It has been a stressful week at work.
My job, as an appellate attorney, is a roller coaster ride. Sometimes I’m at the station, or turning a slow corner, or climbing a hill just high enough that I can’t see the top. These days can be mind-numbingly slow. Read a transcript here, do a little researching of case law there, but nothing pressing–nothing mission critical with a deadline. Other times are the almost straight vertical drop, the corkscrew as your vision is starting to black out after two rapid loops. That describes the past seven or eight work days.
Big case–our office’s client actually won his hearing, but the guardian ad litem and the Department of Child Safety decided that the judge must have made a mistake (obviously, since the judge didn’t agree with their take on the hearing in question). Unlike the vast majority of my appeals, this one has our client in the appellee’s shoes–with two opening briefs filed by two different appellants (GAL and DCS). Reading, researching, reading, writing, researching, writing, editing, writing, researching, writing, editing, writing, editing…and finally today I finished my second draft–all 40 pages of it (just the substance, the indices and tables and such have not yet been added).
Naturally, the end today wasn’t without a false alarm ending earlier in the afternoon–when I stumbled upon a missing piece that completely negated one of my arguments, and caused me to have to revise four others. I left work right at 5 this evening (no lunch for me today–worked straight through) with another nine or ten pages still left to proofread.
It’s sad this brief even had to be written, and far sadder that there are people in the system that think it’s appropriate to reengineer families in this manner. Sure–there are cases I see every day where the parent probably does not really have the interest or ability to care for his or her own children due to drug use, severe, untreated mental illness, criminal activity (or long-term prison sentence), domestic violence (I count this as worse than normal criminal activity, by the way), but then there are these few where it just appears to boil down to the nice, upper-middle class white family should be able to keep their poor minority foster child because, hey, they can provide a better life than those actual parents can. I digress…
So, it was a rocky morning. I did not sleep well at all last night. Fell asleep fast enough, but was up and down all night. Woke up for good about 40 minutes before my alarm went off. I struggled through getting ready for work, and then, about five minutes into my ride to work–
The thought of Micah getting married hit me–rapidly followed by the sinking realization that it would never happen. I would never get to attend his wedding. I would never…and the list went on. This all occurred within a span of two or three minutes. The tears welled up in my eyes. I pictured his smile. I could see him laughing. And then I could see him lying in that hospital bed…
I almost convinced myself to turn around and go home–work from home for the day. But that brief at work–the anger at how my client was treated by the system–it drove me to battle back the tears and go on to work anyhow. My client needed me to get my brief finished, to get it filed on time, to get him a chance to be reunited with his child as the court ordered five months ago. (There are a lot of other parts to this story, but now is not the time to share them.) I am going to be off on Monday and Tuesday, my secretary is going to be off on Wednesday through Friday, and the brief is due next Wednesday–so it has to be in my secretary’s possession tomorrow afternoon to give her enough time to finalize and prepare it for filing before she leaves on Tuesday afternoon. I even need to be prepared to review it again sometime Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning from home to make sure everything is just right. I’m not feeling “out of the woods” yet. Tomorrow afternoon, when I leave for my four-day weekend–that’s when I’ll breathe a sigh of relief and maybe be able to relax, just a bit.
I set out to become an attorney because I wanted to use whatever skills I might have to genuinely help others. Sounds weird, right? Most people, hearing that the teacher was going to go to law school, said things like, “Oh, time to actually make some real money now, huh?” “Not really,” I told them–my desire, heading into law school, was to become a civil rights and employment discrimination attorney on the plaintiff side–to represent people that were genuinely wronged and needed help getting redress. While in law school, that changed a bit–I discovered that, as altruistic as my motives were, I still actually needed to earn some kind of income, and those that I dreamed of helping were often in no position to pay an attorney. So, I took the next best option: I became a public defender. In the end, my starting salary as an attorney was only slightly higher than my ending salary as a teacher with a Master’s degree. But I knew I was doing the right thing. This case is helping to reaffirm that (and will, even more so, if we prevail on the appeal).
I imagine my regular readers are all incredible surprised to hear that my work life is very similar to my home life–in that I do things to help/for the good of others. (I really hope that you detect the note of sarcasm in that sentence.) This drive to always want to help others in some way, to be empathetic and sympathetic to others, has led to a few very colorful interactions over the past several months. I still can’t quite wrap my head around people that care so little for others, are so incredibly self-centered that they are willing to sit by and watch as political games are played that might give them very slight benefits while at the same time causing great pain to others. Your insurance is too high? Well, as long as you think your insurance will go down because Obamacare is going away, who cares that millions will lose their health care, the average cost of health insurance in Arizona is estimated to actually go UP $1,600 per year, a couple million with severe mental illness will no longer be able to get mental health coverage (because it will no longer be required to be provided under the ACA replacement plan), planks of the plan want to do away with mandatory coverage for such trivial things are prenatal and pregnancy care, maternity leave…
Why am I getting all riled up about this? Maybe because my son was killed by his mental illness, and people saying insurance companies shouldn’t be forced to cover mental illness are basically trivializing what happened to Micah, and what happens every day to the millions of other Americans that suffer from mental illness. You support mental health awareness? You’d better be supporting mental health care as well, or your awareness is a complete waste of time.
Okay. I’m stepping off my soapbox now. (But I’m still angry at how callous and self-centered people can be…)
It has only been four days since I stepped away from one of my more direct roles in youth hockey. I’ve gone through the motions of removing the organization email account from my desktop and my phone (the people that are always welcome to ask me for help have my other email addresses anyhow). I’ve mentally put those particular hockey jerseys into deep storage for a while. I even had a good friend make me a little gift–a small handmade metal “ornament” with another organization’s logo on it. I feel like I can now be a fan of all the great things that many of our youth hockey organizations do, without feeling like I owe a particular debt of loyalty to any one of them. Good thing I have those more general hockey jerseys to wear when I’m at the rinks now: my Roadrunners jersey, a few Coyotes jerseys, my Doctor Who TARDIS-themed jersey, my Spaceballs jersey…and, baseball Spring Training now in full swing, my Cubs jerseys. I still need to pick up a Blackhawks jersey, and my old 1995 Chicago Wolves IHL jersey needs to stay hidden (not that it would likely fit me any longer anyhow) since, oh, that whole Roadrunners-Wolves both competing in the AHL thing.
I wonder if I can actually get some sleep tonight. Well, as Marty DiBergi said in This Is Spinal Tap, “enough of my yappin'”…time to find out.