Friday, August 29, 2008

Just Be Who You Are

Law school so far—manageable. Distinctly manageable. It’s a lot of work, but I’m still usually finished by 8pm and I have time to do stuff. I’m sure it’ll get more intense at some point, but right now? I’m thinking it’s actually not as overwhelming as I’d imagined.

And I think I’m going to be really good at it. Everything just makes sense. Every question the professors pose in class, I not only know the answer, I pretty much know why he’s asking it and where he’s headed with it. I just plain get it.

My classmates—at first, it seemed no one knew quite how to talk to me, or assumed I was a little bit bitchy, or on my part, being so completely unlike anyone else brings out my inner introvert (pun intended), who knows? I'm more comfortable talking to the professors, which shouldn't be a shocker--I'm probably closer in age to many of them than to my fellow 1L's. But we’re all warming up to each other and I like everyone. I can honestly say I have not met one person I don't like. Maybe that’ll change over the course of three years, but the thing I didn’t expect is how tight-knit the legal community here is. It’s a bit like an Army unit—there’s that instant recognition, you’re here, so you must be one of us. I really like that aspect of it.

On the "Be who you are" theme, I need to keep that in mind. I don't much fit in here, but I'm starting to think I won't really fit in much anywhere these days...and is that really a huge shift? Hasn't that always been the case to a certain degree?

I am enjoying this radical scenery shift...except MAN do I miss that gym fulla hotties!!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Ode to Piglet

I spent the entire morning replacing the battery on Piglet, my Harley. Motorcycles, I quickly found, are a huge pain in the ass to work on, despite everything being right there where you can see it. You can SEE it all, but it's all just crammed into that little bit of space and you may not be able to get to the stuff you need, even though you can see it. It's right there, why can't I get this screw to go into the right place??

The first battery I bought had the poles reversed, and the cables are just exactly long enough, no room for error. And no, you can't just flip the battery around. So I brought that one back and drove out to a little place on the highway, hoping they had the right one. They did. To the tune of 120 clams. For a battery that's smaller than a brick.

I didn't care. By this time, I just wanted to ride. It was a gorgeous day--low humidity, dazzling sunshine, comfortable temperature.

Installing the new battery seemed like it'd be a breeze--just pop it back in, right? Well, the battery compartment is very tight and tucked under all this other stuff. So attaching the negative cable became an exercise in ingenuity...three screwdrivers to hold stuff in place while I tried to get the screw through the end of the cable, through the hole in the terminal, and into the damn nut positioned inside, a little wad of papertowel stuffed under the nut to hold it there, some chewing gum...just kidding, no chewing gum. Although maybe it would've helped.

It took almost an hour to strongarm that cable into place, but at least I didn't pay anyone to do it for me or shock myself right to the emergency room.

So I finally suited up and got on the little lady. It's been a long time since I was able to ride for more than a quick couple of minutes--well, it's been since I left Arizona in March 2007.

Piglet felt funny. I wondered if I'd lost every bit of my riding felt like I teetered on the edge of disaster. Then I remembered that she's been sitting idle for more than a year--which means low tires. I went back for my tire gauge...and holy crraap, the front wheel was down to 15 psi. Recommended is 36 front, 38 rear...easy for me to remember, since my hips are 38" and my chest is 36". I rode to the service station at about 15 MPH and pissed off every single driver between my house and the BP. But there was no way in hell I was pulling off onto the gravel shoulder with those tires. I probably would've wiped right out.

As soon as the tires were properly inflated, I headed back towards my house. I live just off one of the many adorable country roads that lead to Sardis Lake, a rather large body of water you'll see if you look at any terrain map of Mississippi. It's the big finger in the north-center of the state.

It felt amazing. I focused on every sensation--the wind wrapping my t-shirt around my torso, the wind on my face, the deep hum of the bike, the dazzling green kudzu fields, small farms. I just meandered down any road that looked shaded and inviting, and I ended up riding all afternoon. I put over 200 country-road miles on the bike. This is a gorgeous area and I'd forgotten how pretty the country is when you get outside Oxford and down those little winding roads.

Then I came home and made 40...yes, that's cupcakes. As in, one bite each. My birthday is Saturday and I figured I'd get my cake fix now. I'm already sick of them and I'm wondering if I can bring them to orientation and unload them on a hundred and fifty strangers. Oh, wait...I ate three, so only 37 strangers. Maybe they'd fight over them. We could end up with a Geraldo vs. Skinheads projectile-chair situation. Which would fucking rock.

So orientation starts Wednesday and I was completely irresponsible in all respects today. I didn't even go to the gym. I have tons of reading to do tomorrow, and even more over the weekend. And I didn't quite finish the den...there's still a largish area that needs paint. Tomorrow will be busy.

