Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Glitter, Phalanges & Pageant Mamas

I love being the mother of little girls and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.  Don’t get me wrong, boys are wonderful and I adore the little dudes that are in my life, but I get the innate impression that my psyche is more programmed to deal with sugar, spice, everything nice (and even the ever present drama) over snakes, snails and puppy dog tails.  Boys seem to charge full-out everywhere they go and I’m willing to take a few extra tears and tantrums over broken furniture and shattered glass.  No, I’m much better prepared for princesses instead of Power Rangers. 

Of course, there’s one annual occasion that makes me a little wistful for the tee-ball and soccer games:  Dance recitals.  Let me clarify:  The recitals themselves are adorable and entertaining and I honestly think I could sit and watch them for days on end, but let me tell you right now that all of the peripheral recital hullabaloo is a little too much for my very short temper to take.  A lot of blood, sweat and tears go into those recitals and it quite frankly doesn’t all belong to the dancers.

So what’s my problem?  Well, during the intermission of our most recent command performance, I took a moment between holding roses, children, tutus and various plastic bags with accessories shoved haphazardly inside to ponder my biggest peeves.  There were three breakaway winners:  Glitter, toes and pageant mamas.

Glitter.  Good Lord, before I had girls, I knew that the stuff got all over the place, but I still thought that you could eventually get rid of the mess with a good scrub.  Nope.  The stuff sticks like radiation particles.  I can only imagine what it would be like if I was a girl in this day and age.  I know I’d probably go hog wild.  There’s glitter lotion, glitter nail polish, glitter makeup and glitter hairspray. 

Now, a wary parent, fully realizing that all of the aforementioned glitterliciousness will stick around for the next thousand years quite understandably eschews all of the body bling in the interest of caution.  It’s a crying shame that such care and concern doesn’t do one itty bitty bit of good.  First of all, not everyone’s parents are as bling aware, so when little dancers hug and smoosh all up against each other, the sparklies do not stay exclusively on the wearer.  Second of all, those fancy dance costumes that cost an arm and a leg were slapped together in outer Ulaanbataar and all of that razzmatazz on your princess’s Tutti Frutti tap costume comes off almost as bad as the body spray.

Now, I’m not going to go so far as to suggest that glitter kills (although I wonder sometimes), but it hurts.  I get glitter in my eyes every single year and, although I’m sure that it is dazzling to behold, I simply can’t pull it off with the tears pouring from my eyes.  Furthermore—even though I can personally attest that it is rather a magnificent sight—sneezing glitter is not something to which I aspire.  I also feel particularly sorry for my husband who, in addition to suffering the burden of being the only man in the house, inadvertently sports sparkles along with the “silver” that is already in his hair.

Now, on to my poor widdle toes.  I am curmudgeonly and there are some things I simply am not going to change.  I wear my sensible Stuart Weitzmans to work, but when I get home at night and when I piddle around on the weekend, my tootsies are in flip-flops.  It doesn’t matter if it is June or December:  Ashley has on her comfy flops.  Ashley is going to keep wearing her flip-flops and the rest of the world is simply going to have to adapt to her ways. 

That being said...

Every single year at dance dress rehearsal my toes fall victim to a pair of graceless, stomping tap shoes.  Every year.  I know that the kids are all excited to be in their pretty outfits in the great big auditorium, but it’s like the mothers make the girls shotgun Costco-sized Pixie Sticks.  They turn into little Tasmanian Devils with metal shoes.  I’ll innocently walk out into the aisle minding my own darned business, when a streak of sequins, satin and nylon shoots by without warning.  I’m left with searing pain in my phalanges. 

Trust me, it’s bad enough that it hurts like @#$!er, but then—to top it all off—I can’t even cuss about it!  Little ears, you know.  Although I have no doubt that many of the little precious princesses are well versed in the cussing arts (see pageant moms below), I must endeavor to set a @#&$ing example. 

That brings me to the largest trigger on my Had-It-Up-To-Here Meter:  Pageant Mamas.  Lord have mercy on my soul.  These “ladies” either treat dance as a beauty pageant because they are unable to enter their child in an actual pageant for one reason or another or dance is merely a diamond to add in the tiara of the talent portion for Little Miss Shrimparoo when juggling flaming batons while singing Carrie Underwood’s latest tune just isn’t enough.  Regardless of the reason, it is painfully obvious that these chicks live vicariously through their progeny.

If you have ever listened dubiously to those crazy news stories about cheerleading moms taking out hits on their daughters’ biggest competition, all doubts are cast to the wind when you lay eyes on these rabid women.  There have been occasions where I wondered if some of them were packing shanks.  The really sad thing is that they are just as mean (if not more so) to their own children as they are to the “competition.”  Even in their “quiet voices” THEY TALK LIKE THIS and it’s always the worst Southern twang or Yankee nasal tone you can imagine.

I’ll never forget picture day during the first year of dance.  It really wasn’t that big a deal:  The girls were supposed to put on their costumes and take one picture as a class and one solo shot.  It really didn’t matter exactly what the girls looked like because the end result was going to be adorable regardless—how could it not be? 

One girl came in with her mama and the poor baby was sprayed and glued and pasted and painted and stuffed and just as miserable as you could imagine.  It was pandemonium at the studio with folks filing in and out in costume and I think they might actually have been snorting Pixie Sticks that day instead of shooting them.  Anyway, the poor little dear committed a cardinal sin:  She blinked.


As you can imagine, after that loving motherly lecture, little Caitlin Brittany really started to tear up which caused a considerable amount of blinking.  Baby Belle 1 looked up at me in horrified confusion.  I looked into my daughter’s eyes and realized that this wasn’t a moment I was going to be able to gloss over.  No, I was going to have to go head first into the fray.

I forced a light laugh, waived a hand and said, “Thank God they’re little and it’s not that big a deal.”

Can’t wait to see what happens next year...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Honorable John J. Carroll, III Presiding

It doesn’t matter if you are a civilian or if you work in the legal arena:  Judges can be pretty scary folks.  They have a lot of power and they command a lot of respect.  Of course, a person can command respect until they are blue in the face, but they still have to earn it.  I’ve practiced law for nearly ten years and I’ve never dealt with a judge who earned my respect more than the Honorable John J. Carroll, III.

