Panorama of San Bernardino

Sunday, December 20, 2015

14 lines in 3 stanzas (in honor of the 14 lives lost)

14 lines
By Juanita E. Mantz

I am an Inland Empire Girl (the "IE")
Born in Great Falls, Montana
moved here when I was three
I am a OG 909er
who loves her hometown
I grew up in Ontario,
we called it Onterrible
I live in San Bernardino
I came home after years of running
To LA, Houston, then San Francisco
I came home to find myself
I came home to love myself
I came home to remember
Who I am

I am an Inland Empire Girl
And you can't talk bad about my hometown
Unless you're from here and even
Us old timers need to stop
Because we are beautiful people
of all colors and creeds
from a beautiful place
where orange trees and vineyards once reigned
Where the first McDonalds was built
The county where Beverly Clearly went to college
Nine years ago I came home
to remember all this and
To heal from my father's passing
Now I grieve for my city

I am an Inland Empire Girl
Asking, how should we mourn?
How about we hold our heads high
and vow that tomorrow is another day?
And wrap each other with peace and love
and make our place a better place
There is only this my friends
my fellow Inland Empire friends
There is only here, and now
And we need to remember those lives lost
those precious souls who went too soon
Let's show the world how much they matter,
That our love for our city matters and
that San Bernardino Matters.

Friday, December 4, 2015

An IE Girl In Mourning

I am many things, especially an Inland Empire girl.  It is in my blood.  I was born in Great Falls, Montana but raised in Ontario and I live in unincorporated (outside city limits) San Bernardino.  This was the hardest week since I moved home after my dad's death almost nine years ago.  The week was filled with sadness and tragedy.  Deaths and destruction.  I am in mourning.

It is hard as a memoir writer not to make this deadly shooting about me.  I was supposed to be at Inland Regional Center ("IRC") that day, but my hearing got continued.  I represent people with developmental disabilities and I was reeling with shock when I got the news in court on December 2, 2015 at 11 am.  Our deputy told us someone had shot a number of people at IRC.  They are our sister agency and I work hand in hand with IRC's case workers to craft plans for clients in the criminal justice system.  My first thought was, I hope all my clients are OK.  Later, I found out that no clients were harmed nor any staff.  The Department of Public Health (restaurant inspectors) of San Bernardino was having their holiday party and their ranks were decimated.  So many people killed.  Gone in an instant.

I left work early that day and cried all the way home listening to it all on the radio.  When I got home, I stayed on the couch for hours watching the news.  My husband came home early after he heard me crying on the phone and we sat together, our eyes glued to the television.

Everything was transpiring mere miles away and I kept thinking, is this really happening? I have a close friend who left San Bernardino's Public Health Department months ago and many of her friends are dead or injured.  She could have been there but I am grateful she was not.  It seems selfish to say that, but it's true.  I am so happy she was home with her kids.

There is not much else I can say other than I am still reeling and my community is still reeling. The things that help are my writing and an ice cold Modelo with lime and salt, along with holding my husband's hand and petting my shih-tzus.  There is something about the warmth of touch that comforts me.  I am glad my Dad isn't here to see the world we live in.  Maybe he is playing a game of cards in the heavens above, oblivious to all that is going on down below.  For now, I know what people mean when they say hell is on earth, an earth filled with guns.

But, God only gives you what you can handle and offsets misery with miracles. Tonight, I attended the VONA writing workshop orientation. And, it was there that I saw speckles of light in the darkness, rays of light beckoning me to see the beauty in the world and in others and the possibilities that still exist.  In art, we find our better selves.  And for me, that is enough for now. It has to be.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Holiday Daze

There is something that comes out during the holidays, both good and bad.  I see the best side of people.  But, there is also a dark side, a side of the holidays in which depression takes it hold over people.  It must be the expectations people have during the holidays.  And having to deal with family.

Family is difficult because with family it is all about expectations.  And dynamics.  A teacher once told me about a study that showed that if you are in a group of people the same size as your immediate family, you take on the same role in that group that you take on in your family.  I always found that so interesting.  Are we hard wired to be who we once were as children and young adults?  Am I doomed to always be the oldest child bossing everyone around? Or only in groups of five?

Lately, the holidays have brought out my introspective side.  It has made me ask, what do I want out of life?  What's important?  Is being a public defender (i.e. social justice) really my calling or is teaching my destiny? Or writing?  I have so many interests that sometimes I can get sidetracked, but there are some things I just know are true.  I know that my mom and I have better relationship than ever. She makes me smile with her independence and her grit.  And I am blessed to have my sisters Roberta, Jackie and Annie.  They never let me forget where I came from and who I am.

