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Reflections, newsworthy items, and inspiring thoughts from author and award-winning radio commentator Jessica Bram.

Great news about Happily Ever After Divorce

April 18, 2010

Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey just received a noteworthy award – first place in the Connecticut Press Club 2010 Annual Awards, nonfiction book autobiography/memoir category.  I’m honored!

But here’s what makes me even happier – a comment from a reader like this:

“Even  though it has been many years since my divorce, I got a tremendous amount out of Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey.  What I  would have given to come across a book like yours at that very  painful time in my life! Thank you for sharing your journey.”

— Susan Palmieri

Thank you, thank you to all my readers – especially those facing divorce or going through the tough times – who have written to tell me that my story gave you comfort. Yes, you will have a happy ending too!

Know anyone going through divorce who could use some cheering up? It’s easy to order it now.

That’s us in the NY Times Vows column

April 18, 2010

Thomas McDonald for the NY Times

Yes, that’s us all right – the couple under the canopy in Sunday’s New York Times Vows column.

How did it happen? The NY Times seemed to think there was something intriguing about the idea of the author of Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey – someone who has been holding aloft the  banner of the fulfilled single life – remarrying.  I had to agree.  The next thing I knew Bob and I were being interviewed by a Times reporter in an intense two-hour Sunday phone call about every intimate step in our courtship.

It was an interesting process, to say the least.

Look for it in the Style section.  More from me tomorrow on how it came about – and how we spent most of our three-day honeymoon getaway on the phone with Eric V, Copage, the Times reporter, undergoing the paper’s thorough and relentless fact-checking.

New book review just posted

April 15, 2010

Here’s a new book review of Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey by Portland, Maine matrimonial attorney Alan Nye. 

He calls it:

‘The perfect book for any woman going through a divorce and looking for confirmation that there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

Sometimes perfect really happens

April 14, 2010



I admit it: I have spent most of my life cynical about weddings and pessimistic about marriage in general. So imagine my surprise when last Sunday, April 4, turned out to be about the most perfect wedding day I could ever imagine.

It was exactly the way I think all weddings should be.  And exactly what I wanted. No party, no hoopla, just a small, private ceremony at home in the living room. But the weather turned out to be ridiculously warm and glorious for an early April day. So we had each of our family – our sons, our siblings and their families – grab a chair, a vase of flowers, and join us in the back yard. In the distance a cherry tree was just beginning to open in a delicate net of pink blossoms, fooled into thinking it was June. The Rabbi had brought with him the chuppah – that’s the canopy under which all Jewish weddings are held, signifying the shelter of the home – held aloft by each of our brothers.  

I’ll tell you a secret. I was terrified. But I felt something else, too, and it was as palpable as the scent of the grass and the warm noontime sun.  God was under that chuppah with me.

And so was my best friend. If I ever got really scared, all I had to do was glance at Bob. Oh, yeah. I know you.

After the marriage blessings and the Kiddush, Rabbi Orkand repeated aloud what he had asked us to write to him beforehand – why we were marrying each other.  It had taken a lot of thought. I had recounted all those things I loved and admired about Bob – his warmth, his integrity, his extraordinary musical talent. But then I said this:

But none of these is the reason I am marrying Bob.  I am marrying Bob because I trust him to be completely in my corner, no matter what happens in life, no matter what the challenge.

It was enough to make a believer in God, fairy tales, and miracles – and maybe even marriage – out of anyone.  Even me.

Must I say ‘yes’ to the dress?

April 6, 2010

[Note: Bob Cooper and I were married at home this past Sunday, April 4.  The following blog post was written not long before.]

 I told friends recently that I would soon be getting married in quiet ceremony at home, one of them asked this question:

What are you doing about a dress?

A dress?  It had not crossed my mind.  We had deliberately planned the simplest way possible to get married.  We’d have the rabbi and immediate family only – just a small group, not too many to gather around us as we pushed aside the living room coffee table to exchange vows in front of the fireplace.

“Oh, I’m sure I have something,” I answered.  But later, I thought over the contents of my closet with its collection of black cocktail dresses, and admitted something new might be called for.  But whatever I wore would have to be something simple, and appropriate for a second marriage.  It’s just family, after all.  Then I remembered that we would probably take a few photos.  All right, then , maybe something a little dressy.  But nothing at all resembling a wedding dress.

The fact is, I have a thing against wedding dresses – as well as the whole wedding extravaganza  concept altogether.  I have a theory about why divorce is so prevalent, and it has everything to do with the gazillion dollar wedding industry.  I’m convinced that many a young bride has been so caught up in the idea of the EVENT – which includes having the once-in-a-lifetime chance to splurge on some satin and lace confection and become, for one day, the princess in the fairy tale – that she managed to overlook some nagging inner doubt about whether the guy was truly her soul mate.

