ropes. “He can’t get in,” he said pointing at Tom.
     “He’s with me,” I said.
     “Every person who gets in line has to have a wristband. No exceptions.”
     I tore my wristband off and gave it to Tom.
     “Get in line,” I told Tom.
     “No,” Tom said. “You go in. I don’t want to take your wristband.”
     “I put that wristband on thinking we’d both get in. Go on.”
     Tom got in line. His shoulders slumped. His eyes darted uncomfortably. I gave him the thumbs up sign and did a little happy dance.

     “Are u there now?” Golf Guy texted.

     “Here,” I heard Tom say. I looked up from my phone and Tom was standing in front of me holding out the metallic wristband. “I feel bad taking it. You should go.”
     “Why did you get out of line? Look how long it is now. Go meet the band. I’ll be standing right here. I’m not going anywhere. Go meet the band and tell me how great it was.”
     I scanned the line looking for a parent with a child. I spotted an Asian man and his son. “Can my son stand in line with you?” I asked. “He’s uncomfortable doing this by himself. He was in line and got out.”
     The Asian guy gave me a nasty look. “We all had to wait our turn to get in here,” he said.
     A group of teenagers standing behind the mean man lifted the rope. “He can come stand with us,” a boy said.
     “Thank you!” I said. Tom got in under the rope. “I really appreciate it. Thank you so much. This is Tom.”
     “No problem,” the young man said.
     I shot the mean man a dirty look and watched him squirm.

     “Tom’s in line to get an autograph now,” I texted Golf Guy. I sent a picture of Tom in line proudly holding his copper wristband.


     “Going to a restaurant to watch the 3rd period,” I texted.

     “We are winning 2-0.”

     “Are you a Hawks fan now? Cup is coming to the house.”

Friday, September 14, 2018

Ho Man--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, June 19

     Pia and I saddled up and went for a ride in the woods. My text alert dinged.

  “Hey Brenda, sorry to do it but I'm going to have to reschedule tomorrows (sic) session, I have a new evaluation and don't have anywhere else to put him...can we reschedule?” Golf Guy texted.

     “Absolutely.” I sent a picture of Jack's head heading down the trail. Then I thought, absolutely not.

     “Amazing,” Golf Guy texted.

     Amazing you want to keep stringing me along—and my self esteem is so far down the toilet that I’m letting you.

     Pia and I rode for almost three hours then I cleaned up and got ready to meet Randy for dinner.

     “I may be a little late,” Randy texted. “I have my ho and her sista in my room. I like my women very nasty.”

     I stared at my phone repulsed, not knowing how to respond.

     “Alright ho man,” I finally texted. “What time?”

     “I'm kidding!”

     I exited the highway and Randy called. “I’m here,” he said. “I’m in the parking lot. I’ll wait for you here.”
     I spotted Randy right away. He was balder but looked the same. I hopped out and gave him a huge hug. “I think the last time I saw you was ninth grade,” I said.
     “That sounds about right. Damn.”
     We walked into the restaurant. Randy told me his parents were living in Florida, his mother was fatter than ever, he didn’t speak to his parents much, and his brother, Wendall, lived near them.
     “I know you’re friends with Wen on Facebook,” Randy said making a face. “Don’t tell him anything I tell you. He’s got a big mouth. He’s on his third marriage and that’s not going so well. My sister is on her third marriage, too, but she’s doing great. She and I talk a lot. We’re very close.”
     “How are things with your first daughter? You told me your ex poisoned her against you. You talking?”
     “Some, but it’s too little too late. She only calls to tell me how great she’s doing, which is bullshit, and ask for money. She called today. I didn’t call her back.”
     “She’s reaching out. You’ve got an opportunity to get to know her.”
     Randy nodded uncertainly. “You were married a long time. How are you doing?”
     “Better now that we’re divorced. I felt uneasy around JB for a long time. Knew something was off but didn’t know what. I couldn’t kiss him for years. Couldn’t do it.”
     Randy stared at me knowingly and nodded.
     “The Hawks game starts soon,” I said. “Want to watch it down the street at a bar?”
     “You’re okay going to a bar?”
     “I haven’t had a drink in ten years. Yeah.”
     Randy and I walked to a charming old hole-in-the-wall full of locals.
     “Your comment about not being able to kiss JB,” Randy said. “That really hit me. I haven’t been able to kiss my wife in years. I stopped sleeping with her, too. I’m living in the basement.”
     “Yes. It’s bad.”
     “I’m so sorry.”
     “Have you been dating?”
     “If you can call it that,” I laughed. “Are you seeing other women?”
     “I’ve thought about it,” Randy said, looking at me hopefully.
     I squirmed and turned toward the game. The second period ended with the Hawks ahead.
     “I don’t want to keep you out late away from your kids,” Randy said. “Let’s go. Want to get together Sunday? Have dinner one more time before I leave?”
     “I’ll check my calendar when I get home.”
     Randy and I hugged goodbye.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Life Is Fun--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Tuesday, June 18

