Duty calls…

images

“An adventure a day” has been our marriage mantra from the beginning – any time we find ourselves up against a plot twist, we have to figure out how to turn it into something fun, interesting, challenging, or in some other way memorable. Easy-peasy most days, as it turns out, and we have some great little stories to show for our efforts.

We’ve also each carried a desire, over the years, to belong somewhere. Kim’s been looking for it since his growing-up years in SoCal, and I spent a lot of years wishing to feel at home the way I did on the family farm where I grew up, as I felt forever the outsider on my married-into one.

Lawrence is proving to be that safe space for both of us – the vibe, the weather, the manageable scope of our surroundings, the sense-of-new that’s in the air we breathe. Being seated on a jury this past week only added to the knowledge that I’m a real citizen here.

Physically and psychically it was a challenge (aka adventure). Having been a jury member twice now, both criminal cases, it’s my heartfelt opinion that sitting in judgement of a fellow human is the heaviest responsibility this side of bringing home a new baby.

The charge was Criminal DUI, the charged a young Hispanic man. Young white prosecutor, older Hispanic defense attorney. Young white highway patrolman, phlebotomist, and KBI expert. All-white jury pool. All-white jurors, five women, one man. (We learned that misdemeanor offenses require a six-person jury and felonies twelve.) I think I could be an effective jury consultant after watching the attorneys narrow the pool by dismissing every male the approximate age of the defendant and keeping all of us who looked like sisters, moms, and grandmothers.

The charges…

1.) Operating a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner

2.) Driving 92mph on a 75mph interstate

3.) Driving under the influence of alcohol

4.) Refusing a breathalyzer and a blood test

The highway patrolman’s testimony was articulate and the evidence of speeding was solid. The KBI’s toxicology reports were quite conclusive and delivered in a succinct manner by a young woman who clearly reached her level of expertise by virtue of knowing things. The phlebotomist from the hospital demonstrated serious credibility and provided key testimony about the chain of evidence. In the only nebulous part of the evidence presented, the grainy dashcam video shot at 2am was helpful but not conclusive as to the charge of unsafe driving.

We were the typically assorted crew, and although we exchanged very little personal information during off moments, our personalities were coming out by deliberation time. Our lone guy struck me as neutral, right down the middle, just the facts, please, all in a day’s work. Of the five of us women, one was a no-nonsense Fox News conservative (her words) and not interested in nor affected by any discussion of potentially mitigating circumstances; another was an educator, probably in her 40s, who engaged us in discussing various scenarios and possibilities; there was an adorbs sorority girl from The Hill who seemed to be most concerned about making all the numbers add up so as not to wrongly convict the defendant; then you have me, the eldest in the room, focused on all my unanswered questions; and finally, a young woman not too long out of college and involved in a career. She volunteered to serve as foreman, which surprised me until I saw her in action.

Foreman Woman efficiently and dispassionately took us through each of the charges one by one and we discussed them until we felt ready to vote. We voted GUILTY on three of the four charges, the only logical thing to do in view of the evidence. Even as we filed back into the courtroom, my brain was still trying to work out why the defendant had requested a jury trial for a DUI, and how a conviction was going to affect his mother, who was in the courtroom both days. Nonetheless, it was done, over.

Afterward, the judge came to the deliberation room and talked to us, and in answering our questions she provided two key pieces of information that have allowed me to let it all go:

1.) Sometimes people request jury trials on the outside chance that a jury might have enough doubt or sympathy to exonerate them.

2.) This was his second DUI offense.

Okay, I’m sorry, nice-looking young man, go do your time and learn some things about life.

And I’m sorry, mister well-trained professional law enforcement officer, that I entertained the slightest possibility of not taking a proven menace off the highways. Wow, he looked so clean and earnest and hopeful, too.

When I met Kim for lunch I realized that I was shaking all over, mostly from relief that all of us together had managed to do the right thing. The heavy sense of responsibility stayed with me into the evening and I found myself crying over silly things on TV.

