Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Have One--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, May 3

     “Hey Brenda, hope your day is going well,” Golf Guy texted. “We should probably reschedule. Now raining and colder over here. Are you okay with that?”

     “Yeah, that’s fine. Do you have a date or just want to get back to me?”

     “What is your Monday or Tuesday like?”

     “Monday afternoon is good. Tuesday is bad.”

     “K, I will get back to you about Monday.”


     I rode BlackJack.

     “How’s your writing going?” Golf Guy texted.

     “Rode my horse. Did you freeze today?”

     “Yes, it was pretty cold today. How was riding?”

     “Rode inside. I want to see you do the splits.”

     “It’s not pretty.”

     A text from Tom popped up. “I’m gonna stay at Dad’s until Thursday.”

     I drove home from the barn intending to write but laid down for a short nap. At seven, the time Jody was picking me up, I woke up.
     “Shit,” I muttered. I bolted for the bathroom and began brushing my teeth. The doorbell rang. I ran downstairs and let Jody in.
     “Sorry, I just woke up. Thought I was going to nap fifteen minutes but went long. Let me throw a different shirt on.”
     Jody and I headed into town for First Friday. We walked into a chiropractor's office to meet Jody’s friend, Little Kit, munch appetizers, and listen to acoustic guitar.
     “Mitch wanted me to tell you he’s two doors down having drinks with two women,” Little Kit told Jody. Mitch, Jody’s stalker ex, and Little Kit have been friends since grade school. We left the chiropractor and headed for Chili U where Jody and Little Kit wanted to drink. We passed the restaurant Mitch was in and Jody slowed down and looked through the window.
     We sat at the bar at Chili U. The church ladies from last First Friday were there again. Ann walked over.
     “My ex calls me all the time telling me he wants to get back together,” she slurred. “I tell him there’s no way. Not after what he did. I just found out about two more affairs. He had five. He says he’s taking me back to court to change the settlement. I tell him, ‘Fine, see what happens. I’m so much happier without you. I’m going out all the time.’ We’re fighting a lot.”
     “Why do you engage? Why do you tell him what you’re doing and how you feel?”
     Ann looked at me and shrugged.
     “I don’t want JB knowing what I’m doing, and I have no interest in him. I keep our conversations brief and on what we have to discuss.”
     Ann nodded. “I should do that.”
     “I’m excited about my new life. Get excited about yours. You have a do-over. You don’t have to worry about him cheating anymore.”
     “But I’m lonely,” Ann said. “I don’t want to wind up alone.”
     “How do you feel about looking over his shoulder the rest of your life? He had affairs with five women. You think he’s going to change? You won’t find someone nice if you get back together with him. And not to be a bummer, we’re all going to die alone.”
     Ann looked deep into my eyes and smiled. “There was a reason I was supposed to run into you tonight.”
     Ann gave me a big hug, plopped down on a stool, and began flirting with a dude who looked like George Lopez. Jody was flirting with one of three guys who had southern accents. I felt my phone vibrate.

     “How are you?” Golf Guy texted.

     “Getting a sore throat from talking in a noisy bar. How about you?”

     “I coached baseball practice, then grocery, now doing some work emails. Not very exciting.”

     “It’s nice being with friends, but I don’t know about this bar thing. Got your kind of night planned for tomorrow.”

     “You seem very nice.”

     “You, too.”

     I asked one of the southern guys where he was from.
     “South Carolina,” he said.
     “I was horseback riding in North Carolina last fall. Maggie Valley. It's gorgeous.”
     “Gorgeous but really redneck,” he laughed.
     “I was in Asheville, too. I could live there.”
     “Yeah, Asheville’s gotten really popular. Real estate’s gotten high, but you can still find places just outside it. I’m Mike,” he said, extending his hand.
     “Brenda,” I said, shaking his hand.
     “Hey,” Ann shouted at Mike. “You told me your name was Tim.”
     “Yeah,” the Mexican said. “You’ve been calling yourself Tim all night.”
     Mike shifted uncomfortably. Ann pulled a large plastic freezer bag full of oyster crackers out of her purse. “These are delicious,” she said, shoving the bag in front of Mike and me. “Have one. I bring them when I go out drinking. You have to see how good they taste.”
     “I’ve had oyster crackers before,” I said.
     “Not like these.”
     “Oh, I’m pretty sure I have.”
     She shoved the bag closer to me. “Have one.”
     I took a cracker and popped it in my mouth. Mike looked at Ann disgustedly.
     “Forget about him,” Ann said flipping her hand at Mike. “He doesn’t live here.” She turned and started talking to Lopez.
     “She’s having a rough time,” I told Mike. “She’s usually not like this.”
     His face softened and he nodded. “What did you think of the food at Cataloochee Ranch?”
     “It was good. They put out a huge spread every night: ribs, steak, chicken, a big table full of homemade pies and cakes.”
     “I wouldn’t think someone from Chicago would like the food there. Not fancy enough.”
     “We’re known for pizza and hotdogs.”
     Mike laughed.
     Jody walked up behind me. “Hey, you want to go?” she asked.
     “Sure,” I said. It was almost eleven. “Nice meeting you,” I told Mike. “Bye Ann.”
     “Hey, you don’t want to talk to this guy either,” Ann said pointing at Lopez. “He’s married. He’s one of those guys.”
     I shot Lopez a disgusted look and left with Jody.
     “The guy I was talking to told me he didn’t want a relationship,” Jody said on the way home. “He said he’s separated but won’t divorce his wife. He wants her to have health insurance. He offered to take me for a motorcycle ride.”
     I felt subtly sad about the night and was glad to get home and into bed. I plugged in my phone and saw Golf Guy had texted.

     “Sounds like you had a fun night.”

     “It was fun,” I lied. “But weird.”

     “I’m glad for you.”

     “Feels strange having every other weekend to myself. But I’m liking it.”

     “Glad you had fun.”

     “Going to watch ‘Sons of Anarchy’ with my dogs now.”

