The Innocence Project

I want the bad guys put away. I am nervous when a judge reverses a sentence because of some procedural error. After all, how many times do we later find out that someone who should have/would have been in jail had not the overcrowded conditions or “good behavior” or some such thing gotten him out early committed yet another crime,  hurting someone else’s life.  So I wasn’t entirely enthusiastic about signing up to help the California Innocence Project as my pro bono commitment for the year.

Prison Bars

But I went because as the partner in charge of pro bono in my office, responsible for ensuring we have 100% participation in our office this year, I needed to make an appearance. And of course I’d heard the Innocence Project being touted for high-profile victories and was interested to hear their story.

I’m so glad I went.  First, it had all the elements of a great lunch. It was over in just under an hour, the sandwiches were from the “good” deli and we had cookies and chips (not so good for my dieting attempt but were yummy), and, to the important stuff, their story was fascinating. It was a combination of CSI and one of the best days of class in Psychology 101 — they had a Powerpoint presentation that included images that caused our minds see things that were not there. Green dots jumped around a circle despite the absence of green dots actually appearing anywhere on the slide (they say), despite what our brains tell us we see. Images that appeared to move around, but in fact did not.

But the last three minutes of the presentation are the reason why I signed up to volunteer.  The last three minutes had me blindly and, hopefully, discretely, searching in my purse for tissue.

Sadness

Earlier in the meeting we had heard the facts about the subject of that last three minutes earlier in the presentation. A scary story about a 16-year-old girl at 11 in the morning in a not-bad part of town walking on a well-traveled street next to the Home Depot on her way to a friend’s home being hemmed in by a white truck with a battered camper shell. Then chased down, dragged into the bushes and almost raped before managing to fight off the thirty-something white male with a goatee attacker and get away. I am totally with that girl, on her side all the way. I, too, thought mornings were safe. I, too, was wearing earphones and walking in a very safe neighborhood at about 10 in the morning, minding my business and just trying to get a little exercise, when my gut told me something was wrong and I looked to my right to see a beat-up VW bug driven by what I can best describe as a huge, muscular, tattooed arm right out of Hell’s Angels attached to a bearded man staring at me as he crept along beside me. He didn’t catch me, but he came close enough that this girl’s story spoke to me.  I learned a lesson indelibly printed in my soul by that incident.  Mornings are not safe, even in nice neighborhoods.  Bad things can happen at any time, and anywhere.  All my sympathy is with that 16-year-old girl who was just trying to walk to visit a friend, and the hell some asshole created by attacking her, destroying her sense of safety, causing her nightmares she may never fully escape.

She thought the police found the guy; she was 60% sure in the photo line-up and then, in court, 100% sure that the defendant was the man who had attacked her that day.  Except it turns out that it wasn’t. Too many years later DNA testing proved beyond a doubt that the bad guy was a different man who also had access to a white truck with a camper attached and who looked almost exactly like the man who had been wrongly convicted of the crime. This man who had the misfortune of looking like the bad guy had spent eight long years in jail for the crime.

That was all bad enough, but then the presenters showed a short video of the now-released, wrongly accused man who had spent almost all the years of his only son’s childhood wasting away in prison standing at the San Diego Airport awaiting a visit from the son he hasn’t been able to hug all that time. From the time his son was two. And now that boy he barely knows is 11 years old.  The video started, and we watched as the man in turn watches the passengers exiting the gate from the flight his son was supposed to take to come for his first visit in many years.  As he searches intently for the son he hopes he can recognize, the tension in my stomach starts to grow.  I see a boy walk pass, and then another one, but neither one is him.  The number of passengers exiting the gate start to dwindle and now my whole body is tense, not knowing how I will be able to stand it if he’s left there at the airport, empty-handed, alone.   What if his son doesn’t get off that plane because he decided not to get on it, not to waste his time on this man he doesn’t know?

The Embrace

Finally, I can breathe.  The freed man spots his son, and they run to one another, and the boy who is no longer so little is still young enough to be fully enveloped by the longed-for hug from his Dad, who wraps his arms around his son and holds him as if he never, ever wants to let him go.  And I don’t know about the rest of the people in the room, since I was trying not to look, but I know that I could not help but cry.

I signed up to help get people who shouldn’t be in prison out.   Because the bad guys should absolutely be put away. But not everyone in prison should be there, and the ones who have been wrongly accused, who are the victims of error or revenge or laziness or some injustice in our judicial system — those people need to be home with their sons and their daughters and their wives and their mothers and fathers and everyone that loves them and that they love.  I am eternally grateful that I haven’t suffered from that injustice, and that there are people like the people at the Innocence Project who work to help correct those wrongs.

