Thursday, December 27, 2007

life in... Carlisle vs. Pittsburgh

Carlisle: I study the language of the law.
Pittsburgh: Ma amoureuse etudie la langue de l'amour.

Carlisle: I sit three feet from my electric ceramic heater.
Pittsburgh: Mr. D warms my lap and purrs like an engine.

Carlisle: No television.
Pittsburgh: I recognize the guy in the Afrin commercial from the D.U.I. p.s.a.

Carlisle: Eat standing up at the kitchenette counter before running out the door.
Pittsburgh: Share a bottle of wine with Love over a dinner of broiled salmon, roasted turnips and red cabbage salad.

Carlisle: Go out drinking with friends once a week and talk about intricate legal or classroom issues.
Pittsburgh: Sit on the couch next to farting dog and stare at a box with moving pictures on it.

Carlisle: Laundry and grocery shopping, or Federal Income Tax and editing?
Pittsburgh: Tell Love I went out drinking with friends and discussed intricate legal or classroom issues.

Carlisle: Move the pile of advocacy textbooks from the floor so I can sit at my desk.
Pittsburgh: Sit on the couch and blog.

Carlisle: The bed all to myself, and the electric blanket up as high as I want.
Pittsburgh: Love telling me to roll over, Mr. D curled up between my knees, Mr. C hiding under the bed, and Sopha-girl farting in her sleep on the floor. Heaven.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Overheard at the Library:

"I'm making myself sick. I just gave Scalia mad props and slapped O'Connor in the face. I have to take a break." ~N.P.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Unbridled, Yet Focused

"YIPPEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ...thus ends my moment of enthusiasm. Back to work."

~SP, upon learning that Eric Bergsten acknowledged receipt of our Vis memorandum.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I Am Running Out

1) of clean pants;
2) to Walmart, to get laundry quarters;
3) of fresh food. Everything's tinned and boxed, and some of that is also frozen;
4) of time. One week of class left, with eleven writing assignments due in the next eight days, including the Vis memorandum; one, thirty-page seminar paper; two self-evaluations for advocacy; four transfer memoranda, one journal assignment, one final case review memorandum and one course evaluation for Clinic.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

"THUMP" the sound my blind cat makes when he leaps smack into my

Manic Monday

I had a really, really, really great break. Which means that somehow, between when I return to Carlisle tomorrow afternoon and 9am Monday morning, I will finish and submit my motion in limine assignment and my self-evaluation of the "advanced direct examination" I did before break, and write and rehearse a closing argument. I swore I would get all that done at a leisurely pace over break, but instead, I took a break. This will be my fourteenth Monday of the semester, and what I have learned is that somehow it all gets done, on time, and often rather well. I've been there for all of them, but I still can't explain how it all gets done.

The actual Monday kicks off with my 9am "filing deadline" for Advocacy class, and two hours of Electronic Evidence, from 9am-11am. Then I'm at the Clinic from 11:30 - 4:30. I go home, eat something but not too much (pre-presentation jitters), put on my suit, and cram for Advocacy, which is from 7-9pm. After two hours of oral-advocacy presentations and public feedback, I unwind by walking home (4 blocks), and by the time I put on my pj's, I've completely unraveled.

Tuesday's schedule is lighter: three meetings and one class, and their requisite prep-work.

Wednesday is thrilling and scary: two hearings. Enough said. I will have Tax class afterward, but I imagine flashbacks from the morning's hearings will keep me from hearing much of anything. Fortunately Tax, being tax, moves slowly. It shouldn't be too hard to catch up.

This week, I applied for a job. I've been anxious about not being employed by the time I graduate. Today it occurred to me that if all goes well, someone will actually hire me to be a real lawyer. I've wanted this since I was fifteen, and I feel exhilarated - bordering on terrified. It's as if I'm about to go from having a learner's permit to a full-blown driver's license. They're actually going to let me on the highway. Amazing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Last night at 10pm found me content in the kitchen, throwing together a recipe I thought Love would like. By 10:20 I couldn't keep my eyes off the clock. By 10:30 my fickle anxiety vacillated between images of Love dead in a ditch, to picturing her at a coffee house spending time with someone who doesn't live three hours away most of the year, unlike me, why the hell isn't she home with me and why the hell am I home cooking for someone who can't be bothered to be with me on the few days I'm home? By 10:40 I remembered that this woman has truly earned (the hard way, over and over again), the benefit of the doubt, and so I resolved not to sound like Insane Girlfriend, even if I was stuck with her in the kitchen (because surely, this isn't the real me): I would wait until 10:45 to call her and make sure she was okay.

