Saturday, June 27, 2009

Better days

Maybe I should have blogged about our horrible weather situation earlier, because it has been better every day since I did.
On Thursday afternoon, I worked from home (or rather, the patio just outside of our home) because we had FOUR WHOLE HOURS of incredible, impossible, glaring, blazing sunlight that day! Here I am basking in it:

Can you tell I have NEVER been so happy to see the sun? Russell certainly could, so when he got home from work, he offered to bring dinner outside. He chose take-out from our favorite bakery/cafe up the street, and here he is after dessert.

Friday's weather was similar: a few big, serious clouds in the sky, sometimes raining, sometimes making way for the sun. So I worked partly from home again, brushing up on my legal research and writing skills to check source citations for a couple of our advocates who had court briefs due this week. I like the work- it's satisfying and makes good use of specific lessons from my year of law school. Most importantly, it can be done anywhere.

Of course, things got even better once the weekend came. This morning, I saw blue skies outside our bedroom window and immediately sold Russell on a trip to the beach. When we got there, a serious blanket of morning fog was still lifting off the water, reminding us that we aren't free of this vicious nor'easter just yet. I wish I could convey how strange this looked: bright, hot, sunlight coming from one direction and cool, swirling, white mist coming from the other. It was awesome, but I'm glad it burned off and gave us a more traditional beach experience before long.

We had two amazing hours- easily two of the best hours of my month- before the rain clouds rolled back in. We had known they would, so we went home happy- and sunburned enough that it's probably best we didn't stay much longer.

It's so funny how "partly cloudy" has become a MIRACULOUS state of being around here. The whole city seems to proceed in bursts of spontaneity, trying to get out under every ray of sun the sky will give us. They're forecasting rain again next week, so I guess we're going to need it. At least I am, if I ever plan to post here about anything else!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

My so-called summer

You know, I honestly thought all this writing about weather would end along with my first New England winter. We all knew the cold climate would be a huge part of my adjustment to Harvard Law, so I didn’t feel too foolish making post after post about fall colors, snowstorms, skiing, or that miserable slushy period that stretched on into mid-April. But it’s late June now, and the amount that our weather has continued to affect my quality of life—and therefore my blog—is frankly becoming an affront to my pride.

All of which is to say: I haven’t seen the sun since a half-hour stretch last Friday, and not since Wednesday before that. The Boston area has been trapped under a layer of fog, cloud, and misty rain so thick and for so long that you’d think it was the start of the next science fiction or horror movie plotline! And it doesn’t look to be letting up anytime soon.

Just over two months ago, I posted our local forecast from to show you how depressing the tail-end of a Cambridge winter could be. Well, bafflingly, I believe we now have that beat:

I’ve been working on this post for a while, but it’s been difficult to finish because work has really ramped up just in time for the climate to render me record-breakingly inefficient. Also, I have mostly tried to be funny—thinking up jokes about how to hide the onset of webbed feet, telling stories about my supervisor’s umbrella repeatedly turning inside-out on our way to a meeting the other day, things like that—all the while sensing that humor was a dishonest way to handle this.

Because ultimately, unfortunately, I have to admit that this weather is making me seriously depressed. Which doesn’t feel funny at all—in fact, it feels a little too much like this:

Everyone from around here assures me that this weather isn’t normal, that it’s the worst summer since something like 1903. Why am I supposed to be comforted by this? In my slightly irrational state, I can only conclude that SOMEONE IS DELIBERATELY OUT TO GET ME. Why else put this weather in MY summer, the desperately-needed summer after MY first winter north of the Mason-Dixon line? What's more, in terms of my law school career, this will officially make ONE-THIRD OF ALL SUMMERS partially ruined by rain!

Combined with my grades and withdrawal from my incredible little sister, this gloominess has proved too much for my body. Despite weekly yoga with some women at my office, I feel like a flower wilting without sun: body aches, weakness, nausea and recurrent stomachaches. (Don't worry, Mom, today I finally called for a doctor's appointment.) We aren't sure whether my immune system is just shot and I'm having trouble shaking some bug, or whether the rain is actually doing this to me. I don't know which is worse.

Okay, enough whining. Partly because the sun is actually supposed to come out for a few hours tomorrow afternoon, so I might feel completely different by the time you read this post. So long for now, and I apologize for all the doom and gloom—wait, what am I talking about? There's probably sunshine where you are! You can take it!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Good and bad news

Well, I would sure love to stall by telling you everything about the El Paso trip and pretending, until the very last minute or maybe forever, that I didn’t just find out my spring semester grades. But the issue would still be there, looming, and some of you would probably ask about it eventually, which would only drag this out. So let me confess it right now: I got a bad grade.

The moment of truth was last night around 7:15, right as Russell and I got up from dinner. I opened my laptop, hit “refresh” on my unofficial transcript webpage, and almost immediately slammed it back shut. I may also have cursed. You might remember that I don’t like to share the specifics of my GPA here, but I will say my other grades were fine—unexpectedly high, actually. And I wasn’t surprised to have bombed this one exam, which was the last of the year, the one where my test-taking skills suddenly escaped me and my brain seemed to shut down for summer a few hours too soon. Yes, it’s nice to have a decent explanation… just not as nice as not needing one.

