Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday Morning Flowers (Sort Of)


BOO!

Happy Halloween!



I see you are on the Web today!!


That's a berry, berry good place to be!

Hope you all had a great weekend.

I did!


My sister Kathleen came all the way from Kansas to see her Baby Sister in California.



We had a wonderful time!


Sending you all good thoughts for the week ahead.



Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.

--Carol Saline




Thursday, October 27, 2011

Primarily, It's About Being Secondary



“I’m sorry. Because your husband is currently primary on the account, only he can cancel it or change any of the information concerning it.”

Grrrrrrrr….

Do you know how many times I have heard this or a variation of it in the past few weeks?

Since HOB and I have been married for thirty years, we have a lot of intertwined accounts that go back a long time. I am learning now that, on most of them, he is the primary account holder and I am the secondary.

HOB made the decision to leave our marriage, giving me no choice in the matter of divorce.
Now, on top of that, I have to hear that I have no power to change the accounts to my name only?

Great.

That’s just what I needed to hear (over and over and over again) right now.

It’s been like this for the garbage/water/sewer, the bank account, the credit card account, the gas company account, the phone account, and the electric account. Yes, the bills that came to our house were always in his name, but the money used to pay the bills came from both of our paychecks.

In some cases, I have had to cancel the account, and then start a new one. This means I start over, the record of years of on-time payments wiped out. Sometimes there is a fee for starting a "new" account.

Two weeks ago, I needed to cancel a line of home equity credit and get a clearance on our deed. I went to the bank to be told I couldn’t do it even though I was on the cleared loan documents. Only HOB could do it.

I wanted to take over one of our shared credit cards and keep the miles on it. My name was on the credit card. However, HOB could keep the card and take my name off it, but I couldn't do the same. I had to get another credit card (with a much lower line of credit.) They were our accumulated miles, but HOB was the only one who could authorize the transfer of miles.

I transferred some of our money from our joint account into my own new checking account. Because HOB's name was primary on the account, every time I look at my new account, his name is there on the transfer history, as though the shared funds came solely from him.

Grrrrrrrrrrr….

When we started these accounts, I did not make a conscious decision to be the secondary. In fact, I don’t ever remember even being asked if we had a preference. We opened the accounts and HOB was automatically named as primary. At the time, I didn’t think that much about it. I thought we’d always be together, so it was no big deal.

I am smart. I am educated, but I fell into a typical trap. I didn’t pay attention to whose name was first on those accounts. Moreover, I let HOB take over the finances, make the stock decisions, and do the taxes. He was good at those things and I wasn’t, or at least I didn’t think I would be. I trusted him and believed him in all things financial. When he said I didn’t need a supplemental savings account from work because “We’ll have mine when we retire,” I went along with it.

He was strong where I was weak and I didn’t get any stronger because I never tried. I lolled around in the warm bathwater of complacency when I should have been developing my own savings plan, applying for my own credit cards, and managing my own stocks.

My female blogging buddies, especially my younger ones: take heed. Get our own accounts. Make sure you are primary on at least half of your utilities. Apply for your own credit cards. Don’t assume you are a equal on your shared accounts; if you are female, you have probably automatically been listed as secondary.

I am luckier than a lot of women in my situation. I have a good job and a good retirement system. I am able to get credit on my own. My financial advisor walked out on me, but if I need to, I can hire someone to advise me in this area. I am grateful for these things.


Maybe, just maybe, someday in the future, I’ll be a situation where I will be on an account with someone again. However, I can tell you now, I’ll always keep my own checking account. On shared accounts, I’ll either be a joint account holder or the primary from here on out.

This change in my life has taught me a lot about the value of taking responsibility for my own finances and my own future. I have a lot to learn and I'll probably stumble along the way, but it's time for me to take charge of my life.

My first decision?

No more secondary status for Betty.


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What I Learned At Jury Duty


I am one of those lucky people who gets called for jury duty every year.

Normally, I don’t mind at all. My work pays for the day, I get to sit and grade papers, and if I get called up to the jury box I usually get dismissed. Instead of the large jury room, I hang out in the cafeteria where there is a wide variety of snacks to buy, an Internet connection and comfortable chairs. All in all, it’s usually a pretty good place to get things done.

