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.


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.



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.




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.


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


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.