Panorama of San Bernardino

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Family Matters Part II

Family matters, it does.  And, I practice what I preach.  In case you have never read one of my blog entries, let me explain.  My mother in law moved in when her husband Alberto died almost nine months ago.  Then, four months ago (actually three months, seventeen days and seven hours ago, but who's counting?), my mom moved in.

Our life has changed although some of the changes are subtle.   My husband and I used to come home and eat Del Taco in front of the television.  Then about nine, we would walk upstairs to bed with Frodo and Chewie at our heels.   Sometimes, Adrian waited until I fell asleep and tiptoed into his game room to play his Black Ops.

Now, we come home and eat dinner together with the moms.  We rotate the cooking and my mom's specialty has not changed since my childhood (tacos).   We watch TV together.  Wheel of Fortune comes on at 7:30 and we all shout out the answers.  At eight, we watch "Dancing with the Stars" or "American Idol" depending on the day.  Once our shows are over. Orieta walks to the downstairs bedroom, my mom walks upstairs to her room and Adrian and I go to bed with the dogs.  Adrian still sometimes sneaks to his game room.

Other changes are more obvious.  Adrian and I no longer have the time alone together that we used to, but we have been together nineteen years and alone time may be overrated at this point.  There is also tension in the house that wasn't here before.  Orieta doesn't want to live here, she feels she has to.  I thought she was resigned to the fact.  Yesterday, if you had asked me what the state of our relationship was, I would have said we were at peace.  I had accepted that she is stubborn and at times inconsiderate with her comments and she had accepted that I am outspoken and curse like a sailor.

Not anymore.

It started with me commenting this morning that the Paris Las Vegas Hotel was offering us a room upgrade and comps due to the plumbing problems with our room last weekend.  Orieta couldn't restrain herself and piped up in her strong Argentine accent, "You are using my points!"  I looked at her and before I could bite my tongue I said, "Son retarded." 

Now, I know I should not be calling a seventy seven year old woman retarded, but what she said was just wrong.  We took her and my mom with us to Vegas last weekend and I gave them my casino rate so that they could pay less.   We basically invited them along on our getaway weekend and stayed where Orieta wanted to stay (see part one of this blog).  So, while she may not be retarded, what she said was retarded and ungrateful.  

It didn't end there. 

My husband went outside to harness Neuron because he was taking Orieta and her dog to her house in Hesperia.  As soon as he walked outside, Orieta looked at me and said, "If I have somewhere else to go, I go.  I am not happy here."

I was confused at first.  I thought she was saying that she did not want to go to Hesperia with Adrian.

She continued, "I cannot open my mouth here,  You should have more respect.  I am seventy seven years old and you called me retarded."

"Orieta," I said.  "I was calling what you said retarded.  I don't know why you said I used your points, I used my own points for both rooms last weekend.  I am sorry, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings."

It wasn't enough.  What I have learned through my dealings with Orieta is that nothing is ever enough.

And while family matters, I mean it really matters, I matter more.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


I am on vacation and spent my morning in bed reading.  Amazon is making a fortune from me.  This week I downloaded and read three books thus far.  It's dangerous this Kindle.  I have millions of books at my fingertips and pressing the "buy now" button doesn't really feel like spending money.

I digress because my real reason for posting this afternoon is to verbalize that I am at a crossroads of sorts.  While surfing the web this morning, I looked up University of Iowa's non fiction MFA program.  Applications are due in September.  I want to apply.  I can't believe I just wrote that.  It's true.  I do.

I think to myself, how could this work?  We have our house in the Inland Empire, I have my dream job as a public defender, Adrian has his practice and we have the moms and our dogs.

I have done this moving thing many times before and want to make sure I am thinking this through.  By applying I know I am opening up a possibility and a potential hard decision to make later down the road.  Am I ready for this?

When I graduated from law school, I moved to Houston without even thinking it through.  I never talked to Adrian about it.  We had been together eleven or twelve years (the years blur together after ten).  I should have talked to him about it, but I didn't.  Instead, I just up and moved.  Then, when I decided I was done with Texas, I moved to San Francisco to join him in dental school without much asking and no job search.  I took the first job that came along .

Three years later, I did it again.  A few months after my dad died, I got mad at a partner at the boutique law firm I worked at in downtown San Francisco and started looking for jobs.  I saw the ad for the largest firm in the Inland Empire and applied.  I never even told Adrian.  When I told Adrian I got an interview, he was flummoxed.  "Why would you move?  I have more than a year left of dental school." 

