Cosmo Rooferford B. Hayes and Conquering Fears*

Cosmo at Work

Getting over my fears, little by little.

Something magical happened this week. I met a dog I felt more than 50% comfortable around and fell completely in love with him. For those who know me, I am a devout “cat person.” I will watch any cat video that comes my way, constantly ask my parents for updates on our family cat, Zoot, and will fervently defend their awesomeness to any doubting “dog person.” Alas, the other C is highly allergic to the creatures, which explains why I am, as my granny has now labelled me, a “traiter to all cats.”

Getting a dog was a huge deal for me. Aside from the commitment that comes with getting a dog, or the awkwardness I display whenever I, the “cat person,” encounter a dog, I had to think long and hard about getting the little dude for other reasons. You know how most people say that snakes, heights, or public speaking are their worst fears? Mine happens to be dogs. That is a really fun fear to have when you happen to live in the most dog-friendly neighborhood in town where dogs of all shapes and sizes run around unleashed. The most scared I have been in the last year was probably when I had to walk by a German Shepherd that was tied up outside a shop by myself.

To make a long story short, many years ago my family got a dog who wound up having some serious behavior problems. He started off sweet then snapped, which led to me winding up in the hospital twice  – once just for an inspection and the other for surgery, an overnight stay, and a finger that will never fully function again. Although I have  continued to love dogs, I just haven’t enjoyed being around them ever since that experience.

People have tried to comfort me or convince me that their dogs wouldn’t ever hurt a fly, while others laughed and said that I “must have done something” to deserve the bites. None of that has mattered because if there is one thing I have learned, it’s that you can’t reason fear away. It takes time and a lot of effort to overcome it. I have read articles my mom has sent me about how to behave around dogs, spent time around friends’ dogs, and sometimes decided not to cross the street when I see a big dog coming towards me. Although all that has helped somewhat, I finally figured that the only way to get over this thing once and for all was to just suck it up and get my own dog, especially since the other C really wanted one.

So the other C and I went to the SF SPCA on Sunday and met Cosmo (formerly “Joe Cool”) and decided to take him home. I could not have asked for a more perfect dog. He is sweet, calm, and well-behaved (not to mention super cute). We’ve only had him a few days and already I feel more, though no where near completely, confident around dogs. It’s taken me a long time to realize that most dogs aren’t really all that interested in me – if there’s another dog around, they’d much rather interact with him or her than a silly old human like me.

It will be a while before I’m ready to play with bigger dogs, but thanks to this little guy I know there is hope for me. I cannot fully explain how wonderful it feels to be comfortable around this little dog or to not immediately freeze when I pass a dog on the sidewalk. So the cheezy moral of the story is, when you’re ready, try to determine what would help you overcome your greatest fear and go for it. It will be hard and may take a long time, but few things will ever be as worth it.

*Okay, I wasn’t actually allowed to call him Rooferford, but we live on Hayes st so I couldn’t resist. All photos by the other C.

2011 in Review

Despite some frustrations and some ups and downs here and there, 2011 was overall an exciting year. I’m pretty sure I’ll look back at this one when I’m older and go “aww yeah, 2011 was the year of awesome.” I have a feeling 2012 is going to be pretty challenging, but I’m looking forward to it and am ready to face it head on.

January started off right with the Crunchies after party at the Exploratorium; there’s nothing quite like unleashing a bunch of 20 and 30 somethings, hopped up on vodka red bull, into a building filled with gadgets, sounds, and all sorts of hands-on exhibits. The other C and I also made it to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the first time and hung out with some grad school friends who visited from TX and Denmark.

February kept things moving with a three week visit from my Northern Irish cousin and one of her good friends. We played tourist, danced the night away at DNA Lounge, gambled our way through Reno, and sat in awe for a three hour long Elton John concert. A friend from high school who I hadn’t seen in forever also visited, which made February the official month for catching up.

In March I ventured over to the UK to visit parents and friends. I also made it to Northern Ireland for my Grandmother’s surprise 80th birthday. Although I was convinced that she had figured us all out, she was completely shocked to see everyone who had driven down or flown over for her birthday.

April was dedicated to wine tasting and Disneyland. I didn’t think it was possible, but the group I went with managed to ride almost every single ride in both Disneyland and California Great Adventure (or whatever it’s called).  Needless to say, I was exhausted and extremely cranky by the end of the day (but it was magical and well worth it).

