Monday, September 29, 2008

New Perspective

This weekend I received a letter from a dear friend. Since I was out of town (more on that later) I didn't actually get it until Sunday. Before I go on, I need to explain something. I've been struggling quite a bit lately with school. The fact is, I hate law school. I hate is so much I fantasize about dropping out every day. The more I learn about the law and lawyers the more I understand why people hate them. I hate the compromise and the arguing, the superiority and egos, and the lack of civility and dignity. The more I learn the more I hate. In fact, I'm starting to hate myself.

Add to this ridiculous cycle the fact that in order to escape law school I've gotten myself WAY too involved with the student clubs and organizations. And it's all hitting the fan; for instance, last Thursday night I was QUADRUPLE booked - class, peer mentoring, mediation team meeting/training and arbitration team meeting/training. And after that I had to work til midnight. Plus, as always, money is crazy tight.

Then I got a letter in the mail. The contents of the letter humbled me - an amazing feat, to be sure. They also changed me. Granted, I still hate school, I'm still over-involved and money is still a concern. But the letter and its contents showed me just how much I'm loved and how much support I have. I guess we all need to be reminded exactly how good we have it and how many people are pulling for us, whether we see it or not.

So, thank you for your support, prayers, emails, blogs, laughs, phone calls, positive karma, well wishes and general good vibrations. I may never pay off my students loans, but I'm happy to know I'll also never overcome my debt of gratitude.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Walmart Zombie

Due to the financial "snafu" detailed in my last blog, after a very long Monday I made my way to Walmart to shop. Following the company's proud tradition, the Walmart in West Des Moines is a cesspool of great bargains. I think I read in the paper it's already been condemned and scheduled for demolition. But the city council won't tell when it's coming down so they can remove two kinds of eyesores and societal blemishes with one bulldozer; that is, Walmart and its shoppers.

So, there I am, pushing my cart - alright, staggering behind my cart - wandering up and down the aisles and apathetically running my cart into the shelves, hoping items will fall into my cart so I won't have to expend the energy of picking them up and putting them in the cart myself.

I was so tired I seriously considered curling up for a quick nap in the produce section. Staring at romaine, the I must have been visualizing myself on a bed of lettuce too convincingly because a Walmart employee approached and asked me if I was feeling alright. I said yes and kept shopping.

When a second employee asked me the same question, I decided it was probably time to wrap it up and go home. But when my checker snapped me back into reality by asking me, "Is everything okay? You look terrible," I was just plain embarrassed.

Given the classy clientele at Walmart I must have looked like a walking corpse if THREE employees were so shocked by my appearance they asked me how I felt. And so, I can tell all of you exactly how I feel about my experience: Mortified. And now I'm going to bed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Financial Fiasco

I'll get back to France soon - for now...

Like most students, I support myself during the academic year by borrowing large amounts of money generously fronted to me by banks and guaranteed by good ol' Uncle Sam. He may want his many nieces and nephews educated but he wants 'em to do it on their own dime. Ain't America grand? As most of you know, one must apply for these funds through the college or university they attend. Then, after taking tuition and fees, the financial aid office, or FAO, disperses the remainder. Recently, I was duped into what I can only call a "scheme" as a result of the following conversation, paraphrased by yours truly:

Me, arriving at FAO: "Excuse me, good sir, but would you be kind enough to tell me when I might expect my educational loan check to be available for pick up?"

Deceitful FAO employee, looking deceptively sympathetic: "Dear me, I'm afraid to tell you checks won't be available for several days."

Me, brow furrowing in concern: "Oh, drat. I do believe my bank roll is growing terribly small and I still need to purchase books for school and essentials from the grocer. What ever shall I do?"

Treacherous FAO employee: "There is one thing that might speed up the process. You seem to be a decent, thoroughly-modern sort of chap. Maybe you'll be keen to hear about a new-fangled way of getting funds: E-leck-tron-ic deposit. It's becoming quite the rage with forward-thinkers. Why be stuck back in the Dark Ages, standing in line with all the other simple-minded saps, waiting to pick up an old-fashioned, paper check when you can join the way of the future by signing up for E-leck-tron-ic deposit? If you sign up for this free service today your money will be sent directly to your bank so you won't have to do a thing. Plus, you'll get your funds TWO DAYS earlier than if you were dull enough to do things the drab, boring, old way."

Me, poor trusting dolt, wanting oh-so-much to join the future today: "Ooh-eee! That does sound mighty fine, what to get my funds early AND not have to wait in that line. What do I do?"

