Panorama of San Bernardino

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I wish you could see me now

I woke up at 4 am and started crying. It felt like my eyes were leaky faucets, tears slipping outside of both my eyes until my face was all wet. My pillow damp with tears, my nose runny, I sighed.

You see  Dad, I was thinking of you. Maybe it was that poem about my childhood that I was working on in my writing group last night. Or what was a physically painful day yesterday with my chronic health issue. Or maybe it was your birthday that just passed, or maybe God, but I woke up feeling an overwhelming sense of loss. I didn't even know I could still feel that. That immensity of pain, the kind that overwhelms you in its intensity. For years, I've felt anxiety and depression and acute sadness, but I haven't felt this kind of raw pain since you passed all those years ago. Maybe, I've been numb.

And the pain awoke something in me. Something real and true. People don't always realize it, but the truest art comes from the deepest pain. All of my best stories spring from a well of sadness so deep that you could drink from it for ages. The last couple years, especially after the miscarriage, I felt like I was dried up. The reality is that I've been existing in a state of perpetual paralysis, not feeling much of anything. And certainly not feeling enough to write open and true, blood on the page and all that.

I kept thinking as I sobbed into my pillow. I wish you knew me now. To see who've I've become. I would spent hours with you. Telling you everything. And I would listen to you, like I never did. I say I wish you knew me now, but the truth is, I wish I knew you now. So I could appreciate you more. The way you deserved.

You were a great father, flawed, but fucking great. You taught me all the important things. Cards. Movies. Music. The passions of my life. But I never really got your sadness. The loss you'd experienced, losing so many people in your life so young.

But Daddy, if you're listening, I get it now. I truly do. And I fucking miss you so damn much.

I will finish my book because I must put your voice, my voice, and all of the scenes in my head on paper. And because putting pen to paper to see you, is really the only way I have left to know you now

Monday, May 1, 2017

Magic

When I was in high school, I was into Wicca. My best friends and I would go to the Crystal Cave in Claremont and look at the potions. We would buy spell books at Barnes and Noble. We were very cognizant of the price of magic. Anything negative would come back on the spell caster exponentially. We never wanted to access dark portals. We were more interested in tarot cards and astrology.

As an adult, I still believe in magic. But now, I see that magic is about intention and belief. It's about directing your energy at a goal.

This has worked out for me in my life. I've gotten almost everything I've ever wanted. Well, everything except for the baby. Sadly, my infertility could not be fixed or healed, a result of waiting too long for what I really wanted. But other than that, I am lucky. Some might say blessed. This high school dropout found a way to thrive.

Those early years, after high school and taking my GED, are a blur. I don't know how I made it through those no car, junior college waitressing years. Once at UCR, it became almost easy. I loved school and school loved me. When it came close to graduation, I decided to apply to local law schools. I wasn't into big name schools, but debated whether to apply to USC Law. It seemed like a pipe dream. My then boyfriend now husband urged me to. I would have been happy with a second tier school. I wrote my application essay on pink collar jobs like waitressing and when I got the fat envelope with the cardinal and gold seal, I knew. My life would change.

After law school, I went for the big paycheck. And after years of representing large corporations at mammoth law firms, I decided to change my life again. My dad had died and I was desperately unhappy. My job was making me sick. I would cry before work most days and started leaving early to sit at Starbucks and write. I thought about teaching or maybe even getting my MFA in creative writing.

It took a year, but I finally found a job with the Public Defender. I had to convince them in my interview to take a chance.  Yes, I was burnt out, I told them, but I grew up in the Inland Empire. These are my people and my town. Ultimately, I willed them into hiring me.

When I gave notice at my law firm, a partner said sarcastically that he didn't understand why I would want to be a public defender. I told him, in the nicest way possible, that I didn't understand how he could work at a law firm. I said I found the work unfulling and meaningless. "There has to be more than this," I said.

There was. Life as a deputy public defender is fun and rewarding. It's never boring and only occasionally frustrating. I specialize in representing the mentally ill incompetents. They are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable. My favorite part of the job is helping support other attorneys in my office with mental health questions and consults. And working with the expert psychologists.

