Friday, December 31, 2010

Obligatory finals post

So it seems like I should report back on finals while it's still the same year I took them, right? I apologize for taking so long already, but as you can imagine, I really needed a break. They were pretty brutal, since I hadn't taken so many in so short a time since 1L year.
The first one was Taxation, preparing for which could have been much worse, since our professor released model answers for several of her past exams to help check our work. I also had a friend in the class to meet and go over one of them. So the difficult part was balancing that with Environmental Law, which I had to study at the same time because the exam was only a day later.

The Tax exam was fair and not too long to complete in time, which is always my biggest fear with the three-hour, in-class format. I did have a minor heart attack when one of the questions centered around a term I didn't even remotely recognize. But after I skipped it and came back at the end, I was lucky enough to find it in the index of the case book, so I could quickly read up and write what I think was an adequate answer. It's hard to be sure, but I didn't feel too panicked as I submitted my exam and headed out to lunch with some classmates.

Environmental Law was a lot tougher, mostly because it lasted eight hours, every minute of which was needed to work out the answers and then cut them back to fit the extremely tight word limit. The professor hadn't released model answers, but to go over each past exam, I met with the most outrageously brilliant study group you could ever want: three members of this year's winning Ames Moot Court team and two Law Review editors, one of them the President. I went into the exam fairly confident, partly because I'd more or less held my own among those geniuses and partly because I'd learned so much each time they'd caught things I hadn't. The real challenge was just to keep going the whole time at enough of a pace to cover everything important.

I had two days off after that, and I made sure to spend the first one relaxing to avoid burnout. I did some Christmas shopping, watched some TV shows I had missed while studying, and tried to catch up on sleep and healthy food. Then I got started studying for Administrative Law.

That exam took three hours on a Friday morning, and I felt about as ready as I could be, although I never quite know how to prepare for that professor's exams. I think he makes the questions vague on purpose, which I can respect, since it must lead to more varied answers and less tedious grading. But between that and not having model answers, I couldn't be entirely sure what he'd want, so I just had to do my best and take my chances.

That was probably a good last exam to have, since it dialed down the intensity of my studying a little toward the end, and I was able just to write for three hours and walk away without much to dissect. I had a long lunch at Cambridge Common with friends, headed home to watch the original Tron online in preparation for a Tron Legacy showing downtown that night, and pretty much called it a semester.

Now, I don't want to jinx anything, but I'm hoping those were the last exams I'll ever take in law school. There might be one more, depending on my spring classes - all but one of which are currently seminars and obscure electives with paper assignments instead of exams - and how much finagling I'm willing to do to change that last one to match the rest. Either way, the prospect that this was my last jam-packed and stressful finals season is pretty incredible. Even at my most fearful about leaving school and entering the real world once and for all, that's one part I think I can happily do without.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Go west, young girl

I'm in El Paso at the moment, getting ready for a family visit to the historic village of Old Mesilla, New Mexico, and wondering at what a difference six months makes. My sister has changed from a toddler into a full-fledged little kid since I last saw her, which sadly was all the way back in June, around her second birthday, since all the time and money I've had for travel since then has gone into trips to Austin for job interviews and my mom's surgery.
She's still about as contrary, mischievous, and temperamental as anybody under age three, so of course I look forward to this phase being over. But I also can't believe how much is going on in terms of her cognition and verbal skills right now. She can sound out basic words with just a little help, and she recognizes some of her favorites, like the D-O-R-A of Dora the Explorer, on sight.

She's also downright conversational. Pointing at different parts of a toy bracelet she got for Christmas, she'll tell me, "I like the butterfly, I like the pink, and I like that, because that is light blue." Watching a TV show on her favorite channel, Sprout: "Did you see his girlfriend walking there? He has a girlfriend." Later, when the characters arrive at daycare: "They're gonna take a nap." Then again, her favorite words are "I don't want to," which I think we all wish we could go back and make sure she never learned.

It's crazy, as everyone in the family asks for updates about school and congratulates me on my upcoming graduation, to think that all this development in Mirella has happened since my first visit to Cambridge to pick out an apartment for law school. I once heard J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, refer to one of her books as her daughter's "ink-and-paper twin" because it was largely written during her pregnancy. I feel kind of the same way about my legal career and my sister, which were both in their infancy at the same time.

On a side note, Christmas was great, especially all the presents from my mom designed to help me develop a professional wardrobe. There's a particular ochre-colored top from J. Crew that I hope I have the restraint to keep in nice shape until my clerkship.

For now, I'm off to New Mexico, but I promise to post again soon with the promised updates about exams, classes, et cetera. Happy New Year, everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010


There were times when I literally thought this would never happen, but it finally has: I am 100% FINISHED with final exams and free to enjoy TWO FULL WEEKS with almost no responsibilities whatsoever!!
The first two days since exams wrapped up have been surprisingly busy, since I put off several things for my journal until I'd finished testing, plus needed to get out and Christmas shop for anyone whose gift I wanted to buy before leaving Cambridge. We're also lending our apartment to some friends upstairs whose parents will be visiting while we're in Austin, so that requires some cleaning. They've asked us over for wine and egg nog tonight in gratitude (although I don't know why - they're looking after Ramona in this process, which is such a relief for us), so predictably I'm baking. Wish me luck getting the sugar crackle on top of my turnover recipe to turn red and green for the season.

I promise to post soon with a report on exams, my incredibly exciting, far-too-jam-packed, how-will-I-ever-decide-what-to-drop course schedule for next semester, and more. Right now, I have got to start packing for our flight tomorrow evening. Packing for a month-long trip the same day as the flight does not seem advisable, and since I ACTUALLY HAVE TIME TO DO OTHERWISE, I plan to take advantage!

Thursday, December 2, 2010


"Crunch" doesn't even begin to cover it.
The entirety of my free time in the past week has consisted of:
  • Watching the first 45 minutes of "The Lives of Others," our latest DVD from Netflix, while eating dinner Monday night. (I still haven't managed to watch the rest of it.)
  • Letting The Biggest Loser play in the background while folding laundry and booking holiday travel on Tuesday night.
  • Joining friends for trivia at a local pub for two whole hours last night.
I've spent literally every other moment of every day either in class or some other school function, reading or otherwise preparing for class or final exams, trying to wrap up TAP cases for the semester, or proofreading articles for my journal (by far the most time consuming of all.)

I guess I'm grateful to be getting enough sleep, but I also think it says something about the energy-intensiveness (and/or tediousness) of these tasks that I absolutely cannot drag myself out of bed before 8 a.m. or keep my eyes open past 1 a.m. each day.

I can't remember any other time quite like this, even during 1L year. Last night I couldn't shut up about how tired I am, not caring whether I bored my friends. I considered it a huge relief to take an hour out of yesterday afternoon and wash the dishes I'd been letting pile up in our sink all week. The dishes! My least favorite chore in the universe! I set my computer to play the most recent episode of "Glee" and barely noticed whether it was any good, my brain zoned out so completely.

I guess this is the deep, deep hole I dug for myself by taking charge of the technical editing department of a law journal, fully aware of my own extreme perfectionist tendencies. Doing it in the same semester when I'd need to take a week off school to tend to family didn't help, either.

