Juror #11


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False opinions are like false money, struck first of all by guilty men and thereafter circulated by honest people who perpetuate the crime without knowing what they are doing.” Joseph de Maistre

I get summoned for jury duty a lot. And every time I show up for jury duty, I get selected. Fair-minded or feeble-minded, I don’t know what the lawyers see in me.

Back before kids, when the California laws on jury service were different, I got summoned for two weeks every other year and I served on juries the entire two weeks. I was always picked. I’ve been on criminal trial juries (grand theft auto, assault with a deadly weapon) and civil juries (mental competency, medical malpractice). I can’t even remember all the juries on which I’ve served. It’s practically my second (third?) career.

This isn’t like elementary school kickball teams where you’re sad not to be chosen. I’d prefer to be passed over for jury service.

Alas, I am not.

After kids, I was able to wiggle out of serving because I homeschooled the kids and had no back-up due to my ex-husband being an asshole. Okay, he was employed, but he was also an asshole.

This past summer, I received my almost annual summons for jury duty and had no legitimate reason to be excused. My last minor child is now in high school so I had to go. And my jury selection streak remains unbroken.

I was assigned almost immediately to a courtroom and despite my desperate prayers, I wasn’t dismissed. I became juror #11 on a bullsh*t trial for misdemeanor reckless driving.

Srsly, WTF?

Why does California have a jury trial for a misdemeanor traffic violation? It’s an absurd waste of time and resources. It took more than four hours to get 12 acceptable jurors and two alternates. I made a friend/lunch buddy with juror #2 and was damn near inconsolable when she was dismissed late in the game. She left the jury box, turned at the courtroom door and sadly waved good-bye to me. It was heartbreaking. I almost cried.

Juror #2 was my bright spot in a sea of boring, arrogant, and stupid.

We sat through a day and a half of testimony about the defendant’s reckless driving (he went 80 in a 30mph zone and didn’t pull over when the cop flashed his lights and chirped his siren). The whole time, I was thinking, “You gotta be kidding me. What are we doing? Why didn’t this guy just pay his fine?”

Then we went to the jury room and I got another lesson in humanity’s utter stupidity.

First, no one listened to the judge’s instructions. Jurors are triers of fact. Jurors are not investigators. But ya know what? These idiot jurors immediately started talking about the road on which the defendant drove 50 friggin’ miles per hour over the speed limit and they didn’t think it was reckless ‘cuz he didn’t hit anybody. But even if he had, it was late at night and only hookers and drug dealers were out. (Apparently, hookers and drug dealers deserve to be mowed down by some random guy doing 80.)  And, hey, that street’s pretty flat and straight, so 80mph is a-okay.

Then the next day, a juror came back and informed us that she had driven the route and the timelines didn’t match up.

I lost my sh*t.

Jurors are triers of effing fact. Facts are what’s been presented in evidence in the courtroom. Jurors are specifically and repeatedly told not to go to the scene, not to investigate, not to diddle around. This jury ignored the judge’s instructions. Some members took it upon themselves to play CSI: San Diego and other members praised them for it.

Oh, but the cop’s testimony was torn apart. “He couldn’t remember when he turned the lights and siren on! He’s not reliable!” For the record, the cop couldn’t remember if he hit the button in the 500 block or the 300 block of the street. At 80mph does it really matter?

It was a complete goat rope. I fought for the law, reading the jury instructions out loud, repeatedly. No one cared. They were convinced they knew best.

I was in the minority on the verdict vote (9 not guilty, 3 guilty). I was bullied by the majority who based their opinions on personal experience, fantasy, and perceived punishment…not the law or the judge’s orders. “Hey, I speed, but I’m not reckless. Give the guy a break.” The other two guilty jurors broke and voted guilty within 15 minutes. Ultimately I caved, too. I changed my vote and got the hell outta there. The defendant got a free pass.

