Friday, July 30, 2010

The Office

My current means of support is working as a paralegal/legal assistant/receptionist. I fell into this after running into an acquaintance I used to work out with, who was also a single mom, and was working as a paralegal and thought I'd like it. I figured, “Hey, why not?” and enrolled in the paralegal program at my local junior college. Keep in mind, I chose my college based on its school colors.

So I finished school, while working one full time job and at least 3 part time jobs, and found my first paralegal position immediately after I completed the program. I’m on my third job in two and a half years, after being laid off of one job and ran screaming from the boss of another, so I guess all the hype about always being able to find a paralegal job is true. I’ve been at this office for little over a year, and while it’s not perfect, it’ll do pig, it’ll do.

My current employer’s focus of practice is employment law. Pretty basic stuff. Most of the cases follow a usual pattern and I spend a lot of time making templates and proofreading. I deal with a lot of misplaced apostrophes. So I usually know what to expect.

Yesterday, however, was an exception.

The firm took a CJA case before I was hired. Without going into too many details, our defendant was involved in a HUGE drug conspiracy, involving a HUGE amount of crack. He was due to be sentenced over a year ago, and it fell to me to write his Sentencing Memorandum. The Sentencing Memorandum is basically a document submitted to the court that contains the arguments as to why your guy should get time off or have his sentence reduced. Because his sentencing was delayed for over a year, I had a lot of time to educate myself in drug sentencing.

Here’s what I learned: The Reagan administration sucked.

During the big “Just Say No” campaign and the “war on drugs” during the eighties, the Reagan administration passed laws that had to be intentionally racist. Sentencing statutes were passed that had the effect of giving crack offenders the same jail sentence as someone who possessed 100 times the same amount of coke. The irony of this is that crack does not exist without coke. It’s made from coke. There are no chemical differences. The difference is that crack was perceived as a “black” drug and cocaine, a “white” drug. This resulted in sentences that were way too long for most offenders, which later led to overcrowding, etc. I won’t go into how the breakdown of the prison system, look it up.

I also learned that I would use algebra in ways I never imagined.

When I went back to school, I had to take algebra, because as an art major, I was not required to set foot in a math class, and had no math on my college transcript. I actually didn’t hate taking it, and it turned out, that the instructor was the father of one of The Big One’s classmates. Lucky I took this class though, because I had no idea how much math was involved in drug dealing.

The sentencing laws basically work like this: Marijuana is used for the starting point of all other drugs. So x amount of pot is worth x amount of meth or heroin or crack or coke, etc. Sentencing is based on the amount of the drugs involved. So I had to convert the amount of crack to its pot equivalent. Then I had to convert it from ounces to grams. Then I had to figure out its coke equivalent at a 100:1 ratio. Basically, I was trying to get the amount of drugs down as far as I could to benefit our defendant.

I also learned that there were a couple of bills and case law in place that agreed that the disparity in sentencing was racially motivated and went around and around and around researching all that. On the day I finally submitted my document to the court, Congress passed the Fairness in Sentencing Act of 2010, which, when signed by the President, change the ratio from 100:1 to 18:1. Hopefully, this will be to the benefit of our client.

Anyway, the funny part was when I was trying to do the math to convert the amounts to an 18:1 ratio. Lot of good that algebra class did me. “So if the original amount was 4.5 kilos of crack, what would that be in coke with the 18:1 ratio?” Ended up that we called Kathy with a K’s math-whiz daughter, and she gave me some formula. Just give me the answer, I don’t know how to remember to solve for x. So we figured it out and hopefully it will matter come the sentencing next week.

I do actually feel bad for our guy, even though it was a HUGE amount of crack. Weighed about as much as a six-month old baby.

We also had an interesting client meeting. Again, I can’t divulge much, but I learned that exotic dancers have to pay the house to work each shift, pay for their music, have to sell a certain number of drinks per shift, have to tip out the house for each dance, have to have a license from the city and are fined for infractions.

Not my typical workday.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It Was Twenty Years Ago Today

When I was in the ninth grade, our research project was to write a 10 page biography of a public figure and present an oral report. My friend, Mary, was a huge Beatles fan and had a treasure trove of resources, so being the slacker I am, picked Paul McCartney, because she had the most information on him. Keep in mind, this was DECADES before the “internet,” so to do any kind of research, one had to go to a facility called a “library,” go to the “card catalogue,” and look up information in “books.” Mary received a hefty allowance at the time, about $20 a week, which in the late 70’s was a fortune, so she had enough disposable income to have amassed quite a library. Little did I know that before I finished this project, I would be in love.

