Project 52 – Week 46 – Finally Final

It’s time for Project 52, Week 46!

46 weeks ago, on my 52nd birthday, I began Project 52. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, each week I’m taking one year of my life and blogging about it. This week, I’m covering the year I was 46 — June 14, 2010, to June 14, 2011.

This was one of the hardest years of my life, honestly. Though I noticed something interesting – thinking about that year makes me happy – because now, six years later, it’s pretty obvious that God did work out those things for good. There are some things in my life that I haven’t figured out what good has come out of them (like my stroke in Year 47). But the hard big things in Year 46 – losing my job and getting divorced – have already had good outcomes.

Not that those weren’t awful things! But I’m here to testify that God can bring good out of anything!

Last time, I covered the big things that were looming. I already knew I’d lose my job at Herndon Fortnightly Library and had accepted the offer of a job at the Office for Children in its place. I’d already taken the big step of filing for divorce. The changes happened fast after my 46th birthday.

My birthday was the Monday of my last week at Herndon Fortnightly Library. That week I had a lot of time as Person-in-Charge, and things kept going wrong! So at least in my new job I wouldn’t have to deal with the ceiling of a supply closet collapsing! At least I wouldn’t have to call the police about a problem patron!

We had a Scheduling Conference for our divorce case on June 17, scheduling a custody/visitation hearing in August, and a hearing on November 22 and 23 “to address grounds for divorce, equitable distribution, child and spousal support.”

But then I actually got good news! After the scheduling conference, Steve signed the latest version of our Custody and Visitation Agreement – so we were able to drop the custody/visitation hearing in August.

And that brings us to Phase 11 of the divorce: Finalizing Legal Details. Steve had finally engaged his third lawyer, so now we could actually make progress coming to agreement – though he was still very angry with me for not going to mediation. (But doing mediation with someone who wouldn’t bring all his financial records really didn’t seem like a good idea. And I still was trying to be nice to Steve – I needed a lawyer to advocate for what was right.)

I mentioned last time that when I tried to do something nice for Steve and sent him a picture of our kids, he told me that I was being cruel, reminding him of what he’d lost. In that same email, Steve told me there wasn’t a single area of his life I hadn’t chosen to ruin.

I wasn’t even tempted to believe that accusation – I knew that I hadn’t chosen to ruin even a single part of Steve’s life. So in that sense, it was easier to deal with than earlier accusations about our years married that were based in the truth that I wasn’t a perfect wife.

However, I think because it was easier for my mind to dismiss such accusations, I didn’t realize that they still wounded my heart. This was someone I loved who was telling me I was despicable. That opens wounds.

So one of the good things about my new job at the Office for Children, Provider Services – It was much, much less stressful. And while the divorce was being finalized was a good time to have less stress at work. I didn’t supervise anyone, and was essentially doing bureaucratic paper-shuffling in support of the USDA Food Program. The job did not require a Master’s degree.

Some good things about it were no more nights and weekends and much less stress. Nice people, too.

Now, don’t get me started about the stupidity of the job. If you have a federal program, you do need to make sure that people aren’t cheating the system, even if we’re only talking pennies per child. But oh my goodness, the amount of bureaucracy to keep people from cheating the system! (The position was mostly funded by the USDA food program, too.)

What really got me angry was that this position of Management Analyst 1 was the exact same pay grade as a Librarian 1. But it didn’t require a Master’s degree, unlike the Librarian position, and it didn’t supervise anyone, unlike the Librarian position. And it was much, much less responsible work, requiring much less intelligence and judgment and skill.

To make matters worse – while I was in the position, they upgraded it from S-20 to S-21 (without giving any raises to people who already were Management Analysts) – so for future RIFs, Librarian 1s would no longer be considered qualified to take a Management Analyst 1 position! (This is so wrong!)

When I asked Library HR about it, they said the Librarian pay grade is based on what other vicinities are paying (though I know they’re paid more in DC) – which just tells me that all public librarians are underpaid. After all, it’s primarily women who hold the positions, so this shouldn’t be a surprise.

