Friday the 13th

I have pneumonia. I’d been fighting a cold that settled in for weeks, and on Monday my doc called it for pneumonia. I’m on a cocktail of drugs, and I am not contagious–but I am immunocompromised. That means I don’t get to leave the house.

Jon figured he’d run to Costco and grab dog food and cheese (we’re good on TP, thanks) and hahaha! The above is what he found. The lines went all the way to the back of the warehouse past the chillers and into the bakery. He opted out and came home. We have backup dog food. We can order online if we have to. Standing in that line for that long didn’t seem like a wise idea.

Jeffrey works at the German grocery store Lidl. Remember them? We’re a Lidl family apparently. He emailed his boss and told her that his mom is immunocompromised and asked to change his shift to overnights or to the warehouse. We’ll know tomorrow if he can. In the meantime, we have a protocol in place that he enters through the basement, leaves his shoes outside, changes his work clothes into the washer immediately, and showers before he comes upstairs. And I won’t be going downstairs. Fingers crossed…

Meanwhile, Abby is working on transposing her baritone music for french horn music, and Bean is unhappy about having his lacrosse season canceled (we’re going to try and walk up to the school and throw balls at him to keep him sharp. that should be fun), and Kels is homebound at her place.

I did a practice law school class yesterday with my CivPro professor, and it went well. We’ll see what happens on Monday morning when every college student around the country logs in. More fingers crossed…

By now we all know the US is woefully underprepared and we dont have the tests that would show who is carrying and contagious and who is not. That means we are likely spreading it far more than countries who are testing 10,000 people every day. This is alarming, and I sincerely hope and pray that the distancing and care we are all taking in how we interact will help mitigate the repercussions to the most vulnerable. It’s not you you’re protecting necessarily…but it’s the other people in your community who may not have your advantages of health, youth, or robust immune systems.

Be careful with each other. Jesus asked, “Who is your neighbor?” and we’ve pondered that questions ever since. We’ve equivocated and built fences and borders and walls, and tried to distance ourselves from people we wanted to consider others…and the answers we came up with were wrong.

It’s vividly clear, the correct answer—the answer for God—is: “Everyone.”

I Guess I’ll Just Write…

Because I have written though everything else, I guess now I get to write though a pandemic. When I started a decade and a half ago, I was a stay at home mom in an ordinary middle-class starter house with a baby and a toddler, idly wondering what my grandma thought about when she was my age doing the same thing with her three small kids.

I didn’t know I was going to have a surprise little girl. I didn’t know I was going to find my voice as a writer. I didn’t know my son was going to be diagnosed with autism. I didn’t know my husband was going get hooked on opiates. I didn’t know we would lose him over and over, until we finally lost him forever. I didn’t know I would be nearly homeless, and people would help and lift and rescue my and my children over and over. I didn’t know I would got back to school and write my way thorough it all. I didn’t know there would be a scholarship named after me. I didn’t know I would move across the continent and that I would fall in love again. I didn’t know how many times it would feel like the world was ending.

It wasn’t.

But it sure felt like it while it was happening. That’s the recurring theme, isn’t it? And here we are again…

What was supposed to be my spring semester of law school—another thing I didn’t know was in my future–is now a new, strange and unsettling patchwork of cobbled-together plans. I’m still a law student, but like nearly every other higher education institute in the country, my law school canceled all remaining classes this week, and moved all future learning for spring to online. I am sitting at home with my books piled around me, trying to figure out how to do this in isolation.

My children have all had their schools canceled, and my husband has been ordered to telecommute. We are fortunate that these options are open to us, and I fully acknowledge that fact. It also means there are six people living and working, every day, from a modest home, adding in two cats and a giant dog, and we are supposed to stay here for the foreseeable future.

As we hunker down, this new virus circles the globe. We only really know that it’s deadly to the elderly and the immunocompromised, and for some reason doesn’t seem to effect children as severely. School wasn’t called off here in Northern Virginia until this afternoon, but once both Jon and I were sent home earlier this week, I started keeping the kids home.

