Category Archives: Whattaheck?


Sorry, readers.

The devil got into my computer and published that last post without me having a chance to edit it — like, AT ALL.  Not kidding.  I pushed some backspace button, and  — wham!  It published.  So, please ignore it — I’m editing and will post again.

I’m embarrassed.  Frankly, I am blaming the error on today’s traumatic laser hair removal experience (about which I am most definitely writing, next).

So, please:  forgive the error!   Delete — and carry on.

Bigamy and Contempt (X and Sister Wife)

Against my better judgment, I immediately returned Sister Wife’s email.

I mean, come on.  I couldn’t let that one go.

I appreciate you trying to stick up for your man.  It’s so sweet.
I am sorry that your marriage to him is not legal.

See you in court.

She did not reply, but I knew she’d be back.

Anger, sadness, rage, hurt and adrenaline rushed through my body.  Still, I laughed and laughed with my co-worker, Shelley, who was on the edge of her seat during the entire email exchange.  (Sometimes tax preparation can get a bit dull.)

I finished the workday without incident and drove home.  I felt unsettled.  I picked up my journal and added to the previous day’s entry.

Oh, Lord, I have really got to focus on You.  How unfaithful I am!  In the midst of extenuating circumstances I cling to You, but when things seemingly “ease up”, I venture out on my own, inevitably failing and acting/looking like a fool.  Forgive me.

X is still an ass.  Granted, I emailed him immediately and egged him on, and he told me to fuck off.  So rude.  I can’t believe I was married to him.  I really, honestly can’t.  It is painful to think of all the years I wasted with him.

And I am still alone.  I was alone then, and I am alone now.

I am trying to digest the email from Sister Wife today.  It was just very disheartening and childish.  I confess my anger and sadness.  Lord, have mercy.  Please let X and Sister Wife find You, for they need You.  We all need You.

X has hurt me enough.  I am exhausted and I do not want to spend money on another lawyer.  Lord, would it just be done?  Please?

Could the good things come?  Will they?  Will I ever move forward, beyond the angst of the divorce; the pain of rejection and human loneliness?

I have come so far.  I want to KEEP GOING.  Help!

I still believe You have good things in store for me.  I believe it, despite myself.  Lord, help me to forgive X someday.  I want to not be angry with him.

But anger is still prevalent.  He hasn’t changed, nor will he.  I want his money and I want to never think of him again.  He still hurts me.

I just want to be loved.

I closed my journal, shut my eyes and allowed the tears to flow.  I had to gear myself up for yet another battle.  As much as I didn’t want to let Sister Wife affect me, her venomous words cut deep.

How dare she? 

Who was she, anyway?  Some 39-year old divorced career woman with a kid, who bore a frighteningly striking resemblance to my ex-mother-in-law?

WHO CARED????!!!

Why was X letting her speak for him, anyway?  She had nothing to do with our relationship, even as broken as it was.  If anything, she would benefit from the fact that her marriage to him was/is illegal, because, if they end up divorced, she won’t have to pay him a red cent.

Me asking for the last part of the retirement wasn’t any sort of personal vendetta, or attempt to woo my ex husband back into my arms.  Simply put, it was my entitled share to our Community Property.  Most property acquired during a marriage is owned jointly by both spouses.  In California, it is divided 50/50 upon divorce, annulment or death.

So, it really didn’t matter if I had or hadn’t “earned” my share.  It was just the LAW.

Hmm.  Guess X and Sister Wife didn’t pay much attention to the law, anyway.

I placed a call to the lawyer whom I had initially hired to help me with the divorce paperwork.  I left a message.

“Hi, there!  It’s Leslie Spencer.  Hey, I was wondering if you could help me with a contempt case…?  My ex-husband is refusing to pay me.  It’s been months.  Ohhh, yeah, and he got married before we were divorced… so, um, yeah, I wanted to talk to you about that…”

I released the phone from my ear for a moment and let out a belly laugh. I gasped for air and tried to maintain my composure as I returned to the phone.

“So, what does one do with a case of bigamy and contempt on her hands?”

Bada$$ Motherf@*ker

The only thing left unresolved in the divorce was my share of my ex-husband’s retirement.  He had agreed to cash it out.  I knew it would be easier on both of us if he did so.  For me, it meant less paperwork in the “do it yourself” divorce.  I surmised that, for him, it represented quick, fast cash. Most of all, I didn’t want anything more binding me to him.

Being made an involuntary sister wife was enough.

I had patiently been waiting for him to follow through with his agreement.  The last I had heard about the status of the cash-out was that it would be available in December, 2010.

It was now April, 2011.

Suddenly, I wanted the money. I was legally entitled to it.  Deep down, I knew it would be another battle, but I was willing to fight – just once again – for what I wanted.  I was tired of being nice.

I emailed him, asking what was going on.  He responded, and wondered why I was after his money.  It had nothing to do with me.  I had done absolutely nothing to earn it, even theoretically.

I was furious.  I was not going to be made to look like a greedy ex-wife.  At best, I would come away with $10,000.00.

It’s standard in a divorce, I replied. That is all. Nothing personal. I’m not interested in you or your life.

He told me I’d get the money.  He was just having trouble with one account.

I’d just like to see the checks in the mail, I wrote back, trying (unsuccessfully) to conceal my heightened emotion.

I hardly believe that accounting departments are dragging this out. This divorce could have been over MONTHS and MONTHS ago had it not been for, well, your laziness.  Please give me a weekly update on the progress of it all. Please mail me a copy of the letter. I am tired of asking, but I will keep doing it.  Just get it done. Finish it. Hallelujah, free at LAST!!!!!!

