Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Three Beautiful Things Thursday (err... Wednesday)

I know its not Thursday but its been a rough couple of weeks and I want to take a moment while I have it, to remember 3 beautiful things in life because life really is incredibly beautiful but its our responsibility to take notice. So here are three beautiful things Thurday (3bt).

A Job. I am so grateful to have a job because so many struggle without one. I am also grateful to love what I do and to find meaning in it. I won't lie, sometimes the lack of the big bucks makes me feel slightly guilty (you know the whole 'she has so much potential' parent-teacher discussions from childhood) but there are moments... like when a child's civil rights are vindicated and you know they now have a chance at making it in this world... that make the 'lack of big bucks' guilt melt away as you revel in the priceless feeling of that moment.

Lunch. As a teacher I didn't eat lunch, I inhaled it. 25 minutes set aside for lunch within which you must ensure washed hands, balanced lunch trays, drop offs, and pick ups and the occasional emergency intercom plea to come get Frankie who thought sticking a carrot up his nose would be a brilliant artistic gesture leaves you with very little time to eat! Now, a one hour lunch at a place of my choosing either alone in my thoughts or with a good friend chatting it up and enjoying the beautiful day makes lunch a beautiful thing, one I don't take for granted.

Friends. I drafted a 3bt about three months ago. Quickly I typed 3bt and the following three words: Family. Diet Coke with lime. Friends. I found it ironic to come across this draft considering what happened. But for that very reason, I included friendship in my 3bt. The fact remains that though one friendship I mistakenly thought would last the test of time didn't, doesnt mean friendship is not beautiful. True friendship is beautiful. It always was, it still is.

Feel better already.

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens. -Kahlil Gibran.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bar Exam Advice

Aisha, you just passed the bar exam, what are you going to do now?? SLEEP! And sleep I did, quite well these past few glorious post-bar-exam-result days. Now that I have celebrated as properly as one could given the circumstances its time for me to share what I learned from my experience. This advice is of course just my own personal point of view and what I did may not work for you. I just remember doing a lot of googling for blogs on bar exam advice and so I thought it would be nice to add another to the pool. I hope this is of some use.

BarBri: I used BarBri as my bar prep course. They help you prep for the state portion and the national portion (the multiple choice MBE). BarBri is pretty good, you take their classes and fill in their pre-prepared lecture notes. They provide good outlines for all the essential bar exam topics. If you didn't take a particular course in law school, the BarBri outlines will cover all you need. At one point in the class you take a full length practice MBE and they give you your ranking as compared to other BarBri students nationwide. BarBri helped me stick to a schedule and I felt comfortable that I learned all the topics covered on the exam. That being said, BarBri is very expensive. If you're going into the private sector your employer may offer to pay for it but if you're a public interest route person like me then... not so much. I was not going to take BarBri because of the high cost (my year it was about $2200) but I caved in. I know people who used old Barbri books passed the exam and saved a pretty penny as well. So it can be done... butI wanted peace of mind and I am glad I took BarBri.

PMBR: PMBR helps you with the national MBE portion. Though BarBri preps you for it too, the books for PMBR are a lot more intense. The questions are much more difficult and the sheer number of practice questions is staggering. They offer two separate lecture style classes: A six day course where you take a sample exam on one topic and then review it for three hours each day. They also offer a three day course where they give you a full length practice exam designed to test you with all the hardest questions and then review them with you. In my opinion the books are awesome but their lectures not so much. If I were you, I would skip the six day lectures but make sure I got the books that they give out at the six day lecture. The three day lecture is somewhat useful and under $200. My one caveat is that on the 2007 MBE however was that it was nothing at all like the PMBR sample questions and that threw me off quite a bit, but still it helped to have studied their questions.

Study Schedule: Some say you should study 12 hours a day. Some say make it a work week. I didn't keep a strict schedule like others had but I did study 40 hours a week. I also made sure to do one 50 question MBE practice exam every day. With studying for the bar exam study like you did in law school and that method will prove to remain successful for you. You took the same courses as the majority of other bar exam takers and so the difference between your knowledge and your seat mates is not going to be significant. Therefore the real difference is the confidence levels and thus the ability to perform better. In my opinion if you study like you always have you will be fine. ***Caveat: I have heard the bar exam in California is atrocious with an abysmal pass rate... they have great blogs out there for California bar exam takers such as here. Perhaps extra study there would not hurt***

An answer to a frequently asked Question: Should I take X class because it will be on the bar exam? My opinion: If you take BarBri: No. BarBri will dumb down all you learned in law school and give you the black letter law and how the bar examiners want to see it. The only two classes in my opinion that would help to take for purposes of the bar exam are: Con Law II and Criminal Procedure. I say those two because the concepts can be a tad complicated so background knowledge in those might be helpful.

