Thursday, December 31, 2009

2010

I like the way the New Year speaks its name. Twenty-Ten.  Kind of like a drum beat or a mantra. So much less awkward then Two Thousand and Nine.



The verse in this tattoo across the arm of someone I love very much reads:
To wonder at beauty
Stand guard over truth
Look up to the noble
Resolve on the good.
It will be my New Year's resolution.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blogging is the Porn of Writing or Journey to the Center...


I'm in Nebraska at my final MFA residency. I graduate in 6 days. But right now I'm listening to Los Angeles's own poetry goddess Kate Gale. She's here in Nebraska lecturing to me and my fellow students about writing. Journey to the Center of the Earth is the title of her lecture. Which I take to mean we are looking for that lake of fire inside us that fuels our writing.

Here are her rules for writing: #1. Find what sets you off as a writer.  #2. After that fuse is lit let your mind go wherever it wants to.  Don’t stop yourself.  #3. Keep writing past that painful sticky place instead of wandering there forever. Don’t stop with the beating. Go past the beating. Write what happens next on the other side of that painful place. There’s something else past the pain.  #4.  No matter what you are writing, you are going to write something really good. Don’t save the good stuff for something else. Don’t hold anything back ever. There’s more where that came from. You are a fountain of amazing ideas.

Here's what isn't writing: Emailing. Blogging. Sending work out.

But she likes blogging. She has a blog.  http://kategale.wordpress.com/  She says if you blog you should  blog everyday. It's practice writing. Warm-up writing. But she also says that blogging is the porn of writing. After all, you can drink while blogging, she says.
Imagine. Me--a porn queen.

So what I'm taking away is this. Blog every day while drinking. Which means I should write first and blog and drink second. New mantra: Write first. Blog and drink second. Write first. Blog and drink second.

Monday, December 28, 2009

So This Was Christmas

Christmas Eve dinner for four. Clean-up left until the next morning. "I know you're probably thinking someone has kidnapped your real mother," I told my daughter when we walked away from the mess smiling.

Then with Christmas morning light edging the window shade and me still in bed full of love and cake, I woke to a clatter in the kitchen. The man who loves me had cleaned up the entire mess.
Do I want my old life back? Oh no. For a million reasons, no.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sleepless


This Friday night wasn't so different from many Friday nights of my marriage. I spent it alone. But unlike back then, there was no waiting for sound of the garage door opening, no hoping for a few shreds of affection, communication...something....anything. I knew I would be alone tonight and settled in on the couch to watch Sleepless in Seattle. I saw this movie with Mr. Ex when it first came out and was only moderately taken by it. But tonight it got to me. "Well, I'm gonna get out of bed every morning... breath in and out all day long. Then, after a while I won't have to remind myself to get out of bed every morning and breath in and out... and, then after a while, I won't have to think about how I had it great and perfect for a while," says Sam Baldwin when he talks to a radio psychologist about the death of his wife. Under the blanket of holiday angst that has fallen over me, it's easy for me to remember my year or so of breathing in and breathing out. It was a lot of breathing and there were days when many of those breaths were delivered with a searing ache. I have it pretty great & perfect right now, but I think it's good to remember the ache, feel the remnants of it, and wear it for a little while. Like Sam Baldwin, I have a dead spouse. Oh sure, there's this guy Mr. Ex. still trudging through life--but he's not the guy I fell in love with. He's not the guy I weep for when the hurt throws itself over me. That guy is dead and it's sad.


My dog Layla tries to help when I cry. She falls all over herself rushing to me and hurls her 55 pounds into my lap and pokes her pointy collie nose into my chest as if she's giving me some kind of canine CPR. But she seems to know the difference between the wails that tore out of me when I was still struggling to get out of bed every morning and the phantom grief I feel every now and again these days. "It's okay," I told her tonight and  she settled right down. But I wonder if she misses Mr. Ex when I clip her leash to her collar or pour a cup of chow into her dish. If she's sniffing for the scent of the guy who used to do those things and she wishes would come back. I'm glad Mr. Ex hasn't returned my calls or emails about taking the dogs. It's probably better that way--if he's  dead to them, too. 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Irrevocable