He responded, telling me that we were, actually, divorced.  He had gotten the papers in the mail.

I know!!!!! It’s the most amazing thing ever!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Too bad you got married four months too early. High fives to the sister wives!!!!!

He did not respond further.  I half-hoped that he had laughed at my sarcasm, too.  (I mean, COME ON.  How much more ridiculous could this circus get?)

A week later, I got word that he would be mailing my half of the proceeds.

To my surprise, I did receive the check in the mail.  He even included the balances on the accounts.  I was elated; overjoyed.  I kindly thanked him.  It was finally over.  I couldn’t believe it, really, so I double-checked the paperwork.  Sure enough, there was one account missing.  Two, actually — but one barely held $1,000.00.  I decided it wasn’t worth the fight.

Still, my heart sank.  A couple thousand dollars more was at stake.  I needed that money.  I most definitely had earned it, even theoretically.

Adrenaline and anger overtook me.  I had a little bit of downtime at work, so I decided to engage the “enemy” again. We re-assumed our battle stations, and shelled out piercing, quick dialogue.

Spoke with a woman from (your retirement company) today, I wrote, calmly.  There isn’t a good reason why the (last) account is taking so long.  Please get on it.  It is — again — beyond time for this to be done.  Make it happen.  I know you can.  I would appreciate it if you would please acknowledge that you received (this) email.

He had gotten it.

That wasn’t so hard, was it?  So, are you working on it?

He asked me to not talk to him that way.  He had just sent me a check for a lot of money, and, yes, he was on it.

Look, I just want this to be over with.  As I have said before, I want you out of my life.  You have dragged every single possible part of this divorce out as long as you possibly could.  It doesn’t take six months to cash out a retirement.
I don’t trust you, I don’t believe you, and I certainly do not respect you.  Just follow through to your end of the agreement like a man.  Thanks so much.
(Or, as some would say, “Money talks, and bullshit walks.”)

And then, he basically told me to, well, fuck off.

Brilliant response.
But, no, I will not “fuck off”.  This is a binding, legal document, which you are obligated to fulfill. If you’d like to not keep hearing from me I can hire a lawyer to ride your ass, but then that will cost you more money in the long run.  Your choice.

No need to get pissy.  Just get the money.  End of story.  End of a long, long story.

I finished typing the last sentence, quite proud of the Spinal Tap reference, my attempt to appeal to his emotions, and my ability to hold back at least some anger.
Moments later, I saw a new email pop up in the conversation thread.
I was shocked at what followed.
It was an email from Sister Wife.  She told me I hadn’t earned or deserved X’s money, and was disappointed that he had sent any to me at all.  It was of her opinion that I needed to get a job and fuck off.  I was the only thing standing in the way of closure.  She defended her “husband’s” character traits and informed me that I had failed at my my shot with him.
I was not allowed to contact him ever again. If I did, I’d have to deal with her, and she claimed she was one badass motherfucker.


After I was booked out, I walked down the long, empty corridor towards the jail lobby.  I felt dirty, exhausted, ashamed, embarrassed and relieved, all at once.

I pushed open the large, heavy double doors and saw my father sitting on the bench.  He was waiting for me.  I quickened my pace towards him as he stood up.  He had a seemingly large sticker affixed to his chest.

I burst into tears.

My father is waiting for me.

He gave me a huge hug, and patted me on the back as I sobbed into his shoulder.

“It’s OK, Leslie.  I’ve been to jail, too!”  he joked.

My dad had gotten a call from my mom around 6:00 a.m., notifying him exactly where I was.  Thankfully I had provided the address to the jail.  He immediately left his house to come pick me up, and had been waiting for me in the lobby since 7:00 in the morning.

It was well past 11:00 a.m. when I was released.

My father waited for me for hours — waited for his train wreck, eldest, adult daughter to be released from JAIL.   

“Wanna go get breakfast?”  My dad asked, as if nothing had happened.

I nodded.  Fresh tears sprang into my eyes.

I was so busy judging myself that I forgot about grace.


As we stepped out into the warm, harsh light of day, I immediately noticed I was not downtown.

“Where the heck is this place, anyway?”  I asked, shielding my eyes from the bright sunlight.

My dad laughed.  “Girl, you be in SOUTH CENTRAL!”

I was horrified.  At the same time, I knew there was a reason I kept feeling like a badass.

“Oh, shit.  Well, if you’re going to go to jail, you might as well do it right.”

We laughed as my dad opened the car door for me.  He is such a good man.

I thought back to my friends in the cells and marveled at the fact that I was not harmed in any way.  South Central Los Angeles was no place for a “perfect” little white, Christian girl like me.

Yet, at the same time, it was.

I suddenly realized I needed to call work and explain why I was late.  I also needed to call Joseph and tell him that I shouldn’t be allowed to babysit his children.  I most certainly wasn’t worthy of leading worship at church that Sunday.

Nobody wants a criminal.

To my surprise, my employers were sympathetic and understanding.  They gave me the day off and told me they’d be happy to welcome me back on Monday.

Joseph also treated me with grace and kindness.

“There is no judgment, Leslie,” he spoke, lovingly, as I blubbered and bawled.   “We all make mistakes.”

It just so happened that his plans had changed, and didn’t need me to babysit, after all.  But of course I was welcome to take care of his kids – to be a part of his and Katie’s life – anytime.  Not leading worship was out of the question, and, in fact, the songs that I had chosen the week earlier were so fitting.

