Modern Family: Jersey Edition

welcome to NJ

S. stood outside the driver’s side window.

“Are you driving?”  He shouted through the glass.

“Do you want me to?”


I’m not surprised by this. In our 16 years of knowing each other, I can count the times I was behind the wheel with S. as a passenger.

I jump out of the car and walk around to the passenger side and get in, while S. adjusts the mirrors.

“It’s dirty in here.  Sorry about that,”  I say, as S. inspects the car that was once his, the car he’ll tell you I stole, but it was a fair trade, for a slice of pizza and a bottle of Coke.  S. kept this car much neater than I ever have, he, the Felix Unger to my Oscar Madison. I’m often surprised that he didn’t call it quits on me during year one, given how I let papers pile up on my desk – and the way I mangle the toothpaste tube.

“You need to replace the steering wheel cover,” S. says.   Last month when he came to visit the kids, he bought me a tire gage and showed me how to use it. I had been spoiled in never having to once think about how to maintain these things.

We drive to Brooklyn in comfortable silence, with S. and I in front, and the kids in the back with my mother.  S. had agreed to share his “day with the kids” with my brother and his family, who I wanted to spend time with during our short trip to New Jersey for Thanksgiving break.

I had no desire to travel last week.  The timing felt wrong.   In the week leading up to our departure, big things happened with my business.   I signed the lease. I purchased the equipment I needed to renovate my space.  I submitted my building permit application to Town Hall, and was aiming for a 90 day lead time to open my doors.   The holiday felt like an inconvenience.

In addition, I had been feeling the pull for weeks, of obligation and demand, of family and friends, who knew we would be in town and expected to see us.  I was new at this game, being the out of towner dropping in for a visit, and wasn’t prepared for the expectations and disappointments and politics of it all.

It was the first time I worked with S. as a long distance parent in his home state.  There were scheduling dilemmas, and miscommunications, and dozens of rookie mistakes. We butted heads.  We disagreed.   We compromised.  One of the ironies of divorce, for me, is that I’ve learned to cooperate with my ex in a way that I wasn’t able or willing to in marriage.

There were great moments, too, many of them.  From the ping pong contest in my brother’s living room, to Thanksgiving dinner with our old back yard neighbors, to my morning runs along the Long Brach pier, to eating much missed, really good pizza.  There were the visits with my best girlfriends,  with each one, feeling as if we picked up exactly where we left off.

There was also the gift of distance from our new home, and the perspective that distance gives you.  There were moments, more than once, that through getting caught up with friends, I saw and felt and appreciated the progress we’ve made in creating a new life for ourselves.  New friendships, the feeling of establishing roots, my seizing the opportunity to chase a dream.

On Friday night, exactly three months and two weeks after leaving for a tiny island off the coast of North Carolina, with a car load of kids and our clothes and with no real plans except to figure out what was next, I got behind the wheel of the car that once belonged to S., to leave the place I used to call home where I now vacation, to go back to the place I once vacationed that I now call home.

View From 9th Street

The kids and I headed south, back to the life we’ve begun to create.  It’s a picture that we’ve started to paint and while we’re still mulling over details, the initial sketch looks promising.

Every masterpiece begins with the same blank canvas.



Modern Family: Jersey Edition — 66 Comments

    • The pizza? Divine. My mouth is still watering for it. But I won’t have to wait long for another slice, since we’re headed north again for Christmas. As as far as the ex and me. I feel very grateful that we have both been willing to put our kids first. Please God it will always be this way. Thanks Carla!

    • I think we get as many blank canvases as we want – or need for that matter. This isn’t my first and it certainly wont be my last. I think all of us could benefit from being willing to clean the slate more. And yes, I really can’t wait to eat pizza with you!

    • Thank you my friend. I thought of you often – the women who inspired me to run faster – as I hightailed it up that pier – as fast as my legs could carry me. I would love to run with you one day…except it would be more like I’d be chasing after you out of breath than side by side!