Alexander Hamilton, et.al., placed a lot of trust in the jury concept – that Americans through the years would retain enough personal integrity to make life and death decisions as concerning their fellow man. This one was fairly easy to own because the solid truth of the body of evidence was overwhelming – we were presented with established facts from credible witnesses. And yet when you walk into the deliberation room you’re hit with the sense of accountability you owe to the entire process, and that’s good – it should never be an easy assignment.

I’m relieved and gratified to say that heritage didn’t show up in any way as a topic for consideration – we discussed only the facts and the evidence supporting them as they related to the charges. Each of my fellow humans on the jury surprised me in happy ways and each one taught me something. Thank you, our beloved forebears, for entrusting this important task to simple citizens – we truly are all in this together.

This, for whatever reasons, has been a hard post to write – I’ve been trying to find the words since last Thursday and now I’ve written a whole LOT of them and this has grown long. I keep thinking of what the educator in the room said: “If any one of us were to find ourselves in trouble in a court of law, we would hope for an honest, serious jury who would consider nothing but the facts of our case.” Amen. It matters.

 

 

 

 

Image

Seriously. I don’t get it.

Questions-question-clipart-clipart-kid-2

A post from my original blog, written August 13, 2012. A friend brought it to the top, and I was gratified to find that it still stands as written, with the exception of adding “freedom OF also means freedom FROM.” Here, at a five-year remove, is how it was…

Less than a month from now I will be eligible for Medicare and by that standard I’ve lived long enough to learn a few things, one of which is that it’s counter-productive to fret overly-much about what anybody thinks of me.

I’m well-read.  I’ve ventured outside the confines of the United States.  I am no longer a candidate for having the “Kick Me” sign hung on my back.  But there are any number of things that baffle me, make me shake my head, cause me to say “I don’t get it.”

I don’t get why a friendly conversation is so hard to come by in the public arena these days.

I don’t get how a sweet little girl sacrifices her entire childhood in favor of incredibly rigorous athletic training, rises to the top of her field, and wins gold – twice – at the  Olympics, only to be made the center of controversy over her HAIR, of all things, and the color of her leotard.

I don’t get what people mean when they say we need “a real American” in the White House.  Are they indicating that they want a Native American Indian for president?  Because obviously, the rest of us came from somewhere else and thus are not “real.”

I don’t get why it’s a point of controversy when the First Lady (as is traditional) chooses childhood obesity as her personal cause, since obesity in general is a huge thing in this country (pun definitely intended) and our children are suffering.  Somebody has to care that this is happening.

I don’t get why people continue to insist that the United States is officially a Christian nation, when the framers of the Constitution made it abundantly clear in the First Amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  Free exercise means ANY and ALL religion. Or none.

I don’t get why people insist that a single verse from Leviticus must be obeyed to the letter, while totally ignoring the remainder of that particular passage and so many more.

I don’t get how certain things become labeled as being “liberal” or “conservative.”  For example, recycling – why is that seen as an inherently subversive thing to do?  We have just one Earth, and so far no one has discovered a viable alternative, so it seems only wise to take care of this little spot in the universe.  The relatively conservative farm boy with whom I spent 34 years of my life went out and bought Rubbermaid tubs the week the big recycling plant opened in Meade, America, and we faithfully salvaged everything reusable from that point forward.  His vastly more conservative parents did the same in their small town, and proudly delivered their newspapers and other recyclables to the collection shed on a regular basis. Every time someone looks askance at me for doing my tiny part to help preserve the integrity of the planet, it makes me shake my head.  It doesn’t, however, deter me from what is by now an ingrained habit.

I DON’T get it … but I probably DO get it … and here’s what I think is going on …

I think friendly conversations are becoming fewer and further between because life is all about change, more so now than ever, and people are running scared, which makes them cling ever more desperately to their personal points of view.

I think Gabby Douglas’s hair is considered fair game because it’s somehow “foreign,” “other,” “not like us.”  And I think Fox News gets by with slamming her simply because she’s “that” brand of “different.”

