Friday, July 31, 2009


After a day spent in lectures, workshops, and readings, I take pleasure in returning to my hotel room. The bed has been made and the pillows lie against the headboard like sheets of blank paper. I have wine here and a ripe tomato from a colleague's garden. I have books and an easy chair that faces the window, a desk, and a sink that shines as though it's been Windexed. None of these things have memories or history attached. When I leave, someone else will sleep in the bed. The sweet flesh of the tomato will be eaten, the wine drunk.


After a year of separation, my marriage was dissolved one year ago today by a judge who never saw Mr. Ex and me hand-in-hand, never heard friend after friend say we were the perfect couple, never saw Mr. Ex standing in our yard shaking the white petals from our pear tree on our daughter's birthday until the yard filled up with blossoms that looked like drifting snow. The judge never asked us if we'd been to counseling or if the plummeting wreck of our marriage might possibly be righted before it turned to ash.
A piece of paper in the mail. Final Decree of Divorce. My new name on the bottom.
Ask and you shall receive.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Write this Tree

This is a catalpa tree. It's real. I've been walking by it every morning as I trudge the mile or so from the Lied Center, which houses my MFA residency, into the center of the small town of Nebraska City. There's a coffee house there that makes a delicious latte and that's how I start my day before I sink into the world of fiction writing. The tree is an enthralling sight as the sun lights up its dangling green bean-like pods. Someday, I'll probably have a catalpa tree in a short story or a novel. I like the way the word, "catalpa" sounds and the way the pods make the tree look like it's all fancied-up, wearing earrings. Maybe there'll be a wild party under a catalpa tree or maybe a murder. Maybe I'll invent a girl named Catalpa. Fact into fiction.
My current novel has a husband in it--an L.A. attorney who makes tons of money in a high-profile firm that does entertainment law. The law firm isn't actually that good though. All the partners make most of their money because they're involved in the porn industry, and the husband (in the novel) gets more and more corrupted as time goes by and doesn't even come to the hospital to take the wife home after she has a miscarriage. He's judgmental, aloof, thinks he's always on the moral high ground. He's an impeccable dresser, and so fastidious he wipes the rim of his wine glass after every sip.
See how it works? Fact into fiction.

The Numbers: Part Two

Graduate School: 4th (and final) semester. Critical thesis pages completed: 41. Creative thesis pages completed: 82. Thesis pages left to write: minimum 43. Thesis pages left to revise and number of times to revise them: infinite. Number of cookies consumed today in a fit of stress: 4. Cups of coffee: 4. Glasses of wine: count not yet finalized. Number of semesters I supported Mr. Ex through law school: 6.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Numbers

It's just a couple of weeks short of two years since my husband of 30 years left me for a 34-year-old with a single-digit dress size and expensive taste in shoes.  14 months later they were married.  4 1/2 weeks after the wedding I finally began getting my temporary alimony.  5 months after that he changed his mind about his bonuses and said he'd consent to giving me 40 % and he'd reimburse me for my grad school tuition (I put him through law school.)  But he has yet to come up with the numbers we need to divide our community property and finalize my spousal support.  I asked for the information required 9 days ago and since then I've emailed him a couple more times.  But I've got zero in the answer department.  In 6 weeks his new baby will arrive. How much longer do I have to wait until I can say this is over?

Monday, July 13, 2009

What is it about Where I'm at?

There are people who skate through the geography of their lives as though they are made of teflon. I'm not one of them. Places enter me. The dust and air into my nose. Aridness or humidity against my skin. The exact color of the sky. Where have I seen that shade of green before? Every place I go, whether I like it or not, I imagine living there. That would be my house. There's my apartment building.  Places can smell like dirt or taxi cabs or potatoes or chestnuts or garbage or jasmine or orange blossoms or cow shit or frost or dill. And it gets tangled up once it's inside me. A certain spicy sweet rose with the sound of a friend's voice and her Brazilian accent. The squawk of wild parrots and texture of a lover's skin.  
Los Angeles has drilled itself into my bone marrow.
I'm glad that I have a grevelia tree outside my window here at my "new" townhouse. 
Not a jacaranda.
I'm exchanging what I hope will be the last few emails with my attorney over the division of community property. Then some stuff will be mine & other stuff will be his. 
Los Angeles will have to belong to both of us, I guess. Unless I tear it out of me, blossom by blossom.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

