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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Good Wife

I have been on a bit of a holiday break, and as part of that break, I have been watching far too much TV.  "The Good Wife" has really captured my interest this year, even though I have been so slow to start watching.

I did this with Dexter, and Breaking Bad, and Parenthood.  It's almost like I ENJOY being wrong about shows, if only because then when I do try them, I get to binge.

So, binging on Good Wife and also Chance. Back in a week or two!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Right to protest versus right to riot

I will preface this post by saying I am trying to take the Trump win in the Presidential race with grace; I must admit that I am having a hard time with the reality that many of my neighbors, family and friends voted for a mysoginist, hate-filled, race-baiting, big mouth who at best has a terrible view of women and bases his judgment on looks, and at worse is a straight up sex offender. I'm trying so hard not to be angry, not to make this a negative four years by my own attitude.

Some of our fellow citizens are also unhappy.  This I understand, obviously.  And many are waging quiet protests, gathering to share their unhappiness, gathering to lobby the Electoral College to revolution, speaking their concerns online and in other ways.  These kinds of protest are entirely reasonable and they can be useful because they keep the focus on change and respect.

However, other protests that are happening, such as those in Chicago and Portland, are not accurately even described as protests.  Any action that involves burning, destroying or violence is not a protected speech protest, it is a riot. Riots are criminal action, and frankly, they degrade all of us with legitimate protest concerns.

If you are one of those participating in a riot or even viewing riots as necessary - you are a part of the problem, and not the solution.  By delegitimizing the long time argument of Democrats for peace and respect even in disagreement.  Look back at Martin Luther King Jr and the Civil Rights Movement for examples of how this must be done.  The current rioting makes it hard to distinguish between "us" and the Trump crowd!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Get out the vote!

Short and sweet: If you are a US citizen eligible to vote, walk away from this screen and get your hiney to the polls!
If you already voted, please feel free to share your experience.  I don't mean you have to reveal who you voted for (but you can).  Just let me know how your poll was.  For instance, my poll had medium turnout when I went, but that was at ten a.m. when I expected light turnout.  There was a beehive of activity and excitement, which rubbed off on me and now I just want to watch election coverage.
I'm working, but as soon as I am done you can bet I will be cozy and comfy, watching our nation make its choice.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Moment of Silence

Today I got a reminder of something that has bothered me more and more over the past decade: the difficulty hard of hearing or deaf in our society have such great difficulty getting access to many things.  Within the last four months I have been the broker for a client who could not hear in court, a friend who could not get heat because she is deaf, and then today my encounter was with a phone service who did not provide accommodation for users.

Why is this even an issue in 2016?

Shouldn't courts have an easy to use system in place to accommodate our hard of hearing or deaf citizens? It took my court several weeks of me nagging to even get ear sets for my hard of hearing client.  The accommodation was available in my county, but in many it isn't.  I have been party to a court case that went on two years where a deaf mom, deaf dad and profoundly deaf child all had to appear, which meant the court had to hire four separate interpreters.  It truly delayed the process for everyone, but especially for the parents who lost custody of their four kids and needed expert help in getting the kids back.  Finding attorneys who could schedule around interpreters that the court was reluctant to pay for was not easy, and overall I was left with the feeling that there should be a better, more efficient way for the deaf and hard of hearing to receive equal treatment under the law.

In the instance of the gas company, just signing up to have an account to get a gas line run was more like an obstacle course than an easily utilized service - especially shocking since in most counties, like this one, there is only one gas or electricity company which services the area, and therefore the deaf and hard of hearing have no choice but to follow the procedures set out by the monopoly holding company.  For my friend, I will call her Tammy, the procedures were impossible since you could only set up services by calling the gas company.  They had a TDD line, but Tammy doesn't subscribe to that service as it is slow and often error filled in matters like this; they also keep records of all the transcripts, which means Tammy's social security number, birthdate, and driver's license would be in the possession of the TDD company and therefore more open to identity theft.  Tammy could easily have provided this information in a chat or an email, but the gas company refused those methods.  She tried sending in a paper application, but a month with no heat and no contact from the gas company convinced her to ask for my help, after an afternoon of work lost in trying to go to the gas company's physical offices, where no one could help her since you can only start service - you got it, over the phone.  I called the company and within twenty minutes Tammy had a case number, an engineer's name - and his email.  Why would it have been so hard to just allow her to communicate via email in the first place?  My blood was beginning to boil by the end of my call as the chirpy voice on the other end easily gave me the engineer's email.

Maybe if some time had passed I would have forgotten that experience, or at least simmered down, but today Tammy had yet another issue that would have been made so much easier if her cell phone company had any kind of accommodating procedure for the deaf and hard of hearing.  Instead, I called for her when her iPhone was rendered useless after an iOS upgrade, and after half an hour on various holds, I finally got through to a human being in the accessibility department of Apple Support.  He was a very kind fellow but he was very upfront about the fact that Apple has no solutions for Tammy.

How can this be a thing that our society just accepts?

Sunday, November 6, 2016

After the fallout

Today I read an essay about this election season and the damage already done, no matter the outcome. It really touched something in me; our country is in a battle that encompasses so much more than politicians. For so long, the nation has been arguing and fussing and fighting and it's been getting worse and worse, with lots of "if you vote for person x, unfriend me" drama.  I admit, I have felt and potentially said similar things.

But lately my mind has been on the after.  What happens when the votes are cast and the winner is declared?  How do we go back to being neighbors, friends, family in the aftermath?

This is such a direct analogy to the court process that I can't help but make the comparisons.  When a court case ends, there is the same fallout.  Parents may or may not be "elected" to have their kids returned to them.  On all sides - mother, father, foster families, children- there have been people rooting for a specific outcome, and some of those people are going to "lose."