When you sit down to study for the bar you will have just graduated law school. You will be tired and burnt out and the last thing you want to do after GRADUATING is STUDY. Just remember it will soon be over and that you will see the light at the end of the long long six week tunnel.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Can I sing it from the rooftop?

I PASSED THE BAR EXAM. Pins and needles until results time I tell you. It doesn't help my nerves that I encounter a lot of lawyers daily and bar examing is a common topic of conversation and that my boss mentioned that it would indeed be humiliating if I were to fail and ofcourse the collective "freaking out" by the entire bar exam result waiting population, many of whom are my colleages and friends. Well you know what? No more of that because I PASSED! I PASSED! I PASSED!!! Alhamdullilah.

I will now proceed to collapse into a puddle on the floor.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

On the importance of trampolines

There are wives who wake up one morning, the closet empty, the suitcase gone because he's gone without a trace.

There are children who awake to a father alone in a darkened room. His head in his hands. The car, and half the bank account, gone without a trace.

This isn't that. But- without a trace, I too lost someone I cared for. But unlike family, this was not one who had obligation to me. It was a relationship borne and bred of choice and the meeting of minds which retained free will.

Its a strange anti-gravity feeling to watch what you thought would last the course of a lifetime mysteriously and inexplicably ripped away. And the rip leaves a tear, and the tear leaves a scar, and the scar hurts. It just does.

You see, I reached that level of trust in those "trust games". You know, the one where you elevate, close your eyes and with arms folded fall backwards into the arms of those below, those who promise to catch you as you free fall down. I have a really hard time doing that. I know that those who promise to catch can just as easily fold their arms and watch as I free fall to the concrete floor.

Despite this knowledge, this time I decided to float and thus crashed upon the concrete floor. But can you really fault those with no obligation to you? Who stood arms outstretched by choice and nothing more binding than that? Because the choice to stand with arms outstretched was inextricably woven with the choice to walk away. So really who do you fault? The one who had simply a choice, or you, upon whom the obligation lay to protect yourself and to carry trampolines, just incase?

I'm not sure why a face once warm is now cold and blank as though the face of a stranger. I suppose better now than later when the pain I feel now would only hurt tenfold ten years later. I can't lie, it does hurt. Because I loved this person, like family, in an obligation sort of way. I forgot that it never was that. That it was always a choice. And now a choice has been made and though this choice is not mine, I must accept it. I know that though it hurts like hell, I know I will heal, and I know I will remember to always carry trampolines to catch my foolish falls.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Chasm Distance Makes

After almost a year I put aside the usual mumbo jumbo of "life" to go back home to see my family. After a rejuvenating three days I woke up in the early morning packed my bags and tiptoed into my parent's room to say goodbye to my mother. She was shivering. Her forehead was warm. "I'm OK. Its just a cold" she whispered as I hugged her goodbye.

My father is out of town for work and my brothers like me, are grown and gone. She doesn't need me. A pot of tea and a can of soup aren't complicated. But does anyone need anyone most of the time? Did I need her to press my forehead when I was sick as a child? Or make pakoras and fruit chaat every day for iftaar? It was one part obligation, but it was three parts love. And I can't return the favor because I have places to go, I have things to do.

They say distance can be a good thing. That absence makes the heart grow fonder. That one should not live in the same cities as their parents. Something about conflicts. Avoiding them. Maybe, sometimes. But right now it just seems like a thing you say to make yourself feel better. Right now I want nothing more than to be there for her. But I can't. I'm too far away. I have to live with the knowledge that the one who spent her entire life making sure mine could be easier, will be home alone tonight with no one to make her chicken soup. And maybe the emotion is too strong, but right now, this singular thought affects me deeply, as though creating an irreperable cut directly to the core, a chasm, a gulf, which feels as though it can never fully close.

