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

Friday, March 22, 2013

Seventh Inning Stretch

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks. Fire up the cell phone cameras.  Pass the Ozarka water bottles and snarf a quick glug of Gatorade. Somebody find the g__d___ lineup and get it posted before we have a delay-of-game. Oh, and has anybody seen our catcher?  Just pulled in? Good. The mighty Law Dogs are back, and springtime in Dallas will never be the same.

That's right, kids.  It's time once again for Law Firm Softball.

Now, let it be known that I'm not what you would call exactly athletic.  Heck, you've seen my pictures; I'm on the hefty side.  I swim, but you don't need to be athletic to swim (though it helps, and it also helps to be tall. I am not tall). I have, however, pretty much always exercised. Mostly swimming when I was a kid, and when I wasn't swimming I was playing soccer, and when I wasn't playing soccer, there was aerobics, gymnastics, ice skating, snow skiing, water skiing and all manner of wacky stuff.  When I grew up it was swimming again, a gym membership, karate, and my dad and I were locked in a battle-to-the-death raquetball game that has never really ended. In fact, I blame this whole exercise thing on my dad.  It's always been really important to him, and that rubbed off on me. It's made me despicably healthy, even if it never made me skinny.

(In fact, when the trainee medical assistants at my doctor's office take my blood pressure for the first time, they invariably think the machine is broken.  Bless their sweet ignorant hearts.)

For Law Firm Softball, though, you don't have to be athletic. You just have to be breathing.  Being female is good, too, because there's a minimum requirement for number of women on a team.  It's nice if you can walk up to the plate and swing the bat.  Doesn't matter what you swing the bat at, either, as long as you miss if you're aiming for the umpire. Connecting with the ball is good, and being able to run to first base is an extra bonus, but really.  You breathe, you're in.

Last night the Dogs posted a respectable 11-7 loss to the Desperadoes. I say respectable because I think last season it took us four games to score our first run. 11-7 is practically World Series caliber.  I even had a couple of standout moments, or stand-up moments, or failure to, or something or other.

Both times I made it to the plate, I hit the ball.  That's pretty good for a myopic paralegal who didn't have her glasses on (afraid of breaking them, and I think it's a justifiable fear).  The first time, I had something happen that I'm pretty sure I've never before seen outside of a cartoon.  I started running to first base.  Well, my feet started running to first base, anyway.  The rest of me, like a cartoon, stayed at home plate.  I must have looked a little like Wile E. Coyote as he ran off a cliff into space and hovered there, kind of like the world's ugliest hummingbird.

Anyway, the rest of me snapped forward to catch up with my feet and the next thing I knew, I was on the ground. I think I had time to yell a swear word or two.  I landed on my left side, rolled over on my back, kept on rolling onto my right side, pushed myself up to my feet and ran for first base again.  While I was executing my little barrel roll, the guy throwing to first base had missed, and everybody in the dugout was yelling, "Go! Go! Go!" So onward I scrambled, but unfortunately the guy recovered the ball and tagged me out.

My second time up wasn't nearly as dramatic.  Popped a fly. Someone caught it.  Oh well. But I didn't fall down!

I was also catching, while all this was going on.  Catching is kind of like serving as a human punching bag, while executing a certain amount of skill. It matters not how you stop the ball as long as you stop it.  I caught it mainly with my ankles.  Sometimes my chest. Once my shoulder and, oh yeah, a few times with the actual glove. I'fact there was a pop fly that I ran like heck to catch.  I felt it land in my glove.  I repeat, it was in my glove.  Then it bounced out of my glove and rolled away. But it was there for a second.  

So, I dunno.  Are the Law Dogs looking at a winning (er) season? Might Jen catch a pop fly, or at least make it to first base?  And with whom?  Just kidding, Joan.  Stay tuned, it's bound to get interesting.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Rerun: The Five Phases of Trial Prep

Hey, I'd love to share my latest meltdown, the Collusion of the Realtors and the degree to which I'm completely fed up with just about everything right now, but it's just not happening this week and I'm hoping to get back to it Saturday or Sunday.  Maybe.  Never fear, I have a column or two that  can be rerun without being stale, especially since this one is absolutely timely.  Trial date is April 8, kids.  And we're just getting warmed up. Enjoy, touch base with you later...

Originally published in this space on January 31, 2009.

