Panorama of San Bernardino

Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Mountain

"Daddy, I can't see anything," a young girl said.  That was my own voice I heard in my dream last night.  My eyes shot open and I saw that I was in my bedroom, my husband snoring next to me.  It was three a.m. and it took me at least an hour to fall back asleep.   As a small child, I had the same dream over and over.  I was driving on a mountain road and could not see a thing and eventually went off the edge of the mountain.  I would wake up right before the car hit the ground.   Terrified.

I was an anxious child.  Always waiting for the latest explosive fight between my parents.  I hated bringing friends home.  If it was a good day, my mom would say hi in her nice voice and offer to go get us something to eat.  If it was a bad day, she was likely to tell me off in front of them.  It wasn't worth the humiliation and eventually, I stopped having people over other than my best friends Melinda and Tracy who had learned how to navigate my mom's moods.  We would laugh about it, but it wasn't a laughing matter really.  Wouldn't you be embarrassed to be the girl whose dad came home drunk and fought with their crazy mom at deafening volumes?  All the neighbors could hear.  My sisters and I would leave and walk to the park.  I remember sitting on the swings wondering why I couldn't have a normal family like the one on The Brady Bunch.

I lost myself in books.  It was the place I could feel safe.  My first love were the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.  She had a difficult life as well albeit in a different way,  There were blizzards, droughts and wild animals.  And, food was always scarce on the prairie.  Hunger was real there.  Not like in our house where despite my family's limited finances, we always had more than enough to eat.  Dad was born right after the Great Depression and lived in an orphanage and like Scarlett O' Hara, he swore he would never go hungry again.  But, at least, Laura's Ma and Pa never fought like mine did.  There were nights I would read by flashlight and try to imagine myself into her family.  I wouldn't want to be Mary.  She went blind you know.

My other love were my mom's Harlequins.  I read hundreds of them along with her water stained True Story magazines.  And soon, along came Nancy Drew and Judy Blume.  Later, I discovered a fantasy world in the Tolkien books and CS Lewis.  My favorite book in junior high was Lord of the Flies.  It reminded me of my life in a way.  The unpredictability of it.  The fear.  The chaos.  I read it over and over, not able to get the image of Piggy's stolen glasses out of my head,  He was blind without his glasses.

Life to me has always been an adventure.  I suppose I have always imagined myself as a heroine of sorts,  The narrator of my own life.  There was a time when I created chaos out of nothingness, but I have eventually learned to love a more peaceful existence.  I look back at it all wondering where all the time went.  Have I actually reached my forties?

I wish I had a child I could read to.  I would craft her stories out of thin air, filled with webs, whispers and witches, but in the evening I would make sure she was lulled to sleep in a peaceful existence.  For her, the scary stories would only be fantasy, not reality.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Coolness

One eye halfway closed, I type and listen to my husband snore beside me.  I am warm, but it is cold and windy outside.  Every night, I put on some type of pajamas and every morning, I awake, unclothed.  It is as if while I sleep, I am burdened by something that has to be thrown off in the middle of the night.  First my shirt, then my pants.  I wake up naked and curled in a little ball, shivering sometimes.

But right now, I am in a cocoon of blankets, my Shih Tzus resting by my feet.  I feel peaceful although my stomach is a bit queasy and I can feel the subtle yet persistent beginnings of a headache behind my temples.

I have not written for almost a week. Work has been hectic and I have been obsessed with listening to a novel called the Goldfinch in my car every day.  I might have called in sick today, but for that audio book.  I had to find out what happened.  The book makes the hour or so drive to work easy, but whenever I get caught up in a book, it is hard to write myself.  It is almost as if I can only focus on their words rather than my own.

But, this evening, I felt compelled to write.  You see reader, writing for me is as much about a declaration of self as it is about communication with others.   I write to feel alive.  To prove that I was here, am here I mean.  Some days, it is all I have.  I told a friend the other day that writing keeps me from going bonkers.  My restlessness and irritability makes more sense on the page than it does in real life.  On the page, I can imagine myself into being the person I yearn to be.  But in practice, my truest self, the one in my mind's eye, is only half formed.

Who I am and who I want to be, are two vastly different things.  Like a warm Diet Coke and one with ice.  The warm Diet Coke is still Diet Coke but it lacks the freshness and clarity of the iced version.  The warm diet coke is tepid and has a bitter aftertaste.  It eventually goes flat.

These days, most days, I am a warm Diet Coke version of myself, but the chilled Diet Coke is who I aim to be.  Pure refreshment.  All zing and cool bubbles.  That was how I used to be.  Before I became just a shell.  No, that is wrong, not a shell.  Now, I am just a verb.  An ordinary verb.  Sitting.  Working.  Sleeping.

I know what is missing. Everything feels stagnant.  My heart is still caught up in the grief of that child which was not yet meant to be.  I want to move on.  I don't know how.  They don't teach you in law school how to cope with life's deepest disappointments.  That is what art is for.   To capture the indescribable.

That said, there are some days when I know I am starting to feel better.  Sometimes, I can feel my center returning and when I feel the lightness of my old self, I try and hold on to the essence of that feeling.  Writing helps.  And therapy.   And reading.  And the look on my dogs' mugs when I walk in the door.  Their Ewok like faces looking up at me, tails wagging in time to the beat of their names spoken aloud, makes my heart beat again.

If I knew what this essay was about, I suppose I would be fully back to my old self.  But sadly, this is more of a warm soda musing than a chilled one.

What scares me is that, perhaps, the old, cool me is gone.  For good.




Sunday, November 23, 2014

Coming Home

"But my heart cried out for you, California.  Oh California, I'm coming home.  Oh make me feel good rock n' roll band.  California, I'm your biggest fan.  California, I'm coming home."  California by Joni Mitchell 

I have always had ambivalence about being home.  My elementary school years were chaotic with my parents' chronic fighting, but also stable in some ways because we lived in the same four bedroom house on G Street, east of Grove Avenue, in Ontario, California.  It was not the best neighborhood, but our house was bought brand new and later, my parents added a swimming pool.  There were backyard barbecues and pool parties.  My sisters and I swam every day and got every damn cent out of the cost of that swimming pool.

In my teenage years, my parents bought a bar, lost the bar and then their house.  After they lost the house, we moved around.  A lot.  We were like nomads going from place to place.  Every year from rental to rental.  Ontario, Upland, Montclair and then back to Ontario.

After high school, my roaming continued.  I lived with my sister in an apartment in Upland for a couple of years and later, we moved together to an apartment in La Verne.  When I lost my job, I moved back in with my parents to a trailer park in Pomona.   What saved me from the trailer park was transferring to UC Riverside and moving into student housing.  After UCR, I moved to law school in Los Angeles and then after law school, to Houston and then to San Francisco.  Finally, at thirty-five, I moved back home to the Inland Empire.  When people ask me why I returned, I usually say, my dad died and my family needed me.  In reality, I needed my family and felt an overwhelming need to tether myself to the familiar.

The funny thing about home is that even when you are not at home, you are thinking about home.  Yet, when I am home, all I want is to do is leave.  New York would be nice.  I daydream of packing it all up and leaving everything behind.  But, I know myself well enough by now to realize that I am never happy anywhere.  I always feel as if I should be somewhere else, stuck in a perpetual kind of real estate limbo.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I rented out our North Fontana home and moved with his mother to the High Desert.  My husband wants to stay out here and build a house of our own.  I keep begging him to move back down the hill to Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga or to my dream town of Claremont.  (How ironic is it-only native Inland Empire people will get this-that I am begging to move to Fontana?)

Today, I watched as my husband spent hours organizing the house and cleaning the backyard for Thanksgiving.  My family is coming over and we are going to feast and hang out.  I was supposed to be cleaning, but instead I stayed in bed and did nothing but talk on the phone and read, write and listen to some music.

After hours of hard work, my husband walked into the bathroom to take a shower and said, "Weren't you supposed to clean the bathroom?"  I grunted that I would do it tomorrow.  He didn't say anything, just shook his head.  He knows me and understands that my laziness has its purpose.  He is barbecuing dinner while I write this blog.  "Come out of your cave," he coaxes as he blasts The Cure on the backyard's stereo speakers.

Does it really matter where I live?  Isn't it more important who I live with?  And that I have a husband who loves me and appreciates me with all my craziness and tendency to watch Hallmark movies, Food Network and/or write all day rather than cleaning and cooking.  In the end, he gets me.

It is a cliche, but also a truism to write that home is where the heart is. And truth be told, my heart is right here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Where do we go now?

Sometimes, I use this blog as my own personal therapy session.  I work out things on the page so I can work them out in life.  This can have its drawbacks.  For most of my life I have been an open book, but this blog has made me an open book that can be read by anyone.  Perhaps, I am guilty of over-sharing.  But, truth is, I know no other way.  This is me dear reader.  Consequences be dammed.

As you all know, life has been difficult this last year.  2014 is almost over but for me it will always be the year of the miscarriage and tax audit (there is an insensitive joke here, but I will refrain).  Both experiences were traumatizing in very different ways.  I could be flippant here and say that I am not sure which was worse, but in fact, I know which one was worse.  Money is only money.  Getting pregnant via IVF and then having the proverbial rug pulled out from under me almost destroyed me.  I survived.  Just barely.  Excuse me if I am still a bit fragile.  

Where do I go from here?  It is a question I keep posing to myself in my head.  I am married so my decision making process on this issue has to be a collective one.  Thus, the real question is, where do we go from here?  My husband is getting weary of the dialogue.  But, I am still an individual with my own wants and desires and I do know what I want.  I want a baby.  A child.  I want to take care of someone else and be a mother.

