Friday, July 18, 2014

Grief In The Age Of Social Media

My coworker died, having lost her 11 year battle with cancer. She left behind three teenage daughters and her husband, not mention a legion of family and friends.

The day she died, all of her friends, family, and other people associated with her put up a picture of her as their F.a.c.e.b.o.o.k. profile picture. These pictures have been up for a week now, flooding my feed. People are posting messages on her wall, leaving memories or saying goodbye; families members have been posting their own items, memories, photographs, and so on.

Every grieves in a different way. If this is how her immediate family and closest family needs to grieve, so be it. My cousin died last year, and every once in a while, his wife floods her F.B. account with pictures of him and memories. That's how she deals.

I was talking to Vor about this, and I consider him to be a reliable and knowledgeable source; he lost his father ten years ago. I mentioned to him that my coworker had left behind videos and gifts to be watched and opened on certain events, like prom, or a wedding, or the first of a grand baby. He looked upset. "I never would be as healthy as I am now if my dad had done that," he said, shaking his head. "The only reason you heal at all, or move on at all, is because of time. Having the wound reopened at every good memory? I couldn't have healed, moved on. Good memories, like of our wedding, would have that element of sad attached to them, even more than they did already." He sat, thinking. "I do wish I had more video of my dad. I wish I had messages form him about little things, every day things, memories. But it was sad enough at our wedding that he wasn't there. To have to watch, on that day, a message from him about sad he was that he couldn't be there? No."

I told him about the social media thing, with pictures of my coworker everywhere. He sighed. "It's so hard to move on, to forget things. Things follow us everywhere."

"Grief on social media is like a hydra," I told him. He laughed.

I don't know where I stand; I haven't lost someone from my immediate family in a long time. It's hard for me to watch this happen on F.B.; I don't think I need or want to grieve that way. But, although it is my loss, it's not my loss, and it certainly isn't my right to say this is right or wrong.

It's a new frontier on so many fronts, but this grief one is particularly hard to navigate.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Click Your Heels Or Run Like Hell

There's so many trite terrible sayings about going home again that I couldn't even pick one for the the title. Yet, I'm feeling a mix of all them right now.

I love going home and seeing my family and our close friends. I love eating pizza and wings and swimming in my parents' pool, getting ice cream and the local dive, and fish frys in Catholic country. The church I was baptized, confirmed, married, and had my own daughter baptized in is there, in all its splendor, up on a hill, overlooking the cemetery where my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and unfortunately, some friends are buried. I know the best bakery, and the worst traffic intersection. Down that dark alley way, the one you might think is scary, is the place where my mother grew up--a house big enough for three people and yet it housed nine. They were dirt poor, and I mean that quite literally. My mother married hometown royalty, and it was quite the scandal that my dad married the poor street urchin. The nativity that they put out at Christmas? My grandpa made it.

And yet, oh God, I escape. I feel it all slowly closing in over me, cloying, insidious, pulling me back in, slowly boiling until it's too late to get out.

One of my cousins moved back recently. Her husband is also a patent lawyer, and he got a great job with a company that has its headquarters recently. She pounced on me when she saw me; we've always had a lot in common. This time, she was desperate to talk, and even used that word. "It's like getting married really young, then getting a divorce, growing up for fifteen more years, then reconnecting with your ex and trying to fall back in love with your ex. It's not working." I gave her a hug. "It's not forever, S," I told her. "You guys took this job so that more doors could be opened. If there's ever a good time to be stuck here, it's when the kids are small." "Yeah," she said. "It's just that I've never been more miserable."

We talked. There's no diversity there. It's a strange place; it's a conservative island in a sea of liberals, and it makes the people very defensive and feel like they are victims. The constant living in the state victim-hood causes reflective reactions to all viewpoints that aren't in line with their value. Yes, I am know I am really generalizing, but S and I were picking up on the same things. The moment S or I say anything that isn't what someone agrees with, there's no dialogue, thoughtful discussion, or even argument--you just get frozen out. I can see why S is miserable--she's isolated. She left Buffalo, moved to DC and reveled in the culture there, converted to Judaism and married her Jewish husband, and came back to Buffalo. They didn't want her and her experiences and her opinions and her new religion anymore.

Hanging out there on the horizon is a chance for Vor. He could pick up his old engineering company as a client, which would be huge. He could also become their major in house counsel. But that would mean moving back, and I...I feel like I would lose myself, slowly, day by day. I like living here; I like my job; I like my family.It's just theoretical at this point, but man, what an amazing chance for him and for us, truly. But..what about me? What do I do? Try to rebuild a career there? Or just stop?