May was one of the most fun months ever (like omg for srs!). First I went to New Orleans for Jazz Fest, which consisted of a pub crawl from one end of town to the banks of the Mississippi, fried alligator, beignets, and flippin’ sweet music. I later made it to Houston to visit my good friend Sara who was working there as a teacher. I also made it a bit further south to visit some family I hadn’t seen in a while. AND! I met the other C’s parents in Kingwood. Once the great NOLA/TX journey was done, it was time for more wine tasting with the other C’s siblings and a whirlwind apartment search. Somehow the other C and I managed to snag a wonderful apartment right next to Alamo Square.

In June I went to Nova Scotia with my grandmother (the one who just turned 80) to visit her older sister who lived in a nursing home up there. It was a strenuous, but rewarding trip.

July was the month for learning how to become a “hacker.” I took a beginner Java course at UC Berkeley and learned all about loopy things and some other quirky stuff from a professor who showed up with Doc from Back to the Future’s hair and a repertoire of puns related to coffee and Indonesia. The other C and I also celebrated our first anniversary by spending some time on the road and hiking.

August was for relaxing in Colorado and then launching into my first semester of law school at UC Hastings.

In September I thought I’d figured it all out and didn’t find law school all that difficult. Well, it was a lot of work but I didn’t quite understand what all the fuss. Then…

October hit and I understood.

November was for taking take home exams, doing most things at home, and being incredibly grateful for having a caring boyfriend who always knows how to make the anxiety go away. Thanksgiving was the highlight of the month. We hosted it at our place and C’s parents, brother and boyf came over for Apples to Apples, good food, and a whole lot of silliness.

December, or at least the first half, can be defined as ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh! Exams are terrifying. It doesn’t really matter if you’ve studied for days on end and have read every case and most of the supplement if you get test anxiety. I managed to come out only moderately scathed, partied hard, and was happy to have made some awesome and smart new friends. After collapsing in a heap for several days and playing the new Zelda game, I flew to Cleveland for Christmas, then to Colorado, which is where I am now!

I didn’t make it to any new states or countries in 2011 – in fact, I barely left SF – which is a let down from my yearly goal. However, I got to know my city better and fell even more in love with California than I was before. Will I make it to any new places in 2012? Not too likely. But with some weddings coming up, it looks like 2012 will be even more of a reunion year than 2011 was. And perhaps I can make it somewhere sweet over spring break, like Vancouver or Arizona.


It’s all about the race

The more of this semester I get through, the more I’m convinced that law school, or at least the first year, is just one big endurance test, or race. It doesn’t necessarily seem to be about what you know but about who will last the longest. Here is a bit of whimsy from a brain overloaded by contracts.

You start off a little rusty, then you get the hang of things and think you’re going to make it. But then an incline appears out of nowhere and before you know it, you’re out of breath. All of a sudden, you realize this isn’t a simple road race but one filled with obstacles, mudslides, fried computers, and a kajillion twists and unexpected turns. Signs keep telling you that you’re doing great, that you’re almost there, but you find clues and hints here and there to indicate that you’ve still got a long way to go.

You realize that the other runners aren’t necessarily more athletic than you, though some are, but that many are better prepared. Perhaps they’ve figured out what stretches and strengthening exercises they needed to do before this whole thing began. Maybe they began training a long time ago, listened to podcasts, bought the right shoes, or hired a coach. You learn you’re not the worst runner, but you aren’t sure how to keep up with the others who’ve figured this whole game out, or at least act like they have.

So you train, every day. You make sacrifices by forgetting to sleep, to shower, to buy groceries, and remembering to take breaks. When you do sleep, you dream about the race. When you meet with friends, all you can think about is what you should be doing instead. You let it consume you and take over your life. You become part of a fraternal order that is both bound by shared experience and stretched by fierce competition. You’re not sure which of your siblings will give you the wrong directions and which will share their water with you when you’re at your lowest point. Some will remain silent and go it alone – you don’t know what to expect from them. The hardest question to answer is what type of sibling are you? What will you do when decision time comes?

You pause only when your body can’t take it anymore. Or when you realize that there is more to life than just this race. Or, more likely, when you realize that you are simply exhausted and have perhaps exaggerated how bad it really is.

You decide to reengage with friends, family, the outside world. You pick up the news to find out what you’ve missed. You let other people help you and you do your best to thank them.

You smile at the person who is always there for you – who calms you down after every breakdown and moment of panic. None of this would be possible without him and his promise to always smile back. He reminds you that you love the race and assures you that he’ll always be there to welcome you home.

