Unbridled Rage

I will be the first person to admit that I may have some anger issues. I have been told I have road rage. I get super angry when the Bears blow a 20 point lead and let Aaron Rodgers beat them. But nothing, and I mean NOTHING, has caused my blood pressure to spike recently more than this astonishing report that Kim Kardashian-West is either going to law school or feels like she’s going to law school because of her “criminal justice advocacy.” [The rest of this post will probably contain some salty language and it will definitely contain disparaging comments about Kim and her husband, so be forewarned. If you are fan of either of them, stop reading now. I’m not going to respond to any negative comments and I will delete them. You can express your favorable opinion of them on your own blog.]

I went to law school. I worked full-time my second-fourth years. I studied hard and did my best to learn the material. It’s not enough in this country to graduation from law school and be called an attorney. You have to have enough temerity to get through school AND pass the bar exam. And law school isn’t regular college. You can’t half-ass anything and get away with it. If your reading assignment is 200 pages, you better have read all those pages and if there is a case that only has two lines quoted, you better have gotten your groggy, exhausted ass to the library, pulled the case, and read the whole thing. Because I guarantee if you didn’t your professor will know and will not hesitate to embarrass you in front of the entire class. It’s not enough that you go through all of that. You still have to face the bar exam.

It used to be that the bar exam was three days. Days one and three consisted of three hour-long essay questions and one three-hour performance exam. The essay questions can discuss one topic of law (like torts) or several (like contracts, torts, and wills and trusts). You have to know what the question is asking you to answer and then you have to identify EVERY rule of law and EVERY exception to each rule and be able to discuss how each one does or does not apply to the fact pattern you are presented with. In an hour. Then you have to move on to the next question. In the performance exam, they provide you with a “library” of documents and you are tasked with a writing assignment – a letter, a memo, a pleading. You have to use the library, plus your general knowledge of that area of law and draft the document. In three hours.

Day two of the bar exam consists of 100 multiple choice questions in the morning and one hundred multiple choice questions in the afternoon. You have approximately 1.5 minutes per question. The questions almost always contain long fact patterns. The pages are arranged in columns and a fact pattern can easily take up a column-and-a-half. Then you have to choose the MOST correct answer, because they tell you at the beginning the correct answer may not be one of your choices. And I know from experience this is true because the last time I took the bar, I knew the correct answer and it wasn’t one of the choices.

I got through law school and took the bar exam six times. I failed every time (obviously). It’s hard not to consider ones entire life a failure when one cannot pass the bar exam. But that’s a conversation for another day.

So excuse my incredulousness at Kayne West’s assertion that his wife was attending law school. And excuse my scorn when “news” outlets like Page Six say that Kim has “lawyer” genes because her dad was an attorney. First of all, I don’t know whether Kim K. has a GED or an actual diploma, but I GUARANTEE she doesn’t have a college degree. That’s problem number one for any legit law school. Problem number two – she has to take the LSAT and I would bet my last dollar she won’t score well on it. They are logic questions, and from what I have seen of her and her siblings, they kind of lack basic logic.

Then I find out that Kayne “misspoke” when he said Kim was attending law school and that her “criminal justice advocacy” makes her feel like she’s attending law school. Kim K., listen to me sweetheart. If you think visiting Donald Trump in the White House to ask to let a woman out of prison early is exhausting (and I’m sure it is), being a lawyer is like a million times more exhausting. Do us all a favor. Go back to your “E!” show and leave the lawyering to the lawyers. Stop making it seem like going to law school or being a lawyer is (1) remotely easy and (2) something you actually want to do. Because I guarantee you don’t want to work that hard.

For anyone reading this who wants to defend her or her husband, don’t bother. You will be talking to a brick wall here. I resent that she makes it sound easy. I resent that because she’s a celebrity, some top-tier law school would probably let her in for publicity value and she would be passed along through school and probably given special dispensation to not take the bar. Layers already have a bad name. Let’s not make it worse.

