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Endless Joy

I think the hardest thing about life is that we can’t control any of it. We don’t get to decide when we are tested in life or when we are rewarded. We don’t get to prepare for a specific moment. So we are left with two choices. We can put our faith in God, and know that it doesn’t matter when that specific moment comes and whatever it holds, we are prepared and we will handle it, and we will always be rewarded in the end. Or we can just wait and worry.
The other night I was unwrapping a roll of biscuits. I peeled back the paper carefully, anticipating the sudden small explosion to happen any second. All the paper peeled off, and…. nothing. The can was still intact. So I gently tapped it on the side of the counter. Nothing. The can wasn’t opening. I pressed with all my might on the seal, totally ready for the jolt of anxiety that comes when that can violently bursts open… and nothing. I decided I should stab it with a butter knife to break the seal. As I opened the silverware drawer to find the weapon I needed, BANG!!!! The can burst open out of nowhere! My heart jumped at the noise as if it were a gun going off in the kitchen. I was not ready for it, at all! I threw the can of biscuits to the ground and spun, ready to take action against whatever threat was in my kitchen. Then I realized that it was the can of biscuits, and there at my feet was a pile of sticky dough ooozing through the spiral opening in the cardboard tube.
Natalie burst into laughter! We both started laughing. And despite the fact that my heart was still racing from the scare, I had so much joy in hearing Natalie’s deep, belly rolling laughter that I didn’t mind picking up the dough and seeing if there were still a few biscuits I could salvage.
( – don’t judge; 5 second rule, yo!)
We can try, and try, and wait and wait, and be ready and on guard, but then still, out of nowhere, something comes at us that we weren’t expecting, at all. Forrest Gump said life is like a box of chocolates, but I think life is more like a can of biscuits. God is unwrapping things in our lives all the time and we have no idea when the container will finally bust. We might be watching, patiently (or impatiently) waiting, feeling totally prepared, and then still, seemingly out of nowhere God will toss a clump of raw dough at us and expect us to do something with it.
But he isn’t expecting us to do it alone. He has gifted us with bold courage, to stand in the kitchen with that can of biscuits, to go at it with weapons if we have to, knowing that it will scare us when we finally beat it. He has empowered us with fearless love, so that despite the scare we can pick up the pieces and brush them off when they hit the floor, because they are all a gift from God. And the sweet taste of fresh baked carbs around a table with your laughing loved ones, is a reward worth the fight. That is endless joy.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3

I have a secret. Don’t worry, it’s not headlice. 

Today Mel Robbins, the author of a life changing book called the 5 Second Rule, (she is also an ex-lawyer which is what I aspire to be!!) revealed an embarassing secret on her facebook page. She has lice. Her selfie with a box of NIX was shared with 103,000 people! The point she made, was that somebody had headlice and kept it a secret. Silently infecting others along the way, and keeping secrets from people is never fair.

In my case, my secret won’t hurt anyone and it is far from embarassing. Vulnerable maybe, but not at all embarassing.

It isn’t even really a secret. It’s just something I have been working on in secret. I guess that’s a little different. But I don’t think it’s fair to keep it hidden.

I am hand writing the Bible from begining to end. I am halfway through Exodus Chapter 36 of a 1944 printing of the King James bible.

I was going to keep it private for a number of reasons.

First, it’s a big commitment. It would have been cool to finish and have a big reveal when, and if, I got to the end. Like four years from now. I liked that idea. I also was afraid to announce and this then flake out and never finish.

Second, for some reason, I have always been very quiet about my faith, and this project was really just between me and god. Quiet, meaning insecure.
Third, I didn’t want to share the project. I wanted it to be all mine. I didn’t even share it with my husband for a few weeks. I intended to learn God inside-out and not share him with anyone.

But fourth, and ultimately the biggest reason, I was afraid of what people would think. Some of my thoughts, even as writing this were:

“Who am I to talk about anything with the bible?”

“What if people think I am trying to be better at the Bible than them?”

“I don’t have fancy notebooks and I got sloppy with my handwriting. I shouldn’t show this to anyone”

“People will think I am just being flashy or showing off.”

I kept this secret because I have a unique relationship with God that I never talk about. My past is more colorful than many people realize and my struggles are a lot harder than I ever make them out to be, but the one constant in my life has always been God.

I have a faith that guides me daily and I never say much about it. I take way too much credit for the good times in my life, and I show way too much independence during the bad times. I never respond to prayer request posts, I never make them myself, I rarely post scripture, even less so do I quote it.

