The Good Fight

When you go on a lot of first dates, you tell your story a lot. A significant chunk of my story that comes out over coffee or a beer is that I used to be a Public Defender. Depending on how well the date is going, the conversation veers in one of two ways. If it’s just okay, then I usually say I went on to a small firm as if it was a natural transition. If it’s somebody I’m getting along with, I’ll usually be honest and say that I couldn’t do it anymore.

I have a script, almost. You do that when you have these conversations a lot. I say the same things over and over. I say:

  • I took over all the juvenile cases. And it broke me.
  • That stereotype about the tough, hard-drinking criminal defense attorney is there for a reason.
  • I thought it would be better because the juvenile system is more focused on help. But it actually made it harder.
  • I appeared in front of one judge who found every single client I ever brought in front of him guilty regardless of the circumstances.
  • I had trials in Juvenile Court every single week.
  • I also started handling all the drug cases in my county.
  • When I left my office I had over 700 open cases, over 100 of them juveniles.

This stuff is okay for a first date. It shows a glimpse of the reality, makes it clear I took my job seriously but doesn’t reveal too much.

When I get closer to someone I may reveal that I was having panic attacks before I left my job. That just driving to the courthouse where I knew that Judge wouldn’t listen to a word I said would bring a physical tightness over my whole body. Then there was the time I cried in court. It only happened once. It was on a small case, a stupid case, a fight in school, the kind of thing that should never have come to court at all. And it was the ridiculousness of the charges with the hopelessness of my case that got me to break down. I have no idea what my client thought about that, a 13-year-old girl seeing her grown up attorney so angry she has tears streaming down her face.

I don’t tell that story often to anyone because I still can’t talk about it without crying. It was that raw. 

Telling any of these stories require that I hold back. Because I can go on. And on. About my very first month in Juvenile and my first three trials which were all Child Molestation cases with flimsy evidence and I lost all three and felt like I’d failed those kids who were most likely innocent. I didn’t realize yet that I’d lose most cases, even plenty I deserved to win. That no matter how well I did, that was how the system worked.

I think sometimes it was because they saw a troubled kid and they figured it made sense to bring them into the system. That’s my guess, anyway. I don’t know how much of it was race or class. 

I liked the kids because they wouldn’t plead guilty. I kind of admired their stubbornness, even when the evidence was stacked against them. I had more trials than pleas most of the time.

Adults are different. With adults, you’ll have them come in and you’ll hear their story and you’ll be ready to fight and then when the plea offer comes in they take it. Because they’re scared and tired. 

I failed people all the time. Everything I had was generally not enough. And then when you’d have a win, and kid went home and got my You’re-turning-17-that’s-adult-court lecture, and then got himself Accessory to Murder charges a few months later. There was a lot of failure.

I thought of this last night while watching my Twitter feed. This feeling of frustration in my stomach, of knowing this outcome was going to happen, but hoping it wouldn’t like I’ve hoped plenty of times before. This is a feeling I know. 

It’s a feeling I had every day when I was a Public Defender.

And it’s why I can’t go back.

Recently I was on a date with a lawyer and he tried to sell me on the idea of putting out my own shingle and taking on court appointed cases. And during our conversation I entertained the idea.

But no, honestly, I don’t think I can do it. My outrage gets too big. I know Ferguson stirs up strong feelings in people. Today a lot of us are angry on behalf of a family we’ve never met in a community we’ve never visited. It’s a shadow of a feeling I know well, one I don’t miss. But it’s hard to describe how it is when you’ve talked to a person, looked into their eyes, heard their story, been their appointed counselor, been the only person on earth who will stand up with them in judgment and fight all the way down. There is something so powerful in that. I loved it. I loved knowing that no matter what you did or didn’t do, you had me and I had your back. Because you were a person and you deserved that much.

