Random thoughts, ideas and pictures of a multi-tasking, yarn-addicted Lady Lawyer

Yes... I really DO have 5 kids

Thursday, December 31, 2009

We didn't start the fire...

it was always burning since the World's been turning.

Free association is the only way that I can reflect on 2009 in any sort of meaningful way and Billy Joel's epic words have never been more true than in this crazy, maddening, overwhelming, ever-changing, upsetting and joyful end to a difficult decade. So here goes...

Recruiter's visit, documents, MEPS and DEP. June date, never mind, April is a finer time. Party for our family, that date is not good for me. Easter Sunday, all together... BMT the next day. BMI, 319, is he coming home again? Heat in San Antonio, riding on an airplane. Mississippi, never mind, we'll go to Mobile this time. Rental car in Alabama, a new one in Biloxi now. A week in heat, humidity, shrimp boating and a Confederate cemetery. Plane ride, back again, Mark's phone flushed down the airplane potty. When is Jr. coming home? Driving through a 2 foot storm. Safe at last, home again, broke his ribs while hugging him. Next stop Italy... got your passport, family?

We didn't start the fire. It was always burning since the World's been turning...

New President, federal spending, auto bailouts, stimuli. Do we have a 10th Amendment? Never mind, it's inconvenient. Cash for Clunkers, Health Care plans, unemployment double digits. More troops to Afghanistan but without a working plan. Underwear bombers on Christmas Day; Obama looks the other way. What's politically expedient? He'll find it every time for sure. Senators who switch their party, bribes to others for their votes. Politics in 2009??? Give me Clinton back again!

We didn't start the fire. It was always burning since the World's been turning...

Blake's death, Eagles losing, rain and rain and Phillies losing. Many people, fewer friends, endings o'er and o'er again. Wait, it's Fall, Eagles back. I still believe and don't look back. Knitting 'til my fingers bleed, making cards and writing briefs. Changes, changes everywhere... and without a cigarette!!!!

We didn't start the fire. It was always burning since the World's been turning...

Knitting friends who sent me yarn, Black Friday shopping, Wicked tickets, Eagles/Dallas for the title, for the bye and for home field. And...

Most of all, there is HOPE. Not the false, politically nuanced crap that is perpetually spewed by our elected representatives. But I have a true feeling that the new decade will bring change and chaos but with a renewed positive outlook. Not only is Mark Jr. about to have the adventure of a lifetime by being stationed in Italy. Not only are all five of my children thriving in their schools, activities, jobs and careers. Not only am I starting the New Year and decade with my incredible husband, my sons and Jr's friend (and Wii bowling).

But Melissa and Mike got engaged on Christmas Day -- and I knew for a week because Mike properly asked Mark for her hand. We spent this afternoon craft shopping and wedding planning for a wedding that is tentatively scheduled for October 1, 2011, our anniversary and my Daddy's birthday. My family has been together for the holidays and we are truly blessed by that -- most military families do not have that luxury and we are beyond grateful that the schedule was finally in our favor!

For all of you who lifted me up, held my hand, dried my tears in 2009... may this new decade bring you peace, prosperity and joy.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lazy while crazy

It was simply too cold and damp and my knees were in agony after Jenny's ballet class today. I really NEED to use my Saturdays efficiently since it's Fall and the Eagles are playing AND the Phillies too. That being said, I have been going like the Energizer Bunny on steroids for months and months and months. Work, the kids' activities, going to San Antonio and Biloxi and New Orleans (funny... I got there before Obama did as President!), wondering WHERE my son will be heading next (and losing sleep over the obvious answer to that question), politics and occasionally knitting in between. Even the knitting is pressure-oriented at this time of year between Christmas presents and the Woman's Club craft auction. Melissa and I spent two nights this week making Christmas cards to be sold at the auction and I'm doing a baby blanket too (and carrying Chip's girlfriend's socks as a portable project -- NOT posting a picture because she doesn't get to see them UNTIL Christmas; she picked the yarn out though). When I realized yesterday that I was putting February trial dates into my blackberry and it was SO raw out today, I jumped off the hamster wheel upon which I spend my life. Sort of.

One of my ongoing projects has been scanning old pictures so as to preserve them. I haven't had 30 seconds to sit and scan since the Air Force consumed my existence in March when they moved Jr's reporting date, but here and there I scan a few pictures. Today, I scanned more than a few. I went through the remainder of pictures my mother had asked me to scan, got ALL of the kids' school and activity and prom pictures scanned and scanned some of the pictures from when the older three kids were small -- the blackmail potential is tremendous!!!!! Then I took the three hours and burned pictures onto a disk -- that process seems like it shouldn't take as long as it does. It probably would have been faster if I had just burned ALL of the scanned pictures, but I knew my mother only wanted certain ones and there are a LOT of scanned pictures. So that was my cold and rainy Saturday afternoon (and evening -- I just finished!). My knees hurt more now than they did this morning because scanning sounds like a passive project, but isn't. I have to get up and down and walk around my table and put the now-scanned pictures into safer storage than they have been over the years. One of the interesting things that I learned when I started scrapbooking and card making (which is absolutely Melissa's and my FAVORITE new thing to do because the product is simply FUN) is that pictures degrade over time because of a chemical called "lignan." I'm probably spelling that incorrectly, but it's what fades and browns pictures. So as I scan the old family pictures (some of which are from WAY before I was born like my Daddy in Korea), I am re-storing all of them in such a way so as to preserve them as well as possible.

What else is new...? Phillies vs. Dodgers in the NLCS. Everything old is new again has become my mantra. It's not just from last year, but from the late 1970s. Dodgers would beat the Phillies in the NLCS and then we would cheer for the Yankees (who Daddy cheered for anyway) to beat the Dodgers. Phillies vs. Dodgers..... did I expect a repeated World Series visit to be easy???? Nope... I am FAR too realistic a Philadelphia sports fan. Last year's October 29th miracle is still fresh in my mind and spirit -- and will always be one of the most fun days of my life. The Eagles are working their usual stress on me -- I think that's why stress at work, with the kids, with all of the "stuff" I do on a daily basis isn't so big a deal. I'm an Eagles fan... always... and that brings a certain level of perpetual angst to one's life; especially in October. Especially when the Phillies are post-season as well. What we have NOT done this year is to add to the Eagles stress by inviting everyone and their cousin over on Sundays. We want to watch the games and spend quality family time -- Eagles time is about ALL the time we can make to be together. And we've taught Jenny to cheer and yell for our Beloved Birds. At three, she needed to get used to being in this house on Fall Sundays.

The kids... Jenny started preschool at Gwynedd Mercy's Hobbit House. The program is outstanding, the teachers and staff are the most incredible people on the planet and I love that she is there. SHE loves that she is there. She also doesn't show her Jenny-ness at Hobbit House. Her teacher was saying to me earlier this week how Jenny cooperates, how Jenny blesses herself and prays before she eats, how Jenny shares with the other children. On and on about how sweet and cooperative a child she is -- I almost asked "is there another Jennifer in the class?" We got into the car. Jenny waited until I got in and started yelling at me about something and telling me "my daddy says..." which is her newest thing: if she gets an answer she doesn't like, she will inform the adult giving her the non-pleasing answer that "her Daddy/Mommy/Chippy/Ryan says" the opposite of the non-pleasing answer. My youngest daughter is QUITE a handful at home. At school, at swimming lessons, at ballet class, at restaurants, at craft stores... she's the perfect child. No one believes me and Mark and Chip when we tell them she's sassy! She is taking non-recital ballet class and swimming lessons and enjoying both activities thoroughly.

Ryan is enjoying third grade (most of the time -- he IS eight after all). He also started playing the cello which I expected to make my house sound like someone was strangling a cat for at least a few weeks. Nope... he is playing beautifully and really enjoys it. He doesn't enjoy carrying the cello to and from school on Mondays for lessons and Fridays for orchestra practice, but he loves playing. Naturally, he is back into winter swimming so he's out two nights per week (with Mark -- Jenny and I are solo which is usually when I find some mindless knitting project so as to NOT listen to her watching Caillou on demand!). The moment the rain stopped today, he and his friends were outside, running around and having a good time. Eight is a challenge for parents, but it's a happy time for kids, I think.

Jr. is still in Mississippi where he says it is still hot as blazes. He told us a few weeks ago that he was being stationed in Italy once he finishes his training but this week said that he may be going to Northern England instead (both of which are his dream bases and either place would make a LOVELY vacation destination next Spring/Summer for me). From wherever he goes next, he is deployable but I really, REALLY try not to think about that overly much. I think I would lose what little sleep I still manage to get if I thought about deployments too much. He loves the Air Force and is doing well. We are very proud of him and his service to our country.