One of my Big Cases is going to trial. This hardly ever happens. I don't have the stats at my fingertips here, but only some tiny percentage of lawsuits ever go to trial - I think it's less than 1%. The rest settle or are dropped. I've been a paralegal for about 10 years now and I've been involved in probably about 20 trials. And, yes, one of them did go all the way to the state Supreme Court, but my part was well over by then.

Now, mind you, lots of lawsuits settle the day before trial, or even the day of or a few days in. Far as I'm concerned, you get to that point, you might as well go for the gold with the jury because, honestly, all the work's been done. The rest is posturing. I don't have to do that - that's my boss's job. Anyway, for the uninitiated, here are the five phases of trial prep. Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

Phase I: Euphoria. Oh wow! One of your cases is going to trial! This hardly ever happens! (see above) There's so much work to do. Exhibits to list. Depositions to highlight. Witnesses to call. The adrenaline high kicks in and you're running on caffeine and sugar. Get as much done as you can; this phase won't last.

Phase II: Panic. Holy cow, there's so much work to do. It's impossible to get it all done. What's worse, all the people in the other cases you're working on seem not to know you're going to trial and they keep wanting things done, like, I dunno, returning calls and setting mediation dates and stuff. Add to that, people keep interrupting you every five minutes and pretty soon you want to hang a polite sign that says something like "F*ck Off" on your office door.

Phase III: Rage and despair. Your case stinks. You're going to lose. Your witnesses are all changing their minds about what they saw and at least three can't remember anything they said in their depositions. We should have settled months ago. The insurance adjuster won't return your boss's phone calls. He's throwing tantrums in your office door because the Chinese place sent kung pao squid instead of kung pao scallops. The other lawyers are Nazi drunkards, the judge is 16 years old and everything's starting to look like a bad episode of Boston Legal. Oh, and your client is now saying he's not sure the wheel flange was installed by Bob's Pretty Good Technicians, it might have been a guy from Bob's Topless Emporium down the road. Time to throw your boss, all the trial boxes, and yourself out the nearest window. Double points if you land on him or her and survive the fall.

Phase IV: Numb. You no longer know nor care what the case is about. Your boss has a seven word vocabulary and all of them are words you can't say in front of a jury. Oh, that's right, there's going to be a jury. God, you feel sorry for them. Two weeks of testimony on wheel flanges. Somebody please explain why we don't just duel to the death over these little disputes anymore. Wouldn't that be easier? Your boss makes you call the adjuster to explain that, really, there's not that much difference between a $6 million settlement and a $9 million settlement. It's only money, right? And hey, the trial costs alone will run - hello? Hello? Oh great. We'll have to go through with it, then.

Phase V: Euphoria. You've hauled the 58 trial boxes to the hotel room you'll be living in for the next month, set up the temporary shelving, hung the take-out menus in alphabetical order around the room and packed extra Gas-X in the tackle box. You've sent your boss back to change three times and he/she finally looks almost presentable. You've got three extra sets of the opening statement notes on index cards and your laptop ran the presentation software more or less okay, with only minor glitches, roundabouts two a.m. this morning. Somehow it'll all hold together. You take a deep breath, swallow the rest of your double-shot sugar-free cinnamon dolce latte in a single gulp, toss the cup over your shoulder into the trash can and it's time to follow your boss into the courtroom. Four weeks from now this will all be a distant memory. The gavel bangs and it's showtime...

Well, at least I hope that's what Stage V will be like. I'm mired in Stage III right now. Two weeks to go. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Why One Billion Hindus Are Mistaken.

Original Title: Jen Rewrites Ten Thousand Years of Religious History.
More Original Title:  Fine, Screw Up The Planet If You Want.  It's Not Like You Won't Be Back.
About As Original A Title As You Can Possibly Get: Trust Me, I've Been a Dancing Dutchman, A Brave Cosmonaut, A Wily Nazi and a Crafty Trilobite.

Hang around a meditation hall long enough (I'm talking years, not hours), and strange things will start to happen to you.  For one thing, you'll become calmer and more peaceful.  No matter how hectic your day to day life may be, you'll relax more, laugh more, spend a little less time grinding the gears of your 2013 Spyder and a little more time watching the moon over White Rock Lake.  You'll become a nicer person.  You won't get as impatient when you're waiting in line, and you'll give people more of a break if they do something clueless, stupid, or (gasp) human.  What's more, you'll start to give yourself more of a break.  You might find yourself eating more nutritious food, getting more sleep, saying no to projects you're just not up to handling right now.  It's hard to be nice to other people without being nice to yourself first.