Yes, that's what I want and I wish that I could imagine it into being.  If I was Harry Potter, I would wave my wand and make it happen.  One thing I do know for sure is that I will make a great mother.  For many years, I wasn't too sure.  The harshness of realizing that being a mom might not happen for me has made me realize how much I do want motherhood and how hard I am willing to work at it.  My kid will be loved to distraction.

I suppose for now, I am going to keep swimming.  I will put one foot in front of the other and keep on this journey of mine. I do not know where I am going.  I just know that I need to get there.





Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Relativity

I don't usually write about my job as a public defender.  For one, you would simply not believe some of the things I see.  The courtroom is a surreal, odd place and a heartbreaking one as well.

But, sometimes, I have to try and make sense of the criminal justice system.  It does not make sense most days. It tries to.  With the Penal Code, it is codified and the law becomes objective.  But it really is not.  It is people doling out the justice ultimately, and as a result, justice becomes random.

Most days, I do a job working within a broken system.  One day, a petty theft with a strike prior can send a young man with a lower than average IQ to prison for five years and the next day, that same crime is worth no more than a year.  I have learned what the word relative means in practice.  Because everything is relative.   The things we think of as wrong, immoral and illegal as a society, and the punishment those crimes merit, change with the wind.  Don't misunderstand me, I am overjoyed that the recent proposition passed making most drug and petty theft crimes misdemeanors.  It just took too long.

Why did the proposition pass?  I think it took us seeing as a society that building jails and prisons is expensive, too expensive.  We are creating bands of misfit toys and we need islands to house them in.  Those islands cost millions and the upkeep costs billions.  It took us seeing as a society that programming works because maybe, just maybe, these misfits can be fixed?  Or helped?  Or god forbid I utter the word, rehabilitated?

I believe in the goodness of people.  I am an eternal optimist, and that is how I do this job.  I believe, sincerely, with all my heart, that people will do the right thing if given the right opportunities.  But if people only have bad choices to choose from, they will make bad choices.

Do rich people steal from the supermarket?  Rarely.  Because they have the money.  People steal when they are desperate.  When I was struggling to get by through law school and didn't pay my bills, it was because I did not have the money.  I could not get a private loan to save my life.  And when I didn't have money for food, I clipped coupons and borrowed money from family and friends.  I was lucky I had family and friends to borrow grocery money from.  I didn't have to make a bad choice.

Not everyone is so lucky.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Ham of a Thanksgiving Story


I love the holidays.  It is a season of scents.  If Christmas smells like pine needles, cookies and hot chocolate, then Thanksgiving smells like maple and pumpkin to me.  Oh and ham.  Thanksgiving definitely smells like ham.

A ham is a must on Thanksgiving for us Mantz girls.  Dad loved ham and every Thanksgiving, he roasted a ten pound ham with pineapple.  His turkey was too dry, but the ham was always delicious.  Dad would fry it up the morning after Thanksgiving with eggs.  It is the flavor of our childhood I suppose.  And now that Dad is gone, the ham is really all we have to remind us.

In the last couple of weeks, things are different.  I have felt slight twinges of what I recognize as happiness.  The fog from the last six months is lifting and pushing away all the anxiety and pain that I was drowning in.  I wish I knew how this is happening because I would bottle it and sell it to others who are struggling.  This new found happiness could be the result of the passage of time, it could be my new therapist, it could be that the holidays are coming which always cheers me up, or it could be a combination of everything.

When I feel happier, I can better appreciate my family's idiosyncrasies.  This year, I am hosting Thanksgiving again.  We took a break last year and I regretted the lack of chaos and missed everyone.

Of course, a holiday in the Mantz family is not a holiday without some argument.  This year, the argument was over a ham.

My twin sister Jackie offered to bring a ham on Thanksgiving.  Our younger sister Annie is bringing the potatoes, salad and dessert.  My husband Adrian will make the turkey, he stuffs it with fruit and I am making the sides: cranberry and apple stuffing, candied sweet potatoes, a three cheese mac and cheese with fried bacon as well as homemade cranberry sauce and green beans with olive oil and almonds.  I never ever use mushroom soup on my green beans, I hate the processed flavor it brings.

Dear reader, let me explain my day and the ham debacle.  Jackie called me at lunch on a day at work where I didn't have time to eat, drink or pee all morning.  I had fourteen clients on calendar and we were down two attorneys.  I left court at noon and had to be back at court at one thirty. I got back to my desk and a colleague stopped by to talk about a case and when I looked at my watch, I saw that it was one p.m..  I had thirty minutes to grab lunch and get back to court.  Then my phone rang.

"Hi, I can't bring the ham.  The remodel is not done and we don't have a kitchen and I just can't do it," Jackie said in her don't mess with me voice, without any introduction or pleasantries.  This had clearly been on her mind all day.  I just didn't care.  All I wanted was to go get my Subway and Diet Coke.

"OK," I replied.  "No ham then.  I can't do it and you said you would do it.  But if you can't do it, you can't."  I didn't have time for this.

Jackie's voice rose an octave.  "I asked Annie and she said no.  I don't know why she can't make the ham and I can do the potatoes, salad and dessert."  Jackie was obviously upset, but so was I.  Why couldn't she honor her commitment?

"Jackie, you said you would bring the ham. Don't put it on anyone else," I said.  My temples were pounding.  All I wanted was a Diet Coke and my half turkey sandwich with avocado.

"What about mom?" Jackie said.  "She can do it."

"No, she can't.  Do you want us all to get food poisoning?" I asked her in what I admit was a rude tone.  (My mom is not a good cook.  One time she tried to make a chicken and the inside was pink and I ate it anyway.  Suffice to say, the effects were not pretty)

"Just forget the damn ham Jackie, who cares?"  I was so over this.

"I want ham.  We always have ham," Jackie said.

"Than buy a damn ham Jackie," I said in my I can't handle this shit, oldest sister voice.

"A ham is a hundred dollars," Jackie said.  Then she just started rambling about how it is just her and Joe, a hundred dollars is a lot of money and she shouldn't have to spend so much.  Then she went nuclear.

"I just won't come over on Thanksgiving then."

And suddenly, I got it.  Jackie wanted our ham tradition and she couldn't do it.  But she wanted a way for it to happen.  She wanted to eat ham and remember how Dad would always make it.  I pictured her on the first day of kindergarten, in her two left shoes.  She had been my best friend forever.  This was ridiculous.  Arguing over a damn ham.  I shook my head and started typing into the search engine online and ordered her a ham.  I was done with this.  No more fighting.  No more saying we were not getting together.  I needed my twin and we had to stop the drama.  It was only a ham.  I cut her off and started my own tirade.

"Jackie, I am hungry, thirsty and I have to get back to court.  I looked it up online while you were rambling on and a Honey Baked Ham is fifty dollars for the amount of people we are serving.  Just buy the fucking ham, we can split the cost.  I already ordered it for you and I will pick it up for you after work the day before Thanksgiving.  Stop the nonsense."

Jackie was quiet.  "OK, but I want to pay for the whole ham.  I won't do it unless I get to pay for the whole ham."

And so now we have a ham.  Daddy would be happy.








Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Thanksgiving and Dad (subtitled: John's The Man Who Cuts The Ham)

While planning my Thanksgiving menu, I think of my Dad.  Every Thanksgiving, Dad would put it all together by himself.  As kids we never appreciated it and once grown, my sisters and I would show up at my parent's tiny apartment and start drinking to get through it all, not realizing the hours Dad had spent on his feast.  Every year, he put out a homemade vegetable tray with radishes, pickles, celery and large, black olives.  His cranberry sauce was canned and his potatoes lumpy, but Dad's magnum opus was always his potato salad with just the right hint of mustard and pickles.  (Mom is still here and she tries to make his potato salad.  It is not the same. But, she tries.)

Dad, who loved his pig, also made a ham every Thanksgiving. As a young child, I distinctly remember being awakened by the sound of Dad cutting up ham with his electric slicer early on Thanksgiving morning.  Dad was an insomniac and probably figured that five a.m. was as good a time as any for slicing.  My best friend Melinda and her little sister Pam, who had themselves been awakened by the slicer in the wee hours of the morning on a non-holiday sleepover (Dad was probably making his special fried ham and eggs for breakfast that morning), made up a song called "John's The Man Who Cuts the Ham".  We would sing it every time they spent the night in anticipation of being awakened by the zzzzzzzzzz of the ham cutter.  

In the years since his passing, I have to say that I sorely miss Dad's dry as desert turkey (so dry it could choke you) and his mushy stuffing and that damn vegetable tray, with all the pickles and radishes cut by hand.  And I would kill for a bite of his potato salad.  I wish I could see Dad's face.  I would just stare at it and try to memorize it.  I wouldn't drink a sip of beer.  I would sit with Dad and talk.  Give him the time he always wanted from me and that I never had.  

Those last weeks of Dad were not him really.  Oh there were flashes, don't get me wrong, he was still there buried deep under the pain and drugs.  Yet, the Dad I want to remember is the one who would stand up for hours cooking us all Thanksgiving dinner whistling along to Johnny Cash.  I don't want to remember the Dad in the hospice bed.  

Every year, I consider buying premade food for Thanksgiving.  Last night, I even picked up a menu at the Honey Baked Ham store.  Once I thought it over, I shook my head.   I have to try and carry on Dad's tradition.  For us Mantz women to cook is the surest sign of love because we are not naturals at it.  It is stressful and difficult and not always enjoyable for me, but this year I am going to try and appreciate it more.  Adrian will make the turkey to guarantee that no one gets food poisoning, and my twin Jackie will bring the ham.  My little sister Annie is bringing healthy salad (because she believes salad is a necessary evil) and a pie.  I will do everything else.  

