Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Living Present

"I marked a passage from Nisargadatta," the man who loves me said this morning on his way out the door.

Questioner: Are you ever glad or sad? Do you know joy and sorrow?
Maharaj: Call them as you please. To me they are states of mind only, and I am not the mind.
Q: Is love a state of mind?
M: Again, it depends what you mean by love. Desire is, of course, a state of mind. But the realization of unity is beyond the mind. To me, nothing exists by itself. All is the Self, all is myself. To see myself in everybody and everybody in myself most certainly is love.

I am not in the habit of reading spiritual teachings--eastern or western, but the man who loves me gave me my very own copy of "I Am That--talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj." It's a modern spiritual classic, the cover proclaims, and for days now--or maybe weeks, I've read the first eight pages over and over again.
After I read the passage above, I went back to where I'd left off and reread the section titled, "The Living Present."

Q: Between the body and the self lies a cloud of thoughts and feelings which neither serve the body or the self. These thoughts and feelings are flimsy, transient and meaningless, mere mental dust that blinds and chokes, yet they are there obscuring and destroying.
M: Surely the memory of an event cannot pass for the event itself. Nor can the anticipation. There is something exceptional, unique, about the present event which the previous or the coming do not have. There is a livingness about it, an actuality; it stands out as if illumined. There is the 'stamp of reality' on the actual that the past and the future do not have.

I didn't set out to drive through my past this afternoon. But for some reason I elected to get to the Craft and Folk Art Museum by driving down Wilshire Boulevard instead of taking The 10, and there I was going by all three of the offices buildings where  I used to work. Then afterwards I drove north on Western Avenue, the view of the hills so familiar it made me feel unstuck in time--as if I might look out my car  window and see myself pushing C. in her stroller waiting for the steady whoosh of the afternoon traffic to soothe her. Or I might have seen an even younger self in a discount furniture store buying a brand new couch and chair for the Low! Low! price of $89.99! because my mother-in-law was coming for a visit, and the bare living room seemed all wrong. And it might have been me wheeling a cart into the Vons, but it's not a Vons anymore--and come to think of it didn't the Korean market sign go up even before we moved? All that time travel gave me such an appetite I nearly stopped at the coffee shop where I had at least a couple hundred meals with the guy who could never understand the Mexican accents of the waitresses, and so I ordered for him. He'll take the baked potato--butter and sour cream, French dressing on the salad, please. But no, don't stop there, my younger self told my old self. Or maybe it was the other way around. So I went to the deli at the supermarket in the neighborhood I lived in after that. I wanted that carrot salad, but had to settle for broccoli salad, which was unfortunate because my present self forgot to mention to my past self that I'm a vegetarian now, and we had a little quarrel about picking out the bacon.

I had planned to go to a movie after the museum--to see the new version of Brighton Rock--based on the Graham Greene novel because it has the most villainous villain ever and I was in the mood for a villain, but when I got to the ticket window, I said, "Midnight in Paris, please." I try not to read about movies until I've seen them, and voila,  it was a surprise to me that the movie was about sorrow and joy and the past and the present and the infernal wanting, wanting, wanting that we humans do. "The past is never dead. It's not even past," the protagonist tells his soon-to-be-ex-fianceĆ©, quoting Faulkner.

It was twilight when I walked out of the movie theater, the sky a murky lavender, the streetlights already on, adding to the glow. I thought about Paris, and how I had lived there once, and my heart asked my brain, please, how I could manage to go back and live there again? But the city streets that I was driving on right then--the streets of my city had their own light in the coming dark, standing out as if illumined, and for once it seemed to me that the past was stone cold dead.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's Turdsday. Shit I've Learned about Divorce #3: The Retainer

Last Thursday I didn't dispense any divorce advice because my washing machine overflowed and leaked into my kitchen ceiling.

Think of divorce proceedings as a leak. Not water (oh, there will be tears, sure) but money. At the very beginning of the end of your world you will sign a retainer agreement or a retainer letter from your attorney. Mine is two and a half pages long--single spaced. I don't think I read it, and if I did, I don't remember reading it. This was my brain on grief. All circuits flooded.

