Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Divorce

Here at What The Flicka, we embrace dysfunction of all sorts. Being perfect takes up way too much time and energy that we don’t usually have. 

For this reason, there’s nothing like a good comedy that embraces that dysfunction and shows us that no matter how crazy our families are, they aren’t THAT bad.

The Big Wedding is one of those movies. Your family may not be perfect but at least you’ve never had to pretend to be married to your ex because your adopted son’s birth mom is super against divorce! Or, at least, we hope you haven’t.

Test your family’s level of dysfunction with this impressively accurate quiz, and check out The Big Wedding on iTunes.

If I wrote down my life on paper what would it look like?

I am a thirty-three year old divorced mother of a child with chronic illness. I work as a personal assistant, where it is my job to pick up dry cleaning and make dinner reservations, so someone else can live a successful life. I basically do what no one wants to, what we would all pay someone else to do if we could afford it. That’s me. On paper.

I’m five pounds fatter than I was pre-kid (okay seven), and 15 pounds fatter than I was pre-husband. I sweat the small stuff, drive a 98′ Saturn, clean my own toilet and scoop kitty poop twice a day. Everything I own is from a thrift store or donated. Our eclectic apartment is basically a permanent garage sale where nothing is actually for sale. Crayon hieroglyphics decorate the walls and Martha Stewart would drop dead if she saw how frightfully mismatched our color schemes are. My living room looks like a disorganized preschool, Trader Joe’s cooks most of our meals and dog hair rolls down my hallway like tumbleweed.

I’m a writer but I’ve never been paid for writing. Not a cent. I’ve been published, but never paid. I have two degrees, and have only used them for crossword puzzles or “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me.”

On paper I am not a success. ‘I am only a paper moon sailing over a cardboard sea.’

Faced with such a prophecy ten years ago would have killed me. If my 23 year old self met my 33 year old self, she would have politely suggested beauty school.

I remember working on my resume in my early twenties, anticipating a writing career. It was full of silly awards and plays produced, accomplishments I thought would one day lead to a dreamy life. I was so full of myself, so sure I could conquer the world, positive that by twenty-five I would be writing my own show for HBO – a smart, witty dramedy about nerdy Midwestern girls finding themselves and their sexual prowess in the cornfields of Iowa- a Sex in the City meets Places in the Heart, minus the STD’s and tornadoes.

I couldn’t wait for my ten year high school reunion where I would brag to all the cheerleaders, “So one day I’m sitting at this darling little café in Brentwood, and a producer walks by my open laptop, reads a few lines of my new screenplay, and screams, ‘Brilliant, darling, simply brilliant!’ The next thing I know I’m the head of NBC. I didn’t even have to sleep with anyone like you loosie goosies did. By the way, did that human pyramid thing ever pay off?”

I had high hopes, a vision of success that would somehow manifest itself into a British accent. Don’t ask. Money, husband, child, house, a passionate career doing what I love.
And yet, and yet.

I have a job that allows me to spend every day with my child. When Addie was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, I decided not to work full-time. I saw her first steps, heard her first words, first everything. When I think about all those hours we’ve spent doing her respiratory treatments, reading stories, snuggling cheek-to-cheek I think, “How lucky am I?”

I get to hold my daughter every day for at least one hour without interruption, to tell her how much I love her, how incredible she is. We read Stuart Little, Charlotte’s Web and her bizarre favorites, The Encyclopedia of the Human Body and All My Friends are Dead.

Every day I hear the early signs of wicked genius. Pontifications like:

“I wonder what really is on the dark side of the moon.”

“Why do they call cats felions?”

“I can’t have a playdate with Oliver tomorrow. I’ll be too busy making evil plans.”

And as creepy as it is to live vicariously through your child, I can’t help but take a little witty credit when she puts a seashell up to the dog’s ear and says, “He’s talking on his shellphone.”

Or on a nature hike, while waving two sticks in the air, says, “Look mom, I’m conducting nature.”

Yes, I spend a lot of my day on the phone with pharmacies, Blue Cross, making dinner reservations. Most of the time I am taking care of someone else’s day, someone else’s plans, someone else’s life. I make theatre reservations for plays I would love to see, trips to India and Budapest, trips I would love to take. And sometimes I wish I was on the plane, at the dinner, or in the writer’s room. Sometimes I wish someone else would scrub my toilet. But what would I give up?

This is a rich life, even though I am not rich. My resume is not impressive. But I don’t live there. I live here, in my Addie’s heart. And it is a beautiful place.

At bedtime, I submit to sublime demands of “snuggle me.” Her hands find my face and I watch the most beautiful girl in the world fall asleep.

And I think – This is it. This is what it’s all about. I couldn’t imagine better. If success is measured in hours, in moments of pure awe, of watching life happen and being a part of the grand scheme, well I am the guru, the president, the queen bee of success.

Maybe this is where I needed to go. Before I was allowed to taste the fruit, I needed to climb the tree. I have lived a hundred years in the last five. And now, now I am ready. To write. To live. To find success, whatever that means.

