A Change of Plans Leads to a Great Read!
Amy Koko, blogger and author, swears you’ll be all right
“Dedicated to women facing divorce, menopause, or both. Fix yourself a cocktail and get on with it. I promise you this: You are going to be fine.”
Those are the three sentences on the dedication page of Amy Koko’s new book, There’s Been a Change of Plans (Martin Brown Publishers, LLC, 2015). They also happen to be the message she hopes her readers will take away from the memoir she wrote about her divorce.
“When I was getting divorced in 2009, I just remember looking for books to help me, but there was nothing out there I could really relate to,” said 55-year-old Koko, a St. Petersburg, Florida–based Solo Mom of four. She is also the creator of her blog, Ex-Wife New Life. “I’m someone people can relate to—a mom who was left after 27 years of marriage who’s just trying to find my way.”
Koko’s 174-page memoir caused me to laugh until I cried at almost every chapter, but the laughs didn’t diminish the seriousness and difficulty of what she went through or the inspiration I felt while reading about her journey.
A married stay-at-home mom of four teenagers who thought when her husband said, “Honey we need to talk,” that he was taking her on a surprise trip to Italy, Koko spent the subsequent years trying to figure out what she was good at besides having and caring for babies.
Where is she today? Still a proud mom of four, but now she’s focused on blogging, sharing her book, and teaching an online course called How to Write It Funny. Oh, and by the way, she’s in love!
Q: What was your life like when you were married?
A: I got married at 20 and a few years later started having kids. I loved being pregnant, and I felt the best I had ever felt. I finally felt like I found something I could do that I was good at: having babies. I was living my mother’s life, staying home with the kids and having my husband give me money every week.
Q: When did you know your marriage was over?
A: Months after he had admitted he was having an affair. He had told me he ended it, and we were trying to work things out. We were on a trip in New York City, and he got a text from her right before we were meeting our kids for dinner. Everything came crashing down, and I had to go through dinner pretending like nothing was wrong. He left a few months later.
Q: How did you cope? What helped you through the divorce?
A: I lost my effing mind for a while. My kids saw me at my absolute worst, and that’s one of my biggest regrets. I think I let them down for a while because I couldn’t cope. The worst part for me was the fear. I kept wondering, What am I going to do now? He took care of the kids financially, and he would see them, but there were times I couldn’t reach him and I felt very alone—a single mom raising four teenagers.
I started trying different things. I went back to school and took some writing classes, one of which was a memoir class. I was the only student over age 19. One of the assignments I did turned out to be 80 pages long! I found writing therapeutic, and I got validation perhaps for the first time in my life. My fellow students loved my work.
Q: What made you start your blog?
A: It started to become clear that I couldn’t keep my house and that, for financial reasons, I had to get a job. In 2011, I got my real estate license and took a job for a realtor, who would make me go to Starbucks and sit there, and I couldn’t go back to the office until I got three leads. So, while I was sitting there one day, I started writing my blog. The writing wasn’t angry but rather insightful and funny.
Q: Tell me about There’s Been a Change of Plans.
A: The book is 100% true. It’s humorous, dramatic, heartfelt, and very honest. The goal is to show women how you can persevere, reinvent yourself, and find the person who has been inside of you the whole time.
Q: What are the challenges of being a Solo Mom?
A: You don’t have any backup. You don’t have a partner who might say, “Maybe we should handle it like this.” I’m a very emotional and nurturing person, but I’m not a disciplinarian and that came back to haunt my kids. I needed someone there to be the strong one. I was always making things easier for them, cleaning up their messes and making life as easy as possible for them, and that’s not always good.
Q: What do you love about being a mom?
A: Now that my kids are older—they are adults—it’s amazing being with these people you have created who are wonderful human beings. There is nothing better.
Q: Tell me about your man!
A: I call him “M” in my blog posts. We’ve been together for five years, and I don’t see the need to be married. In this relationship, it’s kind of like “Take it or leave it; this is who I am.” There are no issues. We don’t fight over money or children because it’s all separate, and that works for us. We come together as a family a few times a year, and it’s great. It’s enough. If I were married, I’d be picking up dry cleaning and prescriptions, and I don’t want to do that. I just want to love him.
Koko said she is thinking of traveling to Los Angeles to take a screenwriting course. She is also working on a second book, a novel, this time about . . . well, a divorced woman, of course!
Jackie Pilossoph, ESME’s Divorce Resource Guide, is the creator of Divorced Girl Smiling, a website that helps men and women facing divorce. She is also a weekly Huffington Post divorce blogger; the writer of a weekly column, “Love Essentially,” for the Chicago Tribune’s Pioneer Press; and a freelance corporate and business content writer. Pilossoph holds a master’s degree in journalism. She lives in Chicago with her two children. Oh, and she’s divorced.