Panorama of San Bernardino

Monday, May 13, 2019

An American Girl in Paris part deux

We’re here. In Paris. Adrian is sleeping while I write this. I can hear the traffic beginning outside, but because it is six am, the city is still sleeping and is quiet.

The Eiffel Tower is outside our window. Literally. We are staying at the Pullman, an English hotel. I chose it for two reasons: because I knew they would speak English and for the view.

We checked in yesterday after a whirlwind of a trip with my first cousin Pascale and her son Xavier. They treated us so well. We stayed with them in a small town called Quincampoix. They picked us up from the airport on Friday and it was a two hour drive back to their beautiful home in the countryside where we drank wine and ate cheese while getting acquainted.

On Saturday, they took us sightseeing in the stunning medieval town of Roune (where Joan of Arc burned). We saw the Notre Dame Roune (a smaller version in their city) and the gothic law court building.

The next day (Sunday), we went to the beach town of Dieppe. It was so picturesque that words won’t do it justice. That night, Pascale and I had a nice talk and connected both as family and friends. She felt less like a cousin, and more like a sister.

Yesterday, after a fond farewell, Pascale and Xavier drove us to the train station in Roune. It didn’t start out auspiciously. The tickets machines were all broken so we had to stammer through broken French to try and buy tickets from the conductor who, it turned out, spoke English. We barely made the noon train and sat on the steps of the train rather than dragging our luggage to look for a seat. About thirty minutes in, the conductor came by and directed us to leave our luggage and took us to seats. The train was more Bart like than train like, but after a little more than an hour, we were in Paris.

We found a taxi and zipped through the Parisian streets. The traffic was like New York on steroids. When I saw the Eiffel Tower, I lost it. Completely overwhelmed I looked at Adrian and with tears in my eyes said, “I can’t believe we’re here.”

What I really meant was (to quote the Talking Heads), how did I get here? As a young girl, I used to dream that one day I would travel to different countries, but I always thought it was just a dream. And to be here, in the city of love and sophistication was unbelievable in a way. But believable too. And I know that I am privileged to be here.

Yet, I still have to be myself too, so sophistication aside, today I will be wearing my Ramones shirt and I am going to walk Paris and remember I’m still me.

JEM is in Paris!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

An American Girl in Paris

We did it. My husband and I got on a plane and flew to France. It wasn’t easy. My husband had to close his dental office. I had to take a week off and make arrangements for my mom to stay with my 85 year old mother in law Orieta that we care take for. I had to set out my dogs’ medicines and a list of numbers. I made up the guest room for my mom and our master bedroom for my nephew who might visit while we’re gone. It seemed insurmountable at first. I literally screamed while packing, frustrated that I couldn’t fit my boots in the suitcase. 
But, it finally all came together. We flew ten hours and arrived at Charles De Gaulle at 8 am. I didn’t sleep on the plane. Instead, I watched a movie with Julia Roberts about a family struggling with addiction, a BBC David Bowie documentary, and then a Joan Jett documentary called “Bad Reputation.
My first cousin Pascale with her son Xavier picked us up at the airport. They live in a beautiful and quaint town called Quincampoix. It took about two hours to get there. We drove on highways, and then on small country roads, passing the lush green countrysides of France. We drove through many small towns with cute fairy like houses. It felt surreal. 
Still on fumes from no sleep, I managed to stay awake. We spent last night drinking wine and munching on bread and cheese. We talked about our fathers and families. And marveled that we’re together in France. I never knew Pascale’s father, my uncle. He died a few years before I was born. I kept thinking how happy my father would be to know I’m here.
The town is lovely. There is a wonderful Parisian bakery, a gorgeous church, a small little library and a cemetery. I know it’s a cliche to say as a goth girl, but I love cemeteries. Their headstones are different, longer, all marble and ornate. 
This morning, we got up early (it’s 9 am now) and walked to the bakery. We bought croissants. They melted in the mouth. 
I felt alive as I walked in the drizzle. The sky was grey. My mood was not. I felt alive. In love. And happy. This American girl is in France and on Monday, we are taking a train to Paris.
Life is fucking beautiful.

Friday, April 26, 2019


People often ask what I want to get out of my writing. Fame? Fortune? What I want is much more abstract. It’s the knowledge that I’ve made a difference.

When I was growing up, books were my solace, my everything. I fell into them to escape. To this day,  when I read a great book, I fall into it. I disappear. All of my worries fall away.

That’s what I want my book to be for my readers. I want a young girl to see herself and know she’s not alone. That the chaos will end. That she can create the life that she wants for herself even after making a mistake.

When I dropped out of high school, I thought my life was over. When you’re seventeen, the world seems so small. I felt as if I’d never get out of Ontario and the IE. But I did. Los Angeles, Houston, San Francisco. I chose to come back.

That’s, ultimately why I love memoir. The art in showing the circular nature of life, the connections.

And in two weeks when I’m in Paris, I will remind myself.

I made it.

Thursday, April 18, 2019


I’ve said this before, but it deserves repeating. I’m a dreamer.

When I was a little girl, I loved books (and still do). I would lose myself. Once I opened the pages, hours would fly buy. Mom would scream, “Clean your room Jenny.” I would ignore her. The most important thing was the book.

Not much has changed. On the weekends, I’ve been promising to hang up my clothes that are piled in the guest room. Instead, I write or read. The only difference is that it is not my mom nagging me, but my long suffering husband.

When I started writing, at first it was only for me. Tiny, small poems/stories about life growing up in the Inland Empire. They seemed like almost nothing. Like cobwebs from the past that would disappear if I touched them. Yet, these memories which started out as fragments were something. They are something.

