Sunday, December 21, 2008


During law school, people started making fun of me for joining so many groups. The child advocacy group, the animal law group, the domestic violence group, Street Law, Legal Education Project, even the summer UVA social committee for Philadelphia -- I think it was really that last one that people made the most fun of because of all the people least likely to actually attend UVA social events in Philadelphia I would be at the top of the list (and, in fact, I did not attend the one event that the committee managed to plan that summer).

Since coming to Philadelphia, I may have joined a group or two as well, although most of them have been one-time things. I went to the Returned Peace Corps Association monthly dinner one time this summer. I joined a movie group and so far have only gone once. I became a member of the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society but have only volunteered one time. I've been going to church but have only attended two events sponsored by the church's young adult group. I joined one book club's email list, even read the book, but then didn't go to the meeting (although I have joined another book club that I do attend and intend to continue with). I recently went on one run with the local running club but probably won't run with them again; there's another running group that meets a little further away that I spent all summer thinking about joining but never did. I've recently joined a bike club, although none of their events take place until spring, and I also plan to join the Philly triathlon club. I joined a writing group for people who want to write young adults novels. I tried to join another writing group but the person in charge was too unorganized and I got sick of reminding her to put me on the email list.

Haha, I didn't even realize how many things there have been! I guess I've been a little desperate to meet people in town. Without being in school it's a lot harder to make friends in a new city, so I thought groups might be a way to do it. Of course, that's not true if all I do is go one time and then never go back. Maybe in the new year I should narrow down my list of groups and commit to attending more regularly. Or maybe there's a group joiner anonymous group? Or maybe I should join group therapy????

I hope everyone is getting ready to enjoy the holidays with their friends and family -- my mom is coming to visit which means I get friends and family rolled into one! We're planning to see movies pretty much every day so I'll give y'all the scoop on what to see and what to miss. I just saw Slumdog Millionaire and I can definitely recommend that -- especially if you need a little help believing in happy endings.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Holiday Spirit

I've been trying to get into the holiday spirit lately. I rented Fred Claus, which I enjoyed far more than I should have. I just finished baking about six dozen cookies. I'm working on the tree part but have been hindered by the small apartment and the thought that it will be just a matter of time (i.e. probably seconds) before the cats manage to knock the tree over at which point I can imagine LuLu chomping down on the top and dragging it down the hallway.

And today I went to church. I've been going to the Universalist Unitarian church on and off since I moved to Philadelphia. My favorite thing about it is that every single Sunday is started off with the simple phrase "welcome home." For someone who felt a little lost during the summer, it was extremely comforting to hear every Sunday, especially when it was said without condition. In the fall I took a class there called "Writing as a Spiritual Discipline" in which we started each class with a breathing exercise to prepare our minds and bodies to be creative. It was hoaky and I loved it.

Today's sermon was especially nice and also helpful since UU is a somewhat confusing religion. I've been asked what it means to belong to the UU church and the best I could answer was that it was a religion where people could believe what they wanted and where they could come together to ask questions even if the answers to which they came were different. The sermon today was at least in part about coming up with a bumper sticker answer of what being a UU means. This is what the reverend came up with:

1. We believe that it is a blessing that each one of us was born
2. We believe it matters what each and every one of us does with our lives
3. What each of us knows about God is a bit of the truth
4. We don't have to do it alone

I haven't had enough time to really think it through, but I immediately liked the sentiment and thought I would share it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Catching Up

So, I know I haven't posted in a long time. A really long time. And it hasn't been that I've been too busy but that despite going through a lot of transitions, things have felt pretty stable. Work has been good, not too crazy or stressful. The cats are good and healthy. I was running until my IT band decided to hate me; i'm now training for a half-ironman triathlon in May, by which time hopefully said IT band will have forgiven me the sin of trying to make the running shoe last through just one last race (FYI, I've started a triathlon blog at Apparently there are a million triathlon blogs out there and you know how I'm a joiner). I'm making friends in the new city; it hasn't been easy but it has been happening. In the meantime I've been reading at a pace that matches my undergrad days.

I knew this would be a problem for me once I contemplated "settling down" -- I've lost all sense of an arc to my days and weeks and so it seems like one week could somehow stretch into 20 years and I might not really notice. I'm not specifically working toward any one goal anymore, like when I was in school, I'm just living. But while it was easy to know if I was doing all the right things when it came to getting into and finishing law school (as in, I knew that I should not watch two hours of Charmed reruns a night because I should be studying, even though I sometimes did) now I'm less sure.

