Friends: I haven’t visited this blog in a while. There have been times when I’ve gone on a writing streak for weeks and months at a time, and here now has been a 2-year lull in my muse.
Analyzing the Why is a post for another time, but you might notice it parallels quite closely our national heartbreak in November of 2016. Let’s pick up that thread on another post in the near future, shall we?
This post is about life and all of its changes.
It is with excitement and great anticipation that I announce here that we have been offered the tremendous opportunity to spend some time in the Pacific Northwest. Sometime in October, Eliott and I will be driving transamerica to the west coast, dogs and cats in tow, to overwinter in Florence, Oregon.
We will be one hour from daughter Amy in Eugene, and a day’s drive from son Ben in Spokane. Son Sam and daughter Glenda are the southwest children for the time being, but this move still puts me closer to them than I am here in Tennessee!
Freethought Cottage is in the very capable hands of a property management company, and will be waiting for us upon our return. We plan to relocate the cattle, donkeys, goats, ducks, and chickens, but of course the pups and kittens will be with us. After we’re settled into our new place, we’ll share some pictures and blog posts about life in Oregon.
As has always been our policy at Freethought Farm, we’d like to extend an open offer for friends to visit, anytime! We would love to see familiar faces, and walk along and view the left coast with you.
I am at the conclusion of my multi-state, post-election, JordanTour 2016. I have been traveling since Wednesday, November 9. It began with a quick trip to Georgia to visit my parents, and included Nevada, Washington, Oregon, and Connecticut, not counting layovers and flyover states.
My narrative will follow the itinerary…not very creative, I know, but tells the story a little more coherently.
First stop: Las Vegas. Daughter Glenda is a performer there, and has been for 3 years. Recently, she and her honey have moved from apartment living to home living, and is it beautiful! Gives them a little space for their pets (Boomer and Ms. Whiskers) and guests (me). Eliott (my honey) joined me for the trip, and also a surprise guest (Amy! Glenda’s twin!) showed up. The more the merrier!
The Las Vegas Marathon is held the 2nd weekend in November, so on go the running shoes and off we go! Amy, Eliott, and I have run this race in some combination for the past several years. It begins at 4pm, and goes right down the Strip, which is closed for the day to auto traffic. Costumes, noisemakers, spectators – this race is awesome.
Other highlights from the Vegas portion of the adventure include getting to watch Glenda perform on the tippy top of the Rio, at Voodoo nightclub. You can see her platform way up top when you are standing on the street below. Also, lots of good food, thanks to Eliott. We had one at-home feast prepared by everyone, that was sort of our pre-Thanksgiving. We also got to talk, commiserate about the election, talk some more, hang out downtown, and talk.
My Glenda is my passionate human rights activist. Her sense of justice has been finely tuned since she was a very small child. Injustice and unfairness offend her to her very core, and her activism includes reproductive rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and civil rights. My visits with Glenda include deep conversation about these issues, and this young woman inspires me to seek out hidden racism, sexism, and bigotry in my own life.
The visit was over before we knew it, and all of us headed out – me to Washington, Amy to Oregon, and Eliott back to TN for animal duty at the farm. I barely had time to be sad about leaving Glenda when Ben was there to pick me up at the Spokane airport! What a joy to see his sweet face!
So much to tell about Ben. He is currently almost finished with his first semester of law school at Gonzaga U in Spokane, Washington. That’s Gon-zaaa-ga (as in cat and bat and mat and sat), not Gon-zah-ga .Not only did I get to attend a few classes with Ben, and meet his friends, classmates, and professors, but I got to serve as the judge in a mock hearing the students had to do regarding a motion to dismiss. Plus, I got to see his new little home a mile or so from campus. PLUSI. Got. To. Study. With. Him. – what a dream. We covered Torts, CrimLaw, and CivPro. I even passed along the custom, sacred, Jordan-specific Flash Card Set. We should have made it a little more ceremonial.
We got to talk, commiserate about the election, talk, eat lots of good food, share a drink or 9, talk, and even watch a movie. We also celebrated my birthday together, and I participated in my nonprofit’s Thanksgiving fundraiser from his living room. We constantly joke about the name of our future law firm: Jordan and Mother. Jordan and Kid. Jordan².
My Ben is my passionate political science activist. This kid has an undergraduate degree in Political Science from U of Colorado, Boulder, and the patience he shows to those less educated takes my breath away every time. He could respond to a Facebook post with the tap of a couple of keys, calling out bigotry, sexism, racism, and downright ignorance, and instead, he chooses to respond with a word of encouragement to the poster, to encourage them to research and consider thoughtfully an opposing view. I’ve been amazed, over and over, how generous he is with his knowledge and education.
