Category Archives: Writing

O Death Where Is Thy Sting?

HybridGuardianAngel2” Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”-     2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Today will be difficult  so I am writing. It’s my drug of choice in times of strong emotion and particularly soothing right now with a cup of hot green tea at hand, in the quiet of the earliest morning before sunrise.

Later today we will bury Harrison. His obituary says: “He passed peacefully in the arms of his family after a beautiful and unforgettable hour. His life was a brief gift to all that loved him and he will never be forgotten.” Harrison was the newborn son of my nephew Patrick and his partner Diana.

When Patrick was born 28 years ago, my brother (his father) and sister-in-law let me come into the delivery room with them. Patrick came forth after the normal struggle of childbirth and we laughed that he was a “conehead” because his pointy head had been squished in the birth canal during his entrance.

Patrick grew up to be a fine man. I served as Patrick’s godmother as he entered the Greek Orthodox faith through baptism and chrismation.  He became a church altar boy and made the family proud with his sweet and gentle demeanor.  I still see the faces of Patrick and my son Clint in altar boy robes as they flanked the casket of my father at his memorial service,  tears streaming down their young boy faces in the light of the candles they held.

Patrick and Diana made a family with Diana’s young daughter Mya, and their son Lincoln who will be 2 this year. They were delighted to learn Diana was pregnant again but their joy soon turned to shock and sorrow when they learned their infant had Trisomy 18, a life threatening genetic disorder that causes devastating medical issues and often death.  Undeterred, they named their in utero baby boy and we all became acquainted with Harrison.

From the moment they named him,  Harrison became a person.  A person who was a member of our family, and for whom we began to pray and worry.  Patrick and Diana started a gofundme account to help with the inevitable medical expenses and the cost of  sole provider Patrick’s projected absence from his job as a chef near their home in Northern Iowa. Their page kept us all posted on Harrison’s developments.

From the beginning the young parents were committed to seeing Harrison all the way through his birth. Abortion was mentioned by well meaning relatives, but they were champions of life from the get go. After all, this was not just a fetus; it was Harrison. As a pro choice individual I have to admit, Harrison brought me to a new understanding of life and I am more conflicted than before about this delicate issue.

Harrison’s parents sought the best medical treatment for his imminent arrival. They were connected to a hospital well versed in Trisomy 18 and the doctors were strong partners in their quest to spare no effort in helping Harrison. The ultrasound confirmed abnormalities would be life threatening once he breathed his first breath. They were encouraged with small bits of hopefulness such as the determination that despite other challenges, his heart was strong and mighty.

Spiritual support came forth. A Greek Orthodox monk friend saw Patrick’s Facebook post  and rallied the monks at his monastery. “We are praying for Patrick, Diana, Mya, Lincoln and Harrison each specifically and by name,” he reported.  Graciously they also volunteered a burial plot at the monastery for Harrison should it be needed.  Being covered in prayer, the family felt supported in ways beyond the reach of a gofundme page.

At 33 weeks, “Harrison took things into his own hands,” stated Patrick’s Facebook post and Diana went into labor.  An unusually fierce snowstorm had struck and they were unable to make it to the hospital that was awaiting Harrison’s arrival. Instead a nearby hospital would have to do, and Diana gracefully demanded a C-Section when the staff who were not as familiar with Harrison’s medical condition tried to get her to have a vaginal birth.  Harrison’s siblings Maya and Lincoln were along too since the grandmothers could not make it through the storm in time to babysit while mom and dad went to the hospital.

The obituary had it right.Harrison lived an hour.  He was surrounded by his family. His medical conditions were too substantial to sustain life.  Even the more elaborate hospital couldn’t have helped.  A professional photographer came in to take his baby pictures. He was wrapped in a blanket and stocking cap, showing only his perfectly formed, beautiful angelic face.  When Patrick sent me the picture all I could say was “There’s Harrison!” as though I had known him my whole life.

“I don’t want to say goodbye to him,” Patrick texted yesterday when he and Diana were on their way to the mortuary to see their son for the last time. Harrison is coming home to be buried in the same cemetery as my father.  To conserve funds, Patrick will drive his son in his tiny casket from the mortuary three hours to the grave site in West Des Moines. “I’m leaving soon to get my boy,” he texted me moments ago.  He is bringing his son home.  Harrison will be buried in the “Garden of the Innocent” not far from the mausoleum where my dad rests, and amidst other babies who have died.

Later today, our immediate family will gather at the gravesite, along with our monk friend and our Greek Orthodox priest. On St. Patrick’s Day we will bury Patrick’s son, our beloved Harrison. He is every bit as cherished a member of our family as the old grandparents we have buried before him. It’s hard to explain how one can feel so connected to a spirit who only passed through so briefly. It’s something I have never experienced before in my life, and has been quite unexpected. I like to envision my father holding his great grandson Harrison in his arms with a big smile, like I saw him hold my three adult children when they were infants.

