Friday, March 31, 2006

I'm Not Sorry (Nan's Apologetics)

After receiving a comment posted by an old friend on my last blog, I got to thinking… When I first started this blog, I meant for it to be a collection of my random musings on day to day things – a place to vent and share some of my “wit and wisdom” – and engage in what I love to do more than anything, which is writing. Initially, I’d started two blogs: one as a personal blog (Nan’s Rants) and the other as a Christian blog, which some of you might remember. As the year took some unexpected changes, it became very hard to divide myself up. Why did I want to pretend to be something I wasn’t by excluding who I really am from what I put out there for the world (or whoever happens to end up here) to see? Why was I willing to compromise? Who really cared if my blog exposed me for the believer, the hypocrite, the sentimental fool that I am?

Apparently, there were some people who did.

When I became a Christian – or shall I say, when I left my Catholic roots behind and understood completely what it meant to be saved – I lost a lot of so-called friends. Though they’d always known I loved God – based on whatever understanding I then had of Him – they decided that what I’d become was tantamount to having joined some cult or having been brain-washed. This was also the case when it came to my Italian family, who believed that I could not change my religion anymore than I could change my nationality. It was a little heart wrenching. I was still the same person. I still had my sensibilities and sense of humor in tact – or at least I liked to think so – I wasn’t harassing people on trains or holding signs in the street or doing anything out of character. I was simply sharing my walk with Christ. That was a little too much for a lot of people in my life to understand.

And so they gradually disappeared from the ranks of my friends and the true friends, who all along knew me as a person and understood my heart, stuck by my side. This is not to say that all my friends are Christians or conservatives or even (gasp) Republicans. I have had a lot of libs and dems and even atheists for friends. I have never based my idea of friendship on whether or not they support one party or another or oppose abortion or hate President Bush. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, I reasoned. I refused to be intolerant – not even of the people who became intolerant of me.

I spent a lot of time managing two blogs thinking I had to be two people – thinking I had to please those people who didn’t share my faith. Thinking I couldn’t maintain my sense of humor or self if I included my reliance on God or prayer. I was wrong for doing so. For whatever it’s worth, this is who I am and it’s always been who I am. And I’ve been fortunate to enter into a community of bloggers who I can be real with, regardless of the judgment or criticism that often trickles in.

I’m not going to apologize for who I am and what I believe to anyone anymore. I’ve never asked anyone else to. I’m not going to close my mouth and refuse to speak what I know is true to keep anyone from judging me or challenging my beliefs. If that’s not the tough persistent – albeit sometimes argumentative - Brooklyn girl who swore to never compromise coming out, I don’t know what is.

This has always been me. And I’m not sorry.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Our Day in Court: A Voice for V

The judge rubbed his temples and looked down at his desk intently, as though the resolution to the problem would somehow appear before him if he fixed his eyes long enough. "I just don't know that there is a solution," he said, finally, "it's obvious that there is no way to make peace between the two of you." M's ex just stared at the yellow legal pad placed before her attorney. I felt my eyes growing colder towards her and forced myself to break my stare. I felt like one of those people in the movies, who jump up in the courtroom and insist on being heard before breaking out into a monologue. It all seemed so stupid. I understood what the judge was feeling.

At the beginning of the hearing, M's ex's attorney claimed that M had brought this action without good faith, insisting that she and her client had done everything possible to avoid refusing his visitation a few weeks ago. She talked such a web of words that I - who knew the truth - almost believed her. It's not so much that lawyers lie, I realized, it's that they know just how to twist the truth to favor their clients. It seemed that she would be successful. And then M - who I've never seen represent himself before, though he's done so throughout this long drawn-out battle over his daughter - opened his mouth to speak. And everything he said, destroyed the web the ex's attorney had crafted. The judge found her guilty.

"Do you want me to put her in jail?" the judge asked M rather seriously. I held my breath. "Is that an option?" M said jokingly, before he said "no." "That's usually what we do in these instances," the judge said again displaying no amusement. I thought of how eager his ex was to have him thrown in jail when he called her to beg to see his child. Thought of what a lesson she would learn having to go through what she'd put him through. Thought of how hypocritical the whole system is that a woman gets to walk free when if M had done what she'd done, the cuffs would have been on him in an instant without so much as a question thrown in his ex's direction.

The counselor rose to speak. "I'd like to be heard," she said before she was. She told the judge that she believed the ex was trying to keep the child from seeing M. Explained that she had let her know that "if she was looking for a counselor to manipulate, it would not be her," which ultimately led to her being fired from the case. The reason told to V was that the counselor "said bad words to her mom." "If any bad words were said," the counselor continued, "those were them." She told the judge that V loved M and was very happy spending time with the two of us and that the concerns the ex presented to her were unfounded. The judge seemed amazed. "A counselor just came in here and told me that one parent is trying her hardest to refuse visitation to the other," he said in the ex's direction, "it's not common for a counselor to come in here and say those things." It was then, I think, that he realized the complexity of the problem.

He reminded both M and his ex that they would have to deal with each other for 13 more years, given V's age. It hurt my head to be reminded. "That's a long time and a lot of money that will be wasted arguing in court," the judge said, "money that would be better off in a savings account for college." M's ex didn't raise her eyes. She just continued staring at the yellow legal pad that she'd been scribbling on so furiously during the arguments made by M and her attorney. Her eyes were glazed over but I saw not a hint of remorse.

How do you make peace with someone you are not permitted to speak to? I wondered, referring to the protective order that is in place until this summer. And then the judge did something unexpected, he decided to give V a voice of her own. He assigned a guardian ad litem to the case - an attorney to represent V and her best interests. "It's sad that it's come down to this," the judge said, "but it's the only thing I can think of unless you two can learn to get along." There was a long pause before he dismissed us. Perhaps he too was waiting for the moment that would have happened in the movies where the ex jumps up and waxes poetic in her apology and swears to be a better mother and stop the fighting. In reality, that moment never happens. It just ends with a small group of people filing out of a small courtroom quietly and passing each other in the halls without a word.