What we have here is 47 pages of muck in which the division of Mr. Ex's and my joint assets are hopelessly mired. Established in 1995, our Irrevocable Trust is just what it sounds like--unalterable. Except that Mr. Ex seems to be treating like a pair of pants that has gotten too tight. A lot of things in life can be altered, revoked, annulled, dissolved, taken in, or let out. But an irrevocable trust is not one of them. So here we are, nigh unto 2 1/2 years after the split tethered to a past compulsion to plan for a future that won't ever happen. I've said it before, but I think it bears repeating. Invest in love. And trust--the sort that doesn't need to be set up by an attorney and spelled out in 47 pages.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Wisdom from the Silver Screen


After worrying for hours last night that the hard copies of my thesis are stuck in a snowdrift on I-80, the pages clumped together and the ink defrosting off the page, I've declared today a day off & have been watching movies. We have a well organized collection of DVDs, so I began with the As. Here's a tidbit  from Adam's Rib: "Lawyers shouldn't marry other lawyers. That's called inbreeding. It results in idiot children and more lawyers. Lawyers should marry piano players or song writers..." A nice bit of writing.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Really?


I feel so naive sometimes I don't know what to do with myself.
The scene: A party.
The speaker: A gorgeous young woman. Tall. Centerfold body. Pretty face. "Men cheat," she says. "that's what they do." I've gleaned from the previous bits of conversation that her ex-husband is a producer. She has a couple of kids with him, and they're not exactly divorced. Separated, but they live in the same house or something like that...sort of.
I hear this and think, "What if?" What if people were honest and then just coped with the honesty? What would that mean? In my particular situation. I can't quite imagine it. Would Mr. Ex have treated me better if  he could have had his new young thing and me and I'd said, "Well that's what men do..." I don't know. But I do know I wouldn't have wanted that.
Lack of imagination bothers me. Imagination is key. Now that I've been cut loose, I imagine my future with  many different scenarios. But accepting a cheating man isn't one of them.  But then it's not quite cheating if you admit to it up front. Still, I don't like the idea. Not one little bit.
And I don't really believe that's "what men do..." unless they are crazy Hollywood producers, or sheiks, or are part of Mr. Ex's law firm.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"If you drive too sexy, I'll tax your seat.."



There's an unfortunate fact about alimony and income tax that I didn't know...until recently. Alimony is taxable income. That's bad enough, but I find it particularly irritating that Mr. Ex gets to count the alimony he pays me as a tax deduction. So here's how our little math problem shakes out. California (a community property state) + 30 years of marriage = half of Mr. Ex's income for me - 50% of what I get for the taxman + a tax credit for the dastardly Mr. Ex.
Sigh.
Update on the division of joint assets: Still undivided.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Illusions



Sometimes things are not what they seem. The moral center of your universe slips into a black hole. The person you thought was too different from you turns out to be someone you can't get enough of.

And--these packages of printer paper. Look closely. Not blank paper at all. A thesis. My thesis.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Art of Finding


In roughly one month, I will finish my MFA in Creative Writing so I'm obsessing a little on this milestone in my "new life."
This advice from the poet Linda Gregg seems applicable for prose writers, too. 
She's written this piece, The Art of Finding, as a prose poem. This is how it begins:


I believe that poetry at its best is found rather than written.
Traditionally, and for many people even today, poems have been
admired chiefly for their craftsmanship and musicality, the
handsomeness of language and the abundance of similes, along with 
the patterning and rhymes. I respect and enjoy all that, but I would 
not have worked so hard and so long at my poetry if it were primarily 
the production of well-made objects, just as I would not have sacrificed 
so much for love if love were mostly about pleasure. 


If you'd like to read the rest follow the link above.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What Counts


This is my 3rd post-divorce Thanksgiving, and I guarantee you there will never be a post about the 4th one because I am done counting--done using the end of my marriage as the marker that defines me and my life. I am away from family and friends this year, dining with "strangers" at the Ragdale Foundation where I've been doing a writer's residency. It's a good vantage point from which to see the profound value of friends and family.
Next year I might be home, my table set with the china my mom gave me, her silver, the crystal from my stepsister, the candlesticks from my grandmother whose name I now claim as my own, and I hope it's not too late to persuade the people who used to share that table to come back. I hope too, there will be new people at the table and that we might even round up a mystery guest or two as we have done many years in the past.
Of course, I'm at the stage of life where my children have dispersed. By next Thanksgiving, it's quite likely, they will be flung across the country in three different states and maybe we won't all be at the same table. I may become a new version of a Thanksgiving pilgrim, traveling from turkey to turkey.
Or maybe not. Maybe my Thanksgiving dinner will be much smaller next year. Two cornish hens instead of a turkey. I really don't know what the future holds.
That's why I'm thankful right now--for this first Thanksgiving in Ragdale, for new friends, for all of the old friends, for family, for all of the people I love.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What I Now Think of When I Hear the Word Bifurcation