     Randy and I decided to meet for dinner tomorrow. We picked a place between my house and his hotel then he texted me a photo of a gaudy pickup with giant tires and sparkling rims.

     “You should be able to recognize me when I drive my Hertz rental,” he texted. “Btw, if you have an extra book at the house, I'll buy it providing you sign it.”

     “Excited you’re showing up in that!!! You better take me for a ride. I'll bring a signed copy of my book but you're not buying it.”

     “That car is parked by my hotel at a tire shop,” Randy texted. “Always wanted to feel like a pimp in a 'hood car.”

     “Always wanted to be a bitch in a pimped ride.”

     “Yeah, I see it now: 2 white people in that car and the brothas thinkin it got stolen! Yeah, yo be my bitch, sista.”

     Apparently Randy was the same guy who had me laughing so hard my stomach hurt in grade school. Thank God.

     “How are u,” Golf Guy texted.

      “Good. I did yoga with my client by his pool. It was a gorgeous night. How are you?”

     “I'm good, have been super busy...weather was perfect today. How is your writing going?”

     “Writing is going well.”

      “My boys just left yesterday for 4 weeks of away camp.”

     “Where to?”

     “Timberlane in Wisconsin. And you should never end a sentence with a preposition... You should have asked… ‘where to asshole’"

     “That's good! Hahaha. The boys and I are going to Minocqua. Tom's going to his dad’s when we get back and I'm headed to the Smokies. My friend is taking me to the mountains to meet her shaman then we’re going to her beach house. How cool is that?”


     “Ever see a shaman?”

     “No...I don't even know what that is.”

     “A spiritual guide, healer. Should be interesting. My friend says she’s been getting a lot of signs from hawks.”

     “Sounds great.”

     “Are you being sarcastic?”

     “Not at all.”

    “Life is fun.”

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Father's Day--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Sunday, June 16

     I woke up feeling angry and heartbroken for Blake. The picture of JB standing feet away avoiding him was cemented in my head. I snatched my phone.

     “It's Father's Day,” I texted JB. “You didn't walk over and say hi to Blake last night.

     “I am we’ll (sic) aware it's Father's Day,” JB texted. “You think i didnt (sic) want to say hi to Blake? I was afraid he'd tell me to go to hell. I decided to focus on Tom, it was his night.”


     “Ok I was scared of being rejected to my face. And I wish I had said hello. If that makes me a coward, fine, I'm a coward. And please don't mention Father's Day unless its to wish me a sincere happy Father's Day. Otherwise I'd just rather you said nothing. It's a tough enough day for me as it is.”

     I seethed and let my thoughts and feelings tear me up until I decided I didn’t want to waste one more unit of energy on JB and started cleaning the house. At one o’clock, as arranged, Tom walked through the door. I started wondering, why didn’t JB keep Tom all day and spend Father’s Day with him? Did he have a date with some child-free divorcee that took precedence over Tom? I started shaking. I began jumping around hoping to rid myself of my rage and began texting "Happy Father's Day" to my guy friends.

     “Thanks,” Golf Guy texted back. “Maybe I can watch you hit some balls this week at Deerfield.”

     “Cool. What days are good?”

     “So far thurs (sic) looks best.”

