OJ

I remember everything about that day.  It was Friday, June 17, 1994.  OJ was inside of a Ford Bronco and the police were chasing him down the freeway.  I remember where I was, what I was doing, what I was wearing, and how my hair was styled.

I am very much enjoying the FX  television series “The People v. OJ Simpson: An American Crime Story,” and reliving the events of that time.

However, the producers need to know that I am watching.  And I remember it all.  I remember that everyone was glued to the TV and didn’t leave their houses while they watched the situation unfold in horror. I know that the trial that followed would transfix us all and change everything we thought we knew about justice. And I also know that they did not have Chobani Yogurt in stores because it was not invented yet.

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Aidan

This is Aidan.

He is 7 years old.

He has had a fever for 6 days.

Aidan refuses to take medication because it tastes bad.

He has missed 4 days of school this week.

His mommy is trying to help him with his schoolwork, but she doesn’t understand his math.

Aidan is frustrated.

His mommy is losing her mind because she hasn’t had a goddamn break in 6 days and she is sick of playing board games and watching ICarly reruns and listening to her dogs bark at the gardener.

Don’t be like Aidan.

Take the fucking antibiotics.

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It’s All About The Face (No Body)

There is a car at school that absolutely fascinates me. It is a typical white Honda minivan driven by a fellow neighborhood mom. It has all the wear and tear of a minivan, like my own, that’s been driven thousands of miles.  But this car has an interesting and unusual feature.  It has eyelashes.  Yes, that’s right.  Attached to the front headlights are very large, long, luscious, curled black eyelashes.

Now, this outlandish car decor would normally drive me crazy. As I have gotten older, I have developed a disorder that I have called “Road Hate.” As soon as I get behind the wheel of my car, I immediately hate everyone and everything on the road with me. Everyone is either driving way too slow, or way too fast. People are either too risky when they drive (look before you change lanes you asshole!) or not daring enough (could you just go already??!!) While I’m sitting at a light looking at my phone, I am instantly mad at the person next to me who is doing the exact same thing. I want to roll down my window and shout, “Stop texting and driving!” but I can’t, because I am reading a funny quote on Facebook.

And then there are the cars themselves. Between the clever billboards and all of the political signs along the road, don’t we have enough distractions? Do I have to read your bumper sticker and get all fired up and angry because you say that “life begins at conception?” I’m very emotional, people. Anything can set me off. Please just remove the campaign stickers from the last few decades. Unfortunately, driving around with a Gore/Lieberman sticker is not going to make it happen.

I’m just way too analytical to handle these tiny car signs. If I see one that says “Jesus Loves You”-I wonder if that’s really true. Then I try to remember the story of Jesus and who betrayed him, and then suddenly I’m driving the wrong way down a one-way street. If the car in front of me has stick figure stickers to represent the members of the family, I find myself trying to figure out if we have the same familial makeup. “Hey there! I have two boys and a girl too! But is your girl in the middle? Mine is!” But if the children in those stickers are wearing little sports outfits, I am back to being annoyed.

I’m all for religious freedom, but the rooftop reindeer ears during the holidays is really pushing it. Should we discuss the Christmas lights on the cars? It’s bad enough that my little Jewish children feel bad that they don’t have a Christmas tree and lights at home. Shouldn’t we at least get a little reprieve from holiday cheer while we are on the expressway?

I have a lot of trouble focusing lately, especially when I drive. All it takes is one great Run DMC song to suddenly come on the radio (that I still know all the words to) and suddenly, I have no idea where I am. I really just need to reach my destination without forgetting where I’m going or why I’m going there.

As I approach my 44th birthday, I reflect on the many ways life has changed for me in the last year.  But then I realize that no, nothing has really changed this year, except for my face.  Like an old house that is getting older, I am starting to show the wear and tear of my 43 years.  I can try and trim the bushes or update my appliances, but the reality is that anyone walking by knows that I’m not the new kid on the block.

And so, like any house that may go on the market one day, (or one that is simply up for refinancing), it’s time to paint the outside and fix the roof.