And the worst of it? Is knowing that even though I’ve left that job, there are still people every day who still need that help. That there are still all the people who are pleading guilty to crimes they didn’t commit, agreeing to take on fines they can’t pay, needing rehab or health services they can’t get. It happens every day in every community and I feel so guilty that I’m not there standing up beside them. 

It was perhaps the most noble thing I’ve ever done. Definitely the most important thing I’ve ever done. And you can’t really understand how much is happening all around you, how much loss and turmoil and injustice there is in your city, until you’ve been in it every day. Yes, your city. This happens all around you all the time.

I wondered last night if I was cynical because I didn’t expect an indictment in the death of Michael Brown. But then I realized, no. I’m not cynical. I’ve just been here before. Different names, different times, different places, but there. And to survive there you learn to expect the worst. That’s one thing I haven’t forgotten.

For now I don’t know how to work for something better the way I once did. There should probably be more to it than a blog and a Twitter account. It’s a journey I’ve been on for a long while, to try and figure out how to find something that vital and important that will also let me live my life fully. 

I’m still looking.

Books for Women on the Way Up

affiliate links pic Books for Women on the Way UpI admit, I didn’t read Lean In. I don’t read much in that genre anyway, and it seemed to me (and I could be totally wrong) that the title got the basic idea across. Besides, the corporate world was foreign to me… until recently. Now I’m in a real office job with a hierarchy and bonuses and annual reviews. So maybe that was what got me to read Darling, You Can’t Do Both: And Other Noise to Ignore on Your Way Up by Janet Kestin and Nancy Vonk. But honestly? I think it was the title.

 Books for Women on the Way Up
Amazon Affiliate Image

 Books for Women on the Way UpThese days I spend much of my time feeling like I can’t do both and I needed someone to talk me into a new frame of mind. I didn’t expect to read the whole thing, but I did. Pretty quickly, too. I don’t do self-help, but I did this one. And I’d recommend it to other working women in a heartbeat.

Vonk and Kestin are an advertising super-team. They’re the brains behind the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty (and made waves back in the day with the “pH balanced” deodorant commercials. Remember those?) and they’ve also made their way up in the world after being told they couldn’t. Along the way there were spouses and children, too. They broke into a heavily male world and are sharing stories and advice from their journey. 

There were two things that stood out to me about Darling You Can’t Do Both. Having two writers helps. They each tell their stories and they’re not the same. They don’t make the same choices or do things the same way. When one woman writes about being a working woman, it can sound preachy or like there’s just one way to do it right. 

The other thing was harder to describe. But their book really hit its intended purpose. I thought about my job while I was reading this book. I thought about my career path. Like many women who gave up careers for children or sacrificed their career path for their partner’s, even though I’m back in the swing of it I don’t know where it’s going. I feel out of control and I worry about my future. That tends to put me in the backseat of my own career instead of the driver’s seat. This book was a great kick in the pants to change the way I think. To start looking for opportunity and thinking about how I can do my best and show my value. I needed it. Badly. 

You won’t be totally into every chapter, they’re covering a lot of territory and you’ll skim some but you’ll be underlining plenty more. 

 Books for Women on the Way Up
Amazon Affiliate Image

 Books for Women on the Way UpWhen I started reading Yes Please recently I realized right away that I would write about these two books together. Yes Please isn’t an advice book or a self-help book. But it has some of the same goals as Darling, You Can’t Do Both. It wants to help, it wants to guide, it wants to make your life better. 

Of course, Yes Please is by Amy Poehler and it’s littered with jokes and raucous humor. But it is full to bursting with heart. And Poehler has done so much that it’s hard for me to imagine a woman or man who won’t read this book and see themselves in it. Of course, if you happen to be a divorced mother juggling your job with your small children, well, then you should get yourself to the bookstore, lady.