Of course, let’s not forget that I was categorically, tee totally, two hundred percent scared to death of Judge Carroll for the first two years of my practice.

My first trial was in front of Judge Carroll.  Rather than rehash the horror yet again, feel free to go back and read my blog entry entitled Recreational Pharmaceuticals, Boating and a Busload of Nuns.  I didn’t name him in the entry, but he was the Judge. 

To make a long story short, my father decided that a “slam dunk” Boating While Impaired case would be a good way to throw me in the water headfirst without a life jacket in sight.  I remember walking down to the courthouse with Dad while I tried to cram as many facts into my head as possible and still successfully put one foot in front of the other.  I’d heard of Judge Carroll before, but that was about the extent of it.  As we traveled, Dad suddenly volunteered, “Judge Carroll is a great guy.  He used to be in the JAG Corps.  Actually, he still is in JAG, he’s in the Reserves.” 

It was at that point that I tripped, dropped the file and nearly threw up all over Hell and half of Georgia.  I didn’t have any real experience with the military, but the notion of the JAG Corps did not foster any warm and fuzzy notions.  I’d rather hoped for a judge who would laugh and shake his or her head indulgently as I made the inevitable mistake here and there during my first trial.  No, I was suddenly in the sequel to A Few Good Men.

Well, suffice it to say that the “slam dunk” trial went down in glorious flames.  In retrospect, I don’t think it had quite so much to do with me as it did with the fact that my client had the proverbial red hands, but—regardless—Judge Carroll was not amused.  I swore I thought I even saw him roll his eyes a couple of times and I came to find out later that I was exactly right. 

I didn’t even get to make a closing argument!  As I started to stand up, Judge Carroll made a hand motion for me to keep my seat and proceeded to quickly and inexorably find my client guilty.  That gesture started a longstanding tradition between me and Judge Carroll:  I never gave one single closing argument in front of him.  I just quit trying after a while.

The man did not pull any punches in the courtroom.  He let the defendants have it when they needed it and, if the situation called for it, he’d let the attorneys, the arresting officers and the victims have it as well.  Judge Carroll was very fair, but he meant business and I just couldn’t keep it together around him.  I’d always forget something in my nervous rush to finish up a case and get the heck out of his courtroom which only caused me to look like an even bigger airhead.

What I didn’t realize at the time was the Judge Carroll had a very good sense of humor.  He quickly figured out that he scared the bejeezus out of me and he had himself some fun.

One day many, many moons ago, I was sitting with a couple of attorneys in the office behind courtroom 302.  I was writing something, so I sat behind the desk in the judges’ chair—I will caveat here it's not unheard of to walk into an office behind a courtroom in New Hanover County and see an attorney sitting at the judge's desk.  Suddenly, Judge Carroll walked in all dressed up for court and I sprang out of that chair like my butt was on fire.  Informality be damned, I was in Judge Carroll’s seat.

Judge Carroll laughed at my jumpiness and waived for me to sit down.  He told me that I was in the chair first, so I had dibs.  Accordingly, I sat back down.

A couple of weeks later, several of us were back in the same spot and I was again sitting behind the desk trying to figure out restitution for a particular case.  Judge Carroll came in all ready for business and I said hello to him, but I made no motion to get out of the seat based upon our conversation weeks earlier. 

As I went back to my mathematical calculations, I felt someone leaning over me.  I looked up to see the Judge.  He said, “Mrs. Council, once was excusable, but twice shows disrespect.”

I sprang up out of that chair so quickly and with so much force that I nearly sent it flying out of the glass window behind me.  I sputtered out apologies while Judge Carroll turned all red in the face...from suppressing laughter rather than rage. 

I also remember the day that I stopped being quite so scared of Judge Carroll.  I was pregnant with Baby Belle 1 and I had really nasty morning sickness.  I didn’t advertise my unease, but my pale and sweaty face spoke for me.  I was in Felony District Court and I had one case left.  For some reason, my client wasn’t listed on the travel roster from the jail, so I had to jump through all of the hoops necessary to get his posterior to court. 

I’d waited for hours and I was getting sicker by the minute.  I’d kind of propped myself up in a jury seat.  Finally, my client was present and we were ready to rock and roll.  Just as we stood before the bench the #%$@ing fire alarm went off.  The bailiffs moved to take my guy back while everyone else filed out of the room and I nearly fell to my knees and cried.

Judge Carroll looked over at me and said, “I don’t smell any smoke, do you, Mrs. Council?”

Hopeful, I said, “No sir.”

He said, “And I suppose that you have a pretty good ability to smell given your current state.”

Cautiously rejoicing, I said, “Yes, sir.”

So we stood there and plead the guy to the tune of the fire alarm.  I didn’t even think that the Judge had noticed my problem and there he was being all chivalrous.

Shortly after that, Judge Carroll was called to duty in Iraq.  My heart broke for him when I thought of his wife and children, but I was truly amazed at the Judge’s calm acceptance of the situation.  I imagined that lots of folks would wail, flail and gnash their teeth at the prospect of leaving a family and career to go into a war zone, but he unquestioningly stood up to meet his duty head-on.  I have no doubt that leaving his family made his heart very heavy, but John Carroll made a commitment to his Country and his Country was calling it due. 

While the rest of us sat in our nice cushy offices, Judge Carroll was in a military compound in a war torn Third World Nation.  While we worried about getting rained on as we ran down to court, Judge Carroll had to don full body armor to protect against snipers every single time he stepped outside.  While we tried our cases in nice, quiet and controlled courtrooms, Judge Carroll disposed of cases in a trailer to the frequent sounds of gunfire and bomb detonation.

We were all thrilled when Judge Carroll made it home safe and sound—although we were undoubtedly not as thrilled as he.  To be perfectly honest, I worried about how he would be in the courtroom when he returned.  He was actually quite laid back:  Not being in Iraq really seemed to agree with him.   

Judge Carroll spent the following years just like the years he’d spent before his deployment:  Cutting through the nonsense and swiftly delivering justice.  He still had his fun—the shivering Christmas and summer interns provided fertile ground for the planting of mock terror.  He was also human and had his pet peeves—one never took a Driving During Revocation charge in front of Judge Carroll unless one had absolutely no choice or perhaps secretly harbored ill will against their client. 