Chip was able to get a limited time, permanent building substitute position which ends the middle of November. After that, I guess he'll go back to daily subbing. However, he also got a job as the lead singer in a cover band that performs up and down the Northeast corridor. He's been in Virginia all weekend and was in New Jersey last weekend. It's pretty awesome for him to be able to use his talents since he has yet to find a full time teaching job. On that note, my husband is still working without a contract on last year's salary and without the HUGE bump he should have gotten for finishing his Master's plus 30. He'll get the retroactive pay eventually, but things are tight since we budgeted for the raise AND for my clients to pay me regularly. Thank God we don't have extravagant tastes -- we would be in big trouble if we did.

Melissa is working for the county and has also picked up a 2nd job so as to save for a car and for a wedding. Nope... no date yet (did you hear screaming from PA...? Then there's no date), but planning is starting. She and Mike have decided not to do a destination wedding so finances are in play there too. She's doing wonderfully in all aspects of her life and Mark and I are really proud of the young woman she has become -- it's funny too because all of the other criminal lawyers are always telling me how awesome she is. "Is there another Melissa working at the Clerk of Courts???" Just kidding, sweetie.

Finally, there is politics... I have been pondering how best to address my feelings about the national stuff and am just not there yet. So here's the local.... there are SEVEN opening for judges in my county due to retirements, deaths and 2 new judges. We currently have ONE woman judge on our bench (and she's a brilliant woman and a nice lady). I'm not sure I need to say more than THERE IS ONE WOMAN JUDGE IN MY COUNTY!!!! However, gender alone is not enough for me so for those of you in Montgomery County who are reading this, I will ask you to ask yourself a few questions before voting for judges for the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas: (1) Has the attorney been an actively practicing lawyer IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY for the past five years? Not a recent member of the Montco. bar association because they practice law in Philly and live in Montco. If the candidate has not been an active Montgomery County lawyer for AT LEAST five years, please do not vote for them. They will not know our rules and procedures. They are carpetbaggers and things are run more smoothly and differently here than in Philly. OUR system works because the lawyers know it. If a judge does NOT know it, it's going to be like a monkey wrench in the gearshift. (2) Has the candidate been practicing law for at least 14 years? If not, they are junior to me and I would prefer -- this time around; we have 5 more spots in 2 years -- they not be chosen as a judge. (3) Does the candidate have something to offer OTHER than gender, race, ethnicity? Has she or he been active in our community? Has she or he volunteered to chair bar association committees? Has she or he practiced in a broad range of cases OR has she or he practiced in one area for such a long period of time that the candidate could take the criminal, civil, family or probate bench IMMEDIATELY and have the knowledge to sit in judgment of issues.

I am openly supporting two candidates although I know exactly who I am voting for each of the seven spots. Patricia Coonahan and Carolyn Tornetta Carluccio meet each and every one of my requirements as a citizen, a voter and a lawyer. Both women are dear friends of mine and I have served on bar association committees and taught CLE classes and know them to be honorable, smart and fair. Pat, the chief of the DA's Appellate Division, is one of my constant adversaries and she has never treated me with anything but respect and fairness. She is probably the smartest woman I know and would make an incredible judge. Carolyn has lived her whole life in Montgomery County. She was the first woman Chief Public Defender. She's been a prosecutor, a defense lawyer a civil lawyer and now does land usage work. Her son and mine were in musical theater together a hundred years ago and she is a great mom and a better lawyer. She also single-handedly brought the Women in Law committee back from the dead back when NO ONE was part of it. Think carefully about who you vote for, but PLEASE give Pat and Carolyn your votes!

And now it's 9:20 and I'm going to have dinner and watch mindless TV with my husband. For the record, I am now eight months smoke-free (as of yesterday) and have lost 11 pounds on weight watchers (which I went back on last month). I have a LOT to go with the weight, but I feel wonderful now that I can breathe again. I can't WALK most days because of knee pain, but I can breathe.

And the Phillies and in the NLC and the Eagles play every Sunday and my children are happy and healthy and well. My life is good and no one can take that away from me no matter how hard some people have tried to do so over the years. As I read back on the 2009 posts and really recognize the journey that has occurred, I realize that 2009 has become 200-mine after all. I don't CARE what others think because I know that I am a good mom, a decent lawyer and i feel very content with where I am as this year creeps to a close.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I believe I can fly... 2009 opening day edition

It never changes... every year on opening day of the Eagles season, I just KNOW that this will be THE YEAR. I guess when you've been a real Eagles fan for four decades, there isn't a lot of choice BUT to believe or you shouldn't call yourself a fan. Last January, when the impossible almost happened and then the year went downhill (fast!), I let myself believe that there would be a parade on Broad Street sometime around my 45th birthday. But then the Arizona Cardinals wanted it JUST a little bit more (and God Bless them because they were SO disrespected; as an Eagles fan, I get that). In the off-season, the Eagles didn't re-sign my much-loved Brian Dawkins. They signed Michael Vick (REALLY?!?!?!?!). Defensive Coordinator Jim Johnson first retired and then died.

Then my friend's son died. Then the Air Force decided that my schedule was something to be toyed with; just on principle. Then I took the surgical scalpel was taken to my life (with VERY positive results... I am SO much happier as a rule without the non-entities pretending to care when it's convenient to them). Then there were the trips to the HEAT of Texas and Mississippi and the returns to the non-stop rain. There were professional triumphs and then the self-questioning about whether anything I do professionally mattered (it does, but THAT was a struggle since late June). There was the "is my husband's teachers' union going on strike?!?!?!?!" stress, the "getting Ryan back to school and he wants to play the cello" stress, the lack of a permanent teaching job for my "always does the right thing" son and the schedule snafu on Thursday (September 10th) that almost, but not quite, had me crying in public.

But there are SO many blessings. Ryan is showing interest in music and is excited to play the cello (which is unGODLY expensive by the way!!!). Jenny started school on September 11th and, instead of letting the Empty Nest feeling take control of me, I organized my yarn and crafting supplies. Her school is SO wonderful and proved it again on Thursday night when I was sad -- those people are AMAZING although saying a temporary good bye to her babysitter (and my surrogate mother) on Thursday afternoon was agonizing. Sue loves us unconditionally; it's such a nice thing to have someone like that in your life! Chip is subbing in a couple of districts AND got the Assistant Drama Director job at our local middle school. Mark Jr. WILL be home for Christmas after graduating his tech school in Mississippi on December 18th (and may be home on and off for several weeks). And there may be a dual celebration when he is home -- biting my tongue on that one for now.

And then, today, after eight of the most grueling months (in a row) that I can remember. After quitting smoking despite all of the stress. After GETTING the younger kids and my husband back to school. After feeling as if I was choking for SO long... 1 p.m. EST rolled around. There was food. There were cosmos (and LOTS of beer for my husband... he's a little tipsy LOL). There was my family -- including a call from Jr. in Mississippi for his 20th birthday (WHERE the HELL did that lifetime go?!?!?). There was the Fox Sports football prognosticators saying (Coach Johnson): "I think the Eagles are going to win it all but not today."

And then my Beloved Birds ROARED into the Panther's Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC (where I involuntarily spent some extra time last month). In a year that has brought SO much change and confusion and questioning about whether doing the RIGHT thing was the right thing to do... I still believe in my Eagles. How can I NOT believe in my Eagles?! Broken ribs...? Either McNabb can play or Vick can take over in Week Three (Kevin Kolb...? Not so much! Can we have AJ Feeley back please?!). We liked what we saw -- our Birds literally forced the Panthers to forfeit the game in the 3rd quarter!! I absolutely LOVE that the four teams that matter -- Eagles, Cowboys, Skins and Giants -- are looking so good. And that goal line stand to end the Panthers...? PRICELESS!!!!!

Eagles 38
Panthers 10

Any questions how good I feel for the first time in forever????????

Monday, August 24, 2009

And if I thought it was hot in Texas...?

My Lost Month post mentions, several times, how grossly hot it was during the long weekend Chip and I spent in San Antonio for Mark Jr's BMT graduation. It has been over 100 degrees in PA many times, but the solution for me has always been a combination of air conditioning and swimming pools. My electric bills have REALLY increased over the past 1-3 years too; I don't mind being in my 40s but I DO mind that my internal thermostat has stopped working. I am hot ALL the time. As in, I rarely wear a coat in the snow. As in, hats? What do you mean heat escapes from your head? That's AWESOME... can it happen to me? I want Jr. to get stationed in Alaska -- I'll go THERE in August rather than...

