Monday, January 30, 2012

While I remain silent for a bit...

...take a look at some of my favorite blogs in my side bar. I especially enjoyed The Perils of Divorced Pauline as she muses on the pitfalls of turning 50.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Another Fascinating News Item about Depression

I read this after seeing the link on a blog I love.  Mrs. Moon's blog itself is a pretty good antidote to depression, but for those of you who are adventurous, there might be something new coming down the pike.

Chances for LSD and mushrooms presented themselves to me back in the day. Unfortunately, I'd already had some experience hallucinating on morphine in the hospital. Think bloodbath. The blood rising from the floor like someone had turned on a tap in a bathtub. Blood dripping from the ceiling and running down the walls. Who needs more of that?

I'll have to find other ways of "letting my senses run free." Maybe if the doors of perception could be cracked open, the sky would always look like the way it did tonight as I walked home from the train.

Monday, January 23, 2012

My Brain is Just Fine

I listened intently to every word of a news story about depression on NPR this morning--the gist of it being that maybe the brains of depressed people really aren't broken, i.e. suffering from a chemical imbalance. That's an old idea, the story said; the whole lack of serotonin thing is a myth that just won't die. There's probably something going on with genetic predisposition, they said,  but there was an experiment where the subjects had the serotonin removed or deactivated from their brains, and they did not become depressed! How about that?

I've worried a lot about my serotonin. I felt better, in some ways, on anti-depressants, but I hate pills. Well, no, actually, I'm afraid of pills. The thought of side-effects is enough to turn me into a side-effectechondriac. Reading the disclosure on the medication I was taking was almost more depressing than being depressed. But I was really, really in trouble, and I knew it, so I took it.

Eventually I stopped. I was okay-ish. My divorce heartbreak was subsiding. But I still had a lot of negative stuff going on. The anxiety was killing me, but I didn't want to get back on the pills for a third run. (Third time might be an unlucky charm, right?) Finally I went to a therapist, and it helped a lot--which is what the piece on NPR claimed that talk therapy can work just as well.

So now, I'm thinking, my brain is just fine. My brain is fine. Yes, a ton of stuff has gone wrong since I was 16. (The litany goes like this: secret pregnancy that results in first child being given up for adoption, tragic car crashes, father dies suddenly, I'm hospitalized for twice for gruesome spinal surgeries, serious money trouble, two horrid depressions after subsequent children, years living with a man who wanted out but wouldn't say he wanted out while I pretended everything would be fine.) And yeah, everyone has a lot of stuff that goes wrong--some way more horrible than anything on my list, but maybe what I have is circumstances combined with a genetic predisposition, and I never have to worry about serotonin again.

I do feel I need to exercise full out every single day, take it easy with the wine, and just keep moving on down the road from Divorceville to Margaritaville, but as I make that move, it's good to think of  my brain as a lovely healthy brain.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Coincidences, Mysteries, Prefigurements, and Foreshadowing

This is a photo of my daughter C.--taken approximately twenty years ago on a family trip to Catalina Island. I think the hat might have actually belonged to the captain of the boat. I don't remember exactly, but I imagine that with three cute little girls in tow, we somehow managed to catch his attention and ended up with a photo op.

Today, after almost six years of sailing historic tall ships, C. herself passed the test that makes her a captain. The  picture was tucked in a photo album hidden away for years on a shelf in our garage, and last week as C. prepared for her captain's test, an image of her in a captain's hat surfaced in my memory.

I'm fascinated by coincidences, and have written about them here and here. And this one is one of my favorites.

Sometimes when I look into the eyes of the man who loves me, I think that he looks familiar, that I know him from somewhere a long time ago. Which seems highly unlikely. Our worlds do not appear to have ever intersected.

Over the years I've had recurring dreams about a house on hill with a grassy slope and a view. In the distance there's the shimmer of water.

photo credit: C's father

Friday, January 20, 2012

Credit Where Credit is Due

Below is the exact text of an email I sent yesterday:


I tried again recently to get my name taken off our joint credit card. No go since I am joint owner of the account. 
It is possible to close the account even though a balance remains. Bills would continue to arrive, etc.
Would it be all right with you if I closed it? It's important to my personal and financial well-being.
Please let me know.