This year, however, as I entered the courthouse, things felt different.

I am usually far removed from legal actions but HOB’s demand of a divorce has put me in the middle of one.

Since I did not want the divorce, I initially resisted researching all the legal ramifications. Soon, though, it dawned on me that it didn’t matter if I wanted a divorce or not, it was going to happen. So, reluctantly, I forced myself to read about the legal ins and outs of divorce.

Friends advised me early on to go out and get the meanest, nastiest divorce lawyer I could, but I resisted. Just recently, however, HOB and gotten together to talk about the division of assets and it hadn't gone well. Afterwards, HOB went to see a lawyer for a consultation and I finally went to one for a consultation as well. (A really decent man, not a shark.)

We were still trying to work things out between us, but increasingly, I felt the chill of legal friction in the air. Maybe that's why I was so sensitive to what was going on around me in the cafeteria that day at jury duty.

As I sat grading essays, I overheard a heated conversation going on at a nearby table. It was a divorcing couple discussing custody. The debate was loud and it was ugly. I could sense the bitterness and anger between the parents. The woman pointed to her husband and spat out, the words, “You WILL pick him up every Wednesday!” My stomach churned and I left a lump rise up in my throat.

I glanced over at another table and saw a man with a lawyer, looking down at papers. I caught snippets of their conversation and knew immediately, it was about a divorce. I shook my head to clear it and looked down at a fresh essay I pulled out of the stack on my lap, but my concentration was all gone.

Gathering my things, I headed down to the other end of the cafeteria where I saw, (yes, you guessed it), another woman with her lawyer discussing the terms of her divorce. At a nearby table, her husband sat with his lawyer. On each table were stack and stacks of legal papers. I could see the anger and hurt emanating from the people and even from the stacks of papers.

Suddenly, it seemed antagonistic, combative language was everywhere and it became visible to me. I could see it rising from the tables all over the cafeteria, a black, heavy cloud over my head that soon pressed down upon my chest until it was hard for me to breathe.

Tears came to my eyes as I thought about the battle that was in front of me.

Was this what HOB and I would come to? I thought about HOB’s tone the last time we had talked. He was running short on patience as he tried to explain to me how stock options worked.

We discussed what would come of the house. I was still operating on pure emotion. To him the house is an asset that can be given a cold dollar figure and placed in columns on the spreadsheet. To me, it is my home, my memories, and my shelter. My emotional response to him when we discussed the house only served to make him more exasperated with me.

Increasingly he seemed to be getting suspicious of the suggestions I made. I still felt betrayed by him and let him know it at every turn. We were both easily irritated with the other and ready to lash out. I knew once lawyers got fully involved, that the battle would be on. Would we be able to move on from such strife?

While I know HOB and I will never see eye-to-eye about this divorce, I had hoped to at least remain civil and to have a non-combative relationship in the future for the sake of our boys.

I went home and thought about what I had seen at the courthouse.

The next time I talked to HOB, I told him I wanted to have more peaceful, productive talks. I suggested that instead of having separate lawyers, he look over what the lawyer I had gone to would write up and then, if he agreed to the terms there, sign off on it.

He has agreed to this plan and I am grateful to him for that peace offering.

I know HOB and I still have a lot to work out, but I now have a full and clear vision of what I do not want to become. Don’t get me wrong. I am not rolling over and playing dead. I will make sure I protect my future.

But I want that future to hold, for both of us, a sense of dignity and a sense of pride that we did not denigrate the other in this process.

In the end, for us, and for our children, that will be the biggest asset of all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Poetry Tuesday: "Under a Telephone Pole" by Carl Sandburg




UNDER A TELEPHONE POLE

I AM a copper wire slung in the air,
Slim against the sun I make not even a clear line of shadow.
Night and day I keep singing--humming and thrumming:
It is love and war and money; it is the fighting and the
tears, the work and want,
Death and laughter of men and women passing through
me, carrier of your speech,
In the rain and the wet dripping, in the dawn and the
shine drying,
A copper wire.