Biloxi, Mississippi. In mid-August. Really????????? If, and it is a BIG if, my body temperature re-regulates itself after the last week or so, I will be stunned. You know how people say "it isn't the heat, it's the humidity"? Those people are NOT lying to you -- believe them!!! The one consolation is that it was almost as hot in PA while we were gone; less humid (which DOES make a difference), but it was apparently pretty gross here too. That being said, we had a wonderful trip and nice long visits with Mark Jr. -- a tremendous improvement over the nightmarish, time-limited trip that was San Antonio. What was so incredible was being able to sit outside while the kids played in the hotel pool, Mark smoked (and I didn't -- SIX MONTHS!) and just talk with my son without feeling as if his MTI was going to pop out from behind a tree (oh wait... there WAS no shade in San Antonio) and prevent me from seeing him. Despite the choking humidity and heat index well over 100 degrees every day, we had a wonderful trip. There are some (now, looking back) funny parts:

(1) The trip down... we were scheduled originally to drive down to Mississippi, taking several days to do so. At some point, my wonderful husband decided that he didn't want to do that. I guess in hindsight (and wearing really thick glasses), it was the right decision. So we flew. With an 8 year old and a 3 year old. With NO direct flights to Biloxi (because who REALLY wants to go to Biloxi??) from Philadelphia. Our flight left the terminal in Philly on schedule with a transfer scheduled in Charleston, NC to a smaller plane to take us to Biloxi. There was almost exactly an hour between flights -- it was NOT enough time. It wouldn't have BEEN enough time even if our plane had taken off from Philly on time. I said the plane left the terminal on time -- we then waited well over an hour on the runway at Philly. Oh yeah... this vacation is starting off REAL well... we're going to miss a connecting flight to Biloxi where no one wants to really be. We get to Charleston, NC in good time (pilot had a lead foot)... and if US Airways had let those of us with connecting flights off of the plane AND we had run really fast with the 2 kids AND we had a clue where in Charlotte/Douglas Airport the new gate was... We all know those things did not happen. We missed our connection and since no one really wants to go to Biloxi, there wasn't another flight until the next morning.

US Airways instead offered to fly us to Mobile, Alabama. We had no rental car in Mobile, Alabama; the rental car was in Biloxi, Mississippi. Oh goody! A three hour layover in a strange airport (with no smoking area for my husband) and we're not going to have any way of getting from Alabama to Mississippi (about an hour drive because people drive FAST down South) because Orbitz is refusing to help us make new arrangements for our travel and Avis in Mobile isn't going to honor our Avis in Biloxi reservations. Meanwhile, we're in Charlotte, NC... we couldn't have driven down to Mississippi instead of flying with 2 small kids with a connecting flight to a city that no one wants to go to?????????? I could have knit in the car!

Without going into excruciating details, if you are EVER considering booking a trip with Orbitz, you need to NOT do so. I have never encountered worse customer service (and am still experiencing it almost 2 weeks later by the way).

After eventually deciding that this was now an ADVENTURE (it was no longer a fun family vacation and we were only a few hours into the trip), we took the flight to Mobile, Alabama. We rented a car one-way to Biloxi (and that was an all-day drama on Thursday which was solved by the AMAZING customer service provided by Avis at Biloxi/Gulfport "International" Airport). We drove to the base and picked Jr. up to spend less than an hour with him before he had to be back (the plan had been to spend several hours with him on Wednesday but missed connections screwed THAT plan to the wall). So now we are in Biloxi, Mississippi -- more on that in a minute.

(2) Mark flushed his cell phone down the airplane's toilet on the way home. Need I say more?

(3) There was a very gay man, painted all in silver, who accosted Mark and Mark Jr. (the guy ignored me, Ryan and Jenny) at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. He had balloons for breasts and he posed for a picture while extending his tongue down to one of the balloons. There is a picture on facebook -- this is a family blog!!!!!!

Those are the three things that were either funny at the time or are, in hindsight, quite amusing to me. Who would want to go to Biloxi? Let me recommend it to ALL of you (not in August -- it was gross) as a potential winter vacation spot! Biloxi was hit harder than New Orleans by Hurricaine Katrina in 2005; New Orleans got flooded, but that's because it's below sea level. In the 4 years since Katrina, it is obvious that the people of Mississippi's Gulf Coast have not only pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, but have gone overboard on their recovery efforts. Other than the heat, I was extremely impressed by Biloxi and by the American Spirit of the Mississippi residents. If you ask them about what Katrina did (and most of them do NOT bring it up in conversation), they will point out things that they still haven't fixed and there are signs of what the big storm did to the region. However, they do not make their existence about "We are VICTIMS of Katrina." We visited Jefferson Davis's house, Beauvoir, which was demolished by Katrina -- and were able to tour the completely re-modeled main house and the Confederate cemetery behind it. The guide almost made Katrina into a positive because the ripping down of the walls that happened allowed those who maintain Beauvoir to see what color the walls REALLY were supposed to be.

New Orleans has not recovered... I wonder how much if that lack of recovery is someone else's fault and how much is the lack of sheer willpower to come back better than ever. In New Orleans, it was difficult to find any store that didn't have a display of Katrina-related merchandise. It was almost as if those in Mississippi were saying "OK you big bitch of a storm... we'll re-build" while the people of New Orleans were saying "Feel sorry for us because we got hit by a hurricane." It's very difficult to describe the differences in attitudes between the two states, but it is very obvious when one visits both. I could, and probably will at some point, wax political about the differences; not in the mood today. I keep meaning to write a blog post about my political philosophy in general -- because neither party represents me in the slightest anymore -- but that will need to be a post in and of itself.

No clients got arrested for a custody dispute while I was gone (almost, but not quite). There were no REAL emergencies that arose while I took my first ever, non-maternity consecutive 2 week vacation. To catch up on the post from early July, my client who had his conviction overturned is out of prison (that took another several days after the blog post) and is working. I have been constantly reminded, including once during my vacation and again today, that if a person chooses to do the right thing, they will be smacked down each and every time for it. The nice thing is that, because I emotionally eliminated the people who didn't support me from my life four months ago, the people who remain DO support me. I had a horrible afternoon today at work -- really uncalled for nastiness during a court hearing for which I was subpoenaed mid-morning on my first day back in the office after 2 weeks! A friend was absolutely there for me after the crappy experience. Actually a couple of friends were there, but one in particular reminded me that it is in my nature to do the right thing whether I want to or not... hearing from my friend that he is "proud of me" because I did the right thing in a complex legal situation was exactly what I needed to hear. He talked me down off the "I do not want to practice law anymore" fence again! There ARE nice lawyers out there; just too few and far between.

So school re-starts for Ryan next week for sure and, God willing for Mark too (there's a contract dispute that is worrying me non-stop). Jenny starts preschool on September 11th and I have warned the principal that she is nowhere NEAR as co-operative as Ryan was, Jenny definitely has a mind of her own; that is a very polite way of describing my daughter's "sassy" personality. Jr. is still in training in Biloxi. Who knows... if he stays down there long enough, maybe I'll fly down in the WINTER to visit him. Alaska... really. According to Sarah Palin, you can see Russia from there... that's close enough to Afghanistan for my tastes as a parent! I'm rooting for Alaska. Chip is still looking for a full-time teaching job; the market is ghastly and it stinks that a young adult who has followed the"rules" and graduated with honors despite having a very small extended family to emotionally support him can't find a job. I feel badly for Chip that his persistence and hard work hasn't yet paid off. Fingers crossed BIG time for him to find a permanent teaching job.

Besides... he gets a full-time job and I get a craft room. Thanks for reading my mental rambles.. pictures will be added later.

P.S. I added pictures above. Interestingly enough, the devastation picture was from Mississippi and the family picture was from New Orleans. I thought it was important to show what the Gulf Coast still looks like.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Lost Month -- a/k/a June 2009

Wow!!! What state am I in? What time zone? Does that thermometer REALLY say 107 ????? WHAT day do you want to put that on my calendar??? I put time into the court nine weeks ago!!! I'm melting!!!!!!!!!!!!

That was June. Two and a half days in Harrisburg. Five days in San Antonio, Texas. Five days in the Poconos. Unfathomable heat. Pouring rain and hail. If I wasn't withering from the sun, I was drowning in the incessant rain (gonna build me a boat... Jenny wants sheep on it). Court dates. Briefs due. Swim meets. My blackberry almost rebelled completely. The people who matter all knew and understood that June was going to be a nightmare -- those who didn't know June was going to be a nightmare...? Well, you can read the last two posts to understand how little I care about those who aren't on the card list. Add two more people (or subtract 2 people if one is being specific since they are OFF the list) with no further comments. I'm over that part of 2009 and it is ALL good.

The funniest thing about last month was that it really was NOT that different from Junes before it. I go to Harrisburg every year for this one excellent seminar. One if the kids or the other have been swimming for years now so that schedule is the same. But then there was San Antonio... and Mark's BMT graduation. Hotter than the fires of Hell doesn't even begin to describe the temperature. It was 103 when Chip and I landed. Yes... I got onto a plane WITH my knitting needles... twice! Of course, by the last day of the trip in that CRAZY heat, I would have offered to fly the damn plane just to get home! I have never felt heat like that in my life and if I HAVE felt heat like that, I wasn't 45 and having hot flashes when it gets above 70 degrees.

