Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sorry it's been so long ...

I haven't posted in such a long time - I don't know where to start. First of all - the VA bar is not my friend - I missed the cutoff by just a few points which was not fun. Of the 10 people I knew personally who took it - only 3 passed, so at least I'm in good company. While a surprising number of people have suggested to try an easier bar (like MD or MA), I am now approaching this as a grudge match between me and VA! I've started studying again which is very hard to get back into.

The other thing I would like to point out to whoever may read this - unless you have ever taken a bar exam, you really have no idea how awful it is. If you have friends or family members who are preparing to take the bar, the best advice I can give you is to feed them, support them (from afar), and tread lightly. And please, please, please DO NOT ask incessantly about results. If they pass - believe me, you'll know it!!!! And if you have to ask - please don't ask in front of other people.

I also found it really funny that when people found out I didn't pass, they thought I was going to go into some sort of a shame spiral and jump off a bridge. It's a test - that's it. And a flawed test at that! Many, many, many people have to retake it and I really think things happen for a reason so this just means there are better things to come!

Moving on - my parents have finally decided to settle in the Northern Neck of VA (where the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay meet) and have purchased a lot and will begin building a house in the next few months.

My twin brother and his wife had their first baby - my first time being an aunt and my parent's first grandchild - and he is wonderful! He is Joe IV and is a bundle of joy!

It's great being back in the DC area - I've gone to several Redskins games (and right now am very sad about Sean Taylor's passing), taken in some wonderful exhibits (like the Sandra Day O'Connor portraits at the National Portrait Gallery and the Annie Leibovitz exhibit at the National Gallery), reconnect w/ some of my old students and lots of old friends.

I'm looking forward to the holidays (although my time will be spent studying) and wish everyone all the best!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Faith, Hope, and Love . . .

". . . beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most. You need to remember that when you find yourself at the beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up...and it will too."

"I realize that it doesn't matter who or what or when or where the hugging happens. Sometimes you just need a hug."

(From "Hope Floats")

Every time I watch the movie "Hope Floats", I find more things that I have never seen in it before. I think one of the reasons I love the movie so much is because it reminds me of the strong sense of family in southern families - and it reminds me so much of the bonds I have with my own family.

The last two years have been difficult because of the loss of so much for my family in Hurricane Katrina, in addition to losing both of my paternal grandparents (and losing my maternal grandmother one year prior). I think in the time immediately following loss, it is hard to truly put everything in perspective and you spend much of the time in a haze. For me, it has taken time to really think about and to accept that loss is part of life. I have always been a sentimental, touchy-feely type person and now more than ever I try to make a conscious effort to tell those around me how much they mean to me - regardless of what their reactions may be. I don't ever want to regret not sharing my feelings with others. I would encourage others to let friends and family know what they mean to you - every day - not just on special occasions.

The first quote really speaks to me right now because this is a time of lots of new beginnings. I wish that I had more control over things that are happening right now, but I don't and I am finding that that's okay too. I am learning to trust myself more than ever - and trust my heart - and hope for the best. I know good things are to come.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Think . . .

The Shawshank Redemption
Quote from Red

"I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don't want to know. Some things are best left unsaid. I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can't be expressed in words, and makes your heart ache because of it. I tell you, those voices soared higher and farther than anybody in a gray place dares to dream. It was like some beautiful bird flapped into our drab little cage and made those walls dissolve away, and for the briefest of moments, every last man in Shawshank felt free."

Friday, September 14, 2007

Some special quotes from my favorite book . . .

To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee

Quotes from Ms. Jean Louise ("Scout") Finch

"This night my mind was filled with Halloween -- there was to be a pageant representing our county's agricultural products; I was to be a ham. Jem said he would escort me to the school auditorium. Thus began our longest journey together."

(This quote always reminds me of the bond I have with my twin brother. Regardless of how young or old we are/were, he is always my best friend.)

"Neighbours bring food with death, and flowers with sickness, and little things in between. Boo was our neighbour. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a knife, and our lives."

(This quote brings back memories of the way we should all treat each other - exemplified by both of my grandmothers and the other women in my family. It also reminds me of all the "Boos" I have known in my life - at many different ages - and what each one taught me.)