--Carl Sandburg



Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday Morning Flowers and Blogoversary


Good Morning, My People!

Hope you have a very happy week ahead.





Today is my Blogoversary!

Three years ago I started this blog. What a ride it has been--a wonderful one. I had no idea how many generous, beautiful people I would meet on this journey.

I appreciate your friendship, now more than ever.

I have not been able to make the rounds on a regular basis lately and for that I apologize. I hope when things settle in here a bit more, I can get back to my regular routine of visiting.

Please know I have been touched by your kindness and your genuine concern for my current situation.

I had no idea when I started this blog how much you would all mean to me and how important you would become.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I am truly blessed by each and everyone of you.


(And just in case you enjoy irony, my very first post was titled, "Why I Got (and Stay) Married.")



We are friends and I do like to pass the day with you in serious and inconsequential chatter. I wouldn't mind washing up beside you, dusting beside you, reading the back half of the paper while you read the front. We are friends and I would miss you, do miss you and think of you very often.

--Jeanette Winterson


Friday, October 21, 2011

Some Pictures for Your Saturday










Hope you are having a great weekend, my friends!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sweet Service



About three weeks after HOB left, I was getting pretty tired of being wrapped up in my own cocoon of pain. It was exhausting to feel so bad for so long. I was sick of it and afraid it would cripple me for life. I needed some relief from it. However, I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the vicious cycle of self-pity and hurt.

One morning before work I watched a Wayne Dyer movie called The Shift. In it, he suggests that one of the best ways to help yourself out of your own pain is to be of service to others. I was feeling pretty weak and still sick to my stomach most of the time, but I was so tired of being in emotional pain that I decided to try it. On the way to work I repeated over and over again, “I will be of service to others today. “ I trusted that the universe would provide me with opportunities to do just that.

It did.

Walking to my office, I saw Freddy, a student who had taken one of my classes last semester. I stopped and I asked him how he was doing in his current English class. Freddy is not your traditional student. In fact, instead of going toward Freddy, many people, seeing the tattoos and rough clothing would run the other way.

I could feel my heart beat faster and to me my voice seemed weak as talked to Freddy about his new class. Part of me wanted to run away and hide. Now, this may not seem like an act of courage on my part, but remember, I was a pretty broken woman in those days. I could barely lift my head off the pillow in the morning and drag myself to work. Just asking about Freddy’s semester was a huge step outside of my world of hurt.

He told me he was doing OK, but felt like he was behind all the time. I smiled, and told him lots of people felt the way he did. I urged him to go see his teacher during office hours. We chatted for a little while about his life. Just before we parted ways, I looked him straight in the eye and said in my old, confident, bossy teacher voice, “You can do this, Freddy. I know you can.”

Suddenly, I felt a little lighter. I realized the film had been exactly right. I had stopped thinking about my problems for only about two minutes, but it had made a tremendous difference. I felt a glimmer of hope. I repeated my mantra and set out on my workday.

Being on a college campus, especially on a community college campus, means you have numerous opportunities to be of service to others. Lucky me. Throughout the day, I remembered my mission, and found plenty to do. I stayed after class to help a struggling student with her writing. I hugged a co-worker I knew was going through a rough time in her life. I stopped in on another co-worker and asked about his ailing father. I picked up trash I saw on campus. I held doors open for others. I let harried people go in front of me at the xerox machine.

Little by little, I began to feel better and better.

Late in the afternoon, I saw a student staring into a vending machine in complete exasperation. I stopped and asked if the machine had robbed him. He pointed to a Snickers bar, hanging by the corner of its wrapper. “I paid for that candy bar, but it's stuck,” he said. I looked at it, used one of my tremendous hips to shake the machine, but the candy bar just hung there, tauntingly swinging back and forth. “You could always put in another dollar,” I suggested. “Buy another Snickers and that one will fall too.” “I don’t have any more money,” he said.

I pulled a dollar out of my pocket. “Here you go. Try it now.” He smiled and took the dollar. I started to walk away. “Thanks!" he called after me. "You want one of the bars?” I turned, smiled and shook my head.