I can only imagine how many of you are out there laughing at my discomfort over this. In my defense, I’m trying not to be too ridiculously morose about it. Mostly, I’m bothered that this one grade is just bad enough to make the whole semester average out a tiny bit worse than the last. It contradicts what I guess was a pretty fundamental assumption that I would steadily improve throughout law school.

Of course, I didn’t fail. 1L year is still behind me, now more officially than ever. So this feeling is more unfamiliar than miserable. And the whole thing is tempered with a little humor, because I know this is such a typical Harvard Law student experience. So many people struggle with the first bad grades of their life here. I almost feel my education would be incomplete without it!

Which brings us to more pleasant things.

Most importantly, our trip to El Paso was every bit as wonderful as we expected. The weather was perfect, sunny and not too hot. Russell was utterly charmed by my little sister, and she took to him instantly too (although I’m definitely still her favorite, thank goodness.) It’s unbelievable how close to walking and talking she is, although her tireless energy and sweet disposition are more than obvious without either. I’ll let you see for yourself:

As for work, the last two days have been a bit slow. My boss has been out of the office and not responding right away to some roadblocks I hit early in the work she’d assigned me. This isn’t a big deal, since both our projects are quite long-term, and luckily I got to bide my time with a quick project for someone in the benefits division. I love the sampling of different areas I’ve gotten so far from this internship.

Well! Grades, baby, and work: I think that’s the full update. Until next time, dear readers, hoping all is well with you.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

News flash

I'm writing again so soon because the student body is abuzz! On Facebook, at least, where we’re all keeping touch from our various summer locations.

Since Elena Kagan stepped down to become Solicitor General, the leadership at HLS has been hard at work to replace her as dean. And today they made their choice:

Martha Minow is one of Harvard’s most popular professors, with waitlists in the hundreds for her constitutional and family law classes every semester. And most importantly, she is MY professor for Constitutional Law: Fourteenth Amendment next spring!

My section-mates who made the class are all crossing our fingers that she still decides to teach it. Past deans have continued teaching, but usually just one course at a time, and who knows if we're the one? I'll let you know how it turns outuntil then, prayers welcome!

On a side note, while I was working on this post, Russell showed me the coolest quiz he accessed through "What kind of tech user are you?" The results were spot-on for both of us, so I thought I'd share.

Enjoy, and wish me luck nabbing a class with the new dean!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Summer so far

First, let me apologize for what a delinquent blogger I’ve been! I have absolutely no excuse, because working life is so far just as peaceful and routine as I’d predicted. My biggest stressor is finding clothes to wear to the office, not because the environment is at all formal, but because—not going to lie—I gained a little weight from all that Tex-Mex on my recent Austin visit!

So no, I haven’t been too busy to write. Just disinclined to spend any more time at a computer after typing all day, I guess, which is hardly enough reason to leave friends and family in the dark. I do promise to make blogging a part of my summer schedule—and what better time to start than right now?

Since you’re probably wondering about the internship, I’ll start there. The bottom line: this work is as close to perfect as I could ever rationally have expected. I have things to do, and I feel they contribute to the important work of my supervisor—but I’ve never felt overwhelmed so far. Mostly I’m needed for Internet research, both the traditional legal kind and a more creative, fact-finding kind that makes me feel pretty sneaky. Starting soon, I should even be doing some field research with a local grassroots group one day a week. And who knows what else, as my boss seems to be trusting me more and more.

I also like gaining exposure to some of the other practices within this organization. Last week, I was asked to take notes at a very tense and important meeting with a certain state agency. This meant marching to the opposite end of downtown with two brilliant and hilarious attorneys, stopping midway for lunch at a cute local café.

Lunch is why I love working downtown. Bringing my own lunch each day would be healthier and cheaper, but most days I can’t resist the urge to get out in the city and sample the nearby offerings, which are numerous with so many businesspeople around. Sometimes I decide beforehand to look for a place I’ve heard recommended, and other times I just wander. If I’m too late getting back, I just eat at my desk, happy to have spent my hour exploring. Not that anyone probably cares how long a lunch I take.

Another thing bringing me joy these days is the new TV Russell and I bought last week. It’s a 22-inch Samsung flatscreen, modest but a huge improvement over our old one, which most people wouldn’t want for their kitchen.

Like I told my boss on our way to a meeting today, I sincerely wish I could be one of those awesome people who snubs television. But I’m not. I adore TV and think it’s the next great art form for my generation—if you don’t believe me, watch any two episodes of The West Wing, or my new addiction, HBO’s The Wire. We just finished the second season in record time, having bought it on DVD with the savings from our TV being on sale. Together, they were the perfect reward for a long school year, and the best possible use of a little extra loan money and some of Russell’s tax refund.

Russell, by the way, is in for yet another treat this coming Saturday around lunchtime. That’s because he’s finally joining me for a trip to El Paso, where my incredible baby sister is turning ONE YEAR OLD! It’s also Grandma’s birthday—her 90th, if you can believe that—so plenty of relatives should be in town to show the boy a good old-fashioned Downey family bash.

With all this activity coming up, who knows when I’ll have time to post here again. But it shouldn’t be too long, because June 17 is the official scheduled date for the release of spring semester grades! And we all know I’ll be itching to talk (or sniffle, or sob) about that. Also ahead: lottery results for fall electives registration (July 15) and news from the Law Review (late July!) It’s a busy summer, folks—but so long as there’s no homework, I’m happy.