Rape: The Scourge of Our Time (II)

The following piece is cross-posted at Daily Kos

This post was originally published in December. Unfortunately, I felt the need to revise it to reflect news that the War on Women around the world is unrelenting. 

This week I was devastated by the way women are treated in Morocco. How could a law, as in something legal and condoned by society, allow a rapist, as in someone who forced himself on a woman, would be able to twist his crime into something innocent, noble even, if he married his victim? (Sanctity of marriage?) So Amina Filali, an innocent teenage girl except for the fact that she was female and that she was raped, which is her fault because she’s a girl and, well, you know that is inherently evil (a cultural original sin that seems to transcend all cultures), was placed in the care of a man who obviously has violence issues rather than his being carted off for some anger-management training in the Western Sahara.

A few weeks ago I was all fired up about the heinous way women are treated in Afghanistan; the brutal absurdity of imprisoning women for being raped and of forcing them to marry the men who raped them; and how unhealthy it is for a society to give men absolute power over women.

Then my boyfriend said that I should think about how many women in the military are raped; “Google ‘rape military,’” he said. Then he mentioned a female soldier who accused a man (working for a contractor) of raping her, and how he got off with barely a slap on the wrist. And her, he said, she was jailed.

He’s right: All the wrongs committed against women cannot be dropped on the laps of Moroccan and Afghani men. We can’t just pooh-pooh the men of Afghanistan who conceal women behind burkas and walls, and who torch their schools, and rape them with bestial impunity, because the rest of the world doesn’t exactly present a shining example of gentlemanly behavior.

And then I thought of forced ultrasounds, both the transvaginal kind and the cool-jelly belly sort. And this War on Women (or are they calling it the Defense of the Purity of Women Campaign?) that these pale American men, upstanding citizens all, are waging on women because we’re, you know, not as smart and important as they are. Just because someone has a boy part, what makes him the arbiter of what is or is not right for those of us without the big dingle dangle?

Women in the Congo, Bosnia, Kuwait, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Rwanda have been raped as a course of war, as they have been during other conflicts, and throughout history. Reports of Libyan soldiers raping citizens surfaced a few months back, as have sexual assaults by Egyptian police against demonstrators.

I googled “us military rape statistics,” and 2,230,000 results came up. That’s a lot of stories about men in the military who rape, and women (in the military and civilians) who have been raped by our representatives.

And here in the US, where we attempt to look down on their mistreatment of their women, well, we actually have a term for when a man doesn’t get that “no means no.” Date rape is not quite akin to opening a door for a woman. And the acceptance of the twisted logic of “she asked for it” by wearing a dress that was too tight or too revealing, or by being out too late, or by drinking too much is a psychic rape of all women. Women do not ask to be violated. No, we Americans are not beacons in any one’s night.

People say that in Afghanistan it is an expression of their culture. Yeah, sure. Men take every right from a woman except the right to inhale and exhale and we let “culture” cover for that constant humiliation and exercise of power. Then what is it here? Can someone state as truth that rape is a reflection of our culture because we so degrade women by objectifying and sexualizing them? Have we let the deviants define us?

Is the genesis of these rapes by Moroccan men, African rebels, European fighters, and American soldiers the same? Is the problem a universal acceptance of “boys will be boys”? Have we conceded the stage to the bullies?

Googling “rape” brings up 206,000,000 results. No, we cannot breathe a sigh of relief that at least we don’t live there—because we do! Women can be strong, but not as strong as a 200 lb. man with societal support (for what else is indifference?) on his side.

Is rape the scourge of our time? We have defeated illnesses, now we must defeat a sickness. Or is it the arrogance of men? Or are they the same thing?

A person who rapes is sick in the crudest sense of the word. And it is unhealthy to ignore a sickness in our midst. Why are we always protecting men? Why are we protecting those who need no protection? Maybe we women are being forced back to being the weaker sex because society is unable or unwilling to protect us. What does that say about American culture?

Legislatures across the country are now our aggressors, taking it upon themselves to violate women. What’s the difference between Article 475 of Morocco's penal code that lets a rapist become a husband and the laws going through various state legislatures that violate a woman’s sovereignty over her own body?

