Divorce

Advice from a Friend Who’s Been There

Sometimes the advice friends give are better taken as expressions of concern from a friend who cares but certainly not advice to be acted upon. But yesterday I spoke with a friend who gave me the advice that I needed to hear and the advice that I think is the right advice to act upon. And for that I sincerely thank her, even if she was cleaning her refrigerator while we were talking. I’m taking the liberty of passing on the advice that cost her many hours and dollars in therapy and challenging moments with her own daughter and psycho-ex (her phrase).

You need to have mantras. These are some of the mantras she shared with me for dealing with exman/slime on custodial issues. We are only one week into younger daughter going back and forth and already he is being himself, causing problems, lying and bullying everyone around.

Take the high road. Get yourself out of the conflict between you and your ex because that is over, and put your daughter in the center. It is no longer about your failed marriage and bitter divorce; it is about taking care of your daughter as best as you can, regardless of what he does. It is about enabling her to grow up as independently as possible from the conflict that her parents have wrought.

Take the pressure off her. Don’t make her choose between parents, and don’t make her any more anxious than needs to be. Just step back.

"I will support whatever decision you make." This mantra is to be repeated to daughter instead of transmitting to her any of my fears of loss (of her love and attention) or anger (at exman/slime).

"I will do whatever you choose." A variation on the previous mantra, because it’s not good to keep repeating myself. Again, stepping back and letting her find comfort as best as she can without the added agony of worrying about how her actions will impact me.

Though these will surely be hard to act upon and say, they make sense and seem worthwhile to recite to myself and daughter. When she said them, I knew she was right. Right in the way the friend who told me to just put daughter on a bus to visit her grandparents in New York regardless of ex’s games was wrong. Sometimes there is a difference between what would feel good for me and what would be good for her, and that is what I need to remember. It is about how I continue being the best mother possible for her. That is the only relationship that counts now.


Some Men I Have Been Annoying Lately

I’m not sure what’s going on, but it must be that either I grate a lot of men the very wrong way or the men with whom I have come into contact lately are in very bad moods. Is it me or is it them? Is it some prickliness that seems to have become a part of me? Or is it my mouth—and fingers—and how they say what I think are fine things but other people, boy, they hear other things.

Man at graduation ceremony: During the graduation ceremony for my school I was working the security detail, which means that I was to stand at a portal of the sports center to ensure that people were sitting in their seats and the space for the handicapped was used appropriately. There was a “professional” security person at that portal as well, along with two other teachers. We got there an hour before the ceremony began, which is when the doors opened.

A woman with her mother in a wheelchair arrived at least a half hour early. The mother is afraid of heights so she didn’t want to sit right at the railing, instead the two of them sat back a bit.

For some reason, the security guard agreed to let five very heavy women sit in seats in the handicapped area, but enough space was left so that the mother and her daughter could see from their spot away from the edge.

A half hour after the ceremony began a man arrived with his mother in a wheelchair, his wife and kids. I approached him and (I think) politely told him that he can’t put the chair in that spot since it would block the view of the woman sitting in her wheelchair. His comment to me was basically, “You’re going to tell me what to do?” “Yes,” I said, “I am.” At which, I swear, I could hear his chauvinistic wheels turning. He said that the woman needs to move there and if not there is no reason why he can’t put his mother there. “Because you can’t,” I said. I saw no reason to explain to this man this woman’s fear of heights and just said that she came early and she was unable to move up. Again the chauvinistic wheels churned, he said “Call security,” and he shoved his wheelchair forward, put his mother into place and went to sit in the stands. (There was still space for them to see, they needed to do an angle thing to their bodies.)

Bastard.

Settlement attorney:  Not only was he extremely unfriendly [perhaps because he didn’t like that he felt obliged to let my lawyer (a woman) and me sit in his golf-obsessed office] but he, too, had the boy tantrum thing going on. When we got to the signing part of the day, when exman threatened to leave because I wouldn’t sign something, that was okay. But when I went out of the room for a moment to talk to my lawyer I could hear him raise his voice and say something about “she.” I didn’t hear what he said, but I am sure it was about how “she’s playing games.” Really? I’m just trying not to get screwed anymore and that’s interpreted as playing games. So be it.

Man with no humor: For no real reason, I answered a Craig’s List ad (I know, I know, DON’T GO THERE) and after I made, what I thought was a joke based on a funny spelling mistake that he made, I was told, that he didn’t like being laughed at. I even prefaced the comment with a caveat that I am an English teacher. The puns were funny; what would you do if someone talked about a navel base? Sure, better without him, but what is happening?

Or is nothing happening and I just keep meeting men who quite obviously don’t mesh with me and not to sweat it. But still, you know, it hurts. It hurts to be misconstrued. It hurts to be told that you’re mean when you don’t think you are. It makes me wonder how we can communicate when there are so many ways in which thoughts don’t get understood the way they were meant to be. I did mean to be funny, certainly not hurtful. Was he too sensitive? Am I too insensitive?

Man who really should be spanked: Then there’s the man on Plenty of Fish (no, there aren’t, and yes, I turned my profile off) who about a week ago wrote to me something about being spanked. I did not reply. Today he popped up again, and when I said something about how capitalization and apostrophes are important to me he replied that he has a Ph.D., that I am too anal retentive (is there a proper amount or does my asking this mark me as definitely being anal?) and that I am obviously ignorant, stupid and judgmental. And this from a man who wants to be spanked and compares himself to Einstein because he, too, couldn’t spell. He obviously thought everything he said was okay, but not everything I said. Before I could he reply he had me blacklisted from his account. HELLO, shades of control all over the place.

Is there something I’m missing? Were my years trying to survive exman more damaging than I thought? Is my desire to be blunt and open so that I won’t go into another relationship that will end up leaving me voiceless leaving me open to being insulted and misunderstood? Are men really as controlling as they seem to be? Seriously, what’s with the insults? And why, why do they see everything they utter as charming and me, well, I’ve been blacklisted, deleted and side-swiped. 

It’s been about two years since I started dating. In that time, I only dated one man more than three times and he turned out to be the incredibly unreliable pseudo-man. I’ve been told I’m too picky. I’ve been told that being friends is not enough. I haven’t been moved by anyone. It took a while, but now I’m really wondering about my man antennae, after all I picked exman/slime and pseudo both of whom turned out to be controlling, mind-game players and dangerously selfish. I’ve been told I’m fat (sorry, not “height-weight proportionate”). I have not responded to men who were not attractive to me or with whom I did not feel that there was enough to go on for a relationship to develop. Time, yes, time may be what will bring about a meeting of man and woman. And going with the flow and not trying to force things may also work. I’ve been told to join groups, and maybe I will (other than women’s groups that is, and the political group turned out to include women and retired people). But that still doesn’t answer my question as to why I feel that I have been encountering so much negativity and nastiness.

