Friday, April 29, 2011

Proud to Be A Missourian: Gov. Nixon's Speech on SB 188

Today, Governor Nixon brought tears to my ideas, as he vetoed SB 188. Here is his speech:

April 29, 2011

Gov. Nixon vetoes Senate Bill 188

Good afternoon. Thank you all for being here at this historic old courthouse, at this historic moment for Missouri.

It’s good to look out and see an audience that reflects the true diversity of our state.

We stand on hallowed ground, in the footsteps of Dred Scott, whose unsuccessful pursuit of freedom began here in 1846. Eleven long years later, after many trips to the courthouse, the decision of the highest court in the land, denying him his freedom, became a clarion call to end slavery.

As history teaches us, the path of justice is a rough and winding road. Abolition. Emancipation. Reformation. All three took root and blossomed forth from the bitter soil of partisanship and prejudice.

Today, much progress has been made in courthouses across this land, in the pursuit of civil rights and justice for all people. But much remains to be done.

A broad coalition of people of good will and good faith has gathered here today as we continue on our journey.

You are the people who have marched, and sacrificed and stood up for the mistreated… the forgotten… the forsaken … and made progress.

You are the people who fought to throw open doorways and tear down barriers so that people with disabilities could live full and independent lives.

How I wish that Max Starkloff and Jim Tuscher, two giants in the fight for disability rights, were still with us. They accomplished so much in their lifetimes:

Access to sidewalks, buildings and public transportation;
Access to housing;
Access to education and communication.
We fight on today, so thousands more people with disabilities can take the “next big step” … into the workplace, where their skills and talents can shine.

You are the people who changed public opinion and private dreams, so that little girls could reach the same goals as little boys, and become surgeons and fighter pilots, supreme court judges and CEOs.

We fight on today, in the spirit of Sue Shear and Harriet Woods, to shatter glass ceilings.

You are the people who fought for equality in education, housing and hiring, inspired by champions of social justice like Minnie Liddell, Norman Seay and Frankie Freeman.

We fight on today for economic justice for all.

We stand together today, to defend the principles that will forever guide the conscience of our state and our nation: that all people have certain unalienable rights…and that all people are entitled to equal protection under the law.

These principles are at the core of the Missouri Human Rights Act, which has come under attack.

On paper, the Missouri Human Rights Act says that it is unlawful to discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, ancestry, age, or disability.

But it is more than words on paper.

It is a living covenant … and a call to action.

It calls us to treat all people with dignity and respect.

It calls us to root out discrimination wherever it festers in our state.

It calls us to stand up and speak out, so that whenever the powerful victimize the powerless, justice will surely follow.

It calls us to defend those who have suffered the humiliation and reversals of discrimination, so that they might find redress in our courts of law.

We must answer the call.

That is why -- today -- I intend to veto Senate Bill 188.

Senate Bill 188 would undermine key provisions of the Missouri Human Rights Act, rolling back decades of progress in protecting civil rights.

The bill would make it harder to prove discrimination in the workplace, and would throw new hurdles in the path of those whose rights have been violated.

That is unacceptable.

It is not who we are.

And it stops here.

Missouri is a state that welcomes all people, and believes that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.

That means we have an obligation to put a stop to discrimination and dismantle barriers of prejudice wherever they exist -- in the workplace, in housing or in the public square.

It is no wonder, then, that this bill has drawn fire from this broad coalition of people here today, including:

the Anti-Defamation League;
the American Cancer Society;
the AARP;
the NAACP;
the AFL-CIO;
the League of Women Voters;
the legislative Black Caucus;
the Missouri Association for the Deaf;
the National Alliance on Mental Illness;
Missouri Centers for Independent Living;
Missouri NOW;
the Urban League;
Missouri Association for Social Welfare;
the Whole Person;
our communities of faith;
and many, many more.
Each of us may see the face of discrimination from a different vantage point. But its ugliness is unmistakable in any light…from any angle.

Making it easier to discriminate against people with disabilities or cancer, against women, older workers and minorities, against those of different faiths and ethnicities, will not help us create jobs or be more competitive in a global economy.

The stakes – and the opportunities - have never been greater.

