Friday, January 13, 2017

I Almost Got Divorced After Law School

The first week of law school I told Brian he was not allowed to divorce me. We knew it would be hard and how common it was for marriages to fail during school. We got through it, but only barely.

It has taken a long time for me to be willing to talk about my marriage, what it was like to take a break from it, why we chose to do that, and how we found our way back to each other. When Brian and I separated I felt humiliated, like a failure, and like everyone would be looking at me differently. I was 6 months' pregnant. It was the holidays. I was alone and terrified. I reached out to some people for help who rejected me, so I stopped reaching out for help, only to be blamed for not reaching out. I felt so ashamed. So I quit talking about it publicly, even though I knew people were curious. When we reconciled, we told those who we thought should know, but we didn't make a huge deal about it. Now, after all this time, I want to make a big deal about it because we have come so far!

                                                                   Christmas 2016

Brian and I loved each other so much, but we had let our relationship not only die, but go to a dark and lonely place filled with resentments. We got along fine, but our ability to really give to each other selflessly and empathize with one another was just gone. 8 years is a long time to be together without any kind of relationship tune-up, especially after going through the experience of a partner in law school, with kids, crazy opposite work schedules, and starting not just a new business, but a legal revolution. We couldn't do it on our own but we were both skeptical about therapy.

Everything was done, papers were filed and we were just in the 90 day waiting period when Brian met with an attorney. That's when he realized not only did he not want the divorce but he didn't want to live without me in his life. We were separated for 1 year. We lived apart for slightly more than that. We dated other people. We figured out what we like and don't like, independent of one another. We had adventures. When we had those adventures the one person we wanted to tell about them was each other. We had seen a therapist to help us navigate the divorce. Doing this with a newborn is hard enough, but a curious 6 year old on top of that made us super worried about how they would handle all of it. We did 50% custody during the separation and were kind and civil to each other. Our therapist was thoroughly confused. One day she said, "I just don't understand this. You obviously have great affection for each other. Are you sure you don't want to work this out?" It wasn't that we didn't want to. We did not know how, and because we think we are really smart, we assumed we knew something that the rest of the world didn't. We were simply doomed: end of discussion.

I had a particular health issue that was greatly affecting our marital relationship. Doctors were not sure if it was physical or psychological -- and in my pain I blamed Brian. There were legitimate reasons to blame him; he wanted to be close to me and bond with me and he wasn't great at expressing himself emotionally, so he did so physically. Which only upset me more, because I felt like my health issues were not important to him. I was simply expected to be the dutiful wife. Eventually I experienced a major trauma related to all of this, and I simply could not stay in the relationship without help. I do not mean to downplay the trauma, for those who know the story, but I have healed and don't need to go into detail. When I got pregnant with Henry, things went from bad to worse. The reality was we had an issue that could not be dealt with by a social worker.

We got extremely lucky and found a psychologist with training and therapy skills to deal with our specific issues, and after the wake-up call with the lawyer Brian was ready to try therapy. The difference was night and day. We knew the moment we walked into that office that we could fix our marriage, and that we would be happier and healthier. It was absolutely life-changing and I cannot recommend it enough. The therapist not only dealt with our specific physical issues, but issues of shame (a big issue for me as a post-Mormon), communication (a big issue for Brian who struggles to express feelings verbally), conflict, and connection. We even ended our therapy with mindfulness meditation to help keep stress out of our intimacy. I'm not going to lie, there were plenty of times when Brian was flirting with me or kissing me and I was drafting pleadings in my head. It can be really hard to shut that off, and it can completely reject your partner. That new term "phubbing"? (A really dumb word for phone-snubbing). I was the queen of that. I shut myself off from Brian and yet I expected him to make efforts even when I rejected him.

He expected me to not only have the physical energy but the desire to give him affection, even though I was a young lawyer and company founder who was completely stressed out like 99% of the time. I couldn't shower without a crying baby interrupting (or a toilet being flushed but that is a whole other gripe-fest). I couldn't sleep. I was eating absolutely terribly. I didn't feel sexy or glamorous and felt like if one more person demands something from my body I swear I will KILL SOMEONE. That's the head-space I was in and he just didn't get it. Our therapist helped us understand each other. If you haven't heard of Collaborative Communication/Marriage Skills it is seriously amazing.

