Monday, April 30, 2012

a Serious Lapse in Judgment

     So, last Sunday I found out that the City Council in my town hired the summer Pool Supervisor at their last regular meeting.  No big deal, right?! Okay, but what if the person hired was only 18 and a terrible lifeguard? Still not a big deal?! What if I told you that the person hired currently has (and at the time he was hired had) D felony charges pending for possession of marijuana with the intent to deliver? Got your attention, didn't I?! Needless to say, I went to the next city council meeting and asked for the issue to be put on the agenda for the next meeting, 'cause as a mom, I've got some opinions about that decision.  Floating around the decision are rumors that the person's mother, who is the city clerk, intentionally misled other applicants into believing the position was filled so her child was the only actual applicant and his father, who works for the local newspaper, quashed the story even though it was presented to him by the sheriff's office as a public notice.  Needless to say, this has created some turmoil in this small, otherwise seemingly peaceful town.  
    Several people in the community who are interested in the situation but have some ties to the city and feel conflicted out of expressing their concerns have addressed me since finding out I was at the meeting - thanking me for being there, etc.  When I first heard about the whole thing, I was incredulous; then I was angry - not ever at the kid who took the job (although I question his sanity in even applying) - but at the city council members who did not see this as a legitimate concern.  I am a criminal defense attorney.  I've seen young people's lives be ruined by one stupid action - not mistake, but intentional action - taken for whatever reason.  I've seen the damaging effects a Felony Conviction can have one someone - essentially prohibiting any kind of legitimate employment, affecting ability to obtain school loans, etc.  A felony Conviction is a one-way ticket to nowhere; and for a young kid, it can be devastating.  I do not want that for this kid.  I know what it means to be innocent until proven guilty; but I also know what it means when law enforcement find 3 ounces of marijuana and a scales in someone's possession.  My motto: take responsibility for what you did and pay the consequences.  Unfortunately, it doesn't look like this kid is doing that. Instead, he's advocating for the legalization of marijuana - arguing that legalizing MJ will prevent young people from growing and selling to make a quick buck, and instead go to college. (Did I mention that this kid is enrolled at the U of I?). Hypocritical, to say the least, but politics aside, it doesn't show much responsibility-taking and it doesn't convince me that he won't sell drugs to the other kids at the pool...
     Anyway, like I said, I have nothing against this kid - give him a job mowing lawns, hire him by all means, but don't put him in charge of a bunch of teenagers who are supposed to be watching our children!  This is the City's bad judgment - plain and simple.  I do not want this event to define this kid for the rest of his life.  In fact, I spoke with the mayor and begged him to talk to the kid's mother and try to convince her that persisting in taking the job would only result in MORE bad publicity and reputation destruction, not less.
     Unfortunately, someone notified the Des Moines news media.  While I was in court in Audubon County, KCCI was roaming the town trying to get interviews from the poor parents and the mayor.  Exactly what I feared would happen, did.  Now, the focus will not be on the idiot city council who gave the kid the job, knowing about the pending charges, but the kid himself.  Any attempt to minimize the damage to his reputation is gone....he will be the headline - not the council and their bad decision.  I am very sad about the situation. Yes, the kid is stupid, arrogant and has very poor judgment, but he's just a KID! (18) All 18 year-olds are stupid, arrogant and have bad's part of their DNA.  I blame the adults, here. The city council members who had to have known what the right decision was - the decision that was best for the community - but either bowed down to pressure or simply ignored the facts.
     I was not the only parent concerned about this situation. As I said earlier, many parents have approached me...but I think I might have been the only parent who really cared about the effects of this mess on that fool boy who applied for the job....


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Come...join me!" she says in her best Zombie voice

Over the last two weeks, things in my life have changed - A LOT. 
About six months ago, I reluctantly went to my first Thirty-one party.  Now if you don't know what Thirty-one is, you are missing out. It is an organizing mother's dream - a huge variety of bags, totes, storage bins, etc. that come in a multitude of fun and coordinating patterns.  I say I went to the first party reluctantly because I had been intentionally avoiding Thirty-one. I knew I would get hooked...but it was for a friend's daughter's bridal party, so I went.  Boy, was I right. Hook. 