“Say it’s only a paper moon sailing over a cardboard sea. But it wouldn’t be make-believe if you believe in me. It is only a canvas sky, hanging over a muslin tree, but it wouldn’t be make-believe if you believed in me. ” – from the song ‘Paper Moon’ by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y. Harburg and Billy Rose.

Photo via

When my first marriage ended, the day before Thanksgiving in 2003, I took a deep breath upon returning from court and began meal preparations for my first major holiday on my own. I set myself (and my raw nerves) to the comforting task of marinating pears for a compote, then started on the bread-sage stuffing. Why? Because for as long as I can recall, I’ve cooked elaborate dinners for the holidays.

During my first marriage, our family shared hosting duties for the holidays, but the times when it wasn’t my turn didn’t mean I was off the hook. I contributed side dishes and desserts to the groaning board so the burden of cooking an entire meal wasn’t borne by the host. That, however, was all in the past. My son would join me, and my cousin, for my first post-divorce Thanksgiving. That was it. Taking the smallest turkey I’d ever roasted out of the oven, I marveled at its lightness. And cried.

One month later, at Christmas, I said goodbye to all that and performed a variation on the theme. My cousin brought her nephew, my son came with his girlfriend at the time, and I rounded out the rest of the table with a young violinist from the Ukraine, who was studying at the conservatory where I worked. She brought her mother along. And, for the first time in my entire life, turkey was not featured on the table. Instead I prepared a standing rib roast from one of Ina Garten‘s Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.

This was my new family dynamic, and the start of a new tradition.

It can’t have been easy for my son, who at the time was in his early 20s. He was now required to divide all of his holidays in two; the first half of the day was spent with his father, the latter half with me. Those mornings and early afternoons dragged on so! It seemed strange to be alone in the house on a holiday. I probably hugged him far too long and far too tightly when he arrived. But so it went, each year, until the year I remarried.

My new husband had taken a job in Virginia, and I was now living nearly 500 miles from where I grew up and lived my entire life—and 500 miles from my son. Whereas holidays had presented a mere logistical inconvenience, now the geographical stakes were raised to challenging heights. Would I be able to spend at least one holiday with him? And what of my husband’s sons? How and when would we see them? The oldest is in graduate school in Illinois; the youngest had just started college in Ohio.

As it turned out, I wasn’t able to see my son at all that first year after our move. His work schedule simply didn’t allow him enough time off to make the trip. I cannot tell you how that rocked me. Things fared a bit better with the other boys; they drove to Virginia the second week of December to have an early Christmas with us. But again, what orbits they had to navigate! The eldest and his girlfriend drove from Illinois to Ohio to spend time with his mother and brother. Then, with his brother in tow, he drove from Ohio to Virginia. Then it was back around and up to Ohio to drop his brother off, and westward to St. Louis, so his girlfriend could see her family. And back to Illinois. It was like a 1930s movie, where a map of the United States with moving, dotted arrows illustrated a character’s travel progression from Point A to Point Whatever. The mind reels.

Last year, John and I decided that it was our turn to give the kids a break and do the driving. We left for Ohio early in the morning the day before Thanksgiving. Once there, we stayed with my son and his girlfriend. John’s sons joined us the next day, and we all enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner together in a suburb of Cleveland. In a restaurant. For Thanksgiving.

That took some getting used to. Never in my life had I set foot in a restaurant on a major holiday; it went against every cooking and baking gene in my body. I had always felt nothing but sadness for Ralphie and his family in A Christmas Story, forced to eat Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant after the Bumpus hounds devoured their turkey.

The meal was traditional enough and tasty enough, I suppose. But that was hardly the point. The goal was to be together: one scattered family gathered for a few brief hours around a table laden with food that might (or might not) allow us (allow me?) to pretend we were in the old homestead, however new that homestead might be.

It was more than enough that we were together and healthy.

It’s true, as the old song says, that there’s no place like home for the holidays. But when you create a new family, and circumstances toss your family hither and yon with no viable base of operations, it helps to remember another song—one that can serve to brighten your thoughts with a clarity that allows comfort and joy to shine through:

Home is where the heart is.

This post was originally featured on Marci’s blog, The Midlife Second Wife. Photo via

A.C.O.D. is a dramedy that takes a humorous look at dysfunctional families and what it means to be an adult child of divorce.  The film follows Carter, a seemingly well-adjusted Adult Child of Divorce who appears to have survived the madness of his parents’ separation and now has a successful career and supportive girlfriend. But when his younger brother gets engaged, Carter is forced to reunite his bitterly divorced parents and their new spouses for the wedding, causing the chaos of his childhood to return.

Our own contributors have shared similar experiences with divorce, separation, and the effect it has on children, though none quite so crazy as the situation that unfolds for Carter. The following are some of the firsthand experiences our contributors and readers have shared here on What The Flicka.

1.) Life Happens, Then You Move Forward Again.

Life happens. Sometimes it sneaks up on us and gives a little tap on the shoulder. Sometimes it takes us by surprise because we allow ourselves to practice denial. And then sometimes it actually slaps us across the face.” 