I feel sick thinking about it. I feel terrible that I'm not breathless with joy at the thought of being closer to my family, whom I very much love. I feel ill about raising Lis in a culture where every one tells her to get married and have babies ASAP because that's what those of us with lady parts should do; where your math teacher tells you that all girls need math for is to count beans; where you are explicitly told it's better to be pretty than smart.

This is so theoretical. I am just going to leave it that way. It's not like I'll go to sleep and discover that a tornado dropped me back there, expect it would be the reverse--it would suddenly be all black and white, no color.

MILP #354

Here's the weekly Mothers in the Legal Profession Round Up. We're moms, we're lawyers, we blog. Sometimes, we manage to do it on time; that day is not today for me. (jebus, there were a lot to post this time, so tell me if I missed you!)


Let's do this one "In Her Own Words" style. For the week ending July 6, I present to you:

Alice in Wonderland: "It is meta. Profound. Universal. SUPER." And with an epic, awesome photo!

Magic Cookie: "We heard a crash around 10 p.m. and it was X, who had leaped up, clawed K awake, knocked over the lamps, and run out into the hallway yelling 'TIME TO PLAY!' I don't think he ever fell asleep." Let's not ever put our kids in the same room together, eh? Lis took all the photos off the wall in my parents' guest room while she was "asleep."


Nonsense and Frippery: "Meanwhile my friends in Japan and Canada are finishing up their year-long maternity leaves. Sigh." Yeah. Oh yeah. Leaving that cute behind is a KILLER. 


Only 3 Years: "I've been gone over a month, and it's all the same old stuff." I feel you--lather, rinse, repeat, right?


BJJ, Law, and Living: "I am not panicking, yet. I am just very aware." Preeeeeetty sure I just said the same thing to my boss. She laughed. 


Lag Liv: "Today was the first day I hit an impenetrable wall/cliff as a working parent." Did she EVER, people. I wanted to hand her wine though the screen after I read it. 


Mommy Maddness: "We're here for the holiday." Beautiful! 


Queen of Hats: "She likes the mistake hug well enough that she went from crying when she made a mistake to saying 'MORE MISTAKES HUGS!' which I count as a win." Well, you should! (This post also resulted in me asking for mistake hugs. QofH laughed at me, but when I asked Vor, he looked at me with his head cocked to the side. Note to self: explain concept before asking for it.)


Perspectives from a Hard Boiled Egg: "And yet here I am, at 25 weeks, praying I make it to 38 weeks, wondering, guilt ridden and scared out of my mind." Oh, girl. From one 
complicated pregnancy person to another, you DID NOT CAUSE THIS. It just happens sometimes.

Kderoll: "She is having the 'Is this really a good idea having a second child right now?' breakdown. Unfortunately it is a little too late to be asking that question, but I love having two and am not afraid (yet) of having more." Ah yes. Nothing like the good old pregnancy freak out--the second thoughts come when it's too late! I am glad to hear that some people like having two kids, because every time I talk to parents with two, they give me crazy eyes.

Daisy JD: "I'm back from a 4 night work trip to New York City and since many of you shared suggestions of where to go and what to eat I thought I'd share some of the highlights." Nothing I love more than a good trip roundup with pictures! Keeps the travel bug at bay. 




Full of the Dickens: "Apparently, there used to be a meth lab on our street...the sex offender apartment is still standing proudly...HOWEVER...trust me. It's a cute little neighborhood." (Sorry, CP, but that just cracked me up).


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Bar Exam: Up Hill, Both Ways, With A Broken Thumb

I am parked in the same location that I always parked myself in when I was studying for the bar: the corner window seat of the law school library. It's a beautiful room, with 3 story ceiling to floor glass windows that overlooks a nice park, the state capitol building, and downtown itself.

Of course, since I studied for the bar in this location, it's making me angsty, especially since I am surrounded by panicking recently graduated law students who are studying for the bar. In fact, I even know a couple of them, and they keep asking me questions. I'm all like, "Dude, I can field any and every family law question for you, but stop asking me torts questions. I took the bar and promptly erased it from my memory bank." Of course, this makes them come back and ask general questions, like "How do I plan time during the exam to pee?" and "What if my lucky [earring, ring, necklace, shirt, etc] starts to bug me during the exam?" and "What if my feet go numb from sitting still so long and I get pins and needles?"

You laugh, but these are worries. Mine was "What kind of pen is best to use?" I spent hours testing out pens and seeing what I wanted to use the day of the exam. Of course, BEING STUPID AND PANICKY, I finally found the right pen a week before the exam. But, I had been practicing with pens that had a smaller circumference, so the day of the exam, with my nice gel grip pen, I gave myself a stress fracture in my thumb from gripping a pen I was not accustomed to using, too hard, for too long. 

