My Shane was called for jury duty in June of 2018. I read him the summons and told him to call and find out when he had to appear. He texted me, “”How long do you think the jury summons will last tomorrow?” when his jury number was called to appear. I told him to take a book and he showed up. My Shane always shows up. He is my steadfast hero.

I asked him, “Did you get picked?” He said, “No, they haven’t even gotten through the first round of potential jurors yet.” I said, “You know, you can always tell them that your mom is a plaintiff’s attorney and your dad was a cop, that might get you excused.”  Later, he told me, “I would have but it was kinda cool to watch.” And all he told them was that he was a 19 year old student. Oh yes, my heart was full, thank you. My 19 year old son understood the importance of jury duty. That was worth every freaking penny of my law school tuition, right there.

Shane sat through three days of jury selection. He didn’t get picked. He did get a witness fee and mileage fee. I think it was $11 or less. I asked him, “What was the case?” He said, “I don’t think I can discuss it with you, Mom. We were told we can’t discuss it. I’ll just say that it was a criminal assault case.” Oh hell yeah, for my honest, steadfast son.

When someone posts something on social media about how young kids wear baggy pants  or “man buns” and were spared being hit with a belt and somehow that is not okay, I just have to say this. I don’t get it. My mom always told me she wanted my life to be better than hers. I so appreciate that, and now I have the chance to pay it back to her. I want my sons’ lives to be better than mine. I don’t give a sh*t about their pants, as long as their hearts are big and they do the right thing. Shane’s pants sag because he is skinny, and because he chooses to shop at a thrift store to save money and because he has a unique style. His priorities are about making the world a better place. Not making sure his pants fit to make other people happy.  My son Max’s hair is long and he puts it up in a really cool ponytail/bun when he plays his jazz. He doesn’t have the time or inclination to cut his hair to make anyone else happy. And he really does have great hair.

It may help to remember that we, too, had our way of rebelling. Maybe it was pants. Maybe it was hair. Maybe it was shoes. I was a punk rocker with purple hair and tattoos. I don’t have purple hair anymore. But I will always, always, have the soul of a punk rocker. It’s what made me who I am today, for sure. I encourage my sons to be their authentic, creative, badass selves. And I am so proud that they are. They are definitely not molded versions of anyone else’s expectations. And by the way, you should remember, too. Your bad ass, rebellious self made you who you are today. Not your complicit acceptance of what someone else thought you should be.

If you are ever the subject of a jury trial, I hope one of my sons is on your jury. You couldn’t do better than having one of my beautiful, fair minded, open hearted sons on your jury. I know I am judgmental AF sometimes and I work on that every day. My Max asked me once, “If I judge someone for being judgmental, does that make me a judging judger?” He had a point. By asking, we can become aware. And awareness gets us halfway there. We should always keep asking.

None of us are perfect. None of us know what perfect looks like. Sometimes, we are cruel to each other and often, we say things to each other we shouldn’t. I hope if you sit in judgment on anyone else, you stay fair. And if you sit in judgment on yourself, you give yourself some grace. You deserve that. You’re badass. Keep asking. Keep going.

Don’t give up on love

Love againWhen Max was much younger, he asked me if he should go for it and let the girl he had a crush on know how he felt about her. I told him, yes, do it. Be bold. Tell her how you feel. He did.

After he had spilled his heart out to her and she had rejected him, he said to me, “Mom, I can never trust you again about relationships. You gave me bad advice. I have to be sure that someone loves me before I say that I love her.” Oh, if only. If only we didn’t have to shipwreck our hearts to get the answer to love me, love me not.

Not too long ago, my uncle called me from Hawaii. He lives alone and waits for his home health worker to show up so he has someone to talk to. He said to me, “I am thinking about getting a cat. But I want something that won’t die before I do.” I said to him, “Uncle, maybe you should get a bird. They live a long time and they will talk to you.” He said, “I will think about this. But maybe a dog.” I get it. We all want someone we can share our time with – who loves us unconditionally, who is always happy to see us.

