Post 409: Failure (Again)

Funny story.  I was scrolling through my newsfeed last night after we tucked in the little ones, and I saw an article about Florida International University having the highest percentage bar passage rate in Florida for the third straight exam.  I stopped to think about why that might be the case and whether law schools should “teach to the test” and what that approach could mean for BarBri and school rankings.  It was only after I continued to scroll that I realized what the article meant for me.

HW helped me find my bar number and I pulled up the page.  I did not expect to see a “pass” next to my number, but some part of me definitely thought it might be there.  Miracles happen every day.  Anyway, as my eyes moved down the numbers to find my own, I had a brief moment of panic.  What if I did pass?  What if, by some miracle, I passed?  If I passed, I would have to take the MPRE (ethics exam for lawyers), and I would have to get the board the rest of my paperwork (transcripts, etc.), and, worst of all, at some point I would have to get a job working as a lawyer.

All of those thoughts swirled in a matter of seconds, and when I saw the “fail” next to my number, I literally breathed a sigh of relief.

I told HW the news, he hugged me, and I smiled.  It was kind of a sarcastic smile, or at least a skeptical smile, but it was genuine.  He did not seem surprised.  I told him I felt relieved. He said, “I know,” and hugged me again before walking to the kitchen to open a bottle of champagne we were saving for a rainy day.

By the time he made it back from the kitchen my feelings had changed.  Well, not so much changed, but grown more complex.  It went something like this.

I’m relieved.  That’s weird.  Why am I relieved?  I failed at something.  Twice.  I should be in tears or berating myself or angry or frustrated or something.  Why would I be relieved?  What a selfish, arrogant way to feel.  There are people who would do anything to have the opportunity to take a bar exam and practice law, and here I am, happy I didn’t pass?  All of that money and time an energy spent on a law degree, and on bar exam fees and preparation.  What a waste.  People are struggling to get enough to eat and I’m wasting resources and happy about it?  And what if I really did want to pass, but I’m telling myself I didn’t because I was afraid to fail?  But I do feel relieved.  I don’t want to be a lawyer.  I don’t want to practice.  I don’t think I ever wanted to practice.  I wanted to go to law school, but I don’t think I ever thought about what it would be like to practice.  I thought I was so smart…

HW kindly interrupted my thoughts at about that point, and I caught him up.  He shook his head and said something like, “So, let me get this straight.  You’re now making yourself feel bad, because you don’t feel bad?”

I had to admit that was true.  That’s exactly what I was doing.  And even after I admitted that, I tried to justify it.  First I tried to use what I wrote above as a legitimate reason, and when that didn’t work, I started to worry about changing.  If I don’t care about passing a bar exam, or about passing any sort of test that objectively measures my worth, who am I? If I’m honest with myself, that kind of thing has always motivated me.  I don’t think it was so much the fear of failure (although I’m sure that was a factor), but the desire to succeed. If I’m not motivated by that, and at one point I even used the phrase “kept in line by that,” which is clearly telling, what will prevent me from becoming a lazy, complacent, waste of space?  Even if that fear wasn’t entirely healthy, I can probably thank it for a lot of my successes, and maybe even blame its absence for my recent failures.

I know, in my own mind, that being a grown up is a process, and it involves letting go of some of the coping mechanisms we relied on when we were young (mostly because HW gently reminded me).  I know I’m not a bad person because I don’t want to practice.  I know my worth as a person doesn’t come from my ability to pass a bar exam, or my desire to succeed.  I know all of that, and I still think I should be more upset.

And maybe I will be.  Maybe as the days go by, I will feel a sense of regret at not studying more (although if I had to go back to do it again, I wouldn’t study more), or struggle with failure in other ways.  I was considering going back to school (again), and maybe all of this will motivate me to figure out what I want to do or what I don’t want to do.  Maybe I’ll curl up on the couch with a giant bowl of crap food and binge on terrible television.  Maybe the guilt will kick in and I’ll register for another round.  I don’t know.