Yes, that's right. I broke my thumb during the first day of the bar exam, during the essay section. I had to finish the essay section with a broken thumb and then do the multiple choice the next day with a broken, swollen, extremely painful thumb. This was the last year before they let you use laptops, so I guess that's not really a problem anymore. 

So, all ye panicking bar takers out there: If I broke my thumb during the exam, yet still managed to finish and pass, you can do it. Hopefully without breaking your thumb. 

PPS: You may (or may not) be wondering why I am sitting downtown at the law library instead of in my office. Well, Kind Reader, that would be because (1) our internet crashed; (2) taking our server with it; (3) with all of our shared electronic files; (4) causing mass lawyer panic; (5) also causing us to use the actual physical books to look up the annotated statutes; (6) causing me to realize that one of the pocket part updates to West's Indiana Annotated Code is missing; (7) causing me to go camp out at the law school library; (8) so that I can use West's Indiana Annotated Code pocket Part to Title 29, Guardianship; (9) as I continue writing this PITA of a publication; (10) end scene.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Fade Away

Fourth of July is Kind Of A Big Deal in my little old hometown juuuuust outside of Buffalo NY. The “downtown” (read: village center) area gets closed, rides are set up, games are everywhere, there is some kind of cross between an antique show and a farmer’s market, tons of restaurants set up booths, and this goes on for a couple days. For a small town, the parade is kind of amazing; it lasts several hours, there are enough firetrucks to sink a battleship, very cool and antique cars, 3 high school marching bands, too many elementary school marching bands to count, three fire departments and their marching bands, at least three police departments and their marching bands, and of course, the veterans.

The veterans. Of course.

Vor and I are in the middle of watching Band of Brothers. We’ve both read the book, but it’s been awhile. I was suddenly struck by a strange, world up-ending realization: I won’t be able to see the remaining WWII veterans in the 4th of July parade much longer, if I even get to see them this year. They are slowly aging into actual history, their stories only to remembered by our collective consciousness instead of listened to by actual ears.

When that struck me, I promptly texted my dad, asking him where his uncle had served. I knew it was the Pacific, but that was about all I knew. I just needed the details, even though it was almost 11 pm. I needed those details to be written down somewhere. I needed to know.

Every year, as the veterans came through the parade, we watched their numbers dwindle. At first, they were mostly still all walking; then there were the wheelchairs; then they were passengers in convertibles. Then, they simply began disappearing. As I sat there, mulling through those particular memories, I was overcome with a crazy desire to plan to run out and hop into the car with one of the vets with a recorder, and drag out every detail. Which is crazy, and borderline disrespectful (if not over the border), but I can’t help but feel sad; sad at the loss of these people and their compatriots, and sad at the loss of their first hand experience and knowledge and wisdom. The same could be said for any person, I know; I think I just feeling it more acutely having had my brother recently return from his deployment.

I was also sitting there, watching the show, feeling somewhat shell shocked by the fact that Lis will never grow up seeing WWII vets walk by in the parade. Then I promptly wanted to smack myself on the forehead. Lis will watch her own generation of veterans walk by her.

There is one thing I can teach her, one thing that stays the same no matter which generations of veterans have come to bear silent witness at our 4th of July celebrations. I will teach her stand when they walk by her.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Two Year Post Op Check Up

Lis is fine. As her neurosurgeon said, "She's clear to do anything but pole vaulting and boxing." We have to go back in one more year to do the usual check up and get her eyes tested. Apparently, that's one of the easiest ways to make sure her skull is growing normally; if there is too much pressure in the eyes, then there's a problem and more surgery is needed.

I'm not going to think about that for at least another 11 months.

It was like I expected, and not. I felt the panic rising as we parked in the garage and drove past the parking spot we used when we came in the morning of her surgery. I saw the red wagons and ushered her past then; we walked down the hall way full of animals and kid friendly colored glass protrusions form the walls. Just when I thought the lump in my throat was going to take over, Vor took a deep breath and pulled out all outside. We walked outside to the clinic area, avoiding our old haunt. I think he must have felt the same.

I wasn't at all feeling the panic while we were sitting in the waiting area, or when we went back to get our check up done. I thought that would be the worst--sitting there with all those other children, some with the same scars, others who clearly had not had their skulls "fixed" yet--I thought that would be the hardest. It wasn't.

After we were done, we wandered down to the gift shop, also known as the safety shop, so that we could see if they had any life jackets. They sell all kinds of safety gear at cost. We were in luck; we picked one out so that we can go boating this summer.

I walked out the door of the safety shop, only to by gobsmacked by the sight of the phlebotomy lab; the place that Vor and I joking referred to as the House Of Vampires. The place where we got Lis tested for her blood type and the place that handled Vor's blood for transfusions. I turned away, and kept my jaw set.

