The random thoughts of an architect-turned- lawyer from the deep south living in Washington, DC...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Why today was my favoritest day of the entire semester
by Law-Rah

Today was my last day of school for the semester. As if that is not enough to make a girl smile, I quite enjoyed my classes today.

In my first class, my professor spent 10 minutes talking about the exam. She said "for those of you who have not read all semester, don't try to cram in anything now. Forget the casebook, it is not very important. Just work through all the sample problems I gave you all semester and you can probably pull off an A."

In my second class, my professor also spoke of the exam. He said "I have given you 39 pages of my old essay questions. You will notice that many of the questions repeat over the years. I have not yet written the essay questions for this exam and I am not representing whether or not I will be writing questions for this exam. I would, however, advise that you work through the old essay questions."

What a great last day of school!

Monday, November 27, 2006

When a legal analysis turns personal

In order to graduate from law school, I must fufill a "writing requirement". A lot of my friends did this in their second year, but I put it off. It was just so intimidating and long and legal and I was really dreading it. I heard about a professor who was helpful in paper writing. Although I really had no interest in Feminism or Gender Discrimination, I needed to write a paper in my third year, so I signed up for her class then I headed off to London for my summer. I had no clue what would be in store for me.

From the day I met my man in London, people around me questioned "how a man treats a woman" in his culture (read: Muslim). One girl swore to me that he would shove me in a kitchen. Another girl actually said to me "yeah, it's all fine and dandy until he comes home with another wife." I was just naive enough to not understand this. I mean, I know there are stereotypes out there, but have you SEEN how this guy treats me? At the time, I wasn't sure how his "culture" would have him treat me, but I surely knew "Ben" treated me like an Angel. Not a single person on the London trip this summer would disagree with that.

When I got back to school I was faced with my gender discrimination class and that dreaded thirty page paper. Very early on, I went to the professor to talk to her about my paper topic. The class is based mostly on US Constitutional law. I was wondering if I might be able to go outside of the norm and write about "how a man treats a woman" in the Muslim culture. She loved the idea, but warned me that it would be an enourmous undertaking, I should really think of narrowing it down. I figured that narrowing would come in due time. Considering I didn't know the first thing about this religion or legal system or anything, I had to start broad to get a baseline understanding. Looking back, I can honestly say I had no clue what an undertaking it would be. I didn't really care though because meeting Ben had given me desire to learn and understand and educate myself. Little did he know, by treating me so well, he inadvertently gave me a paper topic, one I was passionate about.

This paper has become much more than just thirty pages to me. It has become a journey that has opened my eyes to a culture I never knew. It has also brought forth some of the most kind giving people I have ever come across. When you take people in a culture that is so often stereotyped and misunderstood, and you let them know you are interested in learning, you meet some of the most amazing people. I have spent time almost every single Monday this semester in my professor's office discussing what I learned the previous week. She has been just as eager to learn with me. I sat for hours sipping coffee at a Cosi down the street with a gal who found my blog and is extremely knowledgeable on my paper topic. In fact she even lent an ear through some recent family stuff. I also contacted a lady who was a former Taliban captive who writes columns on my very paper topic. Not only would she like to read my paper when it is complete, but I hope to meet her while I am in London.

The people I have met along the way continue to become more and more inspiring. While I was on a plane from Atlanta to New Orleans, the gentleman sitting next to me was reading my paper over my shoulder as I was proof-reading. After about five minutes he finally got the nerve to strike up a conversation asking if I was taking an anthropology class. I gave him a quick rundown of what I was writing about thinking he would turn back to his book. Not only did he never turn back to his book, but we spent the entire flight discussing my paper. This guy was Muslim and had a fascinating story (born in Iraq, came to America, wanted to help his people in Iraq so joined the Marines and fought as an American helping to oust Saddam.) We had a very long discussion about Islam and where women fit in. A discussion in which I could easily hold my own. At one point, he said "but you have to understand, so many of the things you hear are misconceptions." I told him that not only did I agree with him, but that I was writing my paper to prove that very sentiment. He told me with the utmost sincerity how much he appreciated what I was doing. It was as if my writing on this topic directly affected him. We walked and talked the entire way off the plane and through the airport. I said my goodbye as I saw my dad sitting there waiting for me. This gentleman from the plane walked right up to my father, shook his hand and said "sir, you have the most amazing daughter I have met in a very long time. She is intelligent and openminded and you should be very proud of her. I am honored to have met her."

