Friday, July 24, 2009

Two piles

One of boxes of stuff I'm bringing to school and the other I'm bringing with me to Heather's.

I still can't believe I'm leaving this place.
It would be so much easier if it were a move into a place of my own. Something new and something to get excited about.

It would be easier if he weren't staying here. In my house. My garden surrounding it.

I will miss my tub most. God I love that giant tub.

Friday, July 10, 2009


Living with my soon to be ex husband in this house has definitely had it's odd moments. Seven bedrooms was always too many for us and I often brought up renting some out but he was never comfortable with the idea when we were married. In this economy and in our situation it looked like a better idea. So we started with one rental. She's nineteen and a flight attendant. I loved her right away. When she worked out fine I found another young man who needed a place just for the summer to do his internship in the loop.

I haven't had roommates for a long time but I've always had really good luck with people. These two young people are no exception.

We all have very different schedules and are rarely all home together. Even when we are all home the house is so large we often only bump into each other in the kitchen. A couple nights ago we three put all the furniture back in place (the hard wood floors had been refinished)and then found ourselves on the front porch sipping drinks and talking.

Contessa romped around the yard eating grass and searching for remnants of cat while we got our buzz on and related stories of the hood. We all laughed as in unison we were able to recite the announcement coming from the train 1/2 block away, "Attention customers, an outbound train from the Loop will be arriving shortly."

I often doubt my decision to be the one leaving this house. At first it was difficult because it was my dream home; the home I imagined filling with children and having family over for barbecues. But with each life transition I have adapted and my new situation is fun and interesting also. Living with these young people is great and it's been wonderful sharing the house I've made a home with them. God, I hope I'm doing the right thing.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Economy on Divorce

It's bad for us too.
My brother, friends, my mom, the guy I'm seeing all ask me in some way the following:
"Have you seen that article/story about people divorcing that are forced to live together because of the economy in the Tribune/on 20/20/on Yahoo News?"
No, I don't have to watch the news or read about it online or in the paper. I'm living it, thank you very much.
If we had decided to divorce any sooner than we did, even by just six months, we'd have sold our house, be divorced and moving on with our lives long before now. But our timing had to suck.
We had our house on the market for seven months and it didn't budge. We probably listed it too high but there weren't any comps to help us out then so we listed it at what it would have sold for a year prior. In three months we dropped the price fifty grand. Still nothing.
I was warned by my mortgage broker not to drop it further because if I decided to buy my ex out a lower listing would effect the appraisal. The appraisal needs to be high enough that I'll be able to re-finance with equity so that I can get cash out of the loan and give it to my ex.
Finally after some talking, my ex agrees to take 25k as a buy out. I go ahead and have my mortgage guy order the appraisal. Two weeks later I get a message from him on my voice mail:
"Lisa, I'm sorry I haven't gotten back to you. The problem is that I can't find an appraiser that will give your house the value it needs to put you in a position to get cash back from the loan. I'm not even going to tell you what the guy you met last week appraised your house at, you'll fall over. If I can get someone to appraise it at 350 (six years ago we bought the house for 342)we might get somewhere but I don't even know if I can get that right now. Nothing in your neighborhood has moved in the past year. All we have to compare it to are foreclosures and they're killing the value of your home. I'm sorry I don't have better news for you."
Still married.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Facebook Friends From the Past

Last night I spoke for an hour with a friend I met fourteen years ago. Jesus Christ, fourteen years.

We worked in the same office renting apartments. I was an escort. Go ahead, smile and imagine. My job was driving clients around town and showing them apartments. His job...You know, I really don't know what Simon did. I remember he was usually on a computer. He created the Center's first Web page. I didn't know what that meant at the time and when he tried to explain it to me I went into deer in headlights mode. As if people could learn about our services through a computer in another state. Please.

Simon was from England in the States with his girlfriend, Caroline, "You look a bit like my girlfriend," I remember him telling me when we first met.
"I have one of those looks." I had replied. He invited me over to meet her and hang out. We were instant friends. Instant "mates," I mean. We went to the pool together, concerts, dinner, picnics on the beach, I took them to my parents house for a home cooked Sunday dinner. Often we just hung out in their apartment. Smoking bongs and drinking, Simon fiddling on his guitar, Caroline and I impressing each other with our deep thoughts.
I don't know who I loved more, him or Caroline. But in retrospect I think that my relationship with Caroline was what I needed most at the time. I had a shortage of girl friends at the time. Caroline and I went shopping together, she taught me how to highlight my own hair, we polished each other's nails. We were so girly. Really, it makes me laugh now. I remember when they left in their tightly packed car how I cried and waved. Like a scene in a stupid movie. I thought I'd never hear from them again.

