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Unknown After reading and loving The Distance Between Us last month, I was eager for another, similar story for my next read. I’m partial to memoirs, and, in addition to The Distance Between Us, I also adored The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls, which I read years ago on my honeymoon. Both memoirs are stories of turbulent childhoods in which the authors face enormous adversity and eventually rise above it. In my hunt for another memoir like these two, I found North of Normal: A Memoir of My Wilderness Childhood, My Unusual Family, and How I Survived Both. I read it last week and it did not disappoint. From the Amazon description:

Sex, drugs, and . . . bug stew? In the vein of The Glass Castle and Wild, Cea Sunrise Person’s compelling memoir of a childhood spent with her dysfunctional counter-culture family in the Canadian wilderness—a searing story of physical, emotional, and psychological survival.

In the late 1960s, riding the crest of the counterculture movement, Cea’s family left a comfortable existence in California to live off the land in the Canadian wilderness. But unlike most commune dwellers of the time, the Persons weren’t trying to build a new society—they wanted to escape civilization altogether. Led by Cea’s grandfather Dick, they lived a pot-smoking, free-loving, clothing-optional life under a canvas tipi without running water, electricity, or heat for the bitter winters.

Living out her grandparents’ dream with her teenage mother Michelle, young Cea knew little of the world beyond her forest. She spent her summers playing nude in the meadow and her winters snowshoeing behind the grandfather she idolized. Despite fierce storms, food shortages, and the occasional drug-and-sex-infused party for visitors, it seemed to be a mostly happy existence. For Michelle, however, now long separated from Cea’s father, there was one crucial element missing: a man. When Cea was five, Michelle took her on the road with a new boyfriend. As the trio set upon a series of ill-fated adventures, Cea began to question both her highly unusual world and the hedonistic woman at the centre of it—questions that eventually evolved into an all-consuming search for a more normal life. Finally, in her early teens, Cea realized she would have to make a choice as drastic as the one her grandparents once had in order to save herself.

Have you read it? What did you think? I loved it. And now I’m looking for something new to read. I was thinking about this one. (I guess I’m on a memoir kick at the moment). What are you reading? Any recommendations?



I have been casually dating a 56-year-old divorced woman who has one adult (23-year-old) daughter. This female friend of mine, who has been separated from her ex-husband (the father of her now-adult daughter) for the past eight years but only divorced since last year, is inexperienced with relationships (she’s only had two in her entire life), and she continues to see nothing wrong with maintaining “ties or communication” with her ex-husband AND two of his sisters and their husbands.

As a 46-year-old man who’s had several relationships — both good and bad — over the years, I’ve attempted to explain to her that her behavior is considered disrespectful and is cause for distrust by not only myself, but also most likely by ANY man with whom she becomes involved, because it serves no realistic purpose. Otherwise, her ex would not be her “ex.” I’ve attempted to convey to her on numerous occasions that everyone else I know ceases all forms of communication with their ex-mate AND the ex in-laws once they are divorced or the relationship ends (UNLESS AN UNDERAGE CHILD/CHILDREN ARE INVOLVED). Unfortunately, my friend refuses to see it that way and repeatedly tries to justify her actions by claiming I “am just being immature or insecure about the situation.” She refuses to believe that most men (hell, even women too) would have a serious problem with someone they’re considering becoming closer with maintaining any type of communication with an ex and/or a family member(s) of an ex . . . especially since their child is now grown and on her own. Such illogical thinking prevents a relationship with anyone else from being able to progress.

She shared with me that, when the man was married to her, he cleverly took advantage of her, from the very beginning, by talking her into financial deals involving real estate in which she was the one really responsible for acquiring and maintaining the property/properties and by leaving her responsible for making the bulk of the mortgage payments and paying for costs associated with raising their daughter.

She even shared with me that at one point she became so frustrated with him for his incorrigible attitude towards anything relating to managing their rental properties that she voluntarily told him to “be accountable for one of two properties they own(ed) together because she was only going to be responsible for the one property.” The apartment building(s) each of them owns has four apartment units per building. So, when she informed me that he collected monthly rent of between $850-$900 per apartment on a building, I was blown away when she also revealed that he had not shared any of that money with her and/or their young daughter at the time throughout the 18-20 years they owned both buildings! Which means that he collected over $300,000 in rent money acquired on a property she never benefitted from, even though her name was still on the deed until they actually divorced about one year ago. And upon being divorced, she voluntarily gave him the one building instead of asking the courts to sell/divide the finances from selling the property.

According to her, she was not happy with him and has no desire whatsoever to be involved with him again. However, every few months she finds a way to come up with a poor reason/excuse to conveniently place herself in his presence or that of his sister(s). For example, last year she invited him to help her drive their adult daughter across country from Georgia to California to attend law school instead of paying a moving company to do the job (which would’ve turned out to be just as cost effective, less time-consuming, and less stressful). To add to this madness, she’s continued to coincidentally meet one of his sisters out at various events, communicates frequently with both sisters and the one sister’s husband by phone, and only God knows what else. She also occasionally communicates with her ex via phone and/or in person, too.