What I also know is true is that I have the inability to say no sometimes.  It is both a blessing and a curse, but last night at my mock trial team's holiday banquet, it was a blessing.  I was so glad I had said yes.  The kids make me happy.  Their enthusiasm for life is infectious and it reminds me of what is important.

What  I am getting at (in a very roundabout way) is that kids are the whole point of it all.  As a morose punk rock girl in my teens and a non-believer in my twenties, I thought procreation was for the self absorbed egoists who needed to see themselves in another.  But as a forty-something true believer in both God and people, I see that it is not procreation that is key, it is creation.

We meant to create and a creation can take the form of a book, a painting and of course, it can take the form of a child, the ultimate act of creation.  And, how you create is irrelevant.  If a child was created the natural way, or through IVF or adoption, it doesn't matter.  In the end, what is meant to be is meant to be and it was meant to be that way all along.

I guess I am here to say I still believe.  Despite all my heartache and tears over my infertility, I know there is meaning to all of this.  I was meant to go through everything I have for a reason and will appreciate every moment all the more as a result.

What I know is true today as I sit here watching my holiday Hallmark movie is that something is in the air.  And it feels like Christmas and I am hopeful for what is to come.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Hallmark

Have I ever mentioned that I am addicted to Hallmark Christmas movies?  It is similar to the way in which I was obsessed with my mom's Harlequin romance novels when I was little.  There is a similarity in the narratives.  There is almost always a happy ending.  And, Hallmark movies always make me cry.  Especially the ones with "special" people or dogs.

When I was a little girl, I remember wanting a happy ending to my life.  I would daydream about what my life would be like when I escaped the Inland Empire to the big city.  Even as a young girl, I was restless.  I wanted more than what I saw in my one horse town.

The Ontario of the 1970s was pretty barren.  There was a Pizza Hut restaurant, a McDonald's and a Yum Yum Donuts along with a string of other fast food options that no longer exist like Pup N Taco and Pioneer Chicken.  I wanted to get away from all that to Hollywood.  Hollywood was magical to me because it was the place movies were made.

As a young girl, movies were my escape (along with books).  My dad would take us to the drive-in and we were not allowed to speak once the movie started.  I can still picture my father in his Wrangler Jeans and blue pocketed cowboy shirt, his Kent cigarettes in the front pocket.  He would take us to the drive-in on Saturday nights because my mom had to waitress until late in the evening.

I have written about that drive-in many times.  The one located in Montclair on Holt and Central.  I can't help myself from writing about it.  For me, it is pure nostalgia and writing about it it brings back this feeling that I can't quite capture in words.  It is like smelling my dad's homemade popcorn and hearing his voice.

For me, those were the best of times.  Watching a movie and losing myself in it despite the static filled speakers and the plethora of car antennas sticking up into the air.  None of that mattered.  It was magical.  I saw most of the famous movies from the seventies at that drive- in.  The Superman movies, Star Trek, Star Wars and my favorite, The Bad News Bears with Walter Matthau.  My dad also loved the Herbie the Love Bug movies and anything with Richard Pryor.

I think that is why I love Hallmark movies so much.  They are the purest form of escapism.  And they make me happy.  Isn't that the hallmark of a good book or movie?  That it gives you joy.

So call me a sentimentalist.  A sappy mess.  Or even a lover of cheesy movies.  I don't care.  I'm just watching TV.  And smiling.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

I'll Be You

"A dream too tired to come true
Left a rebel without a clue
Won't you tell me what I should do?"

from I'll Be You by The Replacements with lyrics by Paul Westerberg

The punk band The Replacements have a song called "I'll Be You" that came on Pandora this morning.  It is about the wanting and the yearning to be someone else.  To do something else.  The song is about the inherent boredom and monotony of every day life which is like poison to us dreamers and restless hearts.

I have always had a restlessness, I have written about it before on this blog, but I have noticed that I have settled down in my shoes a bit.  Is it age or just fatigue?  And, I cannot tell you whether this is a good or bad thing.  I no longer see the possibilities like I used to, but I also no longer have the extreme anxiety that comes with wanting to accomplish so much.  

About eight or nine years ago, I started writing stories again, stories from my childhood and teenage years growing up in Ontario, California in the 1980s, and I thought I would have the book done and published within a couple of years.  I daydreamed that I would be the next Frank McCourt, whose Pulitzer Prize winning memoir took the literary world by storm.  

