29 July 2012

T Minus 3 Days.

As I stayed up a little freaking ton past bedtime losing six games of euchre in a row (well, we did win one in there somewhere) and trying to figure out the best order in which to compile my ice + rum + diet coke (yes, I did reinvent the wheel just then) and having a marvelous evening, I ran over the list of things I needed to do before we packed in my head. Sell the desk, use the money to buy bookshelves, schedule a time to pick up the uhaul. I wrote a few things down in my planner, talked it over with Matt, and decided we had accounted for everything. When Abigail sounded the wake-up call at 6:30 this morning, I thought of a hundred things I needed to do and all of them had to be done today. Dig through the 32 boxes of books and decide which ones we can leave in my parents' basement, make baby food, swing by my sister-in-law's to pick up some boxes. The list went on and on. I jotted the items down on a sticky note, the list growing so long I was sure I couldn't finish it in one day. I was feeling quite overwhelmed when Matt ran out to grab a few Sunday morning muffins and returned with a mocha frappe and a newspaper. That mocha frappe may not sound like much, especially since I don't like coffee or even hot mochas, but iced mochas and mocha frappe/frappucinos (which are pretty much mocha milkshakes), are easily in my top five all time greatest foods. That delicious surprise took: 1. forethought and 2. a separate trip. Not only did Matt get it's-the-thought-that-counts points, he also got you-picked-the-perfect-item points. We took a breather, mellowed out, sipped some caffeine, and regrouped. And then we divided up the chores and conquered. Let me put that in layman's terms: no more school = Matt can help move! Yes, that's right, folks! For the first time since we moved to Florida in July 2009, Matt can help me pack boxes and run errands and reserve uhauls. No final exams crowding out our final weeks, no flying to Florida early while I stay and pack. We sorted books together, finishing in under an hour, Matt is running errands, I'm making baby food. We figured out a game plan for Tuesday and Wednesday. Everything on that to-do list will get done today.

Matt is loving the tasks, even appreciating my "honey-do" list, which he knocked in 1.5 days, making him feel really productive. The first few days after the exam, he was in a really weird mood, listless and combative. When I delegated a few things to him off my to-do list, he went straight to work, doing a fair bit to relieve my stress. I'm still adjusting too, trying to remind myself that Matt does not have to study. Whenever I run an errand and leave Abigail at home or ask him to feed her, I feel a stab of guilt that I'm preventing him from getting studying done. I find myself speed-walking through Target trying to get home as fast as I can and putting off certain chores until she goes to bed because if I'm the only one watching her, I can't do the finances or make bread. I have to remind myself throughout the day that we can finally be normal again.

Speaking of Abigail, now that she is able to pull herself up to a stand, she has been practicing pulling up on items of different heights and with different make-shift hand-holds. Boxes, baby gates, coffee tables, couches. One of the many wonderful things about reaching a new physical milestone is that we can lay off the physical therapy a bit. Now that Abigail can stand, she will do so at almost every opportunity throughout the day, which essentially means she's working herself. Each and every time she pulls up, she is building leg and butt muscles and re-enforcing the feeling of weight on her knees and feet. As she stands, she is gaining core strength and confidence. Combine everything together and soon we have a baby willing to take a few steps to the side to reach something on a shelf or the other side of the table. All this is coming at a perfect time because with all the things to do to move, I don't have as much time to work with her, and with all of these boxes sitting around, she is getting tons of practice.

I am really looking forward to the time when everything is unpacked, all the work is done, and we can finally relax and learn how to be a family. Our basic plan is to load the uhaul on Tuesday and drive and unload on Wednesday (finally - a trip we can make in one day!). My parents will take the uhaul and we'll shepherd the baby and the kitties. Matt was allowed to choose his own start date, which we pinned 1.5 weeks after we arrive. This will give us a few days after we get settle to have some fun in the big city. We reserved a little bit of graduation gift money and I've been stalking Groupon for good deals. It is hard to believe that three days from now, we'll be living in Chicago. Time seems like it's going by so quickly now that the bar exam is over!

I do sincerely hope to blog again by Wednesday night, but I do not suspect that I will be able to post much more than a few sentences. I shall return again on Thursday or Friday, and I will bring pictures, even if it means running to a local coffee shop and buying a mocha frappe in order to get some Internet access.

26 July 2012

The End of the End

We have officially reached the end of the end. No more school, no more exams, no more studying. The two days of exams were very draining, although such trials did make the party that much sweeter.

6am - Matt wanted to be at the exam early, as to alleviate the stress of possibly being late, so each morning we rolled out of bed, got ready, woke Abigail up, drove 30 minutes out, dropped Matt off, and drove 30 minutes back home. Arrival time: 7:45am. Exam time: 8:30am. I took the car so that Matt wouldn't have to worry about finding a parking space and paying $10 to park.

