ups and downs

November 22, 2008

What a week!

Crappy parts:

  • Getting a lower grade than I expected on my memo 😦
  • Getting the grade I expected (not great) on my “Senior Partner Meeting” which is considered an oral presentation and maybe 10% of my overall grade for Civil Procedure
  • Winter is here. It’s cold walking a mile to and from school every day. Luckily I’m from this part of the world, so I’m “used” to it.
  • Leaving my Crim book at my house in hometown last weekend leading to….
  • … being serially unprepared for Crim class all week

I’m really sad about my memo. I don’t think it was brimming with awesomeness or anything, but the comments from my legal writing teacher on the draft were just short of glowing. My professor graded them however, and he didn’t love it. I didn’t do poorly, but I was expecting an A/A-, and that’s not what I got. I’m not sure what to do about this. Everyone has different preferences on what is good writing, organization, etc. I guess considering that, it just doesn’t seem right to have one lawyer/instructor comment and evaluate the drafts and another do the final grades. (Sigh).

Better parts:

  • Mock trial went awesome – this really reflects on my teammates, who are quite an impressive group of future lawyers.
  • Post-mock trial going out like a 1L for perhaps the third time this semester. I can’t handle the binge drinking like the average 22-year-old anymore, but Thursday night we had tons of fun.
  • Feeling like I’m so incredibly lucky to have such great section-mates. We aren’t even annoyed with each other yet. I don’t even think it’s going to happen!
  • Creating an official exam-study playlist for myself. It’s full of wonderful tunes I hope will prevent discouragement and general stress-induced 1L mania in the next four weeks.
  • The last full week of class is over!
  • I’m one week closer to Mexico than I was last week. 🙂

no time for verbosity

November 15, 2008

I should be saving these key strokes for brief I am working on this weekend. Some first semester 1Ls write briefs at my school. I guess that is unusual? Anyway I’m one of them. The draft is due Monday.

I never took drafts too seriously as an undergrad, but a good draft leads to good, helpful comments from my kick-ass legal writing teacher, so I have to turn in something quality. This brief turns into the final for civil procedure, so a good draft + good comments means I’ll be done with that class (cross my fingers) before my exams even begin on the 9th.

In other news, I’ve been searching for flights to Mexico for weeks now. The problem is that I won’t pay more than $350 round trip. I’m lucky to be close to a major airport hub that usually has tickets in the $300 range to Mexico City, which is a couple hours from F’s town.

Originally, I said I thought he should just go without me this year (no moniez!) but then I got this part-time job, meaning I’m actually earning something, and thought about how I should really make use of having a winter break again. Since we stay with family the whole time, we can spend very little in two weeks in Mexico.

Then I found out my job doesn’t need me to work in the latter half of December at all, and that was that. I started my ritual of twice a day, trolling for my $300 tickets for the dates I’m available.

I was getting a little hopeless, because there didn’t seem to be anything available for the dates I have that was less than $600, but last night, after downing half a bottle of wine (don’t judge – I had already spent eight productive hours on my brief during the day) I found my tickets!

10 days in Mexico – here I freaking come! I’m going to read novels on the roof (in the sun), cook with my mother-in-law and wander the streets of F’s small down drinking hot beverages passed out by friendly neighbors. It’s going to be all the more brilliant after this first semester months of law school. And because the weather in my neighborhood in December leaves a few things to be desired. Back to the brief!!!

borderline existence

July 22, 2008

This LA Times story was posted on the immigration forum this morning, and as I read it I realized it’s actually the story of one of the members of It’s a well-written story with a great, accompanying audio slide show.

For Heather, 29, every day is a struggle. The native of rural Kentucky didn’t know how drastically her life would change after she fell in love and married Evaristo Suarez, an illegal immigrant.

The couple assumed that Evaristo, 30, would be eligible for a green card once they got married and that they would raise their family near her hometown. But because he had crossed into the United States illegally more than once, he was denied a visa and must wait 10 years before reapplying to return legally.

