Coping With Family Matters In Difficult Circumstances

Mes amies, my heart is sad. My sister and her husband are in the midst of a messy divorce because he was caught cheating. They actually had an “open” marriage, so “cheating” is a relative term. For them, marriage was about the sharing of information. He failed to let her know about a few sexual partners and she became distrustful (understandably). When the conduit was closed, so was the marriage.

She moved to Albuquerque several years after I moved to Los Angeles, so we stay in touch even though we barely ever see each other. I received a call while hiking Temescal Canyon (where I usually don’t even have cell service) and thought nothing of it. But she was in tears. I sat down on the trail overlooking the ocean and asked her to calm down.

When she explained the situation, we agreed that she needed to find a family lawyer who specializes in divorce. You see, my sister actually received her green card because she married him after obtaining a six-month visa to travel to the United States for a long-term family visit (to see me, bien sur). 

I reassured her that divorce was unlikely to affect her legal status and that she could renew her green card whether she was currently married or not, but we agreed to ask a lawyer for additional information. She’s lived here on the initial green card for nearly ten years, so she should be okay.

Visit website for more information on divorcing before your own green card interview, because I don’t want anyone to make important decisions based on my family matters. Yours might be different!

My sister asked for a place to stay. She and her husband know the relationship isn’t working, but the situation at home has also grown more volatile by the day. I don’t want to see them in this light. My apartment is nice, so I invited her for an extended visit. She can always go back when they need to talk. 

My girlfriends and I used the bad situation as an opportunity to go on a road trip to Albuquerque. We picked up my sister, then immediately went camping in Joshua Tree for a weekend getaway. I handed her a bottle of French red wine to remind her of home. We cried together while the sun dipped below the horizon. Later that night, we cried some more while stargazing — but that was more from viewing the Milky Way in all its splendor and less because of the divorce.

Now, we’re back in Los Angeles trying to find her a lawyer. My connections will help, but I know that my sister and I sound and look different from most of the clients family lawyers see on a daily basis — which means we need to put in the extra effort to find the right lawyer. Plus, we need to find one back in New Mexico. Maybe more travel is in order?

Experiencing The Lunar New Year At The San Diego Zoo

Last month my friends and I took a train down to San Diego in anticipation of the lunar New Year festivities at the San Diego Zoo. We arrived at opening time and stayed all day. There were a number of rare events and we made memories we won’t soon forget. I’d advise anyone who has any interest in the environment and its wildlife to mark their calendars next year, because this was a once in a lifetime experience.

We visited the Asian Passage, where a zookeeper invited guests to write down a wildlife wish and hang it from their wall. There were dozens of kids in the area, crafting their own lantern designs to celebrate the Year of the Tiger.

Later, we were taught all about rare species, some in the zoo and some not. We learned interesting facts about red pandas, takin, and snow leopards. We had fun chatting with the zookeepers, who were there to answer the many questions we asked. We also visited the Tiger River to learn more about horticulture, which is the art of cultivating a garden. Who knew the “art” could be so complex?

We had previously reserved a 60-minute cart tour of the zoo with an expert guide. This ended up being the highlight of the trip. This is where you see all the animals you might expect, but learn more about them in person. It’s a popular tour, so the reservation is required.

The zoo also offered a “Flavors of Asia” feast, complete with egg rolls, pot stickers, and even a few unexpected treats. It turned out to be a filling lunch.

Last on the itinerary was meeting Bamboo Panda, a costumed worker who was there for photo opportunities. We photo bombed a bunch of teens who were only taking the picture to joke around with their friends. We made faces. They made faces. It was great fun. Will we do this again next year? Probably!

My First Trip To The Notorious “Plaza” Dive Bar

Recently, we raved about the many fun things to do, people to watch, and places to visit in Brea. This area of Los Angeles is busy because it’s centrally located. One place I never realized was there is the Plaza Nightclub at 739 N. La Brea Ave. Technically, it’s a gay bar but they’re very welcoming. Mes amies invited me to watch a drag show, which is a new activity for me. It was different. 

It costs a few bucks to enter the establishment, but that pays for the show. Once you’re inside with a few drinks in you, the money you wasted at the entrance hardly seems to matter. 

Also, I was told the performers aren’t your typical drag queens. You might find a different kind of show in West Hollywood, but the Plaza is where you want to be for the Latin flavor and frenetic dancing and music.

