tile cutters and little princes.

i don't think about it often. when it happened, i had left this town and this life and this world that was, for me, too small. too the same.

during high school, i worked at an art studio. i worked for two amazing women who i am lucky to count among my friends. i helped them build the studio. literally. building, sanding, varnishing, counting. laying exhausted on the cold concrete floor in mid july drinking a smoothie while we all envisioned this space. it was - it is - an amazing place. to see it would convince you. but having helped bring their visions to life made that place one of my most treasured spaces.

i was 16 when the studio opened. i'd been working for one of the owners since i was about 12, helping her run art camps out of her garage. and when i say art camps, i mean art camps. we taught them to mosaic, let these kids use tile cutters, and mastic. and grout. oh, the grout. we painted. on canvas. every morning, we sketched in our sketchbooks. these kids spent four hours a day surrounded by art. by other artists. by stories of great artists.

the vision, though, outgrew the garage. and the studio was born. people can come in and create art. all kinds of art. anything they can imagine, they can create there.

by the fall, the owners had to hire more people. the few of us that had been it for the long haul were skeptical of these new people (yes. we were possessive. it wasn't ours to possess. but our sweat and our blood were all over that place).

that's when doug started working with us. i wondered what this man - this grown, attractive, eloquent man - was doing working in the studio with us. but one evening, as the two of us closed the studio together, a dar williams song came on over the sound system. i sang along quietly (iowa. it was iowa.) as i swept. the next thing i knew, doug was belting out the chorus from one of the back rooms. thus began a friendship that was both an oddity and a treasure.

doug and i always tried to work together. really, it was about being able to control the music. one can listen to the shrek soundtrack only so many times. but we balanced each other out. where i was easily overwhelmed, he was steadily calm. where doug took things too seriously, i found a way to laugh. the kids, the parents, the reluctant visitors who weren't sure where to begin - they loved us.

at the time, using aim was still the usual thing to do. our friendship grew outside of work. we learned so much about each other. he was, really, the one person i could say anything in the world to. and i did. it was my mistake to not share our friendship with the world. but at 16, at that age where the entire world looks like one giant knot of impossible tangles, i was worried about what people think of my friendship with a 34-year-old man.

so i didn't really talk about it. and i should have. because he saw me through the thing i thought i would never recover from. (in retrospect, i was right to be so heartbroken. so shattered. so deeply and immovably sad. i didn't believe it at the time. but he did. and every tear, every moment of panic - they were more than valid in his eyes.)

i came back from school. my freshman year. we had talked - exchanged emails, text messages - but not the way we had. leaving for college was, for me, a chance to really start again. and i was intrepid in doing so. i came back to his absence. i had been in spain.

no one thought to say anything to me. not until i asked. this isn't really my story to tell, but the bare details are that he had gotten involved in some credit fraud thing. he killed himself before the FBI could get to him for questions.

they told me this with sadness, but not with the caution warranted by the friendship he and i shared. but they didn't know. they didn't know. and that was my fault.

i was so angry with them. with him. (how could he do that? didn't he know - a white collar crime, white collar time? sure, it may not be they hyatt, but it's a least a red roof inn. how could he just go? was it really that bad? what had he done?) he left us all here to stand in the wake of the truth about his life and the shock waves of his death.

i found the book he gave me for my high school graduation. a collection of drawing and stories. they are cryptic and sometimes dark, but mostly they are just like doug. intelligent, wry, and witty. he wrote on the title page, "to taylor: everything you need to know about life is in these pages. read carefully. love, doug."

so i packed it up safely to take back to milwaukee. and to finally, finally face the fact that i never grieved for him.

suitable for guests.

it occurred to me this weekend. it snuck up like a well-trained agent - all cloaked in darkness and hidden away in the smallest space with the smallest peep hole made for people just like that agent.

it occurred to me that i don't live there anymore. my mother said calmly that she needed to buy a rug for my bedroom. my bedroom in saint louis. the one painted the perfect shade of green like late summer grass and perfectly perfect white trim around the windows. the one with my great-grandmother's furniture inside. and i replied, "yes. a rug in that open room would be nice." and then. then. then i said, calmly and without a hitch, "it would make such a nice guest bedroom."

oh dear god. how did i get this old? how did this happen? at what moment did my brain decide that that room was suitable for a guest bedroom? and a guest bedroom that i would sleep in when i go to my parents' house as a guest.

that room, though, is like stepping back into days i have left behind to yellow in their aging. the most recent framed picture was taken my junior year of high school. you can see the look of uncertainty behind all of our smiling faces as we prepared for one last year of high school leading to the rest of lives. leading to the moment when our bedrooms became more suitable for guests.

