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Image: Kevin Cotter wearing his ex's wedding dress as "snow camouflage."
Colin Cotter
“A wedding dress should make excellent snow camouflage, at least when it’s still relatively white,” Kevin Cotter writes in his new book, “101 Uses for My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress.” “I cannot say for certain, however, as I am not a hunter, my gun wasn’t loaded, and no small animals were spotted that day.”
By Laura T. Coffey
TODAY contributor
updated 10/19/2011 12:29:44 PM ET 2011-10-19T16:29:44

Divorces. Separations. Breakups. Ignominious endings. They happen to the best of us, and they’re often messy, confusing and searingly painful.

There’s no shortage of self-help books for people mired in the throes of a breakup — and yeah, sure, they’re helpful. But Kevin Cotter, the guy who gave the world the website MyExWifesWeddingDress.com, refined the formula, combining his raw emotion with comedy and joining the ranks of bloggers-turned-authors with his new book, “101 Uses for My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress,” out next week.

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“I think it turned out really good — even better than I had imagined it,” said Cotter, 38, of Tucson, Ariz. “I honestly still can’t believe any of this happened.”

Cotter was an unassuming box salesman and outdoors enthusiast when his wife of 12 years left him over Fourth of July weekend in 2009. They had been together since high school — more than half his lifetime — and they had two children together. He found himself single for the first time in his adult life, and he was devastated. (He has since recovered, even remarrying last June.)

When she walked away, Cotter’s ex-wife left her wedding dress behind in its preservation box and told him to do whatever he wanted with it. The keepsake box seemed to jeer at him from a shelf in his bedroom closet — until the day Cotter and his family members started to brainstorm. What could he actually do with that wedding dress?

Image: Darth Vader scarecrow made with Kevin Cotter's ex-wife's wedding dress
Colin Cotter
"The Darth Vader scarecrow pictures were taken early, but in my opinion, no other application tops this one," Kevin Cotter said.

Many things, it turns out. Many, many things.

For instance, it didn’t take too long for Cotter and his supportive brother Colin to figure out that a wedding dress could make a great tug-of-war toy for a dog, and a great grill cover, and a great yoga mat. Wedding dress fabric also serves as an excellent coffee filter, and wedding dress tulle works well as a pasta strainer.

TODAY.com caught up with Cotter a few months after his divorce, when he started posting photos of his wedding-dress exploits at MyExWifesWeddingDress.com. His blog transformed him into an Internet celebrity in the span of three weeks, and his ex-wife wasn’t exactly pleased.

Once launched, though, Cotter’s blog kept resonating with people because it was so mischievously fun. Letters of support flooded in from around the world, and Cotter kept on dreaming up crazy dress uses with his brother because the process was so hysterical — and so therapeutic.

“My brother said that it wasn’t until we started working together photographing the dress that he heard my real laugh return,” Cotter writes in his new book. “People have asked me if what I have done with the wedding dress has been cathartic. The answer to that is yes.”

Practical uses for a dress
The whole time Cotter worked away on his zany wedding-dress project, he kept hoping that it might have potential as a book. He envisioned a coffee table photo book, but that’s not exactly how “101 Uses for My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress” turned out. Instead, it’s a paperback that’s chock full of hundreds of color photos alongside Cotter’s reflections on life, marriage, kids, weddings, work, camping, fishing, soccer, humor, and, above all, moving on.

Deeply poignant at times, the book discusses with brutal honesty the dark aspects of adjusting to life alone. A few confessions from its pages: “I never had trouble sleeping before my ex-wife walked out, but suddenly I began to suffer from terrible insomnia, especially on those evenings when I was home alone. ... I found myself longing for those days when my house sounded like a home. ... The silence left me replaying the events of the last few years and wondering how everything I knew had simply fallen apart.”

Slideshow: Punching bag? Fishing net? New uses for an ex's wedding dress (on this page)

But as quickly as the book sucker-punches readers with an emotional revelation about the realities of divorce, it swoops in with a wildly comedic revelation about the practical side of wedding-dress ownership.

Image: Kevin Cotter punching a punching bag crafted from his ex-wife's wedding dress
Colin Cotter
“A wedding dress punching bag isn’t difficult to set up and could be really helpful in relieving stress during the early days after a relationship collapses,” Kevin Cotter writes in his new book.

For instance, did you realize that a wedding dress could be more useful to you than a Swiss Army knife if you were stranded in the woods or hiding out in a nuclear fallout shelter? (The book spells out why.) And did you know that a wedding dress can be employed as a handy juice strainer when making a delicious prickly pear margarita? (The book uses photos to demonstrate how.) And don’t even get Cotter started on his aversion to houseflies. (Unfortunately, a silky white wedding dress doesn’t make the best flyswatter.)

Need to get over your ex? Call Death Bear

Clawing his way out of a bad place
To date, Cotter and his brother have published a total of 120 crazy uses for the wedding dress, including 40 never-before-seen uses they concocted just for the book. New and nutty wedding-dress innovations such as drag-race parachute, snow camouflage, art canvas, sumo mawashi, punching bag and MC Hammer pants are highlights.

“I think my brother and I did some of our best work late” in the project, Cotter said.