11am - Test-takers were not allowed to bring lunch into the exam room, and since I had the car, Matt didn't have a place to stash food. The first half of the exam was supposed to take three hours, so I left at 11 in order to arrive at 11:30, exactly 3 hours after the exam was to start. Of course, Abigail was napping and I had to wake her up again.

11:45am - 15 minutes after Matt and I were supposed to meet, I began to wonder if maybe the instructions started at 8:30am, but the exam didn't begin until 9am. I decided to wait a bit longer.

12:10pm - 10 minutes after he should have been dismissed for a 9am exam, I didn't see a single person leave the building. I parked, dragged Abigail out of the car, walked over to the building, walked into the lobby where the reception desk sat abandoned, and stared at a series of doors, none marked.

12:20pm - I gave up hope and headed back home.

12:45pm - As I pulled in the driveway, Matt called me from a borrowed phone to find out where I was.

12:50pm - Matt ate pizza from the concession stand for lunch.

I left to pick up Matt around 3:30, waking up Abigail again, and brought him home where he proceeded to study for most of the rest of the evening.

The second day was a lot like the first, except our timing was more accurate and I ran more errands in-between pick ups and drop offs. Early Wednesday morning, I got gas on the way to drop Matt off. When we pulled in the driveway at 5:30pm after the exam, the trip odometer read, "147 miles."

But at the end of two hot, stressful, and frustrating days, we partied. We celebrated Matt's first evening as a free man with an amazing dinner and a night of euchre and drinks. Our porter house and New York strip steaks were hand-selected by our Host, who did time at a butcher shop. He explained to us what to look for in a cut of meat and taught Matt how to season and grill them to perfection:

The 50%-off steaks aged to perfection with fresh corn on the cob, cream cheese mashed potatoes,  and a bottle of cabernet sauvignon, gifted to Matt at graduation by a family friend, was the most delicious gourmet meal my taste buds have enjoyed in a long time.

I fed Abigail bits of steak and pieces of dessert, M&M cookies and slow-churned double fudge brownie ice cream, while our Host introduced me to my new favorite wine: port.

By the time we were ready for cards, Abigail was ready for bed - an ideal trade off. And so began the greatest card game known to man: euchre.

And alcohol in an assortment of delicious forms.

It was men vs. women in a best-of-three tournament that ended in our defeat, but I was laughing so hard that it's hard to remember the score. (Although if we had won, I suspect that sentence would have read: "It was men vs. women in a best-of-three tournament that ended in our victory, peels of laughter sweeter than the win." : )

Today, our first day as a free couple in almost three years, began with a trip to a near-by pastry shop. The rest of our 6 days in Michigan are planned out, with more party nights, a triple date night with Matt's two married brothers and their wives, and, of course, packing, a uhaul, and a day spent lugging boxes.

Yesterday was the end of the end. This coming Wednesday will be a beginning of a beginning. The time in between? The Limbo Land of Partying. Cheers.

23 July 2012

The Beginning of the End

The bar exam is tomorrow. Tomorrow, folks! I could get all mushy and talk about how three years ago next Tuesday is the very day we left Michigan to begin our law school journey. I could pitch this from a "bad ass" angle and talk about our strength and independence in doing it alone, 1300 miles from home. But no matter how you frame it, today is the beginning of the end. No more law school. Even if Matt gets a job in Illinois next year and has to retake the Illinois bar or decides to go back to school for a Master of Economics, it'll be different. Either he'll be working as well or we'll have more money or we won't be living on a shoestring budget in an apartment that is just barely out of the ghetto. We'll never have these same sufferings or blessings (3 weeks off for Christmas, anyone?) as we do right now. I hated it, and I loved it, and I'm glad it's over.

Matt is spending the morning doing some light studying, but at 3pm today, he is done. And we will spend the afternoon bowling (rain + hot weather = no hike), and playing cards, and just plain relaxing because that is what the all-knowing people at the bar prep classes recommend. And Wednesday, I will blog again, The End of the End, and we will party. With steaks and double fudge brownie ice cream and euchre, lots of euchre.

In the meantime, Abigail has been hitting the books:

She turns the pages all by herself, so I took a video:

I have also been working with her super hard to get her to stand. Her physical therapy in this state is awful, so it is up to me to help her progress. She has been trying so hard to stand, so we've been focusing most of our efforts in that area.

I took a video of that too:

It isn't perfect, but hey, she's only been doing it for three days now. She is so excited to pull herself up on couches, the crib, people's pants. The next step is helping her to lower herself back down to the ground. Right now she just locks her knees, folds at the waist, and tips backwards, landing abruptly with her butt on the ground. I literally do baby squats with her to build up her muscles and teach her how to lower herself gently.

