Packing Up, Getting Out

I’m finally free.

I’ve been living in my Arizona home since September 15, 2012. That’s the day I returned from my fifth summer work season in Washington and found the locks changed on the home I’d been living in for 15 years and the hangar I’d been leasing for my business for 11 years.

Apparently, my husband thought that keeping me out of my only home so he could move his girlfriend in was as easy as changing a $15 lock. Needless to say, he was wrong.

He’d been away when I returned that September day. He moved out in early September — or possibly before that– forwarding all of our mail to the Phoenix condo, turning off the water heater, and unplugging many appliances.

September 15 was his mother’s birthday and she was 90. I knew there would be some sort of party for her back in New York and that he’d go. I later discovered that he used that opportunity to introduce my replacement to a collection of stunned family members and friends. Because he spent the next few days with his girlfriend at Niagara Falls — how quaintly romantic! — I had plenty of time to get the locks changed so I could secure my home and hangar and have his airplane removed from my hangar and tied down on the ramp.

For the record, if he hadn’t changed the locks on the house, I probably wouldn’t have, either. At least not right away. And if he hadn’t locked me out of my hangar, I definitely wouldn’t have moved the plane. But since he went on the offensive, I went on the defensive.

The next eight months would be more of the same.

His First Visit

Fish Tank
This fish tank was an early source of harassment. Although it was mine, purchased before marriage, they claimed it was his, that it was worth over $1,000 and contained “exotic” fish. When I gave it away, they used it as evidence in court that I was disposing of my husband’s assets.

He showed up at the house with a police officer on September 18 — the same police officer I’d spoken to only days before when I was concerned that he might do something to hurt me or my possessions when he returned home. He was angry and it showed as he stalked around the house with his camera, taking photos per the instructions of his girlfriend or lawyer.

He didn’t want to talk to me. When I asked him why he locked me out of the house, he replied, “You weren’t supposed to get back until October.”

I said, “And what were you going to do then? Meet me at the door with a bunch of friends to keep me out?” He didn’t reply.

When he left me, he went back to Scottsdale, back to the house he was living in with my replacement, the 64-year-old woman who had become his mommy. The same home where our poor dog, Charlie, was confined in a small, walled-in backyard.

His Delusional State of Mind

Soon afterward, he made his only settlement proposal. According to him, I should hand over my half of our paid-for house (worth $285K), pay the $31K balance on the home equity line of credit (which was mostly borrowed by him through automatic overdraft protection withdrawals), and give him $50K cash. In return, I could leave with everything else that was morally and ethically mine — everything I’d worked hard for my whole life. He’d keep the house, the condo, the furniture, and so many other things I’d bought for our home over the years.

Basically, he was demanding that I pay him so he could move his girlfriend/mommy right into the home I’d made for us over the 15 years we’d lived there.

He was convinced that I was so desperate to leave Arizona that I’d give up what was rightfully mine and simply go away.

I honestly don’t know what gave him this idea. I only had one home — my Wickenburg house. Where did he think I was so anxious to go? What did he think I would do with nothing to rebuild my life elsewhere? I still don’t understand what was going on in his head.

It was around this time that I realized he’d become delusional.

I Settle in for the Long Haul

When I didn’t accept that proposal and the judge awarded me exclusive use of the house and my leased hangar in Temporary Orders — giving him exclusive use of the Phoenix condo — he and his girlfriend/mommy went on the offensive with a series of actions and demands that showed just how little the 29 years we’d spent together meant to him. I had somehow morphed from his loving wife to an evil entity that he needed to destroy. All within four months.

It’s amazing how a weak man can be manipulated by a desperate and vindictive woman.

Because that’s really what it was all about. My husband’s girlfriend/mommy felt threatened by me. The only way she could possibly secure her future with my husband was to paint me as the bad guy any way she could. So when I came home from my summer work early, she likely told him I’d done it so I could steal things from our home. When I moved his plane out of the hangar, she likely told him it was because I wanted his plane to be stolen or damaged. When I won exclusive use of my only home — when he had another place to live and was actually living with her in Scottsdale — she likely told him that I’d moved back just to keep him out and prevent him from being happy.

Everything that I did to defend what was rightfully mine was twisted into some kind of offensive move to prove how hateful and evil I was.

The thing she feared most: that the two of us would get together and talk and possibly reconcile our differences. After all, on the same September day I’d returned home, he’d told a mutual friend that he still loved me.

