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Ex-Wife New Life
by:  Amy Koko
e-mail:  kokoamy2@gmail.com
twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/female50freaked
After 27 years of marriage my husband announces he is leaving me for a beautiful Swiss pastry chef. NOW WHAT?
July 25, 2016

Getting WHOLE After Divorce

When I was interviewing divorce attorneys, I actually had one say to me, "No matter who you hire, the divorce game is a tough one." "Wow," I thought. "Divorce GAME. That doesn't sound too bad. Maybe this won't be as horrible as I think." Because, when I think of game, I think of Candy Crush and Scrabble on my iPad, both activities that I enjoy immensely and spend an inordinate amount of time on. So sure, BRING IT.

I hired an attorney and the "game" began. Looking back at it now, I don't think I would call it a game exactly, more like a gut blowing, agonizing, pain filled torture that makes childbirth look like a 30 minute Zumba session. (Which btw I did once and nearly broke my ankle, but given the choice between the two I will take Zumba every time.) I would sometimes speak in tongues, or find myself on the floor of my closet giggling to myself while cutting old photos of us into little pieces. I cried in the grocery store, at my kid's school conferences and once at the table at Esca, a fabulous restaurant in NYC, where the waiter insisted on getting me a new plate of linguini with clams as he thought THAT was the reason for my misery.

"Madam, your food is not as you like?"

SNIFF SNIFF "No it's fine, really.

"Chef has been adding way too much pepper, I will get you a new plate immediately!"

Happily, I was able to eat each delicious clam wrapped in a forkful of linguini with just the right amount of pepper, between sobs. In fact, that meal is the one bright spot I remember from that time.

So no, game is not really how I would describe it. There is one good thing about divorce however, and that is...it ends. Finally, mercifully, thankfully, it is over. And guess what—life goes on.

So, here we are five years later— it has been five years since my ex and I sat in the judges chambers and each answered "YES" when he asked "Have you done all you can to save your marriage?" before he signed the decree making us an ex-couple. Yes, we did all we could do, meaning I begged, I pleaded, I bought new underwear, I got a facelift. After all of that, my ex looked at me one day and said, "After what I did, how could I ever really come home?" And so he didn't. I didn't really go into all of that with the judge, who totally freaked me out because as you know I have a huge phobia about going to jail ever since I saw Midnight Express in college. I was just waiting for him to look at me and say, "Hmmm...maybe a little jail time will straighten you out." So, I felt great relief but also unbearable sadness when he signed the decree, looked at us and said "Good luck to you both."

Now, here's what I need you to know: From that point on my life has been more than I ever thought it could be, because once you go through divorce and you are no longer one half of a couple, you become a WHOLE person. And that person will start to reveal to you who she is and what she wants, and it will come through loud and clear if you are ready to listen. And you can't be ready if you are holding on to regrets, anger, what ifs, how could hes. So let it go...and listen.

For me, I listened and found myself taking college courses in creative writing. Was I the oldest one in the class? Sure. Did anyone want to be my partner for the group writing exercise? No. But I loved it and I poured my whole experience out in words. I took a memoir class. Most kids turned in a 5 page essay about their high school years, mine was more like a War and Peace size "THE STORY OF AMY KOKO." I think the kids found it riveting.

The point is, I found writing and I truly believe it saved me from becoming one of those divorcees who five years later when you run into them in Publix and ask "How are you?" replies "My ex husband is a dick." Uhm...DONT BE THAT PERSON! Dig deep and see what's in there. You know what came out of me? A blog, a book and now another book on the way. I host retreats for women who want to write their way through divorce because I know there is light at the end of the tunnel! The words don't stop! I highly recommend sitting down at your computer, at your desk with a paper and pen, or even with the notes section on your smart phone and putting down words. You will be amazed at what appears.

If it's not words perhaps its drawing. Maybe it's cooking. Maybe it's going back to school to follow the dream you put on hold when your first child was born. Remember? You meant to get back to it, now is your time. Maybe it's painting, playing an instrument, becoming a nuclear physicist (that was my second choice.) Whatever it is, do it. Yes, divorce is sad, its heart breaking, it's an ending. It is also a beginning. Dig deep. Listen. Get whole.

