My Unintentional Degree in Law

March contains a court date, several visits to my lawyer’s office as well as a ton of paperwork so I'm surprised I had as many blog entries as I did. It began with the receipt of 2 documents; the first: Special Interrogatories and the second:  a Demand for Documents. Together they contain a total of over 75 multiple answer questions. Talk about feeling overwhelmed!  Note:  The title of this entry is courtesy of my dear brother who recently coined this phrase to describe my current life.

In the first year and a half of this entire experience, I found myself learning very quickly what all the abbreviations bantered about by the associates meant or referred to, just so I’d have some clue as to what was going on and what they were referring to. It was an attempt at trying to save money. The billing clock didn’t stop ticking while they explained terms to me!

Looking at it now, it’s a really weird place to be. You find that you now know so much more than you ever wanted to about “family” law that you often correct the people you’re paying to represent you! I actually thought of taking some paralegal courses about 2-3 years ago but thought to myself, this will be over soon and it’d be a waste of time. Well, as it turns out, it wasn’t over soon and I didn’t need to take any classes. A divorce that takes this length of time  means that I had unintentionally signed up for a paralegal education when the process began. Surprise, surprise!!

A settlement offer came in this month that was surprisingly reasonable and had potential. This of course necessitated a visit to my lawyer…more $$$. On the brighter side, the 75 multiple questions went on hold since a settlement is in progress. Thank goodness, because these questions and demands are so redundant of all the questions and demands I had to produce answers for about every two months over the last 3+ years! I’d say they border on ludicrous but I can’t because they are ludicrous! In fact, I met with the discovery associate in early March to go over each item and I don’t think either of us had ever rolled our eyes in disbelief so many times in one sitting. It had to be a record! The real and painful problem is that, each time I have to go through answering these things, it’s like reliving the last 3+ years over again and again.

Remember those punching bag balloons we used to get every now and then as kids? They were 4’ clowns that you blew up, knotted at the bottom and slid through a slit in a cardboard pair of clown shoes. You had your own clown punching bag. If you really wanted to wack them, you could stand on the little cardboard shoes and punch them out. They’d just bob down and up and down to the left or right and back up. They just stood there and took it. The next morning there lay a withered little remnant attached to cardboard feet. It’s a perfect image for what this month has felt like.



The Emperor's Clothes

I was recently reading an article on manifesting what you want in life.  It reminded me of a time when I worked for a good company that was taken over by a horrid corporation.  A corporation that began a series of "reorganizations".  Just when you thought it was safe they'd announce another round.  It was horrible.  Their severance packages were getting smaller and smaller and everyone was walking around with their backs to the wall and covering their collective ass.

One day my boss, Robetta Krock, informed me that she was told to free up "x" amount of money in her budget and so I needed to fire one of the individuals who reported to me.  The individual was marginal and we had been documenting problems for over 6 months.  Robetta had reviewed everything with human resources and they were “on board” as one said in those days of “run it up the flag pole” and so on.  I felt that to fire someone on a Friday was really crappy.  Not that any day is a good day.  The person would have no resources open to them on Saturday or Sunday and will most likely go to their drug of choice and go on a bender. Depending on their life in general, they could become suicidal.  I personally had experienced this years before.

So I decided to legitimize my thoughts by describing to Robetta and HR (HR is an acronym for handling someone w/ kid gloves in the hopes of not getting sued) that I’d read an article in some recognized leadership journal regarding the whole concept of when to let a person go; even if it was just a layoff that would at least lead to unemployment benefits.  I presented a whole scenario of the most “responsible” and “professional” way in which to terminate an employee for the “maximum benefit” to the employee.  Essentially the “article” listed the reasons why termination on a Friday was dangerous for the employee (list suicide, building anger etc) vs. the “benefits” of Monday termination or Tuesday at the latest.  I told them a noted shrink…blah, blah, blah….  I figured if I had to let someone go I didn't want them to have to wait 2 days to get help.

Monday leaves the whole week to seek med/psych etc help since everything was open.  The resources that HR provided in the way of names and numbers of various services would be open and accessible vs. closed for the weekend.

The upshot of the whole "performance" was that HR, without researching or verifying my “sources” adopted it company wide with a religious zeal.  It was hysterical.  So never forget, if you really believe in something, you can convince anyone of anything.

P.S.  I left the company a few months later and was never happier.



Something to remember

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.
Small people always do that,
but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.

Mark Twain



Comfort Food

This has been a tough month and I really wanted to make a chicken pot pie pretty much from scratch, not using a “cream of” condensed soup. Yet I didn’t want a recipe that took all afternoon. After searching the internet and printing several out, I settled on one that was “tested by Redbook”. It called for non-fat everything and since I wanted the comfort of "fat"  I changed that. It also made the recipe in 5 (6 oz.) ramekins. Too fussy, so that changed too and used Trader Joe’s refrigerator Buttermilk Biscuits. Please see “Assorted Observations” below.

1 c. half and half
1 c. chicken broth
3 T. all-purpose flour
1 t. poultry seasoning
2 c. roasted, skinless chicken breast, cut into bite-size pieces
1 package 10 oz. frozen mixed vegetables (thawed)
1/8 c. pieces very thinly sliced onion
1 t. salt
Pepper to taste
Cooking spray
1 can (approx. 7.5 oz) refrigerator buttermilk or country-style biscuits

Preheat oven to 425 F. In a medium saucepan, whisk half and half, broth, flour and poultry seasoning until combined. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer whisking frequently, 4 minutes or until thickened. Stir in chicken, mixed vegetables, onion, salt and pepper. Cover and keep warm.

Lightly coat a 9” x 9” or similar size pan with cooking spray. Take chicken mixture and pour into pan. It will fill pan about 1” or so full.  After opening biscuit tube, take each biscuit an gently stretch it till it’s 1/4” thick vs. the original 1/2” thick. Set each on top of chicken mixture so top is mostly covered. It’s not necessary to cover completely; some small openings are needed to let steam escape.

Bake 12 to 20 minutes (depending on your oven and size pan used) until biscuits are golden and filling bubbly. Use a toothpick to check if the biscuits are done. Insert into one of the biscuits. If it comes out clean the dish is done. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Assorted observations:
I did not have chicken stock in the pantry so I made a cup with hot water and Wyler’s Chicken Granules (which I prefer to any other kind of bouillon). Because of that I eliminated any extra salt suggested in the original the recipe. It worked just fine in my book. The bottom of the biscuits was a bit doughy but I liked this. I imagine you could test cooking the dish more using 5 minute intervals, making sure the topping doesn’t burn. Just remember, that each time you open the oven the temperature drops and has to heat back up. Also, I imagine if you use an 8” x 8” pan the cooking time will be a little longer because the mixture will fill the pan a bit higher. One big “no-no”:  I made the chicken mixture the night before and refrigerated it in the covered saucepan till the next afternoon. I took it out and reheated it in a 225 F oven for about 20-30 minutes. The sauce mixture was a lovely thick consistency before refrigeration and heating. After it was thin and soupy. I tried to heat it back to gravy consistency on the stovetop but it only thickened a wee bit. So my advice is to make it all the same day that you cook it. (Note: I followed my own advice and it worked great the second time around.) Regardless, the end result was delicious and hit the "comfort" spot perfectly. Yummmm!