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Melly Klistmas and a Happy New Lease

This is probably the longest stretch of time I’ve ever gone without writing in my blog. It’s been almost a whole month, you guys. So what’s been taking up all of my time, you ask? All fifty-six and a half hours a week not spent sleeping, showering, eating, working, and commuting? First, there were the holidays.

snowy village

Christmas was lovely. I didn’t get the Sylvanian’s out of their Thanksgiving outfits until December 21st, but it was totally worth the wait.

sylvanian xmas

I didn’t bake my traditional gingerbread people this year, but I did make all my own gift-wrap.

recycled wrapping

We had a wonderful New Year. Mike had to work New Year’s Eve, but I got to spend the evening with my brother and his wife, just the three of us, and it was absolutely lovely. Since Mike and I weren’t going to spend New Year’s Eve-ning together, we spent the afternoon together instead. And what does a young starting-out for the third-time couple do on a sunny So Cal winter day? They apartment hunt.

I had been hoping for a two-bedroom apartment, some outdoor space, and hardwood or laminate floors, but two-bedrooms with all those amenities in the San Fernando Valley are more expensive than you’d think. We looked at a couple of cute places, all brand-new laminate floors, lots of sun, one-bedrooms totally within our budget.  We looked at a couple of awful places, one-bedrooms outside our budget that looked good on paper but turned out to be carpeted windowless dens of misery.

We were getting ready to wrap it up for the day when Mike convinced me to take a look at a little apartment off Saticoy he’d seen the day before. A two-bedroom with a dishwasher, a balcony, a fireplace, and carpeting, it was right within our budget. However, as far as I was concerned, the carpeting cancelled out the dishwasher, the fireplace, and the second bedroom. I was determined to hold out for hardwood floors. And by that I mean laminate flooring would have been equally awesome, but carpet was out of the question. If we had carpet I would spend the next five years scrubbing dog butt-smear out of it.

“But the landlord said she didn’t care that we have dogs, she doesn’t care what happens to the carpet, so you don’t have to worry about it.”
“Dog butt-smear in the carpet is disgusting. I’m not living with carpet.”
“I’ll buy a carpet cleaner and I’ll shampoo it once a week.”
“No.”
“There are two bathrooms.”
“Fine. But we’re only looking.”

He turned onto a street lined with 1920’s Craftsman bungalows and palm trees. “This is probably where we’ll walk the dogs in the mornings. There’s a coffee shop at the end of the block.” I rolled my eyes and coughed the words “butt smear”. He turned a corner and parked in front of a little six-unit building. There were two kids sitting on the lawn out front, playing with a puppy under the shade of a big beautiful tree.

The minute I walked into our Harlem apartment, I knew I was home. I loved that apartment from the first moment I saw it, like it was a part of Mike and me and who we are together. I loved it’s tall windows with the deep sills, the shining original hardwood floors. I loved our neighbors and our community, but mostly I loved how happy we were while we lived there.

When Michael opened the front door of this new apartment and I saw the fireplace nestled in the built-in bookcases, I knew we were home.  We signed the lease three days later and started moving in right away.  Life has been incredibly upside down ever since we left New York, but never as much as it has been in the last fifteen days. We’ve been overwhelmed and frustrated and of course there is always some butt-smear, but you know what? That’s life. And a little at a time the boxes are vanishing, our things are finding their place in cabinets and cupboards, and we’re making this apartment ours. Welcome to another new beginning. Welcome to the Valley.

welcome-to-the-valley

The sunset off our balcony

Financial Infidelity

getoffmyproperty

Get yer filthy paws awf my moneys!

The other day I came across an article about “financial infidelity”. Wikipedia defines financial infidelity as “a term used to describe the secretive act of spending money, possessing credit and credit cards, holding secret accounts or stashes of money, borrowing money, or otherwise incurring debt unknown to one’s spouse, partner, or significant other. Adding to the monetary strain commonly associated with financial infidelity in a relationship is a subsequent loss of intimacy and trust in the relationship.”

Basically, according to the Internets, married people are cheating on each other with money.