     “Got a time preference?”

     “3 or 4?”

     “Three is good. Looking forward to it. The pressure is on. Hope I don't totally suck.”

     “You better not.”

     I started making dinner. My text alert dinged.

     “If I were to ask Blake to meet me to talk would you be willing to encourage him to do so?” JB texted.

     “I've never discouraged it,” I responded. “Good luck with that.”

     “Ok, thanks. Ill (sic) try and see what happens. By the way (sic) for Mother's Day I gave Tom $20 to buy you a card and a gift, which he tells me he did. It would have meant a lot to me if you had returned the favor. This isn't meant as dig (sic) so please don't come back at me with both barrels. I'm just asking for enough of a thawing so we can exchange these basic courtesies. I think we'll all be happier as a result.”

     A short time later, JB texted again. “I texted Blake asking him to meet for coffee on Friday. I know he makes his own decisions, but I do think he'll at least listen to you. If it's in your heart to encourage him to meet me, Id (sic) be grateful. I don't want to be estranged from him for the rest of my life.”

     I walked into Blake’s room. “Your father said he asked you to meet him for coffee.”
     “I’m not going. Why should I?”
     “He feels bad he didn’t come over and talk to you last night. He knows he fucked up.”
     “Yeah, I know. He’s been texting me. I’m not texting him. Did you say something to him? Is that why he’s texting me?”
     “Well,” I said taking a deep breath.
     Blake laughed sarcastically. “Thought so. If he really wanted to talk to me, he’d call. Why doesn’t he pick up the fucking phone?”

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Whatever--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, June 15

     Tom’s band, Gamma Ray, played the youth stage at Libertyville Days, and JB, who had Tom for the weekend, played roadie. Blake and I walked the three blocks from our house to the middle of town for Tom's show and I told Blake, “Don’t be surprised if Dad comes over and talks to you. I'm thinking he will.”
     Blake groaned. “I hope he doesn’t.”
     “Be open to it. See what he has to say. It might be good.”
     “Really?” Blake asked sarcastically. “What could he possibly say that would make things better?”
     “I don’t know. But he’s your father. You’re going to end up talking to him at some point. This may as well be the time.”
     Blake sighed. “Whatever.”
     We continued walking in silence. I glanced at Blake periodically. He appeared to be mulling it over, softening.
     Tom and his band were on stage and Blake and I planted ourselves front and center. I began waving wildly at Tom. Tom waved back and shot us an enormous grin. JB, standing off to the side, was holding up his iPad to record video. Periodically, JB whipped his head in our direction then whipped it back like he wasn’t looking. Our old neighbors, Gerald and Fran, were standing behind Blake and me.
     “Hey,” I said.
     “Hey!” Fran said. “When are you going to Lakeside? We’re going to my friend’s cottage by you again this summer.”
     “We got divorced and JB got the cottage,” I said.
     “No,” Fran gasped. “What happened?”
     I told her.
     “Wow,” Gerald said, shaking his head. He motioned toward Gamma Ray. “Those kids are really good.”
     “You recognize the guitar player?”
     Gerald shook his head.
     “It’s Tom.”
     “Oh my God. Tom. He really grew.”
     “Here’s Blake,” I said, pointing.
     Tom was strutting on stage. He strutted too far and his guitar unplugged from his amp. Bob, an old high school friend of JB’s, rushed over and plugged it in. He walked off the stage and stood next to me.
     “Hey Bob,” I said.
     “Hey!” he said and gave me a big hug.
     Bob had sent me a Facebook message earlier asking for JB’s phone number, which I thought was odd.
     “I’m guessing you know we’re divorced?” I asked Bob.
     “Yeah,” he said, shaking his head. “What the hell happened?”
     “JB was on Ashley Madison the last five years.”
     “Ach,” Bob said, throwing his head back. He squeezed his eyes shut in a pained expression. “Look at you. You’re gorgeous. You dating anyone?”
     “Not really.”
     “I know a lot of nice guys who’d like to meet someone nice,” he said. “I should fix you up.”
     “I might take you up on that.”
     Tom finished his set and I ran on stage and squeezed him. “You were great. You guys sounded fabulous.”
     “Thanks,” Tom beamed.
     “You were great Buddy,” Blake said and high-fived his brother.
     JB, packing up band equipment, was shooting more furtive glances our way. I waited for him to walk over and say hello to Blake, but he never came by. When the last of the band equipment had been carried off, I turned to Blake and said, “Let’s go to Tommy’s, eat dinner, and watch the Hawk’s game on their patio.”
     We silently walked to Tommy’s. Finally, I said, “I’m stunned your dad didn’t come over.”
     “I’m not,” Blake said. “I’m glad he didn’t come over. He’s a pussy.”
     I looked at Blake. I felt like crying but held back the tears. A bouncer was standing on Tommy’s patio not letting anyone in under the age of twenty-one.
     “But I’m his mother,” I said. “He’s not going to drink.”
     “I’d let you in but it's not up to me,” the bouncer said. “I have to ask the owner. He’s probably not going to let me. He’s being really strict with Libertyville Days. But I’ll ask.” He walked off.
     “That’s a first, my mother trying to get me into a bar,” Blake smirked.
     The bouncer reappeared shaking his head.
     “Let’s go to Chili U,” I said.
     Blake and I walked down a few storefronts and somberly ate chili while the Hawks played in the background.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Pussy--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, June 14