What a great time we had, and once again, the visit was over in a flash. I left Spokane on an early predawn flight and hated leaving.
I couldn’t be sad too long because after a quick layover in Salt Lake City (where I got in a serendipitous visit with grandson Aden, who was also passing through!), I was met at the Portland airport by sweet daughter #2, Amy! It was to have been the Eugene airport, but that didn’t quite work, so she had to drive 90 minutes or so to get me.
Home to her place, which is also her honey’s place, which is also his family’s place (hereinafter known as the Burgdorfers), in beautiful Eugene. Amy is looking for work, which worked out well for me, selfishly. We were able to talk, commiserate about the election, see a movie, talk, shop for Christmas, and talk.
Our Thanksgiving Day began with a Eugene tradition: hiking up Spencer’s Butte, to the summit complete with coffee (Bailey’s) and fresh,hot, homemade cinnamon rolls. It was a terrific hike, just arduous enough to be rewarding, and appetite-inducing for the later-in-the-day feast. The view from up top was gorgeous.
Our feast was a traditional one, with the families and friends that the Burgdorfers have been feasting with for years. What a joy and privilege to have been included in their annual tradition. The food was delicious, the conversation stimulating, and the environment resplendent.
After Thanksgiving, Amy and I took a quick road trip up to Banks, Oregon, where we got to spend a few precious hours with my cousin Stephanie. Reminiscing, laughing, sharing a beer, and reconnecting with my closest cousin was one of the highlights of the trip to Oregon. The shared experiences we had as children bonded us in a way that has transcended time and geography.
My Amy is my passionate outdoor activist. She has always sought work that allows folks who may not have the traditional ability to participate in the joy of outdoor sports and activity, to have that experience. Her undergraduate degree reflects that, and she has spent time as a ski instructor, a sea kayak instructor, and as an interpretive ranger in a state park. Amy recognizes the value of the experience, in and of itself, and does everything in her ability to see that others are accommodated to whatever degree they need, in order to have that moment.
And again, the visit was over as soon as it started. However, this time, Amy jumped on the plane with me as we made our way to our last visit, to see son Sam, who is in graduate school at Yale, in New Haven CT. Amy and I concocted a little scheme to surprise her sweet brother, so after he had picked me up at Baggage Claim, and loaded my suitcase into the back of his pickup truck, he got to see his little sister sneaking out to smile and giggle and give him an unexpected delight!
So much to say about this visit. I have spent very little time in New England, and it was just barely close enough to the tail-end of the fall season, that we got to see the colors and leaves and the architecture of this Ivy League institution in all of its glory. AND we got to attend classes, and a faculty panel, see Sam’s lab, stay in his tiny little studio apartment, eat clam pizza (srsly), and spend the day in the Yale museum. We got to talk, commiserate about the election, sightsee the campus, tour the law school and library, and the main library, and meet a few of Sam’s colleagues and professors.
My Sam is my passionate environmental activist. We even attended a panel on Sustainability Under the New Administration, which broke my heart. Sam has a love for our natural world that was manifested when he was in grade school, when he wrote a letter to Tennessee legislators expressing his concern over some ominous leaking 50-gallon barrels he observed in the rock quarry near our home.
Like all of the others, this visit passed in the blink of an eye. Amy and I loved every moment of our visit with Sam, and left him studying for his final research papers. We can’t wait to go back, and we both left feeling a little smarter just from having been on that campus.
A couple of days visiting with my parents in Atlanta, and just like that, it was time to point that 2003 Corvette back toward Murfreesboro. My honey had been on farm duty since the Vegas portion of the trip, and he greeted me with a hot dinner, a clean house, and chilled white.
I posted pics on Instagram, FB, and Twitter with the hashtag: #electionrecoverytherapy, and it was that it every sense. These kids have a way of putting in perspective for me all of the toils and troubles I experienced, both with my own election, and the national election. If the hope for the future of our country lies with these millenials, we’re all going to be okay.
This post was written in late May 2016, and was published on Nov 15, 2016.
This morning is all campaign stuff. Yesterday was all campaign stuff. Tomorrow is all campaign stuff.
I’m running for the Tennessee Senate, and I’m loving it. I’m loving the excitement, meeting the folks in the district where I’m running, the infectious enthusiasm from the campaign volunteers, the camaraderie with the other rookie candidates. I even love the tedious fundraising calls and district research to find contacts, events, elected officials, etc.
