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April 02, 2010

It's Been A Long Time Coming

I've been wanting to write this post for a long, long, long time, and now I finally can.

Bar results came out today.

I passed.

I probably don't need to describe my happiness and relief.

Now I can finally get on with whatever is next.

October 04, 2009

Bounce

So far there has been little about my law school experience that has been anything like the way most people do it. Most people don't start law school at thirty-nine years old with three children and a husband at home. Most people don't get diagnosed with breast cancer half-way through law school. Most people don't attend class bald and sick from chemo. Most people aren't lucky enough to land their perfect dream job before they even graduate from law school. And most people don't fail the bar exam. I, however, have now done all of those things.

When I first read the results online at the end of last week, I was in shock for a few minutes. I had to read the sentence over a few times and I felt a physical sinking of my stomach, my heart, and every other organ in my body as the news washed over me and began to sink in. When I left the exam last July I didn't feel as if I had aced it, but I certainly didn't feel as if I had failed it. I was (and still am) devastated. I immediately thought of the ramifications of this failure: I would lose my beloved dream job, I wouldn't have any way to pay my loans, I would have to prepare for and take it again.

As the shock of the initial news began to wear off, I felt (and still feel) a deep sadness and frustration. I worked so hard this summer and I did everything I was supposed to do...how could this happen? I was (and still am) embarrassed and humiliated at the thought of all the people I let down with my failure: my husband and kids who went through it all with me, my parents, my family and friends, the people who had enough confidence in me to hire me before I graduated, the people in my unit at work, and myself. While I always knew failure was a possibility, this was not the way I had planned it all out in my head.

One of the things I hated about having breast cancer (one of many!) was that I never wanted to be the poster girl for cancer. And yet when you are bald and sick, that's exactly what you are. I hated that role, and I was so happy when my hair grew back and when people I met didn't know about it unless I told them about it. This time I get to be the poster girl for a bar exam failer. At least I don't have visible signs this time, but I am still reluctant to have to take on a role that I would never have chosen on my own.

I wasn't sure how to share this information, but in keeping with my recent tradition of over-sharing the difficult parts of my life, I decided that maybe the best thing to do was to just own this and put it out there. I know I'm not the last person who is going to go through this, so maybe if I just go ahead and write about the experience here it will be cathartic for me and maybe someone else will find it and know that they are not alone.

So now I'm just trying to figure out the best way to bounce. The next step, just like with a cancer diagnosis, is to figure out what to do next. Not being one to take to my bed and pull the covers over my head, in between crying bouts I have updated my resume, cleaned out my desk at work, and signed up for the February test. I don't know what tomorrow holds, but I keep telling myself that this could be worse. At least it's not a cancer diagnosis! Failing the bar isn't going to kill me, even if it does feel like I want the earth to open up and swallow me right now.

I keep comforting myself with a growing list of people who failed the bar and who have all gone on to be successful and to do some great things: Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, both Daleys (father and son), several fantastic attorneys who I know personally, John Kennedy, and one of my favorite law school professors, just to name a few. That is not such bad company.

August 04, 2009

And...That's A Wrap

Okay, okay…I hear you Gentle Readers. Thank you to those of you who have been sending me little nudges, wondering if and when I might pick up my pen (or keyboard) again. I am amazed that you are still reading, and I appreciate your tenacity and dedication. Now that I don't have any more breast cancer or law school to write about, I don’t quite know where this blog is going to go, but I’ll start with this:

In the five years since I started writing this blog, among other things, I have started law school, turned 40, been diagnosed with and fought breast cancer, won $10,000, lost all my hair, grown it all back, finished law school, gotten a job, graduated from law school, and studied for and taken the bar exam. Other than the breast cancer part, that’s pretty much how I was hoping it all would go. Tomorrow I start a brand new chapter, and this time it is much less predictable than the law school chapter was.

I am so lucky to have been offered and accepted what is essentially my dream job. I’m going to be doing exactly what I have wanted to do since the end of my first year of law school in the place I want to do it. Considering the economy and the dismal legal job market, I am very fortunate to have this job.

Almost exactly fifteen years ago I happily gave up my briefcase and heels and a career in the mortgage industry for a diaper bag and jeans and a career as a stay-at-home mom. It was my favorite career decision so far and I have loved every second of the job. Okay, maybe not every second, but I have loved a lot of them. I would not trade the time I have been able to spend with all three of my kids for anything. I think that my decision to stay home was the right one for my family and for me. However, I always knew that it would come to an end for several reasons. I knew that we would need my additional income in order send them all to college and to retire comfortably, and I also knew that there would come a time when my kids would be ready to leave and to go out on their own. I realized that when that happened, I would want something of my own, something that I enjoyed and that I could devote myself to the way I have devoted myself to them all these years. That thing turned out to be a career as an attorney, and here I am on my way.

Today is my last day as a stay-at-home mom, and I have mixed feelings about it. Of course, I am excited about my new job and about the income that comes along with it. I love the work that I will be doing. But at the same time, I am sad at the idea of leaving this era behind. I think back to the days that sometimes seemed so long that were filled with runs to and from preschool or swimming lessons or gymnastics, trying to work around naptime, shows like Gullah Gullah Island and Sesame Street, and reading the same book 10,000 times. It seems like just yesterday that I was filling up the kiddie pool in the summer or bundling little arms and legs into snowsuits to go sledding.

It is inevitable that your kids grow up and get older and that your life changes in the process, but there is something so bittersweet about leaving those days behind. I love the people my kids have turned and are turning into; I am continually amazed at how incredible they are and at how lucky I am to get to be their mom. I am always excited to see what they are going to do next. But I can’t ever quite forget the little people that they used to be, and there is a part of me that feels as if when I step out the door tomorrow morning, I will be leaving those little people behind forever.

May 25, 2009

This Blog Has Been Temporarily Interrupted By Bar Review

perpetuity.jpg
Found at my new favorite website, Courtoons.net.