I fell hard for the Beatles and Paul. Knew every song and bit of trivia I could find. I can still list dates of birth for all Beatles without Googling them. I started my own collection of albums, magazines, books and assorted memorabilia. For Christmas one year, my friend Mel gave me a t-shirt with the legend “War is Over, If You Want It” on the front, and “Happy Christmas from John and Yoko” on the back. I still have it, and on a good day, it still fits. I didn’t have all the albums, but most of them, and some were collector’s items. Like the copy of the white album (I know, actual title was “The Beatles”) pressed on white vinyl and I still had the inserts from that and Sgt. Pepper in tact. I carried on this love affair all through jr. high, high school, college and beyond.

In 1990, my dream of seeing Paul McCartney live finally happened. He played in Dallas, at Texas Stadium. This was really back in the day, when if you wanted concert tickets, you had to actually go to the ticket agency and stand in line all night, or phone in until you reached an operator to order your tickets. My Boyfriend at the time, who later became The Ex, lived in Dallas and I lived in Tulsa. The minute the tickets went on sale, we both started dialing. And I mean dialing, as I lived with my parents at the time and they only had dial-faced telephones. I dialed so many times, I ended up with a black ring around my dialing finger. It took a couple of hours, but I finally got through and ordered the tickets, even though the pickings were pretty slim by then.

We get to Texas Stadium, and our seats are literally behind the stage, on the top row of Texas Stadium. I could actually reach up and touch the dome. Fortunately, this was one of the first shows where the jumbo-tron screens were used, so we could see a little something. Mostly I just caught a glimpse of his hand when he would swing his guitar out at a certain angle. It was somewhat of a letdown, after waiting for so many years.

I may have mentioned, one of the most hurtful things The Ex did was hock my Beatles albums. I had taken such good care of them, saved all the posters and inserts and they represented so much of my growing up. It was such a personal thing he stole from me and I literally got physically sick when I made this discovery. Even if I had been able to track down my property, I was so broke, I wouldn’t have had the funds to get them back. I know rationally, they were just “things,” but that was a new low, even for him. So for years after this happened, whenever I’d hear a Beatles song, it would bring all that back up again, and I’d get pissed all over again. So he hocked much more than just the physical albums.

Last Christmas, The Husband got me the complete Beatles collection on CD. I listened to every one of them, and because he was so sweet in his reason for giving them to me, I could listen and not get angry. And man, I missed my boys.

I forgot how good every song was. I listened to songs I had not heard in decades. I was surprised at how good “Magical Mystery Tour” was. I was inspired to have Genius Girl sing “All You Need is Love” at our wedding. I got my Beatles back.

The Husband and I had breakfast over Memorial Day weekend with an old camp friend we had not seen in 28 years. Punk Paul LOVES his live music. He’s had several FB posts reviewing shows he’s seen over the last year or so, and when we were talking about the Fleetwood Mac show, I said I’d regretted not seeing them when they came to town, because it was just so expensive. I made the spot decision to not let finances get in my way the next time an act rolled into KC that I’d always wanted to see. Life’s too short and life’s too long, I reasoned.

So not more than two weeks later, it was announced that Sir Paul would be making an appearance in KC.

Tickets went on sale online on a Monday morning at 10 AM. I had created my account with Ticketmaster and was logged on at 9:59.

I was an online ticket buying virgin, so my co-worker, Kathy with a K, walked me through it. She also revived me when I saw the ticket price. Seriously, I’m going to have to sell a kidney to recover the cost. She also held my hand while I had technical difficulties because of the panic attack I was experiencing while trying to decide whether or not to commit my children’s college funds while the Ticketmaster stopwatch was counting down. But she bitch-slapped me into it, which is why I heart her.

So Saturday night was the big night. I was experiencing some anxiety because of the expense and the crowd. Have I mentioned I have trouble in crowds? Yeah. Not crazy trouble, but enough to skewer rational thinking. Our seats were smack dab in the center of the row, which added to that because I kept worrying I’d have to go to the bathroom which would have caused everyone in the row to stand up to let me by.

But once the lights went down and the first note was struck, I forgot all about that. Because, after all, it WAS Paul McCartney. LIVE.

I’m not qualified to write a concert review, but can relate my experience. The whole damn thing was just surreal. For over 30 years, the only pictures I have in my head of Paul McCartney performing were from movies, television or what I could see on the jumbo-tron at Texas Stadium. But he was LIVE. Paul-effing-McCartney. Live in the same room as me. And 14,999 other people. I’m still trying to process it. And I could see all of him, not just a hand. LIVE.

So I have no regrets about the expense. Totally worth it. I really have the Beatles back now. And I did not lose that part of my growing up; it was just sleeping for a while.