And also I'm having an identity crisis. Nothing so extreme as a gender bender crisis, it's more subtle, but it's still there. One of the first things we learned to say in Romanian was "I'm a Peace Corps volunteer." I suppose they worried we might get into some sort of trouble where those words would be helpful (of course the translation was quite literal and unless the person was familiar with the Peace Corps we would just be saying we were a body of peace, which made us sound more like cult members than anything else.) But it was something I could be proud of saying; it made me sound interesting and adventurous. And now I tell people that I'm a lawyer, which does neither of those things. Not that I can't be an interesting, adventurous lawyer, just that it requires other people to want to get to know that part of me.

I just read a book called Choke -- which I loved but cannot actually recommend because it appeals to probably a very small audience -- but there's a character in it who starts collecting rocks, one rock for every day, because he wants something tangible he can say about what he accomplished that day and he wants a record of what his life has added up to, even if it adds up to a pile of rocks. I guess I'm looking for some way to spend my days so that I also have something to show for them (but rocks are heavy and my apartment is small, so I'm going to need metaphorical proof of my days).

That's it for now but I will seriously try and update this more often -- perhaps with something more mundane and less heavy, like how awesome the chili is that I'm making tomorrow (it calls for beer but I don't like beer so I never buy it just for the chili, but this time I bought it for someone else and it's still in my fridge --this excites me more than it should, but good chili really can make or break an entire day).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 -- Seven years later

Seven years ago today I made what I consider to be my first adult decision. I was twenty years old and working as an unpaid intern in New York City. The decision I had to make was what to do after the towers came down -- stay in the office where I was working, which was close enough to the empire state building that if that turned out to be the next target I feared it would crumble right on top of us? Try to go uptown, maybe cross one of the bridges, and find a place to stay? Or go back to my apartment, which meant walking towards the smoke and the chaos, towards the gaping, fiery hole?

Of course I had made decisions before this one, and they had seemed big at the time. Which college should I go to? What major should I choose? Was it really a good idea to take my English degree and move all the way across the country for a part-time, unpaid internship with Soap Opera Digest while subletting an apartment I found online and accepted without seeing? The truth about those decisions and all the ones that came before was that they were reversible. I could make them and know that rescue would not be far behind should it be required. But no one could get me out of NY that day. And no one could go out on the streets and smell the smoke and see the tanks and the face masks and tell me what the right decision was.

Of course that was the other part that made it feel like an adult decision -- there was no correct decision. There wasn't a moral to the story that would reveal itself if I chose the option behind door number three; there was no moral highground to be gained from making an accurate decision based on the information available or for evaluating two roads and choosing the one less traveled. There wasn't a reward that came at the end like there often had been before -- not the relief of having chosen a college or the adventure that came with the move to NY. It was just a decision that had to be made and it had to be made by me alone.

I didn't lose anyone in the towers seven years ago. And whatever effect that day had on me was nothing compared to the people who had to make the worst decisions, the unimaginable ones, the ones I can't bring myself to think about even today -- whether to rush into the burning building, whether to burn, whether to jump -- decisions I will likely go my entire life without ever having to make.

And so today I am grateful for each and every decision I've had the privilege of making in the last seven years -- the good ones, the ones I can only hope to learn from, the ones I pretended to leave up to the universe, the ones that made me smile, the ones that now make me cringe, the ones that took me far away, the ones that brought me back, and the ones that brought me to where I am today.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Superhero Manifesto ... with a small aside about pants

I did make time during bar prep to go see Dark Knight. Predictably, it made me ponder my own obsession with Batman and why I still think he is the best superhero around. But I also thought about other superheroes and some of their powers and also some of their clear drawbacks – mostly a matter of pants.


I’ll admit to never being a huge fan of Superman as a superhero. I mean, he has superpowers and is nearly invincible. If I had superpowers and could act without consequence, I’d like to think I would save people too. But unlike most superheroes, I think the more interesting side of Superman is his alter ego, Clark Kent. The Clark Kent side isn’t usually very well explored in the movies – he just bumbles around wearing those magic glasses that somehow completely distort his face. But the early years – when Clark Kent wasn’t even an alter ego yet but was really all that existed – were explored in Smallville. He was more sympathetic after that because it turned out Clark Kent wanted want everyone wants when they’re fifteen – he just wanted to be normal and to do normal things. His special skills weren’t seen as a plus, but as the thing that kept him from being able to play on the football team. I think that’s something most people can relate to. We may not have woken up one morning with the ability to see through walls or start fires with our eyes or fly, but at some point most of us will discover hidden talents of some kind. And just like Clark Kent, many of us will hide or try to minimize those talents so that we, too, can be like everyone else.

