Sneaky Is As Sneaky Does

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After this latest incident, my body was called into and admonished to stay in “high alert” mode for potential attacks.

Unfortunately, as I was quickly discovering, this would be the new status quo for a very long time.

The “enemy” was a constant in my home and in my life. Under the circumstances as they were, he was able to pounce whenever he felt the whim to spew out more of his poisonous venom. As the tension continued to escalate in our house, it was becoming crystal clear that these assaults would become more frequent, personal and vengeful.

A few days after Dick unloaded his Graduation Weekend agenda on me, I happened to drive past a country club in my neighborhood. As I was motoring by,  the sign outside the facility promoting upcoming events caught my eye.

In big bold letters, an announcement for Mother’s Day Brunch appeared. With everything going on in my life, I completely forgot about that upcoming holiday. I checked the date, did a double take and then my stomach lurched up to my throat.

Mother’s Day was the day following Josh’s graduation. That’s the day we would be returning back from the festivities. That was also the day that Dick decided he would be driving Ashley home and spending the time with her.

Coincidence???

Absolutely, positively NOT!!!

Dick had every intention of screwing me over!

At that point, I was majorly pissed off. He had so much damn nerve.

It was only a month earlier that we met with the mediator. With her, we set up a holiday schedule to abide by while we were separated, but still not divorced. The parameters outlined in that agreement stated that Ashley would spend Mother’s Day with me and Father’s Day with her dad.

Yet, Dick went blatantly against that and planned on being with Ashley on MY holiday.  How dare he be so bold, brazen and beastly. Knowing him as well as I did, I realized that he felt if I were stupid enough not to notice, then he would do what he wanted and he would deserve to get away with it. If I would call him on it after the fact, then he would say, “That’s your problem. You should have spoken up sooner.”

So I needed to orchestrate a tactic that would cause him to reveal himself as the conniving piece of crap that he was while I avoided getting sucked into his ploy and losing control.

Later that evening, when Dick and Ashley were both home, I sweetly told Dick that there was something I needed to discuss with him. With Ashley in earshot, I explained that he must not have been aware that Mother’s Day was the day that he planned on driving back home from the graduation with Ashley, otherwise I was sure he would not have suggested it.

*That was definitely an Academy Award winning performance, if I must have said so myself.

I continued on that we would have to reverse the driving order: Ashley would go with him and come home with me. He acquiesced and went to Ashley’s room and announced to her that there would be a change of plans. The two of them would take his mom out for Mother’s Day the week before graduation, since Ashley would be spending the day with me and they wouldn’t be able to see his mom that day.

So that was what was going on here…

Dick not only wanted to keep Ashley from being with me on Mother’s Day, he was planning on the two of them celebrating with his mom.

WHAT A MAJOR MOTHER F%&*ER!!!

Boy, was I glad I was able to get that out.

It’s just not healthy to keep those things bottled up inside.

 

Planning Ahead…

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I received an email from Josh.

After opening it up, the first thing that caught my eye was that Dick received a copy too. Before I delved into the contents of the correspondence, I was suddenly struck by the miracle of modern technology.

It was absolutely mind-boggling to think that a child could communicate with his mom and dad simultaneously without actually conversing with each one, and on top of that, both parents would be aware that the other was included in the discussion.  The three of us could chat without ever having to look each other in the eye, be in the same room or respond when addressed.

How remarkable was that?

Okay, I totally digressed here. I realize that this wasn’t something most people would contemplate upon receiving a letter from their child.

However, being in the middle of a nasty divorce, I definitely was impressed by the significance, irony and beauty of this.

So, getting back to the email, Josh informed us that his graduation weekend was swiftly approaching. He took the liberty of making reservations for the four of us at several restaurants; one for Friday night, (the evening before graduation) another for lunch following the commencement ceremonies on Saturday morning and the third for dinner on Saturday night.

He made it clear that he wanted our family to all be together for this major milestone in his life.