My advice today is: READ YOUR RETAINER AGREEMENT. There are different types of retainer agreements, and you should know what type exactly yours is. I would suggest having a friend over for a cup of coffee or something not in the stimulant category--and having that good friend sit next to you on the couch, read the agreement, look you in the eye, and tell you what it says. Maybe even write in big block letters at the top of each page some key points. One very important thing your retainer letter will disclose is your attorney's hourly rates. The attorney's hourly rates might perhaps even  figure into the choice of your attorney.

Here's what I've learned about hourly rates this week:
Appliance repair: $119.00
Electrician: $70.00
Painter: $30.00 Paint crew head guy: $32.00
Cabinet refinishers: (the special rate): $18.00
My divorce attorneys: $500.00 for the senior partner; $415.00 for the other partner

Read it and weep. Denial is a river in Egypt as they say. Step out onto dry land and realize that every conversation, every email, every phone call with your attorney will cost you money. You probably have homeowner's insurance, but I'll bet you don't have divorce insurance.

Oh, and another thing about retainers. The retainer might not even come close to what the final tab will be. The final cost to you may be--oh, ten or twelve times more. So, my dear potential dwellers of Divorceville, I hope you retain this advice. That's my toaster in the photo above. On the floor of my living room. I made breakfast there this morning. No big deal--compared to a divorce.

Just tryin' to give ya some tools.

Cuz it can be a mess.

My divorce advice disclaimer: I am not an attorney, a paralegal, or a legal secretary. Nor do I possess any legal education or credentials of any kind other than having been married to an attorney for three decades and immediately thereafter involved in divorcing him for the next four years. My advice is based solely on my own experience and falls under the broader life heading of Damn It,  If Only I'd Known Then What I Know Now. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Holes. Islands. Families.

There's a hole in my kitchen ceiling. 
A hole in the ozone layer. 
One of my favorite short stories by Alice Munro is called "Deep-Holes". 

The kitchen ceiling hole was opened up on purpose by the emergency services and restoration guys who are dealing with the aftermath of my washing machine disaster. So it's a good hole. A hole that will let the inside of my ceiling dry out and prevent the growth of mold in secret dark places. The hole in the ozone layer is not so good. Skin cancer, cataracts, the depletion of plankton are consequences of the increase in UV radiation now that the buffer of the ozone layer is thinning. 

In Alice Munro's story a geologist takes his family on a picnic to celebrate a career accomplishment. Sally, the wife, has to chase after their young sons through the pocked terrain toting a baby and a diaper bag, "She was nearly crying with exhaustion and alarm and some familiar sort of seeping rage."  Of course one of the boys falls down a hole. He breaks both his legs, but survives only to disappear years later after six months at college. A metaphorical hole. When the young man finally writes to his parents, he doesn't apologize or ask about his brother or his sister. “It seems so ridiculous to me,” he said, “that a person should be expected to lock themselves into a suit of clothes. I mean, like the suit of clothes of an engineer or doctor or geologist, and then the skin grows over it, over the clothes, I mean, and that person can’t ever get them off." A decade or so later--after the father's death--the prodigal son resurfaces. He's called Jonah (a whale's belly is a sort of  hole) now, and lives in a condemned building with a community of others who survive by begging and scavenging. Jonah agrees to see his mother, but there is no tidy resolution, and it seems unlikely, by the story's end, that Sally will see her son again. "And it was possible, too, that age could become her ally, turning her into somebody she didn’t know yet. She has seen that look of old people, now and then—clear-sighted but content, on islands of their own making."

Holes. Islands. Families.  
My phone rang all morning. First the man who loves me, then my mother, then my daughter
M. A few freeway exits away, Midwest, East Coast. Like all we wanted was to close the gaps between us. The guys called about the restoration of my ceiling, too. They'll come to close up the hole later this week. M. and I called each other back and forth a half-dozen times. Gaps in  phone coverage, and then a flat tire for her (another hole,) and what should she do about that? But the main topic of conversation was how to get my mother to my daughter C's wedding. Four generations of us at one table before there's a permanent hole in that possibility. So I'll be working on getting my mother to consider letting M. pick her up and ease her towards Maine a few hours at a time. "It's hugely important to me right now," M. said. And she said that it just seems silly to not let the people you care about know that you do. And that she's just going to put her good-will out into the world. And now I'm picturing it. Generations of us like links in a chain, holding onto one another on a rocky coast, nobody falling. 
And of course there will be me and the person I am legally restrained against mentioning--on islands of our own making.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

How to Subscribe to a Blog Post or Get Fish Delivered to Your Door

I try not to trouble my brain with busy blogger monkey thoughts like how many followers my blog has, or how do I tell if I have email subscribers, and how lame is a hundred hits a day when folks like The Blogess have a blog-jillion of both. I just write. Which is how I think of this blog of mine. Writing. I write what is in my heart and mind and try to just pound it out and then tinker a bit so it pleases me and says what heart and brain is telling me to say. 

