My Day In Court

By the time we arrived at the courthouse at 8:30 AM, I had already been up for four hours. And thanks to my new NO COFFEE diet, I was also tired as hell. I still managed to dress well, shower, comb my hair and apply some decent color to my face.

Now, based on my experience of binge-watching The People’s Court and the multiple times I’ve been called to Jury Duty, I know there are two kinds of people that go to court: Those Who Dress Professionally and Those Who Don’t. Today there were more people in the Those Who Don’t category… which, based on my aforementioned experience, seems to generally be the case.

Why was I at court? Well, it wasn’t for Jury Duty this time. No, on this occasion I was standing in line waiting to enter the metal detectors of the rectangular, boring-as-watching-cement-dry building as moral support for my friend during her custody case.

It is the first hearing for my friend in what has been a long and agonizing two years of single parenthood. She’s been working two full time jobs to survive and provide. She is educated, talented (gifted in the performing arts), and a really good person. She is smartly dressed for court in freshly pressed, khaki colored slacks and a bright blue button down that makes her skin glow softly and disguises the sleepiness under her eyes. Her hair is swept back into a neat bun and her lips are gently glossed. Her look is put together, smart, and approachable – the woman you would ask for assistance if you needed it, and she is an example to everyone on HOW TO DRESS FOR COURT.

Sure, I’m being a little funny regarding how we present ourselves because there is an abundant amount of truth that we are prone to making snap decisions based on appearances. I’m being 100% honest and I will tell you why:

 

My friend, I will call her Eve, is outwardly calm, but her insides are a mess. A mixture of anxiety, sadness, fear, and anger are twisted in so many knots that to distinguish one feeling from the other is nearly impossible, and so she has learned to push them down and smile with false calmness and a bit of self-deprecation to help her and me laugh at an otherwise appalling situation. As Eve would say, “I am thirty-something years old and smack dab in the middle of an episode of Sixteen and Pregnant.”

It’s funny, but the truth is even at an age when we have our shit together and we’re in a tenured relationship, we can end up with a father that, “wasn’t ready,” and “doesn’t love us anymore,” and feels that, “ever since the pregnancy you’ve been a Bitch,” and my personal favorite, “you made me cheat on you.”

I guess when I saw him, Eve’s Ex, show up to court in his new weekend casual sneakers (they were pretty great and I want a pair, but are too expensive and not court appropriate), his easy going polo, and his Los Angeles standard-issued-denim (jeans) I knew I, too, was smack dab in the middle of Sixteen and Pregnant. He definitely presented that he was indeed not ready to be a father, however, he did make sure to be escorted into court by a well-dressed attorney.

Well, if you’ve never been to court for a custody hearing, let me give you a brief run down on the flow. First, the Bailiff checks you in and every body else that’s showed up for a court hearing. And Family Court takes place in Civil Court, so you sit and wait and listen to all the folks wearing their F*ck Off graphic tanks and acid washed jeans rant about the “bullshit” restraining order against him/her. You listen when the young woman in her ill-fitting, years old Homecoming dress tells the Bailiff she’s innocent and shouldn’t be there. You eavesdrop on the planned lying between middle-aged sisters against a landlord. And you tear up and worry a little when you look over at your friend, Eve, and see that she’s praying for this to not be happening to her.

At the end of eight hours of mediation, no agreement was reached. Throughout the entire day Eve asked on three separate occasions for a continuance, which the mediator, an Accident and Injury Attorney in this case, denied. The Mediator sent Eve out to sit in the courtroom while he spoke alone to the Ex and his Attorney.

When the Mediator returned to Eve he looked her straight in the face and told her, “Either you give him what he wants or you’ll end up with the cops at your door. You wouldn’t want the police to show up to your home would you? Nobody likes the cops called on them.”

I know this is exactly what he said because I was sitting right beside Eve when he said it. This officer of the court, a court-appointed Mediator.

The Mediator threatened Eve with a call to the police because she asked for a continuance so that she could employ her own legal counsel. She had been blindsided by the appearance of her Ex’s attorney and she had been blindsided when her Ex, who has not seen his child in over a year – electively­, asked for sole custody so he could leave California and raise the child in Michigan.