I have now reached the end of my allotted blogging time - I have a baby to put down and shopping to do and laundry to finish before 3pm, when we party.

18 July 2012

Disciplined Wednesdays

Today was a disciplined-driven kind of day. When I woke up in the morning to thunder and rain, I knew it was going to be rough. I dragged myself out of bed when the alarm went off, forced myself to do an ab workout, made it to my appointments on time, scoured the clearance rack of my local Carter's in search of some size 12 month pajamas while glancing longingly over my shoulder at the new line, and stayed within my calorie limit despite going to lunch with my dessert-loving, onion ring-pushing Grandma. And by the end of the day, when I was at the grocery store with Abigail past bedtime, I turned down a York Pattie. It surprised me at how easy it was no say no to the delicious chocolate-covered mint, but after a day of doing the right thing even when I didn't want to, like getting of bed at 6:50am and working out, I wasn't going to lose out to a $.79 piece of candy.

And because I have nothing to blog about today, I am going to answer one of those "get to know you" questionnaires that seem to always go around Facebook. 10 random facts; here goes:

1. The thing I miss most about being a kid is that when you get sick, someone else takes care of you. As an adult, I still have a kid and bills and a husband in grad school.

2. If I could learn to do anything, I would learn to dance ballet. I took classes as a kid and after the first year of pointe, my parents made me quit. To this day, I have no idea why - I get a different answer every time I ask. Anyway, I've always regretted that I stopped and always wanted to go back.

3. I love crocheting and knitting. Even though I sometimes talk about opening my own Etsy shop, I don't think I would really enjoy having one. My favorite thing to make (blankets) are too expensive to be profitable.

4. If/when I do achieve my dream of having a published novel, I would seriously considering using a pen name.

5. The two times I've kayaked, I have really, really enjoyed it. I want to buy some kayaks in a few years when the debt is paid off and we have a house.

6. I actually really like working out, even though I don't look like it.

7. I get bruises on my legs from running. I have a huge black, purple, and yellow bruise on my thigh that I think I got from hiking. I once read an article that said it was okay, but it's a little freaky.

8. Despite the fact that I LOVE to read, I have a horrible book memory. I also have a bad movie memory. Even if I take notes during the book and discuss it with others, I still have a very hard time remembering the plot from the book even just a few months later.

9. If I could, I would raise the number of years a president served to one term of 8-10 years. That way, he would take the consequences of his policies more seriously (since he'd be there when the long-term projections failed to come to fruition) and candidates would spend less time and money making campaign lies.

10. I prefer Coke over Pepsi, Ford over anything else, Mac over Windows, cats over dogs, chocolate over vanilla, hugs over kisses, diamonds over pearls, ketchup over mustard, and sneakers over heels.

16 July 2012

Sprinting a Marathon, Mile 20

I thought I was going to keel over right there in front of everyone. Even though the room was dark, the blinds were slanted upward so that only the faintest traces of light peeked through, and all the fans were on full-blast, I was pouring sweat. My legs were burning, and my quads felt like they weighed a hundred pounds each. "TO THE RIGHT - UP THAT RESISTANCE! GO, GO GO! PUSH YOURSELVES!" the instructor shouted, sounding like a whisper above the bass of the pounding music. But I did what the lady said. I leaned down and tweaked the resistance ever-so-slightly to the right. Maybe 1/8th of a full turn. The mere knowledge that I had turned up the resistance, that I pushed myself even one iota farther than I thought I possible could, had me so excited, I felt like crying. I know, weird. Anyway, at some point, I stopped letting my brain tell my legs how far they could go and started letting my body dictate my brain. And I blasted through my doubts and fears and plateaus because I told myself to shut up and just kept pumping my legs. And when I left that place, I took the stairs. Because, damn it, I wasn't going to let one staircase have the last word.