I got this idea because I wanted to hand write the Michigan Court Rules. Writing slows me down, prevents me from mindlessly scrolling through pages, doesn’t let me skip over the boring parts, and gives me an opportunity to think as I take in the information. Also, I remember things I write down better, so it’s easier to cross reference ideas. I thought that would make me the best lawyer in Michigan real quick. Only, I hate being a lawyer, so why would I want to be the best one?

I don’t know why, but it just struck me that there was another, better book of law out there that I should understand first.

And then I thought, if someone sees me doing this that they might want to do it too. So it’s worth sharing.

It’s rude to keep secrets.

In Faith and Out of Control with ADHD

ADHD was whole days in bed; my mind racing with hope, filled with new ideas and concepts for the future but constantly too distracted to implement anything. 

ADHD was whole days in bed; my heart pounding with fear, tourmented by the threats of untied lose ends, forgotten details, and missed deadlines but constantly too distracted to fix anything.

ADHD was whole days in bed; my stomach filled with dispair, knowing that the past and the present will continually look the same if I don’t get out of this place, but constantly too distracted to move.

ADHD wasn’t always like this. 

I mean, I was always distracted, anxious, and slightly depressed. I knew those things existed in me without having a diagnosis. I had all the classic associated symptoms too. Like adolescent smoking, alcohol, and drug use. Skipping classes. Not doing homework. I was a silent rebel, always doing troublesome things but never getting in trouble for them. 

ADHD and I were good. I knew that the distraction made me creative. The anxiety made me productive. The depression made me compassionate and deep. I knew that those were good things. The authority issues and risk-taking of rebellion made me independent and confident. 

ADHD was like my secret weapon. It made me the amazing, multi-talented, multi-passionate, multi-potentialite that I was. 

But after I got married, had Natalie, and finished law school (all in the same year), something changed. 

Suddenly, what used to be my source of strength turned into a source of weakness. 

The creativity, productivity, compassion; it became embarassment, failure, negative self-talk, guilt, shame, fear, and brokenness. It all told me I wasn’t good enough and that I didn’t deserve to be great. 

The independence and confidence became traits that told me I was different, I didn’t fit in, I would never make it to great because I would always be the scared, sad, distracted adolescent who couldn’t meet deadlines, follow rules, or show up on time to anything. A wife, mom, and lawyer?! As if. 

ADHD became whole days in bed. It became distraction, depression, anxiety. 

ADHD became an excuse to move away from great. It became a dark shadow and I was losing the battle over control with it.  

ADHD became a struggle. And I had to find the bold courage to admit it was hurting me and I had to ask for help.

ADHD became a diagnosis. And I had to find the fearless love to accept it and I had to let it become a part of me.

ADHD became a conquest. And I had to find the endless joy to live with it in faith and out of control, and I had to share that with others. 

ADHD still waits in the shadows for me, sneaking in as depression when it sees progress, triggering anxiety when it notices hustle, flaring up with distraction when it feels growth. 

But when ADHD sees faith it becomes all the good things. Creative, productive, compassionate, independent, and confident. As long as I stay in faith and out of control, ADHD and I are good. 

The truth about why I went rogue in my law firm.

The law practice. Old men, suits, cigars, burbon. Fancy watches. Black robes, manilla folders, mahogany desks. Wooden gavels, gold name plates. Leather bound books all in a row. Fat bank accounts and fatter bellies. We all have an image of what a day in the life of a lawyer looks like. At it’s core though, it is prestige, power, and productivity. 

A year ago, I was a real estate attorney with my own law firm. I was also a real estate agent in a company that employed the highest ranked salespeople of multi-family and investment property agents in Michigan. I was on the board of directors for the local rental property owners association. I was also on the board of directors for one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the area. I was privy to conversations about some of the most coveted neighborhood development plans going on at the time. I was starting to feed my interest in legislation and I was close to meeting some of Michigan’s most successful lobbyists and representatives in the real estate sector.

I had authority, expertise, connections and support. I looked like I was going to be pretty successful. I was in all the right places and there were people who wanted to help me succeed. I was so close to being the picture of “lawyer.” 

But there was this one thing. The burbon drinking, suit wearing, cigar smoking, leatherbound book owning life of a lawyer is just not cut out for me. 

