Me, Nicki and Davy Jones

I was ten-years-old when The Monkees television show debuted on NBC, and I never missed an episode. I bought band paraphernalia with my allowance – a Monkees bracelet, a plastic hologram ring, trinkets I’ve kept to this day. I joined the fan club, too, and still have my official membership materials, along with every one of the group’s vinyl recordings.  All four boys were adorable, but it was Davy Jones who captured my heart.

In 1967, my parents took me to see The Monkees perform at the Baltimore Memorial Auditorium in Maryland. That night I fell asleep clutching a copy of Tiger Beat magazine, as I did many other nights, listening to Davy recite On the Day We Fall In Love on my record player, absolutely certain he was speaking those words directly, and only, to me.

When I turned twelve, I decided that looking like Davy would draw us even closer. So I brought a picture of him to my mother’s hairdresser and asked her to give me a bowl cut exactly like Davy’s. How I, Beverly, a small-town girl of modest means, would ever meet the greatest teen idol of all time from Manchester, England, I didn’t know. It seemed an impossible dream.  Still, though I wished and more than two decades later, my daughter would make my deepest childhood wish come true.

I never forgot about Davy.  But once I became a teenager, I discovered neighborhood boys my age, became driven about my school work, and was first in my family to go off to college and attend law school. Many girls from my rural hometown followed a traditional path that went straight from high school to marriage to babies, and my mother used to joke that she found me in a wicker basket on her doorstep one morning because I was so different. After law school graduation, I moved to New York City to become an entertainment attorney.  In many ways, though, I was always the girl I once was.

Several weeks after leaving my Southern hometown for good, I promptly fell in love with this guy with black rimmed glasses who I met at my first law job. I’d gone to New York intent on putting my career first, but had secretly hoped that one day I’d also meet Mr. Right. Nine months later he and I got married. We were so close in spirit I could tell him everything, even my big embarrassing secret that The Monkees were my favorite “rock” group (and that I still liked their music), something I could never have admitted to friends in the intellectual circles in which we traveled, or that the first boy I’d ever fallen in love with had been Davy Jones.

Eight years after we got married I gave birth to Nicki, followed by her sister Ella five years later. Before I got pregnant, I’d undergone exploratory surgery in my mid-30s to find out the cause of the abdominal pain I’d suffered from for years. When I woke up, my gynecologist told me that I had endometriosis.

“You might have a hard time getting pregnant,” he said. “You better start trying now in case you need fertility treatments.” Like so many other women of my generation, I had ignored my biological clock, thinking I had all the time in the world. But I was one of the lucky ones. I got pregnant right away and gave birth the following year to a healthy baby girl.

When Nicki was seven-years-old, my husband came home one day with two tickets in hand to The Monkees’ 30th reunion concert at the Hammerstein Ballroom in Manhattan. I was touched and thrilled. My daughter knew about my childhood dreams, too, and my husband insisted she and I attend the concert together.

Each song Davy sang at the Ballroom took me back. I felt like a girl again, only this time – and I know this sounds silly — I felt whole, content with my true self who no longer cared what the legal illuminati might think.  I swooned as Davy crooned “Daydream Believer.”

“Are you going to the after-party?” a woman in the row ahead of us asked, handing me a flyer as the concert ended. I shook my head.

“Why aren’t we going?” my daughter Nicki asked.

“It’s late, honey,” I said. “And that part of town isn’t exactly safe for moms and little girls at this time of night.”

“But meeting Davy Jones was your biggest wish,” my daughter urged.  She kept insisting and I kept saying no, all the while inside wanting to say yes.

“Okay,” I finally agreed, capitulating.

“But only if there’s a spot to park right out front when we get there,” I added, figuring there couldn’t be and guarding my heart against the inevitable disappointment. But when we pulled up, after going around the block with no luck (Nicki insisted we go around once more) there was a spot waiting for us on the corner, not more than ten steps to the front door of the club. I walked up and down the block looking for a no parking sign that would turn us away; there wasn’t any.

Inside, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork were milling around talking to fans and signing autographs. Davy was nowhere to be found.

“Are you sure your mom brought you here to see The Monkees?” Peter said to Nicki, winking.

