Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The reason I love tort law.

A few years back the Southern Poverty Law Center won a tort case that had the effect of bankrupting the Aryan Nation in northern Idaho.

The case stemmed from a July 1998 attack when security guards at the Aryan Nations compound in Idaho shot at Victoria Keenan and her son after their car backfired nearby. The Keenans were returning from a wedding and stopped briefly near the compound to look for a wallet that had fallen out the car. Bullets struck their car several times before the car crashed and Aryan members held the Keenans at gunpoint.

As a result of the judgement, Richard Butler, the Aryan Nation leader, turned over the 20-acre compound to the Keenans who then sold the property to a philanthropist that subsequently donated it to North Idaho College, which designated the land as a "peace park."

Ever since that case, I have been completely inspired by the difference that can be made by using normal avenues of law to achieve extraordinary results. A normal tort case caused the Aryan Nation in Northern Idaho to disband. Beautiful. Simple and beautiful.

Today in the news, there was a story about another tort claim verdict that hopefully will cause another hate group to go out of existence. Today is a good day.

Marine’s Dad Gets $11M for Funeral Picketing

Posted 2 hours, 50 minutes ago By Martha Neil

In a verdict that is sure to catch the attention of First Amendment advocates, a federal jury in Baltimore has awarded $2.9 million in compensatory damages and $8 million in punitive damages to a father of a fallen Marine whose funeral was picketed by members of a fringe Kansas church.

The jury found that the Westboro Baptist Church and three leaders invaded the father's privacy and intentionally inflicted emotional distress by picketing the March 2006 funeral of Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder, who died in Iraq, reports the Associated Press.

"The church members testified they are following their religious beliefs by spreading the message that the deaths of soldiers are due to the nation's tolerance of homosexuality," the news agency explains. Their protest of Snyder's funeral included a sign stating "Thank God for dead soldiers," according to the Baltimore Sun.

The amount of damages awarded "far exceeds the net worth of the defendants," says U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett, who presided at the trial.

It is also "an awful lot of money for compensatory damages," Mark Graber, a University of Maryland law professor, tells the newspaper. "This was in a public space. While the actions are reprehensible, the First Amendment protects a lot that's reprehensible."

Nearly half of the states in the country, at least, have enacted or proposed laws to limit funeral protests, in reaction to such shock tactics. Although they raise obvious First Amendment issues, it appears that their content-neutral restrictions limiting protests within, for example, 100 to 500 feet of the entrance to a cemetery may pass constitutional muster, according to a New York Times article published last year.

A funeral home, for instance, "seems high on the list of places where people legitimately could be or should be protected from unwanted messages," Michael Dorf, a Columbia Law School professor, told the Times.

As the judge saw it in this case, the conflict between the First Amendment rights of free speech and religious expression and the family's right to privacy is decided by a balancing test, the Sun reports. "You must balance the defendants' expression of religious belief with another citizen's right to privacy," he instructed jurors yesterday.

Monday, October 22, 2007

First she makes me crazy; then, she makes me proud.

Last Wednesday evening, when I got home, Marlo had already left for cheer practice. I looked around the house. Usually, there are a certain amount of "Marlo droppings" here and there: her shoes, her backpack, the hairspray left on the bathroom counter. This was another matter entirely. It looked like a bomb went off in the house.

I also received Marlo's progress report. Let's just say that one of her grades were less than stellar (although the rest were very good.) I was really upset. Unfortunately, Marlo was out so I really couldn't let her have it. So, I took every single item of hers that was in the living room and piled it on the floor of her room. (For all of you gasping about how horrible of a mother I am, understand that my first inclination was to put her stuff out on the back porch.)

When I picked up Marlo from cheer, I told her that if she didn't get her grade up by Friday and if her room wasn't pristine, she wasn't going to go to the Homecoming dance on Saturday. So, Marlo busts her butt getting her grade up, but doesn't manage having her teacher notify me that her grade was raised. She didn't tell him that I needed an email from him until 2:30 on Friday. He told her, "I don't email parents, I only respond to their emails." She doesn't bother calling or emailing me immediately ("You took my cell phone" was her excuse - not like every other teenager in that school doesn't have a phone). By the time she tells me, it is 4:30 p.m. on Friday. I told her that it was unlikely that her teacher would respond to my email after school hours. She responded, "I told him you needed to know by tomorrow for Homecoming." I replied, "Marlo, your personal tragedy is not your teacher's problem." Needless to say, I didn't get a response from the teacher.

I hate it when she puts me in positions like this - why can't she just behave and I can just live my life without being a hard-ass? Is that so difficult? I stuck to my guns all afternoon on Friday and up to halftime of the Homecoming game. Marlo was out on the track cheering, but every time she came to the sidelines or saw me, she started crying. I had given her a stack of my business cards and she passed them out to every teacher she could find, plus the principal, asking them to contact her teacher so he'd respond to my email. I kept telling myself, "Keep a backbone. Keep a backbone. College is more important than a Homecoming dance." After halftime, Marlo came up and sat next to me, tearing up, of course. She says, "Isn't there anything else I can do?" (Ugh, rip heart out here.)

I said, "Look Marlo, I can't help it that you go to one of the few school districts in the state that doesn't have the ability for parents to look up grades online. I hate being blindsided and getting a progress report telling me that you're failing. You told me that you were all caught up." She said, "Oh! You can get online to look at my grades now!" (This is what happens when school districts rely on teenagers to convey information to parents. You think after all these years, they would figure out that it doesn't work.) So, I made a deal. If she could find out how to get me online, she could go to the dance, pending other punishment for lying to me about her grade. (I'll be doing a whole separate post about Homecoming itself.)

For all of you thinking that my daughter is an ogre, next is the part about where I end up proud of her. Yesterday, I was in the law school library finishing my Motion in Limine and had the following IM conversation with Marlo (I've edited out irrelevant parts):

Roxanne says:
Jamie said you wanted to have John over. My problem with that is that is the punishment I'm considering for you lying to me about having your work caught up. I am still very upset and angry that I keep having to go through this again and again and again. It is supremely frustrating.
Mae says:
I agree can i make a suggestion to punishment? that i am in charge of keeping the house clean for a month and if that doesn't work then take john away. that includes doing all laundry dishes livingroom and kitty litter
Roxanne says:
I don't think you really get the impact on me. I don't sleep, my neck and back feel like they are on fire from the stress. I'm really exhausted and the stress of feeling like you are going to end up being a checker at Safeway is overwhelming to me.
Mae says:
lol trust me i do not see myself futhering my checking career
Roxanne says:
I don't know how to have you understand how critical your grades are.
Mae says:
i do understand but i just get really tired and lazy
Roxanne says:
if you can't get into Western or Central, then your college education will cost me $90,000 more than it should. Which means I have to put off being an international human rights lawyer even longer. I don't think that is fair. I mean, do you want people to continue to be tortured by their governments longer because you're lazy? I have a chance to do something important with my life, and you are going to prevent me from being able to do that. And I'll die having accomplished nothing - a daughter with crummy grades who works retail and chews gum with her mouth open, and having never worked in human rights.
Mae says:
i understand. thats why i didn't tell u about my F and was just trying to handel it myself
Roxanne says:
You are ruining the ONLY TWO REASONS I did this in the first place. (1) your college and (2) working in human rights. I don't need you to lie to me. What I need is for you to handle things in the first place.
Mae says:
I have been focusing on my grades a lot more this year and now i'm almost all caught up in bio so it will be like a fresh start for me. U focus on school. i want you to be a lawyer because it makes u happy. Next time i start to fall behind in a class i will communicate with you
Roxanne says:
You were never caught up after your illness. I asked you specifically and you lied to me.
Mae says:
i understand that and i told u what i think would make a difference. i need to work on being more responsible and i think knowing what you have to do plus school would help. like having to clean up after me and all that stuff
Roxanne says:
Ok. If you think you need to work on being responsible, then I am willing to accept your counter offer of punishment. That you keep the house clean from now until the Sunday after thanksgiving. With the agreement that if I have to nag you or you don't do it, that I will impose the punishment of not seeing John. Do you agree?
Mae says:
yes i agree
Roxanne says:
thank you for handling the house.

