Saturday, September 27, 2008

Looking up

So I'm worried my last post might have depressed some of you a little (which makes sense, since I was a little depressed when I wrote it.) But things have definitely started looking up since then, and I thought I'd let you guys know.

This Thursday was a bad, crazy, hectic day. Between classes, the first draft of our big memo, copious amounts of Contracts homework, a mandatory panel during lunch, my application to the Tenant Advocacy Project being due, and a training session for the journal I just joined, I was on campus from 8:30 a.m. to nearly 9 p.m. I almost cried at several points there over stupid inconveniences, like when I realized I'd e-mailed myself the wrong file to print and my laptop, which I would need to fix it, was across campus in my locker. All of which, of course, only added to the lovely cocktail of stressful things I mentioned last post.

However (big however), I did manage to survive. And at 1 a.m., as I submitted my memo to the electronic dropbox on our LRW course website, I felt a huge weight lift straight off my shoulders. It was weird, I never would have guessed that completing that one assignment would bring my stress back to a manageable level- but it absolutely did.

So then I had a lovely day today! Contracts, which was doubled today to make up for a future cancellation, was surprisingly bearable; Leg Reg was downright fun. Before I knew it, I was walking home in a cool rain feeling weirdly happy. The 1L Cup I mentioned last post was postponed due to the weather, which while disappointing did allow me a glorious two-hour nap before heading back up to campus to watch tonight's debate with my section. It was a real party with yummy food and great attendance, and afterward a big group of us headed to a nearby bar called the Cambridge Commons. I talked for a long time with some seriously interesting members of our section before heading home, completely exhausted but much happier than when you last heard from me.

So don't worry: there are good days in law school, too! I find it really encouraging that the bad ones can transform so quickly. And since it's way past my bedtime, I'll leave you with that.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Well folks, this will be the second post in a row having little to do with law school- weird, since that's what dominates so much of my time these days.

I feel bad about these unrelated posts; they don't give you guys much of an idea about my daily life, which was always the purpose of this blog. But I wanted to let everyone know about a few other things that have been on my mind.

First, the good news: Russell got a job! His interview Monday afternoon went perfectly, and he's officially on the payroll at Spherion, the temp agency with whom Harvard contracts exclusively. I've heard this is how many people with permanent jobs at Harvard get hired- but regardless, it's a relief to see him finding an income source and something to do with his time. Yay!

Also: one of my cousins, Sarah Bess in Alabama, is having a baby as we speak! Literally, she's in labor right now- I've been getting text message updates. I'm doing my best to send positive thoughts of an easy, healthy delivery her way, and I hope you will, too.

Next, less good news: Russell left early this morning for a visit back home to Austin, and he won't be back until Sunday. Since he bought the plane tickets, I'd been looking ahead to this time expecting to feel a combination of loneliness and enjoyment of the privacy and space. (After all, before Russell found work he was home literally any time I was, and I think we were both beginning to feel the strain of that.) However, now that he's gone I find I'm mostly feeling the loneliness part. The peaceful apartment, big bed, and ability to go pee without closing the door are surprisingly poor consolation for not having him around. Sorry Russell, no guilt intended- just feel appreciated instead! And come home very, very soon.

But finally, faithful readers, I have some really lousy news to share. My dog back home, Tucker, had surgery a few weeks back (did I mention that?) to amputate one of her toes that was repeatedly getting infected. The surgery went well, and hopes were high- until today, when a biopsy on the toe came back positive for cancer.

This is complicated, because the sample's edges were all clean- meaning the vet probably got out the whole tumor. However, the lymph nodes in Tucker's leg are inflamed, which was attributed at first to the infection but might actually mean the cancer has already spread. Now my mom and I are faced with the difficult decision of whether to put Tucker back under the knife for a lymph node biopsy. She may not act or look like it, but she's 13 years old- so it's unlikely we'll seek chemo or radiation no matter what the biopsy says. That said, it could be good just to know- I think we're leaning toward having the test anyway.

So that's sad. And it definitely makes it harder to care about my copious Contracts reading, the closed memo I should be writing for Friday, or even the excitement of the upcoming 1L Section Cup. But I'm trying my best, and if I can just get through this week I should have something more cheery to offer you soon. (Yes, I know that's pretty much what I said last week. But a girl can dream, right?)

Sunday, September 21, 2008


My first anniversary with Russell is today, and I thought I'd show everyone the amazing piece of jewelry he bought me.

It's a necklace of an origami peace crane- the real thing, hand folded from a sheet of silver. I wish the photos could show all the cool detail, or how it weighs next to nothing. But you can probably still tell I have about the best boyfriend ever. Thanks, Russell!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Apologies, and some news

I'm really sorry not to have posted so many days. I caught a cold over the weekend and it stuck around nearly all week- which in law school is like getting stuck in slow motion during an action-packed movie scene.

It was a rotten week to get sick, because several one-time class projects happened to come at once and all the organizations on campus apparently decided the past few days were high time to start recruiting 1L's. This meant unprecedented amounts of homework (for me at least, just my luck being early in the alphabet) combined with lots of after-hours info sessions keeping me at school past sundown.