bruce springsteen and his greatest fan.

i'm going to see springsteen this weekend. the bruce springsteen. the BOSS. my mom is taking me, which is going to great. this woman loved bruce before anyone knew who he was and has followed his career like a disciple.

i keep remembering something one of my high school teachers said to me. i was - for some unknown reason - telling her that my mom had gone to the springsteen concert over the weekend. and she smiled and said, "i went, too. but i fell asleep."

asleep? asleep? ASLEEP?! who falls asleep when they go to see bruce? there are only a handful of times in my life when i have been more offended. (one of which was when someone doubted that lucinda williams is one of the most talented musicians performing today. but i don't want to get into that. bad memories.)

my parents raised my brother and me with the help of bruce springsteen. (and john mellencamp. and eric clapton. and the stones. and the alman brothers [who i though were the almond brothers when i was small]. and tom petty. and crosby, stills, nash, and young.) these musicians are the bedrock of my deep, aching love for music. i knew all the words to "jack and diane" and "born to run" by the time i was five. my brother's favorite song as a toddler was "motherless children" by eric clapton. (which is, i think, pretty funny.) it was a rare occassion that my mother was forced to play wee-sing or other cassettes of children's songs. we were all about the rock n' roll.

we danced in the nude to rod stewart's "motown song" and when that disc was stolen out of my mom's car, the first priority was getting another copy. those are some of my most cherished childhood memories - car rides singing along with bruce, john, rod, and eric. these men made me want to be a musician. i demanded that my mom confirm my ability to sing nearly every day. and as the wonderful woman that she is, she obligingly told me i was a great singer. (needless to say, that pipe dream was set aside when i learned that while i could make singing noises, anything that resembled a key was out of the question.)

listening to that music now transports me back to a time when i lived with a total sense of abandon. when choreographing dances and singing off key at the top of your lungs anyway and everywhere was entirely acceptable. and if it wasn't acceptable, who rightly cares?

so falling alseep on sunday? totally out of the question.

not so bad.

they said, "tell all your friends, your family, your significant other - tell them that you are going into hyper drive for the next six weeks. tell them you won't be able to talk to them as much." i'm certain my eyes became perfect saucers because the leader of the session nodded in my direction. i'm not sure if he was admonishing my disbelief and affirming my fear or attempting to tell me that it would all be okay.

either way, i left my session on taking exams (essay and short answer) wondering how in the world they think i am supposed to get through this mess of exams and cramming and the constant state of imminent tears without them - my friends, family, significant other. i dutifully returned to outlining my contracts class with a newly burning fire fueling my work ethic. please note: the fire has subsided and i am now blogging to avoid my contracts outline.

i'm through the second page our syllabus (which is, by the way 5.5 pages in length) and my outline is about thirty pages. it's taken me probably 24+ hours to get this far. at this rate, i should be finished by mid-january just in time for next round of 1L classes. they teach us that the law is objective, reasonable. it is not subjective. well, objectively speaking, this is a tad unreasonable.

nevertheless, i push on and relish the moments of utter delight when something clicks in my brain and the handful of cases that made no sense come falling right into place. i enjoy the solitude of working spread out in the library, pouring over textbooks way too large and the satisfaction that comes with knowing the answer to a professor's question (even when i don't get called on). for the most part, it's not as bad as they say. but i'll get back to you in a month.

giving good blog.

as the ever-wise catherine connors (herbadmother) explains it:
give good blog:

noun. 1. a commitment, made by online writers and other participants in virtual communities, to principles of good virtual citizenship and to actions reflecting same; a commitment to the use of social media to advance social good, whether by raising awareness of a specific issue, or raising money for a cause, or simply using blogs and/or other social media platform to remind self and others to strive to make some little difference by whatever means available.

verb. 1. online activities that adhere to and reflect this commitment.

i won't kid myself into thinking that my blog is read often and by people outside my circle of friends and family. but someday, maybe, it will be. (because let's all be honest - life as a 1L can be pretty hilarious. and utterly awful. it makes for good stories, anyhow.) regardless of my readership (or lack thereof), it doesn't mean that i shouldn't give good blog. let's be honest. we're stampeding ahead to 2010. the holiday season is drawing close. (don't get me started on the fact that i went to macy's the other day and they ALREADY had christmas decorations up. i celebrate christmas and i find it an affront to my moral fortitude. and good taste. it's not even halloween, people. let's slooooow down.) it's time to really focus on what matters. we americans will have thanksgiving. then christmas (or hanukkah or kwanzaa or solstice or any other number of celebrations about hope, renewal, and faith). then new year's. and then we'll be flung back in to a january where we resume our lives. so we should pause, for just a moment, to think about what other people might need this time of year.

