Sunday, January 18, 2009

The List

I saw this on a quilter's blog, but it's not about quilting. It's a fairly arbitrary list of things you might want to do, or not.

Things you've already done: bold
Things you want to do: italize
Things you haven't done and don't want to - leave in plain font
(And stuff you've done but wished you hadn't -- you've still got underlining in reserve for that; I hesitated to use underlining on the "been involved in a lawsuit" -- I've done it, and it's not fun, but can I really say I wish it hadn't happened? Probably not.)

1. started your own blog
2. slept under the stars
3. played in a band
4. visited hawaii
5. watched a meteor shower
6. given more than you can afford to charity
7. been to disneyland/world
8. climbed a mountain
9. held a praying mantis
10. sang a solo
11. bungee jumped
12. visited paris
13. watched a lightning storm at sea
14. taught yourself an art from scratch
15. adopted a child
16. had food poisoning
17. walked to the top of the statue of liberty
18. grown your own vegetables
19. seen the mona lisa in france
20. slept on an overnight train
21. had a pillow fight
22. hitch hiked
23. taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. built a snow fort
25. held a lamb
26. gone skinny dipping
27. run a marathon
28. ridden a gondola in venice
29. seen a total eclipse
30. watched a sunrise or sunset
31. hit a home run
32. been on a cruise
33. seen niagara falls in person
34. visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. seen an amish community
36. taught yourself a new language
37. had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. seen the leaning tower of pisa in person
39. gone rock climbing
40. seen michelangelo's david in person
41. sung karaoke
42. seen old faithful geyser erupt
43. bought a stranger a meal in a restaurant
44. visited africa
45. walked on a beach by moonlight
46. been transported in an ambulance
47. had your portrait painted
48. gone deep sea fishing
49. seen the sistene chapel in person
50. been to the top of the eiffel tower in paris
51. gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. kissed in the rain
53. played in the mud
54. gone to a drive-in theatre
55. been in a movie
56. visited the great wall of china
57. started a business
58. taken a martial arts class
59. visited russia
60. served at a soup kitchen
61. sold girl scout cookies
62. gone whale watching
63. gotten flowers for no reason
64. donated blood
65. gone sky diving
66. visited a nazi concentration camp
67. bounced a cheque
68. flown in a helicopter
69. saved a favorite childhood toy
70. visited the lincoln memorial
71. eaten caviar
72. pieced a quilt
73. stood in Times Square
74. toured the everglades
75. been fired from a job
76. seen the changing of the guard in london
77. broken a bone
78. been on a speeding motorcycle
79. seen the grand canyon in person
80. published a book
81. visited the vatican
82. bought a brand new car
83. walked in jerusalem
84. had your picture in the newspaper
85. read the entire bible
86. visited the white house
87. killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. had chickenpox
89. saved someone’s life
90. sat on a jury
91. met someone famous
92. joined a book club
93. lost a loved one
94. had a baby
95. seen the alamo in person
96. swum in the great salt lake
97. been involved in a law suit
98. owned a cell phone
99. been stung by a bee

Friday, January 16, 2009

Just What I Was Afraid Of

I've had an opportunity to think about myself as a lawyer recently. It's been a chastening experience, and while I would love to relate an "It's a Wonderful Life" ending, that's not the way life works.

When I moved here, several people said, in effect, "Oh, just hang out a shingle. You'll get clients." The idea of solo practice terrified me. "I wouldn't be able live with myself. What if I made a horrible mistake?" It wasn't the risk that worried me; legal malpractice cases aren't as common as medical malpractice cases. It was the actual chance of making a mistake. As an associate in a law firm, there were people with vast experience all around me. I'd have had to be comatose to get something wrong, and then I'd have been off the case anyway, so it wouldn't have been my mistake to make. But as a solo practitioner . . . it's not really a question of "if" I made a mistake, but a question of "when."

And that question would be right now. I've made a fatal mistake on a case, and I'm gutted about it. I've tried all the reframing you can think of -- I even had a dreadful moment the other day when I met up with a woman I don't know well, but really like. We were making small talk when I asked, "How's your daughter?" The woman, who's approximately my age, looked stunned for a split second, then her face fell. I hadn't seen her in a couple years at least; I didn't know that her daughter had been killed in a car crash last February (pregnant with her first child, too). It was a horrible reminder that real tragedy happens to wonderful people. So, yes, I've been reminded that there are worse things that can happen, and that I should keep my mistake in perspective.

