Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Countdown to Qatar: Letting Go of my Support System

My Sister from Another Mother

I've been in Doha for a little over two weeks.  I had planned a few more posts in my "Letting Go" series, but simply ran out of time in the run up to my departure date.

But, I'm pausing before the semester starts to complete the series.  Today, I want to talk about my support system in Grundy. 

This morning on Bloomberg International TV, I watched an interview of photographer, Sally Mann.  She talked about aching for her home state of Virginia and the deep kindness of its people.  I understood exactly what she was talking about.

Over in the central Appalachian Mountains, Virginians give that kindness an extra bump up, something I always called mountain hospitality.

In my thirteen years living in Grundy, everyone was extremely warm, kind, helpful, and loving.  They generously folded me into the community.  So, here is my tribute to the folks who provided the many types of personal services we often take for granted.  Each service involved a very personal connection and quality customer service I came to treasure.

Home and Garden

I have to start first with the most important part of my support system, my personal assistant, Brenda Rice.  She started as my housekeeper shortly after I broke my leg.  Her first impressions of me were not positive, but she stuck with me.  I think of her as my sister from another mother. 

(I ask for her forgiveness, in advance, for including photos of her disheveled from her very hard work.)

She provides outstanding housekeeping service and delivers it with independent problem-solving skills, a song (literally), and thorough knowledge of the cleaning technology and products.  I learned so much from her. 

She is a "Jill of all Trades."  She painted walls, woodwork, and the deck. She (with her friend Jean) refurbished my kitchen counters and cabinets.  She has a very steady hand with a paint brush and hardly ever drips paint.  She loves to stand back to appreciate a freshly painted wall, piece of furniture, or other project.

She also managed the garden and lawn, watered the container plants, dead-headed roses, helped me build a stone walk, cleaned the pond annually, opened and
closed the side porch every year, and decorated the house for Christmas. 



In short, my house would not have been a home without her.

For over ten years, she was my cultural interpreter and insight to local personalities. 

She has minded the dogs on my many trips out of town and found loving homes for Boo Boo and Maria so I could let go of them, too. 

In fact, she took my aging Maria into her own home.  When it comes to animals, she has a very tender heart.

Over the past six months, she helped me pack and otherwise get ready for my move to Qatar. She was patient with me when the stress and anxiety made me bossy and a little crabby. 

During our last packing day, when all my clean underwear was packed away in sealed air bags, she washed and hand dried another pair of panties for me -- using a hair dryer. 

She helped me load the car with my suitcases, shared my last meal in the U.S., drove me to the airport, and said a prayer for my safe delivery to Doha.

Even after I had stepped on a plane, she was still packing, making sure folks had access to the house as needed, storing my goods in her second floor room, closing up the storage unit, and otherwise wrapping up my life in Grundy.

On a more personal note, she has been a supportive friend and positive light in my life, even when her life involved terrible loss and daily challenges.  She is the personification of the strong, smart, resourceful, frugal, devout, kind, other-oriented women that populate the Appalachian Mountains. 

She made my life so much more rich for having known her.

And, she will continue to serve as my personal assistant now that I have arrived in Doha, handling whatever still needs attention in the U.S.

If anyone needs a reliable and dedicated assistant, call Brenda. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Countdown to Qatar: Farewell Letter from my Dad, Jerry

Praise from my 

I shared Dottie's farewell email earlier.  Dad's farewell email follows.  Some of the references require some explanation. Many relate to his pioneering work in dentistry. 

As background, I am the eldest child and only daughter in a family of four kids.  My Dad and Mom married when my Mom was 18 years old and my Dad was 20 years old.  

As newlyweds, they moved from a small farming town in central Illinois to St. Louis while my dad completed dental school at Washington University. 

They lived in a new public housing project, Pruitt-Igo, that gained the reputation as a failure in urban planning. In 1972, the Department of Housing demolished it in a fabulous implosion. When we lived there, in the late-1950s, we were one of three or four white families. 

During the 1960s, St. Louis experienced a period of "white flight" from the ring of suburbs, including University City, located immediately outside of the St. Louis city limits.  At the time, we lived in a rental house on the western end of University City at Washington and Bemiston.  I was in grade school then.  

