RSS Feed

Category Archives: Family matters

Ready, Set, Live !

If there is one thing life has taught me in 54 years, it is to take your time when making important decisions.
It’s easy to get into relationships, but very hard to get out of them.
Easy to buy a house, but very hard to sell one.
Easy to start a business and sign a lease, but very hard to do what it takes to make a business work. 
Easy to spend money, but hard to earn it.
Easy to make plans and dream, but hard to follow through on all the inspirational talk.


For many years I lived with someone who was inclined to act impulsively. In some ways, riding the wave of his enthusiasm and embracing his romanticized vision of himself and life was fun. Life was this daring, wild rollercoaster that included abrupt changes of direction and leaps of faith. Occasionally, things worked out, and this reinforced our belief that the “Universe provides” or “Without great risk you will never get great rewards,”  but in retrospect, I think we occasionally got lucky, and that luck supported our foolish behavior rather that teaching us practical lessons. Eventually, we didn’t accurately see the truth of how and why things worked out for us, and we certainly didn’t embrace gratitude or appreciation for those that helped make our achievements possible.  We just chalked our successes up to our being talented artists or smart or special. But time and distance helps to see things clearly, and in retrospect, I see that most of our history is seeped in loss, heartache, and feelings of being trapped or not really having a choice due to cages of our own design. We lived in a constant state of chaos, worry, and stress – all a result of acting without careful thought or patience, shifting gears randomly, and not thoroughly exploring issues under the surface or waiting for the initial excitement to subside to gain honest perspective. Delusion and ego fueled our belief that we could defy practical odds and would end up OK. In the end, impulsive acts and random choices destroyed our lives, our family suffered financially, emotionally, and in every other way you could count. That is a sad story, and not something that needs revisiting, so suffice to say, like most people my age, life has taught me important lessons the hard way.


Once I was on my own, I couldn’t help but celebrate that I was finally free to follow my own instincts. I could forge a practical plan with good odds, play my own devil’s advocate and prepare for wrenches in the plan, then proceed with caution towards happiness. Best of all, I could do this without being accused of lacking faith or being a bubble buster. I was delighted to regain control of my life without guilt or worry that my practical nature was stifling someone else’s dreams. I felt empowered by the fact that whatever plans I made I could follow through to the end, as long as I had the fortitude and determination to do so. This doesn’t mean I stopped taking risks or leaps of faith, but being on my own allowed me the time and space to really explore what I wanted from life and redefine my own priorities. This should have been easy, but was in fact hard, because when you spend years and years making someone else’s dreams and happiness the top priority of your world, you become numb to your own needs.


I was an emotional mess for a long time, and I see that as a gift now, because it kept me from attaching to whoever came along.  Had I married the first person (or second or third) that I dated after becoming single in a quest to fast track my life to domestic bliss (which would have made things easier financially and emotionally so it was tempting, let me tell you) I would no doubt be stuck in an unhappy situation now, and perhaps even facing another divorce. I cared very much for each of the lovely men I dated, and yet, I knew I wasn’t ready to make a decision regarding love and commitment when I was still reeling from feelings of loss, resentment and sadness over my family’s demise.  Everyone seems like a great potential mate when they are putting on their “A game” but it takes time to really know someone, and see if they are all they first appear. So I curtailed every relationship as it started getting too meaty and continued to insist “I need space & time to heal.”  Let me point out that I didn’t WANT space, because I was lost, lonely, and feeling unloved, and the best cure for heartache is to hook up with someone who thinks you’re special. But still, I recognized my NEED for time to heal before making another man’s dreams and desires my life’s priority. 


When I met David, I instantly saw he had all the qualities I respected and most wanted in a mate. He was kind, socially & morally conscious, liberal, educated, creative, healthy, fit and sporty, sexual, open minded, immensely talented, sensitive, and as my mother says, “perfect for you because he is your  intellectual  equal.” (This always makes me laugh; because David is a genius and the most intellectual person I’ve ever met who doesn’t come across as pretentious or obnoxious.) I am deeply flattered by her comparison, but I don’t consider myself his intellectual equal. I do however, very much appreciate being with someone who has so much knowledge about the world, is quick to research new ideas, can creatively brainstorm like there is no tomorrow, and who listens to NPR as much as I do and likes to come home, pour us a glass of wine and start conversations with “I heard this great interview on NPR while driving home about (fill in the blank) and wondered what you would think about it.”  If a shared curiosity about the world, an inclination to read & research, and a mutual love of learning makes people good partners, then we are indeed well matched.


Nevertheless, as my relationship with David grew, I still kept him at arm’s length. He asked me to marry him and I accepted a ring as a sign of my long term good intention, but I really couldn’t imagine going through with an official ceremony. I didn’t want to be with anyone else but him, but still, I couldn’t imagine calling anyone other than Mark Hendry my HUSBAND. That title just seemed too poignant and intimate to pass on to someone other than the guy I had spent twenty years working beside, sleeping beside, making babies with, interacting with each other’s families, etc…  Even when Mark got married the very week of our divorce to the first and only other woman he has ever dated (I was his first and only girlfriend until then, unless you count a one night stand he had at the end of our marriage) I couldn’t get past the belief that marriage was sacred and a HUGE commitment that must only be offered to someone who you love so deeply and with such integrity that you absolutely believe no one else could ever earn the title. I was hurt that I was so easily and readily replaced by the very first gal that came along, because it made me feel my entire marriage was a farce, just a random act of convenience to a guy who didn’t set the bar all that high when it came to selecting a mate. But more than that, I was jealous because I wanted to move on emotionally as he so easily did, but I just couldn’t.  I just couldn’t imagine calling David or anyone else “husband” ever. Mark was my husband… a dirty-rotten-stinker-glad-to-be-out-of-my-life-because-he-caused-nothing but-grief-and-hardship husband, but my husband nevertheless. (I say that with a smile, for the record. I’m not seriously bashing my ex.)