Setlist, so I don't forget: Venus and Mars/Rock Show; Jet; All My Loving; Letting Go; Drive My Car; Highway; Let Me Roll It/Foxy Lady; The Long and Winding Road; Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five; Let 'Em In; My Love; I've Just Seen A Face; And I Love Her; Blackbird; Here Today; Dance Tonight; Mrs. Vanderbilt; Eleanor Rigby; Something; Sing the Changes; Band on the Run; Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da; Back in the USSR; I Got A Feeling; Paperback Writer; A Day In The Life/Give Peace A Chance; Let It Be; Live and Let Die; Hey Jude. Encores: Day Tripper; Lady Madonna; Get Back; Yesterday, Helter Skelter, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (reprise)/The End.

Friday, July 23, 2010

This was what I saw when I went outside at work yesterday:
Never in a million years.

Friday, July 16, 2010

I am officially married.

We set off on July 2 at the ass crack of dawn, because my fear was we’d get to the county courthouse to get the license and they’d be closed because of the holiday. All the girls (The Big One, The Little One, Genius Girl and The Neurotic Dog) were great travelers, and no threats were made toward the general vicinity of the backseat.

We got to the courthouse by 12:30 and began the paperwork process. The first question the clerk asked was, “How did you meet?” I looked at my boyfriend and thought, “Do they need that information?” It turns out, the clerk just liked to keep a running tab on that for her own personal information. I guess when you’re a civil servant, you have to have some kind of hobby. She noticed we had two different state licenses, and asked if we’d met on the Internet, and since she’s started keeping track, in 1999 I believe, she’d had 124 couples. That’s a pretty high number, considering it’s the Tulsa County Courthouse. Anyway, we explained the story and she seemed pleased and decided to count us in her tally. We got the license and celebrated with coneys from Coney-Islander.

Sidebar: I would absolutely kill myself with a veg-o-matic if I had to work in a civil servant workspace. Everything in the Tulsa courthouse was putty beige, and the equipment was ancient. Everything looked so grimy, too. I’d want to paint it all bright yellow or something. The DMV here is the same way. Our tax dollars at work.

The rest of the weekend was great. The Big One, Genius Girl and I went to the Tulsa Flea Market on Saturday morning, then got pedis. I think it was the first time for both girls and two weeks later, my toes still look cute. My mother was generous to provide the food for the reception, so we made a trip to Sam’s and boyfriend picked up the gorgeous cake.

We headed for camp on Sunday, and the festivities began. My concern was that there would be no kids The Big One’s age, and that was my reasoning for taking her BFF, Genius Girl. I was completely wrong. There were many high school and college age kids, and pre-school kids, but only two The Little One’s age, and they were boys, so we had some clingy-ness issues, but she warmed up after the square dancing after the wedding.

There was a threat of rain in the forecast, but we couldn’t have ordered better weather. The ceremony was scheduled for 7:00 PM, and in July in Oklahoma, it can still be brutally hot, but it was just warm enough. We had a few guests come in; mostly old friends and family. One special guest and his wife who drove up from Dallas and another, (who happened to be the first girl BF slept with) drove over from Arkansas. My BGF and his boyfriend gifted us the most beautiful flowers and I had planned the wedding d├ęcor around those.

When we got to the altar, the rector whispered at me, “Are you OK?” and I just blurted out, “Everything is just so pretty!” because it was. The light was perfect and the flowers on the altar popped out against the green and blue of the woods. The ceremony went off without a hitch. My brother did a reading from Song of Solomon and Genius Girl sang “All You Need is Love.” We had a cake-and-punch reception at the camp’s lodge covered porch, and campers and guests could eat or square dance.

I’m normally very anal about details when it comes to things like this, but I really just let go of that. In fact, about 4 hours before the ceremony, I was sitting at the pool with one of the campers, and her sister, (old friends from camp, and the sister happens to be The Husband’s aunt by marriage) and the sister asked if she’d like her to play a song at the end and if I had any preferences. I said, no, and made the comment that this was the most half-assed thing I'd ever done. I told her just pick what you like, and she and some of the other campers ended up singing a forgotten favorite of mine, Harry Chapin’s “Circle.” Which really turned out to be the perfect song.

It was really great to be able to enjoy every minute of it, and not have to worry about if the right spoons were out or if there was enough ice. Every wedding should be so easy.

My father has some pre-Alzheimer’s/dementia symptoms, but is still independent. He just gets very agitated and uncomfortable when he is out of his usual comfort zone. We had just walked up the hill from the chapel to the lodge’s porch, and he was at my elbow, wanting a piece of cake. I know this was a casual wedding, but I thought that was something traditionally done later during the reception. But we went ahead and cut the cake, with my dad at my elbow with a plate in his hand, practically wanting the first piece. The Husband and I managed to get in the traditional photo of us eating the cake, then I served my dad the second piece. I didn’t think much of it at the time, just thought dad was REALLY hungry for cake or something. Turns out, Mom told him they could leave as soon as the cake was served.