That's how I feel now that we are in the final laps of bar prep. This marathon is in the final stretches, even though we've been sprinting the whole time, we can see the finish line, so we have to shut up and trust our muscles to keep us going while our brains shout negativity at us. Most of the time, I don't know how we've made it this far or how we'll make it the rest of the way, so I just stop thinking about it and keeping taking each day at a time. Now that we're so close, Matt has stepped it up a notch, doing things like going to bed at 11pm and getting up at 6am, working through lunch, excusing himself from conversations after dinner. When finals or the bar loom this close, a person doesn't need to muster up discipline or focus, just the reminder that THE BAR EXAM IS IN EIGHT DAYS scares enough motivation into the student to keep them going. I still get my "power hour," my one hour a day of baby relief when Matt takes Abigail. I look forward to naps and bedtime and independent play time, like cool sips of water in the midst of that grueling spin class. I caught a cold in Chicago and I want to spend most of the day napping in bed, but I have to gather up enough energy to push myself, keeping going, make the extra trip up and down the stairs because I forgot the pacifier. Change another diaper. Give another bath. I remind myself that soon, very, very soon, we will live a normal life where my husband will come home from work and help out on weekends. My favorite part of that spin class was walking out the doors and back into the main gym. The dozen of us streaming out of the room, breathing hard and dripping sweat. We looked serious. We looked hardcore. And all of the people on the row of elliptical machines watched us as we strode by with our towels around our neck chatting about how great the instructor was. That feeling right there? That is my favorite part of working out. The feeling you get after a run, when you know you got up and got out and kicked butt. When you stand up after a 90 second plank and you can feel your entire core, like you've already got abs of steel. I bet that's what July 26th will feel like. And I bet that's what we'll feel like when we sit down with the envelope containing the results in October. We'll feel badass. That is what I remind myself when I want to quit.

* * * * *

I keep myself moving by keeping busy during the day.

-I dye my hair:

I actually did it a few weeks ago; if you noticed my hair looking redder in photos recently, this is why. It was a bit of a big deal for me, because I've never done anything to my hair before that couldn't be washed out the next time I took a shower. I was tired of the old. I made it a makeover night and gave myself a manicure and pedicure and got a hair cut the next day.

-I find us an apartment in Chicago. Woot! It is finally ours! We didn't get the one with the bigger bathroom and extra linen closet, but we did get its almost-mirror copy on the other side of the building. It is a nice, two bedroom unit in the neighborhood of Rogers Park, which is on the north side of the city. According to our agent, the neighborhood was settled in the early 1900s by upper class Jewish folk who were looking to escape the crowded downtown. Although they have since moved out, the urban planning and architecture bear the stamp of the early days with beautiful brick buildings, real front yards, wide streets, and ample parks; we can even see Lake Michigan from the sidewalk of our courtyard-style, 1920s building! We are within a mile of a couple of train and bus stops (for Matt to take to work), a grocery store, and a church. Our apartment is on the first floor (which is really the second floor in Chicago), has a real kitchen, separate living and dining rooms, two bedrooms, and free street parking. It also has things like built-in bookshelves, hardwood floors, and no a/c, but we have found that those are standard in these old buildings. The neighborhood is a little farther north than we wanted to go, but we stuck within our budget. We will officially hit the road on August 1st, a mere 16 days away.

-I swim with jellyfish. When Abigail went down for an extra-long nap, with Matt in the next room studying, I went out on the lake. (He had his cell, I had my cell, and I was back before she woke up). Having spent a few years in Florida, I knew enough to know that jellyfish are dangerous and I should stay away from them. So I responded to "look a jellyfish!" by shouting back, "there's no such thing as freshwater jellyfish!" and pulling my arms and legs out of the water and onto my floaty. Well, I'm here to tell you they do exist - in nearly every lake, pond, and stream in the eastern half of the country.

And after inadvertently swimming through a school of them yesterday, I can testify to the fact that they are harmless.

-Abigail is crawling now, albeit on one knee and one leg. I am still determined that she will crawl on all fours in the traditional fashion, if it is the last thing I do. Michigan's Early Intervention services are awful, so she literally has received physical therapy twice all summer. She went from once a week to once a month. Apparently this is just the "summer schedule" and they've vowed to change it next year, but we'll be gone. I try to work with her myself at least four times a week, but I am no where near as good as a professional. If she could have stayed with her Florida physical therapist, I know she would have been crawling long ago. I'm frustrated and angry about the situation and excited for it to change in Chicago. But she is finally crawling. She also stands against furniture now, which she really enjoys doing, although we're still working on the "pulling up to a stand" part. She's also developed a shoe and jewelry obsession.

We're in trouble, folks.

* * * * *

Eight days, eight days, eight days!

12 July 2012

Chicago, Take...Who Even Knows Anymore?

It was a packed-out 28 hours in the big city. My train got in just after 12pm on Tuesday, I speed-walked a few blocks to catch the brown line up to Belmont where I swung into a sandwich shop to pick up something to go before showing up for my apartment hunting appointment with two minutes to spare. I pushed the agent, making him check a few more neighborhoods before I finally agreed to set out. We toured about seven apartments that day. I felt the pressure of needing a place to live with just a few week to find it. The agent told me stories about the huge, unexpected demand they were experiencing and the dwindling supply. While I was waiting, I overheard another agent tell his client that 12 people had applied for the same unit she had. The manager had narrowed it down to 4 and wanted to know if she had anything to "add to her application" before he made a final decision. It was 6:30pm once the paperwork was signed and we had officially applied for another apartment. I dragged my battered, hungry self back to the train and back downtown to the Cheesecake Factory, where I waited 30 minutes to be seated, sat next to a woman who was giving the "cry it out" method a shot in the crowded restaurant, and blissfully enjoyed my low calorie chicken. Because I found the perfect place. In a wonderful neighborhood. It has a real kitchen. And a dining room. And a big living room. And we have a superb chance of getting it.

