Thursday, March 31, 2011

old soul

A Young Girl Reading
(A Young Girl Reading, by Jean Honore Fragonard)

Kathy, who is a bit older than me, always teases me that actually, she's younger.  She loves going out, going to parties, and having people over.  She likes staying up late.  I, on the other hand, like to go to bed so that I'm not tired the next day.  I like to stay in, maybe have a few friends over.  Really, of course, what we're talking about is the introversion/extroversion binary -- which we happen to be toward opposite ends of.  And which we deal with, without much conflict.  But we do joke that I would not like "young Kathy," the party animal.

Today, Susan Cain over at Quiet posted this interesting piece about whether there is more to the age/introversion connection than just Kathy's teasing.  It got me thinking that maybe the reason that I'm viewed by others as old-fashioned, or just plain old for my age, is just because I'm more introverted than they are, and that we humans have a tendency toward introversion as we age. 

So, you know.  Food for thought, that's all.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

things to miss about working: halal cart

One of the best things about working in Midtown is the number of Halal carts.  Since this is my last week in the office, I have permitted myself to eat at a Halal cart two times this week.  And it's only Wednesday.

Anyway, I realized that anyone not from NYC has no idea what I am talking about when I say "Halal cart."  Halal is a certain kind of meat, that people eat for religious reasons.  I am indifferent to that aspect. 

What I'm refering to is the street meat you can buy all over midtown.  Not too far from my office is the famous 53rd and 6th cart (although it is NOT THE SAME CART during the day, so I don't go to that particular cart for lunch).  It's basically a gross-looking but delicious slop, consisting of rice (I go for spicy) with chicken (or lamb, but I generally don't eat baby animals), carrots, broccoli, and onion all chopped up on top.  Buried under there somewhere is usually some iceberg lettuce and a tomato slice or two.  And.  White sauce on top.  No one actually knows what white sauce is, but answers seem to range from mayo and vinegar to tzatziki sauce.  I think it probably varies from cart to cart, but that stuff is delicious.  There is also red sauce, which I like, but it is nothing compared to how I feel about that white sauce.

Anyway, by one estimate, a plate of that stuff is 1410 calories.  Which I don't believe, but if it's true, is pretty much an entire day's worth of calories for someone my size, so I have to either split it with someone or force myself to throw it away half way through, or I end up with a horrendous stomach ache because I cannot stop myself if that food is sitting in front of me.

Also, it's $5 - $6, depending on the cart.  It doesn't get much better than that.

Photo of halal food from the 53rd & 6th cart via yelp.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

four days

I have four more days of work.  In four days, I will no longer be employed by my law firm, and my pay stubs will say "severance."  I have spent the last two days wrapping up matters that I have been working on, sending documents to records, and liberating myself via this guy:

Lawyers use a lot of paper.  A lot.  That guy is half full already.  In case you were wondering, that is not just a trash can.  That is a shredding can, for all my sensitive and confidential work papers.  And because we're lawyers, after all, the shredding can comes with this:

Ignorance of the law is no excuse, my friends.  NO EXCUSE.

It's all so ridiculous.  I swear I have not stopped rolling my eyes over the confidentiality procedures since I started receiving all the 900 memos the Monday after I gave notice.  Of course, I am following them.  I have to follow them.  I just follow them and roll my eyes.  I actually have to have my personal effects inspected and signed-off by a partner before I leave the office, lest I sneak a document that is firm work-product into my potted plant.

a world of literature and a lifetime of interesting conversation

Kathy finished her book over the weekend.  She reads fantasy, although she likes to refer to them as "books about magic, elves, and dwarfs" because she doesn't like the sound of "fantasy" as a genre.  She also reads the occasional popular fiction (think Bridget Jones' Diary or Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood).

I, on the other hand, prefer books about "sad women," as someone once said to me.  But I like to think I have rather broader literary tastes than that.  I have also read some of her fantasy novels (my favorites are by Guy Gavreil Kay) as well as a myriad of other books.  But it is true that when the choice is up to me, I prefer books about sad women.