For now, I’m going to try not to look for reasons to doubt or be upset with myself.

I failed.  At something I didn’t want to succeed at.  I spent a lot of years believing I was meant to be a lawyer.  I don’t feel that way now, and I’m going to sit still until I know what I do feel, or at least for the next ten minutes.






Post 408: Perfection? No. Safety and Security? Yep.

One of the mothers in one of the local Facebook groups posted this article earlier today.  The title said, “Stop Making Things Perfect for Your Kids,” and the comments were all like, “AMEN!” or “This is the best article ever!” or “I’m going to post this to my personal account!” so I decided to read it.  Because what could possibly go wrong.

Well, there are a few problems.

First, the tone of the article is not my favorite.  I know, I get snippy sometimes (often), and sometimes I have attitude, and sometimes I could and should put things more delicately, especially if I actually want to change minds.  Still, there is a sort of condescending knowitallness that doesn’t seem to be backed up.

Second, I have some problems with her first and main example.  It’s not clear that this woman saw the initial interaction between the lifeguard and the child, which for me calls the entire thing into question.  You want lifeguards disciplining your kid?  Fine.  I guess.  But there is obviously a difference between a lifeguard kindly reminding a child to stop running and a lifeguard getting in a child’s face or putting hands on a child.  If you’re not sure what happened, I think it’s wise to zip your lip about how a parent responds.  Similarly, she conveniently leaves out the age of the child.  Was this a three year old who excitedly ran a few steps and the lifeguard had a hissy fit, or was this a teenager who was blatantly defiant?  Based on the facts presented, it could be either, and it’s the kind of detail that makes a difference, at least to me.

Third, there is a huge jump and disconnect between her opening story and (what might be) her main point about parents trying to create perfection for their kids.  The disconnect continues when she decides to brag about her middle schooler and high schooler, not because they are great, but because they don’t do what they are supposed to.  I try not to criticize how other people parent, I know I’m not perfect, but I think if you’re going to write an article criticizing other parents, both individually and collectively, it’s maybe not the best idea to include two paragraphs about the problems with the preferred philosophy.  Again, I’m not saying kids that age don’t make mistakes, of course they do, even the best ones, but it does seem like a strange thing to add, even if I do respect her honesty.

Fourth, and this is really important, there is a huge difference between the parent of a toddler protecting and paying attention and the parent of a college student calling professors to argue about grades.  Huge.  Wall-with-Mexico yuge.  Parents of young children should be protective.  Letting go is a gradual process, and the idea, at least as I’ve gathered so far, is to give children the tools to succeed a little bit at a time, as we give them room to grow and live their own lives.

Fifth, and I saved this for last because it is the most important point, while I think it’s important for children to be respectful to adults, let’s not forget that sometimes adults also make bad and/or inappropriate choices.  I don’t want my child to believe that all adults are infallible.  If an adult does something that makes my child feel uncomfortable, I want my child to come to me immediately, and to know that I will understand and help them to feel safe.  Let me put it this way.  I may not have a large chest to stick out to intimidate (or impress) the lifeguard, but if he put a hand on my child, my displeasure would be noted.  In fact, I’m going to drop the attempt at diplomacy:  adhering too closely to the ideals advocated in this article is dangerous.  There.  I said it.





Post 406: On Conversations and Predictions About the 2016 Election

We had dinner out with friends last week, without our children, which is an extremely rare occasion.  In fact, other than HW’s thirtieth birthday and a wedding that specifically prohibited children from attending, it was a first for us.

We haven’t seen these friends in a while, and actually I was starting to worry something was up.  It wasn’t.  It was a really nice night.

They are both interesting, educated, intelligent people, who are also interested people, and we love spending time with them.  We don’t always talk about politics, but we often do, and it was interesting to hear their perspectives.

First I think it’s worth noting, on a slightly separate note, how strange I think it is that most very smart people who offer me the credit of also being intelligent assume I think the exact way they do about politics.  I see this more with liberal friends and acquaintances, but not exclusively, and HW and I always share a smirk when we realize it’s happening or has already happened.