I have not yet received an answer. But my brain is working overtime on this thorny issue. I have not used this card since October of 2008, and the balance continues to grow and grow. 

Credit card companies do not recognize divorce, which I've written about here,  and here
Yesterday I called the credit card company for advice. "You could get an attorney and take him to court," the young woman said.  Ha, ha, ha, I said, not going into any detail about the fortune that I've already spent on my divorce. But, yes, I thought, after I hung up, what about the Stipulation to Divide Joint Assets? Didn't my attorneys include some provision about this credit card, and yes, I will invoke whatever solution lies within this legal document, because several times I expressed my concern over this card to them, and yes, that's where the solution is!  Here is what I found in the Stipulation. 

Credit card account xxxxxxx : (Respondent shall close the account upon payoff by Respondent)

HMMMM. Toothless is the word that comes to mind. 

Meanwhile debt continues to mount in my name while I ponder my options. One option I am NOT considering is going back to my attorneys for advice on this one.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lemons: Real and Fake or Do you know what you are drinking?

Last night I dreamed I drank dish soap. For some reason I thought the bottle of "Joy" contained water. I was very thirsty so I tipped the bottle up and guzzled. My hand fit  nicely in the curve of the plastic bottle, and it felt so good when the parched feeling was gone. Then the soapy burn hit the back of my tongue and my throat. Omygod, I just drank dish soap. No wait, I think it was a dream. I dreamed I drank dish soap. Wasn't it? No, really, I drank dish soap and I have to get up right now and drink a whole lot of water because that's important if you drink dish soap, right? Rinse it down. But I was tired, oh so tired, and I couldn't get up no matter how much I tried to talk myself into it, and it wasn't until this morning at dawn (no pun intended) when I woke and was finally sure that the dish soap had been a dream. 

I don't know why I dreamed what I did. I don't even have dish soap sitting on my kitchen counter because my sink came with a built in soap pump and the dish soap is in there. I never had my mouth washed out with soap as a kid. I don't think I went to bed particularly thirsty.

I remember this though--back when I was newly married a little sample of dish soap arrived in our mailbox in a package shaped like a lemon, or a package with a lemon pictured on it. There was no question in my mind that it was dish soap--and yay! it was freeeee! A week or so later I read in the L.A. Times that there had been several cases of kids bringing the stuff to school in their lunches because their non-English speaking parents thought it was a beverage. The company agreed to repackage their samples. I had grown up in a place so homogenous that nothing of the sort could have happened, and the newspaper article made me think about how strange it must be to begin life in a new culture, a new country, and how we stumble and struggle when there is so much we don't know about our new lives.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Checks and Un-Balances

"I guess this isn't all that unusual" the young bank teller at bank # 2 said. He was wearing a pullover sweater that seemed a bit vintage. A sweater like a boy in my high school might have worn. "Just last week there was a woman who closed a joint checking account ten years after her divorce," he said, wide-eyed as if he were at the zoo trying not ogle some exotic beast. I'm glad I'm not that woman. It took me half that long to realize I had to be the pro-active one. It was quite simple, really. A cashier's check drawn at each of the two banks where the joint checking accounts were held.

The teller at the first bank was more worldy. Middle-aged with crew-cut, shiny with product. A beautiful pink shirt and a co-ordinating tie. He explained how he was printing out the transaction. Proof that the amount of the cashier's check equalled the amount of the current balance. Well...minus this bank's 10.00 fee (!!!) for the cashier's check. "You have to be careful," he said.

"I have two cashier's checks for you," I said when I called The Someone. I said I'd be downtown today, but without a car, and he could meet me in Little Tokyo or at Union Station. Or somewhere after I got home tonight. He'd be in his office all day, he said. I did not offer to walk several blocks and deliver the checks to his office door. "I won't have a car" I said. "Union Station," I repeated, and he agreed.