Then, a few months later, I got invited to another party. I had some basic pieces to work off of, so I needed a few more, right? and then, only a few short weeks later, ANOTHER party. By that time, I was so in love with the products that I wanted to have a party myself, so I scheduled one. Line.  

My Thirty-one party was on the 15th of April. It was a blast and I got so much free stuff, I was giddy! By this time, I was completed addicted, so my husband (jokingly, I think) said "just sell the stuff!."  That day, I decided to become a Consultant for Thirty-one. SINKER! 

I had my first party as a consultant the following Sunday, and it was a Smash! I had such an amazing time talking about what I love and getting to actually know some women in my community better.  I've lived in this community for almost 7 years, but my contact with the outside world has been fairly limited: local attorneys or "bad" people a/k/a clients.  I have gotten to know a few other parents casually through soccer, but I'm a relatively shy person. I don't make small talk and am not comfortable just initiating a conversation with someone I don't know.  At the party I was able to meet many women I only knew by name or by reputation...It made me remember what it was like to be a social person -to chat and laugh and gossip. 

Until then, I had completely forgotten that, yes, in my element, I am a social person. I like people.  My life had become so two-sided: the work side, which is social to a degree and the home side, which is mostly pretty mundane (not that I don't love playing with my kids; but it's really not the same). I have been missing out on the social bonding that was such a regular part of my life before my kids were born - the kind where other women are friends because of who they are and not because their child is friends with your child.  

After that party on Sunday, I feel like I have a new focus, a new goal. I'm excited about something again! Who knew how invigorating that could be?  Now, instead of going to bed after getting the kids to bed at 9, I work on my Thirty-one stuff. I have been more upbeat and positive this week, at work and at home, than I have been in a LONG time.  It sounds stupid and "cult"-ish to say that Thirty-one has changed my life - I always roll my eyes when I read the little inspiring stories in the catalogs...but the fact is, it's true.  Who knew that a (small :0)) obsession with a little bag could do so much! 

And finally, because what kind of addicted, overbearing and fanatical person would I be if I didn't try to convert you? Here's the link to my website. "Come...join me!"


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

And you thought you were in control...

After hearing about a particularly frightening health scare of a friend and the grueling effect it had on her, I started thinking about how vulnerable we all really are.  As working moms, and as attorneys with clients who rely on us, we have to have things under control - all the time.  We have to be ready to deal with any situation, and do it in such a way that those who rely on us feel safe and protected.  And most of the time, we can pull it off...and we pull it off so many times that we really think we're in control.

But then, something happens - your dog bites your two-year old in the face, for example, and all of a sudden that illusion of having things under control flies out the window.  Your baby is screaming and blood is flowing, and your brain shuts down from the fear.  You realize you can do NOTHING to prevent what happened and you scramble to make up for whatever lapse in...something - attention, supervision, control -whatever (and honestly, maybe nothing)... caused this event to happen.  You race to the ER praying that the doctors can fix it, that there won't be any scarring, that she gets to keep her bottom lip...and as you wait, you obsess about what COULD have happened - what if it had been her eye...what if it's not just a cut, but an actual chunk out of her face, what if they can't fix it and she'll have a horrible scar forever.  And then, the worst, you have to set aside your own fear and worry and focus on keeping her calm...she screams so shrilly that it brings tears to your eyes and you know...there is absolutely nothing that I can do... 

The facade of control is are utterly helpless. When your children hurt, there's nothing that you wouldn't do to stop it and gain back that control. No bargain you wouldn't make with god to ensure your baby will be well. I am not a religious person, and at times I am jealous of those who can say "god's will be done" and rely on their faith to get them through. But the fact is, that no matter what happens, and I do thank any power that be that may be listening that I have not had a real tragedy in my life, there's a little face looking up at you, begging you with her eyes to make things all better.  So you have no choice but to put on the mask of resolve and self-assurance and again (appear to) get things under control.  