But irresponsible is exactly what a motorcycle is, top to bottom. And it feels SO good.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

On It Like a NY Governor...The Month in Pictures

The Problem:
Yeah, the assclown who installed the tub and sink in my bathroom smeared some goddamn latex caulk shit all over the place, obviously using his finger to smear it on. But with this pretty light sage? Oh, it had to GO. And as I discovered, you can't paint over it.

So I got to scraping and peeling it off with a straight razor. It took over two days and the blue putty knife is for the spackling I had to use to patch up the little spots where I had to go under a couple of layers of wallpaper to get all the bullshit latex sloppiness off. I H*A*T*E shoddy workmanship. I don't think I've cursed this much since I left the Army. This is actually after scraping and spackling and repainting...see the nice, clean line? The previous color was the same as the tub, so it wasn't so noticeable. I'm thinking that's why the former homeowner found Assclown Plumber's work acceptable. I would've had his ass right back in there scraping and recaulking the whole thing.
Here's how I dealt with it. I drank. At this point, I had two open bottles, one of each flavor. Maybe drinking several Mike's Lemonades while angry with a straight razor in hand is not the prudent way to go about it. But hell, it worked.
The result: just ignore the lingerie hanging on the right side. Nothing to see here.
And here's the guest apartment. There's a full kitchen adjacent to the little cafe table room.

The bedroom of the guest apartment. That's my desk, where I'll do most of my studying for law school. What a luxury, to have a separate, pretty space for studying.

And here's the den color, one color up/lighter on the paint chip card. And that's Moonpie. As of next week, that white carpet (White? Why? It just gets dirty!) will be replaced with hardwood, the same color as the trim and windowsill. And then I'm done for awhile. Well, after I find a good grill on sale.

Yes, I've been busy. I'll take some shots of the bedroom next.

I've already lost 1.5 of the 5 pounds. I'm not starving myself, just watching the carbs, working out, and expending tons of calories painting the den.

I heard through the grapevine that both my Civil Procedure and Torts classes have already posted reading assignments, due the first day of class. Are you kidding me? And given that I don't presently hang out in the law school, I'll have to make a special trip over there to copy down the assignments...seems they could go out on email like everything else, but there you have it. I have the advantage of access to all the knowledge and expertise of several friends who are either currently in law school here, or finished I have all their class notes, and one of them kindly alerted me to the reading assignments. I'll take any advantage I can get. And if I'm one of about four people who've prepared for Day One? Even better. Muuuuwaaaahhh hhaa haaa.

Orientation begins this Wednesday. I'm actually excited--I've read the cases and they are actually pretty fun to read. I'm sure it won't always be like this, but they're like great little short stories that are true and folks' dirty laundry got aired in the public courtroom. People do some crazy shit. One of the cases was argued in 1875 and that's even more fun to read--the language is so stilted and formal, when they're telling a story of drunken debauchery and social disapproval, 19-century small town-Mississippi style. Big fun.

I also heard last week that there's a guy named Jason entering the 1L class who is also an OIF vet. I'll have to seek this guy out and swap war stories.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Not SO Bad...

I got on the scale this morning, and the disaster wasn't quite so catastrophic...I gained 5 pounds on vacation. Seems to me that if you go on vacation and gain no weight, maybe you didn't do it right!

So I stepped off the scale, donned my gym clothes, and hit the weights. I will be rid of the 5 pounds within two weeks.

So I saw another questionnaire on another blog, and I liked it much better than mine. And I kept one of her answers, so there.

1. My uncle once: commanded a company in the Solomon Islands in WWII. Well, he was my great uncle, but he was also an intelligence officer (like me). Wouldn't talk about the Solomon experience...I'm of the impression that it was very, very bad.

2. Never in my life: have I cheated on a man. And since I don't date women, I haven't cheated on any of them, either.

3. When I was five: my favorite pair of shoes were red Keds, and they had to be worn with blue jeans and a white shirt, so I'd be all red, white, and blue.

4. High school was: hell, for the most part, especially after #8.

5. I will never forget: how much shittier things can be when they seem bad. When my ceilings collapsed in Arizona, all I could think was, well, at least I'm not in Iraq. Some experiences have a way of giving you a whole new yardstick by which to measure everything that follows, ever.

6. Once I met: Willem Dafoe. It was in NYC in 1991 as I stood outside a bus counting kids. It was raining and he handed me his umbrella. His son, Jack, was at the camp where I was a counselor/instructor in Maine. Jack was a really sweet kid, very fastidious about washing his hands, who said he wanted to be a screen writer when he grew up.