I hope one day only those who deserve to be in prison will be there, and I will do my little part to help make that happen, one person at a time.


Replacing Work with Joy … from Rollerblading

Life is Short

Life is Short

Rollerblading along the Pacific Beach/Mission Beach boardwalk was my favorite thing when I found myself at 37 divorced, supporting an ex-husband and two small children by putting in long hours at an international law firm, in search of love … the sense of freedom it gave me was the best thing in my life besides my amazing, beautiful children, and every weekend they spent with their Dad I spent rollerblading along the Bay.

Flying Down The Boardwalk

Flying Down The Boardwalk

But I haven’t put on my rollerblades for way too many years.   And as much as I value the spiritual over the material, the way I spend the time God gave me in this life suggests the opposite.  I say I value relationship and service and Things That Really Matter but I spend most of the hours of my day on the things that decidedly do not.

Hurry 03

Then a Facebook friend posted this video from the New York Times about Slomo.

http://nyti.ms/1fhrzxm

Honestly, it’s been so long since I’ve been to the Boardwalk that I don’t recall ever having seen him there, and boy have I missed out.  Slomo has it right.  The freedom and joy of his spirit shines through, as does his bravery, his not caring that instead of the respect the world showed him as a successful doctor he now has people talking about him, wondering if he is a crazy homeless man or just crazy.  He doesn’t care, because he is simply enjoying filling each day he has left with wonder and joy, spending it doing what he loves.

Here I sit, 10 minutes from the Boardwalk with my rollerblades packed up who-knows-where with no excuse for not putting them on other than knowing that (i) my feet will ache at first, (ii) I’m very out-of-shape, and (iii) I don’t see where I’ll find the time.  What I’d forgotten was not just how much fun it was to rollerblade at the Beach, but also how much rollerblading along the Bay enriched my life.

4608346117_1655557945_b

Thank you, Slomo, for the reminder.  I know what I’ll be doing this weekend.


Detox Dal: A Simple Winter Soup

Laura is a beautiful soul and her Winter Soup recipe is a perfect way to start your year by eating right.

Food: A Love Story

winter detox soupJanuary used to be the hardest month. Back to school, back to work, back to cold, intense urban environments. Now January is this: Warm soups on lovely days. Writing. Researching. Planning. Walks on the beach. Morning prayers with the sunrise. Sitting by the fire in the evening. Meals with my beloved.

January. Slow. Mindful. Deep. Days of hope. Days of white: snow, skies, interior scapes. Days of spiced tea and hot soups.

Detox Dal Soup

This simple winter soup has been our favorite so far. Made with three basic ingredients: split mung bean, carrots and chard, it’s easy, the way January should be.

It’s easy to make, easy to digest, and easy to love.

split mung beans

detox dal on the stove

Be sure your mung beans are split, otherwise it will require soaking and a longer cooking time, and frankly it just never tastes as good. You can find them at any good Asian or Indian store, or you can order them online here.

A Wintry Dal

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kickstart CounterCrop

I think we all know that one way to enrich our lives is by eating healthier foods … CounterCrop’s aim is to do just that, by transforming the way the world feeds itself one salad at a time. That’s the mission of CounterCrop, and we’re trying to launch it on Kickstarter. We’re almost 50% of the way to our goal in the first 24 hours — please take a look! http://t.co/EQg2NT6hW4


Don’t Let All Their Efforts Go To Waste

So many fought so hard so that you and I could vote.  Don’t waste it.  It’s easy now to forget the value a vote gives you, because it seems as if one vote doesn’t really matter.  That it’s only the unions or the Big Business or the lobbyists that count and no one in government listens to you, anyway.  But your vote and your voice do count, and so many people in this world still don’t have the right to cast a vote, or to know that a vote cast will be properly counted, that the ballot box won’t be stuffed, that the election isn’t rigged.  It took years — decades even — of protests and rallies and hard work by many women to earn women the right to cast a vote, and in their honor I cast my vote.  Now if I complain about how government is working (or not) I feel I’ve earned the right to lodge that complaint, because I did my part to participate in the process.  Go Vote!

 

 


5 Days to 55

October 25, 1959.  That’s the day I arrived, all five pounds of me.  Mother only gained five pounds with her pregnancy, she says on Doctor’s orders but I think perhaps also because she liked her figure and feared getting fat.  (I gained 45 pounds with my first and 50 with my second.  Clearly I didn’t fear looking like I’d swallowed the largest pumpkin grown in any patch.)

