Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Way I Feel

The way I feel is like a robin/Whose babes have flown to come no more 
Like a tall oak tree alone and cryin'/When the birds have flown and the nest is bare.
--Gordon Lightfoot

Work has been insane lately.  This whole month, Boss Jason was supposed to be in back to back trials.  All the cases ended up settling or getting kicked--that's the legal expression for not making it high enough on the docket to get into the courtroom.  It's like getting bumped from an airplane.  You have a reserved seat, but so do several other people, and only one of you can sit there, so the Airline Employees (mysterious creatures, them) determine who goes and who stays.  In court, it's the Court Coordinator who decides, and she (she's usually a she) is even more mysterious than the Airline Employees.  There's really no point in asking her why she's doing what she's doing because the answer's almost always going to be, "That's how Judge _____ likes it."  Remember, kids, the Judge is the one with the robe, the one you don't want to piss off.  But you don't want to piss off the Court Coordinator, either.  She's the one who decides if you get the nice seat at the front of the courtroom or the one in the back next to the restroom and the woman with the two screaming babies. 

Anyway, the settling of a case is usually a Good Thing, and while the kicking of a case is generally a bad thing, there's usually a little sigh of relief that goes on.  There wasn't in this instance.  I was counting on my boss to be gone for long stretches of time so I could work on the six (count them! Six!) sets of discovery that were due the last few days of the month.  We moved them all to a span of about four days because we were pretty sure that those would be the only four days in the month that Jason would actually be around to read, edit and sign.  I was pretty much counting on his being away so I'd have the necessary stretches of time required to write the things.  There's a lot of writing involved in discovery.  You use some of the same phrases over and over again (among my favorites: burdensome, oppressive and harassing; not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence; vague, misleading and calls for speculation), but it's still writing, and hey, I like to write stuff.  The thing is, when Boss Jason's around he interrupts me a lot. Not to be a jerk; it's just the way his brain works.  From the beginning of January I had blocked out how many days I'd need to do each set, with extra time for editing and gathering exhibits, and set up a schedule based on what was due first.  Then the trials started getting canceled and I watched it all not-happen.

So the last two weeks have been sort of a mad scramble as I'm trying to get these things written, edited, over to Jason for signing and out in the mail to opposing counsel.  I mailed the fourth set today and there's only two left, but I. Am. Exhausted.  It doesn't help that I picked up an ear infection somewhere (ear infections are for kids; what am I doing with a blocked eustachian tube and thick fluid sloshing around behind my ear drum?) I put up with it for about four days before it started growing a knot on my neck, at which point I finally went in to see the doc.  I don't know if it was the delay in treatment, or what, but the sucker's taking forever to go away.  (The knot in my neck is gone, though.) 

The ear infection has kept me out of the pool for almost two weeks.  I'm in chlorine withdrawal and I'm afraid I'm gonna forget how to do the breaststroke kick at this rate.  I can't get back in the water until we confirm there's no hole in my ear drum, which won't be until next Tuesday.  I'd be working out in the gym in my office basement but, uh, it was closed for three days due to a water leak.  Then when it reopened, I couldn't seem to get down there.  I had every kind of bad luck; a deposition scheduled right before lunch.  A doctor's appointment that couldn't be at any other time. My bag's been sitting under my desk, unused, since Monday.  It's starting to look like I might finally get there tomorrow. 

Ear infection plus lots of work stress plus the ongoing fun of trying to sell a house and looking for a house, plus no exercise plus stuff that's been going on in therapy that's, well, very sad, has all combined to make Jen not a very happy camper these days.  In fact, I'm pretty darn mopey.  You know, I take my meds, I go to therapy, I do what I'm told for the most part, but it's kinda depressing how easy it is to set me off. All it takes is knocking me out of my routine, and not even for that long. It's like I hang around up here on a little four-footed stool of exercise, meds, work and good self-care (enough sleep, good food, that sort of thing).  Lose one of those and things get shaky.  Lose two and the whole thing falls over sideways. 