     I saw Kent at a recovery meeting this morning and mentioned I was playing golf with Blake at Stonewall Orchard in a couple of hours.
     “That course is really hard,” Kent laughed. “It’s beautiful but hard. You’ve barely played. Good luck.”
     “I’ll wear a short skirt,” I laughed. “Stopped me from getting yelled at last time.”
     Kent shook his head and laughed harder.
     I drove home, kicked Blake out of bed, and headed for the golf course. Blake strapped our bags on the cart and drove to the first tee. My text alert dinged. An old grade school friend I hadn’t seen in thirty years was in town. Randy friended me on Facebook years ago and had randomly called days after I'd asked JB to move out. He was living in Wyoming, his first marriage had ended badly, his ex had poisoned their daughter against him, he had two children with his current wife, and that marriage was going great, he said.

     “Hey Brenda!!!!” Randy texted. “I’m in town til (sic) the 24th. Would love to see you!”
     “Love to see you, too,” I texted. “Playing golf with my son now. Maybe dinner the 20th? Gotta go.” I switched my phone off and threw it in my golf bag.

     I was hitting well for a beginner. Made it over some water features. But I was slow. Blake let two parties play through. On the eighteenth hole, as I was lining up a shot on the fairway, an old man yelled,  “Hit the ball! Every single shot!”
     “Shut the fuck up,” Blake shouted back. “Mind your own fucking business.” Blake looked at me. “Really? He yells on the last hole? You’re taking longer than most, but not bad. And you’re making up for it by not being a duffer. I’m reporting him.” Blake flagged down a ranger. “That guy up there is heckling my mom,” he said.
     I wrapped my arm around Blake’s neck and kissed his cheek. “Thanks,” I said. “Thanks for standing up for me. You’ve got balls. Dad wouldn’t have done that.”
     “Dad’s a pussy.”

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Passive Aggressive--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Tuesday, June 11

     Walked into the 7 a.m. meeting and found altered fliers with a big arrow pointing at my name and “Change in speakers. Please let your friends know!! Songbird will be our open speaker,” pasted over my book quotes. They were on every countertop and bulletin board in the club house.
      Tanya snatched a bunch of fliers off a table near the front door and made a face. “This is so passive aggressive,” she snarled. “This is so icky.”
     Tanya and I scooped them up and put them in my Tahoe.
     “These are really passive aggressive,” Tanya repeated. “Really shitty.”
     “Thank-you,” I said and hugged her.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Finesse Things--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Monday, June 10

     “………..aaaarrrgghhh…..just saw this ……” Bling-Bling emailed.
     “Well it (sic) too late …on the Announcement (sic)….I waited until I talked with you and put out a bunch…..at 10 yesterday.
     “The flier only promoted YOU and it did not have a coupon or info on how to buy the book………    I am actually at my office and have apt …in a bit….I have several thoughts running through my mind.
     “#1 is that a lot of people have come to recovery because of your shared story………I would be glad to humble myself in front of the BIG group you will have and take responsibility for the……..PROMOTIONAL….announcement………    I don’t know what to else to say……..can we talk?”

