Monthly Archives: February 2017

Me & Pepperdine Law

 

DCF 1.0

Me as a 1L (August 2008)

In October 2007, in the midst of what now seems like a mid-life crisis my wife and I concluded that I would apply to law school, so I went to Barnes & Noble to purchase an LSAT study book and signed up for the December administration and secretly began to imagine where we might end up.

Initially, there were two schools on the list.  Ole Miss was a strong choice for a Mississippi resident, but I also had dreams of Pepperdine two thousand miles away.  I had visited the breathtaking campus once for the Pepperdine Bible Lectures and spent time with my good friend, Mikey, who taught English there, and the idea of law school at Pepperdine was how I imagined it would feel to win the lottery.

Here I am, over nine years later, and I am pretty sure that I won the lottery.

My wildest dreams did include law school at Pepperdine, but nowhere in those wildest dreams did I think it would be my home for nine consecutive years.  Well, during my first semester of law school, I did think that it might take nine years to learn enough to graduate (if ever) but once I survived that first semester it never occurred to me that I might have the honor to work in this special place for six years after law school.

Tomorrow, I hear there is some sort of farewell party as I transition into a new role as the preaching minister for the University Church of Christ here on campus.  This is directly backwards.  I should be throwing a party for the law school out of sheer gratitude for these past nine years.

I learned so much from the faculty, many of whom became close friends.  I was a proud member of the staff and developed deep relationships as we worked together.  But the students…well, I don’t even know how to begin to describe how special the students have been to me.  From being a student to serving them, spending time with students has been my deepest honor.

Meetings with prospective students.  Move-in days at the George Page apartments.  Launch Weeks.  Freak-out moments.  Personal tragedies.  “Is-law-school-right-for-me-after-all” conversations.  Academic successes.  Academic challenges.  Final exams.  A zillion emails.  Facebook groups.  Administrative announcements.  Just for 1Ls/2Ls/3Ls.  APIL auctions.  Santa Anita horse races.  Orange books.  Dodgeball tournaments.  Quiet gyms.  Saturday morning runs in Santa Monica.  Law school dinners.  Student organization events.  Open conversations.  Global village days.  Sack lunch Saturdays.  Interfaith evenings.  Sunday morning Bible studies.  Wednesday nights at the Gashes.  Thanksgiving dinners.  Job searches.  Moral character applications.  Graduation celebrations.  The dark days of bar summers.  Bar lunches.  Swearing-in ceremonies.  Even officiating twelve weddings!

View More: http://emmaandjosh.pass.us/howaniecwedding

It is all too much to capture in words right now.  I can just say that it has been a deep honor to walk alongside impressive human beings on an arduous journey.

We law school folks say that law school is a marathon, not a sprint.  Mine took nine years.  And it was awesome.

Advertisements

Put Me In Coach

3“Baseball, it is said, is only a game.  True.  And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.” – George F. Will

Baseball is back, and I am happy.  Somewhere in the lazy sunshine, major league teams are taking the field for the first games of spring training, and all is right in the world.  Who am I kidding, all is not right in the world, but when you need a distraction because the world may be going to Crazyland—and reports are that it may have already boarded the plane—some opt for pictures of cute puppies and others choose a stiff drink, but I prefer baseball.

My team is the St. Louis Cardinals.  Tomorrow, 2,685 miles away in Jupiter, Florida, my beloved Redbirds will take on the Miami Marlins for their first game of the new season.  It is so far away from my house that it might as well be on the planet, Jupiter, but all I need to know is that baseball has awakened and that a new season is on the way.  I love how baseball wakes up with the sun in the early spring, hits its stride in the summer heat, reaches its conclusion in the picturesque fall, and hibernates through the dark winter.  So today, as far as I’m concerned, despite the calendar, spring has sprung.

Now truth be told, our mortal enemy, the Chicago Cubs, remains World Series champions, and they have the best lineup in baseball—again.  But this is baseball, and hope springs eternal.  You just never know what might happen.  Heck, listen to me, the Chicago Cubs are reigning World Series champs.  It is undeniable that anything is possible.

That anything is possible may be my favorite way that baseball reflects life.  So on this glorious weekend, wherever you happen to be in the seasons of life, remember that spring is somewhere in the rotation.  Where anything is possible.

The Party Spirit – Not Necessarily as Fun as It Sounds

george-washingtons-farewell-addressGeorge Washington’s 285th birthday is two days away, my how the time flies, but today marks the federal holiday in his honor.  Close to half of these United States extends the holiday to all presidents, but I live in one of the many states that sticks with the federal designation of “Washington’s Birthday” in honor of the man known as the father of this country.

Washington served as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, a position he notably resigned after its stunning victory to retire to his farm in Virginia, but public service called again when he was elected as the new nation’s first president.  Washington never joined a particular political party, however, and warned against “the spirit of party” in his famous Farewell Address—an interesting admonition given today’s polarized society.