I’m in the early stages of the campaign, and the election is still 5 months away, so I’m spending some time doing some preliminary stuff before it really kicks into high gear. One of those things is “cleaning up” my Facebook page for inappropriate pics (kegstands and all that. JK. I’ve never done a kegstand). I’m also going through my blog.
I am running as an openly secular person in a very red, very Republican, very religious district. I am neither campaigning on my lack of belief nor hiding from it. In other words, I’m handling it very politically. It will become an issue at some point in the campaign, and I have a prepared response for it, but I believe it will ultimately become a dealbreaker for being able to win, but that’s another blog post.
What I’m struggling with right now is making private those blog posts where I specifically deal with my secularism. My atheism. There is a difference in the eyes of most believers between the statement: “I’m not a religious person” and “I’m an atheist”. To those of us on the secular side of the spectrum, there’s not a gnat’s whisker’s difference in those statements. These blog posts often use the word Atheist, and some are harsh in their judgment of religion and religious ideas.
WHICH OF COURSE IS THE STRUGGLE.
I am running because I think that the people who live in my district have needs that are not being met and voices that are not being heard. I want to be able to speak for those folks, to represent them. I’m aggressive and articulate and unafraid, and I want to use all those skills to fight for the people in my district. But I can’t do that unless I get elected. I can’t get elected if I don’t proceed cautiously with how I handle being a non-believer. Religion is very important to these people (and don’t get me started on whether their beliefs factor in to why they often vote in opposition to their self interest).
So I’m taking these posts, these posts that I’ve labored through to write, these posts that express how I left my religion behind, and why, and how painful, and making them private. I’ve made private the most aggressive. But I can’t hide them all. I won’t hide them all. Some of them may help someone understand, and may reach someone who needs to know they are not alone in their unbelief.
And of course this one is private. I have 5 more months of campaigning. As much as I’m enjoying it, I’ll be glad when it concludes. I’ll be changing those posts back to public in November, win or lose. I’m an atheist. Proudly an atheist.
After a winter of some inside projects, pulling up old carpet and refinishing hardwood floors, and redoing a suspended ceiling, it was time to turn attention to an outdoor living addition to Freethought Cottage!
Son Sam, with a few weeks to spare before beginning graduate school, came home and brought his construction experience with him. He is a teaching and research assistant at the University of Wyoming, and there is a reason he was selected for that position. He is a patient and knowledgeable teacher in addition to being a competent craftsman with an eye for detail. Along with constructing the porch, Sam walked me through the steps of building.
The weather, in typical Tennessee spring fashion, was different every day. In our week of construction, we had a warm sunny day, 2 cold rainy days, a cold clear day, and an overcast day.
Let’s begin with the before pictures:
I have a killer patio on the south side of the house, which is great all summer long – it’s completed shaded by big leafy trees, from morning til sunset, and in the dog days of summer it’s wonderful for picnics, coffee, cocktails. But in the fall and spring, I’m longing for warm sun. The deck will get sun almost all day long.
The obligatory Home Depot trip:
It’s perfect. The sun is warm and delicious at sunrise, and soft and beautiful at sunset. C’mon over for coffee in the morning, picnic in the afternoon, or wine at dusk.
Sammy, what a wonderful gift you have given me. Best kid ever.
This is my review of David Silverman’s recently-released Fighting God. This review is cross-posted at Goodreads.
No bones about it. David Silverman IS Fighting God.
In this manifesto, Silverman tells us, topic by topic, why he does what he does. As president of American Atheists, Silverman is the head of the largest, and likely most militant and litigious, atheist organization in the world. And he’s over it.
He’s over “live and let live”. He’s over “respecting your beliefs”. He’s over “coexist”. He’s over all this, and he explains in this book why: not because he’s an intolerant hater, but because religion won’t allow him. He cares too much for other people, and he cares too much for America and its values. Religion, as he sees it, invades every corner of our cultural and political arenas, and not in a good way.
He spends some time at the beginning of the book defining terms so that the reader can get firm footing on the power of language that has for so long worked in religion’s favor. For example, many flavors of Christianity fall under the broad term Christian (Baptist, Presbyterian, Catholic, even Mormonism). This is not true for people who have no belief in God (seculars, agnostics, atheists). This becomes important when statistics are used to prove that America is a “Christian” nation, because the numbers are skewed. Silverman emphasizes in this chapter the value and extreme importance of non-believers using the term atheist, which regardless of the baggage, every non-believer is.
