13 March 2009

Guest Post at Knowing the Difference

Check it out!  Today I'm guest posting over at the ever-charming and lovely Mandy's place!  If you don't already follow her blog, please give it a whirl.  She is one of the most insightful and genuine people I've met on the web!

08 February 2009

Law School Lessons

9As I begin my LAST! SEMESTER! EVER! (I'm sorry, all-caps really was necessary there...) I've been thinking about the lessons I've learned in law school.  Those lessons have nothing to do with my classes.  Sure, I've packed my brain chock full of legal minutiae, but classes have been more about rote memorization (with a little terrorization, boredom, and pretentiousness thrown in) than actual learning.  

That said, as much as I love to take nasty cracks about law school, part of me will always appreciate the experience simply because I feel that I've grown up during the past 3 years.  I entered law school with low self-esteem and very little direction other than "I want to help kids!"  I can honestly say that I'm leaving law school a little wiser, a lot more grown-up, ten times more confident, and happy with who I am.  It took 3 years, 93 credit hours of excruciating classes, and over $100K, but I feel stronger than I ever have.

I may not be the smartest person in the room, but I can hold my own.
In no way to I mean the above sentence to be some kind of arrogant revelation about my intelligence.  I do decently in school, but I am definitely not a brilliant legal mind.  Some people just have a knack for legal reasoning, and I am NOT one of those people (I don't even go to professor's office hours because I have nothing to ask).  At the beginning of law school, I was so intimidated by the "smart" people who seemed to know all the answers in class, and I started to consider myself legally dumb.  Elle Woods before she bought the orange laptop.  In fact, I felt this way throughout my first two years of law school.  But, every once in awhile, something surprisingly bright comes out of my mind, especially when talking about child advocacy and guardianship law (my area of focus).  I've realized lately that I do know what I'm talking about.  At my job, I find solutions and help win cases.  I may not be in the top 10% of my class, but I can do this.  I can hang with the lawyers!

Never, ever lie.  And hiding information = lying.
Not that I recall telling any whoppers in law school, but more than ever I've realized the importance of honestly and full disclosure.  Just put in on the table.   This is true at work (Dear client, please do not forget to tell me that your new boyfriend assaulted your soon-to-be ex-husband) and in personal relationships (S. and I have finally figured out it's easiest when we're just brutally honest).  

I can get through anything.  ANYTHING.
During law school, I experienced my biggest failure ever.  I have never struggled in school, but my 1L year was the human equivalent of the Hindenburg (lucky for me, I am not filled with flammables).  After I got my first year grades, I had a massive breakdown, cried non stop for at least 24 hours and most of the next 72, and vowed to never enter the law building again.  I avoided my friends all summer and could hardly even look my parents in the face.  But when I came back for my 2L year, I managed to hold my head high and carry on.  So maybe I bombed my first year but I've done pretty well since then.  I even told several of my friends and no one seemed to think less of me.  And you know what?  I actually feel stronger for it.  I know now that I can completely flop and I'll still have the love and respect of my family and friends.  I learned that my grades don't mean anything, because I do well at my job and can hold my own in the legal world.  Mostly, I learned that I can survive anything.  And if I can survive anything, there's no reason not to try everything.  :) 

Without friends, life is nothing!
There is absolutely NO WAY I could have toiled through the past 3 years without my friends--law school comrades, college besties, new blogger friends, and even rediscovered high school acquaintances have all been so supportive.   Random friends often remind me that getting through law school IS an accomplishment, something that's easy to forget when you're surrounded by other jaded law students.  College friends keep my laughing with funny memories, remind me that there is life outside of school, and make me remember who I really am.  Law school friends commiserate and drink with you.  

Be nice to everyone--they may help you get a job.
As I continue the gut-wrenching process known as the job search, I've found that the most random connections are helping me out.  Getting back in touch with a college friend, people that work with my sister, even my former boss's husband.  You never know who is going to be the persons who introduces you to your future employer.  More than that, I am constantly shocked at how virtual strangers are willing to help a new graduate.  In a small way, it renews my faith in professionals.