Washington argued that the party spirit is natural and pervasive and produces desires for (and acts of) revenge that lead a nation away from liberty and eventually toward despotism.  As a result, Washington argued that it is the “duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain” the party spirit.

“It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.”

Now it’s funny, I can picture readers from various political viewpoints reading much more into this than I intend.  My critique is of all and my point is simple: Encourage coming together, and discourage choosing up sides.  Unity good.  Polarization bad.  That would be my party platform should I have one, but ironically, a Unity Party is a contradiction in terms.

President Washington concluded his remarks on the party spirit with the following dire warning: “A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”

Thanks for the heads-up, Mr. General President Washington.  And happy birthday.

Ch-Ch-Changes

overwhelmed

I was just a toddler when David Bowie released “Changes,” reportedly a throw-away ditty that with time became one of his best-known songs.  “Changes” seems a fitting title track for the world today, but as I attempt to accomplish the trifecta of moving houses, jobs, and offices in the next week or so, I kind of have it stuck in the old noggin for personal reasons.

There are benefits to moving, of course.  Like mental and physical exhaustion.  The aroma of cardboard.  An urge to google “hoarder assessment quiz.”  Noble attempts at impossible to-do lists.  Locating unused muscle groups.  Discovering spiders in little-trafficked areas of the house.  Mental and physical exhaustion.  Did I mention that one already?  Forgetfulness.

But don’t forget the magical feeling of a fresh start that comes along for the ride, too.  And the opportunity to throw away junk and live more simply.  And the glorious break from the old routine to attempt to create a better routine.  And the sudden appearance of the word “possibilities” in daily conversations.  Changes can be downright invigorating, and I for one am excited by the prospect in spite of the unavoidable challenges.

“I hate moving” seems to be the natural and popular thing to say.  But I sure love getting somewhere, and it stands to reason that it is hard to get somewhere if you are immovable.

Alone but Not Lonely on Valentine’s Day

1“Love cares more for others than for self.” – Paul (1st Corinthians 13, MSG)

Tomorrow, on Valentine’s Day, my beautiful wife will be relaxing in a luxury hotel in Maui, which sounds fabulously romantic except for the fact that I will be at work 2500 miles away.

Sigh…

To explain, our oldest daughter teaches at a school that hosts a major fundraising event each year, and last year’s event included a trip for two to Maui as a raffle prize.  Guess who won?!  Somewhat surprisingly, she chose to take her mother along as her plus one, which I think is fantastic on multiple levels.  My wife thinks it may primarily be so that mom will pay for the non-free portions of the trip, but even if so, it is what we call a “win-win” in the negotiation business.

Except for me, that is, who will be home alone enjoying a meal prepared by my favorite Italian chef, Mr. Chef Boyardee.

In the spirit of planning ahead, my wife and I created another daughter a couple of decades ago on the off-chance that our oldest daughter won a trip for two to Maui and invited her mother along on Valentine’s Day so that I would have another beautiful person to spend time with on such a special holiday.  But that kiddo is 1100 miles away at college in Seattle.

Despite the three beautiful women in my life, I guess that I am destined to be alone this Valentine’s Day.

And yet I am genuinely happy.  Seriously.  No, I like those three human beings as much as you can like anyone ever and would love to spend time with them all, but it is so fun to stop and imagine the memories Jody and Erica will make together in Maui this week as well as how much Hillary enjoys being in Seattle.  Love does that sort of thing to you.  It produces genuine feelings of peace and joy when the objects of your love are blissfully happy without a second thought about what that means for you.

It doesn’t always look so great on paper, but I’m telling you that love is where it’s at.

Avoiding a Repeat of History

charleston-picI set my alarm for 5:30am most every morning, but when I did so on Tuesday in Charleston, South Carolina, it was actually 2:30am for the old California-tuned biological clock.  But I got up anyway and met a new friend in the hotel lobby for an early morning run.  We ran four miles through that beautiful city with its gas lamps, stately mansions, cobblestone streets, peaceful waterfront, and general gorgeous-ness before the sun really even thought about making an appearance.  It was great—the run, the conversation, the city, the sights, and the weather.

When we first located the ocean on our run (fyi, those oceans aren’t always as easy to find as you might think), my new friend pointed toward a gleaming set of lights in the distance and said casually, “Oh, there’s Fort Sumter.”

I nearly had to stop running.  Fort Sumter.  Where the American Civil War began, a fact I taught an unknown number of teenaged history students a few decades and careers ago.  I knew Fort Sumter was in Charleston but hadn’t thought about it in the days leading up to this hastily-planned business trip and surely didn’t expect to see it pointed out in casual conversation.

That location, sitting silent in the darkness, is where the citizens of my country chose up sides and literally started killing each other.

Times are a little crazy right now, and I don’t wish to sound overly dramatic, but a professor friend of mine who is an expert on Lincoln has pointed out more than once recently that our current political climate reminds him of the decade leading up to the American Civil War.  Surely such a thing couldn’t happen again?  Could it?