I was thinking about my own life here a lot, too. About the balance and the juggling. About picking up the pieces of your life. About taking things in a new direction. There’s plenty of inspiration here to be bold and full of heart. Which is inspiration I need. I should mention, I hate inspiration. Hate it. I hate schmaltz. So I cannot go to the sources most of you go to for inspiration. It just annoys me. But here, with all the vulnerability Poehler shows, well, she had me. Simple as that. 

The weaknesses here are actually the stories you’d expect to be the easiest and the juiciest. SNL and the UCB are not snoozefests, but not particularly engaging and lack the sparkle of other chapters. The chapter laying out in detail the story of an apology is perhaps the rawest discussion I’ve ever seen on the topic. (We never talk about apologizing, do we? No wonder we are so bad at it.) 

These are both excellent gifts, too. I’m guessing Yes Please will be under lots of Christmas trees, but I’m sad more attention hasn’t been paid to Darling, You Can’t Do Both. It deserves it. 

Ahead of the Game

Every year my Mom asks me what I want for my birthday. Most years I do not have a good answer right away. Which is not good, because immediately after I finally decide what I want for my birthday I have to decide what I want for Christmas. This month of gift-receiving stresses me out each year.

And each year I decide to keep track of what I want earlier in the year so I’m ready. And each year I don’t.

Graham has a July birthday, perfectly timed to spread out the gift receiving. Tessa’s birthday comes 2 months after Christmas so she can see what’s missing from her haul and put it on her second list. But for me they’re less than 3 weeks apart and come in a rush. It is the burden of all December/early January babies.

So I figured I’d take a few minutes and sit down and try to figure out at least some things I’d like. Because I have five minutes, which is pretty awesome.

 Ahead of the Game Ahead of the Game
A Webcam

My laptop’s webcam sucks. I need something easier than my fancy camera. So I’d love an external webcam so I can start churning out Need to Read videos like nobody’s business. My future is on BookTube. I can feel it. (Or at least it will be fun.) My eye is on the(affiliate link!) Logitech HD Portable 1080p Webcam C615. And look, Mom, free shipping with Amazon Prime. I know you love that. 

A Haircut

I believe this was my gift last year and it’s very sad that it’s taken me almost an entire year to schedule another haircut. Haircuts are expensive when you have curly hair. Haircuts seem like a luxury I don’t have time for (along with dentist appointments and other such trivialities) I’m trying a different option this time and I have an appointment the evening before my birthday. Perfect timing. 

A Gift Card to Pretty Much Anywhere

I always need things. I still have a sadly small wardrobe that I add one or two pieces to each month. Most of them scored on sale. Occasionally one where I bite the bullet and pay full price because I need it and the sale just doesn’t come. I need clothes, shoes, jewelry, makeup, all those things that I wish I didn’t need but I do. And while I hate spending money on them, I like getting them. It’s nice doing things like this for myself. Plus I’m going to ALT in January and my closet is NOT ready. (Expect some pleas for style advice in about 6 weeks.)

Don’t give me money. Because I will use it to pay bills. Or save up for a deposit on a new apartment. And while I need to do those things, I also  need to have a birthday. I really, really do.

An Audible Subscription

This isn’t a requirement, since I have developed a pretty good system of suspending my subscription so I don’t pay anything and then buying books that go on sale for under $5. But it would make it a lot less work. Audiobooks have been a delight and a source of amusement and happiness. (Right now I am listening to Yes Please and yes I will be writing about it soon. It is wonderful. I am starting to feel like Amy Poehler is narrating my life. I can literally hear her reading this post aloud as I’m writing it.) When the kids are gone it is very quiet in the house for days on end. I walk around with my speaker and listen to audiobooks and feel better. 

A Hardcore Winter Coat

So right now I have 3 coats, which sounds like more than enough unless you live somewhere that has a hardcore winter and then it is not nearly enough. One is my it’s-not-that-cold coat, which is cute and black and only goes to 40 degrees or so. Actually, Mom, you were there when I got it at Costco in Atlanta. Next there is my red peacoat, a go-to for much of the cold weather, especially if I’m wearing a sweater or dressing up. (Yes, this was my birthday present a couple years ago.) And then there’s my warmest coat, a red L L Bean number I got on clearance in Connecticut at the outlet store that insulates so well that I die of heat on the bus.