Abuse In My Past, Not In My Present

Lately I haven’t had many visitors to my site, which makes sense since I am not posting very often. And many of them who do come are looking to read my post on chin hairs. It seems that many many many women the world over are suffering from midlife beards. Oy. But yesterday someone came to the site who was reading post after post on abuse. Which lead me to go to a blog on spousal abuse—something that I haven’t done for a very long time. The post I read there was about how this woman had finally left her husband after he had repeatedly been dismissive of her. I read the “straw breaking the back” post. And that brought me to a deep sense of thankfulness and almost forgetfulness that that was my life in the not-too-distant past, which, thankfully, has no relation to my life in the present.

People say that women have children after their first child only because they forget how painful childbirth is. Regarding relationships after emotional and verbal abuse: you can only have a relationship if you remember the pain—but don’t keep the pain itself alive.

So here I am, 19 months in my rented apartment, 19 months after the house was finally sold, and 19 months since I lived in the same house as the man who tormented me. It is also six months since a friend from the past kindled a spark that lead to love that lead to almost three months of our living together. Three months of creating a relationship that is based on love, respect, concern, admiration, and, alright, quite a tinge of mutual attraction. Not only didn’t I think that I could be in a normal relationship after my marriage, but from the pit of despair I would hear of fairy tale endings and proclaim: “How lovely, but I know that will never be me.”

As I read the woman’s post, I found myself unable to empathize with her—it was a sad story and I was glad to read that she had overcome so much pressure (internal and external) to be her own life-saver. But letting myself sink into the details, and read past posts, and imagine what her life must have been like—and what it was at that moment—no, I didn’t go there. I couldn’t.

Perhaps I have some version of PTSD, where to relive, in any way, past horrors brings to the fore the accompanying anguish and sense of self-loss.

I didn’t feel good that I couldn’t send vibes of compassion out to this woman, that I could merely observe where she was and cheer it, but it felt safe to look from the distance—from my fortress. 

What can I say? I was abused, but it is over—it is a part of my past. Since then I have created layers of life and self that do not depend on that reality: that are independent of it. Since then I have other things, such as chin hairs, to worry about. And now I have a man by my side for whom I pluck those hairs, even if he would never comment on them in anything but an endearing way.

My my life, indeed, can be wondrous, even if once it was so very arduous.

To that blogger: May your life and all those who you wish in it sustain you and keep you fulfilled.

The Symbolism of a Downed Tree

Yesterday when I was driving home I found the way blocked by a tree that had fallen across the street that I take to get home. There was no way to get around the tree: it spread its trunk and branches from curb to curb. I drove into the parking lot next to it, thinking that I could get back to the street, but I couldn’t so I did an inelegant 3-point turn. When I got to the stop sign at the top of the street where I was planning to turn left, there were two cars in front of me, the first one seemed to be driven by a new driver because s/he was not moving even when there was time to go. So I turned to the right, thinking I’d make a u-turn at the next opening. Of course, there was a “no u-turn sign” there, and since I’m not into breaking obvious road laws, I took a left into the street and did another inelegant 3-point turn to get back to where I needed to be. I made my right. At the light where I needed to make my left turn to the street that would lead me to my street, I temporarily became disoriented by the dusk and the rain and turned into the left side of the street—as in the side where three lanes of cars were coming right at me with their white lights shining—right into my eyes. Luckily, at that moment my temporary road-rule amnesia left me and I did yet another inelegant 3-point turn. Everyone waited for me to turn around, that is except one asshole who was, I guess, aggravated by me and my unfamiliarity with the rules, who drove around me in the middle of my turn. No compassion from him. I bet HE (I am sure it’s a he, sorry guys) was going someplace really important that he couldn’t wait for someone who was obviously in distress or distraught to correct her error. Everyone else waited for me to finish my turn, thankfully, and then at the light, I made a U-turn to my street because there wasn’t a “no u-turn” sign there. I was also afraid what would happen if I needed to go down another street and make another 3-point turn. I needed to get off the road, I felt lucky to still be driving.

The rest of the drive home, all seventy seconds of it, were uneventful.

