Saturday, December 11, 2010

Problem Solving

I have been the Legal Assistance Attorney, Officer-in-Charge, of my little kingdom for over 7 months now.  I even have business cards with gold-embosed print.  I've learned a lot (spread your hands as far apart as possible, then triple that) in the last 7 months.

Legal Assistance is the forgotten step-child of the Judge Advocate responsibilities.  Congress deemed this service important for our military, and it most definitely is.  Every knows about Prosecution and Defense, and most people know about the lawyers that provide legal guidance to decision makers (staff judge advocates),  both are absolute requirements to the functionality of the the Military and justice.  But no one really thinks about the lonely lawyers helping to prevent an eviction, stay a civil law suit, write letters for child support.  Yeah, I've got a big office, but that allows me to have my married clients talk to me about all the issues regarding their house in foreclosure, or for the going-to-get-a-divorce client with her three under-five-years-old children explain how the servicemember has not made life easy.

I like to explain my job as all the other random legal problems people run into: divorce, death, wills, child support, home-buying/selling...and my list doth go on.

As the Random Legal Problems Attorney, I'm often left to my own devices with rare supervision and plenty of legal woes.  I am the Capt Belt-Buckle of the SJA: Alone and Un-Afraid!  And I'm never at a loss of work or research gluing me to my overly large desk--my very own government constructed fighting hole.  I digress.  Research and Legal Woes: Google is the Best legal search tool I have--better than those two dominate legal search engines.  But even with Google, I do not find the Answers.  I only find law or facts or blocked websites.  That information I gather must then be translated into understandable stuff via analysis.  I have begun to MacGyver my own legal sounding board--when my supervision is too busy to answer my inquires.

In my "alone-and-unafraid" mentality in my legal kingdom, I've grown the practice of asking questions on everything, literally.  "Yes, I remember the answer the last seven times, but maybe common sense has struck in the three days since I last asked."  When I have a question that needs answering and I'm the man for the job--usually because it is my job--I've leaned on my fellow lonely legal assistance attorneys when the answer was not immediately available in my mind.  However, I had to stop that almost cold turkey when I realized I have 6 months more experience than my closest ally--Yeah, I'm his source of info now.  Wasn't method of getting answers either.

Now, to fill the knowledge and experience gap I lay everything down in an email to an attorney I trust--normally someone placed in the state of the issue.  Then I go through the facts, legal problems, and possible solutions that I've typed.  I just hammer away at the keys explaining my problem to whomever I planned to email.  At some point during the email I've found a path to follow or the answer itself .  So I print the email for my records and communicate with my client.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Travels of Book

Some time ago, for I do not have the exact date nor even a set of years, only some time before 1928 for sure, somewhere in Great Britain and probably on a wet and cold day, for it is always wet and cold in Great Britain, a book was created.  It was probably one of several thousands of books created by that factory on that day, in that month of that year.  The book is made of paper and a hard cover and a couple of color pictures.  The hard cover is a faded blue, maybe green with a picture of the Frog Prince and his princess.  It is titled Grimm's Fairy Tales, The Brothers Grimm.
The book flops open, offering no resistance because of a thoroughly broken spine, to reveal yellowing pages.  The color on the inside cover pages has spotted and faded over the passage of time.  In the upper right hand corner of the first page in careful script are owner and year: MargarET KAYLEY, XMAS 1928.
As the flattened book lays on my desk, it's stained pages scream a fascinating story.  When was the book really published?  When did the blue book of fairy tales become a gift?  Who gave it?  Who was Margaret Kayley?  How did her book travel from Great Britain to a flee market in Yamaguchi City, Yamaguchi Prefecture, the southern part of the main island of Japan in 2010?

 Ward, Lock & Co, Limited published the book.  H.G., whoever that man is, wrote the preface detailing the task the Grimm Brothers undertook when collecting the Dutch and German fairy tales.  Butler & Tanner, Ltd, Frome and London printed the book, but in what year I do not know.
The information source (the internet) tells me that Ward, Lock & Co was swallowed by Orion Publishing or Octobus Publishing sometime ago, but Ward, Lock were publishing books back in 1854 and started on Fleet Street, London. 