     Golf Guy sent me a picture of his son with his dog. I sent him pictures of Sammy, Sully, and BlackJack.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Church Of Brenda--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Thursday May 2

     I gave a lead at a recovery meeting I don’t normally attend. Their format was to have a speaker read from a twelve-step magazine, comment on the story, and invite everyone to join small discussion groups.
     “Look through these magazines and choose a story, no big deal,” a woman said, pointing to a pile of magazines.
     I picked up a magazine, quickly leafed through it, chose a story about finding spirituality outdoors, and sat behind a table at the front of the room to read. The story was about a guy who couldn’t connect with God in church but felt something greater than himself in nature. After attending a sweat lodge ceremony, he sensed the divine in nature more acutely.
     “Sitting in a church doesn’t do much for me either,” I told the group. “But I’ve been moved to tears in nature. I love to ski. The mountains, to me, are divine. I was riding a chairlift in Breckenridge with my friend, Abby. We got off and I got all choked up and said, ‘Look at this Abby. God is here.’ Abby narrowed her eyes at me like I was whacko and skied off.”
     Everyone started laughing.
     “Another time, I was skiing the back of Steamboat with my sister. One of the chairlifts runs through thick pines and Gray Jays were swooping out of trees and landing on people’s outstretched hands. I turned around on the lift and looked at the people behind me. A man had a bird on his hand. I got off the lift and waited for him.
     “‘Are you feeding the birds?’ I asked.
     “The man gave me a handful of peanuts. ‘Stick out your arm and they’ll eat out of your hand,’ he said.
     “Feeling like Snow White, I skied down, got back on the lift, and offered my sister some peanuts. She made a face, shook her head, and said, ‘Birds freak me out.’”
     Everyone laughed again.
     “I put the peanuts in my hand and extended my arm. A Gray Jay swooped down and landed on my hand. It was magical. I started crying.
     “One night, I went out on my horse,” I continued. “We were riding in the woods before dusk and it was dark when we hit the last half-mile to the barn. BlackJack and I were getting eaten by mosquitoes. I signaled him to start running and he took off. The fireflies were out. We ran through glowing swarms of fireflies, their iridescent green lanterns swirling around us. I couldn’t stop saying thank-you to the sky when I got off. I was crying then, too.
     “I don’t like church," I concluded. "I blend yoga, my twelve-step program, and a little bit of Kabbalah with a bit of my christian upbringing and call it the Church of Brenda. You can join if you want to.”
     Everyone laughed hard at that.

     “How are you?” Golf Guy texted later.

     “I’m good. How was teaching?”

     “Was pretty good until about one, then got pretty cold.”

     “Looks like a coat and hat day tomorrow if it doesn’t rain. Guess we’ll see how it goes. Even when the weather is lousy, I’m grateful I don’t sit in a cubicle. I could if I had to, but I think it would kill me.”

     “Well said. I am grateful every day and feel lucky that I love what I do. What are you up to?”

     “Writing. Working on my book. I’m fortunate to do what I do, too.” Twenty minutes went by. I suspected Golf Guy was googling me.

     “Are you aware of my published book?”

     “Yes ma’am. I would like to read it.”

     “I’ll give you a copy tomorrow if we’re not rained out. You’ll learn more about me than you want to know.”

     “Then I won’t read it.”

     “If you wrote a book, I’d definitely read it.”

     “I can barely write. I watched your interview on that father something show.”

     “I hated that show. Felt like I needed to shower afterward.”

     “You seem to be a very strong person.”

     “I guess. I’m going to die one day. I don’t want to live a bullshit life.”

     “I have a confession to make.”

     “Go for it.”

     “I came up to you in the dome that day because your butt was perfect. Pretty shallow right?”

     “I’m glad you did.”

     Golf Guy sent an emoticon with gritted teeth. Then he sent one that looked demented.

     “And that means?”

     “Just being silly,” he texted. “Want to hear something else silly?”


     “I can do the splits.”


     “Pretty weird, right?”

     “I haven’t done them since last summer. Didn’t warm up because it was 95 degrees out. Lowered down to the ground and pop, pop, pop. Hamstring.”

     “That sucks. Your golf swing is going to end up being very good.”

     “You think? Have you always been able to do the splits? Regular or Chinese?”

     “I can almost do them, and I’m not sure of the difference. I’ve always been very flexible.”

     “One leg back, one leg forward: regular. Legs out to each side: Chinese.”

     “The former.”

     “Okay, now I have to do the splits again.”

     “Don’t hurt yourself.”

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Someone Like You--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, May 1

     Tom has had a lingering stomach virus for weeks. He feels fine for four or five days then queasy again. I took him to the doctor and Tom was told to eat bland food for at least one week to get his stomach back to normal.
     “I have six or seven patients with this,” the doctor told Tom. “They’re all about your age.”
     Tom’s queasiness re-flared up the first time on the day JB and I divorced. JB picked Tom up after school, Tom threw up, and he didn’t go back to school the rest of that week or the beginning of the next. I fed Tom chicken, rice, chicken noodle soup, bagels, bananas and apples. Tom went to JB’s and ate pizza and chili dogs. Tom came home feeling lousy and I put him back on his special diet. But three days later, he was back at JB’s eating donuts. I’d given JB explicit instructions what to feed Tom weeks ago. When Tom was with me, he didn't vomit. I crossed my fingers when Tom went to JB’s today.

     “Tom’s stomach is acting up again,” JB texted.

     “I’m not surprised. He doesn’t eat the food he’s supposed to with you.”

     “Okay. He had soup last night, toast for breakfast, eating soup now. He has had dairy though.”

     “He’s not supposed to have dairy. I asked you to feed him certain foods. You aren’t. He has voice at six tonight.”

     “I cancelled. Didn’t want to but he threw up.”

     “Great. Do I need to tell you what he can eat again?”


     “Hey Brenda,” Golf Guy texted, “might be able to see you around two on Friday for a little while. Would that work?”

     “Yeah. Guessing it’s a no go if it’s raining?”


     “If it’s iffy, will you confirm?”

     “If it’s iffy we will talk.”

     “Okay. Thanks. Goodnight.”

     “You need to help me find someone like you who isn’t married.”

     “I got divorced a week ago.”

     “Wow, sorry to hear that. You okay?”

     I’d already told Golf Guy I was divorced. What the hell?

     “I’m great,” I texted. “It was a good thing.”

     “Okay, good, I’m happy for you.”

     “What about you?” I texted.

     “I’ve been divorced four years.”

     “How was that? Bad?”

     “No, it was a good thing. Married fourteen years and we just grew apart. No spark left. We get along well because the focus is our kids.”

     “I was married for twenty-one years. Unhappily for lots of reasons. Glad it’s over.”

     “I’m glad you are in a better place now.”

     “Me, too. It feels good to have scraped him off me. Sounds terrible, but it’s true.”

     “I’m sorry you were in a bad place for a long time. People change.”

     “They do. I feel bad for my kids. We can swap stories some time. Bet mine will top yours.”

     “Sounds like it might. Sleep well.”

     “You, too.”