Those roadblocks and mistakes made me think that the drive home might be symbolic of the meeting I just had, and what it might mean for the future—and what it might represent for the past. I had come from meeting a woman in response to her Craig’s List ad (no, I’ve not so completely given up on men) to start up a Jewish-Palestinian dialogue group and this woman, as we learned through our emails and our first meeting, is the Palestinian-American version of me. It wasn’t odd at all to hear how the trajectories of our lives were so similar, rather it felt right—the embodiment of people connecting as people and not being the representatives of any side or cause. We moved to Israel and the West Bank at around the same age. She married a Palestinian and I married an Israeli. We both suffered from their words. We both had to deal with “dealing with him” with the children and in bitter divorces. And we both came back to the states. We both worked on getting our careers on-track, for ourselves and our children. And we both want to do something about abuse and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And we laughed and enjoyed telling the stories of our lives to each other.

I thought that the roadblocks on the way home represent the roadblocks that we may face to create whatever group or program we have yet to envision (we’re at the brainstorming phase). They could also represent the immense and intense roadblocks that Israelis and Palestinians have placed between themselves so that in Israel we never would have met. I lived in Israel for seventeen years and the two-hour conversation that I had yesterday was more than I had spoken with any Palestinian in all of that time, unless you add the time I spent ordering meals from Palestinian waiters.

In the three years I spent studying for my master’s degree in conflict studies I never met anyone with whom to have a dialogue. Most of the people were, from my perspective, so anti-Israeli that they couldn’t do the most basic thing the field demands of people--to see those on the other side as people, as individuals, and not as representatives of a side. So there we were, two women—mothers and ex-wives—meeting as women do, by sharing their stories and seeing how they can work together to make the world a better place. A more peaceful place for their children—for everyone’s children. 

It’s raining and dreary outside, but I feel a warmth that I haven’t felt for a while.

Yes, That's Me at JWIBLOG.ORG

For two days (today and yesterday) I am the featured woman at Jewish Women International's blog during October's Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Please go over and check out my pieces (excerpts from my book, Get Your Words Off Me) as well as those testimonies by other women--women who have also suffered and survived domestic abuse.

October is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. For that there is a pink ribbon. We need to curl the purple Domestic Abuse Awareness ribbon next to it, to indicate another way that women are being struck down--some surviving, and some, sadly, not. 

I can't resist

I can't help but laugh when I see the blustering Dick Armey in the news lately. He comes off as a man of no morals, and for whom money and strong arm tactics are central--to hell with people. He talks of tyranny as a man who knows--does anyone seem more tyrannical than him? Is it any wonder that exman, when he was still on his way up, found a friend and mentor in Dick Armey? They were buds for a while.

Arrogant men, can't they just bother each other and leave the rest of us alone?   


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.

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.


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.

Continue reading "Two Days’ Worth of Enough Beads" »

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.

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. 

Meeting Nasty Lady Lawyer

I had my meeting with number one nasty lady lawyer the other day. She did admit at some point in our conversation that she is referred to by some at the courthouse as the Wicked Witch of the East or West, and all I could think was YES!, enough Mr. Nice Guy for mr. slime.

The first thing I saw of her office was a leopard print throw on the sofa. I thought, looks good to me, she’s got claws ready to come out and she’s proclaiming it. Not that they came out on me, I had a very good meeting with her. Maybe I put people at ease or maybe she was in a chatty mood, but my meeting lasted for two hours on a Saturday afternoon and included discussing my case, reading and being disappointed in my PSA (property settlement agreement), custody agreement, mediated agreements, and assorted documents that cost my parents tens of thousands of dollars over the past four years.

She did remark on my sense of humor and how important it is in these situations. I did get a laugh-out-loud from her when I told her about slime’s tape recorder friend.
Anyway, we also talked at length about my daughters, I received advice on what to say to nasty older daughter who again called me a “f---ing c-” without as many consequences as she thinks should be given. And we talked of her children and grandchildren. And, of course, other cases and how she handled them, including one that she has right now that is similar to mine so she already has the case law out and studied. And we talked of younger daughter and how as soon as the house issue is resolved we need to file for a new custody agreement to get one that is sane for her and one that would prevent him from playing headgames on her like he did with older daughter.

Her first cutting-to-the-core comment after reading the PSA was that he didn’t want the divorce. Then she went on to say how obviously controlling he is. Of course I didn’t come out unscathed since as she noted I am a conflict avoider who ended up enabling him. No shit. As I analyzed in “Compromising Myself Out of a Marriage,” by appeasing him I ended up diminishing myself and enabling him to continue on his control path unchecked. I did add, at the door, that once he stopped being a litigator he turned his fury on me instead on the opposing side and that certainly didn’t help things.