My Dad had fallen in love with a three-story house at 7025 Washington, five blocks east of our rental, on the same street. It looked a lot like this house, but sat on a sloping yard.  We moved in to it at a time many people were "fleeing" to far parts of the St. Louis metropolitan area as University City leaders embraced an integrated housing policy. 

I don't necessarily process these parental choices as courageous or risk-taking.  Instead, I always wondered where my parents, both of whom grew up in exclusively white farm communities, developed these values of inclusiveness, but I am glad they did. 

My Dad happily practiced dentistry for at least 30 years.  For many years, he taught at Wash U's Dental School until it closed.  (His experience in that academy parallels my own experience, especially now that legal education faces many challenges.)   "In 1989 Wash U's Board of Trustees voted to close the School of Dental Medicine. The board said that the decision was based upon budget deficits, increasing tuition rates, competition from less-expensive state-funded dental schools, limited outside funding, and a declining student enrollment. By 1991, the Dental School graduated its 125th and final class."

Dad interrupted his professional life to attend graduate school when he was about 40 years old, something I also did.  He learned advanced dental techniques, including implants, and then returned to St. Louis to bring this technology to his patients. The Greater St. Louis Dental Society recognized him as a leader in the profession by giving him its Gold Medal Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Dental Society. (I, too, earned recognition by my tribe -- the Virginia Mediation Network -- when it gave me its first Distinguished Mediator Award.)

After my Mom died of colon cancer at the age of 61, Dad sold his practice and joined my brothers in a family business that manufactured and sold a product called the Lawn Funnel. My brother, Roger, invented each version of it. 

For the past several years, Dad has researched and designed an earth-sheltered home.  He is currently working on the building site and recently completed the solar collector associated with the structure. He blogs about his interest in green building here.

He mentions Paul Young, my grandfather, after whom I am named. Paul opened a successful grocery store in Virginia, Illinois in his mid-30s or 40s.

If I have disappointed my Dad (which he largely disclaims), it's because I did not choose a more traditional path that produced a few grandchildren.  But, I learned early, rightly or not, that I needed to take care of myself -- and so I have.  And, I never could figure out how to do it all -- so I didn't.  

So, with that background, here's his email. 


Not being the people-person Dottie is, I am incapable of a response to your email that is as supportive as Dottie's.  I always imagined that you would end your teaching career in Grundy and retire somewhere between there and the east coast.  I never expected you to come back this way despite the reservoir of love and support you could tap into through Dottie and me and her family.  Obviously, I didn't expect you to do anything like you are doing!  

However, I shouldn't complain (but I would like to) about the physical distance you are placing between us because I am probably partially responsible for it by modeling risk-taking behavior starting way back to Pruitt-Igo days and carrying on through moving to the first open housing suburb in St. Louis; in dentistry, pioneering in complete mouth rehabilitation, TMJ treatment and dental implants; in business, Lawn Funnels: and, at a ridiculously old age, green building.  

And, Paul Young is also partially responsible for your risk-taking behavior because he modeled it for me.  

So what else can I say besides GO FOR IT!?  I am extremely proud of your accomplishments and the person you have become. Really, I cannot help but think that you are more than ready for a new chapter in your life, and I support you completely. 

Excuse me for some random thoughts. Thanks for bailing me out as a parent -- in baseball parlance, with you, I am at least batting .225.  

Talking about baseball, do you know that you were the only one that went with me to baseball games regularly and learned how to keep a scorecard?  That was at the original Busch Stadium on Grand Avenue and while we still living at Bemiston and Washington.  

Maybe we could have shaped a different Paula by confiscating your Betty Friedman-like books that you read at Paige's age or by moving to a more homogeneous community, but I am glad we didn't.  

Don't count on us visiting you in Qatar.  We will churn away at our busy lives and wait for you to visit home, which sounds like, will be almost as often as we see each other now. 

Well, this email has been written as time permitted over several days.  I guess it is time to let it fly.