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Be Careful--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Tuesday, April 30

     “I met with Tom yesterday,” Ryan, Tom's school social worker, told me. “Playing you and your ex against each other, that’s normal. I did that with my parents when they divorced. But it’s the first time Tom told me he was sad. The fact that he said that concerns me. In the past, he always said he was fine. And he seemed fine. I’m his track coach. I’ve seen him laughing and joking with his friends.”
     “Keep meeting with him, okay?” I said. I’’m trying to find a therapist. Do you have a good referral?”
     “There’s only a month left of school, but I’ll keep meeting with him. I’ll send you referrals if he needs to see someone this summer. If one of your friends refers you to someone good, let me know.”
     Whitley and I met for lunch. I hadn’t seen her since I fell apart in her office after learning JB’d raided our 401K.
     “You look great!” Whitley smiled and hugged me. “Congratulations on the divorce.”
     “I feel good,” I said.
     “It’s a relief, I bet.”
     “Huge. I didn’t know how unhappy I was, until now.”
     “You’ve been unhappy a long time. It’s good to see you smiling. Really, you look fabulous.”
     I rode BlackJack through the woods for a couple of hours. It was warm. The sun was shining. I was grateful to be alive, to have a horse, to be in nature, to be free. Then Angie and I met for sushi.
     “I’ve been thinking about the red string,” I told Angie. “I’m interested in wearing it, but it seems superstitious. Why would a red string make any difference to God? Wouldn’t God protect you regardless?”
     I’d been contemplating wearing the red string Kabbalah students tie around their left wrists for protection.
     “Talk to Yosef about it,” Angie said. “I carry extra red string in my purse. Talk to him. When you’re ready, I’ll put it on you. Do you carry the pocket Zohar?”
     Angie dug around in her purse and pulled one out. “Here,” she said. “Put that in your purse. It’s for healing and protection. I feel better now that you have that.”
     I told Angie about Golf Guy.
     “Be careful,” she said furrowing her brow and looking at me intently. “Really. I don’t want you catching something.”
     “I won’t put myself at risk.”
     “I did when I was first divorced. Thank God I didn’t get anything.”
     My phone dinged.
     “Let me know if you have any time Friday afternoon for me to look at your swing,” Golf Guy texted.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Manipulative Behavior--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt.

Monday, April 29

     “Hi Brenda,” JB emailed. “Hope you are doing OK. I know what's going on with Tom is very upsetting. 
     “I am just going to tell you what I am hearing and observing. Making no judgments about anyone's actions or veracity.
     “Tom does seem depressed. It doesn't feel like an act, but you may see it differently. I asked him if it was about the divorce. He insisted no. I also apologized to him for the break up of the family.
     “He insisted his sadness is because of how you talk to him. He says it is too negative and critical. I've told him repeatedly that things get better when he starts getting his stuff done consistently. Even after owning up to his lies he's sticking with this point. 
     “I am just telling you what he is telling me. This morning it was tough to get him moving and almost impossible to get him to eat anything.
     “I think I will call the school social worker today and give her a heads up. 
     “FYI, math is back up to a B. Still waiting to see what happens when he gets credit for whatever he has turned in late for Spanish. Social studies is tough because he failed the biggest test. There is one on ancient Rome coming up. If he aces that his grade will improve.
     “As far as quitting the band goes, I told him if that is what he wants, fine. I did insist that he do it the right way, and not just drop them like a hot rock. I suggested, assuming he gets privileges back in 2 weeks, that he offer to do Libertyville Days with Gamma Ray, then he can quit. They may say no thanks, but at least he will have made the offer. He should also thank Terry for all he has done for him since second grade. I hope you agree with this approach. It's about moving on in the right way, without burning bridges.
     “Please email me his schedule details. I also would like to have Tom call you tonight just to say hi.”

     “This is about the divorce,” I wrote back. “The boys believed you to be an honest trustworthy pillar. Knowing you're not who you portrayed yourself to be has messed them up. On the surface, they try to look like they're fine but they are not. They have been betrayed. Their trust is shot.
     “I yelled at Tom about his awful grades. He told me later that he called and texted you to get back at me. The shocking way he lied, said I punched him three times, knocked him down, was hiding in the closet. While he was texting you he was at the driving range, an international food fair, playing miniature golf, batting in batting cages. This is deeply disturbing.
     “When I told Tom he was going to your house for two weeks, he was taken aback and did not look happy. I felt bad but started thinking maybe it would be good for the two of you. Then I thought about your obsession with porn and dating websites, how you're not there when you physically are, and changed my mind.
     “I don't want this to be a punishment for Tom. If he wants to stay with you and something good is coming out of it, great. I hope that's the case. But if he wants to come home he can.
     “Tom and I’ve been working with a school social worker. It’s a he, not a she. Tom had a few appointments with him that didn't go anywhere. Tom didn't talk much and kept insisting he was fine. I have asked several people to help me find a good child therapist.”

     Tanya and I met for breakfast.
     “Tom’s manipulative behavior is textbook,” she said. “I’ve seen it in my divorced friends’ daughters and my own daughter when my husband died. You did the right thing calling Tom’s bluff. You can’t let him get away with that. But it will probably happen again.”
     “JB sent me an email this morning telling me Tom seems really depressed. He could barely get him to eat anything this morning. I’m feeling really bad I sent Tom to stay with him for two weeks.”
     “You need to let him know you still love him and that he can come home any time he wants.”
     “I’m going to pull him out of school and take him to lunch.”
     Tom walked into student services at lunchtime and looked at me warily. I gave him a bear hug. He bear hugged me back and I felt the tension leave his body. We bought chili at the Picnic Basket and ate it in the park.
     “I hate what happened,” I said. “I know I can be harsh and hurt your feelings. I’m very sorry about that. You, however, can’t lie and throw me under the bus. A lot of things are bothering you right now. A lot of things are bothering me. In a lot of ways, we’re in the same place. I’m stressed. I blew up at you. I get scared for you. I want you to be able to do whatever you want in life. You’re so smart and talented. I don’t want doors shut because of bad grades. When you develop bad work habits, they follow you around. And I don’t want staying at Dad’s to feel like a punishment. He’d like you to stay with him at least a week, but I want you to know you can come home whenever you want. Okay?”
     “I’ll come home after a week,” Tom said. “I’ve been talking to my friend Andrew about starting our new band. We know a drummer.”
     “Great. You know how much I love you, right?”
     “Yes,” Tom said with a smile.
     “What track events did you decide to do?”
     “I’m going to do the long jump.”
     “You can jump really far?”
     “Cool. I can’t wait.”
     Tom seemed in good spirits by the time I dropped him at school. Later, I taught yoga and drove to the barn.
     “How was your day?” Golf Guy texted as I parked
     “It was pretty good. How was yours?”
     “Pretty busy, just got done coaching my younger son’s baseball game.”
     “That could be fun, or not. Going to ride my crazy horse, which can be fun, or not.”
     “Coaching 10 year olds is fun and frustrating. Where is your stable?”
     “Off Milwaukee and Casey. You ride?”
     “No. But I have a couple girlfriends who have horses. Sounds crazy, but horses have always scared me a little. I fell off one when I was little.”
     I laughed at his text. He was letting me know up front who he was. Guess I’m the cliche divorcee flirting with the golf pro.
     “My horse almost killed me last year,” I texted. “You wouldn’t want to get on him. But I kinda like the adrenalin.”
     “Have you had him a long time?”
     “Almost five years. I cut cows on him.”
     “I’m embarrassed to say I have no idea what that means.”
     “I take him to a cattle ranch in Marengo and move cattle around.”
     “I see. Sounds amazing.”
     “It’s a blast.”
     “Have fun.”