Some people might find what I do unmanageable. And I have my bad days. But usually, I love my work. Yet, I keep on thinking to myself, is it time for another change? Or is my natural restlessness just making me think change is needed?

For now, the plan is just to let the universe guide me. I will work on my health and wellness and being kind to those who are closest to me. Life is difficult enough without trying to over control the navigation. At this point, I'm letting magic take the wheel.




Saturday, April 29, 2017

Vegas baby

I have an affinity for blogging while in Vegas. This affinity is primarily driven by an inability to sleep. I wake up at six in the morning no matter what time I go to bed. After a late night out in Vegas, I usually write in the early morning, one eye cocked open, a bit hungover, while hubby snores.

Today is no different. Out past one in the morning, I awake at the ungodly hour of five a.m. I fall back asleep until seven and then awake grudgingly. I know that those tossing and turning five crap hours of sleep are probably the best it's gonna get.

Yesterday, I had went into work groaning and by lunch, I was dizzy, my head all fuzzy and I was sweating through my clothes. I was on enough pills to kill a horse. And when I came home early for a nap, I lifted my black and white chubby shih tzu Frodo on the bed and heard a pop when I turned the wrong way. Fuck, I thought to myself, my back. I laid down and tried to breathe through the pain.

Two hours and another Tylenol later, I started getting dressed. Dressing consisted of an old black peasant dress and leather sandals. I was lucky to be wearing a bra. I piled the dogs and Moms in the car and headed up the Cajon Pass to meet my husband Adrian. We waited for Adrian at his mom's house in Oak Hills near Hesperia. The weather was cool and a bit breezy. I sat outside with my dogs tapping my feet anxious and still not feeling well.

Adrian got home at almost six and we got on the road. I was grumpy and rude to him, and he snapped back at me. I think, why am I so irritable? I'm always grumpy. My mom agrees. "She was a grumpy monster earlier Adrian," she says in a sing song voice. Tattle tail.

The dogs are anxious. There's not enough room in the back seat. Chewbaca can't get comfortable. In three hours we're in Vegas. The Golden Nugget crowd is a bit rough. Everyone seems drunk. Tracy and John are already checked in. We wait in line thirty minutes for the room keys. Finally in our room, I change. Adrian watches me maneuver into my tight black leggings and asks if I'm planning on saving the world. He makes me laugh out loud and with the laughter, the pain and irritability flies away. Suddenly, I feel like a super hero. I throw on my Pixies concert tee tank top and a shawl and fringe boots and fluff my hair out. I race downstairs to find bestie. And a beer. And the slots.

Let it all be damned. The strep, the bad back, and the premenopausal sweats.

It's Vegas baby. And I'm back.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Memories

My father loved most holidays. He was not a religious person like Mom. Dad was raised dirt poor and Protestant in Montana. Later in life, he was probably more of an agnostic. But he loved the food that came along with all of the holidays. And, Dad never met a decoration he didn't like. In our house, less was not more, and there would be cardboard rabbits and garland placed there by Dad.

The night before Easter, Dad would sit with us at the table watching us making our Easter eggs. We would dip them in food coloring and write on them in wax crayon. Dad would always have to make at least one, he was really a kid at heart. I remember his Easter egg being a mix of least five different colors, a gaudy mess. After making eggs, we would play our usual game of 500 rummy and then go to sleep at a decent hour because Mom would be forcing us to church in the morning, even though she got home late from her shift at the restaurant.

In the morning, we would wake up early and go to church. Mom would give us each a dollar to put in the basket. By the time we got home, Dad would have hid plastic eggs with quarters and a few highly prized silver dollars in the backyard. Me, Jackie and Annie would scratch at our fancy clothes and run in the backyard screaming and fighting for the coin. Mom would put our Easter baskets on the table and I would always grab the chocolate bunny out of the basket and start nibbling at his ears.

We ate early on Easter because Mom usually had to go to work. I've written before about Dad's famous ham. Easter was not Easter without a ham. Covered in pineapple and maraschino cherries, and glazed to a high sheen, it was a sight to behold and delicious, a mix of sweet, crispy and salty. Dad would pair the ham with homemade potato salad, his secret, he always said, was his addition of pickle juice.  He would bake hot Pillsbury rolls and slather them in margarine and put them in a basket. There was always a dessert too.