“Where’s Davy?” Nicki asked. Peter didn’t know. She repeated the question to a fan who came over to us. Minutes later we saw her talking to a bouncer who suddenly appeared at our side and ushered us to a cordoned off area of the club. I followed my daughter as if in a dream to the table where Davy Jones sat. You would think my heart would be fluttering, but it wasn’t. Instead, an almost inexplicable sense of preordination washed over me. Davy greeted us with a smile and said hello. I blushed when he looked up at me, a lifetime older by now but still with the same smile and big brown eyes I’d once pored over in teen magazines. He asked my daughter all about herself, and she told him how much she loved the play Oliver he’d starred in as the Artful Dodger. And then the two of them sang a duet of Where Is Love? right there in the back corner of that little bar. It’s a moment I will never forget and never wanted to end.

“What does that mean?” Nicki asked when they finished, pointing to the silver symbol in the middle of Davy’s necklace.

“It means peace,” he said, as he took his necklace off and fastened it around her neck.

After we left and got back to the car, I hung my head over the steering wheel and sobbed. I told my daughter how much what she’d brought about had meant to me, though at seven how could she really know.

Five years later, my husband left and filed for divorce. I prayed, I meditated, I lit candles. I wished upon star after star for our family not to split up, crazy with grief.

One day Nicki came up to my bedroom, asked me to sit on the bed, and placed Davy’s peace symbol around my neck. “Davy’s necklace means more to you than it does to me,” she said. “I want you to have it.” At seven, the teenager who now stood before me may not have known the import of the wish she had granted by bringing me and Davy together; years later, however, I was certain she did.

A few years after that, Nicki’s father and I divorced. And then two years ago, in February, Davy Jones died. Mike, Micky and Peter came to New York City for a tribute tour, but I couldn’t bear to go see them, not without Davy.

“Is that your husband?” new friends who had never met my ex occasionally asked me over the years when they saw the photo of me, Nicki and Davy displayed in my home where it had been ever since that night back in 1997.

“No,” I’d say. “That’s Davy Jones.”

“Wow,” they`d say. And then I’d tell them the story about the little girl who made her very own mother’s childhood wish come true, and every time I did I’d marvel that it happened at all. What I marveled at most, though, was Nicki, the later-in-life baby I might have missed out on. Because she and her sister are the living, breathing embodiment of my deepest and most important wish.

Share this post:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
  • Google Bookmarks

Post to Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Simply Jenny

If you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant with me, you know how long it takes for me to order.  No sooner than I’ve finally made my choice when your selection suddenly sounds more appetizing.  “I’ll have what she’s having” was my trademark long before it became fashionable.

I’m not like this about every decision, I swear.  But bookstores do confound (and bankrupt) me.  And two years ago when three agents offered me representation I found myself in a pickle.

One emailed me after reading an article I’d written.  The other two – including Jenny – I’d cold-queried.  All three had amazing track records.  When we met, I felt at ease with all of them and sensed that each also had the one essential quality that I would never bargain away – integrity.

I know how lucky I was to be facing such a dilemma.  My round of querying, however, was preceded by a decade of writing classes, folders of rejections and drawers full of not-yet-ready drafts penned at mid-life while reinventing myself from lawyer to stay-at-home mom to a word that literally got stuck on my tongue often before I could say it aloud – writer.  I was also going through the divorce from hell while raising two kids.  (And I don’t have a signed book deal – yet.)

Jenny and I met for the first time at Connecticut Muffin.  I loved her boots; she loved mine.  She was smart, she was beautiful, and she’d read my manuscript two or more times already, and knew it.  The wind tore through my umbrella during my mile and a half walk to meet her that day.  I arrived late, drenched and, consequently, disheveled.  Either the universe was conspiring to keep us apart, I recall thinking as I struggled against the wind, or we were meant to be.

Afterwards, I went back to wavering.  Because when you’ve been rejected by the father of your own children and the once man of your dreams, it can make tying yourself down to anyone ever again – scary.  Even an agent.  Plus, I knew rejection first-hand and couldn’t imagine rejecting anyone else.

Time began to feel like it was running out, even though none of the agents pushed me.  One of the notes I’d written to myself and pinned to my bulletin board during my divorce said “check your gut” and so I did. And it said “Jenny.”  Just as I was about to tell her, she called me “Barbara” and every bit of my self-esteem came crashing down.  All my life people have occasionally thought I looked like a Barbara – and called me that.  For Jenny, it was the “BA” at the beginning of the email address I was using then (my middle name is Ann), that understandably kept throwing her.  Still, I was too raw back then to let such a little thing gracefully slide.