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Punched Him Three Times--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Sunday, April 28

     Tom wants to quit The Rayys. He said he's been wanting to for months.
     “Why?” I asked.
     Tom shrugged. “I’m just sick of playing with them.”
     “Is it Stan?” Tom and the bass player don't like each other much.
     “I’m tired of hanging out with them. I want to play with other people.”
     “Being grounded from your band was good, I guess.”
     Tom nodded.
     We drove to my mother’s and the three of us played miniature golf. While Tom was jumping across water features and hitting balls, he was texting.
     “Who are you texting?” I asked.
     “Tell him you’re playing miniature golf and you’ll text him later. It’s your turn.”
     We moved onto the next hole.
     “Hey Mom, I’m up here,” Tom shouted. Tom scaled a fake cliff and was waving from the top. He started texting.
     “You’re not supposed to be up there,” I yelled. “Get down before they see you. Play. It’s your turn again.”
     We finished the round and hit baseballs in the batting cages.
     “It hurts when I hit with this metal bat,” my mother said, shaking her hands.
     “Yeah,” I agreed. “A vibrating jolt goes through my hands every time I hit.”
     We drove back to my mother’s house and she served dessert. Tom said he didn’t want any.
     “Is something wrong?” she asked him.
     “Yes.” Tom swiveled his chair toward me. “You!” he said, glaring at me. “I’m still mad at you for what you said and I’ve been texting Dad and I want to go to his house. He’s picking me up when we get home.”
     “Oh really. Well, he can keep you the next two weeks.”
     Tom’s face fell.
     “Yeah,” I continued. “You can turn your grades around at Dad’s. I’m sick of dealing with your school work.”
     We drove home. On our way into the house, I held out my hand. “Let me see your phone,” I said. Tom looked sick. He handed it to me warily and took several steps back. I began scrolling through his texts. While we were playing miniature golf, Tom had texted his father that I’d punched him three times yesterday. He said I knocked him to the ground and he'd hidden in his closet. JB had texted, “Are you okay?” and Tom wrote that I was screaming at him.
     “You little weasel,” I hissed at Tom. “You manipulative lying little creep.” I threw the phone at him. It smacked his chest and fell to the ground.
     “Well, you did punch me,” Tom stammered.
     “Well, not yesterday but about a month ago.”
     “I never punched you. I shoved your shoulder. You texted your father that I punched you three times. You told him I knocked you to the ground, that you had to hide in your closet. Those are horrible lies.”
     I unlocked the door to the house and swung it open. “Get inside and pack your bags.” Tom went upstairs to his room. I sat in my office. I called JB. I got his voicemail. Of course. Only texts and emails for JB. Coward.

     “Tom wants to spend the next two weeks with you,” I texted. “He says you’re picking him up this afternoon.”

     I assumed this would be news to JB. Getting Tom was not on his agenda. There was nothing about it in their string of texts. JB didn’t respond.
     “I’m going out for an hour,” I shouted up the stairs. “Hope you’re all ready to go to Dad’s.”
     I drove to a recovery meeting. Four guys were outside smoking.
     “Hey,” Chuck said with a big toothy grin. “How are you?”
     “Not good,” I answered. “My twelve-year-old is playing my ex and me against each other. Could I bum a smoke?”
     A bony hand offered me a Pal Mel.
     “Thanks.” I inhaled deeply.
     We went into the meeting and afterward, Chuck pulled me aside.
     “My son doesn’t speak to me anymore,” he said.  “Your sons, they don’t trust anyone anymore. Finding out their father is not the man they thought he was—that’s a deep betrayal.”
     “Blake isn’t talking to his father right now. Tom’s the only one JB’s got. Tom’s got to be feeling a lot of pressure. Poor kid.”
     My phone buzzed in my purse.

     “My phone was dead,” JB wrote. “Do you want me to get him?”

     I called JB and he actually answered. I told him to get Tom. I explained what was going on.
     As Tom was leaving the house with JB, I said good-bye but didn’t hug or kiss him. Hugging and kissing didn't feel right. But I felt horrible not doing it. Tom hung his head and walked out the door. I started crying.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

He Doesn't Like Being With You--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, April 27

     JB had Tom Thursday and Friday and he dropped him off while I was eating breakfast.
     “Did you eat this morning?” I asked.
     “We stopped for donuts,” Tom said.
     “Those aren’t on your bland diet. Remember what the doctor said Monday?”
     “My stomach feels totally fine.”
     “Uh, huh. Did you have a good time with Dad?”
     “We ran errands. That’s about it.”
     “Were you on the computer a lot?”
     “Yeah. Pretty much.”
     “Any pop-ups you didn’t want to see?”
     Tom looked me square in the eye and nodded.
     “Every time I type in www, match.com pops up.”
     I rolled my eyes. “You should say something to Dad.”
     Tom shifted uncomfortably. “I want you to.”
     I grabbed my phone.

     “I don’t want to ask you again to clear your computer history before Tom uses it,” I texted.

     “I did,” JB texted back.

     “He was complaining about match.com popping up every time he typed www.”

     “I wasn’t aware that was happening. The history is clear. I’ll figure it out. I’m sorry.”