Love you a lot.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Countdown from Qatar: Farewell Letter from my Stepmom

I've talked about letting go of family in an earlier post.  After the visit in July from my Dad, Jerry, and my Stepmom, Dottie, I got a couple of emails that I'd like to share.  If you want to know how I have the "courage" to make this move as a 61-year old woman, these emails provide some insight.  I am reproducing them with permission.  

My Dad married Dottie several years after my Mom, Jo Ann, died of colon cancer at the age of 61.  Dottie, with a Ph.D. in education, brought along a large extended family that placed its large and loving reach securely around Dad.  She has been a generous, supportive, and loving spirit in my life.  

Hi Paula, tutoring [for at-risk grade school readers] ended yesterday.  Just saw your posting of old cabinet and assume you sold it.  How is the rest of moving moving along?  

So happy we had a chance to visit.  And love the posting you made on/lauding your friendship with Kenn Ann.  That truly what REAL friendships are all about, lots of time, terrain and differences but friend love abides through all.  Wonderful for both of you!

What is your departure date?  I'll definitely be standing by to see you off, across and making a new home.  Some of it difficult, but exciting to move forward in new territory.  

Please send lots of photos to educate us about the country and it's citizens, it will be a wonderful travelogue for young and old.  Message when you need companionship or support, we're here for you.  Never would I have imagined in my youth such simple and diverse ways to be informed and in touch.  

My heart goes with you, wishing and praying for many blessings. 

Love  Dottie

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Countdown to Qatar: Reflections on My Past

Happy in the 
Present Moment

"Sometimes, in order to be happy in the present moment, you have to be willing to give up all hope for a better past."  Robert Holden

I found this quote recently and pinned a copy of it on my office bulletin board for the colleague who will be moving into my office.

However, as I spent the last two days shredding financial documents and tax records as part of the process of letting go, I was shocked at how those documents raised strong emotions tied to the events reflected in the pages of those files.  I've found:

  • My first tax return, filed in 1974, when I worked as a gas station attendant during the Arab Oil Embargo. That expereince sparked a life long interest in energy law.  Also, I had my first apartment --  a walk up in an old building in downtown Grinnell, Iowa.   The Sinclair station, where I worked, is now a restaurant. I earned $2,596.99 that year.

  • My first tax return after I gave up on Grinnell and moved back to St. Louis in 1975: I worked as a bartender and waitress at Blueberry Hill in the Delmar Loop. Later, I worked as a cocktail waitress at Michael's and the Time Machine (during the heyday of disco), then at the Windjammer Lounge of the Marriott Hotel (where a wore a white polyester sailor suit, with hot pants that had an anchor on the back pocket  -- Anchors Away?), and at The Tower Club, a dinner club run by the prior operator of the Playboy Bunny Club in St. Louis (where I wore a lovely Quiana wrap-dress).

  • My first tax return filed as a newly admitted lawyer showing a salary of $35,000 in 1982, the equivalent of $85,500 today. I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma and worked for the largest law firm in the state doing natural gas regulatory work.  My boyfriend followed me there and then couldn't find a job despite his Wash U--MBA credentials.  The economy was in a gas production slump. 
  • A letter to someone at May Centers, my employer during law school, about my new job in the energy industry.  The description in it is particularly meaningful to me given the course I'm teaching this summer on Practice Before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  It reads:
"I am the newest associate with a 73 lawyer firm located in Tulsa. I am one of two attorneys involved in natural gas regulation -- a very chaotic and controversial area of the law right now.  The issue is the political bandwagon of the season. I get to D.C. for Congressional and administrative hearings about once a month.  The work is exciting and gets me out of this cow town regularly."  
  • My tax return following my move from the cow town (sorry Tulsans) to D.C. in 1984 to start a job in Big Law at a salary of $66,550, equivalent to $153,000 today!  So, today, those Big Law salaries of $160,000 are mostly keeping up with inflation.
  • My tax return for 1987 after my move back to St. Louis.  It reflects a dramatic drop in salary from $109,000 (in 1987 dollars) to $42,000. Yikes!  I guess I really needed to be back in St. Louis. 
  • My 1991 tax return reflecting employment at a firm that provided a decade of interesting work in the field of insurance insolvency.  I saw many references in my expense reports to the delicious food I ate in Santa Monica and other LA restaurants during my representation of  what was then the largest P&C insurance insolvency in U.S. history. That culinary experience made me the home cook I am today.
  • My tax return for 2001, the year I attended Missouri School of Law to earn my LL.M. degree in Dispute Resolution. One of the best year's of my life. I also found the expenses associated with finishing that degree after I had moved to Grundy in 2002.  That was one of the worst, most manic years of my life. I was commuting every week-end back to Columbia, Missouri to finish the last course I needed for the degree.  I was also learning how to teach and taught two skills courses that required a lot of class prep.  I lived in four rooms of my house with the remaining rooms still filled with unpacked belongings.  I lived like that -- without unpacking -- for another three years! (That experience makes me know I can live in a 1-bedroom apartment in Doha.)
  • My expense reports reflecting the move to Grundy with 13,000 pounds of belongings, most of which I am now abandoning. The move cost about $6,500.  
  • My first contract to teach at ASL, a summer gig for our PASO program that paid $4,000, money I very much needed after living off my savings for over a year. 
  • All the medical expenses incurred for six surgeries designed to stabilize my leg after I broke it in three places in December 2005.  Despite having good insurance, that recovery cost me about $20,000 in out-of-pocket expenses.  

