Riding Life!

Riding Life!
Life is like a wild horse--Unless you ride it, it will ride you! (from the movie: "Princess of Thieves.")

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

RANT WARNING. C: Fitness to Serve?

Here’s the scenario:

He’s a fifty-something married judge looking for a new law clerk.  She’s a bright, beautiful 24-year-old graduating lawyer.  She comes to work for him.  He has a policy of a one-year-only term for law clerks.  He breaks policy for her, ostensibly because she is so very competent in her job…She stays on two years.  Only one to do it…

She marries and begins her family.

Flash forward five years to right now.  He’s in his late 50’s and has his eye on the state Supreme Court, the highest judicial office in the state.  She has been in private practice for three years with a big firm in town.  She has two children ulustnder four years of age with a handsome man her own age.

She works on the Judge’s campaign.

You’re already onto this story, I know.  It burst into our papers over the weekend: She and the Judge have been having an affair.  It has broken up her household.  Her husband has actually named the judge in his divorce action.

What the Judge’s wife has to say about it has not been revealed.  I can imagine.

The scuttlebutt in the community is that “This is the ‘real’ thing…they are truly in love,” like that matters to the grieving spouses and the two little children.  Like that makes it okay.

Election is right around the corner.  Judge is not disputing the facts as stated (“No comment…this is a personal matter”), nor is his wife saying anything.  What the Judge says is, “Dirty politics!!”

Really?  Amazing. 

In the meantime, he is sitting on the bench.  He does not hear all that many dirty politics divorce cases, but he does hear some.

Adultery is a stated ground for divorce in our state (which still requires grounds).  It is an issue that is often before a divorce court.

Should I be uneasy taking my adultery cases before him?  Is there going to be a tendency for him to “understand” when a person “strays” from the marriage because of “love,” “lust,” or “we just grew apart?”  Is that okay?

Is he fit for office at the highest legal level?  Or is this purely a “personal” matter, and should we elect him on his merits as a judge, disregarding any personal matters?

To the right you will see a survey of two simple questions, the top two items in the right-hand column.  Please take a moment and click on the responses.  I need your balance here—I need to be checked if I’m wrong.  I’m listening.  C.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

C: We Were So Bad Today…

There was nothing on the slate, particularly, today.  I knew I had to work a trip into the office women-on-phonesometime this weekend, and there is always plenty of work to do around here on the weekend, but no schedule.

So, my phone rang at 8:30 this morning as I was still sipping coffee in my pajamas.  It was V.  She had been on the phone with M, one of our close friends, and was now calling to invite me out with them.  So, see, it is either M’s or V’s fault (I suspect V).

Can you meet M  and me for breakfast at 9:30?”

I was game…I wouldn’t even shower.  I had just enough time. 

Sure!  Where do we meet up?”

You won’t believe what she said…I could hardly believe it when I heard it:

Krispy Kreme.”

What!!  This after I just wrote a post on the dangers of fast food?  Isn’t Krispy Kreme fast food danger squared???  krispy-kreme-logo

V explained:  “Well, it’s cheap, and I’m craving a maple iced doughnut.”

That was enough justification for me.  Naturally, I was the first one there, grabbing a table for the three of us and politely holding back my salivary glands as I waited on my companions, watching the children wolf down orange and brown “fall/halloween” doughnuts.

While I was waiting on them, I pulled out the trusty I-Pad and flipped to the Krispy Kreme site, thinking I’d peruse the choices in flavors.  My eye fell on the “Nutritional Facts” link.  With a fair amount of trepidation, I clicked on it, breathing a sigh of relief that there was absolutely no information on calorie and fat content (they wouldn’t dare).  There was only a statement that the ingredients were really, really good (in what sense, I wondered) and that they were certified Kosher!

mapledoughnut V and M arrived, we noshed on doughnuts (well, technically I had an apple fritter) and great coffee.  V got the maple doughnut she craved.  We spent a good hour and a half catching up with M and telling her our news.  It was great.

One of the high points came when V went to the bathroom (just hang with me a minute…).  She came back grinning from ear-t0-ear, saying, “I want each of you to go back there…I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

Interest aroused, M jumped up saying, “Me first!”  She, too, returned with a Mona Lisa smile, urging me on to my turn.

I entered the restroom with caution, scouting out the lay of the land.  It looked like a typical, spotlessly-clean restaurant bathroom with two stalls.  I chose the first one and peered in. 

The toilet looked normal to me.  Pretty much like the one in this picture.  I Commercial_Toilet_238153139_std could not fathom what, on earth, was the big deal. 

Never one to waste an opportunity, I turned around and sat down.  It was then I realized what the fuss was about—the toilet was heated!  The seat was warm, and there was heat rising from the bowl, like it was filled with hot water.  I must say it was exceedingly comfortable and I can only imagine how wonderful it would be on a winter’s morning.

So, see, you never know what adventure lurks just around your corner!

All-in-all, I’d say it was a great morning!  Great friends, great junk food, and a warm posterior!  C

Friday, October 22, 2010

C: The Silver Screen

brain You can tell when I get time to sit down and read my favorite magazines.  The last post was spawned from an article in Psychology Today.  This one comes from an article in a special issue of Discover Magazine, “The Brain,” Fall 2010 issue.  The article: The Internet Makes Deep Thought Difficult, if Not Impossible, by Nicolas Carr.

Uh-Oh

I love the internet.  I love blogging.  I love trivia and searching through the web for interesting things ranging from the scientific to gossip.  I love it as a research tool.  I now have my I-Pad to keep me well-connected wherever I go. 

I mean, here I am sitting in front of the computer at this very moment.  I do it day in and day out.  My work requires it.  Thankfully, my computer work is largely “composing,” drafting documents about which I have to do a whole lotta thinking.  That may be the one saving grace I have, given what I am about to say.