Anyway, when Kathy finished her book Sunday afternoon, she observed it aloud.  "I don't have a book to read."  I did not comment.  I wasn't sure what to do with the announcement.  Later in the day, she said it again.  Finally, she said, "Can I read one of yours?" 

"Oh," I replied.  "Of course.  Let me help you pick."  Then we stood in front of the bookshelf in extended silence.  "Maybe this one?" I suggested.  She read the back.  "HEART WRENCHING?  I don't think so."  "Hm," I said, picking up another book. "Maybe this one?"  She read the back of that one, too.  "I don't want to read interesting social commentary.  And you read this for a CLASS."  Crap.  I should have peeled the "ENG 379" sticker off the back before giving it to her.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

S words

Maybe because my life is so fragmented right now, with quitting the job, family drama, friends in from out of town, etc., etc., but this is how my brain is functioning today.  Scattered.

Snow.  Can you believe there was accumulation when we woke up this morning?  I am convinced it is because I tried to plant the spinach last weekend.  I hope it survives.

Skirt.  This morning, I wore a grey pencil skirt.  I purchased it in high school.  Isn't that ridiculous?  It fits a little differently (ahem, tighter) but sometimes I get so much pleasure out of a great purchase.  A grey knee-length pencil skirt seems like something I will be able to wear until I die.  Although then maybe I will be like those little old ladies walking around in those polyester pants with the seams up the front of the leg, when I am wearing a skirt purchased in 1997, when it is 2075.

Stuff.  How has my little office accumulated so much STUFF in a mere three years?  And thanks, document retention rules, I can't go with my gut and just put all this crap in a dumpster.

Sigh.  I am going to go deal with the crap in my office, until someone comes to find me and dump another non-billable project on me, since I am the only associate in the department no longer concerned with my billable hours.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


When I was a 1L (first year law student), I had to write a memo for my LRW (legal research and writing) class about promissory estoppel.  By the end of it, I felt like I could have told you the elements of promissory estoppel in my freaking sleep.  That's what happens when you spend an entire semester researching and writing one memo -- something that in actual practice you sometimes have to do in one day.  My then-girlfriend (a non-law student) used to recite the five elements of promissory estoppel as a party trick because she had heard so much about the stupid promissory estoppel memo.  Only the other law students ever laughed.  Their significant others looked kind of sick, because I bet they could have recited all five elements as well.

Estoppel is the legal doctrine that basically provides that if you purposely mislead someone, and they rely on your misleading statements, you can't then turn around and use their actions against them.  I guess there are a bunch of different kinds of estoppel, but the main two kinds I have dealt with are promissory estoppel and equitable estoppel.  Promissory estoppel applies when you promise someone something that they then rely on to their detriment.  Equitable estoppel arises when you purposely lie to someone and they rely on it to their detriment.  There are also procedural kinds of estoppel, like collateral estoppel.  Anyway, boring.

The point I am gradually getting around to here is that I am currently, during my last two weeks at the firm, researching estoppel.  For real.  As in, find a case that lists the five elements, apply to our facts, predict whether the client will be estopped.  I have come full circle in a way that really sort of frightens me. 

Also, I think that the partner who stopped by to "have a little chat before I left" should have been estopped from assigning me this project during that conversation.  I never would have let him into my office if I had known that he was going to give me new work at the end of our "chat."

* Ridiculous estop sign picture via here.

Monday, March 21, 2011


I have two deal toys.  Actually, I have one.  I have one deal toy, and one award from Legal Aid.  And a paperweight. 

In case you don't know, a deal toy is a little trophy that you get when a deal you work on closes.  They are also called "tombstones," I guess because of the typical shape?  Or maybe because by the time the deal closes, you wish you were dead.  Anyway, a deal toy usually has the name of the client, the name of the firm and the amount of money that the deal was worth written on it somewhere (which is why you don't see a picture of my real deal toy, just the stock image below).  Usually they are made of some kind of acrylic or Lucite and are kind of ugly.  Lawyers and investment bankers collect them over the course of their career and put them on a shelf in their office (or more than one shelf, depending) to show what a hot-shot they are.  Not all the lawyers on the team get them though -- usually they leave out the junior associates.  This is how the really important lawyers show juniors that they are fungible.  Which is why, over the course of three years, I earned only one.  And an award from Legal Aid for a pro bono case I worked on.  And a paperweight.