    • Crazy, exciting, scary, and often all at the same time. But it’s good, Shell – it’s nice to be as fully engaged in life as I am right now. That in itself is a gift. And yay for good pizza! xo

  1. I love the image of creating your masterpieces with your new canvases; I am so glad things are taking shape and that you are choosing your colours. And, of course, that you were able to have some of your most beloved pizza. It sounds like a great trip. 🙂
    Kim@Co-Pilot Mom recently posted…EmbracedMy Profile

    • It’s as if I had forgotten what good pizza tasted like! It was quite a reunion! And yes, I love the image too – of the masterpiece. I can’t wait to see what it looks like!

  2. I’m so glad to hear things are shaping up nicely (it sounds) with your business! (And I can definitely relate to the timing of life things not meshing with business things…but I’d like to think it all has a way of working out the way it’s supposed to in the end.) It sounds like you had a wonderful trip to Jersey. I missed it this year.
    Bev recently posted…Looking for a unique holiday shopping experience? Check out the Boston Handmade Holiday Gallery!My Profile

    • I do believe life has a way of working out as it’s supposed to – new businesses and all.New Jersey missed you too this year! But what a wonderful reason you had to stay close to home. xo

  3. Yay for getting decent pizza!
    It’s amazing how much more relaxed I am around my ex-husband when it comes to co-parenting our daughter. I truly believe that she lucked out with getting the best of two worlds 🙂
    Ilene, I am so freakin’ excited to see your business take shape. I really want to know everything about it! And if there is anything I can do to help you, please let me know. For realz. xox
    Kerstin @ Auer Life recently posted…2 years agoMy Profile

    • Oh, Kerstin – our lives are parallel in so many ways. I’m glad you can relate to the co=parenting thing and I have no doubt that you and your ex have nailed this. And I can’t thank you enough for your support on the business end. I am in uncharted territory – for me. But loving every step of this crazy wild goose chase. xo

    • Thank you for your good wishes – on all three fronts! Sometimes, usually, with me, the not posting means I’m into something new – and I’m having to process it enough to tell you all about it. Thank you for being here every time I drop back in. xo

    • You are dead on about distance. The distance from NJ has given me clarity and so has the distance from this new place. I can always see things more clearly from a few feet away. I think that holds true for most of us!

  4. So many wonderful things in this, Ilene! I love that you’re finding new ways to communicate and co-parent, despite the challenges. Your children are so lucky to have such a kick-ass mama! And I love that you are beginning to see NC as your home. And I can’t wait to hear about the beautiful picture you are painting with your family and business. The future is looking very bright for you! Now, if only you could find some decent pizza at home…
    Nicole @ Work in Sweats Mama recently posted…Holiday Deals for Runners, Mamas and Other Awesome PeopleMy Profile

    • Pizza would fill out that canvas perfectly, Nicole! Thank you for all of your enthusiasm for what’s going on in this little corner of the world. xo

  5. Oh man- too much…WAY too much to say. I can only imagine all the emotions of leaving in the midst of so many big unfinished projects, and then the return of what was so recently and yet so long ago, called home.

    I can’t stand it. We need to talk. ASAP. This post isn’t enough. And I totally dropped the ball Wednesday!!! (OY) Crazy cluster weekend here, but I have a feeling you have lots more to tell. 😉

    Tomorrow night? Perhaps? If not, tomorrow during the day? You just let me know. I miss you so much it actually hurts.

    You. Your many beautiful canvases that you have displayed just since I’ve known you- how you clear them, and begin again, to sketch…shading and erasing scratches here and there, adding more color and design and dignity. All just in the short time I have been privileged to know you. Your “art” is honorable and gorgeous- always.
    Chris Carter recently posted…Devotional Diary: BreatheMy Profile

    • I’m trying to think how many canvases I’ve pulled out and started on and ripped up and torn apart and started over since I’ve known you. The good news is that there is a very large supply of these I guess! And I am so glad you are here to take a second glance at my art. I can never 100% trust my own eye. But you know this. xo

  6. I’m so glad you did have a good Thanksgiving even though the details were complicated in the beginning. It is hard traveling back and forth when going to visit family. When I go see my parents at Christmas, I would also love to see my friends in that area but it’s so hard to squeeze everything in! Congrats on the lease girl, so proud of you!
    Natalie recently posted…A Fulfilling WeekendMy Profile

    • Thanks my friend! It is really hard to squeeze it all in. I lived and learned from this trip. It will never be perfect but hopefully better as time goes on!