Poor David. After over a year of dating, I agreed to move in with him, but even so, I only wanted to move into a house my family owned, one that I could afford alone if ever we split up. I just wouldn’t put myself in a situation where my life (and my daughter’s) would again be disrupted or I couldn’t afford to take action and kick the boyfriend to the curb if things didn’t work out. This semi-commitment had to be frustrating to David, but he is a wise and patient man and more than once he’s said, “I want you heart and soul, with no reservations or compromises involved. I will wait until you are ready.” Meanwhile it was hard on me, because I was killing myself to financially hold up my end of bills. I did not want to owe David anything or start depending on him.


For a year plus, David and I have lived together, exploring the ebb and flow of life as a couple. Watching him handle work, housework, my daughter, me and all my moods and idiosyncrasies, career challenges, the stress of my demanding business, and all the mundane details of life such as who takes out the trash, whether or not he snores, or how he responds to family holiday expectations, has assured me that all the surface stuff I loved about him in the beginning was not smoke and mirrors. He wasn’t on his “A game”. David only has an A game. I have now seen David sick, tired, in a good and a bad mood. I’ve witnessed his grace and patience when my daughter is difficult, watched him handle money responsibly and discovered that no matter how angry, hurt, or frustrated he might be, he never, ever will speak to me or treat me with anything less than respect and tenderness. Being treated with consideration in a relationship is HUGELY important to me at this stage in life.


Meanwhile, my business has been unfolding with similar tentative action & slow exploration. I have worked crazy hard to get a footing in an economy that is very challenging. I have not caved to frustration and nurtured opportunity while my business takes shape and finds a voice.  My school is not what I originally imagined it would be- and by that I do not mean better or worse.  Just different.  My constant evaluation of priorities and my commitment to “right livelihood” has resulted in a business that fills me with a sense of purpose.  The point is, after several years of being tentative about decisions while I heal my life, I have become very sure of what I want. And I have grown strong again.


This summer my three year business lease expires. So I have been thinking a great deal about how to get my life moving in positive, exciting directions. The thought of signing another expensive lease that forces me to work this hard for another three years just to help my landlord make money while I struggle is killing me. I know that I should do all I can to purchase a commercial building so my hard work has an eventual return, but I am not financially capable of that step just yet, since they want 20% down and every building that would suit my business costs a million dollars or more. (Lord knows, I’ve met with bankers, realtors and others to seek out my options.)  I also have been thinking about what I want in my relationship, because my choices in regard to work will influence my love life too. My business choices influences levels of stress, time management, and how much I can financially contribute to our building a life together. I just can’t afford to act impulsively knowing that every choice a person makes regarding where they live, who they live with, how they live, what they do, and their overall attitude and priorities is connected. Our lives are the result of our choices. And our lives touch the lives of others and determines their happiness and safety too.


For a year, while pondering all the options, I have looked at buildings. I’ve looked at houses David and I might purchase together as an act of true commitment.  I have crunched the numbers to really understand my business. I’ve looked into dividing the school into two different businesses, selling part or all of it. I have also considered expanding the business and considered getting bigger and more involved, perhaps opening a preschool too. I’ve built up my credit, kept good records, and gotten established “just in case.” I’ve thought about when and if I ever want to retire.  The thing is, I have many many options in my life today because I’ve taken my time, held back to let the dust settle, worked diligently,  and I’ve acted slowly and mindfully to explore what I want, heart, soul and mind. Most importantly, I’ve acted responsibly, creatively and carefully in a quest to keep options flowing. My choices are not easy or simple, but at least I have choices.


But being cautious and moving slow, while good in a way, also means missed opportunity. You can’t drag your feet forever if you want to accomplish anything of merit, and anyone who knows me well understands it is NOT in my nature to be patient or move slowly on anything. Some days, I feel like a race horse that has been detained in the starting gate, stamping her feet as she waits for the gun to go off so she can run freely. Oh, how I miss running with absolute commitment to a distant finish line!


Suddenly, recently, if feels as if the gun has gone off. While exploring land for potential retreat sites (after giving up on a commercial building) David and I stumbled upon a piece of property that seemed to pull everything together. The moment we snuck over the gate illegally (we couldn’t help it, we drove up and saw our dream come true and we had to explore the property even before calling the realtor.) we knew this was where we belong. We had a found an answer to our home and business dilemma at once. This land spoke to us.


A week later David and I bought the property– well, we made an offer and it was accepted. We are now waiting for bank approval, but we have plans we believe will make it happen even if we hit a stumbling blocks. God willing, we are buying 8 acres of land with a barn, a separate yoga building and room for gardens, trails, outbuildings and more.  It is everything I’ve ever wanted in a home, and in fact, it’s the kind of artistic, rustic home I dreamed we were going to build when I sold my business years ago to retire and live “the dream”. This property is only 18 miles from ReFlex just around the corner from one of my previous businesses in Lakewood ranch. It is nestled in nature, a perfect site for retreats, yoga trainings, Ayurveda product manufacturing, farm to table dinners and so much more that I envision my business adding. For David, there is a workshop and space to create furniture, build a boat or whatever. For me there is a place to raise chickens, bees, and perhaps even bring home a donkey as a new life mascot. With a small creek on the land, pastures, space for gardens, huge oak trees and unique, artistic outbuildings, this place offers David and me both a chance to blend love, work & personal interest so we can live creatively and in harmony with nature.


In my next post, I’ll share our vision and a few pictures of our (hopefully) soon to be new home & business site. For now I am buried in books, studying how to build a labyrinth in nature, a medicine wheel, the ins and outs of Florida garden design, retreat planning and more. Every dream begins in planning stages – takes shape with research.


I’m ready for someone to open the gates! It is time to let the ole mare run!