Unfortunately even with her as my attorney I can’t kick him out of the house. That can only happen if he hits me, which I think he knows because he has not crossed that line. There are plans to go to court—expedited (which I think she will really manage, not like my previous lawyer who went with the flow rather than creating the flow and never managed to expedite anything). But this must wait until mid-April since I am bound by the mediated agreement in which I agreed to market the house at the current price until mid-April and if nothing happens then back to the mediator. Why, why did I agree to mid-April? Oh, well, it’s not so far now (relatively speaking) and that will give her time to prepare whatever needs to be prepared. She even had an idea as to how I can get back the money that I gave up in order to get him to reduce the price of the house. Sounds so good to me.

So there are plans. And I have homework: I need to go back into my memory and record all of the harassing things he has said and done to me since we signed the PSA two years ago. Luckily I have much of that done since I previously filed against him for harassment, and I recorded so many of the incidents here. But the going over them forces me to remember them as opposed to forgetting them, which is so much nicer. The night before our meeting I had to get my papers together and it was so hard to look through four years of papers that documented his delaying tactics and insults, and how disappointing all of those papers were that never managed to get me to where I need to be.  

Each time that he yells whatever it is that he yells, I need to write down. And I need to start putting the bills and the receipts on the table again asking him to pay his share which will be taken but ignored. But it feels okay since I think that she’s not going to let me get pushed around by the courts or him. Regarding the PSA, her comment, after she said that she would have ripped it up was that my lawyer let me agree to what I wanted, while if she had been my lawyer then she wouldn’t have let me. Oy. I kept asking my lawyer what things mean, and his response was always that that is all we can get out of him. I wish I had the balls then to change lawyers.

I stay with men too long. I stayed with my ex far too long, and I stayed with my lawyer too long. I keep giving people chances when they don’t deserve them. Could it be that I don’t trust my instincts enough? No. Could it be that I DIDN’T trust my instincts enough?

By the way, for the two-hour meeting that was more than a legal meeting and more like a bestowal of choice bits of work and life wisdom, she charged a low one-hour initial consultation fee.

Let’s go leopard lady!

One Day, Seven Kinds of Therapy

Good Mother Therapy: On Saturday morning I took my daughter to her basketball game; it was the first game in the post-season playoffs. She played her BFF’s team, and they lost by one point after a very close game (they lost to them last week by more than 20 points). Except for grabbing the ball, I love watching the determination and skill of those 12- and 13-year old girls on the court. After the game I took my daughter and her best friend and another good friend from the “opposing” team out for ice cream and then a day of going back and forth between homes and activities.

This lovely “I am a good mother” morning was negated when my older daughter repeatedly banged on my wall screaming at me to lower the volume of the live opera I was listening to on the radio after I had cranked it up all the way (on a clock radio mind you, so it’s not too loud) to drown out exman yelling at me through my locked door that he would file something against me because I stole his things. (See below.)

Clean House Therapy: The realtor suggested cleaning out the basement storage area and the mudroom. So that’s what I did. I moved bags of old clothes, toys and books to donate and rearranged exman’s boxes so that they would be placed on shelves and not on the floor making the whole place a mess, and putting his shirts (that he just threw down there) into plastic bags. There were only two boxes of my things there, which I didn’t realize I had, since I moved everything to storage when we put the house up for sale and agreed that we would move our things out of the basement and into storage to make it look less crowded. He, of course, moved his things right back into the basement storage area instead of out of the house and into storage.

I got a lot done and was feeling good about it, but I still hadn’t found the dead mouse that could be sniffed down there when exman came home and got into a tirade that I was stealing his things. I dropped the box of things I was about to put into the garbage so that he could inspect it and went into my room not wanting to deal with what I knew would be coming. Not only did I not steal his things but his things mainly comprise boxes and boxes of papers that he brought with us when we moved from Israel and he has not opened since putting them into those boxes more than eight years ago. Apparently there are amazing contracts that he wrote in Hebrew in those boxes which, I am sure, are useless in the US and useless because he hasn’t worked as an attorney since we came to the US.

There he was with his recorder friend again at my door screaming about theft but by that time I had turned the radio up and was listening to Il Trovatore.

