Friday, October 23, 2015

A Witness for the Prosecution

I had the unenviable task of testifying in a federal trial earlier this week. If I typed the details of the case here, it would be way too long and horribly boring. The short story is that I was a prosecution witness in a case against a vendor that I had contact with when I was working in advertising. The trial was in Tucson, Arizona. Here’s the breakdown of the trip.

The Good:

  •  On the flight to Tucson, the gentleman in the seat to my right didn’t mind me eating a tuna salad sandwich .(Note to self – next time get turkey. The tuna was good, but I wouldn’t have to ask permission to eat turkey.)
  •  My seatmate to the left of me was asleep.
  • I was well prepared by hours of conference calls with the prosecuting attorney and his team.
  • The first defense attorney who questioned me was kind of a doofus (and always smirking) – definitely technology challenged – and he kept asking where the red squiggles on the screen came from. Finally, one of his team rolled his eyes (really - he visibly rolled his eyes) and told Smirky Doofus that one of his file folders was touching the touch screen. This was right after he accidentally turned the system off and didn’t know how to turn it back on again. Looking back, I wish I had secretly touched the screen every once in a while to keep making red squiggles and dots. That would have been hilarious!
  • There were several people on the jury who nodded and smiled encouragingly at me as I was testifying. They were the only really friendly faces I saw in the courtroom that day.
  • One of the nice jury men took a short nap. I couldn’t blame him. I wanted to take a nap too. Actually, what I really wanted was a glass of wine.
  • Right after I saw the man taking the nap, I looked at the clock in the back of the room and the hands were spinning around really fast. I pretended that I was in a movie where everything around me was moving in triple or quadruple time while I was sitting completely still. Well, I actually didn’t, but I wanted to. Instead, I paid close attention to Smirky Doofus so that he couldn’t trip me up with convoluted questions. I had been warned about those earlier in the day.
  • My favorite question that Smirky Doofus asked me was about an email. “So, Ms. Lozano. Do you see this email that Ms. Bailey wrote to my client, Mr. Rivera?” “Well, Mr. Doofus, I see the email, but there aren’t any names in the TO: or cc: sections, so I have no way of knowing if it was sent to Mr. Rivera or not." “Oh…. well… Um… (shuffling of papers) Judge, can I take a minute?” What a doofus. (P.S. I'm guessing that Ms. Bailey had blind copied everyone on the email, which would explain why there were no visible names in the TO: section.)
  • If the rest of my life goes well, I’ll never have to do something like this again.

·  The Bad
  • My seatmate to the left of me was asleep – which was in the good column until I had to go to the bathroom.
  • I was supposed to fly home Monday, but since I was on the stand for 4 ½ hours, I missed my fight and had to stay over another night. I really wanted to be home.
  • I realized mid-testimony that I could see my reflection in the monitor in front of me, and a piece of my hair was sticking straight up. I had to work to NOT see it for the rest of the time I was on the stand.
  • The lady sitting next to me on the flight home, while very friendly, was sucking on candy and making lots of smacking noises.
  • Smirky Doofus was trying to make me say that what the defendants had done was okay. The reasons he was giving for it being okay were bullpoopy, and everyone knew that – or I hope everyone knew. I’m sure that at least everyone who wasn’t on the jury knew, but the jurors are supposed to only take what is testified into account, so I had to be very careful to make my case well. I don’t know if I succeeded.
The Ugly
  • In Atlanta, there was a guy at security putting his shoes back on. I wish he had put his belt on first. I could see at least half of his rear end, and you can’t unsee that. I’m still having nightmares.  
  •  On the way home, the plane sounded like the tuberculosis ward. I’m serious. If I end up with some sort of hideous bronchial disease you’ll know where it came from.
I was told that they’d let me know once the trial was over, and what the verdict was. I hope that’s true.  And I hope it’s guilty!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

What's In A Name?

I’ve read a couple of novels recently where one of the dangers of life is to let someone know your “real name.” Apparently, once your “real name” is discovered, the person (or creature) who knows it has power over you and can use it against you. I’ve also read some things that encourage people to tell their story as a way to both know themselves, and to open themselves to others honestly and meaningfully.