It was a long process, but we have been back together for about 15 months now and we could not be happier. It is like we got to start our relationship at the beginning with all the great honeymoon stuff, but with the deep connection of a couple who has been together for a decade. It will be 11 years this July, and I can't wait to see where we go from here. Our running joke is that we will not renew our vows because every reality show where that happens ends in divorce -- but maybe we will renew our honeymoon.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Slippery Slope to 40

So I'm watching Ali Wong: Baby Cobra in bed. I can't move super effectively right now because my stupid discs are inflamed and my back feels like a piece of overcooked steak. Yeah, sexy. So Ali is hilarious and making me cry with how real getting older and more domestic is. I was never a huge party animal but as I'm laying here my biggest accomplishment today is that I cleaned my bedroom and took the tags off my new shapewear panties to be washed.

One month from today I will be 36. That's right! The downhill slippery ass slope to 40. I could be more upset I suppose. I have such amazing plans for my birthday next month that I'm counting the minutes. I have two gorgeous kids and a gorgeous husband. I'm temporarily silky smooth from the waxing nightmare the other night. My career is interesting and challenging. I have some gray hair but it isn't terrible. I'm kind of looking forward to seeing how it comes out. It is WHITE compared to my dark hair. I'm hoping for glamorous, not Cruella. We'll see!

I have been doing well at the workouts, that that my back has anything nice to say about it. Selfish asshole.

All in all I can't really complain that much. I feel like I have a few things figured out and boy do I NOT miss my 20s.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

10 Things We Can (and should) Do Instead of Waxing Our Junk

This post is dedicated to my friend Katie, with whom I embarked upon an adventure of...prickly proportions.

Last night we got our first ever bikini waxes together. She posted about it here, so I won't go over the whole saga again. I will, however, suggest 10 alternatives to the horror show we experienced. The whole ordeal cost between 120 and 170 bucks, if you're me it's slightly less. If you're Katie and you bought product, slightly more. So to split the difference let's say $150. $150 to be tormented, prodded, ripped, spread, rubbed, and overall just kind of violated. On purpose!!!

I'm going to Vegas for vacation next month. I thought it would be nice to have nice smooth legs and stuff. Katie was nervous, so I offered to go with for moral support and to further my goal of wearing nothing but sexy microdresses on vacation. When in Vegas, right?! Plus for some reason shaving my nethers results in misery every single time so I thought waxing might be a good alternative.
They started trying to upsell us with waxing passes the moment we got in the door. Dude, know your audience. We came in there shaking like leaves and talking about how scared we are. You really think we're going to drop 600 BUCKS on future waxes based on the possibility that somehow your technician magically knows how to make ripping hair out by the roots from OUR JUNK not hurt? Yeah, right. We politely declined. Then after they tried to get us to buy lotions and potions. I politely declined those as well. I still ended up shelling out 120 bucks.

So, here it is, the 10 things I think Katie and I should do instead of paying $150 to wax our junk.

1. Buy 10 Duckie Deathstars 
2. Go to the Dollar Tree and buy 150 gloves and hats - give to homeless
3. See Rogue One 12 more times
4. Buy 1500 needles, poke into legs and junk
5. Eat 10 sushi rolls
6. Buy a one way ticket to Chicago
7. Get 2 fancy haircuts (TWO!)
8. Rent 75 Redbox movies
9. Pay a month of car insurance. For two cars. And two drivers.
10. Buy a fabulous new White House Black Market special occasion dress.

Some of these are more fun than others. Kind of like some of those waxing tears are more horrific than others.

All that said, I have another appointment in 4 weeks. What is wrong with  me?!?

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Yep, I'm a New Year's Resolution Cliche and IDGAF

I don't know about you, but I like to pronounce the ever-so-classy acronym IDGAF as an initialism instead - so I pronounce it ID-gaff like it's a word. It's more fun that way.

So everyone is all harping on how people set New Year's resolutions and it's stupid and harmful because they set unrealistic expectations on themselves and then fail in a few weeks. Well that's all fine and good, but it's ALSO harmful to discourage people from trying to make positive changes so maybe STFU. (I don't pronounce STFU like it's a word, I'm not some kind of savage.) So, to that end, here is my honest resolution and how it came to be.