October 17, 2008

This Time Last Year

On October 17th of last year, I was getting myself mentally psyched up for my seventh (and second to last) chemotherapy treatment. I was in the middle of the blog scholarship contest, and you were all lifting me up with your encouraging words and your thousands of votes.

Yesterday I got an e-mail letting me know that it was that time of year again. This time around, things are different--I have hair and I feel great, and there won’t be $10,000 waiting for me at the end of the month. Nonetheless, it is time for the 3rd Annual Blogging Scholarship Contest from CollegeScholarships.org. The entrance requirements are as follows:

• Your blog must contain unique and interesting information about you and/or things you are passionate about.
• U.S. citizen or permanent resident;
• Currently attending full-time in post-secondary education in the United States; and
• If you win, you must be willing to allow us to list your name and blog on this page. We want to be able to say we knew you before you became a well educated, rich, and famous blogging legend.

If you fit the criteria, why not enter your blog? If you know someone who does, let them know about the contest! It is well worth it, and I can’t wait to see who wins this year. I will post again when the finalists are listed.

September 08, 2008

Book Cutting

One of the posts on my original blog was about how I cut my law school case books to make them smaller and more portable. I got the idea from another law student's blog long before I started school, and I have cut my books every semester since I've been in school. Frank recently left a comment to let me know that he decided to cut his books, too, and he sent me a link to a YouTube video that he made about how to do it. I bind mine differently than he does (I break each book up into small sections and then have those spiral bound), but the end result is a smaller, lighter book.

August 26, 2008

NBC One Day, ABC the Next

Blog For Scholarship Money or Tutor Online

May 07, 2008

The Home Stretch

Another semester is over and I am busy preparing for finals now. It feels much different than the end of last semester. When I was reviewing my notes in preparation for finals last semester, I didn’t even remember covering certain subjects. I’m sure it was a combination of the chemo and of having so much going on during the semester. This time it feels like the end of the semester normally does…I remember most of what we talked about, it’s just a matter of synthesizing it all into an outline that makes sense. I hope that the exams themselves will be easier for me than they were last semester, as well.

The beginning of this month marked six months since my last chemo treatment. For a long time, I found myself telling people, when it came up in conversation, that I had finished chemo on November 1st. Now, when it comes up, I tell people that my last treatment was six months ago. It is a subtle but interesting mental shift…kind of like when you move from telling people your child’s age in months to her age in years. In just a few days, I will be able be able to tell people that I have been cancer-free for one year. (I am counting from the day I had the lumpectomy since that is the day that it was actually removed.) In some ways it feels as if it has been years and years since I had cancer, and at the same time it seems all too recent.

I will be celebrating Mother’s Day this year by running in this race with my family and some friends of ours. I hope to make it our new family Mother’s Day tradition.

March 11, 2008

One More Small Step

I have sent out a few resumes in the past couple of months hoping that I would be able to find a position somewhere for this summer. You may recall that I have felt some trepidation about the interview process and about a potential employer’s reaction to my post-cancer appearance and blog. I haven’t had much of a response to my search so far, so I haven’t had to worry too much about it yet.

The day before we left for Florida, however, I got a call from the recipient of a resume that I sent out the first week in January, which also just happens to be my number one choice of a place to work. I don’t want to reveal the place here, but those of you who know what I was looking for can guess the kind of office that it is. During the phone call I set up an interview for last Friday afternoon.

I was nervous going into the interview, but not for the usual reasons. I wasn’t nervous about what I might be asked or about my answers to those questions…none of that seems very scary anymore. I was nervous, however, about trying to explain why I didn’t have any legal employment last summer and I was nervous about disclosing my blog and my Google presence. I decided before I got to the interview that I would disclose the information up front. After all, it was entirely possible that the interviewer would have Googled my name before our meeting or that she would do it afterward.

The interview went well and ended with the interviewer giving me a tour of the office. Just before we began the tour, I told her that there was one more thing I wanted to let her know about. I briefly explained that I had been diagnosed with breast cancer last year and that I had a blog about the experience. I told her that if she Googled my name it would all come up and that I wanted to let her know about it up front so that if there was any problem we could discuss it. I also assured her that I wouldn’t write about work. And don’t you know, all my fears were for naught. She couldn’t have cared less about my blog or about how Google-able I am. It wasn’t an issue and I'm not sure if I even needed to bring it up. I was incredibly relieved by her reaction to the whole thing.

The best news is that as a result of the interview, I have an externship lined up for this summer doing exactly what I want to do. And even better? An excuse to buy new suits and new shoes.

January 17, 2008

More About Hair

My trial practice intensive last week was, as the name implies, intense. The days flew by, but a lot of the time it felt like I was out of town. I didn’t spend much time at home and the time I was there was spent studying and getting ready for the next day. But it was a good way for me to take a class…one week of intense work and family disruption means I don’t have to take it spread out over an entire semester. And it was a great class.

The worst moment came on Monday night. I had been at school all day on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and Monday was the first day back to school for the kids. On Monday night I went in to say goodnight to Matthew and he informed me that I had forgotten to pack his lunch that morning. I told him that I thought he was buying lunch on Monday, but he reminded me that actually he had planned to take his lunch that day. I asked him what he ate, and he told me that he just had some apple juice because he wasn’t able to get anything else. I felt awful and figured that probably clinched my loss of the Mother of the Year award. And it was only January 7th! Needless to say I made sure I had the whole lunch thing figured out for the rest of the week.

Regular classes started this week and while my schedule this semester is very manageable, the days I have classes are going to be pretty hectic. But no matter how hectic it gets, this semester is going to be very different from last semester. I have thought many times over the past couple of weeks about how appreciative I am to only have to handle classes and my regular daily life for the next few months without having to fit in chemotherapy and sick days.