I continued on my way, pausing only slightly as I heard the machine suck in the dollar bill, followed by two thunks as the candy bars fell down. Suddenly, I broke into a huge smile and walked a little faster with a lighter step.

That student may have walked away with the candy bars, but the feeling I walked with was pretty darn sweet too.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Land Mines Everywhere


HOB popped off that pesky wedding ring the minute he backed out of the driveway in his mid-life crisis car and drove off into his new life.

He refuses to tell me his new address though I have assured him I will not become psycho/stalking wife and scrawl curse words upon his door in squirrel’s blood. I told him it would be nice to know where he is living. He tells me he can’t "live the kind of life" he wants to live if he gives me his address. (I have no idea what that means.) He tells me I have his phone number and that’s good enough.

Though he refuses to reveal the location of his Super Secret Bat Cave, he did tell me the name of the nearby town in which it is located. (How generous!) Knowing HOB, he bought all new, very expensive furniture and moved into a swanky new apartment, one with a garage for his ego machine.



I am sure everyone there views him as the new, mysterious single guy without a past who just moved in. He shops in new stores, drives new streets and has very little chance of running into someone he knows.

Me? I am in the town we settled in twenty-four years ago, in house we bought together, in the neighborhood we loved.





I see our neighbors every day, go to the same stores, and see people we have known throughout our kids’ school years. Our close friends know the situation of course, and the rumor mill being what it is in our town, I am sure lots of other people do as well. Still, when I venture out somewhere, I scan my surroundings and hope I do not see someone who does not know, someone who will ask how my “wonderful” husband is doing. In the early weeks, I stayed home, rarely venturing out. I did not want to see anyone who did not know.

However, life called and I had to go to work, had to get out and shop. I had to go to the dentist’s office, had to go to the local bookstore. At each of these places were people who associate me with HOB and vice-versa.





It was up to me to tell our neighbors who missed seeing HOB with me on our nightly walk. For the first couple of weeks, I wore my headphones and kept my head down as I walked quickly past.




For weeks, I avoided going to stores and when I had to do so, I looked ahead to every aisle, ready to turn around if I saw anyone familiar. My heart beat fast if I saw someone I might have to tell. I could not trust my emotions. I was afraid of losing it completely. My heart raced until I could get to my car. My car was my refuge. If I could get to it, I was safe. I could lose it there. I could drive away and hide at home.

Good friends gave me choice phrases for how to tell people, using some words about HOB that I’ve only seen on bathroom walls. I thanked them, but I knew, generally, what to say. (And no, I didn’t use those potty words. Though I might have gagged on the phrase “he needed to be ‘free.’”) It was a matter of getting the words out without having my voice breaking or cracking, without the tears coming.

div>What was even worse then was dealing with the looks of shock and disbelief on the faces of people. Me being me, I immediately felt like I should take care of their emotional needs when I could barely take care of my own. HOB and I were the couple that were supposed to stay together forever. We were the stable, reliable parents who lived in the Happy House. When I had to tell someone, I could see the hurt and disappointment in the faces of our friends. I felt like “we” had failed everyone.

I have talked to a few people that HOB did tell and they all tell me that when he told them, there was little or no emotion involved.



I believe them.

All through this process, he has been matter-of-fact about our separation and divorce. He acts as though he is canceling a somewhat complicated phone or cable contract instead of a thirty-year marriage. All business. No emotion. Let’s just get this inconvenient life interruption all wrapped up and move on quickly.




Before Sonny Boy and his girlfriend left for Virginia, we stood together as a family and posed for our annual Christmas picture. I look at those pictures and stare into the smiling face of my husband, searching for a trace of remorse. I wonder if he knew, even as he posed for our last family picture together that he soon leave, that we would never actually use any of the shots. I think ahead to Christmas and wonder how to sign my cards this year to people who do not know we are no longer a couple. It seems contradictory to warmly greet people at Christmas time, wish them happiness and joy and then tell them such news. My single signature will invite questions that I will need to answer.