So I apologize if my blogging suffers as I trudge through this. After I die of exhaustion, I promise to post more from beyond the grave.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Crunch 'n munch

Whew, what a crazy couple of weeks. On top of the usual academic struggles, a growing case load at TAP, and the beginning of the busiest time of the semester for my department at my journal, I had to get ready for two visits from relatives really deserving of a fun time in Cambridge.
Last week it was my cousin Marcella, a freshman with a ridiculously difficult major at a prestigious college that barely lets her out of the science lab. She came just in time for the premiere of the new Harry Potter movie and the Harvard-Yale football game, so we joined some friends for both of those, then checked out the Harvard Museum of Natural History, walked Boston Common and the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood, and window-shopped on Newbury Street before sending her home.

Three days later, we welcomed Russell's cousin Becca, who has the thankless job of teaching special education at an elementary school back in Texas. After bringing her to one of my law school classes and giving her the grand tour of Harvard, we took her to the Common and Newbury Street too (although we shopped a lot more than just windows.) Then she joined us for Thanksgiving dinner with friends, several culinary firsts from Mr. Bartley's hamburgers to tapas and Vietnamese coffee, and finally a tour of Fenway Park that we all agreed was downright magical.

Unfortunately, with the exception of a few delicious leftovers, the fun is pretty much over now. It's high time I buckled down and started preparing for exams, even though there is still plenty to distract me, from my journal (did I mention it's our busiest time of semester?) to my classes for next spring (for the 4+ available hours in my schedule, I can't for the life of me decide which combination of "Capital Punishment in America," "Law and Mind Sciences: Seminar," "Workshop on Law and Social Policy," and "Class Actions and Other Aggregate Litigation" to take!)

Luckily, my independent winter clinical proposal has been approved, so that hassle is finished as soon as I drop by the Clinicals office to sign some paperwork. But whether it's enough to make room for all the finals studying I need to do, we'll just have to see. Wish me luck, and happy belated Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Nobody said it was easy

Last week was surprisingly okay, considering I didn't spend my weekend preparing for it. I got through my Monday classes just fine, and after more classes and a trip to the voting booth on Tuesday, I made time for another little break to watch election returns with Russell and the comfort of homemade margaritas. These are the times when it's especially great to have your own blender.
Wednesday and Thursday were a blur of Admin Law, Taxation, and training the 1L's at my journal for their technical edit or "subcite" of the articles we'll publish this semester. If the 1L's do good work, the job of my Technical Department is much easier down the line. So I've been training a lot of them myself, an investment I sure hope will pay off.

All this was made extra-busy by the fact that I decided, at the last minute and way past the official deadline, to apply to do an "independent winter clinical" this January. It's one of the ways to get academic credit between the fall and spring semesters each year, which is required for every HLS student. And since I could do it from Austin while helping my mom continue to recover from her surgery, it recently took on a new appeal.

Which is why, with typical Harvard generosity, the Clinicals office is letting me apply so late. I'll need a project I can't do at any of the existing clinics, a licensed attorney to supervise me, and a faculty member to supervise the paper I'll be writing in conjunction. I'm planning a project back at one of my awesome summer employers, so I'm pretty excited, but I'm also getting my butt kicked a little by working out the rest at a speed I think is considerate.

And that's fine, because a different part of my life got much easier this week, even if it did take a really difficult decision to make it happen. I'm talking about my Political Economy for Modern Capitalism class, which for weeks I've been feeling frustrated about.

I know I haven't really let on here, but it has been such a struggle trying to catch up with my fellow students' lengthy backgrounds on the topic, to develop any remotely decent ideas for the very long paper looming at the end of the year, and to square it all with my towering stress levels in other areas of life. So this class was seeming less and less worth the two credits it would earn me, and I was feeling less and less worth the professors' time.

Hating that feeling, I had started to wonder about withdrawing from the course. It seemed like such a terrible idea, but was it more terrible than staying in all year? On Friday I visited the Dean of Students Office for some advice, and as usual, they made the whole thing crystal clear within minutes. Because of my mom - because people just cannot pass up any chance to make things easier around my mom, and it is so sweet - the class is coming off my transcript without even the "WD" notation that would usually indicate it had ever been there.

It felt like crap to tell my professor, but with that done, I feel so incredibly relieved. I have plenty of credits without the class, and everything else I'm doing seems so much more manageable without it tacked on. Most importantly, I've spent the first part of this week wrapping up that clinical application - both my faculty and attorney supervisors just fell into place today - so with any luck I'll be approved soon for three great weeks in Austin.

This is a tough time to do it, maybe the toughest, but I'm starting to feel like I've struck the right balance between school and family. Which, as everyone at school keeps graciously, wonderfully telling me, is the most important thing of all.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Killer weekend

It's early evening on Sunday, and I haven't done one thing to prepare for Admin or Environmental Law tomorrow morning. What's more, I have no real intention of doing so with what's left of this evening. Instead, I've been doing things a whole lot more conducive to my general well-being than studying, like baking things from scratch and getting the apartment ready for some friends to come over for Halloween.
Are you asking what happened to the Type A personality that got me to Harvard in the first place? Do I have to turn in my credentials as The Girl Who Freaked Out More About Possible Academic Consequences of a Recent Family Emergency Than the Actual Emergency? Do you feel like my aunt, who commented on my Facebook post about all the baking I was doing, "Aren't you supposed to be studying?"

I guess the answer is that everyone needs a break sometimes. I was an absolute zombie this past week, no pun intended, and it was clearly because I didn't use last weekend to decompress after the intensity of catching up at school. And I'd rather be a bit unprepared tomorrow than let that happen again.

So the weekend looked like this: Russell and I went to Target on Friday evening, partly to stock up for Halloween and partly to wander the aisles looking at bedding, winter boots, and Legos. (Can you guess which one of us cared about which?) On Saturday, we bundled up and walked down to the Square for lunch at Clover, a new vegetarian food-truck-turned-cafe, before buying some groceries for all the cooking I had planned.

First, as dinner for myself, Russell, and a friend we invited over, there was my first-ever batch of homemade pasta (an enormous hassle I won't repeat until we have a Cuisinart mixer and pasta machine, but pretty awesome to have successfully made) with butternut squash filling and brussels sprouts. Then I helped our friend with the crust for a pumpkin pie he wanted to make for our party.

The whole evening was a lovely prelude to today, when we used the party as pretext to give every square inch of the apartment the thorough cleaning it desperately needed. We always grumble a lot while doing this, but when the place feels amazing afterward and won't need it again for weeks or months, we know it was completely worth it. We also decorated a little, brushed the cat several times in hopes of helping an allergic friend enjoy the party, and baked almost four dozen of my favorite chocolate chip cookies in the world.

Now it's almost time for our guests to start showing up, and I can hardly wait to carve pumpkins, play video games, drink beer and eat baked goods, and ultimately gather around the premiere of the new zombie TV drama The Walking Dead with them. As one friend of ours (who is coming tonight despite an 8 a.m. midterm tomorrow) puts it, sometimes bad life choices are the best.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Pretty rotten

Okay, time for a break from the seriousness of last post!

I was looking through some old photos recently, and I noticed that I had a whole lot of photos of our former cat, Omar, but only a few of Ramona, our current one. Partly this must be due to the novelty of cat ownership in general wearing off with time. But partly it's funny, because Ramona is just about the most beautiful and photogenic cat in the history of, well, cats.

Ramona is so beautiful (and yet so comically chubby, grouchy, spoiled, uncoordinated, and loud at the exact same time) that Russell and I find ourselves singing a pretty specific song to her almost every day. I was definitely humming it during a little photo shoot we had the other afternoon, in hopes of putting a dent in that photo deficit I noticed.