     My phone rang and it was Bling-Bling. “You okayed the flier Saturday night so I put it out Sunday.”
     “No,” I said. “You put it out Saturday morning well before we spoke that night. And I didn’t okay it.”
     “I didn’t put it out until Sunday.”
     “You told me Saturday night that you’d put the fliers out that morning, made an announcement, and specifically left fliers for the weekend women’s meetings. I never okayed it.”
     “Well it’s too late now. I’ll make an announcement before you speak. I can finesse things. I’m great at that.”
     I pictured Bling-Bling with his thick pompador, gold chains swinging, arms flying, finessing things.
     “No,” I said. “You have time to find someone else.”
     “It’ll be fine Brenda. I will finesse this thing. Don’t worry about it.”
     “I’m giving you plenty of time to lineup someone else. I’m not speaking.”
     “I do a lot for the clubhouse,” Bling-Bling said. “I’ve taken on a lot of responsibility over there that takes away from my business. I don’t have time for this. Do you know the history of the Sunday meeting, why I took it over?”
     “So you know a lot of women had a problem with what was going on, and you’ve helped a lot of women. You will help a lot of women.”
     “I’m sorry you’re in this position, but you need to get someone else to speak.”
      Tanya called. “Those fliers were everywhere this morning. I think I got them all.” She started laughing. “There was a typo. Maybe I won’t tell you what it is. See if you spot it.”
     “Just tell me.”
     “Okay. I’ll read it. ‘Excerpt from Brenda Wilhelmson’s memoir, “Diary of an Alcoholic Housewife.” Hear the real story,’ and he spelled story wrong.”
     I groaned.
     “Yeah, there’s more. ‘Our own Brenda W. Bring a friend.’ Then there’s a picture of the cover of your book and underneath are all these quotes. I’m not sure how or why he chose them.”
     “Thanks for grabbing them.”
     “They’re really yucky. I’m saving them for you. They’re in my car. I’ll give them to you tomorrow.”
     “Can’t wait.”

     I went back to my email and saw Bling-Bling had sent another.

     “I understand your position—an d (sic) you are right….we did not talk until Sat..pm….and I did announce that Dave was our speaker 6/9  and Brenda was speaking 6/16…at the 8;30 (sic) am Sat….my home group. 
     “My apology….you had NOT given me permission to use an announcement!!”

     Or fliers.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Not Cool--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Sunday, June 9

     “I've been feeling very uncomfortable about the fliers,” I emailed Bling-Bling. “Promoting me is not cool. I'm just another drunk and I don't want any promotion. I know you want to boost attendance, but promoting me isn't the way to do it. Can we take away the fliers?”

     Tanya called and I told her, “I think I’m going to send Bling-Bling another email telling him I’m not going to speak at his meeting. I don’t feel good about it.”
     “I think that’s the right thing,” Tanya said.
     “Are you going to the seven o’clock meeting tomorrow morning? Will you get rid of the fliers you see? I’d do it myself but I can’t make it.”
“I’ll get rid of them for you.”

“I'm sorry to do this,” I emailed Bling-Bling, “but I've given it a lot of thought and I believe it's best I step down from speaking. My book was published two years ago and during that time I've gone to great lengths to keep my book and recovery meetings separate. If people want to talk to me about my book after meetings, fine. I'm sorry if this puts you in a tight spot, but not speaking is the right thing to do.”

