Panorama of San Bernardino

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

3 am October 2022

It's 3 am. I lay in our guest room listening to Chewbacca the shih tzu snore. I came in here to avoid waking Adrian up. I'm in so much pain, But breathing through it. Inhale in. Exhale out.

Pain is a hard thing to write about it. Adjectives do not suffice. Agonizing. Brain numbing. Unbearable. But I'm bearing it. 

Verbs capture it better. Shivering. Clenching. Writhing. Weeping.

Or maybe add some nouns too. 

Wet towel. Crumpled blankets. Curled up body.

This form of mine will get better. I know that. Pain is real but it too will pass. 

I urge myself to remember. Remember. Even this moment, lying on my side in bed writing these words, squinting at my phone, is precious.

Every moment matters. The big, the small, the adjectives, the verbs and the nouns.

Here are more nouns. 

Family and friends. Cards. Flowers. Well wishes. A back rub.

With some adjectives. 

A hot cup of tea. A warm compress. A golden light.

With a verb.

Sleeping. 

Let's put this all together now. We will get there eventually. I promise. This is not wishful thinking. This is wish filled thinking.

Here goes: 

She lies in bed writing, dog by her side, warm and comfortable, and puts down her phone, finally managing to drift away into slumber. 

Good night. 


Sunday, October 17, 2021

A lightness of being

Lately, my posts have been dark. Yet, there is so much light. So right now, I have decided to focus on the light.

There's a warm glow upstairs. My dog sleeps next to me and I'm snuggled in a warm house, in a warm bed. 

Since my surgery, my husband has been caretaking. I've been unable to do much, it hurts to move, yet I'm well tended to. He's even putting up with me rewatching old seasons of Top Chef. He's so good at cooking for me (though right now my diet consists mostly of fruit) and watching over me. He's worried and attentive and I'm thankful that most of my major issues have happened when he's asleep. 

I have everything a girl needs, including, thank god, medications to ease the pain which is admittedly intense. 

My mind is clear. So clear. It's as if I'm seeing everything in sharp focus for the first time. I've thought about the stress over the last two years and have realized that the best thing to happen to me was this surgery. It forced me to slow down and take a much needed break from it all. 

Covid has made many of us question why we do what we do and the cost of it all. It has made us realize what is important and has shown us there is a light at the end of all of this.

That light is everything. It illuminates your character. It's the soft glow from a lamp that will show you the way home. Because in the end, home is what matters more than anything.  In some ways, it's all that matters my friends. 

2:35

It's 2:35 in the morning. It's watching the clock. It's wondering if this night ever will end. 

It's the longest of nights. 

There is no second hand of old. Don't we all yearn for those days? When we could watch the seconds pass. 

Now everything moves so fast.

Yet slow. Shivering in a warm shower, beefy legs barely hold you up. Your knees would buckle but for your hand on the wall.

Shoring you up.

Praying. Swearing. How fragile you are. How fragile life is. How precious. 

Like the morning. Like the sun. 

You picture your morning cup of coffee. The bitterness of your coffee cut by one sugar cube, okay two. 

You wobble into bed, curl up. Towel in mouth.

Your husband snores. The neighbors blast sad Spanish songs, the music echoing into the sky. The vibrations travel across the landscape. 

What used to be a quarry feels like a graveyard.

Is this what you needed to wake you up? Pain so deep it rocks you to your bones. Biting down on the towel you think, this is how your dad must have felt before he let go. 

But you won't let go. 

You can't. Life won't let you. There's too much left. Too much left you think, as you bite down again. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

Change on the horizon

The last few days have been hard. A struggle. I just had surgery and the pain is very intense. At some point yesterday I thought, I can't do this. But I did. It made me realize I can get through anything. 

And I also realized something. Change is on the horizon. I always feel it when it's imminent. It's in the air. The energy in my life has shifted. Will the change be good? Who knows but it's change.

"Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge."~ Eckhart Tolle

Change has always been good for me. Always. But as the Tolle quote points out above, you don't always know it at the time.  Change is an increase of the volume of your life. It's a shift in place and in your body. It's space. It's time. Time to think and to reconsider, and readjust.

I have always felt a higher power in my life, some call it God, and some call it the divine, but what it really means is the universe's consciousness.

My goal, even through the painful healing process I'm going through, is to be conscious. In the moment. Without allowing my mind to go in circles. 

Pain helps me to focus, believe it or not. It's why it's easier to write when I'm sad. Because the suffering creates space, like change, to think. We get caught up in the minutiae of life and that's what we focus on. But life is greater and bigger than minutiae and for me, I'm here to reach my life's purpose.

Wherever the road takes me, I'll go. I'll go. I will accept each moment as if I had chosen it (as Tolle suggests). 

Because I'm here. And ready. 



Tuesday, October 5, 2021

My ass has a timer

Chewbacca is whining. Again and again. I'm awaiting surgery in a week so I am taking a break from work. I don't have to get up early. Chewbacca doesn't care.

I'm side sleeping and I tell him, "Be good, I don't feel well," and he whines again. "Please?" 

"Stop! It's 5 am!"

Bathroom time. More pain. Bath. Shower. Twice. I go back to bed in a towel. Mediate the pain away, breathe.

My husband says, "Your ass has a timer". I laugh even though it hurts to giggle and tell him, "I'm stealing that line." It's true. Plus, that's a good line. Don't we all have timers?

Life is short.

My pain heightens. 

Chewbacca whines again. With a moan, I get up gingerly, carefully, slowly (I know I'm overusing the adverbs here but it's purposefully ha!) and pad downstairs with him behind me. 

He needs to go out. Now Frodo wakes up. He sleeps downstairs because with his bad back, he can't climb the stairs. Everyone in this house has issues. 

Bark. Bark. Growl. They fight. Like hobbits in the shire, they wrestle. 

The dogs are unrelenting. I picture the bowl of homemade beans I'll eat later with a tortilla. My diet is bland right now, mostly vegetarian. I love toast with butter. Tea. Steaming hot, one sugar cube. Those treats get me through the day right now.

I'm laying off all the sauces. Hot sauces. Alcohol. 

I make my one cuppa black coffee. It tastes like heaven. 



Monday, September 27, 2021

As I Lay...

As I lay here, not much I can do but think. Watch television, read, sleep and dream.

It's an odd time. I have a couple weeks to ready for my surgery. I alternate between terrified and hopeful. My anxiety is such that I must manage it. I can't get lost in my head. I might sink into it. Into that deep abyss. No thank you.

I watched my dog Frodo go outside this morning. He wants to run so badly. His back is bad, his leg gives out. Yet, he still wants to trot 

Like me, he's resisting his body failing. 

Failure is not always a bad thing. At times, failing, or something failing, can give one perspective. Maybe I have too much perspective right now.

It's as I'm looking down at the world of my life and seeing it all clearly for the first time. I'm a memoirist so part of this melancholy gaze of mine might be connected to recently finishing my 15 plus year book YA memoir project that's coming out in January (we pushed the release date so I can promote it healthy). 

The good news, because you know I'm always about a silver lining, is that my husband and I are in the throes of a honeymoon period. It's like we're both seeing each truly as we saw each other so so long ago. We have always had a great relationship, one based on love, friendship and trust. And music of course.

But this new vigor is different. I looked at his face the other night as we readied for bed and was so in love that it hurt my heart to think of one of us leaving this earth.

But then I thought. Stop. We have this, only this now, this present moment, so I held his hand as I fell asleep. 

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Never mind

Hello. They say physical suffering creates a deeper consciousness. Now my suffering is relative friends. I realize this. And everyone suffers alone. 

Suffering can be a state of mind. Pain is there but you must learn to not focus on it. Music helps.

I slept almost all day the last couple of days. It's as if my body gave up on me. 

Now that I'm awake, I am conscious. Laying on my stomach, I stretch as I write this. The swelling has abated. I'm more "normal". 

My normal self is always in pain, but the me of last week is gone. The one who was scared and in so much pain she couldn't breathe. This me is the real me. I can handle the chronic pain even though it has worsened lately. But I'm hopeful with surgery, it will get better. It has to. 

I want to live my best life. Changing the world one client at a time. Traveling, writing and performing on the side. I'm leaving my self open to the universe. To whatever comes my way. To readings, teachings, and opportunities to spread my message of resilience and hope.

By writing a book about being a deputy public defender, I have somewhat defined myself that way. Yet, that's only one facet. I am many things, and none. I am a writer. A performer. A lawyer. An idealist. An optimist. I am multitudes.

So never mind, all of the bullshit and struggles in life. I am just gonna be me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Wake up

It's 4 am. I went to bed in pain, but woke up feeling better physically, but stuck in a nightmare.

I had nightmares a lot when I was a little kid. There was one with a guy with huge yellow big bird glasses who would chase me. One with a Jesus statute that used to talk to me. One where I'd be in a car and the car would fly off a mountain. And one with a dark magic witch who would haunt me.

It was constant and terrifying. I would fight off sleep.

For many years, I used to be somewhat scared of the dark, but my husband who needs darkness to sleep, cured me of it and of leaving the TV on.

The dark became comforting and peaceful next to him. I hadn't had nightmares in years. 