But those are just the surface benefits.  And believe me, they're awesome.  All by themselves, they're certainly worth having, even if it's all you ever get out of meditating.  For some people, it is.  For other people, though, spooky things start to happen, too.  You might notice that you're becoming more intuitive and less nervous.  You know what people are going to say before they say it.  Something happens to a family member who's miles away and you get a "something's wrong with Jack" feeling well before the news about Jack filters through the various phone lines and Web interfaces.  Some people have little glimmers of enlightenment, too--short bursts of How Things Really Are.

The Japanese words are satori or kensho, both of which mean something like understanding and neither of which are at all descriptive enough of understanding to convey anything like understanding.  What I'm talking about here is like a glimpse of the Grand Canyon after days spent in darkness.  It's blindingly intense, but it's not like you can really get a grasp on the color of the sky or the shape of the mountain or even the posture of all of the rocks.

Do I speak from experience, you ask.  Well, yes, actually.  About five years ago, while I was at work, I got up and walked over to the printer, and while I was on my way everything just kind of stopped.  Everything got sharper; colors were brighter, the air took on a crystalline quality and the people in the room -- there were people in the room -- sort of glowed a little.  I remember thinking, "Oh.  Is that all?" and then I started laughing because it was so ridiculous.  Not the glowing and the sharp colors and the crystalline quality of the air -- like really cold air at the top of a mountain on the first run of a really good day of skiing, I guess you could say -- but that I was staring at it all that time, and I'd never noticed it before.  I started laughing and it stopped happening.  Nobody stared at me; they were used to my occasional weirdness by then.  And it was a crummy job, anyway, but you get my point.

And some people start getting little glimpses of their past lives.  Like me and the Dutchman.

The thing about reincarnation is that we have it just ever so slightly wrong.  Not we, you and me we, but we, Buddhists.  Buddhism grew out of Hinduism so Hindus must have it wrong, also.  We've got this idea that we live this life, or these lives, and die and drift around for a while and then come back, personality essentially intact, in another body in the same world to do it all over again, each time learning more cool spiritual stuff until we achieve Nirvana, or become the Brahman, and don't have to do it anymore.

"I don't believe in reincarnation, and I didn't believe in it when I was a hamster." - Shane Ritchie

It's an attractive idea, but it's fundamentally flawed.  Why?  Because the whole idea of a separate, distinct personality is fundamentally flawed.  That thing we call "I" doesn't really exist.  It's a term of convenience, a thing we call ourselves because we think we're separate from our fellow beings when we're really not.

The Doctor: Imagine a great big soap bubble with one of those tiny bubbles on the outside. 
Rory Williams: Okay. 
The Doctor: Well, it's nothing like that.

See, the truth is that there's only one being.  One consciousness.  One life.  And it's all of us, all the beings that ever existed and that exist now and that ever will exist in the future, from the smallest single-celled organisms to the biggest blue whale, on this planet and every other planet where there's life in every galaxy in the universe and every universe there is besides this one.  In short, existence is, uh, really, really really BIG.

Chaplain:  O Lord... 

Congregation: O Lord... 
Chaplain: ...Ooh, You are so big... 
Congregation: ...ooh, You are so big... 
Chaplain: ...So absolutely huge. 
Congregation: ...So absolutely huge. 
Chaplain: Gosh, we're all really impressed down here, I can tell You. 
Congregation: Gosh, we're all really impressed down here, I can tell You. 

So what, then, are you seeing, if you have a glimpse of a "past life"?  I mean, if that's not "you" living in another body, at another time, then what is it exactly?


My theory is this.  We're already everybody all the time anyway.  So there's no reason why we couldn't remember bits and pieces of other lives, whether they're "ours" or not.  In fact, there's really no way to lay claim to "ours."  If it's all one collective consciousness, how do you section off pieces?  You can't.  It's like Odo and his people, the drop becoming the ocean and the ocean becoming a drop.  If you don't know who Odo is, ask somebody.

There are a lot of people who claim to have been, say, Napoleon in a past life.  Maybe they're all telling the truth. Maybe Napoleon made quite an impression on the collective mind, and so we're drawn to it more than we would be to, say, a crafty trilobite in the Permian period.  And there's no reason we can't visit people we're going to be in the future, as well as people we already are in other dimensions around this one.  (Yep, I believe in other realities.  In one of 'em I have a teenage son who plays football.  And looks disturbingly like my one boyfriend. In another one, I moved to Albuquerque when I was twelve and--never mind.)