This year, instead of rushing, I will take my time on my candied sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry sauce, roasted green beans with almonds and a sage, celery and apple stuffing.  I promise you dear reader that I will slowly cut the celery and apples by hand while humming along to the country station.  I will even put out a vegetable tray with pickles, radishes, celery and black olives. Maybe I will place an olive on each of my five fingers, just like I did when I was little, and wave my fingers up in the air while remembering that I always used to name each one of the five olives: Mom, Dad, Jackie, Jennie and Annie.  


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lessons Learned

In the last few months, I have learned some lessons.  The learning process has not been easy.  In fact, it's been a painful process of self discovery.  But, a necessary one.

First lesson,  I no longer have to stay on high alert.  Remember the movie War Games (the original with Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheedy only please)?  In it, Dabney Coleman describes what the Defcon countdown symbolizes.  Defcon Two is high alert and Defcon One is war.  For most of my life, I've lived in a state of Defcon Two.  Why?  Maybe I am hard wired that way or maybe my somewhat chaotic childhood (it's all relative, however, isn't it?) ingrained it in me or maybe my scrappy twenties, when I was struggling financially to get to the life I wanted, created my predilection for panic mode.  In the end, who knows?  But whatever the reason, the result is that I cannot relax.  Ever.  Seriously.  I can't relax at work.  I can't relax at a restaurant or on the weekend or on vacation.  And I certainly can't relax at nighttime to sleep. I must ask myself, what am I so terrified of?

The root of all anxiety, I have learned, is fear.  This fear may have served me well earlier in my life as a motivating, propelling force, but now, not so much.  Excuse me please if this seems like self absorbed neurosis, but I am writing this to see if anyone else can learn from my struggles, or at the very least, relate.  And ultimately, I have learned that I can't live my life on Defcon Two anymore.  It's not a happy life for me or my loved ones.  If happiness is my goal, I gotta let this go.

Second lesson, I need to learn to say no.  We humans get asked to do a number of things any given week.  New job opportunities arise, creative pursuits are posed and then there's also the social engagements.  But, when you can't say no, you become overextended and stressed out and life is not fun anymore.  I have learned a new technique.  Instead of saying yes, I have learned to say, "let me think about it."  Then I think about it, really think about it, and craft my response.  Not to say the technique is perfect or natural for those of us "yes" people (I actually had to stall so I could run my "no thank you" response to a recent job opportunity by my therapist first), but it works.  People often just want their offers to be considered and a gracious response, regardless of the answer, is appreciated more than one thinks.

Third lesson, live in the moment.  This is the hardest for me.  It may be because I write memoir that I am always documenting and observing rather than living in it, but I pledge, right here, right now, that I will live and breathe in the moment.  There are quests I want to set out on, magical rings I need to fling into the fire and all that, but I need to live in the now.  This moment and moments with my mom who is getting older and my husband who is getting older and my sisters who are getting older and my friends who are getting older, are all I have.  I want to recall my forties as a time when my epiphanies created a beautiful life for myself.

Lesson four, my creative endeavors will happen in direct relation to the effort I put into them.  This blog happened because I made it happen.  Years ago, I sat on my ass for three days straight at a Starbucks, for ten hours each day, and made this site.  I did everything myself, the pictures, the layout, the text, and when I finished it, I marveled at what I had done.  The same is true with almost every story I have written.  It's the focus that matters and letting go of the conscious mind to let the subconscious artist in me free.  Writing a story can put me in a trance.  But, if I don't take the time or the energy to feed the process, it fizzles out.

Lesson five, the final one (as a young child I was always obsessed with the number five probably because there were five of us in my immediate family), I like me.  I like myself dammit.  I am a good person and strive to be an empathetic and nice person.  I have claws yes, but I try to bring them out only when necessary.  I am certainly not without my faults (ask my husband for examples or see above).  But all in all, I like myself and I want to be a better person and artist and damn, I would make a fucking fantastic mother.  And if you don't like me, or my tendency to ramble or cuss, then I don't care anymore.

This is me and I've said it before, but shoot I'll say it again, this is JEM's world baby, you're all just along for the ride.

Friday, October 31, 2014

The wanting and the waiting

I have said before that I live life looking in the rear view mirror.  I tend to only appreciate the high points in my life later looking back.  That is how it was with my time at UCR, with law school in LA, with Houston at the largest firm in Texas and with my time spent in San Francisco.

Perhaps, I get caught up in the minutiae of getting somewhere.  I am very goal orientated to a fault.  It must stem from being a young girl in the Inland Empire ("IE") who used to lay on the roof and listen to her parents fight.  I would look up at the stars and yearn for something more.

I always knew i would leave the IE.  I just didn't know I would return.

How does one return with grace?  I am still learning.  Since I came back, I have struggled to find my way and be content.  I started off at yet another law firm but found my way to the public defender's office.  I am happy there.  It is not perfect and there are days where I want to write full-time, but the work is fulfilling and my colleagues are like family.

Yet, I am always still wanting more.  Waiting for it.  The question is, am I waiting for something good or something bad to happen?  Am I waiting for the big one and living my life on high alert?  Expecting the shoe to drop, the door to slam, the wall to get punched in and for me to have to run?  For now, I need to resist the urge to move, both literally and figuratively.  Reminding myself over and over that I am fine right where I am.

Ultimately, I am slowly discovering that more may just be more.  More may not necessarily be better.



 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Life Is Beautiful

At the Life Is Beautiful three day festival in Las Vegas I saw a band called The Flaming Lips.  I did not know their music all too well.  I was only familiar with three or four songs.  I would call them their own genre.  A kind of psychedelic alternative meets opera rock.

The band came on at the same time as Outkast so it was not too crowded.  Huge blow up animals with people inside crowded the stage with walking life size rainbows and mushrooms and aliens.  The show was spectacular.

But, the reason I am writing this is because one of their songs touched me.  It was a song I had heard before, but I had not listened intently to the lyrics.  It is called, "Do You Realize?" and the lyrics go like this:

"Do you realize?  That everyone you know-someday will die? And instead of saying all your goodbyes let them know-You realize that life goes fast-it's hard to make the good things last.  You realize the sun don't go down-It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning around."

That thought is awesome and sublime when you think of it.  We will all die.  All our friends will die and the world will still be here spinning around.  So why get caught up in the small stuff?  We spend so much time worrying about trivial things instead of enjoying life in the moment.  A wise women (my therapist) told me something the other day.  She said, "Juanita, there is a time in life to make things happen and there is a time in life to just let life happen.  You need to let life unfold and live in the moment instead of always worrying about what you need to be doing."

My therapist and The Flaming Lips were both saying the same profound thing to me.  Life is beautiful.  Life is short.  Life can be tragic and sad.  But you can't avoid the loss.  You can only live your life and tell those you love that you adore them.  Shout it to the high heavens before it is too late.  If I could, I would bring my dad to Vegas and tell him how I adore him and how he was the best father in the world.  I would thank him for teaching me a love of music and movies and how to play gin rummy.

And while I am here in Vegas, I will tell my husband Adrian over and over how much I appreciate him and how lucky I was in my twenty year old drunken haze to meet him at a club in Pomona twenty plus years ago.  The universe was watching out for me that night.

And I will tell the written word how much I love writing and that in the end, my art is my legacy.  These letters I am typing may be all I leave to remind others I was here and ultimately, baby or no baby, I am here.  I am happy.  And life is beautiful.





Friday, October 3, 2014

When a piece of pizza is not just a piece of pizza

A piece of pizza almost wrecked my marriage.  We were in New York.  My husband and I had planned the trip with his business partner Harris and Harris' girlfriend Shiela.  I was excited about the trip.  Adrian was not.  I like to run away when I have problems and New York was pretty far.

This has been a bad year.  We have had money and tenant issues and living arrangement issues.  And then there's the baby issue.  Or lack thereof.  Tens of thousands of dollars into IVF and all my husband and I bought was a miscarriage.  The loss was a traumatizing experience that left me anxious and depressed.

I had never had anxiety before, but then I had never dealt with issues sober. I had always been able to drink my worries away.  My sober date is more than two years ago and I am proud of those two years.  But without alcohol, I was a mess.  I felt as if the world was crashing in some days.  And others days, well I was OK but the happy JEM was gone.

I felt as if New York could change this.  In the big city that was known as a large red apple, my sweetness and zest for life would reappear. A kind of rebirth.

Alas, it was not to be.  My anxiety seemed worse on vacation with no work to occupy me.  Traveling seemed to heighten my neurosis rather than alleviate it and I had no puppies to hug at night to take away the pain.

In short, if I was a mess in California, then in New York I was a broken, sleepless wreck and a hazard to be around.  Adrian took it in stride and tried to pat and talk me out of it.  It got so bad that I told him I was going to drink.  He sighed when I insisted that night at the Replacements concert that I was going to order a Coors Lite.  "Two years and all you want is a light beer?" he asked clearly flummoxed.  "At least go out in style."

I ended up refraining (maybe all I needed was his permission to relapse) and instead, I chain smoked a couple of cigarettes, had a sugar free lemonade and spent a small fortune on concert memorabilia.  Sobriety can be expensive.

After the concert, we took the subway home and I layed down in a bed that wasn't mine, rather it was the bed of the sweet Asian girl who rented her apartment to us, and cried all night eyes wide open.  For whatever reason, maybe the music brought it out, I felt my childlessness more than ever that night.  It was as if I could taste it and if I had to describe it, it tasted like mouthwash mixed with cigarettes and runny mascara.

But, back to the pizza.  There were two pizza incidents which is not surprising considering that New York is famous for its thin crust pizza.  The first pizza experience was a good one.  It was a tasty, hot piece of cheese pizza in Central Park and Adrian and I bonded over it while we moaned in delight.