Learning more about Superman’s early years also made me more appreciative of his true powers. In one of the first season Smallville episodes, Clark’s powers are transferred to another student during an electrical storm. The other student didn’t have the self control that Clark had been raised with and quickly used the powers in negative ways. When Clark transferred them back, he commented that the other student had not been given his two most important powers – his parents. Maybe what is impressive about Superman isn’t that he uses his superpowers for good, but that he doesn’t use them for evil.

Superman obviously hid his powers in the long run not just so that he could fit in but because he feared the world would try to exploit him for his skills. But why do the rest of us continue to hide? What do we think the consequences would be of showing our unique side?

The Hulk

The critical flaw in the character of the hulk isn’t his anger or his green skin or the fact that each movie based on his character is worse than the last. No, the critical flaw is that he has to wear pants. He has to wear pants when he’s Bruce Banner and human and those same pants need to somehow expand when he loses control and turns into the Hulk. I suspend disbelief as easily as the next person; I’m willing to believe that the army’s experiments turned Bruce into this monster; I’m willing to believe that anger somehow also turns him green. But I am not willing to believe that the pants stretch enough to stay on during one of his episodes. I’m a woman, I yo-yo diet just like most women, and I know the value of stretchy pants. But pants that can stretch when you grow from six to ten feet tall and your arms and legs bulge out and turn green? If there was a pair of pants that could do that, women would know about them.

I also don’t like it when the only thing a superhero has to fight is another person with the same superpowers, which was how this summer’s movie was structured. Superheroes need to represent a fight against something more profound than simply themselves. I understand the metaphors – that science is dangerous, that both are just sides to the same coin. But I couldn’t care less about one big green guy fighting another. Superheroes need to be symbols to be relevant and there’s nothing symbolic about green monsters.


I didn’t know this character at all before seeing the movie this summer, so I don’t have as much to say. I did have some problems with a superhero who was basically just one really big weapon, and I thought the depictions of the Afghani people were downright insulting (although apparently he originally went up against the Vietnamese who were no doubt represented just as stereotypically). I like that Ironman doesn’t have innate super powers, but the power that comes from turning yourself into one giant, nearly impenetrable weapon, is a power I just can’t cheer for.


I have mixed feelings about Spiderman. I think Peter Parker is the lamest of all the alter egos – he’s whiny and never really seems to come to terms with the sacrifices that come with the powers. He says he does, but then he continues to whine.

But I also believe the first of the Tobey Maguire Spiderman movies, coming out about nine months after 9/11, was a powerful movie, even if by accident. It was finished filming before the towers came down, but its images were no less powerful when it was released – Spiderman swinging from one tall building to the next was a reclaiming of the NY skies. In fact, there was a Spiderman trailer that was later pulled because it showed Spiderman weaving a huge web between the twin towers. I always thought they should have left the trailer in tact. What would have been better that day than having the planes caught up in a web, leaving everyone and everything intact? It would have been painful to see, but dreams often are.

I think one of the downsides of superheroes is that they always seem to be cleaning up the messes left behind by ordinary heroes. The police never seem able to fight crime on their own; the implication is that we need a superhero because ordinary heroes aren’t effective. But I think it’s more complicated than that. Superheroes are safe; they have powers and they catch planes in their webs without putting themselves at risk. The problem with ordinary heroes isn’t that their feats aren’t just as daring, but that as heroes they are more vulnerable; they rush into buildings and can’t swing themselves out when the center falls away.


Batman is, of course, my first love when it comes to superheroes. He offers the best of all worlds because he doesn’t actually have any super powers so his risks seem more daring and yet his batsuit offers such great protection that he never really gets hurt. The lack of super powers also makes Bruce Wayne the most interesting alter ego because he doesn’t just adapt to having powers beyond his control – he chooses the superhero life. He chooses to put on a batsuit and go out into the night to fight crime.