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Some People Have Worry Beads, I Have Enough Beads

The string of enough-beads that I have been stringing through the days of late has gotten so long that if I wore it I would be so weighted down that I wouldn’t be able to stand and walk into the next cause for an enough bead to be created and added to that string.

  • mr-ex is still here and as “vibrant” as ever. He has taken to calling my daughters into his room for a conference if voices rise when I am discussing something with them. Having him call them in disgusts me on so many levels: since he is not parenting he doesn’t get to pretend that he is the supervisor parent. He also doesn’t get to be the decider parent telling them what to do and say, especially when they never hurl at him the things they hurl at me because they are scared of him and because he is not involved in their lives, except in this role, while I have to somehow deal with them while they are fuming and spewing.

  • mr-ex appears to be one of the unemployed (he worked for a financial institution), although he seems to be trying to establish some kind of business. Not that that would impact me monetarily since he pays nothing to me for me or for the girls, but it does mean that he is in the home much more often than before--he is there just about everyday when I come home from work. You’d think that maybe he would be more stressed for money now and agree to really reduce the price of the house to sell quickly, but no, he seems even more determined to make the amount of money that he wants from the house.

  • At school I have spent the last week on our new unit, the Holocaust. I spent two days watching a movie (A Survivor Remembers) about a Holocaust survivor five times. Then, I had my students do an activity where they try to identify pictures of people to see if they can figure out if the person was a victim, perpetrator, rescuer or bystander during the Holocaust. That’s not so bad, what’s hard is that five times in two days I needed to read the biographies of Adolf Eichmann, Josef Mengele, and Herta Oberhauser. Don’t bother looking them up, one was the “mastermind” of the Final Solution, and the other two were “doctors” performing “medical” experiments on people. Not a light-hearted way to spend my days at work. And we’re heading into more days of Holocaust and World War II research, and from past experience, I know that I will get upset from insensitive comments from teenagers, or even worse, from uncaring teenagers.

  • After a week of worrying that pseudo-separated man was in a coma or coffin after disappearing for a week after we had been back in touch for a few weeks, I found out that he wasn’t in either place. I did find, though, cause to change his moniker from pseudo-separated man to pseudo-man. Let’s just say that the disappointment that lead to that was utterly disheartening.

  • The other day, after I yelled at older daughter for picking up my laptop by the top when it was open, she actually uttered a word that I never expected to be hurled at me from my daughter. From my ex-husband, been there done that, but not her. Not the c-word from my 17-year old. Yes, I understand it’s a phase, but she just keeps crossing lines that I didn’t expect to ever cross. And since then I have been called that again, and the f-word and even given the finger. Any wonder that I left her at school today when I went to pick her up between her classes and told her I'll come back when her last class is over. (She then called mr-ex to rescue her from her evil mother--he did.)

  • And lovely, sweet younger daughter was mad at me because I went out with a friend the other night and I did not inform her that after dinner I would be going to a movie, because sometimes I need to pretend that I can do that—make a decision without consulting a 13-year old. So after being called the c-word, all that came out of the other mouth in the room was “shut up shut up shut up” aimed at me.

I went into my little room, locked the door (after Poops the maltese came in), and just lay down on my love seat. Sometimes thoughts are pushed aside by amorphous emotions. This was not meditation, this was me hitting the Wall of ENOUGH.

Mediation, or Sitting around a Big Table with Someone You Hate, Part 2

At the end of a short work week [I had off on both Martin Luther King Jr Day and Inauguration Day (this is standard in this county, not just because of Obama but because we teachers and children going to school supposedly create too much traffic for the attendees)], but as all of the Ladies Who Lunch (that would be the English teachers in the workroom) determined yesterday, short weeks just compress the requisite amount of weekly pressure into less time making it a tougher-than-normal week. And so, to top off an intense week I got to sit around that big round table again with mediator man and exman (“man” being a pejorative term for both).

Asking a student why he plagiarized a paper, speaking to a parent whose son cheated, asking another student to stop making sounds that befit a football stadium, parsing “no, that is wrong” in a manner that does not hurt anyone’s tender sensibilities, and worrying about yet another student who is seeping into depression was nothing compared to those 45 minutes. Oh, and having my co-teacher out of the room most of time, "tracking down information on our newest student." Um, shouldn't you do that during your planning period and not during class? Not only was exman in “form” with the insults, the bizarre interpretations of reality, and the demands, but mediator man was in all effect a lump of clay.

