Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
That's What She Said
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Formula, Cola, Dollar Draft

For Mom-In-Law


Oh, The Stories Your Groceries Could Tell

1 Swansons frozen dinner.
6 cans of Fancy Feast cat food.
1 bag of Milano cookies.

I like to inspect your groceries while you wait in line at the check-out counter. I unabashedly examine your choices, products, brands. I look for the stories the various items tell about you. I can tell a lot about you by your purchase of fat free ice cream sandwiches, tofu, Twinkies or dog treats. I find out more about you than I'd ever learn chatting with you over drinks at a party. Your groceries are much more honest than your polite party chit-chat.

Last night as The Surge and I waited in line to pay for the ingredients for the steak tacos we planned to cook I took stock of the groceries of the woman in front of us. No wedding ring. A single gal woman in her mid to late forties. Frowzy brown hair falling around her lined face in no particular style. Not unkept, but not kept. A frumpy coat, black stretch pants, white tennis shoes. A light fuzz of dark hair decorated the small expanse of skin beneath her nose, above her lip.

I imagined her, trudging home through the rain with her groceries. She opens the door, shakes the rain from her coat before hanging it neatly in the closet then heads straight to the kitchen.
"Pssspssspsspss.. dinner time." She will sing like she does every night.
The cats will come running and she will scrape the Fancy Feast into their glass dish. Only then, after her babies have been fed will she turn her attention to the business of feeding herself. She will pop her Swansons fried chicken dinner into the microwave, pour herself a tall glass of Ginger Ale on the rocks, sink onto her floral patterned couch and turn on the news.

"Breaking news - a plane crashes into a Manhattan building." ruggedly handsome news anchor Bill Ritter intones gravely. She fancies the dashing anchor who she thinks is a cross between her favorite actor Cary Grant with a swagger of Spencer Tracy's all business demeanor. Bill's gravitas whilst delivering unsavory news items takes her back to evenings listening to Edward R. Murrow when she was a child coloring on the floor as her father watched the news. She loves real news men like Walter Cronkite and now Bill Ritter. Not these talking mannequin namby pamby anchor boys that litter the airwaves nowadays. Anderson Cooper? Hmmmph! His gray hair doesn't fool her. She doesn't like to miss the six o'clock news. She talks to Bill Ritter over her Swanson's dinner.
"How was your day Bill?"
"A small plane crashed into a 50 story Manhattan apartment building. So far four fatalities have been reported." Bill answers stoically.
"That bad, eh?" She sighs. More horrible news. What is the world coming to, she wonders. At first commercial break she hauls herself out of her chair and pours another glass of Ginger Ale. She chews each bite of her meal slowly. Methodically. Chasing every third swallow with a sip of Ginger Ale.

After dinner she has five Milano cookies. That's the way she likes to eat them for they are her only luxury in an otherwise drab evening. Well, she considers Bill a luxury too. She parcels out her cookies so she doesn't eat the whole bag in one sitting. Goodness but Milanos are expensive - something her mother never would have approved of. Mother would have made cookies from scratch and stored them in the deep freeze.

She savors each Milano cookie, nibble by nibble as she watches her favorite television programs. The cats climb around her, swinging like monkeys, eventually nestling on the arm of the couch and in her lap. She strokes them until they're purring like foreign engines.
"You're Mama's babies, aren't you? Yes."

The eleven o'clock news comes on. Turns out the fellow piloting the plane was a pitcher for the Yankees. Tragic, she clucks to herself. She says goodnight to her crush, the anchorman. And as he does every Monday through Friday he says good night to her and millions of others.

1 Swansons Frozen Dinner.
6 cans of Fancy Feast cat food.
1 package of Milano cookies.

That is the story these groceries tell me.

Thoughts Meander Like A Restless Wind Inside A Letterbox

I've recently developed a fear of watching someone get hit by a car. I suppose it comes from witnessing so many close calls. I bare witness to near death by vehicle or even bicycle at least once a day. I am certain I will be standing there stupidly when some Ipod wearing idiot stumbles into the path of an oncoming taxi or crazed bicyclist. I'll freeze, rooted to the spot, horrified as the pedestrian flips into the air, arms akimbo, Ipod launches in one direction, shoes in the other and I'll have to rush to their aid when all I really want to do is run in the other direction.


