Don’t Call Me Sue

I’m a litigator.

For the last 30 years or so, my professional life has been about helping clients whose disputes could not be handled out of court.

I’ve helped clients who haven’t been paid for the goods or services they provided.

I’ve helped clients whose neighbors have not been careful in their tree-trimming.

And I’ve helped a lot…a LOT…of clients who have been sued because other people think they’re responsible for causing them harm.

In my current position, I mostly defend clients who have insurance. Their insurance carriers retain me. Motor vehicle, slip and fall, with the occasional defamation or bar fight thrown in. These days, I get the call after the lawsuit has been filed, but there were days when clients came to me for counsel. They had a beef. The other side wasn’t budging. They wanted to sue.

I’m probably the worst attorney out there in that whenever I have been asked for legal advice – by paying clients or by family members who ask me what I think and then do precisely the opposite – I have, almost 100 percent of the time I’ve been asked, counseled those who have asked me, not to sue.

I tell people, your case isn’t strong.

I tell them, litigation will take 2-4 years of your life away from you.

You will fret and stew and be angry for much of that time.

You will hate your opponent more and more each day.

When all is said and done, you will likely hate your own attorney.

And even if you win, you will lose.

Because you will never, never, NEVER get what it is you want – an acknowledgment of responsibility – or an apology – or whatever it is you think you lost.

You can win millions – except you won’t, most likely – and even if you do, after fees and costs, it’ll be a whole lot less than those dollars you’ve been spending for the last 3 years.

Litigation benefits no one, except in very rare cases. And even when a plaintiff rings the bell…well, most would rather be where they were before the Defendant they are suing entered the picture.

Don’t sue. Don’t litigate.

My mantra. The way I stay sane, even as litigation pays my bills.

Right now, I find myself in the peculiar position of potentially becoming a litigant – not because I wanted to, and not because I’m looking for a windfall.

I’ve become – through woefully misplaced trust – embroiled in an ugly, desperate situation in which my integrity has been challenged and in which I have to consider where one should draw the line between (1) a shared history, blind love, and survivor guilt; and (2) emotional health, clarity, and the shelter of a loving family built day by day over 35 years BY ME with intention, grit, and a will strong as steel to make sure a healthy family came from me.

My father died from dementia-related ailments on October 16, 2016. He was a very flawed man, who gave my older brother and sister good reason not to want to be there for him during his final illness. On his last day, I sat with him, in his room at the memory care center to which we had entrusted him, and read to him while he slept. I had become very familiar with this facility – when my mother finally told me, during an urgent Friday morning phone call, that she just COULD NOT DO THIS, ANYMORE…I called the facility, my husband (the doctor) filled out the intake paperwork, and after attending an event that we had committed to 2 weeks earlier – and sending multiple emails to my siblings to tell them of my mother’s decision and requesting their input – my husband and I found a 24/7 Target where we bought sheets, towels, blankets, and a comforter, which I then washed at home as I assembled photograph montages of the people he loved best.

Later that morning, I drove to my parents’ home, lied to my father and told him I was taking him for lunch, and then watched as he gazed, with the excitement of a child, out the window, as scenes that were once familiar passed him by.

At the facility, my husband and my mother signed the paperwork. I was given the task of taking my dad into the facility where we were having “lunch,” He eagerly dug into the meatloaf and mashed potatoes while I gulped back my anxiety and tried to make things seem normal.

Eventually, it was time to show him to his room. I took him back, asked him if he wanted to nap, and sat with him as he tried to figure out what was going on. Eventually, he told me he was ready to go home.

“This is your home now,” I said.

“I want to go home,” he insisted.

My sister had told my mother she should write a card to my father, to give him at the time we left him there. I didn’t agree. My mother and sister overruled me. I handed him the card.

And I sat there and watched my Dad sob as he read the words that told him he was never going home. I finally kissed him goodbye,

I visited him every day for the next 10 weeks. After a few weeks, my mother – so relieved to be done with the work of caring for him, for sixty years – could barely stand to spend 15 minutes with him. I didn’t blame her. But I showed up.

