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Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

For the past five years I’ve undergone some extreme drama. It all started in 2011 when I fell twice in a week and I ended up knocking my hip replacement (which I originally received back in 2008) out of alignment. I was told that I had to undergo hip revision surgery in order to put my hip replacement back in alignment if I wanted a chance of walking normally again.

The day before my scheduled surgery I decided to go on a fun shopping trip. I went to Tysons Corner, where I shot these photos as I walked around the mall in my walker. I decided to treat myself to something nice. I ended up going to the American Girl place where I purchased this historical 1970s doll, named Julie Albright, because she was wearing the same kind of outfit that I wore back in the 1970’s.

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I didn’t tell my husband about the purchase at the time because it was the day before my surgery and we both had been stressed out over my upcoming surgery. I just didn’t want to provoke a fight or anything. I decided to just hide the doll while I eventually planned on telling him about the purchase once my hip started to heal. (It wasn’t like we couldn’t afford the purchase because he was—and still is—a programmer at NASA.)

I went through with the surgery followed by physical therapy. My husband took wonderful care of me while I was in recovery. He never indicated that he was unhappy or anything. There were times when I took the doll out of her temporary hiding place while I admired her and read the books that I purchased at the same time as the doll. I was looking forward to getting my life totally back on track with the man I loved. We shared a lovely Christmas Day together and I sensed that we were going to make out okay.

But then, just three days later, he walked out on me. It was so abrupt and shocking. In addition, he left behind a note where he essentially blamed my purchase of American Girl’s 1970s historical doll Julie Albright as the main reason why he left because this doll “added to the clutter of our home.” I was dumbfounded by all this. I thought he had merely flipped out after all the stress he had gone through. (Not only did he had to deal with my hip operation but there were job-released stress plus he was battling bronchitis during the holidays.) I wrote a blog post that night stating that I hoped we would get back together.

I had seriously thought about selling the doll on eBay because I really didn’t want a doll to destroy what had basically been a decent marriage. I also felt horrible that my purchase of that doll was what made him feel that he had to leave home after he spent a serious amount of time to make all of the necessary arrangements before my surgery then taking leave from his NASA job to take care of me after my surgery. I never intended to drive my own husband away from home. I thought that if I would sell the doll on eBay, I would tell my husband about the sale, and he would return home.

I was so glad that I never did this because a month later I had friends tell me that they had saw him with one of the barmaids at a local cafe who had been struggling with severe depression (she only worked two nights a week because of it and she had recently qualified for SSI disability payments) and he had been taking her on dates to the same cafe where she worked. So, yeah, he blamed a doll that I purchased the day before my hip surgery for making him leave me for a seriously mentally ill friend.

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Over the next several months he would engage in cyberbullying where he would demand that we separate our finances via email and text (he refused to call me or meet with me in person to talk like normal human beings) according to his own schedule and if I balked in any way, he would threaten to sue me. (I still have those original hateful emails printed out and filed away.) I’m sure he probably blamed my purchase of that doll the day before my hip surgery for what he did as well.

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I later found out that eight months after he walked out on me and hooked up with that mentally ill friend, he asked her to marry him and she agreed even though he was still legally married at the time. I’m sure he probably blames my purchase of that doll the day before my hip surgery for making him do that. (LOL!)

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In 2012, just four days before the first anniversary of our separation, he sent an email that was dated December 24 (Christmas Eve) that contained a divorce petition in a .pdf format that was attached to the email. Between the cyberbullying demanding that we adhere to this separation of finances schedule or else he would sue me and emailing a divorce petition on Christmas Eve, I am now convinced that he basically lied to me all those years when he said he “loved” me. How else can I explain the fact that one day he acted like he loved me and still wanted to stay with me and the next day he not only leaves me but he acts like he has detested me all those years? He probably blames my purchase of the doll the day before my hip surgery for that one as well.

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Three months after our divorce was final he married the other woman despite her mental health issues. He probably blames my purchase of the doll the day before my hip surgery for that one as well.

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It’s so lame and cowardly for a man to blame a doll for leaving his wife without ever telling her that he was unhappy (while pretending to love her all those years), refuse to speak with her while demanding that she followed a certain schedule that he set, start dating a seriously mentally ill woman (and, yes, he knew about her mental health before he hooked up with her), quickly get engaged to her while still being legally married, send divorce papers in an email on Christmas Eve, then marry the other woman just three months after the divorce is final.

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I’m trying my best to move on. I’m at the point where I no longer want to have anything to do with him mainly because I’m convinced that he lied to me all those years when he said that he loved me. I go out with friends but I’m not in a relationship or anything like that. Right now I’m busy with trying to survive in a harsh economy while dealing with the arrival of President Donald Trump next month.

I’m mostly over my ex-husband but there are times when I still remember what he did to me whenever I see or hear something that dredges up the past. One reminder came just a couple of months ago when old recordings surfaced where Donald Trump told Howard Stern that he thinks that Lindsey Lohan would be great in bed because she was troubled at the time. Thanks to Trump’s confession, I now realize that this may possibly be one of the reasons why my husband has chosen to replace me with a mentally ill woman. I guess I should publicly thank Donald Trump for that insight. (LOL!)

All I can say is that I’m glad I never sold this doll on eBay in an effort to get my husband back because it would’ve been an exercise in futility.

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I recently submitted this piece to last weekend’s Greenbelt Labor Day Art Show for display, which I did in acrylic paint. It’s basically fan art based on the hit TV show My Little Pony.

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My Little Pony
Acrylic on canvas
10 inches x 10 inches
25 cm x 25 cm

Here is the story behind this project, which began during a relatively dark period in my life. Two months before I started this project in 2013 I ended up in divorce court. Not long afterwards the new STEM center that was then-known as Club 125 opened its doors for the first time. (It has since been renamed Makerspace 125.) Since it was supposed to be a drop-in place for making anything we want, I thought it would be a cool idea to bring some of my acrylic paints to paint these small 4 inch x 4 inch (10 cm x 10 cm) canvases that I recently purchased from the local arts and crafts store. I thought that if painting these small canvases worked out for me, I might even paint more of them to sell at future street craft shows.

I was stuck on what I wanted to paint until I decided to paint the characters based on the hit TV series My Little Pony, which has attracted a sizable audience of college-aged men despite the fact that the series was originally targeted at girls under 10. I’ve seen a few episodes myself and I liked the series. I also thought that the characters were cute and colorful enough to try to replicate on a canvas.

I combed the Internet for some My Little Pony images that I could use as a reference when creating my pieces and I drew them at home. The following day I packed my art supplies and headed over to the STEM center to work on my canvases. I started with this canvas, which featured the two pegasus characters Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash.

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I was mostly done with that canvas when I got a call from my divorce lawyer telling me that the divorce certificate had just arrived at his office and he offered to drive by my place to give my copy to me. I told him that I wasn’t at home but I was at the STEM center. He went there and gave the certificate to me. It was a good thing that I had finished painting the first canvas because I had lost all enthusiasm for working on it after I got the certificate. After the lawyer left I waited for that one canvas to dry then packed my art supplies and left.

After that day I didn’t touch any of the other small canvases for a long time. I just lost enthusiasm for the project because of the memory of getting that divorce certificate. From time to time they would turn up whenever I was doing periodic decluttering and I would say that I should try to finish the other three but then I didn’t get around to it. In 2014 I took an initial stab of working on this canvas featuring Rarity, Spike, and Twilight Sparkle but I stopped working on it after I painted some areas because, once again, I lost enthusiasm for this project.

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For the next two years the My Little Pony tiny canvas project consisted of only one finished canvas, one partially painted canvas, and two other canvases that were drawn in pencil but unpainted. This year, as I came across the four canvases yet again while doing some decluttering, I finally decided that I was tired of finding the mostly unfinished canvases, vowing that I would get around to finishing the project one day in some vague future, then not doing anything further with them. So I made the time to finish this project once and for all. I decided to try working on one of the easier canvases I drew instead of finishing the partially painted canvas (which had a lot of detail work plus I drew the three figures a bit on the small side). I spent a couple of hours working on the gray cross-eyed pegasus character, who was given the unofficial name Derpy Hooves by the My Little Pony fandom although the series itself initially named the character Ditzy Doo but has since renamed her Muffins.

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Having felt a sense of achievement at finishing that canvas, I decided to do a longer painting session where I would simultaneously work on the partially finished canvas featuring Rarity, Spike, and Twilight Sparkle while working on this last canvas featuring the two earth ponies known as Applejack and Pinkie Pie.

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I basically took out all of the paints I would need to finish the two canvases then I worked this way: I would paint all of the areas on both canvases that needed to be done in green, then I did all of the areas that needed to be done in pink, etc. until I managed to finish all of the painting.

