Thoughts, Three Weeks In

So. My first three weeks.



My first three weeks were a double-timed, whirlwind orientation combined with whatever early-phase training the powers that be had a whim to throw me into. Four days in I felt the need to put my foot down and demand some structure, which I received along with the wrath of our director.  Alas, it lasted a whole two days…the structure, that is. The wrath will be harder to shake.

drawing 1

Let’s take deep breath and enjoy some art.

Most days went something like this:

  1. Show up when I’m told.
  2. Report to whom I’m told.
  3. Am asked one of two questions:
    1. “Why are you here so early?” by the person who set up my schedule
    2. “What do they have you doing today?” by the person who’s supposed to tell me what to do today
  4. At some point, treated like a misbehaving child for not being where I’m supposed to be, despite:
    • being given misinformation
    • being given no information
    • engaging in a self-assigned task because I’ve already been waiting over an hour for some direction
    • actually being where I’m supposed to be.
drawing 2

And again…breath in, breath out, enjoy this interpretation of a happy face sun.

I felt like tennis ball: volleyed out of every court I landed in.  It was the most disorganized, disjointed, unprofessional “training” I can recall dealing with, and somehow I was wrong for expecting better.


Let’s distract ourselves with a video this time:

But it’s okay, friends. Now I’m on the graveyard shift with one specific trainer who believes in the power of structure, so I’m thriving. I’m still being treated like a child, but at least now I’m a well-behaved one. I think I deserve a cookie.


And a nap!

And on my last day of that awful first phase I wore my new uniform for the first time.  It’s an icky polyester that requires an extra layer, and my body shape is completely at odds with its tucked-in shirt and belted pants.  So much bad. Still, when I saw myself in the locker room mirror I got unexpectedly emotional:  I felt like I was part of the team again.

Back to the Belly of the Beast

Two months ago I got a phone call from my former supervisor: “Would you be interested in coming back?”


Right here. Just for a moment.

Yup. It happened.

So I could look at this two ways, right? 1) All those hard years trying to avoid this very industry, all that work, thrown away? Ha! No thank you! Or 2) You can’t throw away education and experience, and dammit I need a job. Bring it!

And what happens if I do go back? Do I have demands? Do I have strategies? What kind of attitude should I project? How do I stand? What do I do with my arms?


Get it together!

But I didn’t have time for any of it. Robin hardly had a chance to get the words out before my brain sent the order to my mouth and my mouth blurted, “YES!”

So I am once again gainfully employed. I feel like I’ve been treading water in the middle of the ocean for the past 5 years, and the tiny islands I managed to wash up on never had enough coconuts to sustain me long. And now I’ve hit a continent. The very continent I was sent adrift from, yes, but a continent nonetheless.

How many times have I seen something on the news or heard a story from a former coworker, and thanked my lucky stars that I wasn’t part of it? How many times have I said, “Whew! Dodged a bullet there!” or “Glad I’m not a part of that mess!”

But the truth is that I’m grateful. I don’t know how to survive without a job, or without someone else picking up my slack. I’m not the gypsy or “portfolio career” type. My family has sacrificed so much. I’m beyond ready to get my life back on course. So when this opportunity presented itself I jumped on it, pride be damned.

I just completed my first week back. I need to start journaling because I’m definitely going to get some good writing material out of this.


I need to journal with a fountain pen like this.

In related news, I decided to change the name of my blog to reflect my return to the heart of Los Angeles. J9inLA is my Twitter handle, which I don’t use much but which I created with my employed self in mind. So here we go!


Fight on.



How to Impress an Angelino

My friend Tresa recently hosted cousins on a weekend visit from Indiana. Her daughter planned a schedule jam-packed with as much Los Angeles spectacle as possible: Hollywood, the Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica, In N’ Out…the typical touristy stuff.


See the burger in the middle? Animal style: it’s the only way to go.

The cousins were dazzled, but they also ooo’ed and ahhh’ed over simpler sights, such as scrolling wrought iron fences, gracefully aged apartment buildings, or whole neighborhoods perched on hillsides.


What, this old thing?

It made me think of a visitor we had from Kentucky. The very airport he flew into took his breath away. Like Tresa, we took our guest to places that were uniquely L.A.  What really impressed him, though, weren’t the sights themselves but the immensity of it all. The enormity of singular spaces; the diversity of people and food and things; the way the air buzzes with giddy energy even through quiet nights.


It’s just an overabundance of electromagnetic fields, really.