So, you can see why I ended up being proud of her after all. She really is a good kid. She works hard at her job - her boss loves her; she is a leader on her cheer squad; and overall she gets decent grades. She just needs to work on consistency. And I need to work on remaining calm and trusting that she will turn out to be a healthy and productive adult.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Requiring English from more than immigrants.

For the past year or so in the news there have been stories about people/communities wanting English to be the declared national language of the United States and to require all immigrants to speak English. I'm wondering how we can require this of immigrants when we have an entire home-grown industry filled with non-English speakers.

I am specifically referring to the computer / technology industry. These people cannot speak English. I am so frustrated right now that if I could punch a few computer programmers or technicians and still be admitted to the bar, I would do it.

On the one hand, I do understand people's desire to have immigrants learn English - if only as a way of expressing their commitment to joining our community. However, having to stretch one's brain a little bit to speak with someone whose English is less than stellar doesn't really do one any harm - and might even do one some good if one learns a bit of patience and understanding along the way.

However, I cannot say the same for having to resolve computer issues. I am fairly certain that a stress-related heart attack is just around the corner if I have to deal with much more of this. I don't think that computer techs are due the same amount of patience, sympathy or empathy as non-English speaking immigrants. How hard could it possibly be to speak to a customer on a level they can understand? This would be like me, as an attorney, speaking to my clients like I would a colleague. Can the computer techs just not grasp the concept that all of us don't speak their language? After all, that is why *they* are the experts and I am coming to them for help. If I understood it all already, I wouldn't need them.

I had a problem with Windows not installing updates for three different items. I emailed Microsoft to get help with resolving the issues and have been working on it all morning and re-booting my computer multiple times after every step. If I wasn't in the library, I would scream.

I am sure that I am competent enough to handle this and that I can manage this even though the techs can't speak normal-person English enough to guide me through this without frustration. However, I really hate being forced to be competent against my will.

I now understand why the Geek Squad is a business model that works.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Like a bug in a rug. (Updated x 2)

The power is out at home, but I'm sitting here happily at the Panera Bread Company (see previous post), drinking a decaf latte, using their free wi-fi and charging up my battery. I'm not the only one with this idea because the place is hopping tonight.

My dad is going to take Jamie's kids and Marlo over to my sister's house to sleep, but I'm going to rough it at home. This is probably the closest I'll ever get to actual camping. Here's the crazy thing - I have a wood burning stove, but I can't use it for heat because there is no electricity to power the fan and it'll crack, according to Dad. (Last year, Dad brought over a teeny-tiny generator to power the fan - and my laptop - during the December black-out.) However, I've got blankets and candles. I'll go home later, pop a movie into my laptop and be all set. I anticipate that the solitude will be blissful.

Until then, I'm sitting here listening to good music next to a warm fire. Cozy as a bug in a rug.

P.S. If I find that I really am miserable and cold tonight, I'll give up and head over to my sister's house as well.

Update: It's 7:31 p.m. and I called my neighbor to confirm whether the power is still off at home. That's an affirmative. However, my battery is 97% charged so I'm going to go ahead and go home. I'll shower tonight, while there is still some hot water left in the tank, watch my movie on the now-charged laptop and crash. Except for not having electricity, it is a perfect, peaceful evening.

Update part deux: It is 8:15 p.m. and the power came on right as I was getting out of the shower. Except for turning the heater on, I may just stick with my original plan of candlelight, a movie on the laptop and sleep. Ahhhh.

How do you like your eggs?

I heard on the radio the other day that "How do you like your eggs?" is the pickup line du jour. As I listened to the broadcast, I thought, "What the heck kind of pickup line is that? That is completely stupid. What do eggs have to do with anything?"

On Sunday, my friend Kelvin explained to me, the unenlightened-dater, that the pickup line implies that one will be there in the morning to eat said eggs. OHHHHHH!!!! (Turn light bulb on here.)

I was actually thinking that the line would be a useful screening device to find the kind of quirky man that would suit me. My favorite is "eggs and soldiers," which are soft-boiled eggs, served in an egg cup, with little toast tranches for dipping. I think all will agree that if I ever find a single, straight man that owns egg cups, he has high potential of being my soul mate.

However, I think I would have a different response if ever I get this line from a man. As most of you know, I am a twin. Recently, I got the news that my cousin, Devin, is having triplets boys and is due to deliver in late December or January. Of course, to handle the strain of the pregnancy, she will be quitting work in the next few weeks. My mom says that it is good that Devin is finding out early that she is having multiple babies instead of the day of delivery, like my mom did. She said that my dad and the doctor came in the room while she was in labor and said, "How would you like to have two?" Mom thought Dad was joking, because he is a big practical-joker, and replied, "Oh John! You are not funny." However, he wasn't joking and here I am. Twins apparently run in the family.

Therefore, I would say that my current response to this pickup line would be, "Unfertilized, thanks."

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I am a dumb-ass. (Sorry, Shawna, for cussing.)

Today, I dropped my laptop.

Unfortunately, I dropped it at a location where I wasn't able to whip it out of the messenger bag (slightly padded but I *really* dropped it hard) and test it out. So, all the time I'm having lunch with my friend, I was distracted by the thought that I had broken my computer. (BTW, lunch was Dim-Sum at Sun-Ya Restaurant on 7th & Wells - mixed reviews on CitySearch, but I thought it was good.)

You have to understand, my entire existence is managed with this computer. Where to be, when to be there, what to do, emails, phone numbers, communications, tasks - everything is in my computer. When Marlo asks me to do something for her, I say, "Send me an email or I will forget and won't be doing it."

Last November, mid-way through my first quarter of law school, I also dropped my laptop. That time, it wasn't in a padded bag. I stuck my foot underneath it to break its fall and ended up injuring my foot so bad it took weeks to heal. After that escapade, I started using Mozy's online backup service.

Anyway, this afternoon, after *finally* getting to a location where I could test out my computer, I pulled it out of the messenger bag and inspected it for damage. The corner of the lid was separated. I pushed it back together, opened the lid and hit the power button. It stopped midway through the boot-up and said it couldn't find a boot-able drive. Then, it proceeded to run some sort of diagnostic test where it looked for the hard drive, memory, videocards, etc. The whole time it ran this test, which took about 40 minutes, I kept staring at the little red circle with an X through it that indicated that something was wrong with my hard drive.

I tried calling my friend Jeff (Anjali's husband) midway through the test in an attempt to not completely burst into tears before knowing definitively that my computer was shot, but he doesn't answer his cell phone at work. Of course, my mantra during this time was, "I am such a dumb-ass. I'm hosed. I have a Motion in Limine due on Monday. I'm a dumb-ass. I'm such a dumb-ass." Thus, the title of this post.

The good news is that Melanie called me midway through the diagnostic to chat on her way home. She dismissed my panic and said, "Oh! I've dropped my laptop before. Something probably just jiggled loose and needs to get pushed back in." I thought she was insane. However, I looked at the sides and bottom of my computer and saw that a little door was pushed out on the right hand side (I don't know what it was, but it had a green memory-board type of card with little gold braille-type dots, etc.). I pushed it back in and when the computer was done testing, told it to reboot.

As you can see, by virtue of reading this post, that all is well and my computer is fine. However, the fact that I dodged the bullet on this one doesn't negate the fact that I'm a dumb-ass for dropping it in the first place.