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July 14, 2016

Writing Through Your Divorce

Ever since my book came out, I have had many women (okay, 3) ask me, “When did you know you were ready to change your life, you know, go in a whole new direction?” What? I had NO IDEA. That decision was made for me when my husband told me he had decided to make other plans for the rest of his life. At 48 I thought things were pretty much set, we would become empty nesters, do a big vacation once a year and then maybe buy a condo with pool access.

Not so fast.

When I first began my journey through divorce, I kept to a very tight schedule. I would wake up and wonder how I was going to make it through the day without breaking down in front of my kids, my lawn guy, the checkout girl at Publix who for some reason always insists on asking me if I have exciting plans for the weekend, my neighbors, my Pilates instructor…well, you get the idea. Once I got that out of the way, I would get my kids off to school, do my errands, pick kids up from school, serve them dinner and wait for night to fall and for them to say goodnight because then it was MY time.

This was the time I would open a bottle of Pinot, pour myself a nice big glass, and sit in front of my lap top, where I would write my nightly letter to my STBX formatted as below

TO: email address
FROM: YOUR WIFE
SUBJ: You mother fu---r I HATE YOU
Date: Today

And I would write, and write and write, the anger and venom flying from my fingers. Once I was spent, I would hit SEND. I did this for a few months until his attorney spoke to my attorney, who spoke to me (even being reprimanded cost me money) and told me to stop it asap, because it was bordering on harassment, it would not cast me in a good light with the judge and it was really freaking weird.

I continued the letters, but I stopped hitting send. After a time, I looked forward to this nightly ritual and the letters became less and less hateful and more and more cleansing. In fact, some of them brought happy tears to my eyes as I recalled moments from the past where we had been a couple, a family, whole. I found writing these letters that would never be sent left me feeling lighter, and if not happier, then at least accepting and hopeful for my future as I ventured into it as a single woman.

These letters led me to my blogs on Huffington Post Divorce, First Wives Social Network, BlogHer, and More.com, among others, which then led me to writing my book: “There’s Been A Change Of Plans – A Memoir About Divorce, Dating and Delinquents In Midlife” which then led me to where I am now…

It’s time for me to give back. That is, to connect with other women going through this gut wrenching, life changing experience and help them get their experience down in their own words. Whether the plan is to share it with others (NOT your ex), shoot for publication (like I did) or just get thoughts, feelings and emotions down on paper, writing can be a way of working through your divorce by organizing your thoughts, putting them down on paper, and then moving on!

This past year my colleague and I have designed a series of online workshops and a weekend retreat we call Writing Your Way Through Divorce. The goal is to not only teach you how to use writing as a tool to get your feelings unstuck, but also provide the support and structure to help you write with clarity and confidence and end up with a piece of writing you will be proud of.

We’ve been there, we’ve done it. You can, too.
And, if you come to the weekend retreat, there WILL be bagels. So keep that in mind.

To find out more about my Writing Your Way Through Divorce online workshop and the next weekend retreat coming up in September, please visit my website www.amykoko.com

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June 30, 2016

Oh, The Places I've BIN

A few years ago, when M and I moved into our house, we rented (and by WE, I mean M) a storage unit for the things we (and by WE, I mean ME) just could not part with, but weren't sure we had room for. This included an arts and crafts table in case I DID ever get the urge to glue a bunch of tile shards onto plates again, a Mt. Everest sized pile of fake rattan patio furniture, and bins and bins of photos and momentos from the last 40 years of our lives. M was able to pile it all into the storage unit and I was able to rest comfortably knowing these prized possessions were safe in an air conditioned environment not far from my home. Mission accomplished.

It turns out, M and I had different ideas about how to use a storage unit. M's idea is to rent it for a short amount of time, until I can figure out what to do with the wall of plastic bins filled with my kids drawings from kindergarten. My idea is to keep it as a shrine, a monument to my life as a mother where my kids and their kids after them can come to visit after I'm gone, pay their respects and look through photographs of me at different points of my life, each generation passing the bill down to the next, the goal being me not having to deal with those bins ever again. Ever.

Unfortunately, this weekend, our two different perspectives collided when M brought home roughly 23 bins for me to you know, "just go through and get rid of stuff but keep the things you want." Okay, these ARE the things I want, hence the saving of them in bins. Am I the only one who gets this concept? But fine, I thought, it will be fun to look at all those hand turkeys and little milk carton log cabins made every year in honor of Lincoln's birthday.