Let me say this – all the under-dressed, unkempt, orally dysfunctional (did I make this word up? You get it), white people that filled the courtroom were treated with respect and never threatened with a call to the police, even though I’m pretty sure with the lies, multiple false allegations, and domestic abuse, there probably should have been some mention of police involvement, but no.

Eve is black. And no, it is not a coincidence. 

It’s The Little Things, Ya Know?

IMG_6817I can’t drink coffee anymore.

I love coffee. The rich, intoxicating aroma leads me into a calm, serene state of mind. The purposeful measured “splash” of cream that caramelizes its hue brings a smile to my face. A single sugar cube to sweeten the roast for my tongue is my greatest pleasure in the morning. It’s my ritual, my every morning, and my friend-date go-to.

I worked at a coffee shop. I loved pulling shots of freshly ground, espresso. I loved the smiles and thanks I received when I handed someone their drink. I loved the smell of my clothes that permanently wore the scent of roasting beans. I loved the false bravado of the customer who set-up her/his laptop for a long afternoon of staring at a blank screen.

Coffee can perk you up when you’re down or feeling sluggish, and it will be your muse when you lack inspiration. It’s a treat and I rewarded myself daily.

Now, the Doctor says I cannot drink coffee.

“You should consider yourself allergic,” she rationalized.

Two months ago today was my last mug of the good stuff. Had I known it would be my last cup, I would have cherished it more. I would have sat down, with delicious biscotti, and I would have closed my eyes and thanked it for the lifetime we’d spent together. I wouldn’t have let it get cold sitting on the counter while I changed a poopy diaper, dressed a screaming toddler, and dropped him off at daycare only to come home and resent my coffee’s stale bitterness from being nuked in the microwave.

I’ve been savoring the rich dark roast since the age of nine. My parents allowed me a cup of their Folgers every weekend. If I visited my parents today, surely I would find a large, plastic, red tub of Folgers precariously shoved into the top cupboard of their 1986 galley kitchen with its light blue wallpaper that’s been peeling at the corners since 1989. It would go without saying that coffee would be made and a large blue tin of Danish butter cookies would be served.

I miss my coffee.

A couple of weeks ago I tried decaf. While the smell that wafted from the hot cardboard was familiar the taste – was off. The warm drink minus the caffeine made me drowsy. I tried to convince myself that the decaf espresso would be better than stale diner coffee, it isn’t. It’s not the same. There’s no reward to drinking decaf, no high, no rush, no momentum.

I went grocery shopping yesterday. I wandered sluggishly down the baking aisle and followed my nose to the coffee beans. I smelled every bag, I lingered at the bean grinder, I stuck my face into the shoot it was still warm and oily from the last grind. It smelled amazing.

I picked up a bag of Breakfast Blend and headed to the express lane. I forgot to pick-up dinner, but we could just order in. I rushed into the house as fast as I could, running to the corner of the kitchen counter I ripped open the coffee grinds ready to pour them into the filter and I couldn’t find the coffee machine. Here, on the white Caesarstone, coffee stained counter there was no coffee machine.

“JASON!” I shouted, not caring if the toddler was sleeping.

“Yeah, Babe?” came his calm, measured response.

“Where’s the coffee pot?”

“I sold it.”

************************************************************************************

My heart is racing and my eye is twitching and my leg keeps bouncing, but I am happy. I am across the street at the Coffee Haus writing to you, sipping my café au lait made with fully caffeinated, dark roast coffee. Don’t let anyone tell you, ‘you can’t,’ because I am proof you can.

Where On Earth Have I Been?

I’m writing about where I’ve been.

It feels like I may be tempting fate and risking another One just by writing about Them.

I fear everything right now is a trigger.

But if They’re going to keep happening, I might as well write about Them.

It’s been one week and two days without One, but somehow I know They can hear me, read me, know that I’m talking about Them.

Panic Attacks.

 

It’s been five weeks and four days since the first one gripped my chest so tight I thought, someone help me!

And then I thought I’m not going to make it. Then a stream of thought consumed me:

I can’t breath. My chest is pinched. It’s collapsing. My lungs – air.