Thoughts about the coming of Fall (one of my favorite seasons)

Nothing Gold Can Stay
by Robert Frost

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lots of News!

My twin brother (Joe) and his wife (Bekah) had their first baby about a week and a half ago - I am now an Aunt for the first time! And he is also the first grandchild. He is Joe IV and is cute as a button - blonde hair and blue eyes. He was a little early but I like to think it was because he was anxious to meet his Aunt Stephanie!

The pic on the left is at the hospital - and it is three generations of Joes! The middle pic is of me holding him the day he was born. The pic on the right is after his first bath at home.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Again, it's been a while since I posted so here's the quickest update I can manage.
1. The VA bar exam was pretty awful! Hope I never have to do that again! Results aren't available until some time in October so I am choosing to forget about it until then!
2. My brother and sister-in-law are expecting their first baby in about 6 weeks and I can't wait to be an aunt!
3. I was just hired by the Fredericksburg public defender's office and should get lots of great experience. Can't wait.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Random Topics

First of all - bar review stinks! I am barely hanging on to my sanity - and the fact that there is some chick in the class knitting sweaters, socks, and scarves doesn't help! I will post pictures when I can.

Second - bar review stinks!

Third - is probably the best website I've found lately. Love "Playground time w/ Brooke Shields".

Fourth - what's up w/ commuting Libby's sentence? Not surprised though.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Just because . . .

Taking a little break and was thinking about poems that I really like - who knows why - probably because it is as far from bar review as I can get. Here is one of my favorites - dark, but haunting.

Dulce Et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen


Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares2 we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest3 began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots4
Of tired, outstripped5 Five-Nines6 that dropped behind.

Gas!7 Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets8 just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime9 . . .
Dim, through the misty panes10 and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering,11 choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud12
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest13
To children ardent14 for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.15

8 October 1917 - March, 1918

1 DULCE ET DECORUM EST - the first words of a Latin saying (taken from an ode by Horace). The words were widely understood and often quoted at the start of the First World War. They mean "It is sweet and right." The full saying ends the poem: Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori - it is sweet and right to die for your country. In other words, it is a wonderful and great honour to fight and die for your country
2 rockets which were sent up to burn with a brilliant glare to light up men and other targets in the area between the front lines (See illustration, page 118 of Out in the Dark.)
3 a camp away from the front line where exhausted soldiers might rest for a few days, or longer
4 the noise made by the shells rushing through the air
5 outpaced, the soldiers have struggled beyond the reach of these shells which are now falling behind them as they struggle away from the scene of battle
6 Five-Nines - 5.9 calibre explosive shells

7 poison gas. From the symptoms it would appear to be chlorine or phosgene gas. The filling of the lungs with fluid had the same effects as when a person drowned
8 the early name for gas masks
9 a white chalky substance which can burn live tissue
10 the glass in the eyepieces of the gas masks
11 Owen probably meant flickering out like a candle or gurgling like water draining down a gutter, referring to the sounds in the throat of the choking man, or it might be a sound partly like stuttering and partly like gurgling
12 normally the regurgitated grass that cows chew; here a similar looking material was issuing from the soldier's mouth
13 high zest - idealistic enthusiasm, keenly believing in the rightness of the idea
14 keen
15 see note 1

Bar Review - UUUGGGGHHH!!

Haven't posted in a while - sorry! Graduated from law school on May 19th, and the very next day drove to Spotsylvania, VA to put everything I own in storage except some clothes and my wonderful bar review books. Am doing bar prep class at UVA Law School and will sit for the VA bar at the end of July. Hopefully I will only have to do this one time!

Still do not have a job, but am very excited to see that Sen. Leahy is widening the investigation into the DOJ and is looking into summer intern hiring, as well as the hiring of new attorneys and the Atty. Honors Program - all of which I applied for (at least 5 different applications) and never received a single response. Interesting . . .

Will keep you updated as I can, but for now, back to work!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Thursday's Reality

The picture on the left is of me standing on my parent's lot - you can no longer see the slab. They had done the plumbing, electrical, and poured the cement foundation.
The picture on the right is looking down Whispering Pines Drive in Waveland - parent's lot on the left and beach is straight ahead.
The destruction in Waveland and Bay St. Louis is almost unimaginable. What most people see on television (if anything) does not show these areas. There is so much work to be done and it will be decades before these two beautiful southern towns will be anywhere close to what they used to be.