As you can imagine, he does not have a close relationship with their adult daughter but continually makes it a habit to make her a reason to call my friend seeking her involvement. And, for a time, their daughter was doing the same thing instead of communicating directly with her father about anything. I expressed to my friend that she needs to encourage her daughter to take the initiative to communicate with her father (and vice-versa) directly instead of her daughter and ex relying upon her to be the go-between.

I was recently diagnosed with kidney failure and doctors discovered a lump in my thyroid as well, so I am not in the mood for any unnecessary added stress, and this never-ending situation definitely generates stress for me. I am at a point where I am tired of feeling disrespected and I am ready to cut ties altogether with such a so-called “friendship” and remain single or move forward by seeking someone new who does not desire to maintain ties to a past relationship or the relatives of their ex. However, I wanted to be fair and seek your perspective . . . although I do not necessarily need it. The thing is, there are very little resources out there for men seeking advice in such relationship situations, so I felt compelled to inquire about your response to see if it seemed unbiased. Although you are a “relationship professional,” I also realize that cultural differences may prevent you from seeing my perspective accurately. (I’m an African-American male and my friend is an African-American female; you are a Caucasian female). Traditionally, what is seen as being permissible in the Caucasian community is NOT acceptable in the African-American or Latino communities as it relates to relationship etiquette. However, I am open to hearing your perspective and it would be humbly appreciated. — Full of Ex-amples of Disrespect

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Happy, happy Friday! Oh, I’m so glad it’s the weekend! And last night our whole family actually got some sleep, which was much-needed. (I’ve had bad pregnancy insomnia and allergies keeping me awake for over a week, and then Jackson had three nights of intense nightmares keeping us all awake all night long; it was a good refresher for nights with a newborn, I guess . . .). Anyhow, it was a long week and I’m glad it’s just about over. And I’m sneaking away this weekend for a little R&R on my own, which I’m quite excited about, too. I plan to sleep and read and sleep some more.

Thanks again for indulging me and Jackson in our little Dear Jackson experiment yesterday. He loved playing and was really tickled to see his videos on the site and know other people were watching them, too. Maybe we will do it again some time. By the way, the photo above is Jackson in his happy place — new play-doh, a brief stop at Chuck E. Cheese (my personal hell, but he loves it), and spending time with mom and dad. I thought the photo captured one of the better moments of the Thrilling Threes pretty well.

Changing topics: I thought this was an interesting debate. What would you do if your mother promised you a family heirloom engagement ring but wanted to hand it to you in person and wasn’t going to come visit before you wanted to be engaged? If it were I, I’d make a weekend trip to go visit her, pick up the ring, talk about its family history, fly home, give the ring to my boyfriend to have it re-set or sized or whatever, and then tell him to give it back to me when he wanted to propose. In fact, that’s exactly what I did do (granted, my visit home was already planned, but, if going to visit my parents was the best/only way to get the ring, I think that would be reason enough to go . . . like, beyond seeing my parents, of course, as a ticket home is still cheaper than most engagement rings).

Anyway, what’s everyone up to this weekend, the last weekend of March (hooray, hooray, it’s almost April!)?



Here are a few things from around the web that may interest you:

Hmm, I disagree with a couple of these, but, for the most part, they’re right: “9 Small, But Overlooked Things That Put Your Marriage At Risk Every Day” [via Yahoo]

Angelina Jolie writes about her recent surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tube. [via NYTimes]

I’m sorry, but this article is fucked up. I’m a mom and wife, too, and I would never give my husband only 1% of my attention (on a given day, maybe, but in general? Um, no), and I would never give away my pets because I had a baby and suddenly couldn’t care for them anymore (I have a real issue with people who do this). The crazy thing about this essay is that the woman’s youngest child is 11. God, I’m banking on having a little more time for my marriage by the time my kids are in double-digits, not even less time. This is pathetic. “I’m 99% Mother and 1% Wife — And It Has to Be That Way” [via Good Housekeeping]

“Going Dutch: Can You Have Your Free Cake and Feminism, Too?” [via PopSugar Love]

“A Lost Possibility: Women on Miscarriage” [via The Nib]

Right after I got pregnant, we switched our health insurance plan. We needed better coverage for the same price (or cheaper) and we settled on insurance through the ACA. It’s been great so far — much better than what we had. Anyway, it was with that perspective, and as a supporter of Obama in general, that I read this and got a good laugh: “GOP congresswoman gets surprise on Facebook after asking constituents for Obamacare horror stories” [via Daily Kos]

“Why We Need to Stop Asking, ‘How Do You Do It All?'” [via HuffPost]

Legalized discrimination, how disgusting: “Indiana businesses can legally refuse gay customers because of religion” [via Las Vegas Review Journal]

Thank you to those who submitted links for me to include. If you see something around the web you think DW readers would appreciate, please send me a link to wendy@dearwendy.com and, if it’s a fit, I’ll include it in Friday’s round-up. Thanks!

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It’s time again for Shortcuts. For every question, I’ll give my advice in just a few sentences because sometimes the answer to a person’s question is so obvious and the need to hear it so great that being as clear and frank as possible is simply the best way to go.

I slept with my sister’s ex-boyfriend and it was great, but now it’s a little awkward and he still wants to remain friends, and, well, when I slept with him, it was my first time. Should I tell him it was my first time or not? I feel that, if I do, he might shut me out while, if I don’t, I will be withholding something from him that he has the right to know. — No Longer a Virgin

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