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A tune-up for my headspace

I’ll start this post off by admitting that posting has seemingly slowed down a bit on my blog. The short answer is, I’ve been a grump. There is never enough time for all the things I want to do, and am told to do, and need to do. I’m sorting out the priorities, balancing the wants against the musts, and, to be truthful, sometimes being a brat about it. I do not like complainers. They drag me down and bum me out. But I’ve been full of complaints lately. Not so much on this online space, but plenty in person. As I climbed into my car to head home from work, I realized “I’m being one of those people I can’t stand.” And I can’t stand that any further. I’m determined to adjust my attitude.

My attitude is tied in with stress. Not long ago, I participated in a short seminar with Emily Bennington on the topic of mindfulness. (If you aren’t familiar with Bennington, check her out. She is brilliant.) She emphasized that when you are in a stressful situation, you should step back and separate the task at hand from the extraneous noise your mind is creating. She wisely taught, “The facts of the situation are the same, regardless of how stressed you are.”

Stress is pointless. Being stressed does not make you more efficient. If anything, stress clutters your mind, and leaves you more likely to make mistakes. Mindfulness involves letting go of that stress. Simply dropping it.

I get so wrapped up in the noise of all the things that are going on. I get frantic and stressed, and those emotions build on themselves. Settling in for my drive home from work, I realized that it’s not the facts I am facing that have soured my attitude. I’ve got plenty on my plate right now, especially with work. But I’ve had plenty on my plate before and I will have plenty on my plate in the future. At this stage in my career, this is a familiar to-do list. I know how to break the big tasks down into manageable pieces. I know how to prioritize the tasks. I know how to seek feedback. The facts aren’t the problem. It’s my attitude, and here is no good reason for me to have a bad one.

I got home from work, tossed together a quick dinner of soup and grilled cheese. I walked on the treadmill. I spent some time with my family. Instead of worrying about all the things I have to deal with tomorrow, I will accept that I accomplished some big things on my to-do list today and have a very brief breather. I will enjoy today, and leave tomorrow for tomorrow.

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Sometimes, even just for a brief little tiny moment, I feel like I’ve got it together.

It takes somewhere around 2 hours for me to get everything together and get out the door in the morning. This looks like an immense amount of time written down, but it makes sense, considering it involves: getting myself showered, dressed & makeup on, packing lunch for me & Mr. Beez, making breakfast for me & Baby Beez, sometimes throwing dinner in the crockpot, getting the birds fed and watered, getting Baby Beez dressed and wrangled and OMG KID STOP TAKING EVERYTHING APART AND WHINING AND SCREAMING. So yeah, a lot happens in those two hours.

For pretty much every weekday morning since Thanksgiving, those two hours have consisted of alternating whining, yowling and shrieking from Baby Beez. I throw in an exasperated plea to tell me WHAT on earth is so terrible, because I’ll probably fix it for you if you just tell me WHAT is so terrible, but that always goes unheeded. This morning set off pretty much the same way with the toddler drama.

Then I made it to work and in the course of the day I felt pretty proud of myself. I was focused, I was gettin’ stuff DONE. I even had to make a run out to pack up our birds and take them to be boarded for the next 10 days, or as I like to call it “Deliver them to Oh-How-I-Wish-It-Were-Summer Camp.” Tomorrow starts a construction project in the house that involves stuff getting smashed and drilled and sprayed, and the featherbeasts cannot be here for that. I expected that getting the birds into their respective carriers would be the Trauma of the Century for our little Ricky, but he ended up behaving very nicely, not biting me, and even sitting on my hand for a minute and pretending that he does not hate me.

I bite.

I bite.

Even with that detour this afternoon, I got back to the office and I was killin’ it. Mr. Beez had an evening obligation tonight, so it was just Baby Beez and me. When I picked her up from daycare, the teacher announced “She didn’t nap today.”

Great.

I was bracing myself for an evening to mirror our morning. In the car ride home, Baby Beez asked for Cinnamon Toast Crunch & Scrambled Eggs for dinner. Sure kid, that’s fine. I won’t be winning any child nutrition prizes tonight, but that’s a dinner I can handle making, especially if it will keep her happy. Since I’m the “fun parent” (i.e. the idiot responsible for encouraging all that whining), I even let her watch her current Disney favorite (Hercules) at the table while she ate.