The extracurricular scene at Harvard is extensive, and for 1L's to even wrap their heads around it (Law Review? Tenant Advocacy? Legal Aid? In Vino Veritas?) it's best to attend the many panels and info sessions different groups hold at the start of the year. Many of these- important, appealing ones included- I had to skip outright this week or I would probably pass out with this cold. So while I made it to the Student Journals Panel, I didn't get to attend the first meetings of any of the journals I decided I was interested in, and I didn't make the Student Practice Organizations info session (which I was the most excited of all about checking out.) Luckily, people in my section made it to both and reported back to me. After a few e-mails I should hopefully be able to join the groups I want with fairly little difficulty- I'm told these are mostly nice people who'll understand about my cold.

There's so much I still want to tell you about, like the tunnels (especially now that the weather's cooling down so much), my Law, Medicine, and Ethics first-year reading group, and my burgeoning social circle. But I just spent 2+ hours on a research assignment for LRW, and it is definitely bedtime. So I hope you won't mind if those other things have to wait.

Hoping you're all well. Special shout-outs to my invalid dog back in Austin, to Daddy for his recent birthday (Sept. 12) and Mom for hers (Sept. 21), and to Russell for the job interview he's got Monday. Congrats, Russell! Happy birthdays, parents! Healthy wishes, Tucker! And all my love to the rest of you.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Life and legend

Breaking news, folks:
I'm still exhausted.

Seriously, I can't remember ever being this tired for this prolonged a period in my whole life. In a recent Facebook message, my WLA Big Sister pointed out that I'm taking 18 credit hours this semester- that's 18 hours per week in a classroom. It hadn't occurred to me before, but it feels about right- the most I ever took in undergrad was 16, and class itself was so much easier then.

Still, it's easy to feel energized just thinking of the amazing people who walked Harvard's paths and sat in its classrooms before you. Six of the nine current Supreme Court justices were here- so were Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Nader, Janet Reno, and both Michelle and Barack Obama, who was great again on TV tonight. (Watching him, I couldn't help wondering whether he ever used a locker in the tunnels, and which. I plan on a whole post about the tunnels at a later date.) At dinner with the Dean on Wednesday, our faculty leader told me he'd once taught Alberto Gonzalez, another HLS graduate. I asked him whether he could've spent a little more class time defining the word "torture." But disappointments aside, it's an electrifying place to go to school- even moreso, I'm told, once the first wave of exhaustion passes and you can actually enjoy it.

But back to that dinner Wednesday night. They held it in a rare books and artifacts room in the Langdell Law Library, full of treasures Dean Kagan admitted were placed there on the exclusive basis of their value on the open market. (She was hilarious all night, using funny stories she'd heard from us while making the rounds to embarrass each professor in turn during her speech. She even made our Torts instructor demonstrate his amazing name recall on a whole table of students, bewildering everyone who'd assumed he'd just memorized his own seating chart.) I realize I'm gushing, but it's these sorts of events- these chances just to talk and socialize with both classmates and professors- that drive home what an exceptional class of people you're flung into when they admit you to Harvard.

Well, okay- more like an exceptional class of caffeinated zombies at the moment. But I'm told that'll change any day now.

We'll see.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

One week down

Hello, you ever-curious friends and family! Thought it might be time to tell you all about the three days of school I've had since I last wrote.

Wednesday started bright and early with Legislation & Regulation class from 8:35 to 9:50 a.m. Our professor (the same as our faculty advisor) is likable, and the material so far has been interesting and refreshingly different from other classes. Most of what we've read relates to Congress's 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act and its implications- very political stuff, good for class discussion.

Next was another round of Civ Pro at 10:15, by which time I'd already come to appreciate the glory of Harvard offering free coffee everywhere. I've never been much of a coffee person before, but it looks like the rumors are true: law school wastes no time in making you one.

At lunchtime came probably the coolest part of Wednesday: the opportunity to meet the Big Sister assigned to me by the Women's Law Association. They have a program where female 2Ls and 3Ls mentor first-years, helping them adjust to classes and make friends- I was pretty excited about this since I've never been in a choir, drill team, sorority or any of those other groups that have big and little sisters, so this was my first. And lunch went pretty great- the 2L assigned to me is very approachable and super forthcoming about what different professors, course loads, and summer jobs are really like here. It was nice to hear the insider's story from someone who wasn't trying to sell me on anything and instead just wanted me to know what I'm in for. (Even so, most of what she had to say was still positive- it is Harvard, after all.)

After lunch, we had our first section of Contracts, which I can already tell is going to be my toughest class. The professor is young and energetic, and he talks a lot about his small children (which I find really appealing lately, I wonder why.) However, all the cases are incredibly complicated and come down to small details that are hard to tease out and almost as hard for the teacher to explain. The whole section seems to be in agreement that this class may well be a struggle all year long- even one former Economics major I talked to, who I hoped might have some special insight or other, said it was all Greek to him. At least we're all in it together!