New Years Resolutions and Public Committments

Resolutions. We all make them. We all break them. At least I do. Each and every year. Sure it starts out hopeful. Lose Weight! Run Marathon! Fight World Hunger! But somehow right around February the resolve for the resolution sort of poof and disappears. And what is a resolution without resolve?

So this year I decided, why riddle the New Year with the burdens of years past? Shouldn't the New Year be a year to start a clean slate, begin anew and proceed to grow instead of fixing the weeds of yesteryear? This New Year I resolve to be done resolving the two goals that seem to pop up like annoying garden gnomes year after year after year after... you know.

I'm sharing my goals publicly. They say (please don't ask me who they are.. I've just heard it a lot from many a they) if you articulate your goal and tell others about it, you're more likely to succeed. I also hope you will share in some of these goals and join my in the journey. I hope to share with you my progress along the way and tips and suggestions on what I've learned. So here are my two goals, to be acheived before 01/01/08 to start the year with a fresh slate.

Goal 1: Each year I make a New Years resolution along with 90% of womankind: Eat healthier. Work out more. Lose Weight. And each year I along with 99.9% of the same group of women give up around February. No more waiting until January feeling guilty and red faced vowing to work out ten times a day and eat nothing but rice cakes and whole wheat noodles. I resolve to work out 5-6 days per week and eat healthier and wiser. No fancy diet plans or pills. No crazy exercise plan or rock climbing shoes. Eat less. Exercise more. Drink more water, drink less soda. Its really not that complicated (at least for me) to lose weights, its just the sticking to it. I resolve to keep my resolve even if the cake is made of chocolate fudge and powdery sugar. I hope to reach my goal of 2 pounds per week until 01/01 because once there I'll be exactly where I want to be. (This will not be easy as I love sugar, and sugar loves me)

Goal 2: Since I could hold a pencil in my hands and compose a sentence I've written stories. If you've been reading this blog you know the writing bug hit me a little while back. Somehow one day as I sat down, with absolutely no intention to write fiction, she came to me. I knew her name, her story, her circumstance and for a few solid weeks I wrote and wrote. Sadly 80 single spaced pages into my novel I came to a full brake stop. A pesky thing called the bar exam, starting a new job, and the dreaded writer's block took over. But it didnt bug me much that pen had not hit paper in weeks until I heard someone say She will never finish the novel. She'll never have the time. I can't let that be. A few years backs randomly switching stations on a treacherous ride home, a man spoke of writing on NPR. He spoke of a family of five and a full time job. The interviewer asked him how he found the time to write. He emphasized that writing is not glamorous. Sometimes writing sucks. But you do it because you must, because the story must be told. Though sometimes inspiration will strike, sometimes it wont. He formed a routine. Two hours a day locked alone in a room with himself and a pen and paper. He did it with a family of five surely I can do it too. I'm not saying it will be a masterpiece but I surely can complete it. NanoWriMo helps people in my boat get up the nerve to finish writing the lingering novel. I am going to do it this year.

So in sum: Lose Weight. Finish Novel. January 1. Simple enough eh?

"The battles that count aren't the ones for gold medals. The struggles within yourself--the invisible, inevitable battles inside all of us--that's where it's at." - Jesse Owens

Thursday, October 04, 2007

You know you're fasting when...

1. You're the grumpiest one in the grocery store.
2. Outside of prayer times and work you're hibernating like a brown bear.
3. After a frantic search one hour before maghrib at your local grocery store you run up to the 16 year old stock boy in a frenzy screaming I've been looking everywhere for dates, I can't find ANY! Can you pleeeease tell me where I can get some?!
4. You've had to explain to someone why you look like you're struggling to climb into the office bathroom sink for a quick bath.
5. You're the one at the company lunch touching nary a celery, yet mysteriously gaining 15 pounds over the course of a month.

Ramadan Mubarak :)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

A lesson from your wise friend the owl

Why you should never get up late and then fall so behind that you don't have time to put on your time consuming fancy schmancy multi-buckled shoes and consequently drive barefoot with the aforementioned shoes sitting in the passenger seat waiting to be painstakingly put on once you arrive in your company parking lot:

Because the director of the firm may have just pulled in just as you did and may have parked next to you and may then proceed to wait by your car for you to come out so you can walk to the office together. That's why. D'oh!