 My throat is closing up.

Why am I shaking so violently?

My head repeats I’m not going to make it. I’m not going to make it.

 I’m outside, so is the dog, fuck, “GET INSIDE, DOG, NOW!”

I was surprised any sound made it out of me at all.

I locked the door. I walked to the neighbor’s house, quickly. I pounded on the thin strip of metal that is the screen doorframe until someone heard me.

Her husband answered, why is her husband home and mine is not.

“Is Ruth here?” I asked, shaking, eyes wide and frightened, I must have been a sight.

“She’s sleep—“ he stopped the thought, “yeah one second, come in.”

I spilled the glass of water I’d forgotten I was holding.

Breathe Jaime, breathe. I can’t. You can. I can’t. You can. I can’t. You can.

He’s back, “Ruth will be right out, do you want some coffee?”

“I think I’m having a panic attack,” I may have yelled it. I may have cried it. I was definitely pleading for help when I said it.

 

 

It’s five weeks and four days later.

I finally feel like myself again, which only just happened two days ago. But for the first time in five weeks and four days, I’m not sitting waiting for an attack to happen and that feels like the best gift ever.

I didn’t have just one panic attack – I had one to five attacks per day for a month. It was unbearable. Debilitating. Scary-as-hell. Nothing I’d ever wish on anyone.

I couldn’t be alone for those weeks. I went on jobs with Jason. I dragged Jack to Jason’s basketball games and piano lessons – the ones I didn’t make him cancel, and I dropped the baby off at daycare full-time. I cried in public more times than I can count. I couldn’t drive because I didn’t know when I’d have one or how bad it would be. I couldn’t stay in the house; not alone, not at all.

I’m here, I never left, but I did lose the month of June. I likened it to a really long stomach-flu, but it wasn’t. It was much worse emotionally and physically, not that I want the stomach flu again to compare.

I’m still me. I’m working on getting rid of the attacks. I’m practicing more self-care. And I’m writing. Every experience helps with character development, right? Right.

Every time I tell someone I feel a little stronger, a little less alone, a little more like everybody else. Because I’m not alone and neither are you.

Unsolicited Advice

Let’s Rant.

What is it about unsolicited advice that gets me so worked up? There are multiple scenarios within reason I can admit I’m guilty of “advising” in… for example friends/people/strangers that may have just wanted an ear to vent to and there I go giving advice. I am specifically not talking about those times. Because unless you specify at the top of the conversation, “I am going to vent a lot to you right now and I do not want you to tell me what to do or give me your insight or thoughts AT ALL,” then, you’re screwed, because whatever, we (meaning me) want to express our opinion or perhaps, unsolicited advice, because it is human nature.

No, I am not talking about that brand of unsolicited advice, rather, I am talking about the advice a certain generation (Generation Baby Boomer) writes out on old receipts found in the trash or at the bottom of a salty purse for Jason and I to find brazenly atop the pillows after they’ve checked out of the AirBnBeeber.  That’s right, those crazy nuts that also go by the name Grandma and Grandpa, just cannot help themselves and need to let us know what we’ve done wrong.

For some reason the current Grandma and Grandpa generation just cannot enjoy an experience without sharing their important unsolicited advice that I have “coined” as criticism. 

For example, there was recently a note left behind, two-sided, front and back, that expressed how we could have, “made their stay nicer,” if we would have, “installed a larger refrigerator and a microwave oven.”

This was so important to the guests that they both texted and emailed us to let us know they left said note for us in case we missed it or thought it was trash, since it was written on a piece of trash.

It was hard to miss the red, bold, Sharpie pen ink.

If you are not feeling what I am emoting it is heavy silence. My face has become hard and my eyes are shooting daggers into an imaginary target.

Preposterous.

Then there was the sixty-nine year old hippie that needed, needed, us to immediately return our sink and vanity to IKEA and purchase a larger, wider and deeper unit like the ones at Crate and Barrel (this from a legit hippie) or take the overhead matching cabinet off the wall and install it two feet higher so he didn’t feel like he was going to bump his head while brushing his teeth.