Last night, a witch had me trapped in a painting in my dream. Stuck in a room. She would disappear then return. It reminded me a bit of a Netflix show called "Nightbooks" we started watching started recently. Maybe that's where it came from. Movies can do that to me and it's why I rarely watch scary movies at night.

Or maybe, this nightmare was caused by something else. The bad dream could be a manifestation of my anxiety. The unease I feel. The stress I'm under at work. At home. In my writing. The upcoming surgery.

This week I'll work on centering myself. Having pure thoughts and intentions. Letting go of resentments and petty concerns. You see, I know what's going on. Much of my suffering, especially anxiety related, is caused by my overactive brain. It's a blessing and a curse. 

So I will focus on what I can control, which is really only my presence. The now. And just keep going. 

Remembering, always, that I'm blessed. Grateful. Here. Very content. Joyful. Full of light.

If this sounds like a mantra, and a prayer, it kinda is. 


Monday, September 20, 2021

Destination unknown

This morning, I'm listening to Eckhart Tolle. His voice calms me.

I'll be out of pocket soon having surgery. It's not fun or convenient but a necessity. For me, it's a struggle. To take the time to do this when everything is moving and all is going well, is not easy to say the least.

What it has created, however, is a reminder to myself that I can't fight this and consciousness is everything. I can't control this. Or make it go away. It is meant to be. I have to surrender. This too will pass. 

I'm hopeful that after the surgery, my life will be easier. The pain struggles I've had will be lessened and I can live my best life.

As the Buddha said, don't mistake the finger for the moon. My goal is to reach my destiny, whatever that is. I am just here for the ride. And the journey matters just as much as the destination. 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Boundaries

I learned something this week. Boundaries are hard. People like to cross them.

I've never been good at boundaries. I wish I had learned how to set them years ago. The problem with setting a boundary is that once someone crosses the boundary you've set, you have to speak up or your boundary means nothing.

This may seem vague, but it's not. It crosses over every aspect of my life. Family, friendships, as well as professional relationships. This week tested all of my relationships.

For years, I've let others cross lines, in all sorts of ways. I like being liked. It makes me happy when someone thinks I'm a hard worker and/or a good daughter and/or a loyal friend.

Yet, being liked and being respected and honored are very different things. Being liked really means nothing if people like you only because you'll do anything for them, no matter the cost to your own well being.

I've been working on myself this last couple of months. Trying to let go of my ego to reach true creative consciousness in my work and art. I'm trying to be present.

This week, I lost that presence for a moment. Forgot who I am, and who I try to be. I was resentful, angry even and I had to breathe and pull back and think what is my goal here?

My goal is to do the right thing. To do good work. To work hard and be present in everything I do. I'm not perfect. Nor do I try to be. But I need space and time to do my good work and I will demand that from now on. 

The pandemic made me realize the power of presence and intention. In speaking your mind and being brave and being true to who you are. And I will not compromise my own self or my ideals any longer. 

I am who I am. I am me. I am here. Right now. Writing this. Telling you, I'm here to stay. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Finding myself (spoiler alert, I wasn't lost)

Yesterday, I spoke to a group of students about resilience. They seemed into it. 

They had so many questions about my trajectory from punk rock high school dropout to USC Law.

I used my own story, the first story in my book, as a springboard. I told them how I dropped out of high school 5 credits short my senior year of high school. I shared how I made it to USC Law and that my story was my magic wand in my job as a deputy public defender.

It's a story I hid for years. When I was a corporate lawyer, I told almost no one that I was a drop out. No one knew how hard I had worked to get to the ivory tower of corporate litigation in Houston, Texas. I was all alone there. My lil town of Ontario, California seemed so far far away. 

I wanted to remake myself but what I didn't realize, until years later through writing, was that I was fine just as I was. 

What I didn't realize back then was the power of claiming one's narrative. In being authentic. By denying or hiding my story, I was denying my own self.

My short book with a long title, "Portrait of a Deputy Public Defender, or how I became a punk rock lawyer", (available on the Bamboo Dart Press website and on Amazon, Target and B & N and other booksellers) is a reclaiming of my narrative. My second book is also a reclaiming and it's a YA Memoir coming out later this year titled "Tales of an Inland Empire Girl."

I am no longer scared of what people will think. I want them to think. To hear my story and see who I am. Who I became. Who I still want to be.

In the end, I'm a writer. Writers write their stories. So I did.



Saturday, September 11, 2021

Constellation

Early this morning, I stepped outside to look up at the dark sky contrasting against the stars. The constellations twinkled. I blinked.

I blinked again. The air conditioner hummed. 

Back inside, I made an espresso and drank a glass of water. My dogs growled. I opened up the back door and let them out.

Time to give the dogs their meds. 

My feet felt swollen. Everything feels swollen. My heart. My head. My eyes. 

I think back to the day the towers fell. My dad was still alive. My dad called me as I watched the news coverage in my high rise apartment in LA. I was in law school at USC and lived on 4th and Spring.

He said, "Are you watching Jenny?" 

I can almost hear his voice in my head. And if there's one silver piece of memory I want to remember from that awful day, it's his gentle voice. 

Checking on me. Making sure I was okay. Telling me to come home.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Days to remember

Years ago, what seems like a lifetime, I lived in San Francisco. 

Adrian was in dental school and we lived near Twin Peaks at the top of a hill. The fog was so thick at night, you had to squint to see through it. 

We lived there, in the student housing's 500 square foot apartment, for almost a year. I could barely fit in the bathroom. I used to have to squeeze past the door. 

Then, we moved to an 800 plus square foot apartment in the Inner Sunset by Golden Gate Park, on 9th and Irving. We had a back yard and shared a washer and dryer with the second and third floors.

On Fridays, we would order in food and watch TV. On Saturdays, when Adrian didn't have to study or I didn't have to go into my corporate law job, we went to Sonoma, or Marin. We had lunch and drank wine. I used to love driving over the Golden Gate Bridge. When we would get home, I would hold my two black cats in my lap and listen to them purr.

Every Sunday morning, we used to walk to get the best scones (ever!) at the co-op bakery Arazmendi's. After, we would walk the lake at the park listening to Johnny Cash. 

Some Sunday afternoons, I would go to church at a small little Catholic parish down the street.

When my dad died suddenly, I moved back home, but those days I will remember always. 

Always. 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Beautiful day

Yes, it's a beautiful day. 

I am alive. Here, typing this out, the keys click clacking my thoughts into the universe. 

You dear reader, wait patiently for the words to post.

You've waited so so long. It took me years to believe in my voice, but I finally do. I know this is my destiny, my life, my work. Before, meaning before I knew this, I thought work was hard, but this work is easy.

Easy in the sense that when it's right, it flows, it just is.

When I was in junior college, almost 30 years ago, I remember reading James Joyce's "Dubliners" for the first time. I remember thinking, how did he do that? How did he turn words into a magic carpet that swept and flew me away into the clouds? How did he paint a picture that way? 

Now I know, writing is not just from the head, it's from the heart, from the universe. And it is magic. It is spiritual. It is God, and it is me. 

So as Patti Smith reminded me the other night as I listened to her sing under the stars in the desert, keep walking barefoot in the sand and grass, dancing. Arms in the air. 

Twirling. Spinning. Breathing. 



  


Saturday, September 4, 2021

Curveballs

Life is what happens when you're making plans. I just received some news. I'm having a very invasive surgery soon. It's not life threatening or anything but is necessary to help with my chronic pain issue. 

Truth is, I'm terrified.

I keep thinking, what if I don't wake up? What would Adrian do? My dogs? My sisters? My best friends? What would happen to my second book?

Then I think, don't worry, you'll wake up. God is kind. 

Your life is just beginning. You're just starting to realize your dreams. Your second book is soon to be published. You have a radio show. You have 18 episodes of your podcast. You just saw Patti Smith sing under the stars. You and your twin are getting along well. 

You're almost 50, but finally happy, content and joyful most days. I keep telling myself, it will be ok.

Lately, I've been a bit fatalistic, questioning my life. I keep thinking, why am I so stressed out at work? Then, I recently realized that it's not my management of the stress, I just have a very stressful job. 

Something must change. It must. I have to find a way to make it all manageable. I want to live to be 100. My life has been a series of acts. And this act. Right here and now is it. There is just this really. Just this now.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Morning

This morning, I realized I hadn't written for almost 2 weeks. How did time fly by? My writing practice is such a part of me, of my life. How did I let it go?

The problem is life. Life gets in the way. Family. Work. Health. School. All the projects on my plate. 

I want to be the me I'm meant to be. The person I see in my mind's eye. The future me. The writer.

I know, I'm already a writer, but I want more. I see more for myself. 

Yet, I am also happy that no matter what life brings, I have my first book published and the second one on the way. I'm documenting my life. Memorializing it all. That's what matters. That I was here. 

Right here.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Transmission

Yesterday afternoon, on a Sunday, I drove out to Boyle Heights in Los Angeles to start my own radio show. It was a program through the city's arts conservatory that I had applied for. 

The week before, I had went in to train on the boards. It was somewhat of a disaster, in the way that learning something completely new can be. 

I am by nature uncoordinated, and on that first try, I fumbled. I scripted it out, but everything moved too fast. Squinting at my script, words escaped me. 