     I turned to Tom. Let’s check your grades on Power School. If they’re good, you won’t be grounded anymore.”
     Tom looked sick.
     “Am I not going to like what I see?” I asked.
     “Well, I have a few bad grades.”
     Tom trailed me upstairs. We sat at the computer. He had two “Ds” and a “U.” “U” is middle school's new “F.”
     “What the hell?” I shouted. “I thought you cared about being in the band. Do you not give a shit?”
     Tom stood next to me swallowing hard and blinking.
     “I really hoped for something good here. I hate micromanaging you. I hate it. I know you did the work because I saw it. But you didn’t turn it in. You’re still not turning stuff in. Why?” I was screaming. I didn’t want to lose it, but I had. “You need to establish good work habits. Losers never establish good work habits. You want to be a loser? You want to set a pattern of failure? If you keep flunking, you’ll be a loser.”
     I hated  myself. Tom’s eyes were wide. He was swallowing hard. It was JB’s frozen deer-in-the-headlights look. It repulsed me.
     “I want to lift your grounding,” I shouted. “I wanted to come up here, see decent grades, and tell you you could play with your band. Now you’re grounded for another month. I don’t want to look at you. Go downstairs.”
     Tom stomped down the stairs. I went into my bedroom and sat at the end of my bed breathing hard. I heard Tom talking on the phone. He was probably talking about me to JB and I didn’t care.
     An hour later, I walked into the TV room where Tom was laying on the couch with his cell phone next to him.
     “I’m sorry I yelled,” I said. “I worry about you. Blake didn’t establish good work habits in middle school and it followed him through high school. Now he’s attending a university that takes anyone. You’re both smart boys. I want you to be able to go to any school you want.”
     Tom continued laying on the couch looking sad.
     “Instead of grounding you for another month, why don’t we look at your grades in two weeks. If you can turn things around in two weeks, you won’t be grounded.”
     “Okay,” Tom said. He sat up, the sad look gone.
     “Do you have homework?”
     “Yeah, I should probably go do it.”
     “When you’re done, we’ll get out of here and go to the driving range,” I said.
     “I’ll do it now.”
     Tom went upstairs to his bedroom.
     “You done?” I called up the stairs later.
     Tom didn’t come down so I tromped upstairs. He was laying on his bed looking sad again.
     “What’s wrong?”
     “I don’t like going to Dad’s.”
     “He never does anything with me. He’s on his computer the whole time. All he does is work.”
     “I think you should say something to him.”
     Tom sighed.
     “You want me to do it?”
     Tom nodded. His eyes teared up. “I feel neglected when I’m over there.” He turned his face into his pillow.

     “Tom is tearful, telling me he feels neglected at your house," I texted JB. "He says all you do is work. I’m guessing you’re on your computer for other reasons as well and not paying attention to him. He says when you do do things, it’s errands. He says he doesn’t like being with you.”

     “Ok,” JB texted. “We should talk because he was texting me an earful today about not liking being with you and complaining about how you bad mouth me in his presence and how that bothers him and other things. He's playing us off each other. Which is one of the things that happens. He also said you hit him today and called him a loser. Not saying I believe it all but that's what I'm getting.”

     “I'm sure he wasn't liking me,” I texted. “I was yelling about his grades. I told him if he kept flunking he’d be a loser. A couple of months ago, I shoved his shoulder during a similar blowup. As for bad mouthing you, I bite my tongue until it bleeds. The stuff about feeling neglected, Tom asked me to tell you.”

     “I'm sharing what he told me,” JB texted. “That's all. I felt you should know. I am going to work on spending more quality time with him. Last weekend we spent a lot of time doing schoolwork. And he aced both tests I helped him study for by the way. Yesterday was Friday and I had a lot of work to do in the morning. Took afternoon off. We went for a run. Had lunch and ran errands, including going to Best Buy to get him a phone. I made dinner and we watched the Hawks.”

     I walked into Tom’s room. “Dad said one of the errands you ran was getting you a phone. He said you watched the Hawks game, too.”
     “He watched the Hawks,” Tom answered. “I was on the computer.”
     “Let’s get out of here, go to the driving range.”
     Tom jumped out of bed. We grabbed his clubs and had fun. When we returned, Tom was extremely chatty.
     “My friend Andrew plays bass,” Tom said. “We’ve been talking about playing together.”
     “You should have him over.”
     “And a friend of ours plays drums. I want to start up a band with them."
     “That would be fun, change things up some. Be good for you to jam with other dudes.” 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

No Idea Where You're At--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Thursday, April 25

     Golf Guy gave me a free lesson this morning. I know he didn’t do it just to be nice. I’m attracted to him, however, and I’m not attracted to many. But he's a golf pro, and they have a reputation.
     Golf Guy worked on my swing. He showed me how to move my hips. He shot video. He played it for me in a shed off the driving range and hovered close over my shoulder pointing things out. I thought he was going to kiss me.
     “How long have you been divorced?” he asked.
     “Almost 24 hours.”
     “Oh,” he said, taken aback. “That soon?”
     “Fresh out of the box.”
     Golf Guy visibly downshifted.
     Later, I had dinner at Dani’s, played pool in her basement, and chain-smoked. I’d quit smoking years ago and would bum maybe one or two a year. But I recently started back up.
     “We look at people in a very black or white way, you know?” Dani said between drags of her cigarette. Dani's a therapist. “We need to stop doing that. I can tell you’re processing this thing with JB in a healthy way. You recognize JB’s abilities and inabilities. People don’t have sharp tools for everything in life. We need to acknowledge that.”
     “Writing helps,” I said. “My thoughts have to hold up to scrutiny. Thoughts ping around in my head and a lot of them don’t do me any favors. It helps I know I’m not my thoughts. I watch them when I meditate. Epiphanies, dinner recipes, judgments, vacation plans, resentments. They’re fragmented downloads. Sometimes they're wise, sometimes redundant and boring. My mind is processing past experiences, the ways I’ve been conditioned by society and family. It’s trying to help me survive. I have to make sense out of those thoughts when I write them down. When big things are happening, I can’t write. Sometimes I can’t do anything. I lay on my couch and stare at the ceiling feeling paralyzed. When I start writing, I relive this stuff over and over. It hurts. It sucks. But I come out the other end better for it.”
     “That totally makes sense,” Dani said, taking another drag. “You have no idea where you’re at when hard things are happening. You’re all over the place. Only after you’ve had time to process can you put it down.”