All these years later, I have seen how hard it is for some dreams to come to fruition.  That said, I have never stopped working on my craft and I have had some successes.  A number of those early stories have been published and that was something I could never have foreseen while I was writing them.  Perhaps, the little successes mean more to me now as I get older.  For me, writing really has never been about fame or money.  I'll never get rich as a deputy public defender, but I have enough.  

For me, writing is about the need to write.  It acts as a salve to all of the grief in my heart.  I don't know if I would have survived my dad's death or my infertility struggles without the written word.  

Maybe the key is to buckle down, somehow cure the restless tapping of my feet and just write and edit my way into my dreams.  The possibility is there. I know it.  Just like how I know that in another universe, I am parenting a little girl.     

So here is to being who we are.  And to this rebel who needs to get a clue.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Writing Las Vegas

I can write anywhere. To prove that point, I am writing while sitting on a bathroom floor at five am in a hotel room in Vegas.  The door is closed lest I wake my slumbering husband.  I feel like crap. The medical issues I thought were in remission from two years ago are back full force.  I am trying to be subtle here. My goal is not to gross you out dear reader. It's just to let you know that I am in physical pain. Actual pain that makes me grind my teeth together.  The only things that help are sleeping and a healthy lifestyle.

But I'm in Vegas. Where smoke and slot machines ruled me last night. Work has been hectic. I'm coaching mock trial. I have too much on my plate. It's all an excuse for why I needed to decompress. Pouring money into a slot machine while sipping on a Coors Lite is the only way I know how. Blame my father. I come from a long line of gamblers and drinkers on my paternal side.

Do I seem as if I am not self aware of how I sound? Don't worry, I'm fully aware of my justifications. I'm a lawyer as well as a writer and can smell bullshit a mile away.

In my head, I'm calling bullshit on myself.

Now I'm lying on the tile in the bathroom floor stretched out looking up and pecking at the keys of my phone to write this. This is ridiculous. Akin to my clients writing in tiny scribble in pencil. But it's all I know how to do well. When I write, something is let loose in my brain and something else is quieted. My brain rarely stops spinning unless I am engrossed in something. And writing (and reading for that matter) engrosses me to no end.

I often wish I was the kind of person who didn't need this.  It is a cross of sorts. It's as if I am not really feeling anything unless I am writing it down. And I know that can't be healthy. But I know no other way.

Yet, I suppose it is also a blessing that I have this release.  What would I do if I couldn't write it all down? Would my life have any meaning? It must be that writing is my attempt to give my life perspective and form. In shaping my experiences, even when those experiences are as banal as sitting at a slot machine in Vegas cigarette in hand, I give substance to the nothingness.

And that is something. Right?


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Unhappy Birthday

Are birthdays supposed to be a happy day? Well today is my birthday and I am feeling a bit melancholy.  I am thinking of everything I haven't done this year. No book. No baby.  Those are the two things that stick in my chest. There's a rock there right now. A stone that hinders my breathing no matter how much I will it to go away.

Funny thing is, I don't think sadness is always a bad thing. At least for me, sadness can be motivating and inspirational. Some of my best stories were written with tears streaming down my face so fast I couldn't catch them. In fact, I used to cry quite often, deep heaving sobs that acted like a catharsis. It may be a bad omen that I feel like I can't cry anymore. Perhaps, I am wrung dry by it all.

I am going to date myself now. I am forty-four, born in 1971. I grew up in Ontario, California in the era of free range parenting. My childhood wasn't perfect. But, it gave me much story making fodder and I would not change it for the world. I have a twin Jackie who (obviously) also turned forty-four today. I am childless but not loveless. I have much love from friends and family. I am blessed in so many ways. I know this.

I represent the mentally ill and feel a special empathy for them. When I visited the state hospital the other day, it made me realize how glad I was to be able to leave.  My husband joked that I better get out quick or they would keep me there. I quipped back that I felt oddly at home there because I grew up with crazy.

My dogs are my kids. I love them so much that it hurts. And it also hurts to admit that I talk to them out loud when we are walking in the mornings. To others, I must seem like the eccentric lady who thinks her dogs can understand what she is saying (I actually believe they do in their own way), but in reality I am just an (almost) middle aged lady whose affection must go somewhere.

This morning, when I walked outside to write this, I looked up into the sky and it was filled with stars and a bright white, gleaming crescent of a moon. It made me hopeful. As if the stars and the moon were put there for me to see this morning. I stared up into the sky for at least a full minute. Searching for something.



