Thursday, March 29, 2012

Writers, What do you do with your rejection notices?

Last night was the final class of "Submitting to Los Angeles Literary Magazines," a course I took through the UCLA Writer's Program. The teacher was Michelle Meyering, editor of The Rattling Wall, a journal that published an essay of mine last spring. I'd prefer various forms of torture to driving across the pot-holed, broken-streetlight wasteland that the City of Angels has become. I'd prefer being harangued by phone solicitors to paying UCLA's exorbitant $11.00 parking fees (unless you want the close-by parking--that's $18.00.) But, in an effort to organize the practicalities of my writing life, I endured the 90-minute drive and blew $111.00 in addition to the tuition. I'm glad I did.

Until I learned of Michelle's seasonal submission plan, I'd been trolling the usual submission calendars and email subscriptions to find places to submit my work. I read the lists. I made notes. I tried to figure out what to submit where. Tweaked it. Reduced the word count--or not. Tried to make this deadline with one piece, and that one with another, and that one. And seldom did.

It turns out that many literary magazines have similar seasonal submission deadlines, and Michelle scheduled her class to coincide with the April 1st deadline that is on the early end of the spectrum for spring. So last night, after 9 weeks of studying guidelines, interviewing local lit mag editors, working on log lines, short bios, cover letters, and polishing a single submission, we all showed up with stamps and envelopes. This morning Michelle took our work to the post office and mailed it. My essay is now chugging its way to 15 different literary magazines from across the country. This means rejection, of course. And maybe there'll be an acceptance in the somewhere, too. But what I'm happiest about is that I honed in on one piece and sent it out.

I'm done now. I'm going to read. And read. And read. When I'm ready, I'm going to write. Come fall, if I haven't been rendered completely insane by moving and getting my mother across the county and getting us both settled in my new house, I'll polish another piece and send it out.

To everything
there is a season
And a time to every purpose
Under heaven.

Writers, what do you do with your rejections? Keep them? Flush them? Light them on fire?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Migraines and Anxiety

I was anxiety's bitch on Thursday. I had a stomach full of bumble bees, a headache, and a flat out inability to draw a deep breath. How would I ever manage my new and larger budget after the purchase of my new house when I'll be the last to know if The Someone ever decides to drag me back to court with some reason to reduce my alimony. How will I be the point person for all of my mom's health issues when I have so much to learn about what she needs. How will I see the man who loves me only once a week. What if the move is a mistake. What if I find the ocean air too cold, too salty....wait....somewhere around here I almost got a grip. I'm moving within a short walk of the ocean!!! But my brain kept circling, moving in for the kill. Should I forget my therapist's advice about being in charge of my cognitive powers while on the plane to visit my mom, or maybe I should cram a half-dozen little bottles of gin into my zip-lock in lieu of toiletries. I thought walking to the train for my regular shift at the DWC would set me right, but cars were trying to run me down, and I would surely die before the move, before getting to visit my mom, before dinner probably. Holy crap, right? Tutoring my first literacy student at the DWC finally brought the craziness to a halt. But by dinnertime I had a migraine that I packed up and brought to Baltimore the next day. Now I'm a lazy houseguest lying on the couch with a bottle of gatorade while my 87-yr-old mother keeps offering me a cool cloth for my forehead.
But hey, guess what, I really wasn't anxious on the plane at all. I was just focusing on surviving the migraine.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rites of Spring

"M'am?" It was a man's voice. The neatly dressed man I'd just passed. I figured he was going to ask me for directions. "Thank you for paying attention and not just walking by," he said. I'd just crossed the street from the Gold Line station at the edge of Little Tokyo. "We need your help," he went on, gesturing toward the woman a few feet away from him. I began to size them up, waiting for the pitch. They were out of gas, or had all their belongings stolen or had been stood up by a friend who was supposed to meet them and now they were stranded. These are the stories you hear when you talk to people on the street who say they need your help. "We each need $8.75 for train fare," the man said. "We spent our last dime getting to a shelter that doesn't have room for us. They're sending us on to this place," he said, pulling a card out of his shirt pocket. The card had an address on it and a phone number and a person's name. "My wife is pregnant," he went on, "and they're going to help us at this place, but we have to get there becaue the shelter we were at has used up all their transportation funds." I looked at the slight bulge beneath the woman's black cotton shirt. The couple were clean and articulate-- if a bit wild-eyed. 
Before heading off to my regular voluteer shift at the DWC, I'd stopped at the Bank of America and pulled out $40.00. I'd already broken one of the bills to buy my train ticket, so I had a bunch of one-dollar coins, which is what the ticket machines give you in change, and the remaining twenty. "I don't carry much cash," I said as unzipped my shoulder bag just wide enough to pull out my change pouch. "I have a bunch of coins and this twenty," I said, handing him the rumpled bill. A gold front tooth added some extra wattage to his smile.