Today, as per my professor's request, I will stand in front of my Gender Discrimination class and give a presentation on Women in Islam and misconceptions about "how a man treats a woman." I have done things in my life that have made those around me proud but I have rarely taken the time to stop just be proud of myself. Right now, I am very proud of the amount of research and learning I have done this semester. I am even more proud that I can stand in front of a room of people who probably know little to nothing on this topic and hopefully get them to understand.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Redneck Thanksgiving

I'm down south for Turkey-Day this year:

Where deer heads are boiled on the stove...

...and Live Bait can be puchased from vending machines.


Have a great Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How long is one month?

(you should read this while humming the theme from the Sound of Music)
I woke up this morning with my heart aflutter and a grin on my face that spanned from ear to ear. This Tuesday is not going to be pissy like any other Tuesday. This Tuesday is different because it is November 14th. That means that precisely one month from today I will be arriving in London and right into the arms of the man of my dreams. Thirty one days. That seems like nothing. We have already been apart for ninety seven days. Believe it or not, I think we have actually grown stronger in our time apart. We hit some bumps and rough spots along the way, but it's easy from here on out. After today, it is "less than a month."

(change humming tone to underground West Coast alternative hip hop group The Pharcyde's song "oh shit")
LESS THAN A MONTH. Oh shit! In less than a month, I have to write a thirty page legal analysis...learn the Federal Income Tax Code...learn how to be a responsible professional...finish learning how to Litigate in a "complex" world...grade 11 memos...spend a week with my family...take three exams...and fly to London. Oh shit! I need more time!

Monday, November 13, 2006

My Tree

His friend said to me "Law-Rah, what is wrong? You are not wearing your usual smile. Do you miss your friends and family back home?" I told him that was a sore subject at the moment, that I was having some disagreements with some people in my life. He said "It is because you met Ben and he is Muslim, isn't it." I could not hide it. I could not lie. He could see the hurt in my eyes.

He sat down and we talked. I expressed how hurt and confused I was. He listened. I told him that I am embarrassed that the people in my country are viewed as being so closeminded and even more embarrassed that it seems to be true. He continued to listen. I asked him how can he be so calm and rational? Why isn't he hurt and angry? He told me a story that his grandfather told him:

A man was born blind. He spent his whole life blind until one day when he was given a single moment where he could see. In that single moment when he opened his eyes, a tree stood before him. He took in the vision of green leaves and brown branches. He looked at the way in which the branches arched out over the trunk that stood so thick and strong. He saw a tree. In an instant, his sight was gone. He was blind again. As the days passed, a friend approached him. "Did you see that beautiful woman that just walked by?" He replied, "I am not sure, is she like a tree? If she is like a tree, I can see her." His friend said no and walked away. Another said to him "do you see this gorgeous house we are standing in front of?" He asked if it looks like a tree. The other hastily says no. "It is built out of the materials from a tree, but it looks nothing like a tree." The man frowns "oh, then I do not see this house." His friend became frustrated with him and left.

Ben's friend goes on to say that we must remember the man had only seen one thing in his whole life. We cannot blame him for not knowing other things. We should not be angry or hurt. We should just sit down with the man and explain to him the other things in life, helping him to understand and learn. I love this story, but I am learning that this can be a very hard thing to do.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

I got nothin'

What's on YOUR mind today?

(that does not involve politics)

UPDATE:...crickets chirping...geez, you people sure are boring today!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Blog Magical Powers!

I wrote a post earlier this morning whining about the elections and I wrapped it up with "I'm not so sure I WANT the right to vote in this election. Could I trade it in for something like a new IPod or a plane ticket?"

Today, I found out that we get an entire week off for Thanksgiving (as opposed to the two days I assumed). So, right before my first class, I hopped online and found a roundtrip flight to Louisiana for $199 including taxes. Sweet...a plane ticket.

Later, during my second class, some awards were given out. There was a little contest between the Dean's Fellows in our Legal Research program that may or may not have involved writing haikus. I won the third place prize...an IPod.

I think WonL is magic. And I think I need a dustbuster, a new brown coat and a train ticket for Samer. Just sayin'.

Gearing up to vote

I cannot wait until tomorrow! I get to vote. You know, that 19th amendment back in 1920 gave me, a woman, the right to head to the polls and cast my opinion as to who I think should be my voice in the Senate. This is an honor and a decision to take seriously. I have the freedom to choose between a racist and a sexist. Oh, the qualifications!

To sort through all of this, all I need to do is turn on the television. These fine gentlemen have taken up the commercial space between every single television show. Each of them has graciously told me everything I need to know about his opponent. Why waste precious television time telling me about himself? I understand the problem with a candidate giving me his own qualifications. I mean, he is a bit biased and I am sure he would exaggerate things to impress me and get my vote. Whereas, if he tells me about his opponent, there is no reason to think there would be any exagerration or bias or just plain bullshit going on there, right?

Some people think that I should make my decision ignoring qualifications alltogether. Abilities don't actually matter. According to some, the future of our country lies in two little letters: the little 'R' and the little 'D' in the little parentheses behind the candidates names. That, my friends, is how I am supposed to decide who should be my voice.

If I am still confused as to who to vote for, I can always turn to the vocal supporters of the candidates. For instance, this whackjob whose fallen son is rolling over in his grave at his mother's antics in his name, told me she is supporting Webb. Oh, well then...case closed. Lady, if anything, that would make me vote for Allen.

I'm not so sure I WANT the right to vote in this election. Could I trade it in for something like a new IPod or a plane ticket?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Paper writing woes

Dearest loyal (and bored) readers,

I realize I am slacking here. While some of my favorite bloggers are doing a post a day, I am gearing towards, um, one a week. For this, I am sorry. However, I cannot promise this will change anytime soon. Things are about to get downright crazy. In my quest to fulfill my writing requirement (so I can actually graduate from law school) I am writing a thirty-page legal analysis of women under Islamic Law. Well, that is quite a bit of information to gather, read, comprehend, sort through, narrow, organize and analyze in just a wee bit of time. And as if that stress (in addition to normal law school) was not enough, I felt the need to add some more to my life. After reading a great article on point in the Washington Post a few weeks ago, I decided to email the author and let her know how great I thought she and her article were...and also to thank her for some great material for my paper. She emailed me back thanking me for the kind words and asking to read my "dissertation" when I am done. Um, crap. This lady is pretty well-known considering she was captured by the Taliban and all. I didn't really expect to hear back, much less for her to have any interest in little ole me. Sonofa...now this paper has to actually be good. Ben's reaction: "I know this lady, she is on channel 299. I will watch her and proudly think that she will read my lady's paper." Seriously, he is just too cute. Sigh. Where was I? Oh yeah, I just re-read that paragraph and realized this might be the suckiest post ever. So, to end on an even lower note, I shall list for you some things I learned while writing my paper this weekend:

I have been spelling (and pronouncing) menstruate wrong all these years. I never knew about the "u". It's men-stroo-eyt. There is a "stroo" in there. WOW.

Ctrl + Alt + F saves tons of time and eliminates the "Insert, References, Footnote" process.

The default for word counting does not include footnotes. You must check a box. Then, you get lots more words.

My fingers are getting into the habit of typing so quickly, I am competley missng leters. (Okay, I sorta did that one on purpose.)

Islam is a very difficult religious/legal system to learn in a month.

I must be drawn to a certain writing style, as I looked down at one point this weekend and realized I had three books by John L. Esposito.

I am pretty sure I am mispronouncing half the words in my paper. Except "ijtihad". I found a pronunciation of ij-tee-hod somewhere on the internet.

I will close out my weekend with 10 pages down and 20 to go.

Since I don't actually use blogger to type and publish any of my posts, I just go irate at my stupid program because it wouldn't freaking publish. After well over 15 tries, I decided to go to blogger.com to see that it was down for maintenance. Ugh.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Growing up

I met Tim a few weeks after my fifteenth birthday. It was the summer after my freshman year of high school. One of my best friends had moved to Lakeland, Florida and a couple of us high school best buds planned a trip to spend a few weeks with her that summer. Tim was a friend of hers from school who dressed like a skater and wore Polo Crest cologne. I met him when a large group of us went to the movies to see Universal Soldier. I was a little firecracker back then and I was able to catch his attention pretty quickly. We flirted all night long and I might have even let him steal a kiss or two. Tim and I were pretty inseparable for the rest of my time in Florida. My friend's aunt passed away in Louisiana and our trip was cut short. I was absolutely devastated. I knew I would have to leave, but now it would be a lot sooner than anticipated. I cried and cried over having to leave this guy who had quickly made his way into my heart. We decided to stay in touch.