Every night.

Every night.

And then he died, and I was the one who sat with his body until it was taken away, and I who made the phone calls. My sister and brother ….they showed up for the funeral and accepted the attention and kind words of friends and family.

I cried, because every time I visited my father, he asked about everyone except me.

Then I took my mom into my home, with excitement and joy. Neither my brother nor sister ever considered what should be done after my Dad died. They were happy to let me take on my mom.

I did. My husband did. My children did. For three years, our Little Mommy lived with us, ate with us, traveled with us, prayed with us, watched television and enjoyed lovely summer evenings and became one of us. We loved her.

In 2020, she began to fail. I railed against it – who loses two parents to dementia? Me, it turns out. With my sister in North Carolina and my brother 2 hours away, it fell to me to upend my life to get an official diagnosis, take my mom to doctor’s appointments, assume responsibility for her medical and financial and legal affairs. I did my best.

My siblings were unsurprised, and unmoved, by my mother’s decline. They had long suspected that she, too, would succumb to dementia. I had not. I believed my Little Mommy would be there, serene and sanguine and neurologically intact, until the end.

When I heard the diagnosis, I was devastated. I cried. I was furious. I was furious at my beloved Little Mommy. I could not begin to compute how this could happen.

I vowed she would stay with us, in our home, forever.

But that didn’t happen, because taking care of a parent with dementia is really, really hard – especially when you have a disabled adult child, a child who is attending college at home virtually because of COVID, and you are a busy litigation attorney, and your husband is a primary care physician – dealing with COVID.

I did my best. Eventually – and against my better wishes – I allowed my mom to move in with my sister – who is single, with a dog, no children, no job – into her new house that I arranged for my Mom to pay for – because I had no other alternative.

Three days later, my sister got mad at me for no apparent reason – a thing she does – and for the last 6 weeks, I have been denied access to my mom.

I agreed to turn over the POA to my sister. She hired an attorney anyway who immediately demanded I return things of my mother’s she had either promised to me or told me she didn’t want. I was also told I had to prepare a financial accounting based upon account documents I had already turned over to my sister.

She took my mother’s car. She took money for her house. She accused me of misappropriating my mother’s funds.

The sister-in-law she accused of immigrating to the US illegally became her best friend. The nephew she had labeled an “anchor baby” forgave her everything.

I am the bad guy, and I have not seen my mother in 6 weeks. I have no idea if she is healthy, if she is well, if she is happy. No one will tell me, and her attorney has told me I am not to contact her, even as she has sent me items in the mail which have been intrusive, upsetting, threatening, and violative of the very rules her own attorney set.

I’m so sad. I’m sadder than I have ever been in my life. It is hard to imagine that I will ever not be sad.

I could hire a shark – a ball buster of a lawyer – and I know plenty. I could unleash a maelstrom that would rain hell and fury – and I’d win – because I’d hire the best, and because I am the best.

But I won’t, because I’m a litigator, and I understand that the benefit of a pyrrhic victory inures only to the attorneys.

When Your Kids Aren’t on the A-List…or When They Are

So there’s apparently a couple in Ohio – Myka and James Stauffer – that adopted a child from China in 2017. At the time, they were told that the child had some special needs but claim that the full extent of the little boy’s medical and intellectual concerns were never revealed to them. Although they were the parents of three kids already and were understandably daunted by the prospect of a special needs child, “God softened their hearts,” and they brought the one-year-old child home.

Turns out that Huxley, as he was named, was autistic and also had significant sensory integration issues. My daughter, Allie, does, too. Myka and James, who apparently are YouTube/Instagram influencers, had deals with a bunch of companies like Fabletics, Danimals, and Playtex, and I guess those contracts were pretty lucrative.