Well, I'm gonna do something halfway amazing and show up on time to my OA meeting tonight.  Maybe.  And maybe if I do I'll get a foot back.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bloggus Interruptus Temporaricus

I know how it is.  You clock in here every Thursday evening and expect there to be a bright shiny new blog post.  And usually there is, unless something weird happens and instead of hangin' at Afrah with my laptop and the World's Greatest Pita Bread (TM), I end up uptown in some therapist's office talking to my toes about why I was afraid of doorknobs when I was six.  (That's purely hypothetical, by the way.  I was not at all afraid of doorknobs when I was six.  I was afraid of heater vents.)  My OA meeting, which is also on Thursday evening, is hell and gone from Cartagenia from uptown, so if I end up in both places on the same night, I'm usually driving too fast between and eating a sandwich.  As opposed, you know, to grooving to the Jordanian beat and sipping lemonade and typing up a blog post.

In honest fact, I don't think I've had my laptop on for anything more exciting than paying bills in at least a week.  Maybe two.  Oh, I've been writing like crazy, but the sentences tend to start out "Plaintiff OBJECTS to this Interrogatory in that the Defendant is a moron and has written this Interrogatory for the sheer purpose of taxing this paralegal's vocabulary." Well, that's how I'd write them if I got to choose the words, that is.  It's been insane at my office and when I'm not writing discovery I'm writing petitions, and when I'm not writing petitions I'm writing letters.  (You guys might think this funny, but it's only been in the last six months or so that I got over the notion that every letter I write doesn't have to be a shining example of deathless prose that will stand forever among American letters.  No, really, sometimes I can just write "Enclosed is a copy of something you might wanna look at.")  So my creative drought, which I thought I might be coming out of, seems to have stretched out a little longer.

Well, luckily for me I just started another class.  This one's based on a book called "Writing Down The Bones," or From The Bones, or maybe On The Bones, I can't remember.  It's very good, though.  It's based on Zen the same way that The Artist's Way was based on the Twelve Steps.  So obviously I've hooked up with the right group of people.  (Zen, Twelve Steps, whatever.  Just sign me up.)  And hanging with other writers is actually as weird as it is cool, but is worth it for the moments when it is both.  Last week we did a focused writing for ten minutes on a completely innocuous subject, and I started out not expecting it to be any big deal.  Perish the thought; all this anger came pouring out.  I did not expect that.  I knew I was frustrated and concerned and so on about the situation I was writing about, but it never once occurred to me I might also be pissed off. Well, hey, I'm an ex-Lutheran.  We don't get mad unless somebody tells us to, and even then, all we generally do is shake our heads at the offending party and say, "I'm very, very disappointed."

Huh.  That's actually all I have to say at this time.  Well, that and "Plaintiff OBJECTS to..." something or other.  It's late, I'm tired and traffic is ugly out there.  Hopefully I'll be back in pita-bread-fueled fighting form by Thursday.  If not, I'll rerun something from my wild youth in San Diego, back BB (Before Blogging.)  Either way, cheers, kids.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Losing My Jury Box Virginity

Well, I had this nice rant all fired up and ready to go.  I was angry, and I do some of my best writing when I'm angry.  The issue was the treatment of pregnant women, a perpetual issue with me, and something that happened in Alabama, and this court case, and--oh, never mind.  I'll just have to get all fired up about it next week again, because while all that was going on, I got picked for jury duty and everything just spiraled out of control.

I can't figure out what lawyer in his or her right mind would want me on a jury.  I'm jury box poison.  I'm mouthy, opinionated, sarcastic and I won't shut up.  On top of that, I'm a paralegal, and somehow anybody who knows anything about the law isn't anything you want on your jury.  Why, I'm not sure.  I guess they confuse ignorance (of the law) with malleability (they'll vote my way).  Well, this much I've learned from the other side of the bar: Juries may be ignorant but they are not stupid, and if you treat them like they are, the outcome may not be pretty.  Last time I was on jury duty, the guy next to me leaned over and whispered, "If the state loses this case, it'll be because their attorney pissed everyone off."  Kinda not the best way to start out.

Well, this one started out with me feeling safe because I was Juror No. 34.  I mean, they never get up to 34.  They start with No. 1 and skip the ones they don't want until they have twelve.  So they'll call, "1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8..." like that.  First they ask lots of questions of everybody, such as, in court, please rate where you take the word of a police officer from a 1 (least trustworthy) to a 5 (most trustworthy). At one point they asked if we could think of any good reasons why a defendant might choose not to testify.  They called on me fourth.  All the good answers were taken by then, so I said, "He might have a girlfriend."  The attorney turned an interesting color and said, "A girlfriend?"  "Yeah," I went on, "and maybe while he was supposedly robbing the liquor store he was actually with his girlfriend, and if he testified on his own behalf he'd have to admit being with his girlfriend."  "And why would that be a problem?" the attorney wanted to know.  "Well, it'd be a serious problem to his other girlfriend."  "And then we have a murder trial," said a guy behind me.  Everyone, including the defendant, laughed at that one.  Except the defense attorney, who looked powerfully unhappy.  I thought for sure I didn't need to worry about getting on this jury, but when they started calling numbers it was "1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 31, 34..." And I blinked several times.  I mean, this does not happen.