The second pizza story is the one you want to hear.  It was a nondescript pizza dive next door to the apartment.  I think it was called Vinny's or some other Italian first name.  Adrian and I were hungry and standing in line around noon.  There was a business crowd.  It was our third or fourth day in the city.  We planned on eating our lunch rooftop in Battery Park to watch the ferries go by on the water.  I was standing with Adrian in line and suddenly, it was our turn to order.  I turned into a glutton and ordered every piece of pizza in sight, adding them one by one until I had six in all.  I don't blame myself.  I blame the women behind me who kept saying what they were going to order and I hadn't picked those slices so I had to add them on.

Through all of my pizza debacle Adrian didn't say a word.  But, after we went outside on the rooftop across the street to eat, he looked at me and said, "Why did you order so many slices? You know you can't eat them, it's wasteful."

Me being me, I freaked out on him.  I cried and told him he wasn't being supportive and if it was the money I would give him the stupid, fucking twenty bucks for lunch. (Pizza is cheap in New York.)

The argument lasted hours and ended with me saying the D word.  Or maybe he did.  Or maybe we both said it.  The word hung in the air and then all of a sudden, the tension dissipated and we started laughing.  I had to say it aloud.  "Are we really going to divorce over a piece of pizza?"

No.  We weren't.

And then later it hit me.  The pizza wasn't pizza.  It was everything I wanted at that moment in our life together.  I wanted it all.  And I couldn't have it.  But dammit, I could pretend, if only for a moment in a pizza joint in New York, that everything I wanted was attainable.




How to deal

Lately, I have been unable to deal.  I have to admit my anxiety has taken over and I am a mess.  Off kilter, I have not slept and I am sleepwalking my way through my day.  The ramifications are many.  My lack of sleep coupled with my anxiety has created a shaky and irritable Juanita.  My heart rate is up and my heartache is paramount.

I long for the days of old where I could shrug it all off with a beer or a rum and coke.  Without alcohol, life is harder I admit.  But, I don't regret this sober albeit more anxious me.  My therapist (yes, I found one and I adore her) keeps telling me that I need to simplify things.

Am I anxious because my life is not what I expected? Yes.  But the truth is, my life is based on choices I made.  Maybe I need to make new and better choices for myself.  And this morning, after sleeping for several hours last night due to sheer exhaustion without any Tylenol PM, I tell myself that everything will be ok.

If this feels like a rant, it is.  It is just a chronology of my thoughts.  I have lost my ability to string words together into an essay today.  Instead, this is what you get.  Deal with it.  As must I.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Satisfied

The Replacements have been a favorite band of mine since my junior year of high school circa 1987/1988.  It was something about Paul Westerfield's voice that first got to me.  It's raspiness and depth.  The soul embedded deep within it like a star set in stone.  I remember singing along to their albums with my best friend Tracy.  My favorite song was Alex Chilton.  The lyrics reference a singer that Westerberg idolizes but I knew none of that.  I only knew that the words touched something in me, like a Pied Piper speaking to me making me dance.

"I'm in love.  What's that song?"

So when I found out The Replacements were playing in Queens, New York the same week we were on vacation there, I was overjoyed.  Their only solo show (meaning not in a festival) was a could not miss.  I bought floor tickets for hubby and I on Stubhub not even blinking at the forty dollar up charge taking a sixty dollar ticket to a hundred.  I didn't care.  I was going to see them on the floor in New York City.  It was this punk rock girl's dream come true.

By the Thursday night they were playing, Adrian and I had busied ourselves to the point of exhaustion.  We had arrived in New York on Sunday and had seen Grouplove in Central Park, the Broadway musical Wicked, and had visited the Empire State Building, the 911 Memorial, the Guggenheim and the Statute of Liberty.  My feet were blistered to the point that every step I took sent tingles of pain through my feet and my back was killing me.

None of that mattered.

We spent the day walking Williamsberg and then left to Forest Hills Stadium at four in the afternoon.  It was an hour train ride and we wanted to beat the rush hour.  We arrived about five and walked the three blocks to the Forest Hills Stadium, which used to house the US Open, and marveled at the quaintness of the architecture.  We sat outside and had food and waited for the doors to open.

By six thirty, we walked inside and listened to a New York alternative rock band called Hold Steady.  They rocked it and their enthusiasm was contagious.  But, I was there to see The Replacements and my excitement was making me tap my feet in line as I waited to buy a t-shirt and a hoodie and wait a second, might as well get a poster too. I wanted to memorialize this night in every way possible.  

At the bathroom, Benecio Del Torro walked by me and I tried to take a picture but couldn't get my phone out in time.  Eventually, we made our way to the front of the stage on the floor.  I scooted my way to second from the stage but eventually got pushed back to third or fourth.  A fat drunk guy, a Chris Farly lookalike, kept pushing at us trying to get past us and a girl with straight hair and glasses pushed him in the face and told him to get back.  I told her she was "bad ass" and she smiled.  The lights dimmed and The Replacements came on with a flourish.  Paul was wearing a red and yellow cowboy shirt and matching pants.  His sidekick Tommy Stinson wore a checkered blue suit.  They were dapper and seemed happy to be there.

The song "Favorite Thing" started out the show but I was waiting for "I'll Be You" and "Kiss Me On The Bus" and other favorites like "Color Me Impressed", "Alex Chilton", "Unsatisfied" and "I'm in Trouble".  I wasn't disappointed and their set list was a satisfying best of with a little Jackson Five cover thrown in for good measure.  Paul Westerfield kept a cigarette lit and would smoke between sets taking a long drag and blowing it out the side of his mouth.

But this blog is not about the set list or what they sang or how the sound system was.  It is about how The Replacements made me feel.  I felt transformed into my younger self when I would jump up and down at concerts and lose myself in the music.  When I had no worries except for what homework was due and how I would get it done in the morning.  My feel didn't hurt any longer and my back felt loose as I screamed along to every song.  My voice became hoarse but my spirit was not.

I felt as if I could conquer the world one song at a time and all my troubles faded away into the New York ether.  That is the power of music in the end.  It takes us away.  The Sex Pistols and The Ramones and yes, The Replacements, made people feel something they hadn't before and that is why they have a place in musical history.  It's the feeling the music gives you, like we are all invincible and we are.   Really we are.  I only need to listen to a Replacements song to remember why I listen.  And, why I shout the words out and shake my head to the beat.  It's as if my body remembers what my brain has forgot.  We are all young.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

State of Mind

"...Now I'm down in Tribeca, right next to DeNiro, but I'll be hood forever.  I'm the new Sinatra and since I made it here, I can make it anywhere.  Yeah they love me everywhere.  I used to cop in Harlem.  All of my Dominicanos right there up on Broadway... " (Jay Z: "Empire State of Mind")

We leave for New York on Sunday and I am listening to Jay Z's song, "Empire State of Mind".  Whenever I hear the song, I think of San Francisco.  It may seem odd that a song about New York reminds me of the Bay.  But, I first listened to the song at VONA in Northern California.

VONA is a writing workshop for writers of color that used to be held at USF and is now held at UC Berkeley.  As soon as I arrived, it felt like I was home amongst all the brown and black writers.  I had never had that kind of community before.  It felt like a real revolution.  Like I was part of something.  I made friends with many people, some for life, and the class was transformative.  I found my voice and I got the positive feedback I needed to feel like I could do the creative thing.  In short, I became a writer there at VONA.

But the thing I remember the most, I can still relive it if I close my eyes, is our last night in San Francisco.  The reading had ended and we went out dancing at a converted Victorian that housed a bar slash club.  The song "Empire State of Mind" came on and the place went crazy.  Many of the writers in VONA were from New York and it seemed as if they knew every word to the song.  We danced for what seemed like hours to the song, jumping up and down and swaying to the music with our hands in the air, all united in our joy.

Now, as I listen to the song again, it all keeps flooding back.  The memory of that evening will stay with me forever.  It was the first time I felt like I belonged.  And where I learned that I could really make it anywhere.




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Letting go

Sometimes, you need to ask for help.  This has been a hard couple months and the other day, everything hit me.  I felt as if I couldn't breathe.  To say I was overwhelmed by it all is an understatement.  My anxiety boiled over like a teapot left over a flame too long.

Knowing I was drowning in the misery of it all, I reached out.  Flailing, I turned to my husband, my sisters, my friends, and finally, to a professional. And, my fatalistic and pessimistic view of the world was turned upside down because everyone was supportive, so supportive that it lifted me up.  And, I could breathe again.

One can't deny one truth. Life is hard.  And my life is difficult and complicated.  Clearly, things need to change.

But because of all of the support in my life,  I am able to think and plan and hopefully, make the changes to simplify my world.  You see, I've realized some things.  Everyone wants happiness and happiness is love.  And love is all around me.  Maybe, I just needed to see that I have all that I need: my writing, my puppies and my family including the love of my life by my side.

And, if a baby is not part of the equation so be it.  The things I have outweigh what is missing.  No longer can I focus on the missing pieces because truth be told, I am blessed.

Sigh.  Breathe.  Cry.  Repeat.  Letting go is hard dammit.  I would much rather try and control it all, but I can't.  I just can't anymore.

So my friends, here we go.  Time to get in the passenger seat and put on my seatbelt.  I may not know where I am going, but I can't wait for the journey.








Thursday, September 4, 2014

The point of it all

It is five am and I am typing to the sounds of my husband snoring and my dogs cleaning themselves.  Lately, my black and white shih-tzu Frodo has been waking me up at five am to go outside.  He alerts me in one of two ways, by growling like a mogwai or by scratching at the bed.  I grumble to myself but get up and open the sliding glass door.  Chewbaca (Chewie for short), our golden shih-tzu (golden in color only, not in behavior as he has been known to drink my coffee if left unattended) follows Frodo outside where they spend ten minutes peeing on trees and rocks and glaring at our German Shepard Neuron (I didn't name him obviously) who cowers in fear of the two smaller dogs.