There are things in my story that I don’t want anyone to know. Things that make me cringe when the memories break through cracks in my carefully constructed internal walls. Some are just embarrassing, some are heartbreaking, but every one of them is as much a part of my real name as the things that I’m happy and eager for people to know. Mother, loving, faithful, compassionate, helpful, funny, teacher, writer… those are my real name. Forgetful, lazy, procrastinator, selfish, neglectful, liar, hack… these are my real name too. 

My story is filled with moments of grace – snuggles with my children, laughter with my siblings and parents, falling in love with my husband, moments where God has touched my life in very clear ways, opportunities to minister to friends and strangers at church and out in the world. My story is also filled with moments that I’d be happier not remembering. Things that I’m so ashamed of they almost take my breath away. That time in 2nd grade when I joined my schoolmates in making fun of one of the special needs children at my school, losing my grandmother’s letters that I was transferring to typed pages, hurting people I love with careless words. And other things that I can’t say out loud for fear someone might hear and recognize me for the charlatan I am. 

Depending on my mood and circumstances of my life at any given time, I live fully into whichever set of names feels more real. And I believe fully in my story of grace, or my story of disgrace, whichever feels truer. 

It’s easy to assume that I am alone in my duplicity. But it is more likely that we all have names we don’t want people to know – stories that we are too ashamed to tell. If we’re lucky, we learn from those stories and strive to let go of the names we don’t want to define us. And for me, there are a few precious people out there who know my stories, good and bad, and I’m blessed with their love anyway.

Finally, there is a prayer that one of our priests says at the end of the service that gives me hope when the mostly untold parts of my story break through the cracks:

Life is short,
and there isn't much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel with us.
So let us be quick to love, and make haste to be kind,
resting assured that God is now, always has been,
and always will be infinitely more concerned with our future than with our past.
So may the blessing of God Almighty, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
 be upon you and remain with you always.


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Welcome Home!

I spent last weekend in the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains, in Toccoa, Georgia, with a group of wonderful people from my church. This was our annual parish retreat, and it was the first year since before I became a member at St. Martin’s that we held the retreat at Camp Mikell.

Camp Mikell is one of my favorite places on earth. It’s not a fancy place, but you can hear the creek from your room in the Retreat Center, you can sit in a rocking chair on the porch of the old dining hall and look at the cross that was built into the mountain sometime long before I attended camp there in the 1970s, or you can climb a rope ladder that looks like it came from a pirate ship and challenge yourself on the high ropes course, ending with an exhilarating zip line ride to the ground. Our group did all of these things and more. We also talked about how we invite God into our homes and our lives, did a few crafts, and enjoyed some wonderful fellowship time on Friday and Saturday evenings, playing games and getting to know each other better.

Our Sunday service was held in an outdoor chapel, and I had the honor of giving the homily. I’m posting it here – I’m guessing that almost anyone who has ever spent any time as a camper at Camp Mikell will agree with my description of the “Mikell Magic.”

We’ve been talking a lot about “home” this weekend. About welcoming Christ into our physical and spiritual homes. As I was thinking about what to say today, my mind kept returning to what it means to “feel at home.”

I actually googled the phrase and read that it means to feel as if you belong, to feel as if you were in your home and to feel accepted. Those are the words that really touched me – to feel accepted.

I changed schools a lot when I was young. We didn’t actually move houses, but they changed the school lines twice between 1st and 5th grades, and then halfway through 5th grade I changed schools from public school to the private school that my older sister and brother attended. Middle school can be hard for any kid, and switching in the middle of a school year made it especially bad. Add to that the fact that I was kind of an odd kid. I was bullied and teased from the instant I walked in the door. I went to that school for 2 and a half years, and it was pretty much torture the entire time.

I moved back to public school for 8th grade, which was the beginning of high school in Dekalb County at that time, and then we did move – so I changed schools AGAIN after the 1st quarter of 8th grade. I was still odd, I guess, and my self-confidence after the previous experience was pretty much non-existent so I was still an easy target.