Mr. Carr has a lot to say about the price we pay for this worldwide web convenience.  As he puts it, the Net is “…chipping away at [one’s] capacity for concentration and contemplation, on line or not.  [our minds] now expect to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles…”  He goes further with a discussion of how his brain had become “hungry” for the quick stimulation of the Net; how he began to notice his own inability to pay attention to one thing for more than a couple of minutes.  It worried him, it worries me.

So, he looked to science to see what the heck is going on here.  Let me give you some snippets:

* Online we are in “..an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning.”

* Here’s a real worry:  It’s not just that we tend to use the Net regularly, even obsessively.  It’s that the Net delivers precisely the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli—repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive—that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions…with the exception of the alphabets and number systems the Net may well be the single most powerful mind-altering technology that has ever come into general use. 

* The Net seizes our attention only to scatter it.  We focus intensively on the medium itself, on the flickering screen, but we’re distracted by the medium’s rapid-fire delivery of competing messages and stimuli.  He describes the clicking of the mouse, the information delivery in the blink of the eye, the flitting from one screen to the next—all perfect for training the brain to need something NOW, to avoid the work of deep thinking for the reward of cognition and problem-solving.

In other words, as he describes it, we are training on the Net for top-water thinking, never plumbing the depths.  And, it’s more than mere training—the_thinker the use of the internet is, according to neuroscientists, remodeling our brains. 

There follows an interesting discussion of memory and how the brain builds toward problem-solving and deeper thinking as we put information into it.  And one psychologist featured points out that the Net teaches us to multi-task but there is a cost: this hampers our ability to think deeply and creatively and works against inventiveness and productiveness.  This kind of multi-tasking, he says, is “…learning to be skillful at a superficial level.”

I can so see this.  Can’t you?

And, just as in my last post on fast food, my superficial mind wandered over to the children of our society.  What of them?  My poor, old brain is largely set it its ways (believe me, it is set).  But what of the kids who use this marvelous device day in and day out?  Is this going to reshape our society of, say, fifty years hence?  Are we going to miss out on deep thinkers?  I do not want that to be the case.

I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time... Charles Dickens

So, backseat driver that I am, let me say to parents of young kids out there (this is your codger speaking): let your kids use the internet.  Let them enjoy the easy access to information and all the bells and whistles that come with it.  BUT moderate it. 

Imagination Make your kids spend time with creative activities.  Make them read—you know, in the old-fashioned way—require that they be carried away by a wonderful book to another place and time.  Make them write things without the use of the Net to craft their opinions or their conclusions.  Make them play without a computer, using only their imaginations.  Force them into opportunities to enjoy themselves, in solitude and contemplation.  I did it, lying on my back in the grass on a summer’s day, making shapes of clouds and dreaming of riding my horse across distant plains.

Please, keep their brains going deeper.

I tell ya: What the kids of today need are more stickhorses….C

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

C: We are What We Eat…In More Ways Than One

The October 2010 issue of Psychology Today has an article by  psychologytodayHara Marano  that has set me thinking. 
Let me first say that I am an offender, here.  Let me get stressed, and I’ve been apt to send someone midday for a burger and fries, knowing full well that this is the wrong thing to do.  But this article, for some reason, has hit home to me.  I think that, if I haven’t yet turned the corner away from fast food, at least I am turning…it’s all a process.
The article contains the usual bad nutritional  news about fast food.  We all know this: fast food just isn’t good for us.  The article points out that almost all fast food is laced with high-fructose corn syrup (even in fish patties and buns) and that it leads to obesity, clogged arteries, heart attack and high blood sugars. 
So, if we know all this, why do we eat it?  Well, for one thing, becausburgere it is “fast,” just as the name says.  We’ve stopped expecting to pack lunches  or to go home and fix dinner after a busy day away from home.
But, also, we crave this stuff.  I have beaten myself up over this, thinking I was some kind of exceptional near-addict to fast food.  This article points out something that helps me put that craving in focus:
…for most of human history, calories were scarce and we became attuned to enjoying them wherever we found them…
In other words, we needed the calories to survive at one time.  We needed to load up where we could find them—like bears packing it on in the sweet berry patch so they can make it through the winter.  Only for us, winter never comes.  Just the packing it in part…but our innate craving for french-fries calorie-load remains.
This helped me; just knowing the physiology/psychology behind the fact that I have this desire to turn to fast food habitually.  I’m hard-wired to do this.  I just need to realize that and accept that I must overcome that urge, it no longer being beneficial to my survival.  Quite the contrary.
Fast food is becoming, more and more, part of everyone’s life.  This article points out that 30 percent of Americans consume some fast food on a given day—thirty percent!!  It is a growing industry.  Look at these statistics the article contains:
Amount Americans Spend on Fast Food
1970 - $6 Billion
2000 - $110 Billion
2010 - $134 Billion
Number of McDonald’s Restaurants
1968 – 1,000
2007 – 28,000
This stuff ain’t going away.
But the real point of the article is this: You don’t even have to eat fast food to be affected by it!! The article cites a Toronto study which shows that fast-food symbols create within us (whether we eat the food or not) a sense of time-stress and impatience.  The study found, as the article relates,
…just a glimpse of the golden arches changes our psychology so that people become impatient about financial decisions…unwilling to postpone immediate gain for future rewards, so they sacrifice savings, against their own economic interest.  Exposure to fast-food symbols also seeps into the way we approach leisure.
archesThese reactions are automatic, involuntary.  Scary.  The need for immediate calorie-load translates into the need for immediate  everything…I believe it.
Decades ago when the beautiful Elizabeth Taylor had a second wind of fame for becoming fat, I recall the comedienne Joan Rivers targeting her.  “Elizabeth,” she said, “is the only person who stands in front of a microwave oven screaming HURRY!!”
Well, you know, that’s where most of us are: hurry to satisfy me!  And it causes things like
  • credit card debt by our inability to put off “things” until we can truly afford them, or
  • more to the point here: long-term health sacrificed to the immediate gratification of chicken nuggets.bills
I am sounding very codger-like, I know.  I suppose I have reached that point in my life where I like grouse about the “good old days” and how much better our ways were forty years ago.  I’m trying to temper my view with this thought.
Still, I am disturbed, I’ll tell you, because I think there is something to all this.  And it isn’t a good thing.
V decries this, as well, but puts a lot of the blame on working moms.  (What, pray tell, about working Dads?  Do they get any blame?).  Well, maybe this is a factor…but I think  back to those “good old days” when my stay-at-home Mom had to hang clothes on the line and iron and do all kinds of things that we’ve convenienced away.   My mother never had, for example, a crock-pot when I was a child, nor did she have the convenience of trotting by the store whenever she needed something easy but homemade to fix. 
I think there are a lot of things that balance the work load and make it entirely possible for working mothers to fix healthy food for their young.  (Of course, insisting that working Dads do their part could be part of the solution, too).  No, I think that part of the fast-food problem is that Moms may, too, have been hijacked by the “I’m too busy/tired to cook” message of fast food.
So, those of you with kids and grandkids, what are you training into them?  Are you training them to wait on home-cooked pot roast and setting the table while it finishes cooking?  Or are you training them that you can drive through and fill your need for body fuel immediately having no input into nutrition and no personal time sacrificed for its preparation?
What is that doing to their bodies?  At least my fast-food forays came after my adulthood—it was rare, rare in my childhood. 
And what is that doing to their habits in other parts of their lives? Are we training them to stand in front of life’s microwave, yelling “Hurry!” about everything, causing them to make poor decisions across the board?
Food for thought…C.