Judge Carroll had all the qualities of a great Judge:  He was smart, impartial and there was actually a pretty big heart under that gruff exterior.  Maybe it was the military training, but he also had a fantastic work ethic.  Before he was sick, he worked as long as he was needed and he worked hard.  Recently, there were days where he clearly wasn’t feeling well, but he continued to work without complaint.

I’ll say it:  It’s not fair.  It’s not fair that God called him away from his wife and his four children.  It’s not fair that God called him away from his friends and his life’s work.  That’s where faith comes in.  There has to be a reason, but God doesn’t have to tell us if He doesn’t want to...He is God, after all.  Actually, I think Judge Carroll is still with us:  I surely wouldn’t want to be a habitual unlicensed driver on the road with an angel like that on my tail.

Rest in peace, Your Honor.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Snot Coated Lawyer

**One might think that this post might have been more apropos on or before Mother’s Day and again I remind one that I am a maverick.  So there.

You never really know what it means to be a mother until you are one. 

I’d heard that phrase about a jillion times before I was a parent and it drove me nuts.  It drove me even more nuts after I became a mother and learned that it was true.  Until you look into your baby’s beautiful eyes or have your daughter wrap her tiny little hand around your finger, it’s impossible to understand what you are willing to go through to love, protect and nurture the tiny little life you hold in your arms.

Of course, there is another facet to that statement.  Before I had children, I looked down from my ivory tower at the bedraggled and scattered parents of young children with a mixture of perplexity and disdain.  Yeah, maybe they did have a toddler, but they had to pass a mirror somewhere on the way out of the house!  It only takes a second to notice a different earring in each ear.  If someone happened to look down at any point during the day, surely they would see the spit up on their chest.  Heavens to Betsy!

A peek into my closet B.C. and A.C. (before and after children) helps to underscore my cluelessness.  B.C.:  There were fancy suits as far as the eye could see—linen, silk and wool impeccably tailored and in outstanding condition.  Strappy and flowing cocktail dresses nestled in between the suits.  The shoes...oh mercy...the shoes:  Killer heels—spikes, wedges, platforms... 

A.C.:  Comfy knit coordinates mostly found in the pages of the Coldwater Creek catalog.  The ones with scarves wrapped around the hooks are stained, but coverable with the careful draping of accessories.  Buttons are loose or missing.  Hems are partially torn out, strings that capture the fascination of my Chihuahua dangle from the sleeves and skirts.  The shoes...oh mercy...the shoes:  A garden variety of scuffed and sensible flats, sneakers, flip-flops...


I even had a flat iron and a thousand different unctions, lotions and potions for my hair.  Today, I have air-dried natural frizz and I consider it a good day if I get to run a brush through it.

When I returned to work after having Baby Belle 1, one of the first things I had to do was defend in a probable cause hearing regarding an alleged a sexual assault involving kids too young to even know what sex was, much less put the notion to the test.  It was stressful enough to have to leave my daughter for the first time, but adding the pressure of a hearing like that into the mix was insane. 

It was a hard fought battle, but the judge ultimately found in favor of my client.  I arrived at my office fresh off of my victory and ran to the potty to wash the courthouse germs off of my hands.  As I scrubbed vigorously at the sink, I happened to look at my bedraggled reflection in the mirror and gasped in shock and horror.  I had strained carrots all over the shoulder of my light blue suit jacket.  I’d just argued with dignity and sincerity as to the lack of probable cause in my case and I’d done it adorned with baby carrots that had been returned to sender.

Humbling to put it mildly.

One would hope that I would have gotten more into the groove of things once we all settled down and hammered out a routine, but then I realized that babies don’t give a crap about whether or not you have a routine.  Actually, when it comes to Baby Belle 1, I honestly think that she makes it her mission in life to obliterate even the slightest attempt at any schedule she can sniff out.

Trust me, I would love nothing more than to attribute my continuing breakdown of personal cohesion on the arrival of my adorable Baby Belle 2, but the truth is that I was done in way before then.  The only difference is that—during those in-between years—I worried about the fact that I looked like crap.  After Baby Belle 2 hit the scene, I no longer give a crap if I look like crap.  If I am completely clothed and not dirty to the point of smelling bad, it’s aces all around.

Just to show you what my “image” has become now that I am a mother:  We were all milling around in the kitchen after work and school last week when my husband noticed that Baby Belle 2 had snot streaming out of her nose.  (Too much information?  Tough turkey.)  He told BB2 that she needed to wipe her nose and I can only presume that he intended for her to wipe her nose with a tissue from any number of Kleenex boxes strewn around our house.  Without missing a beat, Baby Belle 2 walked over to me, picked up my skirt and did a very nice job wiping her nose.

So yes, dear client, your attorney is wearing one black shoe and one navy shoe.  She has one earring on and one earring off.  Odds are that was a booger you saw in her hair the other day, but the good news is that it probably wasn’t hers.  You probably don’t want to know what that stain is on her sleeve.  Yes, she did have to go back to the firm twice for the same forgotten file and those are crayons and a Chutes and Ladders under the shelf of the North Carolina Crimes Handbook in her office.

Don’t panic.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Meowmeowmeow Belles

**Before I commence my rant, I want to assure you that no cats were harmed in the creation of this blog, but that’s mostly because I didn’t get the opportunity.  Calm down, calm down—I won’t go out of my way to harm one of God’s creatures...mainly because I don’t think they’re worth the energy.  I’m sensing that I’m not helping myself here...

Cats.  Kitties.  Puddy tats.  AAAAHHH-CHOOOO!

All right, all right, I like animals.  Mostly.  If I don’t happen to like a particular species, I’m usually pretty cool staying out of their way if they stay out of mine.  I’m all for parallel existence.  The problem is that cats are creepy and they somehow know when a person doesn’t like them.  The varmints also seem to take particular delight in tormenting a person who doesn’t like them and that’s where my problem began.

You may or may not believe this, but I actually began in life kind of liking cats.  My mother and I were attacked by a dog when I was little, so I started off with a healthy fear of Man’s Best Friend.  Cats don’t exuberantly jump all over someone every time they see them and I definitely preferred their stand-offish behavior.