So that was it for Wednesday, and Thursday went much the same except instead of Civ Pro we had a nice long break from 10 to 1 (good for getting homework done early and slipping into the Hark for lunch before the rush) and added Legal Research and Writing in the afternoon. Our section is broken in halves for this class, and mine is taught by a bubbly, young redheaded woman I already like. We'll meet just once a week and have papers or research homework every so often (basically completion grades) rather than the usual end-of-term exam. I'm told it's a cinch, but also that it's very important: apparently this is the one class nearly everyone goes on to use in future jobs, whatever their field.

So with that, I'd officially had all my courses once! This made Friday kind of a relief, since everything (Leg Reg, short meeting with section leader, and Contracts) was already old hat. Not that I didn't come home exhausted- I've slept probably 14 hours since then and can still barely move my arms. I took dance classes all day every summer in high school, but this is definitely the most tiring thing I've done in my whole life! Other people have told me the same thing, so I know it's not me- there's just something about law school, the new people, the impressive professors with their Socratic method quizzing you all the time, that's disproportionately exhausting.

Luckily, the homework hasn't been as bad as promised yet. There's a lot- I definitely have something to do every night and would be in big trouble if I got behind- but it doesn't take hours and hours at a time like I feared. My Big Sis said that while you can't really judge the year by the first week, I would probably feel this way often. Most of the time, she said, it's not as bad as you might think; only occasionally will you get totally overwhelmed and freak out. She said there's even time to join a few extracurriculars your first year, which can help you decide which to take on in your 2L year when things get more serious.

Overall, I'm feeling tired but optimistic. (And hot and sweaty, actually- it's only about 75 outside but so muggy this weekend that the apartment feels like a sauna. It's the first time since moving here that I've wanted an air conditioner, and only so the air would dry out. Gee thanks, Tropical Storm Hanna!) I guess I shouldn't complain, though- most of you are still back in Texas.

Anyway, I hope you're all well and that you'll keep in touch. Consider sending us some snail mail! Russell and I love finding things in the mailbox. Just ask and I'll give you our address, or Mom can share it if you're feeling sneaky. Take care everyone, and I'll post again soon.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

First day of school

Well folks, today was my first day of school- my third-to-last one ever!

It was hard to think of this as a first day, though, since I already spent last Thursday, Friday, and Sunday night at the law school. In fact, this was probably the least nervous first day of school I've ever had!

Class for my section began at 10:15 with Civil Procedure (although I was on campus at about 9:45 buying orange juice and a corn muffin.) I think we were all half-worried that the professor would launch right into calling on people for answers they didn't remotely know, like you see in movies- but instead she was nice, opening class with an exercise where we broke into six groups and tried to decide on the best English-language film of all time. (Turns out our process of deciding was more interesting to her than our choice. Civil procedure, go figure.) Also, instead of picking on people at random all year (like we expected), she said she'd be calling on just one of our six new groups (now permanent "panels") on any given day. So as a member of panel 6, I should only be on the spot every other Wednesday unless I raise my hand. Whew.

After Civ Pro (as everyone calls it), most of us ate lunch in Harkness Commons. A lot of us tried the cafeteria food out of curiosity and were pleasantly surprised. Food at the Hark (as everyone calls it), while not cheap, is much classier than I've ever seen in a college dining hall- so is the general atmosphere. I mostly took advantage of the excellent salad bar, but I hope the roasted pear-cashew-gorgonzola flatbread sandwich is still there tomorrow. I really wanted one, but the line was getting super long.

Our second, and mercifully last, class today was Torts. This one takes place in Austin Hall, whose classrooms are older and fancier than the Orientation and Civ Pro ones we've had in Pound Hall. There are not just outlets near every seat, but microphones (though we didn't use them), and with the dark wood everywhere, it looks a little like Congress. Our teacher, who is visiting from Georgetown where we hear he's a real hotshot environmental attorney, was much more of the iconic law professor you picture: he called us all by our last names, which he already had memorized by the first class (don't ask me how!!) and he spent the first few minutes telling us all which now-famous and important people sat in which of our seats 32 years ago when he had his first Torts class in our very classroom. (Moral of the story: the courses and professors at Harvard may be great, but "the single best thing you'll get out of Harvard is each other.") Eventually we got into the swing of class and discovered that he's also funny and a dynamic lecturer, and despite clearly being a badass, he takes care not to make anyone feel stupid. So that was nice.

Afterward, I walked with a new friend who lives near the Coop (campus bookstore- like Texas's Co-op except they don't write OR pronounce the hyphen here, which drives me crazy and makes me think of chickens every time) to buy the last of our required textbooks. The damage comes to about $800 so far, with one more book out of stock and a few marked "recommended" that I could still conceivably decide I need. Ouch! Luckily, I didn't have to carry them all myself: Russell met me there to help me bring them home, because he's my hero.

So it's been a big day, and at all of 5:30 p.m. I'm exhausted. I'd like to veg out and watch TV all night, but instead I have reading to do. Welcome to Law School, population Lea!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Food interlude

After that heavy-duty orientation post, I thought we could use something a little more fun.
Here's breakfast from last Wednesday, our last morning of freedom before Harvard:

Blackberry, honey, and goat cheese crepes, yum! Life without a microwave is making a pretty good cook out of me.