There are two units in the 1920s building, mirrors of each other except one has a larger bathroom and an extra linen closet. Only one unit was on the market and we were the first ones to see the other unit, so the chances are very high that we will get one of them. If, in the very unlikely event, they both fall through, a third place that we toured would be acceptable - so basically I have a plan b and c and won't need to return to the city again.

I'll refrain from telling you all the other wonderful things about it until we have a signed lease. No point in getting my hopes up too high.

After dinner, I made a 1.5 hour trek up to my hostel from the restaurant. I could have taken the train or a bus, but I wanted to burn off some calories from the chocolate raspberry truffle cheesecake in which I indulged. So I walked. And walked. And walked. All of my possessions were tucked away in my backpack and the sky grew dark as I sweated away in the humid evening. It was my first experience in a hostel and the only reason I decided to give it a try was the $30/night price tag. I could spend the rest of this post talking about the horrors of the hostel, but I'll spare you. Suffice to say: It sucked. A lot. It was crowded and hot and loud. I checked in at 9pm and check out at 7am.

Because I had already accomplished my goal, I had no plans on Wednesday and a 4pm train located about 4.5 miles away. So I walked. Again. I decided that with so much time to get to Union Station, I would walk until I was tired, then pop in to Starbucks to sip an iced mocha and read my book. Then I'd continue on for another stretch before stopping by Barnes and Noble to check out a book on the history of Chicago. And so it happened that I freely strode around the streets of Chicago stopping where I wanted when I wanted with the vague confidence of a semi-regular visitor who has a head for maps. It took me six hours to walk those 4.5 miles and every minute was immensely enjoyable as every minute was mine. I had no baby schedule to plan around, no guilt to feel over Matt's studying, no once else's needs to attend to except mine. I wrote while I ate lunch, creativity running from my fingers faster than I could write - messy blue letters streaming together, using up the last few pages of my battered notebook. I read the book about Chicago, building up a sense of pride and excitement over my new city.

I showed up at Union Station a few hours early, a habit that is becoming a tradition. I propped my feet up on the old interlocking rows of chairs and read while hundreds of people milled around me on their way to places near and far on an old-fashioned form of transportation that still emanates from the historic building like shooting stars from a heavenly firework. The trip was refreshing and restorative, the alone time giving me energy to sustain me during the duration of Matt's studying and relieving me of a burden that thus far cost me the most stress and worry of the summer. Chicago makes me feel confident and artistic; creative and self-sufficient; grown up and cultured. This is a new adventure. It isn't The Wonderful Michigan or The Magic Swampy. It's The Great City. My history book tells me that Chicago has long been a place where entrepreneurs, business moguls, and real estate fiends came to expand their wealth or make something of themselves. It struck me that just like in the seventeenth century, Chicago is our Big Break. This is an opportunity to establish Matt's career and our life as a family.

Right now I'm back in Michigan with a baby whose smiles and desire to be near me every minute affirms me as a mother. I've got laundry and dishes to do and three rooms that look like a tornado went through them. It is time for the rubber to meet the road, ie, me to put all that rejuvenating Chicago energy to good use.

12 days until the bar.

09 July 2012

With Great Honor

The diploma has arrived. Along with the final ranking letters. And I have secured permission from my husband to blog the details now that we have received the final word.

There is this unspoken rule in law school that a person shouldn't reveal their ranking, sorta like how you're not supposed to talk about your salary. So people spend the entire three years trying to figure out who's at the top of the class, but they never get to find out, not even at graduation. The most you can discern about a person is whether they finished law school summa cum laude (with highest honor: GPA of 3.8 and higher), magna cum laude (with great honor: 3.6-3.799), or cum laude (with honor: 3.4-3.599). But now that everything is said and done and the facts are up on the LinkedIn profile, Matt granted me permission to openly brag.

I have mentioned many times before that my husband was in the top of his class, but now I can finally say how top. 3rd top. As in, only two people at Ave Maria School of Law were smarter than my husband. He graduated from law school magna cum laude. He was the highest ranked magna cum laude, which he doesn't like, but I consider to be totally brag worthy.