I’m actually fairly open about my political views, if I’m asked, but sometimes I sit quietly and listen.  I think my nods, which I intend as evidence that I’m listening and following and considering, are sometimes interpreted as nods of agreement.

Anyway, they are both lifelong democrats who have contributed more than we make in a year to campaigns.  The wife is voting for HRC, the husband is seriously considering a vote for DT.  We have two couples who are friends who are doing the same thing, although one of them was split politically before this election.  All three wives are unhappy, and when I reluctantly admitted I was considering not voting at all, it was not well received.  No one came out and accused me of being a traitor to my gender, but there was a definite lack of enthusiasm.

I still don’t know what I plan to do on election day, and neither does HW.  We talk about it, not constantly, but frequently.  Our daughter thinks Trump will win because people say Clinton is ill.  She said something about how it’s more important for her to take care of her health than to be President.  She is a wise old soul.  HW thinks Trump will win too, for more complex reasons involving the electoral college.  I have no idea.  I keep waiting for things to get really nasty and crazy, but maybe things will be relatively low-key until the election.

I’ll write more after the debate.  Maybe I’ll even be ready to make a decision.







Post 405: On RHONJ and RHOC and Forced Forgiveness

I was finally able to catch up on RHONJ and RHOC this week and I noticed a common theme, likely because some part of me was looking for it.

It’s something I’ve noticed before and even written about before, but watching the shows my own feelings seemed to be working themselves out, and I’m hoping writing about it will continue that work.

If you’re not familiar with the cast members of these shows, I will try to fill in the basic information, but this will likely be a boring post for you.

Two things struck me about RHONJ this week.  First, Teresa’s struggle with her husband.  She’s been home from “camp” (jail) for about six weeks, her husband leaves do his time in another four weeks, and they both seem to be struggling.  She was away from her husband and daughters for almost a full year, but she’s back with a best-selling book and she’s clearly determined to put her best foot forward and to be strong for her daughters.  Her husband does not seem to be coping very well as he prepares to leave his family for three years, and that’s one more thing for her to worry about.  Still, she talks about loyalty and talks about him in a loving, understanding, almost gentle way, while admitting she wants her daughters to be smarter than she was (presumably about finances).

All of these things are happening, she’s definitely putting on a brave face, trying to mend broken friendships and relationships with her brother and his wife, and working to sell and promote her book, which I have to imagine is now her family’s main source of income.  And now her cousins want to get involved.  Or pile on, I should probably say.

First let me say, I genuinely like Rosie (as a cast member on a television show that sometimes seems staged).  She’s fun to watch, she’s interesting, complicated, whatever.  Having said that, she and Kathy are way out of line.

They have a fit and feel left out when they’re not invited to Teresa’s New Year’s Eve party and Rosie says some stupid things.  Fine.  Whatever.  She’s drinking, it happens.  But then they talk and talk and talk about it and show up at Teresa’s book signing.  Now again, this is her main source of income for her family.  She’s promoting the book, signing autographs, balancing all of these other things on her shoulders, and her cousins ambush her.

I know what you’re thinking.  “They’re making an effort, I think that’s so nice!”  No they are not.  They could send her a message first, or meet her off-camera.  They could even show up at her house with a cup of coffee.  Instead, they ambush her while she’s working.  Awful.

And I know what else you’re thinking.  Something about forgiveness and moving forward.  Fine.  Great.  You forgive and move forward all you want, but don’t you dare tell someone else they have to do the same.  You don’t know what went on behind closed doors, or how it hurt her and her family.  Forgiveness is great, truly, I believe that, and I am thankful for the times I have received it.  But sometimes, a person can do something or say something that provides a window into their very soul, and sometimes what we see inside is dark and dangerous, and we are smart to turn away from that.  We are brave to turn away from that.  Sometimes “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean anything, and we can only give so many chances, especially when our family, and our ability to provide for our family, is involved.

