Thursday, January 10, 2013

midnight thirty

It's 12:30 in the a.m. and I should be sleeping. Class comes early and it's Con(stitutional) Law. But sometimes I ache for writing. As interesting as law can be, I still don't think of it as "real" writing. This, on the other hand. . . and so a few thoughts. (Very few. There is still Con Law to think on.)

I was heartbroken after Thanksgiving, and I have this blog to prove it. I was bracing myself for the same feelings after Christmas and New Years and instead. . . I'm fine. Not fine fine, but fine. And happy. I spent a lot of time with my youngest sister. M is 12 years younger than me, which means she was 6 when I went to college. I missed out on a lot of her growing up, but in recent years we've been thrown together due to our mutual singleness. That was especially true this Christmas, when it was just the two of us and the parents on Christmas morning. M is 18 and beautiful and brilliant and talented and good. So good. It's kind of ridiculous. And I realized that if I weren't single, I wouldn't have this time with her, to get to know her as an adult (or almost adult). If she comes to BYU next year, I will have been at this university with all four of my siblings. It almost makes the 10 years of graduate degrees worth it.


I have been thinking poetry lately. At the end of last semester, the very end, after the last final, I went to lunch with some guys in my class who I call the Boys Club and others call the Careers (after the Hunger Games). A few of them are my favorite people in my class, and one of these favorite people asked me, as we were eating, if I was going to write over the break. I said I hoped I would. He asked what I would write, and I said poetry without thinking about it. Because that's what I write when I write. And he asked why, with a tone that suggested that I should have abandoned such practices now that I'm in law school writing serious things.

There is nothing more serious than poetry. Or I should say, poetry when it wants to be serious. I'm not sure what to write about right now, but I hold on to an answer that Kim Johnson gave one of my creative writing students (I had students, I was a teacher, I hope that isn't all past tense) when they asked about writer's block. She said that thinking and collecting is part of the writing process. I know at some point, I'll have to push myself back to the writing and the argument, but part of me knows that right now, I'm collecting. 30 poems before 30 is still my goal. I hope it happens.


Here is what I keep thinking: I am in awe of the generosity of poets [and writers]. I am so grateful for every book I own, every poem I read, every word I get to experience in a new way. I think of workshops and late nights discussing everything and I think about how much we give each other in those moments. Readings where it could have just been the poet and me, even though I had tucked myself back into a dark corner to avoid the drinks precariously set on the dark table. I could just breathe in and the world would fill with words. I miss those days. Even when I read, I miss those days. I want a world where everyone is that generous--I act in that spirit sometimes at the law school and I get looks that telling me I am forgetting myself. I want to tell them that I am finding myself, remembering who I was not very long ago. That I was a writer and maybe I still am.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


I've spent the past few days thinking about family. As in: I love my family. And: I want a family of my own. As much fun as it can be being with my siblings and their little families, it can also start to hurt. I was supposed to do this first, or at least with them. I love my nieces and nephews. I love to play with them and hold them and spoil them. I don't even mind being tied up by them (Sam has decided that he's a pirate and someone taught him the word "dungeon"). But at the end of the holiday, they go home with their parents and my siblings go home with their spouses and I go home to a basement bedroom that's filled with everything but people.

I have stacks of wedding magazines quietly sitting on the bottom shelf of my bookcase. I have pinned an embarrassing number of wedding-related items on two Pinterest boards. I have a (small) trunk full of baby clothes and board books and a few art prints perfect for a child's bedroom.

I keep these things, the magazines and the baby clothes and the hope that someday I'll get to use them, but I have also been pursuing graduate degrees and full-time jobs. I revel in my me-time and the independence of my schedule and the few hours I take each day to people-detox.

There is a sense out there (and I point randomly to the world outside my front door) that these worlds are mutually exclusive. That I have to be a wife and a mother or that I have to have an education and a job. And maybe they're right--I have no way of knowing, of measuring what these things require--but the desires certainly are not mutually exclusive. I love learning and I want to do the best I can and I admit that I'm getting excited to have a career, and a successful one at that. At the same time, I want to meet someone and have a home and a family. I know that sacrifices will be required, that you can't have it all at once. But you can, in your lifetime, have it all. I've seen brilliant women balance family and career. I've also seen brilliant men and women sacrifice the "best" career as measured by the world for the "best" career for their family. It's a sacrifice that I've thought a lot about, one that I hope I get to make someday.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

30 by 30

Today I am six months away from turning 30. Or I was yesterday.

I've been considering 30 for a few months now. Someone told me recently that you're not old until you're, like, 27. So there's that to think about. And then this whole new number, this new decade, that doesn't seem as accessible as 20.