Another straw for the camel

It is odd how, when all around you there is crisis and loss, you find yourself focusing on something small and seemingly unimportant, assigning greater meaning to it than the tangible thing merits.Your reaction to a small loss may be out of proportion, but understandably so.That small object has become a metaphor for your life.   

 Such was the case for me this week. In the last few years, I’ve have had to deal with losing my career, my home, my life savings, my marriage, my retirement plan, many dear friends, my integrity, and in the worst blow of all, my children. But it was losing a stupid picture that thrust me into a seven-hour crying jag this week. The human spirit is a delicate thing.  Weird and delicate. Considering the magnitude of loss I’ve been dealing with, why care about a picture? I guess because it is easier to process this than bigger issues.

When I was a child, I wanted to be a dancer more than anything in the world. As soon as I was old enough, I got a job working at McDonalds and I saved and saved until I had enough money for a trip to New York to study with a teacher that was my inspiration and my hero.  I remember that trip to New York and my first professional dance class as if it was yesterday. I remember the promise and excitement I felt in my gut, and the way that trip lit a fire in my heart and mind. I had found my calling in life and it was that very day I took my first step along the path that would become a life journey. I was 16.

After several days of taking classes, I returned home to finish out school, save more money, and await my 18th birthday when I planned to move to New York to pursue my career officially. That came to pass, and two years later I found myself in a tiny studio apartment in Manhattan,supporting myself as a waitress at night and studying dance in the daytime.

  About two weeks after I had become an official starving artist in New York, a man walked up to me and handed me afolder filled with pictures of me dancing at the very studio where I was now studying. Milton was just an amateur photographer, a nice man who took pictures of dancers for a hobby. He was a familiar face at the studio because he was always hanging around, trying to capture images of students in class.  He did this at his own expense and always passed the pictures on to the students with admirable generosity of spirit. He was an adopted member of the dance community and much beloved because of it. 

Milton told me that he had taken the pictures of me over a year prior and he had been looking for me ever since to give them to me. I was confused at first, because I didn’t believe his pictures could be of me.I had only just moved to New York. “The pictures must be of someone else –one of the regular New York dancers,” I insisted.

“It’s you”, he said. “You are not easy to forget.”

I wasn’t sure my being memorable was a positive or negative thing. For all I knew, I was memorable because I danced like some green kid from the sticks, but I do remember thumbing through the pictures,amazed and delighted to see myself all sweaty and focused in my first week of dance in New York. Those pictures, while not all that impressive, meant the world to me because they captured what was one of the most prominent and life altering experiences of my life. More importantly, in the background were images of people that were significant in my life as well – my beloved teacher, peers I studied with and shared history with, and even a few dancers that I considered my competition, thus they were important in a different way because they motivated me to work harder.

 I put those pictures away for safekeeping.They were not fancy pictures, the kind you’d display in your home, but I loved having them nevertheless.

 I left New York twelve years later and moved to Sarasota to open a studio. I was desperately broke at the time, but I wanted to set a tone and create ambiance in my school, and that meant I had to be creative. One night, I thought of those pictures stored away in a file and I decided perhaps I could do something with them. So I spent the evening cutting them out and turning them into a collage. I added a few extra pictures I had on hand, my first headshot and a few pictures taken by a friend one afternoon in what was my first studio in New York, a place called Jazz East that I ran for about a year. The images in that collage were not fantastic, professional shots one might have if they hired someone to capture their likeness with intent to impress. They were just everyday pictures of me dancing… but whenever I saw them, I knew they captured a bit of the spirit and heart of the young dancer I was at 16.  And they made a nice collage- it was a conversation piece.

 I hung that collage in my new school, FLEX, the day I finished painting the walls as I got ready to open. It was the first (and for a while, the only) artwork I had in the school.

As FLEX prospered and grew, a lot of nice pictures found a place on the wall. I bought postures and artwork for decoration and in time the students became dancers of merit and images of them graced the walls,which was way more appropriate. We had a huge posture size image of Mark in the lobby that was very special. My representation as a dancer was just that silly collage, but I was delighted it was there.  Thanks to digital technology and the controlled environment that comes with setting up a dance shot, the pictures of all my students (Mark included) were far superior in every way to my silly New York collage. Yet, I kept that thing hanging somewhere in the studio anyway. It wasn’t there to impress others (because, face it, the shots weren’t impressive) but every time my eyes landed on it, I felt connected to my roots. I hung it for me. And as the years went by, it took on a different meaning… it was a symbol of FLEX that stuck in the student’s minds too. Students learned to turn spotting that dumb picture, and they often made fun of me for some of the stupid poses – so it was a part of their dance journey too in away.

 Every time FLEX expanded or moved, I found a place for that picture. When we sold the business, it was the first thing I packed up to remove from the premises.  When I opened a new studio in Blue Ridge, I hung it again – this time in the back of the studio because I recognized that the collage was dated and wouldn’t serve as inspiration to anyone anymore, but it was still inspirational to me.  It was the one stable thing that followed me through my dance career.

When I left Sarasota and passed the Blue Ridge studio on to my daughter, I noticed she had removed the picture and had propped it up in a corner of the storage area. I told Mark I wouldn’t dream of taking it off the wall myself if my daughter wanted it, but since she obviously didn’t, I would like to keep it. My car was filled with personal items and I couldn’t fit the picture into my vehicle at that moment, so I told him I’d pick it up on my next trip. Mark said,  “It will fit in my car… I’ll just bring it to the house for you and you can put it in the truck.” He loaded the picture into his car.

That afternoon we had an argument, your typical divorce conflict, and though my family had made plans to meet me and help me pack up the rest of my belongings, they didn’t show up. Emotions were running high. I ended up packing a small u-hall with the remainder of my belongings and I drove back to Sarasota crying all the way.