Once I finished painting all of the canvases I began to evolve my thinking on what I would ultimately do with them. I initially thought about gluing magnets on the back so they would serve as refrigerator magnets but then I realized that, given the dimensions, they would be a bit too big for that function. I thought about using them as coasters but I wasn’t crazy about the idea of people putting hot or cold cups of liquids on something that was made as unique one of a kind works of art. I also discounted the idea of turning them into pins or pendants because they were too big for that function. I knew that I could display them on tiny easels but, since I intended the four to serve as a set, I wasn’t sure if anyone would want to purchase four tiny works of art with tiny easels at once.

Then I hit upon this idea. I purchased a blank 10 inch x 10 inch (25 cm x 25 cm) canvas from a local art supply store. I painted the canvas using the same colors I used for the sky, clouds, and grass in the four smaller canvases. Then I took some acrylic gel and I glued the four smaller canvases on to the larger canvas to create one standalone piece.

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I finished this piece shortly before I learned about my mother’s latest hospitalization so I was able to have a completed piece to submit to the 2016 Greenbelt Labor Day Art Show while I made the commute to Glen Burnie to visit my mom. I managed to submit it just a few hours after I visited my mother for the last time prior to her discharge from the hospital the following day.

While the painting was on display at the Greenbelt Labor Day Art Show, I saw some positive feedback first-hand. One condition of participating in the art show is that everyone had to sign up for one shift of either helping with setting up the exhibit, serving a one-hour shift as a monitor, or helping with taking down the exhibit at the end. I signed up for serving as a monitor between 3 p.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday. During my monitoring time a mother came in with her three elementary school-age daughters. I heard the daughters suddenly squeal with delight and I realized that they were squealing over my painting when one of them was saying “Look, there’s Fluttershy and Rarity and Spike and Applejack…”

The one rule of doing fan art is this: You know you have successfully rendered your fan art when other people can recognize the character(s) and can name the relevant movie/TV series/comic books/anime/manga/Disney animated movie.

A couple of years ago I went to a party at the home of a person whom I met through my support group for people who are separated or divorced. She announced that she was having a bonfire and she invited people to bring anything they would like to burn. A couple of years ago I brought my wedding cake topper to burn, which I wrote about in this blog and I shot this short video.

Recently the same person was having another party with a bonfire at her home and she invited people to bring something to burn. I found something that had been hanging on the wall of my home that I thought would be proper to burn. It was a wedding present from my parents and it featured this embroidery piece that was handmade by my mother the placed in this lovely frame. It had hung in the living room of my home for many years and it still remained there after my husband literally ran away from home and subsequently divorced me.

I no longer wanted the embroidery piece as is. I couldn’t sell it on eBay because it was personalized with my name and my ex-husband’s name along with the date of our wedding. I thought of ways that I could somehow alter it and maybe use it in some kind of potential future arts and crafts project only to find that it really can’t be altered without ruining or destroying the piece.

I called my mother to see if she would want it back since she worked hard on it but she said she didn’t want it either (especially since it has my ex-husband’s name on it).

So I did what I felt I had to do. I removed the piece from the frame (which I kept because it’s really too lovely to destroy and I can definitely recycle it), brought it with me to the party, and burned it. I also made a video of its destruction.

The party hostess also provided sparklers for the guests to light (especially since it was the night before the Fourth of July holiday) and here’s a photo of one of the sparklers I lit using the bonfire.

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The week of June 21-26 was a bittersweet one for me because I had to say good-bye to two different women who are exiting from my life physically in two different ways for different reasons.

June 21 was the last Sunday service that our outgoing minister was taking part in before leaving her job with our Unitarian Universalist congregation due to health reasons. (She suffered a stroke on Good Friday of last year. While she managed to survive it, she became paralyzed on her left side. Our congregation tried to fill in with visiting ministers and lecturers through the rest of the spring and summer in the hopes that she would be able to resume her job by September. When her recovery was far slower than we hoped, we decided to hire an interim caretaker minister for one year in the hope that she would be fully recovered by then. But then she reached this plateau in her physical therapy and it became apparent that she would either never make a full recovery or it may take several years for her to make some kind of a recovery. In the meantime the interim caretaker minister had expressed his desire to return to retirement when his one year of service was up. Our minister decided that it would be best for everyone concerned if she would resign so she could continue to recover at her own pace without having to deal with a deadline and our congregation can look for a new minister who could handle the full duties that our outgoing minister was unable to perform because the stroke had left her with chronic fatigue.) I think it’s sad that it had to happen but I think it’s the best decision for everyone given the circumstances.

A few weeks before her last Sunday service, some members of the congregation decided to organize a memory book where people could write letters, insert drawings or photographs, or any other items that the minister would appreciate. The Sunday before that last service, I did this Zentagle doodle with a short message in the middle.

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The message in the middle basically reads as follows.

Lots of memories. Too many to put on a single page. I remember the pleasant chats we had before the stroke. I also remember when I ran into you and Don [the minister’s husband] at the Black Lives Matter March in Washington, DC in December, 2014. Best wishes as you recuperate from your stroke and figuring your future career path.

I basically worked on my quick masterpiece during the annual All-Congregational Meeting that was held after Sunday service while listening to the items on the agenda.

The following Sunday I showed up for what would be the minister’s last Sunday service before she stepped down. While she did a decent job of doing the readings and the sermon, I understood why she felt the need to leave. Her left side is still paralyzed. When she first suffered the stroke, her entire left side was paralyzed. Thanks to speech therapy she was able to regain the ability to talk but, otherwise, she couldn’t move her left arm or leg. When she was at the pulpit I noticed that her left arm was tucked in a black elastic sling and she required the use of a really steady walking cane that had four legs (instead of a normal average walking cane with only one tip at the end of a long stick).

It was a sad occasion that was made more melancholy for me by the fact that my ex-husband had made one of his rare appearances at church. (His church attendance has gotten more sporadic since he left me. Not that I’m complaining because I’d prefer that he doesn’t show up because these days I can’t stand to be in the same room with him. If he was to start attending church more often, I would seriously consider quitting that congregation altogether.) I only put up with it because it was the minister’s last Sunday service because, otherwise, I would’ve walked out the minute he entered the church building. There was a lunch reception following the Sunday service. I had thought about skipping it because I really didn’t want to share the same space with my ex any longer than I had to. It turned out that when the Sunday service ended, he talked with a couple of people for a while then he left before the reception began. I was totally relieved that he left. I still have a lot of recent ugly memories of what he did to me over the last three years and it has seriously colored my attitude towards him because when I look at him, all I can think about is the way he walked out, the e-mails and texts demanding that I adhere to his own separation schedule, and how he decided that he not only had to hook up with a friend who’s struggling with severe mental illness but he had to marry her ASAP.

I’m glad my ex-husband left because I got to eat the excellent lunch (they even had enough leftovers that the organizers begged people to take the extras home so I’m able to stretch my food budget a bit further for the next few weeks) followed by cake. There were two cakes in two different flavors.

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I had two small pieces of each and I found them to be very tasty.

A few days later I went to another farewell event. The good news was that the person who’s leaving is in good health and it was also an event that I didn’t have to worry about my ex-husband showing up. This event was for a woman whom I met through my support group for people who are separated or divorced.

This woman was someone who had started to attend meetings long before I did and she eventually wended her way up to volunteer facilitator. (Here’s a brief explanation for those who have never been involved in any kind of divorce recovery work. Our group begins each weekly meeting with a trained mental health professional who would lead a short discussion on a different topic dealing with a certain aspect of the separation/divorce experience ranging from dealing with anger to trying to coparent children with an ex to dating after a divorce. After that discussion, the larger group breaks into two or three smaller groups—depending on the attendance that week—where each of the small group meets with a volunteer facilitator where that facilitator reads a prepared question and we discuss that question. A volunteer facilitator is someone who initially started attending the group as a newly separated or divorced person and has decided to use his/her experience to help others. That facilitator receives special training on how to deal with an attendee in a small group session.)

I was grateful that I met that woman as a volunteer facilitator when I first started attending weekly meetings because I was a total nervous wreck. My husband had abruptly walked out on me without ever indicating that he was unhappy and he had previously been caring and loving towards me until the night he left. When I listened to other people’s stories, I initially felt like a freak because other people had spoken about how their marriages had gradually broken down over a period of months or even years until one or both of the partners decide that he/she/they has/have had enough and simply break up. In some cases they had separated then reconciled only to separate again because the same problems kept on appearing. In my case, my separation was so abrupt that for a time I thought my husband had cracked under the recent stresses (stemming from his mother’s sudden death in 2010, the frequent trips to and from Phoenix so we could deal with her belongings, my hip injury in early 2011, my hip surgery later that year, the stresses of his job, and taking on a volunteer position as Church Treasures that was even more stressful on him). It took me a month before I learned the real reason why he left me and it was another woman whom I thought was a friend of mine.