Anyway, that’s a battle for another day – I knew I wouldn’t get far pursuing that in a year when the budget is tight, and it hasn’t really loosened up in later years. I later checked all the S-20 job classes in the county, and there is only one other than Librarian that requires a Master’s degree. All the others require at most a Bachelor’s.

But the good side – I had a job! I was getting my same salary! No homelessness or lack of food for me!

I learned at that time that I’m not only detail-oriented, I’m freakishly detail-oriented. One of my favorite things was checking attendance sheets, comparing with what was in the computer. They were marked with Y or N – which are both three strokes and look almost identical when hand-written. But I was crazy-good at spotting errors!

I also, not coincidentally, got a smart phone at this time and loaded it up with music. We were in cubicles, and when some of the people in the office were talking with a provider in a nearby cubicle – it was helpful to listen to music instead. Though I did have to be told to refrain from humming or singing along.

I started working at the Office for Children, Provider Services, one week after my birthday, on June 21.

On June 24, Ruth was in town! We met at Darlene’s house.

Ruth with her daughter Nadia:

And here we are with Darlene’s daughter Michelle:

The day after that, June 25, was ALA Annual Conference. It looks like I took Friday and Monday off from my new job to go. (No, actually, I took that whole next week off in order to have a break in between jobs.) ALA was in Washington, DC, again that year. It felt really good to go, especially after having been RIF’d from the library – because it reminded me that these were my people. It reminded me that I might not have a library job, but I was still a Librarian.

And I was drawn to the Children’s and Teen Services programs, so I could see that I’m still a Youth Services Librarian at heart.

Here’s what I said in my first blog post about ALA:

Going to ALA Annual Conference this year was a no-brainer, since I wouldn’t have to pay for travel (except parking) or a hotel.  And it ended up being a peak experience.  Three years ago, ALA Annual was in DC and I went and was inspired.  But that time, I didn’t see a soul I knew.  This time, every day I saw librarians I’d worked with, bloggers I’d met, and authors whose books I’d reviewed.  I felt like part of the great big wonderful Kidlit community, and it felt good.  I did realize that I am a Librarian by calling, not just by job.

I spotted David Levithan and John Green on the exhibits floor on opening night!

Karen Cushman at SCBWI Drink Night:

I learned lots of good things at the conference.

And the YA Author Coffee Klatch (like speed dating with authors) was when I first met James Kennedy, who was later responsible for my starting my Sonderling Sunday blog posts.

I met more authors that day! Here’s with Jessica Day George in the exhibits hall:

And Tom Angleberger, author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda:

Author Superstars Mo Willems and Jon Scieszka:

And I went to help with a recording, reading a page from The Wizard of Oz – and Grace Lin walked in behind me! She was due to get a Newbery Honor Award that evening!

But by far the highlight of the day was the Newbery/Caldecott Banquet, the second one I’d attended. This time my friend Susan Kusel, whom I’d met at KidLitCon and whose kidlit book club I attended, had bought ten tables, so I could sit near the front! And I talked some folks from Fairfax County Public Library into attending the banquet with me, including my former branch manager, Nancy Ryan.

I did lots of schmoozing before the banquet! It was so much fun meeting authors!

Here’s Brian Floca:

Laurie Halse Anderson!

Jon Scieszka!

And Nancy and I accosted Mo Willems!

Here’s the whole group of us from FCPL:

Here’s Sara Lewis Holmes, whom I’d first met at KidLitCon:

Just to be in a picture with the stunningly handsome Jim Averbeck felt good! He’s an author and a nice guy, too!

Tanita Davis!

And the sweet Soroj Ghoting, a trainer in Early Literacy techniques for ALSC:

See why going to ALA Annual Conference was hugely therapeutic to me after having just been cut from my library job? I felt so connected!

Here’s Susan at the end of it all, clearly frazzled from organizing ten tables! And I think I was bubbling over and couldn’t stop talking!

And that wasn’t all. There was still another day of the conference!

I met M. T. Anderson in the exhibit hall:

And that night was the Printz Award Reception! I was sitting right behind Diana Peterfreund and Ally Carter! And that’s John Green in front of them.

And then I met the brilliant Libba Bray:

And my conference started and ended with meeting John Green!

And when the conference is in DC, Oh the Loot I collect! I don’t have to ship any of the free advance reader copies – just make trips to my car to put them in the trunk! So here was this year’s loot!

