Due Process

In my defense, let me just say that the food processor was supposed to have a safety feature to prevent accidents.  I say “supposed to have” because the safety feature obviously failed.  In theory, the food processor will not turn on unless the lid is securely locked in place.  Which is obviously a load of crap, because the lid was nowhere near the food processor when it started up with my hand inside.

Note to everyone who is about to tell me that I should sue the people who made the food processor with the faulty safety feature:  I stuck my hand in a food processor that was plugged in.

I am not suing anyone.  Can you imagine me standing up in court and testifying that “yes, I do realize that was a stupid thing to do, Your Honor”?

The good news is that I didn’t lose any fingers or sever anything crucial.  The heel of my hand looked like a chunk of raw pork roast, which has sort of put me off pork roast for a while, and I have added to my status as an accident-prone freak of nature in our local ER, but I didn’t do any long-term damage to myself.  If I were a child, they would be calling in Protective Services right about now.  Since I am an adult, I’m surprised they haven’t called for a psych consult.

 

Not really one of my finer moments.
Not really one of my finer moments.

I’m just glad I didn’t go in for x-rays when I fell out of the barn and sprained my ankle the week before I processed my hand.

There’s an old saying:  When it rains, it pours.  I never really understood it as anything more than a slogan for selling salt, but I get it now.

You see, I got my house.  I am moving.  It is a delightful house in a perfect location, with enough rooms that my boys don’t have to share.  There is a laundry room, a little playhouse in the back yard, fabulous neighbors, and a grocery store within walking distance.  It’s even got a picket fence, for God’s sake.

A house with a picket fence!

There have been a few hiccups, most of which involve the previous tenants.  Since this is a small town, I won’t go into any detail that might embarrass the family.  Suffice it to say that the bike ramp they set up to fling themselves out the laundry room window was the least of the modifications they made to the building.

I am packing and sorting and organizing eighteen years of my life. My emotions are raw.  I keep going off on crying jags and then laughing because I feel stupid for crying over dumb things.  I fell apart yesterday when I came across the little quartz elephant The Big Guy gave me on our honeymoon; I can’t for the life of me figure out which one of us gets to keep the trinkets we inherited from his grandmother.  And I haven’t a clue what to do about that damn goose in the front yard.

The Big Guy painted it for my Aunt Noni when someone stole Lucy the Goose from her front porch.  We knew she needed a replacement goose – hell, that thing had a better wardrobe than I do – but The Big Guy decided that everyone has plain white concrete geese on their front porches.  Aunt Noni, he decided, needed something unique, and so he painstakingly designed a Canadian Goose.

Just wait until you see him in a dress
Just wait until you see him in a dress

So, really, he should keep Desi the Goose.  He worked so hard and really created a beautiful thing.  But I should keep Desi because he belonged to my aunt.

And I know I really don’t give a rat’s ass about that stupid goose.

I am sorting and dividing and cleaning up my life.  With a 10-pound lifting restriction because of my neck. With a sprained ankle.   With my hand in a splint.  With my kids’ school year winding down, and end-of-the-year parties and band concerts and dance recitals and book fairs and trying to find a job and goddammit I want to crawl under the kitchen table and curl up in a fetal position and have a really good cry.

I’m not sad; I’m overwhelmed.

And accident-prone.
And accident-prone.

I stand in the middle of a room and spin around trying to figure out where to start, and then I decide it’s time for a Toblerone and some Netflix.  I’m not lazy; I have just perfected the art of avoidance tinged with just the right amount of procrastination.  With a little bit of guilt and compulsive overeating  and some vintage Randy Mantooth thrown in for good measure.

It’s probably a good thing I don’t drink.

Although drinking might help explain things when I go back to the ER.  Because I think we all know I’m going to hurt some other part of myself before all is said and done.

I have, however, been able to make one major decision this week.  I may not know how to divide the towels and silverware and DVDs, but I have decided on at least one item that The Big Guy can keep.

I grant him full custody of the food processor.

But I’m keeping the goose.

Mother’s Day

This week’s Finish the Sentence Friday is a rough one for me.  I wasn’t really sure about doing it, but I’ve missed the last couple of Fridays, so I don’t really have a choice.

This one might hurt a little.

 

Dear Mom:

I’m supposed to write a letter to you for Mother’s Day.  I think this is where I’m supposed to talk about how much I miss you, and lament the fact that you aren’t a part of your grandchildren’s lives.

Screw that.

You were a Drama Queen, and we both know it.  When your cancer came back that last time and we all had to face the fact that this was going to be your final battle, it was a given that you were going to leave us in the most memorable way and on the most symbolic day possible.  Since you were heavily into your religious phase at that point, we were all placing our bets on Easter.