It’s frightening how fast things can change. Any illusions we have about being in control of life…of anything…are just blown away like dust. Poof. I don’t know what happens next–not for my family, not for my friends and neighbors, not for my country, not for the people around the world who are feeling the same fears for their loved ones as I am and you are. A pandemic doesn’t give a damn about lines on a map, and if one thing has been made super clear, it’s that we’re all neighbors.

Given that thought, I’m going to take a page out of Mister Rogers’ book moving forward, and I am going to look for the helpers. Things may get harder and scarier, and so I’m also going to look for places where I can be one of the helpers. It’s really impossible now to ignore the plain and precious truth that we are all in this together.

I’ll keep writing. I dont know what else to do.

Social Distancing is My Jam

Hey, y’all. Like everyone else, there are a million things I should be doing (and sanitizing) but instead I’m answering the call to sit down and write something that isn’t about contracts, property, or civil procedure, which is basically all I think (and dream, ugh) about anymore. There’s nothing quite like waking at 3 am every morning because you were having a nightmare about a CivPro Jeopardy gameshow and your little clicker wouldn’t work…

So first up…Law school. Holy shit y’all, it’s so hard. I’m clinging to a B average which is so embarrassing and uncomfortable for how hard I am working. How can I spend the time and energy on this that I do and barely be eeking out Bs? And yet here I am. I have two months left of my 1L year, and now not only are we at midterms for spring semester, but we’ve got this COVID19 virus thing happening and uncertainty hangs over every schedule and plan. Like the rest of the world, we don’t know what’s happening, but the law really doesn’t like uncertainty. Law school professors like it even less.

Here’s a secret: I think about quitting almost every day. And…so does almost everyone I know. Law school is not a happy place; it’s highly competitive, incredibly high-stress, high-pressure, high-workload, difficult and dense reading every day, and this semester they’ve got us an overload of 17 graduate level units. It’s damn near killing me.

I left for spring break last week with bronchitis, and then last night my doctor (over a video visit because they aren’t having anyone come in to the hospital unless absolutely necessary) said it’s morphed into pneumonia. So that’s fun. Did I mention mid-terms are next week? I have pneumonia.

In non-law-school news…

We’ve had one fire-drill after another so far for 2020. The girls attempted to bathe one of the cats (why….???), and in so-doing knocked the commode in their bathroom off its mornings, but we didn’t discover that until water started dripping through the kitchen ceiling. Juuuuust enough damage that we have to replace the kitchen ceiling, but juuuuust not enough that our homeowners policy deductible is met. Because of course. I did have the joy of removing the old toilet and installing a new one. So that was fun. The ceiling repair is beyond my desire to take on; we’re hiring someone.

One of our kitties had some major health issues, and thank heavens for a good vet who doesn’t overcharge us, because Abby was beside herself at the thought of losing one of her babies. Thankfully, a couple of vet visits later, a cone of shame, and more money than I’m comfortable admitting, things are okay, and Red kitty is stable and happy again. Ditto Abby.

Bean is playing lacrosse again, and it turns out he’s a rock-star goalie and loves his new position. There’s something magical about a kid who has struggled so much coming home exuberant with joy at the camaraderie and accomplishment of a team where he feels valued and included. Once again I reiterate, don’t be afraid of teenagers…they’re amazing. The kids are alright.

Jeff is navigating (and grumbling a lot) about his newfound adulthood. He’s in school and working a part time job, and helping a lot on the homefront while law school swallows so much of me. Turns out being a grownup isn’t nearly as much fun as it looked when we were ten. We went together to vote last week; voting with your kid is a singular joy, even though our choice didn’t receive the nomination. This family is committed to civic action and voting is an important part of that commitment.