During my trial practice class we had to wear suits to school every day. By the end of the week I was getting sick of trying to coordinate scarves with suits and of trying to look professional with the additional accessory on my head. I have been tired of wearing something on my head for a long time now, but I have needed to continue to cover my head for the sake of warmth. I wore a scarf to class on Tuesday, as usual, but when I got home that evening I took it off and decided that I am done with scarves. I have enough hair that I no longer look bald (although I don’t really have enough to keep my head warm yet) and I think it is high time to be finished with head coverings. So today, for the first time since I lost my hair, I spent the entire day at school with nothing on my head. Except hair, of course.

I will post pictures soon so you can see for yourself, but my hair is super, super short. To me, it looks more like post-cancer treatment hair than a fashion choice. But despite my interpretation of it, two separate people came up to me at school today and told me that it looked “cute.” I don’t think either of them realized how very, very happy I was to hear them say that or how good and normal and healthy it made me feel. It has been a long time since anyone said that my hair was cute! Another friend told me that she thought it looked like I was hip and cool and had made a conscious decision to wear my hair this way. I feel far from hip and cool these days, but I appreciate the sentiment and hope that I can pull it off while it’s growing out.

Last Friday, Randy and I went to dinner with friends at a restaurant that we all frequent. Our “regular” waitress waited on us and greeted us all warmly when she came to our table. After the initial hellos, she looked at me and said, enthusiastically, “Oh, look at your hair! It looks good! I should do that with mine!” I didn’t explain why my hair was this short, but instead told her that having it this short made it really easy to “do” in the morning. We all laughed about it after she left the table because it is quite funny that people think this is a deliberate hair style.

Now that I’ve completed yet another post about it, I have to say that I can’t believe how much I have written about hair in the past nine months. If you would have told me a year ago that I was going to be this obsessed with hair this year, I would never have believed you. Shoes…maybe. But hair?!

January 04, 2008

To Be Continued....

Just a warning that things will probably be quiet here for the next week or so. Spring semester starts tomorrow with a week-long trial practice intensive. I'll be in class every day from tomorrow through next Saturday from 9:00-5:00. Add my daily 5 hours of commuting to that and you get little time for posting....or anything else! The laundry is done, the family schedule is semi-organized, and the pantry is stocked with quick and easy meals for the family. Let's hope we all make it through the week.

November 29, 2007

Next Steps

This was my last week of classes this semester. Up next...finals.

On one hand this semester feels like it has been the fastest one yet. On the other hand it feels like it has lasted for a year.

I have begun reviewing some of my notes in order to start my outlines, and I am beginning to realize how much I must have had going on in my head during the last few months. I don’t even remember discussing some of the things I have written down. I’m not sure if that’s chemo brain, or just the fact that I had a lot on my plate throughout the semester. Either way, it looks like I have some ground to make up in the next couple of weeks to prepare for these tests.

I saw the oncologist on Monday and he said that I look “pretty much perfect.” I need to have a mammogram done in the next couple of weeks and then I won’t see him again until February. I’m really happy to get to take a break from medical procedures for a few weeks, but it’s a little bit scary to think of being “on my own.” He warned me that there’s a high probability that the radiologists will see “something” on my mammograms in the near future and that they will recommend a biopsy. He explained that this was mostly because I had the bracytherapy radiation. Since it is a relatively new procedure, my mammograms will look different to them and they will recommend a biopsy to evaluate those differences. He told me not to freak out when that happens. And I’m glad he warned me about it, because I would (will?) freak out.

I am still feeling better and better with each passing day. As a matter of fact, I mostly feel completely normal. And then I catch sight of myself in the mirror and realize that I still look very much like a cancer patient, even if I don’t really feel like one. It’s a strange place to be…looking sick but not feeling or being sick.

I am going to be attending a conference in Milwaukee this weekend and I talked to one of the conference organizers about it earlier in the week. After I hung up the phone, I realized that it may have been one of the first times in the past many months that I have talked to someone who doesn’t know me as a cancer patient. She has absolutely no idea that I don’t have any hair, that I have been through a kajillion medical procedures in the past few months, or that I have spent the past few months identifying myself as a cancer patient to just about everyone I talk to. It felt good not to have that as a part of my identity, even though the gig will be up when I arrive at the conference tomorrow night. What I’ve been through will be pretty obvious when they see the scarf and lack of hair/eyebrows/eyelashes!

November 11, 2007

Las Vegas Recap

Las Vegas was sunny and warm and as relaxing as we could make it. We spent a lot of time eating and sitting by the pool and a little time walking around. We had a couple of excellent meals, saw (a Cirque de Soleil show) and stayed in two different hotels (that story to follow in another post). Neither Randy nor I are gamblers, so the extent of our gambling consisted of the $15.00 I lost within 3 minutes while sitting at a slot machine in the MGM casino waiting for Randy to pick up our show tickets. My legs held out for the limited walking around that we did, although my feet suffered a bit from the cute shoes I wore to the show and to the scholarship award ceremony.

Before we left, I threw my brunette wig in the suitcase thinking that I might want to wear it instead of a scarf if I dressed up for dinner. And indeed, when I got dressed on Wednesday night I decided that the scarves I had just didn’t work with the outfit I was wearing so I put the wig on. It was great to have hair for an evening, even if the wig itself drove me crazy all night. I spent a lot of the time worried about it slipping backward or forward and was so relieved when I was finally able to take it off that night. It was a strange experience to wear it since I have hardly worn a wig at all since I lost my hair. Apparently I have gotten used to people looking at me because I definitely noticed that they weren’t looking at me that night.

Every time I see this I think it’s a picture of Randy and my sister, Molly.
Randy and the Brunette.JPG
Randy and some chick he picked up in Vegas.

The award ceremony (or what I thought was going to be an award ceremony) was held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on Thursday night. I was told to be there at 7:30 p.m. and that my award would probably be presented around 9:00 p.m. that evening. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I dressed in one of my favorite lawyer uniforms complete with pearls, pumps and pantyhose.