Trying to coordinate the movements, and the "running" of the radio board, flustered me. Move this up, turn that down, turn mic on, then off. It was frigging hard. So hard. But also weirdly exhilarating and terrifying.

On that demo, I wasn't myself on air, with lots of vocalized pauses and no flow. Oh and the death knell for any broadcast, dead air. Then more dead air. Oh and I learned, the hard way, not to introduce a song unless I was sure that I could cue up the right song. 

To sum it all up, I belly flopped the demo. 

Yet still, the producer was encouraging especially about my theme of musical choices and the intersection with legal injustices. My vocal amplification was great. Along with articulation. Regarding the boards, he told me, "You'll suck till you don't. You'll get it. The boards, it's like a dance."

I thought of learning the tango with my husband Adrian and how I stepped on his feet and winced thinking of it. Dancing (unless it's pogo dancing) is not my forte.

Then, this Sunday on the show, something clicked. I relaxed. And I breathed. No script, and instead I just went with it and made notes through the show. Suddenly, I could say what I played and even wax on about a song choice or two. I even moved around the songs without incident and at the end, I was able to say why I chose the set I did. And illustrate the intersections with public defense. 

This was going to be okay. Let's do this.


Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Breathless

This last Saturday, we saw X in Orange County. 

It was a show that words can't do justice. I screamed myself hoarse. Danced like a maniac. Jumping up and down fist pumping in the air to the beat. 

We were near the end of the row almost center about 12 rows back and I must admit, I went a little cuckoo. I was "that girl", but I didn't care. Adrian acted as my buffer and put up with me screaming lyrics into his ear. 

What got me there?  It was being at a concert, after all this time, for one of my favorite bands. It was seeing the Blasters rock it. And Los Lobos.

Most of all, it was X's performance. They were perfect in the most punk rock of ways. The set list was awesome with a couple of new songs from their latest, the great Alphabetland. And then everything from Los Angeles to New World to Because I Do to Breathless to We're Desperate, to White Girl. So many of these songs hit me in the gut. Instead of bowling over, I rolled over. Into the music. Wave after wave. I rode it. 

You see, I write with their music in my head and in my ears. Their lyrics are everything. Poetry really.

Yet as always, it was also the emotion of it all. It was hearing Exene sing "Come Back to Me" (remembering all those who passed during Covid) under the deepening night sky, her voice carrying over the rows into the breezy air. It was what felt like an entire eight thousand crowd sing the song "Los Angeles" in time together. Dancing to the beat.

It felt incredible. I was transported. 

We swayed. We stayed. We danced. We gave ourselves up to the night. And I lost myself in the music. 

We were desperate. And breathless always. True love. Truly.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Changed

This morning, I sat in my back yard at 5 am in a Bowie shirt and a pair of my husband's boxers. 

When I was a teen, I used to buy plaid Hanes boxers to wear over red thermals like shorts. I would pair this ensemble with a concert tee and a used thrift store men's vest or blazer. 

Nowadays, the boxers are more laziness as they're clean and folded in the laundry room downstairs. Still, I haven't changed much in 35 years.

My dogs whine, they growl like Ewok shih tzus. "Shhhh," I plead.  

Turning on Pandora, I listen to "Paint It Black" by the Stones. Jagger's voice echoes. "I have to turn my head until the darkness goes."

Ain't that the truth. I feel like I'm naturally dark. My thoughts are melancholy naturally, but lately it's been more light. A golden light. 

It's almost as if a dark cloud that was over me is gone. All I can see is the sun. And it's so damn bright. It's shining all over me. Dancing in the warmth of its rays, I want this to last forever.

Maybe because I finally found and accept my destiny. It's nothing fancy. Just a writer of words. A blue collar scribe. That's me. 

In my mind's eye, I see my father standing over my shoulder smiling, smoking a Kent cigarette.

As he blows smoke rings like puffy white clouds into the air, he says "Finally Jenny, you got it. You got it my girl."

Friday, July 30, 2021

Watching speaking learning

I've been working on speaking my truth. Not just in my writing. In my everyday life. Observing more. Saying less. And when I do speak up, I'm cognizant how much words matter.

I often talk to fill the space. Especially on my podcast or when I'm interviewed myself, that's often good, and to be truthful, it's just me, I get on a roll and I'm off. That's my personality.

It's important to keep a show moving. No dead air.

But what I'm also realizing is that I need to pause. Take a breath. Observe. Listen. 

Especially in life, versus on air. Observe. Listen. Don't react. Ask a question. Listen. 

Just watch.

It sounds simple. But for many of us who live in this 2 minute sound bite of a world it is not. I'm also learning to listen to my intuition, and that I have good instincts when they come from a pure place, and to act on them.

Reminder, writing itself for me is an act of breathing. I've always said I lose myself when I write, and I think I know what that means now. It means I lose my ego, I'm all consciousness when I write, in the act of being and in the moment. 

That's why it usually feels so easy to me, just to be. It's my purpose. My inner purpose. The act of writing itself is it you see, the joy in that. The results are cool, but secondary because it's the writing itself. That's what matters.

So I'll continue to work on watching the signs, on stillness, and silence, and quieting my mind even in the most chaotic places, such as my work environment in criminal court. 

Interestingly, I also feel at home there, even more so than at the office, because I crave chaos at times, it feels like home, normal. 

Yet I know I need to work on not being so reactive to it. That way I can be a more effective, present and calming presence.

Quiet my mind, breathe, watch, listen, learn. And write. Always.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Enough

I am listening to Eckhart Tolle's podcast with Oprah about "A New Earth", his masterpiece about finding yourself, your soul. He quotes Jesus,

"I want you to have the fullness of life."

This is about abundance. The universe wants us to have abundance. If we have, we shall receive. It is a state of mind. An abundant state of mind.

It's about staying positive. About being grateful. About realizing we have abundance. We are full.

It is about the joy of being. This is not about success or striving. It is about consciousness. From inside ourselves. Possessions and money are irrelevant. It is about reaching a higher plane of consciousness, the vertical plane as Tolle calls it, so you can reach true creativity and consciousness and figure out who you are.

One of my epiphanies this morning was that my last poem I wrote in my book is called "who am I?" But what it should be is "who I am". That is the goal of all of this. 

A statement, not a question. And, I'll keep questioning and searching. Keep observing. Being present in the now.

Knowing I have enough and am enough. Always.



Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Stressing/just messing

Yesterday, I just couldn't handle the office environment. 

Being in court was preferable, which is where I spent most of my morning on a consult. 

Then back to the office I went. Like lil Red Riding Hood. Holding her basket of Del Taco. Where's the big bad wolf?

Wait, they're down the street at the prettier county building. Well aesthetically prettier on the outside but inside here, we are diamonds. Or maybe cubics. But we are real. True believers.

Maybe because I've been writing and thinking so much, I felt uneasy. 

Stressed. I perseverated. Leaving the house that morning, I had double checked that I locked the front door twice. Am I turning into Jack Nicholson's character in "As Good As It Gets"?

Is this as good as it gets? Will it get better? Will things change? Will my life change? I'm trying so hard not to strive. To just let the universe take me on a ride.

Yet, still, this ride, I wonder. Where will I go? Sunday, at least, I'll be at the X show. Now you know.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Radio daze

Yesterday, I was on a radio show to promote my book. The host is Gina Duran, a friend of mine who's a community activist and hosts The Collective radio show on KQBH 101.5. 

My best friend Tracy and I drove out to Boyle Heights in LA for the show. The show went live at 3 pm. We had yelped a restaurant named Paramount in the same studio as the radio station building. If we had time after lunch, we planned on finding a local record store to hit up.

Things got complicated. On the way to pick Tracy up, my tire indicator light flashed on. I had to find a tire place. On a Sunday. Fuck. Thank goodness I'm perpetually early. It was only 10:30 am. I had 30 minutes to spare.

I turned around and headed back toward Rialto off the 210 and pulled into a tire place. The rockabilly sleeved dude was cool and checked all my tires, refilled them and within ten minutes I was back on the road, Bowie and Buzzcocks blaring. 

I picked up Tracy a little after 11 am. We both wore black and white band tees, Joy Division for me and The Descendants for her.

When we got to Boyle Heights, it turned out to be a very cool latinx community. I skimmed past tons of family owned business, taquerias and there it was Paramount, a gastronomic pub. But there was no there there. It had closed over the Pandemic. 

Thankfully, next door was a very cool pizza pub that played Mexican music yet served beer mimosas and craft ales. Tracy and I shared a gluten free margarita pizza. After downing a glass bottle Diet Coke and chair dancing to some music, I looked at my watch. Plenty of time to hit up a local record store and we found Record Jungle, all used vinyl in Montebello, a 15 minute drive. 

Driving through the streets of LA and heading back on the 60 east, we arrived at Record Jungle in 13 minutes. A Starbucks a mere block away for caffeine after. Was this Nirvana? Yes it was. We flipped through bins in the rock and new arrival sections. No punk left. The guy who ran the store told us it goes quickly. 

That said, we found some cool stuff. Tracy found a Wire album and I found an Elvis Costello, my favorite old Alarm album, along with a Roxy Music, a Screaming Blue Messiahs, Charlie Sexton and a rare, uber cool compilation and more. Turns out, flipping though those stacks of old records paid off. 