I’m ashamed of myself for being a part of this mess. I briefly considered asking the deputy to take a note to the judge about the juror misconduct that was running rampant, but the foreperson had to send the note. I wasn’t the foreperson. I wasn’t willing to throw down with the other 11 people for a misdemeanor traffic violation.

All I could think was that the other jurors were absolutely not following the law, but patted themselves on the back for “doing their civic duty.” I just wanted out of that room and away from these arrogant idiots who watch far too much television.

Because I “served” on this jury, I won’t be called again for three years. And when I’m summoned in the future, I plan to tell the lawyers I absolutely do not believe in the jury system anymore. I don’t trust my fellow citizens to follow the damn law. I’ve witnessed firsthand the rationalizations people make to justify illegal behavior while serving on a jury. I don’t think we can be trusted to do the right thing. And I was the bitch for trying to uphold the actual statutes.

All of us are stuck with the society only some of us deserve. But I guess I do deserve it because I let it happen.


Sh*t I Don’t Miss About Miss Husband, Part II


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Awhile back my attorney asked me if I missed my ex-husband; my answer was an immediate and resounding “No.”  Here are more reasons why.


I don’t miss the tantrums he threw when he ran out of Diet Mountain Dew.  I must have dozed off during the part of the wedding vows that said it was my responsibility to keep him afloat in the stuff.  That damn neon green soda made me jumpy for years — and I never drank a drop of it.


I don’t miss the way he never put a new roll of toilet paper on the roller bar in any given bathroom.  We had three kids, and those kids were all toddlers at one time.  How many full rolls of toilet paper do you suppose were tossed into the toilet because he left them on the counter instead of putting them on the roller thing?


A lot.


And who do you suppose fished them out of the drink?


Yeah, not him.


When the kids outgrew throwing rolls of toilet paper into the toilet bowl, there were always the cats.  Know what a loose roll of t.p. is to a cat?




Prey to be pounced upon and killed/shredded all over the bathroom.



I don’t miss the empty beer bottles and cans left lying on the coffee table and floor around the family room sofa every morning.  This was a bigger problem when the kids were little as I was always worried one of them would try to drink the last little bit left in a can.  It was like living in a frat house.


I don’t miss the thunk of my stomach whenever he came home from work.


I don’t miss the dread I felt when I’d pull onto our street and see his car in front of the house because he came home early from work.


I don’t miss knocking on the (open) door to the computer room and pausing to give him a chance to pull up his pants and minimize the porn video on the computer.  (I gave up telling him to close the door, for G—‘s sake, we have kids in the house.  He never did.)


I don’t miss hating the summer because he didn’t work and was home for three months straight.  Griping about the Diet Mountain Dew, playing World of Warcraft, and watching internet porn.


Most of all, I don’t miss MY learned helplessness and martyrdom.  I recently realized that when I got married I had a mental movie of gender role expectations.  I really did, however unconsciously, expect my ex-husband to take care of the things my father did.  Wheeling the trash cans to the curb; dealing with whatever bugs and rodents made their way into the house; the taxes, all of them; the cars, from maintenance to registration; making sure all the doors were closed and locked every night.


My ex-husband didn’t do any of those things, even after I asked.  It took me awhile to come to terms with the fact that if I wanted those things done (or I didn’t want to get thrown in jail for tax evasion), I needed to do them myself.  And while it turned out that I was perfectly capable of doing all that and more, I resented the hell out of it.  I martyred myself to his indifference.


It’s taken some time for me to settle into my competence, even though I was doing a yeoman’s job when I was married.  What I did wasn’t validated and I allowed myself to feel “less than” and angry as a result.  Now I just get stuff done and move on to whatever’s next.


I don’t miss him. Not even a little bit.

The Fitnessgram and Fat Shaming


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California requires two years of Physical Education to graduate from high school. In one of those required two years, students must pass the fitnessgram. Failure to pass the fitnessgram in two years results in being required to take PE all four years of high school or until you pass. The fitnessgram is a series of tests including push-ups, sit-ups, and running a timed mile.