Since he had to leave a deposit at all of the establishments, he needed both of us to let him know as soon as possible if these plans would work for us. If not, he would have to make adjustments right away. After all, his money was as stake here.

Josh didn’t want to be on the losing end of anything else in his life, especially cash.

Did I mention that he was majoring in Finance and Operations…and that he was in the Honors program at the Business School?

Immediately I responded to Josh that he could count Ashley and me in. I said how happy I was that he made the arrangements and his sister and I were looking forward to the festivities. I thanked him for taking care of the plans and how excited I was for his upcoming graduation. Not wanting to go overboard, I held back from including a few lyrics from “Sunrise Sunset.”  Is this the little boy I carried…

In addition to being immensely proud of Josh for taking charge of and handling everything on his own, I was secretly relieved that he did so.

Since “the War” broke out, I wondered, worried and writhed about how this momentous occasion would play itself out. As far as I was concerned, that should have been a time for a ceasefire. For our kids’ sake, and in everyone’s best interest, Dick and I needed to put down our weapons, call a temporary truce, show a united front and be civil and friendly during Graduation weekend.

Afterward, when we would once again be renewed, refreshed and revitalized, we could resume combat. Yes, this made perfect sense.

For the first time in a long time, a feeling of euphoria came over me.  I was thrilled that in spite of the turmoil we were all living with, Josh would have what he deeply desired and deserved: celebrating his college graduation with his family — all together peacefully and joyously for what would be probably one of the last times — if not THE last time.

Unfortunately, that thought and fantasy died quickly.

 

Nothing To Poo Poo About

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Toastmaster’s has two speech contests every year— one in the fall and the other one in the spring.

I volunteered to count ballots for our club’s spring competition. The officers of our group had another plan for me.

About a week before the event, I was asked to join the contest. While I tried to get out of it by claiming that my life at home was too crazy with everything going on with Dick, the rebuttal was that I needed to take my mind off of my troubles and writing a speech would be the perfect solution.

I titled my speech, Nothing To Poo Poo About.

It went like this:

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

That simple phrase, ( a quote by Wayne Dyer) became quite meaningful to me after an experience I had recently.

About a month ago, I was driving home from visiting my son at Indiana University for Mom’s weekend at his frat.

To break up the monotony of the long, tedious ride, I stopped at Fair Oaks Farm off of Highway 65S in Indiana.

They have a café that serves fresh, homemade dairy products including milk, cheese and “to-die-for” ice cream.

I decided to treat myself to a little frozen treat.

As I was savoring every spoonful of my decadently rich, creamy scoop of mint, chocolate chip, I strolled around the gift shop area admiring all the adorable trinkets until I saw a display  that made me stop and take a double look.

I couldn’t believe my eyes.

In fact, my reaction was so strong, that not only did I begin to lose my appetite, I actually became nauseous.

I was staring at a full display of paper products including stationary and note cards made out of recycled cow poo.

At the time, I believed that this was a case of recycling gone mad!

When I came home, I couldn’t stop talking about how ridiculous this was.

In fact, initially I was going to write my speech on how sometimes we could overdo a good thing. Using this as an example, I was going to talk about when enough is enough…and when things could be taken too far.

However, when I was researching that subject matter, something very interesting happened.

I couldn’t remember the name of the product.

I called Fair Oaks Farm and described what I was looking for. The woman I talked to, very quickly and matter-of-factly told me it was called Poo Poo Paper. Without missing a beat, she informed me that they didn’t have any in stock, but would be getting a shipment in the next few weeks.

“Do you mean this is a popular product and you are sold out?” I asked.

“Yes, but you can google Poo Poo Paper to find out where you can order it online,” she responded.

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I had no intention of buying that crap.

But, for the sake of research, I google Poo Poo  Paper.

First I found a website that sold unusual gifts. There were several reviews for Poo Poo Paper. Ah Ha!!! I thought for sure I was going to find a lot of people who agreed with me.

