Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Not Every Day?

My law clerks are cuter than all the kittens and puppies on the internet.  Every semester I get a new wide-eyed student to help me in the self-help center.  The students sit in on client interviews and then help clients navigate the computer to draft their own court documents.  The students provide needed support to sort documents and make copies.  The students come from a variety of backgrounds and there is a period of adjustment as they interact with low income clients with limited literacy, addiction or abuse issues, homelessness, religion and ethnicity.
A new clerk started Monday.  She is kind, smart and enthusiastic.  She sat in on several very difficult interviews – crying, anger, confusion and helplessness were quickly the theme of the day.  We had several different language and cultural barriers to deal with.  Our waiting room backed up as we met with clients and helped them as best we could.  We had computer technology issues.  It was a day that left me exhausted, but I am used to this sort of thing.  Finally all the clients were helped and we closed the doors until the next time.  We were wrapping the afternoon paperwork up as I checked in with her about her experience that afternoon.  “It’s not always like this,” I assured her.  “It’s sort of like MASH.  The helicopters land and the wounded come out and we don’t know if we’re going to deal with shrapnel in the head or the belly until we literally get in there.  Our job is to patch them up with our limited resources and get them back out on the street as best we can.”  Her sweet face smiled at me in a patient way.  “You’ve never seen MASH, have you?”  She shook her head.
My more experienced clerk stuck his head in the door.  “Hey, since I wasn’t here at the holidays because of finals I brought in a gift for everyone now.”  He pulled a giant bottle of tequila out of his backpack and we laughed as I high fived him.               
“Sometimes we have margaritas on Fridays,” I explained.
“Not every day?” she asked.
Yeah, she’s going to do just fine.  
I once dressed up as Radar O'Reilly for Halloween.  It occurs to me that I have become Hawkeye Pierce.  I am ok with that.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Book Worm

I've read ten novels so far this year.  These are serious literary novels, some of which are over 500 pages, and I say that not to be superior but to make the point that this is not easy, mindless reading.  It is thouhtful reading, but it is also an escape for me and always has been.  My housework has definitely suffered as I get through the early part of my night - dinner for kids and dog, mail, some picking up and evening discussion with kids about homework and school and activities.  And then my beloved chaise in my room or my beloved chaise in my living room ("Why do you have two?" my mother once asked me.  Um...because I don't have three yet?) to read and read and read.  I started a book last Thursday (The Garden of Last Days - a terrorist, a stripper and a redneck interact in the week before 9/11) and when I picked it up Friday night I read until 11pm and seriously considered reading all through the night.  I can't remember the last time I did that or even thought about it.  I stopped at midnight like a responsible adult and when I woke up Saturday I immediately thought about my book, so I made coffee, let the dog out, and spent Saturday morning reading.

I was a ravenous reader as a kid.  I visited the school library every day during the school year and the city library every day in the summer.  I read as I walked home on the familiar path from the library.  I lay on the merry go round in the park across the street, the couch, the hammock, my bed, the floor - I did not have a chaise yet.  :-)

We moved from Denver, CO to the Sandhills of Nebraska when I was 8 years old.  I got a pile of books from the children of a family friend and in the pile of books was a small book with a picture of a little girl in a room surrounded with curtains.  It was a pencil drawing colored only in pink for the curtains.  The Velvet Room is about a little girl in the Depression whose parents are migrant farmers.  At one farm she discovers a key and a secret entrance to a house that has been locked up years ago.  There is a round turret room with red velvet curtains window seats.  The walls are covered with books.  She hides there and reads as often as she can.

Reading creates a velvet room for me.  It always has.  There are times in my life where I flee to a book and hide or take a break from life.  That's absolutely what I am doing right now.

Six months ago I was so stressed out that I was not sleeping and when I got my teeth cleaned I literally fell asleep in the dental hygenist's chair.  I was nervous and anxious.  I could not sit still enough to read for long stretches of time.  I stayed in motion - sweeping, polishing, washing and folding and organizing.  My house has never looked so good.  I am in a better place now.  I am able to focus and relax into a book.  The housework can wait.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

And the Winner Is

I go to a lot of movies.  I prefer independent and foreign movies for losts of reasons.  I complain about Hollywood movies, but I go see the best picture nominees every year.  The best movie I saw all year was an Afghani movie called "The Patience Stone" and as the neighborhood is literally being blown apart and the mother is trying to decide what to do with her invalid husband, a four year old appears in the doorway and says, "We're out of bananas."  Wow.  Life is chaos, and hey, we're out of snacks.  That's my life in one scene.  But Hollywood.  I do love it.

American Hustle - I loved the feel of this movie.  It was an outstanding ensamble cast in that no one actor stood out more than the others.  I particularly liked the dynamic between Christian Bale and Amy Adams.

