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Hardship is the raw material for learning how to navigate life after divorce. What I’ve learned from my pitfalls has allowed me to help others through volunteerism and writing about my experiences.
All that anguish wasn’t for naught.
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I know. What’s wrong with this picture! I haven’t worn my UGGs since I sold my house in Brooklyn at the end of 2013 and drove to Savannah. My boots spent most of 2014 in a Queens storage facility until I took the plunge and moved south for good. Leaving cold weather and snow shoveling behind was a huge factor in my mid-life move. Last year I never even unzipped my down coat or wore a knitted cap. But yesterday it snowed in Savannah!
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Boxes are piled high, and I still don’t have an uncluttered surface for my papers. But I’m finally here. In a room of my own where I can write.
I moved into my new house a week ago. And each morning, while brewing coffee, I watched a branch on an overgrown tree tap the window in my kitchen. Each morning I also heard another tap on the window in my adjacent office. I assumed the source of the sound was the same. But a couple of days ago, when I looked up from my computer, I saw a little yellow and brown bird repeatedly fly back and forth from the tree to my house and bang its little body into my porch window.
My heart stopped when I saw her. Don’t hurt yourself! The windows are new and undoubtedly the cleanest they’ll ever be. Poor little bird – she looked like a baby – must have been practicing her flying. Must have assumed my window was part of the big beyond only to smack headlong into my glass. Each time I held my breath until I saw her boomerang safely back to her perch, afraid she’d drop instead to the ground.
Two weeks ago the Governor of Georgia ordered a mandatory evacuation from certain parts of the state, including Savannah where I live now. Weather forecasts predicted a Category 3 strength direct hit to Savannah from Hurricane Irma, with a storm surge of 10-15 feet. In less than five years, I’ve battened down for three hurricanes – Hurricane Sandy before I left Brooklyn, Hurricane Matthew last October, and now Hurricane Irma. It felt like I’d just evacuated and here I was ordered to leave town again.
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“I believe that magically the book we are supposed to read somehow appears in our hands at just the right time,” best-selling author Ann Hood writes in her new memoir MORNINGSTAR: Growing Up With Books, a series of essays about the books that shaped her life. I nodded constantly while reading MORNINGSTAR last month. Like Ann, my hometown didn’t have a library either. Every Saturday a Bookmobile parked at the post office across from my house, and I’d check out as many books as my little arms could cradle and carry them home. I devoured all the books I could get my hands on. Low-brow, high-brow, it didn’t matter. Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie, Ursula Le Guin. Like Ann, I remember reading Little Women over and over.
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Whenever I have dinner with my friend S., the conversation inevitably veers to a discussion of faith, or rather our current struggle with a lack thereof. I’ve had sciatica for nearly four weeks now, with pain radiating down each leg from what feels like hot pokers sticking in my buttocks. In a fit of desperation, I googled the Mayo Clinic website the other day. “Typically, sciatica affects only one side of your body” and resolves “in a few weeks,” it said. At week four, my progress had worsened.
“I’m not friggin’ Job!” I shouted out in pain to no one in particular when I got up to go off to my temp job one morning last week. I hobbled downstairs, made a pot of fresh-brewed gourmet coffee, glanced at the latest headlines, and immediately felt like a privileged fool.
Wordsworth is my favorite poet, and We Are Seven, one of his best. It recounts a conversation between a gentleman and a delightfully “innocent” eight-year-old “little girl.”
Ten years, ago, when my husband left, my daughter Ella was seven; a few months later she turned eight. She’s the baby of the family and, to her occasional dismay, I suppose some part of me will always think of her that way. Sometimes I forget how she looked at say 9 or 10, without getting out the family photo albums. Seven I remember.
The other day I did a Google image search of “seven-year-old.” Have a look at these faces.
At seven, most children are transitioning to second grade. In general, they’re curious, ask lots of questions, and choose to take on more responsibility and become more self-sufficient. They even understand sarcasm! In school, they’re learning how to measure, beginning to memorize their times tables, and developing a broader understanding of the world beyond their own. Their vocabularies consist of several thousand words; fluency with reading, writing and storytelling is really taking off. And they’re forging friendships.
Post-divorce life has been rough lately. Alimony gone, huge debt, unemployment, post-menopausal hot flashes. Pleas with my well-monied ex to increase child support are usually met with something akin to “GFY,” or exactly that. I just paid my attorney a huge sum to settle my divorce debt; other bills get paid out of home equity and renting out my home.
I entreat, beg and occasionally engage with my ex even when I know I shouldn’t. Still, something stops me short of matching vigor for vigor. “Let no man pull you low enough to hate him,” Martin Luther King, Jr. said. And at times it takes every fiber of my being to do just that, to push away the anger bubbling up in my throat that my friends say I’m justifiably entitled to.