Bread may be the staff of life, but for me it is my friends.

Bread has been referred to as the staff of life. In fact, Egyptians were baking bread in the 20th century B.C.E. (just an interesting fact in honor of Mom.) However, the notion of human beings banding together for survival ("circling the wagons" so to speak) has been around at least that long. Last night I had both.

After working out with my girlfriend Melanie at Curves (yeah us), I met Anjali for dinner at the Panera Bread Company near the new Nordstrom Rack and DSW Shoes (amazing store, will be doing a separate post soon). I have to tell you, as much as I think that Tukwila is the "armpit of America," this new development is fantastic. Chic, new. I felt like I was living on the Eastside again. The Panera Bread Company's Cafe was both contemporary and comfortable.

The Cafe menu is comprised of reasonably-priced soups (they serve 4-5 different varieties daily), sandwiches, flatbread pizza and wonderful salads. Anjali and I both got the Parisian Chicken Soup, which was a sort of stock-based chicken and mushroom soup. Anjali got the harvest salad - spring greens, Gorgonzola, cranberries, etc. I got the wild salmon salad - spring greens tossed in a Meyers lemon vinaigrette with green beans, red pepper and wheat berries, with small a piece of grilled salmon. I was really pleased. To top it all off, they have a nice fireplace, peaceful ambiance and free wi-fi.

As much as the Cafe was comforting and peaceful, Anjali did more for my mind than any physical space ever could. She's better than the most beautiful sandy beach for calming the soul. As you all know, I've been spending a lot of time since returning from my trip abroad examining my life and what's important to me. Even before I returned from Europe, I knew my friends were one of the things I couldn't live without.

I don't really know how to describe it, but conversations with my friends are enlivening. Conversations with Anjali are a perfect example of this. Even though we were discussing topics rife for complaints such as (1) the difficulties with living a peaceful and healthy life in America - and the pros and cons of Europe vs. the U.S. (yes, I will admit it, there are a few cons to Europe), (2) dating and the nature of men in general; or (3) law school and/or her job, the conversation wasn't a bitch session. Anjali and my other girlfriends have this amazing ability to have conversations that are more of an exploration - first starting with "what is" and then dialoguing about what is possible in the future as a creation.

We didn't leave dinner with the answers to the meaning of life, but rather with the conclusion that life is comprised of the exploration itself. If that is the case, then my quality of life is fantastic because I have such wonderful friends to take with me on my journey.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Whoo Hoo! I won! (Oh, maybe not really).

I entered an online drawing for AM 1090 (Progressive Talk). I received an email yesterday with the subject line, "You are a precinct 1090 winner... "Common Ground," notifying me that I had won a copy of their book club book, Common Ground.

I have a reading addiction so severe that I'll read the ketchup bottles and cereal boxes if I don't have any other reading materials at breakfast. So, I was completely thrilled to have won a book. However, as I read further down in the notification email, I found that I have to pick up my prize from the radio station on Dexter Avenue North. Hmmmm, is it really worth it to have to drive from my home all the way downtown, through the horrid Seattle traffic with its six-hour long rush hours, spending both time and gasoline, in order to pick up a book?

I'm going to call them today and see if there is some way I could pay for media-mail shipping to send the book to me. Otherwise, I think I'll be checking this one out from the library instead.

Room for One More

I went to Jeanette's memorial yesterday morning and then had lunch with my friend Kris. The memorial was very moving, especially when they read messages that people had sent in from all over the country about the difference Jeanette had made for them. I was worn out by the time I got home in the afternoon.

I, however, didn't want to stay at home alone all evening - and Marlo was at the J.V. football game and then cheer practice. So, I went up and watched a movie with my friend George. Just like Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont that I watched on Saturday night, Room for One More did nothing to raise my low pop culture score.

Here's the plot summary from the Internet Movie Database: Anne and "Poppy" Rose are the average American family, with three quirky kids. Anne has a good heart and gives lost cats and dogs a home - and one day also the orphan Jane, a problem child who already tried to kill herself once. At first Poppy is worried and wants to get rid of her, but with love and patience they finally manage to integrate her into the family. Just then Anne invites another orphan, the aggressive handicapped Jimmy-John, to their summer vacation.

The movie was filmed in 1952 and stars Carey Grant. The one downside is that it doesn't appear to be available on DVD or video. George and I watched it by renting a download from Amazon's Unbox service. It was a great movie, but we watched it while balancing my laptop on our knees, which isn't that comfortable. It worked alright, though, because the cinematography is not the selling point of this movie like for an action film, etc.

I remember watching this movie as a kid - my mom must have videotaped it when it played on TV once. I really enjoyed it and probably would purchase it if it came out on DVD. The child actors were remarkably good (not on the par of Dakota Fanning, but still very good for that time period). Also, let's face it, Carey Grant is a dish.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

It doesn't raise my pop culture score, but

Tonight with a friend I watched Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont, which I think is possibly my all-time favorite movie. This is hard to gauge though, because I have too many "all time favorite movies" including, but not limited to,

  • Terms of Endearment (The first time I saw this movie, it was over-dubbed in French and it still made me cry.)

  • Steel Magnolias (Olympia Dukakis and Shirley MacLaine - 'nuff said. Ouiser Boudreaux: "You are evil, and you must be destroyed." Clairee Belcher: "Mother Nature's taking care of that faster than you could.")

  • Days of Thunder (I had to throw in at least one non-chick flick, since my friends tell me that Lonesome Dove is a chick-flick. Though, I'm not quite sure how a movie where someone gets bit in the face by a water moccasin qualifies as a chick flick...)

  • Say Anything (Great dialogue. Lloyd Dobler: "I don't want to sell anything, buy anything, or process anything as a career. I don't want to sell anything bought or processed, or buy anything sold or processed, or process anything sold, bought, or processed, or repair anything sold, bought, or processed. You know, as a career, I don't want to do that.")

Anyway, Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont is a beautiful movie about an elderly woman, played by Joan Plowright, who moves into a London retirement hotel and makes friends with a young writer. The young man is played by Rupert Friend, who is quite simply the most non-arrogant-luscious man I have seen in a movie in a long, long time.

So, while this movie did nothing to raise my low pop-culture score, I give it "two thumbs up" and "five stars." It is fantastic.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

It is a "Hope Floats" kind of day.

I drove the carpool to school today because we weren't certain we got the clamps tightened down enough on Melanie's car battery. Melanie and I left school around 5:30. I handed her my keys because I didn't want to drive and climbed in the passenger seat. She backed out of the parking stall and we went forward about 100 feet through the pot-holed parking lot. When we got out to the road that runs through campus, we realize the left front tire was flat. Cripes.

We pulled into the parking lot and looked at the tire. It had a big slash on the sidewall. Melanie went to call her son's daycare to report that we weren't going to be there by 6:00. I called campus police to report that my tire had been slashed. The dispatcher said she'd send an officer over to take a report.

I started unloading the spare tire and jack from the trunk. They have the spare tire and the jack and jack-handle and lug-nut wrench (whatever it is called) bolted down so securely in the trunk that I could roll the car down the freeway six or seven times and nothing would come undone. Right in the middle of trying to unload everything, I get a phone call to confirm a date Sunday night. Could the timing on that one be worse? Fortunately, he understood that I had to get off the phone and said he'd call me Friday. This whole time I am thinking to myself, "Damn, damn, damn! I jinxed myself by writing that blog post about dad making me change the tire on the car before getting my license. Damn, damn." (Sorry for the cussing Shawna.)

There was an older man sitting on a bench on the sidewalk who came over and offered to help. Thank you god! We figured out where to put the jack and he pretty much took care of the rest. While he was changing the tire he was telling us that his wife works at the law school. I ended up getting her name from him so tomorrow we'll be dropping off a thank you note and a treat.