So she did everything she could to convince him that I didn’t give a damn about him. That all I wanted was to manipulate him and prevent him from achieving his goals. That I was just using him as a tool to achieve my goals.

When I think about how easily he swallowed this line of bullshit, my heart aches. All my friends tell me I’m better off without him and I know they’re right. But I also know he’s not better off without me. And because I still care deeply about him — yes, I still love the stupid bastard — I can’t help feeling sad about the path he’s chosen and the kind of woman he’s chosen to take it with. The man I knew deserved so much better.

But, as usual, I digress.

Community Property, Misunderstood

My Crate
I got this nice wooden crate in college from a boyfriend. For years, it was the table in the den of our house. Oddly, it was one of the first things I packed. (The TV was joint property that I left behind; the Klipsch speakers and stereo equipment was his.)

I discovered that even though we’d only been married six years and I’d acquired many of my assets prior to marriage, he thought that he owned half of everything we owned. He had crazy high numbers for the value of my assets and his quick math had come up with the insane settlement proposal he kept trying to push on me.

The reality of the situation was that he only had a claim to half of everything acquired during the six years of our marriage. That took many things off the table. But he refused to acknowledge this. I’m not sure why his lawyer didn’t set him straight. Or maybe he did but his girlfriend/mommy convinced him the lawyer was wrong. Who knows?

Even when we went to mediation, in December 2012, he was working with inaccurate information. We spent three hours in separate rooms, each of us with our attorney, while a mediator went back and forth. There were 14 items on the equalization list — it would benefit both of us to clear as many of those items off the table as possible. In the end, we agreed on four or five items and I was ready to sign off on them. But he suddenly got stubborn and refused to sign off on anything. All or nothing, he said.

I wonder to this day whether he called his girlfriend/mommy to get that advice. I can’t imagine his lawyer advising him to take such an idiotic stance.

Putting Off the Inevitable

Soon afterward, they asked the court to continue the trial date — originally scheduled for January 2013 — because they supposedly wanted to get a formal evaluation of my business. The court rescheduled for April 25, 2013.

This was a huge mistake on their part. For some reason, my husband still believed that I was in a hurry to leave Arizona. He apparently believed that if he dragged out the proceedings by pushing back the court date and turned up the heat on the harassment, I’d give up and go away.

Again, this boggles my mind. We were together 29 years. You’d think he’d know me better. But he really was delusional. He believed what his girlfriend/mommy — a woman who had never even met me! — told him.

I know this was their plan because they did absolutely nothing to get a formal evaluation of my business and they did indeed turn up the heat on the harassment.

To make matters worse (for him), he failed to deliver the discovery documents my lawyer had requested. After waiting two months for them, we had to take him to court to get him to comply. The judge awarded me legal fees for that action. And even then, he still didn’t submit all the documents on time. We had to subpoena all his bank and credit card companies for the information we needed. It was as if he didn’t think he needed to comply because he was so sure I’d just give up and go away.

Thanks, Honey

Meanwhile, I was glad to have the additional time at home. After all, it was my home — my only home — and it was comfortable and cheap to live in. I had no place else to go. By pushing back the court date, he did me a real favor.

He didn’t do himself any favors, though. The longer I stayed, the more of my possessions I packed.

Keep in mind that I lived in that house at least 9 years before we were married. I had incredible success in my writing business during those years and was making a lot of money. I bought many things for my office and the house — from office furniture and shelves to a hot tub to a wine fridge to kitchen appliances to decorative items like silk plants and curtains. These were all my things, my sole and separate property.

When I first got home in September, I concentrated on packing and storing my most valuable possessions: my antique lamps, my Navajo rug, my Lenox china. But as I remained in the house, day after day, putting up with the harassment they dealt out via threatening letters to my lawyer and other actions, I packed or discarded more and more of my possessions that I probably would have left behind if we’d settled sooner: books, CDs, DVDs, everyday dishes, pots and pans, about half the crystal stemware, kitchen linens, bath linens, bed linens, kitchen gadgets, and so much more.

Kitchen
The microwave looks as if it’s built into the wall with the oven, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t. It’s gone now and there’s an empty shelf in its place. I look forward to using the microwave in my new home. And, for the record, I threw away those curtains. What a bitch they were to sew.