I genuinely don’t get it. Are men too serious or am I too irreverent? Oh, who cares. (Yes Microsoft Word, I am overriding your desire to have me put a question mark there.) They’re not even funny stories anymore; they’re not entertaining and they’re certainly not making me feel good about my prospects for finding a decent, loving, intelligent, caring man who doesn’t go running to the hills at my humor or try to mini-sermonize me.
Alone is good. I know that. And I revel in the freedom I feel and the joy of a simple flow of life. I should stop reaching for a while. I should stop worrying about what others think, that is until I find others who like how I think, then I will attend to them.

My heart. I guess I need to put it back into my chest, but it keeps wanting to find a playmate. 


SOLD; Bitter to the End

The house was finally SOLD on Thursday, but as usual, not without a long drawn-out process and a “this never happened to me in all the years I have been a lawyer” scenario. I am grateful that this has come to pass, but annoyed that, as usual, I didn’t get the money and the respect (yes, that’s the word) that I deserve. No, I don’t think I’m being spoiled, this divorce struggle has not been about money but about regaining self-respect and getting respect.

Rather than a brief little signing around a very big table, I got to spend more than four hours getting frustrated and annoyed. I even had nasty lady lawyer on the phone and an associate of hers on the spot (with a record for putting deadbeats in jail), but neither of them got me any more money out of exman-slime than he had been prepared to pay the previous day and now I will have some hefty legal fees to pay. (This lawyer’s assessment of exman-slime: a chauvinistic hothead.) I was trying to recoup some of the money he owes me for not paying the mortgage for six months (because this lowered the amount of money paid by the mortgage company), not paying his share of the electricity for more than a year, and in general not paying his share of home and daughters’ expenses since the divorce in 2007. He was willing to pay a portion of what he owes on the past-due portion of the mortgage, but not nearly all that he owes. So this was my chance to finally get what is due to me (monetarily).

Before going there I had been asking my lawyer about putting money in escrow and she had assured me that it would be no problem. Well it was. The settlement company refused to place money in escrow if it was not agreed upon by both parties. WHOOHOO. This was the Las Vegas winning scenario that never happened in 40 years. I had nothing to hold over him; I had no leverage to get him to increase what he was willing to pay. It was his "Get Out of Jail" card. And to make it even more annoying, the settlement attorney was nasty to me because I had the gall to be annoyed at this. Oh, and all of a sudden the realtor (who saw me right after the almost-fight in the house the other day when I ran out with a box of photo albums with him right behind me with his little recorder friend) was on his side. The realtor, who he told he would sue (this seems to be what he tells everyone, even my attorney’s receptionist when she didn’t put his call through but took a message) and who refused to show him rental properties, was there for him. I guess she felt bad that I had a lawyer there and poor little him was all on his lonely. Nothing but frustrations.

As a side matter and pick me up, I did get a letter from an assistant principal at school yesterday that was put into my file that stated how much of a team player I have been in the past few weeks and how helpful I have been to my colleagues.

So now I’ve filed in court for next Friday to try again to get some of this money. I know I should let it go. But I feel I need this one last attempt or this one last stand and then, then I will be ready.

He did tell his best buddy, the realtor, that he is thinking about leaving the area, which would be marvelous, except he said that he might go to California where oldest daughter is recuperating from life at home.

Now, now I am going to my bathroom to color my hair. Suddenly the gray looks gray and not chic. Yes, I am ready to move on, but I need this one last attempt to know that I have fought as sanely as possible, that I wasn’t a frier (Hebrew for someone who is taken advantage of and one of the worst things you could say about someone in Israel).

And after that, when younger daughter and her two friends who slept over last night get up, I will make blueberry pancakes for them and they will still have more to talk and laugh about. Then we will get field hockey equipment for her, and I will drive her to another friend’s house, and I will shop for curtains and a drainboard and whatever else I need to make this apartment more comfortable. But how, how could it be more comfortable because right now, right now I couldn’t be more comfortable.

Comfort to you, always.

 


Dissolution of a Marriage

I’m trying to come up with some lessons learned to share, other than not to marry a psychopath, but I’m not coming up with anything. There’s just too much of so much to distill into a list of do’s and don’ts.

In 1985 I couldn’t have foreseen that I was marrying a psychopath. In 1985 I couldn’t have foreseen that the man who was full of promise would accuse me of stealing plastic containers and insult a receptionist at my lawyer’s law firm, and become a virtual joke through his capacity to be evil and petty. In 1985 maybe I did see a glint of “my tribe before all others” but then I thought that it meant that he would protect me and not that he would try to take from me whatever he could. How can you convey the pain of the wrong decision, or the pain of “people change,” or the pain of “no longer have common goals and interests”?

I did not go through this “for a reason” nor did it make me a “better person.” I went through this because it happened, because it is my life, as others live their lives. There is no higher purpose to pain, as there is none to pleasure, it is what it is. And no, I have not become cold and hard, this is the way I have been, taking life into myself and trying to live it without bestowing it with otherworldly qualities.

Rather than being elated in the last few days, I have been tired and bothered by an intermittent headache. Last night I went to bed at 7:30 (mainly because I had two beers because I didn’t want to think, and the beer made me tired), but when I woke up at 10:30 I didn’t get out of bed (except to go to the bathroom numerous times). I just lay there listening to the cars on the highway not far away and music on the radio. I was not really thinking, I was just there, but I wouldn’t call this my time to meditate. Or maybe I could. Maybe I’m going through an invisible wall that divides between the tunnel of “where I have been” to the path (surely not another tunnel) to “where I am going.” Or maybe I am simply tired of life as it’s been lived and now that it is over my body can finally take a break from holding me up.

This stillness bothers me, but I don’t want to fight it. I should probably start going out and doing things, but I find the inertia calming. What is it that I want now that I have gotten the chance to get it?

  • I want to do new things.
  • I want to be comfortable with who I am.
  • I want to be calmer.
  • I want to be less guarded.
  • I want to touch other people’s lives in a positive way.
  • I want to find the balance of motherhood to a teen who is just starting high school and a teen who is on her own.
  • I want to be loved.
  • I want to love.
  • I want to create happiness.
  • I want to share.
  • I’d also like world peace, afterall my graduate studies were in how to prevent and stop conflicts, so why not.

Beware of the Bread Knife Thief!

For some reason I wish I could pity ex-man, but he insists on making sure I don’t land in pity territory, but stay firmly rooted in disgustland.

This morning, I got to the house to take some of my things. Surprisingly and oh, so happily, he was not there, so I took Poops for a walk, took most of what was left in my room, took my food items from the refrigerator and pantry, and assorted kitchen items that were not in hazy “Whose is this?” territory, but were firmly mine, and left. I have no desire to quibble over little glass dishes or Chinese soup bowls, so I’ve taken what I know is mine (from the PSA) and things that are so “mine” since I used them all the time—and he didn’t pick them out (and maybe, even, I received them from my parents)—that I felt that they belonged to me. I made my get-away before he returned and made it back to my apartment before younger daughter and her friend woke up. (Yes, we have had our first sleep-over.)

At around six I took younger daughter to the house to pick up some things before taking her to yet another party. I figured that that would be a good time to pick up some more things. The verbal attack that greeted me was unexpected, unexpected because I had just spent my first night at my new house knowing that I will never sleep under the same roof with exman again, knowing that I will never have to put up with his tantrums and abuse again, knowing that I will never have to face him again. But I was wrong.