If all you knew about this family was what you saw on Myka’s Instagram account, you would assume that her kids never took their diapers off and smeared their poop on the walls, hit each other with fireplace shovels, or drew on a brand new sofa with a pink highlighter (all things my children have done). This is a Perfect Family. Their photos could be the ones they put in picture frames before you buy them. They could be the sample Christmas cards photos on the Shutterfly website. They’re THAT perfect.

Well, turns out things weren’t quite as perfect as they looked: Seems Myka and James “rehomed” Huxley because they thought it was better for everyone to do so.

You read that right.

After parenting this child for nearly three years, they gave him to another family. They did NOT put him in foster care, or go through any formal adoption process. They found another family, that family adopted Huxley, and at age 4, Huxley left the only home and family he likely remembers to live in a new home with new people and process with his non-neuro-typical brain what that means.

Now.

I have to say first, that many of the articles I have read seem to suggest that the decision to find new parents for Huxley was Myka’s alone, and the mother-bashing has been predictably loud. Let’s not forget that two parents adopted Huxley and two parents had to sign off on relinquishing him, so if you’re gonna bash Myka, make sure you bash James, too.

Second, as I said earlier, I have a child on the spectrum who had sensory integration issues (that she has, praise cupcakes, outgrown). She had a whole host of other concerns that made day-to-day life with her extraordinarily challenging for many, many years – for everyone in our family. So, I get it. Parenting a child on the spectrum is hard. Like, really, really, REALLY FUCKING HARD.

And one thing that can make it hard is that kids on the spectrum can be tough on their siblings, and don’t leave parents a lot of time for other kids. Which is why if you have three kids, and adopt a fourth, with special needs, who turns out to have a lot MORE needs than you thought, you maybe should work really, really, REALLY HARD not to get pregnant.

Which Myka and James apparently did not too long after Huxley came home.

I know.

Now, truth be told, if Myka and James could not give Huxley the attention, love, and specialized focus he needs, it’s probably a really good thing they gave him up. Kids with special needs deserve parents who are committed to doing all they can to maximize their well-being and potential. Since Myka seems more interested in coordinating her kids’ outfits and taking adorable photos of them doing Christmas crafts wearing Santa hats, I’m gonna say that doing home OT and speech exercises, behavior interventions, and food trials are probably not her thing.

So Huxley now has parents who will, it is to be hoped, focus exclusively on him and help him work on the things that challenge him. Myka and James can go back to being perfect – minus the big bucks from their many corporate sponsors, most of whom have dropped them in light of their sort of horrifying decision to return their rescue child to the shelter. One imagines the Stauffer Family will land on its feet – people like that always do.

But what of the Stauffer kids, who have now learned the lesson that if a person – a sibling, no less! – is not “normal,” or needs more time, or help, they should be disposed of. It’s Eugenics for the already born. What a tragedy for those children. How will this influence them in their relationships going forward? What will they do if one of their own children has special needs?

And while it probably is better the Huxley is with parents who want him and are willing and able to give him what he needs, what a gift the Stauffers have thrown away. Our Allie is about to turn 26, and while her early years were difficult, this young woman has been the single-greatest reason if I am a kind, empathic, and humble person. I feel sad, really, for families that don’t have an Allie, because their hearts will never grow as big as ours have.

My friends with special needs children know this. I think some people who don’t know it, too.

And Myka and James take really great family photos.

Proud to be an American… Sort Of, Anyway

There are so many American traditions in which we can all participate on Memorial Day…parades, Taps at Arlington, flags on soldiers’ graves….to properly honor our war dead.

We can (responsibly) gather with family and friends for beginning-of-summer festivities after a difficult, quarantined spring to share fellowship, hamburgers and hotdogs, and gluten-free brownies (hey, Brittney O’Connor!) to reconnect with loved ones and remind ourselves that our personal relationships and devotion to family are some of the things that bind us together as a nation.

We can also hang effigies of elected officials (in this case, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear)…in the presence of very young children… while Lee Greenwood plays in the background…

Because – I guess – he was concerned that people might get sick or die from COVID.