Captain Phillips - I liked this movie more than I thought I would.  Frank and I both agreed that it was exciting and that Tom Hanks was not as annoying as we thought he would be.  Not a BP.

Twelve Years a Slave - I think this will win BP.  It was not my favorite.

Dallas Buyers Club - I really liked this movie.  I think that Matthew McConehey and Jared Leto are both going to win acting awards, which is nice, they did a great job, but my favorite things about this film were the film-y moments, like when the MM character learns that he has AIDS and he is leaned over his folded hands praying with a little candle burning in front of him, and then the camera pans back and you realize that he's in a strip club next to the stage, not a church.  I love stuff like that.

Gravity - I saw this in 3D because I knew it would be nominated for best picture and knew it wasn't one I wanted to see any other way.  I also knew going in that I wasn't going to like the movie.  It is a beautifully filmed movie and a compelling story, but too much coincidence and gagging emotion for me.  I didn't have one second where I truly worried that she wasn't going to make it safely back to Earth.  Bor-ing.

Her - I loved this movie and I have had some really interesting conversations with people about it.  My perspective is as someone who sees a lot of movies, and I guess what I would say is that it is a mashup of every romantic comedy film ever made - the formulaic way they fall in love, go a carnival, double date, plan a long weekend out of town that doesn't save the relationship, it was all exactly what I would expect if you were having a relationship with an operating system.  And the ending!  I love that he connects with a real life person in an awkward and unclear way - very human.

Nebraska - This is a beautiful film.  I loved the wide, long shots of the prairie and the complex flatness of the characters.  I thought the simple story with resolution for the main character not only with his self esteem but with his son was beautiful.  Any other year I think they would win Best Picture, but TYS is going to win.  I thought Bruce Dern did a great job and sort of how the movie feels like a Best Picture, he feels like a Best Actor.  He's an outstanding actor and it would have been nice to acknowledge him with an Oscar at this point in his career (I don't always agree with those career nod awards, but in this case I think he deserved the award and I thought for awhile that he was going to get the career actor without an oscar vote, but that seems unlikely now.).

Philomena - Nice movie.  I can't think of a single reason why this needed to be a movie instead of just a tv show or tv movie.  There is nothing visually interesting about the movie that required a big screen.

The Wolf of Wallstreet - Now THIS is a movie.  Wow.  Huge, crazy shots that captured emotion and story line just in the movement of the camera.  Leonardo DiCaprio was wonderful in this and he would be my pick for best actor.  He was beautifully physical in this role almost like a silent film actor in the scene where he takes quaaludes and then drives a car.

Blue Jasmine did not get nominated for best picture, but I think Cate Blanchett will win Best Actress.  It's a great story and she does a great job appearing to have several see through layers - normal but crazy.  I read an interview with her and she said that she was under the impression that the film was a comedy and that's how she portrayed the character.  I think that makes a lot of sense when you see how slightly out of whack she is with the other characters in the movie.  Woody is a good writer and director.  There will be no love for Woody this year, but I think Cate will get a statue.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Of Mice and Men

Do you need to take notes to remind yourself that Lennie and George had a special friendship?

Apparently.  Then you have to turn them in.  If you don't, it affects your grade.

And my thoughts on this are very complicated.  It has become apparent to me that I have raised independent thinkers with high IQs.  They can read Of Mice and Men and give you an exceptional discussion about it.  They can pass a test on the plot points and literary devices.  They are not going to hand in chapter summaries or notes from class discussion.

I struggle with parent teacher conferences for many reasons.  The hubub of eager parents convinced that their "A" student is the next brilliant mind in the world exhausts me.  I wait in line and introduce myself and hear the same thing I have heard about all three kids from every single teacher ever (the exception was a surprising conference with an industrial tech teacher in middle school who truly liked my child and seemed to understand her - that's it out of all the years I have been going to parent teacher conferences).  My kids have never been a teacher's favorite and they are frequently a true challenge.  "She/he is bright and has good contributions to class discussions and her/his test scores are adequate but she/he doesn't do homework and has poor study habits."

So I battle the crowded parking lot, the crammed hallways of buzzing parents, the lines to talk to teachers and hear the same thing over and over.  I do it to put faces with the names of the teachers and to make sure they have my email address in case there is a problem more serious than not taking notes in literature class.  I was at parent teacher conferences for two and a half hours yesterday.  My time would have been better spent staying at home and reading Of Mice and Men.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

At the Movies

My Facebook is lighting up with people reporting about Roger Ebert's death.  I feel possessive of Roger Ebert and feel kind of like I loved him best because I knew him first.  He was a newspaper movie critic for years before he was on tv though, and of course he had a huge tv audience - it was tv that launched him to national fame.

