By Monica Rizzo
March 10, 2014 12:00 PM

Two Christmases ago actress Jennie Garth received a book from her then 15-year-old daughter Luca. She stared in disbelief at the title: Shit Happens So Get Over It. “I thought, ‘Are you kidding me?'” says Garth, whose marriage to actor Peter Facinelli (Nurse Jackie, Twilight) had fallen apart earlier that year. “‘I’m sad and hurt, how can she not have compassion?'” But she heard her daughter’s message. “She didn’t want this sad sack for a mom. She wanted someone who can handle anything and persevere.”

With time Garth saw the wisdom in that rather blunt gift, and now the book is displayed on her coffee table. She admits it wasn’t easy adjusting to being a divorced mom of three just as she was turning 40. All of her kids – Lola and Fiona are 11 and 7- gave her the motivation. “I had to be there for them, and you can’t do that when you’re in a fog.”

Now that she has emerged, she’s sharing what she learned in a new book, Deep Thoughts from a Hollywood Blonde. The memoir “is not a salacious tell-all,” explains Garth, now 41, who has been a celebrity since she was a teenager. “It’s not a woe-is-me book. It’s an introspective look at things I’ve experienced in my life.” (Don’t worry, 90210 fans, she also clears up some decades-old mysteries: Did she and Luke Perry, who played her onscreen love, ever date? No. “We were friends, and sometimes we had to make out at work.” And the alleged catfight with Shannen Doherty? Yes, there was a scuffle. But “I definitely never coldcocked her,” Garth says, laughing.)

In writing about the past few years, she says, “I see a woman who really took a hit. I was lost for a while. But I found my way again and discovered my inner strength.” Weekly therapy helped (she still attends), as did getting into an amicable coparenting arrangement with Facinelli. More recently she has refocused her attention on her career. Another 90210 alum, Tori Spelling, is her costar on the ABC Family series Mystery Girls, which begins shooting next month. The pair portray former actresses who used to play detectives on TV and are called in to solve real crimes. The plot may test believability, but the connection for her is authentic. “We are always there for each other,” she says of her longtime friend.

And taking a page from Spelling’s reality-show playbook, Garth is allowing the renovation of the L.A.-area home she shares with her girls to be documented for an HGTV series, The Jennie Garth Project. “I always thought, ‘I’ll just stick with acting’ or ‘Being a mom is enough for me.’ Now I can handle all of these things,” Garth says, pointing to the low-tech, pen-and-paper planner she uses to keep track of “work time, family time, me time.” At the moment “couple time” isn’t on her schedule. While she has dated since the divorce, “I’m focusing on myself. A relationship isn’t on the front burner,” she says. “But I definitely enjoy having somebody to have dinner and hang out with.” Still, Garth adds, she’s open to whatever comes her way. “I tell my girls that life isn’t perfect, and you’re going to have struggles, but you are worthy of love. That’s the biggest thing I try to impart, because they have seen Mom fall down and get back up again.”