Law school may be a beast, but I am SO blessed & fortunate that it's been my biggest life challenge.
As I've said many times, when I came to law school, my only direction was "I want to help kids!"  Several times during the past 3 years, I have lost sight of that original goal.  Other areas of law occasionally interested me, and my six figure debt makes working for a lucrative firm sound like a clever idea.  Fortunately, I've had the opportunity to intern at some amazing places, including a poverty law organization, which have helped keep my grounded.  While I'm not above occasionally feeling sorry for myself, I try to remember how uncomplicated my life is.  I never worry about not having enough to eat or having my heat turned off.  I have a family who loves me unconditionally.  I have never been a victim of violence.  I have no children, nieces, nephews, or grandchildren to support.  I have been given the opportunity to educate myself, and my family has always encouraged that education.  I have friends I can call if I need help, or if I'm just feeling low.  I have reliable transportation and can pay my bills each month.  I've never had to make the decision to go back to a man who abuses me because he pays the electric bill.  I've never had to wait alone in a cold apartment for my mother to come back from a drug run.  My clients always remind me that I am beyond blessed.  I've been given every opportunity in life, and that's why I'm using my career to help people who haven't had the same chance.  I hope I never forget that. 

I could go on and on, but these are the lessons I feel the most acutely.  Law school has been an experience in more ways than one, and one that I have mixed feelings about.  On on hand, if I could go back and talk to my 23 year-old self, I'm not certain I'd tell her to still go to law school.  On the other hand, I'm a firm believe that we shouldn't regret life experiences because they make us who we are.  At any rate, it's (almost) over and done with, and so I'll live and learn...

...but 4 p.m. at May 9, 2009 cannot come soon enough!  

04 February 2009

Standing Still.

Apparently, updating my blog regularly was NOT a new year's resolution.  Oops.  Perhaps that's more of a commentary on my lack of inspiration lately, but I just haven't found anything worth writing down...or time to do it.  Even as I type the previous sentence, I know it's not entirely true.  I am inspried.  Maybe I'm just having writer's block...or maybe I am just doing really well at my resolution to spend less time on the computer (I am!).  

Suffice to say, I have been going crazy getting back into the swing of school (still hasn't happened), working at Legal Aid (still there), searching for a job (still unemployed), and fighting the crazy weather here (still icy/snowy outside!).  


That's a good way to sum up how I'm feeling.  Like I'm standing still, stuck until I figure out the job situation.  Each thing on my mind is linked and can't seem to progress until the other things are figured out:  Where will I take the bar exam?  Where will I get a job?  Will things work out with S.?  Will I finally find an apartment that I love?    Will I...??????  The questions never end.

And yet, amazingly, I am a stark raving HAPPY.  Even though I am staring into the face of some MAJOR life decisions, nothing seems to shake me so much I can't bounce back from it in a few hours.  For example, I was freaking out earlier this afternoon about the job situation, scrambling all over the internet looking for opportunities.   As soon as I walked away from my computer, I forgot my stress and was just happy to be running errands, making dinner, and cuddling with Lucy-dog.  I can't seem to stop the happiness, even when everything else is up in the air.

Maybe this is a lesson in patience for me, which is a virtue I absolutely, 100% do NOT possess.  Maybe it's just a sign of the economy.  Maybe it's a quarter-life stage rite of passage.  Maybe it's part of my fate.  At the least, it's a moment for me to catch my breath before the real rat-race of finals, graduation, taking the bar, and working.  

Heck, I'm just along for the ride.  :)

10 December 2008

New Year's Resolutions

I realize that many people abhor the idea of New Year's resolutions, and even fewer people keep them.  Regardless of the "keeping" element, I do think it's good to take time--whether it's once a year or each month--to evaluate how much you like your life, the direction it's going, and the choices you make.  For me, I try to take stock each season because it just feels right.  As the weather changes, I should take time to look at what I'm doing and determine if it's working for me.  So in honor of 2009 (the year I finish school FOREVER!) and the official coming of winter, here are my new goals:

1. Turn off the TV more often.  I did a pretty good job at this when I first got home from Chile, but I've been bad lately.  I am one of the few people who actually study better with noise than without--something about the action of tuning-out background noise helps me concentrate on the task as hand better.  However, I also have a habit of turning on the TV after 9 p.m., largely because Lucy-dog is comatose at that hour and the quietness unnerves me.  But also, there is nothing but bad reality shows on after 9, so I'm not really sure why I have the TV on in the first place.  Goal:  listen to iTunes instead of TV.  Let TV be a treat, and only watch when something I really want to see is on.  Exceptions for football and basketball games!