How the lonely little book traveled from Great Britain to Japan is probably a good story.  Did it come immediately to some English family living in Japan to change hands during WWII and then again after the war and eventually travel the fllee market realm?  Or was it given to some family the British Isle to then travel the world at a later date?  Or was it within an American family's hands until someone brought it to Japan and left the book in a box for donations. 

Whatever the story, how a book travels around the world is always interesting.  What does this book say?

Monday, November 8, 2010


The Marine Corps is great at Hype. The Few, The Proud, The Marines.

The commercials and recruiting posters are all designed to create and reinforce the belief that the Marines are special and separate from the other armed services - a cut above the rest. We climb cliffs without support gear, march in Dress Blues with WWII rifles, and fight Lava Monsters with swords.

We are separate and different from the other services, I know that and so do my fellow Marines and the other services.

We are in that time of year, The Birthday Ball, where Marines around the world come together to celebrate our creation in a tavern. For Iwakuni, we hold our Ball in the gym. It is a far cry from the Gaylord Hotel just south of DC where the Commandant's Birthday Ball has been held. We make due. In fact the front entrance of the gym has been fitted with a faux Tun Tavern. Other Marines are in Afghanistan with MREs and dust.

I think what is most important are the preparations within the gym. Every community board has been covered with some quote someone has said about the Marine Corps throughout history. Each quote is a reinforcement of our initial indoctrination.

"The Marine Corps is special. It is better. It is unique. We are Marines!"

All of our history lessons are Marine successes and how the Marine Corps saved this or that battle. We create a mythological Corps that has never done any wrong. This itself is a problem. We are oppressed by our history, sometimes. We rarely allow room for mistake, of any kind, from our officers or our enlisted. Some of this, too, is from the general shift in society--a non-military civilian populace looking to control the perceived excesses of the military probably based in large part on Vietnam.

I think another problem that our Hype creates is an attraction to a certain of person. A person attracted to Action - the unthinking desire to just Do. This is probably part of why we have the highest court-martial rate of the five services and one of the higher vehicle/motorcycle/drinking death rates. Thrill-seekers and adrenaline junkies are our bread and butter, and not overly inclined to rigid discipline. Most work through this phase in their first tour and either become Marine leaders or productive members of civilian society.

The Marine Corps spends plenty of time trying, almost in vain it seems, to negate this unthinking desire to just act. We give countless briefs on drinking, driving, abuse, and generally "don't be a jackass". I probably sit through at least one a month. It is part of the Modern Day Marine Society - the Safety Stand-down Brief. On top of that, a large percent of Marine Corps training goes to being a thinking Marine.

I do not think it is a bad thing to attract such people drawn to Action. We need them. They are the men and women we want on that wall, we need them on that wall. And, Yes, I'm paraphrasing Jack Nicholson. They are the ones that will shoot back at our enemies before thinking.

We need to make sure that the Hype reinforces itself by highlighting the men and women that stood up in a hail of fire and took that hill. We need to reinforce the Hype to make sure that the current men and women know that others have done it and, perhaps, each of us can do it - that each of us can be a cut above the rest, that we are United States Marines.

Our Hype is a double-edged sword - both publicity and discipline. We attract people drawn to danger and we discipline them when they act recklessly.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Birthright Citizenship

Before reading anything I write, read this: E.J. Dionne Jr. - Is the GOP shedding a birthright?

At some point members of the GOP announced in the open that they doubt the decisions of their political ancestors. They questioned in public and in front of the media the merits of the first sentence of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment. "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside."

Those words are incredibly important. When the Amendment was crafted it directed that EVERY slave IS an American citizen. It overturned and utterly rejected the unholy Dred Scott decision of 1857 that stated a slave--even born and living his or her entire life in the United States--was not and never would be a citizen. In the 1850s and the 1860s, the debate raged among the enfranchised--you know, those men, primarily Anglo-Saxon--about an important phrase in the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."