Hopping back in the car, we made our way back to Boyle Heights. Trying to park, I got distracted and almost merged over into another's car's lane. Crisis averted, just a honk and a mean glare later, we were in studio. 

The studio was a real radio studio. I felt so elated as I walked through and sat at the microphone. Tracy took some pictures of us and after plugging in my headphones, we were live on air!

I gabbed with the host Gina for an hour about my book, public defense and punk rock. Talking is easy for me. Gina was great and played an epic mix of songs to weave in while we spoke. Patti Smith, The Smiths, The Replacements, and Siouxsie.

After the show ended, Art, a host of his own radio show on music and astrology (Arturo Guzman's Astro Projection show on 101.5 KQBH, it's epic!), showed us the punk rock murals from the days when this space was VEX, a punk venue. It was kismet. I thought, this is what I want to do. Music and writing is my Life. Capital L.

To wind down, we munched on fries after at the pizza place and then, another Diet Coke later, we headed home. 

When I got home, I thought wow, this is happening. This was real. My book was real. See https://www.bamboodartpress.com/store/juanita_e_mantz-portrait_of_a_deputy_public_defender.html.


Friday, July 23, 2021

Leather and me

I'm a little girl watching Happy Days with my dad. It's one of the Leather Tuscadero episodes. I'm standing up dancing and pretending to play a bass guitar. I'm fascinated by the image of her, a girl, wearing all leather, scarf around her neck, playing a bass guitar. Her hair is layered. She is hard and soft, masculine and feminine. She is rocking it. She goes high, low. 

On Happy Days, she plays a relative of Fonz's girlfriend Pinky Tuscadero, who is an all pink, red haired, female sex bomb of a girl. But I want to be Leather Tuscadero. 

That night I dream myself into her. I'm standing in a 50's style cafe playing a bass guitar and screaming into a microphone. Everyone's dancing.

I wake up groggy. It's time for school. Bells to hear ring. Books to read. 

But no guitars to play. 

I put on my baby blue Dittos instead of leather pants, but that day walking to school, I have a little more swagger in my step.



Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Stolen moments

I'm starting to realize much of my writing time is stolen moments. Time seized when no one is looking. 5 am. At lunch. In the middle of the night. On a summer workshop one week retreat. 

My memoir YA book took 15 years because of this, amongst other things like fear and anxiety. 

Yet, as I sit here at 5:11 am, I don't know if it's a bad thing. I'm an efficient writer. Plus, I read a lot. Tons of essays, memoir, not as much fiction, but I read and read. 

My dogs are whining as I write this. They want my attention. I ignore them. My brain is focused when I write. It drowns out all else. Writing centers me. It calms me.

And one day, sooner than later I hope, that calming influence with be at the center and not the periphery of my life.

So for now, I will grab these stolen moments where I can and may, creating a paragraph typed out on an iPhone as two shih tzus bark and finally, I put the phone down. After saving, of course.


Friday, July 16, 2021

Smashing

As a deputy public defender, I have good and bad days. Today was a bad day. Nothing especially bad happened. Court was uneventful. I did my usual three day prep and it went smooth.

But I'm pissed off. I'm mad that so many are incarcerated. That so many people in society are apathetic or close their eyes to the plain truth. We're incarcerating black and brown people at alarming rates. 

It's so obvious to me how racist and harmful the criminal system is. There is no true justice right now because pre trial incarceration is all based on economics, the lack thereof. Bail is the most ridiculous thing in the world. It's destructive, inhumane and cruel. It just makes no sense.

It only makes sense if you think caging people should be your first resort and not the last. If you think money rules and not a higher moral code. Think about it. 

Please. 

Happy fracking Friday.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Slashing

This has been a hectic week at home and work. At work, things are busier than ever. My boss and work buddy in court are on vacation so I'm handling a very heavy calendar. 

Tomorrow night, I am being interviewed on a criminal injustice themed podcast talking about social justice issues and promoting my book. It's exciting but stress inducing. I'd much rather be interviewer than interviewee but I'm hopeful it will go well. The podcast hosts are amazing.

Maybe that's why it's 3 am and I can't sleep. I'm also working on edits for my second book, the YA memoir that's being released in November. I'm old school. I'm using hard red pen. Slashing! 

Yes, I know Google docs, track changes and other ways to edit, but for me, especially since we're getting close to finished, you can't beat an eye on a hard copy, red felt pen in hand.

I put a red check mark on the top of every page to confirm it's been reviewed. Check. Check. Check.

Close your eyes. Resist going downstairs to manuscript. Turn off your brain. Headphones and meditation if you have to. 

Charley horse. Ouch. Awake again. Meditate. Sleep.

Check.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Scrolling

I'm watching Atypical on Netflix. It's all about a kid on the spectrum who wants to live his dreams. He wants to defy expectations. 

It made me think, why does society try to block us dreamers?

Dreaming saved me. As a kid, I would sit on the roof and dream of being a writer. Of writing my own stories. Like those in the books I loved so very much.

Later, I would stare out the window in class at junior college and picture myself graduating from a four year university. Late nights on the junior college newspaper, I would wait for someone to pick me up and I would dream of having my own reliable car.

Then much later, while at UCR, a four year university, I dreamt of walking the stage at USC Law to get my diploma. Years later, walking that stage, I would remember my dreams. They had come true. I had the degree. The car would come.

Then as a corporate lawyer, I would dream of a way out. Suffice to say, that dream came true. The writing came true. It all did.

Yesterday, I went over my twin sister's house, and she gave me an intention bracelet. Handing it to me, she said I had to write my dreams on a tiny scroll. In tiny script, I wrote many big dreams. I rolled the scroll carefully.

I placed the scroll inside the bracelet and closed my eyes and prayed to the universe to help me.

Despite not wanting to jinx it, I will say a couple of them aloud. I intend to write a third book. And to find a professorship position. These are just two of my many dreams. 

I'm excited to see what the next stage of my life will bring.

Because you see, dreams are just the beginning. The journey to them is the key.



Monday, July 5, 2021

Fireworks

Last night, my shih tzu Chewbacca shivered in my arms as fireworks echoed in the air. He wouldn't calm down, and I was worried that, with his heart condition, he might pass out.

I hugged him. Kissed him. Rubbed his chest.

It made me think of all the times in my life when I'd been terrified. When I couldn't figure out what was going on. When life seemed unmanageable. And overwhelming. When my head was not in the game. But I always had heart, always.

Even when I dropped out of high school, I knew it wasn't over. Then, while working my way through junior college, I couldn't pass my Algebra  2 class. Somehow, someway I muddled through. Then my car blew up and I lost my job and my apartment. 

You'll have to read my memoir to hear the story, but I made it through that time by moving into my parents' trailer with them, taking it step by step. 

Flash forward to after UCR and USC Law School, when I was a desperately unhappy civil lawyer. I felt like I was trapped in a nightmare. Was this success? It couldn't be. Not for me. 

After my dad died, I realized I had to do something else. Becoming a writer and then a deputy public defender. Finding and believing in my voice. Doubts persisted in my writing. 

Years later, trying to have a baby and visualizing it happening over and over. Then realizing it wasn't going to happen after failed in vitro and a horrific traumatizing miscarriage.

Crying in the shower for a year. Waking up one day and seeing, finally, that my purpose is to write my stories. To publish them. To reach people's hearts. To hear my father's voice in my stories. 

To merge law, writing and music is a dream come true. Two books coming out in the same year. It's a dream. A dream realized. I am so grateful to the universe.

So here I am my friends. Here I am. Listening to fireworks in the dark, thankful for everything I've been given. My life, my family, my dogs but especially for my voice and heart.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Deadlines

This morning, I read an article in the New Yorker called "What Deadlines Do to Lifetimes".  I already use one of the tricks, which sets an earlier fake deadline, in my legal/law motions practice.

But in the creative writing realm, like most, I struggle with them. I appreciate deadlines, they give me something to aim for, and trust, this was a very productive and on deadline kinda year. 

For me, like most things, the key is communication. I always try to give myself a reasonable amount of time but if it takes a bit longer that's okay too, if and only if, you communicate that you need more time. 

Yes, this can get hazy if your "more time" is 6 months, because creativity is often on its own timeframe. The reality is, I can't make a story happen, they come to me organically. 

So while the long YA memoir took 15 years, that's how much time I needed to finish the project. Ultimately and ironically, I think what motivated me most was covid and an impending sense of doom about my own mortality.

Truth was, I wasn't gonna pass with a partial manuscript in a drawer.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Lost and found

Is the other shoe going to drop? This has been the most unexpected year of my life.

First, what a strange year, with the damn pandemic, dragging on and on. I have somewhat memorialized it here. It was a terrifying ride. In some ways, both a lost and a found year. 

Unable to see anyone but my husband, my mother in law and my mom, we stayed at home. We stopped traveling. I worked from home. On the weekends, I worked on my writing and kept up with my one MFA class. 

While I worked harder and longer at work than ever, in my personal life, I stopped running myself ragged. In some ways, it was a much needed respite from it all. 

With the pandemic, also began my new writing journey. 

About a a year and four months ago, I finally wrote honestly about my job, without using figurative language. I started to tell my true tales of being a deputy public defender on the front lines of covid. 