I believe that the best superhero is one that fills a need in society. That’s what was so brilliant about Michael Chabon’s Kavalier and Clay and the creation of The Escapist who killed Hitler. Society didn’t need an ordinary crime fighter because it was not an age of ordinary crime. But we do generally live in an age of ordinary, yet seemingly constant, crime. Batman fights crime and corruption. But Batman doesn’t just fill the image of a crime fighter. He is a crime survivor and he serves as an image of hope that good can come from the worst event possible; hope that man can lose his mind just a little and still make an important impact in the world; hope that we can overcome darkness – both outside and inside ourselves – and come out the other side, that we don’t have to lose ourselves completely as long as we are honest about needing to lose ourselves a little. There is no real Batman to save us from dark alley ways, but Batman is proof that even when the crime cannot be stopped it also does not have to be the end of us.

Bruce Wayne may seem like an odd person to look up to. After all, for the most part he’s emotionally unavailable, and he doesn’t just wear disguises half the time but all of the time because his playboy antics are just as calculated to hide him away as is the batsuit. But I don’t think superheroes need to be perfect to be admirable. That’s why I disagreed with the ending of Dark Knight and all the discussion about what kind of hero the city needed. First of all, Gotham didn’t need a hero that night, it had a hundred of them on each of the two boats. Ordinary, everyday heroes are the best kind. One perfect hero might be good for a little while but a hero that can inspire others to also do what they can might just change the world. But second of all, what the city “needed” and what the city “deserved” in terms of superheroes was really the same thing – not perfection, not the image of someone who they think could never fall, but someone perfectly capable of falling and picking themselves back up again. Not falling isn’t heroic because it just means you’re not jumping. We will all fall. We need heroes who can show us what to do in the aftermath.

Of course, the joker represents another side of what acts of violence can lead to. Whatever violence scarred his face, it was too much for him to overcome, and as often happens, violence begets violence. To have a really good superhero and a really good villain is to show two sides of the same coin, leaving the audience to wonder which side they would choose. The lesson from them all is that the line between hero and villain is not a matter of inherent skills or special powers; it’s a matter of choice. Whether the powers are biological, science gone awry, or simply the product of good training, powers can be used to help or to hurt. We all can be forces of good or evil. And heroism is really the act of making that choice.

Studying for the Bar by watching soap operas -- take that Bar Bri lecturers!

I don’t actually recommend this method of preparation, especially not early on when it will just raise more questions than you can possibly answer, but in the later weeks of bar prep, I spent a lot of time on the treadmill in the afternoons, when the only thing on TV was soaps. So I used them to my advantage and multitasked by reviewing at the same time. Of course, watching soaps during bar prep also made me mad about how much of my memory was taken up by soap-related information, even though I haven’t watched them in a good five years. I can pretty much trace every family tree on GH – a useful skill while interning at soap opera digest, but that brain space could probably have been put to better use in the past few months.

Here are some of the best soaps to watch for various legal topics:

Lawyer-client confidentiality: Definitely General Hospital. Sonny Corinthos has gone through his share of lawyers – mostly because they keep getting shot at – and every one of them has breached the rules of professional conduct by not revealing information they knew about Sonny’s actions that would, without a doubt, result in the deaths of other people.

Family Law: Lately, I would say Young and the Restless because Victor Newman has decided to disinherit two of his children, which creates a lot of questions about who will take under his will and who would take if he happened to die intestate. Will it be Adam, the son Victor had with the blind woman Hope after his plane crashed down in the middle of farmland?

Corporations: Someone is always trying to takeover Forrester Creations on Bold and the Beautiful. Not only is it a close corporation, mostly family run, but Brooke, its sometime-president, has been in relationships with three of the Forrester men – Eric and two of his sons. Now, if that doesn’t spell breach of fiduciary duty, I don’t know what would.

Criminal law: If Todd Manning is replaced by a whiny, wimpy actor fifteen years younger who doesn’t even have the same tough scar on his face, does the statute of limitations start to run all over again on his former crimes?

Legal rights for same sex couples: Since there are only really about four gay characters in all of daytime, this one was easy. If CBS is lame and only lets Luke and Noah kiss once every year or so, could they ever qualify for same-sex benefits?

The Flashcards -- in my mind these actually piled up to the sky, but post-bar, it doesn't actually look that bad.
You have to look closely, but Lucky is actually sticking her tongue out at the PA Bar Examiners.

The action figure hall of fame -- if they come out with Dr. Horrible dolls, I'm gonna need another set of display cases.