Randy and I arrived at the Hard Rock early, so we snuck into Nobu for some champagne and sushi (which was amazing) and then sauntered over to the designated room around 7:00 p.m. or so. As soon as we got there I recognized Daniel Kovach, the man who runs CollegeScholarships.org, and introduced myself to him. We talked with him for a few minutes and got the run-down about what was going on during the evening.
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With Daniel Kovach.

Continue reading "Las Vegas Recap" »

October 29, 2007

9,150-ish

…That’s my new favorite number, since it is the number of votes that put me well into first place and that makes me the winner of the $10,000 Blogging Scholarship.

blogging_winner.jpg

And the very first thing I have to do is to thank YOU.

The reason I won is because of the immense outpouring of support from all of you--friends, family and complete strangers all over the world. This award could not have come at a better time for me and my family, and we are all deeply grateful. I plan to use the money to pay some of the principle and interest on my student loans. As one commenter said recently, although $10,000 is a drop in the bucket of law school debt, it’s a pretty good drop nonetheless. And every drop helps!

I know that many of you have been sitting in front of your computer screen watching the votes and comments roll in over these past three weeks, and I appreciate your company. It has been astounding for me to watch it all happen, and is far, far beyond anything I expected or could have predicted.

I came upon a post somewhere about the scholarship accidentally one day a month or so ago just a few days before the application deadline. Later that evening, I sat on the couch, composed my essay, and then submitted it to CollegeScholarships.org as required. I mentioned to Randy in an offhand comment that night that I had applied for the scholarship, and then I forgot about it for a few days. You can imagine how excited I was when I opened my e-mail in-box on October 8th and found out that I was one of the 20 finalists for the scholarship.

That morning I composed an e-mail message which I sent out to 50-75 friends and family and to about 25 “cyber friends” thinking that maybe with their help I could get a couple of hundred votes. I had no idea what it would take to win or if I even had a chance.

And then it started. You all took it and ran with it. You sent it to the people in your address book, they sent it to the people in their address book, and then they sent it on. Some of you posted it on your blogs, and then more people posted it on theirs. I have received hundreds of e-mails from people all over the country telling me their stories and offering encouragement and support. I was surprised and encouraged by the initial reaction, and then I was stunned at the power of the internet and of word of mouth as the days progressed. The $10,000 pales in comparison to the amount of support I have received from all 9,150 of you in the last three weeks while watching all of this unfold.

Shelley Batts and Jess Kim, the second and third place contestants in the contest, will both receive $1000 and the remaining 7 of the top 10 contestants will each receive $100. I had the pleasure of exchanging e-mail with both Shelley and Jess during the contest and think they are both very intelligent and kind young women who will go far in their chosen fields. Both of them have excellent blogs and I encourage you to visit their sites, as well.

Daniel Kovach, the man behind the money, has invited me to come to the Blog World and New Media Expo in Las Vegas next week to accept the award. Thanks to some of Randy’s left-over points from his travelling days and help from our parents, we are going to be able to go and to spend a couple of days there, as well. It will be one of the most slow-paced, conservative visits to Las Vegas ever since I get tired so easily and can’t walk far, but it will be nice to get away for a couple of days.

Thank you all. My gratitude knows no bounds.

October 28, 2007

I Need Your Vote!

I haven’t written much about the financial aspect of cancer, but as you can imagine it plays a very big role in all of this. We are very lucky that we have private health insurance that so far has covered a large portion of my medical expenses. And the costs are astronomical. Insurance hasn’t covered it all, however, and we have had to make major adjustments in our spending and budgeting in order to keep our heads above water. We have dipped into and used most of our cash savings and have had to resort to other sources of funds such as college and retirement savings in order to make this work. People don’t talk about this part of it very much because as a society we don’t talk about money, but it has caused me a very high level of stress throughout the entire ordeal. I can’t even imagine how people who do not have insurance deal financially with a cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Continue reading "I Need Your Vote!" »

October 14, 2007

Time Travelling

I’ve mentioned that I had a blog before I started posting about my breast cancer journey back in April of this year. It was a completely anonymous blog where I wrote about being a mom and about being a mom in law school. I started it in November 2003 and took the whole thing “off the air” in August 2006.

I initially began writing about my law school experience because when I was in the process of applying to law school there was only one other law school-related blog being written by a mother (From Engineer to Lawyer, who was pregnant at the time) and one blog being written by a lawyer who was a mom (Angry Pregnant Lawyer). I desperately wanted to know how other moms were handling the whole experience and thought that maybe I could help someone else by sharing my experiences. As I became more and more worried about the potential negative effects blogging might have on my future legal employment, however, I made the decision to take the blog down. Most of you never knew about that blog, although there are quite a few people reading who remember me from “the old days.”

Since I am blogging again, I have recently been tossing around the idea of re-posting some of those old posts on the off chance that maybe some other mom applying to law school might find them helpful. Today I looked through the old posts and found one that was written exactly three years ago today— the day I officially became a law school applicant. I will start out by posting that one, since it was essentially the beginning of my official path to law school (although the path itself actually began a long before that when I first thought about the possibility of becoming a lawyer). I will pre-date the posts with their original posting date, and hopefully will have some time to add more over the next few weeks.

October 11, 2007

Addressing the Haterz

Thank you for coming to my defense against the negative commenters here and on the scholarship site message board with your own comments and supportive e-mails. You all are incredible.

Since this is my blog and I get to have the floor whenever I want to, I want to take just a moment to address my own reaction to these people. I have chosen to ignore them (other than this post), and you all should do the same. Your time is much, much too valuable to waste responding to their vitriol! I have the ability to delete their comments, but thought I’d leave them up for my own and your entertainment.

I knew when I hit the submit button for this contest that I was opening myself up to the possibility of such negativity. I knew when I applied for the scholarship that public voting was a part of it and that it meant that whatever anonymity I had left would probably be stripped away. (I had no idea that your response was going to be as amazing as it has been, however!) I have been reading the blogs of some of the other finalists, and many of them have experienced similar kinds of negativity. That is to be expected, though. After all, there’s a lot of money on the line, and the promise of cash seems to bring out the worst in people sometimes. It’s interesting that it’s not bringing out the worst in the other finalists, though, but instead in other people who are not even in the running for the money.