Demonic FAO employee, grinning greedily: "Just sign here and I'll take care of the rest."

If you couldn't tell from the narrative, things didn't end up working exactly as I was promised. I did eventually get my funds and I didn't have to pick up the check. But I didn't receive them early at all. In fact, I got them five days late and only after I stood in the long line to pester the FAO on TWO separate days. Boooo!!!!! Hiss!!!!!!

P.S. The reprobate FAO employee that sold gullible me on this pipe dream of banking convenience? Well, the FAO claims to have no knowledge of him - said they never had an employee by that name - said I must have been mistaken or imagined it. But how can I make a name like "Beelzebub?"

Sunday, July 6, 2008

My First Trip, Part Three - Blog 7

So, now that I have control of my blog again, let's continue with my trip...

After Mont St Michel we visited Omaha Beach. We stayed about three hours, including going through the Memorial Museum, the Cemetery and the beach itself.
Two things surprised me about seeing the Beach:

1- The beach we WIDE, i.e. it was easily 200 yards from the water to the first bluffs. Since I was there within a week of the actual landing date the tide was fairly similar to when the Allies landed. This view is from the water looking towards the Cemetery, which is on the plateau with the line of trees.

2 – It was a beautiful beach. If the beach didn’t have such a tragic history it would have made a lovely destination.

Bunkers: There are several bunkers scattered throughout all the Beaches of Normandy. Here a shot of my friend Ronda walking down into one at Omaha.

Cemetery: WARNING - This was a very emotional place and I tried to convey that with this blog. While perhaps a bit melodramatic this blog is also sincere. Usually I am scarcastic and pithy; for the remainder of this blog I am not. Please try to read this seriously.

The entire place was peaceful, poignant and sad, but a beautiful sad. It was the kind of place that even though there were other people around you felt…solitary. Alone but not really lonely, if that makes sense.

Wandering through the headstones you felt humbled, grateful and almost ashamed to be there, like there was nothing in your whole life that qualified you to be among those fallen soldiers. It was like you never knew sacrifice or bravery or selflessness before you walked beside those alabaster Crosses and Stars.

As I left the Cemetery, of all the emotions that had touched me the one that stayed with me was hope – I hoped that if the time ever came I would be as courageous and giving as those who slept beneath the soil of Normandy. All in all, it was an excellent place to experience.

Wow – that was a little heavy. Next blog will be lighter, I swear.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


NOTE: If you have yet to read BLOG ASSAULT this post will make absolutely no sense. Not that my posts every really do, but this will make even less sense than normal. Not that my posts are ever really normal, but still, I suggest you read BLOG ASSAULT first and then read this one.

First allow me to say to Michelle: Hijacking is a serious offense, more so when you’ve not simply hijacked a plane or something but had the audacity to hijack someone’s blog! In fact, I’m pretty sure the Constitution defines “blog-jacking” as a “high crime." All’s I’m sayin’ is Michelle, you better watch your back: I’m sure the Federales are just moments away. And after they’re through with you I get my turn…
That being said, let me address the scandalous, inflammatory and sometimes misinterpreted pictures that have illegally found their way onto my blog:
1 – I wasn’t goofy, I was HUNGRY. That was one of my Grandma’s amazing gingerbread boys. I couldn’t be delayed a few seconds by unwrapping it or bothered to remember exactly what the doctor warned about adding to my already seriously unhealthy levels of plastic wrap consumption. People, there was gingery goodness to be had…Don’t you judge me.
2 – I guess not all the pictures were mislabeled.
3 – Word to the wise: Golden Buddas are violent. Do you see how that Budda is totally tying to back-hand me? I guess when you reach Nirvana you no longer have to worry about your actions effecting your next level of reincarnation. But I think you still have to worry about smelling like Teen Spirit (oh, I WENT there).
4&5 – Look how cute Nanos and Bear are! Man, what happen? Just kidding. They’re still cute; now they just looked a little…stretched is all.
6&7 – Another word to the wise: Italy is bright. Bring a pair of sunglasses or run the risk of being mocked by your sister if she ever hacks into your blog. But if she does, don’t worry: you’ll have the last laugh when you turn her in to the Feds for blog-jacking and testify for the prosecution. Mmmwwwwha-ha-ha.
8 – Oh, just look at adorable Jujy-pie! And at my buzzed head! YIKES!
9 – Sheesh! I was being pensive, not goofy! This may come as a shock to some of you but I experience more emotions than just “goofy.” Wait – goofy is an emotion, right?