Los Angeles has always been known for its colorful variety of people, but this is the first time in a long time that I escaped my comfort zone and met people who are absolutely nothing like me. I’ve always adored my gay friends, but this is the first time I’ve really explored their culture and experienced what they do for fun. Could I do it every weekend? No. But it’s fun to relax and unwind and let loose, and do something different every once in a while.

It’s not all drag queens or crazy dancing. There were some more relaxed numbers throughout the night as well. We took advantage of the break to buy a new round of drinks or step outside for some air. 

My friends are already terrorizing me with the prospect of a weekly visit to a new gay club. They mentioned The Abbey (where I’ve been before), Fubar, The New Jalisco Bar, and Chico in Montebello. Each of them offer a new experience like drag, dance, music, and karaoke. And a visit to any means you’re almost certain to make new friends and meet dozens of new people, some who you’ll remember forever. 

Toward the end of the night, we landed in West Hollywood. I stayed over at a friend’s place. The next day we worked through the hangover with pizza, Netflix, and a Runyon Canyon hike. Later, we drove to a mostly empty beach and watched the waves crash. A couple was engaged as the sun went down! We took pictures of their big event (unbeknownst to them at the time), then exchanged emails so we could forward them. No matter where you go in LA, something is happening!

I took an Uber home late at night. After a long weekend of fun and festivity, it can be hard to settle back into a lonely apartment. Maybe I need a pet? I’ve been thinking about adopting a kitten and puppy for a while. I work from home, so why not? There’s no time like the present!

Shopping At The Grove In LA

One of my friends used to live near the Grove. That was how I was first introduced to the farmer’s market. There’s more to do, of course. There are fountain shows, statues, retail establishments from big brands like Nike, Apple, Michael Kors, Sephora, and more. There are restaurants. There are theaters. There are amazing holiday light shows. But if you’re like me, you come for the people. They’re what make places like these interesting.

I’ve always been a people watcher. Anyone who spends time with me knows how often I visit Venice Beach. They know how often I write stories for these individuals — not on paper, but out loud. “Oh look at that guy painted in bronze! He’s making money for to pay for little Johnny’s hospital bill after he broke both legs flying a kite. Adorable.” And “Oh, look at those teenagers skateboarding. You can see the FBI is after their parents for tax evasion.” Stuff like that.

The Grove is a great place for storytelling. Everyone is there for a reason. Trying new food? Finding a new look? Checking out the Grove Christmas Tree in December? It’s a special place to find whatever you’re looking for.

The location is in the Fairfax District and can be reached easily from the LA metro, nestled in between downtown and other famous locations like the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

The fountain was designed by WET, which is perhaps best known for devising the fountain show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. My friends and I usually visit the nearby farmer’s market, then use the trolley to catch the fountain show. We walk through a few shops and stop for brunch. The perfect day? It always involves a walk through the Grove and a mimosa. 

The area looks a little different because everyone is wearing a mask. But it’s still a place that speaks to me. Even with the masks, I feel free there. Like the rest of life is forgotten. It’s easier to live in the moment.

A Friend In Legal Trouble

A friend of mine was sued the other day. Why? We’re not entirely sure. She started a new business only five months back. We think an overzealous competitor decided to shoot a shot before she made it big — and she is definitely going to make it big! Thankfully, new legal connections give me the influence to help her find a qualified attorney.

She’s from NYC, so I contacted Woods Law for help.

My lawyer friends are busy investigating. They say it’s likely the other business owner was fishing for litigation. It’s like the business version of ambulance chasing, they told me. That’s when lawyers harass victims after an accident or natural disaster in order to find high-paying legal work. Sometimes business owners and their lawyers will engage in similar practices to take new players out of the game before they can dig in. 

My friend built her new business from the ashes of those lost to COVID — which means there was plenty of empty space to fill in NYC. So many people left!

NYC Mayor Eric Adams recently said, “Our small businesses have been through so much during the COVID-19 pandemic. The last thing they need to deal with are unnecessary fines. We’re cutting the red tape and bringing real relief to the entrepreneurs who have made their dreams a reality and keep our local economy strong.”

Then Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Spring said, “New York is open for business. Under Mayor Adams’ leadership, we’re going to drive real change that cuts red tape and allows small businesses across the five boroughs to power our economic recovery. I look forward to working with my colleagues across government to deliver on this mayoral priority.” 

What are they talking about? The “Small Business Forward” Executive Order. The goal of the order was reducing pointless fines and letting first time offenders off the hook. My friend was “caught” breaking a rule (she denies all wrong-doing), and somehow this other business swooped in to play the role of regulator. My lawyer friends say the other business owners and their lawyers were probably sending in spies to find a way to sue. They didn’t need to find something wrong. They needed to find something that looked wrong. Something plausible.

