August 04, 2009

And...That's A Wrap

Okay, okay…I hear you Gentle Readers. Thank you to those of you who have been sending me little nudges, wondering if and when I might pick up my pen (or keyboard) again. I am amazed that you are still reading, and I appreciate your tenacity and dedication. Now that I don't have any more breast cancer or law school to write about, I don’t quite know where this blog is going to go, but I’ll start with this:

In the five years since I started writing this blog, among other things, I have started law school, turned 40, been diagnosed with and fought breast cancer, won $10,000, lost all my hair, grown it all back, finished law school, gotten a job, graduated from law school, and studied for and taken the bar exam. Other than the breast cancer part, that’s pretty much how I was hoping it all would go. Tomorrow I start a brand new chapter, and this time it is much less predictable than the law school chapter was.

I am so lucky to have been offered and accepted what is essentially my dream job. I’m going to be doing exactly what I have wanted to do since the end of my first year of law school in the place I want to do it. Considering the economy and the dismal legal job market, I am very fortunate to have this job.

Almost exactly fifteen years ago I happily gave up my briefcase and heels and a career in the mortgage industry for a diaper bag and jeans and a career as a stay-at-home mom. It was my favorite career decision so far and I have loved every second of the job. Okay, maybe not every second, but I have loved a lot of them. I would not trade the time I have been able to spend with all three of my kids for anything. I think that my decision to stay home was the right one for my family and for me. However, I always knew that it would come to an end for several reasons. I knew that we would need my additional income in order send them all to college and to retire comfortably, and I also knew that there would come a time when my kids would be ready to leave and to go out on their own. I realized that when that happened, I would want something of my own, something that I enjoyed and that I could devote myself to the way I have devoted myself to them all these years. That thing turned out to be a career as an attorney, and here I am on my way.

Today is my last day as a stay-at-home mom, and I have mixed feelings about it. Of course, I am excited about my new job and about the income that comes along with it. I love the work that I will be doing. But at the same time, I am sad at the idea of leaving this era behind. I think back to the days that sometimes seemed so long that were filled with runs to and from preschool or swimming lessons or gymnastics, trying to work around naptime, shows like Gullah Gullah Island and Sesame Street, and reading the same book 10,000 times. It seems like just yesterday that I was filling up the kiddie pool in the summer or bundling little arms and legs into snowsuits to go sledding.

It is inevitable that your kids grow up and get older and that your life changes in the process, but there is something so bittersweet about leaving those days behind. I love the people my kids have turned and are turning into; I am continually amazed at how incredible they are and at how lucky I am to get to be their mom. I am always excited to see what they are going to do next. But I can’t ever quite forget the little people that they used to be, and there is a part of me that feels as if when I step out the door tomorrow morning, I will be leaving those little people behind forever.

May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

More on our wet, cold, rainy Y-Me Mother's Day run later. For now, I want to share the best piece of original poetry ever. Composed by Matthew for me.

Your Life
Your gonna be a lawyer mom
Your gonna be the big bomb
You've got the techniques
You'll beat all the geeks
You will fight and you will win mom.
          -Matthew Klein

January 17, 2008

More About Hair

My trial practice intensive last week was, as the name implies, intense. The days flew by, but a lot of the time it felt like I was out of town. I didn’t spend much time at home and the time I was there was spent studying and getting ready for the next day. But it was a good way for me to take a class…one week of intense work and family disruption means I don’t have to take it spread out over an entire semester. And it was a great class.

The worst moment came on Monday night. I had been at school all day on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and Monday was the first day back to school for the kids. On Monday night I went in to say goodnight to Matthew and he informed me that I had forgotten to pack his lunch that morning. I told him that I thought he was buying lunch on Monday, but he reminded me that actually he had planned to take his lunch that day. I asked him what he ate, and he told me that he just had some apple juice because he wasn’t able to get anything else. I felt awful and figured that probably clinched my loss of the Mother of the Year award. And it was only January 7th! Needless to say I made sure I had the whole lunch thing figured out for the rest of the week.

Regular classes started this week and while my schedule this semester is very manageable, the days I have classes are going to be pretty hectic. But no matter how hectic it gets, this semester is going to be very different from last semester. I have thought many times over the past couple of weeks about how appreciative I am to only have to handle classes and my regular daily life for the next few months without having to fit in chemotherapy and sick days.