 A short time later we sold our home and Mark and the kids moved to a lovely new log cabin home with a view.  Our former home was finally cleared of everything that was ours.  About two months after that, I got a message from Ben, the new owner of our former house, saying that he had found a picture of me that he believed I would want. He said it looked as if someone intended to throw it out, perhaps because it was old and worn,but to him a picture like that appeared to be something with great sentimental value, so he wanted to be absolutely sure I didn’t want it before he did anything with it. I greatly appreciated his thoughtfulness, and his insight.

 He sent me a picture of the collage so I knew what he was referring to, and I was shocked. How did it get to the house considering it was at the studio last – then in Mark’s car? I had left the home for good by then with all my belongings, so I couldn’t imagine why Mark would unload it there, or if he did, why he would leave it when he finally removed every other thing the family owned. We no longer had any personal possessions at that home, and he knew I wanted the picture so the least he could have done was stick it in storage with all the other pictures, he took, pictures that had no significance or meaning. Still, he bothered to move and stack these in his basement.

I told Ben that I indeed wanted the picture and asked him to save it for me. The next time I had Neva for a visit I asked him to put it in the barn so I could pick it up and I opted to drive her home rather than fly her just so I could retrieve the picture.  I truly wanted this last vestige of my former life and I felt it was worth a 22-hour drive to get it.

After driving 11 hours to Blue Ridge, I drove the extra half hour to the house to pick up my picture, but when I got there I found the thing was damaged beyond recognition. The collage hadn’t just been left at the house; it had been left outside by the trash and for several months it had been battered by the elements – abandoned to the rain, sun and heat.There was water damage, mud and mold all over the picture and it had faded where the sun beat down on it.

 I cried. No. I actually wept. I ran my hand along that old picture and sobbed. I know, this is an out of proportion reaction to a mere picture, but I had crossed my threshold. I didn’t have the resilience within to face losing one more thing, and seeing the only remnant of my former life that had meaning being needlessly ruined just broke my heart. I guess it wasn’t the just the loss of the picture, although I will forever regret losing the only images I had of my teacher and friends from New York, but the idea that Mark could so callously destroy something that he knew I cared dearly about hurt more than I could describe. I couldn’t imagine myself ever purposely ruining any of his artwork or destroying or discarding the few pictures he has of himself when he was a young dancer. These are the kinds of things you want in your old age, something uniquelly your own for your grandchildren to make fun of. No matter how angry I might be with him,I just couldn’t destroy anything that is a part of his history, but clearly, I was had not been given the same respectand consideration. I know I shouldn’t take it so personally – in a divorce, people often act badly due to the intensity of emotion. But to me the ruined picture was a perfect example of the long-standing dynamics of our relationship, a revelation that continues to be very painful for me to witness. 

 So, instead of staying in a hotel that night,I decided to drive home without taking a break. I simply had to get out of dodge. I cried for 7 hours as I drove home with that moldy mess in my backseat. Eventually, I feared I’d crash because I could barely see the road since my eyes were puffy and I was going on 24 hours without sleep, so I stopped at a dingy hotel and slept for four hours. At 4 am, I got back on the road and cried an additional 5 hours until I got home. As you can see, I haven’t been exactly on top of my game of late.  

 After a good sleep the next morning that allowed some sanity and perspective to return, I decided that there was nothing to do but try to put the pieces of my life back together the best I can, and if the picture was a metaphor for my life, I could start there. So, this morning I dragged the damaged collage into my living room along with a smaller picture frame with intentions to save what images I could and perhaps create a smaller version of the collage for prosperity.  I am getting ready to open a new yoga/dance studio and I thought it would be special to hang this small symbol of my dance journey someplace personal, – perhaps in my office for my eyes-only. But when I pried open the back of the picture frame and tried to remove the photographs, mold made them all stick to the glass like those annoying price tags attached to new glasses – the kind you have to soak off and scrape with a knife. I couldn’t save a single picture from the huge collage. The images of my past ripped and fell apart, disintegrating like everything else in my life.  So… I cried some more. … Then I took the entire thing to the trash and watched it slide down the shoot to oblivion forever. Yes, that damn collage truly IS a metaphor for my life, or so it feels like today.

 There is a yoga philosophy that says, “You must loose everything to gain the world.”

I keep trying to embrace that, keep reminding myself that rebuilding a life is a process and I just have to get through the dark period with trust that things will get better. I keep reminding myself that there is nothing tangible in this world that is truly important, certainly not a dumb, outdated picture. A person’s history is theirs no matter what, and it doesn’t need to be documented with visual proof nor do you need to assign symbolism to a silly personal item to create inner drama. I will always have the memory of my New York years and the people who were so special to me. But even so, I mourn the loss of that personal trigger, that tangible thing that served as a reminder of who I am and where I came from. It only meant something to me, because it was seeped in memories of a rich and interesting life of dance, but the fact is, I cared about it. That picture symbolized my journey as a teacher and businesses owner because it was a part of the backdrop of growing that businesses and losing that businesses and starting over.. . again… then again…

There are so many far more important things I can mourn, and here I am broken up over a picture. Funny, how our minds work.

 

We learn as we go

You know you watch too many movies (and read too many
novels) when you start observing your life from a distance, like through a
camera lens, rather than experiencing your days in a way that allows the
sights, sounds and feelings to wash over you and stick. Seems a fair
description of me lately as I go through the motions of starting life over. As I’ve
been depressed and despondent, hardly able to function, yet there’s this voice
in my head sizing up my choices, like the narrator in Bridget Jones Diary (only
my life isn’t nearly as humorous and my commentary isn’t emphasized by a great
soundtrack). My inner voice can’t resist poking fun at me, making sarcastic quips
as I wallow in self pity or get all determined to dig in and tackle my problems
only to deflate and give up within the day. When life throws you for a loop it
is easy to sway between these two states of mind every ten minutes. I often
feel as if I’m floating, wishing I would land so I can plant my feet firmly on
the ground. But the earth still seems so far beneath me that even if I point my
toes I simply can’t touch it.