There's a court appearance scheduled for my divorce tomorrow. I won't be showing up in downtown Los Angeles because I'm out of town. The court wants to know what's taking so long and I appreciate their interest. Really I do. I have agreed to make myself available by phone in case the judge wants to ask me some questions. What might he or she ask? What will I say?
Sometimes it's hard to put a frame around a story. What does a writer leave in or leave out when constructing a short story or a novel? This real life story, I find, is presenting the same challenge.
Maybe I will review the time frame for the judge:
Mr. Ex told me he  wanted to leave me  and marry someone else on Sunday, July 29, 2007.
By mid-August, he still hadn't filed for divorce though plans for his wedding were going forward, so I filed.
We received the final decree of divorce on July 31, 2008 which worked out well since Mr. Ex got married six weeks later. It was the fact of bifurcation that allowed that decree of divorce to be issued because Mr. Ex and I were nowhere near settling our financial affairs.
And ever since then I have been pushing, pulling, pleading, cajoling for him to give me the half that's mine.
Judge, I invited him to  DINNER  and brought him a peace offering--a book about WWII that I knew he would like. (April 8, 2009) and we actually AGREED.
But yet there's been no progress with the  division of joint assets because Mr. Ex has NOT been at all helpful in providing necessary information. NOT AT ALL
Really Judge, THIS HAS BEEN DIFFICULT AND I HAVE PURSUED HIM THROUGH TRYING TIMES  to no avail. I've called him and emailed him repeatedly trying to pry information out of him. I spent a week correcting the woefully out of date list of assets that he generated. I've had to research and explain to him the finer points of an irrevocable trust. This mess has gone on so long that Mr. Ex and his new wife have had time to conceive and bear a CHILD. The kiddo will be sprouting teeth before we know it and still no division of joint assets.
Judge, I have humbled myself greatly and asked Mr. Ex's older brother to please intervene. I told Mr. Ex I thought we should bring other friends and family members into the discussion (this got me answers to two emails). I have called Mr. Ex as I stood on a bridge weeping while begging for mercy and contemplating jumping. I've bought him a Mont Blanc Pen and asked him to please use it to sign the document that will allow for the division of our joint assets.
Judge, other than my sandwich board idea where I parade up and down in front of his building wearing a message that reads Mr. Ex Unfair to Ex-Wife, I'm out of tricks. So really Judge, I don't know why this case has endured for so long without resolution. Can you call Mr. Ex and ask him? You already have? Ah--you left a voicemail and he hasn't called you back?

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Poem by Amy Gerstler

I read some poetry most days. It's good for a writer of prose to contemplate a story told so concisely. In a good poem, the language is vivid and the emotional pay-off is quick and strong.



Dusk

Dear, I can't subsist on this diet
(really more of a fast—celery
seed and a soft word every other
month) any longer. Is that blood
on your pillowcase or another girl's
lipstick? I want you to know,
I've had such unalloyed joy
over the past several decades,
smelling your hair and petting
your sweat-beaded feet while
you were asleep. It was far sweeter
than I ever thought possible.
But my ancestors are welling up
in me now and keep nudging me
toward the door. Bells are rung,
harps are played: recessional music.
We both know the theater will close
in a few minutes. If you had been
more attentive or a better pretender,
I could have run on fumes for a few
more years, sipping snowmelt,
remaining quite high on it. Let
the record show, I recited prayers
for your perpetual ascension
and good health as I laid this note
in its frozen envelope on your desk
and left, taking both dogs, the teal
parakeet, and the black cat with me.
They got custody of our love.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

EMAIL ME...please?


I don't want much of a relationship with Mr. Ex. Really, I don't. This is not one of those divorces where we will become Facebook friends or have some happy-slappy future holiday where the new wife and I clink glasses at the same table and murmur about him later in the kitchen. The only personal interactions I want to have with Mr. Ex will have to do with our daughters, and I imagine will go like this: "Nice graduation." "Beautiful wedding."
But it upsets me that he doesn't answer my emails. I don't email him often.
It's not hard to answer an email.
So here's what I'm asking. If you read this blog, have a go at answering the 2 emails below. (Just put your responses in the comments section) Maybe it will ease my mind and I'll stop checking my inbox.
My humblest thanks.

