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    Run For Your Life, Black Hockey Jesus!
    « Poor Beauty | Main | There's Nothing To Wait For »


    I know very little about Neil.

    I know that he’s not Neil Kramer and that he’s not Neil Young. I know my daughter calls him Noodle, because he’s skinny, and she told me he’s a scientist, which only serves to highlight how truly little I know about Neil. I didn’t ask her what kind of scientist because that would feel like prying and so these few vague brush strokes are the only things I know about him. Oh. I also know he’s dating my ex-wife.


    I frequently watch the kids at Jenna’s house for a couple reasons. All their stuff is there and, more often than not, Jenna works past their bedtimes. Me taking care of them there helps maintain some stability and assures a steady bedtime. I usually take them out to eat or bring my own food but, a couple days ago, Jenna asked me if I’d make them the leftover chili in the fridge. No problem.

    But when dinner time rolled around, the kids didn’t want chili. They wanted the super awesome homemade macaroni and cheese because it was so fucking good my god the macaroni, the breadcrumbs, the cheese, etc. When you’re divorced co-parents, it’s essential to be clear about what each of you wants and to follow through but—hey man—the kids didn’t want the chili. They wanted the macaroni. So I heated it up and when I began to spoon it into bowls, my daughter was telling me how good it was, that she couldn’t wait, that Noodle made it.

    And that’s how I found myself, alive, in the world, serving my children macaroni and cheese cooked up by my ex-wife’s boyfriend.


    I smiled. I’m serious. I honestly smiled and drifted into a flashback of my not-yet-step-dad coming to visit my mom ON A MOTORCYCLE. I remember sitting behind him, hugging him so tight, excited and scared—a contradiction—ON A MOTORCYCLE. That motorcycle ride taught me a basic truth that has since dwelled in my heart and tenaciously remains. Listen. No matter how broken everything feels—and believe me, I felt broken; I feel broken—and no matter how bleak and alone and scared you are, someone is coming. They are. I promise. They’re coming for you and they’re coming ON A MOTHERFUCKING MOTORCYCLE.

    When he gassed up, he bought me a Butterfinger and I was sold. He’s still married to my mom, in love, getting old.


    So I scooped it into their bowls, humbled with gratitude, bittersweetly pleased that Jenna had met a man she felt strongly enough about to allow into our family’s circle. If you’re kind to my children, Neil, if you make them macaroni and cheese, I will serve it. I am in your service. Because, beyond my feelings and beyond my ego, I need my kids to know and believe in macaroni and motorcycles.


    But me? I ate the chili. I ate the chili and wondered how fast Neil could kick off a 10K.



    Reader Comments (57)

    funny- my step-dad took me to see return of the jedi on the back of his motorcycle. i had the same feeling. it was so rad!!! he'd still be married to my mom if she were still alive, and their baby boy had been born. i know this. they got clean together. after everything, he got arrested in an accident after bumping a lady on the sidewalk with his car, high as a kite, selling illegal fireworks out of his trunk, and had a loaded gun under his seat that sent him to prison & cost him his lawsuit against the doctor that fucked up on a routine appendectomy. as soon as he got out he ended up back at teen challenge. he's remarried now, but still can't leave a permanent rehab facility and not shoot dope.

    but i'll never forget that motorcycle ride. ever.

    we need motorcycles simply because it's our time to shine. it's our turn to be the bad motherfuckers!!!!


    April 6, 2011 at 10:27 PM | Unregistered Commenterbrandon

    Yep. Uh huh. Love this one, thank you.

    April 6, 2011 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterEve


    April 6, 2011 at 10:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterAmy Watson


    April 6, 2011 at 10:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterpalinode

    I remember when my to-be-Stepdad loaned me his car and warned me about it "shaking at 90". I said "It's not THAT hot out" and he just laughed and laughed. But nicely. I've always appreciated how he handled my ignorance and naivety.