Lincoln spent years contemplating the meaning of "all men are created equal" and how that can hold true with slavery. He argued that for created equal means everyone must be at the same basic level--that every person born or naturalized in the United States has the rights of a citizen. He rejected the reasoning in the Dred Scott case for the belief that skin color was not the gauge for a person's ability to succeed or rule himself. He did not argue for complete social equality, just equality to citizenship. That is what Dred Scott was denied by the Supreme Court in 1857--the Rights and Privileges of citizenship.

When the 14th Amendment was crafted, it was meant to ensure that the former slaves were able to vote, own land, hold office, and sue in court. The three words "all persons born" prevented Southern whites from restricting citizenship by requiring Naturalization tests to obtain citizenship. The 14th Amendment is broader that slavery--it says "All persons" not all slaves. Every person in is a Citizen if born or Naturalized.

Racism ultimately prevented the successful exercise of these rights in the South for nearly 100 years, but gems of equality still prevailed. One example is the son of Chinese immigrants returning to the United States after visiting his parents in China. The incidents happened in 1894, a 21 year old American of Chinese decent returned to San Francisco, where he'd grown up and resided, from China. The customs agent refused him entry--because he was not one of the protected immigrants allowed under the Chinese Immigrant Act-- and refused to believe he was an American citizen born in San Francisco. The American of Chinese decent sued. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor in 1898. He was born in the United States and he is therefore entitled to the protections of a citizen, according to the 14th Amendment and English common law.

The problems I have with the Criticism of our "Birthright Citizenship" are the claims that illegal immigrants would purposefully come to the United States just to "drop" a child and then voluntarily leave, and what do we do when we strip the "Birthright Citizenship" from our Constitution.

I find it improbable that a mother would come to the United States for the sole purpose of having a child and then leaving. I can believe wanting to have a child in the United States and then staying to enjoy the benefits of living in our country. I can even believe that illegal immigrant parents would use their child's US citizenship to stay in the country. But leaving immediately after delivering just makes no sense to me. There is too much paperwork involved to get a passport and birth certificate. How does an illegal immigrant go into a passport office to request a passport for a child? I can see using the child later to get a visa to enter the country--which does happen and is encouraged for those illegal immigrants with American citizen children. But that process requires that they leave the United States and wait like everyone else. It just doesn't make sense to me.

Okay, say that the Birthright citizen is stripped from the Constitution, how is citizenship determined? That 1898 case explains that England common law has used the Birthplace as citizenship for nearly 500 years before the United States adopted the Constitution--which adopted English common law. The case explains an alternative--the Roman Standard. The Roman Standard bases citizenship on the parent's citizenship. So, those illegal immigrants would not be able to get American citizenship for their babies just by coming to the United States for birth.

But how does anyone in the United States have US citizenship. How far back do we go to strip Birthright citizenship. I know I'm a decedent of immigrants from Europe and the Caribbean. In fact, every person in the Western Hemisphere is a decedent of a Traveler--humans are not Native to this Hemisphere, no matter what you call the First People.

Okay, how about we draw the line at everyone from this day forth, that is standard for Amendments--no retroaction. I'm an American, my wife is American, our future children will be American. My good friend is Japanese and her husband is French they live in DC, their children will be not American even if born in DC. If their children are raised and live their entire lives in the United States, they will never be citizens, they will never know a homeland.

How do we then determine citizenship? Naturalization test. Why should my friend's future children be required to take a test when they've grown up learning and be indoctrinated into the American mindset when my future children would be the exact same? This sounds like discrimination based on national origin--something else prevented by the Constitution. Great conflicting parts of the Constitution. The later controls--bye-bye equal protection clause, also part of the 14th Amendment.