The floodgates of his mouth and venom opened as I opened the door. Apparently I have stolen the toaster that we have had for nine years, one of the “parents at the soccer game” type of chairs, and the BREAD KNIFE!

To which I replied: the toaster is mine, it’s in the PSA, but I will check and if it is yours I will bring it back. The chair, I said, we had agreed that I would take two, but I will return one of them. And the bread knife back off from my bread knife because you’re not getting it. Not only was this certainly from my parents, but it is also the knife whose handle broke and whose tip flew off when I slammed it down—point first—on the (I mean, your) cutting board when older daughter told me that you told her that I had put shit on your car and she thought that that must be true. Nope, you’re not getting the knife.

“Thief! I’m making a list of the things you stole.”

“Take me to court.”

And as I trudged upstairs to take apart the shelving unit that I had put together in my closet when I moved out of the master bedroom into the guest bedroom four years ago he screamingly proclaimed that his new hobby would be to make my life miserable (for five years, I guess until younger daughter goes to college in four years).

“You can’t,” I said to myself. "There is just no way that you will invade my life any more. The kudzu is cut."

Tomorrow I need to go back to the house to divide the photograph albums and boxes of assorted daughter-artwork that I have saved. I will wait until younger daughter gets home from her sleep-over because I have no desire to be in the house alone with him, nor do I think it wise.

The knife stays here. Thief my ass. If tears were money, I would have gotten to keep the house and everything in it and he would have had to build a pool for me to house the tears. Bum.

Coming soon: The Annoying Downstairs Neighbor. Let's just say "busybody" is fitting.


Two Days’ Worth of Enough Beads

•  Yes, evil teacher here because I accused a student of plagiarizing an essay. About three-quarters of his essay was word for word from an online essay. His mother, unfortunately, accused me of underestimating the intelligence of her child. She, unfortunately, believed her son when he told her, “NO, of course I did not plagiarize. The horrible, terrible teacher who has been yelling at me all year because I never stop talking in class or calling out or laughing in a stupid guffaw way or saying stupid things doesn’t like me.” Ugh. Two days of accusations against me, with stern notes to the assistant principal until under extreme pressure (torture?) the student admitted to the assistant principal that he did get “some” help from “someone.” I guess after an at-home council he admitted to more to Momsy because suddenly the mother apologized to me. Thanks, but it would have been nicer if you didn’t think I’m the evil teacher from Mathilda (Agatha Trunchbull,) and confronted your son and not me. 

•  Yesterday, after a colleague declined to help another colleague, after another colleague suddenly realized that he couldn’t help, I was asked to help. Of course I said yes. So, poof, there went my planning period. Well, it didn’t totally disappear, I just had to spend it supervising five students taking a final exam in the room of the teacher who had declined to help.

• Today, I was told by the head of the department that I need to sit in on a meeting for her for five to ten minutes, which is generally how long a regular teacher needs to sit in on these meetings. But today, of course, it was special, so instead of a diversion from my planning period, I got to sit in a meeting for 45 minutes about a girl I never met and will most likely will never meet when I finally said that I have to teach a class in five minutes (and I have to pee and eat something). They were oh, so gracious, in letting me leave—even though I had asked the person running the meeting before it started if I could leave after a first few minutes.

    o Just as I left the meeting, my department chair appeared. There was a sorry sorry sorry, and when she tried to catch up to me after talking to someone she ran on the knee that she had operated on two months ago, and then there was a “what do you want from Starbucks?” I am so hoping my thank you and sorry chai tea latte appears tomorrow morning.

• This might sound callous, it’s not, it’s just an expression of frustration or exhaustion or enough! Or maybe it’s just being selfish, which I think we all need once in a while. A close relative of my team teacher’s was killed in a car accident this past weekend, which means that he was physically absent and even more absent-even-when-present than usual. I do care, honestly, but I’m just tired of having to do more and tired of the help I’m supposed to have not helping me. And I need to work on this inter-personal relationship because next year we are slated to teach three classes again together. And maybe, too, the ache of his loss has also seeped into me.

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It Could Have Been Worse (One & Two)

1.  There was lightning and thunder this morning. It was a kind of rolling thunder that sounded like a god waking up from a heavy sleep rather than a force of nature attacking. After hitting the snooze button on my cell phone five times, I finally stopped resisting the inevitable and woke up. After three lovely, wonderful, peaceful nights at the apartment, it was hard to adjust (even if only temporarily) to the former marital residence. I dragged myself down the steps to the basement, turned on the water and got into the shower.

Just a few moments after full body coverage by water, the lights went out. Needless to say, a bathroom in a basement is windowless. So there I stood, in the comforting flow of warm hot water not ready yet to concede that it was uncomfortable in the pitch black of the bathroom. That is until I realized that if the electricity is out, then how am I going to get to work since the garage door is electric? And then I remembered that I had parked the car in front of the garage because I have boxes and furniture that need to be donated blocking my part of the garage. Which meant that my car was not in the garage, which meant that I was able to thoroughly enjoy my brief warm hot shower because, well, it could have been worse.

2.  Yesterday I had the briefest of conversations with slime. Since I have not noticed that he has packed a single thing, I told him that the organization to which I am donating things is coming on Tuesday, and, oh by the way, are you going to be packing. He said, yes he would be packing and moving onTuesday (which I knew) and good that the organization is coming then. Okay, I thought after that exchange, I could manage what my lawyer asked of me, and that is to see if he plans on paying the mortgage company what he owes it. I should have known, but I was lulled once again into thinking that he is on the normal scale as opposed to the psycho scale.

And he was off. First trying to tell me that he owes half of what he owes. Then he was trying to explain to me how the mortgage company applies payments (which I am well aware of without your lecture stupid little man). But when I repeated that he owes more and that I don’t want to be screwed out of the amount that is due to me because he is behind, I got the tantrum. After the whole “I’ll sue you” and “my lawyer is a bulldog” BS that came out of his mouth, he was off on a tangent. It’s always interesting (well, it could be interesting in a psychological way if I were a therapist or a researcher, but I’m not) to see where he takes off.

This time he took off to the world in which he is a wonderful guy. Yes, he apparently let me take things from the house. But once he said that, he was convinced of how great he is and then he got mad at how truly terrible I am. Yes—you stole a painting. I admit it, I almost took a photograph that is his (the division of assorted stuff is: if he picked it out, it’s his, which means he gets a lot of stuff), but he saw it in my hands and commented that it’s his and I put it back immediately. But that does not matter, what matters is that he saved the painting from me. And then he was onto how I stole wine glasses, apparently there had been eight. Some broke I said to his hearingless ears. The world in which glasses break because the glass is too thin is not the world he inhabits, no, he inhabits the world where ex-wives steal hree wine glasses (and ex-husbands notice that).

Oh my. But, it really could have been worse if the UNDER CONTRACT sign were not in front of the house and I had not basically moved into a lovely apartment which will be my full-time place in NINE days. 

