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Posts from July 2009

Where I'd Like to Live

Sometimes I see the name of a street and I say to myself, "I would like to live there." But today I really found the street on which I would like to live. The street is on the side of a mountain in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

Yes, I would like to live on "Glimpse of Heaven Lane."

Of course, a few miles down the road was a street on which I would not like to live. That would be on "Gun Barrel Lane."

On the "street of what name" would you like, or not like, to live? 


The other day I sent an encourging email to a colleague in my class. I wasn't sure what she had been upset about that day, but it seemed to be something about her job being in limbo. After knowing her for two weeks I can say that she is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. Any wonder that she's a second grade teacher?

Whenever I arrive in the morning to campus, I walk from the parking lot to the classroom alone. How is it that on the day after I sent that email, we both got there at the same time and walked together to class? Talking the while time, with her explaining her job situation and how her now former principal was treating her poorly.

Have you had this kind of coincidence or whatever you want to call it (fate if you must) happen to you?

The System Speaks

HA HA HA HA HA! You thought you could beat the System. You thought the System was fair. Woman, how is it possible that you never lost your naïveté? How could you think that your voice would be heard? No one cares! The judges don’t care. The lawyers don’t care. Your lawyers don’t care. Only you care. But who are you? You are nothing. So you thought just because you got a piece of paper that said COURT JULY 24 that that would happen. How stupid could you be? Have you not been through FOUR years of this to know that you will never have your day in court!? Have you learned nothing?


How could you not expect the System to work for your ex-husband? He is the epitome of the System, of the kind of people who created the System and who thrive in it. Of course your ex-husband will do something that will get the System to bend toward him because the System is stacked for him and against you. You who think that the System is here to hear you and pity you and understand poor poor you. HA HA HA HA HA!

Of course he will hire a lawyer four days before the court date who can’t appear on Friday and who needs time to prepare for court. Of course it is summer and the judges (those Guardians of the System) prefer to play golf on Fridays rather than listen to your whimperings.

Go back. Go back to your little life and stop pestering the System. Relinquish your attempt at moral superiority and go back. Relinquish your illusions and go back. Retreat from thinking there is equity and fairness. Retreat to your place. You will get no money. You will not be heard. There is nothing to hear. Not even your cries.

You will not be heard.

I Wish I Knew More about How the World Works

The camp my daughter is going to has a two-year old policy that I am required to abide by this year, and that is that luggage cannot go with them on the camp bus, but must be shipped separately. I was given the okay to not ship with their very expensive shipper and to use another shipper.

Last week I went to a FedEx office where I was told that it would take from four to five days to ship a duffle bag from Northern Virginia to her camp in Pennsylvania. I asked approximately how much it would cost. They asked me the approximate weight and size of the bag. I told them and got an estimate. I did the same thing with UPS, and while the price was pretty much the same, they told me two business days. Okay, we’ll use UPS.

Camp starts on Tuesday and she was with her father until Friday afternoon, so we really had to hustle with the packing. When I went in to ship the stuff on Saturday morning, the price came out to be higher than I expected. I looked at the breakdown of the cost and there was an $11.75 charge for each bag. Oh, said the attendant, that’s because you’re not shipping in boxes but in bags. Everything was already packed and I was all tense about it not getting there on time anyway, so I paid the bill and left, annoyed, of course. Why hadn’t anyone told me: “If you send your things in a box it will be cheaper”? Yes, I know, they get to make money on me that way. But I don’t think that is the issue here, nor is it that they don’t care about customer satisfaction. I think the problem is that people don’t look behind the questions that are asked of them or the step in the process that they are currently doing. They are the form, not people.

Friday, in the mad dash to get all the things she needs for camp, we were in a store about to buy a tank top when the cashier asked if my daughter had tried on jeans. No, we responded. To which she said that if she just tries on a pair of jeans, we get a $10 discount on any purchase. So off darling went to try on a pair of jeans (they were too short on her). I certainly would not have known about that deal if the cashier hadn’t said something to me. I wonder how many other deals I’m missing out because I don’t know to ask for them because I don’t know of their existence. 

If they have the deal, why not let us all in on it? Maybe this is a real instance of discrimination, not white, black, male or female, but those on the inside versus those on the outside. Why can’t we all be on the inside? If the deal is too expensive, then cut it out altogether. If you want to get some business, then tell everyone. How annoying.

The Symbolism of the Laundry

I just did a load of laundry. One bath towel. One blouse. Three tee shirts. One tee shirt-pajama top. Three pairs of undies. One bra. One pair of jeans. One cloth napkin. Two kitchen towels. A white wash is in the machine. I think there are four white shirts in that load.

The laundry is hanging to dry on a portable air dryer on the terrace.

Before May 16th, the last time I did a laundry for one, was in the apartment where I lived in Ramat Gan (a suburb-city outside of Tel Aviv) before I got married. Since then I have done thousands of loads for two, then for three, then for four.

Then for three, when I no longer did his laundry. He started doing his own laundry when I stopped folding his undies. The idea of touching them disgusted me and so I left them in a pile on the bed. I guess he got the message.

Then for two, when I no longer did younger daughter’s laundry. She took the modern version of home ec last year and once she had to do laundry as part of her class, she decided that she was going to keep doing it for herself. And she has stuck with that.

Then for one, when older daughter moved to California. She did her first load out there, all by herself. Apparently it’s not so hard and she has managed. Though I do think that younger daughter showed her how to do it before she left.