A marriage and family therapist who runs divorce support groups repeated to me something her friend said about her wedding day.  “I kind of knew at the time that something was wrong with the relationship  But I had this really pretty dress, with buttons down the back  …”

I can’t say it was exactly that way for me when I got married years ago.  I didn’t particularly love my wedding dress, a flouncy Mexican affair with sleeves that could be used, if one had a ceremony at the beach, to capture carp for the luncheon afterward.  (We were actually married on the rooftop of the St. Moritz Hotel in New York, with neither carp pond nor aquarium in site.)  What I most remember about that time was a quiet inner sense that my imagined life, with all my fantasies of promise and romance, was about to come to an end.  But there was also a sense, once the whole party-hotel-menu-photographer-invitations thing was underway, of some runaway train that could not be stopped. 

On a recent visit to my mother I joined her in watching one of her favorite afternoon TLC reality shows, “Say ‘Yes’ To the Dress.” Filmed at the iconic bridal salon Kleinfeld’s, it allows you to peek into a dressing room to watch prospective brides choose their wedding dresses. Once the decision is made, the price of the chosen gown flashes on the screen.  $5,600.  $12,500. $7,000. Nothing below $3,000 – not on the day I was watching, anyway.

Believe me, these did not appear to be wealthy people shelling out four or five figure amounts for a dress for “that special day.”  I was fascinated.   But at the same time, frankly, a little bit revolted.  I couldn’t help thinking how many Haitian homes and villages could be permanently rebuilt for the price of one gown. (Okay, I am hopelessly proletariat.  My mind always seems to go there when confronted with excess.)

I suppose the question of an actual wedding gown doesn’t apply to me, since I am not exactly a young bride, and mine will be a second marriage.   (This, however, did not stop the previously twice-married Judith Nathan, roughly my age, from going the whole gown-and- jeweled tiara route when she married Rudy Giuliani in 2003.) But more than that, I am an entirely different person that I was as a confused 22-year-old bride.

I love beautiful clothes as much as the next woman – maybe even more. But on the day that Bob and I commit to spending the rest of our lives together, in sickness and in health, I don’t want to be distracted by fashion.  I want to be clear-eyed and aware of exactly what I am doing.

Which doesn’t mean I won’t go out and look for a really pretty dress.  Maybe even in ivory or cream.

[Want to know what I actually wore? Check back in a few days.]

Divorce lawyers get a bad rap

March 20, 2010

Super Lawyers Magazine called Harding and Associates "seriously outstanding."

I was pleased to learn about another great book review of Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey.  This one was written by matrimonial attorney Jim Harding from the blog of Harding and Associates Family Law. They’re a noteworthy firm, with three offices in California.  

Divorce attorneys tend to be wary about books like mine, which recount the experience of going through divorce and in my case, rebuilding a new life afterward.  My own attorney, when I called to tell him about my book, came right out with it: “Okay, let’s hear it: what terrible things do you say about those sharks, the divorce lawyers?” 

The answer is, I don’t trash divorce attorneys.  I don’t call them sharks. I actually feel quite positive about mine.  

Yes, using my own divorce lawyer cost more than mediation would have.  A whole lot more.  But it was worth every cent.  We were constructing an arrangement that would significantly influence almost every aspect of the next twenty years of my and my children’s lives. How can you put a price on that? 

Mediation works for some people.  In my case, it would not have.  When one party is accustomed to dominating in every decision, why should we expect him to change during divorce negotiations?  Personally, I needed someone with a spine of steel standing by me at those moments when my own spine had turned to jelly.   That’s when the dangerous “let’s just get this over with” urge threatened to get me to capitulate to something I would later regret (see my blog post Don’t Throw in the Towel.)  Mediators, on the other hand, are programmed to pounce on those moments. That’s how they get the job done.

So thank you to California Divorce for the lovely book review.  And thanks to all the other divorce attorneys – mine included – who are there for us when we needed them. 

Here’s a quote from the review: 

Through all the sadness, all the frustration, and all of the despair Jessica reassures the reader that there is hope and life after divorce.   She does not sugar coat her own pain, and I think that is important …  

… What Jessica’s book does teach is that the pain can be managed and survived.  It is that hope and reassurance that people going through divorce need.  That is why Happily Ever After Divorce is so valuable. 

Windswept and wireless

March 15, 2010

Here’s an explanation for my radio silence. We had a major rain and windstorm on the Connecticut coastline on Saturday.  The result in my town, and on my very own street, was devastation the likes of which I have truly never seen before.  Trees toppled, ripping through roofs, fences,  and cars.  A few streets away from my mine, a woman was killed when a huge tree landed on the car she was driving with her three sisters. 

