Welcome to the Bunsnip 1.0 Archives

Well, hello there! You must be here to engage in some nostalgic reading. The articles below appeared on the original iteration of Bunsnip.com, published between 2006-2014 (spanning the majority of my 20's). No effort has been taken to update any articles, or to ensure any linked images or websites are still properly linked. No warranty is made as to the quality of the Archives, but feel free to peruse!

Cats and Cat Catchers

When we were young, we would play together outside. He, two years my senior, and me, precocious, and annoying, and wanting terribly to be like him.

We would play cats and cat catchers while running through the sprinklers in our swimsuits on our front lawn. We were, of course, playing the cats, or sometimes their human allies, and we were striving to evade the cat catchers who wished to lock us away.

I remember walking with our arms straight out in front of us when we had been "caught" by the cat catchers, like the way zombies used to walk in the movies back when they were still slow and only mildly hungry for brains, or the way mummies walked in the Scooby Doo cartoons.

That's also sort of what Puddy looked like when we carried her on rare occasions when she would let us without hissing and scratching and biting. She was a cantankerous old cat who was too big for a young kid to carry normally, so we'd carry her under the front legs, lower legs dangling unsupported. No wonder she was so loathsome towards us.

As the sprinklers cycled through their rotation, our make believe story would play out, and we'd end up sprawled on our beach towels, morning light turning to noon and sun warmly drying the water in our suits. Sometimes the games would continue into the backyard as the sprinkler rotation moved around the house, or sometimes we would have had our fill of the sun and the sprinklers, and would take our games inside. He had a talent for drawing, and he would create our cat and cat catcher characters in paper dolls which we cut out to play with.

Zac was constantly drawing when we were kids. I observed sometimes that he would actually have scenes play out in real time on his sketchbook, the act of drawing becoming the art. I'd watch as his imagination created scenes and characters and battles and scribbled explosions. He would feverishly draw the scenes from his head and their action, and just as quickly blow it up in some glorious battle I could almost hear. I wasn't able to draw like that. To draw actively. To draw what I saw in my head as I saw it, because I didn't really see much in my head. I had vague notions. Some colors or textures maybe. But to put something on paper, I needed to see it in life. I didn't really have a mind's eye. But he did. In a way what he saw in his head sometimes seemed more present and real to him than what was around us, or so I observed.

I always liked to observe him, because he was different from me in the way he approached things, in the way he experienced the world, and it fascinated me. I admired him and wanted to be like him. Sometimes I wasn't the best little sister. I would prod him. I knew sometimes which buttons to push to get reactions from him. I liked to push buttons back then. To know what would happen. We were friends, but I was also a little pest. But he was always quick to forgive me. He was not really capable of harboring ill will toward someone. He doesn't really see people like that.

Eventually I grew out of my pest phase and our friendship evolved. We stopped playing cats and cat catchers and other forms of make believe at some point, the way children just suddenly stop those things. We moved on to other things, like exploring the small wild wooded area in our neighborhood that is now a somewhat more tamed nature park. We played board games and video games and watched movies.

One day, we had grown up and I moved out of the house and went to school, and then to work, and then more school and more work in a different state. I have not been the best at keeping in touch. I'm not great at it anyway, but I also struggle with avoidance as a means of coping with difficult things. And for the past seven or so years, I've been largely avoiding the reality of my brother's cancer that is eating him up. It's taking my brother. My friend. My partner in fending off cat catchers and saving the cats from the evil of the world. He's still here but I don't know how long that will be true. And I don't know how to say to him before he's gone that he's meant so much to me my whole life. And he still means so much to me. And he's a much stronger person than I am for being forced to face daily what I can only bear to avoid. I'm sorry Zac. For how I have failed to do or say or be what I should have. I love you and I love all that you have been in your life and for me in mine. I want you to know that now. I am not saying goodbye. I'm saying I'm here.

Please stay here with me a little while longer.

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The Revelation

My sister Abigail was 12 years old when I first learned of her existence. I was 22 at the time, beginning my final year of college. She is 10 years younger than me.

The day I found out about her, I had come home from college for a quick visit. When I opened the door to my childhood home, I heard my mother upstairs crying. Dad was in the kitchen with a bag over his shoulder, just about to leave.

"What's going on?" I asked him.

"Well," he began, setting his bag down and not meeting my eyes, "your mother has kicked me out."

"Why did mom kick you out?" I pressed.

Eyes to the floor, voice soft, my dad told me about the affair he had had on my mother many years ago, and revealed that, as a result of the affair, he had another daughter that I had never known about.

My mind spun for a few seconds at the revelation, processing what he had just told me.

I had a sister.

"What's her name?" I asked finally.

"Abigail," he answered reverently. I tried the name out in my head. Abigail.

"Do you see her?" I asked.

He nodded, "Every week for the past twelve years." And that's when the depth of the lie really hit me. Twelve years.

I lost it a little at that point, and I remember yelling at my dad. I remember asking whether we had ever really been a family, or whether everything had been a lie.

He said he liked to think we had been a family, but he understood if I never wanted to speak to him again.

I calmed down a bit at that and said of course I wanted to speak to him. He was my dad and it wasn't like I was going to just turn my back on him. But this was fucked up, and I was going to need some time to process.

He said he understood, and then he left. I went upstairs and found my mother and brother and the three of us cried together and embraced one another.

The revelation was very shocking to me, because I had always so admired my father for being an honest man. A man of integrity. I respected him and looked up to him. And what I was hearing from him when he told me the truth was from another reality that I had never imagined possible. It wasn't that he had cheated on my mother. It wasn't that he had fathered a child with another woman. It was that he had lied to all of us for so long. It was the deception.

It was taking the foundation out from under me, my sure footing, my version of reality, and fucking it completely up. I didn't know what was real any longer. Was our family ever really real? Was my childhood real? My teenage years -- were they real? Was I real? I had been formed in an environment that was a lie. How could I really be the person who I had thought I was?

That's the mental struggle that I would deal with for quite awhile after the revelation. I sought comfort and understanding from many sources -- my friends, my roommates, my journal, and ultimately my school counseling center. I even distracted myself by jumping quickly into a number of fast and dramatic romantic relationships. In a way that was me replacing one pain with others. It took a long time for me to work things out in my head and find my sure footing once more. Healing and forgiveness toward my father came, but they did so slowly over a matter of years.

I thought it would be interesting to share an excerpt from my journal from that time. I wrote the following abridged entry not long after the revelation. I had not been journaling prior to this entry, and took this experience as an opportunity to work on inner healing - or at least inner awareness - by writing. I ended up keeping the journal for about 4 years from 2004-2008, although entries became less frequent when I began blogging in 2006. Most of the substance revolves around the aforementioned dramatic relationships, but ever lurking between the lines is my struggle with the revelation and its aftermath.

Sra's Journal
Nov. 16, 2004
It is a very turbulent time in my life right now. ...

    My family life has turned on its head. I was shocked to learn that my dad cheated on my mom 12 years ago and had another daughter from the affair. The disillusionment is indescribable. You think you know a person, but maybe you never really can. Our reality is perhaps nothing more than our perception. And my reality turned out to be illusion.