I was somebody else in the present once, just for a second.  I was listening to my friend Brother ChiSing speak.  Well, actually I was watching his hands.  He has beautiful hands.  So I was watching his hands and suddenly I was inside him, watching his hands from the other side.  This lasted about a nanosecond and then I realized this was kind of rude of me, and the second I did I was back on the other other side, watching his hands.  He really does have beautiful hands.

So that's my theory, Jack.  I'm pretty sure I'm right.  But if I'm not, we can always go back to the boring old "be good, come back as rich guy, be bad, come back as cockroach" theory of reincarnation.  And with that, my friends, I wiggle my feelers, shake out my middle pair of legs and scuttle off into the night.  Cheers, all.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

This Is The Blog Post We Don't Send To Our Parents.

I don't have kids.  I never wanted kids.  I am not, as a general rule, psychic, but I somehow knew that when I grew up I'd barely able to take care of myself, never mind a tiny vulnerable human being.  Well, that's not entirely true.  I can take care of myself (with some professional help), maintain a relationship, keep up with my friends and family, and hold down a job. But again, throw a tiny vulnerable human being in there and good God, watch the whole thing self-destruct.  And that'd be bad for everybody, especially the tiny vulnerable human being.  To say nothing of the other half of the relationship, who never wanted kids either.

So I find it odd, though I guess not completely nuts, that I have a repeating dream in which I have a kid.  Apparently women who don't have children start having dreams of kids as they approach menopause, like their subconscious is shaking their shoulders and trying to get their attention: "HURRY UP!! YOU'RE RUNNING OUT OF TIME!!" I had one friend who dreamed of a little girl holding her hand, and as her child-manufacturing factory shut down, the dream changed and the little girl let go of her hand and ran away. My dream's a little less creepy.  I have a teenaged son.  He's playing football on the school team, which doesn't thrill me.  I think it's an unreasonably dangerous game and I worry about concussions.  But he loves it, so I don't stop him.  We're having a tense discussion, maybe an argument.  And here's a touch of reality; he's taller than me. I'm having to look up at him to say, "Now, see here, young man..."

A couple of nights ago I had another dream in this series, only it was forward in time about ten years.  My kid is still playing football, only now he's a pro.  Not a star on the cover of Sports Illustrated or any such; just another guy on the team.  And I still think it's an unreasonably dangerous game and I still worry about concussions, but I have a special cable sports package so I can watch all his games (he plays for the 49ers and I live somewhere in the Midwest), and I read his blog and follow his tweets and he accuses me of stalking him.  "I'm your mother," I tell him.  "I can stalk you if I feel like it." I mean, hell.  He's my kid.  I'd have followed him around like a paparazzo, if that would get him to talk to me.  But I get the impression that he does talk to me.

I've heard it said that there may be parallel universes, where we have infinite numbers of twins living out different lives.  If so, that is one, and I have a kid. (In another one, I moved to Albuquerque when I was twelve, and--well, that's another story.) What I don't have, are parents who read my blog and stalk me on Twitter.  I mean, they'll read my blog if I paste it into an email and send it to them, but they won't come looking for it.  Too much to do on the computer already. And they're not on Twitter.  Or Facebook, for that matter.  I mean, they don't have to be.  They're kind of up there in years.  And I'm not a big fan of Facebook myself, for lots of reasons.  But, ya know, when I figured out most of my friends were communicating in a certain medium, I learned how to work with that medium.  I didn't keep sending telegrams after the invention of cell phones.

Yes, I call them.  Yes, they call me. Yes, I realize that the lack of blog/Facebook/Twitter is not a sign that parental interest is completely lacking.  But still.

(I can say this because they won't read it.  Unless I stick it in an email and send it someplace, it might as well have never been said.)

I had an epiphany of sorts recently.  It was something to the effect of there was no need to keep banging on that door, because nobody was gonna answer.  It's hard to explain what "that door" actually is, but to try and keep it simple, it's the door behind which is whatever it is I want from a mom.  My friend Marcia has an Italian mama who's all over her stuff.  Wants to know where she's going, who she's seeing, what she's writing, what she's thinking, even.  Drives Marcia nuts.  And to me it sounds perfect.  I asked her once if she wanted to trade moms.  She said no.  I was kind of surprised.  I mean, I have completely uninvolved mom, she has overly involved mom, why not switch and see what happens?  But, as a wise person once told me, no matter how weird normal is, it's still normal, and you'll fight to defend it even if you don't like it very much.