But, like I said, I have six months to prepare, adjust, admit that I am going to be 30.

I've seen a few friends tackle a "30 by 30" project. Miss K had the best one, of course. But, like so much of my life of late, I didn't consider this until recently. It's too late to take on 30 new experiences, especially when law school finals are looming. 

So I'm giving myself a different "30 by 30" challenge. 30 new poems by my 30th birthday. I know how to write a poem--I've spent this past decade learning how--but I haven't been writing much lately. I'm hoping this will light a fire under my 29-year-old self. 30 poems in six months. That's the plan. And just to keep me on the straight and narrow, I'll report back here. It's time this blog saw some action again.

I wrote the first draft of my first poem tonight. 1 down, 29 to go.

Happy birthday to me.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

res ipsa loquitur

I am treating my (second) legal writing assignment like it's an English paper, which is to say I can't seem to work on it when I know that it's still light outside. Sometime tonight, around 9:00 or maybe 9:45, I will kick myself into high, panicked gear and (hopefully) knock out the (maximum) eight-page memo that is only a first draft, and so less terrifying than it could be. The problem with me and first drafts is that (if it's not a poem, and it's not) I have a difficult time accepting subsequent drafts and I know that my writing professor wants a Final Draft.


I thought I was making the change from English student to law student nicely. I read my casebooks, I wrote my notes, I answered questions in class. But it's been a month (it's been five weeks) and I cannot shake that feeling that I'm an English major who has wandered into a law class and someone is going to call foul on me.


The law creates interesting ideas. In Torts, I recited the facts of a case that helped us define not what consent is, but how consent is shown--because you can't confirm the mind, you have to take the objective manifestations of consent. (If I give you a hug, does this mean that I've given you consent for all future hugs?) In Property, we spent (too much?) time parsing adverse possession, and before that the doctrine of ad coelum, which is Latin, which makes us nervous, but which is oddly beautiful: "for whoever owns the soil, it is theirs up to Heaven (and down to Hell)." This, of course, was before airplanes.

There is nothing remarkable to say about Contracts, except that I understand Contracts, which is remarkable in and of itself.


I picked up Maureen McLane's My Poets today. I didn't realize it when I bought the book, but I heard her deliver the first chapter as part of a lecture at Northwestern. I found out that I could still read like an English major, and maybe even like a poet. I keep wishing that I'll find myself again writing poetry. I carry words around with me, but I'm not sure what to do with them yet. Maybe read My Poets a little more, and then the parts from Possession and then (in between all my case law) the thin collections that are gathering dust (I have to be careful with Jay Hopler's Green Squall now--the front page is threatening to separate and I won't give it up). But I think this (talking to you again) might be the first short step to reclaiming myself, or refashioning myself, or . . . will someone please tell me what I am trying to do.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Hey Dad, it's Father's Day.

Dear Dad, We love you.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


If you hang out on Facebook with me, you already know this. I found out on Tuesday that I got into law school at BYU.
I had an interview Tuesday with the dean of admissions for BYU's law school. I bought a new navy blue pinstripe pencil skirt in an attempt to look lawerly. I sat on the bench outside his office, braiding and unbraiding my fingers, pulling on the joints to release the tension. A girl walked past and told me that I looked nice. She said it like she knew what was about to happen.

After a few minutes of waiting, the dean opened his door and ushered me in. He directed me to a couch, where I obediently sat, but on the edge. Throughout the interview I kept sliding back inch by inch, settling in a little more. He asked me about Northwestern, about MHM, about my dad's practice. He asked where I was from and we had that awkward conversation where he knows one person who used to be from Bountiful before I was from Bountiful. And then he asked me where else I had applied to law school.

I had promised myself that if and when he asked this question, I would be upfront. I only applied to BYU this time around, because I decided to take the LSAT late, and then found out I could apply with less than a month to pull everything together. I told him if I didn't get into BYU this year, I would apply again next year, along with other schools.

And then he told me I got in.

I've had exactly one conversation like that before in my life. It was the morning Reg Gibbons called from NU to tell me I had gotten into the MFA program. I had applied last minute in July, was accepted in August, and moved to Chicago in September.

I didn't tell the dean of admissions that. I thanked him. I may have said "Wow," but I know I thanked him.
I spent years preparing for a PhD program and months preparing applications. I keep muttering to myself that if I had known law school would be this easy, I would have applied years ago.