(deal toy image via the WSJ)

vernal equinox

(B, holding our spinach seeds in the sunshine)

I've been so jealous of all the spring photos posted by other bloggers over the last couple of weeks.  Last week we saw the first signs that spring is really on the way.  We had warm, sunny weather.  I spent Saturday cleaning all the autumn out of our flower beds.  I was delighted to discover that the daffodils and tulips were actually a good way up once I cleared the dead leaves away.  We spent most of the day outside.

Then, yesterday, on the first official day of Spring, I planted spinach with B and C, hoping it can withstand any remaining chilly weather of the season. 

Today, it snowed the whole way into work, and actually started accumulating out in the suburbs.  I really must learn to start respecting the weatherman.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Erin, unplugged

(Electric car plug-in pictures via Aptera)

Some things are better when plugged in.  I am not one of those things.  Electric devices make me feel all weighed down.  For example:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Biglaw life

It's St. Patrick's Day.  Being named Erin, I typically have a lot of fun on this holiday.  I have memories of drinking green beer at 9 am and not being the only one in the bar.  I have memories of my time in San Francisco with Kathy wearing a ridiculous hat and getting all mad when the Irish pub called last call at 11 pm (which is kind of ridiculous, you must admit). 

But this is where I am apparently spending my St. Patrick's Day this year:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Angry woman
(Did you know that if you google image search "anger," you get 99% pictures of men? 
To a picture like the one above, you have to google "angry woman." 
Why do men seem to have a monopoly on anger? 
Why is their anger just anger, while ours is bitchy or whiny?)

Today, I was angry.  I was angry pretty much all day.  I was angry about some stuff going on in my personal life.  I was angry because I have been busier at work since I gave notice than I have been in months.  I was angry because I could not get the carpet people to commit to a time to come replace the soaking padding underneath our carpet in the basement where it flooded.  I was angry because the timing did not work out for me to go for a run in the middle of the day today.

I have a little bit of a temper.  Well, actually, I have a pretty vile temper, it just takes a bit to set it off.  But the past two days, I have been right on the edge of it, constantly.  That means I have to hold myself pretty tightly in check.  I have been trying to figure out why exactly, when I realized that this is always how I get when I don't have any time alone.  I get over-stimulated.  And then I am on the edge.

The problem is that it is not always feasible in my life to be able to retreat.  I live in a house with four other people.  I also have friends and other family.  And since giving notice at work, I have had a constant stream of visitors to my office.  I have had work commitments, coupled with some pretty intense family crises of late.  I don't know how to balance it all.  It is easy to say that I should "make time for myself" etc., etc.  But the demands of a family, a job, and a community of friends don't always make this possible.  So what is an introvert to do?

Today, my only solution was to go for a run.  With Kathy, who I have not seen alone in what feels like forever.  We talked about some of the things making me angry.  It didn't really help to make me any less angry.  Burning off the adrenaline that has been kicking in my veins all day was a nice feeling, but it doesn't feel like a long-term solution.  I know I need more time alone, stimulus free, than many other people.  This makes it extraordinarily challenging sometimes to communicate this need to the people who love me in a way that they can understand.  I don't have an answer to this dilemma.  But at least I was able to identify the problem.  Which is a beginning, I suppose.  But I'm still kind of pissed off.

Monday, March 14, 2011

using a budget to quit your job

This is the first in what hopefully becomes a series of "How To" posts.  These posts aren't intended to tell you how you should do something, though.  Rather, the intent is to show you how I did something, and explain what I would have done differently.  Because everyone's situation is different, all advice needs adjustment in order to work for you.  Especially unsolicited advice!

