September 16, 2014
When will my sons stop asking me to sing lullabies? When will they stop asking Mark to sing to them too? A time will come that they will no longer crave our songs, right? Singing to them is heaven. They start audibly relaxing the moment we start singing. I love the feeling when we are done. The residual vibration of the music when we are finished gives me a profound sense of contentment and satiation. I don't want these times to end.
August 11, 2014
Once again too much time has gone by since I have written and posted. We've had so many experiences in the last few months. Our lives have hit a great groove in the last year. Everyone is growing and thriving. We are all happy and healthy and you can't ask for more than that. Mark is half way done with law school. His work at the hospital is great, he is working most days in West Los Angeles, which means we see him even more. Hopefully, this will continue when school starts, though we are not optimistic.
Jonas is entering seventh grade. Gabo is joining him in sixth grade this year. School starts on the 19th of August, which is also the anniversary of their step-mother's death. It's been a fast year with so much activity. We had a brief scare this spring, when Jefferson was admitted into the hospital with pancreatitis and then had to have surgery to have his gal bladder removed. At least he had a sense of humor about it all. Thankfully, he has recovered 100%.
In the meantime, Coco visited, Opa visited, we rode horses weekly, we celebrated my birthday, Jovana won the green card lottery and then her card, we traveled to Big Bear, celebrated anniversaries, and traveled to Chincoteague. Life is full - and by full I mean, it has ups and DOWNS. No life is flawless and perfect and ours is no exception. We know we love each other and are always striving to be the best version of ourselves, even when we sometimes fall short. When we do, we return to our habit of trying to squeeze as much joy out of life as possible.
Memorial Day Weekend in Big Bear
Gabo's first Fish
I am not sure where the summer went. Boys start school next week. I don't feel like we had enough beach time here in Santa Monica. We'll have to make it up through September.
February 20, 2014
I gave a speech on eliminating bias to the Long Beach Bar Association before the holidays. After that, a American Bar Association representative asked me to present to them. I did it today and it went really well.
In other news, a motion I wrote was called brilliant by a lawyer I respect very much. A good week.
February 07, 2014
Ok, I cried. I admit it. Not in court, but on the way down the escalator, quietly, behind my sunglasses, as I left the federal courthouse.
I have been working on a federal case for two years. Today was sentencing. The client was originally looking at a mandatory minimum of ten years. The judge came out and in his indicated sentence (a kind of pre-oral argument sentence) stated that after reading my pre-sentencing memo (a document I spent a lot of time on) he was (a) granting my client safety valve status in opposition to the government's position because he felt my arguments about why my client should be granted SV status was compelling and (b) that he was swayed by my argument for mitigation. End of story is that he gave my client 4.2 years and a recommendation for drug counseling, which will result in my client being incarcerated for about another six months, because he's already been in for two years, and then being moved to a half-way house for drug treatment program.
I cannot tell you how hard I worked on this case. This result is fantastic. I was orbiting the earth for a good two hours after.
Then On Tuesday:
Case DISMISSED on my second court appearance for this new case. I met with the DA last week to go over the flaws in their case. Tuesday, she dismissed explaining to the judge that the hurdle to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that my client committed this crime was too great and in the interest of justice she was dismissing. YUP! That's right!!! SOOOOOOOOO HAPPY! And of course the client is out of his mind relieved.
The whole week wasn't like this, I had a disappointment yesterday when a demurrer was denied, but that's ok. I gave it my best and sometimes politics win over law. Even in defeat, I feel happy. I love my job and I am good at it, which is even better.
January 30, 2014
Funny how things work. Over Christmas break I took Jovana and the boys riding in the Malibu mountains. We had a great time. We talked about wanting to ride more, and the need for the boys to take lessons so they can really learn to ride and feel comfortable. My feeling is that riding is a something the boys can do their whole lives and that it is a skill upon which they can build each time they go. We've been riding through the jungle in Costa Rica, it's something I would always want to do with them on vacations.