But then this woman started talking about how her marriage failed and it was nearly identical to what happened to me. I can’t really elaborate further on the details of her story because of the group’s strict confidentiality rules but she admitted that she was a total nervous wreck when she first started attending the meetings and she was frequently in tears during the meetings. It took her a long time before she started to feel better about life in general and she didn’t cry as often.

I began to realize that if that woman can turn her life around from what happened to her, I can too. Thanks to her I knew that it was going to take a long time because of the abrupt way that my marriage ended but eventually I was going to turn my life around like she has.

Recently I learned that the woman, who was already retired from her job, had decided to move to Florida. The organization decided to throw a farewell party at the Greene Turtle Lounge in Columbia. I decided to attend because I really wanted to show my appreciation to her for what she said to me during the early days of my separation when I felt totally hopeless and dejected.

I hadn’t been to Columbia in a while so I decided to combine trips and go to other places on the way to and from the farewell party. I went to the Mall in Columbia briefly on the way to the party where I saw some cute items at Sears. There was a Hello Kitty/Baltimore Orioles onesie for babies.

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There was also this really cool tye-dye Baltimore Orioles t-shirt as well.

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When I arrived at the shopping center where the Greene Turtle Lounge was located, I saw this hamburger place located next door called Cheeburger Cheeburger which kind of surprised me. That’s because for those of us who were alive back in the 1970’s who watched Saturday Night Live, that name evoked this famous sketch starring the late John Belushi.

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I finally arrived at the Greene Turtle Lounge. The area where the farewell party was held was very crowded with both current members and alumni. The next photo shows how crowded that area was.

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I briefly said hello to the woman but I couldn’t say anything else because there were so many people waiting to say their good-byes to her. I managed to sit at a table (far from the main table where the woman sat) with a few people I knew from the weekly meetings where I was able to partake of some happy hour specials. (I ordered a crab pizza flatbread appetizer and a Corona beer. The appetizer was so big that I didn’t need to worry about ordering a main meal.) At one point the woman decided to leave because she had to prepare for her upcoming move. She came by our table briefly where we said out good-byes to her.

I had wanted to tell her about how her story about her own recovery from her sudden unexpected marital breakup had an impact on me because I felt that if she could recover from something traumatic and horrifying, I could too. But there were so many people there that I never got a chance to have any kind of deep conversation with her. The only consolation is that at least a lot of people attended her party so she was able to see for herself how much she meant to a lot of people and how much she will be missed once she moves to Florida.

I stayed for a while after the woman left but then the party began to thin out. While my fellow members decided to eat, drink, and socialize a bit longer, I decided to head out.

On the way home I decided to go to a store that I hadn’t been to since the death of my pet hedgehog Spike in 2013. Today’s Pet was among the pet stores that I used to regularly go to in order to purchase Spike’s hedgehog food and I used to browse at the animals currently available for sale. Today’s Pet was located just a couple of miles from the Greene Turtle Lounge so I decided to stop there on the way back for old time’s sake and I even took a few brief pictures. Here are a couple of photos of some very colorful birds.

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I saw these hairless rats, which looked pretty freaky. They looked like newborn mutant infants with long tails.

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There were a bunch of bunnies who were more normal looking.

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Then I came across the display of hedgehogs, which brought back memories of when I first took Spike home. While there are times that I still miss Spike, I’ve decided to put off looking for a new pet for the time being due mainly to financial reasons. Even if I was to get a new pet in the future, I’d think I would go with a different animal other than a hedgehog because I still remember Spike’s less-than-friendly personality that was just as prickly as the quills on his body. I still couldn’t resist taking this one photo though.

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Fathers' Day

A few weeks ago I obtained a notice from the Office of Personnel Management regarding my ex-husband’s NASA pension. Per the separation and divorce agreement, I’m entitled to receive a portion of my ex-husband’s pension and my ex made a filing on my behalf. The bad news was that my ex had neglected to include a copy of the original Separation and Divorce Agreement. On top of it, my ex had provided a plain photocopy of the divorce certificate. Basically OPM wanted a plain photocopy of the Separation and Divorce Agreement and a certified copy of the divorce certificate.

I don’t know if my ex-husband was being absent-minded (I recall the many times when he would leave for work in the morning only to return home anywhere between 5-15 minutes later because he forgot something) or if he did it deliberately in order to antagonize me but, at this point, it doesn’t matter. Basically my ex screwed up and I had to fix his mistakes if I want to receive anything from this pension. I can easily photocopy the Separation and Divorce Agreement myself using my Canon all-in-one machine that’s a combined photocopier, printer, scanner, and fax machine.

As for the certified copy of my divorce certificate, I only had one copy that I was reluctant to mail off because there’s always a chance that I would need it for some reason at some time in the future. So I had to get another certified copy of my divorce certificate and that meant that I had to make a special trip to the Prince George’s County Courthouse in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.

Since I had to make that trip, I decided to do some research to see if I could make that trip a bit more fun than just going to the courthouse. I tried the Roadside America site and I came up empty. I have a copy of a promo brochure listing all of the scenic routes that one could take in the state of Maryland so I decided to look through it and found that Upper Marlboro is directly on the Star-Spangled Banner Trail, which tracks the route of the attempted British invasion of the United States during the War of 1812. The Star-Spangled Banner Trail formally debuted just a couple of years ago in order to coincide with the bicentennial of the War of 1812, which means that there are now special signs (such as the one on this webpage) indicating that you are on that trail. (Before then, anyone who wanted to retrace the steps of the British invasion had to do their own research and mapping of the route.)

So I decided to take that drudgery special trip to Upper Marlboro in order to obtain a certified copy of my divorce certificate and turn it into a fun trip along the Star-Spangled Banner Trail.

On that day I decided to go to the Prince George’s County Courthouse first because of, you know, business before pleasure. I waited until the afternoon to begin driving to Upper Marlboro because I know from previous experience that the mornings are a total zoo there. Upper Marlboro is the county seat for Prince George’s County so both the Prince George’s County Council and the Prince George’s County Board of Education hold meetings and work sessions there. But the biggest hub of activity is the courthouse, where all kinds of court cases are heard before a variety of judges.

I’ve been to the courthouse four previous times. The first time was when I was called to testify as a witness for the prosecution in a criminal case stemming from the time when a bunch of homes in my neighborhood were burglarized, including my own. (My home burglary happened on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. My husband was doing some paperwork at his NASA office while I had gone shopping. When I came home I saw that the window had been forced open, the living room lamp had been knocked over on the couch, and the VCR in the living room was missing. The burglars had stolen the VCR, an old laptop that my husband and I had previously decided to replace, and a box full of rings that were mostly costume jewelry. The people who were arrested had previously done yard work for us and all of the other homes they burglarized. It turned out that these yard workers were also part of a crack cocaine ring and they only did the yard work in order to finance their crack habit.) I was waiting in a room at the courthouse along with the other prosecution witnesses when the prosecutor came in and told us that the defendant (who was the supposed leader of this crack ring) decided to change his plea from not guilty to guilty about five minutes before the trial was to begin. The second and third times were for jury duty. (Both times I was place in a pool for criminal trials but I was dismissed during the jury selection phases.) The fourth time was the day I appeared in divorce court. My case was the first one on the docket and I was out of there by 9:30 a.m. I ended up traveling to Baltimore and walking all over the place while wondering what the hell happened.

So I made a trip to Upper Marlboro for the first time since my divorce trial in 2013. On the day of my trip it was raining off and on most of the day, which is why all of the outdoor photos in this post have cloudy skies and wet pavement. I arrived in the afternoon. (The one good thing is that after several days of hot and humid weather with temperatures ranging from the high 80’s to the low 90’s, the rain had lowered the temperature to a more pleasant 75 degrees with low humidity.) Like my previous trips, parking was still a total hassle. Upper Marlboro is a very small town. There are a limited number of parking meters along the streets and the parking garages that are adjacent to the courthouse are limited to judges, lawyers, and other courthouse employees. Everyone else is expected to park in the parking lots at the Show Place Arena and the adjacent Prince George’s Equestrian Center and take the shuttle bus over to the courthouse.

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The next photo shows the water tower at the sprawling complex with a painting that indicates that, yes, this area has an equestrian center.

