Final Beginnings – How I Met Your Mother and My Life

Debra H. Goldstein

Author Debra H. Goldstein

Final Beginnings – How I Met Your Mother and My Life

by Debra H. Goldstein

Last night, in the final minute of its eighth season, How I Met Your Mother’s audience met the mother. Ted, the main character, didn’t meet her, but in that moment, we knew that the stage was set for an entirely new ninth season for all of the characters — a season of exploration, change, happenstance, dismay and growth. In fact, the showrunners have said that when the show goes into syndication, one will always be able to immediately distinguish season one to eight reruns from ninth season episodes.

As a child of the television era (Little Ricky was born a few months before me), I often associate historical events or moments in my life with things I saw on television. I remember being ten and seeing the replay of John F. Kennedy’s assassination on television in my classroom and then going to chair a club meeting of a club that never met again because our associated memories of that day were too sad; I recall being involved in the writing and production of my first play in a children’s theater group when we stopped rehearsing long enough to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon; I understood how ravaging AIDS was going to be when I saw the physical contrast in the Rock Hudson who appeared in his last television appearance with Doris Day from the finely chiseled features that caught my eye in McMillan and Wife and reruns of one of my all time favorite movies, Giant.

Ted and his HIMYM friends are all entering new phases in their lives, as am I. Effective June 1, 2013, I will step down from the bench after twenty-three years. I will be wrapping up a legal career that has spanned more than thirty-five years. When I announced six months ago the date I would no longer schedule hearings so I could bring proper closure to my time on the bench, my colleagues were in shock. One doesn’t give up a lifetime position at my age. They pointed out that our last judges to retire were 88, 86 and 79. I countered with two facts – that because I was appointed when I was more than twenty years under the average age, I already have served more time on the bench than all but one of them and that if I am lucky, I can have a second career that rivals the longevity of my first.

In some ways, my legal career can be compared to the twists and turns of experiences I initially viewed on television. Music evolved for me from when I was first permitted by my parents to watch Dick Clark’s American Bandstand to when The Beatles made their American appearance on Ed Sullivan. My love for tight comical writing and timing can be traced to the impact shows featuring Johnny Carson, Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Saturday Night Live and most recently the casts of The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother have had on me. The remembrance of current events through stand-alone scripts or as worked into period pieces like MadMen have made me think of times and events I long thought forgotten.

I have been lucky as a lawyer to have experienced many firsts – coming through school at a time when there were few women, opting to practice international tax law and then labor law when those were not areas women went into (the interviews for those jobs are the stuff for another blog), being the first woman in the Birmingham, Alabama Office of the Solicitor for the Department of Labor, trying an equal pay case of first impression, Marshall vs. Georgia Southwestern, when I was twenty-five, receiving a merit appointment as a federal Administrative Law Judge when I was thirty-six and being sworn in at thirty-seven when the average age was fifty-eight (that was the year, when through the merit appointment system the presence of women in the 1400+ federal Administrative Law Judges was doubled from the thirteen originally grandmothered in when their jobs were elevated to the ALJ level). On a personal note, I am lucky to have grown up in a home that fell somewhere between Leave it to Beaver, Modern Family, The Middle, Family, Dick Van Dyke, The Cosby Show and The Jetsons. After almost thirty years as a wife, step-mother, mother of twins and associated community volunteer, Girl Scout leader, PTA and soccer mom, I leave it to my family to decide which TV shows each felt they lived in with me.

Like Ted, the coming season of my life will introduce me to new people and challenges. My goal is to give myself the opportunity to return to my first love fulltime. Whether a blog, the new book I just finished and am now shopping, short stories or essays, I am permitting myself to take the professional plunge as a writer. Spending time with friends and family, exercising, and doing a few crazy things like taking a quilting class also are on my bucket list. We know from the prologue of HIMYM shows, that Ted meets the right woman, falls in love, marries, and has two children – the success he dreamed of from the pilot episode. I don’t know if my show will have the same happy ending, but tune in and we’ll watch it together.


  1. fran godchaux
    May 16, 2013 at 7:29 pm

    I’m all for happy endings and equally importantly new beginnings. Congratulations on a successful judicial career in the rearview and hello to book signings in the future.

    • May 19, 2013 at 1:50 pm

      Thanks so much! Eagerly embracing the future while remembering the past.

  2. May 14, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    Congratulations, Debra! I retired from the ER four years ago, and I’ve never looked back or regretted my decision. Retirement is wonderful, especially when you have another goal to accomplish, like you do with your writing. You’re going to enjoy having the time to fulfill your dreams as a writer while also doing fun things with your family and friends. I applaud your decision to chart a new course for yourself. Best wishes for much success with your books!

    • May 15, 2013 at 11:25 pm

      Mary-thank you for your good wishes. I definitely hope I can heed your advice for you definitely steered me right when we met at Daddy’s Girl’s Weekend!