But ever few months or so I'd get a postcard from somewhere. Australia...I can't remember where else. Then I discovered email and could write more frequently. I was able to hook up with Caroline in London six years ago when I took sabbatical.
Then, a couple years ago Caroline invites me to be her friend on Facebook and I'm like, "is this gonna bring more junk mail to my inbox? Is it going to be complicated? Can I even handle this?" Now I have reconnected with more old friends than I ever thought I'd want to reconnect with. I'm loving it and at this time in my life I can use all these people in my life.

Last night after a Facebook chat Simon called me using Skype. After we both stopped giggling like a couple of school girls we had one of our familiar deep meaning conversations about life. He across the pond with his Labrador at his side and me not two miles from where we first me with my Bullmastiff on my lap. His words comforted me though the British accent freaked me out a bit.

So thank you Facebook. Thank you my old friends for being there even when you're not here.

Outward Bound revisited

I wrote the following in an extemporaneous manner. I truly had been brought back to a memory and felt I needed to explore it more. It didn’t occur to me why until I felt my way through it all:

I’m listening to a new song by Beck and it brings back a memory of being in a coffee house somewhere. I was young, in my twenties, and beautiful. I didn’t really know how beautiful I was and didn’t project beauty because of it. I felt more invisible than lovely. I may or may not have been on drugs, maybe coming down from some high or another. The feel of the Beck song brought me memories of other worldliness, a higher sense of myself.
It was sunny outside, bright light spills in the window box and over a couple that are sitting on the couch there. I am so jealous of them just because they appear to be a cool couple. “Cool.” I don’t think I’m in Chicago. I think maybe I’m visiting Heather in Colorado. No, I remember now. I’m in Minneapolis and I’ve just completed my second Outward Bound. I had four hours in Minneapolis to kill before going to the airport. I must have looked a bit Bohemian with only one backpack, dressed in camping gear and bitten to hell by mosquitoes. I was not in a relationship with anyone cool then. I was in another relationship with a guy that borrowed my stuff and ruined it, took money from me regularly and cheated on me. So the “cool” couple intrigued me.
There were no drugs, I was just high on the awareness that I was stronger than I had realized. Stronger physically and mentally than I knew I was. At the end of Outward Bound we sat in a circle and were asked to pick a person in the group to hear their impression of you from. I had not really formed any tight friendships with anyone on this trip; instead I had done my usual- flitted from one person to another. That way no one knew me too well. No one could see too intimately into my inner thoughts. There was one person I talked to more than the others but I didn’t want to hear what she had to say. I wanted to hear from someone else. How did I appear to people that I didn’t really talk to? I picked an older gentleman from a Southern State.
“Lisa is an incredible young woman. She has re-defined my idea of what it means to be a lady.” I don’t know if I can really use quotes because these may not be his exact words, but they meant so much to me I know I remember closely what he said. “She is stronger than I used to think ladies could be. I come from a place where the men are expected to open doors for ladies, carry their bags and such. They are fragile and need protection. Lisa has made it clear to the men on this trip that she doesn’t need us to carry her things for her. When I saw her struggle the first time she lifted a canoe on her own I really wanted to take it from her. But then she lifted it and walked. The guys and I looked at each other and shrugged. She’s smart, she’s witty, she’s beautiful and she’s strong.”
I had never received a greater compliment in my life. I told him so and thanked him. We wrote letters to ourselves right after that. The letters were sent to us one year later to remind us of the strength we found in ourselves on that trip.

I am feeling weak today, old. I am scared. Perhaps a part of me allowed Beck to bring me back to that funky coffee shop in Minneapolis to remind me of how I felt that day. If I could feel so strong at twenty-eight I could find it in myself to feel it again.

I do not need a man to lift my canoe for me. I don’t need a man at all. I am smart, I am witty, I am beautiful and I am strong.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Who's name is it?