Usually, I can't get back to sleep and play on Facebook while the rooster crows next door.  We live in a rural area and despite my love hate relationship with the high desert, for now, it's home.  Other times, I just lay in bed and think.

This morning time is a blessing really.  It is time just for me and my thoughts and while sometimes I focus on the negative, letting my anxiety take hold in a way that I know is not healthy, the reflection time is key to managing it all.

I am not my sister Annie.  I cannot run every day and be supermom and see life in a sunny light.  Nor am I my twin Jackie who pushes herself to exhaustion with her doctorate program and her swimming.   No, I am just me.   A former Goth girl who has always had a dark side.  My therapy is my creativity.  I need it.  My job is exhausting in a fulfilling way, but I have come to realize that as a public defender, I see so much misery that I need an escape.

I see people, young kids, going to prison every day and I can't cry the entire day at work although I may want to,  My heart hurts with the sadness of it all, but I don't show it.  I can't.  I have a job to do.  

That is why I need this.  I need the hope of the written word. Every writer has to be somewhat of an optimist to write. We writers have to believe that someone will read our words and be moved.  That what we have to say matters. That there is more light than dark in this universe.  And that, is the point.  I think.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Waitress daze

I always judge my friends on how they treat waiters and how they tip.  If someone is rude or doesn't tip well then I have a hard time remaining friends with those people.  By those people, I mean elitist pricks.  At the large Texas law firm I worked at after graduating from USC Law School, I was always amazed at how the wait staff seemed invisible to many of the lawyers.  And how, while eating a hundred dollar dinner, they ignored their waiters and waitresses at best.  To them, these people were irrelevant. This was not true in my case. They were my tribe.

Before I became a lawyer, I worked for more than a decade as a waitress to put myself through school.  Name a restaurant and I have probably worked there.  Don Jose's in Montclair, Benji's Coffee Shop in Upland, Marie Calendar's in Covina (for one day, I swear), Tony Roma's in West Covina, Applebees in San Dimas, Rainforest Cafe in Ontario, Carrows in Riverside and others.  The oddest job I had was room service at a hotel restaurant in Ontario where I worked with my best friend Melinda.  It freaked me out to wheel the cart into people's rooms, especially if a guy was only wearing a towel (which happened more than once).

My mom was a waitress.  And my sisters and I waited tables.  It is a noble profession and you have to be wicked smart and a multitasker to do it well.  I was an excellent waitress.  I could take ten tables at a time.  There was a trick to it.  You had to be able to do a million things at once and be able to hold your bladder.

The hardest wait job I had was the graveyard shift at Benji's coffee shop in Upland.  The uniform was a peach polyester skirt with a green polo.  Hideous.  My little sister Annie and I worked there and you had to start out at the graveyard shift because all the old timers had the breakfast and lunch prime shifts.  All the little punks and jerks came in at two a.m. after the club and were drunk and obnoxious. And, they didn't tip for shit.  But, the worst part was staying awake and being polite.  I was always grumpy because I wanted to be out at the club not slinging hash.

Like I said earlier, I was an excellent food server and quickly moved to breakfast and lunches where the regulars tipped well.  My dad would always come visit me and sit at the counter and order an iced tea.  He would leave me a quarter tip.  He would say, "Jenny, you need to go to school."  I would nod my head and reply, "I'm working on it Dad."

I knew I was smart, but I didn't know how I would get to school.  By get to school, I mean literally get there.  You see, I never had a working car and transportation was my biggest issue in my twenties.  The best part about Benji's was that it was two blocks away from my apartment in Upland.  I walked to work because I couldn't seem to save up money for a car.  When Dad got a settlement, he bought me a little black Chevelle for five hundred cash that we called the cockroach but it broke down within two months.

My clients sometimes can't get to court and I always understand because I was there.  I know what it feels like to not have a ride.

And fuck the bus.  The only place the bus is remotely cool is in Northern California and back in the 90's, bus service in the Inland Empire sucked even more than it does now.

In some ways, I miss those days.  There was a beauty to the struggle.  It sucked but in a lovely way.  Something I can look back upon and write about at the very least.  But I don't miss the aching feet or the smell of food in my hair.  Or the hundred dollar checks I got stiffed on.

And I guess what I am also saying here is, when you are sitting at a restaurant and ordering food, remember, that girl waiting on you is a person.  A person with hopes, dreams and ambitions.  Look her in the eye.  Talk to her.  Joke around.  Always be polite and tip at least fifteen to twenty percent.  And, if she is having a bad day, realize, she may have had to call three people before she found a ride to work.

Plus, you never know, one day she may be your lawyer.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

This Old JEM

My husband and I went to the Greek Theater last night to see a band called Grouplove.  I don't listen much to new music.  I'm your typical punk rock music snob who thinks only the 1970's and 1980's mattered with a little smattering of some 1990's.  Bowie, The Smiths, The Pixies, The Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Replacements, Joy Division, Siouxsie and The Cure.  Those, and many others which are too many to name, are the greats.  I just started appreciating Nirvana.  And if I listen to "new" music it's throwback old school type bands like The White Stripes, The Strokes, The Killers and so on.  I'm like my mother when I was in high school.  Mom loved the 1950's musical era especially Elvis and that music, along with some outlaw country, was all she would listen to. New wave and punk bands from the 1980's are to me what the 1950's music was to my mom.

Can that be true? There is an old Cure lyric that goes something like this, "Yesterday I got so old, I felt like I could die.  Yesterday I got so old that it made me wanna cry."

Grouplove is a band I would put in the throwback category but they're very modern as well fusing punk with dance (or do the new kids call it electronic?).  The lead singer's voice reminds me of a higher pitched Michael Stipe from REM.  On stage, the lead resembles a blue haired Kurt Cobain in his trench coat slash blue bathrobe and long white t shirt with combat boots and his lyrical partner and keyboardist looks like a hybrid of Blondie and Lady Gaga.  Their songs are infectious punk pop with a little pixies type distortion and male female melody.  That's why I, along with what must be millions of teens including my 15 year old niece, love them.  The average age at the concert was probably 18 but I did see some other thirty and forty somethings.

Friday concerts are always difficult, especially living where we live in the HD (high desert my friends and you can only use the acronym if you live there).  It was a 72 mile drive each way and my husband and I both had to work.  I left work a little early and was home by 5.  My husband Adrian walked in at after 6 and I could tell he was irritated.  To his credit, he didn't try and get out if it, likely because he knows how much I love music and concerts, as does he.  And he had never been to the Greek so I had to get him there.

The drive wasn't bad.  No traffic to speak of as we were heading against the long lines of traffic.  We took the I 15 South to the 210 West to the 134 West through Pasadena to the 5 freeway at Griffith Park.  We were there by 745 and after paying twenty dollars to park, we walked into the venue past a coyote.  The arena is nestled in a park like area with trees and tables.  I could tell Adrian appreciated the venue.  I walked to will call to get our tickets and could hear that the opening band, Portugal The Man, was already playing.

We got to our seats and we were nestled in the terrace section to the left of the stage, thankfully at the end of the row for Adrian who is six foot four.

I would have had a great view except for the four or five teenage girls who stood up and danced like maniacs in the row in front of us.  I kept rolling my eyes as the teenage girl in front of me twirled her hair and head banged to music that didn't warrant it.  They passed a joint around and I waved my hand in front of my face to get the smoke away.  The young JEM would of asked for a hit. Old JEM was just irritated.

The clock hit nine and Portugal got off the stage.  The annoying girls seemed to deflate and fell into their seats. I went to get popcorn and go pee.  Grouplove came on at 9:25 as scheduled and the entire stadium went crazy.  I danced and sang along to every song and was just as annoying as the girls had been earlier, girls who were now slumped in their seats from too much partying early on.

That is the benefit of old JEM's sobriety.  I can always make it through.  I never miss an experience because I am passed out or sick or drunk.  And I have to say, I like old JEM.  Yes, I get tense.  Yes, I stress out without any magic elixir other than caffeine but I am myself.  This is it people.  Take it or leave it.

So excuse me now please.  I am going to go listen to some 80's punk with a little new music thrown in.  Maybe I will even bang my head a time or two to the beat and twirl my hair and remember what it was like.  To be young.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Restless Soul

I feel restless today.  Something is in the air.  This has been a hard couple months but as usual things are bad until they're not.  The sun is breaking through for me today.  Excuse me if I wax poetic for a quick second, but I feel as if I have awoken from the fog of a dream into the real world.  And I am alive.  Breathing is possible.

I am sitting at Starbucks marveling at my life.  I have it pretty good.  A great husband, a job that fulfills me and my writing.  I never thought I would get this far in life, I really didn't.

When I was in my early twenties, all I cared about was partying.  It was all about the fun and while I know how the song goes, it was not all fun and games.  In the end, all partying and drinking is a way to escape the drudgery of an adult existence.  In my teens, drinking was how I coped with the chaos of home, in my twenties it was how I escaped being a real adult (if all you care about is going to the nightclub and what you are wearing out every night, and making enough tips for your drinks, then life seems easy) and in my thirties, drinking was how I decompressed from a stressful legal career.

In my forties, drinking is not an option anymore.  It is not that I would say I had a drinking problem, it is that I knew I didn't want to get one.  I come from a long line of alcoholics on my father's side and after seeing first hand the havoc it wrought, I have decided to abstain.  This is the first time I have written about that choice.  And it is a choice.  Everything is.

Choice is what makes us have a soul they say.  I believe it.  And I choose to be the sober, soulful and fun loving punk rock chick I am today.




Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Showing up

There is something to be said about just showing up. About being there.  Right now, I am not the nicest person to be around.  I feel like I have a perpetual frown on my face.  Life is all too much sometimes.  But I am showing up.