Jenny returned my tears with such compassion though that I thought, even now, she’s the one. And suddenly I felt exactly what I needed to – safe.

That was two years and many trees ago.  There was of course more to it than that.  Other writers and the publisher who’d dropped Jenny’s name to me all spoke highly of her.  Her editing is crisp and precise.  She’s honest and straightforward and she knows just how to hold that quivering ego in a loving, yet firm, way.  Thankfully she has the distance I sometimes lack, while knowing my work and my story as well as I know them myself. I’m at work on a memoir and for some, my story can be hard to digest.  But Jenny gets it.  She’s brave like me and isn’t afraid of controversy either.

I thought of Jenny during the Oscars this year, with all the thanks dealt out by those who have already achieved the outward earmarks of success.  I wondered if their speeches would have been the same if they’d still been struggling.  Oscar-less and awaiting public validation.

While no writer or agent can predict the future, I hope Jenny and I will eventually have a long successful career in books together.  No matter what, though, she has the full measure of my gratitude which comes directly from my heart.

A final note to other writers:  A mentor of mine, Susan Shapiro, once told me that she’d encountered many writers who found success precisely when they were about to finally give up.  That advice still keeps me going whenever I’m ready to do just that.  I think it’s equally true when searching for the right agent.  Press on – and in the meantime keep writing (I’ve found all that paying your dues stuff to be accurate, too) – and when the right agent eventually comes along, somehow you’ll know it.

P.S. You can read more on my agent Jenny Bent’s blog, Bent on Books, here.

Share this post:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
  • Google Bookmarks

Post to Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

WWWW and How, But Not Why

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.

“That’s a funny story,” S. said when I recounted my childish outburst over dinner.

“Well, I’m tired of hearing people say everything happens for a reason,” S said.  I nodded.  S and I clinked glasses.  That little chestnut occasionally holds true, though more often it doesn’t get you very far, I thought, reflecting on Maureen Dowd’s Christmas Day op ed entitled “Why, God?”

Five days later, on December 30, it was my father’s birthday, or at least it would have been.  His life was snuffed out 27 years ago at precisely the same age I am now.  I’m baffled how in all those years my mother never once asked God “why?”  I did nothing but when my husband first left me.  No satisfactory explanations, of course, ever followed.

S. and I ate dinner and quickly abandoned our pointless post-mortem on why things hadn’t, or hadn’t yet, gone in accordance with plan, turning to the Kipling Method’s more concrete queries. “Where should I move after my daughter graduates since I can no longer afford to stay in my house?” I threw out.  When will the seeds of my writing labors begin to bear significant fruit?  What do I do next?  Where can I find a kind and decent partner to share the rest of my life with?  (Really more of a “who” question, and where and how can I find him.) How do I know for sure that I’ve even been following the right path with my writing and working for divorce reform or whether it’s that other guy living down under who’s been guiding me or my own big fat Buddhist, capital D, Delusion?

S. and I theorized, posited, cried and clinked glasses again.  We talked signs and indications.  Three hours later we left the restaurant as confounded as we’d entered it, albeit lightened.

When I got home I signed onto email as I usually do before heading off to bed.  A message had come into my website while S. and I were eating dinner.  A man named L. (he didn’t say where he was from) had been surfing the Internet when he came across an article I’d written excoriating no-fault divorce.  After 27 years of marriage, he was in the midst of his own divorce.

“Your article brought hope – something this country’s marriages need…thanks,” he wrote.

Hope is such a strong word,” S. said when I told her what had happened.  You can’t touch it, of course, and you can’t put it in the bank, and sometimes it simply makes no intellectual sense. As a reason though, I suppose it’s pretty hard to top.

Share this post:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
  • Google Bookmarks

Post to Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The Next Big Thing

Right before Thanksgiving, my friend Laura Munson asked me to participate in The Next Big Thing online event — a way for authors/bloggers to share news about upcoming projects.  Mercury was still in retrograde, but I said yes to what the universe had placed in my path anyway.  ;)   Before I tell you about my writing journey, let me tell you about Laura, who blogs here. Laura is the author of the bestselling memoir This Is Not the Book You Think It Is, and one of my favorite authors.  I first met her several years ago through the pages of her memoir, sitting in my home in Brooklyn reading about this amazing woman in Montana who met her own family crisis with calm and patient acceptance.  When I got to the end of her story, I looked over at my nightstand and realized that the bulk of the books on her bedside table mirrored mine; I knew we were kindred spirits.  Years later she came to New York on tour, and I got to hug her in person.  It is an honor to be tagged by Laura to participate in this online event and if you haven’t read her memoir, please do.