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Both the Prince George’s County Courthouse and the town of Upper Marlboro itself are rich in history. Upper Marlboro was first settled in 1695 and it was named after the 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, who was also the ancestor of Winston Churchill. The site of the courthouse was once part of a larger plantation known as Darnall’s Chance and it was the birthplace of John Carroll, who served as the first Roman Catholic Bishop and Archbishop in the United States and who also founded Georgetown University in nearby Washington, DC. Today there are signs and markers on the grounds of the courthouse showing the exact place where John Carroll was born.

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The courthouse was eventually built on land that was once part of Darnall’s Chance and, since 1721, it has been a critical part of the town. The next photo shows the older section of the courthouse, which is located along Main Street.

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Generally when you park at the Show Place Arena/Equestrian Center and take the shuttle bus, you get deposited at the back of the courthouse, which is really a separate building that was built in the 1990’s and is connected to the older front courthouse building by walkways. This more modern building is notable for having this statue of three horses outside the doors.

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Arriving at the courthouse in the afternoon was a great idea on my part because everything is more laid-back. There were a few trials in session but the courthouse was mostly empty. It’s amazing when you show up in a courthouse and you don’t have to show up at any trial because you can have a more leisurely walk and you can have the luxury of admiring some features of the entire building complex that you wouldn’t notice if you were going to and from a courtroom. I was able to admire the rich mahogany trim along the walls and the nice checkerboard floor.

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There was this pretty stained glass that was framed by mahogany trim.

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It took a while for me to get my certified divorce certificate mainly because the entire courthouse complex is such a labyrinth that, at times, I felt like I was going through a maze. I needed to go to the Court of the Clerk office but there were at least four different Court of the Clerk offices—one was for criminal trials, one was for civil lawsuits, one was for cases involving child custody and child support, and the one that I needed to go to—the one that dealt with family court including divorces. I eventually found the right Court of the Clerk office. I had to file my request, then go to another counter to pay the 50 cent fee for the official divorce certificate copy, then go back to the first counter and wait for my official copy of my divorce certificate. Not only did I get my copy with the embossed seal but the woman also made another copy for me so, if I ever find myself in a situation where I have to mail an official copy of my divorce certificate to someone else, I’ll have one copy that I can spare without having to make a return trip to Upper Marlboro. Sweet!

Here’s a last photo of the interior of the Prince George’s County Courthouse showing, in the distance, the metal detectors that everyone has to walk through in order to get inside.

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If it weren’t for the fact that it’s a courthouse, I would say that visitors who are into architecture and/or interior decorating would love viewing the building’s interiors. But, let’s face it, the Prince George’s County Courthouse is the kind of place where you only visit if you really need to be there for official reasons (like a court summons). It’s definitely not a tourist attraction. Although I was fascinated by this tree that was planted close to the shuttle bus stop while waiting for a ride back to the Show Place Arena/Equestrian Center so I could retrieve my car.

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The bark had this intricate pattern on it.

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Even the roots of that same tree had an interesting pattern.

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Even though downtown Upper Marlboro is a colonial town that’s rich in history, unlike other historical colonial downtowns (like Annapolis or Old Town Alexandria), there isn’t a lot of shopping or other attractions.

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There are a few places like a couple of clothing boutiques, a spa, and a jewelry store. Plus there are a few dining establishments.

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There are a few law offices since the courthouse is the main source of so much activity in Upper Marlboro during the week but, believe it or not, the law offices aren’t even the biggest businesses operating in that town.

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The biggest industry that operates in Upper Marlboro is bail bonds.

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That’s right, bail bonds.

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Everywhere I walked there seemed to be bail bonds.

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The only advantage of so many bail bonds in one place that I can think of is that one can easily shop around to get the best deals. But for anyone else who are into exploring historical districts, the proliferation of so many bail bonds in such a small historical district is a total turn-off.

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What’s more, there are more bail bond places that I didn’t even bother with photographing other than the ones in this post.

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There is only one reason why the Star-Spangled Banner Trail even runs through Upper Marlboro: the British troops made their way through that town while going further north to Washington, DC. But, to be honest, Darnall’s Chance is about the only genuine historical tourist place in that town. Even though neither the Wikipedia nor the official website mentions any role that Darnall’s Chance may have played in the War of 1812, the place was standing when that war happened and it was somehow spared from being torched by the invading British troops.

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The house itself is only opened on the weekends. I went there once years ago (when I was still married) when the house had its annual display of gingerbread houses around Christmas. I didn’t bring my camera at the time but I remembered being impressed by the creativity. I even toured the rest of the house. Darnall’s Chance would be considered “small” by today’s standards mainly because back in the 1700’s (when the house was originally built), it was impractical to have a very large house because heating it in the winter would’ve been difficult. But back in the day it was considered a mansion and the people who lived there were mainly wealthy. Darnell’s Chance sports a wide yard where outdoor weddings can be booked.

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The one interesting thing about walking on the grounds of Darnall’s Chance is seeing this family vault located just a few feet away from the house.

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After I got what I needed from the Prince George’s County Courthouse, I decided to drive south along the Star-Spangled Banner Trail. I traveled mainly along Maryland Route 382 (which, believe it or not, has its own Wikipedia page). Once I got out of Upper Marlboro, the road suddenly turned into a one-lane road and the area became more rural. It was full of picturesque farms on rolling hills. I wanted to take some pictures but there were very few areas where I could safely pull off on the side of the road plus that road was heavy with traffic. Instead I’m just going to provide a few Google Street View screenshots to give you an idea as to how rural this area is.

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At various points along the Star-Spangled Banner Trail, there are forks in the road where the driver can decide whether to stay on the main road or veer off on a side trip. At the first fork, I opted to veer off on to Mount Calvert Road, where I came to the Mount Calvert Historical & Archaeological Park.

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This place is such a goldmine for photographers that one can shoot lots of lovely picturesque scenes of farmland, rolling hills and the Patuxent River. Even with the rainy weather that day, I was still able to get a bunch of lovely shots. If all that wasn’t enough, I even spotted a rabbit hopping into a thicket of bushes. (Unfortunately that critter was too fast for my camera.)

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Mount Calvert has signs all over the place noting the area as a site where the invading British troops landed and an incredible goldmine for archeologists as there are excavations uncovering artifacts that reflected the area’s past as a southern plantation (complete with African American slaves) and, before that, as a Native American settlement.

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There is one other tidbit about this area that the signs I saw didn’t mention at all. According to this blog post, this area was also the site of two separate witch trials back in the 1680’s—one of which resulted in acquittal and the other one led to the defendant being hanged.

There is a house that overlooks the Patuxent River, which provides lovely breathtaking scenery on a daily basis. The house is only opened to the public on weekends so I had to just stick with taking exterior shots along with the view of the Patuxent River from that house.

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After spending some time photographing the area, I decided to move on. As I was driving back along Mount Calvert Road, I noticed this flag display in the middle of a field with the sign reading “Dawn’s Early Light” (an obvious reference to the first verse of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” whose lyrics were written by Francis Scott Key during the War of 1812).

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I eventually got back on Maryland Route 382 and drove further south until I hit another fork in the road. I decided to turn on Croom Airport Road and drive for a couple of miles until I came across the Patuxent River Park. The road leading to the park was thick with trees.

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I came to a lovely park at the end of the road. Compared to Mount Calvert, the Patuxent River Park is relatively small yet it has all kinds of cute touches.

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There was also the obligatory sign mentioning how this area was invaded by British troops during the War of 1812.

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I was impressed by the restrooms. I usually don’t take photos of a toilet but it had a sign providing details on how it’s a state of the art toilet that’s supposed to conserve water.

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The restroom also sported this unusual sink to wash your hands in. It was a box structure where you place your hands in the back of the bowl. Soap and water automatically dispenses on your hands for a few seconds. Then the hand dryer turns on automatically.

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Like Mount Calvert, Patuxent River Park also overlooks the Patuxent River. The big difference I noticed is that Patuxent River Park offers river views that are obstructed by trees and bushes.

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The Visitors Center is a wooden barn-like structure. Unfortunately it was closed when I was there but it had a nice garden planted all around the structure.

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The park also has the Patuxent Rural Life Museums, which are opened only on the weekends, just like the other buildings I saw on the Star-Spangled Banner Trail. I didn’t bother stopping by there but the official website makes the museums look interesting.

After my visit to the Patxuent River Park, I continued to drive south along Maryland Route 382 until I reached the town of Croom (which is basically a collection of farms with no Main Street or downtown to speak of). By then it was getting close to dinner time but I decided to wait until later before I go back on the Capital Beltway because I didn’t feel like getting stuck in rush hour traffic. So I drove north on MD 382 until I reached Upper Marlboro once again. Unlike earlier, I was able to find metered parking on Main Street and I didn’t have to feed the meter with money either because it’s free parking after 6 p.m.