We lived in Brownlee in the late 70s when "At the Movies" started on PBS.  I have very specific memories of watching that show with my dad.  I remember the humor and intelligence that both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert displayed and I know without a doubt that they both influenced me in those ways.  The show started with the two of them sneaking into the balcony and before long they would be arguing with each other in a very animated and serious way.  About MOVIES.  It was Roger that I loved more.  He gave more leeway to actors and directors.  His physique suggested he enjoyed popcorn and Milkduds as much as I did and he seemed less perfect and less prickly than Gene Siskel.

He was a wonderful writer and I have enjoyed his movie reviews and books, but also more recently his blogs and Twitter (his Twitter was one of the few I followed regularly - always great movie suggestions or updates about what new movies were out on Netflix or Fandor).

I don't often have visual thoughts about heaven, but I really do like to think that in some way Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert are arguing again.  Can't you just hear Gene Siskel goading each other?

"Seated to my left is Roger Ebert, the 1975 Pulitzer Prize–winning film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times.  My God, what have you done lately?!"

Monday, March 04, 2013

Running Through the Creek

Stella loves going to the dog park.  She bounds off to meet all the other people and dogs.  She returns when I call her and checks in with me before taking off again.

"Your dog acts just like you," my friend observed.  "She thinks everyone is her new best friend."

We laughed and noted her dog's quiet demeanor and judgment about Stella.  "Tsk, tsk, we just don't act like that," her little cocker spaniel seemed to be saying to my over active, social dog.  Lucy the Dog stayed close to Lori and was not interested in meeting other dogs or people.

When we got to the creek Lori stressed about her dog walking through the water, but of course her dog followed her carefully on the stepping stones and kept her feet dry.  It was my dog who ran joyfully through the creek getting herself wet and muddy.

It's impossible to avoid the personality comparisons.  I'm kind of the same way.  It would be easier and neater to walk on the stepping stones, but I tend to take the creek route - more fun, but undeniably messy.

Later on Sunday I met with a friend about a potential summer road trip.  Tracy and I have become fans of a German bagpipe band and Tracy even considered traveling to Germany to see them perform at a festival this summer.  Then we found out that they will be playing at a festival in British Columbia, Canada.  We sketched out a budget and talked about logistics.  A week of driving, camping and bagpipes.  The map makes me squeal - the Canadian Plains and Rockies.  (!!!)

"There are few people I could contemplate a trip like this with," I said to Tracy.  It would be a bare bones trip - an economy rented car with a tent to share, lots of pb&j, four full days of driving and three days at a music festival.

She nodded solemnly.

If we go I will leave Stella at home, but I will be crashing through the creek.  :-)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Stone of Hope

It was a stressful trip in some ways. There was stuff going on at home that made me feel uncomfortable about traveling to DC, but I am glad I made the trip.  I mixed some business with pleasure.  I got to the Memorials at sunset and saw the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial for the first time.  I was struck by the quotations carved in the stone - they seemed to glow as the sun set.

The next day I took some personal time to go to the Hirshorn to see the Ai Wei Wei exhibit.  Wei Wei is known for his collaboration in designing the bird's nest stadium for the Olympics and also for criticizing the Chinese government's promotion of the Olympics. I saw a documentary about him last year and liked it so much that I went a second time.  I have been pretty obsessed with him ever since.  He uses Twitter to share his life and art with the Chinese and he is open about critiquing the Chinese government.  Upset about the architecture that led to the deaths of thousands of Chinese citizens during the Sichuan earthquake and he led an investigation of the children's deaths and ultimately made a backpack sculpture inspired by the earthquake victim's backpacks.  His photography shows a good eye for observing life and a sense of humor.  I have a poster of "Middle Finger" - him flipping off Tianamen Square as if to show distance scale.   The pots make me feel sick to my stomach a bit - Han Dynasty pots dipped in bright colors or painted with the ColaCola symbol on them - his statement about the government's vandalism of ancient antiquities.  I knew to expect the pile of ceramic crabs, made after a protest picnic at Wei Wei's studio days before it was razed by the Chinese government.

He used to blog, but his blogs were censored.  He began using Twitter to communicate and share political/social ideas (the tweets are retweeted in an astounding way - there is no way to censor them).

On my final day in DC I took part in what was called the largest protest for climate change policy ever.  With 50,000 people I held signs and marched from the Washington monument to the White House.  I talked with people from Maine, NY, PA, NC, DC, all over the place, really, and felt a part of a free speech event that has inspired me in ways I did not entirely expect until I was a part of it.  I felt downright patriotic about my right to assemble and protest with other citizens.

I felt the theme of the weekend wrap itself around me - MLK who symbolizes free speech and civil rights, Ai Wei Wei who boldly speaks when so few do, and the 50,000 citizens who want the President to listen to us about our concerns for our planet and our future.