When I got there, I decided to treat myself to dinner. A glass of red was set down in front of me just as he called. "I'm eating alone," I told him. "I don't want to walk away from my table. Can you park and come in?" He laughed. Then told me he'd send his secretary in. "I'm giving her a ride to the train," he said. Then there she was, breathless and rushed, but just as congenial as ever. I gave her the envelope. "What would he do without you?" I said.
"Can you believe I've worked for him for 26 years?" she said.
"Almost as long as I was married to him," I said. And then she mentioned her train. We hurriedly wished each other happy New Year.

I had a second glass of wine. A chocolate pot de creme. I won't eat the whipped cream, I said to myself, but somehow I did.

And as I walked through the station to catch my train, in front of me there was a father with two little girls. They held his hands, the younger girl blond and the older one dark-haired, looking up at him as if he was everything.

photo credit: the writer of the above check which I found somewhere on the Internet ages ago and laughed my self silly.

Monday, January 16, 2012

"There are so many variables in the coming months that I don't know what to hope for, so I'm just hoping for luck," I said to a friend. Thinking out loud works well for me.
Possibilities are swirling around. Will I get into a grad program? Will my daughter M.? Where will each of us go? If I do get in and have to move out of L.A., how will the man who loves me and I sustain our love affair? Will M. need to live here in my house if she goes to grad school in southern California? If not, should I sell this place even if the market is still in a downturn? Should I buy a tiny place or a bigger place in a cheaper area with more room for my adult children and their families so we can all get together a bit more comfortably, and so my mom could move in with me if she wants/ needs too.  These are, I realize, "problems of the 1%," but they're big decisions nonetheless.

In a way, I want to leave this house. The house where the dogs shook in my arms for hours after the move. Where I couldn't sleep for days. Where I stood at the kitchen counter depositing the anti-depressants into what my daughter C. called the "old lady" pillbox because otherwise I was never sure I'd taken my pill. But it's also the house where I healed, where I sat on my couch in the candlelight with a man I barely knew and began to feel something in my chest other than ache.

I picture my little car crammed with books driving off to a new abode, but will it be temporary or permanent?

Well...everything is temporary. 

I love fresh starts. It's a new year, and with the last loose ends of the divorce being trimmed away one by one, all this possibility seems lucky.

Tomorrow, 41/2 years after my marriage ended, I will close the joint checking accounts. There's money in there, but not mine. I will have the bank make out a check to The Someone. I will arrange a meeting and give it to him. Another loose end gone.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Searching for a rare book--Do you have it?

The New Year is always piled high with resolutions and good intentions, right?

My mother decided that she would mend her pack-rat ways and neaten up her room. Somehow while going through her piles of papers, she zigged when she should have zagged and threw out her beloved crochet book, 101 Snowflakes. "Well, let's just order you another one," I said when she called to tell me what she'd done. I logged onto Amazon and gasped. Two copies were available--both used--one for $109.00 and the other for $145.00. Later that day I checked the used book stores in my neighborhood. No luck. Meanwhile, I've purchased a couple of pamphlets from with a dozen snowflake patterns and mailed them off to her. But what I'd really like is to replace her lost book for her at a reasonable price. It's a crochet book, after all, not a Gutenberg Bible.

My mother spends a lot of time crocheting snowflakes. I received a huge new one from her this year. She crocheted a bunch for my son and his family to get their collection started. Several other friends and other family members got some, too. She works on them off and on throughout the year, taking breaks to read. Her favorite books are the Maisie Dobbs mysteries and anything by Elmore Leonard. I think both the reading and the crocheting are good for her brain. I sometimes wonder if I would have the patience to  work my way through the intricacies  of a snowflake pattern. Probably not.

So in the interest of my mom's brain health, is there anyone out there with a bunch of craft books languishing in a dusty stack than might hold a thin magazine-like book called, 101 Snowflakes? The cover looks like the photo above. If so, please contact me. You can leave a comment here or send me an email. I'm sure my mom will crochet you some snowflakes in thanks. And if you ever meet her, she'll make you a martini, too.