Please leave some non-offensive comments when you are done reading as well.

un poco mas de Mexico

February 26, 2008

In the last week I’ve gotten accustomed to the 6-foot snow mound outside my window at work, dodged deeply dangerous potholes and lost my once-wonderful tan to peeling and fading. I’ve also gotten eight rolls of film developed and uploaded all my digital shots to my flickr page. I’m planning to trade photos with my travel buddy Britta, but she’s been sick so we haven’t been able to do that yet.

In the meantime, a few notes about our trip and an invitation to check out any of the photo sets you might be interested in…

We spent the first three days of our trip in Fermin’s hometown, Libres, Puebla. I’ve been there several times before and while it’s not the most exciting place in the world, it does have a nice small-town atmosphere and it’s always wonderful to reconnect with my mother-in-law and Fermin’s youngest siblings.


(making tortillas with my mother-in-law Edith and Britta)

On Sunday afternoon after we got in we walked to the tianguis (big, weekly, usually regional market) in Libres to reacquaint our winter selves to fresh produce, meat, clothes, spices, teas and pottery. Lots of beautiful pottery. Britta and I became acquainted with the wonder-fruit Mamey that day:


(Mamey looks a little like a cantaloupe outside. The inside fruit has the consistency of an avocado, and the pit is also reminiscent of the large avocado seeds. The taste of the fruit, however, is a lot like sweet potato! Yum…)

On Wednesday morning we trekked back to Puebla to catch the bus to Oaxaca city, the capital of the southern state of Oaxaca. Oaxaca is legendary in Mexico for food, tourism, and occasional political turmoil. We encountered a calm, pleasantly busy Oaxaca and delighted in the amazing food, colonial architecture, and stunning ruins. I also felt my first earthquake.



(Outside and inside the gorgeous Santo Domingo Church)


One of my favorite things about cities like Oaxaca and Puebla is that very few modern buildings litter the city centers. Virtually all the historic buildings have been restored and adapted to whatever modern business they now house.


This is not pizza. It is a sort of fusion Tlayuda from the wonderful chefs of La Olla. Large crispy tortilla – usually covered with mashed black beans – this one had red mole, Oaxacan string cheese, tomato and avocado. Deliciously simple. For more food photos check out the set of cooking class photos from our Casa Crespo Cooking Class.



We spent one day at a small town a few miles outside Oaxaca called Zaachila, where we enjoyed their huge weekly market, checked out their church and some small ruins. There are a few more Zaachila photos here.


Monte Alban, America’s first metropolis. See the whole set of Monte Alban shots here.


Fermin and I in front of one of Oaxaca’s wonderful churches. I am already sporting stage two of my sunburn at this point. It was Fermin’s first time in Oaxaca, and while he was only with us for a few days (before he returned to the states and Britta and I stayed another week) he enjoyed the city. I think I have finally given him my travel bug. Where once his idea trip to Mexico included 5-7 days in Libres, he now thinks every trip we should spend a couple days in his town and then a couple exploring other Mexican places neither of us has been.

For the final few days of the trip Britta and I took a sickening (literally) van ride through the Oaxacan sierra to the gorgeous, isolated coastal towns between the Huatulco resorts and the surf capital of Puerto Escondido. We spent most of our time in Zipolite.


Quiet, undeveloped Playa Aragon between Zipolite and Mazunte at sunset.

Shouldn’t all vacations end with a little of this?


hope in the winter

January 20, 2008

Despite being the month of my birthday, January is not my favorite. After a snowy early winter, things melted in the last few weeks, to the point that I went to work with no coat one day, and saw damp, green grass peeking out from under the disappearing foot of snow in my yard. I received my seed catalogs – it’s hard not to get excited looking at exotic varieties of peppers and potatoes, dreaming of the days of fresh tomatoes again. My mom gave me some gorgeous flowers for my birthday, which I keep staring at, wishing for spring outside as well. But today the high temperature is in the very low single digits — a good day to stay inside all day long, maybe even turn on that insanely hyped Packer game. Good Wisconsinites know winter drags on through April most years anyway. With the holidays over, the busiest time at my job long gone, and many months until real spring, it’s hard not to become seasonally affected.