The best thing about having friends should be that you are never alone.  It's impossible to keep the front up forever and it is priceless to me to be surrounded by people to understand and sympathize, without judgment, when my mask of control shatters.  We're all in this together...


Monday, April 9, 2012


I’ve been thinking a lot about “Balance” lately. It came to mind after I challenged my 5 year old to a game of Twister last night (which by the way, how is that I can stand forever just fine, but can’t manage to keep one foot on green and one foot on red for more than 10 seconds without the burning pain that comes with being an out of shape 33 year old sets in?).

But needless to say that somewhere between my 4th and 5th losses to my dancer daughter who flawlessly managed to keep her balance, it struck me that balance although a seemingly easy concept, is anything but easy.

But whether it's easy or not, it’s something we all have to deal with. Hence the reason that till the end of time all working mothers will talk about it, complain about it, question it. I mean, I probably have written more blogs about work-life balance than any other topic on this blog.

Learning to balance is a long, lonely journey. It’s impossible to learn the art from someone else. I can tell you how I manage to work my job and handle my three young children often by myself (three words: Fruit Snacks, cars, and an IPad). But, everyone has it different.

I can remember being a young lawyer and getting tons of tips on how to be working attorney: Dictate when you are driving, read briefs at your kids activities, get a Nanny to help you cart around the kids. But the problem was that these tips on balance may have balanced the giver of the advice’s life, but they were things that didn’t work in my life.

So over the years I have learned, as I was shown ever so painfully last night that while one person may be able to manage a right hand red, left hand blue, another may fall flat on her butt (repeatedly). It’s like the child sitting at the kitchen table leaning back way in his chair balanced on two legs. You may tell him repeatedly the “Four on floor” warning telling him that he will fall, but he just smiles at you knowing he can balance just fine.

So I stopped asking for advice, cancelled subscriptions to working mother publications, and decided that no one is going to teach me how to be a working Mom, it’s just something I have to do on my own.

I think my problem with balance is understanding the concept that it is a constantly changing process. You get yourself in a perfect groove, everything is going great, and then comes a week on your calendar where you have 7 briefs, 3 child activity commitments, and you get the flu. So I think it’s not about truly learning how to keep balance, its trying to master the art form of being able to constantly adapt to balance no matter what is thrown at you.

Last week was a particularly hard week in my house as I was in trial. My kids (and myself) are used to me being the one to be there when they are home, cook them dinner, play with them, bathe them, and kiss them good-night. But last week I couldn’t do that. I spent my nights up till 1:00 a.m. working, I missed dinner with the family, good night kisses, and had to send my understudy (Todd) to sing my classic lullabyes. I felt completely guilty the whole week, almost as if I was on trial. My poor mother had to listen to me “defend” myself all week, “But Mom, I’m always there, this is just one week I can’t be”, etc. Even though no one was making me feel bad about my busy schedule, I was my hardest critic. It was just one of those weeks (that luckily are few and far between) that the balance in my life was completely off.

But my week reminded me just how important family time is to my balance. I have been accused more times than I can count of being a “total Mom” (whatever that means). I proudly admit that my kids are my life…without the three of them, I have no outside life. I hear friends of mine talking about their book or wine clubs, that they religiously attend to get some social time away from their kids. They always think I’m joking when I say the only book club I attend discusses such riveting issues as why is Sam I Am so insistent that his friend eat Green Eggs and Ham. Wine clubs? Nope, just whine clubs exist in my house. It just so happens that the strongest “legs on my chair” so to speak are my kids and so I balance heavily upon that part of my life.

There are times in my life I feel like I have a perfect balance and can navigate my worlds just fine. Other times, like last week, I feel like I am grasping for a rope to hold onto. I guess I still have a lot to learn about adapting to the challenges of being a working Mom.