So what’s my Next Big Thing?

Well, my Next Big Thing is actually a lot of next big and little things.  I trained and worked as a lawyer for many years.  Somewhere along the way, however, I discovered that, in addition to being a full-time mom, my other true career passion was writing.  I’m crossing the finish line on a non-fiction book, but feel too close to it right now so I’m going to tell you a little bit about myself, my writing journey and where I’m headed.

Over the last decade, divorce threw me a huge curveball.  And single mothering was no cakewalk either.  Through it all I began to recognize that I was strong and resilient.  With my youngest about to go off to college, lots of “nexts” are facing me and I’m beginning to envision a loose ten-year plan.  In hindsight I realize, too, that so much of what I’ve gone through has been in preparation for what’s next – paying my writing dues, developing my writing chops (with kind and inspiring mentors like Sue Shapiro and Peter Trachtenberg), building contacts and relationships with writers and professionals in the world of divorce reform and marriage strengthening, and helping to launch the most pioneering divorce reform effort in 40 years – the Coalition for Divorce Reform.  Along the way, of course, as I passed through my 40s, I also learned lots of lessons.  As my meditation teacher would say “it’s all good,” though I’ll admit at times it didn’t always feel that way.

Here I am ziplining over the rain forest in Costa Rica about six years ago.  During my ten-year plan I’m hoping to reconnect with that girl as often as I can!

Where will my ideas come from and what do I plan on writing about?

My ideas come from my life experiences and all the amazing people I keep meeting.  Books, blogs, at least one screenplay and one play, and travel – they’re all on my list.  Notes and files are underway.  I took a long hiatus from my spiritual life during much of my marriage, but I’ve made my way back and it’s an essential part of my life forever.  I’ve started to write about that, and I’ll be writing more.  Selling the family home appears inevitable, and that process will lead me into unknown territory as well.

I want to travel to India with my good friend Sadie.  Over the years, I’ve had to turn down several exciting travel invitations to places like Africa and Thailand. Provided I can get my “financial house” in order, where travel is concerned, I hope to begin to say more “yes” and less “no.”

By the way, Sadie Bridger is an amazing artist and photographer, too, and we’ve talked about collaborating. Whether it will be on a grand or a small scale, I don’t know, but I hope we will connect in that way.

Last, but not least, I will continue to write about divorce – the legal process, the recovery and the harm to families.  I’ll be continuing my volunteer work with the Coalition for Divorce Reform and I predict that states will begin to pass divorce reform legislation.  I have also uncovered a miraculous true-life story, this time not about me, but about marriage that I envision turning into a screenplay.  I’ve been told I’m good with dialogue, and I often think in visuals, too, so hey, you never know.

All these things are in my dreams, and I am hereby officially putting the wishes out there.

W
hat genre do you write in?

I write an occasional service piece about divorce or parenting, or a book review, but the majority of my writing falls under the category of non-fiction/memoir.  If you discount all the contracts and legal briefs I’ve written in my life, mostly I’ve written about myself and my experiences.

Will your works be self-published or represented by an agency?

That’s impossible to predict, but I have a preference right now for the traditional publishing route.  And I have an agent, Jenny Bent at The Bent Agency, who never ceases to inspire me with her brilliance, her guidance and her faith in me as a writer.  I am so lucky she wanted to represent me.  (She thinks I’ve even got some fiction in me.)

If you had a choice, what actors would you choose to play for your characters?

In the early days of my marriage, when I was a blond, people said I looked like a young Kathleen Turner.  Now people tell me I resemble Maggie Gyllenhaal, and I’ll take it!  It’s a toss-up who might play the other characters in my life, and there have been quite a few “characters” in my life.  And, yes, you know who you are.

But the character I like to mull over most is my future husband.  Because you see, as part of my ten-year plan, I am finally ready to find the man with whom I will spend the remainder of this lifetime.  I’m not sure what color I’m going to wear this time.