Here’s to the optimist’s credo (“It could have been worse”): May it provide you with comfort and hope. 


The Symbolism of a Frozen Pizza

On my way back to the house, I stopped at a supermarket to get a frozen pizza for dinner and some other things for the next few days. In the same shopping center I stopped at Starbuck’s to get a Java chip frappuchino for my at-home daughter. Doesn’t sound like anything special, but to me it was smile-inducing because these stores are in my new shopping center, as in the shopping center near my new apartment—a home. I practically skipped out of the store, and I surely smiled at far too many people inside.

Oh, the joy to walk down aisles that are new to me. To be in a place that is mine, that represents where I am going and not where I have been. So many things encompass a life, there are so many things that can bring happiness and sadness, surely supermarket shopping is not one of them. But what could be better than to feel freedom, wherever it may occur, because that’s what I felt being there, in a new place that I have envisioned for years. Well, not quite the supermarket, but in a new neighborhood of my own—of being on my own.

Now I am back in the house and his loud steps are right above my head, muffling my thoughts. And I can hear that he has turned the water on. And again his loud steps, even with the carpeting. But this invasion into my thoughts will be over soon, so very soon. Tomorrow the movers are coming to move my things and younger daughter’s things to our new home and then on weekends until the closing I will be there with younger daughter, and then, on the same day that the school year ends, so should my association with this house and the day-to-day “living” in the same place as this man.

In the midst of my joy, though, I spoke with my mother who told me that a second-cousin is getting divorced. She has a restraining order against her husband. He has worked on and off, mostly off, for years. And he apparently has a drinking-various-things problem. So while I am about to step out of the tunnel, unfortunately I see someone else in the midst of her tunnel, with it getting farther and farther away from a light source. How, why, how, why does this happen to so many of us? Why are so many of us unhappy in our marriages? How is it that no matter how smart and self-aware we are, we find ourselves trapped in what had been love? Who is to blame? What is to blame?

I might be stepping out of my tunnel, but my tunnel-vision will remain with me to some extent because I never want to find myself in a tunnel again. As long as I remember what it has been like, I’m hoping I’ll be able to better direct my path.  And as long as someone else finds herself in her own dim tunnel, I hope I can offer some degree of solace, even if it is just out into the ether.


Talking to a Daughter, or Two

Older daughter has been in California since May 16th, which would make it ten days. The weirdest thing for me about her not being here is having to speak to her on the phone. Since when do we speak to our children on the phone, except for the “Can you pick me up now?” type of conversation? It feels so distant; it really makes her physical absence so stark.

Not only do we talk on the phone, but we actually have conversations. Yes, we have had conversations since she moved to the opposite side of the country. And the other day, for the first time that I can remember because it was the first time ever, she asked me “How was your day?” and “What did you do today?” Could it be that I am becoming a person to her? Could it be that we are really on our way to that mature mother-daughter relationship? Granted, she may be bored, but still, she didn’t have to ask. Oh, happy, happy day to see that apparently we have managed to withstand the onslaught of exman, who has done his utmost to figuratively push me off a parenting cliff.

I was so excited by this development that I told younger daughter what her sister had said. And just to prove to me that she can be just as charming as her sister, when I came home the other day she asked me, “How was your day?” and “What did you do today?” Wit, what’s a conversation without wit? I guess I have succeeded, am succeeding.

What made you realize that your child has, indeed, absorbed some of your lessons or has moved to the next level of relationship with you?


Love Letters and Children’s Stories

This morning, in the throes of throwing out and packing up, I found a packet of love letters to and from exman. I had them in the car from when I found them at my parent’s house. At that time, just a few months ago, I figured that at some point I would want to read them, or that they were an important archaeological part of my past that had to be preserved. But today when I saw them I opened one card that I had sent to him and just seeing that I wrote the word “kisses” to him turned my stomach. Without further ado, I dumped the whole packet in the dumpster. There is nothing to see there, there is nothing to recount or relive. Garbage, it’s all garbage. Harsh? Perhaps. But why excavate to the good when the bad has poisoned it all. Why think back when I need to look ahead.

In that same bag, though, I did find two children’s stories that I wrote in 1992, when my eighteen-year old was one. Of course, they were rejected by publishers, but, of course, I think they were wrong. At the time of writing, I thought that it was a fun, educational book teaching the very young about sounds and the fun of words. Enjoy one part of my past that I am pleased with.

Down Went the Spoon, by Laura G.

Down went the spoon
with a great, big boom!
and SPATTER
went
the pancake batter.

Down went the cup
(certainly not up)
and out spilled the water
to make a new brook.

Down went my cookie
all ready to munch
well, it broke into pieces
and now is a bunch.

Down went the soap
right into the sink
where it started to slide
so my eyes I did shut
to suppose a round rink.

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The Threads of a Life

So many threads to a life. So many threads interweaving with other threads. Some threads continue interweaving, some go in new directions, and sometimes we need to tie a knot in them to see where we are at the moment. That’s where I am right now, at the knot-tying stage, looking at some of the threads in my life.

The husband of my colleague, who was diagnosed with esophageal cancer about six weeks ago, died a little more than a week ago. Still in shock, her refrain, her complaint (if it can be called that) is that “it happened so fast.” Even so, a few days before he died they managed to arrange for their engaged daughter to get married in their backyard for a true blending of the bitter and the sweet into their lives. (May his memory be blessed.)

My wonderful student from last year who was supposed to have brain surgery in July was notified that, no, they cannot wait, and so she has already been operated on. I cannot tell you how hard it is to see a 15-year-old child need a wheelchair to get back to her room from just a few feet away. Sure, I saw her two days after her surgery, but there are some images that you don’t want to reconcile with the picture you have in your head of how a teenager is “supposed” to be, and how this lively, enthusiastic, intelligent, perfectionist always was—is.

I was invited to take part in the teaching of writing class that I interviewed for in March. Last night was the welcome dinner. It is fascinating to hear the ideas that other teachers have to excite, instruct and inspire their students to write. Why the creativity of teachers is not a thing more discussed is a wonder to me. We each need to make a 75-minute presentation; I heard the ideas of about half the teachers who will be taking the class (25 all together) and they were all so interesting and inspiring, for me both as a teacher and a parent. You have to wonder how it is that kids are missing out on the sparks that are coming their ways. What is it that they need? Or is the best that any teacher can expect in a year is to reach a few kids, and with that, to feel “mission accomplished” and not stress too much over those who did not have a spark-detector for her?

The assistant principal “raved” about how well I handled psycho mom in the parent-teacher conference the other day. Apparently the “can get defensive” label that I had been given has been replaced with “handles tough parents well.” I certainly like the sound of that more.

Older daughter is moving to California on Saturday, days before her 18th birthday. “Mixed emotions” could cover it, but what’s the mix if it changes all the time? I am certainly proud of her that she is going where she wants and is facing her future as opposed to acting like someone already worrying about retirement before she is even old enough to drink. There is a heavy feeling of hoping: hoping that I have been as good a mother to her as possible and that she is prepared and comfortable to become herself. She did get a letter from a professor the other day who called her brilliant, so on that side of things she seems to be doing well. She is, as I was, as unprepared for the minutiae of life, you know, cooking, cleaning and organizing, but I hope it will come when it needs to.