    I can’t help but think back on the years of my young life and try to reframe my understanding of what was real.
    I was 12. In sixth grade. Cable had been lost for awhile and maybe even Phoenix was there.* My dad had a 2-yr old.  
    It was 1991. I thought a lot about that year because it’s a palindrome. I was 9 or so. Grandpa Terry had died the previous year. I got baptized into the LDS church on my 9th birthday. My friends slept over that night and we ate Little Caesar’s pizza. I ate the cheese first and commented on how the pizza looked like a brain. My dad would have his bastard** child the next year. He had probably already been cheating for at least 3 years, since I was 6, a kindergartener. It blows my mind.  
    I think it was 1993 that my parents took a month-long trip with [family friends] to Hawaii. My brother and I stayed with Grandma & Grandpa, and Milky*** was there and Don tended us one night and we played a cat & mouse game. Dad had a 1-yr old.
    Perception and reality. How can you ever trust anyone? Sometimes you can’t even trust yourself. But you can’t live like that or you’ll go insane. You have to believe in people, but try to balance that faith with some amount of caution. Balance is the way, thank you, Buddha, but it’s incredibly hard to attain. Oh yeah, my parents are divorcing. So that’s my family situation.

    Luckily, I live with 3 wonderful people ... My roommates, Pla, K-T, & LaNae ...

    LaNae has been an indispensable source of support and comfort to me in this crazy time. She helped me put things in perspective and realize that I’m still me. I am who I am based on the false reality I grew up with, but that doesn’t make me any less real. I know who I am, and that’s a true comfort. ....

                        - Sra

* Cable and Phoenix were two of my four childhood cats. I had very bad luck keeping my cats around for long before they went missing.

** I was deeply regretful when I saw my choice of word here. It was written from a place of hurt and anger meant for my father but misdirected at my sister, who had no fault in the situation. When I started transcribing my journal from this period after Abigail and I had connected, I almost quit the project because of this one word. But it was my goal to create an open and honest relationship with my sister from the beginning. Abigail was very gracious and understanding about my poor choice of words here. 
*** Milky was my brother's childhood cat. He had much better luck with cats than I.

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Filling in the empty spaces

It feels like it's been a very long while since I've blogged anything. In truth, quite a lot has happened in my life over the past 6 months, and I could have written about so much.

The most recent thing is that I turned 31. That kind of blows my mind. Lots of change has happened since I began blogging about 7 or 8 years ago. Lots has changed but in other ways things have stayed the same. I definitely feel older and wiser than the young twenties version of myself. I am a different person in some ways, but recognizable in others. I have changed states, changed professions. But I don't necessarily know any better where life is headed for me. I think maybe that's just the way that life is, and the way it should be really, otherwise what's the point? We always need room to strive for improvement.

The next most recent thing is that my dad was diagnosed with stomach cancer and secondary liver cancer. If you've been keeping track, there are currently two members of my immediate family who are living with cancer, the other being my brother, Broy. He has been receiving treatment for his cancer for about 6 years now, going in and out of clinical trials, as current therapies have not managed to beat the disease for good. So as if that wasn't enough cancer in one family's life, we have my dad's to deal with now too. My dad has started receiving targeted radiation therapy for the liver cancer, and a monthly shot of some drug (not sure if it's technically "chemo" or what -- it's not administered the same way) to keep the stomach tumor from growing. It's hard to say what the prognosis is on that, but I guess the modus operandi, for me at least, has always been to hope for the best and prepare for the worst. For me, it's a little easier to go through the reality of having a family member diagnosed with cancer and face mortality the second time around. I feel like shit for saying that. I'm not saying I'm happy about it. It's just easier to go through the grieving cycle if you've done it before. Anyway, I see this maybe as an opportunity to start thinking about my relationship with my dad, and thinking about the types of things that I would want to say and do before the inevitable, whenever that may be.

Which brings us to the next most recent thing prior to that: I have begun having a relationship with my "long lost" sister, for lack of a better descriptor. It's possible that you didn't know that I had a sister. I, in fact, also did not know that I had a sister until I was 22 years old. I'm going to interject and say that on the one hand I feel like this is private stuff and I should not be talking about it on my blog, but on the other hand, there's really no way to talk about my sister and our relationship without explaining the background. And the background isn't terribly pretty. In life, we like to pretend that everything is pretty. That people always do right by one another. Or that when people do in fact do wrong, only bad consequences follow. In reality, life is shades of gray. And people don't always like to acknowledge that. We like to treat certain things as taboo. We put skeletons in our closets and lock them up. We put on masks and show the world what we want them to see. But the truth is what it is, and I don't think we should have to hide it or be afraid of it.

So, in brief, my sister is the product of an affair my father had with another woman long ago, when he was still married to my mother, and I was still a relatively young child. Although my mother did learn of the affair originally (and my parents stayed together during my youth in spite of it), none of us learned about my sister, Abigail, until I was 22, and my dad could keep his skeleton in the closet no longer. Naturally, there was quite a lot of shit that hit the fan after that revelation. There were lots of consequences. Many bad, others good, depending on your perspective. My parents divorced. My hero pedestal upon which I had placed my father crumbled. My concept of reality shifted into severe unfocus for quite awhile. There was a lot of hurt and a lot of healing that had to happen. For everyone in my family, really. But I can only speak to my own experiences, and that's all I wish to speak to. Others have their own perspectives.

For a number of reasons not completely all clear, Abigail and I did not really connect with each other until June of this year, 9 years after I learned of her existence. There are a lot more stories to tell about that, and I promise to do so very soon (because guess what? I plan to start blogging again -- no, really!).

For now it's enough to say that building a relationship with my sister these past 5 months has been one of the best things that's ever happened in my life. It's enriched me and made me feel whole in a way few other things ever have or could.

She's my missing puzzle piece, repairing me where I am dismantled.

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It keeps you up at night.

You resist sleep, because sleeping is forfeiting the day until tomorrow, effectively fastforwarding an already brief life via unconsciousness. It goes like this:

One day, you wake up, and you're thirty, and you don't really feel any more grown up than you did at twenty. Maybe in some ways you feel less grown up. But maybe that's because you were never as grown up as you thought you were. You were just precocious back then, and a little naive and idealistic. But the fact that you see that now means you really are grown up, at least compared to twenty.

Though you still like video games. The sames ones you played in your childhood and teens. And you enjoy discovering other games from the same era, because it makes you feel like a kid again, and all nostalgic. But you might have ruined a few childhood memories by rewatching films or shows that were once so good, but now are clearly lacking in one respect or another. So you try to forget the revisit, and reinstall the memory.

You don't have your whole life ahead of you anymore. You only have what's left. And you have less time to get where you're going, wherever that is.

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Passed, Lawyered, Employed, Phew! Oh yeah, and an exciting tale of riding the bus.

Whoa, I've really kept things suspenseful on the blog, haven't I? Last I wrote, I was still waiting on my bar results, and I said that if you don't hear from me for awhile, it's probably because I didn't pass.

Well I hate to break expectations, but my silence has not been because I didn't pass. I did, in fact, pass my bar exam, and have been sworn in as an officer of the court here in Oregon. So, yeah, I'm a lawyer now. Yay!

I am also gainfully employed, though not strictly as a lawyer. I think I mentioned in my last post that I was working a temp job at Nike world headquarters. That temp job has been upgraded to a full time W-2 style position. I'm working in the procurement department, which is fancy business speak for sourcing of commodities for Nike. The group I am working in helps procure service contracts/deals for Nike's business groups. So it's law-related in that negotiating service contracts is involved. I am liking it pretty well, and am excited by how much there is to learn.

Legal education is very theoretical. Too theoretical, if you ask me. What I'm doing right now is much more practical and results-oriented. So it's a different perspective for me. Even pre-law school, I worked in law firms, which largely live in a theoretical world.

So everything seems very new, and I'm having to learn a lot of business jargon. For instance, you might be interested to know that it is not uncommon for business people to use the word "ask" as a noun, similar to the nominal use of "request". "Here's our ask on this..." one might say. Business people also like to "escalate" things up the chain of command. "Escalate" might also mean not punting up the chain of command, but increasing the sense of urgency that one has about a matter. Depends whom you ask (in the verbal sense). Business people also "push back" when someone has an ask that they are totally not amenable to.

And acronyms! My god, acronyms are all over the damn place! The alphabet soup is crazy in the business world. Things are promised by EOD (end of day) or maybe COB (close of business). A cost might be capital, but it also might be OPEX (operating expense). Contracts come in MPSAs (Master Professional Service Agreements), MSAs (Master Servce Agreements), NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), WOs (Work Orders), COs (Change Orders), and so forth. Compensation might be calculated on a T&E (time and expense), otherwise known as T&M (time and materials) basis. And of course there will probably be SLAs (service level agreements) in your EULAs (end user license agreements). I can handle that kind of talk, because it's part of legal jargon, too. But when people start going on PTO (paid time off) instead of vacation, I get a little batty.

The good thing about gainful employment is that I should be able to buy myself a car soon. The bad thing is that, due to my overwhelming amount of student loan debt, and the fact that I am only recently empoyed, I can't get the credit without Mr. E's co-signature. Normally I would strongly advise against co-signing loans, because you get all the personal responsibility without any of the fun, but Mr. E and I, we're like a team, see, and I can't keep taking the bus to work because it's taking close to three hours out of my roundtrip day, which is very exhausting and soul-crushing.

Speaking of the bus, let me tell you a little story about my bus ride this morning. I ride the same bus route every day to work, and it's pretty much the same every day. I board the number 62 crack of dawn bus at the local mall after connecting from my village, and ride  almost the whole route up to Nike. It's typically a 45 minute ride on that leg. The bus typically sees the same faces everyday, and people pretty much leave each other alone. With the exception of a few odd days, my morning ride almost never fills to capacity. People do that thing where you sit one to a row on each side, with an extra space, and then when everyone is evenly spaced, newcomers have to start sitting next to someone (the horror!). But in truth, my bus nearly never gets so full that people must sit together.

I ride with my new leather satchel briefcase (graduation present from my lovely family), and so I typically lay it on the seat next to me while I read my Kindle, listen to my ipod, or snooze against the window. On the extremely rare occasion that the bus fills, I will put it on my lap so someone can take the seat next to me, but that has only been necessary about two times in the past 3.5 months.

Today, I'm sitting in my usual area toward the back, reading my Kindle, when this frequent rider boards the bus, bypasses a number of open seats at the front of the bus (granted, they were all neighboring other people), walks back to my row, points at my bag and says, "I'm going to sit right here. This bag has no ticket."

I glance at all the empty seats in front of me and over my shoulder and say, "There's plenty of open seats on the bus."

Again, the man insists, "This bag, no ticket."

"I understand that, but there are plenty of available seats for you to choose from, why do you need to sit here?" I ask, even as I drag my satchel onto my lap while he plops into the seat next to me.

"No one tells me where to sit. I sit where I like."

At this point, I'll mention that this guy is black, and I got the impression that he was somehow defensive about being dictated on where to sit on the bus, which is something that frankly hasn't been an issue in my lifetime, but it's the vibe he was giving off.

"I'm not telling you where to sit, you don't have to get contentious," I said, "I just don't understand why you must sit here when there are plenty of available places to sit on the bus."

He began to lecture me some more about how my bag doesn't have a ticket, and I cut him off, "You know what? you can sit here," I said, "excuse me, please." And I let him have my row and moved to the back of the bus where I squeezed with my bag on my lap between one of those annoyingly placed poles on my left and a lady on my right. "I'm sorry," I mumbled to her as I sat.

"That's alright!" She insisted.

"What a psycho." I muttered, and I took her silence as agreement.

I went back to reading my Kindle, but no longer found enjoyment in the novel I was reading, so I switched to a book on technical contracts. Dry subject like that is just perfect for a morning that was just asking for clinical detachment over emotional connection.

Oh, and the guy who ousted me? He sat on the aisle side, and laid his own bag on the inside seat next to him. I thought for a moment about yelling to him that his bag didn't have a ticket and he should put it on his lap, but I didn't want to mirror the poor behavior of a hypocritical asshole.

And you know, even if there were all those open seats on the bus, if he would have come to my row and said, "May I sit here please?" I would have gladly moved my bag onto my lap and said, "Sure." Then I would have returned to my book. Almost everyone gets off at the train station 5 minutes before my stop anyway, so soon I would have my row back to myself.

I think really the guy just wanted his own row, and he couldn't very well demand that someone without a bag move for him, but when I have a bag, all of a sudden there's a philosophical argument about who and what are entitled to a seat.

I'm really not one of those people who strives to deny people a place to sit. If the bus is full, I will accommodate your needs. But when there's plenty of room, and I have a 45 minute ride, yeah, I'm gonna lay my bag next to me.

So sue me.

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Speaking Words of Wisdom

A wonderful Utah musician named Mike Masse is selling covers of The Beatles' song Let It Be in order to raise funds to treat his infant son with a malignant brain tumor. I already have a collection of Mike's great covers which he performed and recorded at The Pie Pizzeria in Salt Lake City, around the corner from where I used to live.  He is a very talented cover artist.

I think it's tragic that people who get sick in this country so often have to resort to fundraisers in order to have a chance at surviving. Politics aside, there's clearly something wrong with that.

Anyway, I wanted to spread the word on this fundraiser because I like Mike as a musician, and because I have a brother who still battles cancer today after roughly six years of treatment, and it breaks my heart that this poor kid might not even finish year two of his life.

I went ahead and threw down $5 for the song, because that's what I can afford as an as-yet-unemployed-near-lawyer. Hopefully one day soon I can do more for such causes.

But even if you don't decide to donate, go check out Mike's covers, which you can also find on YouTube.

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Firm decisions

Let's see, it's been awhile since I've posted, so where were we...? Eeep! It looks like my last post was just before the bar exam! I was quite on edge about it (if you ever talk to anyone who says the bar exam is not that bad, they must be so far past it that they have exam-prep amnesia, because this was by far the most stressful summer since law school began).

I managed to wake up to my alarms on both days (no thanks to the hotel alarm clock, which didn't go off, but I had triple redundancy in the form of my cell phone, my ipod, and my boyfriend's sleepy morning phone call, so I made it on time). Also, my laptop made it through essay day without crapping out on me or giving me any trouble whatsoever. Not everyone was so lucky. During essay day, a number of people had to raise their hands during the exam because of laptop trouble. Glad I wasn't one of them.

The exam took place in the Red Lion hotel situated as far north as you can get in Portland before you cross the bridge into Washington. The hotel was lovely, actually. Situated right on the Columbia river with beautiful views of sail boats and larger ships passing under the I-5 draw bridge. My hotel room was also quite nice. The downsides were that the planes from PDX airport fly right over the hotel along the river, and I was awakened a number of times the first night from the noise. But it wasn't that big of a deal. It was a strange experience, where I felt very solitary but also surrounded by a lot of solidarity. I knew a lot of people there, naturally, and the whole stay was sort of like a mixture of hell and a vacation with friends between exam days and sessions.

I was quite nervous the first session of the first day. When I sat at my assigned seat, my hands were shaking. They shake a little bit all the time anyway (thanks, dad's genes), but this was added nerves. I was seated next to someone I knew casually from law school, and we chatted a bit during the morning wait, so that helped diffuse some tension. But after the first session was over (all 3 hours of it), I felt more confident going into the remaining 3 sessions over the next day and a half.

I don't think the test was easy. There were definitely some curve balls thrown in on both the essays and multiple choice sessions. But I don't think it was that bad either. I think I probably displayed the minimum competency needed to pass, but we won't know for sure until Sept. 21. (If you hear nothing from me for a long time after Sept. 21, it's because I failed and am crying myself to sleep into my pillow every day. But seriously, I think it went ok. Probably. *knocking on wood*)

In the meantime, post-exam, what have I been doing? Well, I spent a good two weeks doing absolutely nothing. I slept quite a bit. Took impromptu naps daily. I would be watching some of my TV shows and then suddenly wake up three hours later, having not chosen to nap at all. It is funny what stress does to your body physically. I was seriously beat after the exam, mentally and physically. I went to a few celebratory drinking sessions and dinners. There was a beer fest involved.

It's only been in the last week or two that I have started working on what comes next, professionally. I am one of the (unfortunately many) unlucky ones who does not have a job lined up. I do scan the job boards daily, and there has not really been much to bite at in my areas I wish to specialize in. A lot of the pertinent listings want attys with 3-10 years of experience practicing. Ha! So I'm still looking for work, and there's a chance that it will come along, especially after bar results come out.

But I am also working on a plan to launch my own law firm, right out of the gate. I know, it sounds crazy. I have so many doubts myself. But I am doing a lot of research, reading books, checking out websites in my practice area, working on business details. This is not ideal. My plan has always been to have my own firm -- eventually. But the economy being what it is, and the job market being what it is, and my desired specialty area being what it is, jumping right in might be the necessary choice, unless I want to sacrifice my professional vision in some way.

So it's not ideal. But I am going to try it.

I have picked my practice area (trademarks, primarily, but other legal business needs will be serviced), selected a firm name (secret for right now), and designed my logo. I am working on plans for a website, and have acquired my domain name. I am looking into forming my LLC, and figuring out where I should open my banking accounts. I am looking into virtual office services which would allow me to book a conference room for client meetings when I need to make them (an actual physical office will probably be something that must wait a year or two). Right now not much has been set in stone, but I am working hard to figure out what needs to happen and trying to get those balls rolling, slowly, and with due diligence of course. The biggest hurdle is going to be funding. I am going to try to keep start up costs as low as possible, but I will need some capital to get everything going. Going to look into grants. I know there are opportunities out there for women entrepreneurs, because it's a man's world out there, baby.

So that's the direction I'm heading now. If I can get an acceptable job while I am trying to launch the firm, I will take it, just to help pay the bills. But I want this firm to happen at some point anyway, and I'm kind of at the point where I think, why not now? You have to take the plunge some time.

Tonight I watched a video conference call on starting up a small firm, and I identified very closely with the female attorney giving the presentation. Her experience with setting up her own firm mirrors some of the thoughts and plans I have been working on. It made me feel reinforced to watch that.

Business aside, I have concerns over my ability to competently work legal matters out of the gate. Law school is not so much like med school or other professional schools in terms of how they prepare you to actually practice. But everyone has to learn on the job. Whether it's diving in yourself, or working under a slave-master's thumb, it has to come at some point. I guess in an employment situation, there's more a sense of security that someone is watching for your mistakes and that there's someone there to mentor you. But I have heard mixed opinions on how effective the large firm environment actually is for attys in their first few years in terms of actually teaching you how to practice. There are other resources out there, such as books, listservs, unofficial mentors, official mentors (Oregon assigns you one during your first year of bar admittance), professors from the law school, and so on. So I don't think the disadvantage is too great, if any. Also, Oregon is one of the few (if not the only) state that requires professional liability insurance in order for you to practice law. So if I screw up horribly, that will help.

Crazy? Maybe. Happening? Looks likely.

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Dun Dun Dun... Exam Time

Well, 8 weeks of studying have come down to this: the last weekend before the bar exam. I have 3 days left to finish studying before the first day of the exam next Tuesday. I'm going to probably spend the next two days finalizing my memorization of as much law as possible. Then on Monday, I'm going to try to take it a little easy, just some light review. I will check into my hotel that night and try to relax. Maybe work out a bit to kill nervous energy. The hotel is supposed to have a fitness lounge.

I have had a few freak outs over the past weeks. It's a real roller coaster. One day I feel fine, and the next I am anxious and panicky and have a hard time focusing or sleeping or just being calm. I feel like I could use another month to really feel ready for this exam, but I don't know if it would make a difference.

I wish I could say I feel like I have this in the bag, but I just don't. I don't know how it will go. I feel maybe cautiously optimistic, but I do recognize that smart, dedicated people can and do fail the bar exam for a number of reasons. I have friends who walked out of the February exam having no idea if they passed or failed. I probably won't know either.

My biggest fears are (1) not waking up in time for my exam, and (2) having my computer crap out during the essays portion.

To combat number 1, I've had Mr. E wake me up when he leaves for work for the past two weeks. The first week, I would sometimes get up right away, but usually go back to bed for another couple hours, because it is just too damn difficult to be awake at 6:45:AM, dammit. I'm serious. But this week it's do or die time, so I have actually gotten up with Mr. E. I usually have to sit around for a couple hours to mentally wake up before I can start studying, but I'm getting to the point where I am actually somewhat coherent by 8:AM, which is when the exam will start. I think adrenaline will get me there on game day.

To combat number 2... I don't know, it's up to chance. My MacBook is 3 years old now, and it still seems to be in fine working order, but I have heard personal stories from people who've had their computers die in the middle of the exam. Legibility-wise, I can write for about 5 minutes, and you will maybe be able to read the first half of what I wrote. So we're talking disaster if I have to write for 6 hours. It would probably fail me. So let's hope that doesn't happen.

I am feeling good about the multiple choice, so as long as I can get through day 1, day 2 should be ok, I think.

As far as the essays go, I am worried about getting a question (or several questions!) where I just have no clue what the law is. I did a practice exam earlier this week and the very first essay I opened was that way: I had not a single clue what to write. I hear that happens to people sometimes, and in that case you just have to look at the facts and try to identify what might be a legal issue, and then make up some law to apply. Sometimes people guess right. Anyway, after that crappy practice test, I have been incessantly reading essay answers, trying to familiarize myself with lots of fact patterns in case something similar comes up.

Here's hoping that the past two months were good enough to prepare me.

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Free and Inexpensive Media Online

Thought I'd share a few links to my favorite places to download media online for free (the legal kind of free!) or on the cheap. I make daily or weekly visits to many of these sites for music, books, and video games:

1) Freegal [music]

Freegal is a music download site that works with participating libraries to offer you 3 free music downloads per week via your library account. Unlike most library experiences, however, you get to keep your free tracks for-ev-er.

Three tracks at a time is a slow way to download a full album, sure, but it adds up quickly. I use a recurring reminder on my e-calendar to keep me coming back to the site every Sunday night for my new downloads, and soon enough I have a complete new album without any expense or effort.

I actually also use Mr. E's library card number to get his 3 free songs per week (since he's not interested, oddly enough), so I get my albums twice as fast. It usually takes me 2-3 weeks to get a full album, so if you don't have someone special in your life who has a library card but hates free things, you could count on a free album every month.

Freegal doesn't have every album you might want, but it has many good ones. I keep a running list of the albums I intend to download in a Google Doc. That way I don't have to actively remember my list of greedy desires every week.

I have already downloaded songs and albums from a bunch of great artists, including:
  1. Adele, 
  2. Alice in Chains, 
  3. CAKE, 
  4. Cyndi Lauper, 
  5. Faithless, 
  6. Fiona Apple (incl. her brand new one), 
  7. Imogen Heap, 
  8. Incubus, 
  9. The Lemonheads, 
  10. Madeleine Peyroux, 
  11. Madonna, 
  12. Passion Pit, 
  13. Phoenix, 
  14. Sarah McLachlan, 
  15. The Shins (incl. their new one), 
  16. Zaz, 
  17. 2Cellos, 
  18. and even the damn cast of Glee. 
Look at all those free albums. Currently, I'm working on an album from The Temper Trap (you probably have heard their song Sweet Disposition on 500 Days of Summer).  After that, it will be on to an album by my favorite German indie rock band, Wir Sind Helden. You should get on the Freegal band wagon and fulfill your own list.

2) Overdrive [books]

Overdrive is similar to Freegal except that it's for e-books and audio books, and you DON'T get to keep them for-ev-er.

You use your library card (if your library participates) to download books to your Kindle, Nook, or iPad, or even to your old-fashioned laptop. If it's an audio book, you can sometimes listen to it on your iPod or burn it to a CD, but usually you are forced to use Overdrive's proprietary software.You can select a 7, 14, or 21 day borrowing period.

Even though digital is naturally non-rivalrous due to its intangibility (i.e., my having a copy doesn't keep you from also having a copy -- we could all have copies at the same time without depriving each other of anything, ha ha!), Overdrive artificially simulates the rivalrous nature of tangible books by only lending out however many copies they are allowed to lend for a given book at a time (if I had to guess, I would say they can e-lend as many copies as they have in hard copy, but I don't know). Because of this, you may have to put your book on hold and wait awhile.

I'm currently the 150th person in line for the Game of Thrones series, for instance. That's gonna take awhile to get to me. But you can have 6 books on hold at once and 6 books out at once, so if you find less titillating and popularly-hyped reads to put on your book list, you should be able to keep a nice rotation going.

Unfortunately my reading this summer has largely been spent on bar prep with precious little time to read things that actually enrich my soul rather than destroy it, but after this bar nonsense is over with, I hope to start reading a book a week, and Overdrive and my trusty Kindle shall help me do that.

3) Kindle Daily Deal [books]

If you are on the Kindle bandwagon like me (probably one of the better purchases I have made in recent life), you will want to check out the Kindle Daily Deal on Amazon. They select one book every day to deeply discount down to 2 or 3 bucks.

They are often murder mystery novels, since that seems to be a popular genre, but I was delighted recently to pick up a book on the Donner Party's ordeal, which is something more to my taste. Well, my taste is not so much for the cannibalism, but I have found in recent years that I strongly prefer non-fiction books to fiction books, and I especially like non-fiction books that cause me to question the bounds of humanity.

Like recently I keep reading books about sociopaths and serial killers because I'm trying to understand what makes people do horrible things to other people without seeming to care. (Highly recommended: The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson [from the guy who wrote Men Who Stare At Goats {but don't judge it poorly for that piece of crap, this book is really engaging}] and Serial Murderers and their Victims by Eric Hickey [textbook, but utterly fascinating psychological perspective].)

Anyway. Cheap books. Everyday. The end.

4) John Vanderslice website [music]

John Vanderslice has been an indie musician for a number of years. He's received some notoriety via NPR's radio podcasts. I once saw him play live in a tiny little garage venue in Salt Lake City called Kilby Court, a place I still think dearly and fondly on from time to time. I have enjoyed his music for quite awhile, but he earned a special place in my heart when I recently learned that you can download several of his full albums for free on his website, and giving value away for free is something that I always respect in an artist. Some of his more popular albums are available for purchase on the site, but the free albums are really worthwhile as well. My iPod practically overflows with Johnny V these days. If you're looking for something new to listen to, or if you're already a fan, be sure to scurry over there a pick up some albums, because: FREE!

5) GOG.com [games]

GOG stands for Good Old Games, and that's exactly what you can get for cheap: really classic old computer games. If you're like me, you're all nostalgic over the grand old days of 90's adventure gaming, with games like King's Quest, Quest for Glory, Zork, Gobliins, and Gabriel Knight. Classics like these are what I come to GOG for, but they also have some more modern games to choose from. Games sell for ridiculously low prices and are often offered in discount bundles. Plus, they are DRM free, so you can put them on all your home computers (although often the games are not Mac-friendly, unfortunately; they are working on that).

6) Fan Remakes of Sierra Games: Infamous Adventures and ADG Interactive [games]

With blessings of Roberta Williams and Sierra, two companies have made some delightful remakes of a few of the earlier Sierra adventure games that had pretty crappy graphics. By today's standards, I suppose the remakes also have really crappy graphics, but they are on par with the graphics of later games like King's Quest V & VI. These fan remakes are free, include voice packs, and some of them can be played on a Mac now. You can pickup King's Quest I-III and Quest for Glory II from AGD Interactive, and a different version of King's Quest III and Space Quest II from Infamous Adventures. Both sites also produce original games.

7) Humble Indie Bundle [games]

The Humble Indie Bundle packages and sells game bundles by indie developers in a pay-what-you-want pricing scheme, which is a scheme I dearly love. They incentivize paying at least the average going rate by offering a couple extras if you beat the average by even a penny. If you have never tried the Humble Indie Bundle before, I recommend getting in on the next bundle. The latest package (which is unfortunately closed) included the most excellent game LIMBO. (This is a graphically and aesthetically beautiful game, and if you are into physics-based puzzle games, it's a must have.) The bundle prior to that included the games Botanicula and Machinarium, two absolutely gorgeous and artistically / musically awesome puzzle adventure games. Unfortunately, I already had purchased both LIMBO and Machinarium for full price from the Mac App store prior to their placement in the bundles, and I would have gotten a much better deal if I had waited, dagnabit. So the lesson is that they put really good stuff in those bundles, including extras like game soundtracks, so keep your eye out for the next one.

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On bar prep and taking bar subjects during law school

I have just under 4 weeks left until the bar exam, and now that I have studied for a month, I have made a few observations about subjects that are worth taking in law school. (Warning: This post is probably only going to be interesting to you if you are going or considering going to law school. Maybe not even then.)

My general advice in terms of looking ahead for the bar exam is to try to take as many bar subjects as you can in law school. Law schools tell you not to focus on that (so that the peripheral stuff can get some love too). But the reality is that you can take all the bar subjects and still have plenty of room left to take electives. I took all but one of the bar exam subjects in my jurisdiction, and still had time to get a certificate in intellectual property law, which is not a bar subject. So if you can take them all, do so. But if you can't, here are the classes I'm glad I took, wish I'd taken, and wish I hadn't taken:

Glad I took...

Criminal Law (substantive, not procedural)

I am not going to practice criminal law at all, even though I can't get enough of watching crime shows and reading about psychopaths. But I am glad I decided on a whim to sign up for substantive criminal law in law school. It is much more complicated than one might think, and having a full semester background in studying mens rea, the different types of murder, and defenses which mitigate versus defenses which exonerate really makes the bar prep in this subject easier.

Article 9 Secured Transactions

This is the area of law that deals with creditors, debtors, and the offering of personal property as collateral to secure loans. It gets tricky when you have multiple creditors claiming a security interest in the same collateral, and then the debtor defaults on one or both loans, and then the creditors have to battle it out to determine who has priority to the collateral, and what happens after foreclosing on the collateral. Although the class was probably more of a headache in law school than the subject will likely be if it appears on the bar exam, the details are not terribly intuitive, so having background knowledge to launch from during bar prep is helpful.

Wish I HAD taken...


This is the one bar subject I did not take, and I really wish I had. I am not planning on litigating at all (if I can help it), so I didn't feel it was super necessary to get all down to the nitty gritty on this subject during law school. Plus, I've seen Perry Mason and Matlock and A Few Good Men. How hard could it be? Well, it's pretty hard sometimes, actually. Hearsay is especially crazy. Hearsay is "an out of court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted". Generally hearsay is not allowed to be admitted into evidence in court. But there are quite a few exceptions and exemptions that almost swallow the rule, and they can be hard to remember if you haven't done the background casebook study of the subject to ground the rules in fact scenarios. Plus, identifying hearsay is hard sometimes. Something that would be hearsay if used for one purpose may be completely non-hearsay if used for another purpose. Character evidence is also a tricky area. Usually, you can't offer evidence of a person's character to show that they are more likely to have committed a crime or civil misdeed. But if the defendant's character is already in issue, like in civil defamation cases, it can come in. Or if the defendant "opens the door" to his character by having witnesses testify about his reputation or their opinion of him first, then the prosecution can offer rebuttal character evidence. But it's a very detail-oriented analysis, and I wish I had worked through some of this stuff prior to bar prep.

(Emphatically) Wish I HADN'T taken...

Administrative Law

Oh my god, is this subject dry. That's saying a LOT when talking about law, because it's all pretty dry. But admin is the most boring thing I ever subjected myself to for 13-14 weeks. This is the area of law that deals with agencies -- things like the EPA, FCC, FTC, etc. They are part of the executive branch of government, set up to execute laws, but they kind of have hybrid legislative and judicial functions, because they make rules and perform adjudications when rules are broken. They are also kind of like the police, because they do investigations and perform inspections (like health and safety code violation stuff). It sounds kind of exciting when you describe it all like that, but it is NOT. It is the opposite of exciting. It is horrible. I am lucky that my professor had a very liberal non-attendance policy -- we could skip or not be prepared for up to 10 classes and still sit for the final. You better believe I took advantage of all 10. And it was still painful. So here's the thing: admin is not that hard. The bar coverage is much more cursory than the horrible detail you will go into in class, and it is not counter-intuitive. So I actually recommend against taking this subject, unless you are, say, going into environmental law, and anticipate dealing with the EPA a lot, or something. Even then I just don't know... it's too awful.

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So I was having lunch with the attorney who employed me whilst I was in my last year of law school, and we were talking about things like the bar exam, and he told me a horror story of how, when he took the bar exam, his computer blue-screen-of-deathed on him toward the beginning of the essay portion, and so he had to hand write his exams for 6 hours (that's six hours of pure hand crampage, folks). In order to allay the horrors that would accompany such a bad stroke of luck, the attorney advised me to practice writing at least some of the essays I am analyzing in my bar prep with my hand, so that I can build the muscles and get used to the idea that I can do it if I have to. So I'm not quite ready for full on essay hand writing yet, because of the severe atrophy of muscles in my hands other than for purposes of stabbing downward at keys, but I went ahead and outlined an essay this afternoon. As you can see, having computer death will probably be close to the worst thing that could happen to me on the bar exam, because my handwriting is nearly illegible even to myself. Maybe I should just bring a back-up computer instead.

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Final Grades

Final grades are in. I only had three graded classes this semester, and I managed to pull two A's and an A- in them, earning my highest semester average of my entire law school career. This semester stands in stark contrast to my first semester, during which I earned two B's, a C+, and a nagging feeling that I had made a terrible mistake. But I pushed on from that bad start and showed constant improvement over the course of my schooling. I accomplished many things which I am proud of, I grew a lot, and I identified many areas where I need to continue my personal growth. My cumulative GPA going out is 3.436, which is good enough to graduate Cum Laude, and which probably ranks me in the top 25% of my class, although the final rankings are yet to come out. A nice way to end this chapter of my life.

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Bar Study

My bar exam study books arrived in a package today. I had trouble hoisting it into my house because it had this many books in it:

I have a hard time seeing how I'm going to get through that many pages in two months, but they put you on a pretty regimented schedule, so I guess if they say I can do it, I can.

Bar study doesn't technically start for a few weeks. I am still in my finals period at school, although my finals really came early this semester, back when I was freaking out turning in a bunch of papers and giving presentations, and finishing up client matters. Now all I have to do over the next two weeks is revise my capstone paper and prepare for and take my antitrust exam. So much more low-key than finals period normally is. I mean, I paid my dues early, but it is nice to laugh a little while some of my friends have a regular finals period freak out.

I filed my bar application (barely) on time, and booked a room at the hotel where the exam is taking place, so everything should be set to go for the exam in July. It's a two-day exam. The first day consists of six essays and two "multi-state performance tests", which is basically where they give you a closed universe scenario with some cases and statutes and whatever else so you can analyze a legal problem, almost as if you are given real legal cases to work on. Day two is lots and lots of multiple choice questions. 

So anyway, the sun has arrived in Portland and it is lovely. Ian and I went to the batting cages yesterday to hit some baseballs (just being around baseballs makes me kind of giddy like a child, apparently). Today my arm is weak and my shoulder aches as a result. But it was worthwhile.

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The future is now

Well, I'm almost at the end of my final semester of law school. These past three weeks have been super hellacious, even though one of them was Spring Break. I wrote my 36-page capstone paper and a 9-page contract over Spring Break, which means I worked practically every day, all day.

I did take two days off during Spring Break: one to watch the Hunger Games (just like the book, it's perfectly enjoyable, but so not worth all the attention it's getting), the other to watch the most amazing live soccer game I've seen (RSL kicked the P-Timbs' asses 3-2 with two of those RSL goals being scored in the last 5 minutes of the game).

Then the week after Spring Break, I had to juggle a number of obligations and deadlines, all working up to Saturday, which was not really a Saturday because I had to attend a 5-hour paper symposium, during which I nervously presented my capstone paper to my class and professor for 15 minutes. I thought the end of that week would see my stress levels diminish, but instead they have carried over into this week.

This week I have been working on wrapping up my client matters at clinic, and finishing up my final contract drafting project, consisting of a short 10-page article and several supporting documents. Finishing clinic has been the most stressful. On the whole I have mixed feelings about my clinic experience. It has been positive exposure to lots of different things, but I also found the experience very restrictive in a number of ways. The biggest restriction was that I had a lot to do and only a very small amount of time each week in which to do it (we were only in clinic 8 hours each week -- hardly enough time to get any real work done, especially when that's broken into two sessions, and each session is broken into a number of administrative interruptions). So I've taken a lot of that work home in the past two weeks, and even stayed an extra two hours at clinic on Tuesday. Anyway, I'm pretty glad to be getting that clinic stuff done this week. But the stress of my last day tomorrow (and the near certainty that I am going to have to put in extra time tomorrow too) is what's keeping me up entirely past my bed time right now.

My contract drafting project is due Friday at 5:PM. It will be done by then, and it's about half done now, but I just wish I could focus on it without having to deal with other annoyances, like classes, and clinic bleeding into my home hours.

I also need to get my damn bar application in the mail by Friday. To do that, I need to get a fingerprint card. I was going to get it on Tuesday, but the place that does fingerprinting closes an hour after my clinic hours, and since I had to stay at clinic late on Tuesday, I couldn't get it done. So I have to go do it tomorrow. And if for some reason that doesn't work out, I have to scramble to get to a police station before Friday to get printed, all while getting that stupid contract drafting project in by 5:PM. So it's a time pressure thing. Maybe I'm to blame for putting the fingerprinting off to the last minute, but it just turned out that way.