But the problem is that ALL of these coats only hit my waist or my hips. And when you are outside in the legit cold and ridiculous wind in a coat that goes only to your hips, you learn to hate everyone walking around with their knee-length and ankle-length coats, which were not a thing you knew existed and you lived in the Rocky Mountains for 14 years! These are the coats of the Northeast. They are the coats of Canadians. They are serious and I want one. I am tired of having cold legs. I probably need to go to the store and try some on to pick one, but all of these look so delightful.

A Gift Card Just For Going Out to Lunch

I bring my lunch most days, I eat at home on the days Tessa has therapy. But there’s usually one day each week where I just don’t have it together enough or didn’t get to shop for supplies and have to buy my lunch. Often this coincidentally overlaps with Pizza Friday, where me and some of my super cool work buds meet up and get pizza (even if we’re planning to drink our suspicious-looking green smoothie in a leftover pasta sauce jar that looks like pesto, but end up getting pizza, too, even if we’re allegedly vegan and probably shouldn’t be eating pizza, and yes I mean you, Austin). 

It would be nice to not feel guilty about Pizza Fridays. Because everyone could use one day a week where they don’t have everything all together and let one little thing (like lunch) slip. 


Wow, this was actually a lot easier than I expected it would be. Maybe I just need to write a blog post about what I want for my birthday every year.

Also: I would love some Christmas Eve pajamas. Every year when I don’t come home and I don’t get pajamas and everyone else does it’s wicked depressing. It’s already depressing I’m not there, and missing this one tradition makes it that much worse. However, this doesn’t mean you should get me some ridiculous pajamas, I know you love doing that. So we’re clear, this is about as festive as I’m willing to get.

I have to say, it felt kind of nice to gratuitously talk about stuff I want in a blog post.

Where to Buy Lined Pants for Kids: November 2014

Lined Pants 300x300 Where to Buy Lined Pants for Kids: November 2014The other day I posted a picture of Graham’s new lined pants. They’ve been a staple of his winter wear since we moved to Boston when he was just a toddler. Tessa’s now wearing his fleece-lined toddler jeans and I search out fleece-lined uniform pants for him to wear during the school year every fall. 

But the lined pants make me a little crazy because they’re not consistently carried by the same retailers all the time. Mostly, though, it’s two things:

  • They’re more common in toddler sizes than kid sizes.
  • They’re more common for boys than girls.

Neither of these makes much sense to me. Are toddlers colder? Do girls not need warm legs? But nevertheless I figured I’d do everyone a service and put together the most comprehensive list of lined pants for kids I could find. (I’m in a couple of affiliate programs, but I’ll make no money on the vast majority of these links.) Consider it my gift to you. Especially if you have a girl over 5 who needs lined pants. 

If I missed anything, please throw it in the comments and I’ll happily update!

Note: all prices are full price at the time I wrote the post, sale prices were there on several at the time of this writing but I stuck to the main price for this list. No athletic pants, fleece pants, or snow pants.

affiliate links pic Where to Buy Lined Pants for Kids: November 2014Let’s go in alphabetical order… (Update: Added Target and Hanna Andersson.)


 Where to Buy Lined Pants for Kids: November 2014
Lined Pull-On Pants from Crazy8

Crazy 8


 Where to Buy Lined Pants for Kids: November 2014
Jersey-Lined Corduroy Pants from Gymboree


Hanna Andersson

L. L. Bean

Lands End

Old Navy

Osh Kosh



Lined Pants Collage Where to Buy Lined Pants for Kids: November 2014

The Perfect Fall Brunch

sponsored post image The Perfect Fall BrunchIt’s no secret that I love brunch. And I love cocktails with brunch. But I tend to be kind of choosy about my brunch cocktails. I don’t want anything too strong or too heavy. Not too sweet either, but a little sweet and a little light is good. There’s a reason the mimosa is such a popular brunch drink. Bright, pleasant, bubbly, perfect.

