Panorama of San Bernardino

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The old grey mare

This morning I woke up, like clockwork, at five in the morning. The older I get, the more I go to bed early and wake up early. Last night I went to bed at 8 pm, not because I wanted to but because I didn't have a choice. My eyes started closing of their own accord.

My chronic pain issues don't help. There are nights I just want to sleep to escape the pain. Surgery in December will hopefully help.

After my morning ritual of making my shih tzu Frodo take his medicine and feeding the dogs, I picked up a magazine on the counter. It was my mother in law's Elle. I flipped through the fashion magazine marveling at the beautiful faces and fit (sometimes too thin) bodies and their unlined faces and foreheads. I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror at my lined forehead and face.

Fashion magazines may be the fountain of youth for the old. The magazine made me remember what it felt like to be young in a short dress and high shoes. It made me forget my health issues and pain, at least for a moment. It reminded me of how little I appreciated my own youth and beauty when I was living it. I was always fat, even when I was thin, or my face was too round, or my hair too frizzy for my own taste. No one told me I was inadequate. I told myself. Yet, when I look back at pictures from my teens and twenties, I marvel at how fantastic I look.

I wonder if some day I will look back at myself now and marvel at how good I look. Pictures are an illusion and so from now on, I will perpetuate the illusion by taking flattering pictures of myself that will appease my older self. Wrinkles and forehead lines be dammed.

This old grey mare is what she used to be.


Thursday, August 3, 2017

Writing life

I've been working on my memoir for more than ten years. I started writing again in my thirties, while working as a big law lawyer in Houston, Texas. Law school had sucked creativity out of me. They taught me to write in legal form. But, in the process, USC Law failed to remind that you can always be creative.

Depression and late nights as a big firm litigator brought my creativity back. Always a better writer when sad rather than happy, I would stare out my high rise window and poems would come pouring out of me. I would collect them on poets.com and read them, wondering what the hell I was doing with my life.

Life had went a place I never expected. For the first time in my life, I had plenty of money. Yet, I was desperately unhappy. I was all by myself in Texas. Yes, I had friends. Making friends had never been a problem for me. But, my boyfriend of ten years (who later became my husband) had stayed behind in Southern California to finish his last semester at Cal Poly and apply to dental school. And, my crazy dysfunctional family was now thousands of miles away. I missed them.

In my apartment, I had little furniture except Leopold Bloom, a black cat I had named after the protagonist in James Joyce's Ulysses, and my books.

The poems I wrote out there in Texas started out a bit melodramatic with echos of Dickinson and Plath, my poetic heroines. Eventually, I turned to prose and memoir.

Those first poems paved a path for me, however, to rediscover myself. And years later, while in San Francisco with my boyfriend turned fiancé who was attending dental school at UCSF, my dad died suddenly three weeks after Christmas and his pancreatic cancer diagnosis.

His death forever changed me. Within a couple of years, I would change jobs to become a deputy public defender and be attending writing workshops at VONA at USF and UC Berkeley. The stories, many of which comprise the opening chapters of my memoir, would come pouring out like water that had long been bottled up. All those memories turned into stories. Stories I am proud of.

The problem with memoir is that you must pick an end point. And now, that is where I stand, looking at it all with a furrowed brow. In some ways, I am no longer the burgeoning writer who wrote those first stories, but in other ways I am. Maybe, after the last ten years and my struggles with fertility and anxiety, I don't know who I am anymore.

Ultimately, I may just have to find myself to finish this damn book.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Me an ENFP

I've been thinking a lot about things. My life, my accomplishments, my struggles, my goals and my future. Outwardly, I seem the same. I feed my dogs, go to work, come home, eat, read or watch tv, sleep and wake up again in the morning. My routine remains unchanged. But internally, I feel as if a storm is raging. It's almost like I'm having a mid life crisis in my brain.

There's something about your mid forties. It's a time of re assessment. Questions. With little answers.

Perhaps, I thought to myself, I just need to look inward more. And so I did.

I took a personality test. There's 16 different ones in the Meyers Briggs universe. I fell into the ENFP category. I read the description and it fit me to a T. Suddenly, everything made sense. I experience through performing and am very intuitive, I can read and connect with people. Some call us inspirers or champions. The drawback to this personality is that we have a hard time figuring out what we want to do, and because we are eternal optimists, we see the possibilities in everything. And we live through embodiment which is why so many of us ENFPs are writers, actors and filmmakers. And why we have so may stomach problems. We literally feel our emotions.