Fifteen minutes later I'm in for another shock.  The bailiff shows me to the jury lounge.  I sit down at the head of the table and upon realizing I was at the head of the table I quickly said, "Just because I'm sitting here does not mean I'm in charge."  A big black man, whose name was Vincent and whom I came to like very much, said, "Honey, we all know you goin' be in charge."  A few minutes later I was elected jury foreperson.  Talk about adding insult to injury.

So we listened to testimony and we reconvened in the jury lounge to vote.  It only took about half an hour.  For this guy to be guilty, the state of Texas had to prove three elements.  It proved the first two, no problem.  We got stuck on the third element.  For about 20 minutes we went around the table.  I said, "Here's my problem with this element," and laid it out.  "Somebody explain it to me."  Somebody did.  And after that I was ready to vote with everyone else.  Nobody was rude.  Nobody shouted.  It wasn't Twelve Angry Men or anything.  Everybody was respectful and we got the job done.

We found him guilty.  I wasn't happy about it.  I don't think anyone else was either, but the way the law was written, there wasn't a choice.  It was just a stupid charge.  It was like getting sent to prison for driving without insurance.  Fortunately the Judge came back after the trial and told us she was giving him probation.  He wasn't going to jail.  That was great.  Bad enough my name's on that verdict for all of recorded time.

So after that, I went home to get a bite to eat and maybe lie down a little while.  Instead I ended up falling asleep.  As in, I didn't go back to work. Until the next day, when I had 68 emails and 8 phone calls to return.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Packin' Up

Ah, Thursday night.  A loaf of (pita) bread, a jug of (lemonade), and a laptop.  One night away from the chaos and mayhem that is our house as we frantically pack up the library and move it to a storage unit in preparation for the (drum roll, please) Listing of the House.  We need that room empty, pleasant and dust-free, something it wasn't when we first moved in and hasn't been since then, either, to Give Potential Buyers the Opportunity to Imagine Their Own Belongings In This Space.  It's actually a pleasant room, once you get stuff out of it.  It's just that at the moment, as the books and their shelves head out the door, it's filling up with--empty boxes.  Well, to be fair, we've got to put them somewhere.

You have no idea how much dust can accrue in a library.  Back when I worked in a library, one of my Daily Tasks was to dust a section of books.  So out I'd go with my feather duster, like Magenta from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and run it over a section of books until they looked, well, dusted.  One Sunday, a bunch of us met at the library to move the Southwestern Reporter Second from one room in the library to another room in the library.  (It was, of course, a law library.)  I quickly found out how ineffective my feather duster actually was.  The lower shelves were the worst.  Behind the facade of being halfway clean, layers of dust stacked up on top of each other like paleolithic eras waiting to give up fossils.  That was bad, but it got worse when I pulled out an armful from the lowest shelf and half a dozen silverfish ran up my arm.  Thus followed about thirty seconds of shrieking and cursing and dancing around as I tried to get them the fuck off me.  That's one of two times I've ever said fuck in front of my boss.  May there never be a third.

Anyway.  I realize we just started this whole packing-up-for-the-buyers thing, but I'm already heartily sick of it.  We've spent entire weekends down there, shoveling through the books and the dust.  Once we finish that room (arguing, of course, that we ever do and it's not like the Augean stables or something--rivers being some miles from the house), we need to move on to the living room and the kitchen, and then, I guess, my room, and then--

You know, Joan's room might just be the one we lock the cats in.  Not because it's dirty.  It's not.  (I clean it.)  It's just--cluttered.  Joan has stacks of things she's in the process of going through, needs to go through or has already gone through but hasn't decided what to do with.  She has some boxes and some bags and a couple of bookshelves.  There are things peeking out of the closet that are not clothes, and things on the bookshelves that are not books.  It looks very homey and lived-in, like a nest.  It's just very--cluttered.

