Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What I'm Doing Now

I had every intention of posting two more blogs about what I did over my summer vacation, but my current state in life seems to be prohibiting me from finding any time to write these last installments. So, instead, I'm just going to jump ahead and discuss some things that are more current and are keeping me from posting more often. I mean, it's fall. Summer's over.

I've been back to school and occasionally jabbing more so than hitting the books. This is it. My last year of law school. I'm a bit disappointed by the fact I overuse "unbelievable" in colloquial speech because it is the only word that I can think of to even come close to the astonishment I'm feeling at the knowledge that I will be walking away with a J.D. in less than 8 months. Have you seen those things? The diplomas are huge! I don't know what I'm going to do with it when I get it. I'm not going to have room for that thing. Quite the ego trip. I'm also a bit frustrated since it took me until my third year to actually start getting the hang of this whole "law thing." But at least I got it.

From the beginning I knew that I wasn't given (literally, given...2 days before classes were to start) the opportunity to go to law school just for kicks. I was given the opportunity for a reason. It has been more than hard over the past two years to keep this in mind and truly believe that I had been placed in this environment and career for a reason. I can't even start to discuss all of the times I wanted to quit or doubted myself or felt out of place. Numerous times I wanted to run far away from Bloomington to escape everything in life. Social struggles, educational struggles, depression episode struggles all served as frequent and familiar blockades, but I sucked it up. I'm not much for talking well about myself, but I have to say that right now I couldn't be more proud of myself. I went for it, stuck it out, and I can walk away with the knowledge that I have successfully completed something that about 10% (or less) of the population accomplishes.

This semester has already shown to be quite rigorous. I am enrolled in 15 credit hours, working 12 hours a week at the Monroe County Public Defender's office, and working as a research assistant in the area of education law for a professor. Even though it's busy, I'm having a blast. I have been blessed with a wonderful network of friends at law school to make stupid law jokes with, to crack down and discuss more intellectual topics, to play board games with, to goof around in the halls with, to dance like there's no tomorrow with, to make absurd videos with, to be in a super synth band with, to just be great friends with. I've always struggled to find people that I can relate to, that have the patience to deal with me, and that I feel truly understand me; I will always be grateful to law school for introducing such awesome people into my life that I understand and that understand me.

In a few weeks I will be on tour, traveling from Louisville to DC, attending legal conferences in hopes of finding a job where I can use my knowledge to benefit and contribute to the lives of others. I've never been one to care much about myself. Some people say I care too much? (that's a joke) But honestly, I don't really care about my own well-being. I am more concerned with ensuring that everyone else around me is okay than spending time taking care of myself. Luckily, I've chosen, and been given, a career path that allows me to spend oodles of hours working on tasks that are important to the lives of others. I’ve been offered an interview with the Cook County (Chicago) Office of the Public Guardian while I will be attending Equal Justice Works Conference this month, for which I am very excited and a bit nervous. The position I will be interviewing for is that of an ad litem attorney, meaning I would be legally acting in the best interest for children in any proceedings they might have to face. This is something that I would love to do. In working at the Public Defender’s office I’ve gotten the chance to go over to court for juvenile and CINS (Children In Need of Services) cases, and have felt a desire to help in this area. A lot of kids are lost, and a lot have just been handed a bunch of crap. Most likely, the kids that end up in court as a juvenile face a future in “the system.” If I have an opportunity to help these kids break out of the system and see what they’re capable of, I definitely want to take it. I still have a desire to teach, as I truly feel that is my ultimate passion, but I don’t see any harm in taking some time to dedicate myself to youth in a different capacity.

Extracurricularly I have taken on the role of “Sunday School Teacher.” I’ve always been very resistant to becoming involved in church groups and organizations because of my prior experiences in church. But this summer, while I was struggling with a lot of issues that caused a lot of confusion and frustration in my spiritual life, I was sitting in church when the youth director got up and made a plea for individuals to volunteer to work with kids on Sunday mornings. As I was sitting there, an epiphanic voice popped inside my head. The voice seemed to have an outline of two points in its lesson; similar to my dad’s three points he always has over the pulpit and in his everyday conversations, but one less. First, it asked, “You have a passion for teaching, right? So, why can’t you spend some time teaching these kids about Christ?” Conviction, initiated. Second, it asked, “How much time do you spend advancing your own agenda? Worrying about your own life?...Don’t you think it might be a good idea to break out of that bubble and actually utilize that passion you have to invest in the lives of others?” I started to cry. I cry a lot these days. The youth director asked for volunteers to fill out a slip included in the program, but since I came in late I didn’t get one. I started to settle back into my complacency, thinking, “Well, I can’t submit my name because I don’t have any way to do so. I’ll just do it later.” But I couldn’t sit there with any peace of mind. I turned around and asked the woman behind me for her program. I filled out the form and turned it in. I’m helping out on Sunday mornings with first through third grade girls, and I couldn’t be more excited.

I’m looking around at different places to move and find employment once I graduate. On my list are Chicago (because it’s close to my nephew); Philadelphia; NYC; DC; and oddly enough, Minneapolis. I don’t know what happened, but I became really interested in Minneapolis, and really want to live there after I finish up school. Who knows where I’m supposed to be, but if it’s Minneapolis, I wouldn’t be offended.

Overall, I am very excited about this time of my life. I’m anxious to get up and move on to the next task in life. I don’t know where I’ll where I’ll be or what I’ll be doing, but I know that everything will be as it is supposed to be. I’m not worried because I know that the authority guiding me has got it all figured out. Thank goodness someone has what’s best for my life figured out, because heaven knows I’m clueless.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Matt Wallace

My friend, Matt Wallace, is this amazing character. Unlike any person that I've ever met. That's one great thing about law school. I've met some of the most interesting and quirky people that would only show up at a place like law school. It was Matt's birthday this past weekend, and my friend Pete decided that we should make a birthday video card dedicated to Matt. This idea goes back a couple of weeks when Pete decided to megamix Matt, and we soon realized that Matt was the perfect megamix archetype. It would be hard to ever megamix anyone else outside of Matt, so the only other possibility in making a video was to act as though we were Matt. So that's just what we did. The first video below is the original Matt Wallace megamix. The second is our birthday dedication to Matt Wallace. If you don't know Matt Wallace, the second video won't be all that funny to you because everything that we do is something that Matt Wallace is well known for. So yeah, just humor me.

What Does it Mean to be Matt Wallace? from Pete Giordano on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What I Did Over My Summer Vacation, Part 2: Matrimonial Marathon

I've heard that with the onset of an economic recession comes an influx in the average number of weddings. My friends must have also heard this statistics, as the number of weddings that I was invited to this summer threatened to reach double digits. It seemed as though every weekend of the summer I was on my way to some wedding-oriented event. I baked cakes for 3 different weddings; a challenge that I enjoyed but am in no particular rush to take on any time soon. Luckily, I didn't have to take this task on alone, as my friend Jennie contributed much of her time and skills, not to mention coming in at crunch time with a cake for a wedding I was unable to attend.

I had many wedding responsibilities, including cake baker, DJ, emcee, and bridesmaid. While I was more than honored to be a bridesmaid in my best friend's wedding, there was one position I held that elated my entire being and fulfilled a life-long aspiration: I was the flower girl. This might not seem like a such a great feat or a momentous accomplishment to you, but for me, this was something I had wanted for as long as I can remember.

When I was young (I feel as though I can say "young" instead of "younger" now because I have pinpointed 5 gray hairs on my head), I wasn't the cutest of kids. I was pudgy. Very pudgy. I had bad hair. I was often disoriented. Many people told me I looked like Wednesday Adams. (I remember on one occassion as I got older, I was walking through church and a lady stopped and said, "I'm so glad you're losing that baby fat. I was really worried about you and your looks there for awhile." No joke.) On top of struggling in the adorable department, I was incredibly shy and introverted. I didn't have friends, mostly because I figured I didn't need them. I was a loner. And a homely one at that. To make matters worse, I had a younger cousin whose cuteness abundantly overflowed. She was, and still is, lovely. Blonde hair, skinny and petite, sharp dresser, graceful, bubbly personality. Young and old knew Cassie. Young and old loved Cassie. She had friends. She got the "Aww" from adults.

My brothers, cousins and I grew up as P.K.'s (pastor's kids...and in our case, grandkids as well) in a rather large church community. Lots of church families meant lots of church kids getting married, which led to a high demand for cute little girls to take on the duties of flower girl. For some reason, I always got passed up for this position by my cousin. It felt as though I had been passed up to take over the family business by my younger, more adorable cousin because I wasn't "flower girl material." I was a complete failure, and perhaps even a bit of a disgrace to the family.