It never crossed my mind that you’d die on Mother’s Day.  That was a little cruel, even for you.

Yes, I’m angry.  Twenty-seven years later, I am still pissed off at you for dying on Mother’ Day.  I mean, Mother’s Day was always going to be hard without you anyway, but to mourn the anniversary of your death and miss you on Mother’s Day on the same day is really a double-whammy I could have done without.  It’s not fair.

So I’m being selfish.  Damn it, I want my own Mother’s Day.  I want my Mom.  I want to know what it’s like to have an adult relationship with the woman who brought me into this world.  I want to have someone in my life that I can turn to when I have questions:  “Was I as stubborn as my daughter is?”  “Did I talk as much as my son does?”  “Do my kids look anything like I did at that age?”

Did you love me anywhere near as much as I love them?

Do you miss me, just a little?

I’m sure you are watching from above.  You have to be.  You’re up in Heaven, finally getting along with Dad and his sisters.  You’re reunited with your own little brother, and I know you find the time every day to wrap your arms around your niece Randee just to hear her call you “Aunt Kay.”  God, how you loved spoiling that little girl!

You have to be in Heaven, Mom.  If there’s no Heaven, then you are simply gone, and I can’t accept that.

I think you would have liked my husband.  You probably would have urged us to end the marriage sooner than we did, but you’d be here for me right now when I so desperately need you.  I don’t know how I’m going to survive this divorce without someone to lean on.  I don’t know how I can be a single mom without my own mom in my corner.

That corner is pretty damned lonely, Mom.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day.  Your grandkids will make me breakfast and we will have a good day, just the four of us.  I’ll probably tell a few funny stories about you, make them laugh.  We’ll call their other grandmother and wish her a happy Mother’s Day.  I think you would like her, by the way.   You probably wouldn’t get along very well because she is every bit as determined and strong-willed as you were.  But you’d like her.  Even more than that, I know you’d respect her.

She’s been the best mother-in-law I could have had.  I call her “Mom.”  I don’t do it to hurt you, and I hope you can forgive me for loving her as much as I do.  She’s been a great mom for the past eighteen years.

I’ve been blessed in my life to have two amazing mothers.  I’ve lost you both now; you to breast cancer and her to the divorce from her son.  I’ll have to call her “Jean” now, instead of “Mom,” just like I have had to start calling her son “Ken” instead of “Honey.”

Mom, I never appreciated how strong you were.  You were a single mom before it became fashionable.  You worked a dead-end job that you hated, and you had to know that your second husband was an asshole.  You knew what his son was too, I think; there was a reason why you kept convincing him to move out, wasn’t there?  I’m so sorry I doubted you.

I think of you all the time, not just on Mother’s Day.    I’m a single mom, just like you, and I am so afraid that I’m not going to do it as well as you did.  I wish you were here to tell me what to do and how to do it.  I don’t want to be the grown-up all the time.

I want my Mommy.

I want to spend Mother’s Day with my children, and I want to enjoy it for what it is:  my day.  Not yours.  Just once, I want Mother’s Day to be Mother’s Day, not The Day My Mother Died.

This year, can you give me that gift?  For just this one day, just this one time, stay out of my thoughts.  Let me have a Happy Mother’s Day.  For Once.

I Do

Back in 1996, a friend issued an ultimatum when I was planning my wedding. “If you invite any of your little gay friends, don’t invite me,” she stated. “I don’t want to be around sinners.”

I met her through an adult Sunday School class, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. She, along with most of the people in that particular church, stood firm in the belief that homosexuality is wrong. Period. No questions, no discussion. In her mind, all gay people go to hell, no matter what.

Subject closed. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. Game over.

It had been a sore subject between the two of us. I considered myself a good Christian, and I still do. I have friends who are gay, and some of them are good Christians as well. Some are Pagans; some are Atheist, and one is Jewish.   But those people all have two things in common: they are my friends, and they don’t need my approval of their sexual orientation.

I am proud to say that I told my church friend I was going to invite whoever the hell I wanted to my wedding, and it was up to her whether to show up or not.

She didn’t come to my wedding.

I am not a theologian. I am not prepared to sit down and discuss the words of the Bible and debate over which sins are worse than other sins. I don’t know. Maybe that makes me ignorant; maybe it makes me a blind fool to follow a religion without studying it in any great depth.

Gossip is a sin, but let me tell you which of my neighbors are heavy drinkers or are facing foreclosure.   Gluttony is a sin, but just watch what happens when I get my hands on a Toblerone. I can go straight to hell for taking the Lord’s name in vain, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never gotten through a twenty-four hour period without uttering at least one hearty “God damn it!”