Later on in my youth, my family got a dog (a black lab named Aslan), so I got over the whole fear of dogs thing.  I also figured out that I was allergic to cats.  Seriously, seriously allergic.  Even though I preferred cats at one point, I didn’t have opportunities to interact with them so I didn’t know about my allergy until I started play dates and sleepovers with friends that had kitties.  Good Lord.  Sneezing, puffy eyes, runny nose, a scratchy mouth and throat and the hives from hell—once I figured out that all of the aforementioned misery was the result of felines, I didn’t want a thing to do with them, but I didn’t hate them yet.

It was at the point that I made a conscious decision to do my best to avoid my friends’ cats—or any other cats for that matter—that cats started noticing me.  It was as if they could sense my discomfort at their presence and they took a gleeful, evil delight in my upset.  I can’t express to you how eerie it was that cats didn’t care about me before my allergy manifested and how they intuitively started to flock to me once I made the choice to avoid them.    

Slumber parties at the homes of cats (I’d come to see the cats as the real homeowners who only allowed people to stay there at their pleasure) started to get horrific.  It’s always kind of freaked me out that cats kill things and present the little carcasses of their victims to their “owner” as some sort of macabre homage or offering.  Well, I started finding little dead birdies and mice in my sleeping bag at slumber parties and the incidents were frequent enough that it could not be dismissed as coincidence.

I’m sorry, but that’s frigging serial killer stuff there, boys and belles.

It was official:  Ashley didn’t like cats and whatever tentative relationship that had existed before was irretrievably broken.

I’ve already told you the mortifying story of the cat taking up residence under my hoop skirt while I was an Azalea Belle at the garden party.  I’ve also relayed the story about the ghost cat at my father’s former law firm. Those tales are but two battles in the brutal and bloody war that continues to rage on.

Several years ago, a friend of the family passed away.  The lady lived by herself and she didn’t have any family of her own, so we took it upon ourselves to go get her house packed up and ready for sale.  I was boxing up some pots and plates in the kitchen when a movement outside the sink window caught my eye.  I didn’t know what it was, but I decided to go out into her back yard to make sure there weren’t any prowlers or anything.

I stepped out of the kitchen door and into the back yard.  I didn’t see anything.  I walked into the center of the back yard and that’s when I saw a black cat up under the azalea bushes.  I shivered—as is my wont when such a sighting occurs—assumed that the movement I saw had to do with the cat. 

Just before I turned to go back into the house, the bush quaked.  Against my better judgment, I took a slightly closer look and started when I realized that I had about ten pairs of eyes staring back at me.  The bush was completely infested with black cats.  At that point, I turned around with the intent of beating a quick path back into the house and my stomach dropped to my toes when I took in the entirety of my situation. 

I was literally surrounded by black cats.  I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that there were at least a hundred black cats all over the yard.  They were in the bushes, the trees and—most importantly—they were blocking my path to the door.  If it’s bad luck for a black cat to cross your path, what in the hell kind of luck are you supposed to have if you’re commando raided by a black cat posse? 

I thought about calling for help, but I nixed the idea because I would look seriously un-cool.  I tried shoo-ing the little buggers away to no avail.  Finally I opted for the last ditch effort:  Charge at them screaming à la Indiana Jones with the hope of startling and scattering just enough to get by.  It worked.  I parted the Cat Sea and Moses’d my butt outta there.

It turned out that the dear deceased lady had been feeding some extremely prolific strays and their legion of offspring.  She was the personification of the fabled little old lady with a zillion cats.

In yet another instance, our firm was charged with winding down the law practice of an attorney who had died rather unexpectedly.  (Do you notice how many of my cat stories deal with death in some way?  I have.  It just adds more heebie jeebies to the pile.)  We’d taken care of the client files and it was time to turn our attention to his office and get it ready for sale. 

As it happened, I was in need of an additional shelf for my office and the deceased attorney had one that fit the bill perfectly.  I got permission (of course) and went over to the office with so I could measure it and make sure that it would do.  I parked in the back of the office and went in through the back door. 

The office had been locked up for a couple of weeks, so it was nice and stuffy in there.  The late attorney had been a heavy smoker and the air was particularly acrid.  It was daylight, but it was pretty dark in the office.  As I walked through the back hall, I became a victim of one of the oldest horror movie ploys in the books:  A cat that had been sitting undetected on the top of the fridge in the kitchen jumped off and hit my shoulder.

It wasn’t a pretty sight...or sound for that matter.  Suffice it to say that I immediately gave up on my measuring expedition and got out of Dodge.  Wouldn’t you know that the cat had little cat buddies and they were sitting on my car!  At least they weren’t all black that time—they had white sock feet.  They scattered like roaches when I turned on the car alarm. 

So, there you have it—the background on The Great Cat War.  I don’t see it ending any time soon seeing as I aim for them when I see them out on the road.  (Tell yourself that I’m kidding if it will make you feel better.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Type "A" Freshwater Jellyfish

I’m a type A+++ personality.  I would like to say that I’ve mellowed in the passing years, but the ugly truth is that I’ve only gotten worse.  It’s a running joke around my friends that I can’t even relax because I put too much pressure on myself to chill out just right.  Thank God I married a laid back dude or I’d have spun out like a top many moons ago.  It’s a sad state of affairs.

Last summer, we got together with some of our college friends and their families and rented a cabin in the Tennessee mountains for a week.  It was the first time we’d all been together in years and years and years.  We all have small children (not a male child among us, if you can believe it) and we had all sorts of activities scheduled.  One of the things we decided to do was to go tubing.

When I was young, I spent three summers at Camp Kanuga near Hendersonville, North Carolina.  We went tubing and I quite enjoyed myself.

So, based upon those dim memories of my youth I enthusiastically agreed to the Tennessee tubing excursion when the idea was broached.  Woo hoo!

The appointed day came and we all got suited up and ready to go.  The place where we were supposed to put in was named River Rat...something.  They certainly had a brisk business going.  Each child’s tube was lashed to an adult’s tube and we were supposed to float down river like we didn’t have a care in the world.  Baby Belle 1 and I stood near the back of the line and watched the majority of our party drop seamlessly onto their tubes and cast off for a lazy drift down the river.  I had to admit—it looked pretty effortless—the creek did all the work. 

Our turn!  I gamely stuck my feet in the frigging freezing water to show/lie to Baby Belle 1 that it really wasn’t all that bad (ha!).  Just like those who went before me, I flopped down onto the tube, but it shot out from under me and my butt landed on the rocks lining the bottom.  (“Ouchie” is all I have to say about that.)  Baby Belle 1—who was already rather dubious about the excursion—started voicing her concerns and suggested that we should just “wait at the snack bar” for everyone else to come back. 