You retie your shoes, focus on the path directly in front, and get back to running.

It’s a part of who you are now.

Yet More Silly Correspondance from My Mom(s)

Moms and technologically

I am STILL alive! Procrastinatory Friday may have extended for several months but I’m back baby. What type of procrastination have I been doing lately? The kind that involves learning about the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Torts, and Contracts, that’s what! Oh, and throw in some Legal Writing and Research.

I’ll get to the law school stuff some day, but let’s do an update on Moms first. These aren’t the best silly mom things, but they’re still pretty silly.

The first is from an email I got from my mom a few days ago after I sent her this video:

Many of the cat videos referenced in the video are probably familiar to you, but it seems that they were new to my mom. This is what she had to say:

That was funny. The cat walking on its hind legs at the start certainly draws you in. Loved the cat swinging on the fan. They’re so silly.

If that wasn’t enough, here’s a little snippet from my friend Lisa. Apparently her mom sent her an email early one morning and started it off with:

“Hope I didn’t wake you.”

Ohhhhh moms, you continue to delight. Keep up the good work!

Busy Busy Bee

I’m bringin’ blogging baaack.
It has been approximately 8,000 days since my last blog post – apparently WordPress has opted to use the world’s most hideous font in its editor since last I was here. Ick.

A whole lot has happened since June 24th, which was the date of my last entry, I believe. In that time, the other C and I celebrated our first anniversary by venturing off to Pinnacles for some hiking, I wound up getting accepted to UC Hastings, I started tutoring a couple of ESL students once a week, ventured off to Colorado for two weeks to spend time with my parents, and spent the last weekend at Outside Lands, a flippin’ sweet music festival.

I don’t think I ever mentioned on here that the other C and I moved in together. Well, we did. At the very end of May. We have yet to host a proper housewarming party, but when we do, it will probably be some sort of all day Cocktails (for me) n’ Kart (for him) extravaganza. It’s been a lot of fun so far, although I’ve been out of town a lot and he’s been working like crazy.

Hastings’ 1st year orientation begins tomorrow morning so I have been scrambling to complete last minute tasks. Of course many things have been put off because I have decided that writing this post and finishing the Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell to be higher priorities than labeling a bunch of folders. This will either be much appreciated or regretted within the next few days. I can’t believe it’s all starting tomorrow! Eeppp!

Tutoring my students is one of my favorite parts of the week, which actually surprises me quite a bit. I tutored ESL for a couple semesters when I was studying at Trinity and found it could be really challenging. Teaching wasn’t necessarily the hardest thing, but establishing a regular routine was. Sessions were cancelled at the first sign of a snowflake, students refused to speak English outside of our sessions and somehow expected to get better, and other tutors would cancel, meaning that I would wind up with multiple students at different levels. Oftentimes my students would prefer to ask me questions about my life – whether I had my own children (which to me at the age of 19 was a terrifying thought), was Catholic or some other sort of Christian, and where I was from. Don’t get me wrong, I highly enjoyed tutoring and wound up meeting some wonderful people, but I never knew what to expect or how to prepare going into a lesson. This time around, I have a husband and wife team who are 100% dedicated to learning English. They do their homework, show up on time and call me if they have to cancel, ask me pertinent questions, and use English in their every day lives, which means they are getting better all the time. I know it’ll be hard to create full lesson plans for them once school starts, but I’m hoping my time with them every week will be a time when I can forget law school exists and focus on something else.

Spending time in Colorado was probably the best way I could have spent my last two weeks before law school. I went hiking, biking, horse-back riding, and attended several concerts as part of the Aspen Music Festival. Unfortunately, my mom had to go to Cleveland to sort a few family matters out last minute so I didn’t get to spend much time with her, but I did get in lots of quality time with my dad, which is something we haven’t done a lot of since I left London. We went on a tour of a mine and even climbed Mount Elbert, which is the highest peak in Colorado and the second highest in the US outside of Alaska. Hiking up to over 14,000 feet is no joke!

I fear that this blog will be neglected yet again, but I hope that I will use it for little updates and perhaps useful tips about law school and San Francisco I come across in the next months.

Here are some photos I’ve taken over the last month and a half. Many are from the trip the other C and I took and the others are from hikes near Snowmass, Colorado. None are from Mount Elbert because I didn’t feel like lugging my big ol’ camera all the way up the mountain!