Which is why the last few years, I have planned a trip, to keep hope alive, so to speak. Last year I returned from Mexico on Christmas Eve after 10 days with Fermin only to immediately want to leave the country again, to get back to somewhere warm, to escape the long, cold, northern winter. After a few weeks figuring out how I could possibly afford it – financially and vacation-time-wise, I booked us a trip to hot, glorious Acapulco at the end of February. We stayed on the Mexican side of town and enjoyed the sun, the swimming, the flowers, the seafood, walking across the hilly town to see the legendary divers of La Quebrada.

With the new freedoms of a lawful permanent resident, Fermin went to Mexico in November, but it didn’t make sense for me to go along for a short trip when he would be occupied navigating Mexican bureaucracy and looking at pieces of land. Then I was jealous from the day he left all the way until he returned, and knew that by January and into agonizing February I was going to be aching for some time away.

I started up with my thorn tree trolling and kayak-ing, searching for flight prices and considering all the wonderful places neither of us have yet to visit – Guanajuato, Oaxaca, Merida, etc. After finding round-trip tickets from Chicago for $300 (oh, how I love living an hour from O’Hare) I knew we were going somewhere. A week or so later I was working an event with my friend Britta, who owns her own personal chef business and is a world traveler in her own right. She had been talking about Thailand, and I said I couldn’t go because I was planning a trip to Mexico in February. You should go with us, I said. And a few weeks later, that was the plan. I used to dream about bringing my family and some of my closest friends to Mexico. But times change. Most of my closest friends are engaged or married and aren’t able to prioritize international travel. I don’t blame them, it’s just that I’ve prioritized travel over other things for a long time, and it’s great to know someone like Britta, who in some ways feels the same.

After we bought the tickets, the quasi-planning began. Not exactly planning, because in my travel style nothing is worse than set itineraries and schedules, but I love to do trip research. I like to read stories of people’s adventures in discovering different culture, and find it immensely satisfying to arrive in a new place with at least a decent outsider’s understanding, yet still know that every day there will be some sort of discovery. We decided to spend most of our time in Oaxaca — Fermin and I have always wanted to go there, and it’s the indisputable food capital of Mexico. With Britta along, this trip will more than ever be a culinary adventure. We’ll spend a few days with my mother-in-law, visiting and hopefully making tortillas and perhaps mole poblano, then on to Oaxaca where we’ll visit the markets, sample as many new things as possible and hopefully score some impromptu lessons on Oaxacan cuisine.

I have been lucky to make use of my online contacts to get a lot of help with this trip. Through I met a woman who is living in Oaxaca while waiting through her I-601 waiver process, and she happens to have a sister we can stay with and another sister who works for an eco-tourism start-up in Oaxaca state. In the meantime I had been sharing information with an acquaintance from Thorn Tree on the immigrant visa process in Ciudad Juarez when he mentioned something I had posted about visiting the Oaxacan coast at the end of our trip. It turns out he actually met his fiancee (now wife actually – as they got their visa successfully) on the Oaxacan coast and has traveled in the area where we plan to spend the last few days of our trip extensively. These two contacts have helped me immensely, but with lodging and transportation. Staying with my friend’s family in Oaxaca is going to help us save money, for sure, but it also allows us the chance to spend time with a Mexican family, to sample their food and learn from their knowledge about the city and hopefully make some new international friends.

In two weeks we’ll be in Libres. I can’t wait.