We go, go and go, and are pros at trying everything. The problem is that sometimes we rush into things without asking ourselves whether it will fulfill us. And fulfillment and authenticity is everything to an ENFP. Now my 7 years in big law made sense. I was trying it out. I had jumped into it without thinking, is this really for me? The other problem ENFPs run into is that if commitment is a core ethic of theirs, they will not let others down or give up. Now all my inner conflicts make sense. I find it very difficult to cancel a commitment even when I want to desperately. This description also explained my searching and searching for something new to do. Essay and non fiction writing, performing, songwriting, film making. All these things call me. But, add in my demanding job, my writing, all the boards and committees I serve on, and my husband, dogs and friends, and well, it all can be overwhelming.

The key they say, is to slow it down. ENFPs are whirlwinds (especially in court, I can beat anyone on calendar), but slowing down will help let us be taken more seriously. No one sees the hours of prep I do in my office to make it look quick and easy. I want credit. I have always known I was smart, but others don't always see it. They think I am flighty or scattered when really my brain moves too fast for me to keep up at times.

With this new knowledge in hand, my goal is to experience the world and figure out what will truly make me happy. If I want creative fulfillment, what will get me there?

And I cannot rush it. I know that now.

(P.S. I must give a shout out to the "personality hacker" website where I did a lot of my research)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

What's the matter here?

Last weekend, we watched Natalie Merchant dance and sing under the stars at the Greek theater. We almost didn't go, exhausted from the casino the night before, but were glad we did. It was sublime. Natalie's voice was so pure and lovely. It echoed in the theater around the tall trees. It felt almost spiritual. Magical is perhaps the better word.

And today, it's 6 am and I lay in a bath pondering why we are all here. It's something I think about often, especially the older I get. I never worried about why I was here as a young adult. Survival mode does that to you. It makes surviving and getting by the only goal and my years as a waitress working her way through school were tough for sure, but they also made me resilient. There was not a lot of time, however, for self reflection. Leisure time gave me that. I'd almost prefer to be blissfully ignorant of the existence of life's questions, except for the fact that without them, my creativity would be limited.

So here goes. Why are we here? Some might say we are here to procreate. But, for me, that didn't happen. After years of trying, I've given up. I'm a very tired 45. So that theory doesn't hold water in my case. What about the idea that we are here to make a difference? At first perusal, this sounds doable. But then I think to myself, I'm participating in a broken system. I'm a deputy public defender who sees just how messed up the criminal justice system is on a daily basis. At its core. And while yes, on the micro level, I might make a difference, on the macro level, I'm a failure. Also, if we were just here to make a positive difference in the world, that would render anyone not advocating for the greater good useless. And perhaps, "good" is too relative of a term. I am sure many Republican operatives in this administration tell themselves they are there to do "good". My point is that "good" is not always right and true. Or constitutional.

Maybe we are here to have fun? In the purest hedonistic sense, maybe we are meant to take what we can out of life and run. Live life to the fullest, play hard and all that. But, fortunately or unfortunately depending on your viewpoint, I can tell you from experience that acting out that theory leaves one exhausted and melancholy.

I suppose, that maybe why we are here is to answer that very question. Why are you here? Why am I here? Why are we here? Answering that question could be one's life work and is one of the very fountains from where art and creativity springs.

So back to that concert. I can tell you this, for a split second, only a fleeting moment, no bigger than a nano second, I knew why I was there. And that was to be right where I was, listening to the voice of Natalie Merchant under the stars, while the wind whistled in the trees and the stars twinkled in time.




Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Vacation all I ever wanted

There's an old Go-Go's song called Vacation. It's all about getting away and finding oneself. Well I found myself and it's not pretty. But it's me.

The vacation I'm on with my husband and the moms, we're at an all inclusive resort in Cancun, has taught me some things.

The most important: Never choose a discount tour company for your excursion or you will end up falling in a puddle and be covered in mud from head to toe limping with a sprained foot.

Other things I've learned: I drink too much. I love to meet people. I'm overweight. I love excitement. And I can't sleep very well. And, finally, I'm clumsy. I've fallen twice literally and many times figuratively on this trip. I want to be kind, sober and fun. Instead, I've been sloppy, clumsy and inebriated.

I've also learned that I'm struggling more than I want to admit about who I am and want to be. There's a reason I haven't written for months, shit years. I write blog posts but I'm talking about stories. New stories have dried up. To say I'm in a rut creatively is an understatement. I'm sinking.