Not if I have anything to do about it.  And I do.  We all do.

While Fort Sumter sat silently in the distance, I considered the contrasting metaphor of our morning run where two American brothers ran side by side in the same direction sharing deep thoughts and good stories.  That was nice.  We did, however, meet people traveling different directions than us, and as we tend to do in the South (and as this Southern boy does wherever I happen to be), we said hello in warm greetings to those traveling in the exact opposite direction.  That was nice, too.

Now don’t get me wrong: There is a time and a place to stand in opposition to others.  And we should.  But there is also a way to treat your brothers and your sisters when you stand in opposition, and when the collective decision concludes that the best way to do so is to pick up weapons and start shooting each other, then something went horribly wrong a long time ago.

Something may have already gone wrong in this country of ours a long time ago.  If so, I suggest that we find a way to reverse course before some random runner a couple of centuries from now is jarred by the sight of the place where we once again chose a violent answer.

Respect the Animal

pepperdineSo we get that we are spoiled.  We have lived on the stunning campus of Pepperdine University for nine years now, which just isn’t fair.  Perched high on a mountainside overlooking the Pacific Ocean in sunny Malibu, the campus is consistently ranked one of the most beautiful in the world.  I heard that a federal judge once said that Pepperdine is the sort of place where God would live if he had the money.

As if the geographic setting wasn’t enough, there are deer that lazily wander around the campus as if they own the place.  They drive our hard-working groundskeepers crazy, but the beautiful deer are popular with the steady stream of campus visitors who just can’t believe that such a place exists.

But once every year or two we receive notice of a mountain lion sighting somewhere on campus.  Not cool, but balancing living in breathtaking beauty with a fleeting moment of potential terror every year or two is not a terrible trade off.

And then there is now.  There have been eleven mountain lion sightings in the last six weeks.  An expert came in to advise the University, and we were told that “[t]he expert expressed with confidence that this is a healthy mountain lion, moving within its territory, and acting normally.”  There is no good news anywhere in that sentence.  I have no desire to live in the territory of a normal, healthy mountain lion.  If forced to coexist, I’d prefer a mountain lion that’s sort of antisocial and experiencing a curious loss of appetite.

We were also provided a list of tips on how to respond if we encounter a mountain lion.  I’m not very excited about most of the items, including “Do NOT run,” which seems like the sort of advice the mountain lion would give instead.  And, “Appear as large, loud, and powerful as possible,” which if you know me, really just isn’t possible at all.

My friends often comment on the pace of my morning runs.  One word, my friends: Motivation.

There is one piece of advice, however, that I am particularly good at: “Respect the animal.”  Done.  No problemo.

In this crazy, crazy world of ours filled with fear of each other and the “other” and the toxic vitriol that such fear produces, I wonder how much progress would come if we chose to truly respect one another.

It supposedly works with mountain lions.

What Gives Me Hope

interfaith-group-2017As nostalgia sets in at the prospect of leaving the law school, the privileges I enjoy become more pronounced.  One of my favorites has been hosting the Interfaith Student Council.

Early this week, sixteen wonderful people—fourteen law students, one undergraduate student, and one lawyer—showed up for an evening of discussion (the lawyer took the picture above!).  This fine group represented various flavors of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Atheism.

The leaders offered two potential topics for the evening: a heavy discussion about the controversial Trump immigration executive order, and a lighter discussion of dating practices in various faith traditions.  The group decided to do both and briefly discuss the heavy topic before moving to the lighter topic.  It may be unsurprising in the rear view mirror, but we never made it past the first.

Early in the conversation, one of the kindest people I have ever known shared a personal story that involved a close acquaintance sharing things that characterized this person’s entire religion in a terrible light.  I don’t think this kind soul has the capacity for anger, but there was definite hurt.  And confusion.  I mean, what do you do when someone you know portrays you and everyone in your faith as evil?

Everyone tried to help, and a good conversation ensued.

Later on, after the conversation took several twists and turns, a different student spoke up—one who comes from the faith that was used to characterize the other student as evil—and directed remarks back to that tough situation.  And she apologized.  She apologized on behalf of her entire faith.  And then she started crying, which made the other student start crying, and if we weren’t careful it was going to get all of us but they hugged it out and gave us a fighting chance.

If I am honest, as I sit here and type away, you know how your tears like to hang out in your upper cheekbones watching television and how they stand up and put their shoes on when you start thinking about touching moments like this one?  Well, maybe that is happening right now, but you’ll never know.

At the end of the evening, I asked everyone what gives them hope when times seem dark.  Folks shared some great answers, but I have to tell you that what gives me hope is an evening like that one and an encounter like the one between those two wonderful students.

Some may look at the world right now and just see stormy weather, but in that one embrace I believe I saw a break in the clouds.