I first came up with "Lisa Who?" as my blog name because I didn't know what to do with my name. I was getting a divorce but I didn't want to go back to my old last name. That somehow seemed like moving backwards. It's also a really long process to change your name; all identification, credit cards, bank accounts, social security, all my school transcripts. I'm sure I'd miss something somewhere.
My students have been calling me by my last name only for the past ten years. I prefer it to "Miss" which is common. I also prefer it to "Ms.(first initial of my last name)". I think that's tacky. Ms. B, or Mr. A...there are many of them, and then the students never remember what your real last name is.
Also, I like my new name. I think it's pretty and I like pretty so I'd like to keep it.
So, when we decided to divorce I asked my then husband if it was okay with him if I kept my last name. He was a little surprised. He thought that would be the first thing I did but he replied that it would be his honor if I kept it.
This morning we were to finalize our divorce in court but the judge didn't like the way our papers read and so we are still married.
The morning started out badly. My soon-to-be-ex and I had a difference of opinion on the wording of the paperwork and he wanted me to make some changes. I reacted badly and he reacted to my reaction. I'll leave it at that.
We pulled it together and made it to the courtroom a little late. The clerk scolded us on not having everything organized. She was right. We waited until almost last and when we approached the bench the judge had a lot of questions that we simply could not answer completely enough for her. She told us to get a lawyer and come back. As we were waiting for the clerk to assign us a new date my ex turned to me and asked, "can I have my name back?"
I wasn't really sure what he said, so I asked, "what?"
"Can I have my name back?"
Yep, that's what I thought he said. I looked at him confused and asked, "you want me to have that put in the paperwork also?"
"No, forget it."
I was reeling already from the events of the morning and this, frankly, was a slap in my face. Here's why:
Before we married I had a really nice signature. That's right, signature. It had evolved over the years into a reflex of a thing to sign on checks, hall passes and my art work. With the new name I had to re-work it. I spent hours trying to get the new name to flow the same way the old name did and look as pretty as the old one did, look as pretty as the new one sounded.
Over the past ten (now going on eleven) years I have watched my husband's signature evolve into basically the same signature as mine. I'm not exaggerating. He's basically copied the exact way I sign "his" last name. He's eliminated his middle initial and made his first name less legible and more about his first initial. Just like mine.
So, if he asks again I think I might have to reply, "you can have it if I can have my signature back."
Is that petty?

I'm a Painter

I tell my AP (Advanced Placement) kids things I don’t tell my other classes. We’re so much more like a family because of our common interest in art and we’ve known each other for at least two years instead of just a semester.

Somehow the subject of my husband came up and I confessed to them that we were divorcing. They got pretty serious and apologetic. “No, no,” I told them, “it’s okay. He and I are going to try and stay friends. I still love him but we can’t live together anymore.”
Nancy asked, “What do you mean?” I thought about it and gave her an example I thought she’d understand.
“About five years ago I was explaining to him how much I desired to teach painting. This was before I had a painting class and was still teaching photo. I told him how much happier I would be if I could teach the thing I loved most. He looked at me confused and said, ‘but you’re a photographer.’” Nancy shook her head but Janet didn’t flinch. She said, blank faced, “did you slap him? I woulda slapped him.”
“I know, right?” I replied.
“How could he not know that you are a painter?” asked Nancy.

It was so ironic that these kids who had only known me for a year or so understood that part of me more than the man I married. He was the same man whom I personally thanked in my Master’s degree artist statement. This was the man that was my muse long ago when we first began dating. I created paintings of him, with him, and then gave them to him. He is the man with whom I shared my home and had seen my paintings hang on our walls, seen my brushes and six foot tall easel, seen me make extra money by painting on the walls of peoples’ homes. How could he not have known that about me?
I was so disappointed in him, so sad, that I didn’t even get mad or, as Janet asked, slapped him. I just shook my head and said, “No, I’m a painter. Don’t you remember all the paintings in my Graduate show?”
“Well, yea but I just thought that was what you got your Master’s in, not what you did.”
I can’t explain that response. Really, I get sad as I type this. It felt like he never paid close enough attention to me, as an artist anyway. Maybe it's because he's not into art. It just felt important to me and they understood that.