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December 28, 2022

Chair's Column

Strategies and resources for handling the holidays, my family’s Texas Christmas traditions, and kudos for both a fabulous WHS and Managed Care Institute

By Kathy Poppit, King & Spalding LLP, Austin, TX

Following up on my Thanksgiving post, below I have some fun thoughts to share about Christmas traditions and food that my Texan family enjoys. But before that, I want to share my thoughts and some information and resources for coping with potential stresses of the holidays. No matter what holiday you may celebrate this time of year, if any at all, and whether you have friends or family to spend time with, this time of year can be stressful for most and even more for others. For me, some years I am fully engaged in the decorating, the present buying, the cooking, and celebrating the new year. Some years, not so much. This year I am ready to go. My grown sons both checked in to make sure that we are having our traditional Christmas events, including meals and attending the Christmas Eve service. Best present ever!

While these struggles are by no means limited to attorneys, as attorneys, we lead such busy and demanding lives that even attending to matters that might otherwise be fun can seem overwhelming. And then there is the stress of the fact that for those of us who have to record billable hours start over at 0 on January 1!

Just know that if you are feeling stressed or depressed, you are not alone and that the ABA has resources that may be helpful to you. Several studies that revealed high rates of substance use and mental health disorders among law students and lawyers have put the issue of lawyer well-being front and center for the profession. The ABA Lawyer Assistance Programs (LAPs) throughout the country provide confidential services and support to judges, lawyers, and law students facing mental health or substance use issues. The LAP website has many helpful articles and videos on coping with depression, anxiety, substance abuse and panic, and guided meditations on these topics. If you are dealing with any of these situations, please review the website linked above.

My Family’s Traditions for a Texas Festive Season

My family celebrates Christmas and New Year’s but I know that there are many others of you who celebrate other holidays this time of year. Your traditions this time of year may or may not look like mine, but I would love to hear about yours. What are the holidays you celebrate and what are your favorite traditions for them? Tell us! Here are mine:

  • Spend it with family, have a big meal, and go to the Christmas Eve candlelight service. When my sons were young, we attended the morning service where the kids put on a short nativity scene play. One of my favorite memories of this time was when George W. Bush was the Republican nominee. He and his family attended my sweet Methodist church for years and when he was the nominee, he received Secret Service protection. This meant that when I was leading in the children’s play with angels, shepherds, sheep, Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, they had to go through metal detectors and dog sniffing!   
  • Eat a totally nontraditional meal (see below).
  • Walk the Trail of Lights, twirl under the Zilker Park tree, and see the light display at Mozart’s Coffee.
  • Get up at a decent hour to make Christmas brunch and open presents. Now that my sons are adults, we no longer do this at 5:00 a.m., and Ed and I do not spend half of Christmas Eve night putting together presents with impossible instructions. We enjoy the presents, but the brunch comes first!
  • Decide who plays “Santa” this year and hands out the gifts.
  • Try but fail to keep our two large dogs out of the middle of everything.
  • Watch more football.
  • Take a much needed walk.
  • Sit around our outdoor Solo Stove with a wonderful fire.

Our Nontraditional Texas Christmas Eve Meal

We do a traditional Thanksgiving meal so I usually like to mix it up a bit for the Christmas Eve meal I prepare. Sometimes I do Tex Mex or Italian. Tamales are always included no matter what. This year I am planning on the following, which all have a Texas flair:

  • Grilled steaks and chipotle-marinated chicken breasts
  • Cornbread dressing and broccoli, cheese, and rice casserole (my mom still makes the BEST!)
  • Different types of tamales with chili and cheese on top
  • Grilled vegetables
  • Pizzas made in our outdoor pizza oven
  • Mashed potatoes with lots of butter and cream
  • Rolls (lots and lots of rolls)
  • Sweet and unsweet tea
  • Pies and a fancy cake

The 2022 Washington Health Law Summit and the Managed Care Institute

It was wonderful to see many of you at both of these wonderful conferences. They were so well planned, and the speakers were very interesting and instructive. I thoroughly enjoyed the sessions as well as the opportunity to spend time with so many of you. It is always so wonderful to see you in person and to have a chance to meet face to face and share stories and experience.

Please know that the HLS leadership is here to facilitate your involvement in the Section and that you can call on us at any time. I look forward to working with and talking to each of you over the next bar year and look forward to any feedback or suggestions you have.

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