Finally, the new tire was on the car, the punctured one was in the trunk with the jack, etc. and Melanie and I started to leave to run and pick up her son. Right at that moment, the police finally show up to take the report. I showed the officer the slit in the sidewall. He points to a teeny-tiny portion at the bottom of the perfectly smooth slit that went a little sideways and pronounced his opinion that it wasn't a slash. Whatever. It doesn't really matter to me as I still need to get a new tire. Of course, the officer has a vested interest in keeping any crime reports low on campus because it affects the university's ratings.

Anyway, we head out to the daycare. We stop at the Shell station on the way to add a little air to the spare. Unfortunately, there was a drug deal happening next to the air pump so we decided to get Melanie's son first and return for the air. We return to the Shell station - the drug deal must have been sucessful because neither party is in sight. I take off the little cap on the tire-air-stem and pay $.75 to put air in the tire. (Yes, for AIR!)

When we got to Melanie's apartment, we decide we better see if her car would start so she could make it to school tomorrow (I don't have class on Fridays). Nope, it tries to turn over, but won't start. So, I dig out the cell phone and call Dad for updating instructions on jumping her car. We hook it up properly. I start my car and run it a while. Melanie tries to start hers. Nope. We let it run a while longer. Nope. I call Dad and he says to let mine run a while longer at 2000 rpms before trying hers again. Nope. So, I'll be foregoing sleeping in tomorrow and driving Melanie to court and her son to school in the morning because that is what girlfriends do for one another. She'd do it for me if I needed her to.

Oh, to top of this "fantastic" (drip sarcasm here) day, in the middle of charging Melanie's car, I get a phone call from a man I went out on a date with last week. Man! When it rains it sure pours! I try to explain to him that I am in the middle of jump-starting my girlfriend's car. He gets all dejected sounding and says, "Oh, maybe I'll talk to you later then." Ya think? Geeze Louise guys! If a girl is lying to you to get off the phone, she'll say she is on the other line, is busy, is washing her hair. But "I'm jump-starting my girlfriend's car" is *not* one of our ready-made excuses. Whatever, I was so far past the point of frustration with mechanical issues that any response other than, "I'm sorry - good luck starting the car. I'll call you later." would have doomed any possibility anyway.

It is moments like this when I really think dating sucks. The cynicism and distrust is so palapatable that it colors everything - I mean, me having a really hard day becomes some excuse for a man to think I'm lying to him. Good grief.

This brings me all back to the title of this post. It is a little known fact that women, when having a really tough day, will indulge in pathetically sad movies. In the absence of a really nice man to baby me and make my day "all better," it just works to stop being stoic and strong for two hours and BE sad.

Don't worry though - I'm sure that stoic, strong and competent will be back in top form tomorrow. I don't really *need* to be saved, but sometimes I just wish I could just get more than two hours off.

Competent Female Syndrome *MODIFIED*

I received the following comments in response to my "Girl Power" post of yesterday. I am posting them here because I think that my female friends, married or not, will find the following monologue insightful.

I wanted to chime-in regarding “highly capable women” that are with men who are not as proficient. Since you fall into this category, I thought you might be interested in my thoughts.

1. The loss of traditional roles by men and women has caused unpredicted and far reaching complications. Many men no longer see themselves as the “provider” of the family (financially or otherwise)--which means that ultimately, men get lost in gender confusion. This disorientation may result in the man “not feeling needed” and eventually – especially if he is not handling the mechanical/technical (or equally important) aspects of the couple’s lives-- he may end up feeling, at least to some degree, “incapable”. Obviously, this would eventually shake up any man’s confidence level. If you add to this equation, a man who is lacking a flourishing career (working for a living doesn’t qualify), it’s almost certain to cause some type of relationship-havoc. If the couple is married, it may ultimately be a recipe for disaster (unless of course, the couple learns to work through these challenges). And, as anyone who has been in this situation knows, it’s a very delicate dance.

2. Women with fathers that are capable mechanically/technically, tend to expect their boyfriends/husbands to be capable in these areas as well. Imagine what it is like for these women to be in a relationship with a man that can’t even do little things, such as, change a car tire, correct a minor battery corrosion issue or change the float-kit on a toilet. To put it in perspective, imagine your husband taking his car to an auto mechanic to fix the starter and while you are entering the credit-card-charge in Quicken, you discover the highly technical resolution documented on the invoice was “tightened battery cables”.

3. Compounding further the “mechanical father dilemma” is the reality that these father’s tend to teach their children their secrets (even if the secret is just “I can do it myself”). So, a girl growing up learns to trouble-shoot problems by doing all the amazing things that her daddy taught her (like figuring out her resources, being bold enough to ask questions, determining if the data she received is accurate, analyzing the pros/cons, asking additional questions, and most importantly being confident in her capacity to figure it out). Of course, in the end, there is a huge payoff—what capable female doesn’t feel the jolt of electricity after conquering a challenge? And probably somewhere in her subconscious mind, she is also thinking, “boy, daddy would be proud of me”.

4. Regardless of whether your friend’s boyfriend was capable of doing the mechanical/technical stuff, he broke the cardinal rule of keeping a woman happy. Hold onto your hat for a minute, this insight get’s really complicated. It might be extraordinarily difficult for me to explain this one, so please bear with me. Yep- those of you who are really on top of things guessed it…it’s a basic courtesy called kindness. His biggest failure was being disengaged, which provides the female brain with a whole-lotta-stuff to contemplate. This boyfriend should have a least made an attempt to be supportive (i.e. stand next to the car until the job is complete—make a few comments—ask if he can help—ask if she wants a glass of ice-water). Anything (except for acting like a know-it-all) would have been better than walking back inside while the action was still occurring in the driveway.

5. Unfortunately, men don’t realize that everything mentioned above has a direct correlation to their sex-life. It’s not that women withhold sex to punish men, it’s that our brains are wired by “feelings” which activate our “I’m ready for the bedroom glands”. After the honeymoon is over, women can’t easily overcome the “feelings” that are generated when her husband walks back into the house while she still has ½ of her body stuffed under the car hood.

6. One may argue that point #5 isn’t valid because women still desire sex even when their boyfriends/husbands make the type of mistakes expressed in your blog. Yes, that is true, but typically this only happens during the honeymoon period. There are reasons for this phenomenon:

a) Although bothered by the situation, she is still trying to figure out if this issue should really be held against him. She asks herself very insightful and incredibly difficult questions like, “Am I expecting too much?” (Hello??? Anyone Home??? When did it become an overly aggressive expectation for women to count on a man’s help—especially when she is struggling?)

b) She still holds out hope that his lack of attentiveness is a “one-time occurrence” (which it isn’t—the truth is that she has conveniently forgotten that she’s been complaining to her girlfriends on a daily basis about similar infractions).

c) There are many other positive factors in the relationship and they are compensating for the “turn offs” she feels when he is inattentive or doesn’t help her.

d) She still wears those proverbial women blinders (better known as delusional “he’ll change” genes).

7. Yes- Roxanne. You were accurate when you said, “Plus, we got the benefit of knowing that we really are competent”. Yes- it does make us, as women, feel competent when we succeed at resolving a challenge—which is no different than the way men feel when they resolve a challenge. BUT, (and it’s a BIG “but”), whenever women succeed (while in the presence of their male counterparts); one has to wonder if this situation, repeated over time, is such a good thing. Highly capable women continue to struggle with the same problem—as I mentioned previously it’s a dance. I personally am still learning the dance because even though my husband is highly competent, I still have the propensity to make him feel inadequate at times.