Why shouldn't we have all future children be required to take a naturalization test? Wait, we do--it is the indoctrination children receive in the American Education System--no matter how bad the education system. American History, Government, Economics, Math, Science, English, Literature, Foreign Languages, etc. All of our subjects--no matter how anti-American in design--are geared towards showing a difference between American and Non-American. By the time an American child reaches 18 most will never live in another country, most will never have the desire to leave to live in a different country. We are raised to believe we live in the shiny beacon of human society--that our Republican Democracy is the best form of government. Most Americans never seek citizenship to another country.

That is the real Naturalization test--whether a person seeks to become the citizen of another country. We are a nation of immigrants and we should encourage the children of immigrants to strengthen our country.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Learning India

This past weekend, Jessica and I attended a three-fold celebration: a baby shower, a 60th wedding anniversary, and graduation celebration. 

Colors, music, talking and standing Indian men surrounded us early on.   The lovely pregnant woman and her younger sister sit on the love seat accepting the blessings and prayers from female relatives and close family friends.  Perfumes, oils and incense are waived before their faces, then oils and spices are spread across their cheeks and forehead, and, finally, rice is thrown into their hair.  The men did not offer blessings.  I guess it was not our place to bless a pregnant woman.

In the hour Jessica and I watched the child-blessing ceremony, we saw 30 or more women bless Smirthi and Swati.  The parade of blessings began with two women and a man chanting in an old language.  The chanting lasted close to 15 minutes.  At most Indian events, we have heard the chanting.  At Swati’s wedding ceremony the chanting began and ended every significant event: the engagement ceremony, the trading of gifts, the blessings, music and celebration, and throughout the entire wedding ceremony.  I should not have been surprised when I heard the chanting begin, but I was. 

As with every other Indian ceremony and celebration I have had the opportunity to attend, everyone except those at the center of the celebration is talking.  An Indian religious ceremony is a social event, not merely a solemn rite.  I think that is something lacking in Christian ceremonies.

In 2008, Jessica and I were invited to ten weddings.  We were able to attend five (several overlapped other weddings or me taking the Bar).  Four were variations of the traditional Christian wedding and the fifth was an Indian wedding.  At each of the Christian wedding ceremonies, people sat or stood during the ceremony.  We paid attention to the bride and her groom and listened avidly to their vows and smile at their unabashed love for each other.  Socializing was before or after the ceremony and largely restricted to the specific events designated for celebration and socialization, like the rehearsal dinner (the get-to-know-the-other-family dinner) and the reception.  At the Indian wedding, 300 plus people socialized during the entire four hour ceremony, at times requiring the priest/monk to ask the designated MC to tell everyone to be quiet so a particular rite could be performed without interruption.  While the Christian Bride and Groom are the center of attention for the day and the eye of a storm, the Indian Bride and Groom are the calm at the center of a category 5 hurricane for three days of social ceremonies.  Privacy and clear thought are for those on the outside of the hurricane.
This last week, at the baby shower for Smirthi, again the celebrants socialized and seemed to pay little heed to the reason to be at the party.  Do not take this to mean that Indians do not respect their own religious traditions.  Much the opposite.  As Jessica was pulled by Jothi, the Grandmother-To-Be, to the next in line to give blessings, I moved to a typical male Indian position and role: proud on looker and cameraman.  I stood off to the side of the love seat and took a dozen pictures of Jessica and the lucky mother-to-be.  From that vantage, I could see that all aspects of the event center around those women.  The women folk, able to become pregnant and bring life into the world, offer their blessings to the newest mother and life-giver, while the men folk smile and talk and help maintain the familial ties.  The socializing during the event ensures that the family ties are maintained and strengthened.  Possible new connections are made and family politics play. 

Never was I told from my Indian sources that I should beware of talking to one relative about politics, issues, or another relative.  At no point did I have the feeling that I would be endanger of offending a member of the family.  It seems as though this large and extended family had no in fighting.  I know this is not true—common sense and past experience tells me that.  But at the family event, all the problems that may be under the surface are not invited into the celebration.