I got my posterior centered on the tube on the second try and the [rather impatient, if you ask me] river employees dropped Baby Belle 1 in and shoved us on our way.  We set sail in the freezing creek and I looked down the river toward our party:  They were a little bit further ahead of us thanks to my inability to sit right the first time, but I assumed that we would catch up at some point.

My assumption went down in flaming glory.  I watched my husband, my youngest child and my companions float down the river while the tubes carrying Baby Belle 1 and myself floated directly across the river and got stuck in the brush along the bank opposite the put-in sight.  I wasn’t sure how I managed to defy the laws of physics and not follow the rest our peeps downstream, but I was stuck and Baby Belle 1 took that time to mention that snakes liked to hang out in the brambles. 

A call of desperation to the River Rat employees [who had officially graduated from “impatient” to “assholes”] ignored me.  I somehow managed to dislodge the tube from the tangle of trees and bushes and pushed us out into the middle of the creek where we were crawling along at a glacial pace and our party was now completely out of sight.

I felt as though I was splayed out like a starfish on the tube.  For those of you not familiar with starfish, they are not known for their quick movement—or any movement, as a matter of fact.  I decided that I would do better on my stomach so that I could at least guide us like a turtle downstream where I stupidly promised myself that things surely had to get easier.

Our location in the creek was only knee high at the time, so I decided it was as good a time as any to put my dumbass plan into action.  I grew up at the beach and I’m used to the ocean.  Granted, an ocean swimmer might step on a shell or the occasional marine life form, but it is mostly sand between the ‘ol tootsies. 

The creek bed was covered in rocks and—whaddaya know—those rocks were as slick as pig shit.  The second I put my foot down, I was on my butt amongst the rocks yet again.  I had nothing solid to hold onto, so I prettily flopped around like a flounder for a bit and ended up just lunging for the tube.  At that point, Baby Belle 1 was pleading with me to wade back to the drop-in site while we could still see it.

We continued to creep along, all the while getting stuck on every rock and branch that one could possibly catch.  I don’t think that we moved in a single straight line once—I felt like a pinball bouncing around inside an arcade machine.  I found an abandoned shoe during one of our many entanglements and desperately tried to use it as a paddle.

My husband became concerned about the fact that I was nowhere in sight, so he wisely elected to grab onto a branch and wait until we came along.  I almost cried when I saw him and Baby Belle 2.  Of course, it took us about fifteen minutes to get to him seeing as there were rocks and debris to obligatorily get stuck on in between him and us.  He floated calmly in place while his wife and his eldest daughter tearfully recounted their experience. 

After Baby Belle 1 and I finished, Scott looked at me in exasperation and said, “You are supposed to relax.  You just...float.”

Huh?  Had he not been listening?  “Did you not just hear me tell you that everywhere I ‘just floated’ got us completely stuck?  Can you explain riding a southward current totally eastward?  I mean, you’re the mechanical engineer and all—“

“Just.  Float.”

I was suddenly married to Mr. Miyagi:  Wax on, wax off.

Believe it or not, someone was actually having worse luck than me.  As Scott and I sat there and debated the finer points of floating, another gal in the party came down river behind us.  She, like me, was nearly moved to tears by the sight of familiar faces and she also got the “Just Float” speech from Scott Miyagi which she took in a similar fashion because we’re practically sisters. 

Since neither of us bought the snake oil of Scott “Just Float” Council, she and I made the pinky swear that we wouldn’t leave each other no matter what.  We didn’t really want to get started again on that Godforsaken river, but we grudgingly acknowledged that it was the only way to get to the end, so we set off with heavy hearts.

We trudged along with Scott’s cheerful PSA’s:  “Attention non-relaxing people!  Relax!  Float like a jellyfish!”  While me and my friend muttered under our breaths that we would happily act like jellyfish and sting his ass if he ever got within reach.

We next tried to 12 Step the river:  (1) We admitted that we were powerless over the river;  (2) We believed that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity—or at least get us the hell out of the river;  (3)  We made the decision to turn ourselves over—and then we would get stuck on a rock again.  Although we started over numerous times, we never made it past the third step.

Scott:  “Relax!”

Ashley:  “I’M FRIGGING RELAXED!  I AM A TOTAL AMOEBA YET HERE I AM STUCK ON YET ANOTHER MOTHER FLIPPING [still trying to tone down the cussing for the little delicate ears] ROCK!  SON OF A MONKEY!!!

Scott:  “Just float!”

Ashley:  “[To BB1 and BB2] Cover your eyes, pumpkins.  [To Scott] FLOAT THIS!!!”

Finally, finally, finally, finally, finally, we came within sight of where they plucked you out of the river and put you on a bus.  I swear it felt like I’d been in that damned creek so long that I should have floated on back to the North Carolina shore.  Disembarking was just as much fun as getting in the tube, but at least I got to get out of the water. 

We’re meeting our friends in the mountains again this summer, but we have tabled the tubing idea.  My posterior cheeks are still sore from the rocks and it will take at least two years to recover.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Ugly Little Secret (Yes, Another One)

I have something I need to admit to you today, boys and belles.  I sincerely hope that this information doesn’t cause you to shun me.  In reality, what I have to tell you won’t make me any different:  I’m still the caustic under-aged curmudgeon that I’ve always been.  Of course, I’m pretty sure you’ve already figured out my little secret seeing as I have a nasty habit of speaking my mind without performing the pesky chore of weighing my words first.

So...here we go...okay [sigh]...I am a Democrat.

Wait!  Wait!  Stop!  Please don’t burn your computer in effigy!  I was a Democrat when you read all of those other posts.  Again, nothing has changed. 

Believe me, it’s hard enough being a Democrat in the State of North Carolina.  There are only about five of us.  I married a Republican.  Almost all of my friends are Republican—and I don’t mean just a little bit Republican, either—they are flag waiving, dyed in the wool card carrying members of the Grand ol’ Party.  We don’t discuss politics.