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

We Need To Get This Done--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Wednesday, April 24

     I’ve been scanning the Zohar during the recommended most powerful time, between midnight and dawn. I often go to bed, watch “Sons of Anarchy,” and start scanning at midnight. Smacks of the time I came home from a yoga workshop and watched boxing matches. But hey, it works for me. When I’m finished, I sleep with the Zohar on my bed so its purported magic can seep into me.
     Last night, I scanned like crazy, slid a copy of JB’s and my marital settlement agreement into the Zohar, and placed it in a tote bag to take to divorce court with me.
     I dressed in a gray pantsuit and heels—no bright pink skirt today—grabbed the tote, and rode the train into the city. I slid the Zohar out of the bag. I asked The Great Divine to engineer the best outcome, to bless JB, our sons, and me.
     I walked through security at the Daley Center and saw Tina waiting for me in the hallway outside the courtroom. Katherine appeared moments later.
     “Is JB in there?” Tina asked, pointing through the glass doors.
     I looked into the courtroom. “Yeah, he’s sitting in that row,” I pointed.
     Tina gave me a synopsis of the questions she’d be asking in front of the judge. “Should we brief JB?” she asked.
     “I think that would be a good idea,” I said.
     “Are you okay being part of the conversation?” Katherine asked. “Do you want us to talk to him separately?”
     “I’m fine,” I said. “I’ll go get him.” I walked into the courtroom and leaned over the bench where JB was sitting. “The lawyers want to talk to you, give you a heads-up on how things are going to go.”
     JB followed me out and got briefed. We reentered the courtroom. After hearing two cases, Judge Kelley called us up.
     “Your honor, we appeared two weeks ago,” Tina began. “We got to the maintenance and child support and you requested that we bring in the respondent and here he is.” She motioned toward JB. “We’d like to pick up where we left off.”
     “Wait a minute,” Judge Kelley said. “Is this the case where the maintenance and child support was sixty-eight percent of this guy’s salary?”
     “It’s sixty percent your honor.”
     “Did you bring in a FIN plan?”
     “Yes, let me get that for you.” Tina started digging through her file.
     “This is going to take a long time,” Kelley said. “You’re going to have to come back another day. I’m going to need time to go over this. Where’s the order I gave you?”
     “Here,” Tina said, handing him the order. “You asked us to bring the respondent here today to go over the maintenance and child support, which is sixty percent, not sixty-eight, and here he is.”
     “Well I’m going to need time to go over this. You’re going to need to come back.”
     I stared at the judge. “No!” I said. I turned to Katherine. “We need to get this done today. We’re here today.” I stared at the judge.
     “Your honor, you asked us to bring the respondent in and we brought him in,” Katherine said. “We’ve done what you asked. We need to be heard today. I don’t know when we can get the respondent back.”
     The judge looked at my face. He wavered. “Well, if you want to come back to my courtroom this afternoon . . .”
     “Your honor, that will be difficult . . .” Katherine began.
     “Or you could wait till the end of the call,” Kelley said.
     “We’ll wait,” Katherine said.
     Katherine and Tina went back to their bench at the front of the courtroom. JB and I sat in back. I placed my purse and Zohar between JB and me. After half an hour, Katherine and Tina began to whisper to each other. Tina got up and motioned for me to follow her.
     “This is ridiculous,” she said. “The judge is new. They rotate judges in and out of different courts. I don’t know where he came from, but he’s going on our list of judges to avoid. I’m going upstairs to ask for a new judge. Hopefully we’ll get your case moved to a new courtroom.”
     I went back in and sat down. JB uncomfortably checked his watch. I told him what Tina said. The judge looked at Katherine, who was texting. He shifted uncomfortably. He suddenly stopped grilling people and began whipping through his cases. Katherine shifted uneasily and kept looking over her shoulder for Tina, who had all the paperwork. Katherine got up and left the courtroom. She returned and started texting. Tina reentered the courtroom. The moment she sat down, the judge called our case. Katherine looked over her shoulder and motioned for JB and me to come up.
     “Start from the beginning instead of hopping in where we left off,” Kelley said.
     Tina began asking me standard questions. “What’s your name?”
     I gave my name in a quivery voice clamping the Zohar to my side.
      “What year did you get married?” she asked.
      “What’s your occupation?”
     “Stay-at-home mom.”
     The judge’s expression softened.
     “You filed for divorce on grounds of adultery, is that correct?” the judge asked.
     “How do you know he committed adultery?” Kelly asked.
     “He told me.”
     “Is this true?” Kelly asked JB.
     “Yes,” JB said and stared at the floor.
     “Where’s the FIN plan?” Kelley asked.
     “Here it is,” Tina said, handing him a piece of paper with a short list of numbers on it. “Our office uses different software than FIN, but it’s the same.”
     Kelley looked it over, took out his calculator, and started tapping.
     “This is actually less than sixty percent,” Kelley said. “I don’t know why I thought sixty-eight percent.” Kelley took his time reading the agreement. He stopped at the buyout.
     “You spent most of this money?” Kelly asked JB.
     “Yes,” JB said and stared at the floor.
      Kelly finished reading the agreement. He looked at JB and asked, “You’re okay with what’s in here?”
     “Just want to make sure. Once this is done it’s done. There’s no coming back. No buyer’s remorse. You agreed to this?”
     “Yes,” JB answered.
     “I don’t want to see you back here. There’s no changing your mind. You’re definitely good with this?”
     “Yes,” JB said.
     Kelley granted our divorce and signed the paperwork. He looked at me. “I’m sorry about all this,” he said. “I wanted to make sure this was done right, that there’s no going back.”
     “Thank-you,” I said.
     Tina began filing our paperwork with the clerk.
     “I’m going to go now,” JB said. “I’ll talk to you later.”
     Outside the courtroom, Katherine said, “I’ve never seen a judge act like that. He was acting like a lawyer, not a judge.”
     “He’s creating litigation,” Tina said. “That’s not right. I’m glad you were here this time Katherine. I could tell you didn’t believe me when I told you what happened.”
     “I’m glad I saw it for myself,” Katherine said shaking her head. “I didn’t get it, but now I do.” She turned to me. “You feeling okay?”
     “Yeah. Great. Thank-you. It’s such a relief.”
     “You were a good looking couple,” Katherine said. “It’s a shame. Between us girls, we would never do to them what they do to us. Give yourself a year to heal. Don’t jump into another relationship. You’re beautiful. You’ll find someone really nice who is good to you. I did. It took me ten years, but I found him.” She took out her phone and showed me her wedding picture.
     “You look gorgeous,” I said. “He’s really great?”
     “Yeah, he’s really great.”
     We parted ways. I sat on a marble bench on the main floor of the Daley Center and looked out the glass wall at the Picasso sculpture. I began texting, “I’m divorced!!!” to my friends. I walked out happy and free.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Bullet In My Head--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Saturday, April 20