I think the goal to work-life balance is just to find the right amount of balance where you are comfortable and not a second away from crashing down. My advice on finding balance, find the balance that works in your world and be proud of it. And don’t expect that balance to stay the same forever, for as different challenges are presented, we have to modify how we balance our lives. Will we ever find the perfect balance? Yeah I think that is about as unlikely as me ever beating my daughter at Twister.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Spring Fever

I totally have spring fever!  For the last four weeks, I have chomping at the bit to get the vegetable garden tilled, get the leaves cleared away and to GET PLANTING! Something about the Spring makes me feel like I need to get my hands in the dirt and get some color on.  I have been to the local plant shop three times already, perusing the seedlings and dreaming about the fantastic flower displays I am going to create.  Each time, the owner has to warn me off - it's too soon! wait until the end of worry of frost. It is killing me!  I spend a dollar amount on flowers that I don't even want to contemplate. I'm a flower junkie in the Spring. 
The funny thing about it is, that each Spring I have these grand ideas - we've expanded our vegetable garden three times-and aspirations - "I WILL water my outside potted plants every day, just like Mom says to," but, inevitably, by about the second week of June, I'm sick of pulling weeds and I'm tired of having to drag the hose all around the outside of the house.  My grand plans go astray, and by the end of the summer, the remaining tomatoes, beans or whatever is still in the garden are rotting on the vine; the flowers are wilted and sad looking from dehydration.  Almost every year! 
Of course, they say that admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving's a work in progress.  Two years ago, I tried to solve the problem by planting only perennials - they are generally more self-sufficient- unfortunately, our dog seems to think that any new plant item is an upgraded toilet.  He kills ALL new plantings in the ground.  SO, last year, I opted for just annuals, in pots, so the dog would leave them alone.  Unfortunately, annuals actually require attention, and I don't have an eye for flower design, so again, I was unhappy.  This year I think I'll take the easy way out: plant tomatoes and prearranged flowers and plants -- then expend the rest of my "get dirty" energy looking for bugs with the kids! 
Happy Spring everyone!   


Monday, April 2, 2012

Line Jumping Lives - Part Two

A couple of weeks ago I introduced you to my “line jumping lives”. If you missed that post, I like every working Mom am trying to find balance between my two lives of attorney v. Mommy. Although I try to keep my lives separate, parallel, and peaceful…often my lives do not want to cooperate. My personal life and professional life often find it very hard to co-exist peacefully leading them to infringe upon each other all the time, “line jumping” sort to speak.

When I last wrote about this topic, it was my professional life trying to butt in on my personal life. Well, apparently my personal life has been harboring a vendetta….

This week I have a federal two day trial. My partner asked me a few weeks back to 2nd chair a trial with her. I love litigation so any chance I get to be a part of it is like Christmas morning for my professional life. So, yes I was thrilled and excited about the prospect of this trial. If I have to work (which thanks to my husband’s recent loss of the Mega Millions jackpot, looks like something I will be doing for many years to come) then I want to litigate. And now my professional life was giving this opportunity.

So, my professional life was at its happiest, busy sure, but excited. And that’s when it was blind-sided as my personal life decided to butt in and try to rain on its parade. Oh no "butt in" is a little too kind, my personal life lodged a multi-faceted attack upon my professional life.

It started with the infamous note from backpack. I have come to find out that the backpack of a child very rarely holds good news. It either holds a note asking for money, or telling you at midnight that your child needs to wear red polka dot socks the next day. So I have learned my lesson to open it each night, preferrably before Target closes. As my daughter and I emptied her Hello Kitty backpack I saw the usuals: old homework, Market day brochures, pictures from art class, a library book. But then from the bottom J pulled out something she was very excited to show me. She pulled out a note…not just a note the hand drawn, colored with crayon kind of note. The kind of note you know is important…

I opened up the note. In my daughter’s precious Kindergarten-Crayola blue handwriting I read

“You are invited to my concert April 3rd at 1:00 p.m.”