Capture me with grace.

And so, that bright, merciful March morning, after bailing my car out of the tow yard, my dad took me to breakfast.  I told him the whole story – of the arrest, the booking and the hours of holding.  I re-enacted the scenes starring Pot and Tamale Lady, Pock Face and Pretty Gum Chewer.

We ate pancakes, drank coffee and laughed.  I felt embarrassed about my now-unkempt, unshowered, I-spent-the-night-in-South-Central-jail appearance, but my dad told me I looked just fine.  In fact, I looked beautiful.

Grace.  Unconditional love.

I started to slowly realize that things would – eventually — be OK.  I wasn’t fully aware of the consequences of my crime, but I would get through it.  There was a good possibility of avoiding a DUI conviction altogether.  I had judged myself so severely already, yet I had the overwhelming love and support of my family and friends.

Oh, Father, I cannot comprehend the punishment, I shakily wrote in my journal.  Jail was enough.  I am thankful that I have not been judged by my family, or friends.  I am not OK.  I need You.  I am broken and ashamed; humiliated, yet also hopeful.  I am thankful to not be in jail —  I will be proactive to lessen my sentence.  I beg for mercy, Lord, but I accept the consequences of my STUPID choices. 

God, I’m afraid.  I’m afraid to drink anymore.  I am thankful to have not lost my employment, yet future employment could be at risk. (These are) ALL consequences of my actions.

Why is it so hard to love myself?  Why?  I’m going to beat myself up continually.  I want this behind me – I can’t hide from it, I can only learn and grow from it.

I AM NOT PERFECT!  I must cease trying to be.  Striving and striving to be perfect.  I got ARRESTED, went to JAIL and will face SENTENCING for DRUNK DRIVING.



But You still love me.  And my dad loves me.  And my friends love me.  And You will carry me through this.  I need you, Jesus.  I need help.  I can’t do this.  You will pick me up.  You will make it OK.  Whatever it becomes, we will face it together.


That Sunday, I played the piano and sang with more conviction, humility and gratitude than ever before.  It was so amazing; so comforting to see myself as my earthly and heavenly Father see me: a beautiful, precious child who isn’t defined by her infractions.

My eyes were finally being adjusted to the brilliance of overwhelming grace.

When I got home that beautiful Sunday evening, I opened up my computer, and clicked on the LA Superior Court’s website.  I dutifully typed in my court case number, to check the status of my divorce.

The screen popped up.  I yawned, and prepared myself for “Status: PENDING”.

“CASE SUMMARY”, it read.

Filing Date: 04/02/2010
Case Type: Dissolution of Marriage (General Jurisdiction)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, blah, blah, blah.  Get to the point.

My eyes scanned the page for the status.  Status, status, status.

Status: STIPULATED JUDGMENT  03/03/2011

I was overcome with shock, grief, joy, relief, sadness and elation.

I am divorced.

I blinked through tears of mixed emotions and re-read the date that the divorce had been finalized.


I burst out laughing.  I had spent my first night as a free woman — in jail.


Sister Wife


I was alone in Curt and Kathy’s luxurious mountain retreat-like home, while they were away in Colorado.  Jeff and Jenny invited me to spend Christmas morning with them and their adorable son.  Almost as soon as I arrived, they showered me with bountiful, thoughtful gifts.  I felt so loved.

I have amazing friends.

A couple of days later, my mother showed up at the front door, just passing through after visiting my grandmother.  I explained to her how my court hearing had gone, and vented about how frustrated I was that my husband was engaged to some random woman.

“Leslie, he’s already married,” my mother revealed.

W H A A A A A . . . ?!?!?!

I was so shocked that I couldn’t even exercise my potty mouth.

How does she know?! 

Since I had stopped researching my husband, his adventures and stories on the internet, I was blissfully unaware of the fact that his wedding picture was plastered on a website.  My husband had even twatted about his nuptials.  (Oh, pardon me: “tweeted”.)

My mother had a history of tracking my husband’s every move.  I had to firmly tell her to stop sending me information about him.  It was too painful, and detrimental to my healing process.

After my mother left, I sat alone in the kitchen, fingers poised above the keyboard.  I made a decision, and shakily typed in my husband’s — and his wife’s — name.

I took a deep breath.

There they stood, in a small Vegas chapel, holding hands and gazing into each other’s eyes. Vomit.  I was immediately shocked at how much the new wife closely resembled my mother-in-law: blonde hair, extremely frail frame, strong jaw.  My husband was clothed in same expensive-looking suit that he wore to our divorce hearing.  I felt embarrassed for him.

He married his mother. 

I read the small article and subsequent congratulations that accompanied the picture.  The headline?  MERGER.

They were married on Saturday, November 20th “in front of family, friends, and business associates.”   The article referenced both of their “tweets” about their wedding.

Life. Is. Perfect. . . Or saturday night it will be.

The first day of the rest of my life was beyond perfect. So much love and the most beautiful friends and family..thank you [husband] . . Everyone who attended thank you for making the room glow with Love. Here’s to doing next level shit.

“Next level shit”?  Uhhhh, I think bigamy takes things to a whole new level, for sure.


OH, GOD.  I HAVE A SISTER WIFE, I realized, and immediately called Andrea and Joy to tell them the news.  Andrea rushed right over.

Oddly enough, we couldn’t stop laughing.  It was just the most bizarre thing, ever.  How does one process that information?  It’s one thing to discover your spouse’s infidelity, or to hear that they are dating someone while you are separated.