I think our President is threatening for those same reasons, even though he is as much “white like us,” as he is “different.”  He had white grandparents who adored him and a white mother from Kansas, of all places.  An ordinary girl, an ordinary family, an ordinary life, all of which came together to produce an extraordinary man.  But because he lives inside black skin, was given a scary-sounding foreign name through no fault of his own, and was uppity enough to run for president and win, it becomes necessary to invent a “back story” in order to justify why we choose not to like him.

Our First Lady — scary, other, different?  I think you have to stretch pretty hard to make those labels stick, other than the fact that she, too, resides inside black skin that blessedly doesn’t look like ours.  I think her tremendous education level and innate intelligence, as well as those of the president, are intimidating and threatening to a certain segment of the population.

I think people insist on making this an officially “Christian” nation because that makes it feel safer and more “ours”.  And it makes it acceptable to persecute and call out and label and denigrate … and kill … Sikhs, Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, and anyone else who is different … other … thus, somehow threatening.

I think it’s out of ignorance and fear that people carefully extract and selectively interpret the portion of Leviticus that enables and sanctifies their hatred of an entire group of people, while ignoring ALL of the other injunctions, primarily the ones that command us to

“Love thy neighbor.”

I think that ignorance breeds fear, and fear breeds hatred, and hatred breeds violence.

I think that more than two hundred years of societal evolution, education, and exposure to the way the rest of the civilized world views things have brought us very little in the way of maturity, wisdom, kindness, and human progress in this country.  Willful ignorance and backwardness sadden and trouble me beyond words, and for all the indignant claims on the part of “Christians,” I think we get it wrong on SO many things.  I honestly believed we’d moved past all of this years ago.  Silly me.  Call me naïve and slap the “Kick Me” sign on my backside when I’m not looking.

I think one of the greatest joys of having a personal blog is the freedom to say exactly what I think.  And that the blowback that results from honesty and the willingness to speak up is inevitable and a natural part of the process.   I get that.

Obviously, I think a lot of things.  But if you get why recycling is scorned as an intrinsically “liberal” activity, please give me a call.  I don’t know WHAT to think about that one.

Image

Life is too short…

can i start my life

again say fewer dumb things

the next time around

JSmith 06/04/2017

Is it a trick of the light, a scent in the air, not sure where the overwhelmedness gets triggered, but within seconds I can have myself regretting my entire existence and wishing for do-overs. Then pragmatism kicks in and I go on doing whatever it is I do and the mood passes. Reality in the sunshine…

images

Image

I’m speechless…

636236431732119800-955816336_Words_Ofta_1

words there aren’t enough

and yet far too many said

save some for later

JSmith 5/21/2017

words

Image

It all fits…somewhere…

screenshot-2017-02-22-at-11-04-54-am

Immersed in my current obsession again this morning, another big jigsaw puzzle on my desktop. It’s one way to kick my brain cells into gear before noon, along with about a gallon of coffee, and the sunshine outside my windows.

Obsessions, like the rest of life, can add to our education if we’re paying attention. For today’s wake-up challenge I chose one with a semi-tough blend of colors and upped the percentage of oddball pieces, as well as the total number, and as I’m working away my stream of consciousness goes something like “Okay, that one might work, just try it. Wow, so close. So many pieces, but it’s one per spot, focus until you see it. Look for one at a time, just one, but if you run across one that goes somewhere else grab it,” which taken together strikes me as a rolling metaphor for life.

I give the pieces names: one that’s concave on all four sides is a squishy, the fun pieces are toys, if there’s a bubble on top with upraised arms and a wide bottom that’s a snow angel, the ones with droopy or proud tabs come with a ‘toon-peen warning, like that. And there’s always an empty spot that doesn’t seem to have a match anywhere on the board, but toward the end, there it is. It doesn’t look like it could be right until you drop it in place…and then it’s a perfect blend. Subtlety is so easily missed…

Guess that was Granny Smith’s little homily for the day, make of it what you will. But do keep your eyes open for opportunities and sweet link-ups that can change the whole picture, and I wish you well with solving the puzzle that’s currently in front of you. MUAH!