Dude.

Within a week of our moving in together, Mike had added my name to his checking account and I’d closed mine out and deposited all of my funds into his account. Now, I wouldn’t recommend this to all couples, in some situations that could be a really stupid thing to do. But in our case it made sense. For one thing, I had excellent credit and a knack for data entry, while Mike made lots of money that he never took to the bank. He used to get all his bills in red envelopes, not because he couldn’t afford to pay them but because he never had money in the bank. Instead, all his money was scattered across the kitchen table, shoved into cracks in the walls to keep out drafts, tucked into books like so many bookmarks, and wadded up in the dryer lint catcher. It drove me crazy. So when we agreed to move in together, we agreed to a joint bank account so that I could manage our finances. And manage them I did! Every night when Mike came home from work he would put all his cash in a cigar box we kept next to the bed. Every morning I would deposit his cigar box cash at the bank. I paid all our bills, balanced the checkbook, and watched our budget.  By the time we married we had zero debt and a nice little nest egg. Then we moved to New York and blew it all. Then we paid down our debt again, built another nice little nest egg, and moved back to California.

The value of a man who, without complaint, hands over his paycheck every week, is not lost on me. I know how lucky I am to have a partner who is so careful of his spending, so sincere in his desire to help me build the future we want for ourselves. It’s a blessing to know that we have the same goals in mind and that we’re both doing the best we can to meet them. Which is why the thought of financial infidelity is so absolutely horrifying. Aside from death or actual infidelity, I can’t imagine many things more terrifying than discovering that my husband has secret credit card debt. Or secret gambling debt. Or secret anything.

I thought about this when I read the article, then I googled “financial infidelity” and found 809,000 more articles, and with each word I read I climbed higher and higher on my money-management pedestal. Patted myself on the back and told myself how superior we are because we would never lie to each other about money. We’re better than that. And then I remembered the parking ticket.

If I get a parking ticket and send the check off and don’t say anything to Mike about that $55 – is that financial infidelity? What if I go shopping and tell him I only spent $100, but I actually spent $350? Or like, we each have a budgeted personal allowance of $80 a month and Mike never spends that much, he hardly ever spends more than forty bucks, but I sometimes spend three times my allotted amount and I’ve never told him (until now.) I just let him think I stay within my budget because I don’t want him to get mad and it’s not like he ever looks at our budget sheets, because he totally trusts me to take care of it – so am I cheating on my spouse with money?

AM I A CURRENCY INFIDELITE?

What do you think? About all of this, I mean, not just whether or not I’m cheating on my husband’s bank account. How do you handle money with your partner? Not that that is any of my business, no siree. Oooh, touchy subject, this is. Money! Scary stuff, I know. But I’m curious. What do you think?

The World Keeps Spinning

Shadows

My heart has been so heavy the last couple of days. Mike started working nights again, which is awful. But it’s particularly awful because he’s working a job that brings him absolutely zero satisfaction, so he’s not even enjoying himself. At least if he were doing something he enjoyed, like EMT work, or a property management gig, or if he was gone all night because he was taking classes or something, at least I would know he was getting something out of it. But instead I know he’s on his feet all night, miserable, the hours dragging by like years, and so it’s hard to sit through my own personal loneliness with a brave face.

Then there’s the weather. You guys, seriously. The weather has been cold and gray for days and days. It has rained three times this week. Are you honestly telling me that we moved back from New York for this horrible, gray, dreary weather? Seriously? Because I could have stayed in New York for this. And then at least I’d be in New York.

I don’t mean that. I really do love the Valley. But this weather is seriously bumming me out.

Next is my job. It’s super frustrating right now. I’m having to learn a whole new set of skills, and what it feels like is that I’m learning a new language, and I’m not going to lie, it’s a little scary. I’m learning how to do things I never thought I’d have to learn and on the one hand, that’s the entire reason I took the job. Because I knew it would challenge me in ways I’ve never been challenged, and that was exactly what I wanted. And yet.