It's almost as if I know the stories are there but I feel as if my fingers can't reach them. The problem is that I'm rarely alone with my thoughts. I'm always on the phone, watching television or on Facebook or CNN or something. Anything to distract myself from the fact that I'm failing at this writing gig.

Then I start telling myself negative thoughts. Maybe I'm just not very good. Or maybe the five or six stories I've published are the best I've got in me? Yet, there's something, a little voice whispering, nagging at me, telling me I have more to give.

The high from writing is the best drug. When I write a good story, I feel buzzed. I get to editing and it's all zen. Almost like magic. It's the invisible point I find in swimming when after the tenth or sometimes even twentieth lap, it just becomes easy.

Nothing's been easy as of late. I can tell myself I've been trying to write but the truth is, I haven't been. I've been going through the motions existing. Auto pilot on a flight to nowhere.

But if nothing else, this vacation has taught me that I don't want to be a barfly on the beach. Or even a lawyer. I'm a writer, plain and simple.

And, I gotta try. I might end up covered in mud hobbled and crying for help, but if I can just do it, the rewards will be worth all the effort. I just know it.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Everybody loves Annie

People underestimate sibling rivalry. I am watching an old episode of Everybody Loves Raymond and watching the dynamic between Raymond and his older brother Robert. Raymond is the golden youngest child and Robert, no matter how hard he tries, can never eclipse him in his parents' eyes.

Growing up, everybody loved Annie. She was the youngest and my mother's favorite. She could do no wrong. My twin Jackie and I could never compete with Annie's long straight brown hair and smile. We had short frizzy hair and crooked smiles. When Annie was around, Mom lit up. She was nicer and calmer with Annie. I think it was because Annie reminded Mom of her own mother due to Annie's passive and sweet disposition. "Even as a baby, she never cried," was Mom's constant refrain.

 Jackie was a fighter and fireball of a child and I was an outspoken advocate always arguing for our rights. Annie always just gave in. She cleaned her room and did her chores while Jackie and I made a mess and were always reading or watching TV instead of cleaning.

Annie had her own room with a lock on it (after we had killed her favorite doll, Mom got her a lock). Jackie and I shared. We had twin beds that my dad had built in. I knew this was unfair. I was the oldest by a majestic nine minutes. No matter now much I argued my point, Mom wouldn't budge. Jackie and I were twins so we had to share. That was the ruling.

Similarly, when Mom bought us bikes, there was only one cherry apple red beach cruiser. Of course, because God has a sense of humor, Kmart only had two other beach cruisers, both yellow. Jackie and I grimaced but we didn't want to wait so we got our yellow beach cruisers and for the next two or three years, the boys on the block called us the banana bike twins. We paid Annie back by ramming her pretty red bike into a tree while laughing maniacally.

Likewise, when Mom saved up her waitressing tips to buy us fur coats for winter (coats as adults that we would call the hooker jackets), there was one white and two brown. Of course, you can guess it, Annie got the white one.

As an adult, the roles continue. Family dynamics shape you more than you realize. Jackie is still a fighter and uses it professionally to her advantage standing up for the rights of special education children as a teacher. And Annie, she's a Mom and a good one. She will do anything for her kids. And that sweet disposition is still sweet but she has strength underneath the smile.

And me? I think that none of it scarred me. It was just how it was. Plus, I wouldn't have as much to write about without my parents' mistakes would I? And I probably wouldn't be a lawyer. Yet, I still think I should have won that motion for my own bedroom.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Bigmouth Strikes Again

When I was little, I would read. A lot. Sometimes a book a day. In grade school, I went through my mom's Harlequin collection (hundreds of the books with their white covers and gold insignia were in our garage in the built in bookcases my dad built my mom) in a year or two. By the end, I had a (perplexing to most) habit of dropping words like ravishing or swooned into conversation.

I was a somewhat odd child. I was also obsessed with a certain green frog shirt and feeling the marks made by watches on people's wrists. It's as if I was mesmerized by the indentations.

As an adult, my obsessions vex me a bit. I am hyper verbal and love to talk. I've learned through practice to not interrupt but it's very difficult for me. When I do interrupt now, I apologize. Court has helped in that regard because judges hate to be interrupted or talked over. As an attorney, I love oral argument. It's that time where you feel like, this is what I went to law school for. On the same vein, I am very impatient and preoccupied with timeliness. I am often early to parties. Also, I can't sleep in so often text at 5 am.