I can’t say that Tim was impressed by my loot, but I think even he was surprised by how far my biblioholism had progressed, when confronted with piles of free books.

That week I had off, I handled some errands like getting our ID cards renewed and applying for more librarian jobs, but I also managed to go hiking with Tim again in Shenandoah National Park.

Tim was a good traveling companion. I noticed I wasn’t as perfectionistic when I was with him. Our hike went long – as you can tell by the sunset picture. But Tim was so laid back about it, I managed not to beat myself up about having not planned it perfectly. We had a nice day. And Tim turned 16 years old that summer!

The summer was hard, though. I kept applying to librarian jobs – and not getting them. I even got an interview, but didn’t get the job. In the meantime, I had a dream where I was hoping to get to talk with Steve, and then he turned away when he saw I was there. After all that, I still missed my husband.

But I still felt like God was speaking to me, reminding me that He was with me.

At the end of the summer, August 27-28, I went to the “Women of Faith” conference in DC with some ladies from church. This wasn’t something I was able to do when I worked at the library, because they always needed me to work either Friday or Saturday, but it was no problem now. I was blessed and encouraged.

Here’s a note from my journal that weekend:

Zephaniah 3:17 —
“The Lord your God is with you,
he is mighty to save.
He will take great delight in you,
he will quiet you with his love,
he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Four different times this weekend, speakers referred to this concept that You delight in me and will rejoice over me with singing.

No matter how much I knew in my head, the battle as I was hearing so much rejection from my husband was always against feeling utterly unlovable. And God was helping me with that.

In September, Tim began 11th grade at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. Wow!

October 1-3 had a big event for me – I went to Boston to attend the first Simmons College/Horn Book Award Symposium. Unfortunately, my flight was delayed 5 hours – and I missed the Horn Book Awards on Friday night. But I did get to attend the Symposium the next day and do sight-seeing in Boston on Sunday.

My hotel was near the Boston Public Library. (It was very easy to get around using public transportation. I passed the library going to the subway stop.)

Helen Oxenbury was on a panel! She’s the author and illustrator of the Tom and Pippo books that J. loved when they were small. I love the way she looks like one of her own illustrations.

And I met Megan Whalen Turner! Her books are some of my very favorites! I had brought A Conspiracy of Kings on the trip and reread it and had her sign it.

After the Symposium, I walked back to my hotel, and was able to mostly stay in parks while I did.

The next day was just for sight-seeing before a late flight. I had to do a Make Way for Ducklings pilgrimage to the Boston Public Garden!

I walked along the river and headed toward Cambridge.

I had fun walking on M.I.T.’s campus.

The museum of technology at M.I.T. was fascinating!

But by far the highlight of the entire weekend happened when I got to the airport an hour early for my flight. Because after I checked in, I saw Megan Whalen Turner! She was also an hour early for her flight. I was planning to get dinner at the airport. So – we sat down in a small restaurant and talked for an hour! I got dinner, and she got a coke. And we just had a lovely, friendly conversation!

It turns out she’s only a year younger than me. It should be obvious that she’s a kindred spirit – I enjoy her books so much! But it was just such a treat to get to talk like friends, even though I’d just met her that weekend.

Meanwhile, though, our divorce court date was getting closer. My lawyer issued discovery against Steve – basically the same questions she used two years earlier, which he had never answered. She was still telling his lawyer that if Steve would give us copies of his pay stubs, maybe we could work out an agreement. It was nice that now Steve at least had a lawyer.

While working as a Management Analyst, I had a lot more time that I could go to county training I was supposed to attend without leaving my co-workers with low staff. So I caught up on training. One training I attended was Domestic Violence Awareness – which is often a problem in the work place.

That class had the effect of making me more afraid of Steve and what he might do if he badly lost the court case. Especially since he’d told me that in the past he’d had a plan to kill me. I decided to use our employee assistance benefit to see a counselor for six weeks, to get me through the divorce. That was very helpful – and another thing I wouldn’t have had time for if I’d been working library hours.

I did go on some lovely hikes that Autumn (again). This picture of glowing leaves in an S shape made me feel loved. Hey, it’s the little things!