I’ve seen something similar happen on RHOC this season.  It’s slightly different, because Shannon is a less likable and relatable person, or “character.”  She’s difficult, sometimes petty, and sometimes she seems fake.  But the same idea applies, actually to her and to Meghan.  And, full disclosure, while I have a soft spot for Teresa, I do not feel the same about Shannon or Meghan, and I’ve watched since the beginning, so if I have a soft spot for anyone, it’s probably Vicki.

In this case Vicki did and said some horrible things to both of these women.  Granted, that is not totally out of character for women on this show, but her words and actions were particularly hurtful, and even now, it doesn’t really seem like she’s taken full responsibility for all of it.

In the two most recent episodes Vicki and Tamra are injured in a dune buggy accident. I mean, really.  I don’t even know what to say about that part.  But the injuries are serious enough that Vicki is air-lifted to a hospital near where Shannon and Meghan are vacationing.  Meghan just found out she’s pregnant, they’re golfing and hanging out, and she gets a call from Heather and the new girl, who were also in the car.  Heather makes a joke about opening a beer, but throws in that Vicki is alone and in this hospital, sort of implying that Meghan should go.  They speak on the phone a few times, there is some back and forth, and it turns out Heather and the new girl are about the same distance away from the hospital as Shannon and Meghan, but they insist they can’t go for completely bullshit reasons and continue to push the others to go.

This is why that doesn’t make any sense.  If your dear friend is seriously injured, I mean SERIOUSLY injured, you make the drive.  You hire a car, a helicopter, whatever, especially if you brag about spending six figures on cabinets for your kitchen, you figure it out.  If not, you really don’t have the right to tell another woman who has been emotionally damaged by the physically injured party that she is obligated to take care of her.  That’s just not right.

I can say this, because I probably would have gone to the hospital, or at least truly agonized over the decision.  My first instinct would have been to drop everything and definitely go.  My husband would have encouraged me to stop and think about it.  I would have bitten my lower lip for a while and decided no one should be alone.  Probably.  But maybe not.  I don’t know what went on between them all privately, and their situation is different than mine (I’m not newly pregnant and I have a supportive husband who would share his opinion, but also respect mine).

Here is the thing.  There are people out there who don’t care about how much they hurt other people.  I’m not talking here about people who make honest mistakes.  I’m talking about people who actively try to hurt people, or who are repeatedly reckless and selfish.  Those people absolutely deserve our prayers and to receive professional help to the extent that could be beneficial.  We don’t owe them anything else.

There are other people out there who try to be forgiving, and who are maybe a little bit naive.  The former often take advantage of the latter, and rather than being the victim, which is actually sometimes the easy solution, we have a responsibility to stop that cycle, and rather than feeling guilty about that, we should pat ourselves on the back, give ourselves a hug, take ourselves to lunch, whatever.






Post 404: More Changes

My new plan has not been working, so I came up with a new one.  I’m not sure this will work either, but I’m willing to try.

First, the change in title format, because I am not writing every day.  It will now be “Post 410:  ______” instead of “Day 410: ______” because that makes more sense.

I haven’t written much lately (obviously), and while some of that is simply a matter of timing (back to school is a bitch), much of it is the result of an internal struggle that has been there along, between wanting to explore my feelings in an open and honest way, and knowing that some day, someone is probably going to put the pieces together and use everything I write against me in a way that could possibly hurt my children.  I’ve been honest about my very great desire to never be a source of pain for my children, and honest about the fact that perhaps I spend too much time worrying about that.  In this case it feels particularly silly – who would possibly care enough about what I have to say to read it, forget using it to hurt me?  Most of the people I know who worry about that kind of thing are self-obsessed egomaniacs (that might appear to be redundant at first glance, but think it over) who are at least borderline delusional about their own importance.  The others are just smarter than I am.