And who might play him in the movie?  Viggo Mortensen perhaps or Anthony LaPaglia.  Definitely not George Clooney.  He’s gorgeous, of course, but don’t you think he’s just a bit too fickle and stuck on himself?  Besides, he wouldn’t want to settle down with me:  I’m the right age and I believe in dessert.  And then there’s Liam Neeson.  When he was recently asked about dealing with the loss of his wife several years ago, he told Esquire magazine: “That’s the weird thing about grief. You can’t prepare for it….It hits you in the middle of the night.”  What a class act he is because surely he’s heard what I also occasionally got early on after my loss — “get over it already.”  Obviously he, too, knows that some things just take time.  And you just can’t help it if it hits you in the middle of the night.  You endure, you embrace it, and then you begin again the next day.

Can you compare your stories to others in your genre?

I feel strange comparing myself with so many great writers out there.  I’m happier letting others do that – and honored.  Here’s one link.

Who or what inspires you in your writing?

In general, the writers who inspire me most are those who are willing to keep reaching way down deep in their gut, no matter how hard it is or how long it takes.  Truth on the page is obvious, and it’s not always pretty.  If you look hard enough you can usually find a small silver lining or kernel of truth even in the most painful stories.  Just don’t give me a story where everything is tied up in a nice neat bow at the end and call it “non-fiction.”

I’ve already mentioned my mentors, Laura Munson, and the writers I’m passing the torch to below.  There are many more that I will leave for another day, including some I hope to interview right here!

Other than that, it’s the other real-life people who have stayed or floated in and out of my life during my first half-century. The countless people I’ve met in person, by email and through my writing who have either gone through a divorce themselves or are working for divorce reform or to save marriages.  I’m comforted, humbled and encouraged by all of them, even the naysayers who sometimes challenge me in blogs I’ve written for The Huffington Post, Salon, and the Daily Beast.

What else about your future plans might pique the reader’s interest?

Who’s my favorite teen idol of all time?  What happened when I was seventeen that frightened me?  What kind of jewelry do I like and why?  What famous real life place did I visit in Pennsylvania, where I had a dream of remarrying in their garden?  What’s temping like?  What else have I learned about divorce?  What’s the secret recipe to the one dish that my daughters and I make every Christmas without fail and who’s the famous singer and songwriter and his wife who inspired it?  And what about my “sisters?”  I don’t have any “real” ones, but I’ve got lots of others.

These are just little stories – blogs or magazine articles – I’d like to write, in addition to the big projects I’ve already mentioned.  Send me an e-mail, stay-tuned and I’ll send you a very occasional update.

And now it is with great delight that I pass the torch, in alphabetical order, to five other writers who inspire me with their writing, their good hearts, and their courage.

Over to you girls!

Jennifer Graham is a writer and editor working, through no fault of her own, in the suburbs of Boston. The personal essay is Jennifer’s first love, and hers have been published in magazines such as Ladies’ Home Journal, Runner’s World and Family Circle. Her first book, Honey, Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner, is a comedic memoir about how running, God and ice cream (not necessarily in that order) pulled her through a painful divorce and her former husband’s speedy remarriage. Jennifer is represented by Dana Newman Literary in Los Angeles, and blogs on her own website, and as “Mace” at www.saltyrunning.com, a collaborative blog about women’s running. She also writes regularly for the op-ed pages of The Boston Globe and reviews books for The Hippo in Manchester, N.H. A Southerner who tries not to say “y’all” when she’s north of Virginia, Jennifer lives a mile from the starting line of the Boston Marathon with her four children, two donkeys, two cats and a border collie. She’s still waiting for her farm to come in.

Deborah Henry attended American College in Paris and graduated cum laude from Boston University with a minor in French language and literature.  She received her MFA at Fairfield University.  She is an active member of The Academy of American Poets, a Board member of Cavankerry Press and a patron of the Irish Arts Center in New York.  Curious about the duality of her own Jewish/Irish heritage, Henry was inspired to examine the territory of interfaith marriage and in so doing was led to the subject to the Irish Industrial School system.  She has traveled to Ireland where she has done extensive research and interviews, including those with Mary Raftery (States of Fear documentary filmmaker and co-author of Suffer the Little Children) and Mike Milotte (award-winning journalist), as well as first-hand reports from the survivors of the Magdalene Laundries, Mother Baby Homes, Orphanages and the Industrial Schools.  Her first short story was published by The Copperfield Review, was a historical fiction finalist for Solander Magazine of The Historical Novel Society and was longlisted in the 2009/10 Fish Short Story Prize.  THE WHIPPING CLUB is her first novel.  She lives in Fairfield, Connecticut with her husband and their three children.  She is currently at work on her next book.  Visit her website here.