Meanwhile, I went to another small YA literature conference and met Catherine Gilbert Murdock.

On October 24, I hiked at Manassas Battlefield Park.

And Tim and I went to the Rally to Restore Sanity in DC! I was reminded that I really don’t like crowds! But it was fun to be there and read the signs.

My own sign had to do with library funding, of course.

More hiking. I still love Fall Color so much!

And the tree out my window was simply beautiful:

Meanwhile, we were preparing to go to court. My lawyer said she couldn’t fathom why Steve thought a judge wouldn’t award me half the marital portion of his retirement plus guideline child support.  That this case should NOT be going to trial.  And she was going to ask for 100% of my legal fees from there on out as she and her staff prepared for trial.

But she continued to negotiate, and Steve continued to reject the negotiations. When he finally answered the interrogatories, he stopped with the view that I had destroyed his career – because he denied ever having gotten the letter of reprimand for his relationship with Amy. He didn’t want to produce those. Instead, he was claiming that he had to leave me because of my anger management issues. Well, I was going to call Kathe as a witness. She stayed with us for more than a week while our marriage was in crisis and Steve was having his affair – but Kathe never heard me raise my voice to Steve.

I went to the lawyer’s office on Sunday afternoon to prepare for trial. We were talking with Kathe about what her role would be.

And Sunday evening, my lawyer told me that Steve had signed the agreement, with a few minor changes, after all. His lawyer had talked him into it (knowing they didn’t have a strong case). Steve was also planning to file a complaint against his own lawyer.

The agreement continued child support until Tim turned 18. It gave me basically 45% of his retirement, but we put that off for six months to give Steve time to find a job. He didn’t pay my legal fees after all.

I said to a friend:

Tomorrow I still have to go to court, and we will file for divorce on grounds of separation for a year.  Kathe will still need to testify that we have been living separate and apart.  But Steve will not be there!  And since the thing I most dreaded was having to face him, this is fantastic news.
My lawyer kept saying it should have settled so long ago.  But at least all this made me finally really grasp that divorcing him is a good thing.  Even this last ridiculous bit made me glad he signed the agreement instead of regretting that he’s getting away without paying my legal fees.  He doesn’t have the money.  I’m going to think of it as paying a wonderful person (my lawyer) who did an incredibly wonderful service for me — dealing with Steve so I didn’t have to!

So Kathe, who had been my matron of honor in my wedding, was also the witness in my divorce. That’s a true friend! Kathe and my friend Marilynn took me out to eat after the short hearing.

It was a good thing to have happen – but it was still very hard.

And this began Phase 12: Officially Divorced

At the same time, though, I learned that a full-time librarian 1 opening was due to happen soon at City of Fairfax Regional Library! I would get back to the library!

Also, my Dad paid for Tim and me to come to Los Angeles for Thanksgiving!

By this time, Jade (then called Josh) and my brother Peter had moved to an apartment in Hollywood. But they came to Thanksgiving and brought Jade’s girlfriend Sunny!

My sisters! (All except Wendy.)

My kids!

When I got back, the news was official. A Librarian was retiring, so I could have her job at City of Fairfax Regional Library. I didn’t even have to interview. It was not a youth services position, but honestly, it was a whole lot less work for the same pay. (I still say that they really need to upgrade the positions of Youth Services Manager at the community branches. It’s a lot more work than other Librarian 1 positions.)

But I was back in a Library! Calloo! Callay!

I began working at City of Fairfax Regional Library on December 6, 2010. I was newly divorced, and had a library job again, and life was looking sweet.

Here’s my Christmas Letter that year. I did make the mistake of telling people that 2011 couldn’t possibly be as hard as 2010 had been. And then I had a stroke in 2011. (Spoiler alert.) But you know what? Even a stroke (that I survived) was not nearly as bad as going through divorce – so I was right.

I will quote this part of the letter:

First, I’ll report that, as of today, my divorce from Steve is final.  Both condolences and congratulations are in order.  He was a very good husband for a very long time, and I’m very sad it came to this.

But I am seeing this was a good thing in my life right now.  It was time to let him go.  Clinging wasn’t going to bring about a change of heart, and it was time to settle legal and financial matters between us.  I’d better not say any more than that.