The truth is, I showed up to meetings late and was unprepared. I couldn’t keep my daycare schedule straight and frequently dragged a toddler to board meetings. I had a growing to-do list of un-met obligations and dis-honored promises, and failed daily at the simple tasks normal people can easily be successful with. 

I had trouble remembering where my car keys were and I couldn’t find my phone when it was plugged into the charger on my nightstand. One time I drove halfway to court wearing my husband’s flip flops with my suit and had to turn around and go back home to change. 

Double bookings were a constant problem, small details were repeatedly overlooked, phone calls went unreturned, deadlines slipped by, and it cost me a fortune in terms of money, time, and credibility. 

Simple life skills like showering and putting socks on were hard some days, let alone getting a suit to the dry cleaners. 

I was a frazzled, rumpled, wrinkled mess of chaos, anxiety, depression, and overhwelm. 

The truth about why I went rogue is ADHD. It always shows up where my progress exists and completely destroys my potential. It mimics depression and anxiety, then actually tags them into the race along side itself.  

It starts with small things. A sink full of dirty dishes, a morning of over sleeping, a car with an empty gas tank. It just chips away at me and before I know it there are big things on the table that are mixed in, like forgetting to pay my bar dues. (So I can actually be a lawyer. It’s kind of central to my whole thing I have going on. But, whatevs.) Suddenly, I am laying in bed, all day, frozen, failing, and totally unable to move forward. Spending whole days in bed. Embarassed. Exhausted. Hopeless. For a time I was even highly medicated.  

My brain just doesn’t fit into the box of traditional law. It doesn’t fit into the box of traditional anything, really. I tried. 

The truth is, no matter what I do, I will always have trouble being on time because my brain doesn’t process clocks like other people. I will always struggle meeting deadlines because I don’t see consequences until it’s too late. I will always lose interest in things before I finish them because my attention will change. I will always speak out of turn in court because I have no filters. Traditional law and I just don’t mix.

The truth is, I will spend the rest of my life embarassed, exhausted, and hopeless if I keep trying to change these things about myself. 

I will never fit into a world that was literally not cut out for me. 

So I went rogue. I gave up the fight against ADHD and decided to give into it instead. I am making a life for myself and my family that encompasses joy instead of stress. Going rogue is the only way to do it. 

I will never be a gray haired old man in a suit with a fancy watch, so I threw away the career path that led there, and I went rogue. 

No more deadlines, no more meetings, no more suits. No more shoes if I don’t feel like it. 

Will being a rogue lawyer work? Maybe not. But it has a lot more potential than the alternative. 

I am learning who I am, and what I value, and leaning into that rather than fighting it. I am going rogue. I am embracing the adhd, multi-passionate, chaotic, frazzled mess that I am as a person and turning my priority into joy rather than conformity. 

The truth is, the practice of law will be fine without another fake, desperate conformist in the ranks to becoming an old guy in a suit anyways. 

Gone Rogue

It’s the first day of summer!!! I had to take Grandma to the doctor this morning and when I got home I immediately replaced my “going to the doctor clothes” with tiny gym shorts and a tank top. I made a couple sandwiches for us and some shakes, (shameless shakeology plug) and grandma said, “What is left on your to-do list today?” I said, “Oh just a couple hours in the office, a workout video, and a quick client meeting.” SHE WAS SHOCKED!

“You’re going to the office dressed like that??!”

Real quick- I was also shocked, because I thought she knew that my office is in our house, just down the hall. It has been for many months now. Getting old is hell. She says that all the time. Those moments are hard. I haven’t had an office outside the house since last October. But she still thinks I have an office somewhere else.

So I said, “I’m working from home today.” and didn’t call her attention to the fact that I work from home every day. I meet with clients via video chat, and I never never never wear a suit to the office.

As a lawyer, I have basically gone rogue. And here is my new product to prove it! Built in gym shorts and on a shakeology high I made a new product for landlords called “GTFO!”

GTFO? Yup. Get the Forms Online. Nice twist, huh? Basically, they can click on the link to get a flow chart of the eviction process, but as time goes on I will be adding all kinds of landlord tenant helpful information. It’s not quite finished, the free form will just be a cool filler for the next few hours until I complete it, but I am too excited to wait! Check it out here! Let me know what you think!

My mission is to help tenants, actually. But I found out I can help them the best by making better landlords. So my new law firm theme this summer is, Rogue. To deviate from the standard, normal, expected procedure, and to embark on a shockingly alternative path. GTFO is just the beginning! melinda-schmuck-law-pllc

How to find great deals on great books!  