So here it is, my ode to our cat:

Looking 'round the room
I can tell that you
Are the most beautiful girl
In the... room

In the whole wide room

And when you're on the street
Depending on the street
I bet that you are definitely in the top three
Good-looking girls on the street

Depending on the street...

You're so beautiful
You could be a waitress

You're so beautiful
You could be an air hostess in the 60's

You're so beautiful
Like a tree
Like some ceramics or something...

You're so beautiful
You could be a part-time model
But you'd probably have to keep your normal job

A part time model
You could spend part of your time modeling
and part of your time
next to meeee...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Yet again, I've gone quite a while without writing anything here. What is it John Lennon says about life being what happens while you're busy making other plans?
I want to tell you why, because it's not only this blog where I've been missing over the last week-plus. But I've spent so much time going over all the details by phone, e-mail, and text message, to so many loved ones near and far, that I'm not sure I have the energy to do it again here.

I'll just say that a very sudden, very scary and serious medical emergency happened to my mom at the end of the week before last, and to see her through surgery I left Cambridge and my classes from last Monday until Sunday night. You can read about her condition in general terms here:

Several family members joined us in Austin, and we were blown away by everything about my mother's care. Not only do I recommend St. David's, and in particular the NeuroTexas Institute, with all my heart if you ever have the choice, but by the wonders of modern medicine she is already recovering at home with a full head of hair and only a black eye to show for the whole ordeal. There is a very long road ahead, but that is a pretty incredible start.

Meanwhile I'm back at Harvard, in a sort of recovery process of my own. Missing a whole week of all my classes was exactly as rough as you'd think: after three days of hospital duty, spending large parts of my time sleeping but never feeling like I'd slept, the double dose of class work required to be prepared each day is taking everything I have.

In every sense, though, it can only get better from here. At first I was afraid my whole semester, or obviously much, much more, would completely get away from me because of this. But with every kind word or gesture from family or friends - and there have been so many - I feel a little closer to normalcy. Even if it isn't the same normalcy I had before.

As Floyd Skloot writes in a beautiful essay I like to read in times like these and just recommended to my mom today, "But no, I am not going to be the man I was. In this, I am hardly alone."

Monday, October 4, 2010

Old enough to know better

Well, here I am, almost two full weeks into getting to focus my energy on school, work, and friends now that my post-graduation job search is over. Or I would be, if I had any energy or could seem to focus at all.
This started with the pretty terrible cold I developed soon after getting back from Austin, which I tried to deny for a few days because the symptoms were so much like extreme allergies, but eventually had to acknowledge when my usual antihistamine quit even making a dent. I switched to a regimen of Dayquil and Nyquil so extreme that attending class and preparing for class basically became an either/or proposition, and I mostly chose to attend class in hopes that copious note-taking would compensate for spending every spare moment asleep or close to it.

That was the start of my lethargy and my saying really dumb things, but it definitely wasn't the end. My cold is long over, and I still find myself coming home from school so incredibly tired that I literally can't bring myself to do schoolwork - or even cook, which is my usual favorite way to avoid schoolwork I don't want to do. I find myself getting grumpy over pretty much anything that requires me to lift my arms, making long to-do lists instead of taking care of little things at my usual clip. And I find myself, just like when I was on Dayquil but with much less excuse, drifting around in a fog that somehow obscures my self-censor so I wind up volunteering the most wandering, badly put, or just plain incorrect information in my classes and group meetings ALL THE TIME. All the time.

I'm so grateful for patient and generous professors, like the ones in my Modern Capitalism class who breezed past my inexplicable, crucial mistake of a famous author's identity like it was understandable when it absolutely wasn't. But I'm also still embarrassed enough to consider this a wake-up call. I know the symptoms of seasonal depression when I see them, and confusion is a big one I just haven't happened to experience before. Fatigue and irritability, meanwhile, are a pair about as familiar to me as the gray, rainy skies we've had outside all week.

So I'm calling a stop. I'm committing myself to do whatever it takes to keep this from happening. This is my third and final year at law school, and if I can't enjoy it - and be good at it, which I had really started to feel like I was - I'll never have another chance. I'm not certain what it's going to take, because I've used my phototherapy lamp nearly every day for the past two weeks and this backslide obviously still happened. But I know this much: if I can't pull myself out of this by sheer force of will in the next few days, my mental health care provider is getting a visit. I know that at Harvard, we don't mess around.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I've got a golden ticket

It’s funny, I had planned to write a whole post about how horrible last week was, but I never got around to doing it. And while last week really was awful—I still can’t sugar-coat it—not only have things gotten much, much better since then, but it also turned out to be pretty lucky that I didn’t post just to complain.

To sum it up, last Monday was the first day when judges could call clerkship applicants to offer them interviews under the federal hiring plan. Of course, the calls immediately flooded in for all my most brilliant classmates, while I sat staring at a silent phone. It didn’t mean I would never get any interviews, since various judges have their reasons not to start calling right away, and that seemed even more likely in the less competitive locations where I applied. But people tended to forget this fact, and those who didn’t ignore me completely were a bit too sympathetic, like this whole career path had already closed for me forever.

I’m sure other people were also struggling with the feeling that everyone had gotten calls except them. But like me, they didn’t exactly advertise it. So I sat alone when I could, slinked straight home after class every day, and stayed there. It was the loneliest, most alienating time I’ve ever spent at Harvard.

But enough of that, because things changed a lot very soon. I was in Tax class on Friday morning when my former boss left me a voicemail saying she had been at a function with one of the judges I’d applied to, and she’d taken care to recommend me at length. She suggested, though, that I call chambers to make sure they had my application, because the judge hadn’t recognized my name.

In a class break, I got the message and called the judge, trying to sound calm and casual in a voicemail requesting confirmation, out of an abundance of caution, that they had received my materials. I guess this was just pushy enough, because soon after I got home that afternoon (and was thanking my lucky stars just to have survived the week), I got a call from the judge saying they had indeed pulled out my application, had been impressed, and would love to interview me.

I had to laugh at this point, because of course the call had come on Friday afternoon before a week-long school break when I would hardly have anyone to tell about it. It was like the cosmos wanted me to be successful, just not in time to disrupt the test it was putting me through socially. Thanks a lot.

Anyway, the judge gave me the weekend to schedule a flight to Austin, and when I called back on Monday, we set the interview for Thursday afternoon. Then she mentioned that her clerks had discovered my blog and thought it was “very well-written”—high praise, but you see why it was a good thing I never managed to post my long tirade about the injustices of last week! A nice big pity party about the lack of attention you’re getting from employers, full of bitterness toward peers who are doing better, is just not the first thing you want a judge to see when she has the good sense to probe your online identity.

(By the way, I’ve often questioned whether I’ll want to continue this blog after graduation, and I think my answer came when the judge said, “By the way, there will be no more of that if you come work for me.” I couldn’t help but joke, “What, good writing?” And she laughed, but she also made it clear what she meant: “Blogging!”)

Well, after a shopping trip for a terrific new suit, several hours of interview prep, and a hellish couple of flights to Austin (are you noticing a trend? Don’t all my flights to Austin lately seem to be hellish?) I was in the judge’s chambers for my interview. I won’t go into detail, but there were some tough questions, a lot of great information about the job, and a really encouraging amount of laughter. So I left feeling pretty good.