PS - after I published--in the shower--I thought of this "must add..."  You parents, remember, your kids are hard-wired the same as you.  They will crave this fast-food.  You need to understand this and be the responsible adult.  You need to expect them to beg for it and exercise your parenting responsibility to refuse.  Sorry.  It's our job to guide...not give in.  (enough preaching).

Saturday, October 16, 2010

V: I'm Singing the Baby Boomer Blues


This is NOT me, but it could be!

I'm frustrated! One day recently I should have been at work, but had just found my glasses--I am so myopic I cannot go anywhere without my glasses! It's embarrassing to call in because you can't drive to work because you can't find your glasses! Apparently the cat knocked them off the vanity and they blended in with the wood floor. I had been been on my hands and knees all over the house searching for them! I used to wear contacts, but no more! Just one of the "benefits" of getting older! I suffer from dry eye syndrome and I cannot use Restasis drops--they make my eyes ache so bad they are not worth it! So no contacts for me--just the ugly glasses that make me look even more matronly! It's not fair I tell you! lol




My hand is still recovering from surgery last month and I am in a hand brace. It hurts to type so I am REAL slow, mainly using my "good" hand. The custom made splint is better than the bulky cast I had to wear for two weeks during which I threatened to get out the carving knife and cut it off myself! Wearing a bulky, heavy cast in 95+ degree weather is no fun!  I have difficulty with housework too--My husband is keeping the dishwasher loaded and doing most of the cooking, but you should SEE my house!  NO, actually you shouldn't!!!

There is lots I can't do at my job right now and it frustrates me and makes me feel lazy. I AM naturally lazy, but I resist it. lol
Of course I've pitched in when my coworkers were disabled by an injury or surgery, but I hate for them to have to help do my job. I wear myself out at times about it. Do "normal" people do that or am I just hopelessly neurotic? Tell me!!!

My sister calls to tell me that my mother is calling her 8 to 10 times a day about her hairdo woes. For 8 years after my dad died, and when my own three kids were young, my mom depended entirely upon me, especially since she never learned to drive. The trips to buy hairspray and go to the hairdresser are legendary in our family.  She has been obsessed with her hair for as long as I can remember! Suffering from the dementia of Alzheimer's disease, mother has exhibited obsessive behavior which is not uncommon in this disease. The past few months her obsession has been feeding her cats, insisting that there is no food for her or the cats. The very nice assisted living facility where she resides is being paid a hefty sum to prompt her to go to meals and administer her medications. She has plenty of food for snacking in her apartment and all her meals are provided in a lovely restaurant quality dining room. My poor sister finds almost all the food she has bought for mother in dishes on the floor. It's for the cats who have no interest in eating things like orange jello or peanut butter crackers! I had to chuckle when my sister told me that! They counted 17 dishes with odd bits of food that no cat would eat on the floor, and mother insisted she did not know how they got there ! Alzheimer's is a cruel disease and no laughing matter, but if you can't chuckle every now and then about the craziness of it, you will crumble for sure. Mom lives 7 hours away from me now, so I feel pretty helpless to offer any tangible help.






I work with disabled students in a public high school and it is often rewarding, but sometimes stressful. We teach life skills (such as shopping, cooking, etc.), and go to work sites in the community.  We also participate in Special Olympics. I like the kids, and the variety of what we do everyday, but at times it can be exhausting.
 I've worked in Special Education for years and  in such a classroom you sometimes experience emotional outburts, students with seizure disorders, or just the noise that accompanies the nonverbal who struggle to express themselves. Most of the students do have language ability, but believe me there are ways to express yourself loudly without words!
Just a typical day! When I left yesterday afternoon, my head was pounding! I enjoy the work and my colleagues are friends. Retiring at this point doesn't seem like an option for me. For years I was on my husband's medical insurance, but it became cost prohibitive--ridiculously so! Also, if my husband were to go on MY plan at work, my policy would cost over $500. a month more! Three years ago I left the preschool teaching job I loved because I needed a job that provided health insurance! Doesn't that suck? Tell me!!!