Tiny Toes

Tiny Toes

October 25, 2014 is only a few days away and if I’m lucky enough to live through them then I’ll celebrate 55 years of being on this earth.  I have a feeling this is the year I’m going to start looking old.  I’ve been blessed genetically with few wrinkles and cursed with a high, girlish voice and in some ways I’m still surprisingly naive so for that or other reasons most people guess I’m years younger than I am.  But in the past few weeks I’ve seen the grey start creeping into my hair and for no reason in the world two weeks ago my lower back started aching so that one afternoon I could barely even make it up the stairs and for some reason my eyes have been feeling tired and irritated lately.  So basically I’m apparently falling apart.  And I pretty much have to consider myself middle-aged now, unless I’m planning to live a lot longer than 110 years.

But I still have a long way I want to go along the path of my life, into the beautiful unknown, taking the wisdom gathered over all these years, the relationships built, the sorrows and the joys and setting out on this next phase of my life taking more risks, laughing louder, singing, dancing, crying, loving, more, more & more.  All in glorious abundance.

My Life's Path

So yes, I’m feeling kind of old, but I’m ready for the way ahead whether I get there running or walking or crawling or being carried I look forward to all that lies ahead.


Surf and Sand in Laguna Beach

My practice group has its annual retreat at Surf and Sand in Laguna Beach each year, and there is nothing better than having a room overlooking the ocean.  They even provide ear plugs in case for some crazy reason you want to block the roar of the surf crashing into the sand below your balcony.

Surf and Sand

Surf and Sand

As if.  There’s something about hearing the surf pound the sand and then retreat, the sunlight glistening on the waves and melding into the blue of the sky on the horizon that makes it hard not to be at peace.  I’m supposed to participate in a scavenger hunt with my team members this afternoon but I can’t drag myself away from the balcony of my room.

FullSizeRender-2

Surf and Sand

Surf and Sand

Laguna Beach is one of my favorite Orange County spots, with funky boutiques and more art galleries than you have time to visit and, of course, the gorgeous ocean and beaches.  It also makes you want to reflect and inspires you … well, inspires me at least … to write.

When there are many other things, including participating in the Scavenger Hunt, that I should be doing.  But that’s been my problem as long as I can remember … I feel obligated to do what I should be doing or guilty that I’m not doing what I believe I should be doing and who came up with this “should” anyway?  Why is it easier to deny the things my heart and soul want me to do to choose instead the things my head says I must do regardless of whether I enjoy them?  No matter how many O Magazine articles I read or TED talks I view or things I know to be true.  No matter that my 45-year-old friend was killed at lunch a few days ago and an 18-year-old classmate of my daughter at SDSU who was fine on Monday and thought she had the flu on Tuesday died of meningitis on Saturday — two tragic reminders that I may not live through this evening, so shouldn’t I at least try to live my best life now, today, right this minute and not some vague future year when I’ve got it all figured out — I still keep on plodding along as if I had all the time in the world.

I don’t. But I’m going to enjoy the view from my balcony this afternoon and soak in all the beauty around me without even a tinge of guilt, at least for today.


Adding A Blavatar To My Blog … And How Hopeless I Really Am

I’m so hopeless when it comes to anything touching on coding, or requiring any computer skills What So Ever. Eons ago I even took a Fortran programming course in college. Clearly my college counselor who, looking at my background, advised me to include that class on my schedule was inept, and I was even more clearly insane. I had only basic math and that from horrid teachers who hung on only due to the school district’s complete inability to fire anyone. I’d never had calculus and barely any algebra and now I was in a course in which I was to write a program to perform calculus, or some such thing. My Fortran professor was incredibly frustrated that I showed up at every Office Hour, asking what I’m sure were inane questions attempting to figure out what the hell I was supposed to be doing.

Why I did not drop the class I will never know. Finally, fortunately, I found a guy who liked me and was willing to help. But he preferred just to do my work rather than attempt the probably hopeless task of actually teaching me how to do it (which of course wasn’t his job, anyway). So yes, I’m embarrassed to say I somehow made it through that class with his help, scraping by with a D. But I learned nothing about programming other than how precise and perfect you must be in writing code if you want to avoid having the entire thing crash and how incredibly frustrating it is to work for hours and then have to start all over because of one typo that it takes forever just to find.  I guess I learned one more thing, which is that computer programming is not for me.  One possible career choice down, one million more to go!

Although I couldn’t do Fortran programming, the old pre-windows DOS computers communicated with you, giving you, the user, some indication of what was going on.  So that I could sometimes figure out what was wrong and, on occasion, even  do something about it.   But then came Windows and I couldn’t see how things worked and all these years later I have absolutely no idea how to do even the most basic thing. All of which is a long way around to my topic of attempting to add a Blavatar to my blog.  Which requires me to find a photo I like and then figure out how to get it into my blog.