Kid #3 took regular PE last year and passed the fitnessgram. She had friends, though, who really struggled. I was horrified to hear the requirements, at least one of which was based on BMI. Kid #3 is petite; she’s 5’3” and less than 115 pounds. For comparison, I’m 5’6” and in the neighborhood of 135, so very average. I couldn’t run a mile unless someone was chasing me with an axe, and even then I’d probably try to talk them to death. A number of #3’s friends have higher BMIs and they were required to run a mile far faster than #3. A kid’s BMI determined how much time they had to run a mile. The higher the BMI, the faster the mile.


I have so many problems with this example of physical fitness/healthy lifestyle modelling. First, these are kids. Their bodies are growing and running amok on hormones. The girls with higher BMIs are frequently what we’d call “curvy” in adults. (I don’t want to get creepy here.) Some parts are growing a bit disproportionately to others. And the boys who are a bit chubby now? They often get another growth spurt in their late teens and everything evens out.

So what are we teaching them with all this emphasis on BMI at age 14 or 15?

Nothing good.

Again, these are kids. So if they’re chubby/overweight or even obese, how much control do they truly have? They aren’t generally in charge of buying groceries, much less meal planning and prep. They’re at the mercy of whatever the adults in their household do. And if those adults are watching every single penny? Well, maybe the leaner cuts of meat are out of the question. Maybe potatoes are more cost effective than broccoli. Hell, maybe there are issues with having reliable appliances or paying for utilities. So in addition to fat shaming, these kids are subjected to economic snobbery.

It’s just not helpful.

I understand there’s a childhood obesity problem in the U.S. and that problem ripples out to self-esteem, school performance, and other social issues. I get it, I do. But drawing attention to a kid’s BMI in front of an entire PE class isn’t going to help solve that problem. Kid #3 had ZERO instruction on nutrition and healthy eating in PE last year. It was all about BMI and running a mile in less than 9 minutes.


#3 absolutely despised PE last year, and since she passed the fitnessgram, she was able to take Dance for PE this year. Thank heavens, because her dance teacher is a-maz-ing. She’s five months pregnant (and round, like pregnant people tend to be); she’s still fit and strong. She’s a great example of health and vitality for the students. She talks about nutrition. She offers encouragement, enthusiasm, and a great role model to the students. She leads by example, not BMI.

Yeah, we’ve got an obesity health problem in the U.S., but shaming teens for their bodies isn’t helping. We can do better.

Don’t Kill the Magic


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I’m not a spontaneous person. Maybe that’s a result of being a mom or maybe it’s the decades of being responsible for every single detail in my married life, but I tend toward plans and lists. So when a chump friend texted me a couple of Friday afternoons ago asking if kid #3 and I wanted to go to a show at the House of Blues that evening, my first reaction was nope, no way.

But I texted kid #3 at school and she was up for a night out, so we met up with my friend and braved downtown San Diego after dark. I used to work at the headquarters of a local bank, which turned out to be right around the corner from the House of Blues. (Tangent:  My former employer sold out to Wells Fargo 20+ years ago and Wells Fargo sold the headquarters building to a hotel chain.  Seeing that majestic building now a hotel always makes me sad.) The House of Blues is located in the old Woolworth building right around the corner from my old employer. That blew my mind. It took me most of my single glass of wine and half an appetizer to put the location together in my mind. All the tattoo parlors threw me off.

Because this was a spur of the moment outing, the only tickets available were general admission — standing on the dance floor directly in front of the stage. Since it was an all ages show, adults over 21 were tagged with tight, bright orange wristbands. There was booze at the bar along with popcorn and soda from carts. Kid #3 ran into a school friend completely by chance which worked out well for us and for her friend’s parents.

The opening act was the very handsome and talented Danny Mercer.