I will be moving on June 1st. The settlement on the house is to be mid-June. There are countable numbers of days until the end of this ordeal. There really is a tunnel with two ends, for so long I thought it was a dead-end tunnel. I am imagining myself getting up in the morning from a bed and walking a few steps away to see my younger daughter sleeping comfortably in her room, and then walking over to the little terrace, which will become my outside thinking spot, for a few moments of clarity before heading into the shower. Yes, I can finally imagine a lightness to living, and not just dreading hearing heavy footsteps and a tape recorder and another demand for money or twisted interpretation of reality. Freedom. It’s coming.

I told the mediator that I will not pay the bill he sent me because he let ex-man insult me and he tried to pressure me to agree with him. He wrote back that he will cancel my bill, and he won’t have us back again to mediation. No kidding. It was for a really small amount, but I stood up and kept standing.

Today I will be meeting nasty lady lawyer to ensure that I get the full amount due to me from the sale of the house, and that I will not have to pay for his non-payment of the mortgage in the past few months. Soon, soon this will end.

And there is a 35-year-old man who keeps writing me lovely emails. And there is the lovely, laid-back South American scientist with whom I will eventually have a second date. The back, back burner idea of romance suits me. Pseudo-man contacted me again, ugh, and I told him, in between silent treatments, that I have moved on, and I have. I will not have anything to do with someone who is not good for me, or who I think will not be good for me. I am for me now, so how can I let someone in who is so obviously for himself?

A colleague will be 40 today. She’s feeling the life marker. Me, I’m feeling a different life marker, or marks of my life, and so happy to have a head that can finally look ahead and is not just stuck in the now.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for helping me this past year. My strength has been your strength. You, readers, have no idea how invaluable it has been to me to know that people are reading about my struggles, and passing on to me encouragement and strength, not only through your words, but your presence too (for the non-commentators out there). Your presence has truly lifted me up as a prayer. May life be full of fulfillments for us all.


At Last

UNDER CONTRACT

At last.

It’s more relief and exhaustion than happiness, but happiness, I feel it peeking in, getting ready to enter my psyche, not as a reminder of what had been, but of what will, oh, so soon be.

But now, now I am stressed thinking about the purchasers and if they will really go through with the purchase and if there will be any more hitches, such as the air conditioner not working when they did the home inspection. But those are all details, and this is a big-picture event. This is big, this is what I so need. I’m more exhausted now than I have been in a while, perhaps because I am letting go of holding myself in, or I am realizing that soon I will be able to breathe and my body is draining all of the toxicities that it had been storing for so long.

Oh, how I am envious of myself in just a few weeks when I will have finished making all of the arrangements and packing, and I will be after signing over the house to these wonderful people, and I will be with my younger daughter in our own apartment.

At last, indeed.

Smile. Yes, I am smiling. And crying, too. Relief. Relief is on it's way.


Mediation, or Sitting around a Big Table with Someone You Hate (Part 3)

This time I lasted twenty minutes around that table. It could be that my lack of patience with slime and mediator man is because this is the third time (1, 2) around that table (with more goodies in the middle that I did not touch) and I already knew how things would go. Or it could be because the day before slime was yelling at me, yet again, for moving his dishes and then within the rant he proceeded to fill a bowl with water and throw it on the fish I had draining in a colander in the sink, and then throw a cup with orange peels in it and so I was in a still annoyed-stressed-exhausted state of mind. I almost threw that cup with orange peels, that I was originally holding in my hand, at him: I raised my hand and saw his red, throbbing face and his little tape recorder and heard his little voice saying, “Don’t touch my things, if you do I will put yours on your bed”; “Call the police”; “I’ll take you to court and win.”And I just knew that I didn’t want to have to pay any more for having made the mistake of staying with this man for too long, and throwing anything at him could do just that. I guess I still haven’t lost my sanity.

Before I walked out, I stood up, told slime that I don’t have to listen to him insult me anymore and said to deer-in-the-headlights mediator man that it’s not okay that he lets slime speak to me like that.

What especially stands out is that slime is whining that he has to pay me $5,000 (which is a lot less than the $25,000 he should owe me but I relinquished $20,000 to get moving last time; I did say that he stole it from me). Then, when I said that he still hadn’t paid for $1,000 of home repairs his little voice started saying, “Read what the contract says.” Uh, no. No maneuverings, you should have paid for more repairs; it’s not legalese here, it’s about getting the house attractive enough to invite an offer. And that stupid mediator man is not able to discern a difference between how the two of us act or talk?!

By now I know that not only is mediator man not on my side, but more of the “yes, what this guys says makes sense” kind of person because, as my mother says, he hasn’t really seen him. Her analogy was a gynecologist who never gave birth. If you haven’t lived with this type of manipulative person and seen how he twists everything, you might think that he makes sense. When I said, no, I don’t agree to slime’s new price both slime and mediator man came in on a chorus that the court won’t address this. The implication was clear, do what he says because you have no other recourse. Really I thought, thinking of Leopard-Lady Lawyer.

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Not a Post about Cleavage, but about the Village

I was planning on writing a humorous post on how if you wear a push-up bra with a lightweight sweater that is not low enough to reveal cleavage you will visibly show that you have partially constrained breasts and partially bouncing breasts, which is just not an attractive look, especially since it looks more like you’re wearing a small, ill-fitting bra than that you have perked-up breasts just eager to be subtly peeked at. But then I started thinking of three people I talked with yesterday, and the boisterous (vocabulary word) humor left me.

First was the twin sister of a student I had last year who started to explain to me that the doctors finally found out why her sister, her twin, had been having migraines and falling asleep during English class and other sundry maladies for the past year or so. And then, just as she told me the punch line, my sister needs brain surgery, her sister walked in to tell me the news herself. As my class walked in, I wanted to hug these two girls, but that is against the rules (and especially not good in front of an entire classroom of kids), whatever, and so I walked around the projector that had stood between us and just touched the arm of the girl who needs the surgery, who certainly needs more than an arm touch.

And then later that day, at my afterschool teaching job at the synagogue, I covered for another teacher who was running late because she was picking up her daughter from the airport to take her to the hospital to be with her husband, the girl’s father. It seems that he did the manly thing and ignored the irritation he had in his throat until it couldn’t be ignored any longer because he could barely breathe, only to find out that he has cancer there. Her comment to me was: my life changed in a minute.

After I absorbed their news, or as much as possible, I thought about how good it is to be connected with people. When I was with exman there was this understood rule of his not to tell people about what goes on in our house. This went beyond what we talked about, it also covered anything personal. I mean I had a cyst removed from my left breast when I was 25 and his suggestion was only to tell my parents after so that they wouldn’t worry. Why, why shouldn’t they worry, or at least know what’s going on with me? They’re my parents, after all, the people who raised me and cared for and about me for an entire life. I took his “advice,” obviously regretting it to this day. And look who still cares about me.