But do I believe in Heaven? More to the point, do I believe I am going there when I die?

Absolutely.

I also believe in same-sex marriage. I believe that two people who love each other should be together.

Why is that such a big deal?

I’ve heard the arguments that same-sex marriage makes a mockery of the “sanctity of marriage.” That it devalues “normal” marriage in some way.   That marriage is meant to be between a man and a woman, and that is all.  No exceptions.

But when I look around at the “normal” marriages around me, I see more divorces than long-lasting unions. The majority of my friends and relatives refer to their first marriage or first husband; I was the Big Guy’s second wife, and he has already given a ring to his future third wife.   The “sanctity of marriage” doesn’t seem to keep straight people from lying or cheating on their spouses. Maybe I’m just bitter because of the collapse of my own marriage, but it seems as though everyone around me has a tale to tell of infidelity or hurt.

Sure, same-sex marriages often deal with the same issues. I am not suggesting that one is better than the other. But as far as making a mockery of marriage? That ship sailed a long time ago, and it had nothing to do with homosexuality. Or Christianity, for that matter.

Marriage is hard work. Gay or straight, young or old, Christian or not, an average of 50% of all marriages today are going to end in divorce. Fifty percent.

When I married my husband, I didn’t expect to become a middle-aged single mother. I didn’t expect us to stop communicating; I never thought he could fall in love with someone else and leave me behind. I thought we were going to be one of the successful marriages, and I had visions of our spending our sunset years together. I loved him, and he loved me, and we were both naïve enough to think that was going to be enough.

It wasn’t.

But we tried. We really tried. And it wasn’t all bad; if I had the chance to go back in time and do it again, I would. In a heartbeat. Even knowing how much it was going to hurt when we went our separate ways in eighteen years, I would do it all again because the good parts of our marriage outnumbered the bad ones.   I am glad I had the chance to be married to him.

Which is my roundabout way of saying that I believe everyone deserves a chance to try to make it work. If two people love each other and are strong enough to take that risk, to make that bet that they are going to be in the fifty percent of marriages that succeed, then why shouldn’t they have that opportunity?

One of my high school friends is going through a rough patch right now. Life keeps bitch-slapping her with one tragedy after another, one devastating loss after another. And through it all, my friend’s wife has been there for her. My friend and her wife are both strong, beautiful women who are raising a strong and beautiful daughter, and their love for each other will help them survive anything. There is not a doubt in my mind that they belong together.

How can anyone say their love is wrong?

I believe in God, but not a God who would doom these women to Hell. I believe God is just and kind, and that He gave us the capacity to love; I believe that the people who can’t see this are the ones who are truly doomed.

Love is just . . . love. You find it or you don’t.   Gay or straight, the luckiest people in the world are the ones who find it and keep it.

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Wagon Boss

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It hangs on my living room wall because I am the only one in the family who couldn’t say no.  It hangs there and it mocks me, and I hate it.

“It” is a Charles Russell painting.  Or to be more accurate, among my family members it is the Charles Russell original.

According to family legend, it was my Grandmother’s prized possession.  I don’t remember Grandma Hyde, but I remember the stories of that painting.  How Grandma fell in love with it on a visit to the Charles Russell Museum, how the family all chipped in together to “invest” in it for her, how it would someday be a great inheritance for my sisters and me.  Every time we heard the story again, we nodded and promised to cherish it forever.

We gave our word.

Later, our inheritance was expanded to include figurines from Gorham, Grossman and others.  The aunts’ house became crowded with curio cabinets stuffed to overflowing with Norman Rockwells, Hummels, Lladros, Andreas, and Swarovskis.  Chubby pink-cheeked children in lederhosen peered out from behind graceful nuns in soft pastels; a cheerful cardinal sat on a porcelain tree branch beside a scene of small-town Americana.

There are Hallmark stores with fewer figurines than my aunts had in their home.  Aunt Marian also dabbled in Precious Moments, Fannie-kins, Snowbabies, and Royal Doultons.   She hung collectable plates from the Danbury Mint and Bradford Exchange and spoke of every new addition in a hushed voice, reminding us that these treasures would all be ours someday.

Someday came, and my sisters and I were left with a collection of useless tshotskes for which there is no resale market.

I sold some on Ebay. Traded some on Listia.  We set up a display in the back of the church at Aunt Marian’s memorial service and invited her friends to take one with them to help remember her.  And still, I have hundreds of figurines boxed up in the back of my closets.  Thousands of dollars’ worth of useless figurines that mean nothing to me.

And then there’s the painting.