Two times exman threatened me, and neither time did mediator man say anything. I don’t know, but if his job is to create an environment conducive to discussion and mutual decision-making, having one client say to the other client “I’ll get you” would seem to be a little red flag for speaking up and scolding said belligerent client. But no, mediator man did nothing. I guess he was intimidated by exman, but have no fear, I have come a long way from being the woman who is called “nothing” with nary a protective word. And in keeping with exman—consensus here—being a sociopath narcissist, his rejoinder to me was, “No, that’s not a threat, that’s a promise.”

It all started with his opening ploy in the waiting room: “Hi, Laura.” Now this man has not uttered my name in years, so I guess he was trying to show that he’s really a decent guy. But that was dispelled quickly, when he told mediator man that we did not get carpet for the house because of my outrageous behavior. Oh yeah, being insulted in Lowes and then sashaying out because of it is outrageous to one who thinks his mouth can say whatever it wants and everyone else will bow before it.

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Always on Sunday. There’s Always Something on Sundays.

He’s yelling at my younger daughter now, and I am in my room hearing his muffled raised voice. If I were a very good mother, I would go down there and tell him to stop yelling at her. But I don’t.

And earlier, when he slammed my older daughter’s door in my face (yes, she was in the room at the time) and he bullied his way into taking her to her college interview which she told me she wanted me to take her to (and she specifically told me that she didn’t want him to take her), I did not protest too loudly. I asked her if she wants me to take her as she sat there telling me not to yell when obviously I was her easy target and not her father, who towered over the two of us, who declared “I’ll take her.” And since I had to pick up my other daughter from where I had taken her earlier, and since I took my older daughter to and from her activities on Friday and Saturday, and he does nothing, I just didn’t want to fight over driving her.

It was claustrophobic in there with him so close to me and so menacing. But her, she was so small on her bed, trying to not enrage him and trying, maybe, not to send me off. I didn’t want to have him yell in my face and I didn’t want to see his red face and spittle flying. I just couldn’t be in the room another second with him. So I left, and I didn’t take her.

I’m sitting here thinking that I should apologize to her for not taking her, but that would be presenting to her on a platter how her mother is still letting herself be a victim. Who am I to expect her to stand up to him when I don’t? Yes, I told him to grow-up and stop, although I did accuse him of stealing toilet paper (where else are all the rolls going?).

Maybe I am not doing the right karma thing or repelling his negativity or channeling peacefulness, or maybe I am holding onto this pain for some unknown psychotic reason, or maybe I need to forgive him or understand that he was what I deserved or whatever other insight there is to explain why I am still stuck here (that does not take into consideration economics and the housing market and the physical state of this home), or maybe, just maybe shit happens and we try to deal with it as well as we can. And we fall short of our own expectations, and certainly our children’s.

I just want to go to sleep and let another Sunday end. I have two books that I started reading today, one promises to be a very insightful but deeply depressing book about a woman in Pakistan and the other a sort of romantic comedy where everyone is beautiful and witty and the challenges are the kind that Meg Ryan could solve. I think I’ll read that one.

But first, maybe I’ll talk to my daughter.


Sashay Sashay Right out of Lowe’s

Tonight was the night to pick out new carpet for the house. You know, the carpet that will make potential buyers ignore the old kitchen, windows, tiles, bathrooms but will, instead, make them see the dazzling potential of this house. (It really is a nice house in a great location.)

It was raining and it was rush-hour, so it was a long drive out to Lowe’s where he had decided that we would get the best price. Now this is his responsibility, he needs to deal with the carpet, but he is afraid of responsibility because then he can’t blame someone else for screwing up. So I was there to participate in the carpet-picking decision. Only problem is: he was there and I was there, and that is not a good mix.

About an hour or so earlier, at home, he started to tell me that wood floors would be too expensive. (I had made the suggestion the day before.) I said okay, but he kept on telling me about the per square foot calculations, but since it’s too expensive, I don’t care about them and told him that it doesn’t matter. (Also, the less I need to hear his voice and get one of his lectures, the better.) Words which the lawyer in the room would twist and throw back at me as if his life is a walking courtroom.

Back to Lowe’s. He showed me the carpet padding and showed how the price works. Okay. (I have a master’s degree, I can figure this out.) Then he showed me a piece of carpet, pointed to the price and said, This is the price. You said you don’t care about the calculations but you should.

