Over the past few months, I’ve really enjoyed getting to see who’s behind those miniature pictures next to the comments on Jill’s blog. I feel privileged to be able to have the same opportunity to show you there is more to me than red glasses and a “You’re kidding, right?” facial expression. Thanks, Jill!
Living in a house named Dragonroost with my beloved spouse of almost 37 years, I spend most of the work day practicing Family Law. You know – divorce, custody, child support, etc. About 20% of my practice is representing children whose parents are going through divorce or custody disputes. It’s a world that has touched most of us in one way or another. While there are often rainy days in that world, there’s a lot of positive work to be done and, as you can imagine, it is rife with blog fodder!
As if the day job’s not enough of that stuff, I’m an adjunct professor teaching Family Law at a law school in Oklahoma City. I also authored a book for attorneys on the subject. And that is why, when reading for pleasure, I most often retreat into fast-paced thrillers and suspense novels that allow total escapism.
My writing life began at an early age with reams of bad poems, angsty essays, and dramatic diary entries that kept my mother on her toes for years (I thought the woman was psychic!). I always felt like I was ‘suppose’ to write, but squelched the notion as I dealt with the heavy reading and writing requirements of my profession. Until about eight years ago. That’s when I started going to writing conferences for the sole purpose of doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing. I learned, grew, met like-minded people and got motivated.
But I disdained social media. I thought blogs were on-line diaries. Hearing about people tweeting each other made me giggle like a 5th grader hearing the word ‘penis.’ And Facebook entries were things I used as evidence in custody battles.
Finally, upon hearing for the 193rd time that a writer can’t make it today without having a social media presence, I bit the bullet. I signed up for Facebook December 2012 and was delighted to learn that it could be used for other things besides making a public ass out of oneself. By this time I knew that blogs could be a wonderful way to communicate and, having a passion for talking about how NOT to get divorced, I started the ShelHarrington.com blog. After a year of enjoying the benefits of getting out info, getting in helpful feedback, and connecting with other bloggers and readers, my best friend and I started another blog to stay connected from our respective states and to poke fun at where we are in life. It’s called Fat-Bottom-Fifties Get Fierce. While you don’t have to be over 50 or have a fat bottom to hang out with us there, a sense of humor is mandatory. Although I don’t care who knows I co-author it, my name is nowhere to be seen on the site. It is my assumption that when potential clients Google my name they would prefer to see references to what a fierce attorney I am rather than references to my age and body type.
Taking on Twitter is on my to-do list. I plan to get right on that. As soon as I can say “tweet me” with a straight face.
And now for the Q and A portion of our program.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Two events tie for that distinction. First, early into my marriage, my husband and I moved from suburbia – a Michigan world where we had spent our entire lives surrounded by family and friends – to the alien land of Oklahoma where we knew no one and worked opposite shifts because we only had one car. My first week in Oklahoma I heard “I’m Proud to be an Okie from Miscogee” about 32 times, experienced the horror of a half-mile wide tornado coming toward our apartment with no idea where to take shelter, and had to deal with a surprise visit from a nude Peeping Tom. [When the police questioned me regarding the latter incident, I explained that he was so close to my window that I could only see him from chest to knees. They asked for a description. Really? I again explained the limited portion of him that I had seen. When they asked the same question for a third time, in frustration I snapped: "Apparently he was brunette with naturally curly hair." Who knew a cop could turn so red??] Months later, in an attempt to alleviate the saturating loneliness, I looked through the phone book and found a person with my unusual maiden name, called him up and asked if he had relatives on the east coast. The surprised responder said he thought so. It was a short conversation.
The second event was being diagnosed last year with invasive lobular breast cancer. While there were some emotional and physical hurdles to jump, the most difficult part of that situation was seeing the pain in the eyes of those who loved me and knew they couldn’t fix it for me, and knowing I couldn’t fix that for them.
Both events were filled with blessings, lessons learned, amazing people, enhanced faith, incredible growth and positive outcomes. I wouldn’t have chosen either. Nor would I change anything.
If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?
Picking one of anything isn’t my strong suit. I would love to hang out with Barbara Bush, Jimmy Carter, Pope Francis, and Ted Koppel. Not because of religion or politics, but in spite of them. When I analyzed my choices, I realized the common denominators were that each comes across as a straight-shooter, humble, compassionate, authentic and has a broad-world view because of their life experiences that I am fascinated by. I listened to books on tape by Jimmy Carter and Barbara Bush that they read themselves. When they were over, especially with regard to Barb’s (as I came to think of her), I was saddened that my new friend would not be driving to work with me anymore.
What do you miss most about being a kid?
The certainty that adults are good, right, and know everything. What a rude awakening that was to find out how human they all were. And what jerks some of them were.
I also miss how big everything was. For instance, when we would visit New Bedford, Massachusetts as kids, one whole day would be devoted to going over to the “French side” of town to visit my mother’s relatives, then over to the “Portuguese side” of town to see my father’s relatives. We stayed a half-hour or so and drove all the way to the next stop for another half hour, covering six or seven relatives on a good day. Visiting as an adult, I was appalled how everything had shrunk. Apparently everyone lives within blocks of each other. And their houses had gotten smaller, too.
What do you think the greatest invention has been?
Hay balers. For round bales. Seeing a field full of randomly placed hayrolls absolutely makes my day. Hayrolls bathed in sunlight, hayrolls shrouded in morning haze, hayrolls sillouetted against a sunset streaked sky . . . I am ridiculously smitten with hayrolls. And I’m pretty sure I can be heard for miles around at the end of the season doing one of those slow-motion “nooooooooooooooooooo” wails as the hayrolls start to form lines in preparation for being sold, moved, or winterized in white plastic jackets like jumbo marshmallows.
The ‘cut and paste’ feature on a word processor is a close second.
If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
Zip off witty retorts that would knock people’s socks off in the moment instead of receiving the brilliant insight after the phone has been hung up, the person has walked away, or the party is over.
Thank you so much for participating in the spotlight, Shel. You were great…as I knew you would be! I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Up next week it’s Yolanda McAdam.