Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Kevin

The legal market wasn't great in the early '90's. In fact, CNN ran a story to that effect which featured shots from inside the library at my law school -- including a view of the back of my ponytail as I sat hunched over a desk, studying, during one of my rare stints there. There weren't a ton of good prospects for a "B" student -- even from a top school like mine. As graduation neared, I remained jobless. And worried.

I can't recall who the kind soul was who alerted me to a new listing posted on the bulletin board outside our Career Counseling office, but I made a special trip down to school just to eyeball the letter indicating that a large law firm in St. Louis was hiring.  I wrote down the firm's number but not the name of the letter's author, naively assuming that the receptionist would know where to direct me when I called. 

She didn't. I struggled to recall the name I'd seen signed at the bottom. "It started with a 'K,'" I told her. She concluded it must have been their Business Administrator, "Ken," and put me through to him. "Ken" wasn't the author. Nor was he at all interested in helping me figure out who had actually sent the letter. I almost gave up right then.

But I needed a job. So the next time I was at school, I took another gander at the letter. "Kevin." It was Kevin who was looking to hire an associate. I called back to the firm and asked to speak with "Kevin," hoping like heck I'd pronounced his last name correctly. Right or no, I was put through to Kevin and, soon enough, had lined up an interview with him and another young partner, Jeff. They'd both recently made partner and were planning to share an associate.

The interview went fine, as I recall, though a senior partner, Sam, sat in on it, too, adding to the intimidation factor. I was introduced to several other attorneys. Had nice, brief chats with them all. Felt okay about it as I left, but also had been on the receiving end of enough rejection letters already that I was prepared for the let-down.

Kevin called me at home sometime after that to offer me a job. Only it wouldn't be for him. He explained that Sam was in need of an associate, as well, and had exercised his seniority to call dibs on me. 

I got off the phone with Kevin and immediately called my best friend, Denise. I was crying. She asked why. "I got a job," I sobbed. "Then why are you crying?!" she wondered. "Because I have to take it."

It isn't that I wasn't grateful. It's just that "insurance defense" sounded dreadfully boring. And the pay was absolutely lousy. (One of my good friends from school had gotten a job at a "silk stocking" firm across the street -- for exactly double what I would be making.)

But it was a job. And I soon came to love both it and my work "family." Sam, after the initial uber-intimidating-getting-to-know-you period, became like a second father to me. And Kevin, who had been Sam's associate before becoming a partner himself, was like an older brother. (In truth, he reminded me very much of my actual older brother.)

Seven years after I began working with Sam and Kevin, they (along with Jeff and another partner, Debbie) left that large firm to start their own. RSSC was born. I was honored that they invited me to be a part of their new venture. 

I still worked primarily with Sam but at times worked with Kevin, as well. He was a great go-to for difficult insurance coverage questions and savvy trial strategy. He helped Sam and me with a mock trial on one of our most difficult cases. I wouldn't say he shot from the hip, but he jumped into it without a ton of preparation and still tried a hell of a case. 

Kevin was also the go-to for all things techy. He had a fine appreciation for technology and advocated its incorporation into our practice. He was one of the first people I knew to get an iPhone -- and I will never forget the day he introduced "Siri" to us in Sam's office. He asked her the traditional "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck?" He asked her to find Sam's home address and she got confused -- and seemingly increasingly irritated the more he asked of her. Finally, he said, "I love you." To which Siri replied contemptuously, "I don't even know who you are." We had a good laugh over that, and I teased him that they sounded like an old married couple. 

Initially, Kevin headed the firm's continuing legal education program. He handed that responsibility off to me several years in but was kind enough to serve as a speaker when asked. Programs which qualified for ethics credit were always the toughest to cobble together and Kevin was a saint for preparing several very thorough presentations on professionalism over the years. He would hand me a detailed outline -- though we'd inevitably only get through half of it as, between him and Sam, the war stories were always plentiful (and much more fun than the outlined material.)