Because we live in a world where the boundaries of time, distance and culture are collapsing at the touch of a finger. Technology allows us to bear witness to the triumphs and tragedies of the human condition - from tsunamis to revolutions - in real time.

We will create new opportunities, and solve mankind’s most pressing problems, as allies.

And true allies are those who can see beyond the surface of what makes people different, to reveal the substance of what makes people the same.

The more we learn to understand and respect one another, the more practiced we become at treating everyone with compassion and dignity, the better citizens of the world we will become.

To thrive in a global economy and uphold these values that we share, Missouri must be a state that continues to move forward – not backward - when it comes to civil rights and equal opportunity.

For decades, the Missouri Human Rights Act has proved its strength - as both sword and shield - protecting the rights of people like Natalie and Tim.

Natalie had worked for her employer for six years when she was told there was a cutback. Her job had been eliminated. She had been given good job evaluations, raises and bonuses. She was in her 50s, with a child still in college. Her employer told her it had nothing to do with her performance – just economics.

But shortly after letting her go, her employer replaced her with a 24-year-old worker with less experience and fewer qualifications. She sued her employer under the Missouri Human Rights Act, and the case was successfully resolved.

Tim is a man who is developmentally disabled. For nearly 18 years he held the same job: washing dishes at a hotel. Tim lived with his mom, a busy registered nurse. His earnings helped keep their household afloat, and paid for his medical care.

He was named employee of the month twice, got regular pay raises for good performance, and was never disciplined for poor work.

But that all changed when he got a new boss. The new boss started writing Tim up for things Tim didn’t understand… and couldn’t read. Eventually, Tim was fired.

So Tim and his mom, who now had to work two jobs, appealed to the court that Tim had been discriminated against because of his disability. The new boss tried to get the lawsuit dismissed. But under the Missouri Human Rights Act, Tim was protected from unfair treatment.

Protecting human rights is not a matter of politics.

It is a matter of principle.

That is why today I am vetoing Senate Bill 188.

With just ten days left in this legislative session, there are those who will be putting all their energy and effort into overturning my action.

We must lock arms and go forward from this place to block those efforts. This is the time to make your voices heard in the halls of the Capitol.

We must work together to impress upon all Missourians, the importance of protecting human rights and human dignity.

We will not cede one inch of ground it has taken decades to gain.

Because in that time, we have come to see that the civil rights of all, are inextricably bound to the rights of the few.

The path of justice is a rough and winding road.

Our journey is not over.

We will not turn back now.

We will not rest while racial slurs poison the workplace.

We will not rest while faith is the target of bigotry.

We will not rest while people with disabilities are exploited and excluded.

We will go forward – together - to accomplish the unfinished work of our state and our nation.

Related to this page
Press release: Gov. Nixon vetoes Senate Bill 188


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Faith, Flaws, and Gandhi

Easter is a very interesting holiday for me, a non-Christian. Easter is the most holy day in the Christian religion, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, probably the most noble human in history. My son calls Jesus the first hippy, for his teachings including his directive to "turn the other cheek." the religion of my youth called for "an eye for an eye." Jesus helped the poor and the forgotten. He was a peaceful rebel who gave his life for the greater good.

I much prefer the way Americans celebrate Easter over the Christmas is observed. For Easter, Christians traditionally go to church and honor Jesus. Christmas is much more commercial and has become a retail extravaganza where every American, whether Christian or not, is expected to "celebrate" by buying things. Everyone takes a holiday from work or school on Christmas, regardless of his or her beliefs. Easter is on Sunday, a traditional non-working day, and believers go to church.

I am Jewish by birth, and I believe that Jesus' teachings are profound. I do not believe that Jesus was the Messiah nor that we will ever have a real Messiah. Jesus is a hero to me. If we all adhered to his teachings, the world would be a much better place, where humans cared and took care of each other without judgment and without the motivation of greed or power.