I have two herniated discs in my lower back. They do not appear to be from any kind of injury, other than three years of law school and two tiny humans. The daycare bill alone is enough for serious bodily injury (aggravated assault) -- but that's a topic for a different day. About 4 years ago (READ: after finishing law school and reclaiming my bodily freedom) I went in to my primary care physician to try and figure out what was wrong. Tailbone bruising, muscle tears, bad posture, hip dysplasia, all those things were tossed around. My doctor decided to send me to a physical therapist. She was a total hack. She literally took a tuning fork, pinged it, and pressed it against my muscles. She used lasers. She used percussion massagers. She used heat and ice. She told me I simply HAD to buy this 80 dollar belt to help align my pelvis. All of this without an MRI, mind you. Eventually I felt like I had been taken advantage of enough, and I went back to my doctor to tell him his buddy the PT was a hack. He begrudgingly sent me to a spinal specialist who had me in for an MRI within days. Sure enough, two discs bulging so much that they were impinging my sciatic nerve (hence shooting leg pains and hip pain) and near rupture. A week later I was face down on a table having epidural injections of steroids to help reduce the swelling. Before I knew it, I could touch my toes! I did 12 weeks of physical therapy and my back was completely fine for almost 4 years. Now a chiropractor would probably say that the medical doctor simply wanted me to have a bunch of unnecessary procedures - the usual holistic v. medical fight - but I don't care. I was cured!!

Now I'm right back where I was, only this time the shots didn't help. My issue appears to be slightly different. My abs are total jelly after having Henry, and my legs, back, and shoulders are doing so much work that my core should be doing. I have had back spasms so severe I ended up on the floor, having crumpled mid-step.

I am also fat. Not like, hugely fat, because I am tall and curvy so I look good naked from most angles. But you guys, I weigh 207 lbs. I am considered obese. My back hurts and I have crap for energy. I discovered I have mild anxiety last year, during the week of a terrible family law trial no less, and got on medication to help with it. I have been trying my best without actually dieting and exercising - AKA prayers to the Flying Spaghetti Monster and hopes - and sure enough things have not improved.

So I'm done messing around. I decided to work through the pain (being nerve pain it's not actually harmful to move even though pain is usually a sign you should stop) and get my core in shape. I'm sick of the PT exercises so I'm doing yoga and pilates instead. Abby and I decided to buy Just Dance and have little dance workouts each night before bed. I'm just going to get moving.

It is my birthday in February and I will be having a fabulous trip to Vegas. I bought a cherry red bikini from Torrid for the occasion. I am going to swim laps every day I'm on vacation and kick ass. If I lose weight, great, I am sure that I probably will. But I am going to be back pain-free by the end of this year. Just wait and see.

Here is where I am starting from:

I'm like a size 16. My belly has a nice little flap that hangs when I lay on my side. I absolutely hate it. Honestly if the fat were still there but my abs were firm under it all, I would be thrilled. I just can't live like this anymore.

AND guess what? I found a nifty little device to help with my posture. I wanted something to help me remember to sit up straight, and found this amazing thing!

This tiny device magnetically clasps to your shirt near your collar bone and then vibrates when you slouch. It arrived yesterday and while my muscles ache from not being used to sitting up tall, I am using my alternating standing desk to help take the edge off and keep moving. It also tracks steps and calories, and how many minutes each hour you have good posture. You can set your "ideal" posture any time you want, so if you are walking/standing/sitting you can adjust it as needed. I'm still getting used to it, but even just the reminder is helpful.

So there is my New Year's resolution, let's see how we go!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Windy City

In a couple of weeks I will be speaking at the Clio Cloud 9 conference in Chicago. I am SO excited. I have never been to Chicago and have always wanted to go. Getting another opportunity to talk about OLS is exciting as well. The Revolution is in full force, with new entities popping up all over the country. Now that I am a super nerd in public (see image below), it's fun to see those passionate about Access to Justice in person and get to share my experiences. Normally I would hesitate to post my own license plate, but that's the beauty of vanity, I guess (the secret's already out as I'm driving around).

