Thursday, February 19, 2015

hiatus.

I'm going to be taking a break from the blog for a while. Turns out, I'm not a courageous person. So it seems a little hypocritical of me to hold myself out as one. I'll keep on keeping on with my project individually, but I’m going to take a break here.


Thanks for reading, and for your support. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

catching up.

"If you are not failing now and again, it's a sign that you're playing it safe." -Woody Allen

Hello all.

It's been a couple of days. I'm realizing that I'm trying to strike this balance between a lot of my "braveries" being personal things I don't really want to share with the interweb and with wanting to have something to write. That's why it's been a couple days.

On Saturday, we went shopping at the outlets and finally caved and bought a bundt pan. I look at them every time we're in the Kitchen store and Stephen always asks if we should get one and I say "no, I've never wanted to make anything in a bundt pan," which isn't entirely true. Usually what I'm thinking is that we don't have a lot of empty space in our kitchen (read: we have NO space in our kitchen) and bundt pans are big. BUT we finally got one.

I've had a recipe for caramel cake from a dear friend and coworker from when I worked at Starbucks up in Erie, and you have to make it in a bundt pan. So yesterday I made the cake.

I have bemoaned our oven before - it's tiny, and it's electric. It heats from a coil in the bottom and so whenever you bake something like cupcakes or bread or a cake, the bottom is VERY well-done but the top is raw. First world problems, I know.

So I was a little nervous about this cake, which is supposed to bake for 55 minutes. I thought the bottom would catch fire for sure. I couldn't tell if the middle was done so I kept letting it bake and kept checking on it (which, in hindsight, probably wasn't great for the air circulation in the oven). It was an experience that produced a lot of anxiety.

The cake turned out okay. Definitely brown on the outside, and definitely not as moist as my coworker's version, but once you put the homemade caramel glaze on it, it was a-okay.

For me, the great thing about trying new cooking techniques is that, even if I fail at something, once I've at least tried it, I feel a LOT more confident the next time.


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

green card.

"Fear makes the wolf bigger than it is." -German proverb

This is going to be a short entry because I was up at 4:15am to complete today's act of bravery and I'm pretty stinking tired.

Today I accompanied my supervising attorney to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office for a green card interview for one of our clients. I was really excited to see how the process was going to go.

The adjudicator, it turns out, was not the most pleasant of women. Our client is a domestic violence victim (as are basically all of my clients), and as a general rule, once the client has made it to the green card interview, the adjudicator CAN ask them about the abuse they suffered, but it's actually kind of out of line. Whether Immigration "believes" the person suffered abuse is meant to be determined at a different time. I interjected, telling the adjudicator that I was under the impression that this issue had been determined and this interview was for the purpose of green card determination, yadda yadda...

"This IS a green card interview," she said, "but I can ASK anything I want from this file." (I'm really trying to get the attitude in there, because it's important.)

Yikes.

It went on like this for about 40 minutes. I didn't feel it went that badly, but the client was visibly deflated afterwards. We won't know likely for several weeks about the outcome.

I learned that I am actually getting better at having people scold me for things. I also learned that if I think about this New Year's resolution, it helps to push me to do a scary thing that I'm sort of on the fence about, like "I still haven't done something brave today. If this blows up in my face, at least I'll have something to write about."

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

(not) doing the right thing.

"To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice." -Confucious

At many times during my couple years at Widener, I've thought that people really need to be careful who they're saying things around. You honestly never know who's listening. For me, personally, there have been a couple of instances when this happened.

But yesterday really takes the cake. I was sitting in a little room in the library for my office hour, and I could hear a group of people talking in the lobby. I recognized at least 2 of the girls talking, but there was a guy whose voice I didn't know. I wasn't really paying attention at first, but then when I realized what I was hearing I stopped to listen. The guy, I think, was deciding whether to go out with somebody or not...? One of the girls says:

"I don't know. Honestly, she seems really fake to me."

Somebody else goes: "How could you possibly know that?"

"She just wears a ton of makeup. And she's probably not that attractive underneath."

Someone else mumbled something I couldn't hear, and then -

"Well you haven't seen her with her makeup off!"

And they all laughed. It went on like this for a while.

I have no idea who they were talking about. If they had mentioned a name, I would have gone our right away and told them to cut it out. But this is not the only time I've heard this sort of thing going on at school. The real shame is that at least one of the people in the group holds herself out as a religious person. It's a shame when someone who claims such faith betrays it by behaving this way.

It gives me anxiety when this happens, because I believe that if someone were talking about me like that, I would so appreciate it if another person were to stand up for me. But at the same time, there's that social pull, like - this is totally none of my business.

I didn't say anything to the group when I left the library to go upstairs to class, and I'm disappointed in myself that I didn't. And I'm disappointed that it didn't occur to me until literally right now that I still can.