State of Grace

I've said before that blogging, for me, is a little like praying.  In fact the word,"cyberspace"  conjures an image much like my childhood image of heaven.  My friend D. called me this afternoon as I sat at my mother's kitchen table.  She'd read my blog and correctly perceived I was in a rough patch.  The bottle of Xanax was still calling my name and I was wondering if I'd seen my aunt for the last time and worrying about what my mom's surgeon might propose on Monday. 
D. and I talked for a while about a lot of stuff and presto--I felt better. 
My sister-in-law, M., called the night I got to my mom's and that was a good phone call, too. She almost always checks up on me when I travel to see if I've arrived safely.  
Other friends have left comments and sent me emails and these are all answered prayers as far as I'm concerned.
During my many years of Catholic school, I was taught that "a state of Grace" was the absence of sin and that was the state one hoped to find oneself in at the moment of death so as to go promptly to heaven.  But nowadays, I'm feeling that the state of Grace is the place that friends and family can bring me to when I am weary with worry and bitterness.

Friday, July 10, 2009

My Life Right Now

My mother has lung cancer. Her twin (my bonus mother) is in the hospital, impossibly frail. I feel nauseated from too many mussels in butter and garlic and too much cheap red wine. I want to pillage my mother's "drug box" and pocket a few xanax. I don't know if I should register for this semester of my MFA program or not. Mr. Ex owes me an email as we try to finish up the division of community property and the bitter taste of betrayal is not a distant enough memory and I wonder when if ever I will look fondly on the years we spent together. The man who loves me now says I will. But I think he is a far kinder and more forgiving person than I will ever be.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Baby Shower Invades Ex-Wife's Turf

"Of all the gin joints in all the towns in the world she walks into mine."

Ilsa Lund broke Rick's heart, but things were holding steady until she walked into Rick's place.
Do you think Mr. Ex's new squeeze might have chosen to have the baby shower in the charming hillside city I bequeathed to them along with the house where he and I raised our daughters? Do you think she might have chosen somewhere other than a trendy little bistro a half-mile from my townhouse in my new town?  Somewhere I don't frequent myself?

Yes, I thought so, too.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Writing Workshop in Greece

One of the reasons I think I am able to write so readily these days is that a lot of ideas shook loose during my trip to Greece.  I've always used walking (showering, too--but that's another post for another day) to work out writing problems and get ideas when I'm stuck.  My trip was a hiking +writing trip with Meredith Hall
in charge of the writing, and 
Thordis Simonsen
in charge of the hiking.

Imagine a sea so clean and blue you can see the bottom.  A trail that winds along the edge of a cliff to a chapel carved into the  rock.  An ancient abandoned temple poised  to slip into the sea.
Goat bells in the distance.  A conversation with an octopus fisherman. A petrified palm forest. The remains of a Byzantine fortress.  A restaurant in a mountain village where the waiter fills the water pitcher from a spring.  Then imagine pulling out your notebook and writing.

Sounds Like...#2

Submissive. Submission.
Lots of weird & not-so-good things are happening in my life right now.  I have no control over any of them.  I must submit. (Submit: 1a: to yield governance or authority)
Meanwhile I am writing & submitting (Submit: 2b: to make available, to offer) my work, hoping to get published again soon.  Writing is how I am breathing now.  Fingers clicking against keys equals oxygen drawn into lungs.
Submissive: submitting to others, yeilding
Submission: the act of submitting something (as for consideration, inspection or comment)

Sounds Like...

Ignore.  Adore.  
These words sound alike.  But they're completely different.
The first word sums up how Mr. Ex interacted with me.
The second, how things are going now.