I clearly remember the day I pulled my Sharp microwave oven out of the wall in the kitchen. He’d sent the police to our house to interrogate me on a charge of harassment after I’d made a one-minute visit to him in his condo the day before. The police officer was incredibly kind as I sobbed over my husband’s betrayal and his use of the police to harass me. He agreed that my husband didn’t have a case and even apologized for bothering me before he left. But my anger over this most recent offensive move convinced me to counter it. I got out my tools and pulled the microwave my parents had given me as a housewarming gift back in 1986 out of the wall. I put the shelf that had been there when we moved in back into the wall slot and cleaned it up with some Pledge. The next day, I boxed the microwave up and put it into storage.

I started using the fireplace every day. I managed to burn nearly all the firewood before it got too warm to have fires.

The more my husband fucked with me, the less I’d leave behind for him and his girlfriend/mommy.

Hell, I had nothing better to do than pack anyway. And I had plenty of storage space to put everything. The local thrift shops got all of my things that I no longer wanted. Things I might have left behind if we’d settled sooner, on better terms, without all the pain and harassment. Books, decorative items, luggage, games, electronic equipment.

As they began challenging my ownership of items, I began looking for receipts. That’s when I found the receipt for the telescope and additional lenses. I packed that up in late April and put it in storage. When I resettled in Washington, I’d have it fixed up and put it to good use.

Another Failed Attempt to Settle

Guest Room
I left behind almost all of the guest room furniture. But I did take the linens and, of course, the curtains. The curtains might work in my next bathroom; the rods are really nice.

When I got a new lawyer, his lawyer said they were interested in trying to settle with me. I was all for that. I had already presented him with a counter offer that was very generous. I was hoping he’d come to his senses and accept it. I agreed to attempt mediation again but only if we both sat in the same room and discussed it like adults.

It came as no surprise that he refused. He was afraid of me. He was afraid to be in the same room with his wife without his girlfriend/mommy there to advise him. Poor baby.

We attempted to settle the personal property with correspondence between lawyers. My proposal offered to give him almost all the furniture in the house and condo in return for just a few items that I wanted. We’d each keep whatever vehicles and other property was in question and he could even keep the condo. The net effect was that he’d come out at least $30K ahead for these assets on the table. I asked my lawyer’s assistant what she thought of my proposal and she said she thought it was extremely generous. “Let this be your bellwether, then,” I told her. “If he turns this down, it’s proof that he’s being unreasonable.”

Of course, he turned it down. It had gotten to the point where they — my husband and his girlfriend/mommy — didn’t want me to have anything that I wanted — even if that item was a piece of furniture worth $100 at the garage sale prices the court used.

They sent us a list of property in the house that was obviously prepared by my husband’s girlfriend/mommy. She referred to our upstairs den or TV room (as we called it) as the “mezzanine.” (Jeez, why didn’t she just sign her name to the list?) The list included many of my sole and separate assets, including my antique lamps (no, they’re not “Pierpont Puffs”), Navajo rug (a “woven tapestry,” according to her), and china (yes, it’s Lenox, but she got the pattern wrong). When they added the value of all these items, it came out to more than the value of the empty house. Apparently, she was just as delusional as he was.

Of course, by this time, most of my things had already been packed and moved out of the house. Most of the stuff that remained was either his — like the stereo equipment and his dad’s old bookcase — or the jointly owned furniture items or the items I needed to live comfortably.

Somewhere along the line, they said I could keep the bedroom set but neither sofa and nothing from the condo. They demanded that I leave behind the ceiling fans and curtain rods in the house. Like I was going to remove six southwestern style ceiling fans and take them to my future home in the Pacific northwest.

My lawyer and I pretty much ignored them, although my Facebook friends and I had a good laugh at their expense.

More Packing

I started taking down curtains, beginning with the ones I’d made not long after moving into the house. The curtains and curtain rods were mine. I would have left them behind if my husband’s girlfriend/mommy hadn’t made an issue of them. I dropped off most of the curtain rods at the local thrift shop. Hell, it wasn’t as if I wanted them.

By this time — April — I had pretty much run out of things to pack. I was eating off paper plates. I’d brought a countertop microwave and pots and pans down from our vacation property so I could still prepare meals.

I had a string of house guests to keep me company. We ate out a lot.

Hot Tub
When I couldn’t sell the hot tub, I gave it away. I certainly wasn’t going to leave it behind. (I’ll get a new one when I settle down.)

I gave away the hot tub. Its new owner picked it up while I was out on a day trip with friends.