I wish this cycle wouldn't keep repeating itself for me. I wrote my personal statement to get into law school about a similar situation. When I was in middle school, we had one Black girl in our entire class. And the "popular girls" were merciless to her. One time, I watched from across the room as they called her name and then literally spat in her face. I was so shocked that I just stood there. I knew a ton of people had seen it, and I waited for someone who was less afraid of those girls to tell the teacher what had happened. But nobody did. Including me. What I said in my essay is that I really couldn't fault myself for being afraid of bullies when I was eleven, which I still believe is true. But that shouldn't still be true now. If my work with immigrants has taught me anything it's that if you witness something, you're not likely to be the only one who sees it, but you might be the only one who will act.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Fri/Sat

Okay, so we're playing catch-up here this morning. It's been a busy few days.

Friday, 2.6.15

"The easiest kind of relationship for me is with 10,000 people. The hardest is with one." -Joan Baez
So by now we all know that I'm easily motivated by fear of getting yelled at. When I was in grade school, a teacher could shush me and my eyes would well up with tears. Yep, I was that kid. I don't flat-out cry anymore when I get yelled at, but my face gets red, yadda yadda...you get the picture.

It doesn't even matter if I actually did something wrong. You could be way out of line and I'd still be nodding along, afraid that if I correct you that will make matters worse. So on Friday, when I met up with a client to get some paperwork signed, I was braver than I ordinarily would have been when she started laying into me about how long her case was taking. (I should pause here to say that while it's true that immigration law cases can take years to resolve, hers is particularly complex and she's right in observing that it's taking longer than usual.)

Long story short, she questioned my work ethic, whether I knew what I was doing, and implied that I was dragging my feet. She thought this was a sign that we didn't believe her anymore and were trying to get rid of her. Yikes. She started lecturing me.

I hate it. But here's the thing, it's a lot easier to get a lecture from an asylum applicant, because I feel like they come from places of pain, and if there's anyone who has earned the right to be upset with another, it's someone who's under that kind of pressure. I thought about what I knew of the story of this woman, and it make it easier for me to let her finish.

The courage was in letting her finish without getting defensive, in offering my opinion but not caving to making false promises, and in not taking it personally. It truly isn't my fault that the system works so slowly.

Saturday 2.7.15

"The first step is the hardest." -English proverb
Yesterday, we went to the library, as we often do. I've been thinking about using some of my down time in the beginning of our move to San Diego to try my hand at writing a book. I know it sounds like an ambitious project, and I know it also sounds a little pretentious. But it's something I'm thinking about. There are a number of preliminary steps I have to take, but the MOST preliminary was to start figuring out how to write a book, so that's the book I checked out of the library yesterday. How to write a book. (NERD ALERT!)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

public speaking

"The artist never entirely knows. We guess. We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark." -Agnes de Mille

Yesterday I presented an opening statement and direct examination in my Trial Methods class. I don't fear public speaking, but I do get anxious ahead of time. Oddly enough what I usually forget to do is EXHALE when I'm talking in front of people, so about two minutes in I start freaking out because I know I'm going to have to take a minute and just exhale all at once and it sounds like a very dramatic, misplaced sigh. Yikes.

But yesterday went okay. I decided ahead of time that the best way to enjoy the class was to try not to take myself too seriously. If I tried to be a perfectionist it was going to not go well. And there is really no part of me that wants to be a trial attorney, so I figured it would be a fun skill to have while not worrying too much if I stink at it.

Originally I was also nervous because our professor is a Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Justice. That was intimidating, and he is pretty tough, but he's equally tough on every person and his suggestions are really helpful. I haven several more presentations to do in class, so I'll just fake it till I make it!

UPDATE:

A few weeks ago I wrote about a bake sale we were having to benefit unaccompanied immigrant minors staying at a local children's home. We ended up raising over $150! We'll be purchasing several Spanish-language children's books from Amazon for them. Thanks to all who donated and all who snacked!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

saying no.

One of the recurring prompts in my little book that tries to get me to do scary things is saying yes and no to certain groups of people. For example: Today I said YES to a friend about ___/ Today I said NO to a friend about ____. Yesterday's was "Today I said NO at work about___."

When I was flipping through the book shortly after I got it, I saw that page and thought, 'How am I going to complete this one? You should never say no at work!'

Okay, not never. There have been times at jobs in the past when I was being taken advantage of/ put in danger/ mistreated and I should have quit or stood up for myself. BUT if you look back to the beginning of January, you'll see that I have a really hard time advocating for myself. I don't like confrontation, and I don't like it when I run out of arguments and feel stupid.

The point is, I thought this prompt would be s stretch.

I occasionally - but not often - feel at work that because I used to be an intern before I was hired, that I have something less to offer than my colleagues. I mean, clearly they're all more experienced than I am, but I mean this in a sort of unspoken way. Not sure if that makes sense.

Anyhow, yesterday we were having a meeting, and I kept trying to ask a question. Like, three or four times. I've been trying really hard only to ask "smart" questions, and to censor myself so I'm only asking things that are important and not stuff I can figure out myself. And my colleagues were having sort of an upper-level conversation, and I felt like I wasn't being heard. So I did the brave - and probably rude - thing, and just didn't stop talking when I got interrupted.

This isn't really saying no, per se, but it is the equivalent to putting my foot down and it was really uncomfortable for me. I was afraid they'd think I was being a jerk, but I'm trying to learn to pick my battles, and to know that I can HAVE battles to begin with (I don't have to not stand up for myself).