It’s called “The Wagon Boss.”  My sister and her husband put on white gloves, wrapped it in a sheet, and took it to an expert to find out just how much it is worth, only to discover that the cherished Charles Russell “original” is a poster.  A beautiful poster, carefully mounted and framed, but a poster.

The fifty year-old frame has more value as an antique.

And there it hangs.

On my living room wall.

I hate it.

It is dark and dreary and it makes me sad.  I don’t want it, but I can’t seem to let it go.  When I think of dropping it off at the GoodWill, my heart aches. I get teary-eyed at the thought of it ending up in a Dumpster somewhere.  It has value.  It must have value to someone, somewhere.

I can’t just let go of something that I promised to love forever . . . can I?

I gave my word.

A promise is supposed to be forever.  I made a promise, gave my word, made a vow.  Going back on my word means I was wrong.  Gullible.  That I was fooled into seeing value in something utterly worthless. That I believed in a lie told by someone I shouldn’t have trusted.

Kind of like when I said my wedding vows.

I am fool.  A gullible, divorced fool surrounded by boxes of Norman Rockwell figurines and a dusty old Charles Russell poster, and nothing else.

Knot Now

200px-Cherry-stem-tongue

One of my hidden talents is the ability to tie a knot in a cherry stem with my tongue.

Believe it or not, it has taken me a week to come up with that in my search for anything that I might be able to refer to as a “hidden talent”.  Of course, once I figured that one out I remembered a few others.

I can light a lighter with my toes.  Once upon a time, I could also light a cigarette with the toe-lighted lighter, but these days I strongly doubt that I could get my toes anywhere a cigarette in my mouth.  Meh, I don’t smoke anyway.

I can balance a stack of quarters on my raised elbow and then swing my arm around fast enough to catch them before they hit the floor.  My record is twenty-one quarters.

I can break into almost any house, as long as I have access to a butter knife, something to climb on, and enough time to think about it. . . but not enough time to really think about it.

It says an awful lot about where I am in my life right now that I struggled so hard to find my own hidden talents for this week’s prompt.  I’m dealing with so much in my life, and I know that it has taken a real toll on my self-esteem.  Which was always a bit wobbly to begin with.

I’ve never been out of work before now.   I don’t know what I’m good at.  I know I’m not dumb; I just don’t have any real ideas of what direction to go, career-wise.  I have limitations now that I’ve never had before, limitations that pretty much eliminate any kind of job I have ever held in the past.  Or, as I whined to two old and dear friends last night, “I have no marketable skills!”

Let me tell you something about these old friends:  they don’t take self-pity lightly.

I’ve known them since we were all eight years old.  At times, we’ve gone years without seeing each other.  At times, we haven’t really liked each other.  But there is no one on this earth who knows me better than they do, warts and all.

They pretty much slapped me down, scolded my ass for feeling sorry for myself, and proceeded to remind me of all of the things I am good at.  They reminded me of my worth as a human being, and they made sure to tell me that they love me.

They helped me remember that I need to love me too.

This morning, my husband and I drove to the county courthouse together to file the papers necessary to begin our divorce proceedings.  It was an emotional experience for both of us; neither one of us wants to get back together, but taking this step feels like failure.  It hurts.

It hurts to admit we couldn’t make it work.

It hurts to realize that it really, truly is over.

It hurts to look each other in the eye and say yes, I am sure I don’t want to be married to you anymore.

It hurts.

In the car, I asked him for help with this week’s writing prompt.  “You’ve lived with me for eighteen years,” I said.  “What would you say is a hidden talent that I have?”

“You can tie a cherry stem in a knot with your tongue,” he said.

My friends know that I can hand-quilt and embroider like a dream.  They have faith in my writing, and they have ideas of ways for me to make money with it.  They know I am a hard worker and that there is no job I can’t do if I set my mind to it.  They believe in me, and they are going to make me believe in myself whether I want to or not.

My friends demand the best that I have to offer, and they will accept nothing less.  They know that I have talents and skills that I haven’t even discovered yet.

My husband, the man I loved and lived with for nearly two decades, knows that I can tie a cherry stem into a knot with my tongue.

Somewhere between the county courthouse and home, I finally understood that my hidden talent has nothing to do with cherry stems or cigarette lighters or fine needlework.  It has everything to do with this man that I used to love; this man that I tried so hard to share my life with.  This man who never really knew me at all, any more than I really knew him.

My hidden talent is knowing when to walk away.

Not Guilty, Your Honor

I was found guilty of adultery.

Oh, relax.  I didn’t commit adultery.  I was accused and found guilty, but I never did it.