During this ordeal, I’ve learned there are people who’ve
dealt with worse divorce and financial issues than I. Lots. Trust me, they keep
coming in an endless stream.
Getting divorced is like getting pregnant. When you’re pregnant, it
suddenly feels like EVERYONE is pregnant, or at the very least, their best
friend, mother, sister, co-workers, etc… are.  And everyone attached in any manner to pregnancy feels
compelled to tell you childbirth horror stories, as if this is going to make
you more pregnant-savvy and prepare you for what is to come. All it really does
is make you feel panic, depression and/or confusion, thank you very much. But
people do mean well, and I suppose it is nice to be reminded that the most
trying stages of your life are naught but common human experience. Divorce is
like that, but at least anyone who has ever gone through it tends to be
sensitive and supportive, which helps you feel less alone. Such an alienating
and crushing life experience isn’t easily to forget and people feel compelled
to help you through it. I’m grateful to new friends and old who have displayed
concern and caring for me during these dark days.

I will not share the details of individual people’s
divorces, though I’ve heard enough stories to write a dozen novels with spine
tingling scenes. But I will say that a few gems I’ve heard had made me rather
proud of my own painful, (but not hateful) divorce. Like the friend whose wife
put all his clothes in the driveway and poured paint on them because he
wouldn’t return her call in a timely fashion.

Or the friend whose spouse went to law school, made him pay
for it and used what she learned to take him for everything, leaving him to the
ears in debt as she boasted, “I’m not going to stop until he’s destitute,
unemployable, and ruined because I’ve learned how to accomplish just that.”  And she did.  Now, ten years later the anger in him bubbles to the surface
at just the thought of her. Or the friend who shared just a few words of the
nasty commentary sent to him on a text that he plans to keep in his phone forever
just reminding him how evil his ex can be. He shared it to me and said, “This
is so I never soften towards her ever again. My significant other never liked
me as a person. She likes the life I provided, but not me and after living
together for 18 years in that state, I have good reason to resent her!” Or the
fellow who described alimony as a woman’s idea of a pension plan. Or the woman
who was cheated out of her life savings by a spendthrift husband who, after
bleeding her dry felt she had nothing left to give, thus was dispensable. He
agreed to provide support, but bailed the moment she left the house, leaving
her destitute and unable to care for her child. Then he pleaded a case that he
was more fit to raise the child than her due to his financial position.

I listen and wonder how romance, once blooming with promise
and joy, can take such a 180-degree turn. Divorce changes people like the
invasion of the body snatchers. Sad. And listening to numerous people unload
the heartbreak and fury attached to their divorces, I began wondering if my
depression wasn’t just about my own losses, but also because a magnifying glass
has been held up to highlight the endless stream of romance stories with
unhappy endings that are everywhere around me.   Listening to these scenarios is witnessing the death
of everything I’ve always held most dear – the idea that love endures. I’m a
big believer in happy endings – and if this one isn’t it for me, I’d like to
think the next one will be. But to trust that, I need to come across at least
one happy ending.  Sad to say,
romance novels are the only place you find happy endings anymore, and damn if I
haven’t given up reading that kind of material years ago.

Anyway, it seems the entire world population has a story to
share about divorce, and not a day goes by that I’m not treated to yet another heart
stopping tale of anger and loss.  Everyone,
everyone, from friends and family to
lawyers, doctors and Indian chiefs, continue to lift one eyebrow and say, “You
may think your divorce will proceed amicably, but it will get ugly. They all
do.”

Me? I continue to shake my head in a condescending way and
say, “You don’t know my ex. Perhaps we can’t live together, but we can work
together. Always have. Always will. Besides which, we’ve already discussed
things and have agreed on how to proceed. I’m moving to Florida to arrange work
and set up a life that can support me and my daughter– Mark and the kids even
packed the truck for me and sent me off with a hug. There is nothing to fight
about. We have jointly agreed it is time to separate, but we appreciate our
colorful past and recognize what was good. We will be best friends always.”

Why does this always earn me a jaunty “you’ll see” smile? 

Then IT happened. I was hit with a lawsuit contradictory to
all our agreements that threw all our congenial plans out the window. Suddenly,
after years of loving parenting and caring for my husband, I was being accused
of being an unfit mother, an adulteress, and an all around horrible person who jaywalks.
An abandoner! And just like that, I’m dragged into a battle for my respect and
my children, who overnight changed their opinion of me. Spending their days as
if all things are normal with my ex while I am in my dismal state in Florida, they
grew cold and unresponsive – My eldest even wrote to tell me she never wanted
contact with me again in a message filled with such venom and ugliness that
when I showed it to a few selective confidents they crinkled their brow and
said, “And you want a relationship with this child why? I don’t believe any
parent could excuse those comments, nor should they. I wouldn’t.”

I sat with that message for a day, rereading one
particular line in a long paragraph of vicious accusations, (and this wasn’t
the worst.) You are no mother. You are a
sick, sad, confused individual in need of help and I need NOBODY to tell me
that.”

I tried to think of any circumstances that might
inspire me to say such a thing to my own mother, no matter how mad I might be,
but short of sexual abuse and/or being burned by cigarettes as I was locked in
a baby highchair, I couldn’t imagine any.
So I thought, OK, enough is enough.  Time to let go. Time to stop crying and defending my family’s
behavior. Time to stop trying to understand and be patient. Time to stop crying,
hiding, and feeling so sorry for the state of things. Time to stand up for my
rights, to set the record straight and remind everyone I’ve been a good parent,
wife and family provider for over 20 years. I may have been out of work the last 5 years, but during that time, our life tanked. Now I’m relocating to a place where I can kick into action to provide opportunity for my family as I have for the past 20 years. I was major financial contributor for most of our life, and I recognize the need to be that once again. Don’t know how I’ll rebuild, but I have to try. All I know is I sure don’t deserve this kind of
treatment – certainly not because of some selfish scramble for money or custody
or because of a defensive knee jerk reaction to a jointly agreed, long overdue separation.