No, you're not crazy, the diploma is written in Latin.

One of Matt's professors, his Law and Economics professor, is credited as being one of the founders of the field of Law and Econ. This man, who has his own Wikipedia page, holds seven degrees, was Dean Emeritus and Professor Emeritus at a major law school, created the first academic center devoted to the development of the field of Law and Economics, and has publish numerous game-changing books and articles on the subject of Law and Econ. Matt took Law and Econ with this distinguished professor at Ave and afterward received an email from him stating that he was a pleasure to teach, the kind of student that makes professors excited to come to work, extremely insightful, and a number of other incredibly flattering things. The kind of things that, as a wife, make you feel unbelievably proud and humbled and awed.

In addition to being 3rd in his class, Matt was on Law Review for four semesters, the maximum amount of semesters on which a person can be. Law Reviews are a big deal in the world of law school; so much so that when calculating a law school's ranking, people consider its Law Review. This publication is a huge part of a law school's image in the legal world, so students have to take it seriously, give it as many hours into it as they would a class, and put blood, sweat, and tears into it during weekends and holiday breaks.

My husband also spent a year as the Deputy Grand Knight (2nd in command) and then another as the Grand Knight (1st in command) of the Knights of Columbus. That means during two of his three years of law school, the same two years during which he was on Law Review, he held a leadership role in a student organization.

To add to his other obligations, he was also a participating member of at least two other student organizations, served as one of those "student ambassadors" to incoming students, a "student mentor" to first year law students, and received an honorable mention for the oral arguments competition during his first year.

During the summer, Matt had two internships with county circuit court judges and another internship during the semester with a federal judge.

And he had a family.

And he was third in his class.

And he had a paid fellowship lined up after graduation.

Did I mention that he was third in his class?

My husband is a pretty smart guy. He was smart in high school, he was smart in college, and he was smart in grad school. He is really good at critical thinking, arguing, and writing. He is one of those people who can turn in a rough draft and get an A. One of those people who hears professors say, "Good point" when he talks. He is one of those people who was told as a kid, "You'd make a really good lawyer!" His strengths include academia. He is good with people, a natural when it comes to talking, and excellent at following directions.

So I'm pretty proud of him. Proud to be "Matt's wife" when we're talking to the Dean after graduation. Proud to be "Matt's wife" right now, when the curtain goes up and everyone is looking at him and judging him based on how he did in law school and what kind of job he secured afterward.

Looking back, I credit three key things with our success:

1. We both made law school a priority. So we didn't always go to the beach and party. So I didn't get mad at him when it meant we couldn't watch another episode of Gilmore Girls because he had more Law Review work to do. We moved to Naples, Florida, and we never went to Key West. The only time we ever went to Miami was for a day trip when Matt had a state-wide exam to take. We never took an air boat tour. Because law school was our priority.

2. We made sure when knew Ave before we attended it. We did the campus visit and spoke with professors, alumni, and students. We read up on the school's scandal and its move. So when things went wrong, we could look each other in the eye and say, "It's okay. We chose this." And because we were prepared, we can leave and be happy with our decision.

3. We made law school strengthen our marriage. When the challenges and the sacrifices started, we took it as an opportunity to strengthen us. Law school/Grad school is sick-hard on a marriage, especially when you do it 1,300 miles away from everything and everyone you've ever known. But if you know that it is going to be sick-hard, it isn't as hard. Confusing, I know. It's kinda like when someone says, "I have something to tell you that you're not going to like." It doesn't make you mad as it would have without the warning. So, law school won't be as hard on your marriage as it could be if you vow to keep periodic date-nights, eat dinner together more often than not, and acknowledge that you will be spending a lot of evenings in silence come finals time.

Lots of things could have been construed to be a bad idea, but turned out 100% okay. Like having a kid. Or ax-ing the job. Or going to Michigan for the internship.

There are a few things I would have done differently:
1. I would have encouraged Matt to be less committed when it came to extra curriculars. There were more than a few times when I lost it because I felt too overwhelmed and I think the little extra meetings are what did me in.

2. I would have spent less money. We never bought big things, but we'd spend a little bit of money on this, that, and the other thing. Small things that don't seem like a big deal, but really do add up in the end.

3. I would have stressed less. Things worked out. It wasn't because I had a panic attack.

* * * * *

As it turns out, the apartment we had our eye on in Chicago fell through. So I'm headed back to Chicago tomorrow morning to start the search over again. This time I'm going alone so that I can work faster and save money. I'll be taking the train in (again), staying at a $30/night hostel, and hoofing it most of the time. I'm going to push our agent much harder and am determined to walk away with a list of plan-b units so that we can continue to apply even if we loose this next place without having to travel back. Matt will take care of Abigail while studying in the mornings, my mom will come out during the afternoon, our gracious Host and Hostess will watch her during the evening, and Matt will work his hardest to stay on top of his studying.