Some days I wish I could  just stay home and work on this blog, pursue some  quiet creative pursuits and explore how to build an online business for my retirement years.  I could help my youngest daughter by keeping her toddler son part-time. He is the first "day-care" child in our family and it weighs on me. I can still remember in the sixties my mom telling us that the little Russian children were taken away from their families for the entire school week and were only allowed to go to their homes on weekends while their mothers were made to enter the workforce. We thought it was the most terrible thing we could imagine, but are we that far from that reality in our own country now? Now this sweet little boy seems to be thriving in his church run daycare center, but...
Who wouldn't want to keep this little guy!

Yes, I know many would tell me that this is NOT my problem, but I remember what it was like to be home with three kids and my mom and all the women I knew worked outside the home.  After raising us, my mom joined the work force when I began college!  I loved being home with my kids, but at times I felt like the lone ranger!  Conversely,  my daughter has NO backup when her little one is sick and cannot attend daycare, because ALL the women in his family work outside the home.  Work places are not very sympathetic--I can see both sides of that issue, but the reality is that--- it sucks for women and children, doesn't it?

You know, I think I'm facing the same challenges that other babyboomer/sandwich generation women are experiencing.  We feel caught between caring for our elders and the youngest in our families.  We often want to "fix" things for everyone and don't take care of ourselves so well.  So, having vented,  perhaps I should feel better now!

 Just want to add that "C" and I are exploring some new ideas and we want your input on it. You'll be hearing about it soon! I'm going to make some changes in my life--just looking for the courage to take the first step!

Friday, October 15, 2010

C: Ol’ Man Winter is Coming…I Can Just Feel It.

snow I had to turn the heat on this morning for the first time this season.  This harbinger of winter has me thinking about doing all the winterizing chores that need doing around here.  I need to cover the outside water faucets and make sure the light bulbs in our two well houses are lit.

Those tasks are easy enough to do, but there are larger ones, too, that I dread dealing with.  For one thing, the back refractory board in my fireplace is crumbling.  This means I need a new one.  This has not been as easy as I had hoped since I don’t know the manufacturer of my fireplace  insert.  Apparently, I will have to go “generic” and cut one to fit.  Just one more thing on my “learn-how” list.  In any event, it must be done before a fire is built.  And we simply must have our fires in the winter…

The other thing is the generator.  I have one of those gasoline-powered jobs, and it won’t start.  I’ll have to find a way to get it to someofireplace-main_Fullne who can repair it.  My thought is that it won’t be rocket science, but I haven’t a clue.  We don’t have many days without electricity, but it is nice to be able to have heat and lights, at least.  This generator will not run the well, too. 

There are various other smaller tasks I’ll have to see to before the hard weather sets in.  At least I don’t have horses or livestock to worry with. Much as I miss my horses,  I believe I’d be beside myself right now worrying with getting hay in for them and dreading the freezing rain days when feeding must still be done and water troughs broken of their top layer of ice.

I have to admit that all these preparations make me sometimes think “condo,” with its no-upkeep.  But, then, I look at my dogs who have always run free and think of the solitude and serenity of my forest-facing back porch and scratch the idea.

I guess everything has its price! C

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

C: Dining with Sandra

Once again our blogging friend from Add Humor and Faith…Mix Well came through our town last Thursday.  V, MIL and I picked her up at the motel and spent the evening over dinner, laughing and sharing stories—just four bloggers out on the town.

The restaurant we visited has a replica of something V and I both vilaughing sallyvidly remember from our childhood half a century (egads!) ago…Laughing Sally.  

Sally was a mechanical doll (a bit larger than life-sized) who shook and laughed over and over and over.  She was displayed behind glass at the amusement park attached to our Zoo.  V and I shared the same childhood mixture of horror and attraction when it came to Sally.  Whenever we were fortunate enough to con our parents into going to “the rides,” (2 ride limits, for they were a quarter apiece), a visit to stand staring at Sally  in nervous fascination was required. 

But, baxeack to our dinner:  Sandra is exactly as V and I have grown to know her through her blog and her comments . You may recall that last year when we first met personally, my mother was having a fit worried that Sandra just might be an axe murderer, disguising herself as a harmless b logger.  Well, she left her axe home again this year and we had a wonderful time.

Sandra is an excellent writer, as those of you who read her know.  If you don’t you’d do well to run by and check her out.  She, like us, is “ordinary, middle America” (sorry, Sandra), just making  it through life like the rest of us.  She, like you and me, has her daily grind, her challenges, and her worries about children.  The difference?  Well, Sandra doesn’t just live her life, she writes about life…and that, folks, is a function of her being, also, “extraordinary!”  (ah, yes, paradox)  And, here I go overthinking, yet again…

I sometimes find a commenter or a post on someone’s blog saying something like: “I don’t have an interesting life to write about,” and I’m here to tell you that is just not true.   I think the difference between non-bloggers and bloggers is not so much that we bloggers have interesting content in our lives, but that we see the interesting aspects of life and are willing to share about it.  No, maybe, we’re driven to share about it!  I notice that Sandra is still posting, although she’s in a motel, on a trip away from home.  Love it!

But reuniting with Sandra this year was wonderful.  It felt like old friends coming together again after an extended separation, catching up on news, enjoying one another’s company.  We were just all plain glad to see each other!

And the difference a year makes?  Well, I think I’m in a “better place” emotionally than I was last year, and I noticed Sandra looked great, apparently having shed a few pounds while I have packed them on…rats! (We’ll just call my poundage an outward side of inner healing—although I must do something…).

But, all that to say this:  Thanks, all you “ordinary” bloggers, for sharing your lives.  They enrich those of us who read them.  Aordinarynd, having overthought this thing, I’ll add: maybe it’s the sharing that turns the “ordinary” into the “extraordinary!”  It makes us special.

So, those of you who hesitate—we’re interested in your day-to-day life.  We relate to it, we learn from it.  Sharing about it turns the “ordinary” into the “extraordinary.” 

C

Sunday, October 10, 2010

C: The Great Hat Giveaway

No, it’s not a contest…it’s the other kind of “giveaway.”