Silverman then takes us on a journey through all religions, not just Christianity. He carefully addresses every topic used in defense of religious beliefs, and shows them for the smoke they are. One of his strongest sentences, in Chapter 3, states:
“Beyond the rhetoric, beyond the lies, and beyond the marketing, never once in the history of our species has any religion found, offered, or shown any verifiable and testable proof based on scientifically valid evidence and the scientific method (you know, the way we would prove anything else) of any supernatural being or phenomena. Ever. As I said before, if I am ever proven wrong on this point, I will quit my job and donate the proceeds of this book to that specific god’s religion, and I shall do so in a tremendous hail of publicity so that everyone will know.”
This book builds with intensity. As an attorney, my favorite chapter is Chapter 8: On Fighting Unpopular Battles (but Being Right). The chapter addresses the problem of religion in politics in America. Even the most devout of believers will agree that religion has a position of privilege in our government. This is perhaps the most powerful reason in a series of powerful reasons to push back against the ubiquity of religion, and to push hard. So many divisive issues in our culture have at their roots the ugliness of religion: gay marriage, abortion, women’s reproductive health, and even wealth inequality (remember the “poor always being among us”?). Silverman reminds us that religion will never, ever concede its position of privilege, and it will only be taken from religion with muscle, stamina, and determination.
Silverman’s book concludes with a variety of speeches he has made, and after the beatdown silent non-believers have taken throughout the book, these speeches not only assuage those wounds, but serve to inspire and motivate. Patriotism has been usurped by the religious right, and these few pages go a long way in reclaiming it.
For the purpose of full disclosure: not only am I an non-believer, but I’m one of those firebrand atheists Silverman describes. This book does a wonderful job of explaining why I am the way I am, but I would also have loved to have read it when I was on my way out of religion. Instead of slinking quietly away, I would have hired a marching band, drill team and all, and I myself would have lead the parade, carrying the atheist banner.
Before I blog about my latest cottage DIY, can I just restate that I am SO HAPPY IT IS CHRISTMAS 2015 and no longer CHRISTMAS 2014??
Last year at this time I was hip-deep in Bar Review, so much that I didn’t get out a single Christmas decoration, not a nutcracker, not an ornament, not a light. I had asked my sweet family for solitude for these months, and I was down to 1/2 day off per week to get away from studying. Everything festive has double the meaning this year since I missed the whole season last year.
So on to the project. When I moved in to this cottage 4 years ago, one of the first things I added were shelves in the library. I had to move a big corner wall unit to do so, and when I did, I discovered a little secret under the carpet.
I realize it doesn’t look like much here, but I knew that someday I was going to pull up the carpet in that room to get to that floor. No better time than the busiest season of the year, amirite?!
The walls in the library are lined with shelves, which makes the room a large rectangle with a door in the middle of each of the 4 walls. I often keep a table in the middle of the room, and a chair in a couple of the corners.
That exposed corner there is where I originally found the hardwood, under both the current beige carpet, and the groovy 70’s-era green carpet under that.
First order of business was old carpet removal. This home is a home of pets, so you know both layers of carpet and the padding were….pungent.
Carpet and pad out. Now the real work begins. Eliott and I are complete amateurs, but we’ll Youtube the crap out of home projects to figure it out. I already had a belt sander, so our 1st trip to Home Depot was for sandpaper, and lots of it, kneepads, safety glasses and mask.
Now we have a room full of raw wood. This room is in the center of the house, with no windows of its own, so opted not to add any stain. We knew the polyurethane layers would darken the wood a bit. We think this wood is pine, and our resident wood expert coincidentally was home this week and agreed with us.
Second trip to Home Depot. This time it’s for polyurethane, brushes, and more sandpaper (very fine, to use between coats).
Now all that’s left is trim and thresholds. Since the shelves are unfinished, we chose to use an unfinished quarter-round for the base trim. Experienced remodelers already know we’re off for trip #3 to Home Depot for a mitre-box and saw, nails, and of course the thresholds.
The finished look:
I am delighted with this adventure! Next up is the living room floor (and if I can talk Eliott into it, the living room ceiling…).
I’ve tagged this post under Cottage Living. If you go back through this tag, you’ll see descriptions about life on Freethought Farm, my 8-acre slice of paradise in Middle Tennessee. In addition to my little old cottage, there are barns, a pond, pasture, cedars, limestone and more limestone. To these natural and manmade wonders, I’ve added longhorn cattle, donkeys, a horse, chickens, goats, and the occasional duck.