But, the world is filled with the greedy and the power-hungry. We humans are profoundly flawed. Sometimes, I am profoundly disheartened by how flawed we all are and how hard it is for those without power to be treated fairly. And I think the root of my disillusion stems from my realization of how flawed I am, how, at times, I am motivated by greed, or power, or

Jesus appears to have been perfect, with no flaws. I don't know if he really was, but that's how the story goes. Who would not state that Jesus, as portrayed through history and the Bible, is not a hero to be admired and emulated. I admire other heroes, including Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela and my grandmother. I know that humans are flawed, but I look to the traits I admire in these people and ignore the rest.

Today I researched Gandhi, probably the person whom I revere the most. I really have not read much about Gandhi, outside of his quotes that resonate with me. Gandhi's quote which most resonates with my law practice is "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." He was the pioneer of non-violent dissent, mobilizing a nation to wrest British control of India. I saw the two-part movie with Ben Kingsley as Gandhi. He fasted for causes, he said profound things, he was not afraid to die and he changed a nation.

So, today, for the first time, I decided to research Gandhi's life on the Internet. It was just a passing curiosity during an idle time today and I was not prepared for what I found. Gandhi, to my naive chagrin, was not the perfect soul I had imagined. When he was a young lawyer in South Africa fighting for the civil rights of his fellow Indian expatriates, he wrote extensively about the "inferiority" of the native Africans. I knew, from the movie, that Gandhi forsook sexual pleasures as a way to strengthen his moral strength. What I did not know was that Gandhi, apparently to cure his sexual cravings, slept naked with young girls. Ths discovery caused one of his stenographers to resign from Gandhi's service in disgust. Gandhi believed that Jews in Hitler's world should have non-violently rushed to the gas chambers and refused to leave Germany in protest to the Nazis. If my grandmother had donr that, I would not ever have existed. Gandhi was not perfect.

I know I am profoundly flawed, but I irrationally thought Gandhi was perfect. I have accepted that Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and my grandmother Oma were human. I accepted that Gerry Spence, whom I had admired for years, is flawed. I had not, however, ever even considered that Gandhi was less than perfect. In a way, Gandhi represented my Jesus.

I must resign myself to the knowledge that we are all flawed and I know my goal should be to accept people with all of their flaws. There is no daddy figure out there who can solve all of the world's problems.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Feel Like a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Thank You Tennessee Williams)

It is hard sometimes to have a job where you have little idea of what the future will hold. I don't know how my client's cases are going to turn out. My goal is to provide comfort and closure, hopefully with a sense of satisfaction and purpose. I want my clients to look back at their case and feel that going through the process was worthwhile. I hope they get justice.

When I started as a lawyer, I was idealistic and thought that most people get justice in the end. I am not so sure of at now. I hope that most people get justice, but I feel increasing pressure to fight injustice. Sometimes, when I hear about or encounter greed, bigotry or pride, it seems as though the battles become interminable and insurmountable. I fight, figuratively, all the time. I wonder if I am up to the task against lawyers and corporations with unlimited resources and I grow weary.

Plus, I usually cannot predict the outcome of a case. I do not know how a trial will pan out, under he best of circumstances. I take contingent fee cases, since my clients are not big corporations and cannot afford to pay hourly billing. In some ways, I am a professional gambler, providing little income assurance to my family and dependents.

Sometimes, I question why I have chosen such a hard job. But, deep down I know why. Our cases can, and oftentimes do, make a difference. At the very least, we may be able to bring back the happy smiles our clients freely gave before the mistreatment. We can bring back our client's faith in the justice system and restore their hopes. Sometimes we make an even greater difference, like helping to bring down an arrogant and ineffective mayor. Sometimes the job is glorious, with adrenalin highs and sound sleep. More often, I am fearful of what might happen if I miss some fact, misread some juror, or simply do not successfully related to my client and the jurors. And then there is e frustration of the length of fighting these fights, sometimes taking 7 to 10 years. Oftentimes, after these extended wars, the resolution is sweet, but not before some of our clients have been forced to file for bankruptcy.

Obviously, the outcome of cases is constantly changing, as is the rule of law. Being a trial lawyers burns out many a fine lawyer. The stress of fighting with unknown consequences, putting your client's well-being and your own livelihood on the line creates fear. For most lawyers, the risk-taking behavior necessary to be a trial lawyer takes too much of a toll on an advocate.