That decision, to merge my writing and law, and to exist at the intersection of my criminal defense practice and my writing practice, started a chain of events. I spoke up at the rally for George Floyd. Poetry poured out of me. I'd always been insecure about my poetry, and had called myself a prose writer, never a poet. 

More opportunities came fourth. A podcast. Then, I wrote a law and literature hybrid genre chapbook (which will actually be my first "published" book this August) and finally, yes finally (drop the F Bomb and not a mic) finished the YA memoir which will come out later this year, right after my fiftieth birthday.

And so here I am. In uncomfortable territory. In pants that are way too tight. Trying to get it and keep it all together. Moderating many things, or trying. Promise and trust, I'm really trying.

It's hard not to be terrified. The last months have been magical in some ways, but I can feel another big change on the horizon. 

Change is scary. So so scary. It's hard to not want to numb myself so that my anxiety doesn't take over. But I have to stay lucid. Present. Here. In the now. 

A little voice in my head tells me, this is what you always wanted, what you've worked so hard for, don't F it up. So I'll try not to.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Not So Sleepy Daze

I took a week off from work because I need a break. The pandemic was exhausting (even saying those words, I'm still just hoping it's over, and I don't jinx it). 

This morning, I woke up at 5 am and shouted, "One day, I would love to just sleep until 9 am!"

Really, I just need a couple days to breathe. To sleep. To dream. To think and visualize what comes next.

Yet of course, never one to stay idle. I'm filling up the days with projects and a few meetings for opportunities to promote my book along with a mini vacation. 

There's a lot to do on the writing and promotions/podcasting front. Really I have a lot to do for my own peace of mind. You may have seen, I'm an early planner. My goal is to make it all look easy, but as you know, it's not. Though I must add that sometimes I do things the hard way, like feeding my dogs by hand this morning while listening to John Lennon.

I'm also a perfectionist which may not seem obvious, but it's also just my standard of perfection which I'm working on. Meaning, my closet may be a mess and I haven't cooked dinner for 2 weeks, but the writing and other work gets done.

The hardest part of all of this for me, if I'm gonna confide a little here, is not to sabotage myself. There's that reckless side of me who just wants to celebrate and party the next few months away. But that's not how I got here. I got here by staying home every weekend for a year and working my butt off on my writing. I didn't get here by drinking anything but coffee. 

Well, I better go, I got a lot to do. 




Friday, June 25, 2021

Persistence

There's a quote by the famous author Octavia Butler:  

"You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That's why I say, one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”

It's all about persistence and dedication. Butler also said, 

"First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t.”

Habit and persistence is everything in writing. It's getting your butt up every day at 5 am to write for years and years. It's persevering and writing every day. Editing. Making yourself do it, until it becomes part of your routine, part of your life and an integral part of your character and soul. Until it's your identity.

It's also knowing that writing will eventually get easier and you'll be more confident and stronger a decade and a half in. Fifteen years ago, I could not have told you that I would have two books done by fifty. Yes, the universe had a plan. But it was my job, my role, to institute it by the "doing" of the writing. The proof is in the pudding. So go make pudding.

It's knowing, looking back, that somehow, some of your first stories are still your favorites. That you always had it in you since you were a kid. It just needed your dedication to come out! Your pen (now MAC book) will become your sword, your words, your mantras and power, and your books, your babies.




Friday, June 18, 2021

Concert days

Sometimes, I wonder, what the hell am I thinking? My job is so stressful, and yet, I push myself to do more. More at work, more with my writing and now concerts are back! 

What's a girl to do?

I'm convinced that my books are coming out because of the pandemic. I used to say, I'll sleep when I'm dead, but the pandemic taught me to relax. I stayed home almost every weekend for more than a year. No concerts, and little or no traveling.

Wean yourself back in to concerts, I thought. 

Starting out slow, I bought tickets to Morrissey in Vegas. Then X added an OC show, on a damn Sunday, but I decided okay, I can do those 2 shows, and still keep juggling all my balls in the air. 

Then, in a stroke of cruel luck, Cruel World sent me an early access invite for tickets. Bauhaus, Devo, 45 Grave, Blondie, Morrissey and more! Who could resist? So I bought VIP festival tickets rationalizing that it's in 2022. 

But then Patti Smith decided to play Pappy and Harriet's in Joshua Tree on a Tuesday this summer. How could I say no and still keep my punk/post punk credentials? Her album "Horses" was like honey on a biscuit to me in high school. Or maybe now, she's cream cheese on a well toasted NYC everything bagel with tomato, avacado and red onion. She's perfection.

I've only seen her live once before and that was at an opening gig at a Staples' Morrissey show. This show will be outdoor and intimate. Acoustic! But it's a Tuesday. And in Pioneertown. Not an easy trek. Swallowing my misgivings, I bought the tickets and was glad after they promptly sold out. 

Hmmmm, I thought, who can I convince to do this adventure. Husband works Wednesday... hmmm wonder twin! Of course, my twin Jackie said yes. She's always up for an adventure and doesn't drink which will motivate me not to. 

So here I am. More shows are popping up in my phone. Madness, OMD in 2022 and more. For now, I'm not buying tickets to more shows. I'm gonna pace myself. 

I hope...

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Hey Miss DJ

Last night, I played DJ. 

Before you get too impressed, it was for an audience of two. Two including myself. My husband and I sat in the back yard and had a glass of my favorite French champagne, then a beer. I like the contrast of that. 

I'm not the best DJ. My husband is great. He will go seamlessly from song to song. No interruptions. He will move from post punk to 70s to Spanish rock, all without missing a beat.

Me on the other hand, I get a bit obsessed. I like to hear whole albums. Like the entire thing. DJing for me is more akin to my teenage self who would put The Smiths' "The Queen is Dead" album on the turntable and lay on my bed, eyes closed singing along, only getting up to turn it over to listen to the other side. I lose myself.

I am a lyrics person. Always. The words matter. I like annunciation (Morrissey, the Shins etc), but also love when I have to figure out what they're saying. 

A favorite thing of mine to do is to listen to a song in both their acoustic and non acoustic versions. For example, take the X song "Because I Do", which is distorted and garbled in the best way. You have to lean in to decipher the words, and then listening to the acoustic, stripped down version, where the harmonies of John Doe and Exene fall into each other so beautifully, you hear everything. It gets me. Then I listen to the punk version again. It's sublime.

So the DJ experience is hard for me. I also focus on artists. Sorry, I can't just play one Bowie song. I have to play at least 2-3 (and would prefer to just go album by album) and then transition to someone he was inspired by like Iggy Pop or Lou Reed and then Lou Reed leads me his band the Velvet Underground, and then we're in the 60s listening to at least 2 Doors' songs which leads me back to the 80s with The Cult. 

Somehow I will also work in a couple of Replacements songs as well as Siouxsie and the Cure. And of course Joy Division. And the Pixies. But it will be in a weird combination that only makes sense to me. Sometimes it's the themes in lyrics, sometimes it's eras, and sometimes I just think, damn I want to hear "You Can't Put Your Arms Around a Memory" by Johnny Thunders a couple of times in a row.

So you see why this can be frustrating for a listener. But there's a method to my madness.

I think, I'll keep my day and night jobs as lawyer and writer. 

But of course, all of my DJing will continue, mostly in my head.



Thursday, June 10, 2021

Staying true

It's eleven pm. I can't sleep. Today was a shit day in court. It was traumatizing and sad. 

Yet, I also know that I'm lucky. Privileged. I'm not the one in custody. But to bear witness is hard. 

Maybe it was harder because I haven't had a day like this for a year. Court has been less real during covid. It was shocking to have a day like today and then remember, I've had many of these days.

So many. Too many. 

Perhaps, my eyes are finally wide open to the horror of it all. To work within this system as a deputy public defender, in this broken down clunker of a criminal system, is hard. It should be. 

All good work is difficult. If this job is too easy and if seeing our clients in chains and suffering isn't horrifying, then there's something wrong. You're desensitized to the point where your soul is at risk. 

Still, we all have a job to do. We must be professionals. And be able to make cogent arguments and advise our clients without tears in our eyes. 

But today, I couldn't put up that wall, the one I've learned to build around my heart brick by brick. Today, I couldn't pretend it wasn't awful. 

When I got home, I felt a weight lift. I played with my dogs and sat outside and breathed in the air and sighed. 

Then tonight I wrote this essay, so I never forget what today felt like.


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Library girl

Looking at a photo of the new Riverside library, I get all teary eyed.  

I grew up going to the Ontario (California) city library, a library that writer Beverly Cleary once worked at. My mom would let me max out my library card. It never seemed to be enough. 

Wandering through the kid and adult sections, I would lose myself in their spines. It was there I discovered all of my favorite writers. I read all of the Wizard of Oz books, Judy Blume, the Hobbit, even F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Leaving the library, I would feel joyful. Carrying home my armful of books, a huge smile on my face, I would throw them on my bed. Falling into worlds away. As a kid, I would read books all weekend. I would savor their pages. Caress them. Read the same books over and over.

My allowance sometimes went to paying for late fees for books I couldn't let go.

Libraries are everything. They are havens and children and adults need a refuge and gathering place. 

Libraries are where I became a reader and a writer. Because, ultimately, books, and libraries that house them by extension, are where dreams are imagined and sometimes made. 