Image

Three Things

15578400_1222845671135482_8557609075173000062_n

 

It’s an eating-ice-cream-from-the-carton kind of HumpDay, even though I made a beautiful list this morning, in my best handwriting, fully intending to accomplish more than making the bed.

So far I’ve made the bed.

This is turning out to be a fibro day extraordinaire, plus social media is a swirl of innuendo and intrigue, bringing emotions to the fore and threatening friendships and family ties, things better dealt with in a less vulnerable state of mind. In truth there’s so little any of us can do to influence events, or even to order our own small worlds, it’s easy to get discouraged and walk away.

I’m pretty resigned, at this point, to the philosophy contained in the graphic up there – resigned but not discouraged.

Life teaches us that everything indeed changes. Buried in the fine print is the disclaimer that some things never return to us, and we don’t get out of here without knowing that, in there where we feel it. We’re abjectly powerless to stop change, so accepting that it simply IS is what we’ve got available to us.

From there it’s a short existential hop to knowing that everything is connected. Life doesn’t take place in a vacuum, so everything that happens affects something else, on into infinity. A lot of what happens out there in the world around us does not add up to a positive effect for our benefit. A lot of it hits us hard and keeps right on trucking. Which brings us to our final point:

PAY ATTENTION. It’s what keeps us out from under trucks and buses and the random despot, and if we’re too busy to pay attention the hits are not going to be kind to us.

For now I’m exhausted from the effort required simply to pay attention, so here’s the deal… I can only pay attention for myself, and I lack the energy and drive to help anyone construct a mental/spiritual house they’re comfortable living in, or to validate that construct by never doing anything that would cause them to examine it too closely. If things I write cause you to fidget and make faces, just remember that I can’t see you out there in the world, through some magic mirror that shows me and the TV audience your inner heart and thoughts – so it could just be your own reflection.

It’s almost 5pm now, so screw the list for yet another day, I’m moving in with Kimmers where the fire’s cozy and the vodka sours are cold. Happy Hour with sweetums is an effort I can get behind…

 

 

Image

The Fix…

broken-heart-jpg-653x0_q80_crop-smart

 

there are remedies

for what breaks our hearts in two

but they are unknown

JSmith 12/26/2016

Image

Be like a tree…

15284026_10154764605683185_4370022615183948799_n

Image: Lars van de Goor

Be like a tree, and let the dead leaves drop.

~ Rumi

Image

Sacred Sound of the Universe

meditation-class-fremantle1-e1454334609459

 

Constant Reader will remember my brutal fall on the ice in January and the mystifying soundtrack that has inhabited my skull ever since. After nine months’ time, during which the music has morphed from one personality to another, and countless days when I’ve found myself astonished that Kim can’t hear it because it’s so overwhelming and all-enveloping, I’ve finally stumbled across an answer that resonates with me.

It’s a passage from THE NIX, by Nathan Hill, in a scene from the tumultuous 1960 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Allen Ginsberg has seated himself cross-legged in the grass, palms raised to the universe, listening, as the hordes of protesting flower children stream past him toward an unseen ambush.

“He wants to soothe them. ‘The way forward is like water.’ But he knows it isn’t good enough, isn’t radical enough to calm the wild appetite of the young. And so Ginsberg strokes his beard, closes his eyes, settles into his body, and answers in the only way he can, with a deep bellow from the bottom of his belly, the great Syllable, the sacred sound of the universe, the perfection of wisdom, the only noise worth making at a time like this: Ommmmm.

“He feels the hot holy breath in his mouth, the lifted-up music breath released from his lungs and his gullet, from his guts and heart, his stomach, his red blood cells and kidneys, from his gallbladder and glands and the long spindly legs he sits on, the Syllable issues from all these things. If you listen quietly and carefully, if you are calm and you slow down your heart, you can hear the Syllable in everything – the walls, the street, the cars, the soul, the sun – and soon you are no long chanting. Soon the sound settles into your skin and you are simply hearing the body make the sound it has always made: Ommmmm.”