We have only 15 days until the bar exam and about 22-23 days until we move.

Anyway, stay tuned Thursday for another blog post recapped another trip to The Windy City.

07 July 2012

Thank you

I want to take a moment to post something I wrote as we were leaving Florida but only ever saved as a draft.

I-75 is a very long freeway. A very long, straight freeway. The road is lined with palm trees, and cypress tress, and all manner of tropical plants. I'm sure hidden around their trunks are alligators and cougars. There are stretches of I-75 down here that are not lined by subdivisions and strip malls, but simply land. Wet, swampy land. It reminds me of when we first arrived this far south, 2 years and 9 months ago, in August of 2009. I was shocked at how flat the land was. Eerily flat. The land to either side of the freeway was at an equal height, or sometimes lower, than the road. There were only green trees and black road beneath us and blue sky above us, continuing without interruption as far as the eye could see. There were no hills. No change in elevation. I remember feeling that at any moment, land would end and blue sea would begin, but in the thick of the swamp, driving on a road that thousands died to build, the waters of the Gulf of Mexico were only in my head. When we arrived, I hated almost everything about Florida. The heat and humidity, especially. But 33 months later, I have changed. I grew to love the environment and to find a new understanding of what it is to be "sweaty."

I am driving away from everything and it has not yet sunk in that this is probably forever, that Florida won't be "home" any longer.

But thank you. Thank you, Florida, for teaching me what there is to love about summer. Thank you for opening my eyes to states just as wonderful and beautiful as I know Michigan to be. Thank you everyone down here who changed my life. I want to take a moment for a few key people right now. I know that most of them will probably never know, but they meant a lot to me. Thank you, Megan, Heather, Jessica, and Rita, who already left, for teaching me how to be a law school wife. Thank you, Theresa, for spending three years living it with me. Thank you, Amy, Mike and Mario, for adoring my baby girl. Thank you, Bill, Mateusz, Jim, and David for being there for my husband. Thank you, Carin, you were my first and best friend in Florida - how can I sum up in one sentence what we had? : ) Thank you, Ray, Phyllis, Art, Rose, Charles, John, and Mary, for giving us a sense of community. Thank you, Bill, Stash, John Locke, the Italian couple, Coolio and Charger, Regina, and Joe, for knowingly and unknowingly being our neighbors. Thank you, Adelaide and Father G, for always being positive. Thank you, Denise, Eva, and Erin, for always encouraging me. Thank you, Terry and Liz, for being like moms to me. I wanted to call you about a million times after Abigail was born and get more advice! Thank you, Linda, Christine, Julia, and Alexia, for making me feel like my contributions were meaningful. Thank you, Amber, for bringing me to book club, sharing your life with me during photoshoots, teaching me to be confident in my design by being confident in your photography, opening up your house to us in August, and about a million other things I could spend the rest of this post gushing about. Thank you, Shannon and Fiona, Wendy and Jesse, Kelle and Nella, and Elsa and Mia for healing me. Thank you, Martha and Susan, for trusting my instincts and encouraging my baby girl. Thank you Sophia, for giving my baby the tools she needs to succeed, for showing me what she's capable of, and for seeing her for the sassy princess she truly is. Abigail connected with you in a way that she has only done with a very few, select people.

Farewell, Florida. My life will never be the same.

05 July 2012

Like A Rave

In the world of bar preparation, the 4th of July is a no-holds-barred holiday. They encourage students to take the entire day off, an offer Matt and I were loathe to pass up, despite the fact that we took a bit too much time off in Chicago last week. We decided to celebrate our freedom by going for a hike. A six mile hike. A six mile hilly hike in weather that rivaled Florida for heat and humidity. I broke out the ol' Moby Wrap, Youtube-ed a video on how to do a back carry with a Moby Wrap, packed some lunches, and we hit the road.

We were not even a mile into the hike when Abigail made clear her hatred of the back carrier. We were being swarmed by flies, we had no cell service to re-check the Youtube video, and we were already sweating. We frustrated ourselves in trying to re-tie the wrap on me, the ends dragging across the dirt path, and on Matt before giving in. I sat on the ground and tried to rack my brain to remember how to do a front carry with the wrap. When we finally pulled ourselves together, retied Abigail, and continued on our way, I was ready to throw in the towel, turn around, and go home. But we continued to plug forward, enjoying our family time and trying to find red, white, and blue things of which to take pictures.

Abigail fell asleep, so we just ate while we hiked and cruised through the six mile trail in 2.5 hours, dripping with sweat and feeling like total bad asses.