The woman rushed forward and hugged me while I took a step back and locked one hand around the strap of my bag. After she let go of me the man opened his arms for his turn, but she grabbed him and pulled him back.
"Don't you dare," she said. "She's too pretty."  The man extended his hand then, and he and I shook hands.
"Good luck," I said, turning to go. A pretty young woman who'd obviouly just finished crying was in my path then, pulling a cigarette out of a pack. I could see she was was down to her last two, and her hands were shaking. "
Please," she said. "Do any of you have a match?" The man rustled in his shirt pocket to help her. I went on my way.

Little Tokyo and Skid Row were infused with weird electricity today. People talking to themselves at the tops of their lungs. Two young couples with baby strollers walking their babies in circles in the big empty plaza in front of the Japan America center.  It was supposed to be quite chilly today, but the sun was hot if you were in a spot where it hit you directly. Maybe the manic energy was relief that yesterday's cold wind had gone away to chill the denizen's of some other city. Maybe the scent of springtime has a particular effect on Skid Row that I haven't learned about yet. Later in the day, the streets were full of cop cars when I walked out onto San Pedro St. after my shift. A helicopter was circling low like a malevolent dragonfly. When I went back across the plaza, two young guys were riding their bikes up and down the steps by the fountain, one the star of the show, the other with a camcorder filming his buddy's jerking leaps up the steps and the sailing down.

When I got off the train in my neighborhood there were three cop cars parked in front of the little bistro where I sometimes stop for a beer and a salad before walking the rest of the way home. Today's a great day to stop for a beer, I decided. Maybe people will be talking about what's going on. Phases of the moon, mercury in retrograde, solar flares, how the scent of jasmine can make people crazy. But no, if Los Angeles is in the grips of some temporary insanity, I guess I'll be the last to know. 

At least I've celebrated spring--paying proper homage to the goddess of fertility by giving twenty bucks to a woman in black who may or may not have been pregnant and in need.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Take this sinking boat and point it home

"Good, speak to th' mariners! Fall to't yarely, or we run ourselves aground. Bestir, bestir!"
From Shakespeare's "The Tempest."

A couple of boats have recently run aground here in Margaritaville.

H.M.S. 2nd MFA:  Four applications. Four rejections.

H.M.S. Book Deal:  After the improbably long (almost a year) journey up the food chain, my manuscript was rejected on the final read.

Thoughts from the rusting deck: " was possible to be good at what you had little interest in, just as it had been possible to be bad at something, whether painting or poetry, that you cared a great deal about."
From the novel "Empire Falls" by Richard Russo.

Post title from the song "Falling Slowly."

Friday, March 16, 2012

Why You Should Order a Credit Report if You're Getting Divorced

I'd been meaning to order a credit report. You know, just to see how I'm doing. Just to see how big of a bite has been taken out of my credit score due to the post-divorce joint credit card entanglements. Just to see if I'm really as battered as I feel. But I've been meaning to make a will, and get new glasses, and new tires--and well, I never did order up my credit score or get to the other stuff quite yet either.

My mortgage broker did order a credit report though. It's not fabulous, my score. But it's not horrible. I did however, find that the two biggest hits were credit cards that I had forgotten about--or in one of the cases, perhaps never even used. I made a phone call and got my name taken off that card. I was an authorized user--not a co-owner. The other card was already closed, but had a bad history of payments 30 and 60 days late. That's a credit report mortal sin, and if you have enough of those they send you to home-mortgage-interest-rate hell. I think I'm just going to purgatory. Or maybe limbo. I wrote the paid-late account a letter explaining that the late payments occurred post-divorce. And of course I sent them a copy of my divorce decree. I wish I'd kept track, all these years, of how many people and places I've sent a copy of my divorce decree to. I used to carry one in my purse, so as I traveled from place to place back when I couldn't bear to stay home, I could prove to the TSA agent why my ticket had one name and my driver's license another. Crazy-divorced lady. Sometimes you just have to play that card. But these days, I'm about to run that card through the shredder.