He was charming and funny. The headliner was a Canadian band, Magic! (They spell their name that way, complete with exclamation point. No clue why.) My friend and I had a great time during the opening act, standing room on the dance floor was fine. We could dance and enjoy the show without banging into other people.

Should’ve known that wouldn’t last. Just before Magic! came on, the crowd doubled in both size and chemical enhancement. At least half the people there were parents with underage kids, a quarter were 21-30 year olds, and the remainder were middle-aged people sans kids. Guess who was obnoxiously drunk?

Yep, the middle-aged folks without kids.

Guess who was well-mannered and best behaved? Yep, the 21-30 crowd.  Although they never put away their phones.

We got trapped between two older couples who were f*cked up and dancing like fools — arms flailing, hips and purses flying around with zero regard for the rest of the crowd. The statuesque blond next to me was a man-eating cougar hellbent on getting a band member’s attention, any band member. She also spilled beer all over my friend’s shoes. Not attractive behavior.

Here’s what I learned from this adventure:

1. I’m too damn old for general admission/standing for three hours at a loud concert. (Get seats next time.)
2. Clubs are really frickin’ loud. (Bring earplugs. Kid #3’s friend did this. Smart girl.)
3. This would’ve been more fun after a couple of glasses of wine. (Next time, hire Uber. Don’t drive.)
4. Keep your spoons together in public, for the sake of your dignity. All the social niceties do not fall away just because it’s dark and loud. (Less for me, more for the midlife crisis couples desperate to prove their hipness.)
5. Even surrounded by drunks/stoners, it was a ton of fun. Spontaneity won’t kill me. Try more new things.

I’m glad I didn’t go with my knee-jerk “no” reaction to my friend’s invitation. We were both uncomfortable going downtown on a Friday night, but together we were able to have a great time. Kid #3 went to her first concert and even met up with a friend. Moving out of my comfort zone didn’t kill me. My goodness, what’s next?


Good-Bye August, Don’t Let the Door Hit You in the Ass


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Gah, August was a nightmare I’m hoping to wake up from in September.

Kid #1 totaled his car. It truly was an accident, but the car’s gone. He needs a replacement; I wonder if Voldemort has a spare lying around?

Kid #2 had emergency surgery to remove her gall bladder, then developed an infection (hospital-induced, I think) requiring more treatment.

Kid #3 has had ongoing school schedule issues, with three different World History teachers and (hooray!) a new math teacher.  She has to keep going to the office to get her schedule printed because she’s not sure where she’s supposed to be at any given point in the day.

I’m glad to see the end of this August.

I started the month with jury duty.  I’ve done a lot of jury duty, but this one took the cake.  I’m still trying to write a post about it wherein I don’t come off as a foaming at the mouth nutjob.  It may be impossible.

My classes started last week, kicking off the (God willing) last year of college for me. Unfortunately, I’m taking two required courses: Statistics and The Writing of Criticism. Not gonna lie, I wouldn’t have chosen either of these classes.

I signed up for Statistics instead of another round of Algebra because a) it takes care of my general education math requirement, and b) I was told Statistics is all word problems. I’m a word problem savant, so I figured I could do fairly well with only moderate struggle.

We’ll see. There’s a whole lot of terminology and calculations, and we’ve already had two quizzes. Sigh.

English 508W is simply required of all English majors at SDSU. The class and textbooks sound utterly pinky-pointed-up-on-a-teacup pretentious to me. The first section is “literary theory,” which includes Marxist, feminist/gender, psychoanalytical, and postcolonial theory. Dear heaven. Fortunately, the text is written by Terry Eagleton and he seems to be a smart-ass. Fingers crossed.

Mixed in with the literary theory is grammar, and I love grammar. I’m hoping to rack up some points on the grammar quizzes in anticipation of a lower score on the 10 friggin’ page research paper due in December.

Upside: August is over. And, hey, long weekend!