Or because he hates democracy and just wants everyone to be miserable and is trying to destroy the economy so he doesn’t get re-elected, and “Kentucky” continues to be the punchline of pretty much any joke.

What a dick, that Andy Beshear. Why doesn’t someone just shoot him already?

I mean, the most American thing in the world is to lynch people. It’s so American. In an ideal world, when the rest of the world thinks of “America,” ideally, they automatically think, “Lynching!”

Like, if you don’t like someone’s politics, or color, or sexual orientation, just lynch them! Sort of like the Nike slogan, “Just do it!”

“Just Lynch Them!”

So catchy!

I just think that, rather than have any sort of civil discourse or consider whether the edicts of an administration are lawful, just, or compelling, or take a step back to ponder the impact of such directives on public health, I think we should all act independently and call for the public lynching of any person whose politics don’t mesh with mine.

Because that’s what our war dead fought for.

They fought so that whenever an American didn’t like something done by an elected official (that is, the person elected by the MAJORITY of the population), they could urge the assassination of that person.

(Even when those actions conformed to the recommendations of another Governmental agency…)

I am so proud to be an American if being an American means allowing this sort of behavior.

I am proud that my father’s mental health was sacrificed in combat in service to his country so that others could later get away with this kind of nonsense under the aegis of the First Amendment.

I am proud that on Memorial Day, so many Americans died to protect and defend this country, which includes people who think it’s okay to “lynch” public officials.

That’s the best of us. 244 years later, that’s the best of us.

Am I a Dick?

Sometimes people are dicks, and you say, “Universe, am I a dick?”

Sometimes the Universe says, “yes,” with proper punctuation, and you know you’re screwed, and maybe you need to try harder.

Sometimes, the Universe sends a gentle breeze, a New York style Cheesecake, or a furry Canadian beastie your way, and you give yourself a little hug and send some good energy back out there to everyone.

It’s easy to get discouraged. Then your husband walks through the door and you aren’t anymore.

These are hard times.

People can be disappointing.

We forget that hurricanes and wildfires and pandemics don’t care about our best-laid plans.

All we can do is our best.

All we can be is our best.

To all people, in all circumstances.

Regardless of our faith, that is what we owe each other, even if we are different colors or don’t like each other’s politics.

Beyond the well-being of those I love, the only thing I pray for is to be worthy, and not a dick.

COVID 19 Diary – 4/3/20

So you all know how I feel about the current president. I’m not going to go into it, except to say, right now, I’m tired, I’m scared, I don’t know when things are going to get better, and I’m worried about what life is going to be like once the immediate threat is over. Young, healthy people are dying from a virus we were told was no worse than a serious flu. It now turns out that, several weeks ago, we should have been observing protocols we were repeatedly told were unnecessary, and it appears that if the entire country had adopted social distancing and mask protocols a month ago, well…

Hindsight is 20/20. We will learn what we did wrong – those of us who respect science, anyway.

But this is unchartered territory, and while so many have shown unprecedented humanity, compassion, and heroism – AND THANK YOU – I don’t think I’m the only person who is white-knuckling it and really, really, REALLY wishing that the person in the Oval Office cared more about his people than himself.

Over the last several weeks, he has shown himself to be exclusively focused on what is good for Donald Trump, displaying the misogyny (“don’t be a cutie pie”) and contempt (“you are a terrible reporter”) we have come to know so well. He has had a million chances to comfort and unite his people. He has squandered every single one of them.

And some people who support Trump have even issued death threats against Anthony Fauci, M.D. because he has dared to speak science to Trump’s nonsense. Others continue to insist that his administration’s response was perfect, that he has done everything right, and that he is ever beyond reproach.

Over 7,000 Americans dead as of today. The first death was on February 29, 2020. That’s over 200 people every day since. It’s expected to get worse. Even if you believe Trump is perfection itself, and that every decision he has made has been the best possible alternative to contain and prevent further infection, the fact remains that over 275,000 Americans are sick, with many more surely to come.