     I had lunch with Melanie and Marcia, two old friends who waitressed with me and helped me boost my boobs and cinch my waist at the Playboy Club. Melanie and I’d run into each other at the doctor’s office two weeks ago and I mentioned I was getting divorced.
     “You and your husband were going to Spain last time I saw you,” Melanie said. “You couldn’t go to Vegas with us. Everything seemed fine.”
     “I found out he was cheating on me the last five years.”
     Melanie looked horrified. “You, Marcia, and I need to get together. I’ll be in touch.”
     My Playboy friends and I had seen each other last at dinner last fall. Ruthie'd flown in from New York, pounded drinks, and when she and I had a smoke outside, she told me she’d had an affair with an east coast blue blood who’d dumped her the second she told him her husband knew. Ruthie’s husband, Pete, was staying, but their marriage felt ugly. Ruthie stubbed out her cigarette with her Jimmy Choo shoe and smoothed her Versace dress, clothing she borrowed from Marcia. We walked back into the restaurant, ordered dessert, and Ruthie leaned over and whispered that Marcia and her real estate mogul husband were having problems.
     I arrived for lunch and Melanie and Marcia were already there.
     “You’re getting divorced,” Marcia said. “What happened?”
     I filled her in.
     “Ashley Madison has popped up on Ivan’s computer,” Marcia said. “For ten years I’ve been looking for evidence that he’s cheating. That’s what I’ve been reduced to. Spying. I made Ivan give me his credit card statements. There are a lot to go through. I recently noticed months are missing. I know he’s cheating. I know it but I can’t prove it. He spends nine-thousand, ten-thousand dollars a month on God knows what. Cash is gone from our accounts. He comes up with excuses that don’t add up. I’ve confronted him and he denies it and tries to make me feel crazy. And he’s constantly after me for sex, just like JB was after you.”
     “Make him wear a condom,” I said. “Seriously.”
     “Oh come on,” Melanie said. “They wouldn’t be that stupid. They’d protect themselves.”
     “Yes they would be that stupid,” Marcia said. “They're just thinking about their dicks and where to stick them.”
     “Only reason I found out was because JB thought he gave me something. I’ve been tested for everything.”
     “I’ve been tested, too,” Marcia admitted. “I told Ivan and he got angry. Accused me of going to the doctor because I was screwing around on him.” She shook her head.
     “My friend,” she continued, “her husband claimed he developed a Madonna complex after they had children. He stopped having sex with her because he was screwing a lot of hookers and got STDs. He got help and things got better for awhile, but he went back to it, gave her STDs. He’s a developer, too. Very wealthy. My girlfriend drops twenty-thousand dollars shopping without batting an eye, so she’s staying with him.”
     “I’d rather have a bullet in my head,” I said.
     “I still love Ivan,” Marcia said. “And I don’t want to lose, lose to some young girl. I just want Ivan to be nice to me. How sad is that? I’m spying on him and I just want him to be nice to me. At our office Christmas party, it was apparent Ivan and his receptionist were having an affair. They were standing across the room from each other and Ivan kept shaking his head like, don’t do it, don’t do it. She was staring at him with her arms folded across her chest. I know she wanted to confront me.”
     “You deserve better,” I said.
     I drove home, fed the dogs, and met Paul for dinner. Paul and I were seeing Carl Palmer, formerly of Emerson Lake and Palmer, at a small theater. We ordered an appetizer and Paul started giving me knowing nods and looks like we were finally getting together, I just didn’t know it.
     “I watched an episode of ‘Louis,’” I told Paul. “Louis C.K. had a crush on a friend. She knew he wanted more and told him, ‘That stuff down there, it’s all shut down.’” I waved my hand over my crotch like she had. "That stuff down there, it's all shut down Paul."
     Paul winked. “For now it is baby.”
     Paul has been one of my best friends for thirty years. Thirty years ago I told him we were just going to be friends. I don’t want to have that conversation again. I don’t want to hurt him. I don’t want to see that hurt look on his face. I love Paul. Just not like that.
     “You know what I’m going to order, don’t you?” Paul asked. “Lamb. That’s what you order at a Greek restaurant. What else would you order?”
     I ordered the whole grilled sea bass and had the waiter fillet it for me at the table.
     “That fish is really fresh,” Paul said. “See how the bones are coming out of that? They wouldn’t be coming out that clean if it wasn’t fresh. That fish is really fresh.”
     “It’s fresh,” I said irritably.
     “And you’re all shut down down there,” Paul said. “Today, my cousin said, ‘You’re going to have fun after dinner and a show like that.’ I’ll have to tell him you’re all shut down down there.” Paul laughed loudly.
     We went to the show and it was fabulous. Afterward, Palmer sold and signed drumheads for fans. I wanted one for Tom and Paul quickly threw down cash for one. We got in line, a very long one, and I started thinking about my dogs and the hour-long drive I had.
     “I’m going to see if the guy selling merchandise will swap this head for the signed one on display,” I said.
     I walked up to the counter. The merchant swapped heads with me and I gave Paul the let’s-go motion.
     “You sure know how to pour on the charm when you want something,” Paul sneered nastily.
     I snorted,  kissed Paul’s cheek, and drove away.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Scan The Zohar--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Thursday, April 18

     It rained five inches yesterday and I spent the morning in the basement sweeping rainwater seepage into the floor drain. Midday I pulled myself away for a scheduled call with my Kabbalah teacher. In his Israeli accent and limited English, Yosef told me sweeping rainwater was cleansing, that the fresh rainwater was cleaning out my physical and metaphysical basements. Actually, that’s what it felt like.
     I asked Yosef if he would pray, or send light, or do whatever he did when I went to court. Yosef reminded me that we don’t pray for outcomes, that God doesn’t rig things for us.
     “I know,” I said. “I ask the Great Divine to manage and direct situations for the greater good. I’ve been asking the Light to handle my divorce. But I’m scared. This is my life. It’s the roof over my head, the food in my mouth. I want to be okay. I do want a certain outcome.”
     “We have to get out of the way and let the Light handle it,” Yosef said. “Scan the Zohar asking the Light for the best outcome. It’s easy to do when the stakes aren’t high. It’s hard when they are. This is how we exercise and get stronger. Scan the Zohar every night and bring it to court with you.”