Here are some of my snowflakes. Most people hang them on their Christmas tree. I like to hang mine in my windows.

Friday, January 13, 2012

What Remains

The remains of the December 1st windstorm remain piled up on the streets of my neighborhood. Stacks of palm fronds, tangles of branches, piles of leaves. In some places only the heavier sections of trunks of massive trees remain, sawn into chunks that seem suited for end tables in  some giant's house hidden deep in a forest.

My condo complex, always on top of grooming the grounds, immediately cleaned up the mess, but has now instituted a massive tree-trimming, and for days the manic whine of chain saws and the grind of chippers has wrought aural chaos inside my brain. So today, I thought, I'll stop by the County Arboretum. Watch the ducks and the peacocks. Walk in silence.

Sometimes I'm so wrong.

The Arboretum lost 235 trees in the storm. Another 700 need restorative pruning. Giants that once towered over the grounds lie on their sides, uprooted. Where there once were limbs, now there are stumps and wounds. Still birds sing in the branches and peacocks strut as though nothing had happened.

I walked among the crews, the machines, and the rubble amazed at how much beauty remains.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Dear 40-year-old Me

Dear 40-Year-Old Me,

You are both older and younger than you think. Probably, you are about at the mid-point of your life. What do you want to do with the second half? Those babies won't tether you to the hearth forever, though I know it seems like that now. And the husband, while it seems he would never leave you, look a little closer. The moments of strain in your relationship now will gradually grow into days of disquiet. Later  days and nights will meld together into a shadow that hangs over your household almost constantly. Already priorities are shifting. His are not yours. Yours are not his. You see it, the writing on the wall, don't pretend you can't read it.

Dear 40-year-old Me, you are dramatic (he would add a prefix.) You worry over what he thinks of as little things. You're still in hippie mode half the time and he's going corporate. It's not going to last even if you throw out those overalls in the back of your closet. And, no, he's not going to move out of L.A. Not to Minnesota. Not anywhere.

Your family is finished growing. You won't risk another pregnancy after the miscarriage. He doesn't bring it up and neither do you. Now is your chance. The children are in nursery school. Get a job. Take a class--just one, at least. Yes, your life will be a juggling act, but beg a friend to help you. Hire a full-time nanny--he'd go for that, but do something because he's going to leave you, and when you lose your marriage at the same moment your nest empties, you are going to fall into a million pieces. You are going to be smothered by depression, and the drinking won't help, but you'll think it does, so you'll drink a lot. You'll lose your home. Your dogs will die. You'll live alone for the first time in your life and then, dear 40-year-old self, you'll wish with all the aching bones in your body that you had a career, a job, a purpose, your own pension, fabulous health insurance, and people around you every day who love doing what you love doing.

Because otherwise you will sit staring at your computer for hours when you are almost 60, wondering if you should really should push the button that says, "submit application now." And if you push it, you'll wonder if the people who read  the application at some university in a far off city will find you completely and utterly ridiculous.

Dear 40-year-old me, you knew this, but you were a master at "un-knowing," so I forgive you. Mostly. But you knew. You knew.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Maybe it's because this is the last year that I can say I'm in my fifties. Maybe it's because I spun my wheels most of last year in a giant pothole called divorce. Maybe it's because the day frequently gets away from me, and then I'm yawning and regretting that I neglected to do what I had intended. So now I am goal obsessed.

I've applied to grad school for a second MFA. Probably a losing proposition given the crazy competitiveness of the programs I've chosen, but I've done it.
I've ordered a fancy pedometer with which I can rack up points to save the world while exercising.
I've signed up with Joe's Goals to track whether or not I've exercised, meditated, practiced French, written, and submitted any writing, and abstained from alcohol. Mind you, I'm not exactly giving up all drink, but I am interested in tracking how many nights a week I do drink.
I'm saving all $5.00 bills that find their way into my wallet. Who knows how much that will be in the course of a year? If I can't personally save Obama, at least I can save some Lincolns.
I've signed up for a writing class while I await my grad school fate.
I've submitted a proposal to teach a writing workshop. And I'm thinking about submitting a second one.
I'm planning some travels.
I'm hoping not to become insufferable. I promise not to make my Joe's Goals page viewable on my blog.
How's your New Year so far? Have you heard of or I stumbled onto these sites after reading an article in the New York Times.  Both sites have tools for tracking behaviors, managing money, and reaching goals as well as other cool stuff.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