I spent the past year figuring out how to add more “curb appeal” to myself.  I studied women over 40 who, in society’s opinion, look “good.” And after a full analysis, I have come to the conclusion that it’s all about how we look from the neck up.

In my 365 days of concentrated analysis, I realized that the ladies of “The View” generally stay seated behind a large table. This is because they want us to immediately notice their hair and makeup. If it all looks neat and tidy- we are totally impressed. “Look how great Joy Behar looks today!” we exclaim, merely because she has on nice earrings that go perfectly with her hair. I don’t know if Barbara Walters generally wears pants or skirts, but I know that she always has on a lovely necklace and a crisp blouse. I have determined that Elizabeth Hasselbeck left “Fox News” not to take care of her family, as she claimed, but because they made her sit on a couch.

All of this is great news for my husband, because I have determined that I don’t really need new clothes. What I really need is new makeup. And nicer hair. And also darker roots so that no one sees the grey.

I don’t really need to pay for a gym membership. I do, however, need a membership to a place that will rub my face weekly with lotions and oils and who will pluck all of my unwanted facial hairs and who will rejuvenate my skin with the blood of a virgin baby owl. I don’t really need new shoes, but I do need my eyes to look less tired and my teeth to look less covered in coffee stains.

Lately, when I make my grand entrance into a room full of strangers, I have realized that there is no one looking me up and down anymore. I assume they figure that the trip down will basically include some mom jeans and a pair of supportive shoes. So they just keep looking up.

Maybe that’s the reason why this fellow mom has attached those eyelashes to the front of her van.  Perhaps she feels that if she gussies up the first thing that people see when she pulls into the school pickup line, no one will realize that she’s dragging an old, beat-up minivan behind it.

So maybe thats why it doesn’t annoy me. Unlike the Santa nose on the hood, it’s something that I can totally relate to.

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Too Real

I’m always embarrassed when people ask me if I watch any reality shows. I’m not embarrassed because I do watch them. Rather, it’s because I don’t.

What about any of the “Real Housewives? New Jersey or Orange County?” Nope.

Not even “The Bachelor?” No.

If you give me a drink or two, I’ll admit to watching “Say Yes To The Dress” or an occasional “Kardashian,” but ONLY when I’m on the treadmill.

Recently, a friend called me and told me I HAD to watch “Making A Murderer” on Netflix. I had just finished Season 2 of “The Affair” on Showtime, and I was in the market for a new show. I knew that “Murderer” was a real, true story, but I justified turning it on because it was a documentary.

“Don’t you love it?” people asked, when they heard I had started watching it.

“Isn’t it amazing?” they said.

Once again, I have to go against the grain and “out” my uncool self. I did finish it. But I certainly didn’t like it.   Not because it was boring (although, after 10 episodes, if I had to hear “yep” or watch long, meaningful shots of a junkyard full of cars one more time, I would have gone insane.) Not because it wasn’t an interesting story. It was a fascinating, infuriating, horrifying story.

The real problem that I had with the show is that it is not a new story for me. In fact, I have heard this story hundreds of times before. Not the Steven Avery one, of course, as that was truly a unique story.

But a story about an insanely corrupt criminal justice department?   A story about the complete failure of our courts and jury system?   A story about police officers and prosecutors more hell-bent on winning cases than providing any actual justice? An innocent person sent to prison because of stereotypes and bias towards a particular familial association or background?

Heard it. Seen it. Over and over again.

When you practice criminal defense law for over a decade, you have seen this story way too many times. You hear this story from coworkers and friends. You watch this story play out right in front of you every single day.

It’s heartbreaking, frustrating, and infuriating.

I’m glad this issue is being discussed in our country. I hope that it will make people so angry that they will demand answers. I pray that it will change the way all of our criminal cases are handled.

But just like any fad, I worry about its longevity. I fear that this is only the topic de jour until a new one appears. I am scared that one day, people will completely forget about this story. And then all of the discussions and passion and anger will simply fade away, leaving the criminal justice system in the exact same position it has always been.

So, it’s not that I didn’t like the show. I did.

I just didn’t enjoy it.