Today Cotter has moved on from his divorce in more ways than one. He and his ex-wife still see each other often because they share custody of their kids, who are now ages 9 and 11.

“We get along fine,” Cotter said. “The wedding dress hasn’t been a topic of conversation for a long time.

“I’m sure she’s very aware that the book is on its way, but it I don’t know that she’s preordered her copy, or that she’s going to ask me to sign it.”

Oh no! 13 real-life wedding disasters

Image: Ashley Nowe and Kevin Cotter on their wedding day
Courtesy of Kevin Cotter
Kevin Cotter got married again to Ashley Nowe on June 18, 2011. "I'm so grateful for my family," he said.

And Cotter has married again, to a woman he met on Match.com. His new wife, Ashley Nowe, 28, had a young son when they met, and Cotter is loving his new life in his bustling, blended family.

After dating for a year and a half, they planned their wedding in just nine days and threw it in their backyard. “She said earlier in our relationship that if it worked out and one day we were to be married, it would have to be a beach wedding and she would wear a thong bikini,” Cotter said. “She said she would not risk leaving me with any amount of material for a sequel.

“But in the end, she was brave. She wore a dress.”

Kevin Cotter’s new book, “101 Uses for My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress” ($14, New American Library), is set to be released on Tuesday, Oct. 25. To preorder a copy, visit MyExWifesWeddingDress.com.

Need a Coffey break? Friend TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Facebook, follow her on Twitter  or read more of her stories at LauraTCoffey.com.

© 2013 NBCNews.com  Reprints

Photos: Punching bag? Fishing net? New uses for an ex's wedding dress

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  1. All about healing

    When his wife walked out on him after 12 years of marriage, Kevin Cotter of Tucson, Ariz., needed to find a way to cope. On a blog called MyExWifesWeddingDress.com, he began chronicling his search for 101 practical ways for a newly single guy to use an ex-wife's wedding gown. Hilarity ensued – and so did a book deal. Cotter’s new book, “101 Uses for My Ex-Wife’s Wedding Dress,” is set for release on Oct. 25. Read on for Cotter’s eye-popping examples and descriptions of what a used wedding dress can do. (Colin Cotter) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Dog leash

    “A wedding dress makes a great leash with a loose collar for a larger dog. You’ll need to use a lot of dress to make a strong knot, but it is well worth the effort,” Kevin Cotter writes in his new book. “Lenny seemed incredibly proud to be strolling around the park in a wedding dress leash when I treated both of us to a walk that day.” (Colin Cotter) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Punching bag

    "A punching bag is a great addition to any post-divorce workout plan," Kevin Cotter said. "Just stuff it with something (I used sleeping bags), hang it, and punch away." (Colin Cotter) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Sports banner

    Kevin Cotter loves sports, and as a graduate of the University of Arizona, he loves UofA. When he and his brother headed out to the UofA homecoming football game, they brought the wedding dress along with them. "A wedding dress makes an excellent banner to support your favorite team," Cotter explained. "Just be prepared for some questions when you try to bring it into the stadium." (Colin Cotter) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Snow camouflage

    "Look closely at this picture," Cotter said. "I'm hard to spot in my wedding dress snow camo." (Colin Cotter) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Shower curtain

    "A wedding dress shower curtain wouldn't perform great for long showers because it isn't waterproof," Cotter said. "But it works great for me because I live in the desert and take short showers." (Colin Cotter) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. MC Hammer pants

    "All I can say about my MC Hammer pants is: You can't touch this." -- Kevin Cotter (Colin Cotter) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Fishing net

    "Thanks to my buddy Ellis I caught, I believe, the first trout in the history of the world to be netted by a wedding dress," Cotter said. (Colin Cotter) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Turban

    "A wedding dress turban is guaranteed to attract odd looks at Starbucks," Cotter said. "But it also scored me free coffee so I would call the outing a success." (Colin Cotter) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Christmas tree skirt

    It's hard to imagine a finer Christmas tree skirt than a used wedding dress – particularly when Santa has Tecate and Guinness to deliver. (Colin Cotter) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Surrender flag

    "I actually thought about waving the surrender flag a couple of times during my wedding dress project," Cotter said. "But I am glad I saw the dress complete 101 (plus) uses." (Colin Cotter) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Moving on

    Kevin Cotter, 38, got married again to Ashley Nowe, 28, on June 18, 2011 -- about two years after his first wife left him and left her wedding dress behind. "Ashley’s dress doesn’t have the potential that my ex-wife’s dress does in terms of its capability," Cotter said. "It has no tulle, which I think rules out straining pasta, straining juice – all the net-related activities are ruled out." (Courtesy of Kevin Cotter) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Laughing again

    Kevin Cotter met his new wife, Ashley Nowe, on Match.com. "I could tell from our early emails that we had similar senses of humor," Cotter said. “She said earlier in our relationship that if it worked out and one day we were to be married, it would have to be a beach wedding and she would wear a thong bikini. She said she would not risk leaving me with any amount of material for a sequel. ... But in the end, she was brave. She wore a dress.” (Courtesy of Kevin Cotter) Back to slideshow navigation
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