Surprisingly though, that was not the case.

The reviews were all positive.

Everyone raved about how wonderful the company was. The comments included…It was so creative, novel and fun…environmentally friendly…makes a great gag gift…perfect for children…and for those who love everything about cows. (Really??? EVERYTHING ABOUT COWS???) A school teacher even remarked that she bought the product and used it to teach her class about the life cycle in nature.

Hmmm…maybe I was missing something here and needed to change my opinion.

Then I found the company website.

http://www.poopoopaper.com

I was pleasantly surprised by what I discovered.

This was a very creative, educational, informative, well thought out and designed site. That’s no poo! I even laughed as I scrolled through the pages. One of their slogans was, “We’re Number One At Number Two.” Another was, “We Take The ‘OO’ Out Of Poo.”

This wasn’t a gimmicky, off-the-wall, cutesy business. They had a purpose. Originally they started out with elephant dung. They washed and sanitized it until only the clean, undigested grass and other fibers were left. Then they dried them on mesh sheets in the sun. The finished product was sturdy, durable paper which was odorless and neutral in color.

Out of that, they created over 150 beautiful and useful products, including stationary, note cards, photo albums, picture frames and elegant paper flowers. In the process, they created new jobs, built up a profitable company and donated a portion of their proceeds to elephant conservation and welfare.

Now I didn’t know how anyone could look at a pile of stinking, nasty elephant poo and envision all that they did, but it certainly made me think…if you change the way you look at things…the things you look at change.

Then I had an ah-ha moment.

Recently, life has dumped a major pile of poo on me.

Instead of dealing with my mess negatively by being depressed, angry, bitter, hopeless and fearful, I needed to follow the philosophy of the creators of Poo Poo Paper.

I had to find the purpose behind what I was facing. How could I handle it with a sense of humor and have fun? (The million dollar question!!!) What will I gain and how will I profit from this experience? Who will I help as a result? And most importantly, how do I turn my ugly, stinking mess into something that is beautiful and meaningful?

My plans were to return to Fair Oaks Farm in a few months.  While there I would treat myself to another scoop of amazing ice cream. Heck, I might even go all out and treat myself to a complete meal. One thing was certain: I would be making a bee line straight to the Poo Poo Paper display. I planned on buying one or two of their products—not to ridicule the company, as a gag or even to give away as a present. I would be buying it for myself. Upon my return home, I would put it on my desk so I’d be able to remind myself every time I’d be about to make a snap judgement or feel that my life is trapped in a hopeless situation that If you change the way you look at things…the things you look at change.

Not only did I win the contest at my club level, I competed and won at the area level and continued on to compete at the district level as well. While I didn’t win all the competitions, I knew I walked away with the ultimate prize: the realization that I could handle this divorce and whatever else life throws at me as long as I change the way I look at my circumstances.

I guess it was a great thing that I decided not to count the ballots at the club contest after all.

 

 

Speak Easy

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A few years ago, I joined Toastmasters, which is an international public speaking organization dedicated to helping its members improve their communication and leadership skills.

A someone who has always been shy and who could never comfortably speak in front of a group, (*group being defined as anyone other than myself) I realized that it was time to finally face my fear head on, deal with it and overcome it.

When I attended my first Toastmasters meeting, I knew that this was what I needed to do.

I wound up joining a corporate club in my neighborhood that opened its membership to the community. After being out of the workforce for so long, I wanted to gradually ease my way back into a professional setting.

This seemed like a good way to start.

Preparing and presenting speeches is a main part of Toastmasters.

Honestly, it wasn’t easy for me to get up and speak to a group of strangers.

However, I discovered that when I conversed with the audience as if I was talking to my close personal friends, I became very comfortable and relaxed.

As a result, the audience appeared attentive and interested in what I had to say. What surprised me the most was how much I actually came to enjoy the meetings.  That completely blew me away.