During my trial practice class we had to wear suits to school every day. By the end of the week I was getting sick of trying to coordinate scarves with suits and of trying to look professional with the additional accessory on my head. I have been tired of wearing something on my head for a long time now, but I have needed to continue to cover my head for the sake of warmth. I wore a scarf to class on Tuesday, as usual, but when I got home that evening I took it off and decided that I am done with scarves. I have enough hair that I no longer look bald (although I don’t really have enough to keep my head warm yet) and I think it is high time to be finished with head coverings. So today, for the first time since I lost my hair, I spent the entire day at school with nothing on my head. Except hair, of course.

I will post pictures soon so you can see for yourself, but my hair is super, super short. To me, it looks more like post-cancer treatment hair than a fashion choice. But despite my interpretation of it, two separate people came up to me at school today and told me that it looked “cute.” I don’t think either of them realized how very, very happy I was to hear them say that or how good and normal and healthy it made me feel. It has been a long time since anyone said that my hair was cute! Another friend told me that she thought it looked like I was hip and cool and had made a conscious decision to wear my hair this way. I feel far from hip and cool these days, but I appreciate the sentiment and hope that I can pull it off while it’s growing out.

Last Friday, Randy and I went to dinner with friends at a restaurant that we all frequent. Our “regular” waitress waited on us and greeted us all warmly when she came to our table. After the initial hellos, she looked at me and said, enthusiastically, “Oh, look at your hair! It looks good! I should do that with mine!” I didn’t explain why my hair was this short, but instead told her that having it this short made it really easy to “do” in the morning. We all laughed about it after she left the table because it is quite funny that people think this is a deliberate hair style.

Now that I’ve completed yet another post about it, I have to say that I can’t believe how much I have written about hair in the past nine months. If you would have told me a year ago that I was going to be this obsessed with hair this year, I would never have believed you. Shoes…maybe. But hair?!

November 05, 2007

Crazy Sexy Cancer...Crazy Sexy Motherhood

I heard about Kris Carr’s book and documentary about her battle with a rare, incurable cancer (epithelioid hemangioendothelioma--yeah, I don't know how to pronounce it, either) a couple of months ago. I mentioned her in this post, and have since read her book, seen her movie, and last week I watched her on Oprah. Her story is amazing and fascinating, and she is truly inspirational in many ways. She was diagnosed at a very young age and has spent the last four years fighting for her life. She has explored medical procedures, diets, spirituality, and new age healing in her quest to live. Her message is positive and attractive—take control of cancer, don’t let it control you.

Because she was so young when she was diagnosed, she has had to deal with things that many older cancer patients don’t have to deal with, such as questions about whether she will ever get married or have children. One thing I have learned about dealing with a serious illness is how significant a patient’s age is in how they deal with the diagnosis. Each stage of our lives brings a completely different perspective to such a diagnosis.

I enjoyed Carr’s book and documentary and I think that there is a lot that cancer patients—and indeed, anyone—can get out of her work. Her message is universal in many ways and can be applied to many different situations. I would recommend this book to anyone who is facing a cancer diagnosis or some other serious illness or who knows someone who is. I want to stress that there is a lot I like about Carr, her book, and her website and that I have gotten a lot of great information from her work. The entire time I read the book and watched the documentary, however, I felt like it was directed at someone other than me. Her experience is informed and shaped by her youth in a way that makes it dramatically different from mine in many ways.

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April 09, 2006

Advice for Parents Heading to Law School

As my 1L year winds down, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would tell someone who asked for my advice about going to law school as a non-traditional law student with children. No one has specifically asked for this advice, but since a large number of the hits on this blog come from people searching for things like “law school with kids” and “mother in law school,” I’m thinking that it might possibly be helpful advice. I would have loved to have found this kind of advice collected somewhere two years or so ago.

So based on my vast experience with the subject (one and 3/4 semesters) here is my list (so far) of what it takes to handle law school as a parent with kids. (List subject to revisions and additions.)

1.Absolute organization. Organize your house, organize your backpack, organize your schedule, organize your time. You name it, ya gotta organize it. I am a highly organized person anyway and that trait served me well this year. I kept everything in its place and I was meticulous about making sure that things stayed on track during the school year. I tried to live by the golden rule of only touching a piece of paper once. I made a binder with a divider for each member of the family and kept class lists, field trip forms, team rosters, receipts, etc. in the binder. I did laundry on a certain day, studied on a certain day, went grocery shopping on a certain day. My methods of organization could constitute an entire post, but if you want to know how I handled something in particular, e-mail me. This includes school stuff. I have an organization plan for every subject, and for items within each subject. I was religious about sticking to all of it and I think it was one of the things that helped me to keep things running smoothly all year long.