He also wanted to show us how he had rearranged the room and thought it worked better with the murphy bed raised…in raising it himself without the know how he busted the mounted reading lights, broke the bed’s feet off, and could have maimed himself from his own stupidity had he not called us in to complain about our bathroom vanity.

I’m laughing. Truly, I’m laughing. What an asshole. 

Preposterous.

Then there was the lovely woman traveling alone (right-on!), that also left us a long, two-sided note of all the things we should add to the unit to make it nicer:

Lemon Tea

Chamomile Tea

Mint Tea

Herbal Tea

Lavender Tea

Chai Tea

Rose Water Tea

Jasmine Tea

Oolong Tea

Sleepy-Time Tea

Tension Tamer Tea

Green Tea

 

I’m confused, additional tea options? Could have just said that. Or gone to the market across the street and picked up the flavor you like. 

Preposterous.

And finally, for now, we will come to the one couple that left us a note regarding money. They wanted to let us know how nice our studio is, but that we are just not the best value because we’re not…wait for it… a hotel. Maybe if we added a pool or hot tub we could compete with the better hotels around Los Angeles… let’s get one thing straight we cost a fraction of what the Best Western up the way charges, so it cannot be the nightly charge, right?

So, wait, WHAT?

Preposterous.

The teenager in me wants to talk back and tell them how stupid they sound, but there’s a little fear I may be grounded and not heard. AmIRight? 

 

 

Book Excerpt – Two-Fer Tuesdays

pexels-photoIt was Tuesday, and I was sitting at my desk, which was two medium strides away from the bathroom, and my dead-end job was promising to bind me to it for eternity.

I had the unique and questionable privilege of being able to observe every person walking in and out of the bathroom. My co-workers, whom I also referred to as “Work Friends,” felt a deep sense of obligation to chat me up every time they used the loo… which was often, and in some cases (Derrick) too often, much to my chagrin.


“Please come to Happy Hour tonight. It’s Two-Fer Tuesdays; that’s two drinks for the price of one, but they give them both to you at the same time. We can split the cost of one drink, but each actually get a full drink of our own!” The Cogs in the machine, that’s what I called us and when I say ‘Us’ I mean the ones of us that dedicated our work hours to work and got paid a pittance for it. This was Elaine; a cog. She was always trying to make it OKAY for me to spend money with work people after work hours.

“What if I just want water?” That is how I treated Elaine: with obnoxious requests I knew she would accept.

“Yes! So you’ll come! Yay! Also, do you know Adeline?”

“No,” and frankly I wasn’t interested in knowing Adeline or anyone else from the company on a personal level. I didn’t want another excuse to NOT walk away from this job. I didn’t want it to become more bearable by making friends. I liked being the loner here.

“You’ll love her. She’s new, one of them, but you’ll love-love-love her, promise.” By Them Elaine was referring to the Marketing people. And I was suspicious of her promises of “love-love-love”.

The Marketing Team was the Pride of the company. The rest of us were just trying to survive out on the Serengeti of day jobs. And since your title defined your merit, it was difficult to blame them for believing they were the very best of the company.

I needed to get out of this Happy Hour.

“Shoot… I forgot, I might have something I already committed to, but I’ll let you know for sure by the end of the day.”

Elaine could see through my poor attempt at a lie, but honestly, the title “Marketing” was equivalent to Narcissist, and I just didn’t want to spend the evening biting my tongue and fighting the urge to challenge this newbie every time she wanted to dominate the conversation with her branding ideas. Or the numerous accolades awarded her in MBA school.

Gag.

As I watched Elaine walk away disappointed, I knew I was going to end up going, and maybe split the cost of a drink with her, and talk to this new Marketing woman – Adeline, and maybe make a new friend.

Gag.

WTH Is jayra joy?

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 7.48.38 PMFor the friends and family that have been asking, what is the deal with jayra joy Designs – I am dedicating this blog post to telling you what the deal is. And for those of you that only know me from my blog and as a writer – I also have a little Etsy boutique called, jayra joy Designs where I sell clothes I design and make with my business partner.

jayra joy – the name itself comes from the combination of my partner/neighbor/friend’s name and mine: Jaime + Ruthann = jayra. The JOY just happens to be the name of the beautiful little street all the magic and fun happens on…or as we like to call it our Lab of Designs.