I have dear, dear friends in Wales.  They live in the outskirts of Cardiff.  We walesbecame friends because their middle (and, later, their younger) son came to the US to coach soccer—specifically, my son’s team.  He landed in our  guest bedroom, and he became party of our family.

When he married a girl from here, his family came over for the wedding.  Their arrival added a dimension to my life for which I am eternally grateful.  They are true, wonderful friends, and we could go years without face-to-face contact and remain almost family.

They have stayed with us perhaps half a dozen times.   Their sons had the unmitigated gall to move to the next state, so when they come to the US now, I do not see them.  I have yet to visit Wales, but have absolutely no doubt of my welcome should my ship come in and I be able to afford the trip and the time from home.  (I’m counting on the lottery…we’ll see).

I love the stories of Wales.  British folks out there, you are our kindred.  We are the same—only slightly different.  My friends and I used to have wonderful times (much wine) laughing at our slight differences…same language, different dialect, as it were.

I love these folks, dearly, and writing about them brings tears to my eyes.  But, I digress: V and I talked the other day about a story of my friend W, the wife of this couple, and V thought I should share it with you.  I am going to—not only because I love the story, but because it has dredged up such warm memories of my times with my friends.

hathatOne of the things I loved about W was the fact that when she traveled to America for a special occasion (wedding, baptism, etc/) she was sure to bring a fancy hat.  In Wales, apparently, women still wear head adornment, and getting her hat (they were always large) here on the plane was a trick.  

Although I would be entirely too self-conscious to wear one myself, I loved it.  It is a feminine “marker,” something that we women can have (I mean, all women, perhaps, except for me) that men cannot.  W brought over the most gorgeous hats, in just the right color to match whatever outfit she planned to wear the event (W has impeccable taste)

Apparently, the hats are not just for special occasions, but W actually wears them every Sunday when she attends church.  And it is this mixture: hat + church, that give us a story.

The Welsh, as do all British, enjoy more visible symbols of a long history than do we Americans.  W’s church, as I understand it, is in a building where a church has stood 900 years.  900 years!!   The building, itself, as I recall, was built in 1836, the year my state attained statehood.  This is not a true picture of her church, but is one I found thatwelsh church is in Wales.

In spite of the grandeur of having a church that is so old….on a plot of ground that has been dedicated to the sacred for so long…there are drawbacks.  Like having no bathrooms.

Yes, it’s true.  W told me that their little church, surrounded by a cemetery  of God-only-knows-how many centuries, has no bathroom.  It was, you see, built long before the thought of using an indoor “facility “ was entertained.  Therefore, there is none.  Apparently the authorities are reluctant to disturb such an historic building.  It is still in its nearly two-hundred-year-old state.  Which I think is fabulous except for the bathroom thing, which is becoming more and more important to me as I age…

W, and the other parishioners accommodate this nod to Yore by being certain that bladders are emptied before arriving at the church.  All are on notice that this is an essential part of the Sunday morning ritual.

W and D walk to church each Sunday morning when the weather is fine, she bathroom in her fancy hat. 

And, it was just such a day when her bladder failed her.  Part way into the worship service, W realized that her pre-worship-time preparations were not going to see her through till the end of the service. Try as she may, the bladder would not stop its urgency.  She whispered to D  that she was going to walk back up the hill to home, she’d see him after the service.  She tip-toed out the door.

As she turned on the sidewalk, she realized that she just was not going to make it.  She cast her eyes around for a public bathroom,but there was none near—at least not near enough.  She hit upon an idea:  She’d find a spot in the cemetery behind one of those great big grave markers and, shielded from all view, she’d be able to take the necessary action…

She found just the spot.  It was situated so that if she got behind the marker, no one from the road nor anyone from the church would be able to see her.  Ahhhhh, relief!

Later, as they sat for Sunday dinner, D said, “Well, W, could you not have made it back to the house before relieving yourself?”

Astonished, she replied, “Whatever do you mean?”

Apparently the whole congregation had realized her predicament and its solution.  Dave explained:

Oh, you took great care to get behind a gravestone, but it looked like that great, big fancy hat of yours was resting atop it!.  The whole congregation was amused to look out and see the gravestone wearing a fancy hat until they realized what was actually going on behind that stone…quite distracting

Artist’s rendering of what it must have looked like:

wendyhad

I have laughed and laughed at W over that and, good sport that she is, she herself told met the story!

But hats: don’t you love them? (One just must remember to make allowances…) C

Friday, October 8, 2010

C: Everybody’s Working for the Weekends

TGIFI find myself, more and more, living for the weekends.  Respite from the hectic.  I love my work but, frankly, it gets overwhelming.  Never do I get to a comfortable, busy hum; it seems to stay at fever pitch.  I know, I know, I whine here all the time about this, but it’s true.

This Monday is Columbus Day—a federal holiday.  The Courthouse will be closed.  Traditionally (as in twenty-five years ago and earlier), law offices also closed when the courthouse did.  Not so anymore, we’ll be there just like a regular day…ah to be a Federal employee! 

This weekend I have nothing on the slate (except, of course, that three-day trial looming next week).  But, at least, I don’t have to work my pre-trial preparations around others this weekend.  This is a luxury.  Usually there is at least some family obligation or social event I feel I must attend, but this weekend there is nothing.  What an inviting prospect!NAP

Oh, I’ll stay busy enough.  Believe me, there’s housework a plenty for me  to do and then there are all those winterizing chores to come.  And, I’ll have to prepare trial outlines….Too, I’ll probably fit in a nap both days…

So, that last item is what makes me feel guilty.  I find myself think: “You have all that work waiting on you at the office.  You should be there today catching up.”   But what I have found is that I really, really need a couple days back-t0-back to recharge the batteries.  This is not a cop-out.  This is a reality.