It is not just the baby thing.  Well maybe it is.  Since the day I found out I would miscarry I have been in a funk.  Before that day, I would not have called myself an optimist necessarily, but I did try and stay positive as much as a former goth girl could.  And I tried to be nice.

The problem may be that I never failed at anything I tried hard at.  School was always easy for me academically, although not always emotionally.  But, if I tried, I succeeded.  This baby thing, well maybe it is just not meant to be.  The most difficult part of it all is that for a short time, maybe even seconds, I believed it could happen.  Then God ran my heart over.

One thought keeps running through my head: silly girl for ever thinking you could be a mom.  Reader, please bear with me. I know these thoughts are not rational.  They don't make sense.  I know God is not punishing me for anything and the universe is not conspiring against me.  Some things may not be in the cards.  You have to, and I mean this, you have to be happy either way.

Yes, I show up but in a way, I feel like I've given up.  I am always irritable.  I show up to things because otherwise I would sleep all day and cry.  I learned much from my last year of high school in 1989 when I did give up and doze it all away.  That experience taught me that escapism is not how you deal with life.   You go to work.  You go to concerts.  You live life.  In short, you get up.

Take my seventy-four year old mom for example.  Mom fell and broke her leg two weeks ago.  Her positive tenacity has astounded me. "I'm not depressed anymore," she said one day after finding out she has to have leg surgery.  "Thank you for all you and your sisters do.  I have the best daughters."

When I think of her and how strong she is sitting in her wheelchair, my eyes fill with water.  OK tears.  I want to be that brave. And strong.  To believe in life again.

I want to show up with grace.

I just need to learn how.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Finding My Musical Religion

If I could write perfect memoir it would have music embedded into it.  One would read a bit of my childhood and young adult memories with a song playing in their ears.  For me, music is a religious experience.  I lose myself.

Music saved me.  In my high school years, it was a balm for all of the depression and loneliness in my soul.  Music from post punk bands like The Smiths, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Pixies, The Replacements, and U2 (along with many, many others) took that all the pain away and provided an outlet.  Only music people understand what I mean.  Truth is, you either are a music person or you're not.  It's like being a good waitress.  It can't be taught.  You can tell someone is a music person by whether they relate their music to memories. I remember the first Smiths' song I ever heard on the radio ("This Charming Man")  and the first time my friend Tracy played Siouxsie for me at her house.  When I was little, I would dance to The Go Go's on the radio singing into a hairbrush.  When I think of my dad, Johnny Cash is playing in the background along with some Loretta Lynn.

Interlude-Right now, the song "Changes" by Bowie is playing on my headphones and before that "Where is my Mind" by the Pixies and "Los Angeles" by X and I am watching the sun rise in the high desert with the earth's own special mix of purple and yellow.

If I ever lose this side of myself, the musical side, I will have officially become old and you can put me out to pasture.  The day I hear an X song and don't jump up and down like a maniac, just sedate me please.  And tonight, in true JEM fashion, I will be seeing The Cult live and don't expect me to not to dance and sing along.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Fourth of July

"On the stairs, I smoke a cigarette alone/Mexican kids are shooting fireworks below/Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July/Hey baby/Baby take a walk outside."  An excerpt from the song "Fourth of July" by X

The Fourth of July brings back my childhood memories of homemade potato salad and thick rib eye steaks on the grill.  My dad would always complain about having to do all the work.  Mom was useless after having worked the night at Yangtzee's Chinese Restaurant.  Plus, she couldn't cook.  Mom knew her limitations and didn't even try and despite his grumbling, Dad liked the kitchen and barbecue to himself.

I grew up in a small suburb sixty miles east of Los Angeles called Ontario.  Ontario had a Dunkin Donuts, a Pizza Hut, a Carl's Jr., a Pup n Taco and not much else.    The favorite pastime of my junior high years was to walk through the sewer drains underneath the airport with my friends.  Life must have been really boring if sewage drains were an adventure.

My twin sister Jackie and I attended Imperial Junior High and took all GATE classes.  Our little sister Annie was two years behind us.  Our best friend Melinda, whose mom Mary often watched us after school, went to Imperial with us.  Jackie and I wore a lot of florescent during junior high.  That was the same year Wham UK came out with the day glow video and we followed the trend.  Melinda bucked the trends and wore her hair spiked up and favored tight stretch pants with a tank and a jean jacket with all of her heavy metal band buttons (Motley Crue was her favorite) lined up down the front.

We were latchkey kids.  CHIPS was my favorite TV show along with What's Happening and Good Times.  We had a track house on a cul-de-sac with a swimming pool.  Mom waited tables and worked at Circle K and Dad moved furniture.  Things were pretty comfortable until Dad bought a bar called The Big O and quit his job, a decision that plunged our family into financial ruin.  But, until then things were good although Mom always said we were bill poor.  Even though she worried about money, Mom always took us shopping.  Mom loved to shop and still does.  Even if it was her last twenty, Mom would use it to buy us swimsuits or shoes.  We shopped at K-Mart, JC Penny's, Montgomery Wards and Gemco.

Back to those summer barbecues, Mom and Dad would always fight.  My childhood was filled with the electrical tension of their relationship.  Everything would be fine and then boom, Mom would explode usually because Dad was drinking too much.  But, until their fights went off, those summer barbecues were beautiful times.  My sisters and I would swim until we couldn't move our arms and down Shasta after Shasta cola like there was no tomorrow.  Dad would let us each have our own steak and dribble steak sauce on it for us.  Dad never used A1 Steak Sauce, it was always Worcestershire Sauce.

The thing is, no matter how much I try, I can't recreate those memories in my head or on the page.  My writing is a poor substitute for the reality but I try to capture the magic nonetheless.  But, I ultimately fail because there's too much there.  I always forget something.

Like my dad's blue swim trunks and his scarred up legs from his vein disorder.  Or the way my sisters and I would dive off the diving board or play Marco Polo in the pool.  Mom's smile when she relaxed.  And the fireworks Dad would save up his moving tips to buy.  My sisters and I would watch in awe as the charcoal snakes weaved their way down the street and marveled with open mouths at the twirling fireworks that screamed as they spun.

Melancholy nostalgia are the only words that capture the feeling because no matter what, no matter what is left, Dad is gone.

And so are his fireworks.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Wonder Woman

Today is a good day.  I feel that I have come through the wringer and am dry.  There are no more tears to be shed.  Or lost dreams to mourn.  There are only new plans to make.

Part of it is just feeling well physically.  This has been a hard month.  I was swollen with all of the hormones and having been off them for a couple of weeks, I feel better.  And having gone through one of the hardest nights of my life with the miscarriage has made me stronger.  It had to.

When I was a little girl in the 1970's, I loved Wonder Woman so much that I had her picture on my wall.  I begged my mom to let me change my name to Lynda because I knew the real name of Wonder Woman was Lynda Carter.  I wanted to be Wonder Woman aka Lynda Carter so badly.  She was strong and brave and beautiful.  And, my little self knew Wonder Woman was somewhere inside of me just waiting to come out.

Some people say, "what would Jesus do?"  Instead I ask myself, "what would Wonder Woman do?"  Wonder Woman wouldn't moan or whine, "why me?"  No.  Wonder Woman would never do that.  Wonder Woman would twirl herself into super hero status and hop on her invisible plane to save the world, golden lasso and all.

In a way, after my ordeal, I felt transformed.  No longer am I a mere human.  Instead, I morphed into a bad ass Amazon who could take on the world.

And I got my hair done.  Don't underestimate the power of the hairdo.  It means a lot to look good and feel good.  And with my straight keratin hair and glasses, I have to say, and I know we're all thinking it, that if I squint at myself in the mirror, I resemble Lynda Carter in her heyday.

Just a little.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Not for the Faint of Heart

Music always inspires me and on Thursday night at the Fox Theater in downtown Pomona, I had an epiphany at the Jack White concert.

This has been a hard two months.  I did IVF, got a positive result for pregnancy and then seven weeks later was told I had lost the baby.  They called it a missed miscarriage where for some reason your body rejects the embroyo early on.  Only a sac remained.  Like an abandoned house that someone had moved out of, the sac stayed in my uterus as an awful reminder.  I was told I needed to schedule a DNC to clean up the mess.  I have learned that life is not for the sqeamish.  Nor for the faint of heart.

To think about it gives me a stone in my chest.  Since the diagnosis I have tried not to think about it too much.  Thinking can be overrated.

Instead, I stayed busy and went into work every day, resolving my clients' criminal problems and tried to move on.  Please excuse me if I seemed a bit distracted.  I felt like I was not myself anymore and this new me was disconcerting.  A type of Invasion of the Body Snatchers had set in.

At the Jack White concert on Thursday, I felt more like my old self.  We arrived early at 5 p.m. to try and get wristbands for the floor and saw that the will call line wrapped around the venue.  I shrugged my shoulders (shoulders encased by a Replacements t-shirt) and walked to the end of the line a block away.  The line moved and by six we were sitting in the bar next door to the venue.  You weren't allowed to leave once you had picked up your tickets so I snagged a table and Adrian brought me an O'Douls.

(Was I tempted to drink?  Of course.  I am always tempted.  But, I knew a Coors Lite would not solve anything and my almost two years of sobriety would be out the window.  And, I don't do moderation well my friends.  But that's another story for another day.)

By seven, they opened the doors.  The rush of excitement for me at a concert is always palpable.  It gives me a rush of adrenalin.  The crush of people in line to buy a t-shirt did not dissuade me and after forking over the cash, I changed into my new t-shirt.  We weren't familiar with the opening band so Adrian and I sat outside and basked in the sun on the patio.  I even smoked one illicit ciggerate (just one I promise) as I chatted with a purple haired girl about her tatoos.