And Kevin had some stories. He could tell you the history behind the term "red herring" -- and frequently used that one during closing argument at trial. He's the one who first told me about "Biff the Wonder Dog," a paper bag puppet created by one of Sam's other associates in answer to Sam's overly cautious insistence at one point that one needed to object to one's own questions during a deposition. Perhaps my favorite part about Kevin sharing a story was the way he'd have just the slightest hint of a smile on his face as he told it, and then his full grin would jump out at the end.

Though he and Sam are both tall, they have markedly different gaits. Each distinctive in their own way. I'd often spy Kevin and Sam heading out to lunch together and smile watching the two of them amble off together, thoroughly absorbed in a discussion of matters quite serious and intellectually challenging, no doubt. 

In the early days of the firm, the partners took turns hosting the Christmas party at their houses. Kevin and his wife, Lesa, hosted one year and, as the evening wore on, we found ourselves gathered around the piano singing carols. I was reflecting back on that fondly this past Christmas. I miss those days. 

In the fall of 2013, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Kevin, who'd already battled cancer several years earlier, was doing battle with it again. I recall being in his office and joking that we were in the sick ward wing of the firm. Not that cancer is a laughing matter -- it isn't -- but it helped to keep a sense of humor. 

I got off easy, though. Mine was caught early and responded well to traditional treatment. Kevin's was more insidious and, sadly, hell-bent on taking him from us, though he fought it mightily.

He came and visited with me in my office this past summer. He looked good. He was wearing a yellow shirt and it flattered him - made his color look good. He didn't look ill, though, after a time, I could tell he was tired.

Heather (another partner) and I had an opportunity to visit with Kevin and his family a short time ago. He'd gone on hospice and was at home. The morphine kept him from being able to participate much in the conversation, but we knew he was there and listening. He said hello when we came in. We had a nice time chatting and reminiscing with Lesa and the kids as we sat by his bed. He said a quiet, "Bye," when we left, and I replied, "Bye, dear." I wanted to say more...but then didn't know quite what. So, I did what I always do -  I started writing.

You can rest now, Kevin. Know that you will very much be missed.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Write Now



Pretty much every year for the past decade one of my New Year's resolutions has been to write more. And I've actually done just that -- in some years, at least.  

Last year, I even managed to land an official writing gig, which was a very pleasant surprise. I do love getting the opportunity to share my thoughts on a larger platform. But it isn't suited to all things I feel like writing. (Unlike some, I refuse to accept that all things are political. I love my politics, but sometimes I need my space from them.) 

So this year, in addition to writing at RedState, I'm returning to the Septic Tank. No promises as to quality -- or even quantity. Just that I'll be doodling here a bit more, relying on it as a creative outlet. 

I've made other resolutions -- and goals -- too. The past couple years, I've simply taken my list from the prior year and built upon it. Which has resulted in a couple of my resolutions actually becoming habits (yay!), though others have repeatedly fizzled out. That whole exercise/running thing, for instance -- last year, I got off to a great start -- I ran three times a week through January and February and into early March. Then I got sick. Sicker than sick. Sickety, sick, sick, sick, with ungodly amounts of snot and phlegm and aches and coughing and oh, that seriously sucked. And it knocked me out of my running almost-habit and here I sit, almost a year later, with about 10 extra pounds to show for it. Oh - and a membership at the "Y," which I'm paying for and haven't been using. 

Which reminds me of another goal for which I've been aiming for quite awhile but often seem to miss the mark -- fiscal responsibility. On a positive note there, though, I did cancel my (almost-never-used) Costco membership on Saturday and...much to my surprise, was refunded $110 I hadn't been expecting. So, I'm going to take that as a good sign and set my sights on building from there. Fact is, we're already over 9 hours into the new year and I've not yet spent a dime. So maybe there's hope for me yet!

As hinted above, there were some positives from last year's list. For example, I did a much better job of setting the phone down while driving. Not going to claim I was perfect on that front, but significantly improved. (Now if I could just convince my fellow commuters to join me in that endeavor!) 