2. On the flip side, I want to spend less time on my computer.  While I love reading friends' blogs, doing online crossword puzzles, and reading the Times/Post/Idealist, I do NOT need to waste time checking J.Crew's sale page each day or on Facebook.  In fact, I am just flat-out irritated with the FB (and will reserve that issue for another post).  Once I leave school, there is really no reason to be on my computer unless I'm researching my Race & the Law paper or checking my e-mail once or twice.  That leaves extra time for 3, 4, & 5!

3. Choose outfits at night.  I am AWFUL at wasting time in the morning by throwing on one outfit, taking it off, and trying another.  On any given morning, there will be 2-4 cycles of outfits...and I usually return to the first option.  When I lived at home, this drove my mother crazy, and when I had a boyfriend (pick any one) they hated it too.  I am perpetually late and it often has to do with the outfit picking routine.  Goal:  Take 20 minutes at night to choose the next day's attire.  Try it on at night to make sure I like it.  I don't mind staying up 20 minutes later a night to do this, but I cannot keep being 20 minutes late in the morning.

4. Walk Lucy-dog EVERY DAY, no exceptions.  Ok, pouring rain is an exception, but she hates rain anyway.  Ms. Lucy does get walked about 5 times a week, but sometimes I leave at 8:30 a.m. and get home at 5 p.m. and I'm just too.darn.tired to muster up the energy to deal with squirrel stalking and muddy paws.  But on those days I do rally for the w-a-l-k, I usually end up feeling more energized afterwards, even if it's just for 20 minutes around the neighborhood.  And a walked Lucy-dog is a sweet, cuddly, baby.  A non-walked Lucy digs in trash cans and eats old Kleenex.  Point taken. 

5. Make a new dish each week.  First things to try:  CIA's honey-wheat bread, Ina's citrus roasted chicken, and Christopher's curry pork burgers.  

6. Ride my bike to school instead of driving.  I'm actually really excited about this one.  My sweet new bike, a birthday gift from S., arrived this week, and I can't wait to put my milk crate on the back, basket on the front, and start adventuring around Louisville.  I get so, so, so tired of dealing with traffic on the way to school, and I figure the ride will only take my an extra 5 minutes each way (and remember, I'm going to save more time in the morning because I won't be choosing 18 new outfits!).  I've wanted a nice bike for a long time, and I am ridiculously excited about my new wheels!  I've already named her (obviously) Jenny.  :)

7. Have a good rough draft of my Race & the Law paper by spring break.  This is non-negotiable.  I know this class is going to be a bear, and I really admire and respect the professor (and may or may not have a hopeless crush on him...) and want to turn in a piece of work I'm proud of.  I am a life-long procrastinator and doer-at-the-last-minute, so this will be a challenge but very worth it. 

8. This kills me to write, but I'm really trying:  Be the best Maid of Honor possible.  My very best friend is getting married in March, and it's a big ol' Southern affair.  I am NOT a wedding person and I generally just show up for the open bar and to check out what everyone else is wearing....but this is really, really important to her, and so I will plan showers and bachelorettes, I will wear a dress that matches my shoes (kill.me.now) & 7 other women, and I will do my best to make sure it's the happiest day possible.  Luckily, she's an amazing girl and non-bridezilla-esque, so this is more about me getting over my wedding disgust (5 years of working at a bridal shop will do that do you...) because she deserves to have everything she wants out of a wedding. 