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Me on the page

I am thinking about who I am on paper and who I am in person.  They are two vastly different things. I don't write much about work or my day to day as a deputy public defender handling incompetent clients who are the most mentally ill clients of all.  These are the clients who think they are Jesus or that they are being abducted by aliens.  I am there to protect them and their rights and talk to the doctors and hope the incompetency evaluations come out accurate.  But, I don't write about it because I have no space from it.  Every day is a new day yet the same day in a weird Groundhog Day kind of way and I just try to do my best.  I spend at least eight hours a day, five days a week doing this kind of work, but if you read my blog or my Facebook you would think my day is filled with renovating my house, traveling and going to concerts with my husband.   I don't write about the work not because it's not interesting, but because it is too interesting in the saddest kind of way.

Aside from my work, there are other things I leave off the page.  I try not to write about the squabbles with my husband.  They really are not anything anyone needs to hear.  Doesn't everyone fight about who does what chores, driving (my bad driving) and of course, money?  Occasionally, a fight will be so inane that I have to write about it (for instance, a huge fight we had in New York City over a piece of pizza).

What interests me more is what is in my head.  I think that is how I am so different on the page.  On the page, I am the person I wish I was at times and at other times, I show the person I wish I wasn't.  I look back at old blogs and think, wow, you were a mess.  And I still am a mess.  I have a tendency to wear a jacket with food on the collar or a shirt with a hole in it.  I just don't notice these kind of things.  But I do notice other things.  I notice the homeless guy on the corner and the people coming to court in tattered clothing and the families crying in the hallways.  If I ever fail to notice these things, it is time to retire.

I guess what I am trying to say is that writing for me is my relief, my escape and my haven.  I may not tell you everything dear reader, but I talk about the important stuff: how I still yearn for a child on a daily basis (who am I kidding, probably ten times a day), how I still struggle to moderate my drinking, how I wish my dad was still here so we could go to the casino together and how much I love music and writing.  That is who I am.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Just Stuff

I was lying on our new couch when I smelled a whiff. Ammonia. Damn shih-tzus, I thought to myself. A while later, I awoke with a migraine. I'm very sensitive to smells and I get an instant headache if I smell gas or pee.  I spent hours removing all the covers (thank goodness they were removable) and washing them on the delicate cycle (twice) and making sure the pad was clean and hang drying everything on our staircase.

The next day, my husband fashioned a gate out of a screen that keeps the darn dogs from accessing the upstairs (he's MacGyver like that) when we're at work and now we have our fresh smelling couch back.

What's the point? I know that's what you're thinking.  Why is the minutiae of my life important? It's important because when I started to get upset about the couch, before I knew it was salvageable, all I kept thinking to myself is, those damn dogs.  I got angrier and angrier the more I focused on it.  I couldn't even look at the dogs I was so upset.

But then, I had to ask myself, is this anger and anxiety the right reaction?  Is making yourself sick over a couch sane? I decided it wasn't and countered the negativity by thinking, but I love my dogs.  Then I said it aloud like a mantra. "I love my fucking mutts even though they almost ruined my brand new couch."  Then I dropped one more F bomb for good measure and the anxiousness and anger went away in a poof, like magic (but not).

Truth is, my dogs give me so much joy.  So much joy.  They take me outside of myself.  Every morning I feed them and I walk them (more like they walk me) and they kiss and snuggle me. When I get home from work, as soon as I open the door with my key I can hear them at the door jumping around, "Mom's home!".  Door opens and Chewbaca jumps into my arms and I hear his tiny heart beating fast as I hug him. And Frodo waits his turn, because he knows that Chewie always goes first, and then I pick Frodo up and he looks at me with his Mogawi looking face and black soulful eyes and he licks my nose.  At night, Frodo sleeps by my side and if I wake up in the middle of the night and can't sleep, I stroke his soft fur.

A couch can never do that. It's just stuff. And we fill our lives with it as if stuff is important. My Mercedes never gave me a hug or asked me how my day was. Ultimately, my Prius gives me much more joy than the Mercedes ever did, probably because of the Sirius radio. And, all the stuff I buy, everyone buys, it really means nothing.  Most of it will be recycled or lying in a dump somewhere long after we're gone.  Now that's not to say a nice dress or some new makeup doesn't lift my spirits, it does, but my point is that when the stuff means more than your family, your pets, your time, and your own self, then that's a problem.  When getting more stuff and paying for more stuff is your existence, then you are your stuff.  And I personally would never want to be a Living Spaces couch.  I would much rather be a shih-tzu.

When the loss of a stupid couch can ever outweigh, for even one second, for even an instant, the love of my furry best friends, then that is just ridiculous.

And it did, but only for an instant.  None of the stuff matters I know.  But this is just a reminder in case I ever forget.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bliss

I haven't written for quite a while and I feel off kilter, unbalanced and anxious.  Life is busy.  Summer is ending and I am awaiting a response on a screenwriting month long fellowship I applied for. Things feel surreal, as if change is on the horizon.