Please rest assured, however, that these comments don’t bother me at all. There’s too much that’s positive in my life right now for me to find them at all hurtful. I actually think they’re kind of funny and as Mieke said, those commenters get my pity vote as much as anything. To take the time to come to my blog, read some posts (if they even read any of them) and then to leave a comment about the ways in which they think I am undeserving of this scholarship tells me that they definitely have too much time on their hands. How bereft of love and happiness must their lives be that they feel they need to express their opinions about a complete stranger in that way? It’s really sad, truly, and I think they deserve our pity more than anything else.

That said, I’d like to respond briefly to their comments.

Dear robo man, I hope that no one has you tied to a chair in front of a computer screen displaying my blog, forcing you to wade through the “wasteland of uninteresting content” day after day. Short of that, one great thing about living in the United States is that you don’t ever have to subject yourself to my writing. You have a choice, and can avoid reading what you don’t like by not visiting my blog. Just close the screen and move on. Seriously, dude, it’s no skin off my back.

And Chone, sweetheart, I’d like to set the record straight by pointing out the fact that the Blogging Scholarship requirements listed on the CollegeScholarships.org website required applicants to be current students in a post-secondary education program. Whether or not you want it to, law school does indeed fit that description. If the decision-makers thought that my blog was not eligible for the scholarship, they probably would not have chosen me as one of the finalists. In addition, I am not the only graduate student finalist. And although I don’t owe you any explanation, I’d also like to let you know that I am planning to practice public interest law after I graduate. That's not exactly a lucrative area to work in as an attorney. I can predict my eventual income within a few thousand dollars and it will be a mere fraction of that of many of my law school classmates, although my student loan balance will be exactly the same as theirs. It sounds like you might be a little jealous of the supposed earning power of the legal profession, in which case I suggest that you enter it yourself and take advantage of what you see as easy money.

And my dear friends, thanks again for your support and for your wonderful defense of me and my blog. You guys are too cool.

September 29, 2007

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure-Chicago

Today was all about pink ribbons.

It was amazing. There were thousands and thousands of people in Grant Park this morning for the Komen Race for the Cure and most of them were walking or running in the race. My dad and I could see the start of the race from where we stood and we watched as a sea of people started heading uphill at the beginning. Twenty minutes AFTER the start of the race, and four minutes after the first runners had already crossed the finish line, there was still a sea of people heading uphill to start the race! (They were the walkers, but it gives you an idea of how many people were there!) It was incredible to see so many people in one place all dedicated to raising money to support breast cancer research. I didn’t join the other survivors for recognition or breakfast or a picture since I wasn’t running, but I can’t wait to participate with my whole family next year.

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I am very, very lucky to get to go to school with such totally cool people.
(Back Row, L to R) Mason, Carla, Jackie, Leslee, Kirsten, Laurie, Blair
(Front Row, L to R) Blake, me, Colleen
(Not pictured: Olivia and Tim)

Blake at Komen Small.JPGBlake Back Small.JPG
I couldn’t be more proud of Blake for wanting to run today. He did a great job and finished in 24 minutes. (He started about 3-4 minutes behind the finish line, so we don’t know exactly what his actual time was.) As one of my friends said, he “dominated” the law students and finished before any of them. He wore a card on his back that said he was running in celebration of me and my cousin, Jenny.
Update: The race results have been posted. Blake came in 4th in his age division and was the 100th male over the finish line. Go Blake!!

(As always, you can see larger versions of these pictures by clicking on the Photo Gallery link in the column on the right.)

And as a special treat, here's a video montage of the morning's festivities.

Click here to see Carla's pictures from the race.

September 24, 2007

Putting One Foot in Front of the Other

I felt better on Sunday, although I was still in some pain. It was concentrated in my legs and hips yesterday, though, instead of all over my whole body. Today I still have an echo of pain in my legs and hips, but it is much more manageable and seems to be lessening bit by bit as the day progresses. I am also very tired, but have somehow managed to get my homework done.

Up to this point, the Taxol has been very different from the AC, which is exactly what everyone told me. So far I have felt much better with the Taxol. Although I hurt this weekend and wasn't able to move very much, I didn't feel completely knocked out of commission by the medicine. That probably doesn't make much sense since I was pretty much out of commission, but I find that it's much easier for me to handle pain than it is to handle feeling terrible and sick. Other side effects include the inability to taste (but it's not as extreme as it was with th AC), constipation, and the continued thinning of the rest of my hair (eyebrows and eyelashes). No mouth sores or loss of appetite so far (knock on wood).

I was assigned to prepare oral presentations for both of my classes for tomorrow, and today I e-mailed one of my professors to ask her if she would not call on me tomorrow. On the Tuesdays after my treatments I have found that I struggle a bit both physically and mentally. It’s all I can do just to get downtown and go to class and get home again. She very kindly agreed not to call on me, which takes a load of worry off my mind. I also warned the professor in my other class that I might not be up to giving an oral presentation, and he was also very kind and considerate about it. I have to say that I HATE to ask for special treatment like that, though. That is so against everything that I am. It is really hard for me to admit and to accept that I am not up to my normal abilities and that I can’t do everything that I usually can. It’s just another reason for me to be angry with breast cancer.

August 26, 2007

Hanging In There

Yesterday, two days post-chemo, was a rough one. I felt nauseous and generally bad all day long. I’m feeling better today…at least I’m not nauseous and that is definitely a good thing. This morning I have been working on homework and am very happy to have the strength and concentration to do that. I also had Peapod deliver groceries this morning, which seems like a luxury but one that I can well justify right now, I suppose.

I’m trying not to worry too much about what this week is going to bring, but I’m really hoping that I’m going to be able to make it to school on Tuesday and Thursday. I’m working very hard on the whole “one day at a time” thing, but I’m still finding it difficult to suppress the planner and organizer in me and to just go with the flow.