And in this era of texting, I love to talk on the phone, as well as in grocery lines with people I don't know and in the jacuzzi when my husband is trying to relax. There is something about the sounds of silence that I like to fill up. I have been known to share too much.

Politics is my recent obsession. I've been researching the 5th amendment and subpoena power as if it matters what I find. Some days, I wake up and read all of CNN's articles, then the politics section of  the NY Times and the Washington Post. It frustrates my poor husband as the light from my phone often wakes him up.

Why am I telling you all this? Well dear reader, what I realized today is that I love this blog (and writing my short stories and essays) because it is my way of talking to the world. It is my solace. It is so comforting to know that I can be vulnerable and true here on the page in a way that might be too much to handle in person. The term voice is used in writing classes to connote one's style, but I am using it quite literally here. I am speaking to you in this writing voice, just hoping that someone is listening.

Can you hear me?


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Everybody hurts

Sometimes, I feel as if I am sabotaging everything good and true in my life because I don't know what I want. It reminds me of my senior year of high school. High school had started out well. Freshman and sophomore year I was able to put the chaos of home aside and study and get good grades. I was a preppy goodie two shoes in all GATE classes. The classes weren't easy. Yes, this was before the grueling era of IB and AP, but the classes were still difficult. My home life did not help. Most days, I had to find time to write my papers and do math homework over my parents' screaming voices in the background. It was a stressful time for them. We were losing the house after Dad's realized dream of buying a bar became a nightmare and led us into financial ruin.

Junior year began my downhill slide. I was working at Round Table and partying almost every night, even on school nights. We would drink beer from the keg after hours. Although I can't remember specifics, what I do remember is having a blast. There was little drama, our manager was super cool and my best friend Tracy and I ruled the world of pizza. Or at least it felt that way to our high school minds.

The cast of characters at Round Table was varied, like something out of a John Hughes film. There was Lydia, a chubby black girl who loved to sing and play practical jokes. She could crack us up with a lift of her eyebrows. Then there was Mark, a blond, loud punk guy who hung out with the uptight assistant manger John who never let us drink. Then there was Sean, the cool manager who let us drink after work. He was in college getting his engineering degree. There was also our buddy Chris, a freshman who looked like a brown haired Anthony Michael Hall from Weird Science. He was tall and skinny with dark hair and long bangs that covered his face Ian McColluch style. Finally, there was Tracy and myself. Tracy was blond to my brunette with blond spiked hair to my curly unruly mess of brown curls. Tracy was taller and thin, whereas I was short and round, but we both loved our new wave and punk music and wore thick black eyeliner mimicking Siousxie Sioux's makeup, our punk idol.

What I remember most is laughing all night and cracking jokes and speaking in our fake English accents and making fun of people on the phones we manned in the back for the pizza delivery lines. We would make false orders to get free dinner and sneak our friends free pizzas out the back door when the manger left to do an errand.

On Friday nights, we would stay there until 3 in the morning. The pizza place closed at midnight, but I lied and told my parents I was closing and doing side work and then going to Denny's. School suffered of course. For a time, I had dreams of attending Claremont McKenna. It was a different world that I yearned for, a place of books and education and learning, where I could put all my family drama aside. I could lose myself and create a new me. Alas, it was not meant to be. My goals shifted from school to drowning out my sorrow with a mix of Coors Lite and Strawberry Hill wine. It worked. I felt nothing. And, slowly but oh so surely, my grades slipped and most mornings, I ditched class and went to Hollywood or the beach or the mall. Anything was better than going to school hungover.

It must have driven my poor mom crazy to see me throwing it all away. I had always been a superstar in school, it was almost easy for me to excel. Aside from Math, which I worked my ass off to get a B in, I was an A student. I always loved history and English. I even aced Economics which is ironic considering my math struggles, but the core of economics was philosophy and that intrigued me, Yet, senior year, I sabotaged myself and just gave up. I stopped attending class altogether at some point, I can't even remember how it happened. My family was in free fall at that point. We were living in a rental after losing the house to the bank. To make it even worse, my twenty something half sister Barbara had died and Dad was in a deep depression. He locked himself in the bathroom with a shotgun the day he found out she had died in a car accident. Weirdly, I don't recall crying or grieving, but I do remember my twin sister's cat getting hit by a car. I cried and cried. It was probably the only time I cried that year and the only time I remember feeling anything real and true.

Eventually, it all broke down and I stopped going to school. I only needed five credits to graduate but I didn't care. I threw it all away and took my GED.

