Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ten Resolutions for 2009

Seems like the time of the year to do this (though doing what is expected grates on my contrarian personality.) Nevertheless, I've been thinking of some resolutions I'd like to make -- again, noting my own sui generis objection that "I don't do New Years' resolutions." Not exactly sure how these differ from "goals", but for purposes of this post "goals" and "resolutions" are henceforth interchangeable, OK? OK.
That said, there are some things that need blogging about. Here's my "off the top" (not in order of importance - just as they occur to me) list:
  • Resolution No. 1 -- Professional: Establish a bankruptcy and consumer law website and/or blog. I want to make something that will get my practice noticed by more and more people -- especially in light of what I predict will be a tidal wave of personal bankruptcies along about the 3Q of 2009. If the economy crashes even half as bad a some are predicting (Dreher, etc.) it's going to be tough out there and a bunch of families will be hurting.
  • Resolution No. 2 -- Professional: Finish reading and fully implement David Allen's Getting Things Done: the Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  The "big idea" of GTD (as its proponents call it) is systematically off-loading the stress that comes from not being sure that you've handled everything that needs to be handled. If Allen did a "Don't-Bee"* example for his books, he'd have to get a picture of my pathetic office -- with nearly every square foot stacked with stacks (of papers, files, etc.) It's truly awful. Go here for Shelfari's review: Getting Things Done
  • Resolution No. 3 -- Financial: Implement and stick to Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University principles, including cranking through his "Baby Steps to Financial Peace". Another area of my life where I need to suck it up and "do as I say -- not as I've been done."  I regularly recommend Ramsey's stuff to my bankruptcy clients, but tend to get too busy and overloaded and let my own affairs slide. This is the year: no more aimless, non-budgeted frittering away of our income. We're going to have a monthly budget and spend every dollar "on paper, on purpose" according to the Ramsey plan. Dave Ramsey's baby steps: Click here
  • Resolution No. 4 -- Physical:  Re-start my running plan and keep it going every single day.  As recently as a month ago I was running on the treadmill at the YMCA nearly every single night. Then one night I got busy with work (see Resolution No. 2 above)... and you know the rest of that sad story. Well, that does it -- I'm going to make a goal of running another 15k run in 2009 and preparing for a possible half-marathon in November.  I did the former in 2002, and have always wanted to do that latter. I'm doing it again. 
  • Resolution No. 5 -- Physical: Get back on Atkins to control and eliminate my blood sugar problem.  Diagnosed as a Type II diabetic in 2006, I pretty much ignored it all until I had a scary run-in with a diabetic spike in late October / early November of this year. Since then I've been tracking my blood sugar levels on a more regular basis and avoiding most carbs. I resolve to quit screwing around with my health and get serious about living to see my grandchildren.
  • Resolution No. 6 -- Family: Stop losing my temper at my family -- reduce the chaos and replace it with peace in the home. Those who have raised teenagers can no doubt relate, but I've found it 'ow you say ... just a bit stressful. I strongly believe, however, that chaos is demonic and that our Father in heaven, as the author and source of true peace ("My peace I give to you...").
  • Resolution No. 7 -- Family: Make bedtime reading non-negotiable. It seems to me that I read much, much more to my older two sons at bedtime, than I do now with Cam and Maddie. It's not like we never read -- just not regularly enough to suit me. (Plus our chocolate lab Abby really seems to enjoy it as well -- she always comes in and plops down on Cam's bed while I read.)
  • Resolution No. 8 -- Financial: Get my student loans and taxes straighted out. What can I say? Law school, self-employment, an abortive attempt at a business or two and pretty soon you've got a major mess on your hands. I resolve to address these two major financial headaches, make a plan and bring some order to this chaos.
  • Resolution No. 9 -- Family: Re-establish "Date Night" once a week. Even if it's only a couple of hours for iced tea at McAlisters. My wife and I need time to reconnect, regroup and heal each other's wounds. We had a nice streak going last summer, but it fell away with the rush of the kids' school schedules and the increased activities that come with.
  • Resolution No. 10 -- Personal: Make time every week to read more. A voracious reader all my life ('til law school, anyway), I now find it difficult to sit down and set aside even a half-hour to spend reading, as opposed to skimming
More later.... Comments?
*Romper Room reference, anyone?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

King Corn?