 After lunch, Mom would get ready for her shift at the restaurant, a waitress never had holidays off. We would yell "bye mom see you later!" Mom never seemed unhappy about going to work, but looking back it must have been hard to leave. I can picture her gazing wistfully at the house as she drives away to her shift at Yanghtzee's Chinese restaurant.

The day would usually end with a movie. Dad would pull out his prized laser disc and put in his favorite, Superman. Dad always marveled at the scenes where Superman could fly. Us girls would sit and watch the movie stuffing Dad's hot buttery popcorn in our mouths by the handfuls.

Sometimes, we would all fall asleep in front of the television. Dad would put blankets on us. We would wake up when Mom got home. No matter how late it was, Dad would always warm her up another plate of ham and rolls.
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Saturday, April 1, 2017

The worst of times

I have had depression since high school. My first episode happened senior year. I slept and drank the year away leaving school to get my GED five units short of a diploma. It hit again almost 13 years later when I graduated from USC Law and moved to Houston. I fell into a deep black hole and almost couldn't find my way out. But I did. The third episode was after my father's death. I had moved back to the Inland Empire leaving my San Francisco law firm job and husband to finish his last year of dental school. I felt I had to come home and found work as an associate at a Riverside law firm. I cried in the shower most days hating my job and toward the end, I had no choice but to leave my law firm job to do something else. It was my job or my life. That's how it felt. That something else I found turned out to be both a job and a calling and I loved being a deputy public defender from day one.

My latest episode hit me after losing the baby I wanted so very badly after trying for many years. It was a mix of anxiety and depression, which I had never felt before. I muddled my way through the darkness. And wondered would it end. On the outside, I was good at pretending. I still went to work most days, but would have crushing anxiety driving home. It's as if I had learned a very unhealthy compartmentalism. My husband knew it was bad. I would cry in the bathtub and he would try to fix it, but some things are unfixable.

I wish I could explain how a deep depression feels. It's like being in a cave where everything is darkness and you have to feel your way around. Nothing creates happiness. Where once was joy is just emptiness.

I was lucky. I came out of it again. Back to my life and after more than a year and a half since my last episode, I see the beauty in life once again. I've been laughing more and drinking less. Food has always been a comfort, but I know that as long as I can see the light I can try and do better with my choices.

Occasionally, I still have my bad days. The night before last, I received horrible news that left me sitting alone in the dark weeping my eyes away. But in the morning, I went to work and left early to go to church. I prayed and sat staring at the stained glass windows of the church in Montclair where I had made my first communion as a young girl. It felt calm and I could finally breathe again. Then I visited my father at the cemetery down the street and when the florist handed me a freshly made bouquet of my father's favorite flowers when I had not specified any kind, I knew I was In the right place. I dug my fingers into the earth and pulled the vase out of the ground. Mud got under my fingernails. I splashed water on my shoes filling the vessel with water. And I talked to my dad and asked him to protect us. I told him we all missed him. As I drove away from the tiny cemetery, I felt some peace.

Maybe one has to strive for the light. Life is obviously not all beauty but the older I get, the more I see how we create our own happiness. And I want to be happy. I really do.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Story of my life

I woke up this morning all stuffy and congested. Pollen is in the air and my allergies are going haywire (pun intended). I have to try and rally because Monday is my husband's birthday and we are going to see the band Social Distortion (Social D) at the Fox Theater in Pomona tonight.

There is a song by Social D, probably their most famous, called Story of My Life and one of the lyrics has always spoken to me because it captures my story as well.

"High school seemed like such a blur,
I didn't have much interest in sports or school elections.
And in class I dreamed all day,
Of a rock n roll weekend."