So... if you'd like a copy of my divorce decree, let me know. I'll send it right out. Triplicate? Duplicate? Or will one copy be all you'll need?

Oh, and if you're getting divorced, you might want to order a credit report. You might be entangled with things you've forgotten about.

photo credit:

Post-Divorce Hunting

I've had to do quite a bit of hunting since my divorce. A place to live. A re-imagined future. I've gone off in search of my sanity, my self esteem, my reason to keep breathing. I've found those things.

More recently, I've been hunting for a house where I can bring my mom to live with me. I think I've done it.

I still need new tires though.

The painting at the top of the post is Guercino's Diana the Huntress

Monday, March 12, 2012

Official Songs, Drinks, and Poems....and a Runcible Spoon!!!

Margaritaville has an official song. That's a no-brainer, right? Ditto with the official drink. But it might need an official poem, too.

How about this one?

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
   In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
   Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
   And sang to a small guitar,
"O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are,
         You are,
         You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!"

Pussy said to the Owl, "You elegant fowl!
   How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
   But what shall we do for a ring?"
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
   To the land where the Bong-Tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
   With a ring at the end of his nose,
             His nose,
             His nose,
   With a ring at the end of his nose.

"Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
   Your ring?" Said the Piggy, "I will."
So they took it away, and were married next day
   By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
   Which they ate with a runcible spoon;   
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
   They danced by the light of the moon,
             The moon,
             The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

    When my daughter C. got married back in October and asked me to speak at her wedding, I considered reciting this poem since both she and her husband are professional sailors. I, however, did not think I could pull off, "Oh what a beautiful pussy you are..." so I wrote something myself.

    But there you have it. The discarded wedding speech is now officially declared  Margaritaville's official poem.

   And I declare the kayak to be Margaritaville's official boat.

photo credit: (the owl and the pussycat)  (the kayaks in the moonlight)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Haaaay, Facebook! My blog has a timeline, too!

I revised and updated my blog timeline that has been living rather messily in my sidebar. I like it so much I have also copied it below, into a post.

Timeline in a nuthousenutshell

July 30, 2007: THE CONVERSATION. The Someone announces that our marriage is over, that he’s getting married to someone else, and that he wants the house so he can raise his new family there.

August 6, 2007: The first of thousands of emails is exchanged with my divorce attorneys. Tens of thousands of dollars will be spent. The battle of the division of joint assets will wage for years.

August 10, 2007: Unable to bear the sight of my bed, unable to sleep, and prone to walking in circles in my house, I fly to the east coast to visit my mother and begin a series of travels, visiting anyone who will have me.

November 12, 2007: I move into my new townhouse with dogs Lola and Layla.The H-wrecker moves in with The Someone.

December 27, 2007: Running a fever, rendered nearly mute with laryngitis, and over-medicated with lemon martinis, I begin an MFA program in creative writing.

Some amorphous months in 2008: More travels, anti-depressants, anxiety attacks, huge attorney bills, internet dating, cheap wine, therapy, writing, gin.

July 29, 2008: Final decree of divorce is issued. Financial resolution of joint assets is bifurcated from the dissolution of the marriage.

September 6, 2008: The Someone gets married. The H-wrecker becomes the Little Missus.

September 25, 2008: I sit bolt upright in the middle of the night and decide to start a blog. I know the title, "His Big Fat Indian Wedding," and the pseudonym under which I will write it--"Ex-in-the-City."

October 15, 2008: Temporary alimony finally begins. I stop using the joint credit cards and the joint bank account and get my very own.

December 13, 2008: Online flirting gets personal with a hike in Griffith park. I meet the man who loves me.

Some amorphous months in 2009: See the amorphous months in 2008....without the therapy and the online dating. Add more gin and even bigger attorney bills. Add love.

August 2009: The Kiddo #1 is born to The Someone and his Missus.

January 5, 2010: Graduation Day. I receive my MFA in creative writing.

Some amorphous months in 2010: See the amorphous months in 2008 and 2009...add in bigger anxiety attacks and more therapy. More love. Subtract the gin.