8. The same things that make a women feel competent and “able to take care of themselves” may have a “Newton’s 3rd Law effect” on their boyfriend/husband. This law-- every action has an equal and opposite reaction – frequently causes the long-term male/female relationships to be strained. He has the need to feel “needed” and “respected”. If she is able to everything for herself (and unconsciously makes that a reality), he certainly won’t feel needed. And, if she doesn’t gain the positive feelings that result from his desire/ability to resolve a challenging problem, then he certainly won’t be respected. This leads me to my final point…

9. Do competent women facilitate incompetent men? Or, do incompetent men facilitate competent women? Clearly there is some type of cause and effect relationship when you pair two people who are unequally yoked. When two oxen pull a wagon, they both need to pull with the same strength—if one is stronger than the other, they will go in circles.

This last comment doesn’t really relate but being the female spaghetti thinker that I am, I have to include it. They don’t make men like they used to. Obviously the social mechanisms in our society which previously churned out capable, ambitious, selfless young men, has clearly broken down. This isn’t to say that the system isn’t causing problems for young girls—it’s just that boys/men are inherently much more selfish then women. Women are the nurturers. We are geared to “see a need and fill it”. We love to be able to comfort and we will put off our needs for until we run ourselves into the ground. My point…if we are going to raise the next generation of men—us women need to seriously think about what kind of future husbands/father’s we are creating.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Girl Power!

This morning Melanie, my carpool buddy and good friend, called me and said her car wouldn't start. I zipped over and picked her up. She said that when she turned the key on her car, the starter just clicked: "click, click, click, click" and was probably broken.

I called my dad on the phone to see if he had any ideas or could help. Dad said, "Sounds like the battery posts are corroded and the starter isn't getting enough juice. Get a wire brush and clean them off. Take the negative one off first, then the positive. When you put them back on, the negative one goes on last."

Poor Melanie was upset about having to spend more money to fix her piece of trash 2000 Chrysler Town & Country minivan. It only has 130,000 miles and has already needed to have the transmission replaced and a host of other repairs. She really thought the starter was broken, based on what her boyfriend told her when he heard the clicking noise.

I told her not to worry - it might be the starter, but it was worth trying to clean the battery posts just in case it was an easy fix. During our commute to school, Alex called Melanie on her cell phone and she told him what my dad had said. Alex said something dismissing my father's opinion, which really pissed me off. (Oops, my sister Shawna keeps coming down on me for using this phrase. I mean, "which really made me upset.") After all, my dad is 75 years old and has YEARS of experience fixing cars, building engines, dealing with airplane systems, and all sorts of mechanical things. Alex is some young guy. I found his reaction disrespectful.

However, Melanie explained that Alex dismissing my dad's idea was just testosterone-driven territory marking, and that I'm taking it too personally that he "dissed" my dad. Later this afternoon, Melanie and I drove home from school (in my car, obviously), swung by Schucks for a battery post cleaner and anti-corrosive felt things. We then drove up to her apartment. Right at the moment that we popped the hood, it started to pour down rain (figures).

I hate working on batteries. I hate jumping batteries. I hate charging batteries. To me, they are like cooking with pressure-cookers. I am always afraid that I'll do something wrong and they will explode. I may not be a supermodel, but I like the way I look and don't think that battery acid would help my beauty regime. Anyway, I called Dad to reconfirm "negative off first, on last." I was really hoping he'd buy my helpless routine and would offer to come over and do it for us, but, as the father of four daughters, dad wasn't biting. Apparently, the helpless-female deal only works with strangers at auto supply stores. (Remember, my dad made me change the tire on the car before he'd take me to get my driver's license.)

Alex, who was so protective of his territory this morning that he had to dismiss a 75 year old man's advice, came out of the apartment long enough to see Melanie and I start to work on her car, make some comment about him wanting dinner on the table when he returned (I think he was joking) and left without helping us.

I will acknowledge that I'm being sexist here when I imply that Alex should have done this for Melanie. He's her boyfriend. She was worried and scared about her car. And he was in the position to alleviate her stress. Yes, I think he should have done it. There are a few other items I think lie under a guy's providence - taking the trash out is the first that comes to my mind. However, when men start having period-induced migraines and cramps, and giving birth to the human race, I'll gladly trade them this chore. Until then, I think we're square.

Anyway, we finally got the nuts off, no thanks to Chrysler making it impossible to turn the nuts more than a 1/4 turn before having to reposition the wrench. We then took the wire-brush post cleaning thing and scrubbed the posts and clamps. We reattached the clamps and tightened down the nuts again, but not all the way. Melanie tried to start the car. It went, "click, click, click, rrruuuu, rruuuu, click, click." Melanie looked despondent. I said, "You heard it was trying to start. We should tighten the clamps down more." We went back under the hood and tightened the negative one down more, and confirmed with dad that we shouldn't tighten the positive one down more since the negative one was already on. Melanie went back and it started!

I was so happy that I started jumping up and down in the parking lot doing the happy dance and yelling, "Yay!" Melanie was still worried that something was wrong with her starter (I couldn't blame her as she owns a Chrysler that has broken over and over and over again - thank you Chrysler) and wanted to start it again before she was willing to believe that it would work from now on. She restarted the car, and I did the happy dance again. :)

So, instead of having to plunk down nearly $500 to have her car towed and the starter changed, it cost less than $10 in supplies from Schucks, us getting rained on and our fingers blackened, and watching some pretty boy walk away while we toiled under the hood of his girlfriend's car. Overall, considering Melanie's situation of being a single mother of two young boys, who is working her butt off to get through law school, it was a small price to pay for the relief of not having to pay for yet again another car repair. Plus, we got the benefit of knowing that we really are competent and can take care of ourselves, with the advice of a 75 year old man who refuses to be sexist, even if his daughter is.

Words I haven't heard in a long time.

Long ago, I used to be a really good cook. In fact, I was a "nanny/housekeeper" when I was 20-21 and used to cook the family dinner almost every night. I even used to cook for boyfriends. When I lived in Oklahoma, I used to barbecue salmon and bake things like Lemon Bars.

Somewhere along the line, probably after the condo fire, I stopped being a good cook. My version of good food is whatever Trader Joe's has ready for me to put in the oven or making a really great salad. Marlo began saying, with a sigh, "Remember when you used to make, (sigh here), banana bread?" like one would talk about a grandmother who has passed away and didn't leave behind the family recipe box.

The other day, Kelly sent over a fresh mozzarella ball that she had bought for Marlo from Costco. I asked Marlo what she wanted me to do with it. The only thing I had ever seen made with these is Caprese salad, which I love. However, Marlo would prefer to be water-boarded by the CIA over eating a raw tomato. She told me that Kelly had made a pizza for her with the cheese during the summer.

Every now and again, I actually try to please my child. So, I found whole-wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe's (there is a limit to my skill, after all), spread pesto all over it, sliced the mozzarella into rounds and added those. Then, I chopped a left-over chicken pesto sausage and zucchini and sprinkled those on top. Finally, I topped it all off with a light sprinkling of shredded Parmesan and baked it.

Marlo said it was "bomb-dot-com" and ate several slices. Finally - success!

Giving made easy.

My sister Kelly is very particular about gifts. She likes what she likes and would prefer it if everyone gives her something from her list. She even makes it easy, by providing links, etc. (She also hates surprises, which is very annoying.) I have found that even if you give her something awesome, if it isn't on her list, she won't like it. Period.

I was surfing around Amazon today. I usually put things I don't want to buy right away in my shopping cart, "saved for later," but today I found their "wish list feature." You know what I wish? That all of my friends and family would use this feature and send me the link to their list. You can even prioritize the items on your list based on how much you want to receive them. Plus, when someone orders an item, it is removed from your list so you don't get it twice. How cool is that?