Every time I addressed a group, I began to understand what Sally Fields felt like when she said, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now you really like me! You like me, you really like me,” during her acceptance speech for winning the Oscar for Leading Actress in 1985 for Places in the Heart.

Public speaking had become my “hypothetical” drug of choice. I began to need my regular fix of feeling accepted, admired and appreciated for what I had to say.

It became very addicting.

Guinness

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I’m sure I’ll either be entered into the Guinness Book of World Records or achieve some other historically noteworthy distinction as being known as the “Human Equivalent of Murphy’s Law.” It’s not an exaggeration to say that if something could possibly go wrong in my life, it definitely did.

Case in point: A few days after I obtained my new mailbox, I came home from running errands in the early afternoon only to find Dick sitting in the family room watching his favorite show, The Young and the Restless. 

In his hand was a postcard which he immediately thrust at me and then confronted me about. After reading the message scrawled on it, I inwardly silently screamed at the top of my lungs, OH…F*#K!!!

As my luck would have it, somehow when I was filling out the paperwork for my P.O. Box, I inadvertently managed to leave off the name of our town where my mail should have been delivered.

The clerk checking over the information obviously overlooked that too.  But lo and behold, it was eventually discovered and instead of contacting me by phone to obtain the correct village, I received a card in my home mailbox informing me that I needed to provide the necessary data before my request could be processed.

And as everything else in my life and divorce process seemed to be going for me, it should have been no surprise that Dick would be home in the early afternoon on that particular week day to intercept that correspondence, read it and react to it, instead of being at work, treating patients like most normal physicians would have been doing.

Immediately, like a panther stalking its prey, he pounced. “You can do whatever you want with your mail, but you can’t do anything with Ashley’s mail. We are both her parents and you have no right making this decision for her  without consulting me. I talked to my attorney and you are in serious trouble for what you did. You  better take her off the P.O. Box or we will take you to court over this,” Dick announced.

*What he really meant here was that I couldn’t do anything that concerned our daughter, but he had every right to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, without discussing it with me.

With total disgust welling up inside of me, I replied as calmly as humanly possible, “At this point, you have no right touching anyone’s mail but your own.

Ashley and I both know that you took a letter that was addressed to her, opened it and took out the contents. She never got a chance to see it. This was her mail.

She is a teenager and deserves to have her privacy respected.  But no, you couldn’t stop there. Recently you opened other letters that were addressed to her.

You now have a P.O. Box where your mail is being delivered. There is absolutely no reason for you to be handling ANY mail that comes to this house. It’s not for you.

But, not only do you bring in the mail, you also go through it and open whatever you want.

That’s mail tampering and it’s a federal offense.

So in answer to your demand, NO I will not have Ashley’s mail delivered back to this house. As long as it is being delivered to our P.O. Box, she will receive all of her mail UNOPENED!!!

The only reason we had to get our mail delivered somewhere else is because you crossed the line and have taken things way too far. If you’d mind your own business, this wouldn’t have happened.

This is your fault. Don’t turn around and blame me for your actions. You think you are threatening and scaring me?

*Actually he was, but I was damned if I was going to let him know it.

Go to court and waste more time and money over frivolous matters. I can’t wait to tell the judge what really went on here.”

With that, I turned around, walked out of the house, got into my car and drove to a (thankfully) uninhabited park in my development. I turned off the ignition and sat in the driver’s seat trying to come to terms with what just transpired.

My body couldn’t contain itself any longer and finally let loose with what it so honorably kept together until I reached a safe location.

Shaking like an addict going through withdrawal, I sat alone in my vehicle until the spasmodic convulsions ravaging my muscles eventually subsided, the explosive cacophony of voices in my brain muffled and the violently throbbing blood vessels in my temples simmered down.

As I slowly breathed in and out, I refused to even consider what “Murphy” might possibly conjure up for me next.

I guess some things were better left unknown.