The most common reaction of other associates when they found out I was quitting was to say something like, "I wish I could quit too," so I thought I would write this.  My hope is that by showing how I did something, maybe the next person will realize it actually is possible.  I was able to quit my job not because Kathy made boatloads of money or because I have a trust fund or because I have no obligations.  I was able to quit my job because I thought, planned, made sacrifices, and had some good luck. 

One caveat -- this plan assumes a dual income or that you will still have money coming in from somewhere.  This budgeting plan will work if you are going to take severance, if you are going to take a lower paying job, or if you are going from being a two-income family to a one-income family.  If you're going to live off your savings for a lengthy period of time, obviously you will need to save for much longer.  But I think the basics remain the same -- you just need to stretch it out over a year, two years, or three years, and be willing to watch your hard-earned savings gradually dwindle.

Because I have actually learned something from my last two months of budgeting, this is part "what I did" and part "what I would have done in a perfect world."  That means it's on a 6-month timeline, which is how I would have done things in an ideal world, and if my firm had not offered severance when it did.  Because I had to quit when I did in order to get the severance, my timeline was actually much more condensed than this.**  But before we go to the step-by-step, can I just say this:  DON'T BE INTIMIDATED BY USING A BUDGET.  It is not hard or scary.  Even if you are not mathematically inclined.  You can use a calculator, this isn't high school algebra class.

**Since I am a lawyer, after all, please be aware I have absolutely no training in financial planning or anything like that. I am just a person who likes to be reasonably responsible with money, and recently found a way to save enough to quit my job.  So this is not intended to be financial advice.  K, thanks.

Friday, March 11, 2011

um, actually...

...NOT necessary.

Spotted on my way to court this afternoon.  Note, in particular, the red dress with holes all up the side.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

little sis

Tonight, I am going out to celebrate quitting my job with my little sister (haha, not so little, she is 26).  Here is a short list of reasons why having a sister -- my sister in particular -- is one of the best things in the world:
  1. She has the same parents as me, so when I complain about them, she actually understands.  She can also help me interpret their sometimes bizarre behavior.  For example, in a g-chat yesterday, my sister said something along the lines of, "Oh don't worry, that wasn't directed specifically at you and your situation, that's just a new dad lecture.  I got it over Christmas."  Which explained why my dad was lecturing me on something I thought was entirely inapplicable to my life.
  2. She kind of looks like me.  Strangers think she looks A LOT like me, although one day we stood in the mirror and tried to find some features that were actually the same.  We came up with "thinness of lips."  It's still fun though.
  3. She supports me.  All the time.  Even when I am behaving like a complete douche.  Don't get me wrong, sometimes she says "You're being a douche."  But in a supportive kind of way.
  4. She is constantly challenging me not to jump to conclusions.  Without fail, every time I thought my sister was behaving crappily to me, she has had some completely rational explanation for her behavior.  And usually I am the one behaving kind of crappily.
  5. She makes me laugh.  A lot, all the time.  Over stuff that only we think is funny.  Which I think is what causes her husband to give us those looks all the time when we hang out.
  6. And because I'm kind of vain:  She looks up to me.  Still.  (Sorry, sis, you know you do though.)  Each time I realize it, it amazes me.  Just when I am thinking that I am a hot mess and couldn't have destroyed my own life more, she says something that indicates that she thinks I am amazing.  It always helps.  It makes me feel like maybe I AM a little amazing.  Even when I look like a mess and have messed something up at work and am in a fight with Kathy all on the same day. 
So thanks, sister, for being awesome.  And could you please give permission for me to put your picture at the bottom of this post?  I'll put it after the jump, I promise.  Thanks.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

born again

If all change is a "little death," there is also a little birth.  It being Spring, and given my New Year's Resolution (number one) that seems appropriate.  A piece of us dies, but a new piece also comes into existence.  And that is why, today, on the day that I gave notice at work, I think I feel so light and so happy.


