Friday, April 30, 2010

The Writer's Retreat at Lake Arrowhead

After weeks of not writing, I've come away for the weekend. I didn't bring my divorce in a box, or piles of bank statements. I brought an empty journal, my laptop, my Kindle and a few writerly books and magazines.
There's a blue lake here and an even bluer sky. There are words in my journal.

photo credit: California Fishing Online


Blog=Web log.  In other words, a log to be read on the web. Restricting this blog's access to the reading public does not serve my purpose. Which is to say: Here I am. Writing. Read it.
A writer needs exposure.
I could have created  a new blog. Maybe something less problematic--like Cooking for Agoraphobics or Recipes for the Chronically Depressed
It might go like this.
I don't like to go out. Especially in winter after sunset. I might be starving, and my refrigerator will have only 6 lemons, a half-empty carton of milk, a swallow of orange juice, 2 eggs and some yogurt. My pantry will be just as sparse. The freeezer? Gin. Vodka. And a mostly empty carton of lemon sorbet. But I can cook you dinner, and you will love it.
Dinner #1 or Orange is a Happy Color
Bake a sweet potato. Bake it in the oven, not the microwave.
Melt some butter, and swish it around in the what's left of the orange juice. Set aside.
Toast some sunflower seeds in a black skillet. Watch them carefully or you will set the house on fire.
Pour the sauce over the sweet potato. Garnish with the sunflower seeds.
Serve with a side of yogurt.
Dinner #2 or Red is a Happy Color
Toast the dried out dinner roll you brought home from a restaurant a couple of days ago. 
You may brush it with olive oil & foraged herbs.
Or you may spread it with canned tomatoes or spaghetti sauce sprinkled with parmesan. 
Serve with a side of yogurt.
Lunch #1 or Orange and Yellow Are Both Happy Colors.
Gather whatever fruit is growing in your backyard or your neighbor's yard or your alley.
Peel and eat.
Breakfast # 1 or Coffee is a Happy Color
Make coffee. 
Get over your disappointment that the milk is empty.
Substitute ice cream or chocolate (preferably milk chocolate) or powdered hot chocolate mix. Or maybe Kahlua.
Don't use yogurt.
I could have started a new blog. But I like this blog. So here it is out in the open, and the people who get themselves in a tizzy over it shouldn't read it.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Apricots, Sadness & Joy

Yesterday I flew from L.A. to Baltimore. I remembered making the same trip in August of '08 when I came to deliver the sad tidings of the demise of my marriage to my mother in person."No, No,No!" She said, crying and stamping her feet. We were about to go out to dinner, and I decided to just blurt it out while we were gathering everyone together in my cousin David's kitchen before getting into our cars. My mother's twin, my Aunt Millie, was in her wheel chair by the door and hadn't quite heard what I'd said, but she burst into tears at the sight of my mother crying. "What's wrong? What's wrong?" she kept asking. "E. & Denise are getting a divorce," my cousin said. But with all of the commotion, she still didn't hear. "E. & Denise are getting a divorce," my cousin's girlfriend shouted. There we were, the five of us crammed in a  narrow kitchen in a squall of tears and shouts. But after a few minutes my mother rummaged a tissue out of her purse and blew her nose. "I hope his mother shoots him," she said.
My mother is somewhat less feisty these days. She almost died from surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from her lung last August and has had to give up the apartment she once shared with my aunt. She has a room at my brother's place now. My aunt lives in a nursing home with both of her legs amputated--lost to peripheral arterial disease. My cousin is old enough to have begun collecting social security.
And I am stunned at all the calamity and sadness that has visited my family since my marriage ended. Or maybe I'm stunned that I feel the pain of those hurts more than the happier things--an enagement, a wedding, the birth of a baby, the headlong falls into love, my own graduation.
I am laden with joys, but still wearing the veil of an unfinished sadness.
And what I picture as I write this is my apricot tree back home on my patio in L.A. Determined to reap its crop of lucious fruit for myself and spare it from an invading army of squirrels, I wrapped it in three layers of bird netting a couple of weeks ago. It looks sad to me--like a widow in a black veil. And I worry that it's not getting enough sunshine to ripen its fruit.