Life out here is delicious – bucolic and grounded and a refuge from all things. However, I also border a large, multi-acre wooded area, which houses the usual assortment of woodland creatures, up to and including a class of predators such as foxes and coyotes. In the balance of predator and prey, I will sometimes lose one of my animals to one of these predators, “nature red in tooth and claw”. It’s the circle of life, and I recognize that when we share an environment like this, there will be an expected cost associated with it.
Last year was an exception. Over the course of the last 10 months, I lost 20 hens, 4 roosters, and my entire batch of spring chicks (25) to one extremely bloodthirsty fox. I watched him prowl my fenceline, just out of shotgun range, for long periods of time, only to slunk in and kill 2, 3, sometimes 4 and 5 hens at a time. Kill, not eat. He would break their necks, bite off their heads, and leave them dead and dying in the winter sun. I shot at him at least 3 different times, and missed. He got more and more brazen, mocking me for my bad aim and poor marksmanship. Another neighbor got hit hard, and we tried trapping, but there’s a reason that foxes are known for being so sly.
I needed another solution.
And here she is.
This little ball of fluff is a Great Pyrenees/Karakachan mix. Here are several of the many many sites Eliott researched before we located her. Here, here, and here. These dogs are bred to guard livestock. The information on training them is extensive, and it involves both socializing them with humans, and allowing them to bond with their tribe, the animals in the farmyard. They are known to recognize and ignore a non-predator, like a deer or a fawn, but recognize and intimidate or destroy a threat to her pack.
Here we are, introducing her to her family:
She has to sleep up in the barn so that she establishes her territory. Don’t ask how many times we’ve gone up there tonight. She’s doing great, and I’ll continue to post her (and our) progress.
One final thought: we don’t yet have a name. Post your suggestion in the comments. The Karakachan breed is of Bulgarian descent, so extra credit for connection to that heritage.
It’s a tale of hard work, frustration, more hard work, and incredible achievement.
I know the wearer of bib number 596, and it’s a pleasure to tell this story.
About 2 years ago, son Sam said to me that he wanted to do an Ironman* with me “before I got too old”. Ouch, but yes, I’d love to. We set about searching for a race, and even though we had to defer our registration for a year due to my law school studies, we found ourselves in Sandusky, Ohio on Friday, September 11, ready to swim, ride, and run.
*”Ironman” is a trademarked word, owned by the Ironman corporation. Most of you know the history before you even check out this link. There are many organizations that stage Ironman-distance races, but the word is trademarked so organizers have tried to be creative with what to call their events: Ultra Distance, Full Distance, etc, but outside of the racing community, Ironman is what sticks and is most recognizable. This race was called Challenge Cedar Point, and the distance we raced is the Full, but I’ll use the word Ironman occasionally for clarity.
However, nature had arrived as well. Rain, high winds, cold temperatures had wreaked havoc on well-laid plans of race officials. Of the weekend’s festivities, all but the half and full iron triathlons on Sunday were cancelled. Additionally, the swim had to relocated. The race is staged at Cedar Point, a roller-coaster-based amusement park on a small spit of land which creates a bay to the south. The swim was originally scheduled for Lake Erie, but at 2pm on Saturday, this is what Lake Erie looked like:
So the swim was to take place in the small bay to the south, with high hopes that no additional weather would affect the 7am start time on Sunday.
There is not much more exciting than the check-in/swagbag/chip timer/expo area of a full iron triathlon on the day before a big race. Athletes arriving from all directions, family and support getting signs prepared, volunteers helpful and smiling, vendors selling the latest and greatest in equipment, nutrition, clothing, and training aids. Our support crew of Eliott, Amy, and Jess helped us get checked in, wristbanded, and ID’d.
Mandatory racers’ meeting at 1pm on Saturday, with body-marking, race instructions, and any Q & A from the crowd. Race officials warned that winds were sure to be a challenge all throughout the 17-hour event.
Unsurprisingly, the night before a race is a difficult night to get a good night’s sleep: nerves, minds racing with last-minute prep, pre-dawn wakeup call, hotel bed. Race community advice is to get a good night’s sleep on the night BEFORE the night before.
4am alarm, awake and trying to hydrate, consume calories, and yes, poop. (The things you didn’t know [and would rather not] about endurance races.) Because of the high winds the day before, bike and bag check-in had to also occur before sunrise.
Finally, into the wetsuits and over to the ramp.
This race had a time-trial start, which meant 2 swimmers every 3-4 seconds. Sam and I lined up, listened to the national anthem, and then it was time.