Since this was a time before the prevalence of internet and cell phones, we wrote letters to each other. Yep, letters. Snail mail. Hand addressed envelopes containing hand written love letters on looseleaf paper. Every day after school, I would run to the mailbox to see if there was anything from Tim. If there was, I would hide in my walk-in closet, reading his letter over and over again. That was only half the fun. The other half came when I wrote him back. I would sit with a pen and paper and allow the emotions inside of me flow onto the paper. Life with Tim and me was simple. We were young enough to refrain from playing the relationship games that would overwhelm me in my later dating years. We were in loooove enough to be open and honest and put all feelings on the line. I didn't realize in my youth just how hard that would be to do in later relationships.

When our parents would go to sleep at night, we would call each other and talk for hours. This ceased upon my parent's receipt of a $200+ long distance bill. Minimal phone conversations didn't stop us. We simply wrote more often. In fact, the more time that went by, the stronger we became. One day, I got a phone call from him asking what I was doing that weekend because he was going to come visit. I think my heart skipped a beat. I'll be damned if he and two of his friends didn't hop in someone's old car and drive thirteen hours so he could see me. During our weekend together, one of his friends slipped up about a conversation they had in the car. The guys told Tim "if she says she loves you and you say it back, you are walking home." Hmph. After that, I was surely not saying it. As I stood there teary eyed with him about to get back into the car to drive off for Florida, he turned to me and said "I'm walking home." That was the first time a guy ever told me he loved me, albeit in a roundabout way.

From that point on, Tim and I decided we were destined to be together. We were going to get married and we wrote about that often in our letters. I recall the plan was to have our wedding reception at Pat O'Briens in New Orleans. We kept in touch for years. Even when we dated other people, we swore we would one day be together. It was always a strange relationship because we never talked about people we dated. However, every boyfriend I ever had knew about Tim. They had to be okay with this "pen pal" of mine in Florida. I was not willing to let him go. I saw Tim again when my family took a vacation to Disney World my senior year in high school. We picked up where we left off. We always did.

The last time I saw Tim was the summer before my senior year in college. I was president of my sorority and our convention was being held at Disney World. This time, though...this time I was in a relationship. A relationship I did not want to put in jeopardy. For the first time since I met Tim, I was not willing to pick up where we left off. We went to dinner. I recall things being awkward. I know it was hard. We got in a "fight" towards the end and that was it. The letters went in a box in my closet, the phone number got lost somewhere and we just lost touch.

I have thought about Tim often over the years. He was a huge part of my life in my formative years. We always had an uncanny way of being able to be open and honest about everything. I would attribute a lot of that to "growing up" together even if it was miles apart. I truly believe the lack of technology played a large part of our communicative abilities as well. There was something just so meaningful and special about all his handwritten letters...letters I have kept to this day. I missed having him as a part of my life. I tried for years to get in touch with him. I used "the google" multiple times to try to located him to no avail. I called information. I took out all of his old letters and tried whitepages.com with the various addresses. If I could just find his dad, I could find him. Nothing. For over six years now, I wondered how he was and where his life has led him.

...until last week...

The technology that was absent from our relationship all those years allowed me to reconnect. In a fit of boredom and procrastination, while playing on myspace, (yeah, I know)...I found Tim! When I saw his picture, my heart skipped a beat. I found Tim! I sent him a message to see if he remembered me. When he replied, he called me Laura Boo. No one has called me that in YEARS. We switched over to regular email and then swapped phone numbers. I called him last Monday and I guess my timing is pretty impeccable because Tuesday was his birthday. We relived our childhoods while I drank red wine in Washington DC and he drank beers in Florida. We caught up on life since the last time we talked over six years ago. I brought out old letters and we laughed at our childhood selves. At one point, I described to him the Valentine's card he MADE me one year. It was pink and red with glitter and cut out hearts and feathers. Of course, he doubted the existence of such a card. So I did what any tech-savy person of today would do: as I held my cell phone with free night minutes in one hand, I used my digital camera to take pictures of the card with the other, then, I emailed it to him so we could both look and laugh together. As we discussed our old handwritten ways, I reflected on the stark contrast of today. The most amazing part of all of this is that even after all these years, some things never change. Our communicative abilities are still pretty uncanny, as we stayed on the phone until 3am. I'm pretty sure there is not another person in the world I could spend five hours on the phone with. I have missed my friend and am so glad to have him back in my life.