I guess I am now supposed to do the typical Proud Air Force Parent post about how wonderful BMT graduation was -- and parts of it WERE wonderful -- but after a lot of thought, I am NOT going to blow sunshine at anyone reading this. That was one of the most HORRID weekends of my life. It was ghastly hot. There was virtually no shade. The base was going through an inspection (that happens every 3 years) so we had to stand in line for "Base Access Passes" in addition to the passes we already had -- outside, in the heat and no shade for close to two hours. Those passes were not checked a SINGLE time while we were there despite dire warnings at the parents' briefing about how if you didn't have an access pass you would be "on the ground with an M16 to your head." REALLY???? In 103 degree heat, Chip and I waited in that line. At least the passes could have been checked ONE time. Mark Jr's TI also decided that limiting base liberty and town passes (even for Honor Grads) was a great idea -- his squadron had a different schedule than every other graduate and we spent the vast majority of Thursday afternoon standing in line for ice cream and then had to RUSH back Friday because his liberty had been shortened and then his squadron had an hour less than others on Saturday too. It was CRAP... and have I mentioned the HEAT?????

I've missed Jr. -- I firmly believe that time limitations shouldn't be permitted during graduation weekend unless there has been a SERIOUS (not some b.s. power kick) infraction of the rules. It was not a good initiation into military life for the families of the new Airmen. And as badly as I feel for myself and Chip with the limitation, the fact that this TI also told honor graduates that, instead of the Sunday town liberty they had earned AS honor grads, they could only have base liberty...? That is just plain wrong. The six men in Jr's squadron who made honor grad earned that extra town pass. Frankly, the time problem when added to the sickening heat ruined the trip for me. As proud as I am of Mark Jr. (and I think I forgot to say that), I was unimpressed with the experience.

But on the high notes... I saw Shamu!!!!! On Saturday, we went to Sea World, rode a couple roller coasters, walked around a little bit and saw Shamu!!! When Sea World first opened 100 years ago when I was a little girl, I wanted to see the killer whale. I never got to SEE the big killer whale. I saw Shamu!!!! Actually, I should say I saw "ShamuS" because there were 4 whales in the tank at one point -- SO cool !!!! Also cool was that Sea World lets military and up to three family members in for free AND recognizes the service men and women and their families before the Shamu show. Sea World was AMAZING!!!!!

Also amazing was the Alamo. When Jr. had to go back from town pass early on Friday, Chip and I were definitely feeling down so I randomly said "let's go into San Antonio and see the Alamo" which we had both wanted to see. Almost everyone who has been there has said how disappointing the Alamo was -- not to a couple of history geeks!!! What an incredible experience the Alamo was! And then we took a boat down on the Riverwalk (which made the temperature drop about 20 degrees) and it was lovely. We went back on Saturday with Jr. and did the boat again -- it was a very interesting experience in architecture and history and culture. The Riverwalk is worth seeing -- sometime between October and April so as to avoid the HEAT. I am in the process of putting pictures up in my facebook albums of the trip. Chip took a lot of those pictures and really showed a talent for photography.

And then there were the Texas highways. Holy Mary, Mother of GOD!!!!! I'll state it very simply for those of you from the Philly area: I would rather drive on the Schukyll Expressway every day in rush hour traffic for the next ten years, twice a day, in a VW beetle than to EVER need to drive on a Texas road again. Any questions??????

I am proud of Mark Jr. and what he has accomplished. He is doing great -- thriving in the Air Force and talking possible career. My heart quite literally almost broke in two when I saw him in his dress blues, accepting his Airman's Coin, marching down the Bomb Run at graduation, looking VERY dapper in his uniform and straightening it if it was even a fraction out of place! I took the requisite "underwear drawer" pictures and pictures of his bed. Say what you like about the Armed Forces (and you BETTER not say it around me or the other moms), they teach a kid to be tidy!!!!!!!! I'm debating a new method of child-rearing with Ryan and Jennifer: SCREAM at them for eight weeks straight and give them less than 5 minutes to eat a meal and make them run in 100 degree heat... apparently, it teaches them to make their beds!

The Poconos the next weekend were wonderful as always. I had gotten Mark (Sr.) the trip for his 40th birthday (which ended up being the day Chip and I left for Texas so our long weekend getaway was postponed a week). By the time we got up to the mountains and into the pool in our room (Caesars.... yes, the one with the champagne glass hot tubs. No, we don't stay in the champagne glass room), I was nearer to collapse than I have ever been. I thought April had been difficult???? June, which was almost over, had eaten me to pieces. We got there, we ate breakfast, we drank a little (uh huh... that's my story and I'm sticking to it; five drinks is NOT a little) and then we vegged. We played a little bingo, ate delicious meals, but mostly we read, knit and watched "West Wing." I have accepted that I am middle-aged when I go to a couples resort and knit a sock while my husband re-reads Harry Potter. It was the best five days I have had in forever. I came back and felt human -- right as the 1st half of 2009 ended (we came home on June 30th). Coming back in a hailstorm with only 20 minutes to get Ryan to a swim meet wasn't great, but it WAS still the first half of 2009 so it was expected to have SOMETHING irritating.

I was planning on the rest of 2009 to be a LITTLE more low-key. I was really, really hoping that 2009, Part II would provide a noticeable improvement over Part I. I should really know better. The second half is already proving to be just as ridiculous as the 1st half of the year was; maybe I'm just numb that I am not getting AS upset as I would have in June. I won a big criminal case on appeal -- I actually won it on June 26th, but didn't know until July 1st -- YAY ME!!!! Or not. My client, against whom all charges have been dismissed and who has been discharged from state prison because I won on appeal, is still sitting in a maximum security state prison as I write this post. I am NOT going to say much more about what I "feel" about this turn of events... at least not right now... except to say this: I won. You lost. Once in a VERY great while, a criminal defense lawyer wins a case... let my client out and stop playing games. I would have enjoyed the win (which really does NOT happen very often in what I do) SO much more if my guy was out of prison right now. Not to mention that my client is blaming me. My client's family is blaming me. I am utterly powerless at this moment in time so it is a completely hollow victory that once again destroys my faith that the criminal justice system works for everyone.

Again, I remember that although I go to sleep with the Constitution as my pillow every night (an old Dennis Miller rant against defense lawyers) when I represent people I know to be guilty, I continue doing so because the system NEEDS people who are willing to fight for the rules and the procedure that are there to protect ALL of us. Pollyanna much? Maybe, but it's what I believe in and it's why I do what I do. Guilt or innocence HAS TO BE irrelevent to me -- my job is to hold the Commonwealth's feet to the fire; to make them follow the rules against unreasonable searches and seizures or Speedy Trial; to make them prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt; to argue for clients who have received an illegal sentence. I believe in our Constitution... most of the time. Not today. Because no one says to an assistant district attorney: you lost. It's time to stop now. No one has the ability to FORCE them to stop. Instead, it's more of a feeling of "what a shame Bonnie won." No one says that... it's just a feeling. I am made to feel badly for doing my job which is necessary to the orderly management of our justice system. I have to be ABLE to win or our system fails -- I am going to lose 99% of my criminal cases in some manner (I can and do call a good plea offer a "win") and that is completely acceptable to me because Society is protected and so are our rights. But every five years or so, I am going to win a case outright. This case is quickly turning into a wholly unecessary drama because the "1%" happened.

I knew from the moment I made my customary timeline in this case (because I truly am a geek) that I SHOULD win at some point. That's not arrogance, it's the case law on Speedy Trial. This was a crystal clear-cut case of a guy not being brought to trial within a year (no boring the readers with excludable time and excusable delay explanations... it's not really a year). Sadder still is that I didn't expect to win the case at the level that I won it -- I thought it would require more appeals because I would lose at this level even though the law is really clear. But the judge did the right thing (this judge does that which means 99% of the time I lose and I try not to take that personally) because he is a good and honorable man. To win the case and to have my client against whom there are, right now, no charges, sitting in a state prison is wrong. At some point, I need to be into practicing law for the money rather than for my belief in the system... this case may just tip me over that edge. I never wanted to be THAT lawyer and it's a shame that the latter part of my career may become one without belief.

But other than my "win that isn't a win", the 2nd half of 2009 is better than the 1st half. Chip is still job hunting. Ryan is still swimming (until July 25th... then we get the six week break Yippee!!!). Jenny is turning into another Keagy Fish (a very special species) -- over the past week she has decided to swim underwater. On purpose... she LOVES looking at things underwater so she submerges herself. It is absolutely terrifying as a parent to watch a child who is barely three hang out underwater for up to 10 seconds at a time. There's some video on facebook... going to get more on there later. Mark Jr. is in Biloxi, Mississippi at tech school (where apparently it makes San Antonio look cool) and we'll be going down to see him there in a few weeks.