However, lessons are $75 an hour per person here in Southern California. I figured I would do it one lesson at a time as a treat, slowly building on their skills.
Within two weeks of our Malibu ride, we were presented with an opportunity to ride every week, get private lessons, and enjoy an experience unique and educational in more ways than one. I was introduced to a man who - with his brother - trains horses for the Mexican rodeo. They keep their horses in Los Angeles - in a residential neighborhood that used to be entirely farms and orchards.
The neighborhood, Avocado Heights, was first settled by the Spaniards so it has deep Spanish-Mexican roots; today it is a predominately Mexican neighborhood. Being at "the ranch" is like being back in Mexico with all of the color and rich traditions.
As development occurred, the houses that were put in maintained the equine and farming nature. One house after another in this suburb was built with huge deep yards that allowed for stables, round pens for training and stalls and coops for all kinds of other animals.
We have been welcomed warmly by all the vaqueros (Mexican cowboys) who keep their horses at the "ranch" where we get our lessons. The boys are learning to muck stalls, wash the horses, and ride. They are being exposed to a culture and a lifestyle that they never would have experienced by staying on the Westside for lessons.
The park behind the "ranch" has basketball courts, playgrounds, and a riding ring. We are told that in the summer the park is filled with families picnicking, ponies pulling carts and music. We are looking forward to participating and to going to the rodeos.
Vicente, our teacher, has made mastering riding very appealing to the boys (as if they need any more encouragement). He told them in a month or two they will be good enough to take on the trails behind the house, which is about a two hour ride.
Jonas's first gallop. He loved it.
January 08, 2014
New Year's Week - Life As it Should Be
The Boys returned to me and we had a huge, super fun, New Year's Eve party. It was great fun and took everyone two days to recover. We spent the rest of the week chilling out together, going to laser tag and horseback riding.
Horseback riding in the Santa Monica Mountains over Malibu New Year's week.
Amani's Christmas visit
I don't celebrate Christmas, so I have always let Jefferson have the kids for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I would either get them back the evening of Christmas Day or the morning after so Jefferson, Emily, and the kids could celebrate it together. It wasn't hard to do. I didn't realize how reconnecting with the boys, the day after, on Christmas week meant.
This year, it was hard for me. It took my by surprise. Because the girls, naturally, live with their father and spent it with him, Jefferson was facing his first Christmas without Emily and the girls. He opted to take the boys to Santa Fe for the week to visit friends and ski. I didn't think anything of it. I knew I'd have them the entire next week. It took me by surprise how hard it was to have them gone the entire week while all the families around me were celebrating together all-week-long.
The week was made easier by Amani's visit and having my Macedonian daughter around. We had lots of mini-adventures, including a trip up the California coast to Camberia, one of my favorite spots. I had a fun week, but from time to time I would have a deep pain in my heart - I even had brief cries a few times. I think now that I am used to it and prepared, next year will be easier. It just surprised me that the boys being away impacted me at all. This is still a process I guess.
Thankfully, the girls, my girls, enthusiasm for everything Mark and I did with them made it a cozy time. We went out to my favorite, Indian, for Christmas eve, we went on hikes, we went bike riding by the beach, we watched movies, we took a road trip and ate A LOT.
January 07, 2014
Holland and France in November
Mark and I went to Holland and France over Thanksgiving week because Jefferson had the boys in Florida. As you know, I still hate celebrating the holidays without my boys- nothing is more depressing than being invited to a friend's house with their family and kids to celebrate Thanksgiving. I am not sure I'll ever feel comfortable doing that, so I use the absence of children as an excuse to do something totally unholiday related.
My Aunt died at the end of July and I wasn't able to go to the funeral because Emily was dying then and I didn't want to leave the boys for any amount of time, in case she died. I wanted to be around for them. I had been told anyway that most people show up to support the survivors right away and then return to their lives quickly, so showing up for the survivors later is very helpful as the reality of the death sets in. The timing of our visit for Jan was perfect. We were a welcome distraction and an excuse to go through family photographs for Jan.