1)


E____,

C. has told me you no longer want to take the dogs. 
Her anticipated job has fallen through & she's now planning to volunteer on N.'s boat in order to keep up her skills and may eventually get a job there.
I'm at a writer's residency out of town.
I am now searching for a dog-sitter that will live at my place to eliminate wear & tear on Lola & Layla and save you some money.
It was our agreement to share custody of the dogs, but it's crazy expensive to keep boarding them and a hassle for me, too. 
Just wanted to let you know.
Please let me know if you DO plan to take the dogs again--or if this is just temporary.


Denise


2)

E___,

Could you please change your contact information with the alarm co that monitors your house? They have been calling me repeatedly. I do not have your phone #s in my new phone, so I can't call you.
I hope you will respond to this email as well as my last one re the dogs.

--
Denise

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another Writer's Residency




I am very lucky. This month, in November of 2009, this is my house.



I have a room of my own to write in.



There is beauty here--refined and rough.
There are places to gather. And there is the prairie for walking alone.









.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Justice of Revision

This is how it read when my attorney sent it to me:


The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage was filed by Petitioner in the matter on August 23, 2007. Respondent filed his response on September 7, 2007.


This is my suggested revision:


2. The Petition for Dissolution of Marriage was filed by Petitioner in the matter, with all due sadness and regret, on August 23, 2007, twenty-five days after Respondent expressed to Petitioner his desire to end their marriage and marry someone else. Respondent filed his response on September 7, 2007.






Thursday, November 5, 2009

Over Him

From the moment I started this blog, I've said I was over him. I told every friend in every conversation. I told the curly-haired playwright I dated the first summer. I told my mother and my son and my daughters. But "over" is a relative concept.
I'm over him now. Really.
The only thing worse than being married to him, I realize, is this long drawn out process of divorcing him. The emails back and forth with the attorney (oh-so-nice-and-kind, but still...) The not-overness of the logistics of DIVIDING. CELLS DIVIDE--I MEAN REALLY, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
But I am over him. The him-ness of him.
I will nevereveragain wait for the sound of his garage door opening. Never cringe at the footsteps on the back stairs as he slinks up to his study and chooses computer solitaire without hello, without how was your day?
Red Rover, Red Rover, send me back over. Over.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Poison

Maybe I should have poisoned The Pen
So that when he touched it he dissolved into a puddle of goo or ran screaming down his fancy office hallway. Maybe the pen would have wracked him with a painful death like the poisoned golden robes in Medea or the comb meant for Snow White.
UPS tracking says he got the pen. Someone whose name he probably doesn't even know signed for it in the law firm mail room. But there's been no acknowledgement.
I'm not going to ask him.
There's an old saying he used to like to quote to show off his farm boy salt of the earth wholesome roots. I'm going to use it here.
Teaching Mr. Ex manners is like teaching a pig to sing. It's a waste of time and it annoys the pig.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Hurt He Gave

I have softened the hurt with milky tea and roses. With beer in green glass bottles. With airplane gin. With red wine, the oak lingering on a lover’s tongue segueing to the morning’s kisses and espresso. I’ve softened the hurt at my mother’s kitchen table, in the company of Iowa songbirds and in my daughters’ cars on I-80, and the Lincoln Highway. I’ve softened the hurt lying on the floor with dogs, around the Monopoly board, with a handful of Canasta, and breathing in the dark with a grandchild in the crook of my arm. The hurt, the hurt. The hurt of a bed too wide wrestled and lost to dirt trails and ragged steps cut out of mountainsides leading to blinding white chapels high above the Aegean. The hurt lost to ancient stones and bridges spanning dark waters, to blizzard and dessert, to lake and plain. I am a traveler now, and the hurt tried to find me but I'm the one who is finding, finding, finding.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Fall, Fell, Fallen, Falling