I've been trying to get a book published for uh-I-dunno---about  four years and the nice big agent is now about three years gone, and oh well. The book will happen. It looks like it's getting close to happening, but meanwhile I have to write so I write here. I think of this blog and its former incarnation whose name must remain a secret whisper in my dark blogger past as notes for my next book. Don't laugh. This is what a blog is. Remember? Web Log? That's how it started, I think. Not as a platform for ads and such--which are okay in certain blogs. But I can't "monetize" here or on either of my other two blogs because otherwise I'm advertising for divorce lawyers, or selling babies and underpants. Okay. Selling underpants could be fun, and I write about cheese a lot on My French Underpants so the cheese ads could be lovely, but when you monetize you have some spooky god of advertising deciding which ads are going to appear on your blog, and with my luck it would be edible underpants that taste like cheese. (Go ahead, run with that, but remember I thought of it first.) 

Which brings me to the point of this post:
I got this comment this morning, and I have no idea how to help Anonymous. 
I would really like to receive your blog in my inbox (does that make me lazy? so be it. I click through to you every day to see if you have a new post. You are my first-coffee-of-the-day right now; I hope I won't need you this badly forever, but for now I do.) But when I try to subscribe I'm told I already receive 'H** Big Fat I****** W******' - which I did - but - as your blog has changed its name, I no longer do. Can you please change that so that I can subscribe? Thanks so much. 

Do you think if Anonymous unsubscribed to my old blog and then tried to subscribe to my new blog that might work? Because I don't think it's lazy at all to want a blog post in your inbox. I'd get my morning espresso in my inbox if I could. Back when I was living my big fat life, I had a lot of things delivered to my door. Wine. Coffee. Fresh flowers. Water. Two Newspapers. Half a dozen magazines. Books. My groceries (remember Home Grocer?) Any article of clothing I didn't have to try on. We had a pond in our backyard at that big fat house, and the county regularly delivered mosquito-eating fish during the West Nile scare. But the guy with the fish wouldn't go into my backyard when I wasn't home because of Freckles our pitbull so I'd set out a bucket by my front door, and he'd ladle a bunch of fish into the bucket. One day, after the fish had been delivered, I got home just as the mail carrier was stuffing the mail into my box. She pointed to the fish. Then looked at able-bodied me with a sort of puzzled disdain on her face. "Now that is going too far," she said. "Fish!" Then she harrumphed away.

So, my dear Anonymous, try unsubscribing and re-subscribing and check back here for words of wisdom and technical know-how that may wondrously appear here courtesy of the blogosphere. I want you to have what you want.

And does anyone know how I could get French cheese delivered to my door? Another business idea here: Fromage du Jour

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Not Waving. Drowning.

"Go ahead; unplug the blender." When you hear yourself utter those words, you know things have run amuck in Margaritaville. But what do you say to the man wheeling the giant fan and even bigger dehumidifier into your kitchen when it's almost 10:00 p.m. and you're still finishing dinner? All I could think of was my morning espresso--and when he made a move for the coffee maker, I panicked. So the blender is unplugged, the kitchen nearly impassable, and my kitchen sink with the plastic hose poked down its drain looks like a patient that's been intubated. But it's nice they brought a red dehumidifier, don't you think?

Water and I have a rather tempestuous relationship. I'm not afraid of water the way I'm afraid of bears and sharks. No. I love the ocean (unless it's shark infested.) Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, is my home away from home. The Mississippi River conjures my childhood. The Aegean, my idea of paradise. But water--the way it pipes and drains and rains and pools in relationship to my house is a ANOTHER STORY.