Well, okay, there was that one steamy dream about David Hasselhoff while I was on bed-rest during my first pregnancy and the remote control stopped working with the TV stuck on a Baywatch marathon.   I blame that and the pregnancy hormones that were destroying my brain at the time, not any real desire for the Hoff.  To this day, I feel a bit guilty and somewhat nauseous at the slightest mention of his name.

Say it with me, girls . . . 1, 2, 3 . . . Ewwww
Say it with me, girls . . . 1, 2, 3 . . . Ewwww

I think most women suffer from some degree of Hasselhoff-induced nausea that has nothing to do with an erotic dream, however.

As far as the real thing, actually cheating on my husband?  Of course not.

Call me naïve or prudish or whatever, but I have never been able to understand people who cheat in a relationship.  I don’t get it.  Seriously, what is so hard to understand about staying faithful to a person that you claim to love?  If you love them, how can you even contemplate causing them that kind of pain?

And if you don’t love them enough to stay faithful, then why are you in a relationship with them?

I realize I am over-simplifying things.   Maybe it would be different if I had ever been attracted to someone outside of my marriage.  You know, like one of the men I was accused of cheating with.

The first was an older man, a neighbor of my Aunts.  He was very handsome and dignified in a Cary Grant sort of way.  He was also my boss at the Outplacement office I worked at before going to Cosmetology school, and I had a well-established working relationship with him.

He was also gay.  Very gay.  As in, In-A-Committed-Relationship-For-Twenty-Years gay.  He was so obviously gay that he was practically a prototype for gay men everywhere.

I was also accused of having a fling with an old friend from high school.  I’ll admit that he has cute little dimples and some seriously sparkly blue eyes, but let’s face it:  I’ve known him for over thirty years, and I could have screwed him long ago if I had ever felt the slightest hint of physical attraction toward him.  I’ve had opportunities over the years, but he’s about as sexually appealing to me as a pair of nicely folded trouser socks.  I’ve felt more intense passion toward a Toblerone.

Most recently, I was convicted of having a fling with my child’s coach.   Now, I have to tread carefully here; I live in a very small town, and several of my friends and neighbors are followers of my blog.  It won’t take much detective work for most of them to figure out who I am talking about.

I respect the man. He does a great job of working with the little guys who don’t really understand how their sport works.  He deals with all of us parents, who can be pushy and irritating at times.    He has been a source of inspiration for me in recent years because he has recovered from injuries similar to mine, and that gives me hope that I will someday regain full mobility just like he has.

But.

Aside from the fact that he was married to a friend of mine until recently, aside from the rumors I have heard about his temper, aside from the fact that this is a very small town and I have no desire to damage his or my reputation by having a casual fling with him . . . aside from all of that, there are three big reasons why I would never become involved with this particular man.

  1. He never asked.
  2. I don’t find him in any way appealing.  That’s not to say that he is an unattractive man; he’s just not attractive to me.
  3. I am married.  Duh.

I am in the process of a divorce.  Chances are good that I am not ever going to re-marry.  Oh, I plan on dating and I may fall in love again, but I just don’t know if I’m up for another round of being hurt in a committed relationship.

People cheat.  I’m beginning to think that everyone cheats in a relationship.    That I am in the minority because I don’t.

Fidelity means nothing any more.  Husbands cheat.  Wives cheat.  Those of us who don’t are accused of it anyway because cheating has become so prevalent that it is inconceivable to others that anyone would actually stand by their wedding vows.

One Man Two Women Silhouette

I can count on one hand the number of people I know who have not cheated on their spouse or been cheated on by their spouse.

I believe in gray areas in life.  That not every situation can be easily defined by black or white, good or bad, right or wrong.  I believe that we can all learn from every experience, every mistake, every heartache.  I even believe in forgiveness and second chances.

But I don’t believe there are gray areas when it comes to infidelity.  A cheater is a cheater is a cheater.  A cheater loves himself/herself more than the person they are with.  A cheater will justify his or her actions by making declarations about destiny and true love and how some things are just meant to be.

And sometimes, a cheater accuses his wife of cheating because he knows that what he is doing is wrong, and because somewhere, deep down inside, he knows that he doesn’t love her enough to stay faithful to her.

And each time he cheats, some tiny piece of his selfish little romantic heart holds out hope that maybe, just maybe, this one, this affair, this new love in his life will be THE ONE that he can finally love enough to stay faithful to.

Yeah, good luck with that.

This has been part of Finish the Sentence Friday, prompted by the sentence starter “I was found guilty . . . “

Tradition!

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We can either be traditional or non-traditional in the way we do things.  I think my husband and I are being pretty non-traditional in the way we are going about our divorce.  We haven’t involved lawyers, choosing instead to do it the DIY way.

