Saturday, May 22, 2010

that third cup...

Civic duty. n -the responsibilities of a citizen.

Duty. Obligation. Responsibility. The social force that binds you to the courses of action demanded by that force; "every right implies a responsibility; every opportunity, an obligation; every possession, a duty"- John D. Rockefeller Jr.

I received a letter in the mail a few weeks ago. Stamped 'SUMMONS' from the City of Lakewood. I felt a bit of anxiety in opening the damn thing. What does the clerk of courts want with me? Anytime I get paperwork like that unexpectedly, I can feel my abdomen tighten with trepidation.

Jury Duty.

I’ve been called to serve on a jury and I must report at 9:00 am to the court house. My first thought it Oooh! Fun! It’ll be like on Law & Order! But I’ve never watched Law & Order, so immediately you can see my brain in out of skew.

The instructions listed were to call the day before after 4:00pm to make sure the jury is going forward. I’m to understand that many times cases get settled before they actually make it to jury selection. 4:01pm I place my call.

“Hi. I received a letter instructing me to call?” I ask the woman who answers the phone.

“Your juror number please?”

“Juror number 10.” I politely respond.

“Thank you, Nancy” I’m slightly taken aback that she know my name. Caller ID? No. She’s obviously looking at a list. “I appreciate your calling. The jury is not going forward this week.”

“Aw. That’s too bad. I was kind of looking forward to it! I’ve never been called for jury duty before.”

As these words are coming out I’m instinctively reaching for my shoe so I can insert it into the hole that serves as my mouth. Shut up Nancy, my mind is screaming.

“Really?” the lady chuckles. “Would you like to serve on next weeks jury? We rarely get anyone that wants to do this, they normally call with excuses to get out of doing it. Some of them are just priceless.”

It was too late. I could have said ‘No’, but I didn’t. She scheduled me for the following weeks jury. Juror number 19 this time.

Wednesday morning as I was getting ready to leave, I started putting on the usual daily uniform. Jeans, tee, cardigan, flip flops. I looked in the mirror and thought, Duh. Show some respect to the court. You can’t wear jeans. What were you thinking? I quickly, as I’m running a little behind, change into some trousers and pumps. The rest is fine.

At the courthouse I’m guided to the appropriate window to sign in. “Good morning. Please sign your name here and print your address below, please.” I do so and respond with good wishes for their day as well. The sun is shining, the air fresh. It’s perhaps one of the nicest days we’ve had in weeks…and I’m headed into a courthouse. By my own doing from opening my pie hole a little too wide.

“Oh! Nancy McDonnell!” she exclaims. “We had a judge Nancy McDonnell.”

This I know because a.) I’ve met her before. b.) I get many official invitations to political rallies and dinners addressed to her. c.) I get offers that people would like to work on my campaigns and d.) this is the one that frightens me sometimes; I get phone calls late at night from the police station wanting me to sign emergency warrants.

No one likes to wake at 2am by a phone call that the caller ID identifies as the police station.

I was arrested once (yeah , I know. Little ol' me…I’ll tell you all about it sometime) and had the jail in a tissy because word spread that Nancy McDonnell had been arrested and was presently incarcerated. The police were very nice, I don’t think they knew whether I was the Nancy McDonnell or another…so they were on their best behavior just in case. They didn’t even put me in a cell, they let me sit at the desk until someone came to pick me up. Even brought me coffee. I guess it helps sometimes to share a name.

I smile and say, “Yes, I know. I’ve met her. But I’m not her, trust me.”

By the time I’ve been escorted to the chambers where the jury is housed before going to the courtroom I’ve gone through this schpiel several times. Finding a chair I look around. My fellow potential jurors obviously didn’t think the same thing I did about respecting the court.

Yes, there are a few that are dressed obviously for work hoping to get out of here soon. A young man with a tie; an older gentleman with trousers and tennis shoes; the lady in the suit that is busy pecking away on her Blackberry even though there is a large sign that says ‘No Cell phones’. That obviously must not apply to her.

There’s a young girl in skinny jeans, pink streeked hair and Converse high tops that looks like she works at Starbucks (which ironically during questioning later we find that she does work at Starbucks); an overweight younger man in his mid 30's with a huge black t-shirt emblazoned with Led Zeppelin over long hip-hop shorts. He looks like he still lives at home and is missing out on serious PS3 zombie killing time. His hair is longer but has that ubiquitous balding spot. He never meets anyone’s eyes. He hangs his head, fiddles with his hands and just looks angry and miserable; and a gal missing many teeth that is shoveling the donut holes the court provided into her mouth at an alarming rate. She informs us that she never is up this early. (9:15) Wow. Really? That’s so unbelievable…ha.