The music inside my head is simply the sound my body has always made, and when I’m intentional about calming every cell and listening it sounds like Ommmmm, the sacred sound of the universe. It’s a G-major and I would deeply miss it now if it ever went away…

 

 

Image

The Unbearable Lightness of Reading…

 

A marathon it’s been, the best kind – three books in quick succession, by three distinct authors, and connected by one unbroken muscular thread – The People, as they have always called themselves – and their existence from time primeval.

First in the “series,” entirely by happy chance, was MAUD’S LINE, written by Margaret Verble and published in 2015, the fictionalized story of a young Cherokee girl becoming a woman in 20th Century Oklahoma. Its contemporary portrayal of a time just past hooked itself into my imagination from – halleluiah, page one – and delivered me directly to book two.

Which – I assume you’re taking notes – was LAKOTA WOMAN, by Mary Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes, published in 1990, and not fictionalized at all. The author was active and instrumental in the Bureau of Land Management and American Indian Movements of the 1970s and 80s with Russell Means, Dennis Banks, so many others, and her gritty recounting of all the seemingly unrightable wrongs that have altered The People’s reality since the White Guys got here burned itself into my consciousness, not to put too fine a point on it.

So when both a friend and an esteemed nephew recommended Annie Proulx’s BARKSKINS within hours of each other it was clear that lil’ Ms. Serendipity had dropped in again and placed a shiny object in my path. Off the top, let me quickly address a few negative comments I’ve seen: that perhaps Ms. Proulx’s focus is…unevenly focused…that she hammers, that she commits “stylistic infelicities.” Yes, I caught all of that, recognized it, owned it and read on. The scope of the story is so expansive, so unexpectedly gripping, that the combined weight of all the odd little imperfections adds up to less than that of a feather – notable by virtue of existence, but in the end taking nothing from the whole.

Annie Proulx, author of THE SHIPPING NEWS, for which she won a Pulitzer in 1994; BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, for which she won the prize called “We’re turning your book into a movie;” along with at least a baker’s dozen more titles, has at 80 years of age turned out an epic about trees, of all things, that kept me absorbed from first page to last. Aside from her colossally amazing book, I love that she’s even older than I am, has been described as “sassy,” and knows how to write like a mutha.

Annie takes us from 1693, starting with the French in what became Canada, to 2013 in what is still Canada – with side trips to London, New Zealand, what we now know as the continental United States, and points everywhere around the globe, the entire saga stemming from one family line and diverging throughout multiple others, from the French, to The People, to the Dutch, et.al. And the wonder is that she makes us care about the majority of those characters, even though we sense they are soon to be swept from the stage to make room for succeeding generations, each one more fascinating than the last.

I like big books and I cannot lie, and at more than 700 pages BARKSKINS was too short. Annie Proulx knows how to put us at the scene of the tale with a lovely economy of language; how to scatter engaging and/or redeeming characters into all parts of the story, avoiding what could have become a tedious litany; how to illuminate dilemmas that we would downplay if left on our own. If that shedding of light is “hammering,” we’re clearly in need of a butt-load more of it – the denuding of nearly all this planet’s original forests is but one ongoing dilemma of many.

BARKSKINS indelibly lays out the sins of the past and their consequences for all humanity while also serving up reasons for hope, that essential tool of survival. Hang onto it, you future humans, and may it save your hide since most of your forebears have never carried, nor do they (we) carry, their (our) fair share of responsibility for what your present might look like.

As William T. Vollmann wrote in his New York Times book review:

“Now our own world is likewise fading, thanks to climate change. The root cause of our self-impoverishment is thoughtfully teased out in BARKSKINS, whose best line may well be this: ‘My life has ever been dedicated to the removal of the forest for the good of men.'”  – June 17, 2016

 

c0f76ffc9574e911a56ef475729c1bc6

 

 

Image

The Art of Humaning

Six_dimensions_of_personality

 

Like the world outside our doors the place I call home is endlessly quirky. Our daily lives are first off influenced and impacted by the commercial entities under us and the wheels of commerce send a hum upward through the girders that assures us the world is on track, a nap would be good. Above the hum, on floors three through five, independent thought rules. We’re a collection of young to old, friendly to cold, liberal to conservative, social butterfly to I-vant-to-be-alone, moneyed to who knows/cares – the quintessential microcosm in so many directions. A neighbor-sighting is rare for me, possibly because I vant to be alone.