9. Go to the gym (or the pool) 4 times a week.  Self-explanatory. 

10. This is the biggie:  Work on my self-confidence.  My lack of self-love is 26 years in the making, but I'm determined to see myself in a better light.  I will never be the tiniest girl in the room, but I'm going to celebrate my curves.  I have good hair & a decent shoe collection.  I'm nice (ahem, after 10 a.m.  I'll just never be a morning person...).  When someone compliments me, I'm going to say, "Why thank you!" instead of, "Whatever."  For some reason--perhaps my Midwestern upbringing--I've always associated self-confidence with arrogance, but I know that there's a dividing line.  Feeling good about myself isn't arrogant, it's enlightening.  

11.  And the second biggie:  Find a job I love.   I will have a law-related job before the bar exam.  I will.  I WILL.  I've got a killer cover letter & resume (my first step in self-confidence building was selling myself on paper) and I'm working on my interview skills (less giggling, more direct eye contact, etc.).  I will have a job before July 28th.  I just WILL.

So there it is--my over-zealousness in print form.  The good news is that I'm so close to accomplishing most of these goals already.  I tried very hard to not set realistic expectations for myself, and I believe I've set achievable standards.  Here's to new beginnings & happier times!

Happy 2009!  

09 December 2008

Rejections & Realizations

I've said it 10,000 times:  Break ups suck.  There's no way to sugar coat it, folks.  The only thing worse than the break-up is getting back out into the dating world afterwards.  I successfully managed to put off this great job until this week.  

Let me just say, it was not good. 

Against all my better judgment, I agree to let my 36-and-single cousin fix me up with one of his 36-and-single frat brothers.  Who just happens to be a doctor.  A plastic surgeon, actually.  A plastic surgeon doctor who is so busy that e-mail was the "best" way to reliably get in touch with him.  Does anyone else see the flashing red lights???  Yeah, me too.

In short, I got rejected...in an e-mail.  Yup.  The jerk didn't even wait to meet me before blowing me off.  I'm not really bitter...yet.  More like irritated with a small side of bitter.  So first, here are my tips for the bum:  First, please take the time to get to know before you decide that you can't deal with my mild neuroses, untamable hair, and penchant for shoes I can't afford.  Don't give me the brush off just because you're 10 years older than me and my cousin set us up (which could be part of the issue).  Don't assume that just because I've never been to your office, I don't have boobs--I do!  Don't ignore be because I spent 20 minutes crafting the perfectly sweet-but-short introductory e-mail, which I sent to two friends for suggestions before ever sending to you.  And most of all, don't be a pretentious asshole and tell me you might have a "moment" to meet with me--have the balls to say "No thanks, I'd rather not," or be decent enough to lie and say that you'd love to meet me for a drink next week and just judge me after you meet me.  

No matter how many times my friends tell me that it's his loss, he's a freak/loser/jerk, I still can't help but feel inadequate.  Why doesn't he want to meet me?  Did he see a picture of me and decide I was a no-go?  Is the 10 year age gap too much for him?  Does he think I'm still a giggling sorority girl? Maybe it's my nose.  I hate my nose.  He's a plastic surgeon, so I bet he hated my nose too.  What if he just hates lawyers (entirely plausible)?

And then I realized:  A man I don't even know has made me question my self-worth.  More importantly, I realized that this isn't about him, it's about ME.  About my insecurity with dating again.  My unwillingness to "get back out there."  My refusal to meet my potential future husband at a bar.  After being rejected by a guy I spent almost 5 years with, I am still not ready for rejection by someone I don't even know.  Maybe I've been single for almost an entire year now, but the wounds are still pretty fresh.  Being rejected by a stranger stinks, but the worst part is that it brings back memories of being pushed away by someone you gave your heart to.

So maybe I'm just not ready to get back out there, and that is totally fine.  I've spent 5 years focusing on someone else, so maybe it's time to date myself.  To give myself the energy, attention, and effort I've been spending on men.  In 2009, I'll take care of myself.  I'll exfoliate more and stress less (umm, let's ignore the bar exam for the moment).  I'm going to spend the weekends doing things I like instead of wondering why I don't have a date.  I'm going to learn to sew and surf (yes, I'm going to surf!).  I'm going to make myself happy.  I'm going to fall in love with me.

I deleted Mr. Dr.'s e-mail this morning without any real hard feelings.  Without him, I might not have focused on my next relationship.