But that's a lie. I can look at my life and honestly say that there wasn't a time before now when I would have considered or been prepared for law school, or for the life that comes after law school. An MA in English lit was a challenge I could tackle without fear of failing, although I came pretty close. An MFA was difficult, but I did it and I'm more proud of that thesis and a few research papers there than anything I've done in my life to date. If I had chosen law school six or seven years ago, it would have been the past of least resistance. Now I can't think of anything more terrifying or difficult or satisfying to do with my future.

There is the sting and the sadness right now that all of my best laid plans have been abandoned, that getting into law school was so simple when getting into PhD programs were a lesson in working hard for a one-page rejection letter (or worse--the rejection email). But I also know that law school is a blessing, that it will be a new way to think and to write and that I'll come away from it ready to do what I'm supposed to do. When I said I would follow whatever path the Lord had in store for me, I never even thought it would be this one, but I'm ready to walk it.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


I know that thinking about blogging doesn't count, but sometimes I wish it did. Sometimes I wish I could just think through these things and skip the process of having to write them out before someone else can comment on them. Does anyone else feel this way?
I've made some interesting decisions. And by "interesting," I mean unexpected. And by "unexpected," I mean what everyone else thought I was going to do 10 years ago is happening now. Could I be more vague? I took the LSAT. I've been working at a law firm in Provo, doing mostly document prep, and realized that I could be a lawyer. So I took the LSAT, but without really intending to apply for law school. The day before the LSAT I decided to check what range of scores BYU is looking for in an applicant, and discovered that I could still apply for law school for the upcoming school year. I fought that a little, but in the end, I applied.

I'll find out in the next month or so if I'm in, but I'm not terribly concerned, because for the first time I have a back-up plan to grad school (or maybe in this case grad school is the back up). If I don't get in, I'll be annoyed with the amount of time, energy, and money spent testing and applying, then go back to teaching and working for a year, and then try again next year, along with a round of PhD applications.

I've received a few responses to this new development. The first is "How many degrees do you have again?" The second is "Are you still going to write?" The third is unwavering support. And the fourth is the response I expected, the response I would have given another writer: "Sell out."

I'm grateful for the unwavering support, although I'm concerned that this is not yet earned. I can prep a petition, but could I really argue in a court? Or work with clients? I'm also a little concerned that some of this support comes from the aforementioned law firm, where they are convinced I want to practice divorce law. I'm not sure I could handle a lifetime of other people's marital problems. I would like my own marital problems (not problems that lead to divorce, but when a client is my age and on her second divorce, I'd like to ask her to slow down and give the rest of us a chance). I do want to practice family law, and I will practice divorce law, but hopefully I'll be able to follow in my father's footsteps for at least a little while and learn how to put families together through adoption law.

As for the first and second responses, this would be my third graduate degree ("I'm going for a full set") and I'm definitely still going to write, although it won't always be poetry. The secret about lawyers that they don't show you on whatever legal drama your grandma watches is that lawyers spend most of their time writing and researching, which are two things I happen to be very, very (very) good at. But I suspect that my mind is trained to write poetry and I will write poetry. Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams and a host of other people wrote poetry while in a job that didn't pronounce them poets. I hope I can follow them.

And finally, the sell out. I suppose I just answered that to a certain extent, but I realized that I have always accepted the position of the poet in academia--but who says that poetry is the right of the academic? A VIP (very important poet)--at least, one of my VIPs--taught me that art is as evident in the everyday as it is in the academic world, and I think poetry lives in both places. There is a language in the law that I'm fascinated, that I could learn to love, just as I love the language of literature and criticism and everything I've devoted my mind to for the past 10 years. Another VIP taught me that a poem is an argument, and the law is argument. They're not as far apart as we'd like to think. And if I can bring them closer together, at least in my own career, I think I can be happy and make some difference to someone.
I keep thinking about that Jay Hopler quote I keep on my blog. I heard him say it right before I moved to Chicago, and I've held on to it. "Language has to be beautiful in a way the world cannot be." I still think that's true, but I also wonder if that limits the work language can do. I am honestly approaching this new endeavor as a writer--you can read my essay if you don't believe me. The law requires specific language--we're always discussing what language needs to be incorporated into a document at the office--which makes it all the more intriguing. What if you had to write a poem with a specific word or phrase for it to function as a poem? How would you approach that? How would it change the very definition/essence of what a poem is? Is that why we think the law is a place for the sell outs, the failed poets? What if it's a new challenge, a way to make arguments that confronts the very truths we embrace in poetry?

Maryn is home from her dance, so my late night rambling is at an end. She had fun and she looks beautiful in her painted t-shirt and red skinny jeans. And I blogged, so tonight must be a success.

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