And of course, most of the electric wires in town are down.  I can hardly complain about having no power when just about no one else does either.  Fortunately, my good friend Shirlee, upon whom the electricity gods took mercy, offered me room in her refrigerator/freezer and  for my rapidly melting stash of food. I’ve already made two trips over.

The crowded library. See if you can spot me and Bob, desperate for wireless access.

But there has been a bright spot.   It’s taking place at the Westport Public Library, where the entire town seems to have gathered for heat, outlets, and wireless access.  I’ve never seen the place so crowded, and it can feel like  zoo.  But when I can get over my frustration at how long it takes to get online – not to mention that icky 4 p.m. feeling from not yet having made it to the Y for a hot shower – I have to admit, there’s something kind of fun about all this.  It’s a chance to see just about everyone I know in town, all in one  place.

They say it might take the rest of the week to get  power restored.  I am fairly certain that by Wednesday I will no longer find any of this the slightest bit fun.

Doublespeak of the week

February 28, 2010

Want to find a gentle way to call something a failure? 

This may be one of my all-time favorite  examples of “Doublespeak,” and it manages to do just that.  It’s a quote from an article in last week’s New York Times about the  failure of the New York City Education Department’s Teacher Performance Unit to rid the public school system of inadequate teachers:

 Joel I. Klein, the schools chancellor, said that the team, whose annual budget is $1 million, had been “successful at a far too modest level.”

That’s it.  I didn’t flunk high school calculus.  I was just successful at far too modest a level.

Wonderful Review on DivorceCandy

February 26, 2010

I was delighted to read a very thoughtful review of Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey on a terrific site called DivorceCandy.

DivorceCandy is definitely a site worth visiting.  It is packed with useful articles on subjects from career changes to legal or financial issues, health and fitness or getting back into the social swing.  They also advise you how to open a divorce registry, throw a divorce party (why not?), take a vacation or change your look.  Their Concierge Services offer practical tips, resources, and current expertise on a variety of relevant issues.

Here’s a quote from their glowing review of Happily Ever After Divorce:

I was thrilled to receive her book, whose message aligns so closely with our own mission here at DivorceCandy.  Both Jessica and DivorceCandy have chosen to focus on the postive side of divorce, a side that continues to remain ignored.  Through her very real story, Jessica teaches us about the possibilities and growth that divorce can lead to.

Read full article

Making room in my closet

February 25, 2010

What I remember most about the day my boyfriend and I called our families to tell them we were engaged – about a million years ago – was an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach.  Not joyful, not triumphant, but a swirling pool of doubt.    

Years later, with a lot more wisdom about myself and about life, I came to cite that uneasiness as a sure sign that I was not ready to get married.  Moreover, somewhere deep inside I knew that the person to whom I had just gotten engaged was not at all, in fact, the Right One.  But as I write in my book Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey, since we were grad students already living together, marriage just seemed the next logical step.    

Sure, we had  a few “issues.”  I didn’t yet know that these would only grow and multiply, eventually resulting in the messy dissolution of our marriage.   

What lesson did I later derive from looking back on that day? Just this: “Trust your gut.”  If some course of action was not going to be right for me, now all I had to do was listen to that inner wisdom that said “no.”   

Would that it were so.   

Here is the problem.  I can also look back on a great many wonderful decisions that I made while that same uneasy doubt swirled inside.  Backing out of law school three weeks before classes were to begin.   Handing over a huge check with all my savings to buy a house in a strange, new town in a new state where my children and I would begin our new life after the divorce.   Inside, I was a mess.  But these were decisions that turned out to be among the best of my life.   

What I have come to understand about myself is that I’m a pathetic second-guesser.  Rarely have I ever taken a plunge without one last rueful glance back to shore.  So with a gut in a state of inevitable queasiness in the face of any change or big decision, I’ve come to accept that “Trust your gut” doesn’t work for me.   

Fortunately, I have figured out what does work.  It’s this:  

“Watch what I do, not what I say.”  

 Bob and I have been talking about marriage and having him move in  for some time now.  I feel good about that, I really do.  But many of my close friends have heard me express one tiny misgiving.    

It’s about my closet.  

My closet, ready for Bob to move in.

When I renovated my house a few years ago, I built a fabulous walk-in closet.   Ever since, I have rejoiced that the closet is mine alone.  Every square inch is taken up with not just my dresses and suits on hangers, but also sweaters, handbags, and myriad other important items tucked away on shelves, cubbies, shoe racks.   

At  the prospect of Bob’s moving in, I worried.  Yes, I love him.  But could I really share a closet with a man again?   

Well, guess what I did the weekend before Bob moved in?

I made room in my closet.  Cheerfully.  Gladly. Without the slightest resentment that my own jackets would now reside in a closet in another room.   

Now I know it’s the Real Thing.   

It occurs to me that “Watch what he does, not what he says” is a pretty good principle upon which to judge anyone.  Don’t you think?