And that turned out to be justified, because I was stopped in traffic, not even home yet from the interview, when she called to offer me the clerkship!! She didn’t want me to answer right away and said I should call her next week, but I couldn’t wait and accepted first thing on Friday. We exchanged a couple of voicemails that day, in one of which she invited me to a party at her home over the holidays. What people say about the best judges making their clerks feel like family already looks to be true.

I’m exhausted now, having spent the rest of the Austin trip celebrating with every friend I could get my hands on, but I have enough work to do for classes Monday that I can’t relax completely. I think it’s going to be a little tough concentrating, but I have to power through—my work ethic dropped WAY below normal while I was so bummed last week, and I had better catch up.

However, I am beyond relieved to think how much attention I can give school, TAP, the journal, my friends, and everything else I should be savoring about Harvard now that my job search is over. Most of the great things about this clerkship haven’t quite sunk in for me yet, but that’s one blessing I’m very aware I have. I think I earned it, but if I ever take it for granted, please somebody remind me about last week.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

First and last

I can't really believe it, but my first full week of school is nearly over, and I've had all of my classes but one (a seminar that only meets every other week) at least once now.

All in all, it's going well. The first couple of days were rough, because I had trouble getting organized and finishing readings in time for class, and I was desperate to get off on the right foot and make sure that scattered feeling didn't linger on all semester. It didn't help that the temperature spiked for a few days there, so without air conditioning I was feeling much too sluggish to do any of the things that would have made me feel better. Luckily, that wrapped up around the end of last week - the weather is gorgeous now, and I somewhat have my act together.

Which is a very good thing, because this week the meetings for my various organizations started up, meaning all kinds of new responsibilities just for me. At TAP, I'm the chairperson of the Intake Committee now, so I run the meetings and train the new members instead of just bringing in cases to discuss (although I'll have those, too.) And at HLPR I'm a member of the new reigning Masthead, responsible for making actual decisions instead of just listening in and learning while others call the shots. Which makes it a little bit harder to use those meetings to eat lunch.

Classes are great, though. My Taxation and Administrative Law professors are old favorites, like my Modern Capitalism seminar professor will be, but my Environmental Law professor is about as new and exciting as they come. Fresh from a stint at the White House, funny and friendly but aggressively Socratic, she is pretty much my new hero. If my head doesn't explode from picking apart the extremely technical statutes she's already fond of assigning, it should be an excellent semester.

Meanwhile, a little bit of nostalgia has been attaching itself to everything I do these days. I sit down to start a post, and soon I'm thinking about my decision to start writing this blog two years ago. I remember being pretty nervous and uncertain about airing my experiences for the whole Internet to read, thinking this was some giant undertaking I might regret or not be able to maintain. Instead, of course, it has been such a welcome way to document this time, organize my thinking about it, and get just enough feedback to know I'm not crazy. Most things are like that these days - completely changed from how I knew or imagined them then.

Part of me misses that summer, when this whole adventure was still ahead of me and the questions weighing on my mind were mostly "Will my financial aid application get finished before I leave for Europe?" and "Will the registrar's website lock me out for mis-typing my student ID number one more time?"

That's probably an overstatement, because "Will people like me?" was a big one as well. (Hopefully, a couple of rousing successes at pub trivia lately signify the answer to that one.) But the biggest one now is "Will people hire me?" And it's the most anxiety-producing of all. Under the federal clerkship hiring timeline, my applications were released to judges this Tuesday, and they can begin calling to grant interviews next Monday, September 13th. Of course, enough of them are known for jumping the gun that there's already reason to be nervous if the phone isn't ringing. And of course, mine isn't yet. The universe would never make it so easy!

Faced with that, even my readings from the Internal Revenue Code are looking like a pretty attractive distraction. I guess it's a good thing I'm still a law student, if only for now.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Into the swing

It's finally here: the first week of my last year of law school. Classes start Wednesday, but to pick up textbooks, course packets, and a check from financial aid, I went up to campus yesterday for the first time since May.
Langdell Hall was decked out in crimson banners for 1L Orientation, and the trees on Holmes Field were impossibly huge and green compared with the crunchy dryness of Texas plant life this time of year. It was wonderful to be back and totally bizarre to think it would only last eight more months. I was literally looking forward to the reunions already.

Of course, not every part of my day went smoothly. I got to Financial Services only to realize I had never filled out some necessary Web form and would need to do so, then wait two hours for them to process it, before I could pick up my check. Luckily, I ran into a friend who also needed to go textbook shopping, so we did that in the meantime. I was happy to see that my Administrative Law class uses the same book I already bought for 1L Legislation and Regulation, but less pleased when the "abridged" version of the Internal Revenue Code I needed for Taxation was still thicker than my fist. In hindsight, I guess I was naive for expecting otherwise.

On the bright side, my new schoolbag proved itself worthy by carrying half my haul back to campus very comfortably. But I was still pretty hot and sweaty when I got back to Financial Services, where my check wasn't quite ready yet. Unlike heating in winter, air conditioning in summer isn't something folks in Cambridge always get right. So I continued to sweat while waiting and catching up with several classmates who were doing the same.

To clarify, this check contains the balance on my student loans and grants after tuition, student health insurance, and some other fees are paid. Harvard takes what it's owed and gives you the remainder, in my case around $10,800, for living expenses (which are an acceptable purpose for education loans - who knew? This was all Greek to me when I started at Harvard, since my parents were able to pay for undergrad at my relatively cheap state school with no help from financial aid. But by now it's old hat.)

Once the check was finally ready and I deposited it at my credit union in the Square, I couldn't help but lug all my books to the new Anthropologie on Brattle Street to shop. It felt SO GOOD to have money again after my incredibly cash-strapped summer. I didn't buy anything, but being able to try on several things in earnest was a breath of fresh air on a hot, sticky day.

I also wanted to pick out a good notebook, since laptops won't be allowed in 2-3 of my classes this semester, but for once my favorite stationery store let me down. There are other good places to try, like the enormous school-supply floor of the COOP, but I decided to go back when I didn't have half my weight in case books in tow. So I headed home to cool off, watch some Buffy, make tofu with couscous and generally enjoy one of these last lazy nights with Russell.

With that stuff out of the way, today should be a little more fun. Some friends are having a picnic on Cambridge Common in a few hours, so I'm about to get cleaned up and put together a lunch to bring to that. And tonight I have a shopping date with Anush at a classy little mall we like near MIT, which should take care of the last of my back-to-school needs. I may just be ready to start this last year of law school out right.... Gulp.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

School bag perfection

I mentioned before that one of my important back-to-school rituals is finding the right bag to carry to class all year. I think it's funny what an evolved and complicated process this has become, so I thought I might share.

It all started the first week of 1L year, when I realized just how much I would need to haul up and down the street every day for nine months. I'd assumed that some existing purse of mine would work - they were all pretty huge since I'd refused to carry a separate laptop bag throughout undergrad - but now my thinnest textbooks were twice as thick as my computer and could only fit in a couple of the most gigantic bags I owned.

Unfortunately, all of these happened to be in bright printed fabrics that clashed badly and obviously with a lot of my clothing (partly because I'm a vegetarian and try not to buy leather, and such is the style of many bags that aren't.) So I spent the first week of school only using them when I could find clothes that somewhat matched, and otherwise I showed up to class with numb arms and a distinct junior-high appearance from carrying a stack of books outside my too-small purse. I also repeatedly forgot things in the switch, leaving my highlighter or Bluebook or Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the wrong bag just in time to need them.