  7. You got your pizza!! Thank goodness!!
    It is tricky being the out of town traveling family member, isn’t it? There are definitely politics at play with how long you stay where, who gets you for a meal vs a visit. It can cause a stir!
    No wonder the holiday felt a bit like an intrusion when it fell…you have SO much happening with your business. How so exciting!! You’ve done so much in such a short amount of time. You are a marvel!! I love it when good things happen for good people.
    I loved when you wrote “to leave the place I used to call home where I now vacation, to go back to the place I once vacationed that I now call home”…what a perfect circle. There is just a wonderful symmetry there! 🙂 –Lisa

    • I am hoping I go into Christmas (yikes! going back in two weeks for Christmas – can you believe that?)with a clearer picture of how to handle being the out of town family member. Maybe? Maybe not? We shall see! And thank you for your support with all of the things whirling around in my life. xo

  8. I totally understand the feeling of a holiday seeming like an inconvenience especially when you have so much to do and being pulled in many directions. But sometimes that inconvenience turns out to be a great experience. It’s amazing how life came come full circle. The familiar becomes the unfamiliar and vice versa.
    Hope recently posted…5K…Fun K race recap.My Profile

    • I love when the unfamiliar becomes the familiar. It’s a great space to move into. And I agree – that sometimes, we never know the benefits we’ll receive from indulging in the inconvenient.

  9. Glad you got your pizza fix and that you and S were able to co-parent. I found that the best way to handle being the out of towner was to ask my mom to let me host an open house. We picked a day and said, ‘Drop in between x and x” if you want to be sure to see us. That took some of the pressure off!
    Single Mom in the South recently posted…Not WorriedMy Profile

  10. Jersey Girl- I’m SO glad you got your pizza BUT I’m SO glad you are home for a couple of weeks!!! I guess I need to change your nickname now, ’cause your one of us now… Tar Heel & everything (BTW- if you watched last night don’t watch again b/c you may have jinxed it, if you didn’t watch you need to watch on 12/4- ACC basketball- we are very superstitious…just sayin’) I love you, Ilene! XO, friend!! Meetup after the New Year, As Si from Duck Dynasty says “it’s on, like donkey kong” xoxo! ~A~
    Amber Day Hicks recently posted…Happy Birthday, Baby Girl!!!My Profile

    • And hugs right back at you! As for those curve balls, I’m not the best ball player, but I’ve learned to duck and jump around and that seems to keep me going!

  11. Ilene, congrats on signing that lease and getting moving on your new business. Wishing you all the best with the “details.” And you always have a line, in everything you write, that jumps out at me. I love that about your stories, the “moment of truth” I guess. I’m glad you have the courage to write them because you always make me think.
    Stephanie recently posted…Christmas Song Mix – Twisted Mix Tape 36My Profile

    • I am humbled by this Steph, especially since on any given day I question and second guess myself a thousand times..before that moment of truth appears. But I’m always grateful when it comes. And always grateful to share it. xo

  12. Wait, wait, wait… I know I’m out of the loop these days, but I tried to catch up and I can’t figure out what you are signing the lease for?? Which business? Are you opening a yoga studio??? Please say yes!

    In any case, this was my favorite line: “I got behind the wheel of the car that once belonged to S., to leave the place I used to call home where I now vacation, to go back to the place I once vacationed that I now call home.”

    Love your writing, love your courage. Big hug.
    Deb @ Urban Moo Cow recently posted…On Marching to the Beat of Your Own JamboreeMy Profile

  13. Finally, this girl gets some decent pizza. I am really excited to hear about the big things happening for you and your business. It’s really fascinating to hear how you and your ex are able to relate to each other differently now and that you find yourself able to compromise. It’s funny how that works, but it makes sense. Sometimes, not being together and not being obligated to compromise makes it easier to do. I’m glad you had a good trip.
    Stevie recently posted…Ask Away Friday with Michelle of A Dish of Daily LifeMy Profile

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  15. We are headed home at Christmas for our first visit home since leaving this summer. Your mention of the expectations and disappointments hits home, since I know we have many more places and people we’d like to see than we have time.
    Glad you are settling into your new life, and congrats on moving ahead in your business!
    Kim recently posted…Spending less at Christmas yields more joyMy Profile

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