Why? Why hold yourself apart from others? Why not let people know what you are going through? Where is the benefit to holding in that your husband is ill and that you need support? It’s not that this woman poured her heart out to me, but she reached out for a hug, and a moment of relief.

For me, this transformation, of leaving behind the woman I had become with exman to the woman I am, is the most wonderful thing about having divorced him. Leaving behind a controlling man not only enables you to open up to the people in your life, but even more than that it enables you to feel yourself freed—and thankfully able to savor those connections. This, perhaps, is the strongest sense of before and after: before I held myself back from people and they, sensing that, held themselves from me; and after I am joyously out there to and for all.

What is life if it’s not shared? Obviously no one wants to get sick, but if you do, don’t you want to tell people? Have them pray for you or think of you? Don’t you want to look into someone’s pain-filled eyes knowing that she sees compassion in yours? I rejoice in colleagues and friends asking me how I am knowing that I can answer them truthfully (sometimes). And you know, no one goes running, not wanting to hear of my pain. What you get instead is their knowing that they can come to you when they need that compassionate look and touch. What more can a person’s life be about if not that?  


Back Home

Here I am, after a four-day trip to LA during which I did too much driving through too much traffic amidst inconsiderate drivers (even taking into consideration New York drivers) and in full-view of too many accidents. The car that careened into the dividing wall after, I assume, the driver pressed on his brakes too hard was far too much drama for me. Older daughter’s response a few moments later was: “Why are you driving so slowly?” And younger daughter’s response when I told her about the accidents I saw was: “Maybe you’re bad luck.” You do have to love those girls: they are committed to not being a support to their mother all the time but becoming their own people with their own thoughts and causing me no end of concern as to their compassion… or lack thereof.

I was free of thoughts of ex-husband, which was good because the moment he noticed my return this morning he was back in slime mode. As I sat down to a plate of too much matzo brie (matzo that is softened in water, then mixed with an egg, heavily salted, and then fried) he took his egg carton out of the refrigerator and said: “Excuse me, these are my eggs.” Yes, he refers to me as “Excuse Me.” Lack of class cannot be made up for by using a term like that when it is dipped in bile. And since my daughter finished my eggs (I guess he knew this because he keeps tabs of things like this) and I knew what response I would get from him if I touched one of his eggs, I calmly responded: “I bought a container of 18 this morning.” And off slime went, leaving behind his dirty and clean dishes for someone else to take care of before more people were supposed to see the house, but didn’t show up.

I shall not dwell on seeing the university where older daughter wants to go except to note that she really wants to live in the LA area and study at this one school and is not concerned about going into massive debt to study there. In my role of mother I have tried to talk to her, but she will be 18 very soon and is very smart and confident. Grandma will try to talk to her tomorrow. It is true, I am not one of those mothers who sets down the law but have tried instead to make my daughters independent women. While I am sure that is the right way, sometimes I wish they would just do what I say!

Dinner with my blogging friend and her family showed me that blogging friends can be real friends. If I had met her in “real” life I am sure that we would have been friends. Dinner, then talking and meandering in a bookstore, and then ice cream—that’s the way to spend some time together away from a keyboard.

Even while ensconced in a hotel room that was formerly part of a silo (with round cement walls to prove it) and the rails of the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe a few yards from the room so that I could hear and feel the trains rush by I was not disturbed into thinking about men or the men who are either not that into me or who are not that into keeping up email correspondence at a Laura-suitable pace. This was good, very good. I was focused where I needed to be.

But just in case you were wondering, I had two emails when I returned from Chemistry-related gentleman: one who seems to be illiterate and the other who is taking too darn long between contacts. I had written him off, and oops, there he is. Oh, and there is a Craig’s List gentleman who seems to be more of a gentleman even though he has no degrees than many of the men who have graduate degrees. No, you cannot be my "pronce charming" whoever you are. And if you start every sentence with “I” in your profile I will archive you. And no, I don’t trust you when you say you want a faithful woman—not with my controlling-man experience. And if you say that a woman should never be in front or behind I will question you too (it was the never in front part that was a real turn-off, why can’t we take turns leading and following?). But we shall see, and if nothing comes of these, then c’est la vie, or c’est ma vie.

I walked a lot. I drove a lot. I didn’t eat too much. I adhered to Passover restrictions except for a couple of self-granted leniencies (I tried not to eat too many of the dry noodles in my awful Asian chicken salad that I didn’t know would be there, and I pretended to be Sephardic one day and had some pinto beans with my rice-less, taco-less Mexican lunch). While I am still not drinking coffee I have not been as good on the chocolate ban. How I wish the cashier at Trader Joe’s in Pasadena would not have wished me a “good evening with your chocolates” on Thursday night. Who says things like that? Besides, I bought the small box of truffles (only 30) and not the big box (50) and there are still some left.

My daughter and I got along most of the time; there were a few snips from her, but she’s really not used to being with mommy so much (or anyone or that matter), and even she said what a good time she had. That would be (as in the good time) except for my repeatedly bringing up the subject of the cost of tuition and her wanting to say “I do” to indebtedness.

And on the subject of meaning of life I decided that I need to do more and think less. So even walks during which I mull to myself need to be supplemented by real action. I’m not quite sure what, but perhaps hiking with other people would be a start. Maybe take a crafts class; I’ve wanted to learn how to throw clay (on a potter’s wheel) for more reasons than creativity.

Which brings me to a discussion of my writing and blogging. I think that I will be cutting back on the number of blog posts I do—that would be daily, and focus more on the questions and then one or two posts a week. This would enable me to start the book that I decided that I need/want to write. I’m not quite sure what shape it will take since the words “fictionalized real-life,” “philosophy of life” and “funny” are battling for control of my mind. I want to keep my connection with my readers, with the blogs I read and with the wonderful world of immediate communication but I also want to explore my depths even more, hence “the book” project.

Lastly. Happy Passover! Happy Easter! May happiness emerge from within us all.

This should be an interesting week: another mediation session.


A Spring-Break Break

On Tuesday morning I will be flying to California with older daughter to check out the university that she plans to attend. During that time I will not take my laptop with me because I want to take a break from my routine. A routine that encompasses checking my email too many times an hour, and reading too many articles and blogs that often end up making me feel like I have filled my time but not used it. Not taking the laptop is symbolic of my desire to assess what I want out of my life, see what it is that I am doing that is preventing me, see what I do that is helping me, and come up with more ways and things to do that will make me feel more content and purposeful, and maybe even happy.  

During this time I will try to take a break from thinking about:

THIS BLOG and how it has not met my expectations. I had hoped to be discovered by an agent or editor who would offer me a book deal for my book (Get Your Words Off Me) or a new book, or a job (paying even) as a columnist. I had hoped, too, that I would be a success—according to the numbers. While I have not met any of those goals, I have met others, but still there is a very strong sense of failure. And to counter that I need to reassess what it is that I want to do with this blog and with my writing. By writing I mean “meaning of my life,” because for me that is what writing is: it distills me, it stills me, it defines me to myself. I need to think, too, of other ways to define myself.