I contacted the administration at Loyola on Friday morning about the upheaval in my Thursday class schedule and my need to have both of my classes taped every other Thursday for the last four treatments. They were, as they have been throughout all of this, efficient and generous and had the whole thing approved for me before noon. I am immensely relieved that I don’t have to worry about missing more classes and very thankful to be a student at Loyola right now.

August 21, 2007

Back to School

Today was my first day back at school for the fall semester. I stood on the train platform this morning with my bag packed with freshly sharpened pencils and new highlighters, blank notebooks, empty folders, and wearing a scarf on my head. I was surprised at how much it took for me to get out of my car in the parking lot and then to walk past my fellow commuters to my chosen spot on the platform. They looked at me; how could they not? Out of the 50 or more people waiting for the 7:05 train this morning, I was the only one wearing a scarf on my head. The only woman who didn’t have hair. And it was hard.

As I stood there waiting for the train, I thought about all the times I’ve tried unobtrusively to steal a glance at the guy in the wheelchair or the woman on crutches or the little person, the person with the breathing tube or pronounced limp. What did I think about those people when I saw them? I couldn’t remember exactly, standing there in what felt a lot like a spotlight.

People didn’t stare at me, but they looked. I could see the movement of their heads out of the corner of my eye and I could sense their eyes on me as I walked by and as we stood there. I don’t know if they felt sorry for me or if perhaps I made them think about their mother/sister/wife/friend with breast cancer (or any kind of cancer). I didn’t meet their eyes, I just let them look. What else could I do, after all? As Stella said not long ago, my hair loss has made me the Chemo Poster Girl. Whether I wanted that role or not (and for the record, I didn’t), I’m stuck with it for awhile.

I will see these same people every Tuesday and Thursday morning from now through December. I know, from experience, that generally it will be the same group of commuters on the platform each morning and that we will all get to know one another by sight. (Most of them already know one another by sight…not everyone has a new schedule every six months like I do.) I think they will stop looking, although some of them may note the fashion show of scarves and hats which I will surely provide. And perhaps by December they will note the gradual return of my real hair. It will get easier for all of us, I think. And maybe the next time they see a woman wearing a scarf, they won’t have to look or to wonder in quite the same way.

The rest of the day was relatively uneventful, although it was certainly exhausting. My professors seem to be good and there are several people I know in both of my classes. I am also working as an editor on a journal this semester, so between the classes and the journal work and, of course, the chemo, I should be busy.

I should mention that everyone at my school, from the administration to the professors to the students, has been wonderful throughout all of this. For example, I will be missing one of my classes every other Thursday afternoon so that I can make it back to the suburbs in time for my treatments. My school has agreed to videotape those lectures for me and then to send the tapes to me via an overnight delivery service so that I don’t miss any class. Both of my professors this semester have offered their assistance to me, and one of them even offered to come to my house for private study sessions if I felt I needed them. (I’m assuming that no one told him before he made the offer that I live 50 miles away from school!) Many of my classmates have offered class notes and outlines to me, and one even gave me a set of keys to her apartment, which is one block away from school, so that I can take naps between classes if I need to. My gratitude to all of these people knows no bounds. They are all making it possible for me to continue with school despite all that I am going through.

During previous semesters I have always used my commute time as a study hall, getting lots of reading done during the hour and a half ride into and back out of the city. Based on my level of tiredness on the way home today, I have a feeling that the time will be better spent as naptime this semester.

July 24, 2007

Anticipation

This week feels like the worst finals period ever in the history of law school. And it’s not because of the law school final which takes place tomorrow night. Granted, I’m probably less prepared for this one than for any other law school final that I’ve ever taken and that’s causing me some anxiety. But I will be spending all day today and most of the morning tomorrow studying—cramming—to get ready for the test. Even though I’m less prepared, I’m also less nervous about this one. There’s something about cancer and chemotherapy that takes all the scariness out of law school exams. It no longer seems like the test is a matter of life and death. The “exam” I’m most nervous about is the one that’s taking place on Thursday.

The anticipation I feel about Thursday’s first chemo treatment kind of feels like the anticipation of a law school final, but one for which I am completely unprepared and for which there is no way to prepare. There’s no study guide, no practice exams, no lecture notes, and no commercial outline to help me get ready. I’m just on my own for this one. Like a law school final, it will last for three hours and I won’t be able to get up and leave or move around if I want to. Also like a final, I don’t know exactly what to expect or what is going to be included on the exam. Instead of having to wait four weeks to get a grade, however, I’ll only have to wait a day or so to get possible side-effects.

I think I should probably be happy for the intense exam prep that I’m working on this week, because it prevents me from being able to focus too much on the upcoming chemo treatment. I would be a basket case if I was thinking solely about Thursday with nothing to distract me. So it’s back to hearsay exceptions and prior inconsistent statements for the next 36 hours or so, then on to my date with nurses and needles on Thursday.

April 09, 2006

Advice for Parents Heading to Law School

As my 1L year winds down, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I would tell someone who asked for my advice about going to law school as a non-traditional law student with children. No one has specifically asked for this advice, but since a large number of the hits on this blog come from people searching for things like “law school with kids” and “mother in law school,” I’m thinking that it might possibly be helpful advice. I would have loved to have found this kind of advice collected somewhere two years or so ago.

So based on my vast experience with the subject (one and 3/4 semesters) here is my list (so far) of what it takes to handle law school as a parent with kids. (List subject to revisions and additions.)

1.Absolute organization. Organize your house, organize your backpack, organize your schedule, organize your time. You name it, ya gotta organize it. I am a highly organized person anyway and that trait served me well this year. I kept everything in its place and I was meticulous about making sure that things stayed on track during the school year. I tried to live by the golden rule of only touching a piece of paper once. I made a binder with a divider for each member of the family and kept class lists, field trip forms, team rosters, receipts, etc. in the binder. I did laundry on a certain day, studied on a certain day, went grocery shopping on a certain day. My methods of organization could constitute an entire post, but if you want to know how I handled something in particular, e-mail me. This includes school stuff. I have an organization plan for every subject, and for items within each subject. I was religious about sticking to all of it and I think it was one of the things that helped me to keep things running smoothly all year long.

