Panorama of San Bernardino

Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Sunday, I returned home after a week at the Macondo workshop in San Antonio. I was a mess in the best possible way. Open, raw and inspired. I hadn’t slept really at all in two days.

The night before, I attended a party in San Antonio in a beautiful house on a tree lined street.

I learned that when you meet your idols, like Sandra Cisneros whose books inspired me to begin writing, it is best to be so exhausted, exhilarated and humbled that you are open yet quiet. Usually, I chatter, trying to fill space. It’s my own insecurity in vocal form. But that night, I couldn’t. My brain wouldn’t put the words together. Not that I didn’t try. But after literally calling a good friend I’d met the wrong name, due to my exhausted brain, I decided to retreat to a table and people watch.

The Friday night before the party, my two dear friends from Houston, Tejanas Cecilia and Priscilla, were at Macondo for the Cisneros reading and we stayed out until 4 am talking and catching up. I fell right back into their friendship like I’d never left Houston. It had been more than a decade, but it didn’t matter. It was so easy and true like all great friendships are. It wasn’t superficial conversation. We had all been through much in the last decade. Yet, we still laughed ourselves hoarse like we used to back in Houston sitting on the balcony of our apartment drinking margaritas. It was an adventure.

The adventure took a turn when we were pulled over by campus police a minute from the dorms that my friends had insisted on dropping me off at. I questioned the officer for his reason of pulling us over and became silent when questioned in return, I am a public defender after all. Cecilia was vocal too. But Priscilla stayed cool and collected and escaped with a warning. I joked after we pulled away that it was a warning based on not speeding as the officer’s excuse for pulling us over for speeding was pure fantasy. I knew our car had been moving slow and steady like a Texas tortuga.

By the time the officer let us go it was after 4 am. So I shut my eyes at 5 am and opened them two hours later. Groggy and exhausted, I wore a long dress with my pj pants underneath. Workshop was amazing. The comments on my pieces were on point. My class totally got me and liked me, they really liked me (Sally Field voice). I knew I had to finish my book. Then, after workshop, we had publishing seminars until 5 pm. After the seminars, I raced back to dress for the party.

Back to that party. Cecilia who is herself a Macondista, got to the party a bit late but once she walked in. I relaxed and caught up with her. I realized something about myself at parties, I have social anxiety and use alcohol to cover it up. Epiphany! I had always thought I was the life of the party, but maybe alcohol is the crutch I use to create a persona.

So sitting with Cecilia instead of a 6 pack calmed me. Then, I was able to have open and deep dialogue with her and others. I had a beer, but not six, and engaged. I listened to testimonials and cried real tears. I interacted. I even danced. Yes, I danced.

When Sauvemente came on, I started trying to do the cha cha, then my 80s girl came out and I began to smurf (side to side, one foot in front of the other and at end, lift foot and kick it back). Soon, I started to bob and dance like the character played by Molly Ringwald in The Breakfast Club. I couldn’t help myself. It was me. I was here. In the presence of people I worshipped and admired. And, I belonged.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Date night

Last night, my husband and I had a date night. We used to have them all the time. Some might say our entire twenty-five year relationship, and within that our ten years of marriage this December, has been one long extended and very adventurous date. One of our goals has always been to have fun and we do. Despite being busy professionals and care taking for my elderly mother in law, we always made what we find joyful a priority.

For me, that usually means music concerts. Forty something or not, I love me an alternative or punk show. There is nothing better. Some years we would go to a show a month, sometimes twice a month. Our record was three in three days. It about killed me but it was The Cure.

The fun had stopped for a while. Like a spinning record whose owner forgot about, the music scratched a groove and came to a sudden stop. We had a death you see and it rocked my small family.

My husband was wrecked and I did not know if he would or even could recover from the death of his brother who was only 54. And I knew my mother in law would never bounce back. And as you know, with all of our trying, we have no kids to look at and say, it will all be OK.

Yet, life goes on. It’s been five months and the color is coming back into our world. It’s still grey most days but every now and then, I will see a flash of bright blue sky or green grass. My husband will never be the same, nor will his mom. I know that. Some losses you do not get over (for me, not having a child).  But you still have to get up everyday and live. You do. You must.