Yet, isn't every day a new day? An opportunity to make a change? This is the longest I've ever been at a job.  Almost seven years.  I love being a deputy public defender. It's challenging, rewarding and I get plenty of vacation days.

Being me is hard.  I work really hard, play hard, then need to recharge my batteries.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I am in a pickle.  When do my dreams become a priority?  There is only now I think. This typing on a screen watching the words appear one at a time.  It is the only time I feel real, and at home.  In short, it is bliss.

Shouldn't we all go for our bliss? I know that is true in theory, but reality is much harder.  Pragmatism kills an artist's soul and I have become much of a pragmatist in my forties.

Perhaps too much of a pragmatist me thinks.





Thursday, July 30, 2015

Voices

Early this morning, I was scrolling through Facebook, when I landed on a video interview of Sandra Cisneros. She was talking about how she found her voice. She talked about how the MFA program at Iowa was so toxic for her that she got angry, angry enough to write House on Mango Street.  She said she wanted to show her own female perspective of the barrio. A place she felt trapped and scared.

My childhood, like Cisneros', was also sometimes rough. We didn't have a lot of money.  Dad was a truck driver and Mom was a waitress and they both worked their tails off to pay the mortgage on the house (until they lost it after Dad bought a bar adjacent to a trailer park, but that's another story). They even took out a second to put in a pool (as a child I had no idea what a "second" meant, only that it caused my mom much consternation). That pool was my childhood for me in a lot of ways. I learned to love the water so much that I swam competitively in high school (until smoking did me in). My sisters and I spent hours in that pool. We used to jump off the roof to our neighbor's dismay who called our mom after seeing us do the high dive old school style. "But Mom, we put pillows all around the pool," we screamed back at her.

Most of the roughness of my childhood was caused by the fights. If there is a music genre to my childhood it is punk rock, all chaos and anarchy. Some days would be fine. Dad would come home and cook us pork chops and other days, he wouldn't come home and Mom would scream and kick us out of the house and go look for him at the local bars. Head hanging down, I would walk with my sisters to the park wondering when we could go home. I have vivid memories of sitting on a swing at the park or hiding in the plastic cheese sculpture dreaming of another life.

Yet, don't we all replicate the past in some way or another? While I would love my adult life to be free of chaos and arguments, it isn't. At times, I create chaos out of thin air, chasing drama and chaos like it's my shadow. I follow it around like my best friend.

I know that I yell and scream because it feels familiar. But, I have learned some boundaries in my forty plus (please don't make me get more specific, I have stopped counting) years on this planet and that sometimes the trick is to just stop. Just stop. Close your mouth and stop yelling. That is my mantra.

Writing is the way I keep these demons at bay. To sit down and recreate the scenes of my childhood and the characters of my father and mother is like a massage. Sometimes it hurts and sometimes it feels damn good, but it is always necessary for my well-being.

I know more than anything in this world that I must make my voice be heard.  That will be the legacy I leave the world.  My work is who I am and I am my voice.

And I am also just a crazy girl from the Inland Empire sitting at an IPAD at six am typing her heart out.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Pursuit of Happiness

I'm sitting on a beach chair (we are still furnishing our house) watching Food Network thinking about happiness.  When I was in high school having enough money in the bank to go see my favorite new wave/punk bands was happiness.  In my late teens and early twenties, happiness was survival.  As long as I had money to pay the rent and go out dancing when I wasn't waitressing, I was content.  In my mid twenties, happiness was getting good grades in undergrad at UCR and later at USC Law.  By then, my priorities had changed.

Post law school in my thirties, happiness was work.  I know now that it shouldn't be the road to happiness, but back then, I bought into the fallacy that if you worked hard enough, or long enough, pouring out your sweat, blood and tears along with weekends and holidays, that it would pay off.  After my dad died, it made me realize that the sacrifice was not worth it.  I realized that time is the most valuable commodity.  It is worth more than any paycheck. It is irreplaceable.

What is happiness to me now? Happiness is watching my husband sleep, legs splayed out, on a Saturday morning.  And having time to cook dinner and walk the dogs three times a day.  And traveling as much as we can.

Yet, still, I struggle with finding peace and contentment.  A naturally ambitious person, I am always looking for the next challenge or project.  Maybe that is a good thing or maybe it creates that bubble of anxiety I always have welling up in my throat.