So, I began and became completely engrossed in my children's past. I found adorable things including a book made by my youngest daughter entitled "ALL ABOUT MOMMY" What do YOU make of this found on page one?

MY MOMMY LIKES quiet
MY MOMMY DOESN'T LIKE darkness

Uhm...( I kept that out for her next therapy session.)

Anyway I was plowing through having a great time, shedding an occasional tear when I came upon my high school yearbook or what I THOUGHT was my high school yearbook. When I opened it I saw it was my ex's, easy mistake since we attended the same school. And I began to leaf through it and a note written on the cover page caught my eye and stopped me dead in my tracks...

It's been nice getting to know you. Best of luck and have a great summer!
Amy

OMG, the sheer and utter innocence of those words that I had written after we had flirted with each other in the halls for just those last few weeks before school ended. They took my breath away. Who would have imagined that 30 years after I wrote those words, we would be signing a divorce decree, ending our marriage, though our lives will be ever entwined with the four children we brought into the world together. What young and innocent pleasure we took in each other and Oh what anguish and pain we brought into each other's lives at the end.

From "have a great summer" to "I do." From a tiny apartment on Ft. Bragg to a first home with a new baby girl. To the next home bursting at the seams with four children and a 150 pound dog, friends coming and going, parties in the basement that I am only NOW hearing about. From "have a great summer" to, "I'm leaving" and then to the ambushing delivery of papers with KOKO vs. KOKO. emblazoned across the top. From "have a great summer" to The End.

All is well now. My ex and I have healed and are in a good place, watching our children turn into adults. We are proud, they are good people. People I would like even if they weren't mine. To think it all started in a high school hallway, he leaning against a locker as I walked by in a shirt with a big poodle on it that for some reason caught his eye.

We had a good run, that's for sure. Now back to the bins and a big number 8 made of cheerios. Yup, that goes into the keep pile. I certainly can't be expected to part with that now, can I?

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May 12, 2016

Surviving The Pomp Under These Circumstances

This past weekend, my youngest son graduated from college. The youngest of four, he is the only one who took the traditional college route of a four year degree complete with the cap, the gown, the diploma and the 3 hour ceremony in the blinding Florida sun. Luckily for us this was the FIRST year that his small private school decided to hold the event OUTDOORS and I have to say, what a great idea! Florida is lovely this time of year and who doesn't love sitting in the middle of a field, on metal bleachers in your new Kenneth Cole outlet dress as the sun gets ever higher in the sky, the temperature steadily rises, and the possibility of melanoma gets greater with each passing moment.

Seriously, for me this made all the worry, the angst, and even that one late night phone call from the sheriff's office, worth it. My boy graduated college and I was beyond proud. At one point son said to me, "I don't know if I want to walk mom, I can just have them send me the diploma" to which I replied, "Oh, you're walking. YOU ARE WALKING, and if I have to fucking crawl there on my hands and knees I will be there to see it, " so...you know, I set the stage for a fun day.

As excited as I was for this glorious experience, I was concerned about two major issues that the weekend involved. One was the full body Spanx. My ex was hosting a dinner the Friday night before the event at a lovely 5 star restaurant and FINALLY I had the chance to wear that black dress I bought in NYC 3 years ago along with the full body spanx I bought to go with it. Things should be okay, as long as the 3 tiny snaps that hold the thing together at my crotch didn't come apart causing the whole apparatus to fly up and hit me in the face during the soup course. If I walked very slowly, and sat down very gently....should be okay.

Second? This would be the first time since my divorce that my ex, my children and my in-laws whom I miss dearly would all be together in one room, at one table in fact. Add in M and my ex's partner, an elegant, lovely woman with great hair and it could be somewhat awkward. Yet, I was not about to miss it— could we come together as a family to celebrate a moment of complete and utter joy? Could we sit together at a table and enjoy each other's company while celebrating the success of the son we brought into this world? Was there any way I could wear the dress without the full body Spanx? (No, there wasn't.) This was what was going through my mind as we began the three hour drive on Friday afternoon.