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Life Advice

I have been thinking lately about tips to give my kids for life. Little things I have learned along the way. I think I have about 10 tips amassed. So, without further ado, here they are:

  1. Be kind. Big one. And so simple. It costs you nothing to be kind. And it reaps many rewards. You can tell a lot about a person’s character by how they treat people who are in a lower station than they are. How does a patron treat a server at a restaurant? How does a hotel guest treat the maid? It honestly says a lot about someone.
  2. Be true to your word. If you say you are going to do something, do it. If you are a parent, you understand the value of your word, because, if you break it, your child NEVER lets you forget it. If you cannot do what you say you were going to, let the person know ahead of time.
  3. Spend time now. What I mean by that is simple. Don’t put stuff off. You think you will have time tomorrow, but stuff happens. Don’t put off that phone call. Don’t put off your kids. Don’t put off your friends and family. They may not be there when “later” comes around.
  4. Let anger, hate, and regret go. Yeah, yeah. I know. Easier said than done. Anger, hate, and regret eat you alive and do nothing productive. If you can forgive and move on, you will be much happier. (For the record, I am nowhere NEAR able to do this. But I’m working on it.)
  5. Keep an open mind. I spent seven hours on a flight from New York to Helsinki, next to a professor, who spent the ENTIRE flight trying to talk me out of going to law school. I refused to listen. Twenty-plus years later, unable to pass the bar exam, I work as a paralegal and teach part-time. Fate has a funny sense of humor (largely ironic). If you have tunnel vision, you might miss something better.
  6. Don’t give your life to a job. You are expendable at work. You are not expendable to your family. It’s an easy mistake to make. The things that I regret that keep me awake at night are NOT in any way, related to missing something related to a job. They are missing awards assemblies, baseball games, school performances. Every single thing I regret missing is related to my family. You are expendable at work, as much as you would like to think it’s not true. It is.
  7. Don’t waste your time in a bad relationship. If you wake up and know this person is not the one for you, end it. Don’t cheat. Don’t stay. Just end it. Walk away from someone who doesn’t make you feel like you are the most important thing in the world to them.
  8. Read more and often. Education is the one thing that can never be taken away from you. And it doesn’t just happen in school. Find a genre you like and read. It will make you a better writer and a better speaker. It will also open up new ideas and worlds to you.
  9. Laugh. I know it’s trite, but laugher is the best medicine. It takes away a lot of anger and pain. Be able to laugh at yourself. You will do stupid crap. The ability to laugh at yourself is truly important.
  10. Value Other People’s Time. I saved the most important for last. Don’t you hate it when you go to the doctor for a 1:15 appointment and you see the doctor at 3:00? Yeah, me, too. It irritates me to no end. I have a job and a family and a life. I often don’t have an hour and 45 minutes to waste sitting in a doctor’s office. Since you don’t like to have your times wasted, don’t do the same to others. If you go to talk to your boss or a co-worker, or even your partner, have a point and make it. People appreciate it.

So there you have it. My 10 life tips. I hope you enjoyed them. I know my kid won’t heed them. But I thought I’d try.

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So Long, My Friend

When I was in seventh grade, I was incredibly shy. Like wouldn’t say “boo” to a ghost shy. I did not like to speak to people. I changed schools in fifth grade and most of the kids I went to those grades with were horribly mean to me. So when I started seventh grade, I didn’t have a lot of friends. My homeroom had about thirty kids. I immediately noticed a girl. She was tall and had dark hair. And an amazing laugh. We had to go to an assembly and when we were walking to the cafeteria, I walked up to her and said, “Nisha. Can I sit next to you?” She said sure. We sat together through some fundraising thing and we kept pointing out the cool things they were giving away – and we agreed on everything. From that day forward, there was not more than a week from seventh grade through high school that we didn’t see or talk to each other.