Now, here I am, changing lawyers, gearing up for battle, planning to
devote every resource I have to force a fair distribution of assets. I will
fight to be recognized as a good mother, even if it means I end up with nothing
at all in the end, a ‘la war of the roses. It’s the principal of the matter. And
at long last, instead of being devastated and feeling beaten and alone, I’m actually
angry, feeling strong.

 Yesterday, I paused in the bathroom and got a
glimpse of my own eyes. They were not unlike those of all the people who have survived divorce, the ones sharing horror stories, warning me to
beware, prepare, and not to trust. And recognizing that I have finally been dragged into
this ugly state made me sadder than ever.

 Everyone was right. I WAS naive. My upcoming battle is the comeuppance
I deserve for boasting that we could end 20 years of loving each other with
respect. I was wearing dark sunglasses to hide tears – but they were really just rose
colored.

But even as I prepare for a fight now, I still wish they were
wrong.  I am finally angry, but
beneath that emotion I still feel a deep sadness
– a sadness so profound I feel awash in it, as if melancholy is seeping
into my pours and will leave a parlor on my skin, heart and mind forevermore. I
can’t imagine ever feeling cleansed of it.  

   Of course I’m mature enough to know this too will pass. Life
goes on, and happiness only awaits those brave enough to sake steps to
pursue it.  Divorce when a marriage
has gone wrong is a very important step towards happiness for both parties. It may be a horrible end of something on the one hand, but it offers the promise and hope of
a fresh beginning too.

 Mad, sad, or whatever…… I hang on to that.

An important announcement

I haven’t blogged in a long time. There is a reason…. I simply don’t know how to begin under the new circumstances of my life. But I do miss sending a reflective letter out into the world, especially since I know friends old and new stop by occasionally for a Ginny update. Blogging is like having a quiet talk with a faceless friend, an audience collectively representing everyone I’ve ever cared about or shared a laugh with. Considering I could use a friend of late, I’d like to get back on track.  It is time.

The problem is, if I continue to blog it will require an uncomfortable announcement, so today, I’m here to make it. I’m going to stick with the facts and avoid being philosophical or giving my “view” in respect to the personal nature of the announcement.

Here goes:

Mark and I are in the process of getting divorced. I’ve moved back to Sarasota to be near family, friends (emotional support) and the work I’m cut out for, and am now situated in a small “transitional apartment” while I struggle to establish a new life. In effort not to disrupt the family any more than this kind of emotional earthquake has to, I agreed to let Kent and Neva stay with Mark in Georgia in our home to finish the school year. Kent will be off to college in a few months anyway, and not dragging Neva along during this difficult time has proven a good choice. I’m not altogether my spunky self nowadays and life isn’t exactly charming during this sort of emotional and geographical transition. I miss my children more than words can describe. Of course, I miss Denver too, but at 23 she is a competent and self sufficient adult living independently, so I missed her even when I lived in Georgia. The plan is that Neva will join me this summer to live with her mother. There is some resistance on her part but I will not address that here. 

 After 20 years of marriage, most of my friends are also friends of Mark’s, so I want to point out to everyone that ours is a congenial and respectful divorce. We do not fight, there is no ugliness, and we put forth a united front for our children, friends and family hoping to make this as painless as possible for everyone. Mark and I have always been very competent during times of crisis (which has been most of our marriage) and as such, our divorce is sort of like a recital, with both of us digging in to accomplish all the chores and handle all the problems as efficiently as we can.  We have always tackled difficult problems well together and we treat the fall-out of divorce just like any other life-crap that needs handling. In fact, our divorce is rather dispassionate and anti-climatic – there is apathy towards this separation that breaks my heart. The calm nature of this undertaking is prominent evidence that we are meant to be friends rather than lovers. To say it makes me sad is the understatement of the century.   

 I cannot speak for him, but I will say that Mark has been my best friend for 20 years, and hopefully, always will be.  While I understand that we are not meant to live together anymore, I still miss him. It feels like I’ve ripped off a leg as I hobble around through my days without his wisdom and humor to help me make sense of what I experience. But the nice thing is, when I really need it, I can and do still call him and we discuss things with warmth and caring.That means a great deal to me.  If I experienced any of the hateful comments or behaviors that so many friends have described to me regarding their divorces, I’d crumble into a ball and never stand upright again. I don’t know how people endure it. Divorce is simply the saddest thing I’ve ever experienced.  It isn’t just a marriage that dies, but a part of you as well.  And I could never hate someone I’ve loved, for 20 years, no matter what transpired to cause separation. How do people discard a lifetime of memories and shared history so abruptly and turn on their former spouse like a rabid dog? Thank God, that is not us.

 Anyway, I’m single now. That’s the gist of it.

 Now that I’ve made this announcement, I’m going to continue blogging when inspired, and anyone who misses this entry will no doubt be extremely confused since I’m now in a new state, pursuing a new life in every way. My donkey is gone, as well as my ducks and peacocks and horses and bees (but I kept the winemaking equipment.) I’ve packed away my muck boots and pulled my heels and skirts out of storage.  Just goes to show, a person needs to pay attention or they will get lost when choosing to be a witness to a life that often takes u-turns.

 I do not plan to write about any of the painful feelings or frustrations I’m experiencing in this life transition, and of course there are plenty, because that is the nature of divorce. But cleansing emotions is not the purpose of this blog – it’s always been more a vehicle to reflect on my life experiences and record and share the things I learn and discover about life. As such, I will write about what it is like to be 50 and single and starting over from scratch with practically no resources. Hopefully, I will do so from a positive angle, and perhaps even with humor on occasion.  I hope my not addressing the serious issue of divorce in my writing (unless it is a more generic reference) doesn’t give anyone the impression that I am frivolous or unfeeling regarding the impact this has on my family. We all deal with grief in our own way, and my choice is to focus on whatever positive elements I can find in my days. I believe there is always an important lesson to be gained from hardship, and as such I’m grateful even for life’s hard fist when it knocks me on the jaw good. At this time, it has wholliped me unmercifully. I’m very much alone at this time, which I suppose can be healing, but I’ve suffered so many years of issolation already that a heavy new dose feels unbareable some days. As such, I need to blog again. Now that I’ve finally explained what is going on in my world, I finally can.