Jan and his wife, Kartrijn, were married for a long time. They have a wonderful close family and spent their free time traveling. My cousins all have children now - it was terrific to reconnect with them and meet the kids.
We spent a few days with Jan and his family, which was great cozy fun, then took the high speed train to Paris for two days. We powered through Paris - walking everywhere.
We only visited one museum, Rodin (a must for me) because we wanted to cover as much of Paris in broad strokes on our visit and didn't want to lose time wandering museum halls. That's for the next visit.
We trained home, spent a few more days with Jan, then spent the night in Amsterdam, which is only twenty minutes for Jan, but we wanted to have the luxury of time to enjoy the city for two full days. We returned to Jan, spent more time with the family, and finished out our visit with him before flying home.
Jan is very much like my father. He is the same kind of cozy funny man. We had a wonderful time together. I envy his family. Two of his kids live a 20 minute bike ride away from him with their families, the other daughter lives only an hour and a half away. They all see each other every week and are very connected. The siblings are close - and accept each other's idiosyncrasies with great humor, always keeping their eye on the goal of staying connected and supportive.
When we first mentioned heading to Paris, my cousins all thought we were nuts. Mark and I couldn't understand it. It's only a three hour train ride. What we came to realize is that because Holland is so small distance and travel time is relative. We, Californians, think nothing of driving five hours to San Francisco for a long weekend. We drive to Mammoth or Yosemite or Big Bear without a second thought. So to us, a three hour train ride across the European countryside was a breeze and WELL worth the tiny amount of time required to get there.
When we exited the train station - I won't pretend to be cool - we stood in the twinkling lights of the chilly Paris night and looked at each other - thrilled and in awe that we were there together.
The time with Jan and his family was special. We shared birthday celebrations and many meals. One of our favorites was the last, in the base of a windmill, in a lovely Indonesian restaurant in Alphen.
The entire trip was terrific. I had very high expectations and fantasies about the trip - and it matched them all. I feel very lucky. It was one of those trips - the rare perfect experience.
November 21, 2013
One of the Last Times
Last night, a very tired unnamed 5'3" eleven year old was falling asleep in his mother's bed, after a cozy evening together, and asked to be carried to his bed. Said mother, through sheer will and recognition this was likely the last time she'd ever be able to lift the-fastest-growing-boy again, carried the boy, legs dangling, head snuggled into her neck, to bed and tucked him in.
November 19, 2013
Three Years Ago Today
Three years ago today, I passed the California bar exam. On the one hand, it feels like yesterday. On the other, it seems a million years ago.
I will never forget driving on Ocean Park Blvd that evening, when Jovana and the boys called screaming and cheering to tell me the results, and Mark greeting me on the front walk of the house to wrap his arms around my relieved and sobbing body. I had been through so much and worked so hard.
I am a lawyer.
November 17, 2013
Gabo's 10th Camp Half-Blood Birthday Party
Yesterday we threw Gabo's Percy Jackson, Camp Half-Blood Party at Temescal. I hardly took any pictures because we were relaxing. The kids had a ball. The kids disappeared into the woods to play the most intense game of capture the flag I have ever seen. They emerged only to eat and depart the party, faces flushed and full of joy.
We were a little off our game as it related to attendees because of the damn soccer schedules we all have. Next year we're going to throw the party on a Sunday. Something, that quite honestly, would not have been possible before. Much to Gabo's thrill, Jefferson agreed to come to the party this year -something Gabo had never previously requested. Jefferson brought Jill so the kids could hang out together and enjoy some together time.
Gabo helped me design the shirts we had made for the special occasion. He loved greet each guest with their own shirt. One boy in particular, well, his smile made my day, he was so thrilled to have a Camp Half-Blood shirt.
Gabo thanked me repeatedly for the day and told me at least three times that this was the best party he'd ever had in "whole life."
I made a small spread, and hired Juan's mother to make homemade tamales for lunch. The kids chowed down. Jefferson brought cookies made by Emily's best friend, from a recipe Emily used to use, so everyone participated.