My next goal, let's call this my forties' goal, is to be a writer for television.  When you put your mind to something, the universe really does conspire to help you (See The Alchemist). That's not to say everything is achievable.  You have to have talent and have done the work (which is another way of saying, it has to be meant to be).  I feel as if all my life has led me to a place where I can imagine this into being.  Will it happen? I don't know, but I am sure gonna try.


Friday, May 22, 2015

Journal at 5 am

A good friend's mom passed away Wednesday night and yesterday, I visited her. I knocked on her door in Glendora and she opened it looking beautiful, in her Andie McDowell way, but I could see the sadness and grief in the slump of her shoulders and the shine of her watery eyes.

I didn't know what to say. I just hugged her tight. I know that showing up for someone in these situations is always the most important.  

The thing is that I didn't expect to be so emotional myself.  I was there for her, but really I was also there as a kind of payback for those who had been there for me when my father died.  I was there to remind myself that life is short.  I was there to remember that work should always be of secondary importance to family and friends.

This death was not about me or my grief, but I have dealt with so much heartache this last year that it seemed almost more normal to help her wade through it.  The day to day is still hard for me I must admit.  I find petty things trying. Perhaps, the reality is that I'm best in crisis mode and ultimately, it feels more comforting to comfort someone else through the deep abyss of grief and loss.

And, in a situation like this with a true friend, it is real and poignant.  We can let the barriers down for a day and take off the mask(s) we all wear and just be true.  I told my friend how much I valued her and that she was amazing.  I wonder why I never say these things (without sarcasm) in the normal day to day?  

Maybe in the end, it is just about being there for someone in the worst of times.  The good times are easier for most I suppose.  But, I'll take this any day even though it's harder because it makes me confront my own mortality and my own failings. I know I can be a better person. 

That's all I have to say this morning.  

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Lost Years

Life is not fair. That is what I keep thinking to myself as I lay in bed staring at the ceiling. I have not written a blog for a while. We are renovating our house to move back in after our tenants destroyed it and I have been busy painting walls.

But, it just struck me how hard I have had to work for everything I have achieved. Even this writing, it does not come easy and I have had to work and work at it. I let my writing go for many years while I was in undergraduate at UCR and law school at USC, trying to get done by thirty. I finished by the skin of my teeth after spending my early twenties just waitressing to survive and muddling my way through junior college.

After graduating from law school, my life was supposed to start, but I took a large law firm job in Houston and my life floundered for three years. What I had worked so hard for meant nothing.  Most days, I cried in the shower before work. I didn't find myself again for many years. But even in Houston, I wrote looking out my high rise window. Faltering words at first. Then later, narrative poems poured out of me like water that had a fiery aftertaste.

I call those years the lost years. They were my most fertile lost years. I never thought of having a baby. I was too busy. I mollified myself with my paycheck.  Bought a lot of stuff I didn't need.

There were many good times. In 2006, I took the California Bar and moved to San Francisco where Adrian was in dental school. We had a great apartment and a great life, when he wasn't at school and I wasn't working. I flew back to Houston often in my new job at another big firm. I hated staying in hotels so my insomnia got worse. I jumped to a smaller firm and the hours were even worse. All I did was revolve my life around deadlines and work.

Then my dad died and everything changed. I realized that art was happiness. Family and love was the panacea to life. And, I made a change.

Now, here and now, my life is very different. I take as many days off as I can. I try and live life for my art. The baby making goal ended in heartache, but I refuse to give up on my dream of a child, if not a baby.  It will happen somehow, someway.

I have worked so hard for everything in my life that I know persistence matters.  Prayer matters.  And in the end, I know that I matter.  These words matter.

.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

High Hopes

I have learned a lot these past couple weeks. I have learned to let things go and forgive. Resentment and anger is toxic and only impedes. I do not want to get too specific, but I have realized one thing for sure, I care what people think too much. In the end, we need to love ourselves more than other's opinions of us. And I have realized that I am fabulous dammit. I may be kooky and a little clumsy (ok maybe more than a little), but I am definitely talented, super empathetic and a very good friend.

I have also learned that if you practice love, forgiveness and kindness, it comes back to you. If, on the other hand, you are negative about others, that also comes back on you. That old childhood taunt, I am rubber you are glue, whatever you say bounces off and comes back on you, is too true.

My point is that life is too short to be mad or resentful. We are all just ants in a farm running through our day, but I want to be that ant that moves a rubber tree plant. Cause I've got high hopes.  High in the sky, apple pie hopes.

What are my hopes for this next year? I would like to finish writing and editing my memoir. And apply for a screen writing fellowship (ugh I need to write a spec script...). Get an agent. And get in shape. And start the process to adopt a child. Those are the things I am putting out there in the universe. My aspirations.

