An Afternoon With U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor

Last week I went to see United States Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor speak at a local event. Fresh from swearing in Vice-President Joe Biden, Sotomayor has been on tour promoting the publication of her memoir, My Beloved World.  She was being interviewed by actor and political activist Eva Longoria. The duo made an unlikely match but as the interview began everyone in the 1800 seat sold-out theatre was drawn into an intimate conversation on the Justice’s thoughts on family, law and adversity.

The conversation ranged broadly among these topics, and Sotomayor was well versed to speak to all of them.  As the first ever Latina, and only the third woman to be appointed to the highest court in the country, she has overcome many challenges in her life, including losing her father to alcoholism when she was 9,  and contracting juvenile diabetes as a child, and being the first in her family to attend college. Throughout the interview I was stuck by how personable she was, even though she is a Supreme Court Justice. For someone like me–a Latina, the first one in my family to graduate from college, and a lawyer–it was inspiring to hear her insightful words, and learn from her experience.

When someone from the audience asked her what advice she could give to others about being a trailblazer, she responded, “Take other people with you.” She explained that occasionally she will invite her mother to accompany her to events but her mother sometimes refuses to go because she’s afraid she won’t fit in. She will tell her that’s fine, they’ll go anyway and not fit in together. I love that even a US Supreme Court Justice can feel a bit like a fish out of water, just like so many of us. I think it’s especially true for those of us living in two cultures.

Sotomayor also spoke candidly about her relationship with her mother, and how she sometimes felt abandoned by a mother who had to raised her daughter as a single mother.  She spoke about the difficulty she had writing this memoir, but how it became a vehicle for her to repair the relationship with her mother and forgive her for her mother’s detachment.  I was so inspired to hear that even now, as a grown woman, a “wise Latina woman,” she is still every bit a daughter to her mother. She realized, as we all do, that our parents aren’t perfect but that she has come to appreciate how far her mother had to travel to get to be where she is and support her daughters’ rise to the bench.  It gave me hope that my children, who by now realize how imperfect I am, will come to know and appreciate my efforts to support them in their lives.

Sotomayor told of her experience in writing her memoir, and how she was able to learn more of her parents’ story.  She explained that through her  genealogy research she learned where her father came from, and she learned of the love story between her parents. She told us that writing her memoir caused her to listen to family stories from a 97 year-old uncle and encouraged us to listen to our own family members tell their stories, even if we’ve heard the stories before. Instead of tuning out. she encouraged us to listen, and ask, “Why?” We may be surprised by the answers. This was inspiring to me because one of my fondest memories I have is talking to my 97 year-old grandmother about her story before she died, and chronicling some of my family’s history on this blog.

Perhaps the most moving part of the afternoon’s conversation was not just in the words Sotomayor spoke, but the way her words were received. The audience was diverse. There were people of all ages, ethnicity, and professions.  My husband Juan was also there, and so was a dear friend of mine, who is also a Latina attorney. My friend is also diabetic and has been dealing with the challenges of this disease for nearly 25 years. As my friend listened to Sotomayor speak, she was moved to tears.  As a justice on Supreme Court, it would seem natural for Sotomayor to be removed and detached, but Sotomayor has such a warm presence, that she made my friend and I both feel like she could a family member. It was awesome and I was so glad to experience such a moving afternoon. I can’t wait to experience more of her story when I read her book.




Freak Out Friday

I called in sick from work today. It’s not that I don’t have anything going on at work. I have stacks of files to review, affidavits to draft. I just needed a day off from the usual. I hope my boss, who sometimes reads my blog, will understand. (Hi Jane!)  I had every intention of going into the office and plowing through my work. I rose at my usual 6:00 a.m, rallied the troops, packed lunches, and while I took my shower I started going through my mental checklist of Things to Do Today and Things to Do This Weekend. That is when I became aware that the one thing that I needed on my list was missing.

1. Take Care of Yourself

My eyes began to water and it occurred to me that it wasn’t shampoo in my eyes. I was wrung out. For the last few months I have been running. Summer whizzed by without me breaking my pace. I tried to carve out some time now and then, but often I would feel panicked when I slowed down, thinking of everything else I should be doing.  Today, when faced with another round of endless tasks, I lost it. That is when I realized I needed to stop. The kids are in school. Juan is at the office. The dirty breakfast dishes are in the sink and the clean laundry is in the dryer. Unfolded. Wrinkling as I write.

I decided right then–mid-shower– that I needed a mental health day. I checked in with my office. Dropped Diego at school and headed out. I know that if I go home there will be no relaxing for me. Too many unmade beds and scattered toys to ignore. So here I am. I am at a cafe lingering over breakfast and a pot of tea.  I left the house with my laptop, my gym clothes and a spa gift certificate I received on Mother’s Day. (Yes, Mothers Day.) I don’t know if I will actually make it to the gym, or if I will be able to get to the spa since I don’t have an appointment, but it doesn’t matter. I have the whole day to do what I want. Shop. Go out to lunch. Blog. Whatever. The most important thing is that I doing the number one thing on my list of Things to Do Today.