I think the problem here is that I don’t handle change very well. Or maybe I handle change just like everyone else does, and maybe everyone else feels super overwhelmed by change. I don’t know. Can you answer that for me? Because all of these little life changes are starting to pile up and feel a little crushing, now that the honeymoon has worn off, and I’m freaking the eff out.

Deep. Breath.

Another. Deep. Breath.

And yet. We chose this. We wanted this. Mike and I both. We stopped going out and eating at restaurants so we could save up enough money for this. We talked about it and planned it out and when we found out it was all real, we were so happy we cried.

And there have been days since we moved when all we can do is grin at each other and knock fists and bro-hug, we’re that pleased with ourselves. There have been happy reunions and little victories and days we both felt our lives were too good to be real. So I’m not trying to say that we made the wrong choice, or that I was starting to regret our decision, or anything like that. It’s just that it’s life, you know? It’s complicated and messy and boring and then it’s fantastic and perfect and full of tiny bursts of light like shooting stars that make all the rest of it worthwhile. I guess the thing to do is try and find the peace within it all. The zen. So that the crappy stuff doesn’t matter so much and the happy stuff is the thing you notice the most.

Weather Check

Yesterday marked one-month since we arrived in Los Angeles and started living with my parents. One month with all of our belongings in boxes in their garage. One month of shared dinners and shared errands and shared Sundays. One month of little dogs with muddy feet on white linen slacks, one month of cats leaping from dark bookcase corners.

My parents are incredibly gracious. They even seem to enjoy having us here, and thank goodness, because being able to land here, with them, to have a home base while we gather ourselves together and get ready to move on to the next phase in our life has been invaluable. And wonderful.

Friends keep asking how the apartment hunt is going, but we haven’t even started looking. For one thing, I’ve been too busy at work to do anything else, and as long as Mike is still looking for an apartment manager job, why should we sign a lease? In the meantime we’re enjoying the shared dinners and shared errands and shared Sundays. Mike’s been wonderful about chipping in with chores and cooking, and I’m trying too. The dogs are enjoying the backyard and the cats are taking full advantage of sharing a room with us. They spend their nights tracing our faces with their whiskers, leaping back and forth from our bellies to our pillows and back again.

I’m sure it’s not easy for my parents to share their home with another family, especially one that consists of so many animals. But every time I ask them if we’re driving them crazy yet, they just laugh and insist that Mike’s cooking is worth it. And honestly? I’m a little surprised at how easy it’s been for Mike and me to adjust to sharing our life with another family. Granted the other family is our family too, but I was a little worried that we wouldn’t have enough privacy, or we’d impede on their privacy, or Theo would pee all over the garden furniture and drive my mother nuts, but so far it’s been fine.

Mike and I started running in the mornings, and since he started a part-time job our run has become our one chance to touch base during the day. He’s working nights, I’m working days, so it’s morning runs or nuthin’. As close as we are, it’s become really important for us to have the opportunity, every day, to clue each other in as to how we’re feeling, what’s going on, and where our heads are at. I’ve found that when we miss that hour alone together too many days in a row, I end up feeling disconnected, insecure, and uneasy. Then when we  run we get awkward. We trot side by side, talking small about the weather, our plans for the day. But by the end, sweaty and out of breath, we’re excited and talking about our future, the fixer-upper we hope to buy, the trip to Nepal, the degree Mike will earn, the family we hope to begin.

Do a “weather” check during the day Call your partner at home or at work to see how his or her day is going. This is a great way to adjust expectations so that you’re more in sync when you connect after work. For instance, if your partner is having an awful day, it might be unreasonable to expect him or her to be enthusiastic about something good that happened to you. — From 10 Tips for Happy Couples, by Dr. Mark Goulston.

Mike’s working in a restaurant, so calling him at work is out of the question. And I really don’t feel comfortable taking personal calls while I’m working, because they distract me too much. But the idea is what’s important, and for us, the hour of running is what is keeping us in tune. So what about you? What do you do to stay connected to your partner? Do you have a weekly date night? Do you share a daily meal? How do you manage sharing a life with opposite schedules?