Like I said, high hopes.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

ghost of bodies past

I had an epiphany at a Target while on cold medicine last week.  I was stumbling through the aisles, drowsy, and saw myself in the mirror.  I looked plump.  Like a too full version of myself.  Was this déjà vu?  No, this was me.

I lost 100 pounds via weight loss surgery four years ago and I have put back on twenty-five of those pounds.  It wasn't all my fault.  It was the damn hormones and IVF treatments and a pregnancy that was not meant to be.  The thing is, even after all of this, the weight loss surgery and then the miscarriage, I still love myself more than ever.  I love my huge boobs and my fuller thighs and face and my hair, which has come back thicker.

After riding the waves in Newport on a boogie board, in celebration of me and my fuller figure, I walked into a swimsuit shop in Newport.  The Brazilian woman owner helped me find a bikini top that fit my boobs.  I will wear it with a skirt until I work off these twenty pounds because I have realized one thing that is true.  You gotta love yourself right where you are or you will never be happy.  Ever.  And thus, I have decided to love myself right where I am.  Desperately and fully without any reservations.

There are no ghosts of bodies past to haunt me anymore.

There is just me right now in a gorgeous flowered bikini top at a coffee shop sipping my tea.  No creme brûlée for me.  Life is sweet enough.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Memories

I have come to realize that I am only truly happy when writing.  The act of punching the keys gets me out of my head.  At times, I am an anxious, hair-brained person.  I am much better on the page.  It is my best self.  That is not to say I am not honest.  I am.  Maybe too honest.  But my craziness makes more sense when I can reflect on it, and give the reader my interior monologue.

Many of my stories have a cinematic feel.  At least the best ones do.  I think that is why screenwriting is a natural evolution for me.  My movies will probably make you both laugh and cry, but I want to show the blue collar world I grew up in. It does not exist anymore, that time of the 1970s and 1980s.  A time before cell phones and the internet.  Kids do not play outside without interruption until dusk.  Or ride their bikes for hours without parental supervision.  And no liquor store will sell a kid cigarettes, much less beer, with a note fake scribbled in mom's handwriting.

There is something beautiful about that time for me.  The image of a drive-in movie theater is enough to bring tears to my eyes.  The image brings back thoughts of a long lost time when I would pile in the back of my dad's pickup truck shell with my sisters with a Shasta cola and home popped popcorn in a Stater Brothers' brown paper bag, the oil seeping through.

In describing those past moments with words, my dad comes back to life for me.  His Mayflower uniform, the buttons bulging.  His swollen legs.  I can almost hear the sound of his voice yelling "Girls" and almost feel the way he would hug me tightly.  In my mind's eye, I watch how I would always wriggle away.

One day soon, I hope to see my dad's character on the big screen.  You see reader, my memories are not all beautiful.  Or newsworthy.  But they matter.  They are all I have really.  All anyone has.



Saturday, February 7, 2015

Stalling

I bought an electronic pregnancy test two days ago at Walmart.  I was three days late and I had to pee so I ran into the bathroom with my cart almost running over an elderly blue-haired lady on her walker.

I have never been good at waiting.  One Christmas many moons ago, my sisters and I discovered our Christmas presents in the attic and opened them early and re-wrapped them.  This would be the best present of all, I thought as I entered the dirty stall with writing on the blue walls and torn toilet paper and seat covers on the floor.  I did not care about the environment, it was an answer I was needing.  With teeth bared, I tore open the plastic wrapping and pulled down my pants and underwear in one fell swoop and peed on the pink stick.

Pants pulled up, hand on my chin, I sat on the toilet and waited.  And waited.  I was shivering with eagerness.  Fiending for it.  Maybe this was it.  It was going to happen this time.  I would run home and scream over the phone to Adrian, "We did it, we made a baby!"  He would come home and cry and so would I and we would hold each other tight jumping in the air together as one unit.  A family.

The small symbol on the pink stick blinked and blinked.  Maybe it was defective, I thought.  I daydreamed of the cool clothes I would buy.  I would dress my child in black and white striped dresses along with animal print and punk rock mini t-shirts.  I would play "Asleep" by the Smiths and "Lullaby" by The Cure for the baby while I rocked her to sleep.

Damn it.  Why was that stupid twelve dollar stick still blinking?  Twelve dollars seemed like a lot, but I needed it to be a dependable answer.  The day before, I had almost bought a test at the 99 cent store, but changed my mind knowing with certainty that 99 cents was way too cheap to be reliable. As I peeked out the crack of the door frame to check on my cart loaded with Diet Coke, soup and crackers, I started imagining Adrian, me and the baby in our house in North Fontana.  I would cook for us.  The baby would cry and I would smile, not minding it at all.  Her cries were a sound I had been waiting and hoping for.  It had taken mountains to be moved and miracles, but she was here.  Finally.