Harrison’s  innocence, his courage, his radiance, the devotion of his parents, his reminder to all of us that life is fragile and every moment matters, and his valiant struggle to breathe in this beautiful gift of life for even only an hour has profoundly changed us.  Godspeed my great nephew.

We love you Harrison.

O Lord Who watches over children in the present life and in the world to come because of their simplicity and innocence of mind, abundantly satisfying them with a place in Abraham’s bosom, bringing them to live in radiantly shining places where the spirits of the righteous dwell: receive in peace the soul of Your little servant Harrison, for You Yourself have said, “Let the little children come to Me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Amen.

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Lawyer Creativity: Have we buried it?

“The legal field doesn’t constrain people’s potential, but it does tend to constrain people’s way of thinking about potential.”- Michael F. Melcher lawyer/author of  The Creative Lawyer 

 One of my most devastating events of law school was my first legal writing grade.  I received it at the hand of a bright teaching assistant. (You know, a law school super star with power and privilege because of his grades and class rank.)  It was the lowest grade I had ever received in my life.

My writing style was judged too “flowy” and “creative” and not befitting of a lawyer. I was admonished to immediately and totally change my writing style or my GPA would be impacted.

 My inner perfectionist heard loud and clear and I rallied to learn legal writing but also took the message as a wound to my heart. I had loved writing my entire life, but minimized and criticized by my fellow law student I labeled my writing, along with many things I felt in law school, “unworthy.”

 Fast forward and in 2012 I launched a blog and in 2014 I self published my book, The Compassionate Lawyer.  Years of personal work had  given me the courage to reclaim lost parts of my life, including my creativity.

 Re-connecting with “creative Kim” gave me a wellspring of life. I went writing crazy, writing both spiritual and personal autobiographies,  numerous articles for professional publications, heartfelt eulogies for friends’ funerals, juicy journal entries, fun poems, and  prayers written from my soul. I have solid drafts started for two new books. The writing is pouring out, having been bottled up inside for over 30 years. By healing my creative wound I found one of the greatest joys of my life and it’s leading to a substantial contribution to my legacy.

 I am not the only one who may have suffered a blow to creativity in law school.

 I frequently train lawyers in various aspects of legal practice, and teach mediation as an adjunct at Drake Law School. I have experimented with  creative exercises in my courses and workshops with lawyers and law students.  Some creative exercises are met with success and others have flopped.  I start trainings by playing music and inviting trainees to make their name tag at an art table I’ve set up in front of the room. The table is laden with glitter glue, pinking shears, bright stickers, markers, construction paper and other assorted supplies from aisles at Michael’s.

 Panic ensues as the lawyers look around to see the quality of the art being created by others.  Self deprecating comments fly. “I’m not good at art,” and some just write their name on an index card and refuse to risk  humiliation. Recently I saw a compassionate lawyer alleviate the anxiety of  a frazzled colleague at the art table by saying, “I will help you make your name tag.”

 My own first nametag was a round circle made of pink construction paper with my name in colored marker, and five paper punch holes with some pieces of yarn woven nametagthrough it to serve as a neck tie. Pathetic.

 Since I made that tag at a wonderful training in the circle process led by Kay Pranis,  (and then borrowed her exercise for my own trainings) my creations have evolved  such that  my favorite Diane Von Furstenberg wrap sweater is now permanently affixed with purple glitter glue.

 After dancing with our eyes closed shaking colored egg maracas at a yoga conference, I purchased the eggs online and incorporated that routine into a closing circle at one of my recent collaborative law trainings.  One brave lawyer and one fun loving therapist embraced the idea and the rest of the intimidated crowd shook a flimsy wristed egg counting the minutes until the exercise was over.

 I was inspired recently to assign specific ethics rules to teams, giving them  free reign to teach the group about the rule in any manner they desired.  This exercise was embraced and teams did skits and creative dances and one group even made a rap about disclosing confidences in mediation.  The sessions resulted in lighthearted feedback and brought up great questions about the rules.

 When lawyers are encouraged to be creative the byproduct is that it spills over to their work as problem solvers for clients. When I have cases with colleagues who have embraced their creativity we end up thinking big about solutions for clients’ problems.

 Writing and designing creative workshops  energizes me and I’m sure makes me a better lawyer.  I regret letting a comment made thirty years ago from a fellow law student (who I thought must surely  be smarter than me,) derail me from finding my joy sooner.  In my work as a personal coach for lawyers,   I find many lawyers have also lost their sense of creativity. One lawyer I coach now has a plan to record some songs he wrote and he also developed a small greenhouse.