Addendum: After reading Allegra's comment, I have to post this picture I took in an apple orchard in southwest France last fall. The contrast in these 2 images--bride and widow--has made me re-imagine the imagery I must try to employ in my future as I re-invent my life.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Offer Rescinded

I was surprised at the outcry over my offer for compromise. Friends didn't like it. Blog readers I haven't met in person didn't like it. I let their comments roll off of me for a day or two. They don't understand the finer points of all this, I thought. I'm going to do it anyway.
Then today. The money I had hoped to take from the joint checking accounts isn't all there. The money I thought we could split 50-50 from an investment account isn't all there. A huge chunk disappeared 7 weeks before he left me. Another chunk was moved yesterday.
I've rescinded my offer.

photo credit: Sean Kelly

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Tilt My Kilt

The story of how I ended up at a bar called the Tilted Kilt is not the most interesting part of the evening. Suffice it to say that once I got there it was a jolly freak show completely outside my usual demographic. The waitresses wore tartan bras and matching skirts so tiny that if they rode any lower on their lithe bodies they would have been part of a gynecological procedure.  This outfit was completed with a sporran or kilt purse and a white cotton Catholic school girl shirt designed to reveal rather than to cover.  The noise level was deafening. Karaoke. The song book: everything from Abba to ZZ Top with Ethel Merman  and Ludacris in between. All belted out by drunk people having a fabulous time in a circus of overstimulation. Inaudible TVs were mounted high and encircled the room. Basketball, football, Boston Legal and informercials for exercise equipment, acne cures, a hand held device that corrects bad canine behavior and a kitchen gadget that cracked eggs thereby sparing you the embarrassment of serving a muffin containing bits of eggshell. I'm not a singer, but if I were I would have been tempted to take my turn with the microphone. As it was, the evening was a complete escape from my current woes. Thank you K & T. Thank you singing drinkers. If I weren't so tired, I'd raise a glass to you right now.

photo credit:

Friday, April 16, 2010


After days of stewing and two nights of little sleep, I came up with a new proposal. "Let's quit," I titled the email to my attorney. Then I listed the key points.
1. Mr. Ex can keep the farmland. I don't want any of it. I won't be party to putting his cousin out of a job and a home just so we can divide something we don't really need.
2. I don't want to be reimbursed for my grad school tuition. I put Mr. Ex through law school. I put myself through grad school. Yay. I've graduated. Yay again.
3. I don't want any of Mr. Ex's bonus from 2007. Legally, I'm entitled to 50% of 7/12s of it. Or 7/12s of 50 % of it. Or something like that. Fuck it. I've spent weeks searching through bank statements trying to figure out where he stashed it. Not worth it.
4. His capitol account at his law firm? Don't want it. He has no capitol with me.
5. What I do want is what remains in our two joint checking accounts. Cash. Ready & available. It's not quite all there, the money that should be there. I don't care. I'll take it.
Bets anyone? Will he go for it?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I'm distraught. I can't sleep and I don't want you to sleep either. I wanted to text Mr. Ex last night as I lay in bed with a stomach ache. I talked myself out of it just barely. I'm slipping backwards. Back down the slope. I'm thinking of my first December at my MFA residency,  the first spring without him in NYC when I emailed him every couple of minutes for probably an hour. I am walking the edge of something slippery and there is a chasm waiting.
There's no end in sight. Dividing our community property means he writes me a check. He doesn't want to do that. Every month I pay my attorney. To go to trial now would cost more money than I would get from a division of our assets.
Add that to the fact that I was lied to, cheated on and ambushed on a July afternoon.
When do I just say, "You win, Mr. Ex."
Come back to me, Cymbalta. I need you.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

How many middle-aged people does it take to remember.....

I've spent much of the time concerned with bank statements over the past three weeks. What was the balance at this point and that point and that point, Mr. Ex's attorney wanted to know. I dutifully went in person to the two banks where Mr. Ex and I had our joint accounts and requested copies. My attorney and I exchanged at least a dozen somewhat lengthy emails on the subject. Then there were more questions and additional months needed. I'm tired. I'm frustrated. I want to write, not run around asking 30-yr. old bank vice-presidents for stacks of paper. The statements still go to Mr. Ex's house. The house that I moved out of. So today I hit the wall and emailed Mr. Ex and told him I'd be over at 10:00 tonight to pick up what I needed. Turns out that Mr. Ex's attorney, my attorney, Mr. Ex and I had copies of the bank statements in question all along. This divorce has been dragging on for two years and nine months. Between Mr. Ex and me and our attorneys we're over 200 years old. No wonder we don't remember what we have. I'm too fucking pissed off to find this funny.
I'm so pissed that I emailed Mr. Ex after he emailed me and "reminded" me there was an infant in his house and that I shouldn't come over and cause a disruption.
I was just about to email you. It turns out that I do have the bank statements. Two copies of them!!--copies that I made more than two years ago before I moved out. And copies from discovery. I have no idea why your attorney is requesting them again. Probably because this has gone on so long none of us can remember what we have and don't have. I certainly had no memory of putting them into the very large and dusty box of paperwork that has been accruing this past two years and nine months.
Yes, I do know you have an infant in your house. I regard him as the much beloved brother of C. and M. and would not disrupt his night for all the curry in India.
I have no such regard for you. Write me the check. Sell the precious farm that I lovingly consented to buy because my husband wanted it--or buy me out. The protracted torture you have put me through is inexcusable. I want my life and my property separated from you and yours. I want what is mine under the law. 
I will forever regard you as a liar, a coward, and a cheat. Let's not add criminal to the list.
As a rule, I prefer to abstain from name-calling.
But I may grant myself dispensation on this one. Now what?