Lately I've also fallen victim to visions of me tripping on the sidewalk and landing on my teeth. Yes, I said teeth. Somehow, I am terrified I'll trip going down the subway steps (it's happened before), walking down the sidewalk (mmhmm.. this too) or just standing there (yup). I am clumsy. For some reason, when I envision this little scenario my arms don't absorb the fall and I land on my teeth, shattering them like a dropped lightbulb.

Perhaps this fear comes from the uncomfortable knowledge that I have no insurance. No medical, no dental.. nothin'. I'm afraid I'll shatter my teeth and be forced to walk around smiling all close-lipped, gumming things down or risk looking like a Ferangi from Star Trek. Perhaps I'll begin wearing a surgical mask a la Michael Jackson and claim it's a chic, New York bohemian fashion statement. Soon you will see Kate Moss, Nicole Richie and all the It Girls sporting surgical masks in the Stars: They're Just Like Us sections of the tabloid rags. Here's Jessica Simpson going tanning in her trendy blue surgical mask! And there's Mischa Barton buying produce in her pink mask! And you can say you knew me back when.

The No Insurance Fear is so powerful that last week I had a toothache that I willed away. Seriously. I just said Tooth, you cannot ache. I cannot afford to get you looked at and God forbid you need a root canal or there will be hell to pay. Because, Tooth, if in fact you do need a root canal it will have to be done homestyle by The Surge with a pair of pliers and a bottle of Jack Daniels. Trust me, Tooth, that is not something you want to be a part of. The Surge is not known for his handy capabilities. If you need a VCR hooked up, he is NOT your guy. However, if you want to chew on a killer stir fry, Tooth, you can feel safe in the knowledge that he's the man for you.

I'll be goddamned if the little molar fucker quit making a racket immediately - or "ee-mee-jut-lee" as Grandma would pronounce. Go on, say it. I know you want to. "EE-MEE-JUT-LEE" That's how Grandma says it. As in, "Take me to a bathroom EE-MEE-JUT-LEE! I have to go at the toilet!" Grandma is prone to saying things like "are ya comin' over home today? I'd love to see ya. I'll heat up the soup I made last week and then we can go at the fabric shop and pick some colors fur yer quilt."
Awww Grandma. Now I'm homesick for popcorn balls (pronounced pop-CARN ballz), cuckoo clocks, grandfather clocks, fetching Grandma a "big onion" from the "Fruit Room" (Fruit Room - Grandma's euphemism for pantry), and clinging to the dashboard of Grandma's car as she grinds the clutch into powder.. all in our search for the right bolt of fabric.


Yes, the search for a job continues. Have some good leads. Last week I applied for The Greatest Job Ever that has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with news. Yay! I have yet to hear back. Fingers crossed.

On God And Country

I drove a vehicle for the first time in nearly two years this weekend. Proud to say I was one-handing it within seconds. Within minutes I joined the majority of my fellow Americans in driving with my knees as I attempted to fill my snoot with a Reeses Peanut Buter Cup Blizzard whilst negotiating winding back country roads.


1. America is fat.

2. Most of us shop at Wal*Mart, frequent country festivals trolling for ham soup, home-made french fries, funnel cake and pie. We spend obscene amounts of money on creepy doll-like items made McGuyver-style from raffia, dish towels, buttons and other household goods - all combined to create a terrifying creature that sits atop a kitchen counter next to an artfully arranged basket of plastic fruit.

3. It's contagious. In the span of three days I consumed most of a Dairy Queen ice cream cake, the aforementioned Blizzard, a Whoopee Pie, a pumpkin pie, peanut butter fudge, two Apple Dumpings, home-made french fries, a sausage sandwich and much, much more.

4. TGIF has seen the light and is now offering deep fried string beans and Mac and Cheese. Dominos is seeing their deep fried and raising them free brownies with every pizza order. In case that brownie just isn't enough chocolate for you - the good folks at Dominos HQ are throwing in chocolate dipping sauce. I, for one, am relieved. Like, did they think I was just going to snarf down a plain brownie? Additionally, Dunkin Donuts is still in the game offering SIX free donuts with every purchase of six. Buy six, get six free. Man, I am proud to be an American.