At 10:44 she called, and said, "I'm just calling to let you know that I'm not dead in a ditch somewhere and I'm not taking you for granted. They closed down one lane of traffic on 376 and also closed our exit. I'll be home as soon as I can find an open road."

At 11pm she walked in the door and handed me a card that ended, "You are so foreign to me in so many ways, but you are the stranger I know best and the only one I want to know completely."

I am so grateful.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Losing It: Motion in Limine

Twelve weeks down. Two weeks and one semester, and a lifetime, to go.

I'm sitting on a couch in Pittsburgh. The sky is that ashy shade of purple that portends snow. Curled on my lap sleeps a blind cat with the gift for knowing exactly when to walk in from the night and knead his cold paws on my belly, against my bladder. It's two days before Thanksgiving and I am grateful, warm, wary, poised in mid-stride.

My own mother was rushed to the hospital this summer. My mother-in-law and father-in-law both kept their scheduled appointments today at their respective hospitals. I picked my Love up from the hospital where I hugged both of her parents before whisking her back home to work. We stopped at the park along the way, to relieve our patient dog. My Love forgave me for losing $150, straight from the bank. I had stopped in to make a deposit, and a withdrawal, and order new checks, and discovered what looked like a $2,000 transfer to an unknown account. After an hour the bank cleared up the confusion, I stopped into Mira's to buy some chocolate for a friend, then went to pick up my Love, and it seemed that along the way I entirely lost the cash and my account information.

After we returned home I discovered that I had locked the money in the glove compartment for safe-keeping. We've come such a long way. We skipped the fights about my (supposed lack of) attention to detail and my Love's past propensity for handling everything perfectly, in contrast to and with the stark exception of me. She forgave me instantly for the lost money, and acknowledged it as an indication that I was rattled about the news of her mother's health. When I found the money, she appreciated that my first instinct was to lock it safely in the glove compartment, even when I was so rattled that I acted automatically, unthinking. We've come such a long way in such a relatively short time.

I've been gone for two and a half years, completing my law degree. I have two weeks and one semester to go. The adage is that in law school, the first year they scare you to death, the second year they work you to death, and the third year they bore you to death. I've never been bored. I knew when I applied to law school that I was going to meet the Wizard - walk down the yellow brick road, throw open the curtain, and behold. It's silly, and self-indulgent, and it's been worth every penny.

Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, recently died of a brain hemorrhage that resulted from hepatitis C she contracted from a blood transfusion she received after giving birth to one of her children. She had gone thirty five years symptom free before being diagnosed. I imagine her surveying her estate, drinking her homemade organic champagne and thinking about her amazing life, contemplating the time bomb she had been living with unwittingly since moments after she gave birth. So much sacrifice for something that becomes the death of you and that you would never in a moment regret or take back.

Forgive me for the comparison, but at the moment that's how I feel about my law degree. Six figures worth of debt I will work to repay, with not a job in sight. I have not become a parent, and my parents and in-laws might not live to see their grandchildren, and I may be too busy earning money to pay for my law degree to travel to all those foreign shores I wanted to see, and all I can say is that it was entirely worth it. I know there are facts I will never know. There are mysteries I may never untangle for myself. Learning quantum physics and exploring the mysteries of energy - if I were to do it all over again, I might start there. Sculpting again; learning how to use my own kiln; to play mahjong; to finish knitting that damn hat; and raising a kid to be a decent human being even as an adult - these are things I would still like to get around to. But 5/6 of the way into my law degree, I feel like I've satisfied some fundamental itch. I see how the world works. I "get it" in a way that I hadn't before. Now I know, and I get it. I'm 33 years old, much older than I thought I would be by the time I had this much figured out, and yet, it works.