The stick blinked one more time and I said a small prayer in my head.  There are no atheists in Walmart bathroom stalls, especially ones who are looking at a blinking pink stick, hoping for a positive affirmation of the possibility of creating a life at forty-three.  "Look, I know God that I have asked for a lot and you have given me so much," I whispered silently in my head.  "But just give me this too."

The answer came as silent as my prayers and the word stood out sharply in stark definition against the grey background of the digital stick.  "No".

I threw the stick into the silver receptacle and tried to shrug my sadness away.  Stupid stick. I hate Walmart.  It was one thing to sit here and pee on the stick, but I was certainly above crying in a dirty Walmart bathroom stall. Or was I?

No, I certainly was not.

Friday, January 30, 2015

On The Outside

There is an Oingo Boingo song called "I'm on the Outside".

It goes like this: "This is where it all begins.  On the outside looking in.  Looking in at you.  I'm just an alien through and through, trying to make believe I'm you.  Trying to fit.  Just a stranger on the outside looking in."

The lyrics struck a chord for a reason.  I have always felt like an outsider.

In elementary school, I tried to fit in to no avail.  My frizzy hair and tendency to raise my hand too quickly marked me as an outsider early on.  In Catholic school, my uniform was used and faded, and all of the other kids had known each other for years.  In public school junior high, after my mom had to yank us out of Catholic school due to our dwindling finances, my daydreaming and passion for Shakespeare, along with a need to please my teacher, labelled me a geek.   On the street I grew up on, my parent's fighting made me feel like a pariah with the neighbors and in high school, I went from straight A student to punk rock girl in my need to express myself.

In junior college, I holed myself away in the newspaper office and at UCR, I  survived with a small cadre of friends.  At USC Law School, I created a new good girl persona but was too tired to socialize and at the large Texas white shoe law firm I went to after graduating, I felt like Eliza Doolittle.

In reality, the only place I feel at home is among other misfits.  In high school, the punkers were my family.  I felt at home amongst the torn shirts, mohawks and spray painted jackets.  All of the chaos made sense.  And in my job as a deputy public defender, the same holds true.

That same outsider-ness is why I adore punk/alternative/rock concerts.  There is something so freeing and true about jumping up and down to the music and losing yourself in it.   The "I don't give a fuck" nature of it.   To love something that much that your whole body reacts, whether it be to the music of The Smiths, The Replacements, Oingo Boingo or The Sex Pistols, is pure unadulterated bliss.

In truth, I am always pretending.  It is an act and while people may think I am cool, I know I am not.  In the end, we are all who we were and I am still the little girl hiding on her roof looking at the stars listening to her parents fight wishing she was anyone but herself.  But, in the end, isn't there something cool about being so very uncool?

I like to think so.



Thursday, January 1, 2015

Baby New Year

When I was small, growing up in 1970's Ontario, California, we would always watch Rudolph's New Year's special.  Dad would put it on and my sisters and I would crowd around the television in our striped, footed pajamas.  We would howl with delight whenever Baby New Year would take off his hat to show his huge ears.  Boing! They would spring out of his black top hat, a hat that dwarfed his small head, and my sisters and I would chortle with delight while stuffing hot, buttered popcorn into our mouths.  "Poor Baby New Year," one of us would always exclaim.  "Those ears!"

This New Year's Eve was spent with family in a cabin in Big Bear.  It is going much better than expected.  No one has fought.  There is not a lot of drama.  But I can't get that damn Baby New Year outta my head. What was the moral of his story? To accept yourself maybe?  If that was the moral, then I need to practice it.

This month will not be the month of the Baby New Year for me.  I awoke to cramps and started my period.  I tossed in bed wanting to cry and I squeezed my husband's hand.  He knows that I wanted a Christmas miracle.  I really did.  But then, as I looked at the snowy trees outside, an odd peacefulness came over me.  Like God was whispering in my ear that it was all going to be OK.  There are other options.  Right? Kids that need a home where Rudolph is celebrated as the rock star he is.  And that maybe, just maybe, the miracle I got this year is right here where I am.  In this cabin, with my husband and my family.  And if I am going to accept myself, I need to accept my faults and my reality.  This is me.  Infertile, bossy and neurotic.  But hopeful.

I'm hopeful world.  Imagine that.  Happy New Year dear reader.  Thank you for listening.