Every individual invited is brought into the fold of the family, like Jothi pulling Jessica to the front to offer good health blessing to Smirthi and “get pregnant vibes” to Swati.  The Indian heart is large and encompasses the family friends.  The ceremony is a reason to the pull the family together and ensure that the family renews its ties—beyond email, facebook, and phone calls.

In addition to all that I have learned about Indians, I have not learned much of India.  I have learned of the people that have come to the United States and have grown up here, but of India, I only know its successful, hard working, and opened hearted class of people.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Not Your Mother's Grilled Cheese Sandwich

I did up Grilled Cheese Sandwiches for dinner.  The normal method is two slices of bread and a slice of cheddar cheese.  Stick on pan, let cheese melt a little, flip, brown or burn some, then serve and eat--usually with some soup.

My Grilled Cheese Sandwich is not that simple or normal.

Grilled PPC Sandwich

  • Pepperoni
  • Provolone
  • Cheddar
  • Bread
  • Butter (or whatever you doctor says is good for you)
  1. Crispy the pepperoni.  I wrapped up four pieces of pepperoni in a paper towel and microwaved them for 20 seconds.  
  2. Butter the outside of the bread
  3. Heat frying pan (medium heat--for electric stoves, you will need to turn the heat down as you make more).  Throw some butter in the pan.  
  4. Put one slice of bread in pan, butter side down.  (Ignore the Dr. Seuss book about the correct side for butter.)
  5. Place the slice of provolone on, then pepperoni slices, top with cheddar, then put the other slice of bread on with the butter side up.
  6. Flip the stack when the cheese has melted enough and you think the bread is browning.
Eat and Enjoy!

Most of the ingredients are interchangeable with the ones you would like better.  Munster works well.  Lunch meat tastes good, but it should be cut down some to allow the cheese to bind the bread together.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Fish Bowl

The Fish Bowl is not about one fish a bowl, it is about a school of fishes in a bowl.

When Jessica and I arrived in Iwakuni, we were told that we lived in a Fish Bowl--a small town where everyone knows each others business.  I believed those people.

Conceptually, I understood the meaning and thought I had experienced the Fish Bowl.  Because of my billet as the legal assistance attorney, I know half of the gossip on the base and from the horse's mouth.  Because I am in the legal office I know most of the crimes on the base.  Because of both those things, I cannot go anywhere on base without seeing someone that has either walked through my door or been associated with something on the base.

Case in point: today I had lunch with Jessica at Crossroads.  Crossroads is the fast-food food court at the non-military business center of the base.  I arrived around the meet time, and hunted down a booth.  During my booth hunting, I saw a Marine that had asked me questions at a different social gathering.  I again told him to come in to my office--standard line for most things.  I grabbed a booth and while I waited for Jessica I saw several familiar faces, and one that came to ask questions about his/her case.

I want clients and potential clients to feel like they can approach me at any time.  Most won't because they think everyone will know their business--not because of me, but because human paranoia makes us think our private lives are public knowledge.

Another aspect that has made me know that Iwakuni is a Fish Bowl is the criminal case I was working on.  Several witnesses lived in the same building as the accused and the investigator.  Other witnesses lived in the same building as me.  Just like I live in the same building as some of my legal assistance clients.

And if they don't know me, they know Jessica.

The Fish Bowl is not about seeing through it or being on display.  The Fish Bowl is about being in close quarters with everyone else.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Commercial Perfect

Locked.  The car doors were locked.  We were in our workout clothes standing outside the gym.  We stood in the lite drizzle staring at one another and the car doors.  We had closed the doors and locked them.  Good.

However . . .  Our keys were in the car.  Jessica's were in her purse on the front console.  Mine were in my assault pack sitting on the back seat.

20 minutes latter we stood outside, huddled under a small, multi-colored umbrella watching a Corporal from the Provost Marshal's Office (military police) use a slim jim on the car door.  As we stood there, in the rain, a woman in gym clothes came out to her car.  Her car was parked next to ours.  She did not have any purse or keys.  She walked to the hatchback door, put her thumb to a small reader on the handle, unlocked the doors, pulled a bag out and ran back into the gym.