In two weeks I will have reached my one year blogiversary. Much has been achieved in this year of which I am quite proud. My writing has improved; even though I still use too many commas, I think that I have depth, style, interest and relevance. I have finally managed to write funny, to reflect a key part of myself. I have written almost every day on a range of subjects; I did not have trouble finding what to write about. I have had insights from cherished readers and much-needed comfort, too. I have come to believe that I am a writer, and not just say that I want to be a writer or envision myself as a writer. But where to go from here? Do I stay here? Do I challenge myself with writing something longer and more developed that could find itself to a bookstore? Of course, the best thing about the blog was that it wasn’t daunting, it was fun to sit down for a couple of hours writing a post (alternating, of course, with watching tv, doing dishes, cooking, munching and supervising my daughters) so that I never felt that I was facing the almighty blank page. Okay, enough thinking about this here, I need something to do this week. 

MEN especially those who don’t respond to my emails and/or my picture. I need to just take a break from being concerned about why someone does not like me and just forget about it. I need to take a breather from worrying about people who I don’t know and who don’t want to get to know me. Talk about a waste of time and an emotional drain.

WORK, or the frustrations of classroom management and my “brusque” personality, and focus instead on what I like about teaching and maybe come up with new ways to interest myself in what I am doing and my students in what I am teaching.

THE HOUSE and how it has not sold in two years. I have done what I could do, the past is past, now I need to charge forward with the new lawyer to get the house sold and get me and my daughters out of this ridiculous situation. But I will neither think of the past nor the present, I will try to restrict my mind to future-thinking. 

ex-husband. Enough said.

What I will think about as I walk along the Pacific Ocean are the people I have met through my blog and your blogs, and how much that has meant to me in the past year. In fact, I will be having dinner with a blogging friend and her family on my trip. Between having bonding time with older daughter who has, of late, come to be respectful and kind to me; trying to figure out our way around LA (even with a GPS system in the car, something I have never used before); trying to plead our case to the financial aid people; and deciding where to go amongst all the choices; I will be will be working on my vision of myself and for myself.

(A Minute to Myself questions will be appearing in its regular every other day schedule during this break.)


I Have Nothing to Wear: Jewelry Department

There may be toxic assets out there poisoning the financial system, but I have toxic assets of my own that are bothering my system. Those poisonous assets would be my jewelry. It’s not as if I have a lot, but most of what I have has been tainted because they were bought with exman. No matter how beautiful something is, or how much it might suit what I am wearing, there is just no way that I am going to put on anything from our time together. Even if I didn’t pick it out with him... wait... no, there is no jewelry from that time that we didn’t pick out together. A sign. Yet another sign. Or is it a sign that we never had much money? Or that I didn’t spend money on myself?

The one piece that I really love is a diamond ring that we bought. It was after he had been a lawyer for about a year. It was a beautiful ring with ruby baguettes on the side of a round diamond. We loved the ring but couldn’t afford it with the diamond so we bought it with a zircon. A few years later he surprised me by buying a real diamond from a friend of his. (For all those not in the know, there is a very big diamond exchange in Tel Aviv.) That is a loved piece of jewelry. I think that I might even wear it in the future, when I am out of this house and the heat of hurt.

The few necklaces and bracelets and earrings that I have are history. I don’t want to recall the trip to the village in the north or the birthday or anything like that. Those assets shall be saved for the girls. The horrible platinum and diamond ring that he gave me for my 40th birthday I am still deciding what to do with. This ring is symbolic of the turn from my compliance to my non-compliance. This is a man, shocker here, who was never satisfied with a gift. (Did I tell you about the time I got him kayak lessons only for him to ALMOST drown when he overturned his kayak and got stuck in it? No comment.) So when I told him that I didn’t really like the ring—as he had done countless times in words or actions to countless gifts from countless people—he almost lost it. Lost it in the sense that he was so hurt, hurt in his big little ego. I told him I would reconsider. In the end, I said, yes, it is lovely and I will keep it. That was the second-to-last time I bent to accommodate him—wanting to accommodate him. (The last time was when we went to marriage counseling because I was already too broken in the marriage, I knew that it could not work, but I did it hoping to ease him into the reality of divorce.) Maybe I’ll sell it and donate the proceeds to a woman’s shelter.

Over the years since the divorce I have gotten some small things for myself, but nothing that became a layer over the old stuff. So when my temple announced that it was having its second annual arts and crafts fair with artists from Israel I knew that that was where I could find a necklace that would leapfrog past the old necklaces. And so, on a Sunday a few weeks ago I searched for a necklace that would be my Israeli necklace that would connect me back to Israel but without exman’s shadow.

I bought a silver necklace with pearls, clear beads, and a silver pendant. It is now the necklace that I can finger as part of my fidgeting repertoire. The pendant has a habit of twirling around, and I now have the habit of touching it to see if it is in place. I have a necklace now with which I interact reminding me, perhaps, that things and people need to be attended to and not taken for granted. Most importantly, oneself.


Trying to Make Lemonade

Saturday morning exman kept yelling at me and shoving his little tape recorder friend and his middle finger in my face while scowling at me that I am breaking a court order because I have brought in a handyman to do repairs without his approval. Then, he went to calling me balloon balloon balloon and that I finally look the way I am inside. He said this while a couple of the handymen were in the house, as well as older daughter.

When I told older daughter that I need to get out of the house she asked me why? Are you kidding? I just laughed back at her and she laughed back at me and nodded her head. I asked her if she wants to come, but she said no.

On my retreat from the house a minute later she texted me that she wants to get out too, and where am I going.

To get out of the garage an assistant handyman had to hold up the garage door because they were fixing it. Trying not to knock him over I ended up knocking over the paint container that he didn't move over enough. It ended up splashing my silver car with white paint. The chief handyman called me Madam and said that they would clean it, that it was acylic paint, not to worry.

There I stood, on the lawn facing away from the house, as I cried while a few men cleaned my car.

It was so much nicer to be called Madam than that other thing that stupid exman called me. 

Daughter didn't come with me, she didn't like my option of just going to sit somewhere.

Out of that house. Courteous greeting. Lemonade to me.

Later, I got a pitcherful of lemonade. Both daughters went out for a late lunch with me. How wonderful. We sat, we talked, we ate, we laughed, they ribbed each other and they even said thank you, as did I. How sweet a glass of lemonade can be.  


Getting Up-to-Date

A coincidence, times two. I went to the neighborhood supermarket yesterday and who do I see? My realtor, the very woman I said to myself as I got into my car to drive to the supermarket that I need to speak to. So I did. A few aisles later I looked up from my perusals and there was the previous realtor. I saw him see me and then turn and walk away from the aisle I had apparently made poisonous. We changed realtors because he didn’t sell the house. But honestly, he could never get exman to agree to change the price and so the house never sold because it was priced too high because these realtors are all optimists. And they listened to exman’s analysis as if he knows anything about real estate. Now, well, now the newest realtor is facing his obstinacy and delaying tactics, and has started singing the same “but exman thinks this and exman thinks that” bullshit that has led me further into this tunnel with a light somewhere, very, very far away.