2. Buy two of everything so you never run out. This advice was given to me via e-mail at the beginning of the semester by another mom who is a law student. (I wish I could remember who it was!) It was excellent advice. We never ran out of toilet paper or soap or cleaning supplies or laundry detergent or pencils or dog food during either semester. I stocked up, and every time I had to replace something I bought two of them. That meant no running out of the house at the last minute late at night for toilet paper. And that’s a good thing, believe me.

3. Make the slow cooker your best friend. I know it sounds like a 1970’s way to cook a meal, but I can’t tell you how many times I used it this year, and especially this semester. It was heaven to come home exhausted at the end of the day to a warm ready-to-eat dinner. It takes a little bit of planning ahead to have everything ready to go, but it is well worth the effort.

4. Arrange back-up day care. Especially if you’re going to have to use some kind of day care on a daily basis for a significant amount of time. What happens if your babysitter’s kids are sick? What happens if your babysitter is sick? And along the same lines, what happens if your child gets sick?

5. Stick to your schedule, and make time to be a parent. I worked my schedule out each semester so that I studied one full day on the weekend, one full day during the week, and during my 2 hour train ride to and from the city. This meant that most of the time I didn’t have to do any homework in the evenings or on Saturdays, which meant I could spend that time with the kids. Or at least I could spend it driving them around in the car. During my first semester I was able to be at practices and games and, most importantly, at the dinner table. The second semester was a little more difficult because of my schedule issues, but we have almost made it through. When I am at home, I try to be here and engaged. I listen and pay attention and really talk to my kids as much as possible. I don’t know if they have found me to be more or less accessible or present than I was before August, but I hope that my efforts made it a little easier for them to share me with school.

6. If you are in a situation similar to mine (a stay-at-home mom going to law school) consider going part-time, at least to start. For a long time I was planning to go to school full-time until I spoke with a law professor who was in law school when her children were born. She suggested that I consider going part-time, at least at first, until I knew what the work load was going to be like. I followed her advice, and I am so glad I did. Juggling part-time law school with a full-time gig as a mom is a LOT of work. It’s going to take me longer to finish, but I’ll finish with my sanity intact. My original plan was to transfer to the full-time division after my first year, but now that I know what is entailed I’m almost certain I will continue to go part-time until the end. It has worked out very well for me and for my children because I’ve been able to balance being a good mom and a good student, both of which are important to me. (Click here for the studying advice of another mom who is going to law school full time.)

7. This is not just for law student parents, but for any law students. Cut your books! I know it might seem cruel and heartless, especially for all you book lovers out there, but it is one of those decisions I will never regret.

October 30, 2005

Move Over, Martha

Today was one of those great days that brought productivity both as a mom and a law student. Because of the time change I was up early and got laundry washed, folded and put away, took a shower, and finished up a Jedi warrior costume all before 9:30 a.m. The rest of the day has been spent working on Civil Procedure reading and writing, as well as some research and case briefing for Legal Writing. Randy has had dinner simmering on the stove all day and we'll be sitting down with a bottle of wine and a movie later this evening. On the docket for tomorrow, pre-trick-or-treating, is more Legal Writing stuff, a Civ Pro hypo, and lots of Torts reading.

And yes, in case you're wondering, despite my lamentations about being a bad mother, I got my Martha Stewart groove on and whipped up a Jedi warrior costume this weekend for Matthew, our resident Star Wars fanatic. All the Jedi costumes were cleared off the store shelves, so I broke down and went to the fabric store to get a pattern to make one. Apparently there are lots of Jedi wannabes out there, because the fabric store was completely out of Jedi costume patterns. My solution? Matthew will be wearing a Wise Man robe from a nativity play costume pattern. I didn't show him the pattern picture, so he totally believes that he is Obi Wan Kenobi. When he tried his costume on this morning he proudly brandished his light saber while jumping into the proper Jedi defense position, then he excitedly proclaimed that he looked "just. like. Obi Wan Kenobi!" Hopefully when he's 35 he'll remember the coolness of the Force and forget about all the macaroni and cheese we've been eating for dinner lately.