It’s an interesting crowd to say the least. Thirty random people in Lakewood all gathered here for their chance to serve their civic duty to their city. A few know each other and are talking about their kids soccer games or PTA meetings. Lakewood is a small town. But I don’t recognize any of these people. There is one gal that I think works at the party store, or is it the grocery? I’m not sure. I’ve seen her face but don’t know who she is.

As we are waiting in this conference room I wonder what kind of case it will be? Not much happens here in Lakewood. If this venue had been in Cleveland proper, it could be anything. But in Lakewood? I’m sure they won’t turn this into a TV show.

The baliff appears at the door. He calls our names and line us up to walk single file into the courtroom. As juror 19, I’m in the second row. They call the first eight jurors up into the stand and start their questioning. Married? Employed? Where do you work? Ever been assaulted? Ever been the victim of a crime? How do you feel the police handled the situation? Do you know any of these other people sitting by you? Anyone in your family work in law enforcement?

Same questions, many times over. I'm starting to get bored. I stifle a yawn.

The benches in the courthouse are wood. Like old church pews. As I’m sitting there listening I come to the realization that I shouldn’t have had that third cup of coffee. Or I should have used the restroom when they said “If you need to use the bathroom you should do so now before we go into the courtroom” Ooops.

I’m glancing at the clock as the judge is thanking us for our being here. That we will be taking breaks. That they never know how long these things will last and that by us appearing here at court as prospective jurors, this is how the justice system continues to be fair and impartial by citizens such as ourselves.

Judging by the progress made thus far, I’m thinking, You can hold it, Nancy. I’m also thinking I should’ve worn those crepe soled shoes rather than the leather ones, these click on the tile and I can’t sneak out if needed without drawing attention.


The defense lawyer is ill-prepared. He obviously doesn’t do this much. He keeps referring to his notes and his delivery then is ill-timed because he has to keep flipping through pages. His client keeps turning his head and rolling his eyes. Even the judge is looking at him impatiently. Blue pin striped suit, double vent, jacket a little too snug. He doesn‘t miss many meals this guy. Black hair done Guido style with a little too much hair goop. He’s one of those that hangs out after work downtown letting any stray female know he’s a lawyer. I can just picture it. Fact is, when out I purposely sidestep these characters.

His client is a middle aged man wearing perhaps his best clothes. Black leather jacket and khaki pants. Black tennis shoes. Slumped shoulders, wiry black hair, mustache. The charge is assault. At a car wash.

The City of Lakewood’s prosecutor starts with her questioning of the jurors on the stand. Until she introduced herself, I figured she was a stenographer. She’s poorly dressed. As I’m looking at her, I feel badly for her. Her hair is greasy…like two days past acceptable greasy. It’s shoulder length and hangs in the back like spaghetti. She’s wearing a floral skirt. White background with large hot pink hibiscus on it. Little clear palettes make it shimmer. It would be nice and appropriate for a summer wedding or cocktail party, but not in a courtroom. I can’t see what blouse she’s wearing from my seat but whatever it is, it’s covered up by a ridiculous oversized hot pink jean jacket. Ill fitting, but a hot pink jean jacket? Ina courtroom? I’m amazed that she hasn’t been given a dress code warning by the court. She’s even wearing sandals. And do I need to mention the white at this time of year? She's got so many Glamour don'ts added up, we need not add more.

To me? By her dress alone, she doesn’t carry any importance or authority.

This is fun, watching this court of law unfold. It’s some good people watching also. Except that my stomach is now making these sounds that alerts me I soon need to use the restroom. Luckily enough, both the prosecutor and the defense attorney are satisfied with the original eight people addressed. They pull one more and send her through the same question field and they are happy with her for an alternate.

The rest of us sitting in the courtroom are thanked for our time and dismissed. I’m slightly disappointed that I didn’t even get called to be questioned, but happy in a way that I didn’t get called to the stand. I had to put a lot of things in place just in case I did have to spend the entire day here. So I’m ecstatic that on such a beautiful day I can do something other than watch these two unprepared, poorly dressed lawyers present their case.

I’m sure those called will be riveted by their performance.

I might not have been able to keep myself at break from informing the prosecutor that she’s dressed inappropriately. Maybe I’d have given her my business card. I could definitely help her with her professional wardrobe. The least I could do is to send her to my hairdresser to fix that mess.

CSI this was not. Or at least I’d assume it wasn’t even close.
I don’t watch that show either.

But now I’ve done my civic duty. I wonder if I’ll ever get called again. Probably not. But if I do, I’m not drinking coffee that day.

But I may wear jeans.

