Ten Years Stalled

Belated realization.

I recently blogged about the feeling I got walking through my new home under construction. It was a feeling of happiness at moving forward again, a feeling of achievement, a feeling of a good future ahead of me. In that post, I mentioned that my life had been stalled not for the 2 years of my ongoing divorce battle but for at least 10 years.

It was back in the mid 2000s that I began hitting hurdles erected by the man who called himself my “partner” in life, the man I was foolish enough to marry after 23 years together.

At the CabinI bought a truck to leave at the cabin so we could come and go by helicopter. Back in those days, I had plenty of money to burn. My wasband never stopped me from spending my money on things he could enjoy.

It all started when I couldn’t get him to work with me on putting a vacation home on our Howard Mesa property. We had two separate sets of drawings made, spending well over $1,000 in the process, before he admitted that he “couldn’t live up there” because it was “too remote.” This was after dumping thousands of dollars into a fence, septic system, and water storage tanks. The compromise was a “camping cabin” that we bought and had brought to the site; I spent much of the summer of 2005 insulating it and framing out the wall between the kitchen and bathroom, joined by him on weekends for other construction work. The resulting structure was used infrequently over the following six or so years — but I still cherish great memories of weekends and holidays there with him and our dog and our horses.

Jack at Howard Mesa
Our dog, Jack, at Howard Mesa. I was always a sucker for a good view; it was the views, the privacy, and the silence that sold me on the 40 acres we bought north of Williams, AZ.

In the years that followed, he continued to hold me back from moving in one direction or another. I wanted to move out of Wickenburg, which had become a sad retirement town that almost all of our friends had already abandoned, but I couldn’t get him to work with me to find a new place. I wanted to expand my business so we could work together, but although he occasionally went through the motions of helping me out, his contributions were so minimal as to be non-existent — and I usually couldn’t rely on him when I needed him most. I spent a lot of time waiting for him to do what he said he’d do. Lots of promises, no deliveries. I was patient — too patient! — but by the winter of 2011/2012, my patience was wearing very thin.

I also wanted to help him achieve his goals — opening a bike shop or developing solar energy products or becoming a flight instructor — but he kept dropping the ball. How many business cards and web sites did I create for him? How many letters did I edit? How many brainstorming sessions did I share with him? I wouldn’t mind if they led to something, but they only led to dead ends. I became tired of putting time and energy into projects that he never took to completion. He wasn’t just holding me back, he was holding himself back.

He was stuck in a rut and he apparently expected me to stick there with him.

Although I didn’t realize it at first, my summers in Washington doing cherry drying work not only made my business prosper but they were a welcome relief from a boring life in a dying town with a man who seemed satisfied to live out his existence in his own daily grind. I made new friends, I did new things. I learned about agriculture and wine-making. I experimented with video production. And I fell in love with the area — with the mix of happy people of all ages, the wholesome farmland attitudes, the river and mountains, the recreation possibilities. There was life in Central Washington — a lot more life than there was among the angry old people in Arizona.

One of the last times I spoke to him, in July 2012, I brought him by helicopter to see the place I wanted to buy and make our summer home. I envisioned him opening that bike shop he claimed he wanted to open along the bike trail in Wenatchee and working there with him on sunny days to rent bikes and maybe even do Segway tours. (I even had $25K saved up and was willing to spend it to buy 5 or 6 Segways.) I envisioned me flying on rainy days, drying cherries, and perhaps doing the occasional wine-tasting flight. I envisioned afternoons spent on the deck together with a glass of wine overlooking the Wenatchee Valley. I envisioned returning to Arizona in the winter, hosting couples with horses in the guest rooms of our house via Air BandB, making a little money while he continued his flight training and realized his dream of becoming a flight instructor.

It was all possible. It was all doable. With our financial situation at the time — a paid for house and very little personal debt — it would have been easy. I saw a great life for both of us — a sort of semi-retirement in our 50s, moving with the seasons between two beautiful homes and realizing our dreams instead of grinding away at unfulfilling jobs and dealing with company bullshit.