This pattern would repeat itself through out my life in different ways. I was waitressing my way through school but floating from job to job. Whenever there was stability, I somehow messed it up. At some point, my sister and I ended up in a trailer park in Pomona, a combination of bad luck, my car blowing up and me losing my job again, and bad choices. What I knew once I got there, however, was that the trailer park life wasn't for me. There was a hopelessness and desperation there. It was palpable. I worked my ass off to get out of that trailer park. I transferred to UCR and everything changed. Then USC Law.

Now, many years later, I almost feel as if my life has lived me. Those years after USC Law at the big firms I was never happy. I jumped from firm to firm mirroring the chaos of my youth. Finally, after almost 7 years and my dad's death, I ended up back home in the Inland Empire as a deputy public defender. And some things passed me by. No baby. And my writing career has stalled. Am I just biding time till retirement?

Despite all the accomplishments and successes, I'm still floundering. Disappointment haunts me and the yearning for something more is so strong. I don't know what it is. My husband Adrian is the bright spot in all of this. I am loved and love.

Yet, I feel as if I'm on a precipice looking down some days. Into the abyss.






Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I wish you could see me now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 1, 2017

Magic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Saturday, April 29, 2017

Vegas baby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The worst of times

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Story of my life

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is the only place I truly feel alive.


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Falling

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

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

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

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

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

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







P

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A bloody mess-this administration is not for the squeamish

A couple weeks ago, my husband had to close his dental office for the day and race home when his mom had an uncontrollable nosebleed. "There was blood everywhere", he would tell me later. I pictured "The Shining" in my head, and felt sad for my 82 year old mother in law who was frightened and scared. It turned out to be a matter of cutting her aspirin dosage.

This morning was tough. I have a chronic issue that causes bleeding and the pain was so intense the last 24 hours, that I almost screamed while using the bathroom this morning. After it was all over, I felt the lack of pain so acutely. It was almost like a high. I had suffered and then, I finally felt relief.

This administration reminds me of those two incidents. Every day is a new bloodletting. Alternative facts, Flynn's ouster, allegations of collusion with Russia, ICE raids, a new Muslim ban coming, and the man in the Oval Office's attack on the free press. When will it stop? And will there be anything left of our democratic institutions and ideals when it does?

If anything, this time has proved to be a barometer of character. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are coming out as cowardly and self interested political hacks and John McCain is showing himself to put country above party. Our democratic representatives are learning to fight. Some already know how like Cory Booker and Maxine Waters. And Elizabeth Warren. And the press is scrappy and brave, refusing to go quietly into the night. Instead, they keep digging and digging. Uncovering more and more lies.

Ultimately, when this is all over (God willing sooner rather than later), I hope we all let out a big sigh of relief and appreciate the rush and exhilaration brought on by the end of this excruciating and painful, bloody journey. Maybe later we will say it could have been a lot worse. Or maybe not.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

A just decision in time of crisis-A ban by any other name

Yesterday, the 9th Circuit ruled against the administration's discriminatory Muslim Ban. It was a just decision and a right decision. It was the most American of all decisions.

By ruling that the injunction against the Muslim Ban would stand, the 9th Circuit Court ("9th Circuit") upheld the rule of law. They protected our institutions of government and the checks and balances of power. And while the administration argued (with a straight face that no doubt covered the whirling emotions of the lawyers who must have been struggling with how to defend this inherently flawed Executive Order) that the Executive Order creating the Muslim Ban was not reviewable (thereby deeming themselves by this argument quasi dictators with what they called "unreviewable authority"), the 9th Circuit heartily disagreed. The Court stated, "In short, although courts owe considerable deference to the President's policy determinations with respect to immigration and nation security, it is beyond question that the federal judiciary retains the authority to adjudicate constitutional challenges to executive action."

In fact, the 9th Circuit underlined that this was even the case in times of so called conflict, stating that: "Indeed, federal courts routinely review the constitutionality of-and even invalidate-actions taken by the executive to promote national security, and have done so even in times of conflict." The 9th Circuit is recognizing that in times such as these, where fear is the catalyst (although that fear, I would argue, is a creation of the administration who uses scare tactics and xenophobia so that they can create racist and discriminatory policy), that it is even more crucial for courts to be a check on the balance of executive power.