Before I left for home, I put Ray's photo on my bedside table, lit a candle, poured his memory a drink and had a glass of wine. His idea of fulfillment was a hell of a lot more fun than mine, by conventional standards; he fell in love in New Orleans. After they broke the bed, he went home to pack his bags and break up with his girlfriend. He was a vegetarian who worked in a laboratory taking care of animals who were study subjects; he knew he would take better care of them than anybody else ever would. He loved his Love, the music, the debauchery, and being able to be a big burly man with a goatee wearing a dress - he loved life and never looked back. The blinding headaches drove him to the doctor. He died a year later from a stage IV brain tumor. One of the hardest things I ever had to do, and one of my greatest gifts, was getting to say goodbye to him for the last time. I had known him for over half of my life. I got to walk out and he didn't. We couldn't pretend we would see one another again - Ray was an atheist and not prone to bullshit.

I left my home and my Love to go to the middle of nowhere to go to law school, racking up significant debt, putting off parenthood, leaving my partner to care for our home, the critters and the network of friends that I land in every time I return. She keeps my life going for me here, and I get to step back into it so easily because of her efforts. I know there are amazing things one can do with a law degree, but there are amazing things people across the planet do every day without a law degree, or massive debt, or leaving others to keep everything afloat. I think I've done the most selfish and self-fulfilling thing I could ever imagine doing, save reproduction. I have no regrets, but I am a bit daunted. Here goes nothing, and everything.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


"The singles' scene always sucks when you're single." ~S.P.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Welcome to New York"

...that's what the big road sign said last Friday, about an hour after I apparently did not make the correct turn onto route 81 South.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Exchange at Walmart

I'm at the pharmacy counter, being all but fingerprinted in the process of buying pseudoephedrine hydrochloride (sudafed). We get to the part where I have to sign a contract on a computer screen, and the pharmacist says, "When you sign that, you're just saying you won't start a meth lab in your basement." I said, "If I knew how to build a meth lab, I'd be in an entirely different field." She said, "Oh. You must be at the law school."

Quote of the Day

"I just think [men] wearing women's accessories should be less critical of expanding personal liberties." ~R.S.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Enjoy the Ride

One week down, thirteen to go. And they will go quickly. To help me stay organized and save time, I bought a new MacBook (my old pc laptop died a lingering death after only two years), organizing software, and a "pocket pc" telephone with wi-fi and autosync (will upload your calendar to the big server in the sky, the one you can't misplace or douse with coffee).

After my fifth "pocket-pc" telephone malfunction (only one was verifiably my fault, if you think you shouldn't be able to drop a phone from one foot off the ground and still have it work) I sold the phone for cash and went back to my $10 cheapie model that just sends text messages and has a little "nap's over" alarm. I'm thinking about moving on to iPhone, if the rumors about gPhone aren't true. Why? Because for $99, I purchased 52 lessons from Apple - once a week, they will sit down with me for an hour and answer all of my questions about any of their products, including how to use the software. I get to sit down and ask a human being "How do I do this? And how do I do this? And then what about this?" If I only schedule one session every two weeks, that's still about $3.80 per hour. They are going to lose a lot of money on me with that one. I accidentally locked myself out of one of my calendars, so I'm really looking forward to my next lesson this Sunday.

So I also bought "mindmapping" software, available at At the student price, it was worth it - it's designed to create, in nice colors and typed fonts, all the stream of consciousness mapping I'm used to doing on napkins, the backs of paper placemats, and occassionally newsprint and butcher paper. It just looks more legitimate when you can reproduce it on a computer and spit it out of a printer. I need to figure out how to use it. The company has free "webinars" on how to use the product - but I can't get the webinars to work. I'll call them on Tuesday to iron that out. As it was, I spent Friday morning on the phone with both the Mac and the software sales people trying to figure out where the software hid after I purchased and downloaded it onto my laptop. Apparently, I had also thrown out the software before I installed it. Now I know that downloading and installing are two separate actions/ phenomena.

It will be years before the time I save using these tech tools and organizing software will pay for the time I'm investing learning how to use them. And by then, it will be time to learn more software, for the tech tools that haven't yet been invented, which by then I will not be able to live without.