7. There’s this boy I know: got shot in the leg in Iraq and doesn't even limp. And I bet he's even sexier since it happened--I never knew him before.

8. Once, at a bar: I was told my younger brother was dead and I needed to go wake up my parents, who were asleep and couldn't hear the phone. I was woefully under aged and had no idea what I was supposed to do with that information, since there was no way in hell I was going to be the one to tell them their youngest kid was dead.

9. By noon, I’m usually: done with my workout and working on the house. Which is what I should be doing right now, not drinking a Mike's Hard Lemonade and playing online poker.

10. Last night: I returned from Florida, made an even bigger mess in my bedroom, and watched World Series of Poker.

11. If only I had: a little more money for law school. If I run out, I am HOSED.

12. Next time I go to church: it'll be for either a wedding or another funeral. I don't generally go to church. Nothing against it, but there are things I like to do on Sunday morning...drink coffee, make breakfast, go to the gym, then screw off. In about a week, studying and prepping case briefs will replace the screwing off part.

13. What worries me most: running out of money. It happened to me in New Orleans in 1997 before I joined the Army, and I never want to root through the sofa cushions for enough money to get to work.

14. When I turn my head left I see: a Persian rug, a big lilly, two bookcases, black and white photographs, all on the dark sage walls with red-brown suede curtains. My bedroom also has four large windows. It's easily the nicest bedroom I've ever had.

15. When I turn my head right I see: honeysuckle that grew over one window, completely covering it but giving the room a soft, green glow. Also, one very portly sleeping gray cat. She appears to grin. I know the feeling.

16. You know I’m lying when: I trip myself up with a contradictory lie exactly two sentences later.

17. What I miss most about the Eighties is: nothing, really. Be a teenager again and/or work for minimum wage ($3.35 at the time)? Oh HELL no.

18. If I were a character in Shakespeare I’d be: none of them. I don't think they had women like me (or anyone else I know, for that matter) back then, and NO I wouldn't be Lady Macbeth.

19. By this time next year: I'll be 1/3 of the way through law school and clerking at a good law firm here.

20. A better name for me would be: ...I'm thinking...

21. I have a hard time understanding: why anyone really thought the Chinese would change in any meaningful way. Or why anyone's surprised they had a "cuter" little girl lip synch at the opening's one of the most sexist societies on Earth and if a girl ain't cute enough, there's no way they're parading her around.

22. If I ever go back to school, I’ll: umm, I did just go back to school. It's already surreal.

23. You know I like you if: I call you Mamacita. If you're male and I call you Sweetpea or Sugarbritches, that means I probably LIKE you.

24. If I ever won an award, the first person I would thank would be: my coworkers and/or subordinates. They're usually about 85% responsible for whatever you did anyway. Unless it was something non-work which case, what the hell would I get an award for?

25. Take my advice, never: get a tattoo while you're drunk. I did it in 1991 and recently reached the point where it faded enough to look icky. I needed to either get it removed, or get it fixed. I got it fixed. I now sport a dark green ginkgo leaf with white veins and a vibrant purple design behind it on my upper right arm. Looks loads better. I'll probably add a couple more ginkgo leaves, gold ones, like the color they turn in the fall. Why would I remove it, just because I'm going to be an attorney?

26. My ideal breakfast is: coffee, waffles or pancakes, eggs, all of it. Since I'm trying hard to reduce the carbs, I stick with the eggs and coffee.

27. A song I love but do not have is: that one with the line "I don't feel like dancin' no sir no dancin' today." I love it, but have no idea who sings it. Anyone?

OK, nevermind, I just found it. Scissor Sisters. Love it, love it, love it. It's downloading now. Another really good one for the workout playlist: Flight of the Conchords, Ladies of the World. Outstanding.

28. If you visit my hometown, I suggest you: come over to my house and have a drink on the porch.

29. Why won’t people: vote??

30. If you spend a night at my house: you'll have your own private apartment, very pretty.

31. I’d stop my wedding for: the part where I wake up with heaving bosom and sweating brow and say "thank god, thank god. It was just a dream." If I ever do get married, it'll be an Elvis impersonator in Vegas, via drive-thru, in a rented 1969 Mustang convertible. I'm not kidding.

32. The world could do without: politicians over 65, especially if they haven't done anything else for more than twenty years. Out with the old, in with the new, and I'd rather have folks in there who haven't completely lost touch with the lives of regular Americans. More Iraq-Afghanistan vets, please. The one politician who's done anything that directly affected me in any positive way was Jim Webb, OIF vet, freshman Senator, who sponsored and pushed the new GI Bill through.