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Office space

I am having a hard time. Look, I know I'm lucky to have a job. But this whole "return to the office thing" is difficult. My routines have now completely changed. I can't sleep because I get home from work and fall exhausted into bed right after dinner at 6 pm then wake up at 2 am. Maybe it's too much interaction, too much stimulation, and not enough focus. I'm struggling big time.

This last year was productive for me because of its solitude. I've realized, after much reflection, that I can let others' opinions of me block me. But in the end, I am the one and only person who really has the power to achieve what they want. And while people may find me too assertive or vocal at times, I don't really care.

This is a conundrum. My solution is to just take it day by day. Shut my door and get my work done. Go home and decompress. Try to not be angry and bitter. Try to be happy and positive. Change is on the horizon. I can feel it's vibration. I just meet to make it until then.



Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Office day

Today is D day. Back in the office day. Despite the last year, I usually like being in the office. It's been time to get back for a while. Plus, I want my home office back which used to be my studio and my creative space before covid.

The other thing is that I want to see faces. I love seeing people. I'm very social. It's been a hard isolation of a year. It's been productive in many ways, but lonely. 

I've also decided to put better boundaries. I will not bring my work computer home (unless I'm in trial). My hours at work will be reasonable. Not back breaking. I will try and take my vacations.

But still, I will miss the flexibility. I loved spending my days working with my dogs at my feet. Along with the ability to make dinner on my lunch hour. The ease of working on a motion and just finishing it no matter what time it was. Visiting with clients via video and answering emails at 630 am. As a morning dove, I appreciated the early start.

Yes. That is over, but what I've learned from the pandemic is that I am a homebody. I am able to work from home if needed. That will come in handy one day I'm sure.

But until then, here I am. An office body once again. I got half as much work done but went to a happy hour outside at El Torito after work. So there's that.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Epiphanies and coffee

I need coffee so bad. It's early morning as usual, and I can't sleep. I wish I could sleep all day. Today, I want to sleep and dream my day away. 

My eyes are tired from looking at a screen all week and my body aches. Middle age sucks as far as the body goes but the mind... that gets better I think. And what's weird is that I wouldn't go back to being young again. If given the option perhaps, I might go back in time to see my father, but that's another essay.

My teenage years were chaotic, although filled with precious adventures. Insecurity plagued me through my twenties and thirties. I did so much, college and law school, then a career, but never felt enough. Then, in my mid thirties, I lost my father and that changed my life. Well really, I decided to change my life and I moved back home and started pursuing my passions of criminal justice and writing. 

In my forties, I dealt with infertility and had to reconcile my grief regarding my inability to have a child. Most importantly, I had to reconcile the life I had with what I wanted. And I had to learn to be grateful for everything the universe gave me. I did a lot of therapy and worked on myself.

Now at almost fifty, I am finally able to be me. I know I'm loud. I can take over a room. I need to listen more. Yes, I can be anxious and stressed out. But I'm also positive, supportive and authentic. I am me. Just me. 

There is no other way to be and have it work long term. For years, I tried to be someone else. But now, I'm just me. Call me by whatever name. Juanita, JEM, Jenny, are a few of my monikers, but most of all, I'm just me. 

Now, time for coffee!


Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Late night

It's almost midnight. The husband is snoring. So is Chewbacca.

Last night, our dog Chewbacca had a reverse sneeze attack at midnight. Maybe that's why I woke up right now. Last night, I jumped out of bed and rushed to him. Chewbacca's reverse sneezes are scary due to his chronic heart condition. He coughed. And coughed again. I held him. Close. He trembled in my arms. 

His eyes searched mine. They are so human like. At times, I feel his soul. I consoled him. Calmed him to slow his fast beating heart. His tongue licked my face. 

Tonight, I lay here, knowing I have to be up in six hours to get ready for court, and pray myself to sleep. I ask God to keep everyone close to me safe. And warm. Healthy. 

This small thirteen year old shih tzu is my purpose at times. I will wake up at six am and give him his meds and feed him and his brother Frodo. I'm lucky to have them. 

So so lucky. 



Saturday, May 22, 2021

I need you to love me

There's that song "Leather and Lace" and the lyrics by Stevie Nicks go, "I need you to love me/I need you today." The song sounds country in its earnestness. That's because it is; it was written by Stevie Nicks for Waylon Jennings.

I loved that song when I was a young girl. It reminds me of how my whole life has been dedicated to searching for love of one kind or another.

Love from my parents, love and admiration from friends, and teachers, and then finding Adrian, my true romantic love. And then searching for admiration as a lawyer and then searching to show maternal love in my unsuccessful quest to have a child, and now finally, looking for love as a writer. 

It has to be said, I never started writing for money or fame. I am blessed to say I have enough money. Of course, I will take more. But I really just want my words to be read. Writing has always been my solace. My way of reconciling my life. 

I've always tried to write truthfully from my heart. Over the years, my perspective on my craft has changed. As a writer, I still go into a trance when I write a good story, it happens easy in those stories. But there's also a benefit to the harder stories. The ones I have to think about at length and research and write out drip by drip. Word by word. 

I guess what I'm trying to say is that writing is hard for me. Editing even harder. Putting it all together in a manuscript was arduous. I thought at times, that I couldn't do it. That there was no way I could piece it all together. The memoir took 15 years. And in the meantime, life happened. I wrote a second book, a social justice essay/memoir/poetry hybrid chapbook, that will ironically come out in August before the young adult memoir later in the year. 

I hope so much that people get it. That they understand what I'm trying to do and love it. 

But regardless, I did it. Finally. 

Yet another song by Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac comes to mind,  "Say That You Love Me":

"Have mercy, baby on a poor girl like me

You know I'm falling, falling at your feet..."

"And say that you love me...." 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Headache

 Last night, I had the worst splitting headache. My head felt as if it would burst into jagged pieces. I'd been working all afternoon on a motion that somehow got deleted. How I don't know. "Arrrrrrrrrrrr shit!" I screamed into the air in my home office. The good thing is that I have no office mates to react.

Then, with perfect timing, my husband came home and I snapped. He never brings the trash cans inside all the way. He leaves them at our locked gate which means I have to get the key to bring them in when I want to take out the trash. But it wasn't him. Or the trash cans. 

It was me.

Despite myself, and my inner voice saying it's not his fault you deleted the motion, I yelled about the trash, stomped my foot and slammed the screen door as I walked into the backyard. I lit a cigarette outside, puffing away. My shih tzu Chewie looked at me with his big brown eyes (probably) thinking, "What's wrong with you mom?"

The nicotine calmed me. I apologized. Sheepish, I made small talk. We ate dinner. I went upstairs to my office and magically the motion reappeared. "I found it," I yelled. I made sure to save the motion again, just in case.

I slipped into bed and the sheets felt comforting. A tear rolled out of my eye. I'd had anxiety all day. Doing too much as usual. I never stop.

But then I thought of my creative writing and how my books would be out in the world soon. I don't care if no one reads them. Well maybe I kinda do. 

But still, my point is that I just need something permanent. Something lasting. To show the world.

I was here dammit. I was here. 

Friday, May 14, 2021

Just Breathe

Two years ago today, I was in France with my husband.

We were visiting my 1st cousin Pascale and her son Xavier who I had never met. We hit it off and it was the time of our lives. The town they lived in was quaint. Lovely.

My cousin Pascale and I would spend hours, chatting, drinking espresso. We would just sit and talk. Bonding. 

We would start talking early afternoon until the sun set (sunset was at 830 pm or so in France that time of year). Then we would drink a couple bottles of wine and eat crackers and cheese. Talking more. 

It forced me to slow down and be in the moment. We took walks, canvassed through Rouen. Strolled Dieppe. 

I tried to chillax and listen. Patience has never been my forte. I'm always doing something, always on freaking task.

This feels like so so long ago. Yet, not. Similar to our trip to France, the pandemic changed me. It, too, forced me to slow down. I stopped traveling. I worked hard but also made dinner many nights. Started a podcast and took a MFA class. Finally, yes finally, spent the weekends finishing my memoir and then writing a new book. 

Then the last couple weeks at work have been so insanely busy and stressful that I started back into my old habit of just doing. Going hard. At a cost. A cost to me.

Today, I'm taking the day off, and will be reflecting on who I am and the kind of person I want to be. Do I want to be the most efficient person? 

Or do I, perhaps, just perhaps, want to be at ease in life, letting go, and just be me. Fun JEM. Cool JEM. And yes, busy and organized but also just in the moment. No more anxiety or stress energy. Just there to be me and let my self shine. At work and at home.

Last night, I realized that I had my work computer but that I forgot my laptop cord when I was at court and the office. 

How was I going to check email? Then I realized, it's 6 pm, why are you worried? Of course I soon realized I could use my other cord to charge but still, let it go, I told myself. You are not tethered to a computer or to your phone. 

You are tethered to your husband, family and dogs. To your art. That's what sustains you.

Then I took a deep breath and sat and listened to others perform for two hours. I laughed so hard at one piece that my stomach hurt. Wiped tears from my eyes. Breathed.

Life was good.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Zen Pen

 It's 10:30 pm. I can't sleep. Everyone is asleep but me. Chewbacca, my spoiled shih tzu, is snoring. So is Adrian. Frodo is downstairs because he can't do stairs.