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Why Bill Cosby’s Arrest Broke My Heart

I’ve had the same morning ritual for my entire life. I get up, grab some sort of caffeine, and sit down to read the entire newspaper. I do realize that a person can read the newspaper online or watch the morning’s headline news on TV, but I love to hold the paper in my hands and read it-cover to cover.

Yesterday morning, New Year’s Eve 2015, I held my cup of coffee in my hands and opened up the paper. I mentally prepared myself to read the usual daily headlines. I anticipated seeing stories about mass shootings, bombings, terrorism, kidnappings and war. Sadly, I expect to see those articles as much as I expect to read about politics, the weather, and local obituaries.

But on December 31, 2015, I saw a headline that made me gasp. The headline: Bill Cosby had been arrested. The charge: sexual assault. It was one among many, many accusations out there, but it is the first case being brought to criminal court.

I couldn’t avert my eyes from the photograph that accompanied the article. There he was: wearing one of his signature “Cliff Huxtable” sweaters. There was Bill Cosby, the defendant, being escorted into a court of law.

The story itself was nothing new for Bill: an accusation that he had drugged and raped a woman. A woman who wanted nothing more than to just meet our beloved icon, Mr. Bill Cosby.

And yet, as a 15-year veteran working as a defense attorney in the criminal justice system, I gasped at this story for a completely different reason. I gasped because this one is going to stick. This is the case that had enough evidence that a prosecutor, knowing very well his legal and ethical responsibilities, brought into criminal court. This is the case that could potentially prove, beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of his peers, that Billy Cosby is a rapist.

Seeing that headline and reading that story, a little part of me had suddenly died inside. Because if he’s convicted, that’s the end. It’s all over… for me.

I was born in 1972. I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, in a time-period that I remember as being just about perfect. The free- range parenting, the communal-neighborhood feel, the safety that we all felt and the innocence of that time still lives on in a corner of my brain. Every time I read another horrible story in that morning’s newspaper, I go back to the 1980s in my mind. I desperately need to remember that time, so that I can remind myself that the world wasn’t always this way.

When I feel overwhelmed by our post-911 world of fear or saddened by the technology that has replaced childhood play, I take a deep breath and close my eyes. When I am confused by a world of competition and locked neighborhood doors, I simply go back in time.

I picture kids crowded around a single boom box, listening to music together, instead of kids with headphones plugged into their own isolated worlds. I think of the front porches and basements where we used to gather, instead of virtual gatherings that no one ever need leave their homes to attend. And I think of the television shows that played on the only one television set in our home. I think of the TV shows that the whole family could enjoy together, that broke new ground and created discussions in our homes and in our communities that we had never had before.

TV shows like “The Cosby Show:” where a black family could be successful and complicated and happy. Where the family’s patriarch could be a physician, father, husband and friend, and do all of it with honest emotion and humor. A show created by and starring Bill Cosby. Mr. Cosby, who to me, represented everything good about the 1980s: hope, change, tolerance, acceptance and safety.

But what if he was none of those things? What if a court of law finds him guilty of being just as scary, manipulative and dangerous as the world that we live in today? What if none of it was real? What does that mean about the place that I hold so dear in my brain? What if it never existed? Then what?

How can I assure myself (and my children) that this world will one day go back to being as safe as it once was? How can we believe in the kindness of strangers, when the friends that we trusted were never actually who we always thought they were?

I’m heartbroken about Dr. Huxtable. I’m horrified for the women whose lives he destroyed. And I’m devastated by the thought that even if we stop all of the horrors of our world today, that those of us who grew up in my generation will never feel truly safe ever again.

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Student Teacher

I almost failed my semester of student teaching. It was my senior year in college, and I was assigned to a very low income school in Lansing, Michigan. The third graders in my class were always sad and disheveled because of their difficult lives at home. So I mostly tried to make them smile.

Halfway through the semester, my supervising teacher called me in. Seems that she asked the kids to write me letters, telling me what they thought of my teaching so far. Most of them read something like:,”Miss Ochs: you are hot. I love you.” or “Miss Ochs: you are funny and silly and really pretty.”