2. Buy two of everything so you never run out. This advice was given to me via e-mail at the beginning of the semester by another mom who is a law student. (I wish I could remember who it was!) It was excellent advice. We never ran out of toilet paper or soap or cleaning supplies or laundry detergent or pencils or dog food during either semester. I stocked up, and every time I had to replace something I bought two of them. That meant no running out of the house at the last minute late at night for toilet paper. And that’s a good thing, believe me.

3. Make the slow cooker your best friend. I know it sounds like a 1970’s way to cook a meal, but I can’t tell you how many times I used it this year, and especially this semester. It was heaven to come home exhausted at the end of the day to a warm ready-to-eat dinner. It takes a little bit of planning ahead to have everything ready to go, but it is well worth the effort.

4. Arrange back-up day care. Especially if you’re going to have to use some kind of day care on a daily basis for a significant amount of time. What happens if your babysitter’s kids are sick? What happens if your babysitter is sick? And along the same lines, what happens if your child gets sick?

5. Stick to your schedule, and make time to be a parent. I worked my schedule out each semester so that I studied one full day on the weekend, one full day during the week, and during my 2 hour train ride to and from the city. This meant that most of the time I didn’t have to do any homework in the evenings or on Saturdays, which meant I could spend that time with the kids. Or at least I could spend it driving them around in the car. During my first semester I was able to be at practices and games and, most importantly, at the dinner table. The second semester was a little more difficult because of my schedule issues, but we have almost made it through. When I am at home, I try to be here and engaged. I listen and pay attention and really talk to my kids as much as possible. I don’t know if they have found me to be more or less accessible or present than I was before August, but I hope that my efforts made it a little easier for them to share me with school.

6. If you are in a situation similar to mine (a stay-at-home mom going to law school) consider going part-time, at least to start. For a long time I was planning to go to school full-time until I spoke with a law professor who was in law school when her children were born. She suggested that I consider going part-time, at least at first, until I knew what the work load was going to be like. I followed her advice, and I am so glad I did. Juggling part-time law school with a full-time gig as a mom is a LOT of work. It’s going to take me longer to finish, but I’ll finish with my sanity intact. My original plan was to transfer to the full-time division after my first year, but now that I know what is entailed I’m almost certain I will continue to go part-time until the end. It has worked out very well for me and for my children because I’ve been able to balance being a good mom and a good student, both of which are important to me. (Click here for the studying advice of another mom who is going to law school full time.)

7. This is not just for law student parents, but for any law students. Cut your books! I know it might seem cruel and heartless, especially for all you book lovers out there, but it is one of those decisions I will never regret.

October 30, 2005

Move Over, Martha

Today was one of those great days that brought productivity both as a mom and a law student. Because of the time change I was up early and got laundry washed, folded and put away, took a shower, and finished up a Jedi warrior costume all before 9:30 a.m. The rest of the day has been spent working on Civil Procedure reading and writing, as well as some research and case briefing for Legal Writing. Randy has had dinner simmering on the stove all day and we'll be sitting down with a bottle of wine and a movie later this evening. On the docket for tomorrow, pre-trick-or-treating, is more Legal Writing stuff, a Civ Pro hypo, and lots of Torts reading.

And yes, in case you're wondering, despite my lamentations about being a bad mother, I got my Martha Stewart groove on and whipped up a Jedi warrior costume this weekend for Matthew, our resident Star Wars fanatic. All the Jedi costumes were cleared off the store shelves, so I broke down and went to the fabric store to get a pattern to make one. Apparently there are lots of Jedi wannabes out there, because the fabric store was completely out of Jedi costume patterns. My solution? Matthew will be wearing a Wise Man robe from a nativity play costume pattern. I didn't show him the pattern picture, so he totally believes that he is Obi Wan Kenobi. When he tried his costume on this morning he proudly brandished his light saber while jumping into the proper Jedi defense position, then he excitedly proclaimed that he looked "just. like. Obi Wan Kenobi!" Hopefully when he's 35 he'll remember the coolness of the Force and forget about all the macaroni and cheese we've been eating for dinner lately.

October 25, 2005

The Seventh Inning Stretch

My first law school final is about five weeks from now. I still cannot believe how quickly this first semester has gone. I can't believe it's almost over already.

For the most part, I love law school every bit as much as I always thought I would. I enjoy the intellectual stimulation, my daily trips into the city, and meeting new friends. It is also as exhausting as I always thought it would be. If I didn't have kids and a husband and a house and a whole other life, it would be a lot easier to handle it all. As it is, I am exhausted. It is getting more and more difficult for me to juggle everything successfully, although I hate to admit that.

I find that from about 4:00-9:00 p.m. every night I feel stressed and crabby and overwhelmed. During those hours I am making dinner, driving back and forth across town through traffic to sports practices and show rehearsals and concerts and games, trying to get lunches made and clothes picked out for the next day, putting Matthew to bed, taking care of the dog, and thinking about all the homework I'm not doing. On the weekends Randy is home and helps a bit, but he's only home for two days before heading out of town again on Monday and I study all day on Sunday, so I feel like we have very little time to really get things done. I manage to do the laundry (Randy also does some and Karly does her own, but there's still a lot left for me) so we all have clean clothes, but I never seem to make it to the house. My house is a disaster. My yard is a disaster. I have fall decorations on the front porch, but I still have summer flowers in the flower pots and peonies and hasta and a whole perennial garden that need to be trimmed and winterized. Halloween is less than a week away and we have candy, but no costumes and one lonely bowl of fall gourds in the foyer.