This week a local attorney sent a client referral to me specifically. I only have about 8 cases at this point (the ones that just will not end but that I can't let go of) and it pains me to see clients who ask for me specifically and to have to tell them no. I miss practicing, but it's just not really an option with the company getting as big as it has. They need me to run the place, the consulting about our experiences is keeping me busy, and I just don't feel like I can do as great of a job on cases if I have too many and try and juggle too much admin at the same time. Sometime soon, I might talk to the board about bringing on an executive director to replace me so that I can practice again. I can still do the consulting and management, but perhaps the nonprofit business side of things could go to someone else. Maybe even a part time person could do it, who knows. I'm a great attorney, and I was just getting a handle on family law when I had Henry and gave away most of my cases. Who knows what the future will hold? For now, I know that I get to talk about something I love to people who want to hear it.

Friday, September 25, 2015

My Annual Promise to Blog

Every year around this time I hop on, realize I haven't posted in a year, and promise to post more. It's a cycle but at least I recognize it!! Life as an executive director of a nonprofit seems to get busier and busier. Earlier this year I had a second child, so that on top of my day to day responsibilities with the firm has kept me in essentially a frantic mode at all times.

I am in serious need of a nap.

Henry is great. He is a wonderful baby and so very very cute. See Exhibit 1. At 7 months, he is already crawling and trying to pull himself up. He is in the 95 percentile for height. He is currently obsessed with blowing raspberries and trilling all day, while getting copious amounts of saliva all over his face. He spends half his time at daddy's house, and my heart breaks every time they go.

Abby is growing like a weed. She started first grade this year. She is SO smart and so creative. She makes up songs, on the spot, that are catchy and clever. The girl can write a hook, to be sure! She loves to dress up and is currently obsessed with fairies. She adores being a big sister. She is so tender with Henry, even when he pokes her in the eye or pulls her hair. She just smothers him in cuddles and lets him totally abuse her with his little sausage fingers and ham fists.

These two, along with my other baby (the company) are my sources of joy and accomplishment. While I have gotten a lot of credit for the low bono work the company is doing, coming home to these two is so rewarding. It will be amazing to see what they decide to do with their lives.

Practicing law is becoming a smaller part of my role. I am starting to get more into development, which I am not super in love with but must be done to help the company grow. There are days when I am perfectly content not dealing with family law drama, and others when I miss being in the courtroom kicking ass. I constantly go back and forth, but trying to manage both is not really sustainable. I can't believe it's almost been two years since we started Open Legal Services, I wonder what it will look like two years from now?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Tax Exemption!

One of the biggest steps for a nonprofit is applying to the IRS for tax exempt status. While not paying income tax is important, more important is the status of being an exempt organization. It is a symbol to potential donors that you are recognized by the IRS, and it brings legitimacy to your cause as a charity. The 1023 application for recognition as a tax exempt organization is extremely difficult. It took me hundreds of hours, because in order to answer the questions on the form you have to have made hundreds of policy decisions. What type of charity will you be? (We are a 509(a)(2), which is a service-based organization.) What type of charitable activities do you do, will do, might do, could possible consider doing while having a dream one night? What kind of fundraising and how often will you do it? Who are your board members? How much do you pay your officers?

It's a nightmare.

Once it was done, we heard from a friend who had recently gotten her determination letter (approval from the IRS) that it had taken 18 months.

So we assumed it would be awhile. We got our letter only 6 months after we applied. We are tax exempt!

We are officially a recognized 501(c)(3) charity, and it is retroactive to our date of incorporation. Microsoft and Adobe are giving us free software under their charitable giving programs, and our website host is also now covering our website. Other organizations are now helping market our services.

A single piece of paper, and the weight on my shoulders has been significantly reduced. Before our letter came, we were pretty sure that we would be approved and everything would be fine. But of course, we worried. Other states asking us for help building their own similar organizations were told repeatedly, "we are not approved yet, we are not experts, it's an experiment" because we were not 100% sure we had done everything correctly. Who were we to tell people how to do this?

Apparently we did things right, and now we can tell everyone about our experience and the revolution can continue to grow!