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Loving The Sinner--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Tuesday, April 16

     I pulled a double shift on the Master Gardener hotline today and during my morning shift, I let my partner, Evelyn, grab most of the calls as JB, my lawyer, and I emailed back and forth getting our divorce agreement ironed out.
     “We go to court in eight days,” I told Evelyn. She looked at me quizzically. “He was on Ashley Madison for five years.”
     Evelyn’s eyes misted over. She looked like she’d seen a ghost. “My father disappeared,” she said. “I’ve worked on forgiveness a lot. Forgiveness is more for you than the other person. You don’t want your life ruined. Were you having sex with your husband?”
     That was icky. I get that icky question a lot. Maybe women want to believe screwing their husbands makes them infidelity-proof? It’s a question that leaves me feeling defensive and wounded.
     “I was having sex with him,” I said, hating myself for telling her.
     “You can understand when a guy isn’t getting any, or has a sick spouse. And the sick spouse thing is yucky, but you can understand it.”
     I stared at Evelyn, repulsed. 
     “I’m very Catholic,” Evelyn continued. “My mother had trouble divorcing my father even though he abandoned her. She had to wrap her mind around the belief that he actually got the divorce by doing what he did. My brother is a big grudge holder and won’t speak to our father. He doesn’t speak to me now, either, because I started talking to our dad.
     “I went to see my father and forgave him,” she continued. “I’m practicing hating the sin but loving the sinner. I feel sorry for him. He lost all. He’s living in a dinky apartment in Florida cut off from his family. My mother resents that I reached out to him, that I have a relationship with him now.
     “He just disappeared one day. He was retired and taught Tai Chi. He met friends every day for coffee. He had a huge social network. No one knew if he was alive or dead. No one knew what had happened until he sent me a postcard saying he was in Florida. Eventually it came out that my mother’s best friend, who had moved to Florida a year and a half earlier to live with her wealthy mother, was having an affair with my father. He moved there to be with her. My mother told me my father is impotent, so it’s an odd situation. They live separately.  Is JB sorry, remorseful?”
     “Sorry and remorseful for his consequences.”
     “There is something very wrong with him,” Evelyn said, staring at me like I should hang in there and fix him.
     “He can fix himself if he wants to,” I said. “I don’t have special powers to change other people.”
     Evelyn’s expression darkened and she dropped her head, deep in thought. Thank God our shift ended. Evelyn left and Dina walked in. I checked my email and researched gardening answers for Dina.
     “Sorry,” I said, explaining my situation.
     “My friend got divorced after spending most of her life with her husband, too,” Dina said. “He’d been having an affair for years.”
     “I used to believe partners knew, on some level, that their spouse was unfaithful,” I said. “Those who didn’t were deniers or stupid. I got that idea in my twenties watching an Oprah rerun late at night after boozing it up with my friends.” I started laughing. “I had no clue JB was cheating. So I’ve been wracking my brain trying to see if I did on some subconscious level.”
     “My husband travels a lot,” Dina said, looking troubled. “He always tells me I’m na├»ve, that I have no idea what goes on in hotels at conferences. Before I had kids I traveled for work. Guys would hit on me. I’d tell them I was married and they’d ask, ‘Happily?’”
     “I got that, too,” I said.
     We looked at each other like we’d tasted something bad.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

So Gross--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Monday, April 15

      Liv met me for sushi. We ran into each other last week after our lives had drifted in other directions for years. I’d mentioned JB and I were getting divorced and given her a synopsis.
      “I told Reed and he couldn’t believe it,” Liv said, laying down her chopsticks. “He was shocked. He’s on the Internet looking at weird stuff all the time but never heard of Ashley Madison. He felt a little uninformed. He couldn’t believe JB actually used it. JB’s so gross Brenda. So gross. All those years you were miserable. Now you know you weren’t crazy. There were real reasons you felt that way.
      “Reed got on the computer and googled Ashley Madison. It’s prostitution Brenda. Women don’t have to pay anything but men pay $250 when they want to get connected with a woman. It’s expensive. Reed kept saying, ‘Why would he do that? Why wouldn’t he just go to a bar and pick someone up? He’s pathetic.’”
      “Because no one would tell,” I said. “He didn’t want a divorce. He wanted to live that way. When NBC sent a camera crew to my house to shoot footage of me at home for the TODAY show, JB refused to be on camera and I thought it was odd. I thought he’d have been all over it. Refused to be on the set when Ann Curry interviewed me, too. Now I know why. He didn’t want Ashley Madison prospects recognizing him.”
      “He’s so gross Brenda, so gross.”

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Deal--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Sunday, April 14

     JB outlined an acceptable plan that reduces his monthly payments and extends maintenance. We have a deal.

Half Crazy--"Thank You Ashley Madison" excerpt

Friday, April 12

     “You are not going to like this email, and I don't like writing it, especially after your kindness to me this week about my problems,” JB wrote. “I really appreciated that and it made writing this note more difficult.
     “I have been giving our agreement a lot of thought since the aborted hearing this week. I feel I have no choice but to ask that we renegotiate the maintenance portion. I know I have already signed it and understandably you consider this a done deal. However, the judge has asked that I testify to my ability to afford the maintenance I have agreed to pay. If I were to answer him honestly right now I would have to say no, I cannot afford it, alt (sic) least not without getting a second job. I could be wrong but my guess is without my cooperation he will ask for changes to the agreement and the divorce will be further delayed.
     “Post-divorce I will have few meaningful assets (old car, very little cash, a small share of a crumbling cottage, a diminished retirement account). I am only minimally contributing to my 401K at this stage. I need another $1,000 per month to be able to meet my monthly financial obligations, buy groceries and have some modest amount left over for miscellaneous expenses, like Tom's activities, or taking him bowling or out for pizza when we are together. Or getting my car fixed. I don't want him to dread coming here because we can never afford to do anything. I don't want to have to tell you I can't afford to pay for Tom's voice lessons or medical bills.
     “If you agree to this, I am willing extend (sic) the maintenance period to 6 years. That makes it close to a wash in total dollar terms. . . I think it's in our common interest for us to work something out now so that on the April 24 date I can tell the judge everything is OK. Right now I am not willing to do that.”

     I was frozen with nausea. JB sent a second email.

     “Later I will email you my monthly budget. When I get home Weds. I will email copy (sic) of recent pay stubs and my bills. I hope we can see this from each others' POV and work out a more fair agreement while making the fewest possible changes to the existing deal.”

     JB robbed our 401K. He stole our buyout money. He ran up large amounts of secret debt. He’s a liar. He’s a cheat. I have no idea if I’m going to land on my feet or ass. I’ve unintentionally lost 10 pounds. People keep telling me I’m too skinny. I probably look half crazy. I feel half crazy. Jason is right. There are reasons the divorce didn’t go through. I don’t know what they are, but I’m going to do the next right thing that gets put in front of me to do and trust that all will be well. The Universe has this. I’m staying out of its way.