Yep, you’re reading the ramblings of a former president of the Peace College Young Democrats (some would say that it was a very small group while I prefer to say that it was very exclusive) and a volunteer from the first Clinton for President Campaign.  I was so distraught at Jesse Helms’ defeat of Harvey Gantt in the 1990 North Carolina Senate Race that I rode around with a Gantt sticker on the back of my car for a year after the election in protest (my father finally took it off when I wasn’t looking because he was afraid that I was going to be attacked).

I try to keep to myself when it comes to politics.  It’s turning into such a hot button topic that it’s practically nuclear.  I know I’m not going to change anybody’s mind and they are hopefully un-masochistic enough to know that they aren’t going to change my mind.  I’m proud to say that I even manage to keep my mouth shut when my friends debate around me.  I sometimes wonder if they are trying to draw me out.  I swear I’ve seen a sly glance here and there, but I keep on my poker face—sometimes I even try to pretend that I’m not listening in spite of the fact that I’m about to bite my tongue in half.

I also make an admirable effort not to sway the budding beliefs of my children because I know that, if I ever caught Scott nudging them one way or the other, all hell would rain down on him.  I answer their questions as neutrally as I know how because—other than always wanting them to act with compassion—I really do believe that they need to make their own decisions about how they see the world.  Accordingly, I refrain from telling my Baby Belles that Dick Cheney eats little children and that George Bush imprisoned Santa Clause at Guantanamo while putting out a hit on the Easter Bunny.

Also, allow me to disabuse some misconceptions about Democrats that commonly occur.  A top ten, if you will:

1.      I do not hug trees.  I like trees plenty fine and shade is super, but I have no desire to dance nekkid around one under the light of the full moon; 

2.      Granola makes me gassy;

3.      If you ever catch me in Birkenstocks, you need to look over my shoulder for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse because they are right behind me—and the same thing goes if you ever hear me singing any Peter, Paul & Mary or Simon & Garfunkel; 

4.      Although I am very picky about meat, I do eat it and I love a good steak; 

5.      I am a good little Christian and not a member of the First Coven of the Wiccans or Americans Against God or whatever cult is popular with the finger pointers today; 

6.      I think that recycling is a fantastic and necessary endeavor and I practice it, but I absolutely and unequivocally draw the line at diapers.  I used and use environmentally unfriendly Pampers on my Baby Belles and anyone who disagrees with me can come over to my house and do my laundry 24/7;

7.      Yay breast feeding.  Woo hoo.  Rah, rah breast feeding.  It is a personal choice for every woman and it most certainly doesn’t mean that a mother loves her child any less because she can’t or won’t.  As far as I’m concerned, the bar is closed once little precious starts cutting teeth.  I furthermore feel that anyone uninvited and unfamiliar with a situation is terminally ignorant if they chose to condemn a woman for not whipping out her boobs in public.

8.      I actually don’t really know how I feel about guns, but they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon—so not teaching children about respect and avoidance of guns is akin to burying one’s head in the sand and definitely isn’t worth the potential tragedy; 

9.      I thought that Obama was a snake oil salesman during the 2008 Presidential Campaign and I haven’t seen a thing since to cause me to change my opinion;  and

10.  I drive one of the least energy efficient cars in existence and I drive it like I stole it.

I will admit that I am fast becoming disillusioned with the whole politics thing.  Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Monarchists, Martians—whatever—the system is broken and I’m afraid that it’s fatal.  I don’t think that anyone—no matter their ideology—can stop the Titanic.  In fact, I believe that if we took a candidate who was genuine, hard working and had real foresight (I know that’s a stretch, but stay with me here) and sent them to Washington, they would either be:  (A) Eaten alive;  or (B) converted to the cult of selfishness and short term solutions within a month. 

I know, I know—I’m sitting here bitching and moaning without offering any practical alternative solutions...but isn’t lack of follow through one of the things that Democrats are notorious for? ;-)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Wouldn't YOU Operate With an Electric Turkey Carver?

I’ve represented folks from all walks of life in all sorts of situations. 

There are the folks who I honestly believe were in the wrong place at the wrong time or that circumstances were such that they were compelled to act in a way that they’d never done before and would never do again. 

There are the charmers who know exactly what they’re doing and they do it often, but the problem is that they’re so damned adorable you just chuckle and pat them on the head like an errant child as you go in to straighten out yet another mess. 

There are the dumbasses who confound me as to the fact that they had the wherewithal to [allegedly] conduct a crime when they don’t have enough sense to tie their shoes.

There are the Indignant Victim Defendants who are being framed for any number of reasons—either they didn’t do the crime at all or they were goaded into it by nefarious plotting.

There are the scary, scary, scary people who would rather kill you than look at you and, even though you represent them zealously as you were charged to do, you secretly and honestly believe that the world would be a lot safer if they never saw the outside of a prison again.

and then...

There are the ones that are completely, certifiably, 110%, 5-star crazy, crazy, crazy.  I’m not talking about amusingly crazy as when a defendant acts without a lick of common sense.  I’m not talking about the wild and breezy devil-may-care crazy that one tends to see with the in the dumbass college kids that flock to UNC-Weed and dive headfirst into the Rasta culture.  I’m not even talking about the people who lost control in the moment and acted insanely. 

No, I’m talking about the people who have mentally checked out and will never be back.  Crazy people are convinced that they are perfectly sane and they think that the rest of us are nuts.  The truly crazy people are the ones so convinced that they are sane that they actually get you to start believing them. 

I had a guy come and see me one time with regard to a worker’s compensation case.  He got a hernia as the result of doing his job.  I took his information and told him what we could do and what he could expect and right before I got up to walk him out of my office, he leaned forward as if to bestow a confidence and whispered, “That’s not the real reason I came here.”

Confused, I asked, “Did you not hurt yourself while on the job?”

He said, “Yeah, yeah, I got hurt on the job and I had to have surgery and all that, but I really have a malpractice case when it comes to the surgery.” 

He reached into the bag that he brought with him, pulled out a rectangular shaped box and slapped on the desk right in front of me.  I took a look at it and noted that it was a box for an electric turkey carver.  Although I didn’t really want to, I took a quick peek in the box and saw that the turkey carver advertised on the outside was, in fact, what was inside.  I didn’t really know where to start, so I sat back and let him tell me in his own time.