When I get overtired, not only does the speed and clarity of my thinking suffer, I tend to get pessimistic and depressed.  Thankfully, I have learned this about myself and find myself saying at times, “Yes, C, I know it all looks grim right now, but remember you didn’t get much sleep last night…things will look more manageable in the morning.”  And usually that’s exactly right.

My brother, who practices with me agrees, as he has experienced the same thing.  Some weekend days when we talk and I mention I am thinking of going in to catch up, he will caution me that I will be less effective if I don’t get enough time away from our work.  I know he is right.  It isn’t just the physical “rest” part of the deal.  What I need is the time away from thinking about my work and churning through the issues it presents.  On Monday mornings I find myself with new insights on existing situations; yet another proof that our brains work subconsciously on matters while we piddle and sleep and socialize.

MONDAY

I am certain that the concept of “days off,” especially structured ones, is relatively new to mankind (must research this).  I don’t see how agricultural societies, for example, could actually take regular “days off.”  The cows always need milking, the stock fed, and probably (I don’t know this…) work on the farm was as neverending as mine seems to be. 

So I wonder: Are we just softer now, demanding actual “weekends” and all?  Oh, yes, I’d venture to say so.  Still, we can only be where we are, and where I am is needing those two days, back-t0-back if I can get them.  C.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

C: O Pioneer!

Vee asked about my senior law partner, whom I mentioned in my last post on trivia.  For one thing, let me say that she is not “trivia,” by any means.  This post is a brief overview of “A’s” remarkable life.  The anecdotes would fill a book.  Why, we could do a whole separate blog simply on A’s life stories.

A was born in 1921.  She came up through a time that was not only financially-challenging, but was no world in which a woman could reasonably expect to gain anything but a husband and family without a hard struggle.  A had the brains and the grit for the struggle…

She had an older bShorthand and Fountain Penrother who was in “business school” in their small town. At the age of 12, this little girl talked the owner of the school into letting her attend class to learn shorthand in return for chores around his house.  (Do you people remember Gregg Shorthand?  I do!  I still use mine, from my high school class).  She took to this like a duck to water and even accompanied her neighbor, a court reporter, to court and practiced there.  It was a skill she never forgot.

A went to college, graduated with honors and began work on a Masters  Degree in English.  She began to teach at the local college.  While there she was offered a court reporting job in a larger, university town some 150 miles away.  Someone had heard through the grapevine that she had a skill in shorthand.  She took the job and moved.  (She was married, but I am not even going into her three marriages here—would take too long).

She began the job as reporter for the circuit court.  The term “circuit” was used because these judges traveled a “circuit” from town-to-town for trials.  A traveled around with him.  Oh, the stories…but, the long and short of it is that this judge made several advances to her and, rebuffed, he later refused to renew her contract, chiding her that she was, basically, worthless.  (And they say hell hath no fury like that of a scorned woman!).  She had a baby by this time.

Determined to show him, she helped support the family by free-lance reporting and enrolled in law school, the only woman student.  She also attended with our state’s first African-American law student.  Not enough time in this post to include the interesting stories about that…

Skipping a whole bunch of fascinating stuff here, let me say that she graduated No. 1 in her law class and scored the highest on the bar examination.  Her physician, impressed with her, recommended her to a friend of his in the capital city for a position in a very esteemed firm—the largest in our state, and one that is still in existence.

A was excited to see an envelope from this prestigious firm.  Imagine how she felt when she read (and I paraphrase): “Dear A.  We are very impressed with your accomplishments, and you are to be congratulated.  However, we do not believe that there will ever be a place in our firm for a woman attorney.  We hope you find your niche.”

This is only one of many such discriminations A endured.

Again, skipping right along, suffice it to say that she pulled herself upright and went on to accomplish an amazing professional career, raising two children, and earning herself a reputation as, first a prosecutor and then into private practice where she became the maven of divorce law in our state (in spite of three basically worthless husbands she practically had to step over to do so). 

She is known for fierce representation, and many a male lawyer has dreaded dealing with her.  A function of her life of hard knocks is that she has the mouth of a sailor.  But here’s the real paradox: She’s a coifed, petite, Southern lady of manners, bejeweled with God-only-knows how many dollars worth of the “real stuff,” including her five-carat “everyday” diamond,  and you’d never expect her to unload the string of profanity just by looking.  I have seen her cuss folks under the table in terms I would never breathe to a client or opposing counsel.  It is a surreal experience.

It must be said here that A is a deeply-religious woman.  (Do you have whiplash yet from all this contradictory information?).  She is in church each and every Sunday and is a faithful member of her ladies’ circle.  I’ll never forget leaving the office late one afternoon, thinking I was the last in the office but noticing A’s office light on.  As I told her “good by,” she looked up and said, “C, do you have a yellow highlighter?”

When I returned with the requested highlighter, I asked what she was doing, and here was her reply:  “I’m leadin’ the G—D--- Bible Study tonight, and I’m just gettin’ ‘round to reading the G—D—lesson!”  I swear to you I heard God laughing…He knows that her crusty exterior is born of her hard-scramble life and that she has a true heart.

She has become a legend in our state.  I cannot go to lunch with her without being accosted by several who drop by our table to pay homage to the maven of divorce law.  And every lawyer around who has more than fifteen years’ experience has a story about her.  She’s a mover in the political party of her choice and knows the high-and-mighty personally.  They, too, pay homage to this legendary woman.virginia

She is a social butterfly, attending all the symphony concerts and anything  that smacks of culture.  She is an amazing ballroom dancer, and she is a member of three dance clubs, doing the waltz and tango each and every weekend that she is not otherwise occupied with some social function.

She’s 89 years old and drives her brand-new Jaguar to work each day (some times in leather pants!).  Her work is her life.  We other attorneys in the firm do all the “heavy lifting” for her now,  but Ms. A is still requested by clients, so vast is her reputation, and she sits in with us on interviews.  We do the trial work.  It is a happy half-way retirement for her.