Needless to say, I put a stop to this the first chance I got. Aware that other students with this same problem had decided a backpack was the only solution, I strongly considered one of those. But every time I tried on a friend's, I felt like an idiot. Other people didn't seem to look like preteen geeks or wannabe hikers in them, but I couldn't quit feeling that way myself. Also, they made it kind of difficult to breathe. Maybe my years of using purses for my laptop had trained my body to want to haul weight on just one side.

So I marched into my favorite stationery store in the Square, where I'd seen great big tote bags hanging from the ceiling. I picked out a shiny apple-green one in quilted vinyl, happy that it was vegan and reasoning that unlike black or brown, it wouldn't cause a mismatch when I wore one or the other. I was in love after just a few days of class, and even for socializing I barely used any other bag all year.

However, come May I was pretty happy to retire it. The thing was threadbare, and anyway I had developed just a couple of complaints I hoped to eliminate for the coming year. With a similarly picky friend, I came up with a list of criteria for my 2L year schoolbag. Carrying over from the first year were:
  • Enormous
  • Not leather
  • Two handles, so I can get into it while carrying it
  • Solid color besides black or brown
But I added for this next time around:
  • Structured enough not to flop around while I put things in it
  • Lining not slippery, so if it falls over all my things won't slide out (say, across the ladies' room floor, because yes this did happen)
  • Looks sharp enough to carry into job interviews if need be
If you think that sounds like a pretty tall order, you're right. It took a few weeks of keeping an eye out on my own, then a few days of intensive searching with my good friend Bella in New York, before I found my perfect bag at the colossal designer discount store Century 21. Made by vegan and earth-friendly designers Matt & Nat and originally priced at something like $325, it cost me $120 and looked like this:

It was worth every penny. It probably would have been if I'd paid full price. It rose to every challenge of a long and tiring school year, and when I took a hard look at it this May, I was very sad to conclude that it had gotten too shabby to carry for another year. But it had served me so well that I couldn't think of a single thing I would change. So I set out shopping with the same list as last year in mind.

And I'm happy to announce that it went much more quickly this time: just one day in Harvard Square (where the best candidates, I was surprised to find, were at Urban Outfitters) and one day in downtown Boston did the trick. My new bag came from DSW, cost $66 with tax, and should hopefully meet every need I have:

There's a song I heard recently - playing over a scene in the Dennis Quaid movie The Rookie, actually, which Russell and I watched the other day over a game of Scrabble and really enjoyed - that made me smile to think of this ridiculous quest I've been on. According to Google, the song is Stuff that Works by Guy Clark, and I recommend it if you understand my pleasure in hard-sought things that work just right.

I know, or at least I hope, that we all have things we're this picky about. Maybe you can use some of my insights if you're headed to law school or some other activity involving very heavy things. Otherwise, I hope you can just share my satisfaction in being picky and having it pay off - again!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Jiggity jig

It's weird to think of myself as having come home, when that's the same feeling I overwhelmingly had about returning to Austin to start work back in May. But a lot of this week has felt like a homecoming, too, because some parts of living in Austin did NOT feel like home.
For one thing, I was subletting an apartment, which feels a little like living in someone else's dirt for three months. I doubt I'm actually a cleaner person than the regular tenants, but it can feel that way when someone hasn't prioritized cleaning the things you would never tolerate being dirty (and has probably left spotless some things you don't even notice because you don't care if they're clean.) Before long, I was desperate to get back to my painted countertops, shiny white bathtub, and easily swept and mopped wood floors in Cambridge.

Of course, living without Russell also made Austin feel like another planet. He's so fun and silly that I find it much easier to get bored living alone, or at least to feel unproductive and lazy for taking what he'd probably help me recognize as well-deserved breaks. Plus, it is so much harder to finish groceries before they spoil without him, and there's no way to divide labor so that I'm spared my least favorite household chores while doubling up on the ones he hates but I don't mind. We're such a good match in this sense that he's officially the best roommate I've ever had, and I've had some good ones. It's so great to be living with him again.

And Ramona! Smart kitty, she recognized me from the moment I walked through the door (which we weren't really sure she would) and ever since has been every bit the fun companion I remembered. Russell is right that she mellowed a little over the summer, which the vet did say would start happening on the other side of two years old. So she's been more affectionate and tolerant than when I left her, which is great, but she still has distinct bad moods when she wanders the apartment literally grumbling and whining. Hilarious, but it's best to stay a few feet away when it's happening.

So I'm settling in, and I've already checked off some important back-to-school duties like finding a weekly planner and a school bag for this year. Russell and I joined a classmate for brunch this morning, then helped him find a place in Harvard Square that sold water guns so he could stock up for a city-wide water fight this afternoon on Boston Common - I can't wait to ask him how it went. Russell and I were a little more practical and went grocery shopping, which was desperately necessary since he left the kitchen mostly empty (and yet surprisingly messy) before coming to get me in Austin. (I can't blame him, though. Just like my poor record with taking out my trash this summer, I think stocking the fridge was something he had grown accustomed to letting his roommate do.)

Now I have just over a week to enjoy Cambridge and Boston before classes start again, and I plan on milking it. The weather these days rarely tops 80 degrees and is mostly sunny, although we're in for rain tomorrow night. So I'm planning a lot of walks and meals outside, and I may even hit up the beach a time or two - with an Environmental Law or Federal Income Taxation textbook in tow, of course, because it won't be long before those first reading assignments are due. Wish me luck and enjoy the end of your summer!

Sunday, August 8, 2010


It's Sunday morning here in Austin, making it my second completely free day since the end of both my summer internships. I don't know if this will really sink in until tomorrow, though, since I would have had the weekend off anyway.
Things ended well - a few good going-away lunches, some cases closed, others transferred. I was frustrated that unresponsive clients kept me from finishing a few things in the time I was at legal aid, but I know that happens sometimes with clients whose struggle to make ends meet can be even more pressing than their legal situation. C'est la vie.

I also wrapped up a big round of judicial clerkship applications this week - the ones for judges who want paper rather than online applications. They're due to Harvard for mass mailing tomorrow, but I mailed them last Wednesday to be safe and already got delivery confirmation that they arrived. This is a huge load off - for fully half the judges I'm applying to, things are entirely in someone else's hands now. In the coming month, I'll need to upload all the same materials to the online database most federal judges use, but that's a little easier (and less permanent) than the printing, stuffing, and mailing part.

In the meantime, I need to gear up for my good friend's wedding a week from today and the move back to Cambridge two days after that. But I'm feeling a little sluggish: the other bridesmaids and I threw a damn successful bachelorette party Friday night, with so much eating, dancing, hairspray, high heels, and loud karaoke singing involved that even as designated driver I needed a full day to recover.

Today I have a movie date with my mom and one of her friends, and I'm weighing whether I should spend the time beforehand cleaning and doing laundry and making my life feel more in order, or getting out and soaking up some sun. Whichever I don't pick, there will be plenty of time to do tomorrow, which is a nice change of pace from the last ten weeks!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

How time flies

It's hard to believe how much of my summer has gone by already. It's even harder to write about it, because that kind of reflection only reminds me of all the things I still have to do, and before long I'm pretty much panicked. But I'll try to stay calm enough to give a good update on what's happening with me.
For starters, in the past week or so I've seen the first few conclusions to some of my projects at work. In one of the first cases I worked on at legal aid, the opponents have agreed to a settlement that couldn't be better for our client: she gets an apartment with them, and they revise their policies to be fairer to applicants like her. I got to write the actual settlement agreement they'll sign and submit to the judge, which was satisfying and a much better resolution than we expected back when I was researching contingencies in case they got us thrown out of federal court.