And my knitting and crocheting have been prolific. Socks, almost done a blanket for a friend's 1st granddaughter, random projects that call to me and I am making the time for myself to listen to the calling. I am very close to choosing a sweater pattern to make for myself (down to about 3 patterns now and have the yarn for them). I knit and crochet where I used to smoke (and STILL smoke-free, almost 5 months, WITH Mark smoking thirty packs of cigs while we were in the Poconos... I just had no interest) and I like that change. However, I'm really randomly knitting; I find it very hard to focus on a specific project or choice of a pattern which is not my normal knitting "style." If I can find ONE day where somebody doesn't have a claim (or a leash) to me, I plan to spend a day scrapbooking. I'm sort of in an place right now where I go where God/Goddess/Spirit/the Universe move me when I am not working 50 hour weeks into 30 hours of time.

And it is ALL good because it is now the second half of 2009. And it is a sunny, dry day with a cool breeze. I'm going to the pool. Forward my calls.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Christmas Card Clarification

Obviously, it's been over a month since my last post. After the first four months of 2009 being sucked dry by the US Air Force's recruiting process, a heavier-than-usual workload, quitting smoking, college graduations and the day-to-day drudgery of taking kids to school, sitters and then doing it all again at the end of the day.... I needed a break. I also needed to do the "vampire surgery" and to do my best to minimize those negative influences that my last post talks about. Before I go further, I think some clarification is needed...

Being off my Christmas card list doesn't mean that I am going to (initially) be mean or nasty to you if I am required to work with you, speak to you or you text me about what I thought of the new Star Trek movie. Superficial is what "off the Christmas card list" means. I don't hate the people who are not on the Christmas card list. For the most part, I just do not choose to share my thoughts with them or to be anything other than socially polite or to work with them toward common goals/tasks. I guess the best way I can describe it is that those people have become "non-entities" to me -- I don't wish them bad things, I don't wish them good things, I simply don't care. The way I have distinguished most such people on my facebook for example is to create a category called "acquaintances" and exempt those people from seeing the majority of my stuff (pictures, comments, status, etc.). They are, almost exclusively, people with whom I can have a drink at a cocktail party for a judicial campaign, make small talk with and move on with our respective lives. In most cases, there isn't even anger involved -- it's a disconnect, not a fight.

The people who have been taken off my Christmas card list are those who have repeatedly demonstrated that they are not true "friends" (or family) as I describe the word -- they either do not care about me and my family or pretend to do so or have done something that I find unacceptable to me personally -- their actions may not be unacceptable to others, but they are to me. I don't hate them, I just choose not to associate with them. It isn't a personal attack. The one exception where I decided that a person wasn't getting that I was uninterested in her comments about basement cleaning or about her life in general was easily handled -- facebook allows you to "de-friend" someone, emails/texts can be ignored and if there is a medical situation that I need to be aware of, that one person can call and I will, naturally, get back to her. Lack of interest in the mundane does not extend to lack of concern if there is a serious problem (for family anyway). However, that one person who was "de-friended" has still not ONE time gotten in touch with me or the older two kids to ask how her nephew is doing in basic training or how to write to him. She also failed to send a card to my oldest son for his honors college graduation. Yes, it WAS a test... she failed. Nope, no one in my family decided to bother with her birthday last week -- non-entities do not require extra effort and she has had far too many chances over 42 years to do the right thing.

The vast majority of people who are off the Christmas card list are simply people who have, in one way or another, demonstrated one too many times that my time is better spent elsewhere and with other people. Many years ago, before facebook, twitter, emails or the internet, people spoke to one another. People wrote letters to one another. People also understood that actions and words have consequences. I am too old and too set in my ways to change my beliefs that there are correct actions/words and incorrect actions/words. I am far from perfect myself -- I have made and will continue to make many mistakes. When I hurt someone's feelings (intentionally or unintentionally), I really do my best to say "I'm sorry" without any other qualifiers if I am truly sorry for my words or actions. My decision to eliminate the emotional vampires from my day-to-day life was and is based in a self-protection concept: I am not going to apologize for making myself healthier and removing these people (and a couple of the activities) because doing so HAS made me feel better in the past month. It is an ongoing process as I learned again yesterday with the action of a person who I thought to be a friend -- "acquaintance" is a better description. That's not a statement that I dislike the person since I actually like the person on a certain level; just not going to trust that person because the person obviously does not WANT that trust. No harm, no foul.

All that being clarified (lawyer talk for long-winded; too bad I don't bill by the hour for blogging)... Life is improving. We are VERY proud of Chip not only for his cum laude graduation, but for the way in which he jumped RIGHT into the teaching fray and has been subbing for the past few weeks. He really planned all of that out well -- got the documentation that he needed from his college, got all of the paperwork into our local school district, religiously checks the website for subs -- he's doing GREAT. God willing, he gets a full-time teaching job by doing the right thing as he has almost always done! It would restore some of my lost faith in humanity if Chip were to do the right thing, graduate in four years with honors and with no trouble (other than that witch he used to date), look for a job and find one. Good guys DO need to finish first once in awhile, right?

Ryan and Jenny are doing wonderfully. Ryan is finishing up 2nd grade and, other than HATING the physical act of writing, is doing great in school. I hope Jr. appreciates the effort it took to get Ryan to write two letters to his big brother! Ryan can't wait until Jr. gets internet access and he can send emails and talk on the webcam! Ryan does NOT like writing! Ryan is also excited because the pool is open on weekends and because swim team is starting back up. He's an average, exuberant 8 year old kid. Average is good when you are eight -- look at the little kids who became tv stars as children; drug addictions, suicides, trouble with the law. Kids need to be average until they are at LEAST ten or twelve -- I wish our society recognized that fact more. It's something that I am learning as a parent with "the babies" -- I can be and am proud of them -- disgustingly so -- but they need to be kids and have fun for a few years. I won't add to this LONG post by going into my opinions on education in America today; that will need to be a novel in and of itself. In every way possible, Ryan is where he needs to be (if he wasn't, we would take steps to get him help and not deny problems... that too is parenting). We are proud of him and we want him to have a fun summer playing at the pool and taking a LONG car trip to "ssippi" as Jenny calls Mississippi.

Jenny took a set of swimming lessons at the YMCA so we could feel at least marginally comfortable with her in the water at Beachcomber and also so she would be comfortable and not afraid of being in a pool without water wings. As an aside, I have NEVER understood what parent thinks that those things are ok. They are dangerous and pure parenting sloppiness in my opinion. If your kid can't swim, you need to be WITH them in the pool -- water wings are not going to save your child's life and kids think they are safe wearing them. Pure stupidity -- especially after numorous people have explained the dangers to you and you still allow your child to put those damn things on and give in TO your child when s/he refuses to go in the water without the dangerous water wings! Anyway... when Jenny is in the YMCA pool for lessons, she wears (as do all kids) a safety vest or bubbles unless one of us or her teacher is physically hands-on her. She usually wears the floats for part of a family swim and then swims with one of us holding her. She can also stand in the shallow end at Beachcomber and LOVES to play there and in the baby pool. She is starting full-time pre-school in September because the only other option was to put her into a 2 day a week full-day program. I hate being a working parent sometimes -- my schedule adjusts some because I am self-employed, but I don't have a grandparent to help out when my schedule gets tight and we want Jenny to go to THIS school for the next 2 years. So it was 2 days or 5 days and we chose five. Of course, I don't have a grandparent paying her pre-school tuition either -- so working full-time isn't an option.

And mercifully, Jenny is also potty-trained (and has been for several months... just never mentioned it). After five kids, I am THRILLED to be finished with diapers!!! She still wears a pull-up at night (in her Big Girl Princess Bed), but she's been waking up dry almost every morning so we'll probably eliminate that pull-up really soon. We had a BLAST for her birthday!!! Even I was overwhelmed by the amount of pink (and after the 22 years between the girls, that was QUITE a task). We called it the "Barbie Birthday" although there were components of princesses and My Little Pony too. She loves her dolls although I have to say that the one Barbie who sings the same 2 songs over and over may be losing her batteries soon! She also got the classic Barbie car with a Malibu Barbie inside (who usually drives Hillary Clinton Barbie around -- it's a HOWL!!!) and a ballerina dress-up and butterfly wings and a wand and a Barbie Princess movie. Kate... if you are reading this... you are a SERIOUS enabler and when you and that man you are marrying have kids, just remember that paybacks are a bitch!