Consensus is often hard to come by in the governance of the building, inside and out, concerning the simplest of matters. Many tears can be spilled over a paint color while the landscaping dies clean away. We are know-it-alls and trust-me-I-know-nothings. A lawsuit is for some the quickest route to satisfaction, while for others patient thoughtful communication is the only way to go. Some are quick to take offense, some know how to deflect it, and some truly do not give a shit.

We’re a civil bunch – in the hallways, the mailroom, on the street, we’re nice AF, voluntarily forgetting what he said about…what she told her…where they stand on… Life requires it because humaning in close quarters is deadly after all the civility leaks out.

Wherever two or three are gathered, there will be the basic building blocks of personality among us and those elements have to continuously mesh in order to prevent societal meltdown, whether on a grand or intimate scale. A spinning globe scabbed over with layers of bloodied inhabitants has no alternative but to stop being stupidly selfish and help each other. It really is that simple.

Nothing about our particular living experience is new, different, or unique to the world – this is who humans are and we will never align perfectly with each other. But forget perfect, we have to collectively make the whole thing work or let it all go down the sewer – we’re out of options. Will we figure it out? Will we keep ourselves from erasing all life from the earth? Or will we hold out for what we want, damn the consequences forever?

 

victoria-moran-quotes-1

 

Image

Not bitter.

Beware-of-Dogma

 

oh the odd day when

karma runs over dogma

redress is too sweet

JSmith 6/27/2016

*If you despise Haiku, hang loose, it’s summer – braining in progress…

Image

Just give it to me straight …

FACT:  Beneath this happy giving nature is a Selfish Girl.

FACT:  I write almost entirely for Myself.

FACT:  Nevertheless, I’m insatiably curious about who reads what goes out there, and what they like about it, if anything.

FACT:  I would love YOUR feedback, YOU reading this, right now.

FACT:  Not saying I’ll base topic choices on the results of the poll.

FACT:  But I’m genuinely interested in opinions, input, personal feedback, criticisms and witticisms.

FACT:  THANK YOU IN ADVANCE FOR YOUR PARTICIPATION!

Choose up to three categories.

Image

A self-rant …

2015 looks fine so far, relatively speaking, but there is much to do as the year rolls by.  Each of the eight points delineated by Neil is a rant aimed specifically at me — a kick in the shorts toward a more focused writing experience.  So on January 5, 2016, remember to ask me how I feel!

Neil Gaiman’s 8 Good Writing Practices:

writingFrame

Image

30 Things to Start Doing For Yourself

 

30-things-1050x699

http://themindunleashed.org/2014/07/30-things-start-4-absolutely-vital.html

Image

Previous Older Entries

Winnowing the Chaff

Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Nature, and Politics

Life with an Illness

*Tips and tricks on how to get through life when you have a chronic illness*

It Takes Two.

twinning with the Eichmans

Pam Grout

#1 New York Times best-selling author

rarasaur

frightfully wondrous things happen here.

FranklyWrite

Practice Writing

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Drinking Tips for Teens

Creative humour, satire and other bad ideas by Ross Murray, an author living in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Is it truth or fiction? Only his hairdresser knows for sure.

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Drifting Through

Welcome to the inner workings of my mind

KenRobert.com

beginnings, middles, and ends

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

Musings of a Penpusher

A Taurean suffering from cacoethes scribendi - an incurable itch to write.

Ned's Blog

Humor at the Speed of Life

Miss Snarky Pants

A Humor Blog For Horrible People

mylenesmusings

Every other asshole shares their opinions, why shouldn’t I?

%d bloggers like this: