law school happened

November 6, 2010

I graduate in six weeks. Looking at my last few posts from late summer and early fall 2008 (which are now archived since I imported my law school blog posts) it is like another world. The law school preparation, the nerves about student loans and books and studying, it all seems bizarre now. Today, I am a mother of a ridiculously adorable toddler, and almost an attorney at law. And those are just the big changes. Don’t get me wrong, I am still stressed. We are approaching the end of the semester, people. But it’s the impending change, not the fear of an exam, or writing a brief, that occupies my thoughts. And in times of transition, I must write. Unfortunately, the 100+ pages of substantive legal, essay and research writing I have done this semester have not quenched my cathartic writing needs.

So in two plus years, law school happened. I have some new friends and lots of new thoughts about things. And so much new knowledge. I have acquired the lawyerly thought process that is basically the output of law school (but no one tells you that before you start), which I both love and despise. I am no longer an ordinary person that thinks and speaks like everyone else. (I’m not saying lawyer-think is better, it’s just another thing entirely).

Lately as I talk to classmates about graduating in December people respond: “Oh yeah, you are done!” And it’s true. It’s basically done. It already happened – all that slow, incremental change to become a lawyer. From the first week of 1L ,when I had to literally figure out what exactly plaintiffs and defendants were, and then vendors and vendees (and now settlors and trustees and issue) and when the excessive use of the term “reasonable” seemed hilarious (now it seems natural!) and when the idea of accomplishing so much reading and thinking, in order to prepare for one test at the end of the semester, one test that would judge one’s performance, seemed terrifying and unreachable.

But law school doesn’t really make you a successful lawyer, there’s way more to that. So much that I am about to learn. But in six weeks, I will be certified, in a sense, to practice law. As much work as I have to complete between today and December 15th, it’s basically over. This is all just tying up loose ense. I have learned what I came to learn. I am about as ready as I can be to go into the world and be an immigration lawyer. That makes me scared, and it should. As much as it is frequently abused, becoming a professional is serious business, and I take it seriously.



some stuff has happened

January 30, 2010

Although it is Friday night, and it’s only 11:00 pm, I should be sleeping. These days, I am usually sleeping at 11:00 pm. My baby is sleeping. My husband is sleeping. And the later I stay up, the less sleep I will get. Because although tomorrow is Saturday, and a year ago I would stay up until whenever and then sleep until eight hours later, I am a parent now. I don’t get to keep my own sleep schedule anymore, which has both up- and down-sides.

But today I also partook in the pleasure of napping with my baby. For the entire lengthy (2+hour) afternoon G-baby nap, I slept. Thus, it is 11:00 pm Friday night, I am not so tired, and I was just reading immigration law. But then I got distracted on facebook. So I read an old friend’s blog, and then it dawned on me that this was the perfect moment to return to my own blog.

So where am I at? I’m a well-adjusted 2L now, have been for some time. Last semester was all about adjusting to law school and motherhood, just in time to finish finals and realize, OMFG I’ll be an attorney in one year! (Gah!)

But I digress. I had G-baby on the 9th day of the 9th month of 2009, which is über-lucky in China, if nothing else. It happened like this:

I had some contractions during the evening of 9-7-09. I went to tax class in sweats the next day, preparing to maybe have to go to the hospital at some point. I was about a week late at this point, it was hot and humid, and I was ready to have the baby. I waddled up my school’s venerable hill to the non-law school classroom where tax class was being held thanks to its 200-person enrollment. The undergrads — as I quickly remembered, with a bit of nostalgia — they don’t have the air conditioning in their buildings, (at least not the 150-year old ones).

So I sweat, and started to contract, but it didn’t hurt too much. So I did what anyone would do, I listened to the crazy tax professor and surfed the web. I had another class that evening, and since it still didn’t hurt that much, I went to that one too. By the time it was over, it was hurting more. Pretty sure I was grimacing about every five minutes, and I had put some times in my notes to keep track of how far apart my contractions were:


etc, etc.

And then I got a ride home, and the next morning I went to the hospital, and at 6:40 pm the next evening I had a brand-new 7 lb. 7 oz. G-baby. And yes, if I keep blogging, I plan to call him G-baby.

G-baby is really cute. And I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom. EVERYONE says it. People stop me on the street and smile at him, and these days he smiles back. They ask me his name and how old he is and say things like: “Like babies aren’t cute enough, and then you put them in suits with ears like little bears.” Yes, I dress my child in little brown, fuzzy suits that have bears ears (and feet!) You probably still think I am overstating the cuteness, but you are just going to have to trust me, because I’m pretty sure I’m not going to post photos of him on this blog.

To keep things mostly law school around here, I will share that when F went back to work in October, G-baby came to tax class with me two times per week, two hours each class for the rest of the semester. He was both comic relief and welcome cuteness in the otherwise drab world of Title 26 of the United States Code. When he occasionally woke up and cried in class, I would walk around and feel embarrassed to be an indirect source of noise and disruption. But then later a classmate would say, “It’s okay, I want to cry in tax too.” At least eight different people said that to me during the semester. What none of us knew was that when we took the final exam, we would all cry. Seriously. But let’s not revisit that terrible 24 hours.

These days, the baby law students, (as I will call those who think it’s amusing and fun to have a baby around – note: I was NOT one of those people before I got pregnant, so I’m not at all dissing the non-baby law students) say they miss seeing G-baby. He still makes some appearances, but he doesn’t have a regular class schedule this semester. Tax law was enough for him, at least for twenty or so years.


August 26, 2008

I’m here. Waiting for things to start, sitting with another girl who also feels uncomfortable with the level of simultaneous schmoozing and social discomfort in the room. It’s good people-watching, but it’s bizarre to think I will spend the next 3 years with these people. Gah!!?

Monday came so quickly

August 25, 2008

Well, my time off is officially over. I’m off to Madison today to get organized in my apartment before orientation starts tomorrow.

Last night I lay awake wondering how I was going to live off this loan check for the next four months. That is probably the scariest part of this whole thing for me. Those of you who know me in real life probably realize I am not naturally thrifty. I’ve been trying to prepare myself for the adjustment to not spending money but it’s really hard for me. I just have to do it. No shopping, no eating out, no lattes, etc.

Once I get in the swing of classes I’ll likely be too overwhelmed with reading to even consider spending money.

On that depressing note, off to get ready to leave!

hump day of week off

August 20, 2008

Weeks off are a thing of beauty. Monday morning I biked to the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum downtown to meet my friends and their respective children. I considered bringing my precocious nephew Carlos but thought I might be too out of breath from chasing him around for three hours to actually talk to my old friends. It was really fun to watch the kids interact though. Great museum too….

Monday afternoon I ran some errands and went to the beach. I don’t think I have ever been to Bradford Beach, or any Milwaukee beach for that matter. Lake Michigan is still polluted, and the water didn’t look (or smell) too appealing, but they’ve cleaned up the beach and it was quite pleasant to hang out there reading “A Civil Action” and banishing a tiny bit of the whiteness from my legs.

I’ve spent many hours reading “A Civil Action” which is required for my Civil Procedure class. It’s actually quite an interesting book, and I’m rather enjoying all this reading. It’s been a while since I had hours and hours to devote to a book. Usually I read my books slowly unless I am on vacation, when I will tear through several novels in a week.

Yesterday I started sanding those pesky stairs, which really didn’t take so long with my trusty sanding mouse.

Then I went to get primer for the stairs. Painting the front of the stairs is way more annoying than sanding. I estimate I will finish this job a day or two before classes start. Not so fun.I also played around in my garden. I have a lot of spotted leaves on two of my tomato plants, which makes me very sad, but I don’t have time to worry about it besides trying to remove all the spotted parts.

Today I slept too late, read some more of my book, signed up for university health insurance (shockingly quick and easy) went to get my hair cut and made chicken nachos for dinner. Today I was pretty lazy actually.

Tomorrow Fermin is taking off from work. Besides the day he threw out his back earlier this summer, he has not called in or missed a day. He just told me that he told his supervisor, “I have stuff to do tomorrow.” Hmm… normally, this might make me nervous, but I’ve heard that at least two other employees there have repeatedly no-call, no-showed for days at a time and still kept their jobs. At least he was honest and gave a day’s notice?

The whole idea of him taking a day off happened when we ate at our favorite Thai restaurant the other week and heard our favorite waitress mention their lunch buffet to someone. Our ears perked up, then we realized we have jobs and lives and can’t lunch together on the south side. Then I realized it was almost my week off, so I could indeed lunch. Then he decided he would take a day off during my off week. All in the name of lunch. The buffet at the Thai restaurant better be good. Well, it will be good to spend the day together too.

So, just wanted to check in. More news later this week.

2008 came so quickly…

August 8, 2008

I get that this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing are controversial. I get why, and I don’t disagree. So with a strange mix of delight and apprehension and excitement and nostalgia, I am watching the Opening Ceremonies tonight. I’m not much of a sports fan, but the Games in Beijing — they hold a lot of meaning for me, and I’ll be watching as much as I can.

In 2001, I left Beijing after a year of living, working and studying at the city’s teacher’s university. The day I left the International Olympic Committee announced that Beijing had won the right to host the 2008 games. And oh how far away 2008 seemed. Like a century away. I left the city so torn — vowing, knowing even, that I’d be back before the Games. I was, but only for two weeks, and that was six years ago.

It had been a dream of a year. I had learned so much about culture, relationships, communication, language, faith and myself. I was comfortable conversing in Chinese, but more than fluent in chopstick. I could read characters and made it a goal to learn new ones every day. I had found the places I loved most for walking and biking. I knew where to get the best gong bao ji ding (Kung-pao chicken – not to be compared with the spiceless goop served in most American Chinese restuarants) and fried apples and dumplings. I had great, dear Chinese friends who I had shared my culture with, and they had shared theirs with me. I had led my father and brother through the sights of Beijing. I had biked to Tiananmen with friends late at night, after the city was cool and silent. I can still hear the intonation of the subway lady’s voice: “Jiushuitan daole,” at the stop closest to my university. I had crushed on a boy and bonded with roommates. I eventually went my separate way from just about all these people, as my faith morphed into something as foreign as China, but I treasure those days with them. I hope they know that.

The last few weeks I had finished classes and was simply milking my last few days as a Beijinger. That summer Beijing had been in rare form. The Olympic hosting “competition” was in full swing. Dilapidated structures were covered and Olympic posters were everywhere. The central government had been doing everything possible to avoid the hot, muggy, smog of Beijing summer. They played God – seeding the clouds so that it would rain and clear away the matter that turned the skies a dusty, tannish grey. It was working then, apparently better than it is now.

I can’t imagine what the places I knew so well in Beijing look like today. I wonder if a visit would be emotionally overwhelming. Places get to me, more than people sometimes. If I went to my old apartments and found them torn down, the vendors gone, the little cafes long closed, I would mourn them. It’s almost ridiculous to think things hadn’t changed in that neighborhood. The Beijing skyline is a matter of cranes rising behind cranes rising in front of cranes. Everywhere you look, construction is a given.

But tonight, it’s Beijing’s turn to shine, and I can’t help feel proud, watching this ridiculous and amazing show of talent and culture and dance and beauty and technology. 2008 man-children doing tai-chi in formation, in unison, with beautiful and culturally stunning results. The drum opening… The directing by one of China’s great film-gods Zhang Yimou. What is not to love? I’m sure some Americans are afraid of China’s emerging prowess, but I am amazed and wonder at it. In a way I love it. I hate the human rights problems and the support of Sudan’s genocide, but I also hate the war in Iraq and any number of things I could mention that the Bush administration has done, so…. I don’t know.

I recently emptied a chest of memorabilia from my parents’ basement and found some of the promotional posters I had gotten my hands on that summer. There were bent and torn, but a flood of memories came back. I couldn’t believe they were in there… seven years….

Introductory legalese

August 3, 2008

Is there a course in this? I’ve been going through “Legal Writing in Plain English” by Bryan Garner for months with my two blog-buddies KEL and Lisslo. It’s an activity-based book, with short passages and exercises on methods to avoid wordy, confusing and boring language. (As I wrote that sentence, I took out an offending “of” phrase, which I practiced this week).

The exercises contain sentences like this: “In the absence of any proof to the contrary, the court should presume that the administrator’s functions have not ceased.”

Seriously, I had to re-read like five times to figure out what it actually described: “Without contrary proof, the court should presume that the administrator’s functions continue.”

In a way this summer has been about re-calibrating my brain for legal language. As Mr. Garner explains, law students spend years learning to comprehend legalese, and then must battle to avoid spewing more of it into the world.

I’m a bit afraid of what law school will do to my writing. It’s important to be precise, but just as important to be understood. Working through the exercises in this book, I’ve noticed there are many bad habits I naturally avoid, but several that I regularly participate in. There are other phrases, like the use of many negatives, that I just have a  hard time wrapping my brain around.

So please, if I ever use the phrase (from Garner’s $^it list) “during such time as” or “are in mitigation of,” please gently remind me to return to planet earth.