In another case, we seem to have succeeded at helping a tenant pull enough money together to pay all her back rent and convincing her landlord to quit trying to evict her in exchange. This client is very young and formerly homeless, but truly seems to have her life on track now and just had a rough adjustment to a pay cut and new childcare costs for her son, whom she's very cool when talking about. So it will be really gratifying if we're able to save her tenancy.

Meanwhile, at my policy job, we just submitted an enormous research product on health and life insurance law to the international NGO that commissioned it from my boss. She's actually out this week presenting it, but at least it's finally out of our (the interns') hands, to our great relief. I'm also relieved to have finished a more individual project to revise, introduce, and do some ancillary research for a proposal we want to make to the Treasury Department.

So those things are going well, although there are twice as many things just like them still lined up to get done. And predictably, a whole new round of things for Harvard and career planning have presented themselves. We're into the add-drop season for fall classes, which is pretty important since this will be my last year, and so far I have:

10:45-11:45 Administrative Law, Rakoff
1-3 Environmental Law, Freeman
5-7 Political Economy of Modern Capitalism, Desan

10:45-11:45 Administrative Law, Rakoff
1-3 Environmental Law, Freeman

10:45-11:45 Administrative Law, Rakoff

10-12 Taxation, Alstott

10-12 Taxation, Alstott

That Modern Capitalism class is a big dilemma, because it really interests me, and I may need it to keep my fall credit hours from being unimpressively few. But it also extends into the spring, when a lot of other classes interest me even more, and I'm so worried it will crowd one of them out of my schedule when it comes time for spring registration that I'm considering dropping it entirely. Like a lot of Harvard students facing the ridiculous abundance of good classes, I'm not sure which gamble to take: that it will be wonderful and totally worth the sacrifice, or that something even better will come along? I've got time to consult some fellow students, so I'll probably mull it over for a while and be sure to let you know once I decide.

Finally, a whole host of deadlines in the judicial clerkship application process is approaching fast. I just had my resume reviewed by the folks at Career Services, and it looks like a fair amount of changes are needed. Plus, I have to finalize my list of judges to give to my recommenders by next Monday, July 26, then gather everything including their letters to submit for Harvard's centralized mailing by August 9. All this seems absurdly soon, but luckily I seem to have cleared what I once thought of as my biggest hurdle: getting Russell on board with the idea that some of the really excellent clerkships to which I really can't justify not applying are in Houston, so I might need to spend a year there before coming home to Austin.

Speaking of which, it may sound like it's been all work and no play around here lately, but that couldn't be less true. Monday was the last day of a fun, busy, incredible four-ish day visit from Russell that involved at least four margaritas, seven breakfast tacos, two movies, one visit to Toy Joy, and one amazing day at Schlitterbahn. We're both totally exhausted and bummed to be back at work. But we get to look forward to a repeat performance in just under a month, when Russell will come back to attend a friend's wedding and help me move back North.

In entertainment news, seeing Inception at the Alamo Drafthouse was definitely one of the weekend's highlights, and I sincerely recommend it (even if you live in a city without an Alamo Drafthouse.) It's smart, exciting, surprisingly emotional, and creative like nothing I've seen before. Which, come to think of it, is also a decent description of my new pop culture obsession, Buffy the Vampire Slayer!

I know, everyone and their sister has seen this show already, and I'm way behind the times with this. But can I just take a moment to say how great it is? Not just the show, but the experience of discovering it for the first time (which I always knew I'd get around to doing eventually, but had finally put off a bit too long) with the knowledge that there are 7+ whole seasons to go through and enjoy. I'm trying to savor it, but my coworker keeps lending me his DVDs.

Well, I think that last bit kept me from panicking completely as I try to sum up all the activity in my life right now. And I may be able to avoid complete nervous collapse if I make good use of this coming weekend. Wish me luck, and in the meantime, go see Inception!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Under the weather

Summer is chugging along, and I'm definitely keeping busy. We had a hefty research memo come in from some pro bono partners at my policy job this Wednesday, so my boss there asked if I could front-load my time at the other employer this week, then spend a few solid days helping package this thing for some important presentations beginning next Monday. Now I know a lot more about Texas and New York insurance law than I ever expect to need again, but I guess you can never be sure.
Before that, I spent a long weekend with my dad's family in El Paso, especially enjoying the time with my little sister who just turned two. She's more physically manageable than the last time I saw her, when she had just learned to walk and was seriously lacking the motor skills to avoid catastrophe on her constant, single-minded quest to get her hands on everything in sight. Now she's more coordinated and smarter, almost astonishingly so, but unfortunately she also came down with some sort of bug the night I arrived and spent a lot of the weekend grumpy and feverish.

I definitely assumed this was something minor that was just being exaggerated by the Terrible Two's, but I definitely ate my words late this week when I realized I had caught the thing from her. And oh! My god! The sore throat, body aches, and relentless headache that no drug in the house could cure!

At first, I thought my body might just be reacting to the days and days of rain we've had around here. Central Texas tends to get the fringes of whatever goes on in the Gulf, in this case a hurricane with a tropical storm chaser. I learned in Cambridge (which, ironically, had sun and temperatures over 100 most of the week) that rainy weather can make me feel pretty sluggish and sore. But when the throat stuff set in, I had to admit that I might really be sick.

I've been dog-sitting for my mom, so luckily I had her comfortable couch, full kitchen, and HBO On Demand to help me rest and feel sorry for myself. However, I was also in charge of a pooping, barking, feeble, deaf old dog who pushed me right over the edge a few times just by existing. In other words, having ONLY thrown the few tantrums I saw last weekend makes my sister an absolute angel.

I'm feeling better today, and I even put in a little work at the yoga studio and hung out with friends all afternoon and evening. On the way home I talked to my dad, who said my stepmom also got sick from my sister and saw a doctor who told her it's a herpes virus (like chicken pox, cold sores, and mono) that likes to wreak havoc at daycare centers and rarely infects adults unless they have little kids. (Awesome time to visit, Lea.) There's not much I can do, but she says it should end suddenly after a couple days.

I'll be taking it easy tomorrow, but back at work on Monday, trying not to need any time off so I can guiltlessly take a day when Russell visits in ONE WEEK. We have so little planned, just one dinner and a possible trip to Schlitterbahn, but I'm so ready I can hardly stand it.

In other news, I received my financial aid offer from Harvard this week. The grant portion keeps getting more generous, but the cost of living keeps climbing, so I'll be borrowing about the same as last year. The difference is, early this year I'll have the option to commit to five years of public interest work after graduation in exchange for the tuition part of that debt being waived completely. With all my interests in the public sector anyway, this is the ideal bargain for me. Especially in the year when, according to a friend of mine, the cost of attending Harvard has risen above the average income for an entire American family.

Moral of the story: thank goodness for financial aid, not so much for toddlers. (Just kidding, I already can't wait to see her again.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Wow, two full weeks without posting - you'd think I didn't love you guys or something! In fact, I love you so much that I'm using what little battery I have left after leaving my laptop charger at work over the weekend (I know, I'm an idiot) to write this post.
To be frank, though, I'm not sure what I have to add to the things I've already written about work and life in Austin. Things at both offices are going smoothly. After working full-time for a few days at one (because the other hadn't started yet) and then nearly two weeks at the other (because of a death in the family of my boss at the first) I'm just now hitting a rhythm with splitting my time between the two.