I love my blog. It's where I capture the day to day. During the pandemic, it became my lifeline, my diary and my solace.

Writing is very solitary. For the last three months, I've been working on my latest project almost every weekend. I've been in a kind of isolation. Just me and my keyboard. Working on some footnotes on Wednesday evening about did me in. My eyes burned after as if I'd been in a fire. 

But blogging is different, at least usually. It's more laid back. I write these blogs quick and on my phone. I post and edit and re-edit. Then I let them go into the universe. It's a freeing form of writing in a way. Not so formal. Plus, it's great practice writing like this. Making your brain find the words quick and then, putting it all together. Zen.

The thing I realized over these last ten or eleven years of blogging is that writing is a muscle. You must do it everyday. And all weekend if you can. It's something that needs to be flexed often. 

Over the years, by writing this blog, I've become disciplined. People often ask how I do it all: the full time job, writing, and podcasting. Truth is, I'm always working either at my job or at my writing or podcasting. Always. And I rest by reading. The thing is that I enjoy the writing. I really do. But what I really like is reaching out to the world with this blog.

So here's my proverbial writing hand reaching out to you. Let me know what you practice at: yoga, cooking, watching movies, or maybe reading? Everything is fair game! 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Whirlwind

I've been writing a lot lately. Editing. Creating. 

Yet, my writing was not predestined. It was a choice to focus on my writing. A choice to start a creative writing Masters program. A conscious decision to finish my books. It is late nights. Early mornings. Lots of coffee, less beer.

My career as a deputy public defender was also a choice. A choice to follow my passion. My heart. My quest for a better world.

We all live with constraints. Some of these constrains are those society imposes on us, but there are those we put on ourselves. We think we "need" all of these possessions. We think that our worth is valued monetarily rather than creatively.

For me, art defies commerce. If I make money from my art great, but if not, that's OK too. It's not that I don't want to get paid, I do and think it's crucial that creatives demand to be paid. But I also am just grateful that I have the economic privilege to have support for my art through my lawyering day job.

The older I get, the more the veil falls. I see the man behind the curtain. This is all an illusion in a way and intentions matter. Just the imagining of a creative endeavor helps and urges the universe to create it.

There are times it is magical. I believe one can make things happen with visualization and hard work. This is not delusion. I'm the evidence. Exhibit one. I've been a dreamer my whole life. I've imagined myself as a lawyer, a writer and a performer.

And here I am. I'm all of those and more. A whirlwind is coming. We're all in it. Create. Create. And create some more. 

Friday, April 30, 2021

Remembering

This morning, I thought to myself, I'm lucky. So so lucky. I have a home I love, my husband, my sisters and mom, my spoiled shih tzus and a good job. I have my education, my writing, my school and my podcast.

What I don't have that I have wanted: a child, my books published and contentment. The books being published will happen, the child is unattainable at this point age wise, but contentment, now that's the tricky one.

Contentment has always been the hardest thing for me. I am never ever content. It's part of what drives me. "Slow down!" my husband says. "No," I retort back in my no nonsense voice adding, "Never."

What are we here for? That's a question that may be rolling around in your head too. Especially after this roller coaster ride of a year. The pandemic has made many question their lives, including those truly. Inching my way toward middle age has also made me think. What is truly important in life? 

Is it accomplishments? That car you drive? The way you look? The house you own? 

No. 

I would argue that we are a sum of what we create in the world. The family and relationships we have, the  lives we touch, the people we help and the creative endeavors we engage in. 

In short, who we are is what we are. But it's more ephemeral than that. How you will be remembered is who you are. We are memories.

And because I write memoir, and love spinning gold out of the dust of my own memories, I'm remembering who I am and who I was. But most of all, my writing allows me to keep reminding myself of who I want to be.



Friday, April 23, 2021

Vacation all I ever wanted

There's a lyric by The Go-Go's that says, "Vacation all I ever wanted/Vacation had to get away". That is how I've felt for the last year. I've been yearning to get away. To "get up and go" (to name another Go-Go's tune). So I'm on vacation. And happy. 

I spent my morning reading and listening to all of my favorite chill out tunes by The Flaming Lips and The Shins. With some X and Sex Pistols thrown in to wake me up.

To vacation is to relax. To chill. To decompress. To read in bed staring out the window. Vacation for me is room service, jacuzzis and lounging on a pool chair in the sun.

Since the pandemic hit, we've all been cloistered indoors. My vitamin D levels were alarmingly low. Pale and bloated, my skin and weight suffered. 

During the early days of Covid, I was stuck inside all day and would work early morning to evening without taking a break to even change my clothes. I bought three sets of satin pajamas and used them interchangeably. 

My dogs were happy to have me home but I have to say, it wasn't healthy. I don't do boundaries very well even during healthy times and my home life and work life became so blurred that I couldn't get away. For some reason, I couldn't stop myself from opening my computer on the weekend to try and get ahead for the week. And I would lose hours and hours and emerge blurry eyed from my den.

The thing that saved me (and by "saved" I'm not exaggerating because my mental health was at risk) was my writing and podcasting. It gave me something to focus on. No matter what, every week I had my master's creative writing class homework due (I'm taking one class a semester for now on the 5 year plan) and every month, a podcast to plan. My creative work gave me an excuse to disengage from work after putting in much more than my required hours. It allowed me to focus on my creative side which is restorative. It gave me a pause from my taxing job where I'm trying to save people from a cruel system of injustice.

For us creatives, that is everything. For some, writing may be a chore but for me, writing is everything. It gives me a place to put everything going on in my head. I never stop, as my husband often tells me, but writing allows me to breathe and gives me space.

Back to my vacation, I'm sitting here writing this staring out the hotel window at the desert view listening to Bowie. 

I have to say, there's nothing I'd rather be doing. I think I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be and doing what I love with those I love. Isn't that what life is all about my friends?


Thursday, April 22, 2021

Today and a list

Today is a day. It's just another day. I am up at 4 am and I've been up since 2 am after falling into bed exhausted at 7 pm. 

Reading through some blogs from the last year, I realize that I've documented a journey. A journey that was not always pleasurable. Yet, I'm glad I've written it. So here's a list. I love lists.

A list of things I've realized during the pandemic:

I am prone to wearing the same thing every day.

A house dress is my preferred attire after satin pajamas. 

Pajamas are for day, a punk rock tee and shorts are for bed.

I like to cook breakfast but not dinner. I'd rather order in or eat toast.

I use a lot of ink cartridges and my printer hates me.

My home office has become my work space and my bed and couch my creative space.

I have some serious intestinal issues.

I drink way too much espresso and left to my own devices, with no one checking me, I will finish a huge box of nespresso in a couple weeks (don't ask me how many pods that is because you don't want to know).

My dogs sustain me while also concurrently driving me insane.

My voice is my own.

 

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Dogs in my space

My two shih tzus, Frodo and Chewbacca, are awake and tussling with one another as usual. I break it up. Frodo has a back issue, so he can't wrestle like he used to. They growl and circle one another in their dog like way. 

Chewie jumps on the couch and snuggles up against me, his caramel eyes beseeching me to feed him.

When I took Frodo outside this morning, I watched as he tried to lift his leg to pee. I put my hand out to balance him, but his leg collapsed and he leaned against the bush and stumbled as he regained his balance. 

Frodo turned his head and glared at me. I said aloud, "Frodo you did good, it's ok." Frodo ignored my cheerleading and turned and walked in the house. Chewie followed him inside.

It's 6 am and it's time to feed them their meds. Chewie is on multiple heart medications and Frodo is on multiple medications for his back. Every morning, I wrap their meds in ham and beg them to take it, but at least half the time, Frodo is somehow able to find the pill and spit it out. 

For most of my life, I was a cat person. Then, one look in Frodo's deep black eyes, and I was hooked. Frodo was a small ball of black and white fur that sucked on a blanket and growled like an Ewok. He still sucks on his blanket some thirteen years later. 

Chewie came into our lives a year after Frodo did and soon, he became my little duck, following me around wherever I went. They are my loves, my pet soul mates. 

As they get older, it gets harder. Frodo's back issues make me weep because he just wants to run and can't. It's heartbreaking to watch him struggle. Chewie has rallied and has been doing well on his meds.

Truth is, I want them both to live forever. They are my everything. These dogs in my space keep me present and remind me to live in the moment. They remind me to not get lost inside of my head. They show me what is important in life. And that sometimes, happiness is simply a bowl of food and a pat on the back. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Friday

It's Friday and I'm in our jacuzzi listening to music of those who have passed. DMX and Bowie. Prince. Too many too soon.

It makes me sad to think of how fleeting life is. How for many, it's full of sorrow. It doesn't matter how much money you have. Life is hard. And for those without, it's even harder.

This morning, I woke up and thanked the universe for being alive. At court yesterday, I was trying to be extra present for my clients. There is so much sadness. My job is hard but I'm always there for my clients. And their families.

I'm so frustrated by the criminal system. People don't  understand how it destroys lives. Even after my clients restore and plead, they're at the state and probation's mercy. Do this. Do that. If not, incarceration. The rest of my clients, those who can't get out because of incompetency, are trapped at the jail or state hospital.