I just love the way clothes can make me feel. They transport me into the roles and characters I feel like playing on any given day. No, I’m not saying I have multiple personalities, but I do have a lot of fun pretending. And I do have my own little quirky style that features me at my best.

Clothes have always been out of my budget. Why does so-called “quality” mean I need to sell my kidney to afford it? And why can’t we all have access to these great, staple pieces that make us feel good, and aren’t made to fit one or two body types, and are versatile and feminine?

I found myself experimenting with some of the online styling sites that send you clothes based on your preferences, budget, and style, and it was a huge fail, but I did love putting together all the boards of my favorite pieces and styles on Pinterest for them! And I found I was just creating the same outfit over and over which happened to be the exact pieces I’d worn the hell out of already in my closet and couldn’t afford to buy new ones of on my writer’s salary or lack there of.

Right before I’d found out I was pregnant I’d started collecting clothing patterns and I had the idea that I was going to sew my own clothes. My perfect A-line skirts with folded pleats and stunning tutu’s I could wear any day or night of the week. I wanted a wrap that paired with jeans and dress slacks. I wanted shirts with flutter sleeves that highlighted my arms correctly. I wanted to make clothes my way that were unique and fit, and all with the best fabrics and that would be that.

I went downtown to the fabric district and investigated. I bought a ton of amazing fabrics. A couple heavy bags worth. And then I sat in the closet with those heavy bags of fabric and I realized I had no idea how to sew and I had no sewing machine. So I started to collect more clothing patterns and I Yelped sewing classes and I thought, I can do this.

Then I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. And I forgot about making clothes and hid those heavy bags of fabric in the dark corner of my cramped closet and I just prayed I could book enough acting gigs and finish writing my first book before the pitter patter of little feet were upon me.

Cut to 2 years later, many discussions with my neighbor who just conveniently happens to be an amazing designer and owns the Olympics of sewing machines, two women with a passion for creating, and a little part time business later – we’re making clothes! Really great clothes that we love making; it’s part business, part passion.

We all should be able to do something we have a passion for: karaoke, knitting, marathons, boxing, I just happen to love designing. I’m having fun and yes, I’m still writing full time, but having the opportunity to do another thing I enjoy and provide an extra source of income for my family is a gift and I cherish it.

For everyone that has supported us and purchased from us – multiple times – thank you from the bottom of my heart. It means so much to me. It is art, and I love creating for you.

If you’re interested in checking out our shop just head to http://www.jayrajoy.com! And just for checking us out, here’s a little treat: use code HBDJAIME2017 to get 15% off your purchase! Good thru April 30, 2017. 

 

The Other Night…

The winds in Los Angeles the past few evenings have felt abrupt and out of place, much like the rains we experienced this past winter. They’ve spread allergies and coughs and viruses, much to the chagrin of every parent, daycare and otherwise sane person. All that hell aside, in the middle of another evening of howling winds knocking down trash bins and whipping open latched gates at will, we had a real situation Thursday night, at 2:07AM.

Jack was having a restless sleep, tossing and turning until he woke himself up and called out for a snuggle around 1:40 AM. Jason sprung into action for that special, middle of the night Jack cuddle time, so down a body in the bed, I starfished myself right out and fell back asleep before I ever really feigned getting up for Jack. Before I ever made it to REM sleep I was trapped in a hellish half-sleep/half-awake-nightmare. Somewhere from the depths of someone’s soul there was a bellowing cry echoing off the mountain and reverberating throughout our home. At first I feared it was Jack and my subconscious was not allowing my conscious state to waken and I couldn’t get to him; I was trapped in sleep-purgatory.

The bellowing yell got louder and I could feel my conscious self pushing through the paralysis of my sleep-state until I sat straight up, blinking a thousand times while catching my breath. Jack was NOT crying and Jason was still missing from the bed and on a second glance at the clock, I saw a mere fifteen minutes had passed since I’d fallen back to sleep. Then, as if on cue to remind me why I’d stirred back awake, there came the same bellowing call for help, only this time I was hearing it with woken ears and a very present mind and it was more ominous and menacing than my half dream state allowed me to grasp.