Sometimes, we get lonely and stuck. There are so many reasons we can give to stay hurt or depressed. There are so many reasons we can give to be angry at someone or something else. There are so many reasons to stand behind fear and pain. But there are so many reasons not to.

Maybe we are all just pilgrims here, on a path none of us have the final compass points for, walking together in the hope of finding our happily ever afters. Maybe once we could have settled for being perceptively fragile and fucked and fermented in a vat of “I told you so’s” and regret. We are better than this, I think. We all have the capacity to be strong and kind and good. To do otherwise is to give up. I don’t think we are built to give up, and especially not to give up on love. I think we are made for love. After all, we are all in this together.

There are two words I am working to integrate into my vocabulary more. They are not common words in my line of work. But what the hell. I’m going to try. They are “I believe.” I believe. I believe in love. I believe that even a shipwrecked heart can make its way back home. I believe that the best hearts are those that have been wrecked and yet remain open to make their way back out to sea again, to try again. And again. And again.

Don’t give up. Don’t give up, uncle. Don’t give up, Max. Don’t give up, you. Take the chance. Put your heart out to sea again. And don’t ever, give up on love.

wash stress away

I took the California bar exam two times. Not unusual. It is a mother f*cker of a test. In 2012, when I took it the first time, Max was 10 years old. During that time, I downloaded some free self-hypnosis podcasts from i-Tunes to see if any of them could talk me down after my days of studying for the bar exam (versus drinking an entire bottle of wine and crying). I found 3 minute self-hypnosis podcasts (who has time for more than that?) and Max checked it out, too. His favorite was one called “Wash Away Stress.” He would borrow my i-Pod and lie on his bed with my little pink earbuds in and zone out. He told me he liked to “get hypnotized and de-stress at the end of a long, very stressful day.”

When I failed the bar exam the first time, no one was more despondent than Max. He spent hours with me during the summer of 2012, lying on the floor next to our big dog Kimba, while I studied. I would tell him, “Max, go outside and play.” He refused, preferring to sort through my flashcards and read them out loud to me. Burglary. Robbery. Larceny. Rule Against Perpetuities. Strong stuff for a kid who had barely started middle school.

The evening I found out I had not passed, we had an event at our synagogue. It was probably the best place for me to be. I am not what you would call a religious person. But our synagogue is a welcoming place and probably the closest thing my hippie soul can stand in and be comfortable in for purposes of any kind of connecting to the Big Everything. I needed to connect.

I was tired and overwhelmed and too self-conscious to cry. But Max cried. He clung to me like a suckerfish to the side of a fishbowl and he cried. He kept telling me, “Go back and check again, Mom. It has to be wrong.” I told him, “No, baby, it is right. I know it. I did not pass this time. But I promise you I will try again.” I did try again. And damn it. I passed. My Max was with me the entire way. No one was prouder than my youngest son the day I was sworn in as an attorney.

Flash forward six years, Max and I are sitting in his room. Max is writing an essay about his struggles with ADD and getting his homework done on time and getting to school on time. This is a struggle I know very well. I struggled with ADD while I was taking the bar exam. Fuck, I struggle with it every damn day. I always joke that the name of my band should be “Late For Court.” We all need a little grace in our lives; the grace I ask for, every day, is that those in my world understand my struggle with the time-space continuum. And I have been given that grace, for which I am so grateful.

So far, life hasn’t been as forgiving for my son, we have been fighting to get him a little grace in his world. We will get there. But sitting in Max’s room that night, he was doing what Max does and addressing how ADD is actually a gift and has helped make him the successful person that he is today. I said to him, “Let’s do a paradigm shift. How many really successful people have ADD? Tell me someone you admire, who is your hero, who has ADD.” And he said, “It’s you, Mom. You are my hero.” And I couldn’t say anything because my whole heart was just….

We all have bad days, for sure. We all fail. You cannot truly succeed unless you do. Max reminds me that I should take time at the end of the day to wash stress away. Max gives and teaches me more grace than I ever give myself. And for that, my Max will always be my hero.