After a longer trip than we anticipated due to traffic and a stop at Burger King where I really wanted to try their new grilled hot dogs, (a decision I lived to regret later that evening) M, myself, my two daughters and one boyfriend that I love, arrived at the hotel where we were all staying. We walked in and there they were...my family. There was my mother in law who has known me since I was 16. Who came and stayed with me when my 5 year old daughter had 3rd degree burns on her legs and feet after I dropped a pot of hot chicken soup as she was passing by the stove. Every day she accompanied me to the doctor where she would hold her as they scraped off the burned skin and bandaged her up, as I cried on a chair nearby. We have shared ups, downs and a thousand cups of coffee.

My father in law who taught my kids how to fish and patiently baited hooks for hours as they sat next to him swinging their little feet back and forth. My sister in law, who I grew up with, both of us 16 when we met. Now we are both mothers and have shared the joy and heartbreak that comes with that job. And of course, there was my ex. I haven't seen him in over a year and didn't know what to expect, how I would feel. Our eyes met and I felt happy. I felt proud. We looked at each other and both said, "WE DID IT!" as we high fived each other. It was a moment I will always remember.

That night M and I arrived a few moments late to the dinner as we had to park a few blocks away and I had to walk like a geisha in order to keep the spanx intact. When I arrived, there were two seats left and I took the one next to my ex. I had him on one side and M on the other! You know the weird part? It felt RIGHT. I had the man I now loved on my left, and the man whom I had shared a life with and brought 4 children into the world with on my right. My kids were scattered around the table, talking, laughing, so proud of their little brother, enjoying the moment of seeing their parents together in happy times. There was a time I thought that it would never be possible, but here we were. We all shared stories about the graduate, and though I did get a bit melancholy, I felt truly happy and really blessed.

Not to mention, the Spanx stayed where it was supposed to at least until we got back to the room, where I sat down on the bed and it let loose with a sudden fury as if to say, "PLEASE, NO MAS! NO MAS!" All the worry had been for nothing. The night had been a success and as I drifted off to sleep, I let these words wash over me...WE DID IT.

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March 30, 2016

How To Be Friends With A Writer

I am a writer. Therefore I always have a movie worthy best seller book in progress. (My last book sold over 200 copies...SO CLOSE!) Up until last week, I also had a full time job which of course gave me the perfect excuse for why I could not work on my book. You know, "I am so excited about my new book, I just wish I actually had time to work on it" thing we tell people when they ask how it's going...I would sit at my job, and think I SHOULD be home writing, practicing my craft. You would not believe all the brilliant ideas that came to me as I was doing my daily reports and checking Google Analytics. Such a shame that my Pulitzer Prize masterpiece has to sit on the back burner for so long.

Then, changes at the office led me to an important decision. It's time to devote myself to THE BOOK. As I heard the words coming out of my mouth, the, "You know, I think it's time for me to devote myself to my writing and thank you so much for the opportunity you have given me here," my heart was beating faster and faster. The book the book! I kept thinking. The book! I will have this thing banged out in a few months now!

I woke up that first morning, job free and energized. I made my coffee, sat down in my office and took a deep breath. I opened my computer and felt like a real writer! THIS is what I was meant to do. I pulled up my MS, re-read the few chapters I had already written. Read them again. Moved my cursor to a new empty spot on the page and....
NOTHING. I GOT NOTHING.

Instantly panic sets in. Not only am I out a paycheck, I don't even have an excuse as to why the BOOK is taking me longer than it took Salk to perfect the polio vaccine. I had to talk myself into sitting there and out of taking a Xanax. And then I began. And the words are coming. Slowly, but surely I am writing a book.

The upside? I'm happy. I'm fulfilled. I'm excited. The downside? People asking me, "So, how's the book coming?" So here is my guide for us writers who are fighting the fight and don't want to answer any questions right now about our baby. Feel free to send it to friends, family and anybody else who thinks they are doing you a big favor by pretending to be interested in your answer to that question.

5 THINGS NOT TO ASK A WRITER

1. How are book sales?
Before you ask me this, check the New York Times Bestseller list. If you do NOT see my name on there, then do not ask me this question. Trust me, if I actually earn back my advance you and everybody else who I have ever met will be the first to hear about it.