My husband got married without making sure he was divorced.

WHO DOES THAT?!?!??!!!?!?!?!??!!?!?!?!!?

I tried to rationalize like a dude.  Wouldn’t he want to play the field a bit?  He was free to sleep with whomever he wanted, no strings attached.  He was finally free to discover himself.

He was free to do whatever he wanted, except ONE thing.

As the information and reality sank in even deeper, I started to experience a vast array of emotions: anger; hurt; confusion; rage; frustration; embarrassment; further betrayal; relief.  I was livid with my mother for dropping that bomb on me.  At the same time, I figured it was best that I knew.  On the other hand, what was I going to do about it?  It would have been better to know a week earlier, so that I could have tattled to the judge.

No wonder he looked so nervous in court.  He is a BIGAMIST!  HE COULD HAVE GONE TO JAIL!!! 

My mind drifted to my sister wife.  For some reason I had no immediate ill will towards her.  I actually felt sorry for her.  She was even more clueless than my husband, and she was supposed to be some hot-shot, savvy businesswoman.  It was obvious that he was marrying her for her money.  He needed someone to take care of him.  I had quit that job.

I then started to feel like my entire marriage really, truly was a lie.  The institution of holy matrimony had been bastardized and shat upon by an ordinary cheater-turned-bigamist, who sported meaningless tattoos.

It was all a show.

He doesn’t know who he is. 

But I knew who I was.  Or at least who I was supposed to be.  I had always known.  I felt like I had been rescued from the circus freak show just in time.  This discovery was a huge turning point in me finally letting go of the boy I once loved.

The New Year dawned.  The only thing left unsettled in our divorce (besides the new, illegal marriage) was the money that my husband had agreed to split with me.  I knew he had it, and I wanted it.  

For months you have been telling me I would have the retirement funds in December 2010.  It is now January 2011, I wrote, calmly.

Please provide an accurate statement of all funds in all accounts, along with a check for my half in thirty days or I will file for contempt of court.  If you do not comply, this will result in your arraignment and additional hearing(s).  You are required by law to meet the terms of the divorce agreement or face costly sanctions.

He responded immediately, and balked at my tone of voice.  It was as if we never knew each other.

You have thirty days.  And, no, I don’t know you. At all.  Whoever you once were is a faded, distant memory.
Do not contact me for any other reason than news of our divorce settlement. I do not know you, and I certainly do not appreciate being still legally married to a bigamist.

And then, the War of the Words began.

Neck Tattoo

The day before my court hearing, I received a long-awaited package in the mail.

As soon as I saw the familiar manila envelope sitting in my post office box, my heart leapt for joy.  This was it! I was finally divorced. Christmas had come early. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

As I giddily tore open the package, I noticed something was wrong.

All of my divorce paperwork had been returned.

How could this happen? What kind of cruel joke was being played on me? Furthermore, what could possibly be wrong with the paperwork? It was supposed to be the “easiest” divorce in the history of the world. We had argued over nothing, the house was already sold. For crying out loud, the Respondent was already shacked up with someone else. I felt like I couldn’t move forward in my life without being legally divorced, so why couldn’t it just be done?

I figured out what was wrong: I had forgotten to write an address on one of the forms. Now it would take at least two more months for the paperwork to be routed back through the system.

Please join me in a repeated chorus of all your favorite expletives here!

I started to cry, right there in the post office. I had waited so long for that envelope to appear so I could finally mourn the end of my marriage to completion. I didn’t expect this anger and frustration to come bubbling up, yet I quickly talked myself out of my tears. Instead of cry and feel sorry for myself, I had to take action.

I quickly filled in the missing addresses on the stupid-ass form and drove downtown. I blazed through the courthouse, on a mission to re-file the documents. I had a court hearing the very next day, but I wanted to show the judge my earnest effort and honest mistake.

Surely he would grant the divorce in person, after realizing that I had just forgotten to write down a simple address.

I re-filed the paperwork and drove back to Pasadena. There was nothing else I could do but pray.

Oh, God, this has to be done. I am screaming inside. I want to throw up.
I trust You. I trust You.
There are no restraining orders, custody orders, nothing. Just an error. Name, address, date. SERIOUSLY?
Oh, the anticipation and subsequent disappointment…

The next day I awoke at 3:40 a.m. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got up, ate breakfast, dressed in my “court clothes” and prayed.

D-Day had finally come.

Andrea accompanied me to court. We arrived at 8:30 a.m. and slowly made our way up to the 5th floor, to the room where my case would be heard. My heart was pounding out of my chest. I half-hoped my husband wouldn’t show up, but as soon as I got off the escalator and rounded the corner, I saw him.

He was standing alone, wearing an expensive-looking suit. His blonde hair was slicked back tight, away from his large forehead. He had a fresh tattoo, too: some sort of inscription that seemed to crawl up his neck.

I shuddered.

He has a neck tattoo. He’s wearing a suit. He’s engaged to be married.

I started to feel nauseated, but pushed the feeling of weakness back down. I couldn’t look at him. I would deal with the emotions later. Right now, I had to get divorced.

I marched straight past my husband and headed towards the docket list that was posted next to the courtroom door. Andrea trailed behind me, in all her silent strength and support. I followed my finger down the list until I saw our names.  We were number 10. Next to my husband’s name was the acronym, OSC. It stood for “Order to Show Cause”.

Since he hadn’t shown up to court back in August, the judge wanted an explanation for why.

Good. I hope he gets in trouble.