And she ate everything. And didn’t whine. And after eating, she played a little bit. And then I said it was time for a bath. And she went upstairs. And took a bath. Without whining. And then I said it’s time to brush your teeth. And we brushed teeth. Without whining. And then it was time to get in bed, and we read a Llama Llama book. All without whining. And I gave her a kiss and she closed her eyes and snuggled under the blanket.

And I went downstairs and ran a couple miles on the treadmill. And it felt good. Then I stretched and drank some water. And now I am writing all this down. And for once in recent memory, I feel just the tiniest tiniest bit like I’m not treading water. Like I’ve made it a couple paddles forward, and I’m going to be OK.

Now I will go upstairs and read my book.

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Good Morning

Hello. It is Saturday Morning. Well, afternoon technically. It’s 12:05. So far I have survived Baby Beez’ ballet class, got a little coffee, and got a little work done. None of this has been easy. Baby Beez is in the “Fighting about Every Darn Thing” phase which involves a lot of screaming and flailing. Plus she’s aggressively cuddly, meaning that she throws elbows and knees in a crazed race to climb into and monopolize my lap. That makes it very hard for me to any work. I got so unbelievably frustrated and irritated that I was yelling too, and had to hide up in the bedroom to get my work done.

I hate being so angry in response to her WANTING to be close to me. I know that the time for her cuddles is limited. And I never want her to feel like I am pushing her aside to get work done. But sometimes I just need a darn hour to revise a Complaint, and she just needs to WAIT one darn hour (watch Tangled again for goodness sake!) and she’ll get all the cuddles she wants. I am thankful for Mr. Beez running interference today. I try to be patient. But try is not always the same as succeed. And when I don’t do as well as I would wish, I’m glad he is there to help out.

So the remainder of today involves holiday parties and writing briefs. I have two very big filings at the end of the year, which is unusual because December is usually a slow month for litigation. Truth be told, I would rather work hard and bank the hours now, and have a little more room to breathe in the warmer months. Winter is not my thing and I don’t mind spending the hours in the warm indoors takin’ care of business.

I’ve been looking forward to the release of the BlogHer Food agenda, ever since BlogHer announced that the conference will take place in Miami this year.  It was released earlier this week, and after much thinking and talking with Mr. Beez and thinking some more, I have decided I am not going to go this year.  This year’s conference has a much more commercial focus than last year. Most of the sessions are tailored towards brand/blogger relations, and people who want to turn their food blogging into a career, whether through a book or company or what have you.  It focuses a lot more on the cooking side of food blogging, and has nothing on the restaurant/food enthusiast side of blogging.  This is not a criticism in the least. The conference provides a totally valuable forum for a huge number of people. It’s just not the right emphasis or approach for my interests, so I decided that my time would be better spent just picking my own weekend to visit Miami at another time. I was considering buying my ticket earlier, but now I’m glad that I held off, because I think the event would not be the right fit for me. Big Summer Potluck is still TOTALLY in the cards, and now that I see that Big Traveling Potluck is only a bit of a drive from my Mom’s house, that too is a possibility….gotta choose FAST though, because tickets go on sale Monday!

During the last few weeks I have gone a little crazy with Amazon purchases (lots of sales!), so I’ve got the following books locked and loaded: The Goldfinch (Donna Tartt). And the Mountains Echoed (Khaled Hosseini), Burial Rites (Hannah Kent), Orange is the New Black (Piper Kerman), Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card), Books 2-5 of the Song of Ice And Fire (aka Game of Thrones) (George R.R. Martin). I am also 2% into Infinite Jest (David Foster Wallace), but I can only hope to get that read by the end of my life, forget the end of this year.
What do yinz guys have on your nightstands?

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Autumn Activities and Stubborn Like a Mule

Autumn Activities and Stubborn Like a Mule

Baby Beez and I had quite the weekend.  Sadly, Mr. Beez also had a lot of separate activities going on, so I feel like I haven’t seen my husband for ages.  And we’ve got a busy week, so it’s going to be a few more days until I see him again. It’s a good thing we’ve managed to fit in a couple of date nights in the previous couple weeks. Because Husbaaaand, where are you?

So this weekend Baby Beez and I lived up the weekend activities. We started things off by visiting Zoo Boo at the Pittsburgh Zoo with our pals Sandy and Elena.  We have gone the last couple years as well, but this is the first year that Baby Beez was big enough to really enjoy it.  Her favorite animal at the zoo is the shark, and we did get to see a few sharks, so she was very pleased.  Also this outing to the zoo involved candy, and she was able to show off her newly learned “Trick or treat! Smell my feet!. . .” Of which she was very proud. (I plead guilty to that one).