08 December 2008

Christmas Meme

Here's yet another meme instead of something substantive, because 1) I'm still being subjected to silly final exams, and 2) I've got a death-cold that has me sneezing and coughing so much that even my dog is annoyed.  Here's to a happier holiday & the upcoming break from madness!

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags?  PAPER!  Damn the trees, I want to rip open the paper and tear at ribbons!

2. Real tree or artificial?  I would love to have a real tree, but seeing that I'm allergic to everything on the planet, real trees just give me headaches and hives.  I've got 4 artificial trees & I'm not done yet!

3. When do you put up the tree?  Well that's a funny story...seeing as that my law school likes to start final exams the Monday after Thanksgiving, putting up a tree the day after Thanksgiving isn't really an option.  I've started putting mine up somewhere between my birthday and turkey day, but I'm hoping to go back to the ol' day-after routine next year. 

4. When do you take the tree down?  The week after new year's.  Any longer and it's just too depressing.  Plus, I like to start the new year with a clean and uncluttered home.

5. Do you like eggnog?  NO.

6. Favorite gift received as a child?  If 22 counts as a child, my Kitchen Aid mixer.  Hands down BEST.GIFT.EVER.  My parents did it perfectly:  it was completely unexpected & something I had wanted for at least a decade.  I squealed like a little girl!

7. Hardest person to buy for?  My brother-in-law.

8. Easiest person to buy for?  My dog. 

9. Do you have a nativity scene?  No.  I'm holding out until I inherit my mom's wooden set that rotates & plays Silent Night.  I used to watch it for hours as a kid.

10. Mail or e-mail Christmas cards?  Seriously, people e-mail holiday cards?  TACKY.

11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received?  Anything from my Aunt Elizabeth.  I'm pretty sure I got a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt when I was 20.

12.  Favorite Christmas movie?  Tie between The Christmas Carol with George C. Scott (a Christmas Eve tradition at our house) and Prancer. 

13.  When do you start shopping for Christmas?  Post-finals.  I like the mad-dash.

14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?  I'm pretty sure all my girlfriends and I did that in elementary school...

15. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas?  Umm.....I have to choose one???  Ribbon candy, chex mix, honey ham, any type of cookie, WINE,  meatballs....we have quite a spread on Christmas day!

16. Lights on the tree?  Surprisingly, I have all white lights because they match my ornament themes, but as a child I preferred colored lights.  I love them if they are done in a retro way. 

17. Favorite Christmas song?  "O Holy Night."  Anita Bryant has a great version, but nothing beats a guy at my parent's church who sings it a cappella at midnight.

18. Travel at Christmas or stay home?  HOME.  Every once in awhile, I am jealous of people who take ski vacations or go to the beach, but then I'm surrounded by my goofy family and I realize that NO ONE has a better holiday than we do.  

19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers?  Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blizen, Rudolph.  

20. Angel on the tree top or star?  I prefer a Star.  My grandma had one with lights and I thought she was rich. 

21. Open presents on Christmas Eve or morning?  Neither.  Our family opens them after lunch!

22. Most annoying thing about this time of the year?  Do I really need to answer this?  FINALS. They have ruined both my Thanksgiving and my Christmas for 3 years now.  

23.  Favorite ornament theme or color?  I love retro trees with old-school glass and metal ornaments and uber-bright colors.  My "fun" tree has lime green, bright red, turquiose blue, and silver.  I try not to play favorites, but I love that tree 10x more than my "classy" living room tree. 

24. Favorite for Christmas dinner?  As previously mentioned, my mom makes a great buffet of finger foods for Christmas lunch--soup, meatballs, ham and turkey sandwiches on silver dollar buns, and tons of cookies.  For supper, we eat the leftovers.  It's casual and perfect.

25. What do you want for Christmas this year?  For fluff, I need some work-appropriate clothes and I'd love the Southern Living cookbook.  For serious, I want my grandma back.

Happy Holidays!!!!  