Kels just turned 17 and holy crap that means the majority of our kids are either adults, or almost adults. We celebrated her birthday with a giant pile of chocolate cake and sous-vide rosemary chicken, her request. We’re still trying to figure out how to help her get a reliable car. Having two teenage drivers poses its own unique set of challenges for a strapped family.

Jon continues the champion everyone in this family, and most of all me. He cheers me on when I want to fold, and keeps everything together at home when I am again at the law library for 16 hours. I wish there was a better way to do this, but if there is, I can’t find it. If you pause to breathe, you’re working twice as hard just to catch up. I’ve never experienced anything like it, and as a more “mature” student, I have strong feelings on the pedagogy of law school and its ultimate effectiveness (or lack thereof). Anyway, hats off to Jon and his unceasing foundational support.

Everyone said law school breaks you down. There’s no lie. It doesn’t just break you down physically, it breaks you down mentally. There is this weird re-wiring of your brain that happens in how you think and how you approach ideas and problems. This is the good, albeit painful, part. The physical exhaustion is another beast entirely. I find myself wishing often I had done this 20 years ago. Competing with kids half my age is brutal, and it’s just simply a fact that they are more supple and less encumbered; we are not on the same footing. We’re doing the same work, and I bring things to the table with my life experience that are enriching, but they aren’t juggling a family and all those responsibilities. There are only two other people in my class with children—and they each have one. It’s my choice, I’m not pawning that off on anyone. But it’s also a reality that I have to accept–and that means I cling to my B’s by my really sore fingertips.

It’s still not prudent for me to write about the work I am going to be doing this spring and summer, but as soon as I can, I will. I’m excited about it, and the thought that I can be effective at advocacy is what keeps me going on those days I want to ring the bell and quit. This Wednesday I have a pretty big interview for a privilege my employer nominated me for—it’s something I didn’t think I had a shot at, but it turns out I’m a national finalist. I still don’t think I’ll get it, but it’s nice to have been nominated (it really is!). I’ll return and report as appropriate. But here’s a preview:

Now I really have to hit the books. This was a luxurious little self-indulgent hour I allowed myself. I have an interview tomorrow to prep for, and about 200 pages of reading for Thursday, log-jammed on my desk. Tiberius is sleeping (and snoring) at my feet, and the cats are watching the first spring birds at the window behind me, their wild tails betraying the intensity of their stone-still faces. It’s delightful.

I know things are scary right now. I know it’s easy to get carried away by fears and pressure and politics and more fears. Wash your hands, try not to touch your face too much, wipe down your phone, check up on some food-storage recipes, and maybe pause and watch your cats look out the window or listen to your dog snore. Life can be beautiful, even when it’s hard.

xoxo
T

Law School: 1 Semester Down

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Hey everyone. It’s been a hot minute.

For better or for worse, it’s done. It’s the Monday following five finals over two weeks, the last of which wrapped up Friday morning. Holy crap, y’all. There is simply no way to convey what the first semester of law school is like. People told me…but it’s kind of like childbirth—no amount of reading or talking about it prepares you for the reality. The maxim is that the first year of law school breaks you, and the next two years are spent rebuilding you, and at this point: can verify.

I’ve been through some crap; we all  know I’ve earned my stripes. And while law school isn’t the *hardest* thing I’ve ever done, it’s absolutely, hands-down, the most mentally, and academically challenging. Think about it: to even *get into* law school you take kids with high grades, who did well on a really rigorous test, and you have a cohort of people who are accustomed to earning As and being considered really smart. Then you curve them to a hard C. People who have never gotten a B—let alone a C—suddenly half of them will be getting Cs or below. And consider this gem: a high score in law school is in the 60th percentile for many classes. That hard C curve suddenly seems like a mercy instead of a soul-destroying juggernaut. Another little gem? The Socratic method means for the entire semester, there is no way to gauge your progress or see where you’re doing it right or way off track. You have ONE three-hour test at the end of the semester, and your entire grade is based on that. That’s it.