Lori Lowe is a journalist and marriage blogger at www.MarriageGems.com. She writes research-based marriage tips to help boost satisfaction in your marriage. Her book First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage provides hope for couples who have experienced challenges by providing advice from couples who didn’t just survive, but thrived after adversity. Learn from couples who have experienced child loss, infidelity, drug addiction, cancer, financial crises, brain injury, stranger rape, separation for military service, infertility, opposing religions, unsupportive families, raising special-needs children, and much more. These couples found the pressures of life didn’t destroy them; instead, they crystallized their commitment to each other. Each couple’s story leaves offers one important lesson to incorporate into your marriage. First Kiss to Lasting Bliss is available on Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at her website.  Lori and her husband of 17 years live in Indianapolis with their two children. You can find Lori on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/LastingBliss or on Twitter @LoriLowe.

Maura Lynch lives in Manhattan, New York, and is a former film, television and publishing executive.  She is writing a memoir about having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but living with the misdiagnosis of bipolar II disorder for fourteen years. She also is writing a crime fiction novel set in Queens, New York in the late 1960s. On her blog “Loudmouthkid62” Maura reviews books and posts personal essays.. (She also tweets @Loudmouthkid62.)

Suzanne Venker is the author of three books. Her third, How to Choose a Husband and Make Peace with Marriage, will be published in February. Suzanne has written extensively about politics, parenting, and the influence of feminism on American society. She is a frequent guest on HuffPoLive and an occasional contributor to National Review Online. Her articles and posts have appeared in the New York Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Parents.com, and others. She has appeared on ABC, CNN, FOX, and C-Span — as well as hundreds of radio shows throughout the country. To learn more about Suzanne and her new book, go to www.howtochooseahusband.com.  Watch her on The View this coming Friday, December 7!

Share this post:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
  • Google Bookmarks

Post to Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

We Are Seven

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.

But these little ones are also prone to worry and self-criticism.  They care how others look at them, and their self-esteem can be fragile.

With all these developmental changes, it’s no wonder pediatrician guidelines recommend 10-11 hours of sleep per night.

I have dozens of boxes loaded with school work and other mementoes for both my daughters, labeled year by year.  Ella’s second grade box is filled with stories.  Poems about sharks and sea monkeys and rock stars.  Haikus, shape poems and comic strips.  Family tales involving mom, dad and sister about baking bread without yeast and lobster ice cream.

And then our family was blown apart by divorce.  And Ella joined the ranks of the one million other children who are victims of divorce in the U.S. every year, thereby required to divert their time and energy “adjusting” to the break-up of a family they never asked for.  Time and attention they would otherwise spend playing, sleeping, doing homework, and just being a kid, instead get taken up with traveling back and forth between two homes, packing and unpacking, laying their heads down at night on a new pillow, and learning — and keeping track of — the new rules in another home.  Many children must also “welcome” others into their lives — stepmoms, stepdads, step-siblings, and boyfriends and girlfriends who now sleep in mommy’s and daddy’s beds.

A few years ago, researchers of The Longevity Project from the University of California concluded that divorce was harder on children than death.  Imagine that – experts believe it’s generally easier for a seven-year-old, or any kid, to “adjust” to the death of a parent than to the death of their family by divorce.  (Not “easy,” of course, but “easier.”)

My own father died more than 20 years ago, and at times the heartbreak still feels like yesterday.  Sure my father could have stopped smoking and taken better care of himself.  Still, I don’t consider that choosing to walk out on me.  I’m a grown woman and “adjusting” to a divorce I didn’t ask for took its toll even on me.

If you have a seven-year-old of your own – or a child of any age – I imagine you’ve often watched them sleep.  Try also imagining this.  Envision yourself in your child’s place if you decide to walk out the front door.  And then carry that memory around with you for awhile.  Because seven only comes once, you know.  Or 8 or 9 or 10.

If your spouse is abusive or threatening, or you’re living with some other high conflict situation that makes staying dangerous for you or your children, perhaps it’s better if you walk.  But otherwise, is it really too much to ask of yourself that you think long and hard about getting over your own frustration or anger or marital boredom – and doing whatever it takes to get help for you and your spouse to make your relationship work?

If I’m happy, my children will be happy, too. That mythical logic has been floating around since at least Wordsworth’s time.  Indeed, the gentleman in We Are Seven thought he knew best, too, exasperated to the very last stanza by the “little Maid’s” refusal to see things his way.  Her final words, however, leave no doubt who possessed the greater wisdom.