I went with the son to see the movie, "The Conspirator," about Mary Sarrat and her trial as a confederate conspirator for the plot to shoot Lincoln and the vice-president and secretary of state. The case was tried by a military tribunal to deprive those accused of the full spectrum of their rights under the law. I felt that old burn that comes when in a trial where I feel the judge's rulings are wrong or I cannot relate to the jury. Sometimes I tire so of the fight.

I am getting ready for trial now and frustrated on several other cases. I know I should just take one day at a time and be spontaneous. Just one time when my client, who is courageously depending on me asks what I think will happen, I wish I could tell him or her what to expect and just let it go. I can't because i don't know. This job is a weird way to spend my life. Sometimes, I feel like a cat on a hot tin roof, and when that happens the best thing to do is just breath.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Righteous Rebellion

After practicing law for 28 years, I am heartened that I hear many clients making the same statement, "I really want to prevent this (harassment, discrimination, retaliation) from happening to someone else." It is that shared resolve so common among my clients that humbles me and makes me proud to represent them. Sometimes, after hearing the rhetoric of the Tea Partiers, after seeing Big Business impose it's agenda of greed in state legislatures and in Congress, after fighting companies for years at a time to simply get justice for an injured client, I wonder if I am helping my clients make a difference.

Today, I read my Facebook page and saw a posting from Eric Vernon, a friend and fellow Kansas City lawyer. He posted an article from Yes Magazine, which I find to be profound. In this article, the author talks about people who courageously make a difference. Perhaps there is hope.

I am frustrated now because I have a client who is kind, caring and good, and gravely injured because of the carelessness of an international corporation which is under-insured, which may have procured the insurance through fraud, with principals who evade justice by liquidating companies and setting up others. This company is the epitome of greed. Each insurance company, defendant and defense attorney is evading responsibility for this wonderful man's grievous injuries. I still believe that most people are good and just and that justice will prevail, but it may be several years and I grow frustrated.

Then I hear and read about the shenanigans in Congress, where some members are hoping to
enrich the coffers of the wealthy on the backs of the poor. I grow frustrated with the
Missouri Legislature and the attempts to restrict human rights. I grow impatient and want a peaceful righteous rebellion to combat the greed inherent in many corporate cultures.

It is hard to be patient. I try to be empathetic and I fail. But, even with all of the evil in the world, in places like Darfur, Rwanda, Nazi Germany, Communist Russia, I must believe in the fairness and goodness of people and I must be patient. Gandhi once said, "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." Thank goodness for courageous people such a my clients who fight the dirty drops in the ocean.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Through the Eyes of A Child

My husband and I both love children. Our two kids are grown, and we have no grandchildren, just grand-dogs. Don't get me wrong, I love those dogs. But, it is nice being around human kids, too, so we both volunteer at local schools. Mike helps out at the kindergarten class taught by our wonderful spinning teacher, Angela, when she is not spinning or leading yoga. I have a 6th grade Youth Friend, a girl with whom I have lunch around once a week.

My friend is great. She reminds me of what it is like to be a kid. She is energetic, honest, in your face, and fun. She struggles with math, has arguments with her friends, and is just a kid. I saw her this week. I bring my iPad, because she likes to play games on it. Sometimes she goes to music sites, and, like a responsible youth friend, I tell her no R rated lyrics. She looks sheepish, and clicks to the G rated songs.

This week I showed her that I had downloaded Angry Birds. We played that awhile and then she, and I, got bored. She looked at another app I had downloaded. It's just an app with pretty light shapes with colors. I have always liked pretty, shiny things, but I don't spend much time with the app. My friend got on it. She was entranced.

She directed me where to place my fingers so that we could see the lights twirl in swirling
motions. She showed me how if we tapped the screen, different brilliant colors erupted in
bursts of light. We placed our fingers in different places on the screen and watched how the colored streams of lights bounced off each other and were drawn to places as if they were magnetized. We had fun! More fun with lights and colors than I ever thought possible, and I have also thought lights and colors were fun. My friend taught me new ways to see and move the colors and create beautiful images.

I always fancied myself as a fan of sparkle and glitz, but never have I appreciated the colors and lights like I did on Wednesday. It was fun and we were in the moment. I learned a lot from my friend. She's cool.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What it Takes to Write a Blog

I have been thinking about what qualities it takes to publish a blog. Most people don't , not yet. Bloggers have certain traits, that I suspect bloggers share in common:

1. A love of writing;
2. A desire to have others notice what you read;
3. The belief that you have something important or entertaining to say; and
4. AN EGO.

I include myself in the last category, unfortunately. There is something cool about writing and knowing other people read what you write. I hope I have something of significance to say. I hope I honor my clients. I try to pretend that I don't have an ego, but I do.

What is ego? I don't mean in the Freud sense. I think that people, like me, who draw attention to thmselves do it for a variety of reasons, but high among those reasons is the hope for approval from others. A big ego is really just insecurity, a need to be heard, or read. That may be what propels others into politics. Maybe not. The American psyche is a difficult thing to understand and owning up to one's flaws is even harder. We are all flawed. I loved flawed people. Thank God I am really flawed. Long live flawed people - sometimes from them comes greatness. Unfortunately, that is not the case of me, the author of this blog. But, it is fun to write and have others read anyway.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Foray into Fiction - What do you think?

“The jury has reached a verdict.”   I look up at the courtroom deputy, a woman of about forty with coal-black,, obviously dyed hair. In her wrinkled yellow blouse, she walked to me and smirks. Maybe she isn’t really smirking at me.  I don’t know her, maybe she just looks that way at everyone. (Please, please, please, let this be my imagination!  Don’t be so paranoid.)  My chest tightens as I respond, “Okay.”  She turns around and rushes back through the courtroom door, her scuffed pumps clicking as I watch her retreat.  I arise to find my client, Mary, and notice that my hands quiver and my knees feel weak. I inhale deeply and walk down the hall where Mary sits with her mother.
“We need to get back to the courtroom.  They have a verdict.”  I try to walk at a steady pace toward the imposing courtroom doors.  I don’t want my client to see that I am nervous.  Bad form.  She and her mother walk behind me, Mary grabbing her mother’s arm, as I swing the heavy wooden door open and hold it for them.  People are gathering.  I open the gate to go to the counsel table, with Mary behind me.  Mary’s frumpy mother, Alice, dressed in polyester slacks and a blouse, lumbers over to the spectator pews.
The counsel table is fairly cleared, since I have a compulsion to neaten things up while waiting for a jury, not a normal inclination on my part.  The only time I can recall the need to straighten up is while waiting for a jury.  Weird.  I search under the table in a file box for a pad and pencil and find them neatly by the exhibits.  As I set the pad on the table,  I steady myself. I look at Mary and try to smile. Mary looks scared and right now I don’t want to comfort her.  That’s why I had her bring her mother.  I just want this moment to end.  I feel dread, and I can’t shake the feeling.
The judge, looking somewhat disheveled enters the courtroom through the door from his chambers, straightening his long, black robe.  “Let the jury in.”  The deputy moves to the door leading to the back hallway and slowly opens it.  The jurors are lined up behind the door, ready to be seated.  I look away.  I don’t want to see their faces. I don’t want to know if they are looking at me or my client.  Frankly, I wish I were unconscious, or anywhere but here.
Everyone seems to move in slow motion and my heart pounds.   The judge bellows, “Have you reached a verdict?”  A middle-aged man in a tie in the second row, holding papers, responds, “We have, Your Honor.”  The courtroom deputy moves toward the man, her arm outstretched. Everything is moving in slow motion.  It reminds me of when I was in a car wreck and saw the other car running the light and heading toward me and I could not move in time. I felt paralyzed.  Slow motion.  She takes the papers to the judge.
The judge examines each page.  It’s almost as if I can see his lips move.  Hurry up, dammit!  My heart cannot take this much stress.  I avoid turning to look at Mary.  I don’t want to be strong for her right now.  Just read the damn verdict!
“On the claim of Mary Gutierrez against Morris Trucking Company for sex discrimination, we the jurors find in favor of . . .” Here, the judge pauses.  I don’t know why they do that.  Too much television courtroom drama.   Read it, dammit.  The judge finally states, “Morris Trucking Company.”
The cannonball tears into my chest and I unsuccessfully try to steady myself.  Instead, I physically recoil.  I hope no one saw that.  I take a deep breath and turn to Mary, her eyes filled with tears.  “I am sorry,” I whisper, hoping my voice does not betray how devastated I feel.  What else is there to say?  Sorry, I fucked up that cross-examination, sorry you didn’t tell me of your affair with your co-worker, sorry I am just not a good enough lawyer.  Sorry.  I hate feeling sorry.  And angry.  Here comes the anger.  I hate feeling anger. Push that back down.
The defense counsel, all three of them, are high-fiving each other with the human resources director of their client.  I wonder who will be buying their drinks tonight.  God, I don’t want to shake their hands.  He’s coming over, shit!  Rage is building.  Stem it, now!
“You tried a good case,” the asshole four-eyed bald, ugly excuse for a human being says with his right arm extended.  “Congratulations,” weakly escapes my lips as I look at my shoes.  What a wimp I am.  Mary is right behind me.  He turns to Mary, “It was nice meeting you.  I am sorry about the circumstances.”  He extends his arm to her, she looks at it and turns away.   What do you expect, asshole.  You fire her ass because she complains about her boss grabbing her ass, and you fucking get away with it.  I make myself smile at him and turn away to talk to Mary.
“Mary, we can appeal.  We can talk about what we can do next.”
“I don’t want to think about that now.”  She starts to cry.  “Thank you for representing me.  You did a good job.”  No, I didn’t.  Don’t tell me that.  I sucked.  I failed you. “Thank you,” I respond.   I want to get out of here.  I need to leave.
I gather up the boxes and place them on the dolly.  Mary starts to help.  “That’s okay, I can get it.”  Her mother opens the gate to come and help.
A look of pain flashes across her face.  I feel horrible, now I’ve made her feel bad.  I need to get out of here.  “I’m leaving, Mary.  I will call you next week.” I give her one of those patting embraces, the kind of hug you give when you feel uncomfortable.  I can’t help it.  I need to get out of here.   As I exit the courthouse door, I feel as though I can finally breathe for the first time in a week.  I inhale deeply and leave.
It wasn’t always like this.  There was a time when I was enthusiastic, when I believed I could change the world.  I thought I could make a difference, at least I deluded myself into thinking I was making a difference.  I was a child of the Sixties, for crying out loud.  Civil rights mattered, protesting the Vietnam War mattered.  Nothing today seems to matter much.  I need a drink.
I drive back to the office.  Thankfully, everyone has gone for the day.  My desk is a mess, piled with unopened mail.  There are piles of papers and files all over the glass table.  It is overwhelming.  I roll the boxes into the office and leave them inside the door.  I turn out the lights and make my way over to the couch and collapse. Now I wish I could cry, just to get the emotional release, but no tears come.  No relief. I need to divert my thoughts.  I don’t want to obsess about the trial, nor about the unpaid bills. It’s too much.  I don’t want to call anyone or talk to anyone.  I don’t want to go home.  I want to not exist.  I lay here not knowing what to do.  The panic begins to seep into my brain and then quickly sweeps all over my prone body.  I bolt up. The panic will pass, I know it will pass.  Please, let it pass.  I don’t want to think about the rent, or the mortgage or the college bills.  Right now, I need to escape.  But, I don’t.  I drive home.
I push the button inside my car to open the garage door, knowing that Ava, my dog, my little dog pound mutt, will hear the door lifting.  Oh, to have the life of a dog, at least a modern day dog.  I would gladly be neutered or spayed in exchange for a carefree existence with free food and shelter and people who care about me, but expect very little from me.