It's easy to forget a past emotional state. When your heart hurts so bad you wonder if you might actually have broken your breastbone or fractured a rib, who wants to recall the nitty-gritty details of how the hurt really felt?
Songs have a way of bringing those states back to us, I think--whether we want to be reminded or not. A couple of nights ago I was sitting in the kitchen of the man who loves me when he began playing Lucinda Williams' album Little Honey. I listened to this album everyday last October (in fact, I blogged about one of the songs here-- http://hisbigfatindianwedding.blogspot.com/2008/10/taxman.html when I was doing a writer's residency at the Virginia Center of the Creative Arts. And if you had asked me recently to recall how I was doing during that month on the slow trajectory of divorce recovery, I would have said,"Oh, I was pretty much over it. I was concentrating on my work... blah, blah." But hearing those songs again this October while sharing the kitchen table of the man I love, I saw the night and day of these 2 Octobers.
Which says something about memory and trauma and music. And love.
And I think it might say something about writing, too--how to get at what it was we were really feeling in a past moment.
Anyhow. If wishes were horses, I'd have...an empty pasture right now. There isn't anything I am really, really aching for.

The Not Poisoned Pen

I bought Mr. Ex a pen. A Mont Blanc pen. At the airport in Paris.
A peace offering, I thought. What could be more appropriate than a pen with which he could at long last sign the agreement on the division of our joint assets? Not that I thought we were particularly close to that moment, mind you. But I think if you want something to happen, you might as well see it, I mean really visualize it and so I imagined that fancy pen--shiny black with delicate silver trim in his hands.
I agonized over it a bit. Why buy a gift for the person who has caused me so much misery? Why offer peace? I thought about it over a glass of rosé and then walked back to the boutique where I'd stood staring into the case an hour earlier. I tried out two or three of the pens and bought the one that had the heft and feel of a pen I bought him at the airport in Paris about a decade ago. I'd been there for a week with a girlfriend and when I came home, I wanted to bring him something special. He told me right off the bat that there was something about it that wasn't his style, but eventually he decided he liked it and carried it in his shirt pocket until it broke just a couple of months before we did.

Mont Blanc, in addition to being a pricy pen, is also the name of a mountain in the Alps--the highest peak in Western Europe, in fact. The French like to call this mountain, La Dame Blanche (The White Lady) which has a certain peaceful ring to it.
There's a tunnel that runs beneath Mont Blanc and I like that image, too. The idea of something huge and immovable with a passageway that connects one country to another.

La Dame Blanche, in France, is also the name of a very popular ice cream dessert. Vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream on top. Mr. Ex would like that. Of course, Mr Ex will have no idea about these images running merrily through my head.
But I hope he likes the pen.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Becoming a Writer


A friend sent me this link today to an interview with a writer named Ben Fountain. You can click to read the whole thing--
But my favorite part is below.

Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?

It's embarrassing, but I'll go ahead and say it in the hopes that it will help keep some people going who should keep going -- I wrote for 17 years before getting a book contract. During that time I spent the better part of five years writing a novel about Haiti that never sold, and got enough rejections from magazines to fill a mid-size car. Had an agent who dropped me in the classic way, by not returning phone calls, never answering mail. It took about ten years of getting beat down for me to decide why I was writing, which was: I wanted to write. I wanted to get better, to write something that pleased me -- that struck me as authentic and real and artful. And it seems as if I had to burn through all expectations of worldly success before I could start doing that kind of work.

I've been working at my writing almost full-time since my marriage ended. A couple of years before that, I had begun to dabble. A coffee house writing group segued into classes at UCLA Extension (which were excellent.) Then the night that my now 20-year-old daughter and I stood next to her computer and pushed the send button on the last of her college applications, I was flooded with a sense of my own possibilities. In the two years since then--which pretty much coincides with the moment Mr. Ex and I split, I've set out to create a kind of writer's resume for myself (fellowships, getting some short pieces published) and to get my MFA. I love to read about writers who have found themselves on the long and winding road.

Monday, October 19, 2009

It might have been the full moon that made me do it. I called Mr. Ex while I was in France. I was begging for mercy, I sobbed to his voicemail--asking him to please co-operate in the division of our joint assets. I'd been waiting for weeks for a response to an email I'd sent him in which we went dancing around again over how things should be divided--but there was no response and I was feeling desperate. Maybe you'd like to suggest a revision because I simply have no more steam for this, I wrote in the email. I want all of this to be over, I want a life where I don't ever have to discuss dividing anything with you again. So, please, you propose something, please. Soon, please. I ask you to imagine what it would be like, really really like for you if the tables were turned. Go ahead imagine it. Somewhere between the email and the phone call, I depression-dialed my sister-in-law and it was 4 a.m. and luckily she didn't have her phone turned on. I think it's the lack of engagement that makes me feel so crazy--the silence, the nothing.
So all I hear is the clock ticking.
Time elapsed since Mr. Ex left: 2 years, 2 months, 3 weeks, 1 day and approximately 6 hours.
My attorney fees so far: Roughly $15,000.00