So I am content with small things and to be given this gift. A night in a nice hotel, some good grub and fancy craft cocktails at a speakeasy. Watching my husband smile and relax is the music my soul needs right now. And it feels good.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Worlds Away

In a week and two days, I will be on my way to the Macondo Writers Workshop in Texas ("Macondo"). Macondo was founded by the writer Sandra Cisneros and takes place in San Antonio. It is a group of socially engaged writers who understand a "global sense of community." See

Years before, I had seen references to the Macondo Writing Workshop (see Marquez's Hundred Years of Solitude for the origin of the name) when I first started writing again and had downloaded their application. It was onerous.

The Macondo application required you to meet a number of categories (social justice, published essays/stories and working with established writers) and I started filling it out. Soon, I realized I was far short of meeting any of the categories' requirements. At the time, I was a business litigator for a large law firm. In my head I was socially engaged, but in reality, I was a sell-out. And, my only published work was a legal article about insurance coverage. Shit.

Now, a decade later, things have changed. After years of writing and placing memoir pieces and essays in journals and magazines, I more than met their creative writing publication requirements and in my job as a deputy public defender representing the mentally ill, I am an advocate for social and legal change on a daily basis. Add in my legal writing and some encouragement to apply from a close writing mentor friend and I applied and got in.

It still feels surreal. Most days, I am still that little girl sitting on top of the roof looking down at the world below hoping my parents will stop fighting so I can slip inside and go to sleep. The Go-Go's song "Worlds Away" captures it, that feeling of wanting to escape the chaos. The chorus and last lines say it best,

"I wanna be worlds away
Apart from the day to day
I know I'll be okay
When I get worlds away
Worlds away
Worlds away

Slipping away to somewhere
In my heart
Go to a world where no one's been before
That's when I find myself
Not quite sleeping
But still dreaming
And I'm worlds away" (The Go-Go's)

In my day to day life as a defense attorney, I have confidence. I have to. But my writing persona is another matter. There is always a voice in the back of my head telling me that I am not good enough. That my work is crap. That I can't write. That my voice is juvenile. That I will never finish my book.

But sometimes, when the words flow and I lose myself in a story, it feels magical, right and true. It is in those moments that I know I am meant to be a writer.

As a little girl, I used to dream myself into stardom (much like the Judy Blume character in "Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself"). In my head, I was a famous singer on stage with Sean Cassidy. Or an actress on The Brady Bunch. And sometimes, even a writer.

The fact that the latter dream may be coming true is incredible and makes me want to be present, To be there, in the moment, relishing each and every minute, in the very world I have created for myself from the chaos.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Beauty and the Beast

Yesterday at work, someone called me dedicated. I don’t take compliments well. My face got red. I hemmed and hawed, made a funny and changed the subject. Later, I thought, am I dedicated or merely obsessed?

With my work as a deputy public defender representing the mentally ill, I think I am dedicated. One has to be to do the work. You have to be able to see people, really see them. It is difficult work that I love. Some might even call it a calling. But, I don’t know if I can do the legal stuff forever.

My problem is that I love beauty. My husband was and is beautiful. My weakness for nice hotels is obvious in my lifestyle. My home is what I think is beautiful (with glossy, custom framed prints of my favorite punk and post punk rockers).

Most of all, I love the beauty of words. Words in a television show like “Anne with an E” that I just watched on Netflix. As a young college girl, it’s why I fell in love with James Joyce the first time I read his short stories in Dubliners. And beauty is why I was drawn to memoir by the humor and power of Frank McCourt’s scenes in Angela’s Ashes. Words do it for me. They make me buzz. I can still recall the first time I read the gorgeousness of Sandra Cisneros’ prose in House on Mango Street and the sadness inherent in Junot Diaz’s Drown.

Art and the magic of art is what life is about. It’s just so damn beautiful. Art makes my heart sing. Great art takes my sadness away. The loveliness of art makes me forget my infertility, all the deaths and the sadness of life. Or sometimes, art makes me remember. The best art always makes me cry. In a good way.

My love for words and beauty is what may force me to take a different path. To save myself. Because in the criminal justice system, there is no beauty. It is not art. It is a cruel and barbaric at times system. A system that makes me cry in a not so good way. It is a system I may be perpetuating by my participation.

So, I choose beauty. Love. Positivity. And most of all art and my writing. Forever and ever. Amen.