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Good-bye, Denver.

AWP has come to an end and I feel like a giant flightless bird who has ravaged the Denver Convention Center crying Awp! Awp! devouring everything in its path.
I've reconnected with friends from a dozen states.
I have books freshly signed by a couple of those friends.
I have business cards from editors & new friends.
I have resolutions.
I have a prayer. Dear God, If I am ever on a panel, please do not let me misuse my position as a presenter by sinking to shameless self-promotion.
Yes, there has been a disappointment or two.

 And while on the subject of disappointments, would the designer of the toilets in the Denver Convention Center, please explain why they consistently splash water all over the seat when flushed? Come forward, admit your error and be punished. I think there are hundreds of women who would be happy to join me in this effort.

Good-bye Denver.
Thanks for the free buses, blue skies, clean streets, and good coffee.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Writer Heaven & a little bit of hell

I have my 3 days at AWP planned. Mostly, I'm concentrating on the business end of things. But there'll be a few dashes of writerly craft and pure pleasure.
Session with my favorite title: All Around Bitch. Unsavory female protagonists are a hard sell. The protagonist in my novel killed her baby. I need this.
Poetry fix: Gary Snyder
Writer I'm most excited to meet in person: Cheryl Strayed
Session that may inspire a future trip: Honoring the Sandhill Crane Migration Annual Literary Tribute
And of course there are a couple of time slots where I'd like to be 3 places at once. That's the hell part.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


Denver and full of glee at the prospect of 3 days crammed with writers, readings, books and friends at AWP.  Lunch in the Cherry Hill neighborhood with a friend after she met me at the airport. Cherry Hill. Familiar. Oh, yes. Mr. Ex worked in Denver on a case for a few months right out of law school. He stayed with his cousin who lived in...Cherry Hill. I came to visit him. We went to the Denver Museum of Art. And because it was shortly after he'd found out that he passed the California Bar Exam, we went together to the Denver courthouse where he was sworn in--or whatever it is one does after passing the Bar. Me at his side for the momentous occasion. I chased the memory away.
My friend drove me to the Hyatt. "You should go into the Brown Palace and take a look around," she said as we rounded a corner and came face to face with a historic red stone building.
"I've stayed there," I said. I remembered the room Mr. Ex and I had shared. If the Red Queen had gone to design school and had a little more sweetness & whimsy in her personality instead of pure aggression she would have had a room in her palace just like it. The front desk clerk gave our daughters bowls of goldfish when we checked in. We had a wonderful dinner in the restaurant. There'll be no more dinners like that.
Good-bye glee. Please come back.
Which is not to say I want Mr. Ex back. I want to be rid of him, memories, joint assets and all.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


A day bursting with Spring things. Colored eggs (real--not plastic) on a green lawn. Tiny lizards no bigger than my pinkie.                                                                                                        

                                                                                                                    A riot of blooms. 

Add to this the joys of good company, beer golden in the sunshine


This is Rubens' The Women at the Sepulcher. Critics do not agree on the identities of the women present at the door of Christ's tomb. Which one is Mary Magdalene, which is Mary Jesus's mother. Who is the woman in red? I don't really care, but the painting captures me. The rendering of divine light, the range of emotions on the faces. I see disbelief, the lingering numbness of grief, joyful anticipation. These feelings come into play as we persevere through the long darkness of winter and find the earth finally awakening to spring. The wealth of what the California landscape has to offer amazes me every morning. I have a tree bursting with apricots (green now & the size of olives). I have blueberry bushes with so many blossoms I can't quite imagine how many bowls full they will fill.
But my new life hasn't come fully out of the tomb. The unfinished business I have with Mr. Ex holds me in darkness. More of his lies have recently been revealed, and I find the deceit chilling and eerie. The man I loved died a long, long time ago. I was living with a ghost and didn't know it.