18 November 2008


My dear friend Lu is truly super woman.   She is a law student, a fiancĂ©e, and a mother to the most adorable almost-one-year-old you'll ever see.  Not to mention the 10,000 extracurriculars she's involved in, and her adorable apartment, andandand.  She is every woman.  However, even Lu has those days where everything seems like a struggle just to keep treading the water.  She often tells me that the TLC show John & Kate Plus 8 is her "perspective show" for those days when she's at her wits end and feels terrible.  I could be worse, she could have 8 children under 6, right?!?!

Yesterday, I had a perspective day.  I experienced a series of events which reminded me that I am the luckiest person in the world, simply because I have a heated apartment, friends I can talk to about anything, and I will never truly go hungry.  No, this is not one of those self-righteous rants about being grateful for what you have (although you should...).  It's merely a reflection on my day, and perhaps even a call to take a moment for gratitude & reflection on how truly, deeply lucky we blog-readers/writers are.  

I woke up yesterday morning in a not-so-pleasant mood, largely because it was cold, I didn't have time to make coffee (SIN!), I couldn't get the pilot light on my oven lit, and I'm coming down with a cold.  While I spent 20 minutes fiddling with the pilot, I started obsessing about the impending finals, the fact that my dog hates me, missing my family, etc.  By 10 a.m., I had worked myself into a tizzy of worry & stress.  By 2 p.m., my entire viewpoint changed. 

Yesterday at work, we mediated the most heartbreaking case ever.  EVER.  Our client is a very young woman who has spent most of her life living in a refugee camp, so badly beaten that she still bears physical scars, and her parents are still overseas in the camp.  She is here in a foreign city, completely alone, trying to raise her children on virtually no income, and going through a horrible divorce.  There are so many more awful details to this case that I can't discuss, but believe you me, it was devastating.  Today was the only day I've ever cried at work.  In front of my boss.  And she was crying, too.

Lesson learned:  Whenever I miss my family, I need to stop and realize they are an hour away.  One hour.  That's it.  I can call them, I can drive to see them, and I do it often (in fact, I met my mom for dinner last night).  In fact, I have a home to go to, and it's lovely and warm and full of very happy memories.  I don't know what it's like to be forced out of the country I've always known & shoved in a crowded camp.  I don't know what it's like to never be able to go back home.  I have never known hunger and my parents won't ever let me, even if I'm too old to be turning to them.  If I need help, my parents are able to feed me, clothe me, and make sure my heat stays turned on and my dog has food.  They are always, ALWAYS there for me & support me with very few questions asked.  I don't even know the true meaning of homesick or alone.  

At dinner, my mom and I had a conversation about happy topics:  domestic violence and poverty.  We discussed the sad, hard truth that several of my clients go back to their abusive spouses because of financial reasons.  Without delving into the discussion at length, let me just say that we talked at length about the topic, and by the end of dinner, I was just whispering "thank you, God, thank you God..."

Lesson learned:  I am beyond lucky because I've never had to make a choice between someone who might hurt me and being warm and/or having a full belly.  Enough said.

After dinner with mama, I was doing my nightly routine of FBing/stalking, when a good friend from high school sent me a message--her grandmother has terminal cancer and they are stopping treatment.  My friend is dearly close to her grandmother, who is a wondering, spunky woman that doesn't quite realize that she's 85.  Naturally, my friend is floored.  I hardy knew what to say, because how do you tell someone it's going to be ok when you know that (at least for awhile) it's not?

Lesson learned:  I may still be mourning my own perfect, irreplaceable grandmother, but at least I'm through the worst.  She's not suffering at all now.  She passed so peaceably, we couldn't have wished more for her.  The initial "noooooooooooo" has worn off, and I'm (slowly) moving through my grief.  I'm still sad every single day, but I'm beginning to think of her and laugh more and cry less.  I have my mom and my sister to share stories with.  Most of all, I had her for 93 wonderful years.  She was the perfect, and I do mean perfect, grandmother.  I was lucky to have her.

So that's my perspective-check.  I've got it pretty damn good, folks.  When I think of all the things I DO have, it makes it much easier to forget about the things I "don't" have (those new J.Crew patent pumps, the yellow sweater from Anthropologie, etc.).  They just seem incredibly unimportant.  

What gives you perspective?