The counselor came over to M and me and gave us a gift for V. She told us that she thought the counselor ad litem would help M greatly and assured us that any other practitioner would be able to see the same things she saw. She wished us luck before she left. I felt sad knowing we'd probably never see her again.

"You realize you could have had her put in jail?" I said to M, half-joking, trying to lift the mood. "I know," he said half-smirking, "but if she denies visitation again in the next year, the judge won't ask me my opinion." I felt myself growing more cynical.

So it all amounted to a year of cooperation (hopefully) and a voice for V. I guess there was some victory in that. Peace would have been a bigger aspiration. The movie ending would have been a better outcome. Perhaps 3 years of law school will cure me of these false hopes. Perhaps, a Juris Doctor will cure me of being so naive.

Until then, there is still hope.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

So a Laywer Walks into a Bar....

Last night I watched a movie – a very very lame movie – entitled “A Murder of Crows,” which is pretty much about a lawyer with no morals (redundant?) who passes off a book about killing lawyers as his own and gets framed for the crimes when the book turns out to be true. The movie – a very very lame movie – had a few funny things to say about lawyers.

In any case, I’ve been a little distracted lately with work (strange, I know) and I’ve been in need of some amusement. So, I’ve undertaken finding as many good lawyer jokes as I can. We can all use a good laugh – and why not some self-deprecation? As I certainly will need to be used to hearing a few years from now. So, feel free to add on to what I’ve found here… and laugh, if you like. We can all use a little more love and a little more laughter. I’m spent right now and copying and pasting is all I can manage. Enjoy!

How do you help a lawyer from drowning?
Take your foot off his head!
What do you call 5000 dead lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?
A good start!
What do you have when a lawyer is buried up to his neck in sand?
Not enough sand.
What is a criminal lawyer?
A Doctor and a Lawyer Were Attending a Cocktail Party
A doctor and a lawyer were attending a cocktail party when the doctor was approached by a man who asked advice on how to handle his ulcer.

The doctor mumbled some medical advice, then turned to the lawyer and asked, "How do you handle the situation when you are asked for advice during a social function?"
"Just send a bill for such advice" replied the lawyer.

On the next morning the doctor arrived at his surgery and issued the ulcer-stricken man a $50 bill. That afternoon he received a $100 bill from the lawyer.

You’ll Never Have to Go to Jail
A man who had been caught embezzling millions from his employer went to a lawyer seeking defense. He didn’t want to go to jail. But his lawyer told him, "Don’t worry. You’ll never have to go to jail with all that money.

And the lawyer was right. When the man was sent to prison, he didn’t have a dime.

What do lawyers do after they die?
They lie still.
Why do you bury a lawyer 600 feet underground after he dies?
Because deep down, he’s a really good guy!

What's the problem with lawyer jokes?
Lawyer's don't think they're funny, and no one else thinks they're jokes.

Glad I can still appreciate them!

Monday, March 06, 2006

God at Work (My Exciting News!)

After being sick all week and being sent home from work Friday morning, I was feeling down. As I pulled the blanket up to my neck and laid down my heavy head, I focused on the coming days and thought of how wonderful it would be to spend time with M and his daughter, who he was scheduled to have for the weekend. My mind went back to the conversation we’d had the night before.

I’d asked him if he thought it was God’s will for us to be together and whether or not it could be considering he and his ex divorced. I told him that I loved him enough to want what’s best for him and that if there was any way he could make his family work again, I’d step aside and be happy for him and V. (Scary, but I really meant it.) M assured me that he’d tried everything he could and that I was his family now. I got online and started blogging about it, hoping to get some feedback on Christian remarriage. I hit the publish button and refreshed the page when the phone rang. It was M.

His voice was raw and I could tell he was distressed before he even finished the sentence. The sound confirmed for me what I’d feared all day. He wasn’t getting V. His ex decided to go against the court order and had called everyone in his family to let them know that M wasn’t getting his daughter. M had only one option – to go there with the sheriff and have her given to him – something he did not want his daughter to have to go through. He seemed resigned to the idea that there was nothing he could do to fix the situation. Considering everything he’d been through this past year – and all the underhanded things his ex did to keep his child from him, I felt really proud of him. I went back and deleted my entry.

The weekend wasn’t long enough, but it was quiet. We both moped around all day, talking about what V would be doing if she was there. This morning, I came into work with a headache, feeling a little defeated and down. M and I talked a little more about setting a date for the wedding and I went into work feeling calm but wishing I was someplace else. When I got to my desk there was a red light on the phone – a message that had been left on Friday morning, after I was sent home. It was the Dean of Admissions from the law school. I’d been accepted!

Had I been in on Friday, I would have known then. While I was home sick, God was at work.

In an instant, my day was transformed. From the depths of my doubt, I was completely thrown. I was overjoyed. Just when it seemed that God had forgotten and the future was uncertain, He was more than faithful. (I am so blessed.)

This should make planning our wedding a little harder, but at least now we’ll have a schedule to work with, at least some aspect of our crazy lives will be settled. And I cannot wait. I cannot wait to start law school. I cannot wait to marry M. And I cannot wait until all these custody issues are ironed out and V is no longer torn between the people she loves. We’ll be going to court in the coming weeks to try and settle this. I know it will be a long battle, but today reminded me where we need to put our hope. I know that in the spaces between that are filled with only worry and fear and doubt - when God seems silent – He has not turned away. He is working.

And I’ve no doubt that His work in this situation has only just begun.