Basically Upper Marlboro is empty on weeknights when the courthouse closes for the day. I was able to walk around town without encountering another person and the few non-bail bond shops that were in town were closed.

I ended up eating dinner at Ledo’s Pizza (which has several restaurants scattered throughout the Washington, DC metro area). When I needed to use the restroom, I saw this painted wall with ultra cute teddy bear trim.

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After dinner I drove back home along Route 4 and the Capital Beltway. I felt pretty relaxed as I arrived home. I only drove a small portion of the Star-Spangled Banner Trail (it runs from Southern Maryland all the way up to Fort McHenry in Baltimore). I’d love to do it again, this time I would leave earlier and start the trail near Solomons then drive north until nightfall or I’m tired (whichever comes first). I would also drive the trail on a Saturday or Sunday so I would have a chance to see the insides of the buildings that are usually closed during the week.

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On the last day of May I decided to attend two back-to-back workshops that were held at Makerspace 125 in Greenbelt, Maryland. The first workshop was on creating your own art dolls. I haven’t created an art doll since Cinnamon Fire back in 2010 and I was winging it when I created her. (I originally did it for a contest that was sponsored by Art Doll Quarterly magazine but my entry didn’t get anywhere with the judges.)

This workshop was taught by a person who has been creating art dolls for a while. The next photo shows some of the art dolls she has created.

Art Doll Workshop at Makerspace 125, May 31, 2015

And here is my new art doll that I created in that workshop.

Art Doll Workshop at Makerspace 125, May 31, 2015

I intentionally created a melancholy doll because I went through a bit of a bad patch lately stemming in large part from the fact that this workshop took place shortly before what would’ve been my wedding anniversary had my husband not abruptly left me for a woman whom I once thought was my friend (but I now know differently) and my constant fretting over financial problems.

Art Doll Workshop at Makerspace 125, May 31, 2015

She measures about four inches tall. She has a clothespin body, a small wood base, pipe cleaner arms, and a face that the instructor had made from clay using a mold. (The faces were plain and we had to do face ups using watercolor pencils.)

Art Doll Workshop at Makerspace 125, May 31, 2015

I made her long hair from yarn that I glued on to her head. Her dress was made from a scrap of black fabric. I used a piece of fancy ribbon to create a headdress that suggests a veil. I glued tiny floral accents to each wrist.

Art Doll Workshop at Makerspace 125, May 31, 2015

I used red fabric scraps to cut out a broken heart that I glued to her chest. As I was cutting the tiny heart into two pieces, I found that I had frayed the material a little bit. I still used it because the frayed heart only further drove home the sadness and grief I’ve felt nonstop since the abrupt separation and divorce. I only wished that there had been a sad face available because I would’ve used it. I ended up using the face that came closest to being the slightly less than happy.

Art Doll Workshop at Makerspace 125, May 31, 2015

Pictures of my art doll, along with ones of other art dolls done by other people, are now on display at the Makerspace 125 website.

That workshop was immediately followed by another workshop on watercolors. While I’ve done watercolors mixed with other media (usually either ink or acrylic paint), I haven’t done an art piece using only watercolor since the time I did a series of apple watercolors for a Commercial Illustration class at a local community college where I had to deal with this teacher who had this unnatural obsession with me and my work that creeped me out so much that I ended up quitting taking art classes at that school.

Fortunately the teacher for this watercolor class was a very nice woman who’s pretty sane and normal (compared to that Commercial Illustration teacher) and I enjoyed this workshop as much as the previous art dolls workshop. Here is my watercolor.

Watercolor Workshop at Makerspace 125, May 31, 2015

It all started when the teacher instructed us to wet the paper first then put down a layer of whatever color we choose and I happened to choose blue. As I put down that layer, I began to think about the water and I thought it would be a perfect aquatic theme. I used my smartphone to do a Google search on a few images of fish swimming in the ocean before I remembered that it’s now crab season in Maryland so I did a blue crab. (I opted to do the blue crab as a living creature before it would be thrown in a pot of boiling water where it would turn red.) I used a couple of blue crab photos that I found through Google as my reference guide when working on the crab. My teacher and classmates liked it, which was cool. You can now view my blue crab along with other watercolors done by my classmates on Makerspace 125’s site.

Here’s a last photo of the two items I made in two back-to-back workshops at Makerspace 125.

The Items I Made at Two Workshops at Makerspace 125

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I’ve written about my divorce before but I’m writing about it again not because I’m a drama queen but because I’m hoping that this post would get mentioned by the Delightfully Tacky blog. Especially with that blog’s The Brave Ones section where other writers write about their own experiences with overcoming trauma.

delightfullytacky

I don’t know if anything will come of it but I want to do things in the hope that my life will be improved enough so I can move on from the drama of the last three-and-a-half years. My therapist, divorce recovery support group, and even a few books have suggested that everyday I do at least one thing that could possibly help me move on from this major trauma that I went through and I’m still struggling with.

I married my college sweetheart. Compared to other boyfriends I’ve had, this man was very mature, level-headed, and very responsible. He never developed any addictions nor was he ever violent towards me in any way. We had a lot in common. When I introduced him to my parents, he managed to charm them. When I announced our engagement, my parents were totally thrilled because they liked him. We got married 10 months after I finished college and I felt like I had died and gone to heaven because I considered him to be my best friend as well as my husband. At times he even served as a model and muse for some of my art projects.

Man Lying in Bed, Watching Television (B&W)

Man Lying in Bed, Watching Television (Color)

We had weathered a lot together, including the sudden death of his mother in 2010 and my hip surgery in 2011. I thought that we were destined to spend the rest of our lives together. This blog post, which described this baseball card collage I made as a present for my husband in early 2011 based on his own suggestion, is typical of the married life I had with him.

Baseball Cards Collage

My husband did a lot for me both before and after my hip surgery. He made all the preparations for my surgery, he took time off from his job so he could take care of me while I recuperated, and he even lined up friends to drive me to and from physical therapy sessions when he had to return to his job. On Christmas Day, 2011, we had a lovely time together, which I recounted in this post. I was happy in the marriage and my husband acted happy as well. He didn’t indicate that he felt there were problems in our marriage or anything like that.

Michael Reclining on Couch

It all came to a sudden screeching halt just three days after that lovely Christmas Day and three months after my hip surgery. He came home from work, announced “I’m moving out…I found a room,” threw some pieces of paper my way, then ran out the door before I could even respond. I looked at the papers. One was a check for $2,000 that was designated as my first alimony payment. One was a separation schedule that he drummed up that would lead to our divorce. The other was a note where he blamed the fact that the day before I had the hip surgery, I went on a little shopping trip to a mall where I purchased an American Girl doll who was supposed to represent the 1970’s. she had long blonde hair (like I did before I hit my teens), and she wore an outfit that was nearly identical to one that I wore as a child in the same era.

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Basically that doll was the reason why he said he had to leave home.

I was totally shocked by all this. At the time I thought he had simply snapped due to all the stress over my health problems and some stresses at his job and this volunteer job he took on as treasurer for our church. The night he left I wrote a short entry hoping that he would soon return home and the separation would be a short-lived one.

Michael in Red and Green

A couple of days later my husband was still missing so I did a few Google searches under “My husband ran away from home” and I was led to this book by Vikki Stark called Runaway Husbands where she went through a similar situation as I did. I ordered it through Amazon.com and for the next several months I read and re-read that book over and over again.

Despite Vikki Stark’s contention that, based on her own experiences and her research of other women who went through the same thing, my marriage was destined for divorce, I still held out hope that my husband would reconsider. I had even contemplated selling that doll that he blamed for the walkout on eBay in the hopes that he would realize that I was serious about saving our marriage and return to me.

When I read Stark’s book, especially the section about how there’s usually another woman involved, I initially thought that there was either no one else or, if there was another woman, she would’ve been a co-worker at my husband’s job at NASA. My assumptions were totally shattered a month later when a few of my friends finally came forward with the truth. They had seen him in the company of a friend of ours whom we both met through this cafe that we frequented. (She worked as a barmaid two nights a week while being open about struggling with severe depression that has impacted much of her adult life. She even mentioned that she had an experimental pacemaker implanted into her brain because her depression had grown that bad. About 10 months before my husband ran away from home she had to check into a hospital for a few days in order to adjust her meds because her body had adjusted to her current course of treatment.) He took her on dates to the same cafe where she worked as a barmaid (and the same one where my husband and I were regulars) within a week after he left me so my friends figured it out before I did.