Thursday's Work

Our work on Thursday was going door-to-door in Waveland, MS - one of the hardest hit areas of the storm. We were interviewing residents to determine how familiar they are with the various programs and if they had actually taken advantage of the programs (FEMA, SBA, Phase I and Phase II MS Homeowners Grants). Many residents were satisfied with what they received; however, many were not aware of everything that was available to them and did not want to seem "greedy". A few of them felt they were treated as beggars when dealing with FEMA and also stated that businesses were price gauging because the perception was people were getting lots of money and had it to spend - which is in fact not the case.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mississippi Center for Justice

Standing: Eric Herr, Nancy Sykes, Sam Charron, Jeremy Bramson, Ryan Agnew, Keith Grompone, Lindsay Jones, Richard Abbott
Kneeling: Paula Zimmer, Stephanie Schlatter, Josh Papapietro, Alexander Kalife, Kristina da Fonseca, Kelly Koch

This picture was taken outside the office of the MS Center for Justice - the organization we have been working with this week. Check out their website at

Katrina Memorial

Standing: Eric Herr, Lindsay Jones, Stephanie Schlatter, Jeremy Bramson, Sam Charron, Paula Zimmer, Ryan Agnew, Nancy Sykes, Richard Abbott
Kneeling: Keith Grompone, Alexander Kalife, Josh Papapietro, Kristina da Fonseca, Kelly Koch

This picture was taken at the Katrina Memorial, across the street from the Beau Rivage Casino on Beach Boulevard in Biloxi, MS. The collage of materials in the glass case are remains of belongings salvaged from the storm - broken dishes, a police badge, little league trophies, and other memorabilia.

Tuesday's work

Two of our 1L volunteers, Ryan Agnew and Jeremy Bramson, met a wondeful woman on Monday - Latrice Smith. Her story was so compelling that we decided to go back on Tuesday and record an interview with her on a camcorder. She told of living in the Ladner public housing years ago and working her way out of it through hard work and dedication - only to be forced back there after Katrina. Her faith is strong and the love she has for her daughters is overwhelming. Latrice is not looking for a handout - she wants to be treated with basic human dignity and that has not happened. The residents in her community are being told a number of contradictory stories about the future of their housing and what is going to happen to them. They have yet to be given a straight answer. Latrice is the perfect example of a human being who has endured indescribable tragedy, yet still finds a way each day to make the life of her children better. Latrice said it best, "Our government failed."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Our First Day of Work

"One of the best parts about the first day of outreach is how excited many of the people are that we want to visit with them. We met unbelievable people with unforgettable stories and all of them thanked us for going to check on them and to make them aware of available services."

Kelly Koch, 3L (in the green shirt)

Synoposis of the First Day:

Our first day at the Mississippi Center for Justice was everything we thought it would be and more. The work they are doing is great and everyone at the office is so energetic about the work. We spent the morning learning about the different projects we have the opportunity to work on this week and then in the afternoon we did some outreach work with residents of a public housing community. Many of them have been told very different stories about what is in their future as far as the housing goes - and they really are being given no assistance. Many were displaced from a variety of environments and the conditions they are being asked to live in are less than acceptable. There are also residents who have been there for over 15 years and are being threatened with relocation. The center will be compiling information based on our interviews. Residents were also asked to sign releases so that the center can work on their behalf. Some residents agreed, but others seem very wary about signing anything for fear of retribution. There is so much work to be done and the people are so thankful to just have someone listening to them - and what is even more apparent is that they are not asking for much. Just minimal housing and dignity.

We met some special residents and lots of adorable little kids - we thought you might enjoy seeing a picture of the group and also some of the residents we met.