At the end of the case, the lawyers, the judge, the GAL, the social workers and therapists step out of the family's life, just as the commentators, campaign managers and the pollsters go away.  The real people are left trying to rebuild the family, with or without their children. If the children have returned, it might seem like things could go back to the way they were before the court was involved, but over and over parents and children have told me that is not the case. Relationships are altered, and some of them broken, and our hope is that has happened as a direct result of parents and families mending the root cause that brought them to court in abuse and neglect cases.

The extended family is also changed, and often this is because of who they supported, and who they did not, in the court case.  So often the court case stirs up the extended family, the church, the neighborhood in ways that can't easily be undone or forgotten, just like the election talk and its inevitable polarizing.  It's hard to imagine the way forward, and yet families all over America do it every day, every month of every year.

On the other hand, if the kids are not reunited with one or both parents, the whole family structure is forever altered in a way that cannot be completely mended.  A child returned to one parent but forever separated from the other adds a lot of questions into the child's future, and there is no denying the fact that loss is involved, for the child of course but also for other family members. A child removed from both parents is removed from the greater family in many cases, and if the child is placed with a family member at the conclusion and parents' rights are terminated, then the family "loses" the parents. Any solution where the child doesn't return to both parents is fraught with lots of difficulty in the future, even though that decision may be in the best interests of the child involved.

This feels like a long way around a really important point, one that a dear friend of mine faces every day, regardless of who is president: when the court gavel bangs its last tired note, the real people in child abuse and neglect cases, the ones whose lives are being scrutinized and taken apart and families disrupted, those people live the aftermath of the decision.  My dear friend has four children, all affected profoundly by a case that happened a decade ago. The family structures of the adults and the children were altered forever.

And our nation is about to experience a similar rift.  I wonder how many decades it will take for our families and friends and neighbors to right themselves, or to take on the new normal?

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Time for What Do You Think Wednesday!

I'm starting a new practice here at TGFJ - "What Do You Think?" Wednesday will be a !hopefully weekly staple where I share news stories serious, practical and fluff.  I may or may not share my own thoughts, but I would love to hear yours, or get you talking in your offices and homes. Each week I will add a story or two suggested by one or more of my kids and another by one or more of my clients.

Megyn Kelly and Newt Gingrich Talk Sex - Predators That Is

(If it had been a male interviewer, would Gingrich have maintained the same exact language?)

Fashionista Rebel Says She Would Hate This

(And I just think it should be a criminal act to name all your kids with the same first letter if you have more than two or three kids.)

November is National Adoption Month

Justin Timberlake, This is For You 

Supreme Court Takes on.....Bathroom Use?
(Pssst - I'll Go With You)

Is There an Expiration on When You Can Wear Jeans?
(Who knew I was ahead of my time?)

Get the Vote Out

More on meditation and mindfulness for lawyers

As I was trying to articulate yesterday, the practice of law is uniquely stressful.  The latest statistics indicate that as many as forty percent of us suffer from depression. Years of study suggest that lawyers also have higher rates of suicide, anxiety, and substance addiction issues than the general population.

If these numbers are to be believed, why is this not seen as a crisis, central to education starting in law school and continuing in CLEs? Is there a really obvious reason?  I think there might be.

Lawyers are expected, in most cases, to work long and serious hours in order to make billable hour requirements annually.  Back when I was a new lawyer, working for a county as their only GAL in abuse and neglect cases, I was often in court from eight a.m. till eight p.m., many times with only half an hour for lunch and no bathroom breaks at all.  The rest of the week was spent in a flurry of emails and calls that I look back on with true sorrow.  It was necessary at the time, because of my state's GAL rules, and yet it could not have served my clients. Why?

There were many hours each day when I would be on two or even three calls at once, switching back and forth between them to be sure I heard at least part of each meeting.  As a GAL, I am obliged not to just be dead wood in a meeting or a court hearing, but to fully participate, so I did try hard to provide useful information, comment or suggestion.  But looking back - how did I think that would even work?

If that sounds crazy, it's because it was.  Yet I did it for almost four years, and I even maintained that through pregnancy bedrest.  Were those practices mindful? Not even close.  Did they feel necessary? Yes.  I was working a sixty hour week on a part-time job pay, and even that much time was not truly mindful of my clients or of my own health.

At that time I was raising all four of my daughters, and Smarter than Me Survivor suffered the worst loss of her young life.  Right around that time I started to take an accounting of my own life, partially in response to how exhausted and out of step I felt with my kids, and in part because my own mental health was starting to suffer.

It is incumbent upon lawyers to protect themselves, so that they can also protect their families and their clients from a lawyer who is too depressed, anxious or exhausted to function.  I've been forthcoming about my own difficulties in this area, but it was really dang hard to find another attorney to talk to, be authentic with, about my struggles.  And that just should not be the case.

Even just taking five minutes to assess where you are in life and your career, and where you truly feel you belong, is a start.  I've been working on The Five Minute Journal after reading here and here about the value in writing out what you are grateful for each morning, as well as an affirmation, and then revisiting the journal each evening.

It may sound like I am spending a lot of time in 'self care' between a walk each day, the journal, and the meditation, but in fact the three add up to less than an hour. I take a kid along on my walk from time to time, which adds not multitasking but single focus on one child, and also teaches kids to value the quiet and exercise and nature.

None of these things are set in stone, and I don't want anyone to think I have cornered the market on how this works.  There is no one perfect way to work in mindfulness and a bit of meditation into a day.  For some lawyers, a short walk while purposing to clear the mind of all thought could happen at lunch; for another lawyer the practice of yoga and prayer might be the right answer.  I don't think there is a "bright line law" on this - but I do think each lawyer should do a bit of research and experiment with things that will work for him or her.  Your clients, your family and your own mental health will thank you.