    April 6, 2011 at 11:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterPop and Ice

    Right now, and I hope this isn't forever, but I'm terrified of motorcycles. They cut through the wind so fast it blows your hair back and turns your mouth into some weird gash that resembles a smile and there's nothing between you and the world around you that's reduced to a blur as you cleave right through it. And people watch, perhaps envious, and you feel naked a little bit, exposed, although no one else cares or knows who you are and they don't matter anyway because by the time you get around to thinking about it, you realize you don't care. Motorcycles bring you charging into the future. You dismount smiling, wanting another ride, wanting that freedom and rush.

    That terrifies me. Maybe not forever. I hope not forever.

    I'll have a dish of the macaroni and cheese, though. Extra. Hey, I'm a former fat kid. I've still got my vices.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterSC

    My stepdad was a prick who ended up killing himself after being my stepdad for 11 years, and forcing me to call him "dad." He never cooked me anything. The one and only thing I remember him teaching me is how to light a fire ... from the back first. Oh I lit plenty of fires since, all through my twenties.

    My stepsons mother is a fucking bitch. I love my stepson with my whole heart, and have step-parented him full-time for ten years now.

    This post got me choked up - you got me choked up. You put your children first, all the time. I like that about you.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:55 AM | Unregistered Commenteredenland

    Man, you've got a heart as big as all outdoors.

    April 7, 2011 at 4:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterLisa

    My step mom is french. Nuff said.

    April 7, 2011 at 4:42 AM | Unregistered Commenterout-numbered

    I would have eaten the chili too.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

    YOU are a rock star.
    A marathon running, rock star.
    'Cause after all, the show must go on, right?

    April 7, 2011 at 6:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterHeather

    Can I be honest? I came here from The Panic Room to read about a purple cup, and I immediately loved the fierceness of a dad's love for his children. I decided, from that one post, to include BHJ in my lineup of blogs, because, well, the world needs dads who love their children. Desperately. Then I came to todays' post, (now the honest, hard part) I found out the dad and the mom are not together. And my heart broke. Crumbled actually. Because I learned that the amazing kid in the first post is living a life between homes, with another man making macaroni-and cheese for her. A mom and dad not being together is just about the worst thing for a kid. Very rarely, if adults are honest with each other, is not being together worth the cost the kids pay. It is nice that Mr. Noodle makes great mac-n-cheese, but that's not a good substitute for what is missing in her life - waking up each morning secure in the knowledge that the love that created her is not fleeting or fickle... and when she goes to bed at night, all is well in her world. I have no idea why you and your ex are in the situation you are, but, if you truly want to save the innocence of your daughter, the very best thing you could do is fix those problems and you and your ex get it together for your kid(s).

    April 7, 2011 at 6:15 AM | Unregistered Commentera mom

    huh. i agree that "waking up each morning secure in the knowledge that the love that created not fleeting or fickle..." is the most important thing we can give our children. BHJ --you and Jenna are doing a rad job of it, with an extra lesson of "everyone deserves to be happy and honest with themselves and no one has to ever stay with someone not right for them because of the children and hey--we can be honest AND mature and.." god, what great lessons you are teaching your children BHJ. I am inspired.

    a mom -- you might not want to hang around these parts of the internet for too long. Good news, though--the internet is fucking huge. You'll find another more appropriate place to dwell with other Helen Lovejoys.

    April 7, 2011 at 6:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterLiz

    This made me choke up too; and ache, for everyone involved. Yet, also feel a weird sense of comfort and beauty...geez, I'm choking up again.

    Bittersweetness, yep.

    Not that my opinion has much bearing on much, but: you're a good dad.

    April 7, 2011 at 7:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterC.

    *Sigh*...a sign of things to come for me as well I 'spose...

    April 7, 2011 at 7:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterColleen - Mommy Always Wins

    a mom. So Cole should go back to LB's dad? But what about Tessa? Oh nevermind. Ryan's family is perfect the way it is and your comment was poorly thought out, hasty, and, honestly? Fucking rude.