Speaking of home repairs. The newest realtor is now dealing with exman who will not commit to doing any repairs and whining about the ones that she suggests be done. We are both committed to spending $1,000 each on the repairs and so far we have only spent $300 between the two of us. All of a sudden he’s saying the condenser repair that we did a couple of months ago should be included in that. And he’s always too busy to get back to the realtor about which repairs he will pay for, and he is remarking that much of it doesn’t need to be done, we should just wait for the right buyer who will buy the house without those repairs. Stupid little man—have you not noticed that that strategy has not worked for almost two years! But me, I’ve had it. I told the realtor to go ahead with the repairs I told her I would pay for and I had her relay that information to him. Get the handyman was my big message at the supermarket meeting. Enough already. No one wants to do your dishes anymore and no one wants to smell the food you make.

And on the topic of men who are not really men at all. On Tuesday pseudo-man sent me an email after more than a month of silence; a silence which I expected to last forever. And now that I am a woman who is acting on her instincts and one who is also not so desperate for sex and to be called “babe,” I decided the best thing for me to do would be to just not answer him. There’s no law that requires that I respond to someone’s email, especially if my INSTINCT tells me not to.

And more lesser men. In an email to a friend I remarked that it would be easier to keep to my decision on pseudo-man if I had moved on, if I had another man in my life so that I wouldn’t see the relationship as any rosier than it was, and it wasn’t very. So I decided, after reading a New York Times wedding announcement wherein the couple said they met on Yahoo Personals through the Pen Pal section, to go to the Platonic section of Craig’s List. If there’s no spark, at least let there be someone I can have an occasional dinner with not at a diner in a mini booth for one. And low and behold the request was answered, and he was Jewish, too. We seemed to have a lot in common, and we even did a phone call. We were talking talking talking. We were laughing laughing laughing. We were entertaining each other. And then, all of a sudden, he said that someone’s at the door, that no one ever comes to his house unexpected. He asked until when he could call me back, I told him until 10 that night.

That was on Friday. I guess it was a line and I was “not that into you’d” on a phone call. I know that this man has absolutely no obligations to me, for goodness sake’s we only communicated for two days, but still, it was odd. Or was it just disappointing because odd seems to be so commonplace these days?

Not quite a mother-daughters event. My daughters wanted to go to the outlet mall and since the father does not let the daughter drive the other daughter, I got to be the driver of choice. On the way there I was called “bipolar brain,” upon which I turned around. Then we continued our fight about college money and how it would be handled. Did I tell you that my daughter got into college in California and now plans on leaving for LA as soon after her 18th birthday as possible?

Somehow we managed to get to the mall. They went their way, and I went mine. How much fun. I figured that since I have the two of them together we’ll go out to eat at a nice Chinese restaurant after the shopping. But when we met two hours later they had already eaten fast food and just wanted to go home to complain that there is no food in the house.

At this point I am blaming no one for my daughters and their attitudes and words. I have no energy. I don’t want to cook for them. I don’t buy what they want in the supermarket because I really have no idea what they want and I don’t want to be told the food I cook is bad. I just want to be showered with love and pampered. I want to be left alone until I absorb enough love to have the energy to shower it back on them.

Weekend work. Now, now I need to start compiling my list of harassments, non-payments, non-compliances by exman. And I am sick sick sick of it. Since October 2004 when I first filed for divorce this endless game has been played. And, obviously, things were bad for a while before that to have gotten to that point. My satisfaction with him being served the papers while he was dressed in just a towel that barely gets around his stomach has long since ceased to bring a smile to my lips. I have been paid back in nastiness to such a degree that my little victory is as a breeze in a hurricane.

Looking ahead. Just let the future prevent the present from being my past, present and future. 


At the Diner

On Wednesday afternoon I had an interview that was required for a teaching of writing class that I hope to take for four weeks this summer. I think it went well since the director told me at the end of my individual interview (most of the interview was with four other teachers) that he would like me to take the class, he then proceeded to tell me that my school district doesn’t foot the entire bill. Well, there goes more of the lovely tax refund that I already received because I filed early.

After the interview I was not ready to go home. I wasn’t ready to leave behind the public persona, the respected colleague and professional, the woman who made people laugh and say, “Yes, I see what you’re saying,” and the woman who seemed so confident and smart, full of ideas and, yes, in control.

I didn’t want to go to the House of Bitters so I decided to eat out, at a diner. I love eating at diners; I think this stems from being a New Yorker and the fact that I eat out often by myself and in a diner I feel fine with my book and my “One, please” answer to the “How many?” question. I was quite pleased when I remembered that there was a diner nearby, so I went there.

When I pulled into the parking lot I watched as a mother and daughter got into an SUV with Pennsylvania license plates. It was at that moment that I remembered that this was the first place we ate in as a family when we moved to Virginia. We had just driven down from New York City and we were all grumpy and tired; we didn’t recognize any restaurant chains, so the word “diner” sufficed for us.

Now I went in alone and was seated in a mini booth. After giving my order I looked across the room and saw a young couple bow their heads together and say grace. Then a much, much older couple came in. The husband bantered with the waiter; it was a diner so he assumed the waiter spoke Greek. The wife laughed as her husband recounted the scene to her right after it happened, with her there, as if she hadn't been there. And the way they spoke, as if in roles, I thought that they must have been doing this same thing for decades.

Across the room was a group of friends. One woman was the loud conversation hog. When she wasn’t talking she wasn’t listening and she was jiggling her leg. I thought that she would probably be one of my co-teacher’s students and I would probably be telling to be quiet all the time. And there was the woman talking on the phone very loudly about the purchase of a French-door refrigerator and its placement in her kitchen. I told myself that I shouldn’t be more annoyed at how loud she was just because she was on a cellphone and not in a live conversation, but that was hard to do.

While I ate I read a special Valentine’s issue of the Washington Post Magazine with short stories that I had in my pocketbook for a while. The story that brought me in was about a couple that had split up after their daughter died in Thailand on her wanderlust trip; I think it was called “10,000 Steps.” Of course, since it was the Valentine’s issue the couple got back together in the end. But before the re-coupling, the woman decided that she needed to do something to get out of her funk—so she decided to walk. The 10,000 steps came from her reading about pilgrimages people take to reach different temples in Thailand. At the end of the story she finally takes a walk that is 10,000 steps and she arrives at the playground at the school her daughter had attended and there is her husband. The thought bubble that popped into my head at that point was that the pretty symmetry of stories does not have their corresponding symmetry in life.

Then I realized that I was living the symmetry. There must have been a reason for me to be back at that restaurant with that thought in my head. Almost nine years ago I was starting something new with my family. Now, now I am starting something new on my own—the class (if I get in) or what I will do in its stead, because I know that I will do something new this summer (because I need it for me, and for my license renewal). Is the meaning then that there are new and exciting things for me to do and be involved in, and that they are not just in the past? Is the meaning that my life is a series of short stories and not a novel?

The next time that I go to that restaurant I should remember when I was last there; it would have been when I was by myself, living and embellishing my life through the lives of others and my own.