It is not always easy being a dreamer. We see the possibilities. If I could just be content, life would be a whole lot easier. The room will get done by the way. I have a couple of friends coming to stay.

So here’s to the dreamers. As Kermit one said,

“Who said that every wish
Would be heard and answered
When wished on the morning star
Somebody thought of that
And someone believed it
Look what it's done so far

What's so amazing that keeps us stargazing
And what do we think we might see
Someday we'll find it
The rainbow connection
The lovers, the dreamers, and me”

(The Rainbow Connection-Jim Henson).

Friday, April 12, 2019


I am not good at making big life decisions. I either shut down or just quickly choose an option. But I have to grow up. I have to think about things and decide what truly works in my life right now.

Thank god for my new therapist. She sees the value of my writing. She noted that it sustains me. She said, "You light up when you talk about your writing projects.” She's right. Writing is my (I know it sounds cliche but it is true) salvation.

For good reason then, I am anxious. I cannot turn off my brain. It keeps asking me, "What are you going to do?"

The deadline to make a decision is this Monday. I don't want to turn down full funding at the brick and mortar program at UCR, but really, it makes no sense to throw my pension and everything else away.

Not that what I am doing is a pipe dream, in fact, it is the opposite. My book/memoir has been a more than decade long labor of love and it is so close to a reality that I can see the finished project in my mind's eye. But, doing a full residency MFA creative writing program now would mean leaving my job and making it that much longer for when I can retire and truly write full-time.

I see the anxiety bleeding into the other parts of my life. At work/court yesterday, I couldn't stop talking. I wanted to fill the void so I didn't have to think. Last night, after work, I turned down an offer of dinner and a beer with my husband and instead watched four hours (OK five) of Survivor. It wasn't even the recent season of Survivor, it was “Season 28 One World” from years ago (available on Prime for those interested).

This morning, I woke up at five am, again thinking, what should I do? There is the NOLA UNO online program with a summer abroad in Ireland. That is the least expensive option. Or there is the UCR low residency program out of Palm Springs. Or I could wait and apply to Antioch in LA and also Vermont, which are the most established programs. But they all come with a hefty price tag.

I feel like just throwing my hands into the air. Or flipping a quarter. Or a table.

It's six in the morning and the dogs are done eating and I have to go. I have to walk them and get ready for work and get to court for my day job as a deputy public defender.

This decision making will just have to wait.

Saturday, March 16, 2019


This post may not be what you expect. I’m trying to be me, but it’s hard. Most nights my brain won’t turn off. I worry incessantly. Over things that do not need to be worried about.

I think it’s because I know I am in the midst of a crisis. Be it middle age or artistic angst, it really doesn’t matter what you name it. The point is, I’m here. Looking at my life and wondering. Wondering. And wondering.

People who don’t write think it’s easy. That putting yourself out there as a “writer” is just writing words. But no, it’s not just words. It’s the excavation of the self. Laying your soul and self out, butt naked, for the world to see.

Yet, it’s also beautiful and lovely. I love the process. Even when I’m writing on my phone in Vegas (like now), for the moment all is still. I’m engrossed in it. I lose myself. My brain stops spinning and I’m using that part of the cerebral cortex that some call the subconscious.

That’s why I write. To feel present.

This is not me you’re seeing. Know that. It’s the version of me that I’m allowing you to see. There’s many versions, and many iterations and who knows which one of them I really am.

What I do know, is that I’m here. Writing. Thinking. Feeling like life is good. Whatever decision I make about my future, the fact is I’m privileged. Plenty of people would love to be in my position and although I still feel, at times, unworthy, I know my value.

I really do.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Chicken Little

The other day someone called me Chicken Little. At first, I reacted with annoyance. "What does that mean? What is the point of saying that?" I said via text. "You sometimes act as if the sky is falling..." was the reply.

Initially, I brushed the comment off. Later, it made me think. Have I become a worrier and over anxious? Do I blow things out of proportion and engage in catastrophic thinking? Yes and yes.

Have I, and I shudder to think of it, become a pessimist?

Life has gotten me down lately. My brother in law's death last year, along with my infertility, has led me to live life without my usual rose colored glasses. I used to be a total optimist, that's how I got so far in life. No matter what was going on in my life, I felt that it would okay. It didn't matter in my waitressing days if I had no car and had to beg for rides or take the bus, or had to pick up shifts to have money for rent, I knew it would be okay.

When I was in law school, those first two years were hard, always scrounging for food, gas and other necessities. But again, I always knew that I would be okay.

Now, even though I am far more financially comfortable, I am not so sure it will be okay. Perhaps, I have begun to face my own mortality. I keep asking myself, why am I here? What am I meant to accomplish if I cannot have a child? (Obviously, this is a personal issue and I am not in any way saying that every woman's life is for procreation.)

My point is this: my yearning for and then my quest and inability to conquer that elusive windmill of having a child, has made me question my very purpose in life.

While a dog is not a baby, at least not a human one, my two shih tzus Frodo and Chewbaca are two of my great loves. Yesterday, I had to take Chewbaca to the vet because I found a lump. The vet is a good friend of mine and he tried to aspirate it, but ultimately, he decided Chewie needs to have it removed and biopsied. I tried not to over react. Inside, I am terrified that this is bad.

After the vet visit, I made a conscious decision to try and be optimistic. Instead of freaking out and crying in my car after the vet visit, I took Chewie to Starbucks and got him a whip cream treat. I sipped my espresso listening to The Strokes while he licked his whip cream cup almost bare. At one point, I looked into his caramel colored eyes and said, "You are going to be okay. We are going to be okay.”

And, I meant it.