Monday, September 27, 2010

It's Not a Trojan Horse

Beware of Ex wives bearing gifts?  No need. 
Call me a fool, but I'm having another go at it.

Dear  Mr. Ex:

I send you these mementos of happier times, and I ask you to consider the significance of each one. Think. Remember. We had a pretty good run.  In fact, at the risk of beckoning a visit from depression, I’d even say that some of the years I spent with you were among the happiest in my life.

All that’s finished now. You have a young wife, a beautiful son, and the beginnings of a whole new life complete with a prestigious career that you worked hard for. The beginnings of that career grew from the seeds planted by the two of us and nurtured by me.

You might recall that I made a conscious decision to “put all of my eggs in one basket.”  I gave up working to raise C. and M. I gave up working to support your career and your efforts. Every place we ever lived together, I made into a beautiful home. I did my best to do all of the errand running, the chores, the household management, the home improvements, and the child rearing so that you could put your energies into your work. My appointment books and day planners from the years of our marriage are records of intense devotion and a full schedule of domestic engineering.

All I want at this point, Mr. Ex, is that we finish dividing our joint assets.  I ask myself daily why you have not given me what is mine under California law. Is it the influence of your partners? Your wife?  Do you think I don’t deserve it? Do you harbor secret fears of severing the final ties with me? Do you think I will give up? It’s only the last question I can answer. I won’t give up.  So please, let’s not waste our time and energy on this any longer.  I’ve spent pretty close to $50,000 on attorney fees.  It’s sickening to think what that money might have bought.  I do not know what you have spent—I suspect it’s dramatically less, but the two of us could have done a lot of better things with that money.

Please. Raise your son. Love your wife. Do your work. And finish your business with me.



Hotter than Hades/Hot Dog

Los Angeles had the hottest day on record today. It was 113 degrees, and this evening when the temperature was still edging 100, my dog Layla did not want to go for a walk. Good dog. Smart dog. Except that she didn't eat much today either.  Her food dish is inside, and it's a comfy 78 degrees here in my living room. She spent the day sleeping on the rug in front of the couch.  Layla is essentially an indoor dog and she spends almost all of her time in my living room.  And she lives to eat.  So  I've spent today  wondering...
My cat Snowflake died on September 11th. My dog Lola on September 22nd. Um--hello grim reaper of the pet world....can you hear me? I would like to keep Layla, if at all possible, for a while longer. Pretty please? Three pets in three weeks would be excessive, don't you think?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Thank You, Everyone.......

for your condolences.
We're getting by.

Piper the cat, always reclusive, has come out of her shell since Snowflake left us. She has a whole new personality now that she's the only cat in the household.
And Layla is better than I imagined she would be. She's a high strung dog, and I thought she'd pace around endlessly looking for Lola. But she's sleeping more. And following my every move when she's awake.

I think she harbors some suspicion that I've allowed Lola to come upstairs (both she and Lola were/are confined to my downstairs due to their inability to cope with the steps.) She spends quite a bit of time time poking her nose through the cat door in the gate and  sniffing.

Piper and Layla have always been tolerant of one another's presence.  Maybe now they'll get cuddly.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Loss, Coincidence & Consoling

My condo complex is resurfacing its interior streets so, for the second day in a row, I had the choice of being held prisoner for several hours while the "slurry coat" dried or vacating the premises before 7:00 a.m.  and staying gone. Yesterday I let myself be held hostage. Today I chose freedom.
I had an elaborate plan--a sort of "me morning." Breakfast out with my laptop, jazzercise, a pedicure, and then downtown to spring my dogs from boarding, which I elected not to do yesterday due to fearsome visions of eight paws and a set of sneakers tracking fresh asphalt into my condo and simultaneously incurring the wrath of the H.O.A board.

Things were going well as  I took the last bites of my Starbucks veggie panini while emailing my attorney. Then the phone rang.

It was Stephen, the guy from the dog boarding place, telling me my dog Lola was completely uninterested in getting up this morning. Lola is old. She has a heart condition. She nearly died when I was out of town visiting my mom in August. But she rallied and had a great month at home with me before it was time to visit my mom again last week. I told Stephen I would meet him and Lola at the vet.

It so happens that the Starbucks I chose was the one in my old neighborhood--the suburb where I lived for twelve years with Mr. Ex.  It was difficult backing out of my parking place at 8:15 in the morning on the busy street that leads to the Freeway. But after several cars zoomed by someone gave me a break, and I proceeded to the onramp, calculating which route would get me to the vet the fastest. It was a second or two after I merged into traffic that I realized the big fat Acura TL in front of me was none other than Mr. Ex.

There we were, Mr. Ex and I, crawling west in tandem while Lola was in yet another car heading for the vet. I thought about calling Mr. Ex. "Hey, I'm behind you right now," I might have said. "I'm really sad. Please talk to me because Lola is dying, and I'm on my way to her." I was thinking about making that call. I really was. Mr. Ex was always the dog guy at our house. The walks, the feedings, the runs to Petsmart. Mr. Ex and our daughters and I went to the dog rescue place together and adopted Lola and Layla one February morning five or six years back.  Then the four of us drove back downtown to pick the dogs up after the rescue folks had groomed them for us. All six of us rode home together, the scent of fresh dog shampoo nearly inebriating us while we discussed names.  Helena and Hermia? Bianca and Kate? This was what I was thinking as I crept through rush hour behind Mr. Ex.  But my phone rang. Stephen again. Lola was dead.

I remembered then what had happened last month. I'd gotten the call that Lola was sick--very sick-- while I was at my mom's place. I sent Mr. Ex an email asking if he wanted to be there if she had to be put down before I flew home. No, he wrote back. I don't need to be there.  

So I didn't call Mr. Ex.  I called the man who loves me. He had said yes to my request last month. Of course he would be there if Lola had to be put down. But he didn't wait for that to happen. He went to visit her at the vet hospital. Hung out with her. I hung out with him this morning. Crawled into his big fluffy bed and cried.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Forgetting

"Penny for your thoughts," says the man who loves me.  He's just blown the candles out, and we're lying in bed in the dark.
"What if we get old and forget any of this ever happened? What if Alzheimer's erases you and me and all I can remember is my marriage to Mr. Ex?"

This morning Don't let me forget this is the prayer  still mantra-ing in my brain when I wake.

I returned just yesterday from the east coast and the celebration of my mom and my aunt's 86th birthday.  My aunt has Alzheimer's. By now, she's forgotten that I was there.  On Sunday, the day after the party, she'd already forgotten the celebration, the presents, and the cake. "Yesterday was my birthday?" she asked as my mom, my other aunts, and my uncle, and I sat with her at the nursing home. "Well, happy birthday, Millie!" she said. She knows she can't remember things, but I don't know if she knows how much is missing.

I thought short term memory loss meant that you couldn't remember if you took your pills, fed the goldfish, or remembered to eat breakfast. Or maybe it meant that you couldn't recall the appointment you made with the cardiologist last week. But I guess short term memory is a relative concept. If you make it to 86, twenty years isn't so long. That's about how much my aunt seems to be missing.

I find it intensely interesting to visit her. So far she's always recognized me immediately. And she knows that I've come from California to see her.  I find it curious that she asks about my daughters, yet not Mr. Ex.  I always hold my breath a little bit after she asks, "How are the girls?" She cried when I told her about the divorce originally, and I would feel awful making her sad all over again. But Mr. Ex, it seems, has fallen into the chasm of Forgetting.

My aunt's husband died more than twenty-five years ago, and she used to love to tell the story of how he was "back-dated," as she called it.  He thought she was his sister. Unless she was on the phone with my mother (whom he never liked.) Then he'd call her by her right name and shout at her to hang up.  

Maybe memory loss is somewhat selective.  In those chunks of time that fall away, maybe the passionate dislikes and the great loves remain.  

If I make it to 86 and the Forgetting scythes out a section of years, I don't want to be left with Mr. Ex.

Please don't let me forget this.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Population of Pleasure Palace and Pet Hospice Declines

Snowflake the cat departed this world an hour before sunrise on September 10th after sixteen years of prowling the earth in the company of those who loved her.
Snowflake  and her sister Piper joined their family the summer of 1994 as a means of consoling two little girls who were distressed over the disappearance of former family cat, the much-loved Big Mac. To the surprise of all, Big Mac performed his famous re-appearing act and did a bang-up job as welcoming committee for the two small kittens who had just left their mother.
It's uncertain what Snowflake thought of her new life in the hills of Los Feliz with a family who already had three pets. Those who knew her often wondered if she mourned the loss of her former Hollywood life in the household of actress Drew Barrymore. Nevertheless, the hunting was good in the spacious grounds of her new hillside home, and in the years before she became an indoor cat, Snowflake terrorized the neighborhood lizards and doves with her talents as a huntress. 
Snowflake had more peaceable abilities as well. In addition to her piercing meow, she had a range of vocal capabilities that rendered her excellent at mimicry and conversation. When she channelled her opinions through the mother of the household, she was known to speak English with a French accent and sometimes French itself.
No doubt tutored by her predecessor Big Mac, Snowflake honed a stupendous disappearing act of her own much to the consternation of pet-sitters who often felt they'd failed miserably by letting the cat run away. In her most recent residence, her favorite hiding places included a bathroom cabinet, a cheese cake pan in the far corner of a kitchen cupboard, and behind the washing machine.
Snowflake pursued amazing athletic feats until the last months of her life. At the age of sixteen she was still able to leap from the railing of the loft over the living room, glide across a narrow support beam, and jump onto a 2-inch wide window ledge where she could watch the squirrels cavorting in the grevalia tree.
Snowflake is preceded in death by family dogs, LuLu and Freckles (who once tried to eat her),and the cats Big Mac and Little Guy. She is survived by her sister-cat Piper,dogs Lola and Layla, the two little girls who are now grown women, and their mother who no longer has anyone to speak French with.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Art Installation #1

Everything is Connected is the title I've chosen for the artwork I've padlocked to Mr. Ex's front door.  Because everything pretty much is.
This is the first in a series.
You will see this house again.

Note: No property damage will occur. No threatening imagery or words will be used. I do, however, intend to get my message across. In this particular piece, while it is true that a large chain with artifacts connected to it is padlocked to the door of his house, if Mr Ex. takes the time to actually look at what is tied, pinned, sewn and stapled to the chain, he will see that I have indeed attached the key.

Divorce Advice: My Half-Dozen Rules

No one's asked, but I think I've learned a few things as my divorce has dragged on through these past three years.

Even if you think you were married to the most upstanding, moral, wise, and essentially kind human being, he has probably changed. At the very least, he's in a crisis and not thinking with the "big head." The head he is thinking with is no longer the least bit concerned with you or your well-being.

1) As you prepare to move out--or as he moves out, be absolutely certain you have made copies of everything--or just take the originals. You can make copies later and see that he has whatever paperwork he needs at some later point if you are feeling generous. You need everything. Bank statements (or access to on line banking--and if you do have online access change those user names and passwords before he does), credit card statements, insurance documents, absolutely everything financial. You need to continue to keep tabs on all financial transactions from the date of  separation until everything is settled. I wish I had taken the entire filing cabinet. Don't forget to take his cell phone records.

2) If separating your finances is going to take some time, consider canceling  all credit cards. If you need the credit until your spousal support kicks in, think about adjusting the credit limit. I now could be liable for  tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt racked up by  my ex because I didn't take any action. You have to think clearly about what you need and what could happen as an outcome of any choice you might make. I wish I had simply taken half of every liquid asset immediately. It would have been appropriate to my circumstances--30 years of marriage, 20-some years of raising children while not working outside the home, community property state.