So, when I titled this post, “O Pioneer!” it was a true reflection of how I feel about this beloved fellow attorney.  She is an inspiration.  She blazed a trail for the likes of me.  C

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

C: Information, Please

How did we live without the internet?  (Oh, thank you, thank you, Al Gore). Okay, the thanks are sarcastic and the question is rhetoricallogo-trivial-pursuit, but  for me the internet has become really important.  Always I have been an information hound.   There are only two people in my circle whom I fear in Trivial Pursuit games—I have so much useless knowledge stuffed into my head that I can usually more than hold my own in the trivia department.

A function of that quest for knowledge is a HUGE library.  I’m telling you, I have all the classics, many bestsellers over the past thirty years and non-fiction books on almost any topic. 

For example, my neigbootyhbor’s child had a project on jet engines—I had two books in my library on them.  I can’t tell you beans about jet engines right now, but I sure have something in my library to help.  Recently my little  niece had a pirate project due—I had several books worthwhile, including one on women pirates called (I love this) “Booty.”

I am very proud of my library, and once a book makes it to my home, it is here to stay.  I cannot boast having read them all, but I know them all.

I’ll never forget one day about four or five years ago, coming home from some errand, and strolling through the living room.  I stopped in my tracks, because lying on the coffee table was a book on Celtic monks.  I stopped because I did not recognize it from my library.  I was right.  A friend had stopped by while I was gone and left it, thinking I’d enjoy adding it to the shelves.  He was right—he knew of my interest and my several books on Celtic spirituality.  It has fit right in.  My husband was shocked, wondering how I could spot a newbie to my huge collection—just call it obsession.  The obsession was mine, not his, so he left all the books—thank goodness.

So, you can imagine how I have taken to the internet.  Oh, my!  Information at my fingertips!  I have used it to fix the tractor, to research for my work, to find song lyrics, as a dictionary/thesaurus, and to keep up with the Ashton/Demi drama. 

The other day my 89-year-old law partner was at the office—er, this would be on Sunday, with both of us there.  She is remarkable and I will write about her some day.  She has practiced law 55 years and is in the office every day.  She has taught me much.  But the internet?  She just can’t quite get to using it.

She came in asking me exactly how much a stamp is now for first class mail.  I am embarrassed to admit that I did not know exactly; I just send someone down the hall to use the postage meter when I need to mail something.  (I told you it is trivia I’m good at—not really useful stuff like how much postage is).

I’ll check the internet for you,” I said.

What?! You can find out about postage on the internet?” she said.  Remember, this woman was born in 1921—she has seen lots of change in this world, and I’d venture to say that the last 20 years have been changing at light speed.

I explained to her that you can find anything on the internet.  She was amazed, “Who puts all the information in there?” She asked.  This woman is not dumb.  She was Phi Beta Kappa, graduated at the top of her law school class, and scored the highest on the bar exam that year—nope, not dumb.  it’s just a new day, and she is amazed.

To tell you the truth, I am amazed, too.  You may recall from my earlieriPad-NYT post that I have obtained an I-Pad; and let me tell you, it has become an appendage.  Long ago my I-Phone became a usual accessory, but this I-Pad is so easy to get on the internet and so easy for my aging eyes to read, that I use it daily to surf the web.  I believe I would go through withdrawal without all that information at my fingertips.

Just the other night Son and I were at Best Buy buying the movie “Gran Torino” (which you all must see if you have not yet).  As we turned toward home and our movie night, Son came up with the bright idea that we could call in supper at our favorite Italian restaurant…I pulled over and pulled up a menu on the old I-Pad and voila! (that may, actually, be French…I’ll have to get on the net and look it up) we had dinner.

So, for me there is no going back.  Oh, I’ll keep my library, and I have an order ready for Daedalus, my favorite off-price book catalog, so the paper  library is going to keep growing.  I have tried my e-books on the I-Pad and, neat as they are, there is something missing for me without the paper page.

And I can’t go without saying that the internet is responsible for my introduction to many new friends—you! 

So, for once, here’s praise to technology!  C

Sunday, October 3, 2010

C: Insomnia

without_sleep_or_insomnia_305485The other night I had insomnia.  It's been a while since I really had insomnia. Well, I guess, not all that long in the broad scheme of things. At the beginning of my marital problems three years ago I would often go on three hours of sleep a night.   Let me tell you, that’s not good.

That is highly uncharacteristic for me, I was always the kid who required the full eight hours. I was, throughout my life, early to bed and very early to rise.  (Unlike V, who was mostly the opposite—a night owl)   It is still common to find me in bed before 9 p.m and up before 5 a.m.  Falling asleep is easy—it’s the staying asleep that is sometimes difficult.

My sleep patterns have become very odd over the past year or so.  Most nights I have a pretty good night’s sleep.  Chili usually wakes me to go out (wolf dog that he thinks he is) around 2 ish, but normally I cruise by the bathroom and go right back to sleep.  Some nights, well, I wake up inspired, smack in the middle of the night.

One of the pluses of single life (yes, I’m finding that there are many) is that one does not have to be considerate of another in the sleep pattern thing.  Consequently, I sometimes wake at 1:30 a.m. and come to the computer and jot down thoughts on a case that my brain has apparently been working on as I slumbered.  Normally, I go right back to bed and don’t suffer a bit for this interruption.

And then there is  blogging.  Some posts are at least started by me in the middle of the night.  This particular post was largely written the other night, as I felt engulfed in a full-fledged case of insomnia.  I awakened at 11:45 p.m. and, notwithstanding my best efforts, was still wrestling with the situation at 2:00 a.m.

