Panorama of San Bernardino

Monday, August 26, 2019

Back to School

In January, I will be starting school again. It is a part time, online MFA program for creative writing, one built for working professionals. The program can be done on weekends, which allows me to keep my job as a deputy public defender).

I was dwelling on it all morning and kept thinking, what am I doing? Am I crazy? Am I too old? Too tired? Too sick with my chronic health issues? My memory is not very good anymore, and I have to wear reading glasses. Maybe I am just scared? Change can be terrifying, but it is usually good for the soul.

What if I fuck it up? I chose the least expensive program I could find, but it is still a lot of money relatively speaking. Why can’t I just be content with what I have? Why do I have to make life more difficult for myself?

My life is good. I love my husband, dogs and aside from the infertility issue, I am blessed. But, something is missing. I feel as if I need a new goal and structure to help me finish my book.

I have always loved school. I feel at home in school. A nerd since birth, school has always defined me.

What I call my “lost year”, the year I dropped out of high school, is pretty much the only time I have done poorly in school. Even in junior college at Mt. San Antonio in Walnut, after the debacle of my senior year of high school and taking my GED, I excelled. I was the editor of the college newspaper and transferred to UCR with a very high GPA after five years of going part time while waitressing full-time.

By the time I transferred to UCR, I was on a mission to finish. As a result of that determination, I was done in exactly two years. I could hardly believe it, I had a BA in English. This little poor girl from the IE had graduated from a university, magna cum laude no less. I felt as if I had climbed Mount Everest. It only took seven years total.

Next USC Law, which was a breeze after my seven year bachelor’s degree in English Literature. And, I was finished by thirty. A lawyer. One would think I would be done. Exhausted by it all. But no.

Come January, my goal is to find the nerd inside of me again. I will get that degree and plan on finishing my book and starting a new one.  I know myself and I’m best when I’m busy, goal orientated and focused.

I will get my MFA dammit and know my dad will be looking down smiling saying, “I always knew you could do it Jenny.”

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Happy Ending

When I was little girl, I just wanted a place of my own. Somewhere quiet where there was no screaming.  I wanted out of the chaotic house I lived in. I wanted out of Ontario, California, the little pissant town I grew up in. I wanted a fairy tale type of happy ending.

Yet, ironically, I ended up living only about twenty miles from where I grew up.

I never thought I would move back. I moved around, and lived in Los Angeles, Houston and San Francisco.  At one point, I almost moved to Arizona and always wanted to live in New York.

But when my Dad died, I stopped my wandering and moved back home to the Inland Empire. I was shattered, barely together, grieving my father's death. I needed to be close to my sisters and my mom.

I was happy to be close to my family. My mom and I became very close. Me and my sisters and my nieces were able to to build close relationships. I reconnected with my best friends from high school Tracy and Melinda. I got married.

The work part was more of a transition. I took a job at another large firm and that was the nail in the coffin for my corporate litigation career. I was done. Burnt toast. I decided to try something different and applied to all of the public defender agencies in Southern California.

Riverside chose me and I was overjoyed (aside from the paltry paycheck which does get better with time). When I came to the public defender's office that first day, I knew it was the right decision. I knew I was in the right place. A good place. With good people.

Now, I love my job, my colleagues and the clients. Some might say that it is hard to represent criminal defendants, but I think it is easier than corporate and governmental entity clients because my clients are real people. They are people who made a mistake (or sometimes people who are just accused and who are innocent).

Most importantly, my clients are the most special because in my competency speciality, they are severely mentally ill or disabled cognitively and sometimes both. They are the most helpless.

Think of this: How would you feel if your parent with dementia was accused of hitting someone when he was in the throes of his disability and he was stuck in the jail to rot? To die. It's a horrible situation and one I faced recently. I had to think out of the box, and with a team approach with the family, a concerned Court and jailhouse staff, a good Prosecutor and myself, I was able to get my client into a long term dementia/Alzheimer's care facility.

Recently, I was wondering how I got here. I face chaos every day, why do I love this job? What I realized is that I always try and make it better for the clients and their families. And, I love to help my colleagues with problematic issues and clients. I find it rewarding.

And maybe that's what I always wanted. To make an ugly world a more beautiful place. And I am.

It's not perfect, of course. My job is stressful, and life can be difficult. But I am home, where I belong, close to my mom and sisters. And, aside from my crazy shih tzus barking all of the time,  I did get the pretty and quiet house I always wanted with a gorgeous husband.

I guess I got my happy ending.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Put It Together

How I wish I was put together. I want to have dark, sleek hair. With no grey. With a tight butt and a trim waist and sexy long legs. How does it feel to want?

My foot is better, but I look at myself in the mirror and think, I am a mess. My hair looks matted. My eyes have bags. And the wrinkles. It’s easy to say you would never spend money on expensive face treatments when you’re young. But staring down the lens of fifty, only a few years away, has made me consider what I thought I never would.

Now, I’m sitting outside in my David Bowie t-shirt and my pj shorts, thinking what’s clean to wear to work today? Or what’s clean enough.

Thankfully, I have a trove of black dresses to rummage through. Pair those with tights and flats and a blazer or cardigan and I’m good enough. I seriously do not know how people wear high heels and fancy outfits to work. It takes too much out of me. Who are they trying to impress? Other county workers? Ha!