Fortunately for me, there were two places where I felt accepted and at home. I was baptized late – I was 11 (I call myself a bunk-bed Episcopalian instead of a cradle Episcopalian) – and we started attending St. Bede’s Church. That was the first place I felt at home. My dad and step-mother were really active – my dad directed the folk mass and was on the vestry – and my step-mother was involved in outreach activities. We had a strong youth program with great leaders, and since the kids were from a bunch of different schools, we all got along and had fun together. I hadn’t known God before, but He was definitely there at St. Bede’s. I felt His presence when I was there, and I felt loved and accepted and safe.

The other place was right here at Camp Mikell. I was a camper here for 4 or 5 years, beginning when I was 12, and it was a sanctuary for me. People who have a history here will tell you about the “Mikell Magic” and it’s a real thing. From the people who ran the camp sessions, to the staff members, to the counselors – everyone was focused on making sure each camper found their place here. My first year I was loved and nurtured by people who had never met me – people who didn’t know I was a bit odd –and each subsequent year, they were excited to see me and made me feel like I was someone they were happy to know.

Relationships with other campers were made quickly – necessary because the camp sessions are only a week long – and were really intense (in a good way). Camp Mikell was the first place I realized that friends could love each other – and that it was important to tell people you loved them. Because cell phones and Facebook hadn’t been invented yet, a lot of these relationships went dormant during the school year, but as soon as we returned here, it was as if no time had passed.

You have probably heard of the Celtic concept of “Thin places” – places where heaven and earth seem to touch. For me, Camp Mikell was the thinnest place I knew. God was here all the time – giggling with us in the cabins, singing songs with us in the evening programs and hiking with us up to the cross. He was here with the staff members when they were comforting a home-sick camper, He was certainly here in the kitchen with the people who made the best food I’d ever had, and He was here in the beauty of this place. He was here with me, showing me that I was accepted and loved, and worthy of such acceptance and love. And based on what my daughter, Sara, has experienced here for the last 9 years, not much has changed.

And now I have another home - St. Martin’s. Old habits die hard, and just because I’m a grown-up doesn’t mean I don’t have some residual feeling of not fitting in. But since the first time I walked in the door at our church, I’ve felt nothing but accepted and embraced. I knew I was home. I do a lot at St. Martins – partly because my parents set such a good example of service when I was growing up – but mostly because I want others to feel at home the way I feel at home. And because when we feel at home, maybe we are more apt to open our heart “home” to let Christ in. And when we let Christ in and follow his commandment to love others, we make those others feel at home and accepted.

My hope for all of us is that when we leave this place, we will take the “welcome home” theme with us to our own lives, and especially back to our church family at St. Martins. And I also hope that we will remember the prayers for each room that we considered yesterday morning*, and remember that when we strive to include God in every room in our homes, both physical and spiritual, we receive blessings and we bless those we love.

I want to leave you with something I read earlier this week. I don’t know who to attribute it to, but it says “Christ is the head of the home. The unseen guest at every meal. The silent listener to every conversation.” He’s always with us and we should nurture that, and take comfort in that, and fill our homes with His love.


*We used prayers from “The Book of Occasional Services” Celebration for a Home (pg. 146-156).

Thursday, April 30, 2015

How's Your Mom?

“How’s your mom?”

I've been getting that question a lot in the last 18 months. First she had blood clots and then, a year later, had to have her hip replaced. Once she had the surgery and was healed and back home, we had a little respite, but as the second half of last year unfolded, she lost some mobility, had increased pain and just generally stopped being able to do much. She has sort of folded in on herself. She’s more bent, more shuffly, much, much slower. The last couple of months have included two hospitalizations and a month in a rehab facility to work on strengthening her body. I expect that this shouldn't be a surprise. I mean, people get old. But there are old people and elderly people. Today I googled “how old is elderly?” and found an article on from March 14, 2013 that says “In the end, ‘elderly’ may be more a state of being – or feeling – than a certain age.”1 Mom was supposed to get old without being elderly.

Mom was a force to be reckoned with when she was younger. She was incredibly active and health-conscious, roller-bladeing around Atlanta and working out at all hours of the day or night. She took a year off of work to travel around the world – she spent time in Australia and China, she trekked in Nepal, and I think she even rode an elephant in Indonesia. She eschewed conventionality, read vociferously, honed her disrespect of authority to a fine point, and just generally danced to her own music.