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Norman Hole


"Le troue Normand," said the wonderful French sculptor who'd made a delicious lunch at her house just outside the tiny village of Saint-Sixte yesterday. She was explaining that sometimes in between the courses of a big meal, it's traditional in the French region of Normandy to have a shot of Calvados. The theory is that it aids digestion and opens up a place in one's stomach for the rest of the food. I remembered exactly when and where I'd heard first heard this expression and its explanation. It was 1985-- May to be exact. In a restaurant having dinner with with Mr. Ex as we traveled through Normandy. The owner came over to us with 2 glasses of Calvados and a little while later we were able to finish the delicious pork chops on our plates.
So yesterday, in the midst of devouring a salad laden with duck gizzards and dried duck breast, I fell into sort of a hole. But I climbed right out.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Monet-ize

I might have thought the word "monetize" had something to do with Monet before I started blogging. I ignored the possibility of blogging for bread for a long time, but succumbed after I got anxious about paying my taxes. (I have no idea yet if I've made a single penny.) I like seeing which ads show up on the two of my three blogs that I've monetized. At first, His Big Fat Indian Wedding had ads pertaining to weddings--which was amusing. And there are always ads that might interest writers--which I like a lot. Today, for a short while there was an ad for a divorce lawyer. Now I'm fascinated. Wouldn't it amazing if Mr. Ex's law firm actually had an ad on my blog? I'll need to work some appropriate key words into future posts!

My French Underpants has quite a few ads actually in French!--which I think gives me a lot of credibility as a blogger writing about France. Of course that also means I can't actually read every word on my own blog which is weird. But I might learn a little more French that way.
My third blog, which I won't even name here out of fear that the title could be used as a key word for ad targeting is not monetized. I know what would be hawked there.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Water is Wide

As my writer's residency in France draws to a close, I'm thinking about the flow of this river called divorce. Where's the damn boat so I can just row across and get to the other side? Everything in my life is changing, flowing, transforming except where I am with Mr. Ex.
The division of our joint assets is a stagnant mess with something that looks like progress poking up out of the depths every now and then, but it turns out to be an illusion.
This bridge across the Garonne is the last thing I look at every evening as I sit outside on our quiet patio in Auvillar. At night it's all lit up and I've ventured across the road to it a time or two. Standing on the narrow footpath along its railing is an eerie experience.
Bridges make great metaphors. From here to there. From this to that. Wife to writer.
I'd just like to make my break from Mr. Ex before it's time to tip the boatman for the last ride to the other side.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

I Can Run But I Can't Hide

I've gone on and on in this blog about how I can't stand to be in L.A. because I have thirty-two years of memories of my life with Mr. Ex. It's hard to admit it, but he owns a big chunk of France, too.
France has 100 villages it has designated as its most beautiful and I am currently living in one of them. This past Sunday, I visited another. In my four trips to France with Mr. Ex, we visited two others. That's a nice even split, I suppose. Two beautiful villages for me. Two for him. Except it's hard to possess a village. And so it seems with all of our "assets." There are accounts held in a Trust. Farmland that can't be sold. Accounts that don't mature for years whose funds are unavailable. His capitol account in his law firm doesn't seem to be real either--just some ego-stoking figment that can't actually be turned into cold hard cash or cold hard anything.
If I could live those years of my life over again, I wouldn't invest in any of it. Investing in the future, if you'll "pardon my French" is a bullshit lie.
Invest only in love. When it's gone, there will be nothing to divide.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I see London, I see France, I see Jamie's....