I’m on a Plane! (or the road home from a long adventure)

Please be warned, despite the title, this post might not be quite so happy.

Did you know that all it takes is a mere 20+ hours of traveling, delays, waiting, and a night spent near JFK airport to earn an upgrade to business class? If you’re lucky, you might even be switched from an airline that doesn’t support WiFi on many flights (such as Continental), to one that does (such as Delta). So here I am, sitting in my comfy seat with a blanket, my feet propped up, a lovely, aerial view of American farmland, rivers, and highways to my left, my laptop neatly placed in front of me, and all the frustrations of the previous day nearly forgotten.

The past 10 days have included moments of frustration, joy, exhaustion, sadness, and relief. It began with a red-eye flight from SFO < EWR, a morning spent in a dated airport hotel, and a reunion with my 80 year-old, Northern Irish grandmother outside customs in Terminal C. The purpose of our meeting in this way, was to accompany each other upwards to Nova Scotia to visit my great aunt and her sister. Aunt Sally lives in a nursing home and suffers from Alzheimers and the loneliness that comes with long-departed relatives and friends, as well as the long distance from her native home. For my grandmother, who we can refer to as "Granny," this was a necessary and much longed-for trip. She feared that if she did not go when she did, that her sister may no longer recognize her or that she (Granny) may not be fit to handle the cross-Atlantic flight. For me, it was an opportunity to meet my great aunt for the second time and to spend time with Granny when she most needed it. In a few days, once I've had the chance to upload all my photos, I'll chronicle our adventure in fuller detail. For now, I just need a place to enter some of the many thoughts and emotions that came with it all. Nova Scotia was hardly the place I remembered it being from the sole journey I had made about 15 years earlier. Instead of finding hearty seafood meals and charming mom and pop shops, we drove through run-down towns and ate microwaved "baked" potatoes. Granny remarked on the absence of shops she remembered and the bizarre drop in population. However, the landscape, with its many rivers, hilltops, and inlets, remained unchanged. We spent our days between our country road motel, neighboring towns, and Aunt Sally's nursing home, Grace Haven. On our first visit, Aunt Sally instantly recognized Granny but had trouble making conversation and resorted to frequently discussing the blue sky and nice green grass. Each day she returned more and more to her old self - making jokes, laughing, informing us of where old friends once had lived, and commenting on how it was high strawberry season. Her mobility levels appeared to coincide with her mental capacity for remembrance and recognition. The more she chatted, the less she complained of her sore legs. Granny's mood also fluctuated with Aunt Sally's behavior, as to be expected. Watching the two sisters reconnect as Granny told her sister stories of when they were children and as Aunt Sally poked fun at Granny for spilling ice cream down her top, was incredibly moving. Realizing that Aunt Sally had slipped back into confusion when she asked when we would take her home, was heartbreaking. As a mostly silent onlooker, I wanted to be able to take this woman I barely knew, yet with whom I share so much, into my arms and tell her that someday we would come to take her home for good. I am still unsure whether Aunt Sally truly understood who I was. She knew me as someone she could trust, but whether she saw me as a relative I suppose I'll never know. The important thing was that she always knew and smiled at her sister. I imagine she's forgotten by now that we were ever over to spend time with her, but I'd like to think that she feels a bit happier and doesn't feel quite so alone. It is easy to adopt a sense of relaxation when promptly prepared meals and endless servings of tea are brought to my small table, 10,000 feet above the ground. Today's situation sharply contrasts with yesterday's feeling of being stranded at the Halifax airport, and then at JFK, the abrupt goodbye shared between Granny and myself, and the sadness of knowing that neither of us will probably ever see Aunt Sally again. Only 2 1/2 hours to go until I reach San Francisco. I just need to be home.

Marching On

I’ll try to withhold the puns from now on…

March was somewhat of a busy month for me. First I recovered from a whirlwind of Northern Irishness after my cousin and her friend came to stay for a few weeks. Then I went to London and Northern Ireland for two weeks to visit family and friends, as well as surprise my grandmother for her 80th birthday party (she was shocked, if you must know). I came back to San Francisco, collapsed in a heap, then ventured off to wine country for a weekend of silly pillow fights, hot tubs, and – you guessed it! – wine.