Whew.

 

   

Salad Lament

I am a very good cook. No one will argue the point. But recently, my family has finally decided to slam me with the bitter truth. I make sucky salad.


It’s true. I will spend six hours creating a masterpiece of a meal, complete with soup, entre, elaborate side dishes, gourmet desert, and wine, then open a bag of precut lettuce, throw in a few cherry tomatoes and slap three bottles of Seven Seas dressing on the table. When I’m feeling particularly charitable, I’ll toss in a few stale croutons.


“Don’t knock yourself out, Babe,” Mark will say as he spoons some withering lettuce onto his plate and shakes the month old dressing so the nasty oil that has risen to the top will blend with the milky chemical laden froth below.


To top off this offense, I actually complain when my family proclaims they’re full from my savory cooking and don’t have room for salad. I nag them into eating the greens because I bothered to make them (or open the bag, as the case may be.) They chew with an expression like I’ve dished out a serving of Donkey’s hay, which now that I think about it, probably would taste better.


So, there it is. Ginny makes sucky salad. And like I said the other night to Mark when he gave me the heart to heart “salad talk”, I can live with that.


Only, I can’t live with that. It is bugging me. Not that I make bad salad,  because I’ve always known that I make bad salad – I didn’t care enough to bother improving the silly side dish. I just can’t stand the fact that my family has noticed enough to mention it. Sort of feels like I’ve been robbed of my cooking extraordinaire status. Salad, it turns out, is my Achilles heel, my kryptonite . . . proof that I am inherently lazy in the kitchen. 


Now, in their defense, my loved ones confessed their feelings for my lackluster salad with humor. They were teasing me because every other food-related item I present is usually rather good. Salad jokes round out the meal, don’t ya know, and take away any awkwardness over why I keep presenting these elaborate meals on an average day … serving bad salad with a great meal is like wearing a beaded gown to the supermarket, but going in tennis shoes so everyone knows you don’t take yourself too seriously.
I can take a joke, especially when it ‘s deserved, but certainly they know this was throwing the lettuce gauntlet at my feet.


You want good salad. I’ll give you good salad.


Today, I spent the morning on Amazon looking up salad cookbooks. I know, you don’t cook salad (at least, I don’t think so), but there are indeed dozens, perhaps hundreds, of cookbooks that focus on salad alone. Go figure. I bought several. For the next few days, I’ll be busy with Thanksgiving dishes, of which salad, even bad salad,  plays no part (one more thing to be thankful for). My new books will arrive just when I’m ready for them. I’ll do a quick study, start with some proven recipes, and get a feeling for overcoming the salad quandary. Then, I’ll start experimenting. Don’t doubt it; I’ll end up the best salad maker this side of the Atlantic. I have a way of over-compensating when I feel inferior. It’s my curse and my gift.


It takes many years for a woman to come into her own. What can I say.  I’m a work in progress. Aren’t we all? 
Salad handicap? I shall overcome.
 

Go Mark.

Driving into Blue Ridge, you may get a sneaking suspicion that Big Brother is watching you. Then you realize, nope, it’s just that guy Mark. He moves mountains. Gee, he must be strong.


On a big, obvious billboard on hwy 575, the main drag into town, my husband has a billboard announcing his new avocation.  This may seem odd to those of you living in a place where realtors don’t personally advertise, but he happens to be one of the five or so house-selling superstars that make their presence known to people visiting the mountains in this fashion.



The billboard has been up for about a month, and already he has become a household name (or face) in our small town. The other day in the local coffee shop, a fellow stopped him and said, “Hey, you’re that real estate guy, right? The mountain-mover. I recognize your picture.” Then, he talked about a piece of land he wanted to sell. The billboard works.  


Neva told us that one day while she was in the office at school, the woman working the desk looked at her name and furrowed her brow and said, “Hendry . .  . hummm. . . your dad isn’t Mark Moves Mountains, is it? I’ve seen his face everywhere.”


So, there you have it. We used to be Mr. and Mrs. FLEX. Now we are Mr. and Mrs. Markmovesmountains. I guess a person’s work defines them in integral ways. That would make me . . . um. . . Mrs. Writeandgetnowhere? Ah well.


Years of owning a business taught us just how important branding is to establishing a reputation and so Mark has begun the process of defining both an image and a catchy slogan. Not a day goes by that people don’t mention his smiling face looming over the highway. Of course, occasionally, he’s encountered some interesting feedback.   One day, when he was tired and “dressed down” because he was working out, a person said, “Hey, you’re that Mark guy. Wow, how long ago was that picture taken? You must have been a lot younger.”   Mark actually had the friend who took our dance pictures for years snap the shot only a few months ago. He was like, “Thanks, buddy. You run a dance school for eighteen years then switch to selling houses and see if you can avoid turning gray.” 


But he has had some positive comments too. We sent a few thousand brochures showcasing our house to executives and a woman called long distance and said, “My friends in the office dared me to call you. We want to know if this picture is really you. Are you truly this handsome, or did you just put a picture of a cute guy on the back so people would read the brochure and want to buy this house?”
Mark sort of laughed and said, “That wasn’t my intention, but hey, if it works . . .”
She said, “Do you really look like this?”
He said, “That’s me, but in real life I probably have bags under my eyes.  So, what did you think of the house?”
She said, “Oh, no one bothered to check out the house. We just were ogling the picture.”