And so, it might be nice for them, and for their families and loved ones, for their president to provide words of solace – even if it’s not his fault (some of it is), even if his response has been “perfect” (far from it), because that’s what leaders do. You know. To give comfort to those who are struggling. It’s called “empathy.” Doesn’t cost a dime.

It might be nice also for the caregivers on the frontline – the ones who are working endless shifts without proper PPE or sufficient equipment, the ones at risk for getting sick themselves, the ones who are self-quarantining in a basement or a garage to keep their families safe – for their president to issue a heartfelt, humble, “thank you.” It’s called “gratitude.” Also free of cost.

Haven’t seen either. Don’t expect to.

Donald Trump is a horrible, horrible human being. If you didn’t know it before, now you do.

More on Gun Violence

So, in the United States, you can kill a bunch of 5 and 6 year olds…

And nothing will change. #sandyhook

By the way…have you ever had a conversation with a 5 or 6 year old?

You should. It’s fun.

But in this country, you can kill an entire classroom of children…which maybe included a future…teacher? Activist? Scientist?

Or maybe just a normal mom, or dad, or person?

You can shoot them down. Babies.

You would think that someone, somewhere, would say, “that’s not cool. Does our country maybe have an issue with guns?”

But what happens instead is that people say…

He had mental health issues.

Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.

And then we feel better.

A few days go by without a school shooting.

We breathe out.

We go back to normal. And we hope it’s the last time we have to see kids running from a school. In terror. As their parents watch from a distance and wonder, “is my baby still alive?”

Maybe.

Tales from the Polling Booth

So here’s a story from my polling station…whilst filling out my super cool paper ballot (what’s up with that???) I could not help but overhear the election officials discussing how disgusting it is that parents allow their transgendered children to express their true selves (“They’re kids!! They don’t know what they are!!!) followed by a take down of Elizabeth Warren for defending the rights of those seeking asylum in our country (“Can you believe it? They’re ALL criminals!”)

I was so astonished I almost voted for a Republican for dog catcher, and as anyone with a brain knows, the only candidate this year is Boone.

Once I finished filling out my ballot, I walked up to the group and said, “You guys are election officials, right?”

They nodded.

I said, “I think it is inappropriate…SO INAPPROPRIATE…that you are standing here talking politics AT THE POLLING PLACE.”

Unbelievable.

GOP Lapdogs

I continue to be utterly flummoxed and nonplussed by the GOP members of Congress who, apparently, are more concerned about losing the next election than about the implications of their blind loyalty to the president and the legacy they have memorialized on social media and elsewhere.

The “process” argument that appears to be the sole talking point of GOP Congressional members is a flimsy, easily discredited “defense,” and when that argument is shown to be severely flawed (process in place was enacted by the GOP, lots of precedent for closed-door depositions, GOP members present and actively participating in same), they…and I still can’t even believe this…attack the patriotism and integrity of decorated military officers and career diplomats with no demonstrated political ideology. It doesn’t get much more craven and desperate than that.

Many of these members have done good work during their years of public service and have much to be proud of, but in 30 years, they will be remembered only for their unconditional support of a president whom history will recognize as the most corrupt, incompetent, and dishonest person ever to hold the title of commander in Chief.

To those who would apparently follow this president anywhere, no matter what he says or does, no questions asked, please ask yourself whether this is the person for whom you are willing to sacrifice your legacy. And if the answer is, “yes,” well, in the immortal words of the knight in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” “[you] chose…poorly.”

Guys and Their Weird Bendy Erections

So I’m a pretty liberal, let’s-talk-about-it girl…and I am all about optimal health and wellness…but…I just watched a commercial directed at guys whose erections look funny and bend in the wrong direction.

Whaaaaat???

Okay. Okay. So, bendy weird erections are, apparently, a condition that causes a lot of angst and shpilkes (I have to cop to the cultural appropriation of Yiddish terminology, except it’s such a great and expressive word) and as such merits lots of medical research and lots of big pharma dollars and probably has a Medicare diagnosis code.