To be honest, I expected to have feelings more associated with the death.  I expected fear, and yes, some grief.  Instead, I felt feelings I associate more with birth (like joy, and relief -- although I suppose that feeling could accompany either transition).  There was a little fear as I walked into the office of the Director of Attorney HR, and again as I walked in to speak with one of the co-chairs of my department, a woman I have a lot of respect for.  I have spent weeks agonizing with Kathy over the right way to say what I wanted to say, the way to spin it that would burn the fewest bridges and maintain these relationships, in case I change my mind and want to come back.  In the end, what won out was the simple truth.  I simply told them the Plan.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

left-handed lover

A couple of days ago, the NYT published this article about being left-handed.  Apparently, being left-handed has lost its stigma, but retained its mystery.  Have I mentioned that I am left-handed?  Probably not.  It's an interesting bit of trivia, but not altogether that important.  Being left-handed just is.  My mother is left-handed, as is my maternal grandmother.  We all do varying degrees of things with our right hands.  I think my mom is the most strongly left-handed.  My grandmother and I both cut with our right hand when using scissors, but my mother does not.  Which means that, growing up, our house was full of left-handed scissors, which no one else could use.  I think scissors are largely ambidextrous now, but I digress.  My point is that you don't think I'm not left-handed because I cut with right-handed scissors.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

little deaths (or, Hamlet for lawyers)

I guess it's not enough for me to use Shakespeare to show why leaving the law firm is hard.  I've been resisting writing this all day, but I can't do it.  I have to over-explain.  Perhaps it is my legal training.  You can't just state the issue and then state the law.  You have to apply.  It's the A in IRAC.  You learn this in your first legal writing class.  And so.

Issue:  A friend one said to me that when her friends change their names when they get married, it's like a little death.  To me, that is what leaving the law firm behind is like.  Really, isn't it what all changes are like?  Little deaths.

Relevant lawWho would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

on being a lawyer

HAMLET:  To be or not to be, that is the question
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing, end them?  To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep we mean
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd.  To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?  Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

little earthquakes

A casual friend of mine from my days in California moved to Christchurch, New Zealand shortly before I moved to New York.  In February, Christchurch was rocked by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, and continues to be ravaged by strong aftershocks. 

Christchurch: devastation, but also a lucky escape (Photo: Getty)
(some of the damage after the original 7.1 quake)

This is the same magnitude that hit Haiti, but due to significantly better infrastructure (ahem, more money) Christchurch is fairing much better than Port-au-Prince.  Nonetheless, the residents of Christchurch are devastated.  This morning, I read stories of people living with no water, no electricity, no sewer.  Stories of children learning that even a "small" earthquake means "go under the table" in case their house crumbles around them from being damaged so many times.  Stories of families leaving their homes because they are no longer habitable. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

spring is in the air

Today is March 1, which means that we are officially in the month when Spring begins.  Which means we are officially in the month I start working on the garden.  Last year, I had a lot of good intentions, but struggled to actually do much more than mow the lawn and throw in some wood chips and random flowering plants I picked up while at Home Depot for other projects.  This year, not so. 

The first step toward having a lovely garden is to plan it, not just buy random flowering plants at Home Depot and throw them in (although in my view, that is better than nothing).  I've lived at my house through 1 1/2 summers (i.e., one summer full time, one summer half-time) so I have learned a few things about the yard.  That helps.  However, there is still a lot I don't know.  We didn't do the existing landscaping, so there are several plants that I have no idea what they are (either because I can't remember at the moment or because I have never seen them before).  But I like them.  That is why they are referred to below as "nice plants" or just "bushes."  I'm not that experinced of a gardener, actually.  Anyhow, here is what our yard currently looks like, to me:

My dad would kill me if he saw this freehand, not-to-scale map drawn on typing paper.  But it will serve my purposes for now!  And anyway, it's kind of accurate.  This is what our house and yard look like to google maps (although upside-down compared to my map):

the way it goes

Arrrrgh!  Did you notice I didn't put the pictures up last night like I promised?  Bad blogger!

That is because, when you have kids in your life, it is anything but predictable.  A, the 10 year old, had a crisis last night that occupied pretty much the entire evening from the time we got home until 12:30 when I finally collapsed into bed, exhausted (other than when I was busy burning the green beans I was steaming, which I did not even know you could do).  Poor kid.

So maybe tonight with the pictures, then.  We shall see.