I was shocked at these notes for a couple of reasons. First: being that it was my senior year in college, I was extremely hung over every day, and very rarely brushed my hair. (But I was secretly glad someone thought I still looked good.) Second: that I was in trouble for these notes. My 20-year veteran teacher explained to me that although it was o.k to make the kids laugh and smile at times, my job was to teach them. They didn’t need to laugh at me to learn from me.

So, I buckled down, changed my tone, and passed the semester. I got my teaching degree. But I never taught again. I just couldn’t figure out how to educate people without being myself.

When we recently canceled our family trip to Europe, we asked our travel agent to just send us somewhere. Anywhere. So, she sent us to the Dominican Republic. Which, contrary to what my husband initially explained to the kids, is not in Mexico. She booked us at a hotel I like to call, “This is what is available for five people three weeks before Christmas.”

The first day of our trip, I found a Zumba class on the beach. I was very excited. There were lots of women and at the beginning, we had to introduce ourselves and say what country we were from. Then the instructor put us all in a long line and told us to put our hands on each other’s shoulders. Then she told us to start rubbing. And as I massaged ladies from Germany, Russia, and England I realized: I don’t think that this is a Zumba class.

As the week went on, I learned many things. I learned that although I think I speak fairly good Spanish due to 2 years of high school classes and 15 years working as a defense attorney in Arizona, I’m really only handy when it comes to conjugating verbs or finding out if someone wants a jury trial. Also, according to my family, I sound “embarrassingly white” while speaking it. (Like Janice from Friends)

I learned that I can now add parasailing to the things that I can no longer do because of motion sickness. No one tells you that you can’t swing on swings or go on amusement park rides after you turn 40. No one tells you how embarrassing it is to dry heave over the Atlantic Ocean for 20 minutes in front of a boat load of strangers.

I learned that eight days is way too long to go to an all-inclusive resort when each person in your family has gotten sick at at least one of the restaurants. It’s also too long to be out of the county, when all your kids really want in life is to have good internet connection.

All of these things I have learned are hard lessons. And they are (in retrospect), mostly funny.

After my last blog, I also learned how much my frustration with life has saddened you. I received so many supportive messages telling me to hang in there. You told me that my humor has taught you that you aren’t alone out there in this crazy-ass world.

So onwards we go to 2016. This year, I will keep hoping for human kindness and decency to return to our world. In the meawhile, I will also keep trying to laugh at the ridiculousness that surrounds me every single day. And then I’ll keep coming home to write it all down snd share it with you.

Maybe my supervisor was wrong. Maybe you can teach and be funny at the same time.

And maybe the tough lessons that we all have to learn, and the sad ones and the gut-wrenching painful ones, are actually easier to deal with if we learn them all together. And if you have a good teacher, she can show you the humor or the bright side in almost any situation.

So thanks for letting me be your teacher. You are all wonderful students. Thank you all for your continued support, comments love and laughter.

Happy 2016!

Momontour

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Fallen Cupcake

I love food trucks. The idea of a little restaurant on wheels makes me disturbingly happy. Recently, I attended a holiday party in which there were four food trucks sitting in the backyard. There was a Mexican food truck, a pizza truck, and an Italian food truck. But I was most excited for the fourth one: the cupcake truck. After an intense analysis of the cupcake choices, I chose a toffee one that had lots of giant chocolate chunks on top. So gleeful was I with my selection, that I found myself sprinting through the backyard towards my table, clutching my cupcake. My sheer happiness, combined with a few gin & tonics, resulted in me dropping my cupcake onto the ground and into a pile of rocks.

Not wanting to destroy my own happiness, I simply picked up the cupcake and brushed off a few rocks. “That oughta do it,” I thought.  I sat down at my table, and in the space of the low-lit backyard, I bit into my cupcake. Immediately, I found myself chewing on a rock.   “No worries!” I thought. I spit out the rock and bit again. The next bite was rock-free, and included a chocolate chunk. Happily, I bit again. Another rock. Another discreet spit into my hand. And so on. I was not going to let the possibility of yet another rock ruin my goal of finishing that frosted goodness.

