Aunt Mary riding her rocking horse at the age of 2.
Mary Judith Janak was born on April 19, 1962, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. She was the daughter of Martha Rybar Rees Janak, an elementary school teacher, and Stephen Benton Elkins Janak, a mill worker. She had two older half-sisters, Ann and Judy Rees, who were fraternal twins.
She was my Aunt.
Aunt Mary and my grandmother shortly after her birth in 1962.
On October 25, 1987, Aunt Mary was found dead in the bedroom of a group home where she lived in Portage, Pennsylvania. She died from complications associated with Type I diabetes, a disease she struggled with since she was diagnosed at the age of two.
Her life was not easy.
She was always “different.”
We all have difficult days and need to be reminded that what we consider problems are not problems.
Or even close.
My husband was out of town traveling for work (and leisure) for the last week and I’ve been on my own with my two young daughters, ages 2 and 4. Sure they are (overall) good and sure I’ve transitioned from full-time to part-time employment, but dealing with getting lunch made, everyone dressed and out of the house in the morning, driving the kids to school and myself to work, doing pickup and attending extracurricular activities, then returning home and making dinner and getting everyone bathed and in the sack are exhausting.
Not to mention that on the mornings I have to wash and blow-dry my hair, it’s like the world has been turned upside down.
(Curly haired people, you know what I’m talking about!)
Pepper all of this with occasional tantrums, backtalk, and refusal to put on their socks and allow you to brush their hair in the mornings. Now add dealing with demanding clients at work, getting stuck at lengthy stop lights when you’re in a hurry, and a rude toll booth lady (this happened to me two weeks ago at the Tampa Airport, but that’s a blog post for another day.)
It can be worse. Way worse.
I’ve heard too many folks talk about their experiences dealing with the wrong people in their lives. Mean Girls become Mean Adults who become Mean Old People. Relationships and friendships can grow toxic. In the past month, I’ve seen at least a dozen articles come across my social media news feeds about navigating challenging relationships.
It’s a sad reality.
Over drinks with a friend a couple months ago, my friend shared that she was feeling hurt by a friend in her life who repeatedly wasn’t being a good friend back to her. Despite knowing in her gut the friendship wasn’t productive, my friend hated the feeling of being excluded and socially disconnected by this girl and also didn’t like the way she felt when she was around her. All that aside, my friend sadistically kept going back for more.
I know that feeling and have been there myself. It stinks.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I studied abroad in the Netherlands. It was my first time overseas and I was alone and missing my friends, boyfriend (now husband), and family back in Florida.
There was a girl in my law program named Amelia. She was from Toronto and was one of the first people I met at the new school. Amelia was beautiful, engaging, and rented a huge apartment that overlooked a river in the center of town. She always knew how to navigate any social situation, which was noteworthy considering I often caught myself bumbling and feeling insecure. She was the girl who all the guys wanted to date and all the girls wanted to be friends with.
A total “It Girl.”
Until recently, this empty room is where I spent the last half-decade of my life.
A corner office in a fancy high-rise building in downtown Tampa that overlooked Davis Islands, the Hillsborough River, and parts of Hillsborough Bay.
A well-respected and established law firm with over 150 attorneys statewide.
Amazing co-workers who were like family.
This was the place where my husband and I both had major life changes.
Moving into our first home.
Having both of our children.
He took the plunge and started his own small business, a boutique structural engineering firm.
I started The Champagne Supernova.
My boss was a true mentor. He was (is) an honest attorney (yes, they do exist!) who genuinely cared about developing his associates into thoughtful, strategic, analytical litigators. Amid trying several high-stakes cases and reporting to anxious clients, he took the time to call me when I was on maternity leave just to see how I was doing. (Again, in the legal field, these people do exist, despite the rumors suggesting otherwise.)
I’ve got a Holiday Hangover.
It’s not what you think.
It’s the crappy feeling experienced when the holidays are over and it’s time to return to reality.
Visiting family members head home and the house is quieter.
The decorations are being slowly put away and the Christmas tree is laid to rest at the corner of the driveway.
The assorted cheeses, gingerbread cookies, and egg nog are catching up with your waist.
I consider the holidays to start in October during pumpkin patch and Halloween season through the changing of leaves (or, if you live in Florida, dead grass) and Thanksgiving, through Christmas tree decorating, Santa visiting, Elf-on-the-Shelf bribery, holiday parties, the Big Day Itself, through fireworks and New Years Day.
Some people are lucky to never have to deal with grief.
The kind that’s crippling.
The kind of grief that makes you sleep during the day and awakens you at night.
The kind that makes you forget to eat or paralyzes you from functioning.
The kind of grief where, because of the loss, you’ve accepted the world will never again feel the same.
Some of us have never felt that type of grief. We may have lost grandparents or distant loved ones, but those people were older, their time came, it was painful to lose them, but also exemplified the circle of life, and so it was.
Sometimes we feel so stressed by the pressures of everyday life that we forget how good we truly have it. Racing to get to kids’ birthday parties. Unloading the hundreds of dollars of groceries from the car and getting them inside the house. Career deadlines. Getting locked outside the house. Rainy days when you wanted to go to the beach.
Then we see someone who experiences such horrible grief or sadness that we are reminded our “stressors” are small stuff.
At this stage of the game, all of us are old and wise enough to know when we’re being used.
Smart enough to see through the shenanigans.
The event triggering this post happened last Wednesday.
I’m at my desk sorting through Motions and medical records when the following email popped up on my Outlook. Easily distracted, I clicked the little bubble on the bottom right corner of my screen.
Below are the contents of the email with my commentary in parenthesis.
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”
Who here is tired of seeing ole Ralph’s quotes? Half the time I wonder if he really said some of these things, or if someone just writes something uplifting and then slaps his name on it. (No, I don’t want to research it unless it has a billable code.)
But someone has a point here.
I’ve screwed up a couple times in my life.
Ok, a good number of times.
But the best times I’ve learned were through my own screw-ups or by witnessing someone else go down in a Blaze of Glory.
Practice makes perfect?!
They say paybacks are hell. But who are they hell for?
Last week I was in a car accident while I was driving with my 4-year-old daughter.
Her school has chapel services that begin at 8:15. I don’t ordinarily get to take my daughter to school because of work commitments, and so being able to attend chapel with her is extra special.
Many of the parents attend with their children, and I’m hypersensitive about being an “absentee mom” who is always at the office.
I don’t want to fast-forward twenty years and hear my kids are sitting on a shrink’s couch humming Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle.”
As I was at a stop light waiting to turn left once it changed from red to green, I felt another car slam into my bumper and heard a corresponding crash. I looked at my daughter, who was safely in her car seat, and made sure she was ok.
As an attorney, my career is devoted to collecting information, assessing the information, and reporting the information to my clients.
I try to predict how a jury will react to the information and whether they will find a plaintiff, his or her medical providers, and witnesses to be credible. (After all, just because I perceive the “star witness” to be a lying schmuck doesn’t mean a jury will see him that way.)
The devil’s in the details, and I try to turn over every rock so I don’t miss something important. The minutiae that accompany “lawyering” can be daunting, and I wrote an entire blog post about it here.
You would think I’d adopt this “information collecting” to my personal life.
I’ve done it all.