I thought that the barmaid was my friend and I even felt sorry for her because of her struggles with mental illness. She was among my friends whom I approached when I was trying to look for my husband and she denied knowing where he was. When I told her how he ran away from home, she seemed shocked at the time. But now I realize that she was just a fake friend who had no qualms about stabbing me in the back while I was still recovering from hip surgery and was still willing to stay with him even after I told her he ran away from home.

For the next year I didn’t hear from my husband other than receiving e-mails and texts demanding that we separate our finances and we sign this separation agreement as soon as possible. In his messages he basically barked orders at me like I was his employee instead of his wife. Whenever I protested he would threaten to sue me in court. Basically my husband went from being my best friend to my own worst enemy.

Michael in Dots

To make manners worse, on Christmas Eve, 2012, he sent a divorce petition in a .pdf format that was attached to an e-mail. Then he demanded that I sign it and mail it to his lawyer as soon as possible. I consulted a lawyer who told me that it wasn’t real because there was no case number assigned to it. My husband had his lawyer file for divorce for real and I ended up in divorce court in April, 2013.  Our divorce was declared final by June. In August, just two months after the divorce being final, I got word via Facebook that my ex-husband and my ex-friend suddenly got married.

In the aftermath of my husband’s dramatic about face, I began to see a therapist and I also started attending weekly meetings of a divorce recovery support group. Through them I began to gain a new perspective on my marriage. I realize now that there were some issues in the marriage that I had swept under the carpet and was willing to overlook because I thought my husband was such a swell guy. For example, my husband grew up in a family that was basically dysfunctional and full of drama and it had an effect on him that I should not have ignored. These days I tell people that before they get married, see how that person interacts with his/her own family. If there’s something troubling about your fiancee’s family dynamic, get out now. Ditto for any other red flag that your fiancee may display. It’s easier and cheaper to break an engagement than it is to get a divorce.

I kept on reading other books after I went through Vikki Stark’s book several times and they were all a tremendous help to me. I also have to credit my family and friends for sticking by me and helping me through this sudden out-of-the-blue divorce. If it weren’t for them, I would be in a worse place now both mentally and financially.

I’ve always considered myself to be an artist but I’m having a hard time trying to make ends meet with only selling through art shows and craft fairs. I’m currently looking into temping and freelance work so I can support myself once my husband’s court-mandated five-year alimony runs out. I’m trying to move on. My therapist tells me that I’m making great progress but there are times when I doubt it myself.

I’ve also tried finding creative ways of dealing with what happened. When a member of my divorce recovery group threw a party at her home, she invited people to bring things in order to thrown into a bonfire that she was having in her backyard. I donated my old wedding cake topper for the occasion.

And then there is the time on Halloween when I did this wiccan/pagan ritual where I burned a lock of my ex-husband’s baby hair (which was saved by his late mother when he was nearly a year old and it came with a bunch of items from his mother’s estate—ultimately he left it behind with me).

I have no other choice but to keep on trying new avenues and make major life decisions by myself and hope everything works out for me because right now I’m currently in limbo. I don’t know where I’ll end up. I’m hoping for the best while trying everything possible to avoid the worst.

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I know that this post is something that would be more appropriate for a Throwback Thursday but today is what would have been my wedding anniversary had my husband not decided to abruptly leave me with zero notice that he was ever unhappy, hooked up with the one friend who has struggled with mental health issues, then filed for divorce as soon as he could so he could marry her just two months after our divorce was final.

The only thing I can say about what could’ve been my wedding anniversary is that a few weeks ago I came across this meme on Facebook that exactly describes my feelings towards my ex-husband. That’s all that I will say here because this post isn’t about my ex-husband or what could’ve been on this day. Instead it’s about Hutzler’s, which would almost play a minor role in my wedding to my future ex-husband.

Hutzler’s was a regional chain of department stores that is now defunct. When I was a child my mother loved to shop at that store’s Glen Burnie location. She was especially fond of buying my clothes there.

However, I didn’t share my mother’s fondness for that store. I was a child at the time and I used to judge department stores by the size of their toy department. (LOL!) I loved it when my mother shopped at Hoschild Kohn’s for clothes because it had this awesome toy department and I used to hang there while my mother browsed through clothes in the women’s department. My mother would bribe me with allowing me to visit the toy department if I cooperated with helping her with trying on clothes that she wanted to buy for me.

In contrast, I remembered Hutzler’s toy department to be anywhere from tiny to nearly non-existent. I also remembered Hutzler’s was more like being in a religious retreat in that both shoppers and employees used to talk in hushed tones and I was constantly reminded to lower my voice while we were in that store. On top of it, my mother used to take a long time browsing through children’s clothes for me while I spent plenty of time trying on clothes only to have my mother say that a particular dress wasn’t my color or my style (even though it didn’t matter in the long run because I tended to outgrow my clothes every six months or so) so I would stay in the dressing room with my grandmother who lived with my family (she was my mother’s mother) while my mother ran out to grab more clothes. At times I felt like some kind of a dress-up doll. So, yeah, I admit that Hutzler’s was my least-favorite store.

My other grandmother (who was my father’s mother) got herself a part-time job working at the Hutzler’s store in Ellicott City (where she lived) after my grandfather died. I think she only took the job because she wanted something to do after my grandfather’s passing rather than she really needed the money. (She continued to received survivor benefits from my grandfather’s pension.) She seemed to enjoy her job because I remember she used to talk about it. I used to get clothes from her as birthday and Christmas presents that she purchased at Hutzler’s with her employee discount. (At least I didn’t have to go to that particular location to try on clothes. She used to just buy the clothes for me then provide a gift receipt that was taped to the inside of the box top in case my mother needed to exchange them for whatever reason.) I remember she worked there for at least five or six years until management decided to cut costs by laying off the older employees and my grandmother lost her job as a result. She basically decided to retire after that but I remember she was quite sad and angry at losing her job because she liked working there.

As I grew older I think my mother eventually began to pay attention to how much I didn’t like shopping in Hutzler’s because as I entered my teen years I was taken to Sears, Hoschild Kohn’s (the former is predicted to go out of business sometime in the near future and the latter is now defunct), and Levi’s (which used to operate its own store in Glen Burnie until it went out of business years ago) where I was finally given a say in selecting new clothes. (Although my mother still had final veto over any outfits that she felt were too sexy or too revealing or had some kind of a slogan on a t-shirt that she felt was too raunchy.)

Here is where what would’ve been my wedding anniversary today comes in. After I graduated from college my boyfriend and I announced our engagement. My parents were thrilled because they liked my choice of spouse at the time. (My father died in 2000 but my mother’s opinion towards my ex-husband has dramatically changed since he left me in late 2011 just three months after I underwent hip surgery and I was still in recovery the night he left me for good. ) My mother had an idea of me getting married in a Laura Ashley wedding gown that would be tea length and she wanted to take me shopping in downtown Baltimore. By that point Hutzler’s Glen Burnie location had closed (it was the beginning of the decline and fall of Hutzler’s) which was why she wanted to take me into the city for our shopping trip.

I remember it was part of a larger shopping expedition where we initially went to the Laura Ashley store that was in Harborplace at the time. We tried on a few Laura Ashley gowns but they were all cut in petite sizes and I’m not a petite person. We went on to the big Hutzler’s flagship store in downtown Baltimore and we didn’t have any better luck with the few Laura Ashley gowns that were in stock. (Ultimately I ended up with a more traditional wedding gown that my parents purchased from a typical wedding shop that has since gone out of business. In the end I was happy because, at the time, I secretly wanted a more traditional wedding gown than the Laura Ashley gowns that my mother favored but I didn’t say anything because my parents were paying for the wedding and I was also job hunting at the same time so I felt like I had to defer to their decisions more. I liked the wedding gown I wore even though it’s now packed away in the attic and I haven’t even bothered with retrieving it in years.)

I only went to that flagship store once and my memories of that one trip are hazy at best. I remember it was a very opulent store. It was more opulent than the suburban Glen Burnie location. I think there were chandeliers hanging from the ceilings. Come to think of it, had my mother taken me to the larger Baltimore location instead of the smaller Glen Burnie one, I may have had more fond memories of Hutzler’s than I do now.

Here is what Hutzler’s former flagship store in Baltimore looks like today.

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The former Hutzler's department store near Lexington Market one week after violent protests.

The opulent trim around the windows and doors are still there. Even the department store’s original name, Hutzler Brothers, is preserved even though the store chain itself had ceased to exist after 1990.

The former Hutzler's department store near Lexington Market one week after violent protests.

The former Hutzler's department store near Lexington Market one week after violent protests.

The former Hutzler's department store near Lexington Market one week after violent protests.

It’s sad to think that these doors, which once greeted shoppers, have remained shut for over 25 years.

The former Hutzler's department store near Lexington Market one week after violent protests.