High School Math is a Mess


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The adoption of the Common Core standards in public schools seems to have led to an identity crisis in high school math instruction. At kid #3’s school, pre-algebra, algebra (1 and 2 as far as I can tell), and geometry are no longer offered as separate classes. Now it’s Integrated Math I, II, III, and IV. Get through those and you’re on to Pre-Calculus, Calculus, AP Calculus. Well, that’s what I hear. I don’t expect to ever have firsthand or parental experience with Calculus.

From what I’ve seen of her assignments, Integrated Math smooshes everything together, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not a great way to learn brand new concepts. We used a fair amount of geometry in the two college algebra classes I took last year. But it was the easy, straightforward geometry: the Pythagorean Theorem, in particular. For students who’ve never learned the Pythagorean Theorem it wouldn’t have been so easy or straightforward. It would be hard to recognize the Theorem as a separate piece of geometry if you’d only ever seen it used as a part of algebra. I think.

It’s entirely possible that I’m just used to seeing things in the same way that I learned them. Kid #3 struggles with math and the integration is really not helping her. The math teachers all appear to need a sabbatical; they’re frustrated and tired. Last year’s teacher sent out angry emails to parents whenever he reached the end of his rope — which resulted in frantic text exchanges at school like this one:

Me: “Mr R is p*ssed. Show me your homework as soon as you get home. You did it, right??? You said you did it!!!”

Kid #3: “Calm down Moooommm. My team was the only one that did the homework.”

Oh yeah, the math classes are divided into teams which theoretically work together to learn. Kid #3 has math first period (just like last year) and nobody’s working together on anything at 7:10am.

It’s a goatrope.

This year’s teacher, Mrs. C, has a voice straight out of the Charlie Brown cartoons. Robotic with a side of snark. And she was voted “Most Intimidating Teacher” three years in a row.

It’s shaping up to be another long year mathematically.

The Happiness Unit


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Kid #3 started 10th grade last month (that’s how we roll here in the Land of the Modified Year-Round Schedule). I remain unconvinced that the new public school standards (Common Core) are a step forward in education, particularly in math instruction. However, the accelerated English classes rock.

The first unit in 10th grade accelerated English is all about happiness. The students have read a number of articles, scholarly and popular press, as well as watched documentaries and TedX talks to examine happiness from lots of different angles. Last week the class had a “Socratic seminar” (what we called a group discussion back in olden times) and discussed what the various sources claimed increased and decreased one’s experience of happiness.

I’ve been impressed with my 15 year old daughter’s insightful comments on happiness. She’s been exposed to concepts like does having a vast array of choices make one more happy (research says no. Having a lot of choices tends to lead to feeling overwhelmed and indecisive. Here and here). I think this unit has so much real world, lifelong applicability, even though I can hear my father grumbling in my head about California’s all-around silliness. Asking what makes us happy gives us the chance to examine our experiences, internally and externally, then perhaps change how we think or what we do with our time.

All this examination of happiness has prompted my daughter to initiate chats with me about family —- how she felt when her father left, how our family has changed, how much fun she and I have together. She has begun to use my maiden name hyphenated with her father’s name on her school assignments. I didn’t change my name back with the divorce; that was my choice with my name. I did, however, start using the hyphenated version. It’s not a legal name change, but it better reflects who I am.  She feels the same and it makes her happy to honor and connect with all her family.

What really blows my mind is that she saw my action (hyphenation in common usage), thought about it, and made a choice for herself. I only ever asked my three kids if they had an opinion about my changing back to my maiden name (results were mixed).  I didn’t even think to ask how they felt carrying their father’s name after his craptacular abandonment.

It’s a reminder to get out of my head and ask other people about their experience of life. Ask what someone else needs or feels instead of guessing or assuming. Maybe we’d both be a little happier.

The Ashley Madison Mess


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In case you missed it, adultery-for-profit website AshleyMadison.com (tagline: Life is short. Have an affair.) got hacked last month and the hackers threatened to release personal information on more than 37 million users if the company didn’t take down the site. The site stayed up and the data got dumped. In very short order, a number of websites popped up allowing people to input an email address to find out if it appears on the AshleyMadison list.