But even if it’s nothing, that could still tie up my friend in court for months or even years if the opposition is willing to expend the resources to see this through. And my friend can’t necessarily afford this. That’s how these people win. I would provide more legal details of what was supposedly “found” but that could put my friend in jeopardy. Rule number one during litigation is simple: don’t share details. So really, this is just me venting about the injustices in the world of business.

If I’m allowed to post more details later, I will. My friend is important to me! I want to see her do well. 

Stargazing At The Griffith Observatory

The girls and I needed time to reconnect with all the things we love. Sometimes the best way to do that is through meditation. Putting an abrupt halt to the day to day grind — especially during all the changes due to COVID — and stopping to put everything else in perspective can help calm the mind and relax the soul. At least that’s what I’ve found. We decided to go up to the Griffith Observatory for a night hike and stargazing during a moonless night.

Amy brought a flask. Do we condone public intoxication? Of course not. So we each took only a single shot and went on our merry way!

Night hiking can be a scary activity but we brought headlamps (and company). We took a break along the overlook near the observatory and looked out over the Los Angeles skyline. It’s been a while since we’ve done something like this together and it was exactly the kind of rejuvenation I needed. It’s sometimes difficult to consider the beauty in a place when you’re deep within it everyday. Looking in from outside makes it easier. 

When we had our fill, we returned to the observatory in the pitch black of night. We took in a planetarium show (the observatory was open late because of a weekend, but our host took extra time to show us the constellations outside). Amy brought out a box of coffee from Dunkin. She thinks of everything.

Jupiter and Venus were bright in the night sky. By the end of the night, we were discussing plans for our next camping trip. The next new moon is only a month away — and there are plenty of locations outside LA better for observing the night sky. None of us has ever seen the Milky Way with the naked eye. We decided this was what we wanted to do. We’re going to Joshua Tree!

Should I Move To Boston For Law School?

Mes amies, you all know my desire for change. We need new blood in politics, in all branches of government. I don’t plan to become a judge anytime soon (although technically it’s possible — there are no real qualifications other than education, even for Supreme Court justices!). I just want to become part of the system. I want to help people the system leaves behind. I want to be the type of lawyer who gives her time to those who need it most.

And I can’t think of a better place for that than Boston. Massachusetts is home to so many prestigious law schools! Harvard Law, Boston College Law, Boston University Law, New England School of Law, and Suffolk Law School. And truth be told, it might be time to experience a new environment. Los Angeles is surrounded by desert. Boston is bordered by rolling hills and mountains and green as far as the eye can see!

It would be a temporary move, of course. Although the desire to travel is strong, I’ve come to love my LA friends and family. 

I looked at the website’s profile today. I’ll leave it for posterity’s sake, but it’s amazing how much has changed. My English is so much better. My aspirations and goals have evolved. And I’m quite a few years older — but I won’t tell you exactly how many. You’ll just have to guess.

Truthfully, I still have that itch for fame. I don’t need wealth or prestige. I don’t want celebrity status anymore. All I want is to make a difference in the lives of those around me. I want to be famous — within my own chosen community. Will it happen? I think so.

The Omicron variant has me down in the dumps. It seems like everyone around me is getting sick. I’m working from home. My groceries are delivered. But they say this variant is as infectious as the measles, which is about the most infectious thing humans have ever contracted. Whether or not that’s true, I don’t know. All I know is I don’t want to be sick. I’ve had my two shots. I’m boosted. Is that enough?

Being stuck at home makes me want to travel even more. Will there be time to visit my home in Paris? I hope so. I’m worried for my friends and family abroad, especially after the deaths of my grandparents. Will they be okay?

Also, there might be a secret admirer in my life — so that’s exciting. There was a random bag of Death Wish coffee beans in a small box by my door. No note. The grocery delivery boy pointed it out. Granted, that could be a threat. Probably not. Everyone knows how much java calls to me! The coffee bean grinder and espresso machine in my apartment are about to get some use.

What I’ve Learned From TED Talks

My decision making classes don’t start until the New Year, so for now I’ve decided to work on improving myself using information readily available on the Internet. What’s the best way to do that? I think inspirational videos are actually the way to go. Bonne chance to me, right? Someone turned me onto TED Talks some time ago, and I’ve tried to watch one or two each day. Here are a few of my favorites (on topic).