The 9th Circuit also addressed another important issue. Was there any evidence of discriminatory intent and is it relevant? As a write this, I want to scream yes, but I am trying to remain calm and reasonable here. But, it must be said that the evidence of discriminatory intent is staggering, evidence that us in the general public were bombarded with pre-election and after. And, in my opinion, the Executive Order Muslim Ban is "per se" unconstitutional because it is a "Muslim Ban" and while the administration tried to walk back from their own nomenclature, they are stuck with it.

What I am saying is that a religion based ban by any other name still smells the same and to carry the Shakespearean reference even further, the 9th Circuit is obviously well aware that something is rotten in Washington D.C..

Moreover, how the current administration could argue that their intent was non discriminatory flabbergasted me. It should flabbergast you. It is almost perjurious. And the 9th Circuit emphasized that the Executive's intent was an important piece of evidence stating that, "it is well established that evidence of purpose beyond the face of the challenged law may be considered in evaluating Establishment and Equal protection claims." This means, in laywoman's terms that the evidence from the Executive's own mouth calling this a Muslim Ban and his intent of disfavoring Muslims (as well as his cohort's statements like Rudy Giuliani's words) is relevant and admissible into evidence. It means that what the Executive said, before and after the Executive Order was made, does come in.

Ultimately, we all know in America that just because you say it, that does not make it so. Our President had not learned this truth. And, yesterday, the 9th Circuit just taught the President a very much needed lesson.




Friday, January 20, 2017

Optimistic outlook

Today, the day of the new administration and President's inauguration, I am feeling weirdly optimistic. Sometimes, the worst things happen, bad people get elected, good Presidents step down, fathers die, you find out you're infertile, and the world still keeps moving. The sun rises, rain falls, people eat, coffee percolates, and the universe survives.

If you had asked me when I was in law school what my goals were, I would have told you, to be a wildly successful lawyer. Back then, I had no idea how soul sapping big law was. I had no idea that I would lose myself for years. This former waitress and high school dropout would hide herself in a office dressed in a three piece suit. But then, slowly, I would return and find myself through poetry. My early poems snatched pieces of fragmented memory and put them on a page. Many of the poems turned into stories.

I define success much differently now. I define a successful lawyer as one that makes a difference in the world and as a deputy public defender, I am able to make change on the micro level. One person at a time. Every kindness means something to me and the world. Everyday, I see my colleagues fight the good fight. That is success. Success is having time to write, and cuddle with my husband on the weekends, and spend time with my mom and sisters and of course, the shih tzus.

Success is family. I never thought about having children until it was almost too late. But, I have decided that my dream of having children will happen. It will. It has to. Because some things are too vital, too important to forget about. I refuse to put my dreams into a sock drawer to be forgotten.

So, today, of all days, I have the audacity to continue to have a thing called hope. And I hope you do too.

Friday, January 6, 2017

all I ever wanted

I've been on vacation the last couple of weeks. My goal was to write, write and write some more. But instead, I've been running around as usual filling my days with record stores and lunch with friends. And music. I've been listening to a ton of music. There is something to be said for this. Music has always been a salve for my soul and unleashes my creativity. I bought a new live Iggy Pop album where Bowie plays keyboards. I listened to it as soon as I got home. I played with my Sex Pistols figurines, another splurge, and danced and sang. I felt free.

Then I started thinking about childhood. About fun. About passing that down. Or the inability to pass it down. My husband and I been trying to have a child for almost ten years. Or maybe it's been nine. Regardless, a long fucking time. Too long. Too many false hopes. A miscarriage after IVF. And then the last two years.

The last two years have been hard. I am not the same person. I'm angry. Angry at God. Angry at my husband. Angry at the world. I have a ball of frustration inside of me. My back is always tight. My body feels like it's breaking down. Whether it's due to the miscarriage, my age, my overall hopelessness or mere coincidence, I don't know.

What I do know is this. I've changed. I haven't been able to write much. The childhood stories are blocked by something. The joy I used to feel when writing is gone. Poof. It feels like it's all too much.

I guess I'm stuck there. In that place between the hope I had when I found out I was pregnant and the day I was told there was no heartbeat. I didn't cry that day. Remembering back, I think I just felt numb. As if I already knew. That numbness is what I can't shake.

Where I go from here is the question that remains, a question I can't answer because I don't know.

How do you find peace in failure? Can there be peaceful resignation? Or maybe, just maybe, I should try again and risk the worst kind of heartbreak.

I know I seem as if I am wallowing. But somehow, I think that wallowing is what I need, to be in that place that I have been avoiding for so long. It's not a pretty place.

But to transcend that place, I need to try to live that pivotal loss of hope moment again.

So I can let it go.