I’m glad I had all those endless piles of clothes to wash. I’m glad I got to care for loved ones in so basic a way. I loved folding clothes; such a simple way to nourish and nurture. And I loved doing the wash, such an obvious accomplishment. And now I’m glad that I only need to do my little loads that go into the small-capacity machine in this apartment.

It’s very insightful, doing just my own laundry. I see how much I bought things for them and not for myself. I see how my clothes are brighter than I thought they were. I see the continuity of life. Their lives. And mine. 


My book, Get Your Words Off Me, starts with me wondering:

I can’t remember the first time my husband insulted me or what he said because I didn’t even notice that I had been insulted. It wasn’t much of a stretch from the negative comments and forceful suggestions that he was continually giving me about what to do, and what to say, and what to think, and what to feel, and even how to respond to him and his comments. The realization that his caring critiques were really humiliating affronts took far too many years of my taking it, and accepting it as a part of our marriage. The shame is that I didn’t stand up to him the first time the word “fat” or “ugly” or “nothing” or maybe it was “stupid” came out of his mouth and scream back at him, “DON’T YOU EVER TALK TO ME LIKE THAT AGAIN!” Who knows, maybe that would have been enough to break a pattern before it started? But I didn’t. And so my life became one filled with far too many insults, and distrust and fear of the man I had once loved and respected, and much too much silence from me.

Now I know the answer to that question. No, that would not have stopped the downward turn of this marriage. Nothing would have stopped that. The answer in its starkest form came to me on Thursday afternoon.

On Thursday there was the first encounter after the move from the house three weeks ago. I was to drop off our dog for his week to pick up Poops’ poop. I called when I arrived at the gate of his apartment complex (I was so not surprised that he moved to a gated community). When he approached me I said that he needs a leash since I had to buy a leash since he took the leash. He commented that my daughter had brought it to my house; no she hadn’t, I said and then reiterated that I had to buy this one.

Then he asked if I brought his food bowls. No, I said, I had not. “They are not yours, you can’t take them,” was the comment.

“I had to buy a leash, you can buy bowls.”

“Bitch. I’m out of here. Fuck you.”

Yes, I am sure that if I would have yelled back at him that he was “fat” and “ugly” he would have just expanded the range, as he did. And I’m sure, too, that if I had tried to explain to him how much it hurt me to be called fat and ugly (does that really need explaining?), he would not have heard a word that went from my mouth to his ears because he was not making statements, he was expressing something ugly about himself. I was too kind when I wrote this a few years ago, but I was still married to him then and thinking that he isn’t as slimy and nasty as he is.

The other day in my writing group that is part of my Writing Project class a woman said that her husband, who had verbally abused her, finally got down on his knees and prayed and found it in himself to stop hurting her. When I read this excerpt from my book, she commented that she had yelled back at him that first time because she had the self-confidence. Then she said something that really cut to the quick, she said that her husband had really loved her. Yes, her husband had it in him to love someone besides himself. My ex, he was and is incapable of caring for anyone more than himself or even as much as himself. Maybe the way I handled things was the right way with this beast, preventing worse things from happening. But I am certain now that confrontation that first time would not have helped.

Since that day we had been through my talking back, my yelling back, counseling, mediation,  lawyer meetings, legal wranglings, police visits, and the sale of the house and nothing in his attitude or utterances has changed. If none of that had made an impact on him, and if four years of pain in the household did not have an impact on him, turning to him and saying, “You’re hurting me when you say that,” would not have prevented him from becoming who he is.

The Pit of My Stomach

This morning on my drive to my first Teaching of Writing class I was thinking about my next blog post. I knew that I wanted to write about how different I feel now that I have been living in my own apartment since June 12, but I wasn’t really sure in what way I felt different. Sure, I have been smiling more and I don’t get anxious when I drive home, but I wasn’t sure how to pinpoint and explain the difference. People tell me I sound happier, but I can’t really assess that. It’s like when your kids are growing, you don’t notice it until someone comes for a visit and remarks on how much they have grown or developed or matured. So it felt like that. Until 9:10 this morning. Then I knew.

At 9:10, when I was in class, I saw that exman was calling. Then two minutes later, another call. Then again at 9:19. Then a voice mail message. For the next hour until I could hear the message, my stomach was a pit of acid, a tightness clenching and churning within. And I could feel my face sag and my shoulders droop. That’s what I had been missing. No, not missing because that would imply that I longed for something, no, that is what I had been living without. That is what my life had been cleared of. The minefield that had been my life was cleared. I didn’t have to walk clenched, worried about the next explosion or in fear that no matter what I did, he was going to explode.

Then, when I listened to his message a classmate turned to me and asked, “Are you alright?” because I could not suppress the anguished groan that escaped when I heard his voice and heard what he had to say. There was no curse, there was no insult, it was just his being mean, dictating a custody issue, but it was, as always, him playing to some imaginary courtroom with judge in full regalia. And he stated his name in full for better affect, I guess, for the judge; if he hadn't said it in such a venomous tone, it might have been funny.

A minefield. Yes, surely that’s what I had been living in. But that fist in my stomach, that’s what I have not had, that’s what’s different, that’s the tangible change that I am aware of.

I’m glad it came today, because now I am aware of how I have physically changed, and how I had been physically altered. It was so startling, so obvious: the call, then the tightness. Now I know what to fight, what to not let happen to me again, or at least not let stay with me until I forget how it feels to be normal, to be without a fist within while walking in the middle of a minefield.

How do I feel? I feel calm. Peaceful.

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.