The good news is that after 5:PM Friday my life will be a lot easier. All I will have left is a single class the following Monday, followed by a week or two or three of studying for my single final exam in antitrust. It's an open exam, so I can take it whenever, hence the one or two or three weeks of studying. I guess I will also have to revise my capstone based on my professor's comments once I get them. I am feeling pretty good about the paper, so I think that shouldn't be too bad. Then once that antitrust test is done, I can wallow for a couple weeks before Bar-Bri starts and I have to start studying for the bar exam in July. A few days after bar studying starts, my family is coming to town for commencement, which should be fun. Well, no, graduation ceremonies are never fun. But having family in town is fun.

Then I study hard for two months, then I take the bar exam for a couple days, then I pass out, then I cry, then I celebrate, then I cry some more, then I sit around and do absolutely nothing for a few days, or else go on a short unplanned road trip, then I start pounding the pavement and hitting networking events and trying to get someone to hire me. That should about be the rest of my year, I think.

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If I could go back to my 1L self and advise me on what to make sure I do in law school, I'd say take as many practical (rather than substantive or theoretical) classes as you can, because learning by doing can be way more effective than learning by reading theory.

This semester I am taking two practical classes: the small business legal clinic and contract drafting. Both of them have already provided some of the best experiences I have had in law school.

In contract drafting class, I am rewriting some form contracts, which is a very useful skill to learn. You might imagine that this is a very regular thing for law students to learn in law school, but actually I have heard that contract drafting classes are quite rare. The one at my school is a very small class that always has a huge wait list, so I am glad I got the opportunity to take it before graduating. It's much more useful than my technology licensing class I took a year ago, in which I read about licensing, and looked at some rather dense and unintelligible contracts, but didn't really learn much because I wasn't asked to draft anything.

There is so much garbage out there in contract language. When was the last time you read a contract that you understood even half of? Ok, ok, I know. You don't read the contracts you sign. I don't either. But wouldn't it be nice if you could understand what they said when the shit eventually hits the fan and you have to actually go back to read them? I am planning to eventually amass a collection of coherent form contracts that I can use in my future practice. This class is a great chance to get a start on that.

The small business legal clinic is turning out to be something I probably should have done last year to build up some of the confidence that the first year tore down. I started it with a great measure of anxiety. I have been struggling with anxiety issues for many years, and sometimes it is more bearable than others, but before this semester started, I was in a pretty bad place in terms of managing it. It was getting to the point where I was starting to contemplate seeking professional help, but that's not something I want to do before the bar application process, so I've been holding out. But in the last two weeks, I have been able to work on a lot of my anxiety issues via the clinic class. I have already had to interview two clients, which is an intimidating thing, but they went well and my confidence is growing by the day, noticeably.

On the day of my first interview, I was nervous as hell. But I got through it in pretty decent shape and had a nice endorphin high the rest of the day. I was so insanely cheerful that day, and had a bunch of positive interactions with people throughout my day, including random strangers. The following day, I was exhausted from having had so much positive energy the prior day, so I kind of crashed and retreated into my shell again. But clinic is forcing me to come out of that shell on a regular basis, and it is having derivative effects in my life outside of clinic that are starting to stick around a little longer.

Today I had my second client interview, which went great, and I carried my positive attitude into my after-clinic hours. I am beginning to realize how important human relations skills are to the practice of law. It's customer service, really, and in any industry that performs customer service, it is a boon to be kind and pleasant to people in general. You never know who may walk into your law office needing help some day. And you want to build interpersonal skills so you can provide good customer service for the needs of your clients, because they are at the center of what lawyers do. I am feeling more confident, and can actually envision myself getting into this profession and eventually being good at it, one step at a time. It's nice to have positive, confidence-building experiences at last, instead of just being torn down in the classroom all the time.

I think this last semester will be a good one.

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In the end

Lately, I am very resistant to going to bed. I am not resistant to sleep: I love taking naps during the day. But even if I am tired, I don't want to go to bed at night, because that means my day is over, and tomorrow will come by the time I am next cognizant. I just want to grab on to time and hold it back for a bit. Hold it until I am ready for it to advance again, and I'm not sure how long that would take. It could be quite a while. Maybe it's that I'm finally starting to feel "old", or maybe it's that I feel like there is just too much in front of me to handle, and I don't want to get to it yet, or at least not all at once. It's kind of paralyzing, when you see how many obligations lay ahead of you. Ironically, all I really want to do is sleep right now. Sleep until winter is over, like a nice hibernating bear, those lucky bastards. (See how much of a break they get from life every year.) But sleeping means time advancing, and I don't like that right now.

So yeah, these are my last few days until my very last semester of law school begins. What's that you say? You can't believe I'm here already? Feels like just yesterday this journey began? Yeah, that's what pretty much everyone who hasn't had to live with me or otherwise suffer with me through the past 2.5 years seems to be saying. Time is relative, my friends. Of all the notable 3-year blocks of my life -- junior high, high school, most of college, my first full time job -- this has been by far the longest and the most self-transformative. I feel like a completely different person from where I once was, and it has taken a long, long time to become like this.

What lies ahead for me? In short term, a Capstone paper; a few classes; some writing assignments; a single remaining final exam; a clinic; graduation; the bar exam. Then? I don't know. Everyone asks what's next, and all I ever say is I want to get hired by anyone who will hire me, pretty much. But then the advice begins. You could practice such and such law. And sometimes they are right, sometimes I could practice in that area. But usually they just bring up some area in which I have neither experience nor interest, and they've never gone to law school anyway, so they don't really understand why it's not feasible for me to do whatever they think is a brilliant idea for me to do. I just want people to not ask me what I'm going to do next, because I don't know, and no, you can't help me figure it out, most likely. But I will find something, at some point, and when I do, I'll let you know.

As my friend heidikins recently wrote: It all works out in the end. If it hasn't worked out, it isn't the end.

I think that's going to be my new mantra.

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Dead Batteries and Self-Induced Isolation

This Christmas Eve, Ian and I spent 4 hours chasing after a new car battery to rescue our dead car.

We had spent the morning downtown, having lunch and walking the streets, listening to brass bands playing on sidewalks, admiring the Christmas tree in Pioneer Square, and watching the statue man stand still like a statue in the cold for tips (that's got to be harder than it looks).

On the way home from our restful Christmas Eve activities, Ian decided we should stop at the Safeway close to our house for some Christmas Eve snacks. While I sat in the car with the headlights on, Ian went into the store. He was in there for a good 15 minutes, I'd say. I watched several carloads of people come after him and leave before him. By the time he returned, I tried turning the car over to the dull sound of clicks, signaling a dead battery. I felt like a dunce for leaving the headlights on, but Ian said he's been suspecting that the battery wasn't holding a full charge anymore and expected it to go soon.

We felt fortunate that this happened close to our house, as it was only a 7 minute walk from where the car died. But we felt not so fortunate that this happened on Christmas Eve when places that sell batteries are not likely to be open.

We took our groceries home, then brainstormed on the best mode of rescuing our car. In retrospect, the thing to do would have been to hang out in the parking lot of Safeway with the hood raised and wait for some good Samaritan to give us a jump so we could take the car home and worry about a replacement battery Monday. But, I guess the best way for me to explain why we didn't do that is that we are both very independent people who like to do things ourselves before depending on help from others. Character flaws, perhaps, but that's just how it is. Ok, maybe that's a cop out. See what I mean at the end of the story.

It was 3:30:PM, and on Christmas Eve, that means options would quickly be running out. There's a Les Schwab about a 10 or 12 minute walk from home, so we decided that instead of trying to figure out a bus route to go to some unknown auto parts store far from our home, we'd try walking over there. I suggested that Ian give them a call first to see if they were open, but he was like, "let's just go." And I was willing to just go along instead of calling myself. Another thing about Ian and I is that we are both rather averse to making phone calls if we don't have to. It's kind of a phobia that I actually think is not too uncommon. Anyway, since Murphy is in charge of the universe, Les Schwab was not open today.