     I felt better the moment I sent it.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Bling-Bling--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

     Tom and I got ready to drive into the city for the Printer’s Row Literary Festival where I’d post pictures and interviews from the Kabbalah Center’s bookstall on social media. As we were leaving, Serena texted and asked me to swing by a recovery meeting to okay fliers that Tony Bling-Bling printed promoting me as a speaker at one of his upcoming meetings. Uncomfortable about the fliers, I told her I couldn’t and asked Serena to get Bling-Bling to email me a copy of them. When Tom and I got home from the festival, Bling-Bling called saying he couldn’t email me the fliers.
     “I’ll meet you at a meeting tomorrow and look at them,” I told him. “What do they say?”
     “I copied the cover of your book, put some quotes on it, and said you were speaking. They’re out on the counter. I hung some up and left some for the women’s meetings.”
     “You distributed them already?”
     “Yeah, they’re out. We need to get attendance up at that Sunday meeting.”
     “You should have shown me first,” I said angrily and hung up.
     I didn’t want Bling Bling promoting my book at recovery meetings. People don’t showcase their endeavors there. It wasn’t cool. Playboy Pete started that meeting years ago and used to deliver what amounted to a comedy act before presenting each week’s speaker. He’d drawn large crowds and the collection baskets brimmed with much-needed money. But Playboy Pete was recently asked to step down because he offended women with his dicey jokes and sexual innuendos. Bling-Bling had taken it over and attendance had dropped. Bling-Bling’s ego took a hit, and now he’s put me in a bad spot.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Messed Up--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Thursday, June 6

     I refinanced my house. Yippee! I own my house—me and the bank. I left the bank feeling elated, relieved, but by the time I got home, sadness had moved in. Sadness about what could have been—a happy family living in that house. I want to love someone. I want to be loved. But you never really know another person, do you? It’s hard enough to know yourself. I’m far too messed up to be in a relationship now. I’m so messed up.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Smoke--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Tuesday, June 4

     I woke up feeling sad. Sad because I’m craving sex to feel desirable and loved—and it’s not a good indicator of either. Ever since my marriage blew up, it’s been full on.
     I got up and pulled weeds in the master gardener demo garden. It felt good to be outside, in the sunshine, volunteering. I taught yoga. I took Tom to his guitar lesson. While I waited for Tom, I bummed a smoke off of a guitar teacher because I’d just thrown away the pack of cigarettes I bought. I don’t want to start smoking again. But that cigarette was damn good.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Soulmate--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Monday, June 3

     Yosef explained a window in time Kabbalists say is supercharged with soulmate-finding power. It begins at sundown tonight and ends at sundown tomorrow. He’d emailed details before we spoke.

     “Who needs dating websites, secret love potions, and marriage counselors when you’ve got a kabbalist who is the chariot for soulmate energy?
     “Known as the ‘soulmate’ kabbalist, Yonatan Ben Uziel swore before he passed away that whoever will connect to his consciousness, gain affinity, and ask for his help will get his/her soulmate/soulmate energy in that year. The day that Yonatan Ben Uziel left the physical world takes place this year on Monday night June 3
rd until Tuesday June 4th  at sunset.
     “Yonatan Ben Uziel never got married, thinking instead that he’s (sic) married to the spiritual studies, and only shortly before he passed away he realized that you cannot do the 100% spiritual work without a partner, and therefore committed to be the chariot for that energy. It is said about him that his energy was so powerful, that if a bird would fly above his head at the time he studies or shares (sic) Kabbalah, the bird would spontaneously combust…
     “Asking for his support on that day can give us the energy we need for a complete unification, offering balanced cosmic support that is perfect for discovering soulmates and strengthening relationships.
     “In order to awaken this power and bring the harmony and love into YOUR life, I wanted to share with you this email along with my invitation for you to use the tools below:
     -       Scan from the Zohar – the portion of Lech-Lecha, volume 3 in the English Zohar, verses 346- 356, and the portion of Terumah, volume 11, verses 86-805, sending this Light to people whom you know need that energy.
     -       Meditate on the name #28 from the 72 Names of God to draw more soulmate energy (the picture attached is the place of burial of Rav Yonatan Ben Uziel. This place is the gate to connect to that energy.) 
     -       Think (and I invite you to act on it as well) how can you bring more Light and Kabbalah to someone else (the energy of Soulmates comes to you every time you think out of yourself). There is someone out there (that you might already know - and love) that needs this Light through the Zohar, the Living Kabbalah System, and other tools that can be for you the key to unlock your soulmate energy/bring more soulmate energy to your current relationship through caring and sharing, while you are the only channel for that person to connect.
     -       In addition, this is a very powerful day for actions of sharing, to draw down the energy of soulmates.  If you’d like to know more about it as well as doing a meditation along with the action of sharing, email or call me so we can schedule a time.