Tresa and her daughter are planning a trip to Indiana this summer. The cousins say they can’t imagine how they’re supposed to impress people who live in such an exciting place. “Let us relax!” Tresa said.

That. Right there.

I’ve always lived in some or other suburb of Los Angeles. It’s an incredible place, I know! But it’s also expensive and downright exhausting.  We Angelinos are probably more impressed with small, simple things than our small-town counterparts.  You know what excites us? Trees. Horses. Open spaces. A full night’s sleep. The color green. Rivers that aren’t encased in concrete. Storms. Silence. Affordable housing.


But mostly the nature things.

I imagine it’s the same for any workaday person living in a big urban or suburban area. What people from smaller places think of as mundane, we find fascinating. Forget the fancy wrought iron fences…how do you live with NO fences? Aren’t you worried about people coming into your yard? How do you know where your property ends?

And how lucky are you that there’s a creek in your backyard! No, that’s not next to your yard, that’s in your yard; there’s no fence!

What do you mean there’s nothing exciting to do around here? I thought we were gonna play cards and drink beer?

OMG you have a porch swing! Does it work? MOM! C’MERE! They have a porch swing that works!

You are so lucky that you get to drive a half hour to the grocery store.  All that scenery, no traffic, no noise…

What the hell is a potato cannon? You let your kids play with that?  Waddaya mean your kids built that? Your kids are crazy smart. You are the best parents ever.

You paid how much for this house?!

Quiet. Space. Simplicity. That’s how to impress and Angelino.

Big Thoughts on a Quiet Morning

Can we just stand still and be, I wonder?  How many of us get to a point where we can stop moving forward and live entirely in the moments that surround us? Just be? Is it only when we’re forced to by age or infirmness?


Bee sweet.

Did you know that “infirmness” is really a word?


Look it up.

*sigh* I don’t know. Linda’s blog post got me thinking.

I’m reminded of a conversation I had with my friend Maria a few years ago. We were collaborating on a project, discussing media and self-image. She wondered why Americans are so obsessed with self-improvement.  Beauty, health, wealth, charity, leadership, humility, spirituality, consciousness, acceptance, independence, community, happiness, peace, faster, slower, look beyond, look within…we’re constantly being tugged in different directions for the sake of being better.  When, she asked, are we enough?


Bam! In your face!

There’s no right answer. We constantly reach and stretch forward because we have to. Humans are social, curious animals whether we like it or not. Standing still for too long crumples our souls.

It’s Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. of A!

~ I don’t feel thankful.  I feel grumpy.  A shot of Honey Jack in my morning tea didn’t help my bad attitude either, so I put myself in time-out outside.  It’s actually nice out here: cooler than it’s been but still relatively warm, the sun is out, the air is clear.  The wind is picking up, though, and stormy grey clouds are inching their way over the mountains so we might be in for some actual weather.  That would be a treat. ~

I wrote that this morning.  It is now late afternoon.  My attitude has improved sans alcohol.  I got chilly so I went inside and cooked:  candied yams, green beans, rolls, and cornbread dressing.


Instead of brown sugar in the yams I used piloncillo (pee-lone-SEE-yo), which is unrefined cane sugar.  This belongs in your everything.

My mom, daughter and I cooked around each other while avoiding the various children chasing each other through a forest of mother and grandmother legs.   When the turkey was done we set up a buffet table, ate, and watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on rerun.  I just put a peach cobbler in the oven and started to feel cooked myself, so I came back out for some fresh air.


Peach cobbler: a can or five of peaches topped with a box of yellow cake mix and drizzled with a melted stick of butter. Cook 350°F for 40 minutes or until brown. Yummy spices and leftover piloncillo optional.

I can hear the wild parrots coming from the south.  I don’t know why, but every morning they fly south and every evening they fly north again.  Wild parrots are very, very loud.  Two or three together can sound like a whole flock.

(I kept looking up at the sky while I watched this, thinking the racket was coming from the video and the sky.  Nope: just the video.)

There’s still some blue up there.  Those menacing clouds continue to crawl across the sky but can’t decide if they’ll go puffy and white or stay dark and cause trouble.  In the meantime the puffy white fronts are turning orange with the sunset.  How festive!

Hope everyone has a wonderful day, whether you celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving or not. 🙂

Spiders in Holland

I’m still relatively certain that if I wrote my grandmother’s book now, I wouldn’t do her justice.  After scrapping my first draft, I’m terrified that her stories will turn into mine again.  Recently, I got so frustrated with myself that I took a deep breath, put fingertips to alphabet keys, and banged out my favorite story just the way I remember her telling it.  Which makes it more mine than anything else I’ve written about her so far, but I feel like this time I’ve done her voice justice.