 

Until Further Notice…

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After the policeman and I finished up our business, I drove off in a daze to the post office. Being a creature of habit as well as being an individual who did not adapt very  well to change, I was having an extremely difficult time trying to come to grips with what was occurring in my life.

In my previous life, anything that deviated from the status quo made me uneasy. But back then, fortunately nothing much out of the ordinary or unexpected happened too often. However, since the day I filed for divorce, my taken-for-granted lifestyle had been violently and suddenly tossed by the wayside. In its place, chaos, fear and uncertainty took up residence. Every day had become an exercise in adjusting to that new life I didn’t have a clue how to live. So to say I was slightly apprehensive, nervous and fearful when I entered the post office was a gross understatement. That was just another confirmation that my situation was real and my life was changing rapidly whether I liked it or wanted it or not.

Once inside the surroundings of my neighborhood post office that I frequented on a regular basis for over two decades, I was mortified to feel that what had once been so familiar and comfortable to me suddenly seemed so foreign and strange. For some reason I couldn’t figure out what to do or how to do it. Even the mundane task of getting my daily mail had taken on a whole different meaning and significance. Nothing in my life was humdrum or commonplace anymore.

I approached a postal worker and asked for assistance on how to undertake what I perceived to be the difficult and mind-boggling procedure of obtaining a P.O. Box. All of a sudden I felt like I was transported to a new planet where I didn’t have a clue how to function. The kind, middle-aged gentleman pointed to a table in the center of the room where forms for change of address were placed. I felt the sudden need to explain why I was undertaking this unusual measure, but I could see from the expression on his face that he could have cared less who I was, what my situation was or why I needed to rent a mailbox.

I had to keep reminding myself that simply having my mail temporarily delivered to a new address wasn’t the end of the world and I would survive that transition. Nervously, I picked up the applications and proceeded to fill in the required information.

Why was I having such a difficult time focusing and answering simple questions like my name…current address…where I wanted my mail to be delivered to…etc?

From the way I was reacting and behaving, you’d think I was suddenly placed in the formidable position of finding a cure for cancer, solving the middle east peace crisis and balancing our nation’s budget simultaneously, instead of the piddly, benign chore I was carrying out.

However, in my heart I knew exactly why I was so unnerved by my new undertaking. Truth be told, I was scared out of my mind, shaking in my boots, worried beyond reason of how Dick was going to react when he would find out that I’d forwarded Ashley’s and my mail.

With my heart pounding and sweat accumulating in the palms of my hands, I answered the question to the best of my ability and then took my place in line to wait for the next available clerk. When it was my turn, I approached the counter, handed over my completed paperwork and waited while everything was checked over. After all appeared correct, I paid for my new acquisition and was given a set of keys to my new mail delivery receptacle.

A supervisor led me to my new small parcel of rental real estate and then proceeded to explain that I would need to contact everyone who sent Ashley and me mail and give them our new address. “WHAT!!!”  I exclaimed in total amazement. “This was only temporary. Didn’t the post office just forward our mail to the box?” The supervisor informed me that after about 30 days or so, anything that was not addressed to the P.O. Box would be returned to sender as undeliverable.

That wasn’t what I expected. I began to question what I was getting myself into. In addition to being totally inconvenienced by having to make daily mail runs, I’d also have to inform all friends, family, Ashley’s school, magazines, insurance and credit card companies, and literally anyone who would be sending any correspondence to us of our new temporary address. What a major pain in the ass this was turning out to be.

And to think that hopefully sooner rather than later, I’d get to go through that whole process all over again in reverse.

Law and (Dis)Order

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After I talked to the superintendent at the post office, I called my attorney to report what had happened. He told me to call the police and let them deal with Dick and his shenanigans.

The next morning, as soon as Ashley walked out of the door for school, I dialed the non-emergency phone number for our local sheriff’s office. Not knowing what to expect, and with much trepidation, I told the officer on the other end of the phone about my mail fiasco.

He asked me what I wanted to do about it. What did I want to do about it??? What was that all about?

