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Life Comes at You Fast (Part II)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 25, 2015 in The After-3L Life

You could probably guess from the “(Part I)” atop the last entry that the financial consequences of driving a 13-year-old car aren’t the only source of life-related drama over the past however-many months.

My family is also a mess.1

  • Sister of TDot is back in a mental institution. She apparently went voluntarily this time around, which is a switch from her past visits. I’m told schizoaffective disorder is the official diagnosis — basically a combination of schizophrenia and bipolarism — but the particular reasons for her commitment don’t really matter; she gets committed, gets medicated, convinces doctors to release her, immediately stops taking meds, and the cycle of violence and craziness repeats until she’s committed again.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but I do know something needs to change or she needs to be cut loose from the rest of the family. Just because she’s not responsible for her mental illness doesn’t mean she’s not responsible for going off her meds knowing what the end result will be. But my family tolerates it because (this is the actual response I get) “what are we supposed to do, let her die?” Like the thousands upon thousands of Americans living reasonably normal lives despite mental health issues are incapable of surviving…

  • My mom is (theoretically at least) finally waking up. I’ve obliquely hinted in past entries that I’d had some personal experiences growing up when it came to domestic violence. Evidently things have gotten totally out of control as the situation with my sister has deteriorated.

    Mom has been talking about leaving since before I left for NC State — the first time — and I missed several events my 3L year while pacing the hallway listening to her on the phone as she gave me every excuse under the sun for why she just couldn’t get up and start over.2 And it’s been a once-every-couple-months conversation in the years since I graduated. But she started a GoFundMe page seeking help, which at least means she’s more-seriously thinking about dealing with things than before.3

    I love both of my parents, but their current environment is toxic as f*ck and they both need to start acting like adults. For better or worse, that likely means splitting up.

  • Nan is not doing well :( As callous as it probably sounds as you read it on screen, my heart hurts moreso from that than all the (avoidable) drama with my parents and sister. There have been various hints here and there over the years — her handwriting had gotten steadily worse when she sent birthday cards, for a brief period of time she’d lost a lot of her hair4 — but it didn’t really sink in until I went home to see Nan and Pops for Easter.

    Some of the handrails added to Nan's & Pops's house

    Some of the handrails added to Nan’s & Pops’s house

    I usually try to go up 3-4x a year and had just been there for Christmas a few months prior, but when I arrived this most-recent trip I noticed there was a handrail added to the step up from the garage. And another running the length of the hallway. And a quartet of them in the bathroom. Turns out she’s had progressive trouble walking without assistance, had fallen at least once, and needs these to make sure she can move around on her own. Pops also bought a pair of short-wave walkie talkies in case she needed him while he was out in the garage.

    The doctors say she needs her thyroid taken out. And then they had to scuttle the operation because of an anomaly in the pre-operation angiogram. A trip to the cardiologist revealed total blockage in one coronary artery and 60% blockage in another. So meds were prescribed for that and now we wait at some point for another trip to the original people to work on the thyroid. It’s a mess.

    Now trust me y’all, I do realize I have little real reason to be upset. Nan’s mentally still in good spirits. I think even she would agree that she’s lived a long life.5 Her mentality towards old age and death is where I largely picked up mine (e.g. she refuses to take the aforementioned medications because they make her feel “yucky” afterwards. “What’s the point of getting older if I’m going to be miserable?” and all). And plenty of friends at younger ages than me don’t have grandparents around anymore — while mine have seen me graduate high school, college, law school, and become more-or-less financially self-sufficient.

    But it still sucks. A lot.

The advantage to moving to North Carolina way back in 1998 — being able to escape my family — cuts the other direction when I’m reminded there’s inevitably going to come a day when I’m the only one here. I’m hoping that day is still many years off of course. And I try to deal with it by not thinking about it and pouring myself into my work. It’s just one of those things that weighs on you sometimes, you know?

Anyhow, Part III later this week. Good night y’all!