2.) How To Date A Single Mom… Or How Not To

Show her you love her not in spite of everything she comes with, but because of everything she comes with.”

3.) 5 Pieces of Marriage Advice… From A Divorcee

I realized; that I thought marriage was supposed to be a certain way and (shocker…) I didn’t fit that mold; no matter how hard I tried. And I tried really, really hard.

What I understand NOW is that marriage is what you make it.”

4.) Custody Arrangements

Even with our table for two missing one, he was there. We were free to do anything; everything, but what we really wanted was to be parents again. Anxiously, we’d spend Sunday awaiting his return.”

5.) A Bump in the Road or The End of A Marriage?

“My husband and I have been having problems for some time. At first it was mostly just those little things that only your partner can drive you crazy with. You know what I’m talking about. Then the distance that was created, grew into real problems.”

Photo courtesy of greenevillepost.com.

Ladies, let’s talk about online dating real quick.

I’ve been divorced for some time but I just recently got out of a relationship (if you can even call it that) with a man I’d been seeing for over a year and a half. I’m not even remotely close to being emotionally ready to jump back on the dating wagon but last weekend when I found myself child-free and 4 bottles into a 6-pack of hard cider I downloaded a dating app on my iPhone called Tinder where you basically judge people on their physical appearance to determine if you have a connection.

24 hours and 1 hangover later I had 50 matches on Tinder. FIFTY MATCHES. I went from being single to an online dating slut in a matter of hours. This is real life you guys! You can meet your future soul mate without actually meeting him. All you need is a good selfie and a few witty lines for your bio. Maybe throw a Ghandi or Mother Teresa quote in there so all the men know that you’re profound and intelligent.

Moving on…

I’ve been doing this Tinder thing for a few days now and this is what I’ve found so far.

1.)There are a ton of fish in the sea.
2.)Most of these fish don’t know the difference between “your” and “you’re.”
3.)A large chunk of the male population still thinks using a bathroom mirror selfie of your abs as a profile photo is a good idea.
4.)It’s not uncommon to see pictures of men with tigers. Like, real live, living and breathing tigers. –I don’t even know.

Don’t let this sway your decision to use online dating as a method of meeting someone. I actually know some people who are in great relationships because of online dating. Just, you know, maybe only date the guys that know “your” and “you’re” are not the same thing.

Have you tried online dating? Would you consider it a success or an epic fail?

Photo courtesy of the Yale Daily News.

My posts have been few and far between of late and writing this one nearly broke me. I had to walk away. I dug my heels into my fiction reading addiction and kept my nose buried there, refusing to think or write.

I’d been distracted and inattentive for weeks. I’d been remiss. I failed to share my wonderful margarita-filled Mothers Day. I failed to share my daughter’s first ballet recital and my first experience as a dance mom backstage. Worse, I failed to share my son’s one and only high school graduation. Amazing moments and milestones—all certainly worthy of being shared.

My daughter kicked me in the panties one night recently. Let me tell you, my 4 year-old sounded like a 40 year-old and she really let me have it. Immediately after her brief but effective daughter-to-mom lecture, she curled up on top of me, said a sleepy goodnight and quickly drifted off to sleep. And then I cried. She was right. I had let her down and that’s something she’d never before experienced with me. After I finished my cry, and ate not one but two chocolate bars, I was finally inspired to pick up my beloved MacBook Air and write.

Life happens. Sometimes it sneaks up on us and gives a little tap on the shoulder. Sometimes it takes us by surprise because we allow ourselves to practice denial. And then sometimes it actually slaps us across the face.
I had my face slapped by life back in April when I received a letter at our home from my husband’s attorney informing me there would be a divorce. Then I allowed myself to be bullied for the following few months. Not to worry, I’ve since bucked up and reinstated my 2012 new year’s resolution—be fearless.

My blogging endeavors aren’t about motherhood but rather womanhood. And for me, that includes motherhood and so much more. So as I begin to process my thoughts on the present and look forward to the future, I may be writing some posts and articles that do not include mention of my darling children, though they’re always the center of my universe.

Divorce is one of the most difficult life experiences. It’s easy to get caught up in who-can-hurt-the-other-more combat. It’s hard to keep things in proper perspective. And most importantly, when it comes to children of divorcing parents, it’s imperative to always remember to do what’s in their best interest.

If you’re going through a divorce currently, or headed that way, I encourage you to be sure you retain an attorney that is suitable for you as an individual. It’s okay to change attorneys if you’re not comfortable with the one you first hire—your life is worth making that correction. I’ve watched my husband’s attorney fuel his fire and seek every opportunity to create more billable actions. On the other hand, my own attorney is an expert at gently talking me down from the inevitable emotional cliffs so that I can make rational, fair decisions.

When life happens, we must find the best way to move forward and find happiness again. As for me, I will no longer be bullied. I won’t let my kids down. I will find peace. I will remove the chocolate bars from my nightstand. And I will write.