I realized that this incident wasn’t a life or death situation. And I also knew that this wasn’t a major crime.

*That’s why I called the non-emergency number instead of 911.

But for crying out loud, I didn’t call the police looking for a sympathetic shoulder to cry on or to shoot the breeze about my divorce and the pain in the neck I was unfortunately still married to.

Mail tampering was a federal offense and I was simply following up on the directive given by two respectable sources. I’m sure I wasn’t the first and I definitely wouldn’t be the last to have this happen to. But if this officer wanted my advice on how to proceed, I would have gladly suggested that they arrest Dick and hold him without bond until further notice.

Instead, I said that I wanted to file a police report. We then discussed where this should take place. For several reasons I didn’t want the police showing up at my home. If a squad car pulled up in my driveway, all the yentas in my neighborhood would have been outside in a split second. This wasn’t something I wanted everyone else to know about. Nor did I want to air out my dirty laundry on the street. Also, I didn’t want to take the chance that the police would show up if Dick were still at home. That wouldn’t have been a pleasant scene. So we decided that a safe place to meet would be at the Seven-Eleven located in the strip mall by my house.

I parked my car directly in front of the store and waited for the police to arrive. After about 20 minutes, a squad car finally pulled up next to mine. The officer inside motioned to me and we both got out of our vehicles.

While I understood that this wasn’t an emergency, I thought he would have shown up much quicker than he did.  As I opened the door to exit my auto, I glanced around to make sure that no one I knew was in the vicinity. That would have been totally embarrassing and humiliating. Thankfully, no one looked familiar.

Being the “goody two shoes” that I was, I was anxious about the prospect of speaking with a law official. Within seconds, it became obvious that I had nothing to be nervous about. (Not that I wanted to make a habit of this!)

The first thing the deputy asked me was what I had called for. I wondered to myself, Didn’t he get a head’s up about what this was about or was he just in the neighborhood looking for a convenience store to stop by to grab a quick cup of coffee and a pastry? I certainly didn’t think it should have been a surprise to him. I explained that Dick and I were going through a bitter, ugly, nasty divorce; we were still living in the same house together; he had opened Ashley’s and my mail; he took one of Ashley’s letters without her even seeing the contents of it; and he opened and resealed my credit card bill. Judging by the expression on his face, it was apparent that this man wasn’t the least bit concerned.

I then produced the tampered envelopes. He looked them over briefly and quickly informed me that he had no way of knowing if Dick did that or not. The gentleman then proceeded to tell me that for all he knew, I could have done this myself and blamed my husband. I looked at him with total disbelief and replied that while I understood his point that he didn’t actually witness these occurrences, how was I supposed to prove that this really happened? He told me that even if I called the police while something was going on, unless they were there to witness the event, it was Dick’s word against mine. While I knew he was absolutely correct, I was starting to wonder if there really was any justice in this world…and if there was…when would I start seeing it.

The officer then asked me when I filed for divorce. I told him the date was July 15, 2009. He then proceeded to tell me that I should move out of my house and get a job until my divorce was finalized. (I’ve been discovering that when it came to divorce, just like pregnancy, everyone was an expert and had an opinion on what needed to be done.) I told him that my daughter and I were not leaving the house. It wasn’t an option at that time.

The deputy then told me that he didn’t think this would be the last time his office would be hearing from me. He felt  that as time went on, I would be calling and complaining of other things. Wasn’t he a ray of sunshine?   I loved his optimism! The last thing I wanted to consider while standing outside my neighborhood convenience store was what Dick might be scheming to do to me in the future.

All I could do at that point was take it one day at a time. However the officer’s next suggestion made more sense to me. He told me to go to the post office and get a P.O. Box in Ashley’s and my names. That way, Dick wouldn’t be able to go through our mail. Now that was a recommendation I could live with.

With that, he told me he would write-up a brief one paragraph incident report.

We then parted ways.