A Jiffy Lube was open (just in case you need your oil changed on Christmas Eve), but they do not sell car batteries. I seemed to remember in my childhood seeing car batteries stocking shelves at convenience stores like 7-11 (am I hallucinating about that?), so we poked our head in a couple gas stations along our way, but I am either dead wrong about that, or gas stations have just stopped stocking them. Running out of options, I got over my telephonophobia for a minute on our walk and called the local Fred Meyer, asking if they stocked car batteries. Our Fred Meyer recently remodeled, and while the layout is much improved, the selection is much diminished: they no longer have an automotive section at all, so no dice.

We looped back around to the Safeway, since we were closer to that than our home at this point, and tried the car again. No avail.

At this point it was 4:15 and we didn't have many options left. We thought of asking our apartment manager to come give us a jump, but they appear to be away, and besides, we feel crummy about bugging people on a day many treat as holiday. Finally, we decided that Sears Auto Center would be the last choice for a car battery on Christmas Eve. We called ahead (lesson: learned) and found that they would be open until 6:00. Only problem now was traveling the 4 or 5 miles to get there on time. We looked up a bus route which would drop us at the mall where the auto center was located 45 minutes before closing, but we would be dropped off clear on the exact opposite side of the mall parking lot area, and would have to walk fiercely in the cold to get there after having already waited a half hour in the cold for the bus.

We did all this, got the battery, and then called a cab to take us back to the car, because there's no way we were going to carry a car battery back through that long walk and bus ride (car batteries, it turns out, are quite heavy). A $23 cab ride later, we were standing at the car again. Ian decided to just jump the car with the new battery and take the car home then change the battery later from our own parking lot. Immediately upon raising the hood and connecting the jumper cables, a woman parked in front of us asked if we needed a jump. We told her no thank you, but it was ironic that we were so reluctant to ask for help, and we went on this big adventure, and just when we were close to finishing our independent quest, some kind person offered to help. All we really had to do was ask and this whole day would not have been the headache it was.

This experience underscores something that Ian and I have both been experiencing lately: isolation. For some reason, this year we have both started to feel quite homesick and lonely. We just miss being around people that we know and love. We don't make friends easily, and though we have made friends here, I can't say we're particularly close to any of them. I do enjoy some of them quite a bit, but I have not achieved the same level of intimacy with anyone in Portland that I had achieved in Salt Lake.

Ian and I were talking about these lonely feelings lately and Ian said something that struck me: "You know how when we first moved here, we thought the people of Portland were all so nice and friendly, unlike the people in Salt Lake?"

"Yeah," I replied. I can't say I'd describe the people of Portland the same way today.

"Well, it was us. They were friendly to us because we were receptive to meeting new people since we were in a new place and didn't know anybody. They reflect back to us what we give to them."

That made a light bulb go off for me. I think it's true. I for one tend to keep pretty closed off from people for a lot of different reasons. One reason is that it's only the people who are close to you who can really, really hurt you. Another is that even strangers can hurt you, though maybe not as badly, and I have had plenty of experiences in life that have made me distrustful of the way people will behave toward me. Another is just that I am an introvert. While extroverts find social settings a great way to unwind, I find them taxing on my system, and I need a lot of alone time to balance it out. Thinking back on my close relationships in life, they have, for the most part, been with people whom I grew up with as a child, or with whom I lived as a roommate. A couple exceptions exist, but in all cases, there has been an environment ripe for intimate development of a friendship. I'm not the type of person who's going to become best friends with someone if we haven't ever had a real conversation about who we are as people. And growing up with people or living with them is a great way to facilitate those conversations. It's harder to get there without that.

But the bottom line is, we are alone because we have made ourselves that way. I can take a lot of alone-ness and not feel lonely, but I think it is to the point where something's got to give, and I guess Ian has convinced me that the change has to come from me. But Inertia also rules the universe (right up there with Murphy), and it is hard to make myself move when I am so used to standing still.

I guess I have a lot to work on in the new year.

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Bad Hand

This is why I should not be allowed to hand write my exams:

I'd give myself an F if I had to grade an exam that looked like this. TGFC (Thank God For Computers).

It's finals season now. I'm probably taking my first exam tomorrow, assuming I can decipher all the chicken scratch on my notecards and put my exam taking tool together in time. Believe it or not, I am immune to my own bad handwriting most of the time and should be able to read it just fine.

I have four exams this season, and will probably be done with them in a week and a half. Most of them are unscheduled, which is why I'm playing the timing rather by ear. They are all open book and 3/4 are part multiple choice, so I am feeling pretty good about it.

The one concern is that my school is making us use some new exam software this season, and I can just envision tons of problems happening. Hopefully not to me, otherwise some poor professor is going to have to read my bad hand and my grades will suffer the consequences. :S

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Welcome to the Big Apple

Just when you think you are the busiest you've ever been in your life, things just get busier.

I'm reminded of the time I went on a cross-country road trip with my roommate the August after I graduated from college. We headed out to Boston, down to New York, and finally  to DC before heading back home via Lawrence, Kansas. When we reached Boston, I was  hotter than I had ever been. That is, until we reached New York, where I was even hotter. Then, of course, sweltering DC blew away my whole conception about how hot a person could actually be before their head would explode.

I'm kind of going through that same experience right now but with the busy. I think I'm in New York at this point. I say that because I can only image how busy I am going to feel when I begin preparing for the bar exam, which is probably going to be about in the vicinity of DC. But New York is pretty damn unpleasant, and I have felt myself toeing the line of a mental breakdown once or twice in the past week or two.

Luckily, I have Mr. E to help diffuse my I-can't-handle-this with a hard-nosed dose of yes-you-can-and-you-will-dammit. I also have a great sense of denial and an exhibited pattern of avoidance.

So what I'm dealing with right now is this: (1) I have to draft a complaint and motion for summary judgment for work, which does not have a hard deadline, but which I promised they would see a draft of in two weeks, which means Friday; (2) I have an in-class graded midterm in Criminal Law next Tuesday, and the material to be covered is actually quite challenging (mens rea -- difficult -- who knew?); (3) I have a roughly 8 page paper due in Wills & Trusts also next Tuesday; (4) Law Review, the evil obligation from the third circle of hell, will be assigning me to perform a second edit of a paper on Thursday and will uncharitably ask for it to be due Saturday night (the first edit took me roughly 15 hours, and considering the appalling state of the paper, I'm not sure the second edit will take much less).

It is now, I guess technically Tuesday night, but my computer clock is calling this Wednesday. That means I need to get the Complaint practically finished tomorrow. I think I can do that. It is started, but needs a lot of fleshing out. I think I can make my bosses happy by supplying them the Complaint on Friday and promising the MSJ the following week. Next most important is the Crim Law studying -- that test ain't gonna disappear and there are a lot of bright eyed bushy tailed 2Ls in that class who have not had their souls crushed in 1L (remarkably) and will probably come guns blazing to the test. I gotta bring it too. Finally, I can take a two day extension on the Wills paper, and most likely will. Otherwise I might have to, like, not sleep for a few days or something, and that would be most unpleasant and out of the question. As for law review, well, it's low-priority, AFAIC.

Today's takeaway advice:
Don't join the law review; or if you think you must, make sure that the review has entered the 21st century and uses digital means to accomplish its purposes. I'm talking Google Docs and Dropbox and the like. There is no reason I should have to vie against 30 other people for 4 computers and hard copy binders of the materials we are working on. Digital, people! For fuck's sake.

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