June 2011: I reach The Someone by phone. He agrees to mediation. We go. Twice. We come to an agreement.

July 13, 2011: The complete Stipulation to Divide Joint Assets is signed by both parties.

September 2011: Kiddo #2 arrives.

October 14, 2011: Judgement on "reserved issues" (a.k.a. the financial stuff/joint assets) is officially entered with Los Angeles Superior Court. In addition, I am now under a restraining order that requires me to change the name of my blog, and refrain from mentioning certain persons in it. Hello, Margaritaville!

Somewhere in the amorphous blob known as time, as the daylight hours begin to shorten and the piles of documents reach teetering and confusing heights, my attorneys officially withdraw from the case by our mutual agreement. I am on my own to finish dealing with the QDRO and the attorney who is handling that. The QDRO is amended, at the request of the opposing side, to say that if I die before the QDRO is implemented, my share will not pass to my daughters, but instead will revert to The Someone. Paranoia steps into the ring and gives anxiety a punch in the nose. Anxiety fights back.

January 6, 2012: Stipulated Qualified Domestic Relations Order is filed with Los Angeles Superior Court.

January 10, 2012: I finally take the initiative and close the joint checking accounts and deliver the balance in the form of cashier's checks to The Someone's secretary.

February 1, 2012: I follow the instructions in the QDRO attorney's letter in order to receive my share of the retirement accounts by making the necessary phone call. "The information is being forwarded to the actuaries," I'm told. "It will take a few days." I begin to be more careful when crossing the street.

February 14, 2012: I call again regarding the retirement accounts. "The actuaries have requested more information." But I'm assured I will receive the information this week. I continue to exercise caution. I wear orange when I'm out walking. Then wonder if that just makes me a better target.

February 26, 2012: Realizing there is no motivation for The Someone to close the joint credit card, I do it. I also pay 3,000.00 on the balance in an effort to improve my credit score and to compensate The Someone for the inconvenience.

March 1, 2012: I make yet another call regarding my share of the retirement accounts. Now "it may take several weeks." Whatever "it" is. I wear camoflage when out walking and think about writing a murder mystery.

March 7, 2012: I make another call regarding the retirement accounts. "There are documents that must be produced." I'm assured that I will get the necessary information on the "defined benefit plan" next week. I wear white when walking and am certain to have a copy of my insurance card on me at all times.

March 8, 2012: I email The Someone and ask him what's up with my share of the retirement benefits.

Everything is so much clearer now.

Change Might be the Operative Word

I've had a lot of weird dreams lately. One where I bought a new car that looked like a fire engine--but only on the outside. Dust that turned into blood. An Irish setter that could talk.

Last night it was a fancy party. The women in evening gowns. The men in tuxedos. My friend El was radiant, towering over the crowd in her stilettos, her blond hair like an aura. Later in the kitchen she told me she and her husband were getting divorced. She was laughing and eating cake. As the party wound down, the husband followed me into the hallway and told me he wanted to marry me. But he changed his mind in the dark post-coital hours. It hadn't occurred to him that I was too old to bear children. The next morning he went back to El.

Somehow this rejection segued into a dream about house hunting. The houses were old and interesting. Attics converted to rumpus rooms. Bedrooms a warren of connectedness. Floors that needed leveling. Architectural detail that required shoring up. "This time I'm going to buy the house I want," I shouted at the group of nay-sayers as they murmured  their concerns. I was still wearing pearls and a party dress, everything a bit askew.

The day after tomorrow I really will go house hunting. I hope there won't be any shouting.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Closing a Credit Card Account after Divorce

Pretty much everything that happened with the joint credit card accounts at the end of my marriage is a lesson in what not to do. I've written so many posts about it, it would take me an hour to link to them all. The "labels" section at the bottom of the page will unveil to you to the long and gory history of how plastic figured into the the aftermath of my divorce. If you are plotting your own freedom from jointly held credit card debt, you might want to pour yourself a drink and settle in for some reading.

As for this post, it's the final installment on the subject. The check has been posted as a payment. I'm free. Not completely unscathed. But free.

photo credit:

Monday, March 5, 2012

Marriage Counseling

I suppose thinking about marriage counseling almost five years out from the break-up of my marriage is a little like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped, but this recent piece from the New York Times caught my eye. The piece is essentially about how much couples therapy/marriage counseling stresses out therapists. “You have to like action. To manage marital combat, a therapist needs to get in there, mix it up with the client, be a ninja. This is intimidating," says one of the therapists interviewed for the article. I'll say. And it's also pretty intimidating, I might add, to be half of a couple seeking therapy.