Sooooo, now the time has come for my revenge, Michelle. Are you ready? I've got a little picture of my own I think the people would enjoy seeing...

Ha, ha, ha, Michelle. Now YOU know how is feels to have people post embarrassing pictures of you...oh, wait. You look really good in this picture. CRAP! Alright, Michelle, you win this round but the war's not over yet! Michelle's blog -
On a completely unrelated topic, too bad I don't have a vendetta against Max 'cause THIS pic would definitely begin to settle the score. Remember what I said about looking "streched?"

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Hello Blog Readers, this is NOT Rick, this is his sister, Michelle. I've broken into Ricky's blog to mess with it. Mwah-ha-ha! Rick claims he has no pictures of himself, but guess what? I have pictures.
Here they are:
1-Rick is goofy. That's why people always want to invite Rick to parties- he's funny and he has no shame.
2- He's handsome. He thinks he not- he's wrong.
3- He's a world traveler. This is Rick with a golden budda in China.
4&5-He's a good uncle. Look at my little guys playing with Uncle Wicky.
6-Rick in Italy. Isn't he cute when he's all squinty?
7-Squinty in Italy again.
8-Rick is so tender and warm children can't resist him. This him with our niece.
9-Again, goofy, no shame.
(Click on the photos to enlarge them and get a better look.)
Now you've seen pictures of Rick.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My First Trip, Part Two - Blog 4

Go North, Young Man.

Our first destination was an island monastery called Mont Saint Michel. From Nantes it was a short, two-and-a-half hour drive. We made it in three. But we made it in one piece and with no tickets, police intervention or trips to the hospital so I think what speed we sacrificed was well worth it.

Mont St. Michel can trace its roots back to 708. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, said he saw Michael, the Archangel, in a vision. Michael commanded Aubert to leave Avranches and built a sanctuary in his honor on Mont Tombe, a tiny island just off the coast of Avranches. Now, if it were me, I'd be a bit skeptical about building anything on a tiny, rocky, coastal island - especially if I came from a town that bore a name suspiciously close to "avalanche." Aubert had some doubts, too, since it took the Angel several admonitions and finally burning a hole in Aubert's head before Aubert finally began construction.

In order to boost the local economy (I mean, increase the spirituality of the sanctuary), Aubert had several of his followers make a trip to Italy to find a certain grotto (holy cave) where Michael was already being worshiped. Aubert instructed the pilgrims to "obtain" a piece of the rock in the Italian grotto upon which Michael was said to have alighted and to get a piece of Michael's holy, golden mantle (which I guess Michael left behind). No one told me how the followers were able to get them but they returned with the relics and enshrined them at Mont St Michel (MSM). By the end of the 10th century MSM had become a popular pilgrimage sight and an order of Benedictine monks settled there.

A village grew up around the monastery on the island to support the vast numbers of pilgrims visiting the site. In 933 William, Duke of Normandy, annexed the area. Financed by the Duke, the monastery enjoyed expensive and grand Norman architecture.

Speaking of architecture, this place was INCREDIBLE. Because the architects were severely limited by the pyramid-shaped top of the island, they literally had to wrap the buildings around the granite dome of rock. They built several innovative crypts under the monastery, whose arched ceilings served to support the massive structure above. Given the spatial challenges MSM is unlike any other monastery in the world and represents unique examples of both style and mathematical precision.

MSM withstood English sieges during the Hundred Years War, thanks largely to its military fortifications (quite necessary due to its strategic placement near the English Channel). Thus, MSM has become a national French icon, much like Masada has for Israel.

MSM lost much of its prestige following the French Revolution and in the 1800s it became a prison. After becoming an official historic monument in 1874 MSM underwent extensive restoration and is listed as a World Heritage Site. I guess the prisoners were transferred. Or released. Or guillotined. Not that it really matters - dirty criminals.

Okay, now a bunch of pictures of MSM.

This one is of the narrow, winding, crowded village streets that lead the intrepid pilgrim up, up, up to the monastery.

This is one of the narrow, winding, uncrowded stone staircases that leads the pilgrim down, down, down within the monastery.

This is a stone pillar that was so perfectly illuminated I couldn't help but snap a pic. I wanted a wider shot but there were construction materials all around.

This one I did not take as my camera battery died just when evening fell. I borrowed it from Wikipedia (thanks, Wikipedia!).