Not that I don't love you all, but I could do all of my christmas shopping at 2:30 in the morning when Lucy is keeping me awake being a psycho-kitty.

(I have no idea why the links in this embedded widget won't work. It's beyond my technical knowledge. I'm surprised I even figured out how to embed it in the first place.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

"Reclaim the Quaint"

A book came out a few years back that detailed the Republican's masterful use of language to solidify their power base. The book showed how the Republican party is able to appropriate and over time change the meaning or values associated with a phrase. For example, in the early 1970's, being a "progressive" was a positive thing. Now, it is spit out like sour milk. It was fascinating from an anthropological linguistics standpoint.

The other day on the Daily Show, John Oliver "reported" on the redefining of certain terms and phrases over the past few years. It is funny, but not, all at the same time. See "Tortured Logic." (You'll have to sit through a short Doritos commercial at the beginning.) If you haven't read it already, please also see my essay: "Don't You Wonder Why this Even Needs Clarification?" at the Global Justice Group Blog.

This may be too obvious to state, but part of the uncertainty and fear that people feel these days isn't just coming from the outside threat of terrorists. It is coming from the manipulation of people's fears and doubts by politicians hungry for power (not just Republicans). Language is so fundamental that having shifting meanings and definitions is about like telling people the floor is the ceiling. You then have a bunch of people walking around in a daze, "Am I dreaming that I'm awake, wondering about dreaming that I'm awake?" and ready to be led like lambs to slaughter.

Part of the waking up is reclaiming our language and the populace (that's us) defining what means what, not Rupert Murdock nor Harry Reid. I don't know about you, but I like feeling terra ferma under my feet and being able to trust what people say up front. I'm sick of having to be cynical and distrust what I'm being told (whether by politicians, professors, journalists, teenagers or men). Let's get back to the "gold standard" of language, where "A man's word is his bond" and all the sort of things that we find "quaint" today.

Let us "reclaim the quaint" and start living in the type of world that we define, not one that is defined for us. Start defining your world: What do you want your world to be? What are you willing to do to make that happen?

That's a question so worth asking, that finding the answer is unimportant.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A nostalgic review of selling fear.

Recently the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that a Washington State law prohibiting political candidates from lying is unconstitutional. See Law on Lies Found Unconstitutional. That we would even need a law of this sort, and that it could be found an unconstitutional prohibition, got me thinking.

Why is it that our political climate has become so vicious? Certainly Karl Rove's tactics against John McCain in 2000 set a new bar, but I doubt "turdblossom" (Don't get all offended, Mom & Dad, that is G.W.'s pet name for Rove) was the first to get down and dirty in political races.

The other day on the Colbert Report the curator from the Museum of the Moving Image was a guest. There is a museum website that chronicles all the political advertisements from 1952 to present. It is interesting to watch ads that had a tremendous impact in their day (like the "Daisy" ad), but now appear quaint or cheesy. In viewing the progression of ads, it is also easy to see how they have gotten meaner and meaner over time.

The other day, I read somewhere that Barack Obama did an advertisement pleading to Hillary Clinton, "Please don't win by so much." I tried to verify this or find a clip, but was unsuccessful (if you find it, please post a comment or send me an email). Given the current political climate, that type of ad, if it truly exists, would be hilariously refreshing.

Two memorial services

I posted last week that Jeanette Cissell passed away on October 3, 2007. Her memorial is going to be held on Monday, October 15, 2007 in Des Moines, WA.

While I was in Europe, a law student in my class passed away unexpectedly from an undetected brain hemorage. Ben Athay and his wife had just had their first child, a son named Oliver, during our 1L year. The law school is holding a memorial on Friday, October 12, 2007.

I'll be going to the memorials, but am dreading it. I know it sounds terrible, but I hate going. I remember going to Aunt Hazel's funeral when I was about 10 years old and being scared to death because her body was there. Then, two years after high school I went to the funeral of a girl from my graduating class who had committed suicide. It was awful. We were sitting directly behind her sobbing parents and in front of her grandparents. Plus, her two year old daughter didn't understand what was happening and was running around the coffin on the alter. Even the priest couldn't stop crying. The last funeral I went to was for Uncle Jim. The family opened it up for people to share, but no one was willing, so I spoke. I couldn't stop crying throughout my share.

I know they say that these things are for the people left behind to begin grieving and to get closure. I'd prefer it if everyone who loves me is complete with me before I die so that they can just skip the whole ordeal. Personally, unless Marlo, my family, and/or my friends specifically say they want a memorial, donate the money that would be spent on my memorial to a good charity** in my name and call it a day. As much that I am into propriety, etc., I'd rather not put my friends through a memorial just for form's sake.

**Because my family and I will differ on what is deemed a "good charity," I'm designating my friend Karol in charge of selecting the charity. She and I think alike about politics and society so if she thinks it is good, so will I.

I'm such a wuss.

In an effort to raise my low pop-culture score, I "watched" Syriana last night. I had read the book that the movie was "inspired by" titled, "See No Evil" by former CIA agent Robert Baer.**

The reason "watched" is in quotes is because I alternately: (1) missed a lot of dialogue from not reading the subtitles fast enough (and didn't want to annoy Tod by constantly asking him to clarify); (2) covering my eyes during the gruesome parts; or (3) finally falling asleep because the movie was too nuanced (or boring, don't know which) for my overtired brain.

I think my remedial program needs to start with meaningless comedies.

**Like most movies made from books, I found the book better. However, take that with a grain of salt because I clearly didn't watch it much. It also might be that I hate Matt Damon in anything but the Bourne Identity. The man doesn't have facial expressions. We went and saw "The Good Shepard" on my birthday last year and I slept through that as well. Hmmm, spotting a trend here. Maybe I'm not as much of a wuss as I thought - maybe Matt Damon is my personal form of Ambien.

Not enough between me and my Calvins

Before leaving to Europe, I bought a great pair of dark wash Calvin Klein jeans, which I hardly wore. I knew they were a little big when I returned due to the weight I lost in Europe. However, like most women, I insisted on wearing them because they were expensive and I haven't gotten to wear them enough.

However, last night I realized that I really cannot wear them anymore. I was at a friends house watching Syrianna and every time I stood up from the couch, I'd have to hitch them up. Walking to my car at the end of the evening, I seriously wondered if I'd have to hold on to them to keep them from falling down over my hips. Looks ridiculous on both counts. So, I'll be passing these on to one of my tall friends (I bought them long enough to wear over heels or boots) and will be finding another pair of dark, sexy jeans in a smaller size.

Can someone inform my allergies that it is autumn?

For the past week, I've been waking up at 3:00 a.m. (or so) with raging headaches. Oddly enough, I'm pretty sure the headaches are due to airborn allergies. It's odd as these usually strike me in the spring, not the fall. I really wasn't hit this spring, but sure am getting it now. I think my current attack is due to not being around cats for several months, and then returning to Lucy. Of course, most (perhaps all?) of my friends are also cat-lovers so I'm getting hit at their houses as well. I usually don't react to cats so my absence is the only thing I can point to.

The difficulty is that when I am out and about and at school, I'm not suffering so I forget to take allergy meds. Then, I go to sleep in my half-packed, box-filled apartment that desperately needs a full "spring cleaning" (you know, vacuuming under the beds, etc.) after having Lucy shedding all summer and I wake up miserable. My airway is all swollen and when I relax while sleep, it collapses further and I wheeze. Ugh!

I'm picking up some prescriptions today and am going to put them on my nightstand in the hopes that I will remember to take them before misery strikes.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Swimming upstream

Disclaimer: This post is a lot like "Random thoughts of Roxanne - part three." Mostly, I wrote this so I could have a record of my thoughts as I move forward. I put minimal effort into being entertaining or informative.