Couples therapy, the article goes on to say, didn't become popular until the upswing in the divorce rate in the 60s and 70s. The therapist considered to be the pioneer of family therapy claimed that the goal of couples therapy is “not to maintain the relationship nor to separate the pair but to help each other to take charge of himself.” There were three episodes of marriage counseling in the thirty years of my marriage. As pointless as it now may seem, I wonder how I might have changed and how my marriage might have changed if I had embraced the goal of taking charge of myself. Maybe the marriage would not have lasted as long as it did. Maybe we'd have turned things around.

Apparently, one of the most successful types of couples counseling is based on the attachment theory of parenting. "...good relationships are built on secure attachments, ones that are engaged and emotionally responsive." I subscribed devotedly to attachment parenting as a young mother. And the results, with my daughters now in their twenties, seem hard to argue with. Maybe the couples therapy my ex and I received was not built on that model. Or maybe it was, and somehow the attachment between my husband and me never really existed or  had already dissolved. The only solid memory I've retained from the experience is that it was terribly difficult to make the demand on my husband's time. The request for counseling was yet another burden heaped on a day without enough hours.

Which brings to mind one of my old theories about parenting. The quality time argument was big then. Working moms spent "quality time" with their kids, while those of us that stayed home, the quality camp claimed, were lost in hours and hours of meaningless drudgery. I figured that time was time. No, I wasn't taking my kids to the zoo everyday, but we were together, responding to one another in ways large and small, fun and less fun. I think time, both quality and quantity, was what my marriage lacked.

Time in the context of the affair with the man who loves me does not seem divisible into quality and quantity. We spend two or three  nights a week together. Almost always we stay in. We cook. We eat. We clean up the kitchen. We don't watch TV or movies. We talk. A lot. We make each other laugh. Sometimes we listen to music or dance. These quality quantifiable hours spent fully engaged are undoubtedly a force in the love affair. And I believe, that since the end of my marriage, I have taken charge of myself. Those are the  things, at this point in my life, that seem central to love. 

How about you? Got any observations about love? Would you go to counseling (given the fact that a lot of therapists seem to dread the process) over a troubled relationship or just move on?

photo credit:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Church of Dogs

I saw a snazzily dressed preacher walking into the assisted living facility near the San Gabriel Valley Humane Society this morning. I felt a momentary flash of guilt, as if he might question me like some Catholic priest from my childhood. "Why aren't you in church?" he called out to me in my imagination as he strode toward me with his bible.
"I am in church," I said, continuing the imaginary conversation. "The Church of Dogs." The dome of blue sky for the ceiling. The whisper of the breeze for prayer. Little saints all around me doling out unconditional love. Like this guy. My new favorite.

His name is Eyota. And he's a rat terrier. A useful beast in Southern California where rats like to raid the fruit trees. Holy avenger against rodent satans!

It's been a few weeks since I've been able to walk dogs. Some of my favorites have been adopted in the interim. I was surprised to see that Oprah is still at the shelter. "Oprah," I said, "What are you still doing here?!"

I'd say she looks a bit baffled herself. Really, this dog is so charming, she should have her own TV show.

Wouldn't Eyota and Oprah make a cute pair?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Changing Your Name after Divorce

"I'm on my third name," I explained to the attorney. "The form says I have never been known by any other name." He laughed and told me to add a hand-written a note. That I shouldn't worry. Forms contain vestiges of old concerns. "They're not after you," he said.

"I'll have to strike out the 'M,'" the notary said. "Your California Driver's license doesn't have a middle initial."

"Right," I said. "I dropped the 'M' after my divorce. And before I had just an 'M,' my middle name was Mary. I dropped the Mary and went with 'M.' Now there's no M. either." I didn't mention the last names I've been through.

"These forms have an 'M'," he said, pausing with his notary stamp raised. I shrugged, feeling like I was trying to conceal a vestigial tail.

"How should I sign?" I asked.

"Sign with your current legal signature," he said. "It's your mark. Never change your mark."

Easy for him to say.
Marriage changed my mark. Divorce changed my mark.
Just call me "Mark."