33. I’d rather lick the belly of a cockroach than: live in a tent again.

34. My favorite blonds are: Daniel Craig. Hubba hubba. Can't really think of anyone else...I keep picturing Cindy McCain, and I don't really feel one way or the other about her, even though she did have that terribly bourgeois pain-pill addiction.

35. Paper clips are more useful than: most of the crap on TV.

36. If I do anything well it’s: because I worked at it. Very little comes naturally.

37. I can’t help but: say really inappropriate things to/around people who don't know me well enough to understand how to take it. Not that I really care, but there it is.

38. I usually cry: I do not. Where did you hear that?

39. My advice to my nephew/niece: do well enough in school for big scholarships. You DO NOT want to graduate with more than about $20K in student loans.

40. And by the way: I've squandered my afternoon on the internet. *Sigh* Guess all that work on the house will still be there tomorrow. Which is kind of the point. Damn.

Monday, August 11, 2008


So two weeks ago, I was all cocky and smug, having lost 25 pounds and brought my BMI back down to the normal range. I started running again! I can do pullups!

And then I went on vacation.


We're still in Palm Beach. I went to the gym this morning and got on the scale. Oh. Mah. Holy. Hell. Ya'll. I regained ten fucking pounds in one fucking week!!!

All my good habits go out the window on vacation. I eat until food coma, I don't work out, I'm apt to sit at a poker table all day (like today...but it was so fun!) or loll around the room after ordering several of the sugariest, shittiest frozen alocholic beverages the room key can buy.

Saving grace--I rarely eat out at home, and that's where the problem here has lain. I won't have access to Cuban, Brazilian, or seafood once we leave here, so I must've adopted that famine it now, you won't see it again!

And no it's not all waterweight. I can look at myself in the mirror and SEE the belly growth. No shit. And I tried running on the treadmill here? Everything jiggled.

OK, these things happen. Losing weight and maintaining the loss will always be a journey marked with successes and failures. It will never not be hard. The pass-or-fail part is how you react to the setbacks, not that you never have them in the first place. Recenter and refocus, take a deep breath, don't keep anything tempting in the house, stay busy enough to not think about eating all the time.

Sounds simple, right?


Sunday, August 03, 2008

Here's a survey making the rounds on the net:

What time did you get up this morning? 6:30...I tend to get up pretty early, even on vacation
Diamonds or pearl ? Why would anyone ever have to chose? I have and wear both.
What was the last film you saw at the cinema? The Dark Knight, like everyone else in America.
What is your favorite TV show? Curb Your Enthusiasm
What do you usually have for breakfast? 2 soft-boiled eggs, bacon, toast
What is your middle name? Elizabeth
What food do you dislike? I just tried Pringles Minis, the 100-calorie pouch, and it tastes like nuclear waste. I had to brush my teeth to get rid of it, and the taste STILL won't go away. It's disgusting.
What is your favorite CD at the moment? Lucinda Williams--The Ocean
What kind of car do you drive? Nissan Altima SE-R, and it's paid for!
Favorite sandwich? The Boudreaux at Old Venice Pizza here in Oxford--crawfish tails, spicy creole is just divine.
What characteristic do you despise? Flightiness ranks up there. Passive aggressiveness. And they often go hand-in-hand.
Favorite item of clothing? My slinky, silky little red, black, and cream print top...nice and cool, makes me look skinny!
If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? This is a tough one...Australia, dive the Great Barrier Reef
Where would you retire to? Key West, but only if I were rich enough for a cool house and a helicopter on call for hurricane evacuations.
What was your most recent memorable birthday? My last one, the 37th, in Baghdad...partied like a rock star, surrounded by gorgeous men at "Mantasy Island"
When is your birthday? August 23, so in a couple of weeks. I plan to bake myself a great big layer cake with fluffy vanilla icing. I'm cutting back on sugar, but birthday cake is always an exception.
Morning person or a night person? Definitely morning.
What is your shoe size? 8
Pets? Moonpie, my 10-year-old Greyhound; Esther, 5-year-old cat; Claire, 4-year-old cat. All came from adoption agencies or animal shelters.
Any exciting news you’d like to share with us? Going to Tampa and Palm Beach this week. Woohoo!
What did you want to be when you were little? Teacher or astronaut
How are you today? Good--worked out this morning (always sets the tone), worked on my house. A good day.
What is your favorite flower? Daylillies of many colors and shapes.
What is a day on the calendar you are looking forward to seeing? Week of Thanksgiving--that'll be my first break from law school and I'll have settled into it by then. Plus, I love the festive season, now that I'm home with family and not in some crappy military town.
What are you listening to right now? All Things Considered
What was the last thing you ate? Those horrid Pringles. Dinner was WW baked ziti and a big plate of steamed green beans with garlic butter. Yum!
Do you wish on stars? Sure, why not?
If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Purple.
How is the weather right now? My favorite--thunderstorm brewing.
Last person you spoke to on the phone? Some dame asking about my recent identity theft incident--I caught it the day it happened. Spirit Airlines, which I've never ever heard of, charged my debit card for about $400 of airline tickets and some scam "Spirit Promotions" bullshit. USAA, being the awesome bank they are, immediately cancelled my card, FedExed me a new one, and refunded all the charges. I have no idea who those idiots got my card number--I'm very careful.
Favorite soft drink? Draft cherry Coke, and it has to be from the fountain.
Favorite restaurant? Hmm...there are so many good ones here. Probably Ajax, southern food--"Steaks for the ladies and gravy for the babies." Or Corky's BBQ in Memphis. Heaven.
Favorite color? Shouldn't the crayon question cover this? Purple, but I don't paint my walls with it or anything.
What was your favorite toy as a child? Books, believe it or not. But those aren't really toys. Stuffed Snoopy with all kinds of little outfits to dress him in.
Summer or winter? Love 'em both. When I was fat, I liked winter better because I hated seeing all that refrigerated biscuit dough in shorts and t-shirt. I'm back to loving them both since reaching size 8.
Chocolate or Vanilla? Again, why choose? Ice cream=vanilla, cake=chocolate.
Coffee or tea? I can take a position on this But I still love tea.
When was the last time you cried? Not sure, it's been awhile since I had anything to cry about. It was probably last spring in Baghdad after things got really weird with a man I REALLY liked. But now it's one of those good periods in life, and I know to relish it while it lasts.
What is under your bed? A beautiful Persian carpet that's just too big and thick to put down on top of the berber carpet. It's folded up and vacuum-sealed.
What did you do last night? Watched the big-ass thunderstorm and played online poker.
What are you afraid of? Rejection, running out of money, looking older, gaining weight
Salty or sweet? *Sigh* Trying hard to cut back on sugar, because I know it goes straight to my belly. So as much as I love sweet, I'm having to recalibrate to salty.
How many keys on your key ring? Three--house, car, guest apartment.
How many years at your current job? I am currently *yikes* an unemployed, full-time law school student.
Favorite day of the week? Saturday=Farmer's Market and best NPR shows.
Do you make friends easily? When I like the person I've just met, yes.

Chicken-Ham Lasagna

I thought I'd share some of the recipes I'm using in my quest not to regain my 6.5 BMI points. I've made this one about five times and it's just fabulous. There are all kinds of little tweaks you can make, too--the last time I made it, I left out the ham and added morels and olives. It was gorgeous. It's a white sauce--basically an alfredo, not the traditional tomato, and the serving size is definitely satisfying. It's from Cooking Light, my favorite source of recipes:

Chicken-Ham Lasagna

To shorten prep time, skin, bone, and shred rotisserie chicken; add to sauce.

2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces, divided
3 cups 1% low-fat milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 ounces)
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Cooking spray
12 no-cook lasagna noodles (8 ounces), divided
8 ounces thinly sliced 96% fat-free deli ham, chopped, divided
Chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°.

Place broth and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil. Add chicken; cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan with a slotted spoon; set aside.

Combine milk, flour, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl; stir well with a whisk until smooth. Add milk mixture to broth in pan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Cook 1 minute or until mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add 1 cup cheese and parsley, stirring until cheese melts.

Spread 1 cup sauce over bottom of a 13 x 9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Arrange 3 lasagna noodles over sauce. Spoon 3/4 cup sauce evenly over noodles. Top evenly with one-third ham and one-third chicken. Repeat layers twice, ending with noodles. Top with remaining sauce. Sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.

Cover with foil very lightly coated with cooking spray; bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Remove and discard foil; bake 10 minutes or until the cheese lightly browns. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired.

Wine note: With a cue from the dish's overall unfussy character, the ideal wine needs to be inexpensive and uncomplicated. One of my favorite "comfort wines" to go with a comfort food like this is Australian shiraz. Annie's Lane Shiraz 2002 from Australia's Clare Valley ($15) is a simple blast of berriness with a soft texture. -Karen MacNeil

Yield: 8 servings

CALORIES 260 (24% from fat); FAT 7g (sat 3.7g,mono 2g,poly 0.8g); IRON 1.9mg; CHOLESTEROL 57mg; CALCIUM 295mg; CARBOHYDRATE 18g; SODIUM 740mg; PROTEIN 28.9g; FIBER 0.8g Cooking Light, JANUARY 2006