Friday, May 14, 2010

majestic trees...

Are you safe?

When you go to bed at night, do feel like your home is a safe haven for you? I’ve always felt safe in my house. It’s big. It’s sturdy. And having been built in 1905, it’s built well. Solid. Safe.

Lakewood is rather safe as well. Everything about Lakewood creates a comfort zone and sense of stability.

On the North Coast on the edge of Lake Erie we are protected from natural catastrophes as well. We aren’t in fear of earthquakes, or mudslides, or tsunamis, or volcanoes. We don’t have forest fires, or flooding, or tornadoes. We are seemingly insulated from disasters. At least those that Mother Nature is responsible for.


The last tornado on record in Lakewood was back in 1965. But one touched down here this past Friday night.

A joke here in Cleveland is ‘the weatherman can’t tell yesterdays weather’. Or ‘In Cleveland, just blink and the weather will change.’ It’s true. It does.

Weatherbug showed on their radar that a huge storm was headed our way last Friday. Allright, so what. I did the manditory pre-storm checklist and made sure all my tools were put away. Rakes and shovels put back in the garage, garage doors firmly closed and windows closed and locked. No biggie.

The wind started picking up around 7:00pm. The rain started hammering the house at 8:12pm. And then the hail started at 9:22pm.

Large as marbles, it hammered the back side of my home. Boo had a girlfriend over for a sleepover and the sound was deafening. They were a little scared by it, but a little intrigued all the same. We don't get that much severe weather here and I don't think Boo has ever seen (or heard) hail before.

“Mommy! WHAT is that out on the ground?” Boo asked.

“It’s hail, darlin’. BIG hail.” I replied. I can't remember, if ever, I've seen hail this big myself. I remember collecting some as a child that looked like peas, but never marbles.

“It’s the size of my marbles! Can I go out and get some?” she pleaded.

“Not unitl it stops. If those hit your head, it’ll hurt. Really, really hurt. Bad.”

So we watched.
And we listened.
And it WAS scary. It sounded as if there were a firing squad out on my deck firing off clip after clip of ammunition against my back windows. I thought they would break at any moment. And then I thought about my car. I failed to put it in the garage and it was sitting out in the drive. Under the pin oak. Imight as well have painted a bullseye on it. 'Incoming!' Ugh. I hope that it makes it through this unscathed.

Then the towns siren started.
Low at first and then drowning out even our conversation. It never goes off except for testing.

“I think maybe we should go downstairs for a bit.” I calmly suggested. At least I tried to sound calm. The wild look in my eyes belied my voice.

My basement is a basement made for a house built in 1905. It’s not the rec-room basement of modern built homes. The ceiling beams hang low and the copper pipes shine in the rafters. It has a laundry room and the rest is storage. Not exactly a place to hang out. But hang out is exactly what we did.

Grabbing a couple of bean bags to sit on we cleared a small area, drug a old discarded side table over and started to play cards. One game of rummy, three of old maid and then a rousing game of concentration using not one deck but two. With the storm booming through the house periodically even the dogs and cat came down to hang with us. When the siren subsided we ventured back upstairs. The power only flickered once. Just enough to turn off any televisions and clocks so the house permeated with an eerie blue glow.

When the storm was mostly past with just remnants of gusting wind blowing swirling debris, I ventured outside to find that the hail had sheared off freshly emerged leaves from the trees. They lay covering the driveway and lawn as if it were fall. But all the leaves were a fresh green, not brown after a seasons life. Small twigs and branches littered the area. My car looked as if it had been decoupaged with oak leaves.

I walked out to the tree lawn to inspect the damage up and down the street. My neighbor two doors down lost a large limb in the storm that smashed her new garage and punched out a couple of west windows in the process.

A friend in Clifton Park had lost power when a tree fell over their street. They just moved into their home in December and have been busy with yard work this spring. Her middle daughter was having her first communion on Saturday and they were in a rush to get the particulars together for the family party. Their home wasn’t damaged, but all their new landscaping was a mess. The power was out until Monday. The party was moved and all the food perished with the outage.

Everywhere you looked there were large 125 year old red oak trees uprooted and laid out across property lines. Clifton Boulevard is known for it’s oak lined parkway. Every third tree seemed to be on it’s side. Their large root systems exposed for all to see. It was sad sight. History in the making. Or unmaking as it were.

I have a rental property on Clifton Boulevard. A three family home that I had purchased back in 1991 and have owned since then. The property has two very large oaks in the back. I’m not necessarily a tree hugger, but if it’s still alive, I’ll keep it. By their sheer size, arborists have estimated their years to be somewhere in the 130-150 year old range. Those bad boys can stay there as long as they’d like. They were here long before I was.