Looking back, I see I did most of the work in our marriage. For years, I cleaned up messes I did not make. I guess I should have suspected I would need to do the same with our divorce.

HOB sits in his new kingdom, among his new possessions, hidden away from the mess of informing people, away from the hassle, away from dealing with the aftermath of his decision. He is creating a new, neat life, free from the messiness of grief and the untidiness of intense emotion.




There are times I envy him and his ability to shut off his emotions. However, I think this kind of event forces everyone to deal with his or her inner demons and complexities--even a person like HOB who denies they even exist or are a problem. HOB thinks he can escape into a new life, but Dr. Betty suspects the emotional ramifications of denying his pain and delaying the process of grief will be damaging to his future relationships.



My pain came out immediately and forcefully. (It still does at times.)




It wasn’t pretty. Just ask those dear friends and family members who supplied Kleenexes and hugs, who listened to me sob on the phone.


However, it was real pain and I couldn't hold back.


I am not embarrassed about it. I didn’t deny it. I felt it completely.



It was hideous.





It was horrible.



It was scary.




It was necessary.

Someday, I’ll live more fully because of it.



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Poetry Tuesday: "In Blackwater Woods" by Mary Oliver


In Blackwater Woods


Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond,
no matter what its
name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
everything
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go.

~ Mary Oliver ~

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday Morning Flowers!



Happy Monday!

My tomato friend and I are ready to present you with your Monday Morning Flowers.

He and I have had some long talks about life.

He doesn't say too much, but I think just the eyes say it all.

(He agrees with nearly everything I say!)



He and I hope you have a great week ahead!





Is it just me or are there faces everywhere?


Apparently my friend Lori has found a new friend.


Hey, at least I just talk to my tomato.


I am off to Jury Duty today!

Hope you have a great week!



I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.

--Groucho Marx

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Get 'Er Done Betty!



OK, Remember when I pruned the lemon tree in the back yard?

Well, of course, the next logical step would be for me to tackle some plumbing issues around here.

I am proud to announce that yesterday morning, aided by YouTube videos, I fixed my toilet AND I snaked my bathroom sink drain!

Wooooooo!

Bringing up gunk from the deep recesses of the pipes beneath the sink with the snake, plunging my arm down into the tank of the toilet and messing with the flapper, it was all very, very satisfying.

In the afternoon, I went on to throughly clean my car, and double-stack coupons at one of my favorite stores.

Yeah!

Who's the woman?

Betty is!

I am drained from all the activity but flushed with satisfaction.


Happy Sundays to you all!



Saturday, October 15, 2011

Page by Page


I like to imagine the people at Amazon and Netflix hovering over my orders of the past eight weeks and nodding their heads in understanding, maybe even throwing in a few books and videos they think would help in some sort of care package for me.

What I really want to do is to throw myself fully, deeply into a novel that will transport me to another world. I've tried to dive into long novels, but right now there are just too many water bugs on the surface of the pond pestering me for attention. My ability to concentrate has been severely diminished, but I have discovered that self-help book editors understand this. Most of the chapters are about two or three pages long. That I can handle.

Doped up on recent viewings of The Shift by Wayne Dyer and You Can Heal Your Life, I found myself doing much better in my day-to-day life. Some sections of the books I have stacked up there have spoken to me right now. Others will mean more to me later.

During the first week or so after HOB left, I ordered the Power Thought Cards. I pulled the first one out and nearly vomited.

It read:

"I ask for more understanding so I may knowingly and lovingly shape my world and my experiences."


At that time, I thought I could never do that.

But just yesterday, I look at that same card, smiled and nodded my head.

I can see the possibility of getting to that stage of thinking--and maybe sooner than I ever thought.

I am beginning to look up and see lots of possibilities, all around me.

It just might be time for me to start turning some pages and find out what's going to happen in the next chapter of my life.

The world's a pretty exciting place, isn't it?




Friday, October 14, 2011

Birthday Present



It's my mom's 89th birthday today. I send her love across the miles and bless my sister who will take her a cake and some of her great-grandchildren to celebrate with her.