in my contracts class, my professor suggested that we take any of our older/ too small/ too big/ not so fond of winter wear to a local charity that will ensure that the homeless are equipped for milwaukee's winter. such a simple, simple act. yet we forget.

when my brother and i are were small, we had to prepare for
christmas. after all, everything that santa brought us consisted of toys and games and dolls (even for my brother thanks to my parents' awesomeness!). so we went through all of our toys and games and dolls and decided what we didn't play with anymore. we made sure they had all the parts and were clean and nice and took them to family shelter. what's more, even when my parents struggled to give us the most magical christmas, they made sure we could take toys into school to donate to our class' adopted family. often, we fo und that picking out toys for other kids was just as, if not more, fun than getting our own. (again, parents = awesome.)

of course, i lay no claim to not falling straight into the delicious, fragrant trap of consumerism. i have lots of stuff. i love clothes too much. and i have a weakness for vintage and handmade home decor (hello,

but i've also found that the simplest, easiest thing you can ever do is to smile.
i smile at every person i pass. in the halls, on the street. every single one. and you know what? 98% of the time they smile right back at me. for me, it's a reminder of humanity and connectedness. it's my own little manifestation of spirituali ty. and i hope for those people that it's a reminder that even as our lives seem so remote, so far away from a s tranger's, that they're not.

it's not a bi g thing. it's not anything i could put on my resumé. but it's simple. and small. and the smallest things can, added all together, make an actual difference.

not tonight.

i'm supposed to be reading for contracts. i'm supposed to be reading about determining the scope and content of obligations and the "parol evidence rule." but i'm not. i'm relishing this moment of quiet. sirius is curled on my feet, pandora effortlessly pumping out my favorite combination of music, incense burning on my coffee table, and a lovely cup of tea is to my right. my phone isn't ringing, the tv's not on (even on silent), and my neighborhood seems comfortable settling into this dark evening.

i love fall. i was convinced we had skipped it entirely here in milwaukee. we dove head first into 38º from the high 60s. luckily, fall came back for me. the leaves are changing and much to my delight, they often fall right onto an unsuspecting puppy who quickly readies to attack whatever has affronted him. my street is missing underneath a blanket of leaves that even passing cars can't throw off.

i love fall. it's a long-lasting affair and i have no intentions of ending it soon. or ever. we have a special bond made over camp fires and apple cider and field hockey kilts and the simple joy of a new backpack for school. it's return has helped to quell the consistently growing fear that i, in fact, have been in law school for almost eight weeks and have absolutely no idea how i'm doing or if what i am doing is enough or what enough actually is.

but tonight, i'm not going to let it worry me. not tonight.

let's talk.

here's something my criminal law professor said in class yesterday: "you know, they put the theft chapter in the very back of the book because no one ever teaches it. most people spend time on 'more interesting' crimes, like sexual assault. but i don't want people to be uncomfortable."

seriously? yup.

and i know, just know, that he didn't mean it like that. he worked for over a decade as a special prosecutor for sex crimes in milwaukee. he made a great impression on me when he called a supreme court justice a "blithering fool" for saying "mrs. x wasn't harmed. she was only raped." i like this man. a lot.

i know (hope, hope, hope) what he meant was that he knows how hard it is to talk about. and that statistically, at least five people in the class have experienced sexual assault. and who wants to put a bunch of frightened, over-worked, under-estimated, hanging by a thread 1Ls in that position?

but i spent my entire career as an undergrad fighting this mentality. we have to, have to, have to talk about it. if you're not ready to share your story, that's, of course, okay. it's more than okay. but as long as we don't talk about the fact that our mothers, daughters, aunts, cousins, friends, sisters, neices, granddaughters, step-sisters, teachers, employees, students (and everyone else i didn't mention) are being raped, it will continue to happen.

(window paint during v-week.)

i learned too late that rape isn't about sex. it's not about sex at all. it's about power. we take some of that power away every time we talk about it.

in four years, i got to watch a campus tucked in the South, veiled in a cloth of politeness and avoidance, transform into a place where people talked and people listened. we re-wrote the sexual assault and harassment policy. we put on programs that involved men and women, upper and lower classmen. we got people to pay attention to rape. to sexual harassment. to molestation. because silence, my friends, cures nothing. the sheer act of talking about rape, of raising voices and consciousnesses, undermines what is nothing less than a rape culture.

so let's talk. it doesn't have to be rushed or slow or drawn out or panicked or shameful. but let's talk. let's not avoid the topic in criminal law classes because it might make someone uncomfortable. (because, honestly, i would be uncomfortable. but i want to know.)

(The Vagina Monologues cast.)