The three worst things about real insomnia (as opposed to those shorter interruptions), in my opinion, are:

  1. Worrying about going back to sleep, finally, only an hour and a half before having to get up and go to work—you know, just as you are deeply in that precious sleep? 
  2. Boredom; sheer boredom.  Do you know how boring the middle of  the night is?  Do you know how many amazingly-daffy prodcricut-expression-machineucts are offered for sale then on television and how alluring they look to the sleep-deprived?   People who are up at 2 a.m. watching are highly-susceptible to purchasing, being in a weakened condition.  I actually bought a Cricut Expression machine that way (you know, a die-cutting sort of thing that I thought, in my craziness, that I just had to have?), and I don’t even scrapbook!  It’s a neat machine, but I have n.o…e.a.r.t.h.l.y….u.s.e for it.  It was expensive. It now resides with my sister and her daughters who do, indeed, use it to do their scrapbooks.  New Rule: No purchases when I have just come out of the bed…Need to wait for the clarity of daylight…
  3. I tend to eat when I’m up—probably connected with that boredom thing.

insomniacartoon

Truth be told, I don’t mind the “inspired” wakings, just  long as  they aren’t too long, I can accomplish something at my computer, and I go right back to sleep.  But the insomnia thing I just cannot handle for long.

Now, I want to know if middle-of-the-night composing is characteristic of bloggers.  I just betcha that there are others out there who get up in the night and at least start posting…c’mon.  ‘Fess up for me—make me feel somewhat normal.  C

Friday, October 1, 2010

C: Diversity

courthouse Our office is about three blocks from the courthouse.  Here’s a picture of where I do my “daily beat.”  You can see to the right the beginnings of the more modern addition, which more than doubles the size of this picturesque older part.  Hard to get a picture of the whole thing

Because parking is at a premium in our downtown (and because we are lazy), when we lawyers have a court appearance, someone from the staff drops us off at the front door and picks us up when the trials are over.  I love saying, “Just a sec…I’ll call for the car…” (See my previous post on my love of “staff.”)

On pretty days I wait for my ride outside the courthouse on the sidewalk.   I enjoy standing there watching folks coming and going, shooting the breeze with my fellow lawyers as they pass by on their way to their own hearings.  Yesterday was such a day—gorgeous fall weather.

I no longer do criminal-law work (having the luxury of that option!), so I have little contact with the “underground” of the courthouse, where our “holding cells” are.  Sometimes, I get a jolt of reality of the “other side” when my path intersects with that legal arena.shackle

Yesterday, as I was awaiting the chauffeur, prisoners were being brought up from the cell to be transported back to whatever incarceration unit they had come from.  There were, maybe, twenty of them, shackled together, wearing prison-issued “scrub-like” clothing,  some of these bearing the (I guess) honorary title “TRUSTEE” across the back.  There were both men and women.

I watched as they loaded onto the bus, accompanied by armed Deputy Sheriffs.  I couldn’t help but watch for the noise. 

There was (just no other word for it) much “hooting.”  There was vile profanity being shouted.  Several from up and down the line chimed in together.  The racket was amazing.  The officers seemed totally nonplussed—like this is just the way it is all the time.

I wondered if the ranting was purposeful, if the participants were, together, protesting some ill treatment or injustice.  I don’t think so.  It seemed like some type of random group rage against the system, not requiring any previous connection between them.  But I don’t know for sure.

As the shock of the scene began to dull, it dawned on me that I should snap a shot, so I did (having my little point-and-click nestled in my purse).  Here’s the scene, much quieter by the time I got to my camera:

DSCN1192

The prisoners had just gotten all loaded on the white bus, and I regret that I did not think to snap before, as they were all lined up outside.

Now, let me point out to you the woman to the left of the sidewalk.  I had noticed her earlier.  She hovered up closer to where I was standing for a while, sauntering slowly toward the group, watching.  I never saw her greet any of these people, but she seemed as interested as I was, so I wondered if she had a personal connection with some of those bus riders.

But here’s the thing I noticed most about her: the bag you see hanging from her right shoulder is a diaper bag.  Peeking over her left shoulder is a blanketed, tiny, tiny baby.  I could see his/her little face and tiny fingers from underneath the blanket as she stood next to me. This baby looked days, not weeks, old.   In the woman’s right hand was a cigarette at all times.  She chain smoked the five minutes or so we were together, stomping out the butts on the sidewalk as she finished each.

As a mother, I recoiled at the thought of having such a little one amongst the throng at the courthouse; and I was not pleased by the chain smoking while holding an infant. 

I have thought about her, the baby, the prisoners and their behavior, the whole scene since.

Just as I was snapping this shot, a good friend who is a law clerk for a criminal division strolled up, curious about what the heck I was doing with my camera.  I remarked on the level of noise that went on as they entered the bus.  His comment: “C, they’re always that way.”  Really?  So this wasn’t an event-driven moment?  It was just mob behavior….

Back to the woman and the baby…I don’t know what to say.  I am worried for this child growing up, wanting to pray for him/her.  Should I be worried?  Am I just naive?  Is it smug and superior of me to wish that this infant’s life looked a bit more like my own son’s life did at that age—nestled in a clean, safe nest without thought of moving among the masses or side stream smoke?DSCN1193

And then there is another woman who walks, incessantly, by our office every day.  We see her, rain or shine, triple-digit or freezing temperatures.  I snapped this shot of her as she walked away from me down our sidewalk.  Truthfully I am afraid for her to see me photograph her.  One friendly lawyer tried to greet her one morning and she spewed profanity at him, accusing him of raping her…no, I’ll keep my distance, for she is clearly not in her right mind.  Left unapproached, she remains impassive as we move about her.  But she’s there, walking, walking, walking, and we all assume she spends nights in some shelter.

I like to think that my job offers me a cross-section slice of society on view, but I think I’m kidding myself.  After all, my clientele select out—by necessity—those who cannot pay me.  So, while I see a lot of the darker side of life, Igod'sview think there is a whole different sector with which I really never intersect. 

I thought about God’s-eye view, as He looks down from the heavens, zooming in on individuals.  What must He see?  Beauty, for sure, but also misery and isolation that I miss as I move about in my bubble. 

C.

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