No stress. No pressure. Everything is FINE. Oh dear lord, please let everything be fine… 

Yeah, I’m curled up at home with my dog and my cats and my kids and don’t plan on cracking a law book until January. It was so hard. And I worked harder than I ever have before. Previously, I pulled As with  minimal effort. This time? I was at the law library almost every single day of the semester, including Sundays when possible. For the last month before finals I was easily putting in 60 hours a week studying and writing. My family basically checked in with me during the evening hours when everyone else was home, and that was what we got.

If I don’t do well, it won’t be because I half-assed it. I put everything I had into this thing, and now I just have to wait and see where I fall on that curve.

I’m told that the first semester is the hardest not only because you haven’t done it before, but also because its a black-box of uncertainty. You don’t know if what you’re doing is working, but you have to keep plugging forward anyway. You have to be ready to be cold-called in any of your five classes, and you have to read insane amounts of dense texts every night, and be able to synthesize what you just read and write a brief so if you (please no, please no, please no) get cold-called, you don’t faceplant. It’s fun.

But for the next semester, we’ll have grades, so we’ll know if what we were doing worked, and where we can change up our habits and processes to make things better. I can already tell areas I devoted unnecessary attention and areas where the payoff was better than expected. My note-taking for 2nd semester will be much more concise and tight, and I will start working through practice problems much earlier, as we progress through the cases.

One of the most surprising joys has been some of the people I have met and have come to consider friends. It’s been interesting to watch  friendships develop in unexpected ways, and one of my takeaways is that upending assumptions about other people is a good thing. I found myself invited to a study group of people I’d never have put together on Day One, but it has worked out to be one of the singular joys of school, knowing folks who are so unlike me in life experiences and perspective, but who are studious and smart and funny and are turning out to be real friends. You don’t really make a lot of new friends in your forties…I feel very fortunate.

One of the other things that you’re also doing while you’re carrying this insane course-load of unfamiliarity and difficulty is pulling together a CV and soliciting places you want to intern over the summer. This floored me at first–“Wait, one top of everything else, I am supposed to be job hunting too??” It feels so impossible. And then you just…do it. So in the middle of finals, after a series of phone interviews, I was offered my dream internship in DC for Spring/Summer 2020. I can’t say much more about it yet, but it’s absolutely everything I wanted, and my supervisor has worked in this field for more than 20 years; I am over the moon that I was chosen for this internship and this mentoring. I will return and report more as is appropriate.

And now it’s ten days before Christmas, and I have to start my Christmas shopping. My kids put up the trees and decorated the house, because mom was AWOL, and even though I had to let go of so many things, I am so proud of them and how they have stepped up and practice their living and adulting skills. It’s been a double-edged sword for me—after 18 years as a stay-at-home mom, letting go is bittersweet. I am so proud of them, and I am also proud of myself for doing this hard and scary thing.

I’m deeply indebted to Jon for supporting me beyond all reason. He is the rock of Gibraltar, and he holds me down and lets me fly and loves me beyond all reason, and I count my lucky stars that he chose me.

Here are some pictures of my semester, for posterity. Enjoy your holiday. I know I will!

Twenty Years Ago Today…

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I post this in quiet remembrance and to honor what was. It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty years, and it’s even harder to believe he’s gone.

I offer deep gratitude for those who have walked beside me over the course of a life none of us imagined on that happy day. Many beautiful things came from my love for David; I regret nothing, and given the same circumstances and choice, I would do it all again. He enriched and blessed me far beyond the sorrow and ashes that followed.

I also offer deep gratitude for the unexpected and unimagined love that followed in Jon. He’s continually held space and made it safe for me and our kids to process our grief, share our stories, and feel all of our feelings. The vastness of his spirit and heart is a balm to the soul, and allows us to catch glimpses of the divine through each other.

Happy Birthday, Bean!

IMG_5744Sixteen years ago tonight, you entered the world. Your birth was the easiest of your siblings, but that’s about all that was easy. We’ve learned together how to do this dance we live—it hasn’t always been simple, but I can say without equivocation that  I am thankful every single day that I get to be your mom.