Ruth Chang studies decision making for a living, so she knows a little bit about how to make the right ones. She suspects that we all understand that good decision making is steeped in rational thought. But she also believes that we’re insane if we believe that we only make decisions based on specific reasons. One of the reasons we have trouble making decisions is because we have so many options, many of which seem rational. It’s harder to decide when some decisions aren’t inherently “bad.” Of course, none of that stops some of us from making bad decisions.

In line with that is Barry Schwartz’s belief that we should figure out what our options are — and then limit them to just one or two. We’re only human, and so we like having a lot of options. But the truth is, we don’t need many. Have too many? More than likely, you’ll actually be less content as you go along. It’s more likely that you’ll fail to see a bad option in the mix.

According to Sheena Iyengar, we need objectivity before we can make a good decision about the options we have. For most people, objectivity just happens to be the biggest problem. The first step? Take those options one by one, and make a list of pros and cons. Try not to let our opinions on what would make us the happiest factor into the list. When we have the list, everything might be more likely to fall into place.

Making Life Choices When They Matter

I’ve been considering the future more than ever. When those who are close to you come close to death — and then pass away — it makes you rethink everything you’ve ever done. Did I waste time when I was younger? Did I make the right decisions? Do the decisions I made really matter? How can I make more of a difference? I don’t want kids. So how can I make sure I leave behind something else: a legacy?

The answer is easy. Making an impact to as many people as possible means that I’ve done all I can in life. But I’m still wondering how to make that impact.

Recently, I contacted a friend from an old law firm who I used to exchange information with often.  He came for a visit here once. We agreed that a hostile work environment isn’t a right fit for me. We also laughed when we discussed the irony of a hostile work environment resulting from providing legal help to clients who are suing due to…a hostile work environment. Sometimes those people are angry. Lawyers get splashed even when trying to help. They live with it and cope however they can.

Anyway, this has all been on my mind. I’ve been wondering and wondering, and leaving you all in suspense as to what I’ll do. I came up with something! …Decision making classes!

These classes specialize in specific subsets of skills, all of which have to do with improving decision making. For example, they will teach me to solve problems. I will learn to act as a leader. I will learn to reason, both with others and when exposed to the aforementioned problems. I will learn teamwork, time management, and organizational skills. In addition, I will learn the importance of intuition, emotional intelligence, and creativity.

Will these classes make a difference? I have no idea! But I’m hoping they leave me with more confidence.

When I look down that list, I think my biggest problem is organizing my own thoughts and ideas, and then reasoning out which are the ones to turn into action versus which ones should be filed away into the deeper recesses of my mind. We should all be more informed about the decisions we make. That means researching every possible contingency about the things we wish to do in life, and then making a decision. We can use new information to adapt to the decisions already made, but for the most part we need to stick to the decisions we’ve already made.

I think it will feel weird learning about intuition and creativity in a classroom setting — or at least one that has nothing to do with writing — but I’m willing to give it a try. Not knowing what to do is exhausting. This is especially true after the last year of hell. Mes amis, I wish you all the best. Hopefully you’re making better decisions, and faster decisions, than I have!

The Best Way To Write Home

Because the past few months have been so difficult, I’ve started to make pen pals of my own parents. Mes amis, sometimes the best way to write home is the oldest. It can be fun to receive an email. But more often receiving a physical letter is much more special! The best way is to simply send a letter without letting the recipient know they should expect it. My parents were supremely delighted.

Of course, they admitted to having a near heart attack when they first received an envelope with my handwriting and return address. “Your father put his head in his hands right away,” my mom wrote back. “‘She’s pregnant,’” he said. It was only a half-joke they acknowledged. They knew that my grandparents’ deaths hit me hard and that I’ve been living in a dark place. It was even harder for them. They know I’m still young and like to go out and hit the town for some fun. They know I take pride in my independence being single. I’m not the type to let some guy I barely know impregnate me, though. 

Mom wrote that she was much more optimistic: “Maybe you eloped up in the LA mountains on a beautiful moonlit night. Or on the beach!” 

These are translations of course. My parents don’t write in English, even though they can speak it well enough.

This has become an odd new tradition. My parents paid it forward to my still-living grandparents on my mother’s side, and they were pleased as well. We all agreed that we could use a more formal method of correspondence nowadays. Especially when some of us are too far away to travel back home — or when we don’t have the option at all because of COVID restrictions.

That’s my challenge to you! Pick up a pen and put it to paper. Write your loved ones. Or even write yourself. It can be cathartic to say things to people in a letter — even if you never send the letter!