It is difficult for me to let this stuff go, because for the past 11 years I have been able to take care of it all. My house has always been decorated for any given holiday (not to mention clean), I've had costumes made by mid-October, and I've always been ultra-organized and on top of each day's activities. But now? Well, my homework is done, the kids' homework is done, we're all clean and fed and we have clean clothes. But that's about it. And it's okay, I think. I'm willing to let it go a little bit in exchange for a J.D.

Tonight we got home from football and dance practices and I told Matthew to take a bath. As he was brushing his teeth, I tried to rinse out the bathtub. I discovered, however, that the bathroom faucet handle is broken. It just spins and spins and no water comes out. So I thought I would unscrew it from the wall to see if it was something I could replace myself. I got the screws out about halfway before I discovered that the handle is blocking them so you can't actually get them, or the faucet, out of the wall. I decided to check the internets to see what I could find about replacing a shower faucet. I found lots of instructions out there, but they all involve things like "solder," "pipe cutters," "flaring tools," "transition unions," and "propane torches." Propane torches? Yeah, I'm studying law, not plumbing. I can handle personal jurisdiction and proximate cause, but transition unions and propane torches are out of my league.

And this is my life right now. Last week it was the water dispenser in the refrigerator and the week before that the rear wiper on my van. I always think I'm totally tough and can handle anything until these technical homeowner engineering things come up. How am I supposed to keep up on all of this stuff, cook dinner, clean the house, care for kids AND be a law student? Am I really going to be able to keep this up for 3 1/2 more years?

October 20, 2005

Driving the Point Home

Today I was asked if I was a professor. By one of my classmates. Who has been sitting in the seat in front of me in one class for the past 8 weeks but apparently doesn't know who I am.

This is what happened: I was sitting in a classroom just before my Legal Writing class with 4 other classmates when the door opened and another fellow classmate (the one who sits in front of me in another class) walked in. She asked us who our teacher was and I told her the teacher's name. She looked a little confused, and I began explaining that I understood that her LW section was supposed to sit in on another LW section's class today. I also told her that I thought it was probably the other LW class that meets at the same time down the hall, though I didn't know the room number.

She looked at me for a moment and then said, "Oh! Are you the professor?" The rest of class and I laughed and I told her that I was not the teacher. She looked a little confused and kind of laughed nervously, and then said, "Oh, I'm sorry! It's just that you seemed so....like....well....uh...confident."

Confident. Yes, I'm sure that was it and that it had nothing to do with the fact that I was 15 years older than anyone else in the room at the time.

September 04, 2005

On Being Different

I've been thinking a lot these past couple of weeks about fitting in. Because I feel like I don't. And it's okay, it doesn't really bother me; I've spent a lot of time in my life not fitting in.

It's human nature, of course, to look around at other people and to look for those with whom you have some kind of connection. That's just what we all do when we spend any time with a group of people. And many of us (maybe all of us?) compare ourselves to the people we meet. It's the unconscious comparison, I think, that allows us to find those we have something in common with. In my contacts with my classmates in the past couple of weeks, I have discovered several things about them and about myself.

I am, quite obviously, the oldest person in my section. How many times did I blog about that before I started? I kept saying that I didn't want to be the oldest one, and that I was certain that I wouldn't be. And I'm not the oldest one in my class. I know for a fact that there is at least one student who is, as the dean told us all on the first day, in his or her 50s. That student (or students) is in the evening section, however. Along with all the other students who are anywhere near my age. When I sit in class and look around at everyone else, they all look so young. They all are so young. I sit next to one woman in several of my classes who is only 6 years younger than me. And I know of one man who is 10 years younger than me. The average age in my class is 24, so most everyone else is significantly younger. I believe that in my Civil Procedure class I am the oldest person in the room, because I think even the professor is younger than me.

Continue reading "On Being Different" »

January 02, 2005

Anticipation

I've been so proud of myself for my ability to wait relatively patiently to hear from any of the law schools I have applied to. I always imagined these weeks (months?) of waiting would be hard for me, that I would be obsessively checking e-mail and snail mail for word of acceptances or rejections. Instead, though, I've been resolved to the wait. I'll hear when I hear, and I have enough going on to keep me busy so I don't feel the need to check constantly for mail. After last week, however, I'm beginning to think that my apparent patience might be deceiving.

On Thursday I walked down the driveway to the mailbox and retrieved the medium-sized stack of letters waiting there. I flipped through the envelopes as I walked back to the house, and there among the last straggling Christmas cards and the usual bills and credit card applications was a letter-sized envelope from one of the Chicago schools I applied to. My heart skipped a little beat, and I pulled the envelope out and studied it intently, hoping that I might be able to discern its contents by ESP. I walked into the house and into the kitchen still holding the envelope and I placed the rest of the mail on the kitchen counter. I stood there for just a moment looking at the envelope in my hand, and I thought about how I would feel if it contained an acceptance and how I would feel if it contained a rejection. I debated for one quick second asking my husband to open it for me, but decided I couldn't take the time and that I wanted the initial viewing of and reaction to the contents to be mine alone. I took one more look at the return address and verified that it did indeed come from the admissions department of the law school, and then I flipped it over and ripped it open. I paused for one more moment with the enclosed page in my hand, then unfolded it and looked at the first sentence.

It was a newsletter. Which I had already read since I had received it via e-mail several days earlier.

I will remain patient, but I wish I'd hear something...soon!

October 14, 2004

It's Official

After several years of planning and preparation, I can now say that I am officially a law school applicant. I took a deep breath and sent the first two this afternoon. I got a little nervous when I saw the pop-up window that said, "Are you completely sure you want to do this? Because once you hit 'transmit' you can never change anything, and you might be totally rejected by all these schools and you will have wasted your application fee and all the money you've spent so far on test prep and the LSAT and LSAC and everything else because you won't get any of it back. Also, you're kind of old to be doing this." But I went ahead and chose 'yes' anyway. I have a few more to send, but now that I'm over that first hill I think it will be a little easier. So, let the waiting begin.