Bendy wing-wang erection. That’s a condition that needs fixing.

Because of course it does.

I mean, what better deserves our attention and awareness and medical research funding and hand-wringing than the MAN WITH A BENDY ERECTION???

#certainlynotkidswithcancer

#certainlynotdiabetesorsicklecellanemia

#certainlynotmultiplesclerosis

Oh, the humanity.

I’m gonna need a donut.

Okay.

Not to be a dick here, but, perhaps some perspective? Yeah? Okay.

Once upon a time, many years ago Glamour Magazine (remember Glamour Magazine? No? Well, it was a women’s magazine that was big in the 1980’s, and Kim Alexis was on almost every cover) ran a Q & A column entitled “Your Health,” and sometime back in 1985 a woman wrote in seeking advice because…wait for it…her clitoris was too big.

I know! Too big? Really? Yikes!

I don’t remember how big it was. Maybe it was huge. Maybe it wasn’t. Who knows?

#nojudgment #dontbehatingonthebigclitoris

It had never occurred to me that my clitoris might be “too big.” (For what? For whom? Is that even a thing?)

But, I do recall thinking, “If your clitoris is THAT big, probably you should be talking to a DOCTOR, NOT GLAMOUR MAGAZINE!!!

Oh, science. In the words of Rodney Dangerfield…

Maybe she did. Maybe she went to a doctor and got herself sorted and now she’s happy with her clitoris, which, one hopes, receives lots of attention, to many huzzahs and orgasms.

Or maybe she’s been living every day since with her XXL clitoris, lonely and ashamed for her weird anatomical abnormality. Who can say?

That was, like, 30 years ago. Before we had climate change and identity theft and Donald Trump to worry about.

But.

There’s been a lot of time, over those 30 years or so, for the medical community to consider the plight of those with overly large clitori, and to do something about it.

And so I ask you:

In the last 30 years…

HAVE YOU EVER SEEN A COMMERCIAL FOR A PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCT THAT SEEKS TO TREAT WOMEN WITH OVERLY LARGE CLITORI???

NOOOOOO! YOU HAVEN’T!!!

Maybe because women with large clitori are having great sex, and it’s not an issue.

Maybe it’s because women are now so okay with where and who they are that they never thought to consider whether their clitori were too big (cuz, like, how would you know???)

Or maybe it’s because, even though millions of women went to their doctors screaming, “OMG, MY CLITORIS IS TOO BIG!!!” it never occurred to anyone to ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

#whocaresifwomenarehavinggoodsex

#whocaresaboutwomenshealth

Who knows.

Which brings me back to Mr. Bendy Erection.

That sounds uncomfortable and potentially unsightly. And, guy, I’m sorry.

I really am.

But here’s the thing:

Before I get worried about bendy functioning erections, I’m probably gonna be more interested in working to eradicate:

Breast cancer
Ovarian cancer
Heart Disease
Stroke
MS
Macular Degeneration
Lung cancer
Melanoma
Myeloma

…and many, many more life-threatening diseases.

So if you want to raise awareness and dollars about weird-looking erections (and, Dude? Hate to break it to you, but they look weird even when they aren’t bendy), maybe hold an event at a really great private golf club (Pebble Beach/Oakmont/Bethpage Black)…18 holes followed by steak and potato, wedge salad, and lots of whiskey. There are probably lots of white dudes worried about their weird wing-wangs who would be happy to attend and donate.

Still, I am sorry if your wing-wang don’t schwing-zam the way you’d like.

That probably sucks, Bra.

Thoughts and prayers, guys. Maybe someone will have a telethon on your behalf.

But until we all agree that women’s reproductive healthcare should be directed by women, after consultation with their doctors, and covered by universal health insurance, please forgive me if I’m not worried about a bendy erection, or an erection of any kind.

And that’s all I have to say about that.