    April 7, 2011 at 7:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

    I've been listening to some Mountain Goats from time to time on Pandora because of you. I figured you'd like that more than chili.

    April 7, 2011 at 7:40 AM | Unregistered Commentermuskrat

    Bleak, alone, scared..pretty much sums it up. He came in riding a motorcyle and saved us all. He has been our rock, never faultering.....except now he rides a cool silver scooter!

    April 7, 2011 at 8:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterMom

    I wouldn't be so sure it's not Neil Kramer. That guy can be kind of shifty sometimes.
    : )

    April 7, 2011 at 9:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterTwenty Four At Heart

    & why should I be crying over fuckin' MACARONI & CHEESE this fine morning!?!?!?

    [I don't have time to explain the vicissitudes of divorce to A Mom - just try to comprehend how Shit Happens, take a deep breath, & RELAX. Yep, maybe even go for a run - I can't believe how much I miss that pain.]

    April 7, 2011 at 9:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterVal

    You are an amazing person. I applaud you for this, and I admire you for not letting this swallow you. I know it's hard.

    I'd like to tell "a mom" to fuck off, but I won't.

    You are on your way to winning, my friend.

    April 7, 2011 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterBronwen

    Really awesome, man. Motorcycles and macaroni and cheese. I think this is the best, most mature reaction to an ex's new beau that I've ever come across.

    Love those kids the way you love them, BHJ.

    April 7, 2011 at 9:29 AM | Unregistered Commenterjulie [wick.]

    I have watched my husband go through this with his son's stepfather. He would have served the mac and cheese, too. Sometimes we swallow the ache so the kids don't have to. That's why, every time, you'll win the race. I wish more parents knew this lesson.

    April 7, 2011 at 10:18 AM | Unregistered CommenterAllyson

    This post touched my heart. I find myself in the not unique situation of being a step-child, and a step-parent. And I promise you, that had I given birth to them, I could not love my girls more.

    a mom got it wrong. Sometimes, the more people that love our children, the better.

    Keep running BHJ. You are kicking ass, and taking names.

    April 7, 2011 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

    This is some kick-ass coparenting. Well said.

    April 7, 2011 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterKristen

    Homemade macaroni and cheese is a fantastic skill to have. I prefer chili, but you know. This is beautiful - the glimpse of you and how you are handling such hard life stuff (no I can't think of a better word, sorry, life has stuff a and it's hard) is beautiful.

    April 7, 2011 at 11:37 AM | Unregistered Commenteranymommy

    Having an ex move on can hurt. Seeing the kids attach to the new person can be threatening and intimidating, but have no fear. You will not be replaced. Ever. Just focus on the kids, as you are now, and they'll benefit from having a team of people that love and support them.

    Trust me.

    April 7, 2011 at 11:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterNancy [Fear and Parenting in Las Vegas]

    We all will take a scooter ride together this summer. I can hardly wait.
    Life is good!!!
    Love Grandpa

    April 7, 2011 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterGrandpa

    You are quite a man, BHJ. I had a fella that I was just vaguely sweet on, and when the ex discovered this, he started hitting on me and asking me home. Fella said "That's what husbands do when there is a new hombre on the scene".
    You have grace, fella.

    April 7, 2011 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered Commentersara

    That was beautiful. Just beautiful.

    April 7, 2011 at 5:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterKaty

    "And that’s how I found myself, alive, in the world, serving my children macaroni and cheese cooked up by my ex-wife’s boyfriend."

    Best line ever. It made me stop and laugh out loud. That's rare.

    I like you, BHJ. You're a stand-up guy, you know that?

    April 7, 2011 at 6:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterslouchy

    it's awesome that a commenter named slouchy told you that you were a stand up guy. i love it.

    April 7, 2011 at 9:02 PM | Unregistered Commentersarah

    sighs and nodding heads.