Below I’ve included quite a few photos from the last few weeks. Some of my favorites come from Londonderry/Derry, a part of Northern Ireland long troubled by pro/anti union troubles for years and years. It also contains old walls surrounding the city, which are interesting to walk around. Although my father had walked the walls before (he was born and raised in NI), he didn’t think he’d ever actually walk the city streets (wait a minute…this sounds like the start of a U2 song). Many signs in the area, whether pro or anti union, are still covered with paint (probably from paint guns) and intimidating murals featuring schoolgirls accompanied by AK47s face busy streets.

A lot of the other photos are just silly.

That sure is a lot of photos!

Storify and the Air Strike in Libya

An experiment with with my new favorite site, Storify.

Have you heard of Storify yet? If you haven’t (don’t feel too bad, it’s still pretty new), you probably will soon. The other C, as well as another friend of ours, recently accepted jobs there, which is why I now know what a storifyamathingy is. I have since informed the other C that I will be living vicariously through him because the idea is just too cool.

Storify allows you to create a story, if you will, about whatever you want (be that Rebecca Black, the Japanese earthquake, Cadbury mini eggs, or even Storify), using your own words combined with media from your preferred sites via a bit of drag and drop. You can then share your story on Storify or embed it into your site.

As a history nerd, I think this is pretty neat. Dealing with non-digitized sources can be enough of a hassle as is (don’t worry my dear friend, microfilm, I could never forget you). Storify enables anyone, from plain ol’ me to big time journalists, to easily share content in an engaging way.

For my first ever Storify story, I chose the search term “Libya air strike” because I wanted to explore a subject that has been updated recently. My sources are Twitter, Flickr, Google, and a few other news sources I added.

I’m sure I’ll be playing around with the site more and more. I’m hoping that one day this catches on in academia as well!

You should try it out for yourself!

Affirmations of Life

Boring blog post about nothing in particular because I’ve been a bad blogger

Some days words come without me barely having to put forth an effort and others the mere thought of coming up with a decent blog topic is a challenge. As I enjoy posting to my blog somewhat regularly, I’ve got to push through and allow myself to have a few horrible blog posts.*

I just looked through some older posts, hoping to find a bit of inspiration, and stumbled across my *not* resolution post from the very beginning of this year. I must say, without trying too hard, I’ve done a pretty good job of doing the things I’d hoped to do:

-To get into an awesome law school and to not have that kill me.
So far I’ve only heard from one school and it was good news. It may not be at the very top of my list of where I’d like to go, but it’s decent and they’ve offered me quite a bit of money. Even if I wind up getting rejected from everywhere else I’ve applied, I know that someone wants me. After a year of rejections, it’s nice to finally feel gratified after months of studying, writing, and wondering. Hopefully I’ll hear back from some other schools soon!

-To find an internship and some more contract work.
Sigh. Still have to get cracking on this one. But I’ve been keeping myself busy with Twilio stuff and lots, I mean lots, of guests!

-To design my own website.
This is another thing that’s going to take some time. But thanks to my friend Brendan and a CSS book filled with lots of tutorials, I now have an idea of what this CSS stuff is all about. I still get easily confused but I think I’m just about ready to jump in and try my own thing.

-To visit another new state and country (or international city)-this is pretty much my goal every year.
This one’s going to be tough. Not sure if the country is going to happen as it looks like the rest of 2011 is almost entirely planned out, but a new state could possibly happen. Perhaps I’ll plan an adventure to Seattle before the end of the year!

-To get back into martial arts.
Success! I have joined the Okinawan Karate Club of San Francisco and I absolutely love it. My only gripe is that the only two class times are on Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons. I’d love a third class on Mondays or Tuesdays! The other people in the club are really nice, they keep things traditional, which means they focus on self-defense and history rather than competition. I have to start as a white belt again though, which is a bit weird since I have a brown belt in my old style, but I suppose it’s good to brush up on my basics.

-To reconnect with other old friends who I have been horrible about keeping in touch with.
I’ve definitely been slightly better about this, but there’s still more I should do. But hey, as I mentioned before, I’ve had a million guests here!

-To properly visit the East Coast.
Still hasn’t happened.

-To keep being happy.
Still doing pretty good on this front!

That’s it for now. I’ve just discovered that there’s an Android app for Words with Friends (gasp! A Zynga product, noo!) so I’m going to challenge a stranger. If you’re on there, you should totes be my friend (username cedickie).

*I admit, there haven’t really been any good blog posts for a while, whatevs!

Sometimes I feel like a boat in the ocean, then I realize there are much bigger things, like giant boats, out there (hey, don’t get mad at me for not making sense, you’re the one that made it this far down the post!).