December 4, 2007

A few of you have asked how my LSAT went. Overall, I think it went fine. I’m not exceptionally confident, but during many practice tests I felt like I was doing poorly and actually scored very well, so I’m not going to stress about it too much. I should get my score within three weeks, and that will give me a good idea of my chances at UW-Madison. I’m not too worried about Marquette, but you never know.

After spending the better part of the last six weekends preparing for this LSAT, it was wonderful to just hang around in hiding from the first “real” Wisconsin snowstorm of the year, cleaning my house, making chicken soup and watching old Harry Potter movies. Future weekend plans involve baking cookies, creating an office in our upstairs random junk room and planning to re-do our kitchen this spring.

Yesterday morning at work I was feeling a little tired, stressed, confused. I’ve been dreading all the craziness of Christmas shopping. I went to the mall for a little while two weekends ago to buy a shower gift for a good friend adopting a child, and I just wanted to get out as soon as possible. I love giving gifts, particularly when I have a great idea for a friend or family member. But consumerism is losing it’s thrill for me as I approach my third decade of life, and I’d rather not buy things for people that I don’t know they will use/enjoy/love. And half the time, that’s what we get people for Christmas anyway — something temporary, that might be fun or cool for a short time, and then just takes up space.

Midday Monday, my mom e-mailed about not doing gifts on her side this year. Fabulous. Certain people in my life have been cutting back on the Christmas gift culture for years, and I’m definitely in the place to want to do that as well. I suppose being married to someone who has very different Christmas traditions, and particularly experiencing those traditions last year, has furthered these feelings. Spending the week before last Christmas in Fermin’s town of Libres, Puebla, Mexico, the nightly activity was taking a walk in the almost-brisk “winter” air around 8:00 or 9:00 pm, wandering the designated street for that night’s posada, accepting a cup of hot fruity ponche (something like a cider) from a random family’s doorway offering, watching people gather in the street between two homes, waiting for a piñata, held from the roofs of two facing homes, dropping down as children batted away, waiting for the pop and burst of dulces to fall to the street.

where did we go wrong?

September 26, 2007

I’m working on something that is effectively keeping me from blogging right now, but I thought I would share a few articles I have recently read and enjoyed. And now that the New York Times has ended its TimesSelect paid subscription service, you can read them all freely on their site.

The first is from a few weeks ago, and describes the experiences of a few American farmers, who faced with dire labor shortages, have rented land in Mexico to farm. I find this interesting on many levels. Read “Short on labor, farmers in U.S. shift to Mexico.

“Farming since he was a teenager, Mr. (Steve) Scaroni, 50, built a $50 million business growing lettuce and broccoli in the fields of California, relying on the hands of immigrant workers, most of them Mexican and many probably in the United States illegally.

But early last year he began shifting part of his operation to rented fields here (in Mexico). Now some 500 Mexicans tend his crops in Mexico, where they run no risk of deportation.

”I’m as American red-blood as it gets,” Mr. Scaroni said, ”but I’m tired of fighting the fight on the immigration issue.”

The second story was published today, and discusses a New Jersey town that is rethinking their anti-“illegal” immigrant ordinance, which since passed one year ago, has slowed the town’s economy and caused the closure of a number of formerly thriving businesses. Read “Towns rethink laws against illegal immigrants.

“I don’t think people knew there would be such an economic burden,” said Mayor George Conard, who voted for the original ordinance. “A lot of people did not look three years out.”

Brilliant. I’m so AMAZED that anti-immigrant sorts had not thought through the “economic burden” before passing these sorts of laws.  I mean, good lord, if you drive 3,000 young, hard-working, upwardly mobile people with money to spend on entertainment and services and children to feed out of a small town, what the h*ll do you think is going to happen?

I do understand that certain people — those who are ONLY willing to consider the lawfulness of a person’s entry into this country as a basis of judgment — do not care about the health of the U.S. economy, or the benefits immigrants have on underpopulated, fading rural towns, but really, what were the rest of them thinking?

More soon. Promise.