Jake, the horse I bought for my wasband before we married. Does he need to see the cancelled check for $1,100 to remember who paid for him?

On that day in July 2012, I didn’t realize that he’d already made his bed with another woman and was planning to cash in on our marriage to finance his life with her. I was a fool to think that he loved me and he wanted a good, honest life. In reality, I was nothing more than a meal ticket, the provider of horses and helicopter trips and fun toys to play with. And because I didn’t play by his restrictive rules, he was finished playing and ready to cash in his chips.

And that’s my big realization.

I realize now that he married me for my money — I was earning a lot of money right before we married in 2006 and had accumulated quite a portfolio of assets. His attempts over the past two years to claim ownership of my personal and business possessions, investments, and retirement funds prove this without a doubt. There was no love, at least not when we married. He was locking himself in, banking on community property law to half of everything I owned, earned, or acquired. Everything he’s done since he asked for a divorce on my birthday in June 2012 proves it.

Phoenix Sunset Flight
Flying over Phoenix at sunset. Who’s he flying with now? He sold his plane so he’s not even flying himself around.

Those of you who have read my other divorce posts or have spoken to me about this know the personal pain my husband’s dishonesty and betrayal has caused — and continues to cause — for me on an almost daily basis. My biggest problem is that I simply can’t believe that a man I spent 29 years of my life with could turn on me as he has. I know he’s mentally ill — the things he’s done to me and said to others and in court are a pretty clear indication of that.

Every day, I face an unbelievable amount of sadness and pity for the man I love. And pretty regularly, that pity is rewarded with yet another personal attack through the court system — appeals, false claims, accusations, stalling tactics. It never ends.

Well, that may never end, but his ability to keep my life in a perpetual stall has ended. I’m moving forward with my new home and my new life. Since 2012, I’ve lost weight and regained my health and self-esteem. My flying business is going better than ever — mostly because I don’t have to say no to out-of-town jobs to keep my wasband happy — and I’ve refreshed my writing career with a series of new videos for Lynda.com. (Meanwhile, my divorce book is on hold, waiting for the end to be written.) I’ve made lots of new friends to keep me company and share my joy and adventures.

Legal fees for the divorce dealt a severe financial blow to me, but because I’m not dependent on someone else for my living — I never have been — and I live within my means, I’m recovering nicely. Although I don’t like living in my RV (the “mobile mansion”) — as my wasband absurdly suggested in a court document — it has enabled me to live cheaply so I can save money for my new home.

Getting ahead means working hard and making sacrifices. I understand that and am willing to do what it takes.

It’s sad that the man I married and still (unfortunately) love has never understood that. All his talk about “making things happen” was just that — talk. I took it to heart and made things happen for myself — and him, for a while.

I only wish that my love for him over all those years hadn’t clouded my view of the kind of man he really is. I could have prevented that 10-year stall by making my exit a lot sooner.

Walking the Fence

Part of ranch maintenance — even for our tiny “spread.”

About 10 years ago, interested in finding a summer place where we could go with our horses to escape the summer heat of the Phoenix area, we purchased 40 acres of ranch land in northern Arizona. Our lot at Howard Mesa Ranch is high desert land atop a mesa between Williams and Valle, AZ, about 40 miles south of the Grand Canyon.

Originally, we had high hopes of putting a vacation home up there. Our lot has 360° views that include Red Butte and the north rim of the Grand Canyon to the north, Mount Trumbull and its companion mountains on the Arizona strip to the west, Bill Williams Mountain to the south, and the snow-covered San Francisco Peaks to the east. We envisioned a 2-story home with a loft bedroom and big windows looking out over the views.

In preparation, we got a pair of water tanks, put in a septic system, and had the entire place fenced off with a 4-strand wire fence (smooth wire top and bottom, barbed wire in the middle per the CC&Rs). When we came up with our horses, they had 40 acres to wander and graze on.

But things change. We never built our vacation home. Maybe we will one day in the future, but I don’t know when that day will come. In the meantime, we camp out there on long weekends throughout the year. We’ve spent numerous July 4th weekends, several Christmases, and even one Thanksgiving at our off-the-grid retreat.