As we entered the courtroom, Andrea and I took a seat in the very back, on the left: the Bride’s side. My husband sat down in the second to the last row on the right side of the courtroom. I glanced across at him. He looked nervous; almost sad.

I started spouting off court lingo with Andrea, which prompted the woman in front of us to turn around and ask a question. She, too, was battling through a divorce. That day’s particular hearing was for custody of her son. As we chatted, we quickly discovered we had gone to the same college. I gave her a high-five (“Go, Eagles!”) and we joked a bit about contributing to the sad, staggering statistic of divorce. We were all members of the same club now. She had the same, knowing look in her eyes — one of deep pain and lingering injustice. Yet, she pressed on. Andrea and I encouraged her and it seemed to help her relax. She thanked us for the glimmer of hope and cheer in that otherwise dark courtroom.

The courtroom’s participants were soon called to order.  We were instructed to check in with the bailiff.  As I made my way towards the front, my husband slipped into line, directly behind me. I sensed his familiar presence, yet, something had changed.

“Hi,” he offered, casually, as he moved up in line to stand next to me.

I didn’t look at him.

“How are you?” he asked.

I threw him a sideways glance.

“I’m just fine,” I replied, shortly.

“What’s an O.S.C?” he asked.

I sighed, loudly. I was sick of doing everything; taking care of all the details.

“What does that mean?” he prompted again, more urgently.

Part of my heart went out to him. We had shared so much. I recalled, deep down in the hidden crevices of my soul, that I had loved — still loved? –  this man standing before me. We weren’t supposed to be getting divorced! We were supposed to be strengthening our marriage and cracking jokes about the fact that we were in court in the first place! He had promised me that he would be faithful. He had promised to love me until death parted us. We had so many dreams together that we were supposed to accomplish.  He was supposed to be the father of my children.  We were going to conquer the world, together.

Our love story will go down in history: It just wasn’t meant to be.

Before me stood a broken man who broke his promises. I saw him in a fleeting light: so lost, so helpless, so very unattractive with that tattoo on his neck.

I shook off any sort of compassion I felt for him in that moment.

“Listen, you’re on your own here,” I said, then turned on my heels, and went back to my seat.

The judge entered the courtroom, shuffled his papers around, adjusted his glasses, and called our names first.

It all happened in such a flash. The judge declared that our case was “relatively easy” and wanted to get to the bottom of it. He asked my husband why he hadn’t shown up in August.

“I was disoriented,” he answered. “I had just returned from Australia.”

The judge peered down from his bench, accepted his bullshit excuse and gave him a verbal warning. He even forgave the $200.00 fine for my husband’s failure to appear.

The judge then turned to me.

“I see that your paperwork was returned because it is incomplete,” he stated, as he inspected the small collection of papers in our file.

“Yes, Your Honor, “ I answered.  I quickly added, “But-it-was-only-because-I-had-forgotten-to-put-our-address-on-form-FL-190-what-a-silly-mistake-don’t-you-agree?-All-the-paperwork-is-complete-and-we-even-sold-our-house-and-agreed-on-everything…”

I raised my eyebrows and shot a knowing glance over to my husband. He nodded in agreement, even though he had no idea what was happening. It was the last moment we would ever share in that regard. He knew how to read me. He knew me deeply; intimately. He knew to not question me. He knew I was doing what was best for both of us; he knew I had taken care of it all.

The judge inspected both of us for a moment.

“I’m continuing this case to April 14th,” he ordered, as he shuffled our documents to the bottom of his pile. “I want to look through your file and see exactly what is going on here; exactly why it is incomplete.”

Nooo! I just want this to be over! I’m going to die right here in this courtroom, in five seconds.  Five…four…three…

The judge continued.

“If you receive the paperwork in the mail with my judgment form and signature before the next hearing, you will not have to come back to court.”

I can’t hear you, Your Honor. I’m dead. I just died right here. Please send someone to collect my body.

“Thank you, Your Honor,” I managed feebly, as I fought back tears.

And, like that, we were excused. Our judge had a lot of cases to get through. After all, it was the last day of the year for the LA Superior Court system. They would go on a two-week hiatus so the court and its employees could enjoy Christmas with their families.

Christmas was just three days away. And it was now ruined. The present I so desperately wanted — a finalized divorce! — was now coal in my stocking. Instead of celebrating underneath the mistletoe, I had my dragged-out divorce hanging over my head.

I bit my lip as hard as I could to keep from crying, and made my way back to Andrea and my purse. My husband was busy on his phone. As I waited for Andrea to gather her belongings, my husband tapped me on the shoulder.

“What was our court date again?” he asked, distracted by an incoming text message.

I glared at him. It was all I could do to not scratch his eyes out, kick him in the balls, or scream at the top of my lungs in that cold courtroom. Why couldn’t someone just arrest him? Why did he deserve such grace, time and time again?!

He sensed my anger.

“Come on, Les. What was the date? Just tell me!”

I looked at him briefly, then at his neck. I shook my head, placed my hand against the door and pushed it open. I left, without a word.

I had gotten a closer look at the tattoo.

It was his fiancée’s signature. And he was her problem now.


I learned of my husband’s engagement one late November day.  I had driven to San Clemente to visit a favorite, wonderful college friend, whom I actually hadn’t seen in a couple of years.  We met for lunch in a little burger shack by the coast.  As we sipped our frosty beers, I assured my dear friend that I was doing well, and I was happy to be moving forward.

She was proud of me.

She then told me that my husband had recently breezed through her office.  She works for a magazine that pays him to write stories.  She explained that it was really difficult to see him.  All she could do was flip him off.