On days where Lis goes in for a check up, she sees two doctors: her original neurosurgeon, and a follow up pediatric plastic surgeon. The usually come in one after the other, about five minutes apart. Today they overlapped and we had a doctor party in our room. Before surgery, Dr. A (the neurosurgeon) was no nonsense and all business. As soon as that surgery was over, she was friendly and enamored with Lis. I suppose that's her way of dealing. She's always glad to see us; for some reason, we must have been memorable.

Actually, I know exactly why we were memorable, but I hate to think about it. Lis's surgery was nine hours, about three longer than they anticipated, because of some incredible complications. I think we made it into a cranio/facial paper write up she did.

But here we are, almost two years post op. Things look good; we didn't freak out in the hospital; Lis can climb and play soccer to her heart's content.

All is well.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Smile, And Other Things

I went out to a birthday dinner with my friends. We sat outside, along the canal, enjoying the weather and the breeze. We ate and laughed and talked as people walked by along the canal. I noticed a man walk by us, then walk by us again. When he walked by again, I began mentally writing the details into my memory: white, about 6 foot, buzz cut, brown eyes, crooked nose, blue shirt with logo, and so on. Why? Because I am a woman. Because men hovering around me can be a potential threat.

When he walked by a fourth time, he stopped by us, on the otherwise of the patio railing. He flashed a grin at us four women, and promptly demanded, “Smile!” My three friends gave him nervous smiles, smiles that clearly read If we smile, will he go away? I hope so. I stared at him, stony faced. He turned his attention to me, and flashed an even bigger grin. “Smile! I bet you’re so pretty when you smile!”

“This is a private conversation. We are having dinner. I do not smile for men on command. Please leave.” I said it all very flatly, no trace of menace or bitchiness in my voice. His grin turned to a snarl and he turned and left. My friends stared at me. I couldn’t tell if they were aghast at my refusal, or his audacity.

Make no mistake, it is rudeness and audacity that fueled him. He thought, just because we were women out in public, that he could come up to us; interrupt our dinner; insert himself into our private conversation; demand our time for his pleasure; make demands that we do something for him; demand for us to be pretty for him. He thought that because he is a man, and we are women.

I looked at my friends and shook my head. “I don’t smile on command for anyone, especially strange men who think they have the right to demand something of me, just because I am a woman who is in public.”

“Cheers to that,” one said, and raised her wine glass. We clinked glasses, and that was that. Or that was mostly that; you better believe that I was on the lookout as I walked back to my car.

I learned an interesting thing in law school, something I routinely put into practice as a lawyer: when someone gets aggressive with you, especially if you are a woman and the other person is a man, the best move is not to back up, but to step forward into that person’s space, making him back up. I routinely see male attorneys take steps towards other attorneys, male or female. Oftentimes, the other attorney will step backward, and the dance continues, until the “aggressor” has backed the other attorneys into an uncomfortable space, whether its physical, in a corner or against a wall, or mental, that he or she has a pattern of backing up and submitting.

I never, ever take the first step forward. It’s rude. But, come hell or high water, if another attorneys starts getting verbally or physically aggressive towards me, I take that step forward, and invade their own space. It’s amazing how quickly that will de-escalate the aggression, 99% of the time. I will not let you intimidate me.

I had a trial where one of the people was a thrice convicted violent sexual predator. He was in between attorneys, and asked to speak to me, an attorney representing another party in the same case. “How can I help you?” I responded. He motioned to the door, leading to a small secluded hallway within only one exit. “Can I talk to you out there?” he asked. “No,” I responded. “We can talk here, in the courtroom.” He stared at me for a minute. “I’m not gonna hurt you, honey. I just want to talk somewhere private.” I stared back at him evenly. “We are in private in the courtroom. There is no one else here. There is no need to go into that hallway,” I told him. He got frustrated, and demanded that I talk to him in the hallway again, and said, “You asked how you could help me! You said you would help me!” I took a step towards him, and repeated, “No. If you need to talk about your case, we will do it here.” He never challenged me again, but I saw him do it over and over to every other attorney that crossed through the case.

I have a backbone, but oh God, it is a hard won backbone. I went through hell to get it, and then I tempered it in more and more. All my life, I had been taught that I asked for it, it was my fault, it was my sin, it was temptation I was offering, just because I was a little girl who could later become a woman, just because I am now a woman, just for existing. No; no more. I know now that it isn’t true, and what’s more important, I stopped believing that.

How do I give this backbone to Lis? Can I gift it to her, as an heirloom, a treasured thing passed from mother to daughter? Or do I have to let her make her own? Can I give her my own experiences to help forge her, as a way of learning how to build her own? I cannot, will not accept that the answer is that she has to experience what I did in order to be able to stand up for herself.