    April 8, 2011 at 5:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterLaura

    Butterfingers would have had me sold.

    April 8, 2011 at 6:21 AM | Unregistered CommenterWilliam

    i can't decide which i fucking love more... the post... or BHJ's response to "a mom" who doesn't deserve the goodness of homemade macaroni and cheese or chili.

    nevermind, the post wins.

    April 8, 2011 at 8:56 AM | Unregistered Commenternic

    slouchy :)

    April 8, 2011 at 9:40 AM | Unregistered Commenterbrandon

    When I heard my ex was dating again I was genuinely pleased for him, but had no desire to really befriend the new girlfriend (now wife and mother). We don't have kids so that's a lot easier. My hat is off to you yet again.

    April 8, 2011 at 10:21 AM | Unregistered Commentermmrilla

    I love this so freaking much, and I can't even explain why but it made me tear up a little.

    April 8, 2011 at 10:26 AM | Unregistered Commenterlettergirl

    I'm sure you could take a skinny scientist in a 10k. And you are a great dad.

    April 8, 2011 at 5:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterFairly Odd Mother

    I can't get this post out of my head and haven't been able to since I first read it. I love it.

    April 9, 2011 at 3:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterKaren

    Your Neil is my Sara. And I have to see her every day when I drop my son off at preschool. I just smile and nod and wait for the karma police.

    April 9, 2011 at 1:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterDebi

    sounds lie this Neil guy's not so bad. You aren't, either.

    April 9, 2011 at 4:40 PM | Unregistered Commenterflutter

    I'm touched by the pain and the grace. I'm sure "a mom" meant well, but you are where you are and it seems like you are doing a fine job in the face of difficult circumstances. Keep on keepin' on, BHJ. Keep loving those kids, through thick & thin. That's the price of parenthood. Peace, dude {gentle fist-bump}.

    April 9, 2011 at 7:55 PM | Unregistered CommenterFran

    @ A Mom- Honestly I couldn't be more embarrassed that someone that I sent here to read one of the best written blogs on the internet decides to leave such a shitty terrible comment. I'm wondering why you have never left Cole a similar comment?! Have you ever read my blog? Or do you just look at the pictures? Now I am here on this amazing post apologizing for having sent such a thoughtless ding dong his way. I wish I could do the "hard thing" and be honest and say what I really wanted to say to you... because trust me calling you a "ding dong" was the sweet version of this comment. Shame.

    April 10, 2011 at 5:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterryan

    I agree with Ryan. And I never flipping get involved in any comment crap. COME ON. OK. That is done.
    Babe. You are a runner and a winner.

    April 10, 2011 at 6:21 AM | Unregistered Commenteramy turn sharp

    You are the one writer on the internet that consistently blows me away.

    April 10, 2011 at 8:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterRedneck Mommy

    First time commenter, long time reader/twitter follower - I just wanted to say I loved this. Beautifully written and something I live through, in a way. Thank you.

    April 10, 2011 at 10:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterMonique

    There is so much gorgeousness in this post I don't know where to begin. I never seem to know where to begin when I comment here; the sheer creative force of your writing renders me speechless.

    "A Mom's" comment has made me so angry, though, that I broke out of my wondrous paralysis to tell you that the kind of love you write about here is the Real Deal. Does she think that kids don't suffer when parents stay together "for the sake of the kids"? That they don't wither when they live around silent hostile negitivity? That they don't believe in their hearts that somehow they are at fault for the inauthentic weirdness between their parents? GAH. I have to stop now, because I feel a rant coming on.

    Thank you for your beautiful truth.


    April 11, 2011 at 7:47 AM | Unregistered CommenterEllie

    This is the best post you've ever written. Your bravery soothes.

    April 11, 2011 at 2:26 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin

    Wow. Just wow. You are such a better person then I am. Truly, truly. Good for you, I really admire you.

    April 11, 2011 at 2:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

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