We were partners in crime. Kind of. I followed rules. She broke them. I was the moral compass and she was the one who redirected me from my good girl ways a few times. We had some good times. We had some bad times. We had some fights. We were roommates in our first apartment. She came to my baby shower after I had Patrick. I went to her wedding in Pismo. Then, we kind of lost touch. From the time of my wedding in 2011, until this week, I had tried, sporadically to get back in touch with her. I missed her. But it was not to be. I received a the news last Sunday that Nisha passed away in her sleep.

I have had a very, very hard week. Like everyone else, I assumed there would be time for us to reconnect. I assumed we would always be friends. My assumptions were wrong. I have been extremely emotional. I cried at the stupid commercial where the parents are watching their kid graduate and Johnny Cash sings, “You are my sunshine”. I cried because I realized Nisha would not see her daughters, Hannah and Heather, graduate. Or get married. Or have kids. She wouldn’t get to be a grandmother. I can’t wrap my head around this.

My first thought when I heard the news was for her mother. Helen lost her husband, Joe, to a freak accident in 1994. Now, she has to say goodbye to her oldest daughter. I was relatively okay during the funeral until I saw her after. Then I broke down. My best friend for one of the most important parts of my life is gone. It’s one thing to know your friends are out there and maybe you lost contact. It’s quite another to know that no matter how much you wish or how hard you try, she’s gone forever.

Nisha and I were opposites in a lot of ways. She was exceptionally outgoing and boisterous. I was quiet and reserved. She wore her heart on her sleeve. I kept mine hidden. She was a risk-taker and I am risk-adverse. But she and i connected – at first over our mutual love of Duran Duran and the 80s pop culture we grew up in – and then over growing up, falling in and out of love, and having kids. She had the best laugh of anyone I have ever known. She is the only person who ever dared – and who I allowed – to call me Shan Dog. We went to concerts, movies, the fair. We wore bridesmaids dresses and danced to “Love Shack” at wedding receptions.

When we were freshmen in high school, she ran away from home…straight to my house. I was at Roosevelt for a debate tournament and she and my mom showed up. Shocked the hell out of me. She, Tracy, and I saw Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure and said the lines for a year. We did that with all the big 80s movies – Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Say Anything, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty In Pink. We engaged in the old school version of texting – note passing. We wrote thousands of notes through junior high and high school. Some serious, some funny, and some sad. Down to the depths of my soul, I wish I had them today. I wish I could remember more of our childhood. But more than anything, I wish she was here.

My mother and I attended her service today and I saw some friends in person that I had only seen on Facebook for years. It was lovely to reconnect, but such a sad occasion to do so.

I was gobsmacked and heartbroken when I found out that Anthony Bourdain killed himself, but I understood. I suffer from depression and I know sometimes how hard it is to find a way out of the darkness. I understand being in that desperate place. What I don’t understand is why Nisha had to die. She was kind and caring, and hilarious and one of the most generous people I knew. Her family growing up was virtually my second family. There are very, very few people on Earth who know me like she knew me. And every single day for the rest of my life, I will think about her. Hopefully, one day I will be able to think of her without feeling like my heart is being smashed into a million pieces.

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Anthony Bourdain, Chester Bennington, Chris Cornell

Warning: This post is going to discuss some issues like suicide, depression, and anxiety, which may be hard for some readers. Read on at your own risk. You have been warned.

Anthony Bourdain’s suicide Friday hit me really hard. I didn’t know him. I have never met him. I found him on Food Network with his first show. I started to really like him when I found No Reservations on Travel Channel. I read Kitchen Confidential and loved it. Not just the gritty story, but his writing. He had a gift. Not only did he have a gift at food, he was a gifted writer. He brought so many cultures and foods to our living rooms that we may never otherwise know about or see. I loved his snark and his openness and his love of food – whether it was from a five star restaurants or a grandmother’s kitchen.

Last year, a few short weeks before I was going to see Linkin Park in concert for the first time, Chester Bennington committed suicide. (If you don’t know who he is, Google him.) I liked Linkin Park from the first moment I heard them. I liken them to Rage Against The Machine. Angry music that touches an emotional core. I was surprised and saddened by his suicide. He voiced so many of the things that i often felt.