The gentleman was wheeled into the operating room and, according to him, they failed to anesthetize him sufficiently so that he was awake for the whole shebang.  He said that the doctor took a look at the tools that he had to work with and declared that the regular scalpel was not sufficient for his hernia operation needs.  The doctor turned to one of the nurses, gave her a couple of dollars and told her to run to Roses and pick up an electric carving knife.  My client insisted that he was trying to object, but he couldn’t talk.

The nurse got back with her special order and the doctor pulled it out, took a look at it, plugged it in and got right to work.  Yes, my client believed that he watched himself get operated on with an electric carving knife that hadn’t even been sterilized.   

The turkey carver that was sitting before me on my desk was not the actual turkey carver allegedly employed during the operation.  The fellow only purchased it as a sample carver to show people what he was talking about. 

After you read that, I’m sure you’re wondering how in the great wide world I could believe such an outlandish tale, but the dude was convincing.  Of course, part of my brain was telling me what you are undoubtedly thinking, but the other part of my brain was getting won over by the anguish and desperation in the man’s voice.  He truly honest to God believed with every fiber of his being that he had been assaulted. 

The gentleman told his story with such detail that he sucked me right in.  Yes, it was an absolutely absurd situation, but absurd situations happen to people all the time.  Hell, as an attorney I specialize in absurd situations, so who was I to disbelieve at that point?   I told him that I would take a look at his information and sent him on his way.

When my dad got back in from court, I gave him the “Holy Crap Listen to This One” spiel.  Of course, as I started to tell the tale, everything sounded completely different coming out of my mouth.  I sounded like a lunatic. 

I learned a valuable lesson that day, but that wasn’t the last time I was sucked into Crazy Town.  Every now and again, a client will be so convinced that “The People” are coming after her that I find myself looking over my shoulder during our conversation.  Yep, if I’m catching the Insane Train, I might as well enjoy the ride.

Two Wrongs Do Not Etiquette Make

Boys and Belles, I sit before you today humble and penitent.  I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent individual (I can—with intense concentration—walk and chew gum at the same time), but I get very distressed at my inability to wrap my head around relatively simple concepts.  I do so hate to spout trite phrases, but when they apply...well...they apply.  What in the great wide world am I talking about?

Two wrongs don’t make a right.

There, I said it.  Ta-da!

Wherever one’s spiritual beliefs lie, there is some form of two wrongs ≠ right most anywhere you land.  Call it The Golden Rule, Karma or whatever—it’s better to lead by example, act with kindness, eschew vengeance and all that shit.  Of course, I make light of the principle, but I do believe in it.  I’ve seen way too many examples of the theory in practice to believe otherwise. 

As a matter of fact, I would propose to you that the Do Unto Others methodology is all the more important in Southern Society where manners and deportment are so highly prized.  React with calm!  Don’t show ‘em they got to you!  Keep it together at all times! Smile and nod, dammit, smile and nod!

As I’m sure you have already deduced, the contrition and penitence portion of this program alludes to the fact that I occasionally slip when it comes to the use of “Southern Manners Karma.”  I’m not proud of it, but the Scottish Lawyer side tramples over the Southern Belle side every once in a blue moon.  In the hope of redemption, I metaphorically prostrate myself before you and ask for forgiveness:

Once upon a time, I got married.  Right after I got engaged, my parents offered me a sizeable chunk of money to elope somewhere with palm trees and sandy white beaches in lieu of going through the fuss and bother of a big wedding.  Well, I was a moron and went for the big poufy dress and the whole nine yards.  If nothing else, doing the thing up right did present the opportunity for a continuing education crash course in the opinions of the learned Post & Vanderbilt. 

Holy cats.  If you’ve never tried to throw a Southern Belle wedding, you can’t possibly begin to grasp the etiquette involved.  State visits from Queen Elizabeth would seem like casual drop-ins by comparison.  Invitations should be engraved, not printed and no abbreviations are allowed—titles and addresses should be spelled out.  Even the RSVP’s are governed:  All accepts and declines should be hand printed on white Crane’s card stock paper with black ink—those little pre-stamped cards brides and grooms send with the invites so as to desperately coax out a response and thus get a head-count for the buffet are strictly taboo.

I could go on, but I don’t want you to go into a coma.

Anyway, it probably isn’t news to you that brides can get just a wee bit stressed out with all of the wedding planning.  Stupid little things seem like a big deal—especially when you’re a Scottish Lawyer-in-Training and therefore prone to blowing your top. 

There I was:  The wedding fervor was starting to escalate, the invitations were properly printed and about to be posted and the plans for the service were kicking into high gear.  My mother wanted me to ask a gal that I kind of grew up with to take part in the service.  When I say “kind of grew up with,” I mean that my family was friends with her family, but she was a lot older than me and didn’t really have the time or the desire to bother with a little squirt nipping at her heels.

Nonetheless, I capitulated to my mother’s request and sent the girl a mannerly letter (as required) asking that she grace my wedding service with her participation.  Not only was my letter ignored, she never even replied to the general wedding invitation.  Common, huh?  I have to admit that I was pretty darned offended.  In case you’re dying to know, she didn’t show up.  Shocker.

A year or so later, Miss No Manners finds the love of her life and schedules her big day.  I got an invitation to her wedding and—here’s where the really shameful part comes in—I reciprocally failed to respond.  I even had a little dumbass speech all planned out if she had the nerve to say something about it.  Personally, I thought I was being a pretty good sport pitching in to throw her a bridesmaids’ lunch, showing up for her ceremony and giving her a present.

So...during the party that I threw, Miss Mannerless actually did have the nerve to mention my lack of response and my moment had arrived.  I inhaled to launch into my “See How It Feels?” tirade when I stopped.  What exactly did I hope to gain?  Some would say satisfaction.  Some would even say that I had a golden opportunity to teach a lesson so that future brides wouldn’t be screwed over by her rudeness.  The ugly truth of the matter was that she was too narcissistic to learn a lesson and all I’d done was be just as common and rude as she was. 

Two wrongs do not make a right.  You can work it any way you want and it still won’t add up.

So what is my new and enlightened approach?  Keep my own side of the street clean and stop worrying about everybody else.  Don’t stoop to someone’s level—lead by example instead. 