As for Jr., if you are other than an "acquaintance" on my facebook, you can read what's going on with him. If you are NOT on my facebook (or have been removed from it because you don't get that your opinions are unwelcome when you haven't bothered to call or email since Jr's party) and are interested, feel free to email me. I refuse to put his status updates and his accomplishments up here because those who are off the Christmas card list just don't get to know those details. Those who are off the list are off, for the most part, for failure to show interest in what he (and our family) were going through during the earlier part of 2009 -- if you don't care enough about him to want to write to him or to ask one of us how he is doing, you don't get to vicariously follow his triumphs through this blog. That being said, many of the people on that "acquaintance" list would get information if they asked how he was doing (and several of them have). We'll just say there have been triumphs and I can't wait to see him!!!

And now, finally to the true nature of friendship... as is obvious from my recent posts, I have been exhausted, angry, nicotine-deprived (for almost 4 months; I don't feel at ALL deprived... I am so OVER smoking), overworked and generally feeling lousy for most of the 1st half of this year. I write tongue-in-cheek about the Christmas card list, but some of the people who were surgically-removed from my life were family and another was someone who was one of my closest friends for more than a decade. The removals were necessary for my mental health (and there is at least one person who needs to BE removed and I can't figure out how to do so without being cruel so they're still around). It is mentally unhealthy for me to be the one to host holiday dinners and Eagles parties only to have guests arrive and complain about how the food isn't gluten-free or to NOT complain but remind everyone in the room how the gluten-free lifestyle is best. Show me a letter from a doctor that says "Person X has been diagnosed as a celiac," (because there is a medical test for that condition) and then I'll care about your health kick du jour. Chiropractors and self-diagnoses don't count. It is mentally unhealthy for me to waste hours of my time standing at my local polls twice a year handing out green pieces of paper to people who have already decided how to vote -- if I take that same 30-40 hours and devote the time to a specific candidate for judge who I think will be AWESOME, that time is MUCH better spent and I feel better about what I am doing. It is mentally unhealthy for me to be around a group of people if ONE of the people in that group makes me want to punch her in the face (to quote Jr. before BMT). I miss the group, but I can't stand one of the people in it and do NOT want to be rude and tell her so. So sometimes, it's all about balance too.

And then there are the REAL friends... on May 15th, at about 9 a.m., my office doorbell rang. I wasn't expecting a client and it was WAY too early for mail or UPS. Standing there, loaded down with yarn gifts, was a friend who although she lives sort of locally, was primarily an online friend with shared interests. Friends from ALL over this country -- several of whom I had only spoken to online and a few on the phone when one of our group needed legal help -- had sent yarn to the local friend to give to me, along with knitting books, patterns that were adapted for my love of circular knitting and that I had wanted to make, but hadn't had time to convert, red, white and blue sock yarn to celebrate Jr's entry into the Air Force, handmade stitch markers and cards that had me sobbing. The love that was sent with those presents overwhelmed me completely. I guess when one's own mother doesn't call to ask how one is doing the day that one's child leaves for basic training (on the cell phone that was put on MY plan so she COULD call me and her three oldest grandchildren because her other daughter, whom she has financially supported for years, can't spare the minutes) -- I guess that makes me a little jaded these days. I won't even go into the grotesque display of inappropriate behavior I was subjected to this weekend because, as I explained above, such people are "non-entities" now and there is no sense in wasting energy on being disappointed.

BUT, having become so jaded and having to time and time and time again lessen my expectations of people, when people do something SO amazingly nice, they need to be recognized -- not as individuals (because this was a group effort and I love ALL of the women in the group for their support over these past horrible months), but as people brought together by a love of crafts and by a belief that a small group of people CAN change the world. Or at least my small portion of it. Their thoughtfulness at a time in my life when I was down, bruised and almost (but not quite) broken re-invigorated my outlook and reminded me that even though I can't count on people that any person SHOULD be able to count upon, I do have people out there that I CAN count on. At the time of the yarn gifting orgy, I thought it was me and my husband and our kids against the entire world. I was alone and I was scared and I was hurting -- it's why I had allowed the vampires to stay in my life long after I knew they needed to be gone.

So to my girls... ALL of you: THANK YOU AGAIN!!!!!!!! Every time I even touch those gifts, I feel better -- you all made a difference. And to my favorite "yarn mule"... lunch again SOON with or without the excuse of a yarn store close-out sale!!! At least after I get back from Texas and the Poconos; we're looking at July now!!!

Once again, the post is long. For those of you who stuck through to the end, look at it this way. I only post once a month or six weeks -- divide the length by 4 or 6 and it's reasonable.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The roller coaster ride

There is no place to start except at the happy ending... no way to explain these last few weeks without starting from right now so I am quoting myself from an Air Force parent's group that I belong to:

And then there are the AWESOME recruiters!!!!!! Despite advice to do so, I had not called my son's recruiter and have spent ALL week waiting for the daily call in which my son tells me his weight is unimportant because of his BMI. NOT SO MUCH!!!!!! I am proud to report that, as of about an hour ago, my son is heading back to training!!!!! Another friend of his is in the enlistment process and called today to see how I was (SUCH nice kids). He was about to call their shared recruiter and I mentioned I had not done so all week because of what my son was telling me (which is that the TI said the recruiter had "screwed" up). I told my son's friend to make sure that he told the recruiter what had happened. A very few minutes later, my cell phone rang -- it was the recruiter who INSISTED that if my son was within weight, BMI wasn't an issue. I knew that, but my son kept telling us that he was being given different information and that he was going to be separated and that he was going to need to rebut the separation and that he was doing his best to work out on his own in medical. He was fully planning on fighting the separation because he wants to serve. This has been a HORRIBLE 5 days, folks. Anyway, my husband and I decided enough was enough and we BOTH got on the phone with Lackland's medical unit (because my son is a twit and put one of us each down on each authorization form so the WONDERFUL Sargent, and I mean that sincerely... he's going on my Christmas card list -- needed to determine which of us he could talk to -- welcome to my life). The Sargent pulled my son's file and was explaining weight requirements and BMI to me (which I knew by heart since Friday) when he paused and said "Oh... his weight is___ and I need to talk to my supervisor and then put eyes on [my son]." Apparently, the recruiter was also talking not only to Lackland, but to my son personally. The recruiter called us an hour ago, said my son was returning to training. That was all I heard before letting out a yell my son probably HEARD in Texas from PA. My husband took the phone because then I couldn't talk. The ONLY problem is that my son has missed 4 days of training and MAY be recycled instead of being returned to his flight (3 days is the limit). I am really hoping that the Air Force recognizes the mistake was on their end and let's him graduate on schedule, but am SO ok either way. I have not yet spoken to my son for an address call and his recruiter said we may NOT get one tonight (NO comment!). I'm thinking they are trying to decide where to put him at this point. Thank you all for your support... this Trainee's mom appreciates it a LOT!!!

So that's the end of the ride... the beginning was March 24th when my son's recruiter called and said that a specific job had opened up for which Jr. is qualified (as opposed to the general job for which he was currently scheduled to go to Basic Military Training on June 8th) but the catch was that Jr. would need to leave in 20 days (April 13th, Easter Monday). It is MUCH better to have a specific, contracted job when entering the Air Force so Jr. said ok. So much for MY plans of doing a joint Going Away/Chip's college Graduation/Jenny's 3rd birthday party! In 4 days, we pulled together a full-blown, GOD knows how many people were in my house PARTY for Jr. My oldest daughter and I had made lovely invitations for the party (that was not yet dated, but was going to be May 16th) -- there's a picture of the invitations Melissa and I made above. They were handed to guests on March 28th and I think the party went well given the SHORT notice (finishing school DOES pay off once in awhile!).

The time went FAST... Jr's stuff needed to be put into storage and then, 3 days before he left and on Good Friday, he went for his 72 hour call to his recruiter and his weight was borderline (I'm fat and I like everyone around me to be that way). He spent the ENTIRE weekend working out and drinking water until he STOPPED drinking water to avoid gaining weight. We dropped him off at his recruiter's office at about 3:30 on April 13th. Weight was still borderline -- they like them THIN in the Air Force -- but he weighed in fine at the enlistment center the next day and was on his way to Texas.

As a trainee's parent, you WAIT for that address call. I slept with my cell phone pillowed under my head -- NO idea if my kid was ok really (I knew he had gotten to San Antonio VERY early in the morning of April 15th after a bunch of weather-related flight delays). By that weekend though, I needed a massage desperately (despite my fatness, I am working out like a fiend myself and on weight watchers... SORE muscles). Don't you know, the SECOND I pulled out of my driveway that 1st Sunday morning, the kid calls and gives what I KNEW was a wrong address to his father! I finally figured out the address the NEXT Friday evening (April 24th). And then THE CALL came...