The voice was oscillating – at one moment it sounded as though it was right outside my window and then almost immediately it sounded like it was coming from down the road and then immediately outside my window, again. The voice so deep, so loud it made me shake on the inside. Finally, I heard the words:

SOMEBODY CALL THE POLICE.

PLEASE.

SOMEBODY CALL THE POLICE.

PLEASE.

 

 

 

somebody call the police.

please.

…..police.

 

This was not the voice of someone in trouble, though. It was not the sound of a crisis. It was hypnotic and foreboding and terrifying, I promise you.

I timidly pulled back the curtain a sliver and peered into the night, looking and searching for the man making the noise as it grew closer and closer to the house, yet again. And I saw my gate was hanging wide open, yet the wind had stopped. Fear shook through me; he was in my yard, but I couldn’t see him. There were no eyes peering back as far as I could stretch my vision through the dark. And when the bellow of PLEASE was right on top on me, I let go of the curtain and ran downstairs for my phone.

I dialed the numbers 9-1-1, send. Hurry. Answer. Hurry.

911 Operator: 9-1-1 – What’s your emergency?

There’s a man – I think it’s a man – somewhere, I think in my yard, yelling from somewhere wild in his belly, for someone to call the police.

911 Operator: And can you see him?

No, I cannot.

911 Operator: But he’s in your yard?

Yes. I think so. Or maybe not, but he’s close. Somewhere close. Listen, do you hear that? That’s him.

911 Operator: I’m sending a car now.

I hung up. I wanted to ask her to stay on the phone with me until the police arrived.

“Jaime?” It was Jason, thank God for Jason. He was whispering, not because he didn’t want to wake-up Jack, but because he was scared. He didn’t want the voice to hear that we were awake, that we felt vulnerable, that we could be his enemies.

“I’m here, I’m here,” I whispered back as I ran up the stairs to meet him.

When I hit the landing of the staircase I saw him, clutching tightly to Jack who stirred in his sleep, and we ran back into our room cradling our baby and waiting for the police as the sound of the voice grew, and grew, and grew. The echo of his pleas haunting us.

There were no sirens when the police arrived, we only knew they’d arrived when we saw the beams of light from their tactical flashlights.

The “Voice” saw the lights of the police as well and suddenly the tone changed. Now the sound of panic and fear, manipulating the previous sound of strength into cowardice, “I’m up here! I’m up here! Help me! I’m up here!”

We gazed out the window to see who was brilliantly managing their voice with such precision and where. And as we followed the beam of the police light up, up, up. There stood a man atop the apex of our neighbor’s roof, peering down at the four men in blue. He who had beckoned the police officers to the spot was almost childlike now, displaying a sense of innocence and underdog cowardice he gently announced, “I’m stuck.”

The ensuing conversation between the rapidly growing police presence, now a dozen large, and the “Voice” on the roof top is not worthy of the character count it would eat up on this post, trust me. It was boring, benign if I’m being generous. The usual patter of please and thank you, but one detail has remained with me: he said he had been chased. Chased by something, but he was not sure what. Chased from the freeway, past the train tracks, and all the way up the roof of this house.

And that was it. There was no follow-up, questioning. No inquiry to description. And no what happened to the “thing” chasing you. As I said before, the exchange was boring.

Personally I do not think the “Thing” is gone. It never stopped chasing him. I think the “Thing” got him. It resides inside him. Dueling with itself, showing fragility in the face of authority, but commanding power over its victim when he’s alone. If his mental disorder is not engineered by the Meth that is rampantly spreading like a disease in our gentrified neighborhood, then it’s the cause of his own genetic make-up breeding chaos in this man’s life.

I will leave you with this: he stood, silently, handcuffed for nearly half an hour while the police officers slowly peeled off, leaving the original two and one more car for safety. Eventually a silent ambulance arrived and with that the entire ordeal was over. Erased. The block empty, peaceful and quiet, the way it should be at 2:30 AM, and the way I hope this man’s mind can find itself again some day.