I've been back in the states for a little over two weeks. The first week was a blur of jetlag, school and teenage drama. Things need to be settling down now and I've been examining life.

Let's face it, like all human beings, each population/country/community lives in a particular pond colored with particular varieties of algae, etc., so to speak. The problem is that you can't see what's coloring your pond until you're out of it. As an outsider, I was able to see Italian inefficiency in a way the Italians can't. Italians speak of inefficiency like Americans speak of stress - like it is an evil that we'd like to be without, but are resigned to living with as a force bigger than ourselves.

I knew coming back that I didn't want to fall back into the overly-stressed, crazy, unhealthy American existence that I swam in before. I lost 14 lbs in 2-1/2 months in Europe, all while eating cheese and chocolate in Amsterdam, Jacqueline's fantastic cooking in France, and pasta and gelato in Italy. It doesn't seem logical that I could lose 14 lbs in 10 weeks while not struggling, counting calories (or weightwatchers points), sweating in a gym with a group of other sweaty people, and while eating the very foods that we are advised to avoid.

I've identified some differences that are useful to note:

  • First of all, in Amsterdam, I walked a lot. In France and Italy, I walked much less, but still had some physical activity. However, it was "useful" activity, such as walking somewhere I needed to go, or was taking a stroll to go sightseeing. I didn't have to take an hour out of my day to go walk in place on a treadmill or jump up and down in a gym. Because these cities were built up before the automobile, they are not "car friendly" which is in contast to American cities (and certainly Tukwila) which are not "pedestrian friendly."
  • Healthy foods are readily available. In Amsterdam and Italy, the grocery stores were laid out in a one-way entrance/exit pattern. The first department that you walked through was the produce department. Also, the produce was fresh, typically local (with some exceptions like bananas, etc.) and of high quality. There were no mushy, pink unripened tomatoes. By contrast, in the U.S., unhealthy foods are difficult to avoid. When entering most grocery stores, the first department you pass is either the deli or bakery, with enticing smells of ready-made food.
  • Differing notions of fast-food. In Amsterdam, their notion of fast food (with the exception of patats-frites) are small portions of various fritters or the herring (see In France, their notion of fast food is perhaps a "jambon buerre" (a butter and ham sandwich on a baguette) or fruit. In Italy, it was freshly made wood-fired pizza that you bought by the gram. It was thin-crusted did not have cheese oozing all over like American style pizza.
  • Overhwelmingly, the major distinction is that people the European countries that I visited this summer do not snack. They sit down and eat three square meals a day (perhaps with the exception of the Dutch, who typically eat a light lunch of soup or a sandwhich and then a heavier dinner early like Americans). Even along the autoroute in France, there are no drive throughs. Europeans do not eat and drink in their cars. Period. Poor Marlo ate breakfast in the car this morning on her way to work.
  • Europeans take time to eat, enjoy their food and conversation. Typically, the French would be horrified at having an hour to get lunch, wolf it down, and get back to one's desk. They would probably say it was bad for their digestion (digestion seems to be a French obsession). Considering that it takes your brain 20 minutes to even realize you are full, it is not surprising that Americans overeat. When was the last time it took you longer than 20 minutes to eat even your dinner? Also, when they eat, they eat and converse with one another. One day at Jacqueline & Pierre's we ate dinner late and beforehand we were watching the news to see the weather report. When Jacqueline brought dinner to the table she cried, "Oh! We're not going to watch TV and eat like the Americans!" She was trying to tease me, but I actually agreed with her.
Anyway, since I've been home, I have been taking my lunch to school with the exception of a couple of days where I was going to meet people. On the days where I went out, I found it difficult to find fresh, unprocessed food. The first day I got a salad loaded with fresh veggies on top and the second day I ended up with a bowl of chili at the Burke Cafe (I forgot my coat at home and didn't want to wander further). The chili actually tasted like they had added sugar to it. Is chili supposed to be sweet? I'm going to start making Marlo lunch to take to school as well because there just isn't quality food being served to kids. Plus, let's face it, Marlo doesn't have genetics on her side from either her father or myself.
The food is actually an easier issue to handle, besides the pitfalls, than the stress. I'm actually looking at how does one reduce stress in life without becoming an automatic "no" to everything? I don't want to become one of those people who say "no" to everything because they are too busy or too tired or too whatever. I want to be available. However, it is Sunday morning and I'm wiped out. I went to school all week M-Th, on Friday I had an early morning doctor appointment (where I verified the 14 lbs lost - whoo hoo!), then had lunch with my old boss, Scott, and then went out to dinner with a friend in the evening. Saturday morning, I drove Marlo to work, was supposed to go work out with Melanie, but she hurt her back, and then worked for an attorney getting her practice back up and running after her maternity leave from 10-4. After that, picked up Marlo from work, had dinner with my parents to celebrate my good grades and met up with a friend for drinks. Today, I need to finish writing this blog, do laundry, clean the house, read homework, get showered, have a pedicure, pick up Marlo from work, do dinner, and then I'm meeting a friend to watch movies around 8:30. Whew!
In looking back on my few weeks home, I can see two things that would help manage the stress: (1) my physical environment. I need to get moved into a new apartment ASAP. It is more stressful than one would think living out of half-packed boxes and climbing over a teenager in a small one-bedroom apartment. (2) include my friends in everyday activities. This somewhat relates to #1, because I cannot entertain in my current apartment. However, once I move it would be a lot easier to just have friends over for dinner or watch movies. This is because it doesn't take any extra energy to cook more food that I am cooking anyway; and I'd be able to skip the whole getting ready, driving to meet them, eating out thing - which takes too long and is unhealthy anyway.
I'm still exploring the stress issues. I am committed to living a healthy, enjoyable and fulfilling life, without sacraficing one thing for something else. Anyway, as much as I'd like to spend my Sunday curled up on the couch with a nice book and a cup of tea, the laundry beckons so I'll end my rambling here.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Be still my heart.

Despite my best efforts to put off this moment as long as possible, Marlo is learning how to drive. This makes me batty for several different reasons:

First of all, in my former career as a PI paralegal, I cannot tell you how many accidents I have seen caused by teenaged drivers (admittedly of the male sex) or how many teenage passengers our firm represented after their driver crashed. Even if teenagers are not being intentionally reckless, their ability to avoid accidents is necessarily limited by lack of experience and over-correcting. I'm trying to avoid the time where my heart will race everytime I see an unfamiliar number calling.

Secondly, there is the required evil of being the supervising adult while a teenager with a learners permit drives. Who thought up the timeframe for this? Take a hormonally-driven, irrational creature, at the height of the time in their life where they do not listen to their parents, and put them in a situation where their parents are trying to convey information. Can you think of a situation more likely to induce stress and frustration in both parties?

Anyway, I figured I'd give the warning to stay off the roads on Saturday & Sunday mornings between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m. because I've been letting Marlo drive herself to work (not on the freeway though). The only way I've found to cope with the stress of it all, at least that early in the morning, is to not really pay attention to every single thing that Marlo is doing or not doing while driving.

Plus, as my family will agree, I'm a sucky driver and really shouldn't be giving her advice anyway. I'll leave that to Grandpa John, Aunt Kelly and Uncle George.

Someone wake me when this is over.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Why seek enlightenment?

Jeanette Cissell was diagnosed with Grade IV astrocytomas in late January, 2007 and died yesterday.

However, who Jeanette was is not defined by her death. Her life was special. She was a powerful woman who dedicated her life to empowering others. She had a special knack for pissing me off, but always made the difference she was committed to. I am the leader and powerful woman I am today, partly owing to Jeanette's fierceness.

Grant LaMora, a Landmark Education staffer, wrote about Jeanette:

"When a certain monk was asked 'Why seek enlightenment?', he replied 'So that you may bring it to others'. Jeanette made this her mission, and every action in her life had at its heart the fulfillment of this - bringing possibility to the lives of others. In this way she was truly a Bodhisattva."