3) Don't be overly patient. A reasonable amount of time for Mr. Ex and me to settle our financial affairs might have been 6 months or so. I've now spent so much on attorney fees that I could have gone to trial at the 6 month mark and ended all of this. Go to trial if there's a possibility of things dragging on  and on.

4) If your ex is planning to remarry, use the time pressure inherent in this situation. DO NOT BIFURCATE.  Bifurcation means that the dissolution of the marriage is on a separate timetable from the settlement of financial affairs. Don't let your marriage be dissolved until he has paid up by dividing all joint assets and agreeing to alimony. My attorney suggested bifurcation. It's common. It's what people do. Don't do it.

5) Don't be so damn nice.

6) Don't be nice at all.

Monday, September 6, 2010

More Labors

I hate to invoke the name of Hercules since he had to perform his seemingly impossible labors as atonement for killing his wife and children. As if that isn't bad enough, when all was said and done he became immortal and got a new wife in the bargain. I mean, Holy Zeus!

But I've been working hard--and not because I killed someone.
True,  I haven't removed a ton of horse shit or battled with a hound of hell, but I have affixed my eyes to a lot of paper. All of the paper that my divorce has generated thus far. Every paper.

A grieving brain is a slippery thing. I've looked at these papers before. I've made notes. Such as: May 7th 200,000 into chking. account from invest. acct. Yup, the note's in my handwriting. It explains something that's been nibbling away at the edges of my consciousness for months. Something that I had to find out. A mystery to be solved. Except I already knew it.  Maybe I've even blogged about it. I guess I didn't want to believe it.

Here's the deal, when someone dumps you and you go back over the weeks and months that precede that bad news, you don't want to admit to yourself that when your sweetheart was locking eyes (or other things) with you that it was done out of deception. To throw you off the trail. He takes you out for dinner and smiles and raises his glass so you won't guess that he's done that just a day or two before with someone else--and he's planning to marry her.

So here's what I know. Gosh a blog is a handy place to make lists you don't want to lose.
1) Phone calls:  To her. First thing in the morning, last thing at night for months before he left me.
2) Dinners out near the office: Price tag just right for a party of two. Plenty.
3) Money: Missing. A big fat chunk from a nicely growing investment account. Almost a year and a half untouched. Then poof! Gone six weeks before he is.
4) Therapy: How exactly does one find a therapist so expensive?

Okay. I know what I know. My brain is no longer made of teflon. My heart is no longer broken.
Maybe if I put this list on my sidebar where I can see it regularly I won't forget it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What I Will Tack to Mr. Ex's Front Door This Weekend.

Dear Mr. Ex,

On this weekend of Labor Day it is fitting, I think, to remind you that I labored to bring our daughters into the world. And once they joined us on this earth, I continued to labor. Hearth. Heart. Home. Strawberry fields--or at least a small rectangle of sweet red fruit in our front yard. Every day for weeks a mixing bowl full I served to us, and to family, friends, and the attorneys you occasionally brought home and propped at our dining room table. Then came grapefruits and oranges. Plums and pomegranates. Loquats and guavas. But you'd tired of our eden by then. Still--I marinated chickens, squeezed lemonade, and with the same hope, I pressed the juice from our our lives. Let it be sweet, I prayed. Not saccharine. For us--only the real.
I planted roses. I planted trees. I planted hope, and I watered it. Kept it alive--in drought years, with carefully rationed tears.  Kept us alive as long as I could.
But you've let so many things die.
My pension was in those plums. My retirement in roses.  My 401-K wrapped round and round a sun that, at present, shines only on the bright planet of you.
What I ask of you is this: Divide what bounty remains.  As the sun tires of its labors this holiday weekend, promise me half of the fools' gold that glitters in the night sky of our lives.