It is a little awkward paring down my portfolio at both places to reflect my part-time schedule, since I got my hands in so many interesting things when I was there every day. For instance, a client I've been interviewing for legal aid finally got her eviction notice on Friday, with a court date set for next Wednesday. But I won't be back at the office until next Tuesday, so I may miss most of the preparation for a case I've been pretty involved with until now.

I think my boss actually wants a postponement for other reasons, so it may all work out, and even if I had to bow out of this case it'd be okay since there are so many other interesting ones. But that's an example of the funny consequences of splitting.

Fortunately, the benefits far outweigh the costs. It's almost bizarre how well my work at these places dovetails - like when, after a week talking about how immigrants should create powers of attorney for their relatives in case of deportation at one job, I wound up drafting (albeit for completely different purposes) a power of attorney at the other. Most of all, being involved in poverty law both on the ground and at the policy level is suiting me so well that I worry about having to choose one or the other after graduation.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to take full advantage of Austin in summertime with lots of time by the water and warm nights outside with drinks and friends. Tomorrow evening I may be hammering out a work trade arrangement with my yoga studio to help squeeze more classes into my tiny student budget. And Russell will be here to visit in less than three weeks, thank goodness.

I think that's all the news that's fit to print, but I'll try to be more diligent with the updates from now on. Take care, dear readers, and thanks for listening.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Read my list

As usual when I get a break from law school, I have been tearing through every piece of literature I can get my hands on lately. Having just finished another great book, and realizing I could recommend everything I've read so far this summer to one type of person or another, I thought I should probably try to make all this benefit other people. Then the outrageous mounting page count will seem less crazy, right?
So here are my summer picks, beach books every one:

Jane Eyre, 1847, by Charlotte Brontë
I'll probably be nursing this one all summer, disappointed that it isn't the same page-turner I remember reading as a kid, but still happy to pick it up between other books. The "red room" scene, harsh boarding school, and troubled Rochester family are haunting icons everyone should discover if they haven't yet.

The Little Stranger, 2009, by Sarah Waters
This author is famous for setting racy lesbian romances in the Victorian age, but departs here with a thriller set in postwar England. It's partly a good old-fashioned ghost story, partly unique for its reluctance to come down on the side of either haunting or hysteria, with plenty to say about things more important than either.

The Terror, 2007, by Dan Simmons
Also scary and another departure for an author, in this case a suspense novelist writing historical fiction. Explorers on a doomed Arctic mission meet with something much worse than frostbite. Their losing battle lasts 766 unrelenting pages - not everyone's cup of tea, but great if you want to feel 10 degrees cooler than the people in the pool you're reading beside.

The Devil in the White City, 2003, by Erik Larson
Are history and violence the themes this summer, or what? This non-fiction book, which reads like the most readable of novels, tells how the 1893 World's Fair and America's first serial killer hit Chicago at the same time. Esquire says it best: "So good, you find yourself asking how you could not know this already."

Daughter of Fortune, 1999, by Isabel Allende
I couldn't get through House of the Spirits in high school, but Allende had me hooked with this one. I recommend it to fans of The Shadow of the Wind, which it resembles a lot, except that the setting is Chile and San Francisco and the main character female.

I'll try to do this again for the next half-dozen books I inevitably go through. In the meantime, enjoy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Hardly working

I've been waiting to post about my internships until I logged some time at both, which took a while because the second one started a week later than the first, after I got back from a long weekend in Florida. It was a great trip:

But even more exciting is the way my summer work is panning out. The two places I'm interning couldn't be more different, but I'm eating them both right up.

The first one, for instance, is a policy organization working to open financial institutions to immigrants and the poor. I share two rooms of a lovely downtown suite with one other intern and a fabulous female boss whose positivity, intellect, and rolodex are best described as superhuman. Her overriding concern is to provide me with a good experience (imagine that) so the four or five projects I've got going on any given day are varied, creative, and chosen to match my interests. And lunch dates with all manner of good Austin contacts are already in the works.

At the other place, a direct legal services office, I get a nice mix of legal research and client contact with reassuringly close supervision by a really acclaimed housing lawyer. If his sheer kinetic energy wasn't enough to keep me busy, working in a large bullpen with ten or so other interns would be. It's great to meet law students from all over, hear about their schools and projects with different teams around the office, and always have someone to commiserate about sad client stories or unproductive phone calls.

Were it not for getting up at the same time each day and having to drive at rush hour, this would barely feel like work at all. It's Saturday evening now, about mid-way through the weekend, and I'm actually a little bored. Looking forward to eight more weeks like this, I hope all you readers out there have the good luck to feel the same way.

Monday, May 31, 2010

A beginning

I start work at my first of two summer internships tomorrow! I just got back from having frozen yogurt at the shop down the street as a "last night of freedom" treat for myself. Now I plan to turn in early, read a little of my book, and try to make my early wake-up call tomorrow a bit easier. Having taken a few early yoga classes lately should also help, but I'm trying not to overestimate how much.
To give you an idea of what I'll be doing at work, here is my last post of the school year to Harvard's admissions blog:

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Better late...

Folks, I am so sorry not to have updated you on my big move and new life in Austin sooner! It's been delightfully eventful ever since finals slowly tapered off - not that I've been too busy to write, more that I've been just busy enough to want to spend my spend free time doing things that demand less mental energy than writing.

Like catching up on EVERY GOOD SHOW EVER on Hulu, because I have Internet but no TV here.

I also wanted to wait until the little apartment I'm subleasing here was ready for pictures! It came furnished, but sparsely, and luckily I've had the time to pour some serious energy into making it look cute without spending serious cash.

But first, a little something I put together to show you what an absolute nightmare it was getting from Boston to Austin this time around. Think mechanical delay, followed by cancellation, then a failed standby attempt, re-checking 115 pounds of luggage by myself, and almost six hours in the Boston airport:

Those are all the documents I was given in the course of trying to get here. Since you probably can't read them, they are: boarding passes from Boston to Dallas to Austin; luggage stickers and charge receipt for Boston to Dallas to Austin; an itinerary for Boston to Chicago to Austin; "priority verification" slips (whatever those are) and new luggage stickers for Boston to Chicago to Austin; and finally boarding passes for Boston to Chicago to Austin.

Hard to believe all that happened in one day - my mom says it wouldn't have if I hadn't cried.

Anyway, that's all behind me now, and here is the new place. The living room:

Kitchen area:

Bedroom, seen from the kitchen:

Back patio, seen from the bedroom:

And some touches I got cheap at Big Lots and Hobby Lobby to make the place feel a bit less naked:

I'm excited about spending three months here, and I'll certainly update you as things develop and my summer work begins!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Big news

I apologize for not posting in so long! I'm in the middle of a long and drawn-out Housing Law and Policy paper that's sucking up every bit of my will to write.
However, I just had to make a quick update about some incredibly exciting news for the Harvard community. President Obama is naming our former Dean, Elena Kagan, to the Supreme Court today!

Dean Kagan was still around for my first semester at Harvard, making her the person who welcomed my class to the school during Orientation, poked fun at my professors at that gorgeous dinner in the rare books room at Langdell, and always shot big, warm smiles at me in the hallways during those first difficult months.