Like this weekend. We came up, mostly to check on the place and take care of some maintenance tasks. There’s a shed on the property that needs to be checked on regularly. And, of course, the fence.

Mike at Fence

Mike standing by the east side of our fence. That’s the San Francisco Peaks in the distance.

We walk the fence each time we’re up here. There’s over a mile of it, so it makes a nice walk. We’d put up the fence to keep our horses in, but now it worked primarily to keep the open range cattle out. I didn’t keep the elk out, though. They could — and did — jump the fence. Sometimes, their weight on that top strand of wire would shift the fence posts and bend the stays between them. Walking the fence meant repairing problems caused primarily by the elk.

In the old days, when we still had horses, Mike would ride the fence on horseback. He’d saddle up his horse and my horse would follow them. I’d busy myself with some other task, leaving them to get the job done without me. But with the horses gone, the walk would take longer. Jack the Dog wouldn’t be enough company for Mike. So I went along with them.

I carried a roll of wire, Mike carried the fencing tool. We walked the fence line, stopping occasionally to straighten stays, bang post deeper into the earth with a big rock, or tighten wires. It was easy to see where the elk had jumped the fence. It wasn’t just one or two elk, either. It was likely an entire herd. We didn’t mind the elk on our property. After all, they didn’t damage anything, like cows would.

Except the fence, of course.

Frost Heave

The southeast corner fence post. Over the years, frost heave has pushed the post up.

The fence had been professionally installed by a company based down near our Wickenburg home. They’d come up about a year after we’d brought the property and camped out until the job was done. The workers probably enjoyed being away from the low desert heat for a week or so. I wonder what they thought of the dark sky with its billions and billions of stars at night, or the coyotes that trot through the property as if they own it.

On the whole, the fence guys did a great job. Where they dropped the ball, however, is on the corners. Sure, they dug about three feet into the ground and secured those corner fence posts with concrete. But what they didn’t count on was frost heave, which is something you just don’t see down in the Phoenix area. Each winter, the ground freezes solid. As the soil freezes, it expands. It pushes up whatever it can to make room. Over the years, it has pushed the corner fence posts out of the ground. The fence is still sound, but the four corner posts no longer stand properly. One of these days, we’ll have to fix them.

Dead Animal

One of two partial skeletons we found while walking the fence.

Along the way, I caught sight of something odd about 200 feet from the fence. I went to investigate. It was the partial skeleton of a medium sized animal. Based on its size, skull, and the length of its neck, I think it may have been a young elk or perhaps a mule deer. There was no sign of antlers, so I don’t think it was an antelope. The bones had been picked clean, as you can see in this photo. The legs and entire hindquarters were missing. Mike found the lower jaw about 30 feet away. We think it may have been injured jumping the fence — or perhaps had starved when the ground was snow-covered — and the coyotes and birds had finished it off. Later, not far from the north side of the fence, we found another partial skeleton that also included the neck and part of the skull. Another unfortunate animal. I wonder how many others are within our 40 acres — or beyond it.

As we walked, it was clear that a lot of snow had laid upon the ground for a long time. The long, dried grasses were flattened out as if they’d borne the weight of deep, heavy snow for weeks on end. I could imagine animals jumping the fence, looking for food. I could imagine young or weak or injured ones dying, providing food for the carnivores and carrion eaters.

It took about 90 minutes to walk the fence and make the necessary repairs. By then, it had clouded up a bit and we were ready to take a break in the warmth of our camping shed. The job was done — until next time.

Found Photos: Jack the Dog

Jack and the thunderstorm.

I made this photo of our dog, Jack, up at Howard Mesa a few weeks ago. Mike and I had gone for a walk with him along one of the dirt roads on the mesa top. As we walked, a storm was coming in. The clouds looked menacing overhead. I used a wide-angle lens (16mm) to add the distortion you see here, hoping for a kind of surreal effect. Not sure if I achieved it, but this is one of my favorite pictures of Jack the Dog.

Jack the Dog at Howard Mesa