Princesses

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Today we continued with the Halloween festivities with a visit to Trax Farms with more friends.  This too was an ideal outing, because Baby Beez is now big enough to really have fun.  Things were temporarily derailed for a few minutes when Baby Beez got the HANGRY but then I filled her with granola bars and it was all good. Baby Beez is infamous for begging to ride a pony and then we stand in a big stupid long line for the pony, and then when we finally get up to the stupid pony Baby Beez decides she is stupid scared and won’t get on the stupid pony.  This year however was SUCCESS and she climbed upon the gentle beast, Tonto, and was very proud to take a little ride.

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Carnie food! The best!

Carnie food! The best!


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And since it is late October, and since for the last six years November has insisted on being the most absolutely insane month for work in the entire year, this weekend of course brought with it a ridonkulous amount of work that needed to be done.  The well-rested, conservatively scheduled, and possibly more prudent me would have called off the plans, spent my weekend mornings in the office, and squared away those things.  Over the last several years, and in particular as Baby Beez has gotten bigger and has exclaimed in her cute little voice “Mama, you’re my best friend!” I simply cannot bring myself to call off social events for this purpose. Oh yes, the work gets done. That point is non-negotiable. And thank goodness for good remote access and the ability to work on things on the couch while Baby Beez watches Monsters, Inc. for the 9,000th time. What I’ve found over the last several years is that in order to keep my family and personal life healthy, the work gets done at odd hours, whether that means getting up stupid early on a Saturday or spending that Sunday evening wind-down time not winding down at all, but rather getting work done.  Lawyers work on weekends. It’s in the job description. It’s nothing special or new. But I’m stubborn and have gotten stubborner about making sure I make that quality family time on the weekend (with work squeezed in before the kid wakes up, or while she naps, or while she watches TV, etc), because lord knows that QT during the week is minimal.

If you have work obligations on the weekends, how do you balance out family time and work time?

PS– Upon reviewing this post, I have no right to wonder where Baby Beez learned the word “stupid.”

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Ready for Fall

Ready for Fall

Don’t hate me for it you guys, but I’m totally ready for fall.  Sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes, new boxes of pens.  I love everything about fall.  At the beginning of summer I had just come off back-to-back trials and nonstop other work and was exhausted.  I was ready to travel. I was ready for fun. I needed to get the heck out of dodge.  Then I spent pretty much eight weeks outta dodge.  It was incredibly fun and incredibly relaxing, and boy did I need fun and relaxing.

But now I’m ready to be back in the swing of normal life.  Normal weekends with normal things like doing laundry and getting some exercise in and catching up on the various “to-do’s” that have gathered up.  Quality time on the couch with my husband, watching silly sci-fi TV.

The combination of a blog post by Emily Levenson and the buzz of back-to-school in the air has invigorated me with newfound excitement for my work.  While I did a long run through beautiful North Park on Saturday, I thought about Emily’s question at the end of her post: What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever done?  My initial thought was running the marathons in 2005, but then that faded away beneath the bad thoughts about how everyone runs marathons and that’s not special and other such not-nice things that I really should not be bogging myself down with.

But then I thought more about my work.  I obviously knew it, but hadn’t thought about it so much in this context before– I’ve had a hand in briefing/presenting cases to the PA Superior Court, PA Supreme Court, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals (yes 4th, not 3rd, but probably 3rd too in the relative future) and US Supreme Court.  I’m only going in to my 7th year.  This is both tremendous luck and tremendous hard work.  And I think that both the coolest thing that has ever happened to me is that I’ve had these opportunities, and that the coolest thing I’ve ever done is that I’ve worked hard enough and proven myself enough for senior people to trust me and have me involved in these amazing projects, and that I’ve had the hand in the interpretation of this country’s laws.  Those warm fuzzy thoughts powered me through the last 2 miles of my run.

I said I’m “only” going in to my 7th year, but it’s also “omg I’m going in to my 7th year.”  It’s business time, folks.  The forgiveness of a learning curve is long gone.  I’m at that point where (I hope) I’ve shown the people I work with that I know how to practice law, and know how to do so efficiently and knowledgeably.  Now it’s really up to me to show the rest of the world how well I can do these things.  And those memories encourage me that even when I’m uncertain or stressed or nervous, I do know how to practice law. The next few years are make it or break it time. I intend to make it.

I’m ready for fall. I’m ready for back-to-school. Now pass the pumpkin spice latte.