I have always been the one to take care of others, ever since my parents’ divorce when I was twelve.  My brothers were younger and depended on me, and I didn’t let them down.  As long as they needed me, I felt loved and important.  Derek is now an architect in L.A., and I see him every year or so.  He never married and lives the good life, sports cars, international vacations, a beautiful house.  Not the same brother who, at age six, would grab my leg to prevent me from going out to play without him.  Back then, I was his world.  At least Eli lives closer.  He is just one year younger than me and lives in Omaha.  He and his wife Bev run a sporting goods store.  I don’t think Bev likes me much.  Bev, who openly declares she hates lawyers, always adding, “Except you, of course,” has not aged well.  She is down-right frumpy and nasty. I personally think their store would do better if Bev would get off her fat ass and exercise and lost some weight.  It’s poor marketing to have a sporting goods saleswoman looking like she spends half of her time in the kitchen or in front of a television. I think Eli gives in to her just to keep the peace.  I am afraid that Eli is not very happy.  Intellectually, I know that I am not responsible for his unhappiness, but I hesitate to admit I feel guilty about him, like if I had been a better sister/mother, he would be content.  I really miss him Eli, especially our long talks as teenagers and young adults.  Eli and I had all of the same teachers in school, I just had them first. We were both in the accelerated classes, but we were two very different students and even different children.  Eli was shy and quiet and excelled in Math and Science.  I was the loud-mouth poet.  When we were kids, I tried to protect Eli from bullies, but I guess I didn’t protect him from a bully wife.  I am afraid Eli chose Bev because she reminds him of me, and I really do not want to think about that.
I always do this, when I feel bad, I start to think about all of the bad things in my life.  Sometimes, I just work myself up into a panicky dither over as little a disappointment as a gain of two pounds.  Losing a trial warrants a much greater hysterical reaction than a mere weight gain.  If I’m not careful, I could end on the edge of a cliff tonight, if only in my imagination.
As I open the door from the garage to the kitchen, there is Ava, wagging her auburn tail and running in circles because she is so happy to see me.  I love Ava because she loves me unconditionally.  It wouldn’t matter if I was a bag lady, Ava would love me just the same.  I am glad that Hannah, my daughter, who is now 24 years old, begged me to adopt Ava eight years ago after Hannah volunteered at the animal shelter in her “I like animals better than people” period.  Although, Anna is living in her own apartment and in graduate school, faithful Ava remains.
“Hi, baby!”  I exclaim as Anna, wildly encircles me enraptured by my mere presence.  I rub my hands all over her fur, “Here’s Mommy’s baby!  Come here, baby!  Mommy needs a hug,” and I grab the 65 pound dog and encircle her in my arms as she licks me with her long wet tongue.  This feels good, although I know the feeling is fleeting.
“Joan, are you home?” my husband Steve calls out.  I grunt.  I know I should be nicer to him, but I am not in the mood to be “nice’ and here finally is a way for me to vent my frustration, although I don’t want to consider the long-term consequences of using Steve as a punching bag.
I walk into the kitchen, a large room that could be beautiful if I refinished the cabinets and replaced the cheap green flooring and out-dated counter tops.  The room needs a complete scrub, but I don’t want to think about that.
“How is the trial going?” Steve calls from the family room where a noisy basketball game is blaring from the television.  I hear the obnoxious “AAAAAAAH” sound the time clock makes and the cacophonous crowd cheering and my head begins to hurt.
“Can you please turn that crap down!  I can’t even think.”
“What happened with the trial?”
I look at Steve and say, “We lost.”
“You lost?”
“What?  Do you think I am lying?  I said we lost.”  Damn, I am such a bitch.  Just like Bev.  I walk to the bedroom, as Steve follows in his tee-shirt and jeans.  At least he has a shirt on today.  It drives our son Max crazy when Steve walks around the house shirtless, with the slightest beer belly coated in silver strands of hair hanging over his belt.
“I’m sorry to hear that.”
“I really don’t want to talk about the trial right now.  I just need some time.”  I lay down on the bed which Steve had made that morning.  The room is blue because I was in my “blue” period twenty years ago when I decorated the bedroom.  I like sage green now, but don’t have the energy nor the means to redecorate.  Steve mumbles okay and walks out of the room as I slump on the bed.
Being alone was probably a bad idea.  Laying on this bed, unprotected by distractions, is dangerous.  My mind goes to the many improvements needed to the house.  I need a maid, too.  Well, we still have a healthy mortgage on the house because of all of the refinancing we have done to keep the firm afloat during the last 25 years.  There is little equity, if any, in this house.  That leads me to my real panic.  The firm is having such a horrible year, with this loss and others, and, for the first time in a long time, we’re behind in our bills.  I assumed the Gutierrez case would settle before trial, but I had not anticipated a stingy defendant and a stubborn client.  Now she has nothing. She is not the only one with nothing.  Forty percent of that settlement was supposed to be mine.  If I keep thinking about this, I am going to induce a panic attack.