We are having a non-traditional “Friendly Divorce”.  People have asked us why we are going through with it if we are able to be so gosh darn friendly about things.  If we can get along so well, they ask, then why don’t we give it one more try?

Fair question.

Here’s the thing:  I am not a fool.

Make no mistake, I want this divorce.  I don’t hate him yet, but I am afraid that I will if I am married to him for much longer.   And I am just as certain that he will soon hate me as well.

We keep hurting each other.  Again and again and again.  We have been together long enough to know each other’s vulnerabilities, and we know how to use that knowledge against each other.  Each of us can inflict more pain on the other than anyone else in our lives can do.  We are both the “bad guy” in our situation, and we are both the victim.

I don’t want him back.  He doesn’t want me back. I don’t want to be married to him any more than he wants to be married to me.

I can be snarky and sarcastic, and I am fully capable of trashing him here, or on Facebook, or to our mutual friends.  I could air our “dirty laundry”, tell exaggerated tales of his misdeeds, and I could make him utterly miserable.

What purpose would that serve?

He has his own set of skills.  He can be cruel and hurtful, controlling and antagonistic, and at times his sense of humor can be downright devastating.  He could make my life a living Hell.

This could very easily become one very traditional, very spiteful, very ugly divorce.  All we have to do is say the word.  But again, what purpose would that serve?  One way or another, he and I are going to have to have a relationship for the rest of our lives because we made three little people together.  Three little people who need both of us to act like adults and set a good example for them.

I have been accused by some of being a pushover.  Advised to hire a good lawyer and go in for the kill.  I am the semi-crippled, unemployed mother of his three children, and he fell in love with another woman before divorcing me.  I could ask for his testicles to be gold-plated and gift-wrapped for me if I wanted, or so I have been told.

In ten years, do I really want a set of gold-plated gift-wrapped testicles, or do I want a decent relationship with my ex-husband and father of my children?  Once upon a time, we loved each other; I think there will always be a small kernel of that love between us because of everything we’ve shared.  I don’t think either one of us really wants to hurt the other.

We just want out.

We have made the decision to be non-traditional because we are being practical and putting the needs of our kids and each other first, for the first time in a long time.  Maybe that means we are finally growing up.

Or maybe we are starting a new tradition for others to follow?

Divorce Registry

In these early stages of my divorce, I find myself thinking back to our wedding.  I remember running through Target and Wal-Mart with the little pricing-gun-thingy to create my “registry”.  What a tacky thing to do!  Inviting people to our wedding and telling them what to bring as an offering gift.  Ridiculous.  Young people getting married have no idea what they really need to begin their married lives, and they waste their time begging for useless things that they will never really use, like punchbowls and decorative china.

I think there should be divorce registries.  That’s right.  I’ve been with the same man in the same house using the same dishes, towels and pans for almost eighteen years.  I know what I’ll use and what I won’t; I understand so much more about running a home.

So here is my Divorce Registry for my new home when I finally find one.

A lifetime supply of those Ziploc or Gladware containers.  I don’t want to have to fumble through drawers of expensive Tupperware dishes for which I am never going to find the right lid.  If I can’t find the lid for the cheap stuff, I can throw it away.  Move on with my life.  And if those leftovers in the refrigerator are on the verge of becoming self-aware, I don’t have to risk my life by dumping them and washing the container.  I can throw them away, disposable dish and all.

And I will never again have to argue with a child about a Tupperware dish he or she forgot to bring home.  You left my dish behind?  Oh well, open a new package.  Environment be damned, I’m having an organized kitchen.

I want cheap, practical dishtowels.  Screw the pretty matching ones that color-coordinate with the potholders and wallpaper border.  We all know the border is a leftover from the previous tenants, the dishtowels are going to get stained, and I’m going to set at least one potholder on fire. Just give me stack of the cheap ones from the dollar store.

 

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Corelle dishes.  Enough with the fancy-ass china.  At the rate my kids and I break ours, we might as well eat out of the pans while standing near the stovetop.   What’s that you say?  I need something special for holiday meals?  Why?  I spend half a day cooking the special holiday meals, and it is ridiculous to spend the other half washing the delicate china that can’t go in the dishwasher.

Give me some plain, sturdy Corelle because that stuff is almost totally unbreakable. I say “almost” because they do sometimes break, but even that is a fascinating science experiment.  They don’t just break; they disintegrate.  They vanish in a cloud of Magic Corelle Dust.  So they also provide the occasional after-dinner entertainment.

I need bigass wine glasses.  The Big Guy didn’t like wine, so we rarely drank.  When we did it was usually beer.  I am drinking wine now, and loving every drop of it, but these tiny, delicate pieces of crystal that we got as wedding gifts are ridiculous.  A couple of sips on the way to my chair, and I’ve got to go back for a refill before I’ve even sat down.  I want a wine glass I can dive into.  I want the Big Gulp of wine glasses.