Last night water launched its latest attack through my washing machine. Exiting my bathroom, I found myself standing in a pool of water as more water cascaded out of the washer. Several throw rugs and a pile of towels later, in a brief hiatus from swearing, I heard the burble and splash of the little waterfall that had found its way through the laundry room floor  to my kitchen ceiling.

Have you ever slept in a wind tunnel?

Really, I was so tired by the time I closed my eyes last night the noise from the upstairs dehumidifier (which really should be orange, don't you think?) and fan outside my bedroom didn't keep me awake. But I awoke with my heart pounding and raced downstairs certain that the dishwasher had flooded the downstairs while I slept. (The refrigerator attempted this trick the morning of my last trip to Baltimore and had to be repaired while I was away.) But all was well on the first floor-- or well enough for the man who loves me and me to make our breakfast and take it outside to the patio without being drowned by the sprinklers or strangled by the garden hose.

And I was going to write about tomatoes.

Or about how I think my grevalia tree might actually be god.

Or dispense divorce advice. Check back next Thursday for "It's Turdsday! Shit I've Learned About Divorce!"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Radiation Vacation Cancelled

I think I felt the good news coming.

Crickets belting their song like there was a Broadway show somewhere beyond the hibiscus hedge last night while the man who loves me and I feasted on steaming bowls of pasta topped with whole portobello mushrooms. Red wine and moonlight followed us into the living room where he hooked up his iPod, and we danced to  an old-timey tune. "Won't you be my teddy until my big bear comes around?" were the lyrics full of mischief and sensuality that  got me laughing. Laughing and dancing while the moon aims its beam through your window is some kind of holy delight.

And then the phone calls this morning. The daughter M. calling on her drive to work full of her usual love and light. The phone call from the doctor. The spot on my mom's lung is gone. The PET scan found nothing in the spot where there once was a spot. These things happen. A transient infection or inflammation. Not cancer. Of course there might be another spot sometime in the future. Of course. Anything could happen.

Next MOM PROJECT: hearing aid.
What? Did you say you were making Kool-Aid?
No, Mom, you're getting a hearing aid.

photo credit:

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bears and Babies--not baby bears

Therapy is not in my budget right now, and I have to do something with this dream. Any Jungians out there, feel free to comment.

The bears were invading Altadena. There were apple orchards, and the growers left barrels of apples sitting around. They gave apples to the Waldorf school up there in the shadow of the San Gabriel mountains so the kids could have nutritious organic snacks, and those apples were sitting around outside, too. The bears got word and came down the mountain. 

I was living up there in a big old house with my sister Van and my brother Mike. They were young--as if the dream took place decades ago, but I was the age I am now, I think. We had a baby we were raising, and a bear came into the house. I saw the bear and grabbed the baby, but the bear caught us as I was running up the steps. I thought it best not to pull the baby's foot from the bear's mouth. The bear wasn't biting the baby. Just licking. Licking like it was the most delicious baby it had ever tasted. "Quick!" I called. "Get the peanut butter!" And Van and Mike came with soup spoons and long-handled serving spoons and spatulas, scooping peanut butter as they ran toward me and the baby. They waved the spoons at the bear and the bear turned around, leaving me to run upstairs with the baby where I could hide and block the door with all the furniture in the nearest bedroom room. Through the railing, I could see Van and Mike dropping the spoons one by one; the bear pawing and licking them as if they were lollipops as Van and Mike backed away. 

In real life the only animal that scares me more than bears is sharks. Critter jitters. I can get them really bad. Babies I'm okay with.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The New Yorker has had a rather prominent role in my dating history. A while back while reading devotedly through the stack that inevitably accumulates, I ran across the issue in the photo above, complete with post-it note.  As I recall, my date agreed that he, too, would be carrying the current issue of the New Yorker--and, while I could be distinguished by my cowboy boots, he would be wearing a black leather jacket.

I was most entertained by the recent piece in the New Yorker about on-line dating. The subtitle, Sex, love and loneliness on the Internet encompasses the concerns I had about dating after my husband left me for another woman. Would I ever fall in love again? If I didn't, what about sex? Even in a troubled marriage sex is often a lot easier to find than when the marriage is history and you're 55. "All I want is dinner and sex--not necessarily in that order," I told my friends when I confessed that I'd been stalking men in cyberspace. As for the  loneliness?--you probably have no have no idea unless you've been there. If dogs were able to acquire language with thorough repetition and practice, mine would have become fluent long before I got back into the dating game.