I improved my work habits, which involved working harder, but also working smarter, and that paid off not only in terms of income but also outcome -- and funnily enough, an improved stress level. I have rewarded myself for such by prettifying my office. I don't care if people tease me about the glowing Himalayan salt orb on my desk - it's fun and colorful and makes me smile. Same goes for the burbling mini-fountain and the Scentsy burners. And don't even get me started on all the fun little "See Jane Work" desk accessories and my color-coded system of paper clips, binder clips, folders, and pens. (Yeah - if I'm going to improve on the fiscal responsibility front, I probably need to steer clear of office supply stores.) 

Best of all, in the fall, I returned to church after slacking off in that department for too many months. I adore my church. And I'm a stronger, saner, more serene person when I'm dialed into it and my faith. Which helps everything else fall into place. Funny how that works.

As always, I'm a work in progress -- and profoundly grateful for the people in my life who love me in spite of that. So, here's to 2018, and the hope that my first post of next year will find me reflecting on this one warmly. *Cheers*







Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Myth of the Finite Pie

I've heard this phrase before, this notion or myth of a "finite pie," though typically in relation to financial or economic discussions.  It occurred to me, moments ago, as I took a break from my semi-busy Saturday to pray for a friend's injured son, that I've often bought into this myth in relation to prayer: that it's finite; that I can use it up, so I'd best choose my prayers carefully.  

In fairness, humility is a positive trait, as are restraint and moderation. And certainly, a reluctance to treat prayer like a wishing well or gumball machine isn't a bad thing.  But it's starting to sink in - how silly it is to ascribe my limitations to the God of the Universe. I realize I do that a lot. And in doing so, I'm subconsciously attempting to make Him in my image, rather than recognizing that the reverse is what is true.  

I know this, but I'm learning to know this: That it's okay to pray for things both big and small. He's got this. 


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sunrise, Sunset

We've very much enjoyed The Muny this summer.  Have seen some great shows, including last week's Fiddler on the Roof.  It had been years since I'd seen it last, but I recalled the way "Sunrise, Sunset" tugged on my heart strings, even when I was young and identified more with the subject of the song than the singer.  I did my best not to look over at Riley pointedly during its rendition, though I may have slipped her a sideways glance or two.  I'm not certain she noticed.  Sentimental moms aren't high on the priority list when you're fourteen.  

She starts high school next week, but today is "Transition Day" for incoming Freshman.  Basically, they get a "walk-through" and a chance to experience an abbreviated day of school to get the hang of their schedule and where their classes are.  Though it's not officially the "First Day of School," I suggested taking her picture before we left the house.  "NO," she said firmly.  I get it - I'm not ready for school to start either. I can enable her denial for a few more days.  


Still, as we pulled up to school, and she hopped out of the car with a quick goodbye, the bittersweet strains of "Sunrise, Sunset," whispered through my sentimental mom brain.  Is this the little girl I carried...into school and pried off my leg with the assistance of her Kindergarten teacher and the kindly school counselor or principal on a regular basis?  No, it isn't - not anymore.  Oh, she occasionally still peers out of the young woman's eyes; every once in awhile, I hear her sweet sing-songy voice beneath the teen's intonations.  But that little girl now resides primarily in my bittersweet memories. 


And in First Day of School pics.  :)


 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Coffee on the Balcony

I rarely watch "regular" TV anymore.  I can't bring myself to "commit" to anything with an arcing story line -- life is too busy to schedule around a TV show, and I feel too guilty/stressed when I miss an episode, even in these days of DVR and On Demand capabilities.  It just feels like work. 

So, instead, when I do watch TV, if it isn't a sporting event, it's usually something like Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives or House Hunters.  In fact, HGTV is my go-to channel - I can always count on it to entertain, whether it's HH, Island Life, Property Brothers or Flip or Flop.  David and I have a running joke about one of THE most repeated lines on any of the above shows: Prospective buyer(s) will be scouting a new property and, if it features any sort of balcony or deck, one will inevitably say, "Oh, this would be GREAT! We can sit out here in the morning and enjoy our coffee!!!"  Okay, sometimes, they do mix it up and say "evening" and "wine,"  Either way, it's funny how predictable it is.  