November 09, 2013
My marriage ended six years ago on November 9th. It used to be such a painful day. After all these years of living a life, shaped by me,the pain drained away. Now it's just a day, a footnote with no emotional weight.
As the day came and went, I was struck by how our roles reversed. A day that used to bring me pain, and was probably celebrated by them as the mark of the beginning of their new lives, now means nothing to me and probably brought him a tremendous amount of pain. I felt for him. It's been a painful Fall. His first birthday without her, his first Halloween, his first November 9th without her, soon it will be his first Thanksgiving, and first Christmas. I do not wish that pain on anyone.
It is stunning -if you really think about it - this turn of events.
November 06, 2013
The backyard is still open
A while back, I decided that I wanted to shake up our backyard parties. Cut out the dead wood and bring in some new life. I wanted to carefully shape the people with whom I spent my time. Our lives move forward, we enter new times, and Mark and I have succeeded in creating the kind of energy in which we feel relaxed and thrive.
This night, we had a Middle Eastern feast. I made half of it and our Iranian friend brought the other half. Delish. I ate too much and it was so worth it.
November 03, 2013
Italy with Francesca
In September, Francesca and I met in Rome together. We went to Italy sans children, sans hommes for ten days. We spent two days in Rome exploring and then met up with some women for Francesca's yoga retreat, we took the train to Napoli, then hit the Amalfi coast. We spent three days at a winery, then wound our way to the port to take us to Capri. We spent three days in Anacapri, back to Napoli, a quick stop in Rome and home again.
I have a thousand pictures and have been spoiled by the ease with which I can upload them on Facebook, so I resent the work it takes here.
Francesca and I had a great time together and relished being with someone who understands our deep loathing of overhead lights and the sound of fans in the bathroom and in the kitchen. Is this genetic?
We shopped, laughed a million times, hiked, got irritated with each other, laughed more, and ate and drank and ate and drank again. She tolerated my detour into the ancient synagogue in Rome, I complied with her desire to have Limoncello and (gag) grapa. Those Italians sure know how to live. We power shopped in sync everywhere we went.
You can imagine how many more pictures there are and how glorious the trip was. I have to find a way to upload pictures more easily.
September 18, 2013
One foot in front of the other
The truth is, I sat in my car before walking back into the courthouse this morning, and had to order myself to be brave because yesterday was so horrible. Yesterday was one of those days when you want more than anything to be struck by a sudden seizure so you don't have to go on and and have to fight with yourself not to turn around and walk out of the courtroom door never to return again. It was that bad.
I had to remind myself of the terror I felt before walking in of the third and final day of the bar after the previous day had crushed me -and that I passed. I had to talk to myself the entire walk to the courthouse. One foot in front of the other.
Last night I worked my ass off on my argument to dismiss after the preliminary hearing. I argued my client's case this morning and when I was done, the judge dismissed one of the most serious charges against my client based, in part, on my cross examination of that issue with the lying liar of a 92 year old. The judge also indicated to the district attorney, whom I really like, that she thought that in a trial where the standard is much higher, there was some real doubt as to what happened, but because her standard is only probably cause, she is going to hold the client over to answer. The judge was nudging the DA to make a deal that is worth our while to take it.
Then, and here is the best part for me, personally, she asked to speak to both counsel up at the bench. They took my client out of the courtroom as the DA and I approached. We stood in front of her bench, looking up at her. She looked at me and said, "Ms. ter Poorten, I could see how hard you were on yourself after yesterday. I think all of the blood had drained from your face [it's true, even my lips lost their color]. Mrs. W was a really hard witness and even the most experienced lawyers would have struggled with her. Isn't the true Mr. DA? Even you struggled with her and she was YOUR witness. So, Ms. ter Poorten, I want you to hear me, you should not give yourself a hard time about yesterday. I just want you to know that."
Words cannot describe the gratitude I have for the generosity of spirit that judge demonstrated. She has no idea the gift she gave me -or maybe she does.