The Internet and dating seemed to me to be an unseemly combo when I first considered it, but before I knew it I was scrolling through the possibilities on Match, Chemistry, and e-Harmony. You can read about how that went HERE if you didn't read it when it came out back in February. And take a look at the New Yorker article, too. One in six new marriages result from on-line match ups.  It must be the algorithms. Um.

....Don't know much about geography
Don't know much trigonometry
Don't know much about algebra
Don't know what a slide rule is for....

But, to paraphrase Sam Cook it could be a wonderful world for a lot of people if those theories add up.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Divorce Advice:#2

This is the 2nd in a series of divorce advice posts that I plan to do every Thursday until I run out of useful things to say on the subject....could go on for a month or two....or not.

Bifurcation sounds a little like amputation. Consider it just as carefully. Maybe there are other options.

California defines bifurcation like this:
It can take many months, even several years, for a dissolution to wind its way through the courts. Faced with this fact, many spouses want to terminate the marriage quickly, even if the other issues in the case have not been settled. There might also be situations in which it makes sense to have a separate trial of a particular issue. In both of those situations, the court will order that the trial is to be “bifurcated.” This means either that the marital status is terminated and the parties are restored to their single status or a separate trial is to be held concerning a specific issue.

Let me clarify. It means that the marriage is dissolved and the final decree of divorce is issued, but the financial settlement can go on and on and on. In other words, the dissolution of the marriage and the financial settlement are cleaved into two separate processes. This could be the greatest thing since the Ginsu knife if you're the one who wants to rush off and get married to your new true love. If that's not you, then by agreeing to bifurcation, you may be giving the go-ahead for your ex to remarry while  you stand at the altar of financial uncertainty. While you are waiting for the joint assets to be divided, a couple of things are likely to happen:
1) You will be paying attorney bills every month
2) Your  ex will be in a honeymoon state of mind, perhaps starting a new family, moving, trying to pay off the charge card for the wedding expenses, and he will have zero motivation to settle his finances with you.

So if  you have not been able to initiate the IDEAL DIVORCE, and your attorney is now doing what you've hired him or her to do, have a discussion about bifurcation. Imagine that the ex and and the new true love have set a date, put a deposit on the venue and the caterer, hired the photographer, and are discussing the pros and cons of a cupcake bar.  If there's no bifurcation, that's some pretty serious motivation to complete all aspects of the divorce unless polygamy is legal where you live.

Bifurcation is commonly favored and approved by the courts in California. Some states do not allow bifurcation. There's a lot of free information on the Internet appropriate to each state. Educate yourself. Bifurcation might be a "state" you don't want to find yourself in because you could be there for years waiting to cross the border. A discussion of bifurcation and its implications might be an appropriate topic as you choose an attorney to represent you.

My divorce advice disclaimer: I am not an attorney, a paralegal, or a legal secretary. Nor do I possess any legal education or credentials of any kind other than having been married to an attorney for three decades and immediately thereafter involved in divorcing him for the next four years. My advice is based solely on my own experience and falls under the broader life heading of Damn It,  If Only I'd Known Then What I Know Now.

Title for this Thursday venture, anyone?  "It's Turdsday: Shit I've Learned About Divorce?" Surely there's someone more refined than I out there with a catchy phrase waiting to be put to good use.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wanna come over for a beer?

I fret about my lack of social life--or L.A.'s version of a social life anyway which usually requires one to get in a car and race down the freeway, planning around rush hour traffic whenever possible.  I'm spoiled by writer's residencies, I guess, and maybe my long-ago life in a small town where familiar faces are close by and eating dinner alone would be just plain weird. I do have friends in L.A. It's just that I seldom do what's required to see them. I'm not sure why.

But yesterday I actually had two social encounters: Lunch with two writer friends at a Silver Lake restaurant called Forage--which in my head I kept wanting to call Rampage, which is what I wanted to do when I saw the food. In a good way. All fresh and delicious and healthy with plenty of inventive veggie options. Goat cheese and date jam, with a crumble of hazelnuts and diced mint on toast. It's all in the garnish.
I should garnish more.