  1. Déjà vu 2L Spring… []
  2. Never mind that she was talking to someone (me) who had done it. Yeah, you might be broke. Yeah, you may even be homeless. But you’ve gotta start somewhere ffs. []
  3. She also sent me a text message apologizing for being a bad mother. Howtf is a kid supposed to respond to that?? []
  4. Although now it’s back oddly enough. She insists it’s from using coconut oil — and suggested I try it to help with the balding :beatup: []
  5. She turns 75 this year. []

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“Let me tell you a story…” (Part 3 of 9)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 5, 2014 in Background

Most folks I meet don’t believe it when they find out I was once a homeless college dropout.1 I’ve mentioned it occasionally here at law:/dev/null but I generally don’t talk about it in person — it’s not exactly an uplifting topic! :beatup:

Well of course that ended up being one of the topics of discussion during my interview with the N.C. State Libraries as part of their Student Leadership Initiative (links to Part 1 and Part 2 are below).

We also chat about me helping to shepherd a few items through the Student Senate on my return, including the creation of a campus LGBT Center.2

Enjoy :)

Questions in this Clip:

00:00 – You’ve spoken about the challenges you faced while you were a student, specifically your time as a self-described “college dropout.” Can you talk a little bit about why you dropped out and what factors influenced your decision to return?

08:21 – As a Student Senator, you authored many bills including the Student Media Independence Referendum and a bill that supported the establishment of a campus LGBT center. Can you talk about your decision to support these bills?

I’m off for a weekly poker night with one of my mentors and his friends :D Have a great night y’all!

—===—

From the law:/dev/null Student Leadership Initiative-related archives:

  • Part 1 of 9: The Backstory (05/03/14)
  • Part 2 of 9: In the Beginning… (05/04/14)
  • Part 3 of 9: Dropping Out (05/05/14) [this post]
  • Part 4 of 9: Prelude to Revolution (05/06/14)
  • Part 5 of 9: Party Time in Witherspoon (05/07/14)
  • Part 6 of 9: “Collaboration” (05/08/14)
  • Part 7 of 9: SSP Round Two and UNCASG (05/09/14)
  • Part 8 of 9: Law School (05/10/14)
  • Part 9 of 9: Traffic Tickets (05/11/14)
  1. Case in point: back during law school graduation, after NCCU Chancellor Charlie Nelms offered some kind words about me to the crowd, Top Gun asked me when I got in line for my diploma “Is all that stuff he said true?” in total disbelief. []
  2. Apologies to my friends who just went into shock to discover I was supporting the LGBT community before it was trendy ;) []

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Well that sucks…

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Apr 18, 2012 in The 3L Life

With the end of my last semester of law school (ever!) bearing down and final papers coming due, I’ve started worrying about…

…my grades. :surprised:

Now before I get accused of being a flip-flopper or hypocrite after penning entries like “Your 1L Grades Don’t Matter,” let me explain. I stand by my argument that law school grades are irrelevant; I’ve seen enough people with GPAs lower than mine to be convinced legal employment is largely a game of networking and not being a prick, with jobs going to socially adept people who outwork their competitors regardless of artificial scholastic achievement.1 My 1L grades were sufficiently low that graduating with academic honors was always a stretch, so graduating without them hasn’t been a big deal to me.

My family sees things a smidge differently though :beatup:

Nan has been pushing me to drop the extracurricular stuff and focus on my grades for years now. And my mom still has a tendency to bring up National Honor Society inductions in high school — 15+ years ago! — when I needed a 3.5 GPA for admission and only had a 3.492.2 Now that law school is my “last hurrah” academically, and especially with my GPA so close to the cum laude borderline (currently at a 2.934 on NCCU Law‘s strict-C curve), I’m basically facing the either-or dilemma of graduating with honors or… giving my mom yet another story with which to embarrass me in front of people decades from now.

You can guess which option I prefer ;)

I need a 3.667 semester GPA3 in order to reach a 3.004. One-half of one letter grade below that threshold — a single B+ in a sea of A-‘s — and I’d drop down to a 2.996 with all the parental (and grandparental) disappointment that comes with it.

So it was in that spirit I talked to Prof Ks yesterday, explaining my situation and asking for advice on how to gently twist professors’ arms for insight on how to get better grades. I was/am particularly vexed by Arbitration, where the Professor doesn’t seem to be a T. fan.

Not that she’s without justification. We have weekly journal entries to submit based on the readings for class, designed to ensure we’re sufficiently versed in the material to discuss the cases, and not surprisingly I’ve missed 2 this semester.4 We were also supposed to observe one particular arbitration in person, but the day of that arbitration became the day I ended up on the phone all morning with Sallie Mae trying to explain away getting screwed by the Department of Education; I basically stood in the foyer to the courtroom all morning in my suit, missing everything but the verdict, and earning an incredulous look from the Professor when I explained why I wasn’t in the room.

Like I said, she’s not a T. fan. Anyhow, the bulk of our grade is based on a final research paper and in talking with Prof Ks his suggestion was just to ask Prof Arbitration after class how amazing I had to make this paper to snag an A-.

So I did.

And it did not go well…

Favoring the direct non-poker face approach, I just came to her office and asked the question: what can I do to get an A-?

Prof Arbitration’s response: “Oh you’re beyond that.” Her tone of voice made it clear that “beyond that” meant “too low for it to ever happen,” but just in case I misunderstood she made sure to clarify by adding “And what I mean by that is that it’s just not possible.”

Me, to myself: “Well d*mn.”

It definitely put a damper on the rest of the day. Now I’m stuck in this worst-case scenario where I have to go all-out in Arbitration (an elective) to make sure I get at least the B+, and somehow swing an A in one of my other 3 classes.

It’s gonna be a long couple weeks…  :roll:

  1. Or, as Prof Ks aptly put it back during 1L year: “When your competitors are sleeping, you’re hustling. When they’re hustling, you’re hustling harder.” []
  2. No attention paid to the fact I had -0- actual interest in joining NHS, since a good number of the members looked down on folks like me who spent the day playing either basketball, RPGs, or video games. But I digress… []
  3. A-‘s across the board, and what would be my highest GPA ever in law school :beatup: []
  4. Even so, I’m one of only a quintet of students who regularly participates in an often-silent class discussion. I always do the readings, they just typically get done the night before class when I don’t have time to write a journal entry. []

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An insane weekend

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jan 9, 2011 in Unsolicited Commentary

By now I’m guessing all of you have heard about the horrific massacre that happened yesterday in Tuscon, Arizona. I was oblivious to what was going on until the NCSU-WFU basketball game I was watching got interrupted for a news alert.

The rush to be wrong first was nothing short of disgusting. Within minutes of me updating my Facebook status to express my bewilderment, wondering aloud if Mexican drug cartels were involved — what I thought was a rational question given Arizona’s immigration debates and Tuscon only being 60 miles from the border — a colleague felt the urge to explain that it was “a teabagger hit,” a refrain repeated across Twitter, Facebook and the media as shameless liberals seized on the tragedy moments after it happened to score political points and attack people they don’t like (while apparently forgetting they were often the exact same folks urging people not to jump to conclusions about the Ft. Hood terrorist attack last year).

Then someone somewhere stumbled across the psycho’s YouTube page and discovered he was a flag-burning atheist who listed among his favorite books Mein Kampf and The Communist Manifesto, not exactly common character traits and reading materials among the tea party set or the broader conservative/Republican bloc. Turns out that the guy is an utter fruitcake (as most rational people assumed) who defies political pigeonholing.

As one person commented on Twitter, “[b]oth sides miss the hypocrisy of their political gamesmanship in tying a mentally ill person to the other aisle’s politics.”

But the disgraceful hypocrisy of the political discourse created by the very people whining about the political discourse isn’t the reason I bring up that tragedy, so that’s all I’m gonna say on that particular aspect of it.

Later that same day, I found out that the Pennsylvania police discovered Sister of TDot wandering along the side of a highway. When they asked what in God’s name she was doing, she explained that everything in the house (that she shares with my parents) was radioactive and making her sick. She was committed to a psychiatric institution — but not before having thrown away everything in the house while my parents were out of town, from family photos and kitchen utensils all the way down to the food in the refrigerator.

Things can always be replaced and I’m thankful no one was physically hurt. I come from a family of limited means (hence why I had to drop out of college back in 2000) so I’m not sure what my parents are going to do, but they and my sister are all alive.

The bigger issue is that things shouldn’t have been allowed to get that far. My sister’s mental condition has been steadily deteriorating over at least the last 10 years. She’s intentionally broken things around the house. She’s threatened to kill my mother. She’s rummaged through my mom’s purse when mom was in surgery, reading her text messages in search of conspiracies while taking money to buy drugs. But while other family members (myself included) pointed out that things weren’t right, my parents and my brother have either been in denial or just unwilling to take serious action — Sister of TDot was involuntarily committed once before (after the death threat if memory serves me correctly), but because she’s over 18 she successfully petitioned to be released and within the week was off her meds and back living with my parents.

Now it’s déjà vu all over again, and I really don’t know what to think or feel about the situation.

We live in an overly-medicated society focused on avoiding personal responsibility at all costs, one where psychiatrists and doctors have developed a syndrome for almost every vice. Do poorly on a test? You must have ADHD. Drowning in credit card debt? You’re a compulsive shopaholic. Can’t keep your marriage vows and f*cking anything with two breasts and a vagina? Gotta be a sex addiction.

But when it comes to serious mental illness, the stuff that can get someone killed — schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression and so on — it seems folks are content ignoring it or making excuses for it or doing the bare minimum possible to avoid legal liability without actually fixing the problem. Just scroll back to that AZ shooter story for an example: the would-be assassin’s community college had him thrown out because he was mentally ill and the armed services rejected him for the same reason, yet no one reported him to any mental health authority to get help… and now at least a half-dozen people (including a 9-year-old girl) are dead because of it.

I’m sorry for the downbeat and dour entry tonight y’all, I’m just in a really despondent and “ugh” mood right now. If you think you or a loved one might have a mental illness, please talk to someone about it and try to get help before something happens and it’s too late.

And I’ll have something more chipper tomorrow, I promise :)

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Best. Vacation. Evah.

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Dec 31, 2010 in Randomness

Back in July, I took my first bona fide vacation in ages when 雅雅 and I went to visit Nan and Pops for Independence Day and took a roadtrip through the Outer Banks of North Carolina on the way back.

This past week was so much better! :D

First, my employer1 closed down the office on both Thursday and Friday for Christmas. I don’t get paid time off or anything when they’re closed, but it did let me leave out of here on Wednesday night and spend more time with family.

Speaking of family, those of you who were readers back during Father’s Day or who are friends with me on Facebook might recall that it had been an incredibly long time since I last saw Son of TDot.2 Well at some point recently he asked his mom about who I was and if he could see me, so she arranged for the three of us to have lunch on Thursday :surprised:

We met up at the food court of a local mall for what was probably one of the most nervous moments I’ve had ever in my life. It was amusing as I walked up because his mom was standing with her back to the direction I was coming from with Son of TDot facing my way. He saw me from about 75ish feet away and gave a look like “This guy looks oddly familiar”… and I basically gave him the same look, because I thought it was him but hadn’t seen him in so long I wasn’t sure :beatup:

It’s not surprising to share similarities with your own offspring, but some of it still took me by surprise. His hair was cut short like mine3 and he looks a lot like I did when I was 12. We ended up independently ordering the same thing for lunch: a 10-piece chicken nugget meal from McDonald’s with a Sprite for the drink. His favorite subjects in school were the same as mine (science and history). He loves playing with Legos (I’ve still got a box of mine in the closet). He also loves RPGs, specifically Kingdom Hearts — a spinoff of the Final Fantasy series I play myself, so a good chunk of lunch was spent with the two of us talking video games :D

He also has allergies in the winter like I do, to the point where he keeps tissues in his jacket pocket. The look on his face was priceless when I pulled out my own batch of tissues from my coat pocket too :lol:

I know he was nervous and I suspect his mom was nervous (and Lord knows I was nervous too), but all in all it was pretty awesome and I’m hopeful that it was the first meeting of many more in the future :)

The snow that was predicted (top) and what fell (bottom)

The next day was Christmas Eve, which is when the family gathers at Nan and Pops’ house to exchange presents with each other. If you count the various denominations of currency/gift cards as one gift, 50% of my Christmas presents were toothbrushes (an electric one and a travel one). It’s almost like my family was trying to tell me something…

Everyone got along this year, which is a switch from years past when there’s usually a bunch of arguing.4 And I enjoyed being able to finally afford presents for everyone in the family — even if it meant they all got NCCU Law paraphernalia :angel:

Then of course there was Christmas, my 3rd favorite holiday of the year after Independence Day and Thanksgiving :) Dinner was tasty and it was fun getting to hang out with the family.