The former Hutzler's department store near Lexington Market one week after violent protests.

The former Hutzler's department store near Lexington Market one week after violent protests.

The former Hutzler's department store near Lexington Market one week after violent protests.

The trim around the building has been preserved and it still remains impressive after all these years.

The former Hutzler's department store near Lexington Market one week after violent protests.

The former Hutzler's department store near Lexington Market one week after violent protests.

The shiny black marble is still intact and still reflective in the sunlight despite decades of neglect.

The former Hutzler's department store near Lexington Market one week after violent protests.

Since my own personal memories of my one and only visit to Hutzler’s is pretty foggy these days, I did some sleuthing around the Internet for any vintage photos of that flagship store’s glory days. Most of the vintage photos I obtained were taken of the store’s basement restaurant. I think my mother and I may have eaten there during my one visit to the Baltimore city location but I don’t remember. Based on these photos, it was obvious that the restaurant had changed over the years that it was in operation.

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(From The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s Flickr account.)

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(From The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s Flickr account.)

Hutzler's Howard St. Basement Lunceonette 1985

(From Kevin Mueller’s Flickr account.)

Hutzler's Howard St. 1985

(From Kevin Mueller’s Flickr account.)

The cover of the July, 1953 issue of Architectural Forum shows Hutzler’s toy department.

Architectural Forum July 1953

(From Sandi Vincent’s Flickr account.)

The December, 1955 issue of Hutzler’s Tips and Taps (which looks like it was an in-house publication either for Hutzler’s employees or the store’s customers or both) which featured one of the store windows that was decorated for Christmas.

Hutzler's Tips and Taps December 1955

(From Kevin Mueller’s Flickr account.)

Another issue of Hutzler’s Tips and Taps from the Fall & Winter 1960-1961 has a photo of the store’s shoe department, which was located on the third floor of the store.

Hutzler's Tips and Taps Fall & Winter 1960 - 1961

(From Kevin Mueller’s Flickr account.)

The Baltimore Sun has more vintage photos of the interior of Hutzler’s Baltimore store. I can’t embed them here so I’ll just link to this slideshow on the newspaper’s website that are full of vintage photos of Hutzler’s glory days before it went out of business in 1990’s.

http://www.nablopomo.com

I’ve just heard via Facebook that folksinger Ronnie Gilbert has died at the ripe old age of 88. Her death has definitely brought back memories for me.

I was attending the University of Maryland at College Park as an undergrad. I had recently started a new relationship with a then-graduate student who would later become my ex-husband. A couple of months into the relationship my boyfriend confessed that his parents were separated after being married for 25 or 26 years and his father was living with the co-worker he had left his mother for. I felt sorry for him at the time because he seemed really sad when he talked about it.

Soon afterwards his father happened to travel to our area because he was attending a conference in connection with his job that he held with a company that has since been sold and re-sold by a bunch of other parent companies. My future father-in-law wanted to meet me so my boyfriend picked me up at my dorm and we waited at his place for his father to arrive. Then we ate dinner at this local restaurant called Beefsteak Charlie’s that has long since gone out of business. (As I’m typing this, I’m starting to feel wistful over that restaurant’s unlimited salad and shrimp bar.) I got along pretty well with his father and we all had a good time at that restaurant.

A couple of months later we got word that his father was simultaneously planning his second wedding and it was scheduled to take place just two weeks after the divorce was scheduled to be final. I remember my boyfriend telling me that his father wanted to keep the planned remarriage a secret out of fears that his mother would do something to delay the divorce which, in turn, would put a dent in his planned wedding date to his second wife. My boyfriend told me not to mention this to his mother, which I thought was strange considering that, at the time, I had neither met nor communicated with his mother. I assured him that I wouldn’t breathe a word to her (even though she was still a stranger to me at that point).

Soon after that conversation, we got word that his parents were now officially divorced and his father was not only going through with the second wedding but he had even told my boyfriend that he could even bring me along as a guest. I agreed because I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to see New York City. I figured that my boyfriend and I would drive up Friday night, get a hotel in the city, do some fun New York touristy stuff on Saturday, go to the scheduled wedding on Sunday, then drive back to Maryland immediately after the reception ended. My boyfriend was working at NASA, which was paying his grad school tuition as part of his employee benefits and he was sharing a rental home with a housemate, so he made enough money that he could easily afford a cheap hotel somewhere in New York City (even if it was in the outer boroughs or in the northernmost part of Manhattan).

But then his mother somehow found out about the planned remarriage of her now-ex-husband. (To this day I don’t know who told her.) When my boyfriend spoke to her and mentioned that he was bringing me, she (according to my boyfriend) told him that she wanted to meet me so badly that she was willing to let us stay in her home in Yorktown (which is in the suburbs and far from any fun New York tourist stuff I wanted to experience with my boyfriend) the entire weekend. She had already convinced his sister and her husband (whom she had married just seven months earlier) to stay in her home with her for the entire weekend and my boyfriend basically jumped at the chance to stay at her place for free without even consulting with me first.

When he told me those new plans, I was full of trepidation, especially after he told me that she was extremely sad over her learning about this planned remarriage. I just didn’t feel right with staying with a woman who would obviously be extremely upset about her ex-husband’s remarriage. I thought it would’ve been awkward, especially since I had never met her before. My boyfriend convinced me to go along with it and, to my lasting regret, I agreed.

When we arrived at the family home Friday night, my worst fears were realized. She seemed very depressed and down and I felt awkward since I had never met her before. We attempted some conversation but it was hard because she seemed depressed. She suggested that we spend the next day at the annual Clearwater Folk Festival (which is still an annual event) that was being held that same weekend and he went along with it, which meant that I would go as well.

I remember going to bed relatively early because that whole interaction with his mother was just awkward.

The following morning I heard more voices as I woke up and got dressed. My boyfriend introduced me to his sister and her husband, who had arrived at the house after I went to bed. My mother-in-law was pretty frantic and I remembered she would snap at people at times but I didn’t hold it against her because I felt sorry for her at the time because I felt it must have been hard for her to know that her ex-husband was getting remarried just two weeks after their divorce. (After I was married, I became more and more exposed to her rages and tantrums that ruined many family outings and I gradually stopped excusing them.)

So after lunch we all went to the Clearwater Folk Festival. We met up with another family friend named Pat Moscow and her two young children (one of whom, David, would later become a child actor whose best-known role was playing the younger version of Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Big). I remember my boyfriend and I checking the various literature tables that were full of information on issues like the environment and the Reagan Administration’s interventionist policies in El Salvador.

I remember at one point we all sat on blankets that we had brought with us from my mother-in-law’s house while Pat’s two kids ran around like young children tend to do. My mother-in-law looked at the schedule and mentioned that Ronnie Gilbert was going to be performing and I naively asked “Who’s he?” My mother-in-law curtly said “She” then told my boyfriend that he needed to educate me about the 1950’s folk groups. (For the record, my parents were younger than my boyfriend’s parents. My boyfriend’s parents were into the folk revival of the 1950’s and that was the only modern music they liked. Otherwise they were into strictly classical music. In contrast, my father was into jazz like Benny Goodman but he was also into the late 1960’s rock bands like The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who, and The Rolling Stones. My mother was an Elvis Presley fan who was into pop music like The Supremes. As a teen I was into Led Zeppelin, Van Halen, Deep Purple, Kiss, The Sex Pistols, The Clash, AC/DC, The B-52’s, Blondie, The Police, and a whole bunch of other rock groups.)

Ronnie Gilbert and Holly Near took to the stage. I remember they played this one song at the festival where they sang the lyrics in Spanish, which I liked because I had taken a couple of Spanish classes at the university so that song gave me a chance to see if I could understand what they were singing. Later that year my boyfriend’s mother had purchased an album that Ronnie Gilbert and Holly Near had done together and it included that very track. She would play that track for us on a subsequent visit to the condo in Yonkers that she moved to soon after the divorce was final and the Yorktown house was sold as part of the divorce settlement. Here’s a video of that song, called “Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida.”

I really enjoyed hearing the two women singing. In fact, that festival was the only bright spot in an otherwise totally stressful weekend full of family drama. When we left the festival and said good-bye to Pat Moscow and her kids, my boyfriend’s mother had an idea of all of us eating dinner at this Italian restaurant that had long been a family favorite (and has since gone out of business). Another friend had arrived at the house and that friend went with us to the Italian restaurant. I ended up getting so drunk that night that I was literally barely able to walk. When we returned to the house I went straight to bed. I ended up waking up in the middle of the night, going to the bathroom, and puking in the toilet.