So I searched Getty Images which I just learned had images that could be used, except I cannot figure it out.  I can’t just download a photo instead I have to “embed this text,” and somehow a photo will appear. But if it isn’t already looking like a photo I can’t figure out how to make it appear as a photo in my “Customize Header” page.  There’s no option there for “embed text” it’s just “upload image.”  I give up.  But I do like the photo and I can figure out how to embed text into the blog itself so it’s not a complete waste.  And it created my blog post for the day.  Here’s the photo that started it all …

Since “they” say Practice Makes Perfect I won’t give up. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll get the hang of this blogging thing!


Life Can End In An Instant … My Friend’s Did, This Week

Life is Short

Life is Short

Each of us gets a limited number of days.  Tuesday was the last day Melissa got.  That morning she woke up, dressed, dropped her three children off at school, went to work, then ran some errands before lunch … never knowing it would be the last time she’d ever do any of those things again.  She was having an ordinary day when an extraordinary tragedy took away all the wonderful things she had yet to do.

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove

It was close to noon when she likely thought herself lucky to find one of the diagonal parking spaces on Girard, in the heart of the village of La Jolla, near the shop where she needed to drop something off before grabbing lunch.  Did she hear the revving engine of the car across the street when she reached into get something out of the car?  She had no reason to suspect she was in any danger.  It wasn’t dark, she wasn’t in a sketchy part of town, there was no reason at all for her senses to be on alert.  But seconds later she was hit, by a 91-year-old woman who inexplicably gunned her car when backing out of her space on the other side of the street, speeding across two lanes of traffic and ramming straight into my friend, pinning her between the two cars.

Before the lunch hour was over, Melissa’s life ended. This beautiful, talented mother, killed on a sunny street in an almost-perfect village on the Pacific Ocean.  Because someone was driving when they shouldn’t have been, Melissa couldn’t pick her children up from school, cook them dinner or help with their homework. Now she won’t see them graduate from high school or help them pick colleges or dance at their weddings or babysit their children. She can’t share her recipes with her daughters when they move off to live on their own, or tell her son how proud she is for the man he has become.  She can’t give me brilliant advice on communicating ideas or hosting events.  She can’t wake to the beams of sunlight streaming in her window or walk along the beach, toes in the sand, watching the sun set as the sky glows orange and purple as she listens to the surf pound against the rocks.

What a sad and brutal reminder that life is short and unpredictable.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately of the importance of living each moment well, of appreciating every day I get to spend on this earth, of leaving my many computer passwords accessible and updating my will and making sure my children know how much I love them. But this week the lesson that I must be mindful and appreciative of each moment came home to me in the worst possible way.

Ocean Beach Pier

I will miss you Melissa. You are loved.

Melissa's Smiling Face

Melissa’s Smiling Face


Ramblings

55 Years

My birthday is still 21 days away and yet my age has been much on my mind.  I’ll be 55.  “Still Alive At 55” with the almost-the-same BeeGee’s “Staying Alive” playing softly in the background would be the theme for this year’s birthday party, if I had the energy to throw one.  I’d have folks come dressed in the fashion of any of the decades that I’ve lived through.  Since I was born with two months left to run in the 1950s, that gives everyone lots of choices when it comes to attire, from bobby socks and saddle shoes to hippie to disco to goth or punk or anything goes.

But almost all of our furniture is staging our home in Poway to help it sell, so we’re “glamping” at the new house and I’m not sure the lack of places to sit is conducive to hosting a party.  On the other hand, there’s lots of space to spread out and mingle, if you don’t mind standing or sitting on the bare floor!  I go back and forth and will let the time flitter away until it’s too late to send out invites and then I’ll wait for another year.  At some point I need to get my act together!

I’m feeling very much my age today.  For some reason out of the blue my back has started killing me this week — so I’m typing this at my stand-up desk and I took two Tylenol but I’m still much worse for the wear.  My husband and I explored our new neighborhood this morning, walking down to the beach that gives Ocean Beach its name, strolling through a little street fair and down to watch the dogs thoroughly enjoying themselves at Dog Beach, then a long walk up and down the OB Pier.

Ocean Beach Pier

It was almost as beautiful during the day as it will be tonight at sunset, and I forgot all about my hurt back while I soaked in the ocean spray and rolling strength of the ocean.  I’m so blessed to live here, where a five-minute drive takes me to this gorgeous gift of nature and a crazy mix of people and stores and bars and apartments and peace and craziness rolled into one.

Yet despite all my blessings I keep finding myself in a funk these days.  I have no energy or passion for what I’m doing and the feeling that “Life’s Too Short” weighs heavily on my mind.  But I know this time in my life is preparing me, pressing me, moving me forward into the next phase of my life, and I just have to reach out and grab hold and GO!