Y’all already read about Snowmageddon 2010, my road trip back to Durham. The photo on the right shows the difference between what was forecast when I left for Virginia Beach and what had I actually fallen by the time I was driving home.  The red dots respectively show Nan and Pops’ house in Virginia Beach and my apartment here in Durham.

It was a bit of a white-knuckle experience but in hindsight it was pretty cool :D

Our view from the hotel room

雅雅 and I then headed down to Orlando the next morning for the Champs Sports Bowl, where we got totally spoiled by Nan using her frequent traveler points to reserve a hotel room for us at the Grand Bohemian in downtown Orlando.5 We were automatically upgraded to the “concierge level” on the top floor because of it, which included among other perks a VIP lounge with its own bar just steps from our door B-)

The photo shows part of what I woke up to on Tuesday morning :eek:

In a fitting dose of irony, however, our trip to Orlando happened to be accompanied by near-record low temperatures for Florida :beatup: We had to bundle up as we were exploring downtown, and had to double-bundle up before heading to the stadium.

But I think one of the coolest aspects of the trip (aside from the weather) was being able to connect with dozens of friends from undergrad, all of us in a different city of a different state, traveling from across the country to reunite in support of our alma mater. It was a fun realization :)

Then of course there was the game itself, my very first bowl game that I attended in person :D

My new red NC State hat!

I upgraded my black N.C. State hat that I’ve had since 2000 with a new red edition to help add to the red shading of the arena — which complemented the shading of the post-game crowd after the Wolfpack followed up with a huge 23-7 win! :spin:

It was definitely a lot of driving over the past week, but it was well worth it! It’s been an amazing year, and I’m incredibly blessed to have an opportunity to end it the way I have.

Now I’m recharged and ready for the Spring semester to get underway :)

Hope all of you had equally amazing vacations, and have a fun and festive New Year’s Eve! :D

  1. Do you call them employers for internships? []
  2. 8 years, 5 months, 7 days to be precise. []
  3. Voluntarily in his case, disguising the fact I’m going bald in mine :beatup: []
  4. My family puts the “fun” in “dysfunctional” ;) []
  5. She said it was repayment for me winning a trip for 2 to Atlantic City NJ during an elementary school fundraiser when I was in the 5th grade :surprised: []

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Happy Father’s Day!

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on Jun 20, 2010 in Randomness

Not sure if we have any fathers who read law:/dev/null, but if there are a happy Father’s Day to you! :)

This is a weird holiday for me, has been for awhile. I’m a father in the definitional sense — Son of TDot turns 12 years old next month — and because of that some of my friends will send me text messages or give me a call with well wishes. But I also don’t play any meaningful role in his life1 so today isn’t really meant for people like me.

It does remind me, though, how traditional the “nontraditional” has gotten. I’ve never met my biological father, and was adopted by my dad when my parents got married… but spent a majority of my life growing up living with Nan & Pops. Even though Son of TDot knows who I am in an abstract way, he was adopted when his mom got married too. I know a number of colleagues with two fathers, both in the “my mom got divorced and remarried” sense and the “my parents are gay” sense. I know a larger number with no father in the picture at all, raised by single moms filling both the mother and father roles. And I know folks who were/are foster children, and others raised by their grandparents. The list goes on.

It’s those folks who are supposed to get recognized today. So if you’re a father, a grandfather, a stepfather, an adoptive father, a single mom filling in as a father, or anyone else holding that role in a family, I hope you have a very happy Father’s Day! :D

And to the rest of you, have a great night :)

  1. I’ll spare you the details and attendant documentation; suffice to say I acceded to what I was told would be best for him despite regretting doing so most of the 10 years since. []

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Happy Mother’s Day! :)

Posted by T. Greg Doucette on May 9, 2010 in Randomness

To any of the mothers out there who happen to swing by law:/dev/null — including a number of fellow bloggers — I wanted to officially wish all of you a happy Mother’s Day! :D

My mom dropped out of college to raise me, and Nan has probably influenced who I am today more so than anyone else I’ve ever met. I’m incredibly thankful for them both :) I can only imagine how totally different life would have turned out had I grown up around anyone else…

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