The next morning I was totally hung over. My future mother-in-law woke all of us up and made sure that we ate breakfast, got dressed just so we could all make it to her ex-husband’s remarriage in time. (As I’m looking back on all this, I’m still amazed that my mother-in-law was concerned about us making it to her ex-husband’s remarriage in time.) She was also totally stressed out and I remember her yelling at times. My boyfriend and I piled into one car with his sister and her husband piled into another car and we all drove to Manhattan to witness the wedding, which turned out to be more stress for me because I was meeting people for the first time (including my boyfriend’s new stepmother, whom I barely talked with at the wedding because so many people were there lining up to greet her and offer their congratulations).

The kicker was that years later, during a visit with her and her second husband at their home in Phoenix, my mother-in-law told my husband “How could you have taken her [meaning me] to my home during the weekend of your father’s remarriage and subjected her to all this?” I remember my husband later told me in private that he was annoyed by this while saying that his mother was the one who urged him to take me to meet her at her home that fateful weekend. I also remember that he didn’t say to her what he told me, he just took it. (I think it’s because he didn’t want to face her explosive temper.)

Now as I look back on all this, I should’ve taken that weekend as a red flag and dumped my boyfriend soon afterwards. If I was to do this all over again, I would’ve dumped him soon after that weekend simply because he wasn’t willing to stand up to his mother, draw a boundary, and tell her “no.” I think it would’ve been better had my boyfriend said no to his mother’s request that he would take me and spend the entire weekend at her place and, instead, done a compromise where we would’ve stopped by the house for either lunch or dinner for a few hours then return to a hotel room that we rented somewhere in Manhattan. The fact that he wasn’t willing to say “no” to his mother and just did whatever she told him to do should’ve raised a red flag with me but I was pretty naive back then. At the time I didn’t even entertain the idea of dumping him because I really felt sorry for him and he seemed like such a nice guy. I just couldn’t bear to leave him when he was still reeling from what happened with his parents. I would’ve felt extremely guilty if I had done this. I foolishly believed that my love would help him go through that whole incident. (Yep, it’s the old “Love conquers all” rationale.) I had no idea that he had problems with standing up to his mother because of her horrible temper. If only I had access to Doctor Who’s Tardis so I could go back in time to visit my younger self and tell her about what ultimately happened to our relationship. (Sigh!)

My mother-in-law is now deceased, my husband divorced me, and now Ronnie Gilbert is dead. That frantic weekend was the only time I ever saw Ronnie Gilbert perform live (although I subsequently saw her singing partner from that festival, Holly Near, perform at one or two protest rallies in Washington, DC). It’s also ironic that my ex-husband did to me what his father did to his mother—quickly leave the marriage for another woman then quickly get remarried to that woman soon after the divorce.

I have to admit that I’m grateful that I didn’t learn about my ex-husband’s remarriage until the day after when news of that wedding was posted and re-posted on Facebook. If I had learned ahead of time, I probably would’ve been a total nervous wreck like my future mother-in-law was that weekend. I also have to admit that my ex-husband waited longer to get remarried. While my father-in-law got remarried two weeks after his divorce was final, my ex-husband got remarried two months after our divorce. So my ex waited six weeks longer for his remarriage than his father did. (LOL!)

I haven’t been back to the Clearwater Folk Festival since that weekend but I have listened to some of the things that Ronnie Gilbert did when she sang with The Weavers, such as “Goodnight Irene.”

Here’s The Weavers singing “Wimoweh,” which I knew well because it would later be recorded by others as “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” (Actually that particular song has a very convoluted history, which the Wikipedia has attempted to document.)

I also found another solo song by Ronnie Gilbert called “Spanish is a Loving Tongue,” which is very pretty to listen to.

And here’s The Weavers singing “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena.”

As I’m searching through these YouTube clips, I realize that maybe I need to stop associating Ronnie Gilbert with that crazy weekend of my boyfriend’s father’s remarriage a long time ago and just enjoy the music she made in her long life, starting with this compilation of all of The Weavers’ 1951 videos that someone combined together and posted on YouTube.

http://www.nablopomo.com

I originally moved into the townhouse where I currently live just weeks before I married my fiancee. We lived together in that place as a married couple until my husband abruptly decided to run away from home just three days after Christmas in 2011. I got the townhouse in the divorce settlement. Right now I’m happy that I’m living there. I love the neighborhood and I get along great with my neighbors. I really appreciated not having to move while dealing with the horrible and brutal aftermath of my husband’s abrupt walkout along with his refusal to consider marriage counseling or to even speak with me in person while sending numerous e-mails and texts demanding that I conform to his personal schedule of separating our finances ASAP or else he would sue me. (Yes, it got that ugly mainly because he made it ugly. He barked orders at me from afar like I was a servant instead of a wife whom he claimed he loved me up until the night before he ran away from home.)

From time to time I (along with my husband before he left) would occasionally get flyers from local realtors. They were along the lines of “If you’re ever ready to sell your home, call Joe Blow of Blow Realtors at (301) 555-1234, ext. 567.” I never minded those flyers because I know that realtors have to do a certain amount of marketing in order to grow their businesses and make money. For someone who is ready to sell, getting such a flyer at the right time could mean a new opportunity for that realtor.

But a few days ago I got this note from a realtor that totally unnerved me. Part of the reason was because it arrived on the heels of a stressful week where I simultaneously worked on my taxes and my vending booth at the Greenbelt Mini-Maker Faire. Plus I’m still dealing with the emotional fallout from the hell that my so-called “sweet” husband put me through when he pretended that he still loved me until the day he left me for a friend of ours whom he married just two months after our divorce was final. This is way more nervy than the usual realtor flyer I get in my mailbox.

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ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!? Here’s a point-by-point rebuttal from me.

I have a Buyer that is looking, very specifically, for an end unit that backs to the “100 Acre Wood.”

100 Acre Wood, eh? That’s nice. So your Buyer wants something that’s straight out of Winnie the Pooh. Maybe you should direct her across the pond to an area in the United Kingdom called Ashdown Forest, which was the original inspiration for the 100 Acre Wood. Or, if she wanted to stay in the U.S., you could direct her to an area near Walt Disney World in Florida so she could have the chance to visit the Magic Kingdom and go on The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh ride as much as her heart desires. What does that have to do with me?

You are presently living in a home that fits that very specific, but otherwise loose, requirement of hers.

That’s nice. Over the years I’ve seen homes throughout the Baltimore-Washington, DC area that I would love to live in but haven’t purchased because they were out of my price range but I don’t dwell on it. Besides, I like my current home.

I was wondering if you have any thoughts of selling your home?

Here’s the thing. It’s obvious you looked at my home from the front yard before you dropped that letter in my mailbox. Did you see a “For Sale” sign anywhere on my front lawn? I’m sure that your answer is “No.” There’s a reason why you didn’t see a “For Sale” sign because I’M NOT CURRENTLY SELLING MY HOME!!! If I was going to sell my home, I would have a “For Sale” sign posted on the front lawn. Since I don’t have such a sign on my front lawn it’s obvious that I’M NOT CURRENTLY SELLING MY HOME!!! Well, DUH!!!

If so, she is highly qualified to purchase and would be very much interested in the possibility.

And where the hell am I supposed to go if I decide to step aside and let her purchase my home? Do you know how hard it is to find affordable housing in a decent neighborhood in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area? Do you know how ill-prepared I am to consider moving right now? If I was ready to move I WOULD HAVE A “FOR SALE” SIGN POSTED ON MY FRONT LAWN!!!

If you are interested, please call or email me and we can pick up the conversation.

If I was interested in moving, I WOULD HAVE POSTED A “FOR SALE” SIGN ON MY FRONT LAWN!!! Usually a house that does not have a “For Sale” sign on the front lawn means that it’s currently not for sale.

If you are not interested in selling, please disregard this letter.

I intend to do just that after I finish snarking about it in this post.

It’s our unique attempt at finding her a home and not meant to be invasive!

Oh, it’s unique alright. It’s uniquely full of chutzpah! I don’t go around to other people’s homes putting letters in their mailboxes asking them to sell me their home because I really like it so much that I want to live in it, especially if the home in question is not even for sale and the current owner has no intentions of moving in the near future.

Thanks for your consideration!

Fuck off!

Look, I’m not saying that I will never sell my current home. If, for some reason, my health declines so much that I could no longer handle living in my current home, I would definitely sell it and move to a small apartment or condominium. Or if I decide to marry someone else who happens to live in another state and I decide to move to that state (like what my late mother-in-law did when she decided to marry her second husband and move from Yonkers, New York to his home in Phoenix). But I would only sell my home and move because I want to, not because my home happens to meet the standards of the client of a realtor and this realtor wants me to sell it in order to please her client.

I just want to be left alone so I can get my personal life back together in peace.

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