I brought my helicopter back from California, where it had been parked on a frost contract. I did a bunch of flights for my big survey client — the one who had finally made my company profitable back in 2008. It was work I wouldn’t have had if my husband had settled sooner and I’d left.

I guess I need to thank my husband and his girlfriend/mommy for that extra revenue, too.

Finally! An Agreement!

I tried one more time to settle the personal property after our May 7 court date. I still had the list of items I wanted and the items I was willing to leave behind. We removed any mention of the vehicles and condo and RV in an effort to keep things simple. And because my lawyer was on vacation, his very capable assistant handled the communication with my husband’s lawyer.

I was shocked when they suddenly seemed to agree to my proposal.

The letter his lawyer drafted up said I could have the items from his condo that I wanted if I left the house by June 1. I asked about the other items on the list. I was told that they were agreeing to the entire list. We went back and forth a little. My lawyer came back from vacation. He dealt directly with my husband’s lawyer. The adjusted the language in the agreement to include a reference to the list so there would be no misunderstanding. I told them I needed until June 2 to finishing packing up and leave.

Meanwhile, my husband refused to allow me to be present when the items were picked up at his condo. More harassment. They had to do everything in their power to make everything difficult for me. I began to suspect that they’d damaged the items intentionally. I demanded photos. They sent them. Everything looked okay.

I still couldn’t understand why they were suddenly being so agreeable. Had their lawyer finally talked some sense into them? Or were they just that eager to get into the house I couldn’t wait to leave?

The Final Move

I made arrangements to send movers and a friend to act as my representative. In all honesty, I was glad I wouldn’t have to make that long round-trip drive to Phoenix — 90 minutes each way! My friend lived in the area and it would only take an hour or so out of her day. It would have killed half of mine. And frankly, I was pretty sick of driving between Wickenburg and Phoenix.

The pickup was set for May 30.

Bedroom
I took everything you see in this picture — except the ceiling fan. Seriously: the ceiling fans? What the hell did they think I was going to do with them?

A friend helped me move the jointly owned items I wanted from the house — the items on the list that he’d agreed to: our bedroom set, the chair in the bedroom, the lamps in the bedroom, the leather sofa in the TV room (AKA, mezzanine). We put it all into storage where the movers would pick everything up at once.

The furniture pickup went as planned. My friend inspected everything before it was packed. The movers brought it to my storage place and unloaded it. The furniture move was remarkably affordable and easy to take care of.

The movers made some comments about my husband’s girlfriend/mommy that got us all laughing. One of them said her clothes were too tight for someone her age. The other one said he thought my husband was gay.

Whoa.

I went back to the house to finish packing up the few things I had left: mostly clothes and scattered odds and ends.

And of course, the rest of the curtains and curtain rods.

Some truth:

The long distance movers did not come until September. Because my wasband’s girlfriend/mommy was reading my blog and relying on everything I wrote, I occasionally used it as a tool to misinform them. I did not want them knowing that my possessions were still in my Wickenburg hangar. After all the betrayals and lies, I honestly thought they were capable of breaking in and stealing what was mine. Best to let them think it was out of reach.

The long distance movers will pick everything up this morning. (I guess I’m not the only one who works weekends.) They’ll load it into their truck, close the doors, and head north. I’ll turn over the hangar I’ve been renting for 11 years to my landlord, who has already parked a bunch of vans in the area formerly occupied by my husband’s plane.

I expect my possessions to arrive in Washington by the end of the week. A nice, secure, climate-controlled storage unit is waiting for them in a friend’s storage facility. With luck, I’ll be able to start unpacking in my new home by the end of the year.

I’m glad to be out of my Wickenburg house — more glad than anyone could possibly imagine. Although it was comfortable, it was full of reminders of a life with a man I love — a man who not only now hates me but is anxious to install his girlfriend/mommy in my place. It was a prison, of sorts. The only thing that made it tolerable was the steady stream of house guests and trips I made to visit friends and family members. Even when I was ready to leave, to go to work in Washington again, I couldn’t let it go because it was such a valuable bargaining chip.

A chip that paid off in the end — by enabling me to settle the personal property out of court and get what few jointly owned items I wanted.

Unfortunately for my husband and his girlfriend/mommy, there’s a lot less in that house than there would have been if he settled in September when he claimed he wanted to. Their stubborn greed cost them thousands — money they’ll have to spend to replace the items I packed while waiting for them to stop harassing me and reach a reasonable settlement.