After her diagnosis, her friends started a website at which chronicles her fight to regain her health. Also, there is a guestbook signed by people the world over. By reading the entries, you really get a sense of the difference and lasting impact Jeanette made with her life.

Mankind is a little poorer today.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

This would be weird if idiots were rarer.


ANGLETON, Texas — Negligent homicide charges have been dropped against a former Lake Jackson woman who had been accused of killing her husband with a sherry enema that led to alcohol poisoning.

Court records show the charge against Tammy Jean Warner, 45, of Texas City, was dismissed Aug. 31 because of insufficient evidence, the Houston Chronicle reported in its online edition Wednesday.

Michael Warner, 58, died May 21, 2004. An autopsy showed he had been given an enema with enough sherry to have a blood alcohol level of 0.47 percent, almost six times the legal limit of .08 percent in Texas.

Tammy Warner has told the newspaper that her husband was addicted to enemas and often used alcohol in them to get drunk. (I'm really not making this stuff up.)

Got the job!

I applied for and got offered a fantastic 2L job. By "fantatsic" I mean that it really works with my studying schedule and will develop my research skills, all while getting paid.

I am now a Student Representative for Lexis-Nexis. What this means is that I will sit up in the computer lab and be available to answer questions students have about using Lexis-Nexis. Most of the time there are no questions and I will be able to get a lot of studying done. Essentially, I am getting paid to study my own materials and be available. It is a lot like being a night-watchman in a remote area: Be available if needed, but most nights are quiet.

On top of that, I have been developing a lot of side-work. On Friday, I am going to write a tort-demand letter to an insurance company, and do some immigration work. Saturday, I am going to do some work for a Collaborative Family Law attorney getting her practice organized after her maternity leave.

After not working for the past year, it will be nice to earn some "coffee money." Mostly it is just great to do real work and feel needed again.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Amsterdam Results are In!

This afternoon, I got the results from my Amsterdam program. To put the grades in context, I have included a cut-and-paste of Tulane Law School's grading policy. If one of you understands this, particularly the paragraph below with the percentages, please post a comment to enlighten us all. (Clearly, I am in my math-induced deer-in-the-headlights state.)

The normal grading scale and quality point system is as follows:


In any course with 21 or more J.D. students (from any school), the professor shall award no less than 60%, and not more than 65% grades of B and above, and no more than 75% grades of B- and above to those J.D. students. This distribution applies even if all or part of the grade is determined by a method other than examination. In any course with fewer than 21 J.D. students, the professor shall abide by the spirit of this rule.**

Here are my results:

Grade Report for ROXANNE XXXXXX
2007 Summer

Title Credit Hours Official Grade






TERM GPA 3.532

If I am reading it right, it appears that Tulane forces that 25% of the grades be C or below. UWLS doesn't force any grades below a B. The discrepancy in grading policies are due to the law school rankings. UW is ranked around 27 while Tulane ranks 47. Therefore, Tulane's grading policy is more stringent so that employers can distinguish top-notch students.

**If you think this is complicated, you should look at UW's law school curve at It is even more confusing.

Oh where oh where has my working brain gone?

Oh where, oh where has my working brain gone?
Oh where, oh where can it BEEEEE?
With its ready wit, to me it does belong.
Oh where, oh where can it be?

I am not complaining, but my English skills are still in the toilet after being in Europe all summer. After each blog post, I get an email from Shawna setting forth my typos and grammatical errors for correction.

To put this in context, while a brilliant businesswoman and manager, Shawna does not read for pleasure (except the blog, of course). In fact, the only reason she reads anything is because her desire for success (and her desire to analyze every cotton-pickin-thing) drives her excessively hyper-active brain to evaluate XYZ (insert any subject here) on a 7x24 basis. Therefore, Shawna's reading is limited to lots and lots of self-help, biography, inspirational and Tony Robbins-type books. (She actually emailed me and said, "I read for pleasure - I just find self-help books pleasurable.) Thus, you can see why my reaction is similar to what it would be if Hugh Hefner was giving me relationship advice.

If my brain doesn't turn up soon, I'm going to place a classified ad:


Lost - one 38-year-old female brain. Typically sharp (produces excellent results, gets good grades, and scored a 163 on the LSAT). Right brain holistic processor. Left brain linear sequencer. Strong left-brain verbal capacity (will pay high money for its return!). Left brain reality-based reasoning, except when in romantic situations when it switches automatically to right-brain fantasy-oriented reasoning. Loved by those who know it best and can appreciate its quirky and good-natured sarcastic wit. If found, please return.

My low pop-culture score.

My pop-culture score has always been a little low. Some people might deem me a geek in a non-Bill-Gates sense of the word. I took an online personality test and prefer their assessment of being a "haughty intellectual." I can proudly state that I never watched any of the "Hot Shots" style movies. Only because I'm using my blog as some sort of personal confessional will I admit that I saw "Blades of Glory" about six months ago - although I didn't select it.

Recently though, it has become apparent to me that my pop-culture score has dropped from the "I'm too good for the Hollywood blockbuster - Isn't there an intelligent movie playing" version to the sort of clueless version where people wonder what planet I've been living on. I blame the drop, like all things, on law school. This weekend, I watched "Dr. Strangelove" for the first time. When I mentioned it to some other friends at lunch, they said, "Yeah! That's a classic!" I didn't even know it existed until Friday night.

Among other movies I have never seen:

  • The last one or two of the Star Wars series that were released.
  • Any of the Star Trek movies.
  • The name fails me now, but any of those "The Hobbit"-type movies that came out a few years back. The fantasy ones that ran three hours long....cripes....see, I told you I have an increasing problem here.**
  • I have seen one James Bond movie in English (Casino Royale) and one in French (something with Sean Connery, which ruined the whole thing because 1/2 of Sean Connery's sex appeal comes from his voice and accent). According to Wikipedia, there have been six James Bonds and 21 films.
  • Any of the Godfather movies.

Embarassingly, this list could go on and on.

So, I'm opening this one up to my community to remedy. If there is a great movie, book, show or other item that you think I shouldn't miss, please post a comment below (or send me an email). As I move through my "assignments" from you, I'll let you know what I think about your recommendations.

**A law school classmate came in and I asked her about these. She said, "You mean something other than the 'Lord of the Rings' movies?" No, I meant those actually.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Whew! Sometimes you just gonna admit you're human.

I tend to be one of those driven types who always wants to do well. However, sometimes enough is enough. I did 20 credits of coursework this summer, returned on a Friday and started 16 credits of coursework the following Monday. I've been scrambling for the past week trying to get my schoolwork done, while getting over jet lag, a cold, getting my daughter re-settled in, and living in a half-packed house (for the move to our new apartment as soon as construction is done). Is your head spinning 'round and 'round yet? That's the experience of it all.

This morning, I came into school early to try to get some work done for my afternoon class. After an hour, it was readily apparent that I was not going to be finished in time. I thought, "Why am I pushing it this hard - is this really necessary?" I went upstairs and met with the Academic Services advisor to confirm that I can drop a class this fall and still graduate in December 2008. I'll have to do some slight juggling along the way, but what's new?

I officially dropped the class about a half-hour ago and I feel SO RELIEVED!!!!! One thing I can say about my time in Europe is that it took me out of my crazy over-achieving environment long enough for me to stop and examine whether that amount of stress was actually worth the cost. (Answer in this instance: "No!") I want to have enough time to enjoy a little of my week - to watch a movie, read a novel, cuddle up on the couch with a blanket and a hot drink. You know, the types of things that will have Shawna, my middle-child-syndrome-stricken sister, think I'm a slacker.