October 25, 2005

The Seventh Inning Stretch

My first law school final is about five weeks from now. I still cannot believe how quickly this first semester has gone. I can't believe it's almost over already.

For the most part, I love law school every bit as much as I always thought I would. I enjoy the intellectual stimulation, my daily trips into the city, and meeting new friends. It is also as exhausting as I always thought it would be. If I didn't have kids and a husband and a house and a whole other life, it would be a lot easier to handle it all. As it is, I am exhausted. It is getting more and more difficult for me to juggle everything successfully, although I hate to admit that.

I find that from about 4:00-9:00 p.m. every night I feel stressed and crabby and overwhelmed. During those hours I am making dinner, driving back and forth across town through traffic to sports practices and show rehearsals and concerts and games, trying to get lunches made and clothes picked out for the next day, putting Matthew to bed, taking care of the dog, and thinking about all the homework I'm not doing. On the weekends Randy is home and helps a bit, but he's only home for two days before heading out of town again on Monday and I study all day on Sunday, so I feel like we have very little time to really get things done. I manage to do the laundry (Randy also does some and Karly does her own, but there's still a lot left for me) so we all have clean clothes, but I never seem to make it to the house. My house is a disaster. My yard is a disaster. I have fall decorations on the front porch, but I still have summer flowers in the flower pots and peonies and hasta and a whole perennial garden that need to be trimmed and winterized. Halloween is less than a week away and we have candy, but no costumes and one lonely bowl of fall gourds in the foyer.

It is difficult for me to let this stuff go, because for the past 11 years I have been able to take care of it all. My house has always been decorated for any given holiday (not to mention clean), I've had costumes made by mid-October, and I've always been ultra-organized and on top of each day's activities. But now? Well, my homework is done, the kids' homework is done, we're all clean and fed and we have clean clothes. But that's about it. And it's okay, I think. I'm willing to let it go a little bit in exchange for a J.D.

Tonight we got home from football and dance practices and I told Matthew to take a bath. As he was brushing his teeth, I tried to rinse out the bathtub. I discovered, however, that the bathroom faucet handle is broken. It just spins and spins and no water comes out. So I thought I would unscrew it from the wall to see if it was something I could replace myself. I got the screws out about halfway before I discovered that the handle is blocking them so you can't actually get them, or the faucet, out of the wall. I decided to check the internets to see what I could find about replacing a shower faucet. I found lots of instructions out there, but they all involve things like "solder," "pipe cutters," "flaring tools," "transition unions," and "propane torches." Propane torches? Yeah, I'm studying law, not plumbing. I can handle personal jurisdiction and proximate cause, but transition unions and propane torches are out of my league.

And this is my life right now. Last week it was the water dispenser in the refrigerator and the week before that the rear wiper on my van. I always think I'm totally tough and can handle anything until these technical homeowner engineering things come up. How am I supposed to keep up on all of this stuff, cook dinner, clean the house, care for kids AND be a law student? Am I really going to be able to keep this up for 3 1/2 more years?

September 04, 2005

On Being Different

I've been thinking a lot these past couple of weeks about fitting in. Because I feel like I don't. And it's okay, it doesn't really bother me; I've spent a lot of time in my life not fitting in.

It's human nature, of course, to look around at other people and to look for those with whom you have some kind of connection. That's just what we all do when we spend any time with a group of people. And many of us (maybe all of us?) compare ourselves to the people we meet. It's the unconscious comparison, I think, that allows us to find those we have something in common with. In my contacts with my classmates in the past couple of weeks, I have discovered several things about them and about myself.

I am, quite obviously, the oldest person in my section. How many times did I blog about that before I started? I kept saying that I didn't want to be the oldest one, and that I was certain that I wouldn't be. And I'm not the oldest one in my class. I know for a fact that there is at least one student who is, as the dean told us all on the first day, in his or her 50s. That student (or students) is in the evening section, however. Along with all the other students who are anywhere near my age. When I sit in class and look around at everyone else, they all look so young. They all are so young. I sit next to one woman in several of my classes who is only 6 years younger than me. And I know of one man who is 10 years younger than me. The average age in my class is 24, so most everyone else is significantly younger. I believe that in my Civil Procedure class I am the oldest person in the room, because I think even the professor is younger than me.

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