So I’ll only say that it feels incredibly freeing to be a single adult, responsible only for myself and my son.  There are some wonderful things about it.  Life is good!

When I said “as of today” – I really did get notification that the divorce was final after I got home from the Christmas Eve service. But when I looked more closely, the judge had signed the order on the day of the trial – basically at Thanksgiving.

So – that was the big event of the year I was 46. As the new year 2011 started, I was back in a library – and I was adjusting to thinking of myself as a divorced woman.

I see in my journal that God gave me the verses Hosea 2:14-16 —

“Therefore, I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.
There I will give her back her vineyards
and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.
There she will sing as in the days of her youth,
as in the day she came up out of Egypt.
In that day,” declares the Lord,
“you will call me ‘my husband’;
you will no longer call me ‘my master.'”

I felt like God was telling me three things:

1) Stay far away from Steve. (He was in God’s hands.)
2) Treasure this time of singleness.
3) Shine like a star.

Hmmm. Those things still pretty much hold true.

Looking back, though, this all seems happy – and it was – but I can’t emphasize enough how devastating it is to your sense of self, to your feeling like a lovable, valuable person to be rejected so strongly. I’d been injured to my core, and now God was healing me.

Our church had a Ladies’ Retreat in April! That was a lot of fun, and helped restore me.

In the springtime, though, I did have some trouble again with ovarian cysts. Bad enough for an E. R. visit one month. That was when I started using the shorter desk at work, because it hurt to climb up the taller chair. Eventually, I decided to go back on birth control pills to stop getting them. This worked, but may not have been worth the stroke I had later (spoiler alert). But after a few months on birth control pills, I never did get any more ovarian cysts, anyway!

Spring was full of blossoms again, of course!

A significant thing happened on April 29, 2011. I felt very much this was from God. Here’s what I wrote about it:

I was memorizing in Hosea 4, and I usually take a verse from the chapter I’m memorizing for my quiet time.

But Hosea 4 is about Israel sinning and nothing seemed appropriate, so I thought I’d have to look somewhere else.

So I prayed, “Lord, show me what verse you have for me.” And specifically: “Do you have anything to say to me in Hosea 4?”

As I was turning to go to some other passage and praying, my eye fell on verse 17:

“Ephraim is joined to idols;
Leave him alone!”

It doesn’t get much clearer than that!

Let me also clarify that in an earlier passage, I had identified Ephraim with Steve. It amused me that God needed to give me this message with an exclamation point!

The thing was, despite everything, my love for my husband still wasn’t completely dead. And he seemed so miserable! I wished I could somehow help him, somehow show him love.

Well, God made it pretty clear that wasn’t my job.

Since then, there were many times I was tempted to decide this word to me had expired. But I think it would be awfully easy for God to show me that it had. But God has not done that. For that matter, Steve knows where to find me.

Getting that direction from God was also helping me heal. Helping me see that for me, divorce was a good step. That I was not to be partners with Steve any more. And God was showing me how much He loved me.

On April 30, I visited Meadowlark Gardens, another lovely place in the springtime.

Though at the end of May, Steve was supposed to start sending me my portion of his retirement – and we had a problem with the wording of our agreement, so DFAS wouldn’t pay me directly. We needed a slightly reworded agreement to be signed by Steve, for the sake of DFAS – and eventually we had to go to court to get him to do it. That was only beginning then, we were still trying to get it done with written requests. I was still communicating with Steve to arrange Tim’s visits, which were usually every other weekend. But Steve was doing all the driving, so mainly we just had to find out which days.

So – my life was settling down. My wounds were a little less raw. I was submitting my second novel to agents. I was looking forward to attending ALA Annual Conference again, in New Orleans this time. And then I got a big distraction….


  1. Sondy, you truly are inspiring with your openness and honesty. I also admire so much that you walk and hike so much. Your photos are wonderful, too. I especially loved the leafy S.

  2. I love all the photos of you with famous authors – I want to steal your signed book collection!

  3. You know, it’s getting where I’ve started taking that for granted! Now I usually ask them just to sign instead of signing them to me – so I won’t feel bad about giving them away!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *