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

Yes... I really DO have 5 kids

Monday, November 28, 2011

2011 in retrospect

The following post is from my facebook page on Thanksgiving morning.  I realized that I hadn't posted here in forever, but since the FB post sums the whole year up well, I am simply copying it here verbatim...
My turkey is in the oven so I get to reflect on the past year.... long post alert; feel free to read or not.

On Thanksgiving 2010, we were lucky enough to have our Airman son, Mark Jr., home for the holiday because my sister-in-law, Laura, had just married her new husband, Tim. That wedding brought everyone in our family who mattered together and added a new niece and nephew (Brenna and Bill) to our RIDICULOUS brood. We were planning Melissa & Mike's wedding. It was a time of celebration and fun. A few short days later, Ryan would tear his MCL and Chip would tear a tendon in his foot. The next six months or so were consumed with injury, rehab and frustration as Ryan tried to grasp (at not quite 10 years old) that he was NOT unbreakable. He had a very tough 6-9 months, including an appendectomy in March and a random virus in June that caused more weight loss. Those same next six months would bring decisions: whether to send Jenny to private school, whether I should run for local judge, whether we should keep Ryan IN public school... as 2010 moved to 2011, a lot was in the air.

I learned a lot in early 2011. After deciding very reluctantly to run against a long-term MDJ because another candidate was doing so anyway, I was suddenly told that as a county solicitor, I was not "allowed" to have any political activity at all. Now that's funny since I replaced an OCY solicitor who became a judge, but that was what I was told. On Feb. 28th, I was forced to make a split second decision about whether to give up my professional dream of becoming a local judge OR whether to stay as a solicitor for Children & Youth. Despite being the more qualified candidate (I have a four year college degree AND a law degree AND I've lived in Whitpain for 40 years AND I'm a practicing attorney), it was obvious that the local powers-that-be wanted the other candidate (NOT the sitting judge). In an instant, I made the decision that has, in retrospect, been the best thing that ever happened to me. My job at OCY matters to me -- it is thankless in the extreme; it is stressful; it is emotionally-draining and it is WAY more time-consuming than the two days a week for which I am paid -- but the job I do matters to the children and families of Montgomery County and I love my co-workers who are the most dedicated group of individuals I could ever hope to meet. If someone were to offer me the MDJ spot now because the newly-elected judge was unable to serve, I would accept that position (I would LOVE to be MDJ and would be qualified for the job), but I would NOT sacrifice the family time that I have gained because I am not "allowed" to be involved in any political activity. My life is blessed because I cannot be political and that frees up time for my children and myself.

Good thing too... Ryan and Jenny are keeping us HOPPING. They attend two different schools (because we were NOT going to expose Jenny to the lowest common denominator theory of education; she's just too bright). Both have progressed in karate -- Jenny with one green stripe and Ryan with his green belt as a result of REALLY hard rehab, new maturity and old-fashioned hard work. Both kids swim almost year round -- Jenny is adorable at 5 in her second winter of competitive swimming and Ryan is starting to bloom in the pool as he adjusts to his new height, applies his karate maturity to his swimming and is starting to be very competitive both as an individual and for his team. Jenny also does dance after school at Gwynedd-Mercy Academy and she wants to add t-ball this Spring. Ryan plays his clarinet, sings in chorus and does Chess Club, all while doing VERY well in school (we're still TRYING to keep him in public school but that is a decision-in-progress). I cannot begin to express my pride in Ryan in particular this year -- he had to deal with a LOT of trials and he has come through with flying colors. At not-quite 11, he is FAR from where he wants to be (or where he can be), but he has learned the value of positive thinking and perseverance and hard work. Mark and I, quite literally on some evenings, tag out the kids to get them to everything -- it is, in a word, INSANE. It's also something my children would not be able to do if I had stayed in the political arena in order to run for an office for which I was the most qualified candidate but which I was never going to be allowed to obtain. I am blessed because God works in strange ways -- by stepping out of politics, my life has become filled with the joy of my children's accomplishments.

My older kids are thriving... 2011 gave me a new son-in-law who I could not love more if he was my own. Melissa is about to hit her five year mark at the Clerk of Court's Office. Chip will get teaching tenure and his Master's Degree in 2012. Mark Jr. was promoted to Sr. Airman and continues to advance in the military, serve his country and travel around Europe. I am thankful he has not been deployed and grateful for his service to our country. As a parent, a person is judged (whether we admit it or not) by how their adult children turn out -- Mark and I must have done SOMETHING right and we are VERY blessed by our older kids and enjoy spending time with them when it can be "scheduled" I miss Mark Jr. terribly today -- holidays for military parents and families are TOUGH -- but I am so proud of all SIX of my children that I consider the centerpiece of my life.

I am also ridiculously proud of my husband, Mark, who realized HIS professional goal this year when he was made Chairman of the Science Department at North Penn High School. Sometimes, qualifications, dedication and long-term effort count. NPHS is very lucky to have my husband and I never stop saying how blessed I am to have a true Life Partner. The other day, Mark said it best: "we keep each other's heads above water sometimes." There is no challenge that I have faced in the past 20+ years that has not been made easier because of my incredible husband and best friend.

As God closed certain doors, and as each of us progresses as individuals through this maze called LIFE, people we thought were friends drop by the wayside. Sometimes, that's because a person did something that I find causes a permanent separation (not a fight... why bother?) and sometimes it is a natural progression based in shared activities or lack thereof. 2011 took a few people from my life for a variety of reasons (luckily, no major family losses for once !) but my life is still full because God always opens a window. My life is blessed with my WingSisters, my knitting friends, my Woman's Club group and my closest friends who I know WILL come to a wedding for which they have RSVP's yes (if you've said you're coming to an event and you are NOT in the hospital, send a quick text that you won't be coming -- rudeness is NOT ok). I schedule lunch dates with Kim (and Louis too). Cara and I started 2011 by freezing our BUTTS off at the Eagle/Packers playoff game and we still try to make time for each other (especially on our spa days !). The other members of the Ambler GKK dojo are my sanity and my rock -- some Mondays after Court, I really NEED to be punching and kicking ! The other swimming parents (Summer and Winter) who, along with Mark and I, "get it" when we talk about the need to be in a HOT, chlorine-infused pool balcony at 6:45 a.m. on Saturday AND Sunday mornings so our kids can improve their swimming times. My kids' fantastic teachers, instructors and coaches -- Krystle, MaryAnn, Jessica, Alex, Chris, Bruce, Mike, Barbie, Josh, Dan, Brad and ALL of the GKK black belts (I still can't believe that, at almost 48, I not only have a green belt, but a couple of brown stripes on it !! You all have SO much more faith in my abilities than I do). And my incredible OCY co-workers: George, Maria, Joanna, Rose, Erin, Jen, Laura, Laurie, Marilou, Kerri, Liz, Maryann, Suzanne and ALL of the caseworkers and support staff. Last, but not least, my extended family -- Laura, Laura, Gayle, Tim, Ira, Joe and a BOATLOAD of nieces, nephews and cousins. I am particularly thankful that my mom, at almost 80, will be sitting at my Thanksgiving table in a few hours. I am blessed with the fullness of my professional and personal life, beyond measure.

As I end 2011 and look forward to 2012, I am in a different place than I thought I would be when I reflected a year ago. I work hard (with a full time law firm and a part time solicitor job), but I play more. I laugh more and spend more time doing charitable work, volunteering NON-politically, crafting, knitting, designing cards and scrapbook pages, making candy (which I don't eat!) and sharing my life. God, Goddess, the Universe... whatever greater power controls my life... has taken me on a meandering path to where I need to be at this moment. Forty years ago, my parents moved us into the house in which I still reside. Thirty years ago, my knee went BOOM and changed my path. Fifteen years ago (ok, almost 16), I opened my own law firm. As I approach my late 40's, I know that I am where I am supposed to be right now. There is a lot to be said for being content. For that, I am very thankful.

From the Keagy Clan to all of you... HAPPY THANKSGIVING !!!!!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

February 2011 -- Moving Forward

For weeks now, I have put my "Birthday Resolution post" on hold and this is not that post although it is related to it.  I wanted to have the chance to speak to MDJ Murray directly before making this announcement and I had that opportunity earlier this morning.  An "official" announcement will be forthcoming along with the formation of a committee and the opening of a facebook page (and a bank account and appointment of managers, etc.), but this is my pseudo-official announcement that I will begin circulating petitions next week for the office of Magisterial District Judge for district 38-1-21.   The district is comprised of Whitpain, Lower Gwynedd, Upper Gwynedd and North Wales so if you live in those areas, I may be asking for your support in getting signatures. The judicial positions are cross-filed: I need Democratic and GOP signatures and if you can help out, please message me and I will get you the forms you need.  That applies to friends and family from both parties... if you live in the district, I need your help !! 

Many of you know that this has been a very difficult decision for me.  I never wanted to run against MDJ Murray as an incumbent and chose not to do so six years ago.  When I first heard last winter that Judge Murray was going to seek re-election despite his inability to complete the term, I stepped back and said I would not run.  However, based on many conversations with people that I trust and whose advice I take to heart, I will be seeking the endorsement of the GOP committee for this district later this month.  Judge Murray cannot fill his term because he will be forced to retire next year.  I don't make the rules, the legislature does.  We lose many great judges to mandatory retirement.  If it was simply a matter of me waiting until Judge Murray retired and seeking first the appointment and then the election to fill the remainder of the time, I would be happy to wait.  I wanted to wait out of respect to Judge Murray and have told him that personally.  Unfortunately, my hand is being forced by a a third person seeking the seat who is planning on running against Judge Murray whether I do so or not.  I am not willing to look back in five years and say "I wish I had run in 2011."

When it comes down to it, my qualifications both personally and professionally are strong.   I have lived in Whitpain Township for almost 40 years.  I have raised (or am raising) five children here. My three older children are hard working good young people -- a clerical worker at the courthouse, an inner city middle school teacher and an American Airman, serving his country.  My husband and I have done a good job balancing the demands of our careers with making sure our kids grow up to be responsible citizens.   I have volunteered with schools and in the community and I have done so constantly -- not just since the Summer of 2007 when one of my opponents moved here.  I have started Mock Trial teams at Wissahickon and at Gwynedd Mercy Academy as an attorney adviser.  I have served as an executive officer for the Wissahickon Band Parents, the Cheerleading parents and the musical theater and drama groups for the high school.  I currently volunteer both at Shady Grove Elementary where my 10 year old is in 4th grade and at Hobbit House pre-school where my youngest daughter attends pre-kindergarten.  I have taught crafts to children, to adults as well as making items for charity.  I am an active member of Woman's Club of Whitpain and have served as a committee person, Whitpain Township and Area 10 GOP secretary for many years.  I have worked the polls in the rain, in the cold and while pregnant (my youngest daughter was almost born AT the polls on May 16, 2006).  My husband is a Chemistry teacher at North Penn High School and he also serves on many committees and does work with children.  Our scheduling skills alone qualify either of us for elected office.  We didn't just move to the district and have me decide to be the Magisterial District Judge --  I have lived here and worked here and volunteered here my entire life.  We are devoted to this community and have shown that devotion for decades.

Professionally, in addition to being a wife and mother, I went back to law school in 1992 when my older children were 7, 4 and 2 1/2.  After school, I opened my own law firm where I work full-time to this day.  I am an experienced lawyer who has devoted her practice to criminal defense and family law for the past fifteen years (17 if you count my two years as a certified legal intern before law school graduation).  I chair the Rules of Criminal Court Committee for the Montgomery Bar Association -- a joint prosecution and defense committee.  I am active in the Women in Law committee as well as in the Criminal Defense committee.  Since last Spring, I have been a part-time Solicitor for the Montgomery County Office of Children & Youth where I assist in keeping the kids of Montgomery County safe once they have been adjudicated as dependent children by the Juvenile Court.  I am also the attorney in charge of child support for that office; which means that if OCY places children, it's my job to try and get the parents to help pay the costs of that placement.  I have served for 14 years as an arbitrator for Montgomery County -- sitting on three lawyer quasi-judicial panels to try and relieve the civil court docket by resolving smaller cases and district court appeals.  My professional experience is such that I am the most qualified person to run for this seat: I can fill out the whole term AND I know the law and the rules.  Magisterial District Judges are not required to be lawyers -- but it is a tremendous advantage that I have such a variety of litigation experience.

On a very personal note, to my friends who have helped me agonize over this decision and to my wonderful husband who has supported me in more ways than I can ever express, thank you.  I may collect hundreds of signatures, go to the mini-endorsement convention that will be held late this month and not receive the endorsement of my party.  If I do not receive that endorsement, I will not run.  Period.  I think any candidate who runs in a race like this without that endorsement should step out of the race and I have held other people to that standard for years; I expect all three candidates for the endorsement to show their respect for the committee's decision.  I may get the endorsement and not win the primary.  I may win the primary and not win the election in November.  But to not try would be a travesty.  I have, for many many years, wanted to run for this seat.  It is a shame that I have to do so against one person I respect tremendously and that has been my dilemma.  But I cannot sit back and let my dream be taken away by someone who has not been here for a fraction of the time that I have devoted to this district.  All of the support that I have received and know that I will continue to receive is appreciated.  It's appreciated a lot.

Thanks for reading.