My last years of high school were marked by concerts. These concerts were all I looked forward to. These concerts were why I got a job at Round Table with my best friend Tracy because we needed to be able to afford the twenty dollar tickets. Twenty dollars seems low now, but back then, when I was working minimum wage, it was almost a full day's work (minimum wage was three or four bucks an hour back then in the late 1980s). These concerts were how my style changed from goody two shoes to dark gothic punk rocker. I remember going to buy my first pair of monkey boots with Tracy in Hollywood at the infamous punk shoe store Nana's. Monkey boots are an English made short style combat boot and I chose red. I wore those shoes until they were softened by use.

We saw all of our favorite bands live:  Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Smiths, The Pixies, Echo and the Bunnymen, Midnight Oil, The Smithereens, The Church, Social D, X and many more. It was all I could think about. The phrase, when is the next show, always echoed through my mind in class. Most of these shows were in Los Angeles, about sixty miles away, but the cheapest shows were at a place called The Green Door. It was a dump/dive of a place but it booked some great punk and rock bands. But the most common venue was The Hollywood Palladium. It was a standing only venue but if you were brave and lucky you could get to the front right by the stage.

Music has always been my muse. Most days, I listen to calm the beating wings of my brain. People who know me might call me impatient, but I see it more as a restlessness that is calmed by the sounds of songs. A live show does the opposite, I get such a rush of adrenaline and happiness that I spontaneously jump up and down.

It is the only place I truly feel alive.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Falling

I am in Portland, with my husband and best friends on vacation. I am up early as usual and in a booth in the coffee shop, surrounded by books. As I sit here listening to the rain fall, I am writing. I am writing to drown out the restlessness in my brain. Even though we went to bed at 1 in the morning, I was still up at 7 am. I kept it mellow last night more out of necessity than choice as my body was saying stop. My body refused to let me have more than a couple of drinks and no matter what I did, I felt muffled and distant. It could be that I am missing my dogs or just anxious, or both.

Tomorrow, we are going to on a waterfall tour to Multnomah Falls. I call my mom and she tells me that we often went there when I was little. Perhaps, I was too little to remember. I think of all the times with my mom and dad growing up. If you've read my stories about childhood, you would probably think that it was all fights and screaming and running away from that. But, I remember the good times too. The road trips to South Dakota, seeing Mount Rushmore and the caves underneath, being amazed at Flintstone Land and fishing in Montana's lakes. Staying at AAA campgrounds. That trip to see the huge trees in Yosemite Park. Camping out there in a tent and being deluged by the rains. Dad cleaning the fish and urging us to try the crispiness of it. "C'mon girls, just try it."

Mom and Dad would fight of course, but there was something about those road trips that bought out their best sides. Mom would make bologna sandwiches and we would eat them in the car along with potato chips and Shasta Cola. Dad would hum along to Johnny Cash or Loretta Lynn. Us girls, there were three of us (me and Jackie-the twins, and our little sister Annie who was only 14 months younger), and we would fight in the back seat. I remember pinching and scratching each other's arms and when Mom and Dad could not take the carousing anymore, switching to the license plate game and then to the alphabet game where you tried to get through the alphabet using names on signs. This was the 1970s and there was no television in the car, and no videos to watch. We had to entertain ourselves. I would always have a book, usually one of Mom's dog eared Harlequins, the pages rendered crinkly by bath water, but it was too hard to read in the car without getting sick.

Occasionally, we would stop at a Motel 6 to sleep. We probably all shared a room. Mom and Dad saved all year for these road trip vacations. Mom's waitressing job and Dad's truck driving barely paid the bills and it could not have been easy. At the motel, we would get a pizza and watch television together. And play Rummy gathered around the table. Those moments are the film reel of my childhood. It is what makes me tear up as I write these words. If I concentrate hard enough, I can see it. Jackie, me and Annie in our matching pajamas sharing a bed falling asleep to Dad's snoring and the blaring television static. Getting pancakes at the diner next door in the morning before getting back on the road.

I think of my life and how self absorbed I am. Other than the dogs, I don't have to take care of anyone, much less three little girls. I have no one to worry about but myself.

There is a freedom to that. Yet, there is also an emptiness to it all and as I sit here in the booth, all I can think is that I wish, oh how I wish, that I had a little girl to take to the waterfalls tomorrow.







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