I laughed.  It made me feel good to know that I had such loyal friends.  After all, we had all gone to college together.  Even though she was my good friend first, she had been a part of both of our lives.  She was a bridesmaid in our wedding.  She knew of all the intricacies of our relationship from day one.

And she knew something more.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, Leslie,” she hesitated, after we had enjoyed an evening of dominating karaoke at the local sushi bar. (She is amazing, and is reigning karaoke champion!)

“But I really feel like I should…”

My heart sank.  I did not want to learn that my husband had actually been cheating on me for years, or that he was dying of an incurable STD he had contracted from one of his lovers.  I really just didn’t want to feel like more of a fool than I already was. Nevertheless, I braced myself for impact.

“What is it?!  Tell me!  JUST TELL ME,” I implored her.  I wanted to hear it and just get it over with.

My friend took a deep breath, grabbed my hand and held it tightly.

“He’s engaged.  He has been since May.”



I swirled the small bit of wine in my glass, and furrowed my brow as I allowed the information to wash over me.

“Well, that makes sense,” I said, as I looked up with a smile.  (I had gotten good at smiling through the pain.)

And it did.  Strangely enough, it made total sense – why he kept running off, why he was so eager to get rid of our house; why he didn’t put any effort into repairing or ending our marriage; why he couldn’t look me in the eye.

Then I started to do the math.

“Wait a minute.  I filed for divorce on April 2nd, without him even knowing.  He was served divorce papers on April 30th.  He was engaged in MAY?”


And then, to my (even further) surprise, I learned that his fiancée wasn’t the Ukrainian.  She wasn’t even the Investment Banker.

She was an older woman in “the business” that had a lot of money.  It was no secret, either.  My husband had come into the magazine’s office, bragging about his engagement, the trips he was taking, the cars he was driving and how much money she had.

He was set for life.

I felt the vomit rise to the back of my throat, but swallowed it.  I then washed it down with the remainder of my glass of white wine.

“Well, they deserve each other,” was all I could manage to say.

I didn’t want him back under any circumstances.  At the same time, I was hurt, and shocked at how quickly my husband was able to move on.  Was I missing something here?

My longtime friend apologized over and over for being the one to tell me, but I profusely thanked her for being the one – and, also, for telling me in the first place.  Sure, I felt like a total idiot, and as a wave of embarrassment set in, so did the pain.  Only, this time, the pain was totally unfamiliar.  Uncharted territory.

I had spent so much time healing.  I was done being wounded.  Now it felt like someone had just shot me, point-blank in the chest, with a hollow point bullet.  I felt every ounce of agonizing pain as the bullet entered my flesh, tearing through and maximizing the damage to my already-fragmented heart.

On the drive back to Pasadena, the reality started to sink in: I had been played.  The uncontrollable sobs began again.  I hated being back in this place.  I hated crying over him.  I hated the injustice of the situation. I hated being miserable, and I really hated the thought of him being happy and in love.  How dare he?!

I just learned that X is engaged to be married.  He lives with her, was all I managed to write the next day.
It hurts, God.  I feel like a fool but I also know I am free.  Definitely free but also beat down.  I need You.  I need strength.

Ten days later, true to (laughable, insane and unpredictable) fashion, I received an email from my husband.
(My “husband”. Yes, he was still legally my husband, even though he was engaged to someone else!)  He wrote to let me know that he was still working on extracting the retirement money that he owed me.  He assured me that he would write me a check.

I was angry. I wrote back immediately, careful to not acknowledge his new relationship status.  A flurry of quick email exchanges followed, a la text messaging.

Great, you can tell the judge on December 22nd, I responded.

He replied and told me that we didn’t need to go to court.  His understanding was that our judgment would be ruled, and we didn’t need to be present in court.

Pardon me?
just don’t even know how to respond to that.  Good luck.

I was shocked.  What was happening?  Was he really this checked out?  Drugged out?  Or just plain stupid?  He couldn’t even communicate in proper English. I started to panic.  I knew we had a court date in a few weeks, and I wanted our divorce to be final more than anything.  I reasoned that if he didn’t show up – AGAIN – our case would be extended, AGAIN, and I’d continue to live in limbo.

I am convinced that limbo is much worse than actual hell.

I wrote once more, and tried to be as clear, rational and business-like as possible.  I even provided him with a link to our personal case via the Superior Court’s website.  I had been checking it religiously to see if the paperwork had been approved.  There was no reason for the divorce to not go through, but I couldn’t risk missing the December court date.  Surely the judge would grant our divorce in person, if nothing else.

We have a court hearing on December 22, 2010 at 8:30 a.m., I wrote, as calmly as I could.

The reason why we have another court date is because you failed to appear at the first hearing on August 23, 2010. 

Our divorce is not final.  If it were, we would have already received something official in the mail.  You can check the status of the divorce here.  Type in the case number.  Else, be looking for an official notice in the mail to notify you if the hearing has been canceled.  

Yes, the paperwork has been completed and submitted, but it is up to the judge to make the official ruling.

I am sure we both do not want it to drag on any longer.  

I am keeping a copy of this email to submit to the court if necessary.

He never wrote back.  I would quickly learn why.

He was in deep, dark trouble.

Holy Matrimony

As soon as I hiked down from the mountain, I received a text from Kathy.


My house was sold.  I was even able to pick up a check that reflected my half of the profit.  It felt surreal.  I deposited “the blood money” into my savings account that day.  It was done.