I said that about the wood.

I’m not married to you, he said in reaction to my slightly raised and aggravated tone.

Don’t tell me what I think and feel.

I recorded it. And as he reached into his pocket for his little recorder friend, I turned and sashayed right out of Lowe’s.

I do not need to swallow any bile from him. I do not need to have him twist and distort my words. I do not need to participate in the carpet decision. Let him gather his balls together and do something.

On the way home I stopped at the supermarket. We needed milk, and I needed an apple fritter for breakfast.

He was home when I got home. I figured that he would have stayed and ordered the carpet. I guess he’s still playing with his balls, it seems that when he doesn’t have me around, they just don’t work.

Divorce and Custody: Virginia Style and American Style

This is what I found when I was searching the name of one of the bastard lawyers my nice lawyer told me about: the Mommy Go Bye Bye blog.

And this is the paragraph that stopped me:

Virginia judges say a father may hurt the mother of his child, by abusing her, without hurting his chances of gaining custody. Judges surveyed for Influences on Judges' Decisions in Child Custody Disputes in the Commonwealth of Virginia, a 2001 Virginia Supreme Court study, also reveal that children over five go to fathers more than they go to mothers when cases go to court. The study explains that judges in Virginia believe #1) mothers have “more problems” than fathers and #2) mothers are “less competent than fathers. Pages 4, 6, 7, 20, 21, 23, 24, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41, 53, 55, and 57, however, are especially relevant to the current trend of giving children to fathers who are abusive, violent, and dangerously controlling men. Those pages are excerpted and contained in my compendium "The High Price of Conscience-free Justice." Or you may look for the study on the Virginia General Assembly website.

And then there was this:

Breaking the Silence: Children’s Stories — a powerful new PBS documentary that chronicles the impact of domestic violence on children and the recurring failings of family courts across the country to protect them from their abusers. In stark and often poignant interviews, children and battered mothers tell their stories of abuse at home and continued trauma within the courts. Co-produced by Tatge-Lasseur Productions and Connecticut Public Television (CPTV), this one-hour special also features interviews with domestic violence experts, attorneys and judges who reveal the disturbing frequency in which abusers are winning custody of their children and why these miscarriages of justice continue to occur.

This program is made possible by funding from the Mary Kay Ash Charitable Foundation. One of the most effective ways an abusive father can inflict pain and declare his domination is to take custody of his children away from their mother. As Joan Meier, an attorney and professor of clinical law, explains, “To win custody of the kids over and against the mother’s will is the ultimate victory...short of killing the kids.” While there may be a perception in society that the family court system has a maternal preference, statistics show that, in the past twenty years, fathers are more often being awarded custody. Furthermore, in family court cases where mothers allege battery, fathers are given custody two-thirds of the time.

And if that was not enough, there was this:

“U.S. courts remain incredibly reluctant to punish men for crimes against their families," Silverman observes. "In this country, family violence is still seen as a private matter.”

“Men could beat, maim, and murder their wives with impunity until this century,” he continues. “Until the 1990s, it was legal in some states for a man to rape his wife. Like slavery and racism in this country, violence against women and children is the legacy of longstanding legal and social structures.”

* * *

When I attended the parenting class that I was required to by Virginia law after getting a divorce when children are involved (I don’t think mr ex ever attended a session)  there was a mother there who had been a stay-at-home mother, who home-schooled her five kids, who lost custody of her children to her physically abusive ex-husband, who was given the okay by the judge to take the minor children out of state to live. How respectable, daddy dearest was a pilot. The judge then told this woman, who had not worked outside of the home for years, that he better see a record of her going often to visit her children who were going to be half-way across the country with their father, even though she has no money. She, of course, was not given spousal support. This woman also relayed that she was ostracized by her church for getting a divorce.

There really isn’t anything to add, except the horror, the horror. Any wonder that so often we get duped by these guys, they dupe the system, too.

There's this pseudo theory that only the courts have taken a hold of called Parental Alienation Syndrome, which states that the abused parent will turn the child against the abusing parent. In order to prevent that from happening, the courts have decided to  simply give the kids to the abusing parent, who, of course, in no way will try to turn his kids against the other parent. How do you say "stupid" in legalese? I know, Parental Alienation Syndrome.