Ka-Boom, first attack. April 3rd is the first day of my trial. The attack was major as this was not an invitation this was a handwritten invitation. Even though on the outside I was smiling ear to ear for my daughter’s sake a ton of emotions were festering. At first I got mad, really mad. I mean was there seriously no voices of reason in the “Let’s set a memory-saving scrapbook moment, pull out the video tape, adorable concert, during the work day, and give parents less than a week’s notice” meeting. Next came guilt as my daughter followed her invite with “You are going to love it Mommy, I’m singing about lunch!”. Then I felt defensive. Should I try and explain to my daughter that 99% of the time I am at school functions when most Moms aren’t there?? Nah, I doubt kindergartners are swayed by percentages.

I had to think fast, especially when faced with the big hazel eyes of a daughter who very rarely has to deal with her Mommy not being in the crowd. So I pulled out my big weapon…my best weapon, the big gun. “Hey, you know who can come….NANA. Nana is on spring break so I bet she can come!” I knew once I said Nana, I could slip in a “I can’t come J” and she wouldn’t even hear it. Mom is great, but Nana, Nana is AWESOME. Picture if you will, a crowd of parrotheads at a small county fair expecting a cover band but suddenly are surprised with Jimmy Buffet himself. That is Nana. Nana is idolized by my kids, so I knew if Nana was there, J would never even remember if I wasn’t there. Sure enough it worked, J smiled from ear to ear. Crisis averted.

Or was it? As I turned away, I heard J “Here Mommy, there’s this too”. J pulled yet another pink paper from her backpack. Could it be???? No, not after the last attack.

Yep, sneak attack.
Well played, personal life. I certainly didn’t see that coming.

Eat with your child week”. Yes, the week where you can bring in McDonalds and surprise your kids by eating lunch with them. I never miss this week as the thought of my daughter watching her classmates chomp on fries while she eats corn dog nuggets on a lunch tray is too much for me to handle.

Okay, don’t panic Mandi. It says it’s the WHOLE week…there is no way it will be on a day I can’t go.

But there it was, in bold Times New Roman, “Kindergarten: Monday”. Of course it's on Monday…the day of the rescheduled-one-to-many-times deposition that I can’t cancel. I had already used my top Nana weapon, so what on earth do I do now? But then a beacon of hope as I noticed the small print of “Make up day: Friday” on my calendar. Friday I can do. I explained to my daughter that I would come on FRIDAY, the best day of the week! She smiled. Whew…dodged another bullet.

Two attacks in one day, I’m sure even the most seasoned war soldier would have a hard time dealing with that.  

But it seems like my personal life wanted to hit me while I was down as the next day brought yet more bad news. This time it was delivered by messenger as my husband light-heardly said on the phone one afternoon while I was typing a motion at my desk “Oh by the way, the boys Easter Egg Hunt is next week”. Sure personal life, it’s not enough to use my daughter against me, you are going to throw in a toddler’s easter egg hunt. Ok I know you aren’t supposed to shoot the messenger, but I think when it’s your husband there is a an exception so I let out my frustration with a loud “REALLY? Let me guess, it’s Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday?? Right!!?? RIGHT???????”.

I think Todd was afraid to answer, as he said “No, it’s Thursday” with a “please don’t bite off my head” type of tone. Okay, so this wasn’t an attack, just sort of a “don’t make me do it” reminder from my personal life that my working life was getting a little hectic and it could attack at any time so I better watch it.

I survived the attacks with some guilt and wiggling around of my schedule. I know I’m lucky, as I am blessed with a job that allows these type of attack weeks to be few and far between. I am grateful that to date I have yet to miss any big event, a job that allows me to be one of the only Moms climbing the bus on a field trip. I know I could have a job where that is not possible. But still, I can’t help but complain. It’s a war that working Moms face all the time, but there is no other way to say it other than just saying it…IT SUCKS.  

So here’s to hoping that all of you reading this are not engulfed in your own line jumping battle and having one of those weeks of peaceful co-existence! And if you’re not, hang in there, and perhaps wear a helmet…the attacks are swift and often painful!