Yeah yeah.  I get it, you smuggy smugsters.

“Nazi Germany has occupied the Netherlands. What do you do: adapt, collaborate, or resist?” –Verzetmuseum

I was 13, so it was about a year after the bombing in the city center.  My father was working with the Resistance…well we all were, really.  My sister, Co, you know, at that time she was married and pregnant almost every year with one of the boys.  My brothers made a false bottom in the pram for guns, and we would smuggle them to the edge of the city.  Those stupid Nazi guards let us through the checkpoints because we were the ideal: blond hair, blue eyes, the perfect Arians.  Fuckin’ bastards.  They would cootchie-coo the babies and I’d think,  If only you knew what was under your  finger, asshole.  But to them we were just a perfect little family out for a walk.  They let us right through.

So right.  I was 13, and my younger sister, Yopi, of course was 12, and we were home with Moe [pronounced moo, Dutch for “Mom”].   I don’t know why we were home, but the guys were all out working, and we were home alone, just the younger girls and our mother.   Now my brother, Cor, he was a radio operator, you see.  He had a small radio that he would use at night to send intelligence to the English from the attic.  My mother hated it.  She told him to keep it out of the house but my father said it was fine.

Well, then we get a knock on the door.  And my mother looks at us, and we look at each other.  We don’t say anything but we look at each other, “Who’s that?  Are you expecting someone?  I don’t know.  Who could it be?”   So Yopi and I go downstairs with Moe to the door.  And it’s three Brownies: two younger ones, you know, and an older one, the one in charge.  And these guys were bad.  These were the real Nazis, not the German soldiers.  We called them Brownies because they wore brown uniforms. These were the ones that were taken as children and trained their whole lives to hate and kill.   If it had been anyone else it would have been okay, but the Brownies would shoot us on the spot and step over our dead bodies on their way to dinner without a second thought.

We knew why they were there:  Cor’s radio.  Moe pretended to be polite.  “How can I help you?”  But they pushed past her and went upstairs.  The three of us followed them up.  The commander told the other two where to search.  We were poor so we didn’t have much to go through, but they turned over mattresses and dumped out drawers, anything they could search.  Moe knew better than to ask questions.  One wrong move and all three of us were dead.  So we just stood in the corner in silence and watched them tear our little apartment apart.

The commander saw the attic door and ordered Moe to open it.  In German, you know, but Moe didn’t know any German.  I did, because we had to learn it in school, see.  So I translated.  And I had a good accent even though I only knew a year’s worth from school, but I had a talent for it.  German was so close to Dutch it wasn’t difficult for me at all.  So the attic door.   Moe opened the attic door, and the commander ordered the three of us to go up before him.  He wanted to search the attic personally.  I knew what he was doing: he would find the radio and shoot the three of us himself to show off to the younger officers.  Bastard.  I was so angry I didn’t even want to look at him.

He grabbed a bag of rags we kept up there…fabric scraps, you know, for patches and things like that…and I suddenly felt cold.  I didn’t know why, but something in the room changed.  I looked out of the corner of my eye at Moe.  And she had gone completely pale.  Now, my mother wasn’t afraid of anything, but she was as white as a sheet, so I knew something was very wrong.  I looked over at the commander.  He had a handful of rags.  And hanging from the bottom was a radio cord.

I wasn’t afraid, but I immediately walked over to him and put my hand on his arm.  He had patches on this sleeves, and patches, you know, on his chest , the ones that tell his rank and such.  So I put my hand on his arm, on the patch on his sleeve,  and I said in perfect German, “Oh!  These are so pretty!  What are these for?”  That fuckin’ bastard was so full of himself.  He puffed himself up and said something like Ach, Liebe! These are for such-and-such.  I don’t even remember what they were for, something about his rank.  And I knew I had him.  So I made my voice even sweeter, and I touched the patches on his chest and batted my eyelashes, and said, “Really!  And these, too?  They’re such pretty colors!  What do these mean?”  That disgusting old fucker.  He was so flattered that a pretty young girl would be interested in him that he put the rags, with the radio, back into the bag so that he could point out each patch and tell me what it meant.  I pretended to be fascinated.  “Gosh, that’s so interesting.  You must be so important!”