I will be buying a fingerprint car when I get back to the states.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Haneda Domestic Airport, Tokyo, Japan

After a 13 hour flight from Newark, NJ, USA, to Narita International Airport, Tokoyo, Japan, I gathered my two bags and bought a bus ticket and almost immediately walked onto the bus.  On my previous trips through Narita I did not need to leave the airport to catch the flight to a domestic airport or from one.  This time I was not lucky.  I had to leave Narita to catch my flight to Hiroshima.

The bus took me from Narita to Haneda Domestic Airport.  If you’ve ever been to the National Capital Region (DC area), then this will help.  Haneda is the National Airport as Narita is to Dulles.  They are about the same distance apart, too – an hour’s drive.

The big difference between Haneda and National is size.  I have been to at least a dozen airports in the US ranging in size from 11 gates to “Oh My God! I can’t find my wing of existence, much less my gate” (Chicago-O’Hare).  National has three terminals and only on busy days (usually holidays) are there throngs of people.
I don’t think today is a Japanese Holiday – I could be wrong – but Haneda has more people than Narita in it.  It is has about the same number of gates as National, but National only has this many people on Thanksgivings Day Torture flying days.  Part of the mass of bodies probably has to do with the six floor mall in Terminal 2.  Most the shops I’ve seen are food shops of one sort or another—mostly the Japanese equivalent of the normal airport stores.  I bought a water bottle from a vending machine instead of fighting through bodies to buy something.  I found a bench along the four story glass outer wall to sit at and type.

Yes, I’m back in Japan.  I’m a head taller than most everyone I see – including the few white people (I’m not going to assume Americans).  The signs are primarily in Kanji (I think) and have secondary signs in English (thank goodness I still read).  And I’m loving the fact that most the airport workers have passable English, which far surpasses the 15 Japanese words I know. 

Back to feeling the giant in the land of homogeneous, dark haired, pale tan skinned short people.  Back to being illiterate and dumb.  Jessica and I noted in December that we went from highly educated professionals with great communication skills to uneducated and stupid.  The thing that works in our favor is our ability to put 1 and 1 together and get 2.  That helped us when we went to Hiroshima by ourselves.  It helps now when getting through a non-internationally oriented airport.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Philosophy of Communication

On the day before my wedding I received plenty of advice on marriage.  The one that has stuck with me the longest, and I think is probably correct, should be applied to more than just marriage.

Uncle Jim, Jessica's great-uncle, said the secret to marriage is Communication.

I have known Jessica since we were in the fifth grade, 18 yrs now.  We dated for 2 years and were engaged for 4 years.  We maintained a long distance relationship for that entire time.  I think I can honestly say that my wife and I have a handle on a strong relationship.

The secret to success, as Uncle Jim said, is Communication.

Good advice--right?  It is only good advice if you know what Communication means.

In Izac's Dictionary of Ordinary Terms:
Communication = Talking + Listening + Understanding

For this discussion, Talking is done by the "first person," and Listening by the "second person."

Talking is the act of convening through words or gestures explicit or implicit ideas.  Talking is easy for most people.  The words or gestures a person uses are the manifestation of ideas.  Using the correct words or gestures go far in successful Communication.  Placing those words or gestures in an environment that clarify their meaning is just as important--the words or gestures must be in context.  The first person must create the context.

Listening is not passive.  It must be active.  Listening is when the second person in the communication adds meaning to the words or gestures from the first person.  This part leads to Understanding.  Listening is difficult.  Here the second person must discover the ideas intended by the first person's words or gestures.  There must be a meeting of the minds, to use a legal term of art.  Words have double means--sometimes triple.  It is important for the second person to put those words into the context given by the first person; just as the first person must use adequate words and gestures to ensure the context is there.