A little later it was Mythos beer and pistachios on my patio with a poet I met in Greece. Somehow it seems to me that all these fabulous women writers I know should be getting together more often and making our own mini-residencies where we write all day and get together for dinner. We should trade houses or apartments from time to time, too. Shake out our brains in different surroundings and see what ends up on the page.

It's a revealing encounter--getting together with friends you haven't seen in months. You have to get caught up, explain where you've been and what you've been up to, what you've written or what you're working on. I realized that  since the BIG DIVORCE NEWS  in July (that was practically a month ago,) I  haven't done much writing. I've been reading short things--poems, and New Yorker stories, and blog posts. My attention span is telling me that it spent four years spinning through nastiness and absurdity. It doesn't want sustained anything now.

And I want to be outside on my little citified patio. Who's going to win--me or the white fly? Will the blueberries get off their twiggy little butts and bear some fruit? Is it the same damn squirrel who keeps stalking my apricot tree. Or is it a hybrid squirrel-rat (squat--you pronounce that with an A like in apple,) and can a squirrel really breed with a rat and is the neighborhood overrun with these skinny-tailed beasts? Do I have room for another flowering plant--or should I see if I can get some tomatoes going this late. What about an olallieberry? This is what I've been thinking about.

But I did realize while talking to my friends, that though my brain is in neutral, my life seems garnished with spoonfuls of sweetness these days.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Margarita Monday

It's still early in California. Still Monday.
But I wish I was in St. Paul with my friend Julie, sitting in her backyard having a watermelon margarita--even though it's already Tuesday there.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


I've done a lot of thinking the last few days. Some of it angst-y. Some of it more serene.

I've followed a couple of weird impulses. Like going to an open house for an old craftsman not too far from where I live now. The house is on the Register of Historic Places which would mean no property taxes, and in my head, I've already spent the money I would save....which is not saving it at all, is it?

Then I researched where I could live without paying state taxes. Hmmm. I imagined myself in various places all over the map.  But the states where I could stretch my dollar like a piece of soft sweet taffy aren't exactly whetting my appetite.

My divorce is pretty much behind me. It will be several weeks before the agreement to divide our joint assets is formally recorded or entered or whatever by the courts, but I'm done. There's nothing left to read or fight over, or think about, or be hurt by. I'm looking at the last four years in my rearview mirror.

Vroom. And eating my own dust. It's just now, I think, that I really feel the empty nest.

and the absence of the dogs.

If someone asked me out of the blue if I wanted to sell my house, would I do it?

In less than two weeks, I go back to the east coast for the Big Radiation Vacation. Maybe I'll fall in love with the city of Baltimore, or decide to buy a tiny old house trailer and live near my brother for a while and see how this whole radiation business for  my mom works out.

I could take her to see her sister every week. Because who knows when that last grain of sand in the hourglass will sift to the bottom.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Some days the writer eats the bear; some days the bear eats the writer

The writer's group was small, and we didn't seem to have a leader. I agreed to attend because I thought I knew one of the participants. She and I had been in a class together at UCLA, and since then she's had quite a bit of success. A nice contact, I thought. And I liked her writing. The meeting place was a house in a clearing near the woods. A bit ramshackle. White peeling paint outside and dull white inside, everything yellowing around the edges. The kitchen held a large 1950s-style table, metal-edged and sunk like a battleship into the sagging middle of the room. This is where we would workshop, bond, comb through one another's words with care and cunning.

The caretaker of the property came by to say a few words. Easy on the plumbing, ladies. He was holding something. A rake, a rifle, or a shovel--upright, Pa Kettle style. Oh, and mind the bears. Don't leave the door open. One of us was a country girl--not tamed and citified like me, and we looked at her when the caretaker mentioned the bears. She shrugged, but seemed a little nervous. The place was a cracker-box. Tilting and warped. None of the doors closed properly. The furniture like dollhouse furniture that had been played with by generations of little girls. Legs worn down, finials of headboards snapped off. Wobbly chairs, blinded mirrors. Rusty rings in the bathtubs made me think of the ancient trees in the woods and how their innards would look if someone sawed them down. Here we were, writers in the midst of all this ruin trying to make something out of the ruination in our heads.