"Beloved" would be an understatement of her popularity at school, so I know I'm not alone in my joy seeing this fabulous woman achieve her biggest dream. I literally cannot wait for her to be confirmed and start bringing all her wonderful qualities to the Court.

The competition is over, and Elena won!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Just, y'know, another week at Harvard.

This was the last week of classes, that time of year when students' exam stresses officially kick in and professors, done trying to cram whatever last material they had planned into their lectures, dispense all their best humor and most poignant advice about law and life.

But I've written about all that here before, and what I'm really itching to tell you about is a few opportunities I've had lately - opportunities of the special, extra-ridiculously-great variety that could only happen at Harvard.

First, there was an event last Friday that Russell heard about through work and knew I'd be overjoyed to see. The Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard was awarding its Lifetime Achievement in Cultural Humanism prize, and the recipients were… drumroll please… THE MYTHBUSTERS.

For any of you unfortunate enough not to know, these are two guys named Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman whose show on the Discovery Channel employs lots of robotics, crash-test dummies, and of course explosions in the name of testing things like whether duck quacks echo or if pennies on railroad tracks derail trains.

Basically, these guys are huge celebrities in the nerd community and the objects of one of my bigger TV crushes of all time. Apparently they're also both atheists, and they were being honored for the way they’ve promoted the scientific method and made skepticism more mainstream. There was standing room only in the gorgeous Memorial Church (oh, the irony) as they made surprisingly eloquent remarks on this topic, then fielded a long question-and-answer session about the show.

The entire thing was just freakishly awesome - even better than I imagined when I rushed out and nabbed some of the last advance tickets for the unreal student price of $8. But I particularly loved finding out how much their favorite episodes to make differed from my favorites to watch - how can they prefer Lead Balloon and Exploding Water Heater to Explosive Decompression and Alcatraz Escape??

The bottom line here is, when your day job is shooting frozen chickens out of homemade cannons and trying to wear through prison bars with salsa - in sunny California - what besides Harvard could possibly entice you to the cold, wet north to spend your Friday night sitting in an old church answering questions about that job?

At this point, I'm actually reluctant to go on about my next great opportunity this week. But it involves that project with the Boston teenagers I've been dying to tell you about, so the opportunity to catch you up is just too perfect.

I'll start from the beginning: my Community Action class requires an outside community-based project, and this year the Robert F. Kennedy Children's Action Corps was scouting for one. They'd been in touch with two former Community Action students whose project was a workshop series with some Cambridge middle-schoolers, and they wanted to do something similar for a group of kids they were supervising as an alternative to detention out of juvenile court.

I jumped on this project literally the moment my professor mentioned it, and soon I had a partner and we were arranging two "get to know you" meetings at the Dorchester community center where the group was based.

We found the teens pretty sullen and withdrawn, but before long were learning interesting things about them anyway - like how most felt less safe inside school than outside in their neighborhoods, and some didn't think they made a positive contribution to their school, but most still thought they could go to law school someday. The key was first giving them a non-verbal way to weigh in, like voting in a show of hands or walking to a placard marked "Agree," "Disagree," "Strongly Agree," or "Strongly Disagree," before asking them to explain why.

Then, this semester, we channeled what we'd learned about them and their interests into some more formal workshops with topics like blame and responsibility, justice, authority, and power. Each week the group would start with the same standoffishness, but eventually open up into lively and profound discussion about their lives and opinions - and it was astonishing to see this happening faster and lasting longer with each passing week.

In the end, we shot and produced a video to share their thoughts with other Harvard students who, we assured them, stood to learn just as much from them as we had. This actually took a lot of persuading, because the group makeup had gradually changed enough that not many of the teens who originally proposed a video were around by the end. To convince the new, more skeptical majority, I wound up making a short example video with some friends asking the teens for their views. After we played it for them, we got a unanimous vote to make one of their own.

It took two sessions to get the footage: one last regular weekly meeting, when to occupy whoever wasn't filming, we brought in a fellow student who works with the Criminal Justice Institute to answer their questions about the courts - he was just awesome with them and they loved him - and one Saturday "crunch session" to brainstorm the last of the content and get it shot.

So that's what I did last Wednesday night: I screened the 15-minute video I'd edited for a group of about 25 Community Action classmates, friends involved with the example video, RFK staff members, and the teens themselves. We used a big, beautiful room in Austin Hall and had questions, discussion, and mingling over cheese and fruit and desserts. I think it went well, but it went by in a total blur I can't entirely assess. In any case, I did what I set out to do and couldn't be prouder.

The last opportunity I want to mention concerns my brilliant, off-the-wall Corporations professor - and yeah, I guess it falls into the inspirational last-week-of-class category I figured I would avoid. It's the opportunity to hear him read this amazing poem by Naomi Shihab Nye at the close of Friday's class:


The river is famous to the fish.

The loud voice is famous to silence,
which knew it would inherit the earth
before anybody said so.

The cat sleeping on the fence is famous to the birds
watching him from the birdhouse.

The tear is famous, briefly, to the cheek.

The idea you carry close your bosom
is famous to your bosom.

The boot is famous to the earth,
more famous than the dress shoe,
which is famous only to floors.

The bent photograph is famous to the one who carries it
and is not at all famous to the one who is pictured.

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

This is the same guy who, I recently learned, wrote this incredible blog post every woman should read, and whose class made me laugh harder and more often than all my other classes in my whole education combined while, yes, teaching me a fair amount about corporations too. At the risk of letting this post get absolutely barf-inducingly gushy about Harvard - if it wasn't already - I just feel so privileged to have had this semester with him. I'm going to miss it so much!

Me, miss Corporations? Talk about things that could only happen at Harvard.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Out there

When I sat down on Jarvis Field today, in a spot carefully chosen to put myself in the sunshine and my laptop screen in the shade, I expected to spend the two hours and change between classes getting started on the video I'm making with the at-risk teens from my Community Action project. Instead, I got completely wrapped up in something I barely knew existed before: the law student blogosphere.
As you may have learned from the comment on my last post, a site called ClearAdmit has nominated me for their Best of Blogging competition this year. Of course I'm really flattered, because while I'd never heard of the site before, who knows how many other people have. And because ClearAdmit has apparently been mentioning me for months in their Fridays from the Frontline feature, who knows how many of them have gone on to visit this site. (Welcome, guys!)

Since nominees (and only nominees, sorry fans) are invited to vote in this thing, I decided to glance through the other nominated blogs and try to make some semblance of an informed decision. This quickly turned into more than a glance, because the more I read and realized that these were real people who might really appreciate the recognition, the more I cared.

It was crazy to discover this whole community whose edges I've apparently skirted for months. What better reminder that there are people everywhere, not just at Harvard, going through the same things I am than posts like this one from IDWSJ, expressing exactly the same feelings I had about friendships my 1L year? But I was also startled to see myself on the "blogroll" of a couple of the sites. Are real Internet strangers out there reading this thing???

And if so, should that mean something for my conception of this blog? On the one hand, not really. If somebody else thinks the content is good, I'm thrilled, but my first priority is still to keep family and close friends up to date on the parts of my life they would care about. On the other hand, this does change a thing or two. Realizing how many people might actually read this, for example, I should probably think carefully about whose names and pictures I use here.

I've drawn no real conclusions yet, especially with finals looming and a huge video project to undertake and plenty left to wrap up with TAP and my journal. But I'm definitely setting up a Google Alert on myself, and I should probably look into a hit counter.... Suggestions?