What a year you’ve had, kiddo. I know you don’t see yourself as remarkable, but you are. I have been watching you for your entire life, and your dedication and focus and sense of self is a wonder to behold. You haven’t made life easy, but you have absolutely made life for everyone who loves you deeper, richer, funnier, and more expansive.

You’ve always had a myopic focus on the things that bring you joy, happiness, or comfort—whether it’s climbing up to the ceiling fans in the cooler at Costco, committing to an eating plan, or cutting open the couch because you wanted to see what was inside…You decide, and then you don’t look back. And if you fall, or get stymied, or someone gets in your way…you keep going. You keep getting up. You go around. You find some scissors. You stack furniture. You crawl out out a window and run down the street…You move forward with a confidence in your choices that its awe-inspiring.

(Even if it was terrifying when you were little.)

Your family has always known this about you, but this year the world got to see how your innate tenacity mixed with good-weirdness (I’m quoting him, it’s okay) draws people to you. So many hope to be seen and accepted in this world, and you put yourself out there, completely comfortable in your needs and preferences, and others recognized that, and they can know they are okay too. It’s a gift you have, and are sharing.

Now I have to go back and tackle the pile of books waiting behind me—and you’re a huge part of the reason why I am at Law School doing a Very Hard Thing when I really don’t have to. Like you, I want to help people, and because of you, I am called and compelled to give back.

I love you, Beanie.

xoxo
Mama

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A Short Hammered-off Update

Screen Shot 2019-08-16 at 9.06.38 PMI have been meaning to write for so long, and life has gotten away from me day after day after day. I’ve never been super great at time-management, but my new life is all about time management, so trial by fire it is. Having a schedule crammed and full hasn’t been my jam, but now starting my second week of law school (hoooooley crap is that a steep drop-off!) I have to make sure I schedule tiny bits of mental health time and family time and time when I’m not thinking about case-briefs or waking up with stress dreams about case briefs. Its a whole new world.

So backing up a bit…we had a summer. The kids were home a lot, and it was nice–the quiet before the storm, such as it is. Jon’s parents came out from Utah and we had a mini-family reunion at the beach, and it was lovely. The kids got to spend a few days in the balmy humid surf and play with their cousins. We had some good food, and a few lazy days to tie up the last trailing days of summer.

Thankfully, we have wonderful house/pet sitters, so we had a young married couple staying at our place with the cats and Tiberius while we were gone. We were home for only a couple of days before I started law school.

I don’t have a ton of time right now to go into detail, but for the sake of my posterity I will try to find time soon to document the transition. I’m just not sure anything can prepare you for the first week of law school. It’s like jumping into the deep, cold end of the ocean. You acclimate–at least that’s what I’m told, and it must be true because people survive this. But it’s a rough drop-in. Especially when you’ve been out of school for eight+ years and you’re a decade (or more) older than your classmates. I keep reminding myself that no one else knows what they’re doing yet either.

Jeffrey had his 18th birthday last week. We had to wait to celebrate until Friday night because of me. He said he rather enjoyed his birthday taking up the better part of a week. I haven’t written him his birthday letter yet…I don’t know if I have the space to feel the feels that honestly requires. But I’ll find it.

Bean, Abby and Kelsey are all in high school this year. Abby has found her grove and her people in marching band. Bean is fully mainstreamed and loves his geometry class. Kelsey is doing a cosmetology elective and says the smell of burning hair wasn’t her! Jeffrey is managing his home-skills and taking a couple of classes at the community college in preparation for leaving for Utah State next year.

Jon is getting used to having a wife who isn’t as available, but he’s also so visibly proud of me. Knowing I have so much love and support at home makes the hard days better.

Now I have about 25 pages of reading in my torts casebook, with another dozen briefs to write up for Wednesday.

Deep breaths…here we go.

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First day of law school for mama, 2019