I will say that i was not a big fan of Soundgarden. I was more of a Pearl Jam girl. But I. Loved. Audioslave. Chris Cornell with members of RATM (most notably, Tom Morello, who is a guitar GOD and genius). I made the trip to Bakersfield to see them in concert. Worth. Every. Penny. That show made me a Chris Cornell fan. He sang Killing In The Name as well as Zak De La Rocha. The show was amazing, so much so, that I gave Soundgarden another try. (Sadly, it didn’t stick. Still don’t like them.)

These three men are among the tens of thousands of people who commit suicide every year. Suicide rates are becoming alarmingly high. It turns out that my age group 45-64 has the highest suicide rate. While Chester Bennington was a bit younger (41), he was close. The suicide rate among veterans is was one every 65 minutes as of 2010. I’m positive that rate is higher now. There is a mental health crisis in this country that no one is talking about. Nothing is going to change until we address the stigma of having mental health issues.

I have blogged about depression and anxiety once before. I don’t often share how I feel about my own mental health issues. It’s hard for me to talk about it. I understand how some people can ask why someone rich and famous would commit suicide or show no signs prior to doing so. But I also understand Anthony Bourdain, Chester Bennington, and Chris Cornell. I understand the hopelessness and helplessness that they felt. I understand the darkness that pulled them under. I understand how hard it is to ask for help. I understand how hard it is to say anything.

I honestly think that if people tried to understand instead of platitudes like “cheer up” and “get over it,” that would go a long way. Do you think I want to feel this way? Do you think I want to not attend events? Do you think I want to think bad thoughts about myself? Of course not. It’s hard for people who don’t suffer to understand – fame, money, popularity? Don’t help. They can’t make you happy. Only you can make you happy. If I had a billion dollars I would still wake up some days and wonder why I bother. That’s depression talking. I try to ignore. Some days are more successful than others.

There is a lot of discussion right now about looking for signs. I can tell you right now that there are a lot of high-functioning depressed people who you would never know they are. It’s hard to pick up signs when there are none. Check in with your friends and relatives. Make sure they are okay. If ANYTHING seems off, confront them. They may get mad, but you are doing them a favor. You could be saving someone’s life.

Something as simple as a Facebook post may help. I felt as though I’d been kicked in the gut when I heard about Anthony Bourdain. It hit me so hard. I have been struggling for the last six months with a bout of depression and his death just did something bad to me. A friend (who does not know who they are) posted something on Facebook that I saw and read and shared. It was EXACTLY the thing I needed at exactly the time I needed it. You just never know when you are giving something to someone that they need.

I’m going to conclude this post with a thought. Be kind. I know it sounds trite and I am the absolute LAST person on Earth who should say that because I’m mean like 16 hours a day. I say that, but I’m only mean in my car, mostly. And I always let people cut in front of me in line at the store if they have one or two items. I’m a work in progress. But let’s all be works in progress. Be kind. Do things for others, even if it is just to check in or let someone cut in line.

I’m going to try to be nicer to everyone – except the Kardashians and Donald Trump. Because none of them give two shits about anyone else and I can’t completely end my hater ways. 🙂 But let’s all try to be kinder to each other and check on your friends and family.

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Warning Light

Zac Miller is on a flight from London to Singapore, sitting next to a lovely British woman, with whom he has a lovely conversation. The plane has engine trouble and makes an emergency landing in Iran, where there has been a devastating earthquake a few days prior. When Zac, who took some photographs of the mountains with his cell phone, gets up to use the restroom, he is escorted to an interrogation room. As he’s leaving the room, all goes black. He wakes up in a cell and is promptly
“interrogated” by the Iranians. This is a summary of the first 50 pages of Warning Light by David Ricciardi.

The book then becomes a question of whether Zac, an analyst, can (1) escape, (2) survive, and (3) get back to London so he can share the intel he gathered. This book is a roller coaster ride. Zac is like MacGuyver. He isn’t an agent. He had some training, but he doesn’t have the James Bond skills of Mitch Rapp or Pike Logan, or Courtland Gray. What Zac does have is determination. And a survival instinct. He is good at listening to his gut and acting on it.