9 thoughts on “Packing Up, Getting Out

  1. Gosh, I’m not even sure what to write. I feel incredible sadness. I know it’s been such a tough journey through all this – so hurtful, such betrayal, and so much emotion. Divorce is horrible, as I know myself.

    Once you’re truly past all this and have no more ties or tangles at all, it will be such a good thing. You’ve got a great life going and wonderful plans ahead that you’re working on.

    Getting out of that house is huge. It will be so much better for you now that you’re out of there and not surrounded by all those memories.

    As I know myself, life and EVERYTHING does get a whole lot better with time and distance from all this. Continue moving forward, as you are… that is the key.

    • Being able to get out of the house without worrying about losing personal possessions was a real win for me. I didn’t want to be in the house anymore, but I didn’t want to have to drag the personal property settlement issue through the court, either. Chances are, the judge would have made us take turns picking items until they were all off the table. I would have wound up with a lot more things than I wanted, but not necessarily the items I wanted. And they would have lost out on a lot of what they did end up with.

      I’m so glad they finally got reasonable about at least part of the settlement process — although this is the only time they’ve been reasonable since this whole thing started almost a year ago. (It’s almost enough to make me wonder whether they got reasonable by mistake, if something like that is even possible.) But it’s a win for him, too. He wanted to get into the house and now he can.

      But isn’t that how reasonable settlements should work? Both parties get what they want?

  2. Yes indeed. Reasonableness is critical. Some compromises are usually needed. Both parties hopefully can reasonably compromise. Doesn’t always happen very well when vindictiveness, anger, and ego get in the way… not without a lot of haggling and ridiculousness along the way, as you’ve seen, unfortunately.

    That’s also why good, ethical, reasonable lawyers are so important on both sides. They’re supposed to be lots more objective, in addition to following the law.

    The community property issue seems like a no-brainer to me, and what you each purchased and owned prior to marriage should have been black and white all along. Some people clearly don’t get that, though.

    At any rate, I’m glad this part is behind you. HUGE relief.

    • Having a good lawyer is really important. I thought my first lawyer was good until I realized that he wasn’t working very hard for me. My second lawyer was full of moral support and good advice. If I’d started with him, we would have been done by now. My husband’s lawyer, on the other hand, seemed pretty goofy at court on Friday — almost as if he was drunk or something. Inappropriate joking around with the court staff before the judge came in, playing games with one of the property items that he claimed my husband wanted to buy from me but then changing his mind, unable to find exhibits. Even my mother commented on it later.

      Ethics are a whole other story. You have to wonder about the ethics of any lawyer who allows his client to delay a divorce proceeding for no real reason or to continuously bombard the other party with abusive and threatening letters and actions.

      And no matter how good a lawyer’s advice is, it doesn’t matter if you don’t take it. I know my husband and his mommy tuned out their lawyer’s advice because of all the things they did to me that no lawyer would advise — like locking me out of my house or turning down a settlement that was clearly in their favor. I took all of my lawyer’s advice — the second one, anyway — and I don’t regret it one damn bit.

  3. Wow Maria. Thank you for sharing this insight into what is hopefully the end of this chapter of your life and you move onward and upward.
    Yes, it makes you wonder why the about turn on the settlement – was mommy facing foreclosure or just financially struggling when she found her allegedly financially stable boy toy?
    You have shared a lot of the drama caused over the months since the divorce request, and I can only say I am astounded with what has happened, yet I hope you are free to find the happiness you deserve in the Pacific Northwest.
    Wishing you and Flying M the greatest successes moving forward.

    • I don’t think I’ll ever know why they suddenly became reasonable about settling the personal property. It may just because he really wanted me out of the house. Not sure why he wants to live there — the town is a retirement community and half dead most of the year — but I’m glad to get out. It was a win-win for me.

      Thanks for your good wishes. The only way forward is up now. :-)

  4. Glad you’re done with this. You may have stumbled into some good topics for part of your divorce book: “When to fire your lawyer,” or “Finding a good lawyer.”

    • I have a bunch of topics for that book that I need to write. I just want to finish the book quickly so I can stop thinking about it. June 30 — the anniversary of the day he told me he wanted a divorce — is my deadline. Once it’s all out in print, I can stop thinking about it. Can’t wait. “Finding a Good Lawyer” would make an excellent sidebar.

What do you think?