The lovely folks over at St. Elder asked if I’d do a fall brunch and try out some of their favorite fall brunch cocktails. They did not have to twist my arm.

I teamed up with my partner-in-crime Kathy because she is wonderful and she bakes. Baking is definitely helpful.

Pancakes 1 The Perfect Fall Brunch

Friends with sourdough starters are excellent. We knew we had some serious cocktail work to do so we started the meal off with these Sourdough Pancakes with Apple Compote so we’d have plenty of time for tasting. (And photographing.) Pancakes and compote give you plenty of opportunities to throw in seasonal flavors like cinnamon and nutmeg.

We decided to start off with the light and bubbliest cocktails and work our way up.

First up: the Classic Elder Shandy. 

Classic Elder Shandy 1 The Perfect Fall Brunch

Classic Elder Shandy Drink and Recipe The Perfect Fall Brunch

I do love cider, and the Elderflower liqueur gives it a nice herbal tinge that adds depth. Honestly, this is a great year-round cocktail. When do you not want a drink with apple-y sweetness, the scent of citrus, that’s nice and refreshing?

Next on the agenda, the Lemon Flower Spritz.

Lemon Flower Spritz with Recipe The Perfect Fall Brunch

Perhaps the best discovery of this cocktail adventure was Sipp. The Lemon soda was mild and herbal and added great flavors without too much sweetness. Worked so nicely with the prosecco and the elderflower. I want to mix that Sipp with everything. In Boston you can find Sipp at Savin Hill Specialties in Dorchester, Roche Bros in Quincy, and Deluca’s Market on Newbury Street. Live elsewhere? Check here. Or order online here

The Lemon Flower Spritzer was great for spritzer lovers, one of the favorites of the day, a more chic and sophisticated Mimosa. (Yes, there are ice cubes in it. Sorry about that. But I forgot to put the Prosecco and the Sipp in the fridge and I wanted a cold drink, darn it.) And can we just stop to appreciate the adorableness of baby Prosecco bottles? I want to cuddle them. (And then drink them.)

Then we moved into the slightly harder drinks. Pacing ourselves, as you do. Next was the Elder Rum Shandy. 

Elder Rum Shandy with Recipe The Perfect Fall Brunch

Another reason Kathy is handy? She’s the kind of person who already has nutmeg at her house and a new bottle of local rum. I am a sucker for cocktails with fresh grapefruit, I find that it brings something you don’t expect. We sampled this one twice, once before adding the cider and once after. It’s pretty great either way, one as a real DRINK and the other as a refreshing more brunchy drink. Another benefit of the “top with cider” approach to drinks is you can make it heavier or lighter depending on how much you add.

And lastly: the Honey Blossom Shandy.

Honey Blossom Shandy with Recipe The Perfect Fall Brunch

I don’t see many successful whiskey-based cocktails, but using the Hard Honey definitely brought a smoothing note to the sweeter mixers that helped them blend well with the whiskey. This would be a great one for the men who turn up their noses at more girly cocktails.

I’ve always been a fan of elderflower liqueur (I love to add it to my G&T’s) but these were definitely ways of using it I’d never thought of. The cocktails were mostly basic and simple without a need to buy a lot of random mixers. Using the cider was great, I love having cider in the house and it’s a great option for those who want it straight without the cocktails.

Any of these cocktails would be a great option for those hours of holiday food prep when everyone’s around and getting busy but you don’t want anything too hard so you can keep your wits about you near the stove. A great way to lighten up the day and get everyone in the spirit with some seasonal flavors. 

Thanks to St. Elder for putting together an amazing box of goodies and mixers to help put this post together. It was so much fun!