     “This is a powerful window,” Yosef explained. “At sunset, light a candle and let it burn for twenty-four hours. Candles connect the physical with the spiritual. They draw positive energy into life. Mention the name of the rav when you light it and look at pictures of his burial site. You will transcend to this place. Meditate and fly there after you light the candle.
     “Write down, refine, and understand your desire for a soulmate, who that person is. You should complete each other’s journeys in this lifetime. You want someone with whom you can grow spiritually, greater, shine on each other and others. You want something really meaningful with a lot of energy to fulfill you, him, and others. Write it down. This is what I want. Be exact, accurate, and very focused on what you want. The sooner you do it, the better. When you write down something, you manifest it from the upper to lower realm.
     “Scan the special sections of the Zohar for half an hour to an hour during this twenty-four hour period. Scanning is more powerful after midnight, between one and four a.m. Set your alarm and wake up. Wash your hands and face and sit down, not in bed. Go next to the candle and scan the Zohar there. Make it a special moment.
     “Meditate on the number twenty-eight name of God. Don’t be done with this after the twenty-four hours is up. Invest a lot of time and energy doing this until you find the guy. Use it again and again.
     “A special tool for blessing and sustenance is charity. Charity is the number one tool that can give you a totally new movie. You should give something that is beyond what you have—illogical giving—and it should be done with a lot of happiness and love. If you can give charity during this twenty-four hour period, you will get a huge benefit.
     “When I get into something, I’m all in,” Yosef continued. “When I started studying Kabbalah, I took out my savings, sold my car, and gave it all to the Zohar Project through the Kabbalah Center. The place you give should be where you expect to get transformations in your life. There is a specific meditation to do when you give charity. It’s the most powerful tool of all. The meditation is done with a teacher. Let me know if you want to do this.
     “Keep using your tools. Heighten your desire. Work with a lot of restriction. Restriction, restriction, restriction. Restrict your tendencies to want to receive for the self alone. Work with the light. ‘If this person is good for me, make the connection stronger. If he’s not, take him away.’ The right person should feel perfect on every dimension: physical, spiritual, and emotional.”
     So, the Kabbalah Center wants me to give it an amount of money that’s uncomfortable to give. I’m uncomfortable alright. I began looking at pictures of the rav’s gravesite, placed a large candle on my bedroom dresser, pulled the recommended Zohar volume off my bookshelf, put everything in place for sunset, and left to meet Kari for dinner.
     Kari and I’ve know each other for years through recovery, but neither of us showed an interest in hanging out with each other. I was surprised when she invited me to dinner and curiously accepted. I walked into the steakhouse and, minutes later, Kari swished in on stiletto heels and halted in front of me.
     “Come for a ride with me,” she said coquettishly. “We’ll come right back. I have to drop my son at an eighth-grade graduation party and we’re late.”
     I followed her out. Kari’s son was sitting in the front seat.
     “Get in back,” Kari told him. “This is Brenda.”
     Her son and I said hello and he got in the backseat. One minute later, Kari pulled in front of a restaurant doors down from the steakhouse. It made no sense that she didn’t drop him off first. Maybe she wanted me to see her new BMW?
     On our minute-long drive back I said, “I was surprised you invited me to dinner. What’s up?”
     “You published a book,” she said. “I haven’t read your book, sorry, but I want to pick your brain because I’m interested in helping two of my friends co-write and publish a book. Dinner is on me.”
     We were seated. I ordered salmon and black bean soup. Kari ordered the same.
     “I’m a very smart business woman,” Kari purred, lowering her head and fixing me with kittenish eyes. “My ex had the technical end, but I had all the business savvy. He made software and I made it big. So I can make this book big, but I don’t know anything about publishing.”