That’s me in a nutshell. For my entire life, I simply refuse to let any obstacles get in my way. There is always a solution. Just like Pollyanna, who kept smiling in her wheelchair even after she fell from the tree, I like to think that everything will turn out o.k. Just as the blind girl from “Ice Castles” kept on skating, I refuse to think that even the rose petals that get thrown at me will make me fall down. I will shout “Donna Martin Graduates!” over and over again, until justice prevails. Nothing is impossible if you don’t stop believin’.  I can fix it.  There is always good in the world.  Things happen for a reason.

That is, until now. For the first time in my life, I give up. Everywhere I turn, I’m climbing through an impossible one-person maze, and I simply cannot find my way out. I can’t convince or validly argue the points as to why someone should let me out. I can’t come up with an easy solution to set myself free.  I’m stuck.

Our family’s dream vacation to Europe to celebrate our daughter’s 13th birthday that I described in my previous blog? We weren’t going to let fear stop us from going on this journey. Guess what? ISIS won. We simply can’t fight a global travel warning and escalating danger. We’re not going.

My daughter’s continued connection to her faith and friends that was fostered through her 2 years at Jewish summer camp that I also described in my previous blog? We lose again, due to the 100 year-old camp suddenly and without warning changing its admission policy to give priority to kids that have been attending the longest. The result? My Lauren, who took a huge leap of faith to attend a brand new camp in a brand new state at age 11, becomes the only one of her multitude of friends not admitted to the program. Even worse- she loses trust that there is beauty in the religion that we tried so hard to teach her to love.

Lately, every single day of my life is met with a level of frustration I didn’t know existed. I see people in impossibly dangerous situations that they cannot seem to change. There are children in danger due to their parent’s fears for their own safety.  I turn on the news and see sheer evil and pure hatred. I see racism, hypocrisy, and terror. There are people with guns shooting abortion clinics based on the concept that life is valuable. There are known terrorists entering our country with the intent to kill Americans, who can legally buy guns here even though the President would rather they not be able to do so.  Others choose their own financial agenda over our nation’s safety.

In the past months, those that I have trusted or believed in have suddenly let me down. People stir up trouble for their own sheer amusement, and then refuse to help when I am left cleaning up their mess.

I can’t find the humor that I used to see everywhere. It all seems so trivial to me now. I went on a “vacation” last weekend with 5 weight loss doctors: 4 of whom are my own personal weight-loss physicians. There was humor everywhere on that trip. I wrote a truly hilarious blog about my experience, but ultimately decided not to post it when I realized that the thing I love most about my life-making my readers laugh-doesn’t make me happy right now.  I’m not a good faker.  I want to laugh right along with you-but I can’t smile when I’m just so heartbroken all the time.

I want to believe that everyone around me will one day be fighting right alongside with me again, instead of against me. I want to know that I can climb onto a table, screaming for change-Norma Rae style, and that those below me on the factory floor will cheer from below.  I want them to shout their support for what is right in the situation, instead of hiding from it, or worse, aggravating it simply to protect their own well-being.

I really want to go back to believing that I can simply munch and spit my way through a cupcake filled with rocks. But I have become the person who picks up that cupcake without even looking at it, and throws it away because it’s obviously useless.

Especially now. Now, I can’t see anything turning out alright in the end.  Not when I’m fighting everyone from ISIS to Political Parties to Controlling, Abusive Men and Lying, Scheming Women to Summer Camp Organizations With Selfish Motivations.  Not when I’m fighting a war I am simply ill-equipped to battle.

“We are how we treat each other and nothing more.”  That is the saying from Lauren’s summer camp.  If this is to be taken literally, then each and every person is really only as good as the good they do for others.  And if they do no good towards others, if they only commit acts of hatred or behave unethically towards the people in their world, then are simply bad people.

I don’t want to believe that people are either good or they are bad-nothing more.  But I think that Camp Tamarack is right.  Lately, there is just no middle ground.  Learning this as an adult is very hard.  Watching a child realize it is painful and just wrong.

But I simply don’t believe anymore that there’s anything I can do to make any of it better.

 

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