Well, we don't have a balcony or deck, but we do have a patio, which is pleasantly shaded in the morning.  So this morning, though I'd initially intended to sleep in a bit, I am up and about -- already ran an errand or two, including picking up doughnuts.  And while it's still arguably pleasant outside, I am sitting right here, enjoying a Yellow Red Bull and a Maple Bacon Long John.  And it's lovely! 



Sunday, May 22, 2016

Run, Rabbit, Run

This was one of those days - you know the type: where you run endless errands and scurry here and there and manage to wear yourself out in the process. I was tempted earlier to post this as my Facebook status: "Starbucks to Church to Home to Menards to Starbucks (again) to Target to Home to Riley's friend's house to the Mall to Party City to Walgreens to Menards (again) to Home to Party City (again) to Kohl's to Schnucks to KFC to Home (and waiting to see if I need to pick Riley up from the movie/mall)." Because, yes, that's been my day.  And I could express it like that, as though I were thoroughly exasperated and wiped out. But, thing is, I'm not. 

During one of my stints at home, I had the luxury of relaxing with David in the hammock for a few minutes - and it was lovely.  I could have stayed awhile longer, except for the fact that the lawn service, in tending to the lawn next door, managed to scare up a baby bunny who took flight from the mower's maw only to catch the interest of Pringle.  Yes, Pringle, the almost-10-year-old Golden Retriever who wouldn't hurt a fly, who makes only a passing effort at "chasing" squirrels when they wander into our yard, who can't even be bothered to play fetch - THAT Pringle suddenly took off after the aforementioned bunny like a bat out of hell.  

Before I knew what was happening, he was in the neighbors' yard (Hey, thanks, neighbors, for leaving your gate open!) and not only cornering, but CAPTURING baby bunny. I jumped up as soon as I realized he was in the other yard and that he meant business - ran pell mell straight at him yelling, "Pringle! No! Pringle! NO!" I managed to intercept him as he returned to our yard - I think to show me his prize.  I grabbed him by the collar and yelled, "Drop!" And he did - bless his heart - he did exactly what a retriever is supposed to do. Then I dragged him inside (he wasn't particularly pleased by that - he wanted to play with his new toy.) I returned to check on the status of the bunny, hoping that maybe - just maybe - he was just scared/in shock.  Sadly, Little Bunny Foofoo's pupils were fixed and dilated.  There was a puncture wound on his chest - so either that, or the fright of it all, was just too much.  I picked him up gently (in gloved hands) and deposited him in the yard waste bin. Hopefully he's found his way to Bunny Heaven and is hopping around in clover with all the other little bunnies now. 

I couldn't be mad at Pringle. He was just doing what dogs do - well, what most dogs do.  I had to hand it to him - he impressed me.  I do believe that's his first ever capture/kill.  Didn't know the old feller had it in him.  Not only that, but he got me running at a full out sprint across the yard in my efforts to play Bunny Savior.  Which felt kind of good, I have to admit, even in its futility.  It reminded me that I really do need to get back to running.

Which brings me back to the first paragraph - different kind of running.  The kind which can be the wrong kind of running if your focus is in the wrong place.  It reminded me of my second official blog post:  How Pooh Are You?  wherein I was reminded that running around like Rabbit, being "extremely busy and very important" isn't who or how I want to be.  I don't think I realized it at the time, but trying to get back to a more Pooh-like place, was just another way of searching for peace.  

Interestingly, that was one of the primary themes at church today.  The pastor walked us through the parable of the alabaster jar. I won't go through the whole message - it had several different facets (and is worth the watch if anyone cares to view it when they post the podcast link tomorrow.)  But at the end of it, Jesus says to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."  And I was reminded of the peace that walking with Him brings. 

So, that sort of stayed with me today, despite all my running.  It reminded me, instead of being harried and hassled, to be grateful for the fact that I had a beautiful day like today - I awoke to the birds chirping, I enjoyed a nice church service with David, I enjoyed time with both him and Riley, I checked a few things off my "To Do" list, and now, I'm free to sit on the patio, peck away at the keyboard and write this all out, while enjoying the new mason jar/fire fly garden lights we installed this weekend, and listening to the tree frogs chirp their evening song.  It's been a blessed day. 