There are various perks to being at a writer's residency. At the Virginia Center for the Arts they change your sheets, bring you fresh towels, vacuum your room, and clean your bathroom. At Vermont Studio Center, there's a serene meditation chapel open 24-7, and wonderful guest writers who preside over small group seminars. Both the VCCA and VSC have talented chefs who lay out dinner each evening in a cozy dinning room where you can hobnob with your fellow artists. People usually come to the table itching to socialize after being holed up in a studio all day writing or drawing or painting or sculpting or composing. It's easy, during a month long residency, to make a new friend or two or if you're an extrovert, maybe even a dozen.
It's different here in Auvillar.
There are only three of us. All writers. We are responsible for our own cooking (except at the Wednesday group dinners) and we share the housekeeping duties in our ancient stone house. We do our own laundry and we don't have a clothes dryer.
So we get to see one another's undies.
I have un petit inferiority complex now...lingerie and writing. http://web.mac.com/jamiecatcallan/iWeb/JamieCatCallan/Home.html
One of these days, I'll have a book and a website. Vraiement! And better underwear.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Writers' Odysseys


An "emerging" writer like myself can benefit immensely from receiving a fellowship to a writers' residency like the one here in Auvillar http://www.vcca.com/programs.html. The opportunity to write most of the day, or all day and even into the night is harder to come by in ordinary life. And being in a new environment in a foreign country changes one's perceptions. New ideas for stories are sparked by being in a new place. If you're someone who can't get away for an entire month, or a writer who wants more of a workshop environment, there's Astra Writing in Greece. I went last spring and it's even better than it sounds.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Life is weird. I know this because I'm a writer and I like to write the weird things down so I remember them. These notes might spark an idea for a story. And the weird things--coincidences, juxtapositions, etc. happen more often than one might think.
I'm living in France for a month and today I began work on a short story called La Voleuse. It's written in English, but set in France and has a French title and a French word employed here and there. I wanted to check the spelling of the word, 'voleuse.' I meant to pick up my French/English dictionary, but I mistakenly picked up my thesaurus instead. An old Valentine's Day card from my husband fell out. Not so weird, but the message on the front of the card was in French. Je t'aime, it said which means, "I love you."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Topiary

I like things tidy. When I lived in a big house with Mr. Ex, I pruned trees and roses, shaped shrubs, and deadheaded anything that bloomed so there were no spent flowers with drooping heads.
A couple of times year I unleashed my inner neatness nazi on Mr. Ex's study. I pawed through piles of papers, stacks of magazines, books and documents rising up from the carpet like stalagmites. I threw away the Burger King receipts and the old church bulletins, organized things that would be needed at tax time and filed away household paperwork. When I found un-cashed checks that were out of date, I made phone calls and got them replaced and later hurried the replacements to the bank.
I'm still working for Mr. Ex.
Here in the tiny village of Auvillar where I'm supposed to be writing a collection of short stories set in France, I'm emailing my attorney and pouring over the details of life insurance policies and investment accounts. Then the attorney and the financial guy email me back with questions and I have to think about how to wield the giant pruning shears that divides joint assets.
I want it to be tidy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Tragedy

I'm feeling the tragedy of it all. The fallen. The woman beyond grief.
If a marriage has to end, it shouldn't end like this.
I'm in Paris writing my thesis while short stories spin in and out of my head. But there are even more words flying through cyberspace between me and my attorney. Me and Mr. Ex. Me and the sweet financial guy who's helping me understand how to divide what can be divided.
A battle.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Patience

I am not a patient person. I try to be. But then I lose patience with trying. And with the people who try my patience.
Airports inspire me to forsake patience. All those planes roaring upward and people going off to everywhere.
Some travelers buy travel insurance. I send emails. Definitive ones. This is This. That is That.
So this morning at Baltimore Washington International Airport, I emailed Mr. Ex and told him I am rescinding my offer for settlement.
Out of patience.
Maybe a big divorce trial will be fun. Exciting. Exhilarating.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Some Things Don't Make Any Sense

"Hi Beautiful," is what the guy I'm dating says to me when he recognizes my caller I.D. & picks up his phone. Or sometimes, in a surprised voice as though he's been looking for me everywhere, "There
you are!"
Mr. Ex used to answer his phone, "Is this going to be long or short?"
So why did I wake up this morning thinking I was still married & I was in the bed Mr. Ex & I shared? Why did I hear wild parrots outside & the clatter of dog toenails on our wooden floor?
Some things don't make any sense at all.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Knocking on Heaven's Door


Mr. Ex is a new daddy.
By virtue of human biology, he begins anew on a path that for me is lost. Mother Nature made things that way and it's hard to think of it as wrong. But.