One evening, my mom had a woman over from church to discuss this woman's wedding. The two sat at a table in the living room, flipping through magazines, discussing florists and caterers, and, in my mom's typical fashion, exploring the more practical options. This was my chance. This bride had no where to hide. She was trapped in my house. She had to be courteous. So, over I waddled, with an oreo in hand, and approached the young woman. "So, do you have a flower girl yet?" I asked. "Umm..." she responded, a little flustered. Her reaction was such that I could tell she had not chosen a flower girl yet, but she knew that if I were her flower girl, her wedding ceremony would be ruined as I would not be able to extract the desired "aww's" from the attendees and there would be no "wasn't that flower girl just darling!" talk at the reception, but rather the eyes of her guests would burn like fire and they'd turn to salt if I were to take that turn to head down the aisle. "Maggie, leave this poor woman alone," my mom said as she rescued the bride from complete wedding devastation. A sigh of relief came from the other side of the table.

"But mom, I just want to be a flower girl. I've never gotten to be a flower girl, and if this woman doesn't have one, well, I might as well do it."

In an act of compromisable desperation, my mom replied, "How about you think of someone that you know who you would like to be the flower girl for, call them up, and ask them if you can be their flower girl at their wedding."

"Fine," I said. I marched over to my mom's desk in the kitchen and pulled out her address book. I started flipping through the pages when I stopped in the "C's." CONNER. That was it. Of course. Why was I wasting time on this nobody bride in my living room when there was Amy Conner who was in potential need of a flower girl? Amy Conner was it. Never before has the world seen anyone as glowing, joyous, captivating as Amy Conner. Amy has always been one of those people that's larger than life. To be her flower girl would put all other flower girlships to shame. I walked back into the living room, tapped my mom on the shoulder, and cooly asked for the phone. My mom was a little taken aback, but turned over the portable phone. I hurriedly dialed the phone number for the Conner household. Ring. Ring.

"Hi, may I speak to Amy Conner please?"
Amy picks up the phone.
"Hi Amy, this is Maggie Paino. I was wondering if you have a flower girl for when you get married."
"Well, no, I don't."
"Could I be your flower girl?"
"Sure thing, Maggie."
"Okay, thank you."

I hung up, and walked the phone back into the living room. "Well, it looks like I can't be your flower girl anyway because I'm going to be Amy Conner's flower girl," I informed the out of luck bride.

As I mentioned, Amy has always been larger than life. This trait may have been why I, at the age of 6, overlooked the fact that Amy was around 14 years old when I put in the request to be her flower girl. I patiently waited, year after year, hoping. Seventeen years later, I received a phone call. "Maggie, I'm getting hitched. You still down to be my flower girl?" "Absolutely," I responded.

The day of the wedding, I shared my flower girl position with Amy's adorable goddaughter. We stood outside in the hallway with our baskets of flower petals. I reached into mine, allowing myself to fully capture the moment by immersing my hand amongst the soft petals when a little, scolding voice coming from my co-flower girl pulled me back into reality, saying "It's not time to touch the petals yet! You have to wait until we get out there!" "Uh, duh, I know that!" I responded. As we walked out into the sanctuary and took the turn to head down the aisle, I froze. This was it. My one chance at being a flower girl. I couldn't mess up now. I looked down at my counterpart, and she wasn't moving. I bent down and whispered, "It's our turn, are you ready?" She sort of shook her head no. We took the first step together, me showing her how to toss the flowers down the aisle. When we got down to the front, the groom looked at us and simply said, "Awesome."

Amy's wedding was truly the most beautiful wedding I have ever attended. I don't cry at weddings, but for some reason I couldn't help myself at Amy and Jonathon's. There was such a sweet spirit present at the wedding, and every attendee could sense that God was a part of the couple's relationship. On a more selfish note, I was blown away at how gracious both Amy and Jonathon were willing to allow me to barge in as a 20-something ugly duckling wanting to prove that I was flower girl material when they had a cute and adorable girl easily accessible. I'm so blessed to have people like Amy and Jonathon in my life!

On a closing note, I looked at the flower petal baskets for both me and my co-flower girl after the wedding and I definitely utilized my petals more efficiently than she did. Let's just say that if I wouldn't have been a flower girl, Amy would've had zero petals ushering her brideship down the aisle.