I told him that my mom needed me, I didn't want to give up the opportunity, my excuses went on and on.  Ultimately, I pushed Adrian's words and worries aside and moved back home.  Adrian was left to finish his last year of dental school alone.  Looking back, it was a mistake.  I bought a house in an overpriced market and the job at the "new" law firm was worse than the law firm I left.

This time, it will be different.  It has to be different.  I am married and part of a team.  I am not doing this because I am scared.  Instead, I feel as if a higher power is pushing me toward this.  The only time I am truly happy is when I have finished a piece of writing.

Maybe I will apply to both University of Iowa and UC Riverside.  A girl needs options. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Our washer is leaking.  I think it's the seal.  I have so much laundry and every load I wash produces a puddle on the laundry room floor.  Adrian will fix this soon I know.  Having a mechanic turned dentist husband around is handy.  He can fix anything.  Except my mood.

I catch myself snapping at everyone.  Why am I irritable?  I am on vacation and have spent my days thus far parked on the couch writing.  Writing sometimes equals taking the dogs to the dog park and sometimes equals watching Price is Right.  Usually it just means making myself write.  This is my idea of a content life.

But the real problem is again my mood.  Maybe writing about my childhood is making me anxious.  Or maybe having these moms around is the reason.  Sometimes, I just want space to breathe, to be alone and walk through the house in my underwear and bra (yes fat girls do that too). 

I remember when I lived in Houston.  I spent my weekends trying to fill the time.  I walked around Half Price Books in the Village for hours, shopped at Lane Bryant and had a coffee and quiche at Le Madeline's with my book.  I went to many movies alone and in the dark theater I munched my popcorn in peace.  It was lonely yes, but I had time for myself. 

Now, I spend my weekends trying to find time to do what I love: reading, writing and movies.  There is never enough time.

I am like my leaky washer in a lot of ways.  I have been around a while and my skin is a bit loose and flappy.  I am stressed out and over worked.  I can't hold my water (probably too much information).  I am filled up and fed up most of the time.   

How do I fix my own seal?  

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Pursuit of Happiness

Happiness is an elusive thing.  It sometimes comes on in unexpected moments.  When it does come on it's like a burst of joy, like sparklers on the Fourth of July lighting up the monotony of everyday life.

Last night, we took the moms to El Torito for dinner.  My mother-in-law had spent the day driving herself around north Fontana.  I was on vacation and spent my day at the doctor's getting an EKG for my fat girl surgery and the rest of the day writing.  My mom spent her day at the senior citizen's center interviewing for a volunteer position and Adrian spent his day working.

The night didn't start out auspiciously.  When Adrian got home from work at seven, I was lying in bed reading my Kindle in my duck pajamas.  He wasn't happy.  "I thought we were going to dinner?  I'm hungry," he complained as he pulled on a pair of jeans.

I couldn't help but get defensive.  "Don't rush me or I won't go," I said as I switched my Kindle to the off position. 

"Fine, don't go," he said as he slammed the bedroom door.

I pulled on my jeans and an empire waist style shirt.  I scrunched my hair with anti frizz mousse and walked downstairs.

"Let's go," Adrian said with a pinched look in his eyes.  The moms were at the door.

We all got in the car and looked at each other.  "Where are we going?" I asked.

"My mom saw this little Italian place in South Fontana.  It's called Sons of Italy."

"Great," I said my sarcasm evident.

As we drove down Sierra Boulevard, we passed the new Fontana library and I was struck by how beautiful it was.  It had a waterfall running down the front of its surface and I could see the stacks of books through the windows.  "You have to go there," my mom said.  "It makes Ontario's library look puny."

Cardenas market.  A dress shop with Princess like dresses in the window.  A bar and a tattoo parlour.

The Sons of Italy turned out to be closed and wasn't even a restaurant, but some type of Elks like lodge.  "No more Italians in Fontana," Orieta said.  "Let's go to Sizzler." 

Adrian shook his head.  "No Sizzler," he said and kept on driving.  Orieta always wants to go to Sizzler.  I heard her mumble something about their salad bar to my mom.

I pointed at the 10 freeway and he took it east and exited at San Bernardino's Hospitality Lane.   We pulled into the parking lot of  El Toritro and went inside.  The wait was only ten minutes.  They sat us at a large round booth.  I could hear Shakira blasting in the bar as we walked by.  The waiter came by and we ordered a round of Margaritas and Fajitas for everyone. 