Normal, in my household growing up, was How Things Looked.  Things had to be Fine at all times.  That's a Scandinavian thing and a children-of-alcoholics thing.  Everybody had to be bringing home the good grades or working the good job or, you know, Keeping Up Appearances. Especially in this Gentile household in this Mormon state.  For as far back as I can remember, How Things Looked was much more important than How People Felt.  To ridiculous extremes, even.

Most of you have kids, or know kids, or are fond of a kid or two, here or there.  For a second I want you to imagine sending your kids into a combat zone every day.  They come back alive, but with new bumps and bruises, where they've obviously been hurt.  You ask them what happened and they tell you that Dody G____ slammed their heads into a locker or Sara B____shoved them into the sink in the girls' room and they've been peeing blood since.  Or they come back without bruises, but with that glassy-eyed stare, and you ask them what happened and they tell you that two of the guys in their gym class grabbed them and yanked their shorts down - underwear too - in front of the girls. For a laugh.  And maybe you get a call at work to come pick your kid up because there was a "mishap involving clothing" and she has to go home and change.  Your kid gets into the car in her gym clothes and you ask what happened and she tells you matter-of-factly that someone in the locker room poured a bottle of hair spray down her back and set her on fire.

And you just nod, and say "Uh-huh," and the next day you pack them off to the same combat zone to do it all over again.  Sounds like perfectly normal parenting behavior, doesn't it?

Now, to be fair, this is the perspective of a twelve-year-old kid. This was the late 1970s and no one had yet figured out that children had rights.  Things that went on in schools, for which adults would be arrested, were dismissed as "kids being kids."  (If nothing else good can be said about it, Columbine changed all that.)  At the time, I had no way of knowing my parents were having meetings with school administrators and getting basically nowhere; that people, even the school counselor, were minimizing some of these events and flat-out lying about others; that at the time, I was the Gentile kid in the 90%-Mormon school and for some people, that simply made me subhuman and not worthy of the fuss that was being made. Let's face it; once you're Not One Of Us, you're never going to be One Of Us and if you're lucky, we'll just ignore you.  If you're not lucky, we'll grab you by the throat, shove you into a corner and tell you that we're going to rape you, gouge your eyes out and then throw you in the garbage because you're such a fat ugly slob. (Broken up when some teacher popped out and said, "Hey, what are you boys doing?"  But I believed them.  I believed them absolutely.)

Years later, when this all came up again, my father said, "There was no way we could protect you 24 hours a day." My mother said, "It's not like we could just put you in another school.  There weren't any alternatives."  And I said, "Didn't your best friend Norma send her kids to a private Lutheran school?"  Silence.  And I said, "And didn't it occur to you that you could have kept me home rather than sending me into such a dangerous environment?" More silence.  I didn't even bring up the wacky notion of hiring someone to follow me around all day, and yes, that was an option.  (Remember, parents are millionaires.)  It was pretty obvious by then that either they A.flat-out never thought of these things, which is just sad, or B. How It Looked was more important than How People Felt.  And B is the way it always was.  What Would The Neighbors Say, if we sent one of our daughters to a Special School?  If we kept her home?  The gossip! The scandal!  Whisper whisper whisper.  So I got sold out for the sake of a Norman Rockwell painting.

(I'm irritated at myself for not figuring out until a few years after the fact that I, too, had options.  I could have simply refused to go to school; that would have been the most logical thing to do.  I weighed quite a bit, even then; it would have been hard to drag me.  I could have gone somewhere else other than school, or looped back home.  It would have taken them a while to figure it out.  I could have called the police and reported the assaults.  They might not have done anything but they would have had to show up and investigate, and that would have blown the veneer of Fine At All Times to smithereens.  But: I was twelve.  I was twelve, and this had been going on since I was nine, and since I was fat, I must deserve it.  Especially since my parents were doing nothing.)

Well, anyway.  That was thirty-odd years ago and to this day, How It Looks is still more important around the parental household than How People Feel.  Which is maybe why I go out of the way to find out How People Feel and want to fix it, if it's not good.  And I don't have kids.  Which is probably for the best.  Because if I did have kids, and anything remotely like what happened to me at Bonneville Junior High School in Salt Lake City, Utah happened to one of my kids, the body count would be--well, higher than you can imagine.

(All together now:  "I dunno.  I can imagine quite a bit...")