1. Take Care of Yourself.

Check. Got that.

A breakfast time-out for me and my blog.

Are you taking time out to take care of yourself? How do you manage to balance your life?

Random Saturday

It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I am having a hard time finding the time and energy to post on my blog. My last post was a photo I took on a rare lunch time outing during my work week. Juan and I took some time during the noon hour to eat lunch together and on our walk through downtown LA, I saw this, so I took a picture and declared it a Wordless Wednesday post. Juan likes to call it “Cop-out Wednesday.” Yeah, get your own blog.

Without much time to write a new post, or finish those drafts I have in the queue, here’s a random recap of my week:

Diego very proudly shared with me that he caught a ball during the recess game of kick ball. He was thrilled! He was playing 2nd base and saw the pink rubber ball sailing through the air directly at him. He put his arms out, positioned himself and caught the ball! It was the first time he caught a fly ball. He beamed with pride as his friends congratulated him!

Another proud moment yesterday when we got news that Nico, so far, has been accepted to two of the three high schools he’s applied for! Erica was also accepted into one of her choices. Both of them are still waiting to hear from a third high school and their top choices. We should learn about those later today….

While I am talking about proud moments in my family’s life, Olivia and her debate partner went undefeated in last weekend’s debate tournament. The topic? Birthright citizenship. Her next stop? State qualifiers.

I had my own proud moment and moment of relief earlier last week when I learned that my score from that damn exam was high enough to place me in the top band of test takers, making me eligible for a promotion. It was bittersweet news though, since this week my office promoted people from the list and I wasn’t one of them. Ah well, I am still in the running for future promotions.

Work, church and now the boys playing baseball, promise to keep my life incredibly busy for the next few months. So, I took advantage of a lull in my schedule last weekend and Juan, Diego and I drove to San Jose to visit some of my extended family for a birthday celebration of a much loved uncle. It was so much fun re-connecting with all my cousins, even if we were together for just one afternoon. It reminded me to re-commit myself to writing more of my family history to include on this blog. Sigh.

Primas, primas, primas!

As I write this I hear the pitter patter of Diego waking up and coming down the hall to climb into bed with me. I also hear Molly running alongside her and know I have to brace myself against Molly jumping on my bed, and licking me. I guess my morning reprieve is about over, and I’ll have to start my day. But first I want to give a shout out to the Thunder Shirt. It’s a miracle! We discovered in on the Sky Mall during our flight to Las Vegas and we bought one. The first time we put it on Molly she acted like she was drugged. She was calm, sedate and happy. She didn’t jump on me when I came through the door and didn’t bark at our neighbors as they walked past our front yard. She’s a different dog, and much easier to love. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like she should wear it 24/7 so she doesn’t sleep with it and her morning greetings to me are just as, ahem, energetic as ever. I guess she’s trying to tell me I should be getting up to start my day. She’s right. A double dose of baseball, a birthday party, and a church retreat await me. Happy Saturday!

 Happy Saturday!




Law and Order – First Grade

Today I went to speak to Diego’s class for, wait for it…Career Day! Who knew that first graders needed to start thinking about careers now? Well, to be fair, they are doing a unit on different workers in the community, so the teacher asked for parents to come in and talk about their jobs. Initially, I did not offer to share about my job because, well, I am a lawyer. There doesn’t seem much to say about that, especially when two other parents are sharing about their interesting careers–as a biologist, and a fashion apparel designer. Anyway, I volunteer to read to the class for 40 minutes every Tuesday during my lunch hour. The teacher knew I was scheduled to come in so she asked if I could stay a little longer and talk about my job. How could I say no, especially when Diego was so excited for me to be there?

The more I thought about it, the better I felt about it. I have been in front of judges and juries before, but a classroom full of first graders? Should be a piece of cake. I thought how I would explain to them what a prosecutor does,  and I was able to get a few coloring pages with the different people in a court room. I brought in pencils with my office seal on them, and I showed the kids my badge. That really impressed them. But, they really impressed me. I was so surprised at how much they understood about the legal system at their young age. I decided to do a little criminal hypothetical and made up a story about someone stealing candy. When I asked them how we could prove that someone stole the candy, one little boy said the police should bring in the video from the security camera. Another enthusiastic student shouted out that someone who saw the crime could be a witness. I asked them what a witness needed to do when they went to court, they all seemed to understand that a witness needed to tell the truth. Then, they proceeded to raise their right hands as if to swear an oath. I think they all must watch a lot of Law and Order. Wrapping up my criminal hypothetical I asked if they knew who determined whether a person was guilty or not. One little girl raised her hand and said, “Yes. My mommy decides. She was on jury duty.”