Two guitarists played at the table next to us and Adrian asked his mom if she wanted a song.  Orieta clapped and sang along to the music.  I sipped my second Cadillac Margarita and watched her.

Alberto died eight months ago.   It's been hard.  There are days where she doesn't get out of bed. 

The guitarists stayed and sang another song.  Soon, we were all grinning like fools and clapping along.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Doggies Dearest

I am in a fix.   I think my mom is traumatizing my dogs.

My husband came home today and when he walked in he didn't hear the pitter patter of Frodo's and Chewie's feet.  He walked into the dining room and saw them locked in their crate together.  They looked at him, their eyes pleading with him to let them out.  My mom had put them in the crate when she left for the senior citizen's center hours before.

All the signs are there.  Frodo and Chewie are super needy when I get home.  They have always jumped on me and kissed me when I walk in, but this is a little different.  Since my mom moved in, I sense a desperation that wasn't there before. 

The other day, I caught her chasing after Frodo with a broom and when I called her on it she pretended she was playing.  "That's not playing," I said to her.  "That's abuse."

Yesterday, she walked into my bedroom and Chewie, who is very even tempered, ran at her growling and barking as if she was an intruder.  Dogs know. 

When the dogs jump on my mom she screams at them and I see a little bit of the mom from my childhood.  Her voice is high and anxious, "God Dammit, get off of me."

My mom buys the dogs treats, lots of treats, but when I see the boxes of biscuits I flash back to how she would always buy my sisters and I a present after she had one of her "episodes".   This is no different. 

If I have to choose someone or something to live with, I choose my dogs.  It may sound cruel to say that, to put an animal before a human and a mother no less, but the dogs were here first and they are a part of our family.  I love them with a maternal fierceness that I never expected. 

My mom has been warned and is on notice.  I walked in her room last night and woke her up, "Mom, don't put the dogs in their crate for hours.  And don't yell at them.  They have no idea what you're saying.  They don't speak English." 

"Well, they don't listen.  I put them in the crate because they were bad and then I forgot to let them out," she said.

Next step: nanny cam.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Kristie Alley fell on Dancing With the Stars last night.  It felt all too familiar. 

A person like me should not own a two story house.  A couple of weeks ago I fell down the stairs.  For the third time. 

The first time I fell down my stairs, I had just moved into our house and Adrian was still in San Francisco about to graduate from dental school.  I was recovering from a night of over indulgence with my friend Tracy.  The air conditioning repair man knocked on the front door and in my hungover state, I missed the last three stairs and went flying through the air and belly flopped on the tile. 

Good thing I am a plus size girl or I would probably be dead.

It took me at least ten minutes to pick myself up from the tile.  I was not injured.  And yes, the air conditioning repair man was gorgeous.  Murphy's Law mandates that all repair men are hot if, and only if, you are hurt, hungover and wearing your doggie flannel pajamas.

The second time I fell down my stairs was all Adrian's fault.  Adrian had slept downstairs in our guest room  because we had a spat.  I went downstairs to try and make up with him at midnight in my underwear and my dog Chewie got underfoot and I fell from the middle of the stairs to the tile.  I landed with my right foot underneath me.  The pain was excruciating and and Adrian came running out of the guest room when he heard my screams.  He has never slept away from me since. 

I crawled my way into the living room and Adrian took me to the ER in the morning after I put pants on.  I spent weeks on crutches struggling to court every morning for my misdemeanor rotation. 

My ankle still gives out when I roller skate.  Note to self, I will not let my weak ankle impede my roller derby ambitions.

Just last week, I fell down in the parking lot of the Riverside courthouse.  In front of my supervisor.  Damn those Payless wedges.  My supervisor was very nice about the whole thing.  She oohed in sympathy as I writhed in pain holding my knee.  She picked up all my files.  She told me to go to the doctor.  She smiled when she saw my pink suede flats the next day. 

If humiliation is good for the soul, my soul is set.

Somehow, I have passed my klutz tendancies down to my tween niece.  She is a klutz too.  Selena always falls and crashes into things.  She spills her drinks on the table at every family dinner (we both do).   She breaks everything by her mere touch.  Adrian calls it the Mantz effect.  I think it has something to do with our mutual love of reading.  Maybe we live in a fantasy world and reality is too difficult to navigate.

In the end, at least we are not boring.  Everyone wants to be Lucy, not Ethyl.  In the end I think being a klutz is kind of cool. 

Klutzes of the world unite.  You know who you are.