  3. May 14, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    Congratulations on the retirement of your first career, Debra! You’re right, you have plenty of time to have (almost) as full a second career. I wish you all the best in every endeavor, and look forward to your next book.

    • May 14, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      Thanks Jimsey! Appreciate your support of both my first book, my website, and the future.

  4. May 14, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Best of luck, Debra. Your next act will be amazing…savor every moment of it!

    • May 14, 2013 at 7:15 pm

      Thanks Joanne — enjoy your posts….they help me realize things to savor.

  5. May 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Congratulations, Debra, on your retirement from the law, and best of luck on the start of writing full time. How wonderful!

    • May 14, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      Barb – a good role model (Go Blue!) to follow. Really enjoyed your new book of short stories, Don’t Get Mad, Get Even. Commented on that on Goodreads…..hope to have my next book ( a new series different than the characters in Maze in Blue) in place to talk about at Malice next year.

  6. May 14, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Bravo, Debra! I didn’t hear this news at Malice. And maybe you didn’t hear mine: I’m doing the same thing!! Friday is my last day as a full-time technical writer after twenty years at it. I am super thrilled and a little scared. I’m not calling it retirement – it’s my next full-time career. Congratulations to you and to me. We could even have lunch if we lived a few states closer. ;^)

    • May 14, 2013 at 7:21 pm

      You are so right that this is and needs to be treated as a new full-time career. Let’s hope for lunch at Malice or at another conference even sooner than that. Can’t wait for your next food lover’s book…A Tine to Live, A Tine to Die definitely hit the spot. Let’s keep up with how our new endeavors go…

  7. May 14, 2013 at 11:15 am

    Congratulations, Debra! When you shared the news at Malice, I was excited for you — but I also know it’s scary to step off the path we’ve worn into the seeming wilderness. I like that you are casting this not just as a chance to write, but as a chance to do many other things that call to you — things a demanding day job hinders. We’ll all be cheering you on. But first, enjoy that good long nap!!! (Accidentally left this comment on the last post — oops!)

    • May 14, 2013 at 7:24 pm

      Thanks Leslie! You, of all people, have been a great role model. Just pre-ordered Death Al Dente (Amazon has it on sale). I definitely will try to follow your advice.

      • May 14, 2013 at 10:50 pm

        Thanks, Debra — for the kind words and the pre-order! Call on me any time!

  8. May 14, 2013 at 11:15 am

    How exciting! I know you’ll grieve a bit for the life you’re leaving behind. I’ve left many places behind and always do, for a while. You should be able to easily segue into mystery writing with the career you’ve had! Are you thinking of other kinds of writing, too? Best of luck in the next season of your life!

    • May 14, 2013 at 7:27 pm

      Thanks so much Kaye! I just finished writing a mystery that I hope will find a home sooner than later. In the few years that I’ve been taking this seriously, I’ve written Maze in Blue (the mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus in the 1970’s), the new book (a mystery with new characters), a number of non-fiction pieces, some women’s pieces, and a number of short stories (both legal and non-legal….my website, can lead you to some of the published stories and articles. Appreciate your support!

  9. May 14, 2013 at 9:02 am

    Debra: I understand the feeling of this upcoming pivotal moment. After 30 years of teaching and over 500 students, I remember walking out of the school with a small box of stuff- actually I wanted to walk out with just my purse- and thinking what’s next? How do I classify myself now when I spend so many years as “teacher?” As you’ve begun to verbalize, a second career is possible. And for me, writing is another way to teach. So “chazak v’emotz” (have strength and be strong) to you in this new journey. And, as a 6 year retiree, let me welcome you to the ranks of using-your-time-as-you-see-fit!

    • May 14, 2013 at 7:31 pm

      Funny how you describe walking out with a small box of stuff. I shredded and shredded cleaning out my office and managed to walk out with two small boxes of things I still couldn’t part with and a few boxes of diplomas and such that I now have committed to two big plastic storage containers (the kids can get rid of them down the road). I am looking forward to the time to devote to this new career and to having the ability to make time to meet with other retirees/friends (without having to have six other things on the schedule). One of the first stops will have to be Atlanta.

  10. Anonymous
    May 14, 2013 at 8:40 am

    Beautifully written. Best wishes for the future. So looking forward to new stories of adventure and discovery and growth.

    • May 14, 2013 at 8:51 am

      Thank you…look forward to sharing the stories with you.

  11. May 14, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Thank you! It’s a big step, but it feels so right.

  12. Rachel Russell
    May 14, 2013 at 8:27 am

    What a joy it was to read your blog this morning. Indeed, leaving a successful career after 35 years while you are still young stuns the masses. You know in your heart there are trails left to blaze and new chapters will unfold. Congratulations my friend. Well done.

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