2. How's the book coming?
Did I call you while you were in labor and say, "Hey! How's that baby thing coming? Is it almost out?" Here's the thing, it's a role of the dice. If I had a good writing day I will talk to you for hours about how great it's coming. If I had a bad writing day I may burst into tears and lay my head down on the table while you try and drink your Mocha Soy Latte as if nothing is happening. You will find either scenario quite painful.

3. What's the new book about?
Only ask me this question if you are prepared to answer "That sounds amazing! I can't wait to read it!" If you are going to look at me, and say, "Huh? I don't get it.." or just stare at me open mouthed, eyes squinted as if I have just told you "I think I want to shave my head and dye my head yellow," don't ask me. You have no idea how far this may set me back.

4. Am I in it?
Yes. I have quit my job and devoted my life to writing a book ABOUT YOU. Nora Ephron said, "Writers are cannibals." I love this. You may be in it, you may not. It's something you have to live with if you are in my sphere of existence.

5. Can I read it?
Sure you can. As soon as it comes out on Amazon. Because if you read it now and don't send me back a comment saying this is the best thing I have ever read, or this is a for sure best seller, I may scrap the whole thing, and go back to freelance writing home descriptions for the real estate magazine
that told me I needed to use a Thesaurus. In my defense how many ways can you say, "A true tropical paradise awaits you in this home on the Gulf of Mexico?"

Other than this, feel free to ask me about my work any time.

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A R C H I V E / H I G H L I G H T S

Don't Quit Your Day Job
originally posted: December 15, 2015

Well I did it. I wrote a book. I sold a book. I am a published author. The day my book came out was one of the highlights of my life. My facebook blew up! I had like 22 comments. WOOT! WOOT! I realized this was the beginning of a new life. I knew that by the end of the next week, I would probably have to give my boss the very sad news that I will be resigning. For one thing, it's not fair to be needing so much time off for book tours and television appearances. I mean I suppose I could try and work remotely, but I will be in so many different time zones, LA, New York, Europe (what time zone are they on over there?) that it only seems prudent to begin thinking about who could replace me.

I began to think of what I could do with all the income I would now have coming in. Probably time to put in that pool I've been wanting, but wait, do I really want to go through that messy process, when most likely I will probably have to sell my house soon anyway, when I move to California after I am offered my own talk show? Gosh, so much to figure out and plan, woe is me, the life of a successful and highly in demand author.

By the end of the week, I think I sold 43 books. To put this in perspective my parents bought 24 and I bought 10. I kept checking my phone to see if I had missed any calls with Los Angeles or NYC area codes. I did once but it was GoDaddy wanting me to renew my domain name. Ellen, Tyra, The View...they were not contacting me as I had anticipated. (And anyone who knows me knows that one of my goals in life is to be on the Ellen show...ugh SO CLOSE!)

My publisher kept pushing, "You have to sell, you have to market, you have to PUSH!" I contacted a literary publicist, who wanted 12K to get me into an online magazine. I wrote a blog post and put a link to my book in it. I got comments like "Shameless book promoting, nothing else." Ack! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, they made me do it!

Finally, finally, I was asked to talk on an online radio show. Now we're cookin! I thought. The morning I called in I had my whole speech prepared. I would talk about the devastation of divorce, how debilitating it can be, how to pull yourself up from the depths and reinvent yourself, how good your next phase of life can be. The radio host introduces me and as I get ready to launch into my inspirational monologue she says, "We're gonna play a game! I'm going to read lines from your old blog posts and you complete the sentence!" WHAT? I stumbled, and faux pas'ed my way through it
with a lot of dead air. I could tell she couldn't wait to get rid of me as she introduced her next guest whose subject was "finding cheap flights." Ugh. Never again.

I decided that was it. I wrote a book and had it published. So? My publisher had all but disappeared now. My parents had my book on every shelf and coffee table in the house, it was almost creepy. "You did it" I told myself. Now focus on your REAL job and maybe you will be the recipient of the 5$ Starbucks card for a job well done this week. THIS is your future, your safety net, your income BTW. Move on.

And I did, until...one night I woke up with the best idea...it was actually an idea for a fiction novel (my first go at fiction!) and within moments I was at my computer putting it together, watching my protagonist come to life, laughing at all the predicaments she was going to find herself in. That's when I realized, like I'm sure you have many times, I can't stop writing. It's not a job, it's a way of breathing, it's as much a part of me as my thinning hair and my size 9 AAA feet.