Two days later was my “Universary” .  I just so happened to be house/dog sitting for my neighbors. Oddly enough, it was good to be back in the neighborhood.  It was good to hug my dog, Wimbley (whom my amazing neighbors adopted).  It was hard to see my house, sitting next door,  but I knew it was for the best.

I sat atop my neighbors’ deck and wrote.

October 30, 2010

Here I am, at Lisa and Laura’s.  It is a beautiful day; calm and peaceful.  I treated myself to a facial this morning at Burke Williams and am now enjoying the beautiful, late afternoon.  Clean.  Free.  I don’t own [my house] anymore, and it feels REALLY good.

NO looking back.  I have my chair turned away from the property.  Oh, how far You have brought me, Lord!  Thank You!  Today is not sad.  It is a celebration of You and me, and our journey.  You are with me…You are here now, causing the breeze to gently caress the trees; shining the light; loving me.  Oh, how much You love and care for me!  I am so blessed!

After I finished writing, I flipped open my 14-year old Bible.

I rifled through the front pages: a certificate of “Holy Matrimony”, a list of births and deaths; a family tree. I have always wondered why it was necessary to list these things in a Bible, and laughed to myself.  Of the four marriages that I had written down, only two of them remained.

50%.  50% of marriages end in divorce.  What a shitty, shitty statistic.  My Bible even told me so.

I flipped back to the front page, where I had lovingly filled in the details of my wedding day.


Leslie Leigh Spencer and [my husband’s full name]

were united in HOLY MATRIMONY (Wow, they really wrote that word out, big and fancy.  HOLY MATRIMONY!!)
on October 30, 1999…

I studied the print for a moment.  Everything about that day was just a faint memory.  It had no place in my life anymore, nor did it hold a place in my Bible. I took the page and calmly ripped it out.  I then tore out the rest of the pages of “memories”.

I wanted my Bible to just be a Bible.

I placed the pages atop a pile of ashes in Lisa and Laura’s chiminea, grabbed a lighter, and lit each corner on fire.  I watched in peace as the pages burned.  I returned to the blue leather to find an appropriate verse to accompany the “ceremony”:

“…a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”  ~Isaiah 61:3

A few weeks passed.  My show closed after a 10-week run, and Joy and I took a trip to Sonoma.  I really needed to get away, and it felt good to get out of Los Angeles and enjoy my best friend and good wine.

One night we decided that I should join an online dating service.

“It’s time, Leslie,” Joy encouraged.  “You need to get yourself out there.  You need some dating experience!”

It was true.  I just didn’t really know how to go about it.  I had gotten married before online dating really existed, so it was all strange, new territory.  Furthermore, I hated having to advertise myself as if I were some sort of show horse.

Joy sat with me and helped me fill out the seemingly never-ending questionnaire.  I wanted to represent myself well, and it was good to have the person who knew me best at my side.  She didn’t let me off the hook, not once.  We laughed, drank wine and marveled at the experience.  As much as I would later dread online dating in general, I was excited to be moving forward with grace and such loving support.

It felt right.  I wasn’t exactly divorced yet, but it was just a matter of time.  All the paperwork had been turned in, and we had a court date in a month.  Surely the divorce would be final then.

And then, a week later, I discovered that my husband was engaged to be married.

Smith vs. Smith

Almost immediately after filing the second round of paperwork, I received a summons in the mail.

It was a court-ordered Case Management Conference, to be conducted exactly one week before my birthday.

I asked Andrea to accompany me this time.  I did not want to go alone.  I dressed casually, thinking that I would just show up at the counter and explain to the clerk that I had already filed the next round of paperwork.  I was tired of dressing in my “court clothes”.  Plus, I was getting used to the routine:  Drive, park, walk, breathe, stand in line, file, stamp, stamp, stamp, say hi to the Disney Opera House, walk, pray, hope, move forward.

Clearly I had misunderstood the nature of the summons.  I had no idea that it was an actual hearing.  I panicked.

Thankfully, Andrea was dressed appropriately, so we swapped clothing in the bathroom on the 4th floor of the Los Angeles Superior Courthouse.  She rocked my Levi’s jean capris (they’re actually cute), and I wore her black skirt and jacket to appear before the judge.  I managed to conceal my plaid shirt, and my tall, tan espadrilles didn’t exactly communicate “business attire.”

I shifted uncomfortably in my seat for three hours as I listened to divorce hearing after divorce hearing.  I marveled at how every single person in that small courtroom was angry at each other. The heaviness, pain  and reality of broken relationships was astounding.  I was amongst a sea of many, yet it was oddly comforting.

When my name was finally called, I stood on the right, behind the gold placard that read, PLAINTIFF.

The DEFENDANT spot was empty.  My husband had not shown up.

I swallowed hard.

“Smith vs. Smith,” the judge murmured, rifling through our thin file.   He then looked up at me.

“Mrs. Smith –“

I shuddered at the name.  I wanted to scream and kick and throw things, all while yelling through my teeth and slapping the judge’s face: “DON’T YOU DARE CALL ME MRS. SMITH!!!  THAT’S NOT WHO I AM!”

But I kept my mouth shut.  After all, I was dressed inappropriately  — trashy, really —  and totally unprepared for this hearing.  The armpits of my shirt underneath Andrea’s jacket were soaking.  I thought about washing the jacket in cold water and a little Tide, else taking it to get dry-cleaned for her.  It was going to staaaank after this morning.

The judge continued.

“Mrs. Smith, where is your husband?  Why is he not here?”