 I also look for ways to help wounded clients use creativity to heal themselves. In fact, I  recently encouraged a client to journal about the life she wants to create for herself post divorce. She’s sharing her journal with me today.

Then as her lawyer, I will help her create that life.

 

If you are interested in a no cost consultation to discuss personal coaching, contact kim@compassionlegal.com

 

MY HEART’S DESIRE

 

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“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart”-Psalm 37:4

I got my first diary for Christmas when I was in elementary school. Its cover was pink  with “My Diary” in cursive and of course, it had a delicate lock and key. I would sit and write my heart’s desire into the pages, then lock it up, returning it to its secret hiding place.

In college, my diary turned into entries scribbled in spiral notebooks.  Ultimately I switched to hard backed journals. Some were leather and others had Audrey Hepburn or a pithy inspirational saying on the front if they came from the sale table.

Pens for this writing have always been meticulously selected. Mostly gel blue medium points, smooth to the touch.  To this day I can’t resist the allure of the pen aisle at any store;  looking them over, selecting some then changing my mind, and always leaving with a new writing instrument.

For years I’ve attended the University of Iowa Summer Writing Festival, even flying in from Arizona when the children were young. I spend the weekend among kindred spirits on campus, unleashing my writer self. My friend Pam, the holder of a coveted creative writing degree, started to make the Iowa City trek with me a few years ago. We take the classes, write for hours and read our works to each other all weekend.

Four years after my divorce from FP while moving boxes to and fro in the basement, one box wouldn’t fit into my orderly rearrangement. Opening it to see if its contents could be tossed, I found it contained my journals from the years with FP.  I concluded I  was supposed to read them, so that night I propped myself in bed with several pillows and layers of warm covers even though it wasn’t cold outside.  For the next several nights I slowly turned  over each page, reading carefully.

“God wants you to have your heart’s desire,” FP had said over and over when I had questioned whether we should get married, and the pages reflected much on this topic.  Over time I’d assumed he was right and I acquiesced to marriage in spite of whispers of my inner voice.  The pages chronicled the details as the whispers became louder and ultimately the marriage ended in a painful divorce.

A few weeks after I’d read the journals, a new client came into my law office.  R and her husband had sought a collaborative divorce.  During our meetings she had commented, “We have to be sure to include the rights to my book in the property list.”

“Wow, a book! “ I’d replied in awe of her as a real writer. “I am so envious! I’ve always fancied myself a writer and it’s my dream to write a book.”

“Well,” she said, “when this is all over we will have to make that dream a reality.”

I had been realizing God was bringing just the right people into my life, and lo and behold here was a writer.  Because He always delivers “immeasurably more than we ask or imagine,” (Ephesians 3:20) she then said, “I am also a yoga teacher. One of my classes is Poses and Prose which incorporates yoga with writing.”

My two passions: writing and yoga.  I chuckled. Definitely God.

When her divorce was final, I signed up for a yoga/writing workshop with R.  It was amazing. Afterwards I asked R if she would coach me in writing and she agreed.

We began regular meetings at Caribou Coffee. I started with professional writing and quickly three  articles I wrote were published in The Iowa Lawyer magazine. R edited my early writing and gave me confidence through her encouragement.  I kept printed copies of the published articles in my law office  saying  “You might find this article I wrote helpful,” in my consultations with prospective clients.

I was a writer!

I also began to write my blog.  R helped me think of ideas and I read her blog for guidance.   I pressed the button to publish my first post amidst heart palpitations and fears of unworthiness.  “Your heat’s desire!” outshouted my inner critic.

“I think this blog could help people,” commented Father A when I emailed him the first few installments. With my earthly spiritual father’s blessing I was more empowered and I posted regularly.

For my birthday a few months ago Pam gave me a special gift.  My first dozen blogposts were published in a hardback book.  I opened it in shock.  “I am a writer.”

R and I still have a warm friendship.  I practice at her yoga studio, and we meet at Caribou for writing dates where we chat briefly then sit side by side writing.  When I talk to her about my writing life, she nods with understanding.

This past winter I took on a new project and  last month I completed a draft of my first book. It is a book for attorneys, and it is currently being edited.  I anticipate self- publishing it early next year.

I often think back to FP’s definition of my heart’s desire.  He limited it to romance.  Romance is beautiful but I’ve discovered the real definition is so much deeper.  It includes the love God has for me, and His intimate knowledge of my heart. He created that little girl who wrote in that first diary all those years ago, and He knew that writing made her heart flutter with joy.

I understand the Psalm now.  If you take delight in the Lord He will give you the desires of your heart.

And my heart’s desire is Him.

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