Blahblahblah—here’s the thing:  Just because I never got a thank you note from Cecily doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t send her a note of gratitude when she gives me a present.  Who knows?  Maybe she’s never seen one before and my note will serve as a shining example of propriety.  Hell, maybe I’ll actually give her a box of thank-you notes for her next birthday present with the hope of planting a seed of inspiration.  Nonetheless, I get to go to sleep at night enjoying the fresh breezes of the high road.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Soapy Belles

I was a college kid in the 1990’s.  It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago, but then I start doing the math and I get very depressed.  Kids that were born in 1991 can lawfully drink alcohol today and there I was graduating high school in the year of their birth.  Gads.

I was a carefree college kid of the 1990’s.  Nirvana.  Oodles of Noodles.  Good times. 

Although it was the prehistoric age, we didn’t differ all that much from the college kids of today.  We ran down the dorm halls like goofballs, we cracked the occasional book and we enjoyed a few friendly get-togethers at the hospitable fraternities of N.C. State and U.N.C.  There was, however, one main difference that my well meaning 20-something paralegal pointed out for me:  “I think reality shows are for my generation what soap operas were for your generation.”

Yes, my elderly brain foggily recollected waaaaay back in the day where all talk, work and frolic stopped for a couple of hours in the afternoon as we gathered around the dorm televisions to breathlessly watch the next installment of whatever CBS/NBC/ABC daytime drama we were addicted to.  The story lines were completely absurd and the acting was deplorable, but we couldn’t tear ourselves away from those overly made-up faces framed by overly hair sprayed hair (I am referring to actresses and actors).

After I graduated college, I went to work and the normal 8-5 work week didn’t exactly lend itself to The Young and The Restless and General Hospital.  One day when I was sick at home, I happened to catch an episode of a soap that was boasting a demonic possession story line.  I watched in horror as one would gawk at a train wreck, then I turned the TV off and I never went back. 

I was all proud of myself for my new highbrow attitude, but my paralegal’s depressingly insightful comment gave me a bit of a wake-up call.  I hadn’t given up soap opera drama.  No, I didn’t watch the shows anymore and I certainly had no intention of tuning back in, but I’d found a new drug to sustain my tacky habit:  The practice of law.

Seriously, just think of the absurd story lines that soap writers always seem to fall back on as old favorites and I can match them with my own personal reality show:

1.   Evil Twins:  The hands-down all time favorite soap opera story line.  Once upon a time, I represented a college aged girl—Jane—whose favorite pass time was to get in drunken fights with police officers at the downtown bar scene.  At one point, I had five active cases open for her as the result of punching, biting, scratching and kicking law enforcement officers on various occasions. 

Miss Thing also had a terrible habit of not showing up for her multitude of court dates in spite of my office’s extraordinary measure of providing a court date chart for her.  Let me also add that, every time I had to get a continuance as the result of her failure to appear, I had to get the arresting officer’s consent to continue.  I’m sure you won’t be shocked to learn that the police officer who had been punched, bit, scratched or kicked didn’t harbor much leniency in his heart.  After several missed court dates, I wrote her and told her that I would withdraw from representation and leave her file for a warrant if she failed to grace us with her presence yet again. 

I appeared on the next court date with a Motion to Withdraw as Counsel all signed and ready to go.  I nearly dropped on the floor from a heart attack when I saw that Jane had answered the court calendar.  I called her out into the hall so that we could decide how to proceed.  She’d even dressed appropriately.  Something wasn't right.

When we got outside, the poor girl looked ashen with fear as she grabbed my arm with her cold and clammy hand and whispered urgently, “I’m not Jane!”

Oh great, I thought, we get to plead the insanity defense.  Before I could open my mouth to determine just how insane Jane was, the girl said, “I’m Jane’s sister.  We’re identical twins.  She stayed out too late last night and she’s hung over and she asked me to come down and pretend to be her so she didn’t get in trouble.”

I was nonplussed to say the least.  After checking the girl’s driver’s license, asking some pointed questions and being unable to located Ashton Kutcher with this Punk'd crew, I determined that I was, in fact, talking with the “Not Evil Twin” and that the “Evil Twin” was home with her head down the toilet. The resemblance was uncanny.

I fulfilled my ethical obligations and got the hell outta there.

2.    The “I’m Not Dead Yet” Scenario:  Soap opera writers constantly amaze me at how they write re-hired actors back into a plotline.  If the head drama queen asks for more money because she’s 985 years old and plastic surgery is getting more expensive, those writers will kill her ass in a heartbeat.  Her character gets chopped up into 30 pieces which are all mailed off to separate parts of the world and then burned, but here she comes sashaying back into the scene a few months later.

I had a client who was charged with bigamy.  Rather surprisingly, he bonded out—I couldn't believe that he didn’t want to keep nice, strong bars between him and his wives.  While on release, he “fell off a boat” while deep sea fishing and the presumption was that he was dead. 


So, what did the dumbass do?  He didn’t even go somewhere cool like the Caribbean—he got picked up at South of the Border in Dillon, South Carolina.  He was too stupid to be released into the free world—just ask Pedro.

3.   Who’s Your Daddy?:  This one’s not exactly a surprise.  In the soap world So and So has a weak moment and sleeps with Mr. Pectoral Muscles while broken up with Sensitive Rich Guy.  So and So reunites with Sensitive Rich Guy while brushing Mr. Pectoral Muscles under the rug even though he still harbors a mad case of the hots for her.  So and So finds out she’s preggo and—gasp!—who’s the daddy???  (Cue the violins and break for the Tide commercial.)

Well, DUH, that particular fact pattern is all the hell over the courthouse.  Paternity tests, maternity tests, fingers pointing and claws out.  Baby Mama 1 catching Baby Daddy in flagrante delicto with Baby Mama 2.  The wrong-ee trying to run the wrong-er over with an El Camino.  Simple Affray.  Simple Assault.  Assault with a Deadly Weapon, Assault with a Deadly Weapon with the Intent Kill or Inflict Serious Bodily Injury.  Guns, knives, brass knuckles, sticks, rocks, flame throwers, John Deers, chains, whips, microphones, hot grease, mace, tire irons, fire irons, bleach, frozen foods, chainsaws, bottles, furniture, wicked high heels, bricks, cement blocks, computer screens, computer keyboards, hair dryers, guitars, flutes, trashcans, baby car seats, hammers, screw drivers, meat mallets, wrenches, scissors, curling irons, staplers, weed eaters...