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Keeping connections: 'The family that plays together, stays together'

Abigail Johnson Donohoo
September 25, 2013
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It’s one thing to talk about work-life balance; it’s another thing to actually find ways to achieve it. Keeping personal lives rich and maintaining connections with family and friends can be challenging, but those who’ve employed creative means to do so say it eases pressures often felt in a time-consuming profession like the practice of law.

Lake escape

DavisWendy4-15col.jpg Judge Wendy Davis of Allen Superior Court (second from right) enjoys time with her family at Lake Wawasee. (Submitted photo)

Allen Superior Judge Wendy Davis and her family found their outlet in a lake house on Lake Wawasee in Kosciusko County. Summer weekends, she and her husband and three kids – ages 16, 13, and 8 – head up to the lake to play on the water and enjoy one another’s company. “It’s fun because the five of us can do it together,” she said.

The summer schedule requires some scheduling finesse on Davis’ part. She and her colleagues rotate on-call warrant duty. In summer months, she said she takes weeknights, and her colleagues take most weekends.

The lake house is actually her parents’ place, so Davis’

brothers and their families are also often there through the course of the summer. Not only does the lake house give the family a chance to have fun together, but Davis said it has also served as a backdrop to have great conversations with her kids and their friends.

“It’s a great time to reconnect as a family,” she said. “We spend time singing, laughing and encouraging each other as we learn new tricks.”

The benefits to her family are enormous, she says. “You’ve gotta find ways to get back to your family and find out what’s important. If you don’t have good relationships with your family you don’t have anything. That security of spending time with their family, I think it gives our kids a lot of security in themselves.”

During the school year, staying in touch as a family can be difficult. “We fight to have a family dinner,” she said. But, she and her husband made the decision to be intentional about taking time all year, and especially in the summer, to build family bonds.

Davis credits her father, who bought the lake house a little over a decade ago, with being a great example to her and her brothers. “He was the role model, not only with business and success, but also with family,” she said.

Father/daughter time

Carmel attorney Rebecca Geyer has found a unique way to connect not only with her own father, retired attorney Richard Gole, but also with other father/daughter attorneys in the Indianapolis area. She and three other women get together with their fathers for a quarterly dinner and spend a few hours chatting on topics ranging from work to family to sports and news.

Geyer said she and her father were family friends with Indianapolis attorneys Jeff Slaughter and Nicole Slaughter Hague. Slaughter knew of other father/daughter attorney pairs, and suggested they all get together for dinner, and the group was born. “We all do different things, and none of us practice together,” Geyer said. “It’s interesting to learn about other peoples’ practices.”

The group chooses different restaurants in which to meet, she said. “It’s a nice way to keep in touch, and enjoy some father/daughter time.”

Gole is the only attorney who no longer lives in the area. After retiring he moved to Florida, and they try to schedule dinners around his visits.

Playing the ponies

Fort Wayne attorney Stan Rosenblatt said he tapped into a long-time interest to find a new way to connect with his sons: harness racing. “I grew up in Evansville, right across from a thoroughbred racetrack,” he said. “I used to spend a lot of time at the track and enjoyed it and became a horse racing fan.”

An attorney friend of his was involved in standard bred horse racing, and he encouraged Rosenblatt to get involved. Rosenblatt said the suggestion came at a good time. “As my kids got older, and as they got into high school, there was not as much interaction,” he said. “I was looking for something to open up communication and give us other things to talk about than ‘how is school?’”

Papageorge_2-15col.jpg Taft attorney John Pagageorge and his daughter, Mia, participated in a 406-mile, week-long bike ride across Iowa this summer.(Submitted photo)

So, he got into partnerships with standard bred horses and started racing. The move was a hit with his kids and provided the forum for relationship he’d been hoping for. The two boys would come to the track in Anderson, sometimes alone with their dad and sometimes bringing friends along.

“The hour and a half trip there and back gives you a self-enclosed environment where you can talk and listen,” Rosenblatt said.

This connection has continued through the boys’ transition to college and to the working world.

Not only has it helped maintain relationships with his sons, but Rosenblatt said it is a relaxing getaway for him. “I get away from the office, and I look forward to going down and watching,” he said.

Not heaven, Iowa

For Indianapolis attorney John Papageorge, he and his daughter Mia found a connection this summer cycling across Iowa. The Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa – commonly known as RAGBRAI, is a seven-day bicycle ride from the Missouri River to the Mississippi River, and draws thousands of participants each year. Papageorge, an avid cyclist, and 13-year-old Mia decided over the winter to do the 406-mile trip this summer.

Mia started riding with her dad on occasion when she was about 8 years old, and their excursions gradually grew to longer and longer rides. Mia has been a competitive swimmer for about four years and wanted a break from that, so the two decided to train for and participate in the RAGBRAI.

Papageorge said he started cycling 10 years ago. “It’s the only time I don’t have my phone ringing – I mean, it rings but I don’t answer it,” he said. “I’m sort of away from the legal world, from the stress of all that, and I’m usually by myself on my bike.”

Papageorge said he got lucky in that his daughter also enjoys cycling – it provides an outlet for her competitive, goal-oriented personality, while at the same time giving the two of them a point of common interest.

Finding an outlet

Loretta Oleksy, a case manager with the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, said it is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day pressures of life and forget that we need to take care of ourselves and our relationships.

The legal profession doesn’t always encourage that sort of personal engagement, Oleksy said. “I love to hear that lawyers are getting out there and finding ways to stay connected.”

There are many, many different ways families can grow together. In her own family, Oleksy said they have found success with reading a book together as a family and discussing it, chapter by chapter. That face-to-face time is essential, especially in a time when electronic communication is so easy.

With a very busy family, Oleksy said scheduling time on a calendar might be helpful, even though it seems less-than-spontaneous. “Say, ‘this is our sacred time, and we don’t schedule things over this,’” she advised.

A big part of maintaining overall health is developing and maintaining quality personal relationships. Oleksy said people with strong social connections have fewer health-related problems, lower risk of mental illness, faster recover from trauma and illness, and a host of other benefits. And, overall, she said, “People are happier when they are with other people than when they are alone.”•
 

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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