My father was 55 when I was born. My mother was 26 years younger than my father. He was a widower. My mother worked as a hostess at a restaurant called The Chateau and the bartender there introduced them. A couple of months later, they married. A year and ten months after that, there he was gray-haired and a tad thick around the middle, with a baby in his arms.
I have two younger brothers--one 4 years younger & and the other 7 years younger. Go ahead. Do the math. And then guess how the numbers played out. I was 19 when my father died. My brothers were 12 and 15. But, I'd never say he shouldn't have had us. My father sat in his chair at the head of the dinner table every night---and he was present. Really, truly there.

I believe in second chances. A second chance gave me my son--lost 21 years to adoption. And that same second chance allowed my daughters to know and love their older brother. Now through a different sort of second chance, they have a baby brother. When I think of it that way, it's hard to be bitter. But.

As I sit by my mother's hospital bed, I think what a comfort it would be to have my husband there with us. To know that he'd make good on the promise to care for her in her final years. To know he'd be there for me when my time came, or me for him. It does seem wrong to have the focus pulled to birth, when it's death that's knocking on my door.


Friday, August 14, 2009

waiting

I'm waiting. Waiting for my mom to be taken off the ventilator. Waiting to hear her voice once that damn tube is out of her throat. Waiting to see her moved from ICU to the regular post-surgical ward, waiting to take her home. And I'm waiting for Mr. Ex to get his asinine self together and do what it takes to divide our joint assets. The marriage has been over for more than two years. We worked for thirty-two years, building our future together, thinking about financial security, how we'd take care of our mothers when they were old and where we'd live when our daughters were grown. Of course for some undetermined amount of time he was bullshitting me, stringing me along until our younger daughter was eighteen so he could leave and he wouldn't have to pay child support.
I still have no idea how long he lied to me.
And I have no idea if I really will hear my mother's voice again.
And I have no idea if the joint assets will ever be divided--or if Mr. Ex has a slimy big-shot L.A. lawyer scheme he's working on to screw me and deliver another gut-wrenching nasty surprise.
I'm waiting.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Big Heart, Tiny Heart


Mr. Ex and I had ideal mothers-in-law when we were married. Our mothers are about as opposite as two women can get, but neither of them ever, as far as I can remember, tried to butt in or give us unwanted advice. Well....unless you count, "Kissin' don't last, cookin' do." Mr. Ex's mom loved this expression and it always made me laugh and for years I thought of embroidering her a dishtowel or a sampler or something with just the opposite to tease her.
If I had, she would have laughed, I'm sure.
When I was visiting my mom at her place in July before she got sick, we were sitting at her kitchen table talking and one thing led to another. "I don't hate Mr. Ex," she told me. "If he walked into the room right now, I'd tell him I still love him, even though he's made some bad decisions." I felt a little irritated for a second but then I realized what a lucky thing it is to have a mother with such a big heart.
Mr. Ex, I think, has a heart so tiny that it's almost imperceptible.
Mr Ex has known my mother for more than thirty years. She helped us with our children, did chores around our house, cooked for us and even mixed him a martini or two. In the past couple of weeks, I've sent him emails asking him to take care of our dogs while I go to "take care of my mom." Silence. Not a "Gosh--what's wrong?" or "Give her my best." Not even, "Sure, no problem. Don't worry about the dogs."
Silence. Just silence.
So silent that I think if I put my ear to his chest, there would only be only more silence.

Monday, August 10, 2009

When Their World Was Made of Water


When their world was made of water, my mother and my aunt floated together in my grandmother's body. Identical twin girls, that not even their father could tell apart. When they were youngsters and took turns meeting him with a snack on his long walk back from his factory job, he'd greet them by calling out, "Hello, Twin. Which one are you?" My mother concedes that maybe he was just teasing.
After they graduated from the 8th grade, the culmination of their education, they had a chance for a brighter economic future when a relative invited them to leave rural Iowa for Baltimore. When they pooled enough dough to get one ticket, my aunt headed east and once in the big city earned money faster than my mother could in Iowa and sent it back home to contribute to her sister's ticket.
They worked as "photo girls," with Polaroids slung around their necks, and hat check girls at night clubs with names like the Chanitclere and the Band Box. They saw Guy Lombardo, Jimmy Dorsey, and all the big names. Sometimes one twin would take a few days off and the other would cover her shifts. There was a cop on the beat who could tell them apart. If he pretended to swing his night stick at them, my aunt would flinch.
My mother and my aunt have lived together for almost thirty years.
I doubt they will leave this world together.
I wish I could change that.