A Willing Man

twit picTweeted this photo a month ago, not fifteen minutes after I’d finished vacuuming. Then I cried.

In an average week I spend anywhere from ten to eighteen hours taking care of the hearth and home.  By that I mean I spend between ten and eighteen hours vacuuming, washing dishes, doing laundry, paying bills, walking the dogs, emptying the litter box, taking out the trash, et cetera, in addition to the forty plus hours I work at my jobs, in addition to the work Michael does around the house, and I’ll tell you something, that man more than pulls his weight around here.

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of headlines about how marriages where the husband helps out around the house are happier and less likely to end in divorce than marriages where the wife shoulders most of the household chores.  I think this is an incredibly interesting topic because I’ve had a personal theory about this for years, a theory something along the lines of how I would die of apoplexy if I ever lived with another man who was incapable of taking care of himself.

No, Kevin, I’m not writing about you, I know you think this post is about you, don’t you? Don’t you?

You guys, I once lived with my friend Kevin and the fact that we’re still friends is kind of a miracle because I was the worst roommate in the entire world.  I did things to that poor guy that I can’t even type here, but to give you an idea of what a really terrible, awful roommate I was, I will tell you that whenever I knew he was bringing a girl home, I would poop in his toilet and not flush.

Hello, future potential employers!

Anyway, I did that horrible thing because I was… I was… I’m drawing a blank.  He got me back though.  He once hid all of my oranges.

Where was I?  I was a terrible roommate, but at least Kevin could take care of himself.  Sure, he left his groceries on the porch overnight, more than once, and I’d find his shoes in my bathroom and his underpants on the TV, but he worked hard and he was patient and kind and he helped with the chores.  And we’re still friends.

I’ve lived with other men over the years, I’m not talking about family members, I’m talking about roommates and what not, and the ones that didn’t help with chores?  They are no longer a part of my life, not even a little bit.  So my theory evolved from my inability to maintain relationships with men who refused to treat me as an equal.  Because that’s what it comes down to folks.  If a physically able man who hasn’t hired full time help won’t chip in with the chores, he’s either a completely dependent child or he thinks he’s too good to stoop to a woman’s level and take care of the home.  Am I being a little brash?  Probably, but I’ve watched too many women I love sacrifice themselves for a guy who doesn’t give back and I’ve been the girl who gives everything and finds herself alone and empty hearted.

When I mentioned the headlines about husband’s who help with housework to Mike he looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Of course.  A husband who helps with chores is the kind of man who helps.  He’s considerate, he’s thoughtful, he’s kind.  Of course his marriage is happier and less likely to end in divorce.”  He spoke the words on the tip of my tongue.

I love you, but

Me: Do these need to go in the laundry?

Him: I don’t know.  Sniff ’em.

Me: … I love you, but I’m not going to sniff your shorts.

Him: You know you want to.

Me: If you wanted me to want to you’d have married a gal with one of those fetishes.

And yet I dream of gardens to grow things in

Him: Can you hand me that plant so I can treat it for aphids?

Me: I’ll just get out of your way and you can get it yourself.

Him: Don’t get up! Just hand it to me.

Me: (Deep breath.) Ok.  (Picks up potted plant and …) Kind of freaks me out to touch this.

Him: What?  Why??

Me: Aphids are related to spiders.

Him: I’m pretty sure aphids are six-legged insects.

Me: They spin webs.

Him: Lots of bugs spin webs.  What do you think a chrysalis is?

Me: Psh.  A cocoon.

A little while later…

Me: You were right.  Kind of.  Aphids are six-legged insects, unrelated to spiders, and they do not spin webs. Spider mites spin webs.  OUR PLANTS HAVE SPIDER MITES.  THAT’S LIKE BEDBUGS FOR PLANTS.

Him: … I think you’re being a little over-dramatic.  And the treatment worked.  See?  The plants are fine.

Me: And that’s why you’re my hero.