Throw pillows are a necessity.  Lots and lots of fluffy, ruffled, utterly useless throw pillows.  He insisted that pillows on a couch had to be big enough to nap on, so we always had bed pillows on the couch.  It always looked like someone had spent the night on the couch.

On that subject, I want a fluffy, ruffled, girly bedroom.  I’m talking decorative pillows, a floral comforter, lace curtains.  The works.  I am a girl, damn it.  I want a girl’s bedroom.  And if I ever get married again, he is just going to have to be secure enough in his masculinity to deal with my very feminine bedroom.

I want a universal remote for the living room TV.  Dear God in Heaven, I am so sick and tired of having to locate and shuffle through the eighty-seven different remotes that we have at any given time.  If I can’t find something to watch with one remote, then it’s time to turn the damn thing off and read a book.

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And last but not least, I want Riley the cat.

Now, I love my three idiot furballs.  Fiesta, Mini-Me and King are all sweet and loveable and very cuddly, but I really hate their litterbox.  Riley, according to his owner, has trained himself to use the toilet.

How cool is that?!  I have literally spent an entire afternoon trying to attach the video clip of Riley peeing in the toilet.  I’m not sure which is more pathetic — the fact that I spent an afternnon trying to share footage of a cat peeing in a toilet, or the fact that I failed at the effort after so many hours.

I don’t really want to keep Riley.   I just want him for a few weeks so my cats can realize how cool he is and learn from him.  And he is cool.  I wish I could have attached the clip so everyone could see the expression on his face while he takes care of business.  It’s like he’s saying, “Don’t tell me you’re still using a litterbox!  How gauche!”

I wonder if Wal-Mart has a Divorce Registry. Or if it’s terribly tacky to throw myself a Divorce Shower.  All guests would have to bring one practical item from my Registry, as well as the phone number of a single man who likes chunky gals and good books.

Except Riley’s owner.  She only needs to bring Riley.

Thanks, Dad

My father didn’t leave me any money.  I didn’t get his height or his broad shoulders or even his pretty blue eyes.  I’m sort of glad I didn’t get his hook nose, although I have to say I’m not really happy with the one I ended up with.   And I breathe a sigh of relief whenever I think about how awful his deep chin-dimple would have looked on the sharp, pointy chin I inherited from my mother’s family.

In short, all I got from Dad – other than the gene for alcoholism – was his sense of humor.

In the immortal words of Robert Frost, “That has made all the difference.”

I get depressed quite often.  Maybe more than the average person.  So sue me – It’s my divorce party and I’ll cry if I want to.  But when I’m done crying, I have to find things to laugh at.  Sometimes, I laugh while I’m still crying, which is sort of messy and tends to make people eye me warily, as though questioning whether or not they should start Googling phone numbers for the nearest distributor of straight-jackets.

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion.  I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.

— Kurt Vonnegut

My search for a place to live has been a mess.  It has become something my soon-to-be-ex-husband would refer to as a Goat Rodeo, which is apparently only a step or two removed from being a complete and total Cluster Fuck.  At the rate things are going, I fully expect to enter all-out Cluster Fuck territory any day now.

I made an offer on the perfect house.  And by “perfect” I mean “enough bedrooms, great location, within my price range, needs some work, has a creepy pet cemetery in the back yard.”   I waited . . . and waited . . . and waited.  I then called a different Realtor – a smart woman with whom I graduated – and followed her advice.  I made another offer directly to the Seller’s Agent . . . who hemmed and hawed and made excuses about why the bank wasn’t responding.

Meanwhile, the house went up for auction.

I looked at another house, which was described as having renovations that were “85% complete”.  It had a gorgeous layout, including a built-in greenhouse window in the kitchen and a set of French doors leading from the Master Bedroom out onto a deck.  It also had garbage piled up throughout, holes in the floors and walls, no bathtubs or toilets or kitchen cabinets, and ivy growing on an inside wall.  The big red “Condemmed” notice on the front door was a bit of a surprise, as was the raging river gushing through the basement.

Good thing I majored in English, because my poor math skills make it impossible for me to calculate where the “85% complete” factors into that particular equation.

In short, things are not going as well as I had hoped.

I can’t even find a three-bedroom house to rent.  I’d settle for an apartment, but there are no three-bedroom apartments in a town this size.  And forcing my children to change schools is not an option.  I may end up finding a two-bedroom apartment and sleeping on a couch in the living room until my older children graduate.  Not a pleasant alternative, but possibly my only alternative at this point.