By the time Jack White came on at almost ten, I was exhaused.  My feet hurt so bad that every time I stepped, I had tingles of pain.

By hour two, something happened.

Jack White played my favorite White Stripes song ("I can tell that we are gonna be friends") and I jumped up from my chair in the "disabled" section of the floor (don't judge, I was in a lot of pain and no one was sitting there) and started dancing like there was no tomorrow.  The music consumed me and song after song took away all the pain and sadness.  We stayed until the very last song which I almost killed myself jumping up and down to like a maniac and knew one thing for sure.

I was back.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

My Writing Process (as a work in progress)


My fellow VONA alum and all around writer extraordinaire Joshunda Sanders asked me to participate in this blog tour (see her process at http://joshunda.com/2014/06/02/my-writing-process-forget-what-you-hear-about-writing/) and I agreed.  Here goes:


1) What are you working on?  I have been working on my memoir about growing up in the 1970's and 1980's in the Southern California area known as the Inland Empire (which back in the day was the antithesis of an empire).  The memoir is tentatively titled "My Inland Empire: Hometown Stories".  The book is told from the first person perspective of Jennie, a dreamer and the oldest of three sisters who live with their manic mother and alcoholic father in Ontario, California.  The book spans Jennie's formative elementary school and teenage years and ends with her dropping out of high school and thinking all is lost.  The themes of the memoir are loss, forgiveness, and the reconciliation of memory.  Each chapter begins with a narrative (novel, movie, TV show) that Jennie imagines herself into and ultimately, Jennie must learn that she has to be the heroine of her own story.  My memoir has been a seven year labor of love and for now, I have put it aside to give it some perspective.  My goal is to do a final polish and edit and submit it to agents by the tail end of this year.  My other recent project has been essays focusing on fertility after forty which I have all too much familiarity with (see http://www.xojane.com/healthy/cookies-dont-lie-or-i-waited-until-42-to-have-a-baby-and-i-am-hoping-that-it-is-not-too-late).  I have been conducting research and would love to write a book on the fertility process and the heartbreaking nature of  IVF which rips out hearts (and wallets) and too often leaves one broken and disappointed.  The book would be about redefining expectations.


2) How does your work differ from others’ work in the same genre?  For me, memoir has to be the bloody and raw truth.  Too often, people censor their writing and leave out the ugly details.  I have been accused of being too open, but the writers I love the most just lay it all out there for everyone to see.  I don't know if my work is different, but I do know that my story is all my own.


3) Why do you write what you do? For me, writing is a compulsion.  My best stories come out like water from a tap.  I know dedication is important but I think sometimes when I try too hard, I overwork a piece.  Inspiration is important and my punk rock music always inspires me in my writing.  I also write to quiet the demons in my head and heart and to find some peace through reconciliation.  My childhood and young adult years were very difficult at times, but they also contained lovely and adventurous moments that I would not trade for the world.  My goal is to always capture the characters in my life in a truthful and compelling way.  That is not to say that finding that truthful portrait has been easy.  That has been the hardest part and also the most cathartic.  Through the writing process, I have had to try and see the holistic picture of my family as opposed to making anyone a stereotype. The truth is never one color.


4) How does your writing process work? I write in spurts while balancing my job as an attorney/public defender.  Early mornings are always the ideal time for me.  I try to blog at least once a week and always have something in the pipeline.  My writing process is a work in process and my goal is to write every day this summer.  Writing workshops have proven to be my biggest inspiration.  At VONA (http://www.voicesatvona.org/), I met so many beautiful teachers and writers and it kick started my entire memoir writing process.  I took this year off but plan on attending at least one workshop next summer. For me, having a writing community is the key and honing one's craft is an imperative.  Finally, I think writing goes hand in hand with reading.  I have always been a voracious reader and gravitate toward the memoir and young adult genres.  Reading a good book always inspires me to be a better writer.


On June 19th, two of my favorite writers and friends will post on their blogs about their writing process.  I know they will be fabulous.


Samuel Autman (http://www.samuelautman.com/) is an assistant professor of creative writing at DePauw University and has been widely published and is hard at work on Sanctified: A Memoir. 


Gina Devore is a singer songwriter (http://www.reverbnation.com/coat), poet and writer of creative nonfiction. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Steak Sauce

I grab the Worcestershire sauce and think of you.  How you would always barbecue those huge rib eye steaks.  How I would always pull away when you tried to hug me as a teenager.  How I never understood your need for affection.

Now I do.  I get exactly how you must have felt to see little pieces of you brought to life.  You must have been in awe.

You made creation seem so easy.  Seven of us, all girls.

Yet, I always knew somehow that it would be hard for me.  Even as a little girl, I somehow knew.  Conception would be a struggle.
  
And, as I sit here at the Steer n Stein trying to process the knowledge that what once was in me may no longer be.  Reconciling that all this effort toward parenthood has been for naught.

I take a bite of steak and chew.  I don't taste anything but that sauce.

It reminds me of you.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Oh Baby (Part II)

There are baby pictures everywhere in the office.  I walk by a collage containing dozens of pictures of infants with captions like "thank you for making our dream come true."

As I sit in the waiting room of the fertility office waiting for my second ultrasound, I pray in my head hoping God can hear my private thoughts.  I am willing him to listen.  It is a truism to say that I want this baby more than anything.  The last week I have been coaxing the baby to grow.  I wake up in the middle of the night and rub my stomach and whisper to myself, "you can do it".

This has been a chaotic and draining process.  I thought getting pregnant would be the hardest part, but no, staying pregnant is even harder.

Today they will again do a transvaginal ultrasound to see the baby.  Please let there be something there.  A tiny pebble and a heartbeat for me to hear.

I promise to not ask for anything this big again.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Six weeks and counting and hoping and praying

I am sitting on the beach in Newport writing this.  My hubby took my mother-in-law and I here to enjoy the sun and sand.  I needed to clear my mind and for me, sitting on the beach and watching the ocean is a tranquil and meditative environment.

My mind is swirling like the waves before me.  Last week, I went to get a six week ultrasound and while they saw a gestational sac, they didn't see anything else.  Of course, I overreacted and didn't sleep for days worrying that there is not a baby there despite all evidence to the contrary (rising hormone levels, expanding girth etc) and ignoring the fact that the ultrasound was very early.

After a week of angst and much research, I have come to the conclusion that I should not have had such an early ultrasound. There were no danger signs such as bleeding or cramping and thus, it wasn't medically indicated in my non expert opinion because all it did was freak me out.

When I talked to my doctor, he pleaded with me not to worry and said that I could return in a week

Tomorrow I will have another ultrasound and am hoping and praying everything goes well.  Wish me luck.  In the end, I have to believe all is OK.  And whatever will be, will be.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Mess

I am wearing slightly damp pants this morning.  Actually, by now, at 6:21 a.m., they are almost dry as I sit at a coffee shop (not a new school "coffee shop" like Starbucks or Coffee Bean, but an old school truck stop where you eat hash and eggs coffee shop) and write this.

I found out I was pregnant via IVF a couple of weeks ago and have been tired beyond anything I could ever have imagined.  I get home from work and fall into bed.  Last night, in a fit of positiveness that I could stay awake, I washed the pants I wanted to wear today.  I had to wash them because they were the same pants I wore yesterday and the ones I spilled cottage cheese on driving to work.  Right now, only one pair of pants fit because with all the hormones and the pregnancy, I look like a sausage version of my former self.  It doesn't help that every suit (I wear skirt suits) is at the cleaners.

This morning, I woke up, took a shower and walked to the laundry room in my robe.  Cursing, I grabbed my pants out of the washer and tried to throw them into the dryer with the load of towels from last night.  The towels were still wet and the dryer wouldn't turn on so I put the pants on damp and went to get ready.  As I combed my hair back, I noticed that the left edges are starting to turn grey and my keratin straightening treatment was done so long ago that my hair is a mass of frizz and curl, but I have neither the time nor the inclination (too worried about the chemicals) to get my hair done.

I fed the dogs, walked them outside briefly and kissed my husband goodbye while whispering in his ear, "The dryer won't turn on."  Even though I knew I should wait for the towels to dry, I didn't.  I thought that maybe my hubby would take care of it and maybe he would even fold the towels (wishful thinking, instead my mother-in-law would probably give me a glare when I got home).

Plus, I needed to write.

Further exacerbating my mess of a self is the worry tickling the back of my mind at all times like a constant feather.  A worry that the pregnancy won't take.  Every twinge sends me into a panic and while I know I must relax, I also know that relaxation is not in my nature.

Maybe things would be easier if I could stay home which is not an option.  I need my benefits and salary.  Of course, I wish I could stay in bed for ten months just to make sure everything turns out OK.  And, I wish there was a guarantee.  Alas, I know there is not.

While trying to write and eat, I spill egg on my shirt and think, this is not going to get better.   I am a mess.  A chunky, damp pant and stained shirt wearing hot stinking mess.

I would not have it any other way.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Oh Baby

On Wednesday we did the first IVF treatment.  They inserted two embryos into my uterus.  The doctor, in his typical Newport surfer meets pragmatic meets spiritualist way, told me the rest was up to God.

Already knowing this, I had lit a candle at church on the Sunday prior.  And put a note in Virgin Mary's basket.  I asked her to make this happen.  Then I went to the Jesus statue and prayed.

Some Catholics might have an issue with IVF but I think that God would understand that sometimes intervention is needed.  That sometimes God needs help to do what is meant to be.  Things are meant to be is a saying my sister Annie always says. I am hoping this is meant to be.  I want to be a mommy.  Does that sound weird coming from me?  To show my sweet feminine side is not usually my thing, but this punk rock girl does have a maternal side.  I have been my sarcastic, bitter and non-hopeful self for so long that this me is terrifying.  Who am I?  I don't really know anymore.