There’s a new wedding ring on the market that allegedly keeps cheaters faithful. The words “I’m Married” are engraved on the inside of the band, and leave the same mark on your skin if you decide to slip the ring off.
“The negative engraving on the inside means that when you are in the ‘Club’ and an attractive woman…or man comes along to chat, slipping your wedding ring off is not an option,” the marketers claim. They also say it’s guaranteed for life, “til death and all that.”
Only any spouse who’s determined to cheat probably won’t wear that ring to begin with. “Rings bother my fingers,” he’ll say on the off chance you even ask. Or “I’m allergic to anything gold, silver and titanium.” And you’ll believe him because you’re never going to marry a guy you think needs this ring in the first place. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be writing out all those place cards. Besides, any spouse determined to cheat will also figure out how to file those words down or off completely.
It’s 2:30 p.m., and I’m back where I started out at 11 o’clock this morning. Back where I sat for two and a half hours yesterday before I had to leave so I could check on a job lead. Back at the place where I’ve probably spent more time during the last nine years than any other, besides home. The one place more than any other I’d rather not be: Family court.
At 1 p.m. today, they told most of us to leave and come back again at two. I was back on time, but couldn’t get upstairs. More than 100 people stood in line in front of me, all of us waiting our turn for the metal detector. Moms, dads, children in strollers. A true New York melting pot.
To our right, suited, tied court officers and attorneys flashed credentials and breezed past the barricades. I used to be one of them. In the days before I became a stay-at-home mom. Before my ex-husband abandoned me, broke up our home, and wrongfully sued me for divorce. In the days when money, security and health insurance flowed freely. Before I ever dreamed I’d end up here. In this line.
Wow! I’m very humbled to have just been nominated for Babble’s “Moms Who Are Changing Your World Contest.” Voting ends soon so if you’d like to cast your vote, here’s the link: http://mom.babble.com/mom/mominations/mominees/activism/beverly-willett Mostly, I’m hoping this brings some awareness …
With all the other difficulties that parents face in divorce court when wrongfully sued for divorce (not to the mention all the harm unnecessary divorce causes to spouses and their children), did you also know that parents who literally can’t …
Yes, recent research indicates that cohabitation is up and divorce down in certain segments of the population. Marriage is also down. And divorce remains a problem if not the major problem facing families today in our country, especially the repercussions …
Thanks to Psychology Today and Rachel Clark for profiling me about my divorce and efforts to work for divorce reform! You can also read more there about the Coalition for Divorce Reform! http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/marry-divorce-reconcile/201106/can-story-inspire-divorce-reform
About.com announces the formation of the Coalition for Divorce Reform. http://fatherhood.about.com/b/2011/05/30/coalition-for-divorce-reform-launches-campaign.htm
Thanks to my new (very talented) writer friend Eve Gaal for telling me I was the inspiration for her article in The Lead Press about the declining value of our oaths in America. There’s a tremendous amount to think about in …
Reading this makes me feel like Foreman on last night’s episode of “House,” strapped to his blood pressure gauge. This sounds all too-familiar, except I didn’t opt for the divorce or the blended family bit. The real lesson we should …
Come join me and other writers at the 4th annual Memoirathon on February 17 in Park Slope, Brooklyn. There will also be a photography exhibition. See you there!http://onlytheblogknowsbrooklyn.com/2011/01/22/feb-17-the-memoirathon-experience-and-expression/
Thanks to The Huffington Post and its readers for naming my follow-up article to my August 2010 Daily Beast piece, one of the blockbuster posts of 2010 on The Huffington Post’s new divorce vertical! http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/30/blockbuster-posts-of-the-_n_802523.html#s216935&title=After%20The%20Daily%20Beast%3A%20Saying%20No%20To%20No-Fault
What I miss most about being married during the holidays….http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/25/what-do-you-miss-most-abo_n_800970.html#s214937
Today for the Huffington Post. If you have a minute, go to the comments section — would love your thoughts. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/beverly-willett/pause-in-the-name-of-love_b_790637.html
Very insightful article by Cathy Meyer yesterday on children and their resilency to divorce. http://divorcesupport.about.com/b/2010/11/16/is-your-child-more-resilient-than-you.htm Ditto an article today in the HuffPost by Elizabeth Marquardt about the negative impact of divorce on adult children of divorce. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/elizabeth-marquardt/the-new-stigmachildren-of_b_781149.html
“Do you blog?” “You must blog!” “What do you mean you don’t blog?” Comments to me, the woman who resisted e-mail as long as she could. The former lawyer who still wrote longhand on yellow legal pads long after word …