I have cried so much in recent weeks that I just feel sort of . . . done.    I can’t cry any more.  So when I laugh at my housing problems, I am not in denial; I am not avoiding the situation; my amusement is not a sign that I am not taking this seriously.  I am taking it seriously, believe me.

But come on – ivy on an inside wall?!  A raging torrent of water in the basement of condemmed house, and some  moron actually has the chutzpah to ask $20,000 for it?  A Realtor who assured me that she understands that I have bad credit, no job, limited funds – and then sends me details on houses that cost upwards of $70,000?

I have to laugh.  It is simply too preposterous not to laugh.  If this situation isn’t funny, then it has to be tragic, and I just can’t do tragic right now.  You know the old saying about how “someday we’ll all look back on this and laugh”?  I can’t wait for someday.  I have to laugh now.

It’s in my genes.

Not to sound ungrateful, Dad, but you couldn’t have just left me thirty grand instead?

Comedy is tragedy plus time.

— Carol Burnett

Climbing Down

This holiday season, I will get into the holiday spirit.  Eventually.

Really, I will.

Any other year, I would have been nearly Christmas-ed out by this point.  Sick of Christmas Carols, offended by the over-commercialization of the holiday season, struggling to find places for all of my aunts’ hand-me-down ornaments that I couldn’t bear to let go.  I would have spent my evenings snuggled on the couch with my youngest child, pretending that I was watching all of those Rankin-Bass Christmas shows because he wanted to.

I’m just not feeling it this year.

I’ve gone to my kids’ holiday parties and band concerts at school, and I sat in the audience with my husband and the Upgrade and her little boy and my kids like some sort of modern Brady Bunch, and I had a really strange desire to hug her because she is really really nice and I almost believe that we are going to be able to make this “friendly divorce” business work.  But I’m not feeling any warm feelings when I see the lights and tinsel, and I haven’t bought any gifts yet.  I don’t even know what to buy for anyone.

I have put some thought into how many cups of Rum Chata-laced egg nog I can drink alone before I have to add alcoholism to my list of things to worry about.

For some reason, I keep thinking about a poem I read all the way back in high school:

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candycanes and breakable stars

I couldn’t remember the rest of it, so I turned to Google and found that it was called “Christ Climbed Down”, written by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1958.  Then, because I am easily distracted and a poetry nerd, I went on to learn all kinds of things about Lawrence Ferlinghetti and his fellow Beat Poets, which then led to a binge on the works of e.e. cummings and others.  I finally stopped after bawling my way through “anyone lived in a pretty how town”, especially the part about how someones married their everyones.

When my marriage imploded, I thought I would be on my own by Christmas.  I pictured myself in a new home with a small, tasteful tree and understated, classy decorations.  Of course, tasteful, understated and classy are not words that anyone has ever used to describe anything I have ever done.  If it helps, I’ve always been a very elegant person in my imagination.  Especially after a few cups of egg nog with Rum Chata.

I had this great mental picture of myself being really cool about everything this first year, but it’s just not working out that way.  I’m still here, in the house I’ve shared with my husband for almost two decades.  We are up to our ears in boxes and clutter and uncertainty until there’s just no room for a tree.  We’ve hung the stockings and I try to remember to move that stupid elf to a new location every morning, but that’s about it.

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no powderblue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

This year is my Ferlinghetti Christmas.  I don’t want the plastic tree and Hallmark ornaments, and I swear to God I am going to kick the radio the next time I hear that moronic song about wanting a hippopotamus for Christmas.  I don’t want to see the flashing lights or that tacky little Nativity set we own that has Mary and Joseph as Native Americans in front of a teepee with a tiny papoose as the Baby Jesus.

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I want Ferlinghetti’s bare tree with a simple star on top.  I want to hear Carols about Jesus, about Faith, about His love.  I don’t care about Santa or presents or wrapping paper or hippopatamii.

I will get into the Holiday Spirit at some point over the twelve days.  I swear.  But it’s going to be a different kind of Holiday Spirit this year.  Oh, I’m keeping the egg nog and Rum Chata – I’m buying it in bulk.  As for the rest of it – the decorations and the music and the presents and the forced gaiety of the whole thing – I’ve decided to let my husband have custody of it all this year.

This year, my Holiday Spirit is about trusting in God to watch over me and my loved ones to make sure that we all get through this as painlessly as possible.  It’s about learning to care about my husband as a friend instead of a lover, about forging a good relationship with his new love and trusting that we are all going to be adults about this.  It’s about having a good Christmas because of who we are and how we treat each other, not about the size of our rootless plastic tree or the amount of lights we can pile on it.

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary’s womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody’s anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest of
Second Comings