The damage to her hip is what did her in, I think. Prior to that, she knew she had some degenerative disc issues, but she worked out at the gym and remained active, and was able to keep herself flexible and pretty strong. Once the pain of her hip overwhelmed her, she just couldn't do any of that any more. The surgery to replace her hip certainly made things better for a while, but the months of inactivity allowed other pains and issues to come to the forefront, and it’s been a constant battle for her since.

So the question “how’s your mom?” which used to be answered by regaling the questioner with tales of Mom’s latest conquests, is now answered using the previous day as a point of reference. “She’s much better than she was yesterday.” Or, “She seems much weaker today than she was yesterday.”
Mom is frustrated and scared. Mostly she’s scared that she’ll have to live out her life in increasing pain. And scared that she won’t be able to live independently any more. And, unfortunately, it looks as if both of these fears are not unfounded.

The job my siblings and I have is to help Mom navigate this new reality and help her to find hope. Of course, we also have to make sure she’s taking her meds and eating right, and doing all those other things that her caregivers tell her to do - which can tend to annoy her (see the comment above about her feelings about authority). But that’s the price for having children who love you I guess.

Besides worrying about Mom, the thing that keeps me up at night is knowing that I need to take better care of myself. Mom’s story proves that even the healthiest people are not promised an easy trip up to and through their golden years, but I’m guessing that my chances will be better if I do the things I know I should do. If I’m lucky, it’ll make life better for not only me, but for my children as well. Because the fact of the matter is that at some point I’ll probably have to depend on them the way my mother is depending on my siblings and me. I hope they are kind and loving. And I hope I’m not a complete pain in the arse.

Update: So if you asked me “how’s your mom?” right now, I’d tell you that she had a good day. We’re watching a movie that she can’t really hear and I pause it every once in a while to tell her what’s going on. And a little bit earlier tonight, while Mom was making her way through the kitchen with her walker, my sweet Sara called her “Zippy.” It is important to keep one’s sense of humor.  


Friday, April 3, 2015

What About Saturday?

Today is Good Friday. The day that Jesus was crucified.

Imagine the craziness of that day. Since the night before, when Jesus was taken away, His followers were probably frantically trying to find out what was going on while frantically trying to keep from being taken themselves. They were human, after all, and I expect that their self-preservation tendencies were pretty darn strong that day. Through what passed for a trial, the whipping, the march to Golgotha, the night prior and the early part of the day were packed with crowds, shouting, pain, and terror. Then, all of a sudden, it was over.

So what did their Saturday look like? We talk about Good Friday, and we talk about Easter, but what about Saturday? The furor had died down, it was the Sabbath so nothing could be done. And the disciples’ hopes and dreams had to have been shattered. Here they had followed the one who they were sure was the Messiah. They expected Him to be the king to finally defeat the Romans and take back the lands that the Lord gave their ancestors. But instead, he died. False prophets had come and gone, and now…was it possible that Jesus was a false prophet as well? He wasn't supposed to die. He was supposed to rise up and take over.

And now what? I imagine that they huddled together somewhere safe. Somewhere they wouldn't be found. All were grieving, all needed comfort, but who would take that role? Because all were grieving, and all needed comfort. And I imagine them in small groups, talking quietly to each other about what they knew to be true, and what they questioned. I imagine there were tears – both of grief and of disappointment. I imagine there might have been arguments. But in the end they only had each other, so I imagine that by evening, they clung to each other, shared a meal, and put the question of what to do next aside for the time being. Maybe they remembered that Jesus told them to love each other, and decided that whatever lay ahead, they should at least do that.

The next day, of course, everything changed again. But oh, that Saturday. What a dark, hopeless day that must have been.

I’m struggling with how to end this post. I don’t have any wisdom to impart, I was just thinking about those poor disciples and needed to write it down. But maybe we should take a little bit of time tomorrow to say a prayer for anyone in our lives who might be experiencing pain or despair. Pray that they might have an Easter coming soon to show them that there is light after darkness.