10 Reasons to Adopt a Small Dog

1. Small dogs are like hybrid cars. They consume less--so they're good for your budget.

2. Also like hybrids, their output will cause less pollution to your atmosphere, be it your yard or your patio.

3. They're easy to park. Sharing a couch or a bed with a couple of large dogs can be like flying economy. Go first class with a small dog and stretch out.

4. Small dogs can fly in a carryon under your seat on some airlines. No more dog boarding bills and lots of companionship.

5. If you do have to board your dog, it will cost less. You might even have a better chance of getting a friend to dog-sit.

6. Small dogs make people say, "Awwww...."

7. Busy? Your day scheduled from dawn until dusk? A small dog is less likely to tip over your dining room chairs while waiting for a walk.

8. Resolving to exercise more in the new year? An energetic small dog can give you just as much exercise as a big one.

9. Speaking of exercise, a small dog can fit in a bicycle basket. There's probably a cool spandex bicycle outfit for your small dog out there in the bizarre world of dog clothes. Maybe a helmet and some goggles. Go ahead, be a topic of conversation in your neighborhood.

10. Smaller breeds tend to have longer life spans. Chihuahua might be Spanish for "20 years of love."

After walking dogs at the San Gabriel Valley Humane Society today, I learned that one of my favorite little dogs, Ian, got adopted. Ian is a chubby ten-year-old chihuahua mix with a condition that has caused the hair on his tail to fall out in a weirdly interesting spiral pattern. He has a couple of thin patches elsewhere on his coat, too. He is sweet and cuddly, and not all that excited about serious exercise. I've spent most of my time with Ian sitting on the grass in the park rubbing his belly. I would tell him that he needed a couch and a remote, not a walk. He always agreed. Now he's got that.

With my travel back and forth to the east coast, and a possible relocation in the fall, I still don't feel the time is right to adopt a dog, myself. But every time I walk Humane Society dogs, I play a little game of what if.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hi There, that fluffy towel for me?

I'm considering a change of scene in 2012. 
Here's the first real estate description on my list of places to consider:

"Spacious live and work loft in the historic...downtown Los Angeles' fashion district...Shared amenities include swimming pool rooftop and spa patio, Jim and more... large bathtubs, large walk-in closet, and lots of charm."

My prediction for 2012? It's going to be a good year.

'Photo credit:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 Wrap-up

I posted to this blog 170 times in 2011. By court order both the name of the blog and its URL changed last year. Further prohibitions were put in place, too, and I am now legally restrained from mentioning certain people here in Margaritaville. I can't say that I miss them very much. There was plenty else to blog about in 2011: a monthlong residency at the VCCA, a modest writng success or two, several big family events--weddings, a graduation, birthdays, a fine Thanksgiving, a pampered Christmas. There were less happy goings-on, too. My dog Layla suffered a gradual delcine and left her world of love and couches in May; staggeringly large attorney bills drove me to the brink. But my divorce reached its final resolution in 2011, too. In the year's final days the last two documents were signed, and the results of those signatures are soon to be implemented. There was great joy in 2011. There was seemingly insurmountable distraction and frustration. There was good cheap wine, a lobster marathon, everyday beauty, love, travel, friendship, Mother Nature bent on destruction, mothers tending to reconstruction. There were rogue appliances in 2011. There were just plain rogues. There were roads, roses, robes made of flannel, rocky beaches, rhododendrons, rodents, and a robust appreciation for the potential of another year.

Thank you for reading, for your comments, for signing on as a "follower," and thank you for writing your own blogs so that I can reap your wisdom. Thanks for the love, the friendship, the hospitality, the phone call, the email, the hugs, the kisses, the advice, and for carrying the heavy stuff that I can't lift. Thank you for you.