The entire courtroom got quiet.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the court reporter’s fingers, poised, waiting for my answer.  A fellow divorcee shifted his weight on the bench behind me and it creaked, loudly.  A lawyer sneezed.

I took a deep breath.

“Your Honor, I have no idea where he is,” I answered, truthfully.

He was supposed to be in town, for he was actually going to meet with Kathy to sign papers to list our house on the market.  After much prayer, deliberation and tears, I had made a decision to go forward with selling my beloved home.   It was not an easy decision to have made, but I trusted that it was right.  Still, it felt unfair.

The judge didn’t look up, but kept going through my paperwork.  Apparently he hadn’t done his homework.

“Well, this looks like an easy case.  You don’t have any children…”

Rub it in, why don’t you.  Yes, I know.  I’m single AND barren.   

“…and it looks like you just have a piece of property that you have to figure out what to do with..”  He shuffled the papers back into the case folder, took off his glasses and peered down at me.

“You know that your husband is supposed to be here,” he directed, firmly.

I wanted to scream again.


Judges get paid for numbers of cases that they resolve.  They are not interested in the details of your personal life, why you are getting divorced, or even who is responsible for the demise of the marriage.  Even though you both checked the box, “Irreconcilable Differences,” the judge doesn’t care who hurt who.  It’s all an even playing field.  You are just a case number he needs to resolve.  Sell your possessions and split everything 50/50.  Stop fighting and move on with your lives.

It’s a cold, cruel business, but somebody’s got to handle it.

I answered, with a little edge in my voice.
“Yes, your Honor.  I wish I knew where he is.  He does not communicate his whereabouts with me.”

The judge sat back and nodded.

“Well, the reason why I called this conference is to help you both through your divorce,” he explained.  “I am going to extend your case, so that you two can talk things through and figure this out.”

“Yes, your Honor, it is my – err, our – intention to get this done as quickly as possible.”

“All right.”  The judge then directed his conversation towards the clerk.  “This case is extended to December 22nd.  That should give this couple enough time.  I am placing sanctions on Mr. Smith, and giving him an OTC (Order to Show Cause).”

He then looked back at me.
“Let your husband know he needs to appear in court,” he reprimanded.

I wanted to scream, Part Three, and then burst into tears.  Throwing a wild tantrum on the courtroom floor actually sounded like the more sane thing to do, and I had the the outfit to go along with it.

DECEMBER?????  FOUR more months of limbo???  I’m going to die.

I couldn’t hurry it along.  I couldn’t win.  I had to wait for my husband.  We had to do this together.  And what was almost worse was that the judge had extended him grace.

I swallowed again, harder this time, and squeaked,
“Yes, your Honor.  Thank you.”

I Hate Being Divorced From You

I immediately contacted a lawyer.

I explained to her my situation.  I wasn’t able to afford a long, drawn-out divorce battle, and my in-laws were holding the Quitclaim Deed hostage.  My husband and I had nothing to fight over, really, but his parents’ cruel and intrusive involvement was making things far messier than they needed to be.

Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do.  California is a no-fault state as far as divorces go, so I really couldn’t plead with the judge for some favoritism.  I had to re-focus on moving forward with the paperwork, and accept the fact that I’d have to split everything 50/50.  I was doing all the work, and even helping my husband along, just to get the damn thing done.  I knew, deep down, he would do nothing.  

After all, he was out of the country.  Per usual.

The lawyer gave me sound advice, and, for a nominal retainer, helped guide me through the paperwork.  It would take about six months for the whole thing to go through, provided my husband’s cooperation.   There might still be a way for me to keep my house, but the lawyer posed an interesting question.

“Do you really want the responsibility of a house at this time in your life?”

I sighed.

I didn’t know.  I just didn’t want to lose everything.  To me, the house was a symbol of maturity; adulthood.  It meant I was responsible.  I loved my home, and I wanted the safety and security that accompanied it.

For the next month or so, my journal entries were full of anxiety and confusion.  I had re-entered my social life, and it was met with enthusiasm, support and encouragement. It felt good to return to some sense of “normalcy”, yet the old life was still hanging on.  I had random bouts of grief, where I felt crazy, inconsolable and out of control.  I had random crushes on men, all of which I knew were futile to pursue or entertain.  I wasn’t ready to move forward in that area of my life, at all.

I wrote out my crazy.

Feeling extremely lonely.  Sad.  Vulnerable.  Frustrated.  Wishing my husband would email me and just BE A MAN.  Seriously.  Wishing a man would take me in his arms and love me. 

Why can’t anyone love me?  Oh, my heart, my heart longs for love, my heart longs for someone who loves You, who will love me.  God, forgive me for being impatient.  There’s my husband, whom I still love.  Or do I?  Do I love him?

All of this distraction and I’m not focusing on my divorce.  It’s hard to let go of the life that I loved with my husband.  I loved my life with him.  I don’t know how to wrap it all up – not sure what was right and was truly was wrong.  I am so easily distracted and disappointed in myself. 

I know I have to heal.  And I cannot hurry anything up.  Patience, not immediacy.

I pray about the divorce and the next step I’m supposed to take.  Oh, LORD, it’s terrifying and I feel paralyzed.  I want to go back to a month ago where everything was clear, where I trusted You 100%.  It was just You and me, God.  And it still is, but I’m getting foolish…I feel like crying, I feel like being bad, I feel like I want to crawl under the covers and sleep for a week. 

I’m so real and raw it’s scary.

And then, out of the blue on a typical June Gloom day, I received an email from my husband. It was simple.  He hated being divorced from me.

Little did I know, he was a newly engaged man.