Caring so much is scary.  I would rather be apathetic, but it's not in my nature.

This whole process has changed me.  It made me realize that the thing I have been yearning and searching for is love.  Not romantic love, but maternal love.  The kind of love that makes you work hard every day.  An age old kind of pure love.

My real problem is that I have come to realize, that for me, without this kind of love, a child's love, there is really no point to it all.  Life is not about so called success or money, it is about creating family.

And that my friends, is what I want.  I want to be the mom cutting her kids' food at the table next to me.

And if I don't get it, oh baby.  

Friday, May 2, 2014

Greens and Blues

I am listening to the new Pixies album Indie Cindy on repeat.  My favorite song is Greens and Blues. The refrain goes like this,

"I'm wasting your time, just talking to you/Maybe best you go on home/I'll leave you alone, fade from your mind/Slip into the greens and blues."

Like all of the Pixies' best work, the lyrics are a bit murky and symbolic and edged with a sliver of meloncholy.  There is something about Frank Black's rusty edged voice that gets me.  Some singers let you see into their soul when they sing and Frank Black is one of those type of singers.

Listening to the Pixies' new album raced me back in my memory to my high school years when the Pixies' best albums Sufer Rosa and Doolittle came out.  Those albums were my junior and senior years of high school and my best friends Melinda, Tracy and I would listen to the CDs over and over dancing on the stairs and trying to figure out the undecipherable meaning of songs like Tame, Debaser and Where is My Mind.   Frank Black's lyrics are steeped in a mix of religion and surrealism and draw the listener in with the mix of hard and soft.  The thing people often miss about the Pixies is how melodic many of their songs are.  There is always a catchy melody embedded within the walls of a Pixis song.  You just have to find it.

Their music inspires me.  Making music looks easy but all creation is hard.  It is like digging into your heart and mind and cutting out a piece of yourself and putting it on a plate for all to see and consume.  Writing is never easy for me, but it satiates me.  My memoir has been a work in progress for years and I know it just needs a little time and TLC to germinate into what I want and need it to be.

Like my art, making a baby has not been easy.  Nothing in my life has been easy but this process has been the hardest.  Harder than anything.   But, I can't let this go.  I have too much hope that I am meant to create this life.

There are no guarantees.  That I know.  I am a cynic by nature.  This whole fertlility process could be a big disappointment or it could be one of the greatest moments in my life.

For now, I will just sit in bed and hope and pray that something takes root.  And try not to slip into the greens and blues.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

My Admissions

I am sitting in a hospital bed listening to the lady next to me cough, hack and vomit. I didn't expect to be here.  It's 4 am and in an effort to distract myself, I am watching Sex and the City and listening to Carrie Bradshaw's narration about Mr. Big.

My Mr. Big is in Vegas on a boy's trip.  I wouldn't let him come home.  Not for this.

It all started when my fertility doctor did an iron study for my upcoming IVF.  The numbers were bad.  My hemoglobin was 7 which means I'm in the danger level for anemia.  The anemia was a consequence of weight loss surgery two years prior.  The weight came off, but so did the iron.

On Wednesday I went to my hematologist appointment.  He was older but articulate and kind.  The first thing he said was, "You should not be able to walk around like this."  At the end of the visit, he assured me that we could do an iron infusion in office.

"It could push your IVF back," he said with a grimace.

"That can't happen," I told him with a firm smile.  "Let's get this handled."  My teeth were showing.

Later that evening, we dropped my best friend Tracy's daughter at a concert in Pomona.   We sat at a restaurant and ordered food.  My phone rang.  It was the hematologist.

"This is Dr. C.  You need to go to the hospital tonight.  I can't even do an infusion because your hemoglobin has dropped again below seven.  Go to the hospital tonight for a blood transfusion.  It's an emergency."

"What the hell?" I thought to myself.  I knew what the ER was like at night.  There was no way I was going.  Plus I had Pixies tickets for the next night.

"Ummm, no," I stammered back.  "I will go on Friday."

"Friday is too late.  You need to go now," he said.  "At the latest go tomorrow in the morning.  It's dangerous."

I hung up the phone and looked at Tracy and said, "Guess who's going to the ER tomorrow?  Adrian is gonna freak, but just think, I will be able to hold this over his head forever."

I called Adrian who wanted to jump on a plane.  I negotiate for a living, persuasion is my job.

I reassured him.  "I'll be fine baby.  I will just be there a couple hours."

There was no way I was going to let him ruin his trip. Adrian never went anywhere without me.  This was his first guy trip in years.  There was no way he was coming home.

At the ER the next morning at 8 am, I told the check-in nurse at San Antonio Hospital my hemoglobin situation.  She said, "They will check you in immediately."  Within five minutes I was in a bed being poked and prodded.  That was quick, I thought to myself.

More blood work.

The orderlies were all male and joked around with me.  I told them my hubby was in Vegas and they said I was a good wife to leave him there.

About an hour later, the ER doctor came into the room with a stomp and a hard pull of the curtain.  He looked to be in his late thirties with curly brown hair.  He wasn't smiling.

"This hemoglobin is ridiculously low," he said with a stern frown.  I looked back at him and smiled and tried to explain about my gastric bypass two years ago and my IVF process recently.  He held up his hand and went on.  "Why didn't you come in sooner.? You could have passed out and not woken up.  Do you realize that?  Was no one monitoring your blood?"

I was being cross-examined and I folded.

"I was in trial," I stammered.  "As soon as my hematologist told me it was urgent, I came in.  My primary doctor just told me to take my supplements."

The ER doctor looked at me with an open mouth.  "Trial?  Really.  Well trial or no trial, you should have been in when you got your blood work.  Your hemoglobin has now dropped to six.  Your doctors are incompetent.  I would have admitted you weeks ago."

He made me feel like an idiot.  I should have came in.  Why didn't I?  I gave him a sheepish grin and shrugged my shoulders and said with a sigh, "I know, you're right."

The doctor seemed mollified by my admission.  "Well, we're admitting you overnight.  You need multiple bags of red blood cells and iron."

By noon, I was in a hospital room.  They brought me some broth and jello.  My chart on the wall specified an all clear liquid diet.  I should have eaten breakfast and I would have killed for a diet coke.

The lady in the next bed coughed and vomited all day and night.  At one point, I pressed my emergency button for her because it seemed like she was going to choke to death.

The nurses were kind and efficient.  One of them told me that my IVF would never have taken with my hemoglobin so low.  Her statement hit me in the gut.  I had struggled through the IVF process for the last year and I could have ruined it all by forgetting the obvious.

I needed to take care of me.  Nothing else mattered.  Work and trips and concerts didn't matter.  The signs were there for me to admit that I could not do it all.  That I needed help.

And that this may be my only chance.




Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Voice

Last week, I was sitting in the office of HRC Fertility waiting to see Dr. Potter.  I thought to myself, is it a good sign that he has the same last name as one of my favorite young adult literary heroes?  Bee Gees played in the background.  Also a good sign.  At least the music had words.  I would have preferred 80's.  But if they had played some Smiths, I would have fainted especially if the song "Please Please Let Me Get What I Want" played.

I have abandoned my Riverside fertility clinic in favor of an Orange County one where the birth rates are higher and the office is more plush.  I figure if I am going to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket, I should get a second opinion.

My quest for a baby is ongoing.  The semantics of the process are getting tiring.  More tests and retests.  Today I am getting another uterine scan to check out my prospects.  Let me warn you reader, at forty plus, fertility is a murky proposition at best.

"Only one out of ten of your own eggs will likely be viable," Doctor Potter told me last week.  Doesn't seem too good of odds.  Doctor Potter described it as crawling across a desert on your hands and knees.  The analogy seemed a bit flawed.  Was the desert my eggs or perhaps my uterus and where was the baby?  I'll forgive him for the nonsensical comparison because I get what he's saying.  It does not look good.

Some days it's all too much to handle.  I want to turn back time and start trying in my early thirties.  I want my child to be ten and in grade school.  I would make sure she had the coolest clothes and we could go to the beach together and snuggle at night.

I finished my first felony trial yesterday and I would describe my mood as peckish.  I'm tired.  I got up at 4 a.m. to beat the traffic.  I am sitting at a tiny coffee shop off of 32nd street in Newport Beach. It's 630 am and my appointment is in two hours.  The coffee shop is quaint with small wooden tables and a no cell phone sign.  The woman at the counter has a British accent and tells me full breakfast is at seven.  "I'll wait," I say.

I get my cappuccino and take a seat.  I have a couple books with me but spy a bookcase in the corner.  John Irving's "A Prayer for Owen Meany" jumps out at me.  I grab it and take it to my table.

The first paragraph of the book talks about how the narrator found God.  Owen Meany was the reason.  He calls him "a boy with a wrecked voice".

My own faith has been a rocky road.  I feel as if my faith is being tested right now.  God has gone in and out of my life at various points.  I found him or her at UCR then again in the Bay.  I lost God when my dad died.  Those first couple years after his death were tough ones for me.

I want to have faith right now. To believe. To feel as if my prayers will be answered.

I want to hear God's voice in my ear and in my heart telling me that everything will be all right.  That it is all meant to be. But I can't get that image of the desert out of my head.  The only voice I hear is the doctor's telling me the odds are not good.  I'm struggling to shut it out and to listen for the soft sounds of hope.

Lucinda Williams' voice comes on in the coffee shop and I am soothed somehow.  My father's face comes to mind.  And how he would always make us breakfast when we were little with the sounds of country music on the stereo.  And I think of how hard my mom tried to have my twin sister and I.  She lit candles at the church and prayed on it.  She didn't give up.

Maybe it is not about the odds.  Or maybe I don't know anything at all and I'm just searching for an answer to a question that I haven't yet asked.