Here's a trailer for an independent film on processed food and the ubiquity of corn - especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in our food supply.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Life, law and other miscellany - Part Two

OK, so where was I? Oh yeah. Poverty -- or "Lady Poverty" as Il Poverello (St. Francis) used to call it (her). I'm tempted to say "Get real. Poverty's not a virtue -- just look at what it does to the poor." And there is some merit to the observation. After all my poorest clients are usually not tops on anyone's "wanna be" list -- they're dirty; they're often stupid or uneducated; they live lives of unbroken misery and embarrassment. Quite often they have serial "marriages" and produce children out of wedlock, introducing new generations into the arms of Lady Poverty. They are in a very real sense, repulsive. So what's so great about Poverty? Well, sed contra, it may be objected that poverty's opposite - "plenty" as they used to say, or wealth - can separate us from God. This may be seen from personal experience in that it is often the case that when our lives are full of material wealth that we stray from God's plan. For example, I find that I am more quick to neglect my prayer life when things are "rolling" and I'm more apt to certain types of corporal sin than otherwise. When the living is easy, it seems that we no longer rely on God quite so much. Having seemingly less need for Him, we are apt to rely on our own abilities to provide for ourselves.  But should we?Maybe having too much is too much. Jesus tells us to pray constantly for our needs. Elsewhere, he tells us that we needn't worry about such silly stuff as clothing or food, since God provides for lilies of the field and the birds and beasts all sufficiencies.  

Monday, December 08, 2008

Law, life and other miscellany

I've been considering a change lately.
Last week marked my sixth year with the small but somewhat pretentious law firm that I've labored in since my abortive attempt at soloing.
I'm looking to make a change for a variety of reasons, but in short, they would center around a desire to have more control over my practice and a desire to support my family by making more money in the process.
I've long represented indigent clients -- mostly in the field of consumer bankruptcy, but other debtor-creditor matters including foreclosure and indebtedness defense as well. I like the work; it appeals to my desire to make a difference and be Christ to those I meet.
Which brings up my Catholicism and the particular expression of it that my life has followed.
Last summer I became a postulant with a third order Franciscan group known (then) as the Tertiary Franciscans of the Primitive Observance -- a third order closely associated with the Franciscans of the Primitive Observance (or TFPO and FPO, respectively). Since that time, the third order has been somewhat reformulated, and is now known as the Tau Maria (not a particularly eponymous handle, but hey -- I didn't pick it.)
What's all that have to do with my law practice?
Well, quite a bit. As I said, my practice is an extension of my faith. Okay, maybe I didn't actually say that, but I implied it.
It seems to me that we all live lives which are meant to be lived for some particular purpose. Of course there's the overriding purpose we learn (or for some, learned -- past-tense) in the Baltimore Catechism: "to know and love God in this life, and to serve Him in the next" (paraphrasing from a somewhat leaky 46 year old memory, here.) We all have that as a purpose.
But what I mean is an additional, more particular purpose.
Opus Dei has a wonderful take on this that I find particularly appealing, i.e., that we are called to sanctification through our vocational calling, whatever that may be. If you are called to be a surgeon, then you may attain holiness through the practice of surgery by offering your best "work" for God, as it were. If you are called to be a teacher, then by teaching for God. If you are called to work in a factory, etc., etc.
As a lawyer for the poor, I feel a certain calling to defend and counsel those who struggle with their finances. The importance of this work is or should be obvious in this consumption-driven culture, which upholds wealth as the greatest goal to be attained, and poverty as the worst evil to be avoided.
This may come as a shock to some people, but some believe that poverty is actually a virtue to be sought rather than an evil to be avoided at all costs. I know that the lawyer I ate lunch with a couple weeks ago certainly was (shocked, that it is.) I mentioned this in passing, and the reaction I got from him -- also a Catholic, and by all appearances a fine man -- was as if I'd calmly mentioned my being abducted by space aliens the night before. Incredulous wouldn't be far from the mark.
More at Part Two....