Understanding is when the words or gestures of the first person are given the correct meaning by the second person.  This is where most Communication breaks down.  Both parties can perform their parts correctly but still fail to understand each other.  Either the listener has not grasped the correct context and thus meaning; or the Talker has failed to adequately convey the ideas.

When the dialogue consists of Talking, Listening, and Understanding, then there is Communication.  Unfortunately, much of the world forgets to seek Understanding or forgets that Listening is active or that Talking must include context.

Anyways, the secret to Communication is talking, listening and understanding.  All must be often and in a give-and-take format.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Marine Lawyer's Frustration

After hours of power point in a temperature controlled, state-of-the art classroom, I have an urge. Standing around, milling about, and stuffing food into my mouth in between power point attacks only intensifies the urge.

As my mind drifts away from the dull digitalized slides, I long to take up my rifle, fit it into the pocket of my shoulder and sight in on the points of danger: the doors. That is my urge: take up my weapon and be a Marine.

I do not need cammie paint, I do not need to black out the shine from my tracks. I need my rifle and an objective.

I have a mission that strains only my ability to absorb useful information. The information is only icing on the three years I spent learning my craft. But neither the useful information nor my craft challenge me the same as my chosen profession. I want the Challenge to extend to all my capabilities. I want to fight sleep, a wandering mind, the cold, the humidity, the heat, hunger, the urge to relieve myself, and stay focused on the kill zone.

The urge is what makes me a Marine lawyer and not a Navy or Army or Air Force lawyer. The urge was fostered and nurtured in the six months of basic infantry officer training. The urge carries six months of field training that brings reality and further understanding to Operation Law--something that is not fully understood by my fellow Navy student lawyers.

Perhaps we could move class outside for a time. Dig fighting holes before we conduct a mock administrative separation board or a court-martial.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Every so often I have a moment, a flash, of profound insight. The flash is always the same, but the emotional assessment that follows brings a smile to my mind.

In these singular moments, while I am driving 700 miles from Rhode Island to Virginia or sitting in a Starbucks rewriting and writing my story, I sit back and look at what I have done. I take two points in my life and compare the differences. The first is always the present--the instant I am existing in when the flash occurs--and the second is at any time before that. Usually, the second is more than four years back and some major event, like graduation from high school or from college or turning ten.

The comparison is always to show me how my life has progressed. The assessment is not to judge mistakes or second guess myself--although, I do a fair amount of "what if" wanderings outside my moments. Theses moment are only to show a snapshot of the past next to a snapshot of the present.

I always smile because each snapshot shows me how I've grown into adulthood, how I've accepted responsibility, how I've become more than an individual.

I pay bills and taxes; I buy computers, laptops, and cars; I surf the net unrestricted by age; I read the newspaper to know what is going on in the world, not just for the comics; I have views on political issues and mundane frivolities.

When--a dangerous word, "when," it implies experiences in the kind of sentence I propose. When I was 18, I knew I was not experienced in anything, that I was just then stepping into a semi-adulthood. I was no longer required to attend school, I had the right to vote and express my opinions with an air of Right, rather than gracious tolerance.

When I was 22 I had dusted off some inexperience and had been drunk, legally. I had a better understanding of what "full" adulthood meant. And I had honest to God debt--both good and bad debt. I had a job, but a detoured future.

At both those prior snapshots, I had some insulation from full reality. I had my parents to stand beside me during college to pay for necessities and help fund any other desires. At 22 I had my parents, but standing farther back, and I had a paternal education system protecting me from my education debt--however, driving me into credit card debt.

Attaining adulthood for the "normal" person is in gradual steps. Take one at 10 yrs old when the parents decide that you can mow the lawn. Take another at 13 when you start high school. And another at 16, and 18 and 21. It is easier to see why people go into shock when they go from childhood to adulthood in a matter of minutes, hours, days or weeks. The process should take years, just like growing physically takes years.

When--there is that word again--I look at my snapshots, I see that I have been fairly lucky. Lucky to have a stable home and family to grow and develop in and from. Lucky to have embraced the responsibilities I need to enjoy adulthood.