Share this post:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
  • Google Bookmarks

Post to Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Love: Standing In the Kitchen To Remind Me

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.

“Returning violence for violence multiples violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars…Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” Martin Luther King, Jr. said, too.

“Love” is now standing in the kitchen to remind me of just that.  A young teenage woman who bears half his genes. If I ever got close to hating him, I would have to hate part of her.

Ella’s putting the finishing touches on tonight’s dinner.  It’s the second night in a row she announced she was cooking dinner; she has tomorrow night’s meal all planned out, too.  I’ve cooked nearly every week-day night since my children were born.  I believe in having family meals together, no matter what else is on our plates.

I temped all this past weekend, and sitting nearly 12 hours a day behind a computer screen left me spent.  “I love you. You’ll have a delicious hot meal when you get home,” my daughter texted me while I was still at the office.

She can’t afford expensive gifts nor can she fix the problems and heartache that ensued in the wake of her father’s exit from our family.  But she can remind me of what’s most important that I sometimes forget.   And she can feed my tired, hungry body.  And in so doing, feed my soul.

Voila!  Behold Ella’s marvelous creation:

Share this post:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
  • Google Bookmarks

Post to Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Cheaters the Anti-Cheating Ring Won’t Stop

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.

These rings weren’t around when I got married.  But I wouldn’t have bought one either. “Rings bother my fingers,” my ex said at some point, shedding the ring I’d given him at the altar. “I never wear rings.  What’s the difference? You know I love you.”   I did know.  I was certain of that.  Plus, I couldn’t imagine him cheating – or another woman coming after what wasn’t hers.  That may sound naïve, but it’s true.  After all, he could just as easily have pocketed the ring instead.  Until the second half of the 20th century, husbands rarely even wore wedding rings; the custom was reserved for wives.  A large percentage of
men still don’t — and they’re certainly not all cheaters.

I’m not sure why my ex didn’t mention his aversion right off the bat, though. I never asked.  Again, it didn’t seem important.   Perhaps it would have stirred a different signal in me before the wedding.  Perhaps I would have balked then.  Perhaps my ex hadn’t wanted to take that chance.  We really were in love.   I still think he was telling the truth, at least at the time. More than twenty years later, however, after we got divorced, he wound up marrying the woman he’d been cheating with.

Admittedly, it takes two to tango, but your spouse isn’t the only one you’ve got to worry about.  The sellers of the Anti-Cheating Ring say it was designed with Tiger and Arnold and the IMF guy in mind.  They forgot to mention the LeAnns and the Toris and the Angelinas.  Or the woman working alongside your husband in the market for a husband.

So don’t let the Anti-Cheating Ring’s 100% guarantee fool you.  Because the Rielles of this world simply don’t care whether he already belongs to someone else.   Ring or no ring.

PostscriptThis blog is dedicated to a friend who is a wonderful wife and mother about to go through a divorce she does not want.  Her husband is having an affair with a single woman who knows he is married with children.  I’m told she won’t let go.  Please pray for my friend’s lovely family, and the cheaters who are about to tear it apart.

Share this post:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
  • Google Bookmarks

Post to Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Back In Line

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.

In the queue I now belong in.  My resources and law school pedigree probably still make me a candidate for that other line.  The one where you can breeze in and out more easily.  But I’m more comfortable in this one.  I know about the pain in this line because it is also mine.

To my right, on the polished white marble, I see these words:  “Justice for the family is justice for the community.”

The last time I reached out to the halls of justice for help, they let me down.  The time before that they weren’t here for me either.  And the one before.  I smile at the mom holding her baby who’s in front of me.  She returns the smile.  She’s probably been here before, too.  And yet she’s still hopeful, like me, even though we both know the truth about what goes on inside.

Share this post:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
  • Google Bookmarks

Post to Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Babble’s “Moms Who Are Changing the World”

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 to the need for divorce reform and my volunteer work at the Coalition for Divorce Reform.

Share this post:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
  • Google Bookmarks

Post to Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Divorced, indigent parents jailed…

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 pay their child support sometimes get thrown in jail? And that the Supreme Court says they’re not entitled to counsel?  Divorce advocate Bai Macfarlane reported on this story recently carried by MSNBC and interviewed me about my take.  http://www.speroforum.com/a/60458/Unable-to-pay-child-support-some-parents-are-wrongfully-jailed

Share this post:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
  • Google Bookmarks

Post to Twitter

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment