Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Saturday, December 28, 2013

C: Rock ‘n’ Roll Wisdom

don't stop believin'I am a baby-boomer/sixties-to-eighties-rock-lovin’ old person.  I am sitting at the computer listening to my Pandora “Dire Straits” Station.  (I have an opera station, too, so don’t judge me too harshly).

Along came the old Journey hit, “Don’t Stop Believing.”  It made me think of a post—inspiration!  You just never know how the Muse will strike, right? Journey said:

She Took the Midnight Train Goin’ Anywhere

Wow.

These lyrics made me think about advice I wish young women everywhere would heed.  It is advice borne of my longish life, tinged with sorrow now softened, and of my very-long work as a divorce lawyer. 

Ahhhhh, if only they would listen to me.

As I age I am learning the importance of living life intentionally…making conscious decisions aboutinttentional 3 what I like, what I want from life, how I want to live it. 

So many of us, women especially (hang with me, here), just drift through days, taking life’s midnight train to anywhere.

We especially need to  be intentional in important decisions—like who we marry or with whom we choose to have a child; and, yes, being wary of listening only to the heart in these matters.

 intention 2

I know I have beaten this drum before, but it pains me that almost weekly I see women in hard situations because they settled.  They did not strive for the best. They did not hold out for all that life has for them. They waited for what came along to claim them and then just climbed aboard.  Big, Big, Big mistake…the train to anywhere can take you to a hard life.

Look at this picture, hand water- colored by non-artist me just for you.

fruit tree

See those luscious fruits on the tree?  (squint and understand they are meant to represent luscious). 

See the stick figure scratching his/her head trying to decide which one he/she will pick? 

Who are you?  Are you the picker, finding just the right fruit to fill your purpose?  Or are you the fruit, just waiting on some random picker to come by and snag you away to whatever fate he/she chooses for you?

And, if you are the fruit, are you placed high, peeking barely through the trees, something worth climbing and searching for?  Or are you the one hanging low, within easy reach for any picker passer-by?

Do you know that you have the right to set your own standards?  That exclusiveyou can be “exclusive?”  It is your life…make pickers understand that you are not within the reach of just anyone.

Living intentionally is good advice for anyone, so why am I addressing women?  For reasons that include:

  1. Pickers are mostly men.  It’s just the truth…change this! You don’t have to accept it.   You be the picker for your own life, and choose your fruit wisely.  Have some standards, some criteria.
  2. Women impact children more.  In our age of divorce, kids stay with moms.  Dads, if they are decent, visit.  Moms are primary shapers.  Even if you are fortunate and never have your family split asunder, you need to consider what influence your partner will bring to your kids.  Women, you owe it to your children to choose wisely who will father them; and you must model for them that they can shape their lives to a great degree.

If you are in the USA reading this, you have won life’s lottery of opportunity.  You are blessed to be able to make choices that many on this globe don’t have—don’t squander this.  Be intentional with your life.  intention 1

If you don’t heed this advice, then you run the risk of being what rocker Tom Petty said in 1991:

“A rebel without a clue…”

Be intentional in the way you live.  Especially be intentional in the most important decisions of your life. 

Don’t be the picked—be the picker.

--C

PS – Preachy, I know…but it’s on my heart.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

C: Legacy of Bitterness; Lessons from the Pages of Real Life.

richer or powerJo and Jim did not have a perfect marriage, but it was a good one, Jo thought. They had been married 26 years and had two beautiful college-student daughters still at home. Each had worked with large companies for over twenty years. They did not make huge salaries and they were not wealthy, but they had no big monetary concerns and had decent retirement funds. They were conservative in their spending, and had enough to make the payments on the home they had lived in for the last 18 years. They lived a bit too much on credit cards. It was hard not to with two college-aged girls, and all four members of the family had cars. Thankfully, two of them were paid off, but they all had to be insured. Monthly payments took planning, but they were able to maintain a good credit score.

Jim's father lived alone about thirty minutes from Jo and Jim. He was a bit emotionally removed from his only child, but Jo did her best to include Ben in the family celebration times and she prodded Jim to visit his father at least monthly. Ben seemed to know this because he was a bit warmer to Jo than even his only child. Ben and Jim's mother had divorced long ago, and she had been deceased for over ten years. Ben just seemed to like his aloofness and, Jo and Jim knew little about Ben's business affairs. He had recently retired.

It was a shock to receive the call that Ben had suffered a heart attack in his front yard. A neighbor had seen him react to the pain and tried to render assistance, calling 911. Ben slipped away.

This was followed by yetmoney love another shock: Ben had amassed quite a hefty bank account. There was almost $600,000 in various assets and life insurance benefits awaiting Jim, his only heir. Their shock at losing a family member was softened a bit by this discovery. They had no idea that Ben was worth so much. They discussed the relief it would give them to be able to pay off their house at last and have no debt as they entered the years when they, too, began to think about retirement. Being cautious, Jo and Jim consulted a financial planner who gave them good advice.

The summer months approached soon after Ben’s funeral, and the family went on a cruise that Jim had purchased as a treat for "his girls" and in celebration of his youngest having graduated from high school. "No more high schoolers--only college girls!" Jim teased. The cruise had been purchased before Ben's death, so it had been a spurge for which Jo had to becruise persuaded over her caution at bending the budget. She knew that it would require a good long time of credit card payments to pay it off, but it seemed important to Jim, so she capitulated. Truthfully, it was the first thing she thought of with relief after their good fortune was revealed.

The cruise came and Jo was puzzled by Jim's lack of interest in her there. Not only was there no romantic move on his part, but it became clear as the week progressed that he was actually seeking time away from her. Jo felt near to tears several times when she particularly felt his coldness. Truthfully, the cruise turned into a nightmare for Jo. She could not wait to get home, thinking that the return to normal routine would return her husband to normal as well.

They got home late on Saturday night. After sleeping in on Sunday, the day was spent with Jim going to gather some groceries for the week and Jo rifling through the ton of laundry that needed washing and put away before both returned to work on Monday morning. There was little to no conversation. Monday dawned, and they parted for the work day.

That evening Jim strolled in after work and joined Jo in the living room where she was relaxing in front of the breaking uptelevision after the hard first day back after vacation. "Jo," Jim said, "I have decided I no longer want to be married. I have rented an apartment and am moving out. Please don’t make a scene--it won't do any good."

Jo could not believe her ears. Jim was leaving? Apartment? When did he make this decision? When did he have the time to rent an apartment? She was stunned, and then she was terrified.

The girls came home together as Jim was still packing. Jo, mercifully, had been able to hold herself together emotionally, later realizing that the shock probably was the reason why. She called Jim in and said, "Girls, your father has an announcement to make…" The girls turn with expectant looks on their faces.

Jim was visibly upset that Jo had commandeered the moment, but he said, "I am sorry but your mother and I have decided to separate. Wbad newse both love you very much and this has nothing to do with you--you won't even have any changes in your life. We know that this is the best."

He scowled when he heard Jo say, "Oh no you don't. I am not taking the blame for this, Jim. " Turning to the girls, she said, "This was not a joint decision, it was his decision. I never saw it coming. I don't want a divorce, but he has told me that there is nothing I can do to change his mind."

Unlike their mother, the girls became hysterical. They clutched at their father, railed at him and screamed that he was ruining their lives and breaking up their home.

It made no difference. "Someday you will understand. I will call you both in a day or two," he said as he went out the door.

The next day Jo was served with divorce papers at work--Jim had filed on his first day back from vacation without a word to her about it. Jo had the presence of mind to hire her own attorney immediately.

Jo learned that until such time as Jim put her name on his father's inheritance (which he had not done) it was not a part of the marital estate. This was strictly Jim's money. The negotiations began. Jo's lawyer asked for alimony and an unequal division of debt based on the huge difference in assets of the parties. The lawyer also advised that the chances for gaining these were "iffy" under Jo's circumstances. Jim instructed his attorney that, not only did he despise the idea of alimony, he wanted Jo to pay half of all credit card debts, notwithstanding the fact that he had so much more money.

As the negotiations went on, Jim nickled-and-dimed Jo to death. It was particularly divisionrankling that Jim insisted she pay a full one-half of the cruise cost since she had cautioned against it to begin with. Jim haggled with her over furniture items, demanding pieces that she knew he both had no use for and did not particularly like. He refused to pick up the rest of his personal belongings, leaving them for Jo to pack and store in the garage. Jo began to make plans to try to replace the living room furniture he seemed hell-bent to take. She worried about the girls having no sofa to sit on in their home.

In the end, Jim did not want to go to Court--Jo's attorney was able to make him feel that he would look like a huge heel under the circumstances, and he did not want to fade that heat. Jo received a settlement that allowed her to live in their home, Jim waiving his interest in the equity, but she would have to refinance it. Out of her share of his retirement,credit cards she "paid Jim back" for her one-half of all the credit card debt.   He wanted to be absolutely sure that Jo paid every cent of “her share” of the “marital debt.”

He let go of the furniture items he had worried Jo about; the haggling was clearly harassment. He refused to agree on paper to continue to help the girls through school, and Jo was told that the law won't make him do so. He indicated to them that he will still help, so long as they meet all his criteria. He has shown little interest in spending time with them. Time will tell.

In short, Jo has exited this marriage with barely enough. She will make it, but it won't be fun.

Jim, on the other hand, has a swank new apartment full ofrich brand-new furniture and a huge television in the living room.

Jo's attorney asked her at what point she realized that Jim was a man of such low character. Her answer: "The day he walked in and told me wanted a divorce. Before that, I never would have believed that Jim would do this to me."  This is a common lament…

Jo and her attorney both theorize that Jim was reasonably happy in his marriage. Until their cruise (after he became rich), Jo never had any other inkling. The money, however, and the freedom it brought made Jim begin to think about a life he could never have had before his inheritance. He simply chose the single life. The money became so very important to him as a symbol of this fantasy life, that he haggled and fought with Jo over any cent of it she might get in the settlement.

it's mine

It was the inheritance.

It's the only explanation Jo can come up with.

In case you doubt it, the story is true.  Learn what you will from Jo’s story.  You just never know.

--C

Sunday, December 1, 2013

C: Breakfasting Abroad

ramat rachelBack in 1999 my Son was graduating from high school.  He had a long-standing desire to visit Israel, and we decided to spring for a two-week family visit to celebrate his achievement. 

We did our trip ourselves—eschewing tour groups—and we traveled the country by means of a rented car.  We had many adventures and, now that I am recalling the trip anew, I may share some with you later, but right now what is on my mind is breakfast.  Breakfast on that trip sort of symbolizes for me a little breaking free from the “box” of my own acculturalization…at least temporarily, as you will see and as only now occurs to me.

During our initial days there, we stayed in a very nice kibbutz-run hotel called Ramatramat rachel grounds Rachel. That is an aerial view at the top of this post.  It is situated on a hill between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  Its grounds are gorgeous, as you can see better in this picture.

Our first day we arrived early evening exhausted from the overseas flight and the masses checking through customs at the airport.  We grabbed a snack for dinner and crashed.

The next morning, we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready for adventure.  We went downstairs to breakfast before heading out to see the sights.

ramat rachel dining hallThe dining hall was huge.  Here is a picture of a portion of it.  It served both the hotel guests and the workers of the kibbutz.  We found a table situated in the midst of visitors from the world over, interspersed with Israelis in uniform (mostly very young, both men and women).  The breakfast scene was surreal to me from the start, but then I viewed the foods.

There was one station that was full of American-style breakfast food:  Eggs, cereals, a toasting station with bagels, rolls, breads and butter.  There was no bacon or ham, of course, in deference to Jewish dietary laws.  An American could find a fine breakfast here.  But I noticed that this offering was the least- visited by the folks in the hall…

There were vast tables of saladred onion greens, big bowls of sliced red onions, cucumbers, beets, tomatoes, peppers, all sorts of raw vegetables.  Some were in sauce or vinegar; some were just left unadorned.  There were jugs of olive oil, vinegar and other dressings.

There was a long table full of marvelous melons and fruits.  One table held a display of fish in various forms of room-temperature preparation: smoked or pickled.  There was rice and grains I did not know…

I stood there amazed.  The majority of the folks there were filling their breakfast plates from these tables, building gorgeous salads, some topping them with smoked or pramat rachel breakfastickled fish.   They were walking way from the buffet tables with plates that look like this.  For breakfast?????  I could not help but gawk.

It was then that it occurred to me that not everyone the world over has separate, identifiable breakfast foods like we Americans do.  Many eat the same things, regardless of the time of day. 

Oh, I was (am) so very provincial.

And then it happened.  The sides of my cultural “box” flew apart when my  eyes lit on the olive table.  Olives are one of my olives 1very, very favorite foods.  I have yet to meet an olive I did not like except when something unnatural has been done to it, like stuffing it with something inappropriate.  And Israel is the place to go for olives, apparently.  There were varieties I had never seen—bowls and bowls of them.  I gravitated. 

When I met Son and Husband back at our table, I plopped down a plate full of an assortment of olives, a couple kinds of kibbutz-made soft cheeses, a hunk of fresh bread.  I chuckled at the popping of their eyes as I wandered off to grab my coffee and orange juice.  I was quite proud of my breakfast plate beside their mundane cereal, eggs and toast.

This is the breakfast I enjoyed each and every morning of my trip, to the thinly-disguised disgust of my fellow travelers.  They both like olives—just not for breakfast!

I smile as I think how seeing others partake of what were in my mind “unusual” breakfastolives foods gave me sort of a permission to explore and enjoy my olives each morning—and I did, indeed, enjoy these breakfasts.

I wonder sometimes how restricted my life is by my failure to think and move outside my cultural box, as I did in the matter of the olives.  It takes some exposure, I suppose, which most of us really can’t afford.

boxAnd, for the record, I haven’t had an olive for breakfast since I returned from Israel in 1999 and slipped back into the box. 

Kind of sad--C

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