Added bonus: the state park we chose didn't have a person stationed in the entrance booth. So we didn't have to pay an entrance fee. Which would be more expensive for our out-of-state plates. Cha-ching.

Along the trail, we talked about all the delicious treats we were craving - ice cream topping the list. We agreed that when we left, we would keep the a/c in the car off and just roll down the windows so that the ice cream would taste better. Abigail thought it sounded like a wonderful idea.

Above is what low muscle tone looks like. Baby girl is flexible!

The funny thing: once we got to the ice cream place/gas station, we bought a couple of Gatorades that looked so cool and refreshing that we actually passed on the dairy! We did buy ourselves a couple of treats to take home, though:

The evening perfectly paralleled the afternoon as we packed the house with some family and friends, floated on the lake, grilled burgers, and set off "fireworks." I use the term modestly because when all you have are glow bracelets and $2 sparklers, you need some friends with imaginations to make a party a success. Friends that respond to "everyone put your glow bracelets on - I'm going to turn all the lights off and take a picture!" with things like "like a at rave?"

And so it came to pass that we had a rave in the kitchen at 10:00 at night. It was the perfect mix of family time and party time and yet another reminder that shedding my life-long anti-social ways is enriching my life.

We followed up the party with a calmer day of dishes, laundry, on-time naps, and lunch visits with Grandma. Because this journey is all about finding my balance. My middle.

02 July 2012

Sprinting a Marathon, Mile 13.

We're back in Michigan, unpacked, cleaned up, and relaxed. We still haven't heard back regarding the apartment for which we put in an application. We called our agent this morning and he promises to get back with us as soon as he hears back.

In the meantime, I thought a nice post about the bar exam study might be in order. I mentioned earlier in the process that the bar exam prep is hell. It still is.

Matt was going into a classroom at a nearby university to watch lectures on a projector, but after a few weeks of that, he decided to just watch the same lectures on his computer from home. The primary advantage is that he can slow down or speed up the lecture when he needs to take notes or things get boring. The lecture is followed by multiple choice questions, a second round of multiple choice questions the quantity of which are based on how many questions he got wrong on the first round, then re-reading his giant, 1000 page outline (see above). Occasionally they throw in some essay exams. Matt is still studying 8-10 hours a day. We have been advised to expect 12-15 hour days following the 4th of July.

The course is designed so that work is assigned Monday-Friday and weekends are used to review difficult material from the past week and read the giant outline. They do recommend that students take some time off on Sunday to regain their sanity. Matt has been powering through in "full steam ahead" mode since he started. When he took Thursday off to apartment hunt, I think he realized how burnt out he was because he had a pretty slow weekend. A weekend that had more to do with floating on a lake and grilling steak than reading about an inter vivos conveyance of black acre. I think it was a much-needed break, but now he has to work harder to make up for it. I am trying my best to not interrupt him and encourage him to focus when he gets distracted.

Bar prep is definitely still like sprinting a marathon - giving it everything you've got all the time for a long time. The bar exam is three weeks from tomorrow and while Matt is dreading it, I am stoked. Matt is very smart, one of the smartest people in his class in law school, and there is no doubt in my mind that he will pass the bar exam. I am, however, concerned that we will be so confident about his passing the bar, that he'll slack on the studying, and then won't pass. So far that hasn't been a problem; hopefully his recent spree of days off won't hurt anything.

I'm definitely way more used to the schedule now, and living with people means that I get some support with Abigail. She likes the people we are staying with so much that she literally claps when they walk into the room. Sometimes they'll watch her so that I can run to the store alone, hold her while I eat lunch, or play with her while I sit on the couch and blissfully do nothing.

Ever since we started law school, every single evening we've ever had off has been punctuated by guilty feelings of "maybe we should be doing something more productive." Even during Christmas break, spring break, and summer vacation, there has always been a paper to write, a job to hunt, a student organization event for which to prepare. I felt guilty every time he did the dishes or ran out to get a pizza. But on the evening of July 25th, after three long years, we will finally be free. We will have evenings to ourselves, weekends can be filled with fun plans. We joke that we will play a board game on a Wednesday night. Graduate school is very hard on a marriage because the student spouse is gone all day and when they are finally home, they aren't really home because they are studying. We saved a portion of money that Matt received at his graduation as "Chicago Party Money." Money that we'll use once we get moved in and unpacked for purely enjoyable things.

But before I get carried away, let me remind myself that there are still 22 days until the first day of the two-day exam. And then we will move again.

What do I love about right now? That I wrote an entire blog post uninterrupted while Abigail made a huge mess of her diapers, books, and toys. But I wrote the damn post. And that makes me happy : )