So much for the brilliant house-marketing brochure.  But it’s nice to know that if he doesn’t make it in real estate, he has a potential future as a male escort. Might even be able to use the same business picture for his next brochure.


Since he was getting good feedback from his billboard, we went ahead and put another two sided one (albeit smaller) up on our lot in McCaysville just opposite where the train lets off their zillion customers. We are actually going to sell this property now that we have changed course and decided not to open a retail business, but until we do, the land will serve as another marketing resource. Better than having it just sit there.



Mark truly loves real estate, and he is doing well considering the market is at an all-time low. He is entering the field when everyone else is getting out, which demands a great deal of diligence and faith, but he has both in abundance. He is a natural. He loves houses, knows a great deal about building, has a remarkable eye for design, both interior and structural (so he gives fantastic advice for improvements for sellers), has years of experience in marketing and finance, and good people skills.  His broad life experience gives his the uncanny ability to comfortably communicate with all walks of life, and he builds instant report with people whether they are millionares or simple country folk, so he can service both with equal respect. Heck, he even speaks Spanish in case a foriegn buyer needs help. 

He is working 7 days a week, 14 hour days. I am proud and appreciative of his commitment to establishing a new career, but I admit, I miss him. He says this endless time commitment won’t last forever, but sometimes, I wonder. We used to say that about FLEX, but the harder we worked, the harder we had to work to keep the machine purring. When you deeply care about the quality of your work, that tends to happen.  But we learned some poignant and valuable lessons from our many years at FLEX, both about ourselves and our relationship to work, so I trust that when life evens out a bit, he’ll find balance. As long as he’s happy.

In the meantime, I can go see his smiling face looming over my car as I careen down the highway anytime I need a Mark fix.
Go Mark.
   


 

Halloween Prep

     

    It’s that time of year. For those of you wondering, I have at long last perfected my specialty talent of performing Thriller in my kitchen whilst making a triple batch of curried pumpkin soup. I’m a multi-tasker, what can I say. I can even make cinnamon salted pumpkin seeds at the same time. Now, why has no one thought to create a reality TV series about me, I wonder?


     The one bad part of reinventing your life and starting over from scratch is that when you wipe the slate clean, you end up throwing out the good with the bad. Halloween is one of those days that I miss the good from our past. I miss having a hundred people drop by to sample my pumpkin buffet. I miss the cooking and forcing pumpkin soup down innocent friend’s gullets, easy because they are too polite to say no. I miss Stewie, because he was always the bravest guest, willing to try any recipe I conjured up. Halloween is supposed to be scary, after all.  If we celebrated Halloween here the way we did there, I’d make pumpkin wine. It would have been the perfect addition to my pumpkin feast. But we don’t get a single trick or treater here, so who would drink a thirty bottle batch of holiday wine? 
    In Blue Ridge, everyone goes downtown to a huge festival where stores give out candy and music is piped in on a loud speaker. It is quaint and wholesome, and we do have fun. We are creating new traditions I suppose, but I miss decking our house in orange lights, dry ice, and strobe lights. (My house is tastefully decorated with classy fall décor this season, just in case a buyer comes by to see it. That isn’t fun a’ tall. I did, however, put a “Beware” and “Happy Halloween” sign up on my barn door. )
     I miss my husband hiding in the bushes to scare the wits out of the older students who used to stop by to say “hi”.  I miss giving out 100 bucks worth of candy and then bargaining with my kids to sell me the stuff in their bags they don’t like because I’m running out regardless of how carefully I planned ahead. 
    I miss Halloween week at FLEX, not because it was fun decorating and teaching all those themed dances year after year, but because the staff was such good sports. They had way of smiling with that glazed look in their eye that said, “If I play Monster Mash one more time, I’m going postal . . .”  We laughed a lot at FLEX this time of year – at students, at Halloween bloopers, and mostly at each other. I gotta hand it to my dear old employees, they had a sense of humor. I loved that about them, loved that they could take a joke, that they didn’t take dance so seriously that they forgot that joy comes before discipline and a touch of comedy in every dance gives it depth. I love their willingness to blow up a zillion balloons, do the “Scardey Cat dance two thousand times, and “Wiggle Your Bones” until their bones did indeed wiggle. I even miss the way they ate all the candy I bought for them to give to students and the way they blinked innocently and said, “Me? Eat the candy? Why no, Miss Ginny, I have no idea why all the bins are empty.” Meanwhile, they definitely have candy breath.


Tonight, my kids gathered for some Halloween prep. They carved pumpkins – I took the guts out to the chickens so they could have their own pumpkin feast (new tradition) The kids gave in to creative passion trying to one up each other in the pumpkin carving war. There was some serious cheating going on with the use of toothpicks to hold pieces together that otherwise would have fallen off. Hummm… whatever happened to good old fashion triangle eyes and toothful grins on a pumpkin? Each kid’s pumpkin (and boyfriend Eric’s) were unique. neva made the spider, kent the baby-face, denver the Nightmare Before Christmas characters, and Eric the face…. I am just the pumpkin cheerleader and chief cook in charge of nurishment for the artists – in this case, homemade pizza.

 
 
They made fun of their mother’s Thriller rendition (everybody’s a critic). Denver then helped Neva make a jack in the box costume.

Kent was trying to make a costume out of boxes, just to prove he can. Wish you could see him break dance in this get up. Big laugh. I really should get a camera for this blog this– some things words can’t describe. For the last few years, my son dressed as baloney, but his baloney broke, so now he is going to be his version of a “mail man”.  Don’t ask.


My house is rocking tonight with our ten hour continuous play Halloween music. Every song reminds us of a dance. We can’t resist breaking out in steps or chuckling as we recall a class that did this dance or that. Shake your bones . . . .  Give me a smile . . . the memories are as thick as my pumpkin soup.


So for old friends out there who remember us this time of year . . . well, we are remembering you too. Always will.