5. Back to the Apple Festival. Country folk shore do love God and America. I ate my home-fries to the accompaniment of a mulleted, chest thumping good ol' country boy singing about the important things.
"Glad y'all made it out here today ladies and gentleman. I want you to know that Jesus is my best friend and brother. I'd like to send this next one out to the troops stationed all around the world. We here in America - we've got a lot to be thankful for!"

Damn right, I thought. Donuts, brownies, fried foods, Dairy Queen and, of course, Wal*Mart. The Mulleted One fiddled with his karaoke machine/amplifier then launched into his next song about Jesus. Some lyrical number, as far as I could tell, based on that slushy 'Footprints' poem that most God fearing folks have framed and hanging on the wall next to the needlepoint that says; God Bless This Home. An old lady with a dried peach of a face and pink rollers still in her hair forked into a mound of various food items and mouthed Isn't he marvelous? to the pink sweatpant clad woman nodding vigorously next to her. Across the way a wizened, old man in overalls happily shelled walnuts, keeping rhythm to The Mulleted One by tapping his dirty work boot on a pile of walnut shells scattered across the grass. On the whole I enjoyed myself immensely and plans are in the works for my retirement there. It's much nicer to hang around happy overweight people who couldn't be sarcastic if they tried as opposed to the cynical, bones and angles breed that roams the streets of New York City looking pissed and hungry.

As we drove back to Sugar Valley - which is the delicious name given to the valley in which Mom-In-Law resides, we passed a bright red barn of a building with the word "Heartbreakers" painted across the side.

"Heartbreakers. What's that?" Brother-In-Law Dave wanted to know.
"Oh. That's a strip club." My sweet Mom-In-Law stage whispered the words strip club.. as if to keep God himself from overhearing.
"A titty bar?" The Surge bellowed.
"Let's go!" I shouted.
"I'd like to get a look at countrified strippers." Dave's better half Kate agreed.

Countrified strippers. Heartbreakers. Just whose hearts are they breaking anyway, I wondered. I imagined ravaged farm women with black hole eyes, thousand mile stares, swinging listlessly around a gummy brass pole, hands rough from yard work, jack-o-lantern smiles.. or no teeth at all... all the better to blow you with Farmer Joe. Unfortunately we were in a bit of a time crunch.. had to get home and eat more pie and such.. and so we didn't get a chance to see if the gals are, in fact, Heartbreakers. Next time, there's always next time.

On the road back to the city today a woman driving a gray Oldsmobile swooped in from nowhere and cut us off, nearly causing us to roll our van.
"GODDAMN MOTHER----!!!" The Surge instantly segued from singing along with the radio into his signature litany of On The Road phrases.
"Pull up next to her so I can give her the bird." Kate said.
"It's okay. I've got this." I said calmly. As we passed the woman I reached down, yanked out my tampon and threw it right at that bitch's windshield. That'll learn her to fuck with white trash like me.

730 Days

Today marks two years since this day. Two years or 24 months or 730 days. Not that I'm counting. But that's a lotta hours, yo! Hours spent cursing your name, sticking pins in my roughly constructed voodoo doll of you, hours spent holding your hand as we explore New York City together, laying in bed dreaming or rubbing our feet together like two demented crickets. Did you know a lovesick male cricket will sing mournful cricket ballads for hours at a time? Did you know the female cricket sometimes feeds on the male cricket? And he lets her! Sound familiar?

Whew! It's been a wild ride. From rolling through the Rocky Mountains, across the plains of Nebraska and finally pulling into New York City as the sun set on the magnificent skyline. We thought that was the end of our trip, but the journey was just beginning.

So, after careful evaluation I've decided I wanna re-up for another year. Just one year, mind you. Negotiations begin again next October so you had better be on your best behavior.

Anyway, happy anniversary baby! It's been the best two years of my life. I love you cricket.

First Photos Of Us Ever Taken:
August 25, 2004, Austin, TX

Poor bastard. You look a little shell shocked, even then.