I never thought that someone being trapped in the mountains without food or water or on a boat in really rough seas could be exciting, but Ricciardi has a gift for description and making suspense out of mother nature. This book is so well-written, in fact, that I read about 100 pages without realizing I’d read that much. I didn’t want to put it down and I didn’t even check the page numbers as they flew by.

I hope that this is the beginning of a long career for David Ricciardi, because he is a true talent and I look forward to see what he does next.

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how hard can it be?

I did not read “I Don’t Know How She Does It”, which is the first Kate Reddy book. Having said that, I didn’t miss anything by not reading it. “How Hard Can It Be?” is one of the funniest, most genuine books I have read in a long time. I hope that you do not pigeonhole this book into “chick lit” because it’s really not.

Kate has two sullen teenage children, a husband who is retraining to be a therapist, a mother whose health is precarious, a mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s, a sister-in-law who’s judgmental and hateful, and a sister who’s resentful. She lies about her age to get a job and then has to juggle all those things, deal with menopause, and trying to make sense of her life and her marriage.

Maybe because I’m am about her age, but this book really moved me. I thought many of the things that Kate thinks and struggle with many of the same things Kate struggles with. I am the breadwinner in my family while my husband completes college. I have two teenagers in my house. And I, too, struggle with getting older.

I love Kate. I love her confusion and memory lapses and indecision. I love her obliviousness. It’s not on purpose. It is the result of doing so many things – marriage, work, raising children, taking care of elderly parent. I identified with her stress and anxiety and her middle of the night continuous, unanswerable questions.

This book is funny and touching and a lot of fun to read. I recommend it. It comes out June 5th.

I won this book and received no other compensation for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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The End of an Era (or several eras)

When I was a little girl, (from 4-9), I would spend two weeks in San Juan Capistrano and I would spend two weeks every summer down there visiting. Until I was 8 years old, my great-grandmother, Ruby, would come over often during that time. She would usually have dinner with my grandparents and spend time with me and my brother.

Inevitably, around 7:00 every night, she would go into the living room and turn on the radio. It was time for Dodger baseball. Ruby would listen to the games. It was around that time I became a Dodger fan. Largely because she was one. And largely because the voice on the radio was Vin Scully. I loved listening to Vin describe the stadium, the crowd, the players and the game. This was in the days of Lasorda, Valenzuela, Garvey, Cey, Lopes and Russell. Some of my favorite memories are of me and Ruby listening to baseball.

As I got older, I would often listen to the Dodgers on the radio. Just to hear Vin. For the last few years, I had stopped listening to Dodger games. One, they sucked pretty bad. Two, I was busy. Three, by the time I finished teaching, the games were over. But I always missed Vin.

For the last week, I have been listening to every game. I have been relishing Vin’s stories about communism, or how he started life and still is a Giants fan. Or how there is one little down in the Dominican Republic that keeps producing baseball players at the professional level, though the town is impoverished and tiny.

For my entire life, Vin has been there. I listened to Dodger games on the radio after 9/11 specifically to hear Vin talk about it. I used to fall asleep in high school listening to him call Dodger games. He has been the Dodgers for my life. And this week, I realized just how much I am going to miss him.

He knew Jackie Robinson. He knew Sandy Kofax. He knew Don Drysdale. He knew Orel Herschisher. He knew countless players from other teams. Not only did he know these great players, he made you feel like you knew them as well.

He is the embodiment of a professional – a Dodger announcer who is pro-Dodgers but not anti-any other team. He is in the Hall of Fame and has won every award every broadcaster can win. He deserves each and every one. Though I was heartbroken when I found out that he’s actually a Giants fan, I can forgive him for it.

He’s retiring on the 80th anniversary of his becoming a Giants fan, doing what he loves – calling a Dodger/Giant game in a pennant race. Life doesn’t get much better.

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