Anyway, the result of this has been some pretty shitastic writing over the past year.  Some of it has been fine, a few posts I would even say were pretty good, but the rest of it has been absolute crap.  I’m not a super gifted writer, so that’s part of it, but some of it is this weird holding back thing that I do.  I do it in other areas of my life too, often without knowing it’s happening or without understanding why.

It’s based in fear.  I don’t like that.  But it’s true.

So this is what I’m going to do.  I’m going to keep on keeping on, or just keep swimming, or whatever.  There are going to be many more terrible posts where I pull punches without knowing it, or come across as not being fully genuine because I’m holding back, but I’m going to keep trying, at my own pace and comfort level.  That’s really all any of us can do.  Admit we are not perfect.  Admit we suck sometimes.  And keep trying anyway.






Day 403: Keeping Track of the Seasons Without the Weather

Before we moved last year my mother asked me if I was concerned about missing the seasons.  At the time, that was so far down the list of possible complications that the question annoyed me significantly.  Also, because I had lived in warmer climates before, I didn’t expect an issue, and simply missing the cool autumn air seemed like a silly thing to worry about given everything else on my plate.

Now that we’ve lived in Florida a full year, I have a few thoughts.

First, for the most part, 360 days, give or take a few, the Florida weather is a source of great joy and relief.  No more snow boots or bulky winter jackets, no more bone-chilling cold that only thaws after twenty minutes of scalding hot water, and no more spending days or weeks inside with stir-crazy children who lost interest in the snow fifteen minutes after it started falling (the first time).

Second, there are some days, like the week before Christmas, a few days in October, maybe a day or two in late March or early April, when I miss the cooler weather.  Sometimes it’s refreshing to feel a cool breeze, and sometimes the cold weather makes the warm weather easier to appreciate.

Third, more than liking or not liking the warm or the cold, the difficult part has been keeping track of time.  Last year I tried to embrace the Florida weather in its entirety.  Watching football in 90 degrees didn’t feel right, so we only caught a couple of games late in the season.  But it was a strange feeling, like somewhere in my mind or body I was waiting for something to happen or change, but it never happened.  We decorated for Christmas early, like we’ve done the past four years, but it felt very strange.  Not exactly like something was missing, more that something was off.

This year I’m going to try to do things a bit differently.  I’m going to watch football and make chicken soup and lasagna in October, at least once, and we’re going to carve pumpkins again.  Last year we took the kids ice skating a couple of times, and I’m going to do that again, especially over Christmas break.  I’m also going to try to slowly incorporate Florida into the change of the seasons.  We try to eat locally as much as possible, so in addition to making our traditional seasonal dishes, I’m also going to try to add in some local dishes so that over time, hopefully we will all start to substitute in the new routines.  I’m also trying to pay attention to the sun and when it sets and rises based on some advice from a knowledgable source.

All of this is really about two obvious conclusions that are sometimes less obvious in practice.  Change can be difficult and takes time, and sometimes the challenges come up where you don’t expect them.













Day 402: Back to School B*tches

I know, that’s a bad word.  Is it a word we’ve taken back yet?  I think I read something about trying to take it back.  I’m not sure why we would want to take it back.  It really is an ugly word, Kimmy Schmidt’s good point aside, and if someone ever used it about one of my daughters I would definitely see red.

Still, I can’t think of a better word to describe these women.

I know, I’m a bad feminist.  It’s probably not their fault, it’s the men in their lives, the oppressive system they struggle against, blah, blah, blah.  I’m sure all of that is true, but they are still miserable bitches, and there is no (good) reason for it.

Most of the time I can ignore it, especially when it’s directed at me (I can imagine 10,000 reasons why a stranger might be “justified” in not liking me – more on that some other time), but when it’s directed at other people, sometimes it’s too much.  I tend to notice it the most at the beginning and the end of the school year, maybe because I’m paying better attention, or maybe because there is more of it, but it happens every year.

I’ve seen it in three different states now, and it’s interesting to think about similarities and differences between schools.  I tend to think whichever version I am currently dealing with is the most obnoxious, but it’s impossible to say if one is objectively better or worse than another, and they are all terrible.