I prefer a black dress uniform I can accessorize. Because after waking up at 5 am, picking up the house a bit, giving the dogs their food and meds and walking them, I could care less. Or is it I couldn’t care less? Either way, I usually say fuck it. Especially on days like today where I don’t have court.

And while I know I should just go to Macy’s and buy some new suits, at least four, I just do not have the energy. Or the inclination. Truth be told, I would rather sit here squinting on my phone writing than do anything else. I’ve been working on a story about my high school days and I love (crave) the feeling of falling back into my fifteen year old self, back when my life had possibilities so immense they were scary.

I know where life leads. If I follow the safe path, seven to thirteen years until retirement. Then I can live. And write. Write all day in bed. A cup of coffee on my bedside. Hell, I’ll IV the caffeine in if I have to.

What am I saying here? That I’m unhappy? No. I think I am just yearning for something more. The unsafe. The unseen. The unknowable.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019


Yesterday, I felt something I hadn’t in a while. Joy.

I was at work. I was slammed. Running around as usual. Trying to get my paperwork done and my cases called.

But then, I slowed down. I talked to a client outside for an hour about her son after I got her case dismissed. She hugged me. She thanked me over and over and her gratitude was food for my soul.

Another client’s family came up and thanked me. They brought me a beautiful card. They hugged me.

Another family member thanked me. Blessed me.

My heart swelled. It was as if a higher power was putting all of the love on one day to remind me that it’s all I need.

A writing friend posted an excerpt from a poem called Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye and it really spoke to me. Here’s a portion of it:

“Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. You must wake up with sorrow. You must speak to it till your voice catches the thread of all sorrows and you see the size of the cloth. Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore...”

I guess what I realized yesterday is that you have to be present and you have to be kind. The universe will pay you back tenfold.

And, all of my sorrow has a purpose.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

A day

Today is just a day. An ordinary day.

My life has a pattern to it at the moment. I get up early between 4-5 am and medicate the dogs. It takes me an hour to coax Chewie to eat his food and meds. Then I walk the dogs, sometimes twice. I drink espresso and pick up the downstairs and do laundry while watching my latest addiction Face Off (a character special effects/makeup competition) on Sci Fi Channel.

At 7 am, I make Adrian coffee and both of us something for breakfast and then go upstairs to quickly get dressed and leave for work by 7:30 am. I feel as if I live a lifetime every morning. On the days I carpool with Adrian, we will sometimes skip breakfast and get a smoothie.

Then work. That’s a whole story in itself. Best saved for another day. But I love my job and try to be efficient with my time.

When I come home (by 530 usually), we eat. If Adrian’s not home yet, his mom and I wait for him to eat. I give Chewie his night heart meds and then take the dogs out. By 8 pm, I’m beat. I go upstairs and take my medicine for my chronic issues which makes me drowsy and a bit dazed. I lay in bed and want to write. And at times, I do. Sometimes, I read instead of writing, with my lil furry Wookiee by my side. I listen to his breathing and it lulls me to sleep. My husband comes to bed about ten pm, sometimes inadvertently waking me up, and if I wake up, I will try to keep my eyes open to watch tv with him but they will eventually close.

My days are merging together, like a film on fast forward. Everything is blurry. Is this what middle age is supposed to be like? Or am I in crisis and just trying to get by, one day at a time?

Does it even matter? Should I care? When I was in Texas a couple of weeks or so ago (it already feels like months ago), I was on edge yearning to be home. And now I’m here and I’m sleepwalking through my days.

But maybe it’s just a day. An ordinary day. An ordinary life. There’s some beauty in that. I think.

Friday, August 2, 2019


My shih tzu Chewie is on multiple medications for his heart condition which has worsened recently. One of the medications, a diuretic, is severely impacting him. He doesn’t want to eat because his already large tongue is swollen from dehydration. It’s so bad he whines because he is hungry, but with his huge tongue it is hard for him to eat.
The lyrics from the song One” by U2 came to my mind. U2 has always inspired and comforted me. To me, they have always been a spiritually minded band. And while their early albums were political as well, they all really speak to faith. 
The song “One” is an apt example of this because it is hymn like: “We’re one but we're not the same We get to carry each other, carry each other.” 
The words capture a universal truth. We are one. We are all not the same. But we have an obligation to one another. This is nowhere more true than with pets.
My two shih tzus are my best friends. Other than my husband, there is no one I’d rather live with. For me, they’re the ones I carry. Literally at times. I always carry the fat one, Frodo, up the stairs because he’s lazy (should have named him Samwise), and Chewbaca, otherwise known as Chewie, trots behind us. 
Late last night, Chewie and Frodo had both stood by the bed waiting for me to pull them up. I picked them up and put them both on Adrian’s side. Falling into the bed, I cuddled Chewie and stared into his caramel colored, Wookiee looking face. Chewie licked my face and I sighed, exhausted.
Tonight, on the way home from work, I picked up a roasted chicken. When Adrian grabbed a leg and started eating it, I said, “hey that’s for Chewie!” Adrian laughed and said, “You think he’s going to eat a whole chicken?” I spent an hour trying to feed Chewie, to no avail. When Adrian tried, Chewie’s taste buds awakened and he ate a piece of chicken and some toast. I clapped and almost shouted, “hallelujah!” My eyes welled up with tears for the little shih tzu who ate. 
Sometimes, one little victory is enough.