But--dinner! Out to the steakhouse down the road. Everyone getting ready. Showers and blow dryers, and all I can think of is icy water, blown fuses and a house full of dark. But the hot water holds out. Almost ready. A young woman named Lisa is being a pain in the ass. Too much mascara and running from mirror to mirror with the cord to her hair dryer trailing her like a tail. She is in everyone's way. Passing her in the doorway of the room where I'll sleep, I see the bed is lumpy and wonder what the hell she did to mess up my bed. But the lump is a bear. Two bears--mother and baby under the quilt. Bear, I announce to the group. Bear in my room. In my bed. It's like a reverse Goldilocks story, and somehow I must be the one to take charge because the bears are in my bed. I close the door and retreat to the kitchen as everyone gathers.

And here comes Lisa. Deaf to the bear talk, but with her hair just-so, she's come through my bedroom from an adjoining room and now has flung the hallway door open just as the baby bear stirs. A baby bear she says, stepping back into the bedroom to pick him up. All eyes but hers are now fixed on the mother bear; a narrow hallway and a door barely tethered to its hinges are all that is between the mother and the group of us cowered in the kitchen. Shut the goddamned door, Lisa. As if it will hold against the bear. But Lisa is cuddling the baby. Nestled against her, it looks half changeling, half human. Shut the door. But no one is listening. Everyone is looking at me as if I am in charge, but not one person will do what I say.

Thanks to my friend Julie for providing the opportunity to snap this picture. I don't know whom to thank for dreaming about bears.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Divorce Advice: #1

This is from an interview in last Saturday's Los Angeles Times with Laura Wasser, Maria Shriver's attorney:

Is there any such thing as an ideal divorce?

Ideal? There are plenty of divorces where people come in and say, "We love each other and care about each other but we're not happy together anymore. There's no mystery to this; it's not rocket science. "We've got X amount of money and these properties and here are our kids and here's what we've worked out. Can you write this up for us?" Absolutely. That's the way to do it.  You spend far less money, your children understand that you each love them and it's totally doable.

That would have smelled like roses, or a field of lavender, or  bread baking, or a snifter of something smooth and old and tasty.

Ms. Wasser's advice is shatteringly good. I hope she walks her talk. If you are at the beginning of a divorce (even if the love part mentioned above is not exactly true for you,) aim for working it out while the situation is fresh. Tell your soon-to-be-ex that the money you both save can buy you new cars, or a little vacation place somewhere.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Money, Theater, Cancer and the Radiation Vacation or What To Do if You're a Millionaire

I've been freaking out about money this week. 

I have an immense attorney bill. Apparently, they forgot my  DIRECTIVE of a few months ago.

I have other big bills to pay this month, too. And I'm taking my mom on a "radiation vacation." We're going to stay at a hotel in Baltimore while she gets treatment for the new spot on her lung. I'm going to see if some of THE PLACES she used to work are still in business. I want to hear every story of hers that she feels like telling. We're going to go to the Inner Harbor and look at the boats. Have a drink while we stare out at the water. Stroll in her old neighborhood. Whatever she wants.

I'm doing it, damn it. I'll get caught up. There's a person I CAN'T WRITE ABOUT, and this quote was frequently uttered by that person because way back when I was doing set-dressing for a play by Thorton Wilder called The Matchmaker. This is a line of dialogue from the play:

The difference between a little money and no money at all is enormous...and the difference between a little money and an enormous amount of money is very slight.

Which is exactly what I thought when I took myself out to a play on Sunday afternoon. I had to go, I really did, and I was feeling crappy about the splurge. But when I got there, there was a sign on the door---something about, "economic stimulus," and all the tickets where reduced to $5.00. That's right.  THIS THEATER COMPANY does this $5.00 thing once per run--so you can't see this show for five bucks, but you could see a future one. But even if you paid full price for Heavier would be worth it.  And so next month when I have extra money again, I'll have to make it up to them because I really didn't expect to get a theater ticket for five bucks. I mean.... see quote above. 

So, dear millionaires, now that you can be pretty certain your taxes won't be raised, how about donating some money to the arts? Or cancer research? Or something.

Cucumber and Key Lime Margarita

Another pretty concoction from my friend Julie.

If you live in the Twin Cities, jump over to my sidebar and click on Mueller Massage and Pilates. I'm not saying you'll end up with a glass in your hand, but if you book a massage you'll feel fabulous anyway. And you can ask her for the recipe.