Why do we do it? It's not to become rich and famous and have our books made into movies so that we can meet Meryl Streep, my idol. Yes, I know Cheryl Strayed did it, but I'm really beginning to think, you know, it's not the norm. We do it because it's in us and we have to let it out. Recently I had a session with my beloved writing coach and I said "I am 55, and petrified. The time is slipping away and I have so much I want to write and say, I'm afraid I won't get it done." "Use the panic" she said "And write!"

So I have set a new goal for myself, to have my fiction novel done by my birthday this year, which is August 9th. That means writing on weekends on evenings, in the wee hours of the morning to get it done. I'm very proud of my book "There's Been A Change Of Plans" insert shameless book promotion here, and I wonder can I love my new baby as much? Time will tell.

Why do we do it? Because we have to, because we are not whole without it. And because, maybe, just maybe, you know Ellen will friend us on Facebook and see that we wrote a book, and then...

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This Was Not In The "Script"
originally posted: August 19, 2015

So today was my yearly visit with my psychiatrist and yes I have one and please stop judging. OMG, like YOU don't lie awake at night and worry that the email you sent to your sister about how upset you are that Bethenny is back on Real Housewives, accidentally went to your client in LA who has never met you but thinks you're cool because you use the words "In retrospect" a lot and pretend to know what a meme is. Like YOU don't get up to check your computer and once you see that the email did indeed go to your sister, you feel a lot better, but then you see a story about how women who gain weight during menopause should have their thyroid checked and then you have to go to the mirror to drink a glass of water and look for lumps like the article says. Please, like YOU don't go back to bed two hours later bloated from all the water and sure you have a goiter, and finally, FINALLY give in and take your Ambien, which, by the way, you need a prescription for.

Anyway, today I was looking forward to my visit because, A. I get to leave work for an hour and was planning on getting a Chic Filet sandwich with extra pickles, and B. because I notice lately I have been really focusing on health issues, and probably more than normal people do. In my mind every ache or pain is most likely malignant, at the very least will require some type of surgery and recovery period and I'm not really sure how much time off I have accrued in my six months of employment. So it causes me great stress.

So I was all set to delve into it with Dr. today and have her tell me, "Oh you're being silly, you look healthy as a horse," and give me my script and send me on my way. She called me back to her office, as she always does, and I headed for my usual spot, took a seat on the couch where I have lost my shit more than once and looked at the doctor and noticed she was bald. And she was skinny. And she was wrapped in a shawl and it's August in Florida. "Fuck" I thought, "She's sick."

And I wanted to cry. I wanted to lay down on that couch like I did years ago when I went to her because my husband had left me and I wasn't sure I could move, and just cry. And she said, "So how are you?" and I said, "Fine, I have a job now, and I have a book coming out, I'm really fine." And even while I was saying it I was thinking, I don't think I will go into the whole "What if I need surgery" thing.

She began writing out the script and saying how exciting it was about my job and how she couldn't wait to read the book and finally I interrupted her and said, "Doc, what's going on with you?" and she said, "I have cancer, which isn't so bad, but the chemo and radiation are killing me."

"Crap," I answered because what could I say?

Could I say that I know the words coming out of my mouth sound selfish and inane? That she and her colorful long skirts and birkenstocks make several appearances in my next book? That I want her to look at me with that squint she always does and then throw that long frizzy hair of hers behind her neck while she writes out my script? That I love her for caring that I have a stupid job as she pulls the shawl tighter around her shoulders?

We ended the session, eight minutes maybe, and she walked me to the check out desk and handed me my prescriptions. "Look at you," she said, "A book and a job? It's glorious, isn't it?" and I said "Doc, I want you to be well," and she said, "I know, but just in case," and she handed me a list of psychiatrists in the area.

And I left. And I cried all the way to Chic Filet. And then I went back to work, where I wanted to yell at my co-workers who are all under 30, "It won't last forever! You better enjoy every minute! And WTF is a meme!!?"

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A B O U T   T H E   A U T H O R

Amy Koko is the author of the popular blog Ex-Wife New Life and a blogger for Huffington Post in the Divorce, Women and Comedy sections. Her memoir "There's Been A Change Of Plans" is available on Amazon.