Speaking of electronica - I love my electronic evidence professor, Chief Judge V. He's a federal judge in the central district of Pennsylvania. He has a two-hour drive in from Scranton, PA. God love him for caring enough to do a four-hour round-trip drive to teach us once a week. Nationally, he's raised the bar and set standards for admission of electronic evidence and use of electronic equipment in courtrooms. He has an entirely pragmatic approach - he cares about and teaches what will actually make a difference, what really happens, and teaching us what we need to know to do what we will need to do, with competence.

My advocacy professor, Professor J, takes the same approach. I love her transparency and her focus on what actually makes a difference. She is self-effacing, highly qualified, minces no words and wastes no time. I love her. She was a federal prosecutor, then a public defender, and is currently a professor to undergraduate students at a local ("local" is anywhere in central Pennsylvania) state university.

At this point, I'm grooving on the adjunct professors. I think their exams are going to be a better fit with my real-life approach to exam taking. My sheer inability to force myself to give answers that work in theory despite their practical irrelevance has put me at a disadvantage on some exams. I chalk it up to a lack of academic diplomacy. I did way better maneuvering through the intricacies of practically applied international antitrust than I did through the academics of professional responsibility.

You may not be surprised to learn that in the field of law, Professional Responsibility has no inherent connection to morality. Its only claim to ethics is whatever fairness comes bundled with informed consent; not that they are intrinsic, but that sometimes, coincidentally in some situations, the latter creates a result that is ethical.

I am writing this from Enrico's Tazza D'oro (Enrico's cup of gold) in Highland Park, Pittsburgh. One week of classes under my belt, my Friday conciliation conference call was canceled (someone went into labor - the birthing kind), and Love and I needed some mending so I canceled my to-do list and Sopha and I hit the road. My first inclination was to meet her in Bedford and hand over Sophia (joint custody arrangement while in law school), but my asshole alarm went off, so I reconsidered and drove to Pittsburgh. Three hours, two coaching calls and one shitty text message (I sent it) later, we convened in the kitchen. Love was great with me, and my hardness melted away almost instantly. We had a great night and are in the midst of a fabulous weekend. Apparently I am not allowed to leave today, so I am pretending to get school work done in a favorite cafe while Love gets her ya-ya's out playing Ultimate. She'll make it up to me this afternoon.

The coffee at Enrico's is among the best in the city, but the best reason for coming here is that I always - always - run into someone I not only know, but am very happy to see and would like to catch up with. This is the only place on the planet I can say that about. (Yes, I know that each of the last two sentences ended in a preposition:

Today at the coffee shop I ran into FM, who earned a Ph.D. in statistics-something-or-other from CMU and now works for a big-name policy-wonk government funded research -paper producing non-profit. The conversation went like this: school > assholes are attracted to law school > we're all trying to please our parents > academic advisors and employers are functional stand-ins for parents > one's chosen profession can also compensate for parenting > applied statistics can compensate for parents who neglected the practical aspect of parenting (food, timeliness, clothing...) > theoretical statistics vs. applied statistics > balancing the theoretical with the practical > getting to the bakery before the bread is gone. She just came back carrying olive oil, but no bread. Life is random. Here, it is also beautiful.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Just Kidding

Me, from the kitchen: "Is that Law and Order (on t.v.)?"

Love: "Nah. Can't be. What are the odds?"

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Toe in the Water

It's just over a year since my last blog, and the technology has already changed. So many new ways to embarrass myself in writing, time and date stamped - with photos no less.

I'm gearing up to go back to law school. Three weeks out, and already my memories of chain smoking are stronger (wishful thinking) and I'm lamenting the prep. work I didn't get to - again. This blog is my way to vent out and also let you peek in at the phenomenon that may have me foaming at the mouth, rabid, by the time Vis rolls around in April and ready to pop by the time I take the bar in July 2008.

Comments are displayed publicly. About comments - my mother reads this blog.

This is a private blog - readership is by invitation only. If you're reading this, either I love/ respect/ cherish you - or someone has lent you their password, or copied something from this blog, in which case, damn them.