At about 8:45 p.m last Friday night, the home phone rang. The home phone DOES NOT ring often -- we all use our cells, but my cell was in my purse downstairs. The caller was Jr. who was telling us that he was being kicked out of the Air Force because his BMI was too high EVEN THOUGH he was within weight limits. He had been transfered out of his training squadron and into the medical unit. He told me all this in less than 2 minutes with someone SCREAMING at him to get off the phone. He said he would call me the next morning -- never called. Never called Sunday. We are completely insane with worry and confusion at this point. EVERYTHING, EVERY source, EVERY person we talked to said "if he's within his weight, it doesn't matter." That phrase was also contained in the Department of Defense memos I found online. NONE of this should be happening. All weekend long, we tried to contact Lackland -- phone rang and rang. Finally, on Monday, I got through to Lackland and then to the medical unit. A nice lady said "Does he have a girlfriend because he should have called" and then confirmed his BMI was going to get him separated from the Air Force. Junior then called a little bit later, told me he had NOT had a chance to call (because he had been on kitchen duty and then at church) and said he was being separated, but could fight it.

I have spoken to him BRIEFLY each day this week since Monday (i.e. 5-10 minute calls with BAD static on the line). In each call, we encouraged him to fight to stay in because he wouldn't be allowed to re-enlist for 6 months. He told us he wasn't allowed to work out (which the woman had told me too) and was trying to lose BMI on his own in what he called "the prison" because he couldn't train. The kid has, quite literally, been through Hell and back to serve his country. We should BE so lucky that there are more kids out there like my Mark Jr.

And my Chip. Today was a GOOD day all around when it became official that Chip will be graduating on Saturday from Kutztown University cum laude. He has also had a rough few weeks and the stuff with his brother has made those past two weeks even more difficult -- I'm afraid that Mark and I have been so worried about Jr. this week that we may not have told Chip how AMAZING we think he is and how proud we are that he has accomplished so much -- graduating with honors while working MANY hours during the Summer and even during the school year. Add his mascot duties and his volunteering to be a Big Brother to a local child.... Chip is also one of the good ones. Maybe we don't tell him that enough.

And then there is the "what have I learned" factor. I had sort of pre-written this part of this blog post weeks ago and have simply not posted it. I wanted to wait and see if I was proven wrong (and I WANTED to be proven wrong) about some of the people in my life. For several years, one of my best friends has been telling me (and she should take her OWN advice!) that I am surrounded by emotional vampires -- some friends, some family, some acquaintances -- and that these people are KILLING me because I cannot be the Go-To Girl to everyone. She has been telling me to take a scalpel to my life (my words, not hers) and to cut out the parts that aren't working. Not in a mean way (which is why the people aren't named here), but to walk away from those who take from me without EVER giving back, to step back from some of my volunteering (because it WILL get done by someone else) and to generally make an assessment of what is and is not important.

As with May of 1992, my son's enlistment was a watershed event in my life. If you are a family member and are reading this and you didn't text/email/call Mark Jr. OR me between the party and when he left -- or since to see if I'm ok since I have not been ok in weeks -- then you are NOT on my Christmas card list. If your response to us having to throw a party on 4 days notice was "next weekend is more convenient for me," -- you are NOT on my Christmas card list. If the fact that I have been forced to keep my cell phone on and charged and CANNOT take casual daily calls from outside Texas over the last few days for the most part -- you are NOT on my Christmas card list. If your good-bye to my son was to post on YOUR facebook page AFTER he left about how much you are going to miss him when you didn't bother to call HIM or text him or email him... well, enough said.

For the past four months, my life has been consumed with helping my son accomplish his goals. My true friends have been supportive even in the face of me slapping back at them because I am a mother watching her son have barrier after barrier thrown in his face -- including these past five days and including the death of his friend in February. Dates changing, not so great information, medical units and static filled telephone calls -- I like order in my life and these past few months have NOT been orderly.

For those of you who HAVE sent me text messages saying "just wanting to make sure you are ok" or who made me soup after I was a total WITCH to them yesterday or who have made sure that our family is hanging together.... we CANNOT thank you enough. For those of you who understood that this time has torn us apart and thrown us down to the ground and who have been there to catch us (and it is a LONG list of wonderful people)... Christmas (and Hanukkah) cards are on the way (in December). I thank God for you every night and I know that your prayers, energy and support have been important to Jr. in the past few weeks and knowing that you all "had his back" in the last week has HELPED. I hope you know who you are and don't hate me for the past month or so... I would deserve it from some of you.

And now... finally... I am going to try and sleep with the phone OFF. And MAN!!! Has my knitting been productive in the last month! Too bad little is FINISHED but I can take my knitting on the plane to Jr's BMT graduation in June (Michelle is on the "nice" list).

CRAP!! I really need to get ON a plane, don't I?!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another month passes

I haven't posted in forever. Obviously, things got more than a little out of control in February -- always a shortened and heightened month. Celebrated my 45th birthday on Feb. 5th which had, frankly, been giving me fits until I figured out the source of the angst. It wasn't that I was turning 45 that had me upset -- I hadn't had age crisis issues before so the fact that I was having one stunned me. My emotional worries were being caused by my oldest daughter turning 25 and realizing that her peers will be my professional colleagues when they graduate law school this year. I know, I know... it's weird. I'm over it -- now.

Then there was Blake's death a few days later. Blake was a friend of my middle son's and an amazing young man who lived with (note that I don't say "suffered") juvenile diabetes. On the morning of February 8th, Blake didn't wake up. My son (more about him later in this post) was supposed to "go chill" with Blake later that evening and had mentioned the lack of response to text messages which was very uncharacteristic. At some point in the early evening, my home phone rang -- NO ONE uses that number; anyone who knows us knows that (a) we rarely answer it; (b) that we don't like to use that phone and maintain it solely for a landline; and (c) if you want to get in touch with one of us, we all have cell phones... call the person you want to actually talk to since nobody gives messages to anyone else. Anyway, it was Blake's mother (a good friend of mine) on the phone. She said "I want to talk to you and then to your son." She gave me the news, got cut off by an incoming call and we ended the call.

After literally choking out the news to my husband, we decided that since we didn't know when Blake's mom would be calling back or IF she would be calling back (we knew we wouldn't be doing so under the circumstances), we needed to tell our 19 year old before he got the news through mutual friends, facebook, etc. When my friend finally called back, she was angry at me for telling my son the horrible news (I think she needed to be angry at someone and I was convenient). Regardless, she spoke with my son for a little bit and he then had some friends come over who helped him deal with his own grief -- my thanks to those two young men; my son did NOT want to talk to Blake's mom, me, my husband or his older siblings about what he was feeling.

The next few days were filled with making sure Blake's mom was ok. Another friend and I arranged for our knitting group members to be notified. We scheduled who was going to bring what food and when. We made sure funeral arrangements and facebook sites to celebrate Blake's life were noticed to everyone we knew in order to help out Blake's mom. Meanwhile, I was making damn sure that my son was ok (which he resented -- don't care), trying not to let this whole thing ruin my #4's birthday, getting ready to go away on a long weekend that had been planned for eight months and generally feeling like my brain was going to explode. It's only in looking back now -- a month later -- that I even remember any of the details of that week. I went to court on February 9th, apparently looking like I had been hit by a tractor trailer because a good friend of mine was worried sick about me (I guess I should mention here that I attended court a couple days after my dad's death five years ago and no one knew anything was wrong; this young man's death damn near tipped me over the edge). Blake's funeral was scheduled for Feb. 14th -- hubby and I decided not to cancel our vacation plans; there were going to be hundreds of people to give support to his mom and stepdad and we also arranged for emotional support for our three oldest children if that was needed.

When we returned from our long weekend, I quit smoking (last one was Feb. 16th at about 10:30 p.m.). Talk about "looks like I picked the wrong month to quit sniffing glue!!!!!!" (that's an movie reference in case anyone doesn't know... I do NOT sniff glue). Two days later, I came down with my second case of strep throat in a month and it was a DOOZY. Two days after that (I was ON antibiotics after all), I had a major hearing in a post-conviction relief act case that I think I should eventually win (I won't win because defense lawyers never do, but I "should" win). The week after that, #3 went to Ft. Dix for his 2 days of enlistment testing (I know... it's coming... hold on). The week after that, my babysitter was out of town for two days. Hamster on a wheel much?????????

So.... my number 3 kid's story. My 19 year old son is brilliant; like sickly so and doesn't study. Makes his dad and I nutsy crazy. After his sophmore year in high school, we basically said "get the grades up because you CAN or forget us killing ourselves for college tuition, especially anything other than community college." I'm a mean mom and am proud of that fact. Presto Chango.... grades went through the ceiling ('cause the kid is sickly brilliant and just needed to LOOK at his homework to get to almost straight A's). There was some discussion of enlistment during high school, but I was pretty opposed since we had 2 active war zones and he was not going to be 18 when he graduated high school. I hung up on recruiters daily after he took his SATs -- politely of course. He went to Millersville University in the Fall of 2007 and did ok the first semester but not so great in the 2nd -- here we go again, we thought, underutilization of tremendous brain power. When he returned to school in Fall of 2008, he paid for it himself and we made it crystal clear that the grades needed to come WAY up because we were not going to support an adult who didn't apply himself. The grades didn't come up. When he came home for Christmas break in December, we had a long talk and he decided not to get himself in more debt and to not return to college.

During the 1st week of January, he and his dad went to meet with an Air Force recruiter (a REALLY nice guy; I've obviously met him since). The military was an option. Community college was an option. Getting a job was an option. He chose the military -- six years in the United States Air Force to be exact. Yes... I am extremely proud of him for his choice to enlist. Yes... I am thrilled that he will be able to complete his degree AND have his student loans re-paid (I'd like even more if the money his dad and I laid out was re-paid). Yes... I understand that the Air Force is not in the thick of battle. I get it all. I am also a mom and my son has made a committment to spend six years of his life potentially in harm's way. We found out yesterday that he will report for basic training on June 8th but will be leaving here on June 7th.

So as I said at the beginning of this epic novel, it has been a shortened and heightened month. As of today, I am 31 days without a cigarette (thanks to Michelle, Anya and Maria in particular on THAT achievement!). As of today, I have been back on weight watchers for 9 days and lost 6.5 pounds in my first week. Yesterday, for the first time since the knee injury last Summer, I walked 1.5 miles in the sunshine at the park (in clogs... not bright... have HUGE blisters on my feet) and it felt wonderful. My time hasn't been my own (that is such an understatement as to just be silly), but I have managed to do some knitting, some scrapbooking, have a few cups of coffee with friends and take what was an INCREDIBLE long weekend away with my wonderful husband (with another one planned in mid-June for his birthday) with no kids.

The pictures at the top are of one of the invitations that my oldest daughter and I have made for my son's enlistment party (which we THINK is going to be on the baby's 3rd birthday on May 16th) and also of the baby learning to knit... not really, but she DOES love her yarn!!!! Maybe my next post will be a vent about the Eagles off-season "decisions" or have pictures of my 2-0-0-MINE knitting projects that are done....

What have I learned in the last month? I think my priorities may be changing significantly. I think I may want to be off of the hamster's wheel and may be ready to make some pretty big decisions/adjustments to my life so as to enjoy my life more. I know I have less patience with games and people who play them as each day passes. Lent is supposed to be a period of reflection and I am using it as such whenever I get a few minutes of peace and quiet. I'm making changes in my own life that I think are positive -- it's all about the baby steps -- and I think that's what 2-0-0-mine may end up being about for me.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Just plain angry

If I start to cry, I won't stop. If I scream out loud at the top of my lungs, I'll scare the babies and it won't help. Everything is topsy-turvy, upside down and just plain WRONG! What had been a relatively quiet weekend and a fun day with Ryan for his birthday (since we won't be home) has simply gone bad.

A little while ago, a very close friend of mine called to tell me that her 19 year old son (maybe he's 20... he's also a friend of my 19 year old) had died in his sleep last night. What the HELL is wrong with this world that a sweet kid, who always had a smile on his face and LONG arms ready to hug me is just gone?????????? This amazing kid who was at my house watching football a few weeks ago and consoling me when the Eagles lost by saying "there's always next year." What the HELL is wrong with this world when there is now no next year for Blake????????

I watch every day as criminals get lighter sentences because they take a guilty plea -- I negotiate those freakin' pleas. I watch every day as family law clients fight over minutiae so that they can feel as if they "won" in a divorce settlement -- I help them do it. I see people cheat the legal system, commit welfare fraud, cheat their clients and waste money on things they can't afford.

Then there are the good kids. The ones whose parents are middle-class and struglling in a terrible economy. Who are paying large portions of their education, even at a state-related university like Temple, it's expensive. Who work as lifeguards all summer long and always have a smile for annoying 7 year olds like Ryan. The ridiculously tall young adults who manage their diabetes without making a fuss about it. The kids who have never been handed Life on a silver platter but don't bitch about it.

Those, apparently, are the people that God wants with him sooner than they should ever be taken from us.

I'll miss you, Blake.... so much.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The saga ends

This will be a short post since I am very tired and very sad right now. Same thing... year after year after year. I was so desperately hoping that there would be a Lombardi Trophy in Philly before I turn 45. That can't happen now, of course.

On a cold January night, the impossible season ended for my Beloved Eagles in the desert of Arizona. They were outplayed, outcoached and the Cardinals wanted it more -- can't imagine HOW but certainly understand how Cardinal fans would be insulted by the lack of respect they received from the national media this week. The game was in Donovan McNabb's grasp -- I guess I shouldn't be surprised by the outcome, but I am as equally devastated by the loss as I was in seasons where the Eagles were 13 and 3 in the regular season.

That being said, we had a wonderful and LARGE party here today -- lots of people, a grotesque amount of food and alcohol, lots of yelling and as good a time as was possible with the end of a season that had become a metaphor for the first half of my life in some ways. Then again, 1980 ended with a loss too so I guess I've come out pretty much even.

Arizona 32
Eagles 25

Bring on the 2009 season!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ain't no stoppin us now!!!!!!!!

And on another cold January afternoon, with snow and ice leftover from yesterday's non-serious snowstorm event, the dream goes on and on and on...

Originally, we were even going to have a friend who is a Giants fan here but he was sick so his wife came without him. What was originally a party of ten became 17 -- including my sister, her husband, their 2 kids and their daughter's friend. Our friends' son is friends with our son -- so he and a friend came over too. Next week... same time, same station and (God willing) same outcome. My Beloved Birds are again playing for the NFC Championship!!!!!!!!

The Giants... the defending Super Bowl Champs, the #1 seeded NFC team.... yeah, they're home for the winter and my Beloved Birds are heading to where it's warm to play another NFC East team (ok... I'm almost 45, the Cardinals used to BE an NFC East team) for a chance for the ultimate and yet unrealized prize. All I want for my birthday (four days after the Super Bowl) is to see that Lombardi Trophy moving down Broad Street (and I also want knitpicks needles set and matching Super Bowl Championship paraphernalia like blankets and shirts and banners).

Thank GOD next Monday is a holiday!!!!! I am hoarse from screaming, exhausted from stress and don't want to have to worry about going to work on Jan. 19th (Thank you, Dr. King). The same friends and family will be here -- after we provide the food and the alcohol, they all know where everything is in my house -- the FREAKIN' NFC Championship game!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Fifth time in eight years. First time EVER an NFC 6th seed team has gotten to that game.

Eagles 23 Giants 11 -- any questions how good MY mood is tonight???????????????

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Don't Stop Believin'

Hmmmmm... old Journey songs from 1981. New Year, same theme. I may 28 years older, but ... the picture above was done in 2004; mere weeks before the Eagles won the NFC. Few but me believed that after losing three straight NFC championship games, the Eagles would EVER make the Super Bowl. I did. I still do.

My Eagles didn't disappoint me. Even I, in my "Always Bleeding Green" mindset, got a little bit nervous during the Vikings game. Worse yet, I had woken up with a full-blown migraine at 3 a.m. on Sunday morning and had to lay in a dark room right up until game time. The "throw a long pass" call on a third down and one brought most of the migraine back too!!!! But my Beloved Birds prevailed (and it WAS only a moment or two when my belief wavered). Bring on those New York football Giants; the World Champions; the Almighty Eli; the blah, blah, blah. Wait a sec... or bring on the team that lost to the Eagles a few weeks ago; the team that has lost its most powerful offensive weapon; the team that we play twice a year and have a pretty good win/loss record with over the past five years (we can ignore last year entirely please). I am ALL about another Miracle at the Meadowlands -- Brian Westbrook... get those running shoes ready!!

Other than the Eagles, the New Year has been dreary (it really DOES feel like 1981!). Work is busy as all get out, but the economy is taking its toll; clients are trying to pay what they can, but everyone is hurting -- I'm fair about it to a point unless the clients decide not to pay balances at all. I am positively swamped for the next several weeks with briefs and pre-trial statements due, on standby trial in an interesting criminal case, a complex property distribution case at the end of the month and with appellate files that are so big I can barely lift them.

Weather has been gross for weeks -- rain, sleet, ice, cold then warm. BLECH!!!!!! We woke up today to no power and a FREEZING cold house at 5 a.m. (power had been of since about 2). Hubby had a 2 hour delay, but #4 did not so I got a late start getting the baby to her sitter's house and then getting home. Got some work done, but not a whole lot -- certainly not what I needed to get done today (which has been the story of this past week -- everytime I sit down to work on something, something else interrupts me!).

I've gone from having 2 of the 5 kids at home full time to having 4 of the 5 at home..... things are flat out CRAZY....

But I still believe !!!!!!