This is what I’m going to do to make it better, or to at least try to not make it worse.  I’m going to cut everyone a little bit of slack.  I’m going to try to understand that going back to school is stressful for everyone, and maybe it brings up insecurity issues, and we are all fighting invisible battles, and we could all use a little bit of compassion.  I’m going to bite my tongue and nod and smile, not because I want to be fake or pretend, but because getting involved will not do any good, and will only make everyone more unhappy.  I will make an effort to not only be nice to everyone, but to go out of my way to be friendly and offer a smile, even if I’m having a shit day myself.





Day 401: Thankful for Technology Fails

I wrote this extremely long, ramble post about a friend from high school who recently and unexpectedly passed away, and for some reason, I decided to write it in the WordPress window box rather than a word document, and for some other unknown reasons, my Internet stopped working at the moment I tried to post, and instead of saving the post like normal, it was lost forever.

I am thankful for this.

Partially I think I’m thankful because it was a messy post.  I don’t mean emotionally messy, although it was, but the writing was messy, and maybe because I was feeling a lot of different things, I wasn’t doing the best job of putting those feelings in writing.  That’s not a new phenomenon, but it felt almost like I was dishonoring her memory by writing about her so poorly.

Instead of a long rant, I will just say that I’m very sorry for her family’s loss, especially for her son and her mother, and I wish I had known her better.  She and her family will be in my thoughts and prayers, and if you are reading this, please include them in yours as well.



Day 400: On Making Catholic Friends

I mentioned a few posts ago that we are making new friends.  It’s not that we didn’t make friends when we first moved, because we did, but it takes some time to get to know people and figure out how much you have in common, and to borrow a phrase, if there is “any there there.”

One of the things that has been interesting is to see how people slowly develop as we get to know them, one little bit at a time, and to see how their stories change.  I think we all tend to give people the short and simple version when we meet them, whether that means a brief overview of our jobs or whatever, and as we start to learn more details, I think that can sometimes change (or at least clarify) our first impressions.

I’ve noticed this especially when it comes to politics, maybe because that’s something that has been such a popular topic of discussion lately, and maybe because it’s something I care about.  Most people, when you first get to know them, say something that indicates they are somewhere in the middle, and their statements are as vague as possible.  These are the same people I later find out fundraise for Planned Parenthood or attend rallies for the NRA (not really, but you get the idea).

By the way, if this sounds at all judgmental, that is not how I mean it at all.  I do exactly the same thing.  I’ve learned over the years that it’s just not worth discussing politics with acquaintances unless there is some special circumstance that provides a rare opportunity to learn or engage in a meaningful way.  I try very hard to do this in an honest and authentic way, but sometimes it’s just easiest to smile politely and back away slowly.

I’ve also noticed the same phenomenon, or as I like to call it, “common sense observation,” when it comes to religion.  Especially for Catholics.  Our Jewish friends are happy to discuss their religion and how observant they are or are not, usually with some kind of a joke about guilt.  We don’t really have close Protestant friends, but they seem to be extremely eager to share their faith and beliefs (like it or not).  These are overgeneralizations based on my own experiences, of course, and not meant to be offensive in any way.

Catholic friends are different.  It takes a while to find out whether they are practicing and to what extent.  I think people tend to believe all Catholics believe the same thing and follow the same rules, but that’s not really true, and for a lot of us, what we believe and how we practice changes over time.

I was thinking about it because of course we are more protective of some information, and it’s interesting that we would be protective of our religion in that way.  What is it about being Catholic that makes us feel like we have to keep our beliefs and how we practice to ourselves?  Is it related to guilt?  A fear of judgment?  The fact that our answer will either make us seem like zealots or heretics depending on the audience?

Again, this isn’t about judgment, I do it too.  I would like to understand why I do it, and why other people do it, and what it means.

I will say that once we get over the initial stage of learning about each other and have real conversations, it’s nice to be open about those things.