     “You want to self publish?” I asked.
     Kari nodded.
     “Hazelden published ‘Diary of an Alcoholic Housewife.’ I didn’t self publish.”
     “Oh,” Kari said, taken aback.
     “I can direct you to self-publishing vehicles. You know it’s a hard way to make a buck, right?”
     “Oh, this book is going to be big,” Kari said, looking at me seductively. “Two sexy southern society friends of mine married and divorced the same man. Everyone’s going to want to interview them.”
     “Have you read their book? Is it good?”
     “They haven’t actually written it. They keep talking about it and arguing about it. But they have a great story. They don’t need to write well. An editor will pull it together for them.”
     “Good luck with that,” I laughed. “If you want to self publish, you’re going to have to hire someone to rewrite it, edit it, design it, lay it out in e-book and print formats, promote it. I can give you recommendations once you have something to work with.”
     Kari nodded distractedly.
     “Have you and Kat patched things up?” I asked.
     Kari stopped speaking to Kat a year ago. Kat accused her of slutty behavior, a drug and alcohol relapse, and had gossiped these judgements to others. I knew about it because Kat called me frantically talking in circles attempting to justify her actions. Recently, Kat said she and Kari were friends again.
     “I see her here and there,” Kari said flatly.
     I told Kari how things went when Kat was at my house.
     “Kat’s just crazy,” Kari said. “She’s had run-ins with everyone. Being with Kat is like hearing the doorbell ring, opening the door, and getting punched in the face.” Kari and I laughed hard.
     “Kat has helped me see things I wouldn’t have otherwise seen,” I said. “I’ve purposely consulted her wanting her blunt unpolished viewpoints. But she’s a know-it-all. And I don’t like how she gossips and psychoanalyzes people.”
     “Like we’re doing now?” Kari asked.
     “No, I’m not speculating on her motives, judging them, thinking I’ve got her nailed inside and out, like she does with me, my ex, my friends. She talked about Kent, made horrible judgements about him.”
     Kari curled up in the booth, tucked her chin to her chest, and batted her eyes at me. “Kent has said some things to me. He’s gone to strip clubs. I don’t know if you consider that cheating on your wife or not, but believe me, the comments he’s made, the way he looks at me, if I gave him the green light, he’d sleep with me. Any guy would. They’re all the same. I’ve tested it.” Kari tilted her head toward the bar. “You and I could walk into that bar and get any guy to leave with us. I’ve done it just to see.”
     I stared at Kari.
     “Being divorced isn’t fun Brenda,” Kari said. “I’ve been at it for seven years. It’s depressing and lonely. You find someone, think there’s something there, but after six to eight months it falls apart. That’s the timeline. I’m not going to date anyone exclusively anymore, take myself off the market. It’s a waste.”
     I drove home feeling depressed. The sun had set half an hour ago and I’d missed the precise time I was supposed to light the soulmate candle and meditate. I went upstairs to my bedroom, lit the candle, beckoned the rav, meditated on his gravesite pictures, and asked him to connect Angie, Jody, Sharon, Lila, Golf Guy, Paul, and me to our soulmates. I want Golf Guy removed. Then I sat down and made a list of what I want in a man.

     —A man I love deeply who loves me deeply.
     —A man I bond with on a soul level.
     —A man who expands me, makes me better, and I do that for him.
     —A man who deepens my spiritual connection and I deepen his.
     —A man I light up around who lights up around me.
     —A man I sexually desire who sexually desires me.
     —A man who is full of joy and light.
     —A partner who will spread great amounts of light, joy, and fulfillment with me.
     —A man I laugh with.
     —A man who is faithful, honest, loyal, and trustworthy.
     —A man who would never purposely hurt me.
     —A man who is handsome.
     —A man who is financially wealthy. (Feeling shame here but don’t want to.)
     —A man who is humble, kind, compassionate, empathetic.
     —A man who is smart, savvy, wise.
     —A man I respect.
     —A man who loves God.
     —A man who will help me complete what I’m here to do, and I do that for him.
     —A man who is genuine, real, authentic.
     —A man who is a partner, an equal.
     —A man God picks for me.