Watch the video, it’s chilling, especially the judge who says that no new evidence was presented although the child had told her mother that her father had sexually abused her after the first court case.

Why, why does the world still go round when children are not listened to and protected, and mothers are not listened to and protected? Why, why does the world still go round when abusers are given license to abuse? Why, why does the world still go round when all that is good is debased by those who have more powerful pockets and mouths?

Get Your Words Off Me: Excerpt 26

I've taken a break lately in posting excerpts from my book, Get Your Words Off Me, but I thought that it was time for a new one, and specifically this one, which explains how he got the master suite and I got the guest bedroom. 

* * *


Why have sex with a man you detest and who makes you hate yourself?

When we were working on our marriage by going to therapy, I felt that it would be an affront to the effort to turn him away when he wanted to have sex. I was, still, unfortunately, seeing submission as a positive attribute instead of what it was: an absolute relinquishment of the self. By cooperating I thought I was behaving fairly, which is ironic considering that his actions were fundamentally unfair and caused me to feel—to be—violated and used.

One night, a few weeks after we had begun our reconciliation process, he got into bed and reached out, touching me, when I was already asleep. That night I finally reacted instinctually—protecting myself, not my relationship. Out of the depths of my sleeping self, I shouted “NO!” He immediately withdrew his hand. I woke, stunned, feeling the “NO!” as it exited my mouth from my unconscious and hung between us.

Then, shockingly, he said sharply, “Get out.” The absurdity of his telling me to get out of our bed when he was the one attacking me, when he was the one who had repeatedly asked me to come back to bed, was enormous. But I realized, as I lay there in the dark with the “NO” still echoing between us, that I had no desire to fight to stay in that bed with him, it was the opposite of what I wanted. I was not going to explain or apologize, or soothe. What a relief to have finally spoken what I felt. So, I stood up, walked out of the room and returned to “my” couch (where I had been sleeping before the attempt at reconciliation).

I have not returned to that bed since; except for one night when he was out of town on a business trip a short time after I had left that room, when I still felt that it was, to some extent, still my room. It is now his bed and his room, I have ceded the space. I should have said, “No, you get out, you are the violator.” But, as with so much else in this marriage, I took what I was dealt and tried my best to survive. And so, in the middle of the night, in my oversized tee-shirt and cotton shorts, I walked out, leaving him naked, alone with whatever demons or remorse may eventually plague him. 


Mediation, or Sitting around a Big Table with Someone You Hate

My expectation for the mediation on Tuesday was that I would get to sit in my own little room, ex would sit in his own little room, and the mediator would shuffle between us. I wouldn’t have to see him, I wouldn’t have to hear him, I wouldn’t have to be in his presence. Unfortunately, mediator man thought that two adults need to act maturely and civilly, you know, be nice to each other.

He forgot that I had told him we were divorced already, not a good thing to forget. Don’t worry, I reminded him of this significant detail as soon as he started asking if there is a way to save the marriage. Um, what marriage?

Did I say that mediator man is in his 70’s, battling cancer and recently had a part of his right ear chopped off? Perhaps his perspective on life comes from the perspective of a man looking back at the follies of people, but since I am in the prime of folliehood I did not appreciate his view from on high.

When I walked into the mediator’s office I was confronted with a very, very big oval table of heavy wood with six chairs around it. I think it was a dining room table transformed into an office table. But it was wide enough so that we couldn’t be near each other.

(Highlight of the meeting: ex’s chair broke. The wheel of one leg fell off, twice. I was gracious enough to not laugh, but my was that lovely. I wasn’t able to look at him, but I could see him struggling to get the wheel back in.)

Is it worth it to go into the details of ex’s presentation of his case? Or is it enough to say that as I listened to him, I could hear how an outsider would think that what he said made sense but it was all twisted, twisted by a perception of reality that is formed in a narcissist’s mind. Apparently the house has not sold for two reasons. First, we had an offer that I rejected. I practically jumped out of my seat when he said that. There has never been an offer, there was a price probe last summer a month after the house was listed that was so low that even the realtor didn’t take it seriously. Second, the carpet in the entrance is old and I refuse to replace it. Yes, a house built in 1977 with the original kitchen, original bathrooms, original windows, original flooring has not sold because of a worn carpet and not because it is priced as if it has a new kitchen, new bathrooms, new windows and new flooring. Please.

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