I wonder if there are any studies linking Alzheimer’s with autism.

Dad did have an interesting story for us, though. I inherited a pin from my grandmother that had belonged to her mother-in-law. My grandfather’s mother had died when he was about nine, and she was a Belt. I remember my grandmother wearing the pin to church and funerals, and it has become a tradition in our family for the granddaughters and great-granddaughters to wear it at their weddings. It’s a very beautiful and a one-of-a-kind piece, but no one really knows how my great-grandmother came to be in possession of it, other than my grandmother’s explanation, “She was a Belt, and they had money.” I had pinned it on to the streamers in my bouquet for the ceremony. Dad came up to us immediately after the ceremony, and launched into a story about how his father had given it to his mother. Apparently, my grandfather went to live with his uncle John (his father’s brother), after his father died when he was a teenager. Uncle John was low on scruples and somehow took possession of it. When my grandfather married my grandmother, he paid a visit to Uncle John, and flat out told Uncle John he wanted the pin and was not leaving without it, even if it meant he had to kill Uncle John for it. I don’t recall any family stories of my grandfather doing jail time for murder, so he must have made a peaceful retrieval. It's also an interesting story how I came to inherit the pin in the first place, and not the oldest granddaughter, but I'll save that for another time.

We all returned safely, and The Husband started his new job the day after we got back, so everything worked out as it was supposed to.

Anyway, everyone got cake and a good time was had by all.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's the Story...

I am getting married on July 5.

After my divorce, it took me a long time to realize that even though we'd been together for over 18 years, my ex and I had an unusual marriage. Even without the albatross of his gambling addiction, we had a disconnected relationship from the very beginning. I always preferred to think of it as autonomous, but the truth was, we were two single people in a marriage. We spent very little time together, and to the best of my recollection, the time we did manage to spend together was limited in quality. We were two solitary people living in the same house. Spread this out over 18 years, and it would warp anyone's view on marriage.

Because of my financial situation, at one point I was working one full-time job, two part-time jobs, running my website home business and taking 6 hours of classes. This was the average for about two and a half years, which made it impossible for me to even think about dating, even if I did happen to meet anyone.

From about the fourth grade until I graduated high school, I attended church camp. (Shocking, I know, as I am now an active non-theist.) I truly was a great experience, as it was one of the few places where you were surrounded by peers, but felt little or no peer pressure. At least that's the way I felt. The camp had a wonderful, amazing counselor, "George," who was a schoolteacher, and worked at the camp during the summer, and eventually became its director. She retired two years ago, and married for the first time. When she got married, it got me to thinking about all those I knew back in the day, so I started a FaceBook page for the camp's alumni.

Little did I know what FaceBook had in store for me.

Through the magic of FaceBook, I reconnected with who is now The Boyfriend. We knew each other slightly back then. He's a year younger than me, which when you're 14 and 15 is a big difference. About 15 months ago, we met up in my hometown with some other friends, and a few weeks later he asked me out. I actually was so confused by this, that I thought he thought I still lived in my hometown, but he understood that I lived four hours away.

So long story short, after a year of driving back and forth for visits and job interviews, he moved here for good last weekend. We had already set a date for July 5th, and were pretty much jumping off the bridge on the chance he'd find a job. Thanks in part to a friend of mine, he was offered a job two days before he'd planned to move here and will start three days after the wedding. The girls have adjusted beautifully to these changes and I feel as if we've jumped the major hurdles already. At least I hope so.

We're getting married at the camp, during its Family Camp session, by a priest we knew from our camp days. The Big One, The Little One and The Big One's BFF, Genius Girl, and The Boyfriend's son are all coming with us, and we're hoping to keep it as simple as possible, with the ceremony during the evening Eucharist and square dancing to follow. (We're NOT squaredancers, that happened to be the planned camp activity for the evening.) My BGF is providing the flowers and we've got a cute polka-dot cake ordered. Several friends from camp are planning on coming, as well as family. And if all goes well, Genius Girl will be singing "All You Need is Love," a la "Love Actually." (Which due to copyright laws, I could not link, but just rent the damn movie.) My plans have been somewhat half-assed, but only because I REALLY don't want a lot of muss and fuss.

I feel very lucky to have this second chance. I have many, many hang-ups about living with someone else, since I've essentially lived as a single person since I was 22, but am committed to breathing through them and accepting this gift.

I love you, soon-to-be Husband.