  • Bills from the contractor who built what I like to call my "Ritz Carlton bathroom."  I designed the bathroom and served as general contractor.  Later, the whole town of Grundy knew I'd paid $1,000 for the high-end toilet.  What they didn't know is, that for six months, I used a port-a-potty, placed in my carport (out of the sun), while I waited for the contractors to show up and complete the work.  Contractors did a fabulous job. 

Overall, I've had a happy life, although I would have been happy to have avoided some of these experiences. 

I'll have more on this story after I tackle some more tax files. 

In the mean time, I want to close with a quote I discovered this afternoon among a set of documents I'm reviewing.  It reads:

"Today, I will be happier than a bird with a French fry." Chirp, chirp.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Countdown to Qatar: Letting Go of My Files

Pitching Part 
of my 
Professional Identity

I don't know what it says about me, but I am a very organized pack rat.  My ADR books are alphabetized by author.  They are now neatly packed in boxes with labels showing the alphabetical run included in each box. 

For years, I have created elaborate filing systems for research materials.  At two former law firms, I created "Brief Banks" that allowed our lawyers, especially newer ones, to easily access different forms, sample pleadings, and research.

After joining ASL, I created a filing system for the expanding materials I was collecting on negotiation, mediation, arbitration, group facilitation, client counseling, collaborative law, restorative justice, conflict theory, ADR system design, communication skills, teaching tools, student well-being, and leadership, just to name a few of the included topics. 

The collection filled 12 file drawers and about five boxes.  My research files, for various law review articles, filled another five Bankers' boxes.  Conference brochures filled another three boxes, at least.  My publications, including reprints, filled another six boxes.

The index to this set of files runs 53 single-spaced pages.  

Hot Mess?

During its creation, when a former secretary started making the files and file labels, word got back to me that one of my colleagues thought the whole thing was a hot mess. Perhaps, but I could always put my fingers on a document with very little difficulty. Many files served as the seed to a student's research project. Colleagues often asked me for a school-related document that they couldn't find. 

Subsequent secretaries have dedicated many hours to updating the files with the documents I'd collect over a six month period or so. One recently posted on Facebook that she never minded the task because it kept her busy during the quiet and somewhat boring summer months of the academic calendar.

These files represented, in some tangible way, my expertise in the field of Dispute Resolution and the time I had dedicated to learning what I could about its various aspects.

So, not surprisingly, one of the last acts of letting go has been throwing away all those files. Yesterday, I  threw away at least 12 boxes of material I had stored in a storage unit during this transition. 

Tonight, I finished throwing away the files at the office.  I filled the last of three dumpsters that it took to get the collection out to the trash.  

I have saved files that related to international dispute resolution.  I may need those.

It has been very hard to let go of this aspect of my professional life. But also, amazingly liberating. 