I don’t do much for the trees. I have them fertilized from time to time. They come and inject goodies into it’s cambium layer. For a tree it’s like me sticking a B12 under my tongue. It gives them a little boost. I have them trimmed of their deadwood periodically, but I pretty much let them do their own thing. They are healthy for trees of that age. Every so often there will be a branch that dies off. It’s the way of the tree. It reverts it’s energy to another portion of itself to keep growing.

My neighbor behind the house hates my trees. She thinks ‘They are dead or dying. Cut them down.’ But they aren’t, so I won’t. It’s a point of contention between us. She doesn’t like me because of my trees. She has even called the City of Lakewood to file a formal complaint. But the city inspector doesn’t see anything wrong with my trees either, so they still stand.

I don’t think she’s going to be inviting me to tea any time soon.

Yesterday I drove in to visit with my dad. We had a great day. And after dinner he said, “You’d best get on your way back home.”

Dad’s kicking me out of the house? That’s unheard of. He usually asks if I can stay longer. “There’s a big storm coming and I want you to stay in front of it.”

Another storm? Argh. I just dodged a bullet with that last storm! With all the trees down, having found my dead branch that my neighbor hates to have still hanging on is a miricle in and of itself. But I don’t want to have to worry about another storm coming. I do have due diligence on my side. I am in possession of a signed contract to prove I was being proactive with the trees in case something does indeed happen before they get there, but still…please don’t let that branch fall before then. My neighbor will never, ever let me hear the end of it if that happens.

I suppose that branch shows just how strong and healthy those trees actually are.
Or stubborn. (like me)

The drive home was uneventful. But I checked the Doppler radar when I got back in front of my computer. Yup. There is was. A doozy of a storm front headed right towards us. One that shows red and yellow on the radar screen.

I went to bed feeling anxious.

And the storm did hit. In the middle of the night with large crashes of lighting and booming thunderclouds. The heavy downpour left my backyard a veritable pond.

But no downed branches or leaves this time around.
And the oaks at Clifton still stand.

Standing on my deck with my coffee this morning, overlooking what more yard work needs to be done to clean up after this last temper tantrum from Mother Nature, I can envision my neighbor doing the same. She's probably having her morning tea in her breakfast nook looking into her own backyard shaded by the branches of my tree that she hates. Lines creasing her forhead as she sees her nemisis, my trees, still hanging there majestically over the back of her property.


Another bullet dodged.
I do hope Mother Nature will take a few days off. That she will be nice to us for the next couple of weeks. I like me a good storm now and again. However I've still yard waste to pick up from LAST weeks storm, let alone the one from yesterday.

Mother Nature...please. With all due respect, just wait until the tree guys get here...

Friday, May 7, 2010

nothing but time...

Six months.

Does six months seem like a long time?
Or just a small drop in the bucket?
I suppose it all depends on who is checking. At that particular time.

Six months for a kid waiting for summer vacation seems like a lifetime. Waiting for your income tax refund check can seem like forever when you're eyeing a new patio furniture set that you shouldn't really buy. But for others? Maybe time moves much too swiftly.

In conversation the other day I learned that a friends uncle by marriage has pancreatic cancer. Still a young man by today’s standards, the doctors have informed him that he only has 6 months to live. Most of those six months he will probably not be in robust health.

It made me pause to wonder, ‘What would I do if I were told I only had 6 months to live?

If I had an unending supply of money perhaps I’d take on that list of unfulfilled dreams and check them off, one by one, until my time ran out. But unlike Jack Nicholson in The Bucket List, I do not have a unlimited supply at my disposal. I don’t have that Black American Express card that I dream about. You know the one. It has no spending limit and the bill never comes? That one. And my money tree in the backyard seems to have shriveled and isn’t looking to grow a new root system anytime soon.

So what does one do?

That weight loss program I’ve embarked upon would seem rather futile. I seen people get into shape and lose weight to look perfect for their wedding day, but for your own funeral? Nah. Bring me another crème brulee instead.

And what about my golf game? No need to lower the handicap further. I highly doubt I’ll be playing where ever it is my soul ends up after my death.

I would still like the opportunity to hike to Machu Pichu in Peru before I die. Perhaps that trip might bring me the peace and serenity that I seek. After sitting in the clouds amongst the ruins, I could probably let go. Of everything. Perhaps I’d pass whilst there. I would physically be closer to heaven. Maybe because of my close proximity to the heavens they might let me in those pearly gates? “C’mon in Nancy. No need sending you back down.“ Peter would say, jingling the keys.