I love reading. I have always loved reading and now that I think back, I am kind of proud of the scope of my hobby.

I devoured every book in our house as a child, including the set of encyclopedias, A-Z. I finished probably all the series in our school library. The ones that come to mind are the Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, Goosebumps, Babysitters Club, and the timeless, Choose Your Own Adventure Books.

Over my lifetime I have read an insane amount of words. Especially when you include those 5 inch thick books I had to read throughout law school.

But all this reading comes with a cost. I could borrow books for free from the library. But, ADHD. I suck at returning library books. I have paid so many late fees! Because, ADHD. I can’t just read one book at a time. And I can’t return them one at a time. Late fees add up exponentially when you have six or seven books out. I’ve racked up enough late fees to fund a library of my own, many times over!

So, I browse the used books sections at local thrift stores, and find AMAZING deals! The used books at thrift stores are sometimes filled with great little treasures like margin notes, personal book-marks, and little random notes and papers that readers had stuffed in them and long ago forgotten. Plus they’re so CHEAP! AND, I often find older, off the mainstream titles, like this less popular book from Dale Carnegie. All of us have read or heard of the book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” But this other title, “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living,” I found at Goodwill. It was in a clearance bin too, so it cost a dime!

It got me thinking about a few things;

First, how many artists create stuff, thinking, “I sure hope I find this sitting in a clearance bin at Goodwill some day?!”

But second, this book, is WAY more valuable in terms of content than his more popular titles. This is truly a gem!

“How to Stop Worrying and Start Living” is an amazing example of how things seem to have changed, but they’ve really stayed the same in the self-help book industry.

The value in this book stands as strong today as it did when it was written, and it is filled with little vintage reminders of 1948 book writing. Like including the addresses of people who he cites in the book.

It is also not only an example of perfect content marketing principles, but if you read between the lines it serves as a template for anyone who wants to write a self-help book and start a self-help empire. And, it is a testament to the fact that not everyone will find your content to be valuable, but one man’s junk, is another man’s treasure.

Finding Dale’s book in a clearance bin at Goodwill and paying pennies for it was one of the most exciting things to happen to me all week!

Self-medicating since preschool.

Blog author, Melinda M. Schmuck, says, “Looking back, I was a textbook case of undiagnosed ADHD in a girl. I had been self-medicating, treating my symptoms with distractions, since pre-school.”

My earliest memory of “hyperfocus” was in grade school. I had grown bored of whatever the lesson was, had completed the worksheets, and was sneaking a book under my desk.

Suddenly I looked up and the whole room was empty. Not a single person was there.

An entire classroom. All the kids. The teacher. The aide. Everyone. They had all gone to lunch. I sat there, alone.

I remember the panic feeling rushing over me. My cheeks burned with embarrassment. How many of the kids must have looked at me as they walked past? Did anyone even try to get my attention? How long had I been sitting there? What should I do now?

Hot, sharp tears of anger welled up in my eyes. I was SO angry at myself.

Why couldn’t I just pay attention? Why couldn’t I just sit like the rest of them? What was wrong with me? How did an entire classroom of people suddenly become invisible to me? I sure wasn’t invisible to them as they all walked past me; the only one who didn’t get up! The girl with the book in her lap. They probably nudged each other and pointed at me. One tear escaped the corner of my eye and ran down my cheek. NO! No no no no! Now I would be the girl who missed lunch then cried??!

I shoved my book into my desk and rushed to the bathroom. I hid there for awhile, until I could hear that the lunch room had emptied and everyone was going outside for recess. I quietly joined them outside. I acted as if nothing had happened. I was so hungry. And I was terrified that I would have to explain myself for missing lunch. I would be in so much trouble. The fear was unbearable all day.

But nobody ever said a word to me. As we lined up and filed back into the classroom I waited for a snicker or a look, but nothing. When we sat down at our desks I expected a trip to the hall with the teacher. I thought maybe my book would be gone. Not a single person said a word, not even the teacher.

I was angry, scared, hungry, and invisible.

The rest of the day dragged on. My stomach rumbled from missing lunch. Every few minutes the thought of the book would pop into my head, causing a knot in my chest, and the burning in my cheeks to return. The thoughts that I was different raced through my head. Not only was I different, I also didn’t fit in or matter. I was alone. It seemed like everyone else had a friend. Where was mine? Where was the person who would have kicked me to get up? Or asked me what I was doing? Or where I was at lunch? Nobody even cared that I was gone. How long could I have gotten away with that? Would anyone notice if I disappeared forever?

As an adult I get it. I was quiet. It was easy for the teacher to pass over me as I sat with my head down, obviously not paying attention, but not interrupting her either. And I was doing well. My grades were great. I wasn’t a problem. I was just doing my own thing, teaching myself. I didn’t need her, and she didn’t need to stop the entire class to screw up her own flow over a quiet kid who was getting better grades than most the class.

It was easy for my friends to walk past me, because they were used to seeing me doing things differently than the other kids. All the kids were used to seeing me sit at my desk, trying to finish one last paragraph, in a totally different book than the class was reading. I always put the book down when I was ready, and made it into the line of people heading to lunch. To them I probably seemed kind of cool. Like a rebel. A silent rebel.

I was a silent rebel. I wasn’t disrespectful, but I did what I wanted. I was impulsive but in a weirdly appropriate and polite way. I wasn’t missed because I wasn’t a person who ever went missing. I was always doing different things. It wasn’t unusual to not see me at lunch. I could have been at a different table, or down in the band room practicing, or in some kind of spelling bee meeting. I was always doing my own things.

To an outsider it looked like I was a high achiever. Independent. Smart. Strong. A kid who pushed past comfort zones and wanted to grow.

On the inside, I was a mess. I needed those constantly changing activities to keep me from going crazy. I wasn’t trying to grow and learn. I wasn’t trying to step outside of any comfort zones. I was trying to distract myself. I was in a hundred different places because I couldn’t tolerate being in just one. I pushed comfort zones because I didn’t know what it felt like to be comfortable. I never felt out of place because I never had an inner place.

In a way, at an early age I was already self-medicating and finding tools and strategies to deal with the insatiable discomfort I felt inside.

I wasn’t drawing attention to myself. I was desperately trying to keep the attention off myself because I couldn’t fathom managing my own attention and that of someone else. I wasn’t talking out of turn, I wasn’t throwing fits and flipping over desks. I wasn’t making fun of my classmates or causing trouble. I was a silent rebel. I did assignments out of order, I read ahead in books, I found little ways to make things novel. I’d start from the end of a spelling test and work it backwards. I joined band, and spelling bees, and reading clubs, and jumped at any other activity that would allow me to physically leave the classroom for a while.

I didn’t so much want to be in the spelling bee or band as much as I just wanted to catch my mind. I was a talented musician because I sat in hyperfocus for hours at a time practicing paradiddles and slow rolls. The rhythm felt good in my brain. I was great at spelling because of all the reading I did. The reading kept my thoughts from racing. The words inside my head that I think or hear, they just kind of float around and I can’t keep them straight. Written words are locked down to a piece of paper. They’re caught. They don’t move. They make sense that way. They’re calm. They’re calming. Words on paper feel so good in my brain.

Looking back, I was a textbook case of undiagnosed ADHD in a girl.

I had been self-medicating by treating my symptoms with distractions, since pre-school.

As my story progressed it took becoming an adult with a baby to finally pull the symptoms to the front where someone noticed them. My jack of all trades, master of none lifestyle wasn’t working anymore.

So what does one do in this situation?

Stop letting your preschool-self medicate you.

ASK FOR HELP!

Then, start a blog, of course.

Do not, under any circumstances do what I did!!

Don’t graduate law school, get married, have a baby, take the bar exam, start a law firm, and become a realtor, and move your 94 year old grandma in with you, all in a span of about two years because you think if you fill up your life it will stop shaking around.

Why shouldn’t you do that?

That is the solution your pre-school self would come up with.

You will find yourself on the verge of a nervous breakdown and finally go to a therapist who will tell you to quit your law firm, and bury the real estate license for awhile.

So what should you do?

First, ask for help!

Then, keep reading books, play some music, huff some essential oils, find a great workout program, eat healthy foods, and do whatever it takes to stay out of the common working population. Read. Write. Write a lot. Read a lot. Just maybe not in a classroom full of people.

Pray a whole lot and understand that yes, you are different. You are wonderfully different. You are a person who was designed to be free and your soul will not stop hurting until you find that freedom. Packing it in tight will not make it feel better.

It kind of sucks. It’s painful. But the methods you have used since preschool to get relief from the pain you feel inside are not going to serve you into adulthood. Trust me. I tried it.