The file drawers are now waiting for the next person's hot mess. 

P.S.  I still need to pitch tax records going back to 1982 and figure out what to keep from the two file drawers of coaching materials I've collected during my time in three programs offered by Christine Kane -- Life, Business, and Gold. 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Countdown to Qatar: Letting Go of Friends

Saying "See You Later"
to Kenn Ann

I am actually very good at maintaining links to old friends.  Facebook has certainly made that easier.  I always seem to have one good friend during each stage of my life or for each locale. 

One of my oldest friends, Kenn Ann, visited this past week-end.  She was my best friend during my years in high school and college.  We've been friends ever since.  We spent several hours talking about that period of our lives, as we have in the past, and still discovered new things about our relationship.

I have always said, and she agrees, that I made her be my friend.  In high school, as an immigrant from Indiana, she was not a part of the cliques with whom I moved comfortably -- whether smart kids, female jocks, or artists.  

(I'd been in the school system since second grade.  I'm on the first row, far left, sitting cross-legged in the light colored top.   My best friend, Gwen, is sitting next to me.  Suzanne Magee, who accompanied me to Dubai in December 2014, is seated on the second row, second from the end on the right, in the jumper.) 

I could tell Kenn Ann was smart and funny!  I had to get to know her!

She sat across the room in our senior-year Psychology class and, somehow, I maneuvered so I soon sat next to her.  Later, I was taking her to McDonald's for lunch in my 1956 VW bug.  

I'd go to her house after school to eat her Mom's Croatian garlic soup and goof off.  Later, we planned trips to the SIU Music Festival, where she proved incapable of holding her "liquer."  Granted, I have always weighed more than her.  And, granted we were drinking cheap wine, like Boonesfarm.  

We camped in the Missouri Ozarks with my boyfriend, Ken Sallade, and his good-natured, but rowdy, biker friends, including Doug Mosley.  She kept me laughing throughout these fairly innocent escapades.

We attended the same college -  Grinnell -- in Grinnell, Iowa.  It's a top school, but we both left after a year.  I thought it was too small and yearned for the big city.  She thought it was too big and felt overwhelmed.  One summer, before we called it quits, we hitchhiked on I-80 from Iowa to Massachusetts to see my college roommate, Louise DesJardins.  It was my idea.

That was my first experience with the ocean.  One night we went to a local restaurant/bar near the water.  While Kenn Ann was in the bathroom, a lapsed NY stock broker --  with a rum runner sailboat -- invited us on a sail to Martha's Vineyard.  I said "YES" before she got back.  That was typical.  I'd plan the escapades, and she would willingly go along for the ride. 

When I moved back to St. Louis, after five years of living elsewhere, we would spend lazy summer week-ends fishing while canoe-floating one of the many streams found in the Missouri Ozarks.  We used, what I liked to call, "the blessed crawdad lure," shown in the upper left corner of this photo.  I've put one in the keepsake box that I will take to Qatar.  It will always remind me of those trips.

Over time, I've relinquished more control to her as she has asserted more control.  Last summer, Kenn Ann, Christine Bierman, and I spent three weeks traveling in the West for my "silver jubilee birthday celebration."  Kenn Ann planned most of the trip, which required three 60-year old women to tent camp in the Redwood Forest and then at Yosemite.  Of course, that made us very cool with several younger folks we met along the way.

As Kenn Ann often does, she charmed my other friends -- in that case, the two ASL alumni we met in Lake Tahoe -- Meghan (aka Sally) Scott and Jessica Nelson

This last visit, we talked about how important the art department of University City High  School had been to about every aspect of our lives.  She became a photographer, works with puppets, and has many artist friends.  I design gardens, interior decorate, create visually interesting slides for my classes, make beaded jewelry, and design clothing.  That art department taught us we could do just about anything.  We developed an artist's eye and an appreciation for original art.  My home and office are full of original art, and it always invites a closer inspection and a conversation about it.  I'm taking my Native American art to Qatar just for that reason.

When Kenn Ann left this past week-end, I told her I was not going to cry . . . then I did.  She has not promised to come visit me in Qatar.  I guess I'll have to plan that escapade.