When he was done, he left the attic with the biggest shit-eating grin on his face.  He told the other two that the radio wasn’t there and ordered them to leave.  He turned around to wave at me before he left.  I batted my eyelashes and waved good-bye.  When the door was closed and my mother was sure they were gone, she collapsed onto the floor and sobbed.  My mother was a rock.  I had never seen her cry in all my life, and I never saw her cry again.  But that day…she said it was the closest she had ever come to seeing her family dead.

When my father came home, ho ho!  Moe chewed him out good, and Cor’s radio left the house.  Eventually he was taken off the street and put into a labor camp.  My father, too, and Adrian.  One night they just didn’t come home, and we knew.  No, I wasn’t afraid.  Moe said they would come home, and if Moe said it was so, well, that was it.  Moe’s word was law, you see.  She told us not to be afraid, so I was never afraid.  I’m more afraid of a spider in America than I ever was of a Nazi in Holland.

Brenda, and Babies

Let us recall this picture from my last post, of our dear family friend, Brenda,

Brendie meeting Ava.

Brendie meeting Ava.

and how she came to see us despite being so very ill.  Fortunately it’s hard to see in this shot, but she literally looked like a corpse:  blue skin, purple lips, black fingertips, skeletal frame, all signs of her late-stage degenerative lung disease.  Just after this picture was taken I quietly left our gathering to have a small cry on my step-mom’s shoulder.

Illness notwithstanding, her lack of oxygen, and subsequent lack of coloring, were partially her own fault.  The tubing in the picture was for her oxygen supply.  As you can see she needed to breathe through her nose in order to get that oxygen.  Brenda the Chatterbox, however, couldn’t suffer silence in a room full of people, not even long enough to inhale through her nose every so often.  Eating dinner was downright impossible:  eat, talk, and breathe at the same time?    No way.  Nothing is more humorous to Brenda than her own shortcomings, so we shared a good laugh at her inability to get any of that oxygen sitting right there on her face.  As she left, my dad made sure we each actually said the words “good-bye” to her, because, he said, we’d never see her again.  Pessimistic, and a little mean, as it sounded, he was right. She succumbed to her illness a month later.

The world is duller without her bubbly personality, her easy conversation and sense of humor.  She is sorely missed, but undoubtedly in a place of comfort and peace.  ❤

I forget that I am not friends with the entire world on Facebook.  While this is a good thing, some people are missing out on the pictures I often post of our little beauty.  So get your smile ready.

Playing at the park.

Playing at the park.

Too big for the dumb carseat.

Too big for the dumb carseat.

Baby selfies!  Not really...she just wanted to eat the camera.

Baby selfies! Not really…she just wanted to eat the camera.

Ava and Oma.

Ava and Oma.

More Oma and Ava

More Oma and Ava

Uncle Andrew making sure Ava doesn't have to play alone at 1 am.

Uncle Andrew making sure Ava doesn’t have to play alone at 1am.

Our sleeping angel.

Our sleeping angel.

Mommy and Ava in head scarves.

Mommy and Ava in head scarves.

She is 5 months old now and thriving.  She is very active, Doc says she is even a little ahead in development. I think she’s just impatient.  She gets frustrated with her own limitations.  She’s learned how to get herself where she wants to go through a series of wiggly maneuvers, however, so her frustration level is less than it was.  She can almost sit herself up.  And everything that can be grasped goes straight to the mouth.

Oooo I have another treat, too.  (If you know this family, don’t tell them that you saw these pictures. There might be more coming.)





Eeeeee!  I love those little faces!

While looking for pictures for Brenda’s memorial, my step-mom found some from when Jess was about a year old.  Check this out:

My grandmother with Jess, 1994, and Ava, 2014.

My grandmother with Jess, 1994, and Ava, 2014.

Ava did not inherit those big brown eyes: she has her Daddy’s almond-shaped green ones.  She does, however, have Jess’s nose, mouth, and chin.  My grandmother loved that I inherited my dad’s mouth.  I always thought it was an odd thing to appreciate, but now that I see it on my progeny I allow myself the same oddness.  Especially because we all inherited this feature from my grandfather, so it’s fun to see it perpetuating.

Brief update on school:  it’s going.  This semester I have English 1C, officially called Intermediate Critical Thinking and Analytic Composition or some such nonsense, and English Lit (round 2).  It’s rough, but it’s been rougher, and I really like both of my professors, so I’m pushing through.  I spent the day reading Charlotte Bronte’s Villette for English 1C.  Not a bad way to pass a weekend, I say.

Yikes!  It is 5 am!  I should go to bed, yes?  Good night good people.