So, yeah, I typed in Voldemort’s primary email on one of these sites. My palms were sweating, my heart was pounding hard and fast, and my stomach dropped to the floor. I had an anxiety attack on almost the same level as the one I had before our settlement meeting two years ago. WTH? I thought I was over that emotional crap.

His primary email did not show up on the AM list. And I got the message my body was sending. I didn’t try to remember all of his other email addresses. I just got the hell off the site and went on with my day, which included several communications with other betrayed spouses doing the very same thing.

Why would we torture ourselves digging into that cesspool? I know my ex-husband was a lying cheater. Why did I go looking for more proof? I’m actually pretty happy being divorced now. When the fit hit the shan back in 2012, it was like a nuclear explosion in my life and in our family. It sucked and it sucked for longer than I would’ve thought. So why go back?

I don’t have an answer for that. I do, however, have seven words of advice if you find yourself married to a cheater: Life is short. Get a f**king divorce.

Other People’s Trash


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I have been reading The Nonconsumer Advocate for years. Katy regularly blogs about the incredible “free” piles in Portland, OR. These are small mountains of no longer loved items that Portlanders leave at the curb with a “free” sign. Katy has scored some amazing finds from these piles.

I try to go for a 3+mile walk in my neighborhood every morning and Tuesday is trash day ‘round here, so I often see what people are putting out at the curb for pickup. In my old neighborhood, it was protocol to put a “free” sign (in English and Spanish) on all the bulky items. In this neighborhood, the actual signs are rare, which is a shame. Here’s what I saw at the curb with the trash cans this week:

*Two large gas grills. I’ve never had a gas grill so I can’t say if there was something crucial missing from these, but it made me sad to see them landfill-bound.

*A crib mattress. Lest you think I’m being gross, this mattress was completely encased in plastic (as most crib mattresses are because babies leak) and would’ve been simple to disinfect and donate to Goodwill. Some young expectant mom would’ve been thrilled.

*A full-size mattress still wrapped in its original heavy plastic.

*A recumbent exercise bike. It looked well used, but unless there were missing parts I couldn’t see, it was still functional. Another item that could’ve gone to Goodwill instead of the landfill.

*A push lawnmower. I can only assume, based on the appearance of the drought-ravaged lawn of the house at the other end of the driveway, that the owner has decided to ditch the sod altogether. Goodwill would’ve taken the mower in a heartbeat.

*A cat scratching post that looked practically unused. I almost grabbed this for my cats but they already have three.

*Three office chairs at two different houses. The single black chair had worn pleather upholstery, but the pair of matching brown ones were in great shape. All three could’ve gone to Goodwill and been sold for $5-10 each.

That’s just what I noticed today and it wasn’t particularly unusual. I call my garage a pit of despair because I have all manner of stuff stacked up in piles that only make sense to me. Much of it is waiting for pickup or drop-off at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. I try to donate everything that’s still got some life left in it. I shop thrift stores on occasion and am usually pleasantly surprised at the treasures to be had.

What about you — do you put “free” signs on things at your curb? Does your city have designated days for putting out large, unwanted items for neighbors to take? Do you have regular garage sales? Have you ever noticed what other people consider trash?  What do you do with the stuff you no longer want or need?

No Comment, No Clue


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For almost a year now, I’ve been having problems commenting on the blogs I follow. I contacted WordPress and they were singularly unhelpful. For the most part when I type a comment and then hit the submit button, everything looks fine.

But the comment disappears as fast as my ex-husband. Just *poof.*

And before you think that I’m just irritating other bloggers and they’re too nice to say anything, a blogger buddy has the same issue. We’ve experimented commenting on each other’s blogs with the same results.

I’m at a loss how to fix this. It bums me out because a big part of the fun of blogging is comment interaction. Any IT ideas on making this better?