Or would I sink into depression and drown my sorrow of my ill fated pull of the lifeline straw? Open a line of credit at the local tavern and spend my days like Bukowski writing down my remorse over my impending doom.

I don’t really know. I’m not sure what I would do. Fight? Give up and resign?

I’d like to think that being of a positive nature that I’d fight back. But I can’t be positive that I would.

I’m always amazed when watching I Shouldn’t Be Alive on television. The strength that many of these people find within themselves leaves me speachless. They tenously hold on by a thread to life in certain situations that by all regards seems a hopeless cause. But they do. And they live to tell about it.

I wonder what might happen if I were caught in a canyon for days. Could cut my own arm off slowly with a pocket knife in order to make it out of their predicament after 3 days? I highly doubt I could.

I ponder if a shark just ate my leg while diving that I could garner the strength to fight back by punching it until it swam away? And then go on to be fitted for cyber legs and run marathons? There is definitely no way.

I asked a couple of my close friends what they would do. Melissa, always upbeat, said that there were some places that she’d want to return to. To basically say ‘Goodbye’ to people that who mean the most to her. The family in France and the people in Thailand with whom she lived while she was in the Peace Corp. She did say that if she had the energy that she’d make the trek to Machu Pichu with me if there were time. Always thinking of others, that gal.

Damian said he’d finally write that book. To leave something of himself behind. The book would allow him to have peace. For himself and for hopefully for those reading his words. That it might perhaps shed an understanding of peace, his peace, as guidance for others. I'd like a copy of that. It'd give me something to hold on to. Signed, of course.

And one said they’d find a way to get medicinal marijuana, dig out the old albums and live like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix in a blissful Purple Haze until the end came.

There was a movie shown at the Cleveland Film Festival called Timer. A digital clock is implanted into your wrist that counts down the seconds until you meet your one true love. That could be rather distracting and become all consuming. But what if the watch told you the time of your death? Would you live the rest of your life with reckless abandon because you know that your time isn’t up? Yet.

I’ve got timepieces that don’t keep quite the right time. Gorgeous wrist art, but they do lose seconds. Which turn into minutes. Which turns into hours if you don’t keep track. So who’s to say that the timer on your wrist couldn’t be wrong as well?

I’d probably get one of the faulty ones. Somewhere in the universe is some sort of bias when it comes to 'all things Nancy'. I went to a meeting where someone said, ‘God won’t lead you to it if you can’t get through it.’ Well yippity-do-da. I’m so glad that He feels that I’m capable. But c’mon now. How about letting someone else get through it for a change?

I bought a pair of shoes on eBay. The seller packed them wrong; sent them in a bag, not a box. So they have creases in the leather on the front due to the handling at the post office. Easily avoided. But I let it go. It wasn’t that big of a deal. I DID let her know so she wouldn’t disappoint future eBay buyers. It was an obvious oversight due to her newness to the eBay community.

I had my house painted. They did a great job. Or so I thought. When I put the screens in this spring I found that they hadn't scrapped away the excess from the window panes up on the third floor. It wasn’t obvious from street level and I didn't know that they missed it. Solution? I could call them back and bitch, but instead of confrontation I just threw up a ladder and scrapped it off myself. No biggie.

I bought a Jeep. So far I’ve had to have it serviced for the DVD player, the catalytic converter and the drive train. All under warranty but they don’t supply loaners when service is being done. Something I got used to when I owned a Land Rover. The dealership is close to the house, so I just walked home and shopped close to home the next day or so. Why complain. I just looked at it as leaving a little less carbon footprint on Mother Earth for a couple of days. The weather was nice, so I put away the pretty shoes, pulled out the comfy ones and just hoofed it.

That’s the way I am.
I’m rather complacent. Or too understanding.

I had a tenant let me know about a couple of things at the property that he felt could be improved upon. He’d been renting the house for three years. “Nancy, when your electrician replaced the electrical boxes, I think he messed up with some of the breakers. You should have him look at it. Some breakers will switch if you have a hair dryer and the TV running and others won’t switch at all.”

First thought? Uh, Jeff. Why didn’t you tell me then? That was two years ago!

He continued with, “You’re a nice lady. Sometimes you should get mad. People are going to take advantage of you.”

Interesting comment.
One for food for thought.

Me? Get mad? Get angry?

Nah. It takes too much energy. And creates wrinkles on my forehead.
I don’t want to be one of those women that look like they are constantly mad and bitter that I see in the grocery.

So I take a deep breath.
And I take a look at my landscaping.

How IS that money tree coming along…

It better grow faster. I need the funding for Machu Pichu.
And if it doesn’t mature by then….I might get mad.

But at least my timer seems to be working. I’ve at least a few years left.