In Loving Memory

Part of the reason we decided to come to the MS Gulf Coast was because my parents and grandparents lost the homes they were building to Hurricane Katrina. Since then, my grandfather passed away in December 2005. My grandmother passed away yesterday after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

She was so excited that our group was coming to the coast to help people. It is in honor of her memory that I am working this week.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Sunday, March 18th

Well, the day was beautiful and most of us spent our time recovering from the flight yesterday and enjoying the 75 degree and sunny day. Kelly and I went to visit my relatives in Pass Christian and saw much of the destruction in Biloxi, Gulfport, Long Beach, and Pass. We did not get over to Bay St. Louis and Waveland - hope to do that later in the week. We did have a wonderful lunch - shrimp gumbo/rice and crawfish pie. It was wonderful.

We found a great barbecue place - The Shed - Exit 57 off I90. It was great!

Will post more tomorrow after our first day.

Arrival in Gulfport/Biloxi

After receiving 8-10 inches of snow on Friday, we were worried that we would not make it out of Hartford for our trip. We got to the airport much earlier than necessary, but did make it out on time. However, when we arrived in Atlanta, things got much worse. Our flight was delayed for several hours and we didn't get in until almost 10:00 pm. Even though it was late, you could smell the water and driving up Highway 90 you could see much ofthe destruction is still very evident. I think this is going to be a real wake up call for many people on the trip, and very sad for me personally because my memories of the Gulf Coast are of a beautiful, quaint area with old southern homes and special people. Some of the people are still here, but so much more is gone.

I will post pictures during our trip - and will try to make some of the pictures before/after pics.

We will be doing volunteer legal work with the Mississippi Center for Justice and I will share that work as well.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Never Ending Job Search

Today I had to take a four hour test in the hopes that I will be considered for the Presidential Management Fellows program. I'm a little unclear what they use the test for or how it determines who will do a good job - but it's part of the process. My dream job would be to work in the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department. We'll see.

At this point, my default plan is to sit for the VA bar and hopefully waive into D.C.

More to come!

Friday, January 26, 2007

Student Hurricane Network - Spring Break Trip

Although school is as busy as ever, I wanted to post some information about a trip I am organizing over spring break (March 17 - 24). Nine of my classmates will be accompanying me to the MS Gulf Coast and we will be doing volunteer legal work in conjuction with the Student Hurricane Network (an organization founded by a Tulane Law Student in response to Hurricane Katrina). As you may or may not know, my parents lost the home they were building in Waveland, MS as well as the furninshings in their apartment in Bay St. Louis, MS and everything else that was stored in Pass Christian. My father's aunt and cousins also lost everything. The home my grandparents were building was also destroyed. While my parents and grandparents decided not to return to the Gulf Coast, my other relatives are on the long road to rebuilding.

We will be working directly with the Mississippi Center for Justice and I know the work will be enormously rewarding for all of us. One of the students, Kristina da Fonseca, has set up a website for the trip and there is a link on the site with information about how you can donate money to help cover our costs. You can either use the PayPal option (which is not tax deductible), or mail a check to the address on the site (which is tax deductible). If you would like to help out, go to We are hoping to raise $3,500 by the end of February.

I will post updates and pictures before, during, and after the trip. If you would like to see pictures and read my parents story, please go to

Thank you for your support.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Long Time...No Blog

It has been such a long time since I posted anything and the last several months have more than challenging. Things seemed to be looking up for the family and I made my way back to New England for my last year of law school. But the reprieve would only last a few days. At the beginning of August, my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and the prognosis was not good. This news came only 8 months after my grandfather had passed away.

Growing up I never really thought about what it would feel like to not have my grandparents around.

My maternal grandmother lived near where I went to undergrad and I can remember going to her house for a tomato sandwich and sweet tea. It is from her that I learned to appreciate the art of quilting, how to can peaches, and the beauty of a garden of irises. She passed away several years ago after a long battle with Alzheimer's.

My paternal grandfather taught us an appreciation for duct tape (it really can be used to fix anything!), how to roast marshmallows by making a small fire in the upside down lid of a metal trashcan, and how to catch fireflies. My paternal grandmother has shown me the art of gardening (which all Southern women must know), the importance of family, and the meaning of the golden rule.

I think that growing up in a military family made me appreciate the time with my grandparents more because there were times (while overseas) that we didn't get to see them for extended periods of time. Our summers in AL and TN were always exciting, special, and full of love.