It would not be right to think of her progressing dementia as a gift in any way and yet, I am glad she does not have the wherewithal to know what is happening here.

I remember how happy she was on our wedding day to have HOB join our family and how she would light up whenever he visited her when he was on a business trip and in her area.

She loved HOB very much.

She instilled in all of her daughters that once you married, you married for life and you worked through whatever problems you had. I have no doubt, also, being a woman of her generation, that she would believe that I should have been able to solve whatever problems there were here.

If she were her old self, I would have told her that I tried, that I was working on the marriage, and would have continued to work on it. Unfortunately, I would also have to tell her that I wasn't given a choice. HOB decided he was all done, would not agree to a separation, and he left.

I have to believe that after awhile, she would have understood and would have supported me and my new life.

In fact, I know she would have.

I have over a hundred pictures that show HOB and I standing side-by-side. At this point I can't bear to look at those pictures. Someday, when I get some perspective, I hope I'll be able to and to celebrate that part of my life, but for now I have to put them out of sight.

In my mom's mind, however, that picture of us side-by-side remains the same and, in an unspoken agreement among family members, no one tells her any differently.

We let her have that picture: stable, unwavering, constant, consistent.

The way love is supposed to be.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Barn's Burnt Down




Barn's burnt down --
now
I can see the moon.


--Masahide


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Secret Stair Walk!


Last Sunday I went with some gal pals to Los Angeles to do a little hiking.


My friend Karen had purchased this book and so we went on one of the hikes suggested in it.

In the 1920's the plan was to make Los Angeles a city where people got around on trolleys, so stairways were built into the hillsides so people could get to those trolleys.

I guess you know by now that trolley idea didn't really work out....

However! The stairs, built around 1927 are still there.


We went up a lot of stairs.



And then hiked up more stairs.



Did I mention there were a lot of stairs on this hike?



At the end of the hike, we paused to look over the mighty Pacific Ocean.

Look at these sophisticated, intelligent women taking time to gaze out on the mighty ocean, contemplating deeply the wonder of life and the power and beauty of nature.



Oh yeah. Nature was looking pretty good too.

We ended the day with a great meal.

What would I do without my gal pals?

They help me up some mighty challenging steps, both real and figurative.


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Poetry Tuesday: "XI" by Wendell Berry



IX.

I go by a field where once
I cultivated a few poor crops.
It is now covered with young trees,
for the forest that belongs here
has come back and reclaimed its own.
And I think of all the effort
I have wasted and all the time,
and of how much joy I took
in that failed work and how much
it taught me. For in so failing
I learned something of my place,
something of myself, and now
I welcome back the trees.

--Wendell Berry

Monday, October 10, 2011

Monday Morning Flowers!


Hope you had a wonderful weekend!

Are you ready for the week ahead?

I hope so!

Your weekly flowers await you, my darlings.







Hope you don't mind sharing this one with the super model who got there first.



Found this gem in the hills of Pacific Palisades this weekend. Love it!


Home is a name, a word, it is a strong one; stronger than magician ever spoke, or spirit ever answered to, in the strongest conjuration.

~Charles Dickens



Sunday, October 9, 2011

Avocado Festival!


Yesterday was a beautiful day, so my friend Lori and I went to the Avocado Festival in Carpinteria.


Naturally, she got emotionally attached the large, inflatable avocado near the entrance.


I finally lured her away with the promise of some good guacamole.



It was REALLY good!



There were plenty of green beauties all around....


The line at the avocado ice cream stand was too long for us, but there's always next year!

Happy Sundays to You!


Friday, October 7, 2011

My Life as a Laundry Mat



Lately, there have been times I haven't been able to see too clearly.



However, I am starting to get a handle on things. (I think.)



Still open for business every day from 7:00-10:00.

Always ready to do that last load of thinking at 9:00 though!



Trying to clear up thoughts, wash away some of the sadness.



Ah, I thought I was Speed Queen in all things.

Alas, I am finding that going through this process, I am not.



My friend Lori assured me as she set the machine to these settings, that although I might be delicate right now, I am still hot. (Thanks, Lori!)



Uh, Yeah. I think this one says it all.