Only today did it dawn on me that I'm not looking at this right. The alternative to what happened wouldn't have been that I was a perfect lawyer who never made a mistake, but that I wasn't a lawyer at all. Hard to say if the mistake wouldn't have been made had I not been on the case, but what I forget is that if I hadn't been a lawyer on that case, I wouldn't be a lawyer on any of my cases.

So, this where Jimmy Stewart has a visit from an angel showing him all the ways in which people are better off because he was alive. My movie angel would have some B-roll on how my clients would have suffered without my work for them. Uh, yeah, right. Not exactly how things really are. I'm not being unduly modest when I say that only a few people would be only slightly worse off were I not an attorney in the few court-appointed cases I handle. What I really think is that I would be worse off.

Sometimes you just have to do what you're afraid of. The precise thing I was afraid of is the precise thing that happened, and as bad as I feel (and I feel very very bad about this), I still have to admit that it's better for me to serve as an attorney than stay home and not even try.

I truly hope something good comes of all this, but at least I know this. I will be a better lawyer going forward. Small comfort to my clients, and (to be honest) small comfort to me just right now. But it's true, and I didn't need an angel to tell me. I'm better off having tried and fallen short than if I had stayed home and not tried at all.

Friday, January 2, 2009

CrosswordMan & Me

I'm sitting in front of the wood stove -- a beautiful soapstone stove that burns hotter fires because the stone lets the heat seep out more gradually; we love it! -- and I have a cat on the back of my chair, a dog at my feet, and a husband working on his new blog!

Yup, Starman (whose name is revealed in his blog, so I suppose I could start calling him Ross here, but old habits die hard) has his own blog, CrosswordManBlog. It's one of those blogs that does the New York Times daily crossword puzzle (plus others he works on) and comments on it. He's very clever and word-y, which shouldn't be a surprise to me, but to see it in print is somehow unexpected. Charming, though.

The downside is that it took him forever to get the first puzzle-specific post published yesterday. It doesn't help that the puzzles at the end of the week are the harder ones. Yesterday was the first Thursday puzzle he'd done on his own, and today's is even harder. You don't think about all the things that are culturally specific in these puzzles: football teams and terms, baseball, food products, automobiles, and the letter salad of our governmental agencies' abbreviations, for example. I'd feel bad but for a couple things: he asked for it (I'd have been happy to help him solve the harder puzzles -- the two of us together make even the Saturday puzzle seem quite tame), and now he knows how I felt learning to do cryptic puzzles.

I was introduced to cryptic crosswords decades ago when Hub 1.0 showed me the weekend puzzle (it was the Observer then; the Listener came later for Hub 1.0 and his dad) that he worked on. These are puzzles that require dictionaries -- you're not expected to know the word, so often you figure out a letter string and then look it up to see if it's a word that means what the clue says it means! For an American used to the NYTimes puzzle, which I would solve sometimes with my mother, all this was craziness. I couldn't stop thinking, "Okay, what's a six-letter word meaning hazel?" Well, I didn't know that cobnut is the European hazel, so I'd never solve anything.

I can probably solve a relatively easy English cryptic crossword on my own now, but I wouldn't be fast. My brain still doesn't work that way; there is something about the English psyche that likes untying the intricate knots of good cryptic clues. One of my brothers solves the daily Times puzzle when he's over there, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't attempt the thematic puzzles like the Listener.

The Listener has been called the most difficult crossword puzzle in the English language, and I can well believe it. (There's a couple of cryptic puzzle aficionados in the UK who think the Listener isn't hard enough [!], so they devised a monthly publication with even harder puzzles. One solver I know described the experience as "homework." Even if hard, the Listener is still supposed to be fun.)

And, of course, I wouldn't be married to Starman without these puzzles. If it hadn't been for Hub 1.0's fondness for the Listener, he wouldn't have met Starman or become a customer of the CrosswordMan line of products, which would have meant I'd have never met him, and so some alternate universe goes.

Plus, the three of us enjoy puzzles together. Hub 1.0 was here for the trial in late October, for Thanksgiving, for Cookie Weekend, and for Christmas. Over Christmas, we worked on a diabolical jigsaw puzzle (six dalmatian puppies on a background of white with black splodges), tried to answer questions in this year's King William College test from England (v. hard -- of 180 questions, we got 37 maybe right in the first effort), and hosted a dinner party. And we worked on crossword puzzles.

Everyday is a crossword puzzle of some sort (or relation; I got a su doku puzzle-a-day calendar for Christmas). We'll be out in the world and Starman will announce an anagram of some sign along the highway. I'll see cryptic wordplay where none was intended. I live in a house with several dozen dictionaries.

For better or worse, in sickness and health, in definition-only or cryptic style . . . I'm married to CrosswordMan. What else was I going to get?