The phone in the bedroom rings, and I freeze.  What if it’s another bill collector?  What do I tell them?  I am not going to answer.  Let the credit card companies sue me.  I imagine the embarrassment when my colleagues notice the lawsuits.  Well, it could be worse, I tell myself.  No one’s sick.  My heart begins to pound and I feel jumpy.  I grab the keys to my car and walk out of the bedroom.
Steve looks at me quizzically and says, “Where are YOU going?”
“I am tense and need to go out for awhile.  Maybe I will find a movie.”
“Do you want to talk?”
After thirty-three years of marriage, I can find nothing to say.  “No, I’ll be back in a couple of hours.”  I leave, drive around and come home and go to bed. Chapter 3
(Go through 1970s and 1960s)
I remember when I was thirteen years old and everyday the major television stations, then all we had was network tv, reported campus riots protesting Vietnam.  It was 1966 and I paid little attention to the news, especially since my mother had announced she was remarrying and I felt personal dread that seemed so much more important than what was going on in the world. It seemed logical to me that if these college kids did not agree with their college’s policies, they should just transfer. Life was pretty much black and white, good and evil.  There were cowboys (good) and Indians (bad).  John Wayne fought the bad guys in the movies, and he was one of us, one of the good guys,  I did not have moral dilemmas, I was a kid. When Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, I was fifteen and had little conception at that time of the man’s importance nor of the upheaval of traditional white middle class life in the Midwest.  On the day of Dr. King’s assassination, school was canceled and I hoped to be able to ride the bus downtown and go clothes shopping.  Little did I understand that there were race riots and it was not safe to ride the bus.  It was two years before it dawned on me that there were more important problems in the world than those of my family’s.
But when the realization came, it hit me hard.  As I got closer to college age myself, I began to identify with the protestors, both against the Vietnam War and against racial bigotry and discrimination.  I became aware of the world around me, even as my mother’s, and my, world at home was disintegrating.  As my mother survived the beatings by my gentile, redneck stepfather and finally succeeded in extricating us from her marriage, I began to recognize real injustice in the world, both at home and abroad.  I knew what it felt like not to fit in.  In fact, my mother and my grandmother fled Nazi Germany to escape religious persecution, which would have ultimately led to their demise had they not left.  My mother had not fit in in Germany, she did not fit in with the semi-affluent Jewish crowd in the Midwest of the United States, and she did not fit in the Bible Belt in Middle America.  I did not fit in either.  I was Jewish in a Christian land, my father gone, my mother being abused, and I was chubby, the kiss of death for society’s acceptance of an adolescent girl.  The late 1960s and early 1970s was a good time for misfits, me among them.
Being a misfit is what led me to this job, always fighting, always the misfit, always in turmoil.  No fat cat lawyer career for me, no sir.  Beating the establishment in a case almost made me feel accepted, sort of.  But living in a constant state of battle creates battle fatigue, even for those of us who have never handled a weapon more sophisticated than our tongues. Chapter 4
It’s been six months since I lost the Mary Gutierrez case.  She and I decided not to appeal, because we would probably lose.  At least that is what I told her.  We probably would lose, but that used to not stop me.  I had a really good record in the Court of Appeals until President Bush was elected and revamped our judicial system with his appointments.  It’s almost impossible for a plaintiff to win an appeal in federal court now.  I used to fight and win a lot more.  I was the warrior for those courageous souls who fought against the big corporations or the bullies in power. Now, I am so afraid myself.  I could have gone into a more lucrative area, but I have never been practical.
I am nervous about the appointment I have this afternoon.  I am much more likely to take on a tough case if I meet with the prospective client in person.  It is hard to reject someone with whom you have spent time.  I think I am depressed, and that realization depresses me.  It paralyzes me, really.  I am not functioning well, but I still have a lot of responsibilities.