Scream it out, I think, maybe someone will hear. Most of my clients are in what must feel like a hopeless situation, trapped in a cage, while I write this. I can see the moon and stars but they can't. I can breathe fresh air, they can't. 

Tears well up and I swallow, my lumpy throat packed with too many of my own melancholy thoughts. I don't know how much longer I can do this work. My clients need me but I need to find the light in this darkness.

Every day, a little piece of my soul rips off by even participating in this horror of a criminal system. I want to do something in my life that brings joy into the world. Because as I said earlier, life is short, fleeting and all too precious.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Poem at midnight

 Poem at midnight


I'm side sleeping

But not sleeping

Not yet 

Benadryl breath 

Breathe breathe 

Headphones 

Touch pillow

Neck cracks 

Breathe in

Out remember

It's ok

You'll fall

Eventually into

Nothingness 

Waiting 

Laying 

Mind flits 

To quiet 

Ears still

Covered by

Headphones 

Waiting

Not so 

Patiently

To dream



Upside

The upside to waking up at 4 am is that I'm writing this piece. I had to take a short break from my blog due to the demands of work and school. It seemed like I took a week off but it's been a month. Time moves by so fast, like a car on the freeway that flies by you. That's why a consistent writing practice is so key. 

Relaxation is also important so I took the day off Wednesday and went to the beach to hang out with my twin sister Jackie who was staying out in Ocean Beach with her gal pals. I kinda just popped in, something I rarely do, but I was desperate. I'd been working extreme hours at work and then all weekend on school. 

My brain was tired. I had bags under my eyes. I was grumpy and exhausted. I'd had a form of tunnel vision with everything at work and school along with my writing and I simply could not disengage from my computer or phone. In short, I needed some beach time. 

The beach was lovely. I'd never been to Ocean Beach. It reminded me of Newport from when I was a kid, before it was so bougie. Or Venice. Jackie and I walked to get avocado toast. We walked the vendor stalls in masks with her dog Lizzy and then just sat on the beach. I couldn't relax but I did my best. 

Water has always been my zen so I went into the ocean up to my waist and let it take away my anxiety. The waves came at me. I pulled back and let the water lap and wrap my legs.

We walked the city which helped. I felt like I hadn't walked in a year. Jackie was very kind to me. That helped. I breathed in and out. In and out. Over and over. That helped too. 

I kept thinking to myself, when did I stop having fun? When did I stop being fun? Why am I so tense all of the time? Why do I live in my head and not in the moment? Why am I always time checking myself and on task?

We both love to eat so Jackie and I had huge shrimps at the marina with cocktail sauce and crackers. We shared a cup of clam chowder. We chatted and walked her dog again. Then I got on the road to beat traffic. Almost three hours later, I walked inside my house. (Guess I hadn't left early enough.) I said hello to my husband and mother in law. My dogs kissed me all over. 

At 8 pm, I fell asleep, the imagined sound of the waves from earlier in the day lulling me to sleep.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Work in progress

I'm a work in progress. I'm up, it's 5 am and I've been up all night. After a stressful day at work and a night of finishing my homework, my brain refused to turn off.

While laying in bed, I made lists in my head. Thought of my "to do" list and scratched off tasks, added others. I created a promo for my podcast. I read an article and scrolled Facebook. 

At some point, I fell asleep for a couple hours, but was up again at 4 am. I thought to myself, if I could just clone myself. Or add more hours to a day.

My dogs whined. I got up and padded downstairs. Today, like most days, I have client visits early from home. It gives me so much anxiety to do these early morning but it's a necessity right now in these pandemic tinged times. It's still too dangerous to visit the jail.

Watching my dogs lick their paws, I vowed to be mindful today. To be grateful. To be content, despite my looming deadlines, where I am.

Right here. At home. Watching the sun rise.


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Saturday hydration

It's Saturday and I'm relaxing. Finally. I know I have to work on my homework and my book projects, but I have Monday off so it's a little less stress. Still, staying on task all the time is hard.

It brings to mind an Audre Lord quote. She says:

“It is never easy to demand the most from ourselves, from our lives, from our work."

She's so right. Excellence is hard. And exhausting. 

Yesterday, I had a stressful day at work starting early, after weeks of the same. Then, after lunch, I crashed. My brain would not process information. I felt as if I was moving a car through fog, hence the term "brain fog", squinting to see. My eyes kept closing and I was nauseous and dizzy.

It turns out I was pretty severely dehydrated. I have been drinking a lot of coffee and not enough water. My husband made dinner and I ate and went upstairs. I couldn't work on anything so I watched TV and slept off and on. My husband urged me to hydrate.

After drinking 3 Gatorades, I felt better. By 9 pm, I was wide awake. My hydration had rejuvenated me. We watched TV and drank hot tea with steamed milk. 

This morning instead of turning on the TV to watch my newest Netflix show, I put on 50s and 60s music and started rolling around the floor with my two shih tzus. They licked my face and I rubbed their furry backs listening to the crooning of Roy Orbison.

Then, I danced in my living room with my coffee. And I remembered to drink a glass of water. 

Friday, February 19, 2021

Hey

I have always been an early bird. A morning dove. One who gets the worm.

To my eyes, the sun rising in the sky is one of the most beautiful natural wonders. We all take it for granted. That it rises I mean. 

It's 5 am and I'm up writing. I'm also multi-tasking by starting laundry, and the only sounds are the lull of the washer filling with water and my shih tzu Chewbacca whining.  

In a couple of hours, I do video visits at the jail and my work day begins. 

My cup of espresso's bitterness is cut by one sugar cube. My bitterness is not. I'm grumpy having had a restless night sleep-wise. When I can't sleep I read articles and essays, some legal and some literary, and some both. I also plan my podcasts.

My brain never turns off unless I fall into music. I've found focus is best while listening to ambient music, but my mood is best listening to Bowie.

This morning I'm just here to say "hey". To capture that which cannot be captured. Like trying to write about a sunrise, it's difficult to capture early morning meloncholy in words. 

So this morning, this "hey" is from me to you. It's recognition. I see you. I hear you. I feel you. 

We're all here living lives of "quiet desperation" as Thoreau once said. What I want most is to be a woman who lives a life of purpose and contentment. I'm not there yet. My ambition is a thorn in my side at times. I want too much. I'm overextended and overwhelmed. I'm not content. 

I'm not always kind. But I'm trying. I really am. 


Sunday, February 14, 2021

Dreamer

I am up early on Valentine's Day listening to the Bowie station on Pandora and Stevie Nicks' voice comes on. I think of the lyrics to her song "Dreams" and sing them in my head.


"Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself
It's only me who wants to wrap around your dreams
And have you any dreams you'd like to sell?"


I have always been a wanderer and dreamer of sorts. I believe in the mystical. In spirituality. In prophecy and fate. In traveling to find yourself. In muses.


Lately, this need to be my truer self that I was has been haunting and hounding me. I am in the house more than I've ever been and I'm restless.


Sleep is a poor substitute for wandering and traveling. I fell asleep early last night and dreamt of Paris. In my dream, my husband and I are wandering the streets and parks of Paris holding hands like newlyweds. 


Then, my dream jumps and we're in the cemetery wandering and staring at gravestones. In my dream, I'm dressed like Stevie Nicks in a flowing skirt with purple scarves circling my neck, pink flowers in my hair and I'm dancing by Jim Morrison's grave. I'm twirling and the wind is whipping my hair.


I awake to the growling of my shih tzu and gingerly crawl out of bed. I want to stay in my dreams of other places. Of other universes. 


I want to be in a different and parallel world where I can drink my espresso in a beret and pretty dress instead of satin pajamas.


Hopefully soon, this pandemic dream/nightmare will end and I can take that trip and be the dreamer and wanderer that I was.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

JEM in the IE

The pandemic seems to be waning. People are vaccinating and the world seems a bit more, dare I say it lest I jinx it, hopeful.

It's been almost a year. I keep thinking of that so I don't forget. How reality can change in an instant. One day you're flying for a writing conference and a couple of weeks later, lockdown.

I remember the days when I would meet up with my besties on a regular basis to drink, eat and commiserate. I've been rewatching the series "Sex and the City" and what I love about it most, and what I miss the most right now, are my female friendships and bonding. The show is a guilty pleasure because in some ways what seemed risqué is now passé, and Samantha clearly needs therapy. But I love it despite all that. 

I've always said, I'm a mix between Carrie and Miranda, a writer and a lawyer. Free spirited and quirky, along with somewhat neurotic and controlling. I've always been drawn in by the start of each episode of the series, with Carrie writing and discussing a piece for her column. 

I also appreciate them showing how hard it is to be a writer, all of the financial instability, the writer's block and the deadlines. Then last night, I was watching the episode where they turn Carrie's columns into a book and all I could think was, lucky girl! If only it was so easy!

The other thing I love about the show is that it's a love letter to New York. There is literally an episode about Carrie's love for her city (the one with the sailors). Geography and my love for my hometown are so much a part of me, my life and my writing that I can totally relate. 

And it made me think, is a hometown that you love a healthy tether to the past or a way to avoid a new future?

I guess, we are where we are. And right now, I am where I am. And that's here, getting up and putting on a punk rock tee and sweats to drink coffee in the IE. It's not sexy but it's my city.