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Overcoming My Underachievement

I used to make regular "Diary of a Slacker" entries as I chronicled my reluctant attempts at becoming a committed runner/half-marathoner/tri-athlete.  Mostly, it was an excuse to indulge my urge to blog while (in theory) humorously poking fun of myself. But it acknowledged some less-than-endearing traits I've recognized in myself: sloth and procrastination.  Sadly, those are my defaults.  Yes - actually getting out there and training and competing was arguably me overcoming those traits, but they're still my defaults -- and I do see them as flaws I'd do well to cure.  

I have to admit, though, nothing will make you feel quite so slothful and slackerish as hearing that one of your classmates is on the short list of potential Supreme Court nominees.  (Yes, it's a list of 11 possibilities which even the not-yet-official-nominee-and-certainly-not-yet-next-President-Heaven-help-us-all acknowledges is not set in stone, but STILL!)  Particularly when it comes several months after the news that another classmate has contributed $100 million dollars to your alma mater.  In fairness, said classmate had a healthy running start on his fortune, but he's obviously done quite well for himself since!  

I. Am. Not. Worthy.  That's where my mind immediately went.  (Hey - I'm human.)  It also prompted me to once again reassess several of my life choices and contemplate what I'd do differently if I had it all to do again, particularly as it relates to my education/career choices:  I'd have taken advantage of the awesome J-School at MIZZOU and double-majored in Journalism and Political Science in order to better blend (and ideally feed) my dual passions of writing and politics.  For law school, as much as I loved my experience at Northwestern, and as great an opportunity as it was (obviously - see above paragraphs), I think I'd have taken advantage of the generous scholarship package I was offered to remain at MIZZOU for law school, rather than weighing myself down with student debt for which, in some respects, I'm still paying. And lastly, I'd have made a point to "apply" myself a bit more diligently.  Not that I did poorly academically - but I didn't really distinguish myself, and I certainly didn't make a conscious effort to focus and soak up the education I was being afforded, as opposed to simply phoning it in.  There are many chapters in my life that, when I look back, I realize I didn't fully appreciate at the time.  I don't just mean simple gratitude, but also conscious, deliberate, stop-and-smell-the-roses-and-soak-it-all-in-and-inform-your-choices-accordingly appreciation.

Of course, the fact that I didn't always see the wisdom in doing so in my younger days in no way prevents me from doing so going forward -- I'm 47, not 97.  So, bearing that in mind, I'll take a moment now to express my gratitude:  For an amazing, funny, smart, loving, kind daughter who is herself entering a new chapter of life, as she completes her last day of  middle school - I am so very lucky to be her Mom, and, as much as I focus on trying to parent her and help her grow into a strong, independent, capable young woman, realize more and more how much she's teaching me in the process.  For a wonderful, thoughtful, clever, handsome, witty, generous boyfriend/life-partner who gives me reason to smile and makes my heart go pitter-patter every day - I am so fortunate to have a best friend and companion who "gets" me and loves me and holds my hand so well.  For my beloved family - my Mom and Dad, and siblings and in-laws, and extended family, one and all - I've been blessed to be surrounded and bolstered by their love and support my entire life.  For my dear friends - the many kind hearts who make a point to let me know that I am loved and valued by choice.  For my network of friends/friendly acquaintances I've met compliments of the conservative movement and social media, and the writing and broadcasting opportunities that has consequently afforded me.  For my church and the journey of reconnecting with my faith it has helped me to make.  For my job and my co-workers - no, I don't hold a lofty title or make prestigious short lists, nor do I make a gabillion dollars, but I manage to support myself and my kiddo and occasionally generate work/results of which I'm proud and still live a life with plenty of fun and neat opportunities.  

I'm not going to lie - I'm still prone to sloth. I'm still a horrible procrastinator.  But my life?  You know - it isn't so bad at all.  Yes, I am grateful.  Now, I just need to focus a bit more on living it accordingly.