*kiss*

Excerpts from Dinner


Him: I’m so tired.  If it were up to me I’d spend the rest of the night curled up with bad TV and a box of Girl Scout Cookies.
Me: Aw, honey!  Are you getting your period?
Him: … …
Me: Have the cramps started or are you just feeling icky?
Him: … The only cramp I have is the Tricia-shaped cramp up my asshole.

Yowza.  And that’s what you get for being contemptuous!

(No, but really.  It’s all in good fun, folks.  All in good fun.  You better watch out or I’ll punch you in the face!)

(I hope somebody got that joke. Otherwise things between us are getting pretty awkward right about now.)

Help Wanted

Have you been over to RonandRobertonDivorce.com?  Well, have you?  Because in the last week alone I’ve written about infidelity (twice!), fighting fairly, I’ve posted videos of my father being interviewed on CNN practically before I was born, and I shared an interesting podcast on divorce, for better or for worse.  I’ve been a very busy, very serious girl.  So busy and serious I’ve developed a raging case of Serious Scowl as a result of my many hours of intense concentration.  I am now in danger of developing a permanent case of The Furrow.  Please see Exhibit A attached:

The Furrow

Exhibit A -- The Furrow

You may have noticed that I’m using my BlackBerry to take photos a lot lately.  That’s only because I can’t get the damn thing out of my hand long enough to grab the camera.  I still can’t type on that tiny excuse for a keyboard, but I had that thing in front of my face for so long today that when I finally sat down to write tonight I was shocked by the ridiculous largeness of my 13 inch MacBook.

Anyway, I need your help.  Up until recently most of the content I’ve put together for RonandRobertonDivorce.com has been information I’ve gleaned from various sources; more a compiling of someone else’s writing than my own actual writing.  However, I was hired for my writing skillz and I’ve been given the freedom to write and post my own material, and what I’m really interested in is how divorce has affected you.  With divorce being as common as it is, I find it hard to believe that none of my readers have had some experience with it, whether it’s their own divorce, a parent’s divorce, or a friend’s divorce.   We’re all different people with our own unique views and needs and desires.  We all have our own ideas about marriage and divorce and I’d like to know what yours are. If you’d like to participate, feel free to share your thoughts as a comment or if you’d like to remain somewhat anonymous, email me at Trish@TheLawCollaborative.com.

And now a list of questions to help lube your thought processes:

  • When do you think divorce is necessary?
  • What are your views on divorce?
  • Is divorce an option in your relationship?
  • If you could imagine a perfect divorce (if there is such a thing) what would it be?  How long would it take?  How much would it cost?  What would it look like?  How would it start?  What would be required?  Would there be any conditions?
  • If you are a child of divorce, how did your parents divorce affect you?  What did you learn from it?  Did they remarry?  What was it like to grow up in a divorced family?
  • If you have been through a divorce, what would you do differently if you could do it over again?  What was your experience?  What did you learn from it?  How do you feel about marriage?

Of course you don’t have to share if you don’t feel comfortable.  And if you do share, I will most likely want to post whatever you’ve shared on the Internet for the Entire Universe to read, so please keep that in mind.   It is my intention to treat all your thoughts and stories with the utmost care and respect and I really do appreciate your participation.

Thank you!  And goodnight.  (And now I will collapse into bed and sleep like a dead person for the next seven hours.  Heaven.)

I go weak in the knees

2624874436_7737a763d8

Gettysburg, 2008

When I was a little girl and I’d overhear someone talk about falling in love, I’d always ask the same question: How did you know?  Responses varied slightly, but the general consensus was that you just did.  You just knew.

You just knew?  Knew what?  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

Then one autumn night a couple of months after I’d started dating Michael, while I was folding costumes backstage after a rehearsal and thinking about how badly I just wanted to flee the theatre and fly across the 101 and be in his arms again, I suddenly just knew.  It happened in an instant and it took my breath away and the costumes fell from my arms as I reached out to steady myself because I’d almost fallen over.  And I started crying because the vision, the dream in which I saw our woven lives spread out before me was suddenly the most precious, beloved dream I’d ever had.

Happy Anniversary, Michael.  It gets better every year.