Some people are like that.  They just like having stuff around.  A big room with nothing much in it makes them nervous, agoraphobic even.  There are all those shows on TV about hoarders.  Joan is not a hoarder.  She's a collector.  There's a difference.  As we've pawed through the library, every third box has gone not to storage but to our local Half Price Books.  It would be hard to get a true hoarder to give up that many books.  That's 1/3 of the collection.  That's a lot of Greek mythology and science fiction and vampire books and home improvement hardbacks.  (Not to mention my entire collection of Ms. Magazine back issues.  Yes, folks, it's just time to let them go.)

For some reason, I don't remember our move to Dallas going this well, at least as far as the tossing-out of stuff.  Of course, there wasn't time.  From the day we knew Joan had the job to the day she had to start, we had about 28 days, and that's not a lot of time to sell a house, buy a house, pack up and move.  If memory serves, we were just tossing shit into boxes and marking them with colored stickers in hopes that we'd have some vague idea where they came from when we got where we were going.  Actually, it worked out pretty well, except for one of the movers falling through the ceiling.  I hate it when that happens.

Well, I'm sure we'll both survive and find a new place to live and nothing will explode and somehow it'll all be Fine again.  (I'm a recovering Lutheran.  When you're a Lutheran, you must make everything Fine at all times.  It's in the Bible, right next to recipe for lutefisk.)  Meanwhile, if anybody sees my little stuffed Dalai Lama doll, will you pack it with the office supplies, please?  I need it for work.  No, really.  I do.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Pipe Down, You're Talking To A Tourist...

...whose every move is among the purist.  I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine.
--Murray Head, One Night in Bangkok

I don't know if there's such a thing as an orthodox Buddhist, but if there is, I'm not one.  Buddhists are thought to be very calm and methodical, for one thing, giving full attention to whatever they happen to be doing until they move on to something else and give that their full attention.  I'm one of the most scatterbrained people I know.  Buddhist plus scatterbrained is not an equation you see very often.

Yeah, I know the whole meditation thing is supposed to help with that, and believe me, it does (you should have seen me five years ago).  But, uh, ADD meds help, too.  Triple irony.  I did not, repeat NOT want to take ADD meds.  For one thing, I don't have ADD; a psychologist told me so and I believed him.  "Well, even if you don't," said this other health care professional sort, "I think they'd be helpful for the kind of problems you're having at work."  Ha.  Didn't believe him.  Snorted at the mere thought.  Until he finally talked me into it and I started taking them at work and holy jeezum crow, what a difference.  I went from being an average at best worker to one of their star performers, and I'm probably still working there because of the stupid little orange pills.  I still don't think I have ADD, and I think the meditation had more to do with it.  But why argue with success?

This is why I don't lose any sleep over what is and isn't Buddhist-y, outside the Precepts and the traditions and so on.  If I can appeal for supernatural assistance to an icon of another religious tradition, I don't have any problem with doing it.  When my five-year-old cat, Caesar, was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of cancer, I called my local pagan (made much easier in that she lived at the same house) to cast a healing spell on my boy before his big surgery.  Not only did he come through the surgery just fine, he's still alive and perky seven years later.  He may have a little arthritis going on, and we're mildly concerned about that, but for crying out loud, people, he survived fibrosarcoma.  Most cats don't.  When you need healing, see a pagan.  When you need evil spirits removed, see a Catholic.  When you can't concentrate, take ADD meds. When you need everything to be Fine At All Times, call a Lutheran.  And if you're overstressed, you could do a lot worse than calling on your local Buddhist.

This comes up because I asked the receptionist about which saint one is supposed to bury in one's front yard to aid in the selling of one's house.  I used to know that, but, being scatterbrained, I couldn't call the correct saintly name to mind.  She looked at me crosseyed and said, "That's a Catholic tradition.  Aren't you a Buddhist?"  I said, "Yeah.  Aren't you Episcopalian?"  She said, "It's Catholicism without the Pope."  I said, "Which is why I asked you."  She sighed and said, "Saint Joseph, father of Jesus, and you have to bury him upside down, and we never had this conversation."  Okay, I could have looked it up on the Internet, but it's always much more fun to ask the receptionist.

So I'm picking up a statue of St. Joseph for when the house goes on the market in about two weeks here.  I'm pretty sure this works because when my parents were trying to sell their house, not that many years ago, we ordered a St. Joseph and sent it over.  It showed up on their doorstep, in a package, the day they got the offer that they ended up accepting.  I mean, they didn't even have time to bury him; he got busy right away.  Hm, maybe I'd better not order him before the actual listing runs in the MLS.