Ours was a 2-loop swim around the marina and into the bay. Inside the protected marina the swim was delightful, but the bay was choppy on the first loop, and horrible on the 2nd. As soon as all the full-distance swimmers were out, and before the half-distance swimmers were in, race officials changed the course to stay in the marina and out of the bay.
Sam was out in just under 2 hours, and I was out in just over 2. Those are relatively slow times in our divisions, but the swim was not our strength, and we both opted to play it safe instead of fast. This race had “wetsuit strippers”, which is not nearly as sexy as it sounds. As swimmers exit the water, 2 volunteers assist with wetsuit removal – unzip the back, pull down from upper body, gently set the racer on her rump, off comes the suit, and then those 2 volunteers pull you right back up to standing – about a 4-second operation.
Run the half-mile in a wet swimsuit in the cold and the wind, pick up transition bag, run into changing tent, change clothes, grab a snack, apply butt butter liberally, hop on the bike, wave to support crew, and off you go.
Here’s a chance to learn some new racing lingo. The bike route was a lollipop – head out from transition, do a loop from the tip of stem of the lollipop, then an identical second loop, then back to transition on the stem. (It’s on page 30 of this race brief if you’re really interested.) The scenery was beautiful and the terrain was nice, gentle rollers – just the kind of route you’d like on a 112-mile bike ride. Except for the winds. Here’s the official race recap from Challenge:
When the swim was moved to the marina, the start became a time trial start so athletes could never really know how they placed until later in the day. Athletes faced consistent winds of 15 to 20 knots and gusts up to 25 knots on the bike course. A look of relief was on the face of most competitors as they came off the bike.
Those winds proved to be my undoing in this race. I can average about 16 mph on the bike, depending upon terrain and winds. This race was USAT sanctioned (USA Triathlon), so there are time limits in place for each leg of the event. The swim had a limit of 2 hours 20 minutes, the bike had a 5:30pm course close, and the run had to be completed by 12:05am.
Our heroic support crew found a little cafe out on the route with an outside deck and planted themselves there to see us on both loops. It was at around mile 50 (mile 88 on the second go), and they were able to catch us as we pedaled by.
At 4:30, I was at mile 92. I had been working the mental math in my head for miles, trying to figure if there was any way I could make up the time. The tail-end charlie support vehicle was behind me (not the first time I’ve been the race sweeper), and I stopped and chatted with them. My options, as they explained it, were: go ahead and ride in and they would escort me and allow me to finish even though the course would close at 5:30 (which means no intersection support – no volunteers or LEO stopping traffic so you could blow through without stopping), which would mean I couldn’t begin the run portion OR allow them to take me in so I could cross the chip mat in time to begin the run. I opted for a hybrid – I wanted to pedal as far as I could and still make it to the cutoff. I got to mile 98, and didn’t want to cut it any closer. I crossed the chip mat just under the deadline and headed into transition. If you’re keeping track, this makes me 1 for 3 for ironman attempts. Ask me sometime if I’m going to try another one…
In the meantime, Sam had made it in and back out to start the run around 4:00.
Because at this point I was a DNF (more race lingo – Did Not Finish – hateful, hateful words), I chose not to head out on the marathon, and planned to hop on when Sam came to the turnaround and do the second half of the race with him. There was some confusion about the turnaround point, however, and I missed that. Instead, I started out on the route backwards – meeting finishers as they were coming in until I reached Sam. It was dark and he was a tired boy when I found him, but he was still running.
Bib #596 crossed the finish line somewhere around 10pm – 15 hours, 1 minute, and 16 seconds after he went into the water. The 16 seconds may have come from the PUSHUPS HE DID AT THE FINISH LINE before he crossed. Cheering, applauding, laughing, one step across the chip mat, and then Sam Jordan is an Ironman.
The expression “blood, sweat, and tears” is often used to describe what goes into an accomplishment like this. The triathlon version is “blisters, sweat, tears, and time”. If you happen to see ole number 596, let him know what you think of his achievement. And for the mushy part, to have participated with Sam as he reached this goal goes into my book as one of the highlights of my life. I am so proud of this kid, for a multitude of reasons that go beyond this 140.6 miles. Thank you, Sammy, from the bottom of my mother’s heart.
By the time you read this, I will have taken the exam, and possibly have gotten the results (depending upon when I publish this). This blog post was started on December 10, and it’s my intent to add to it often up until the time of the test, with pictures and thoughts.
I’m keeping an old school diary of the whole experience, so I’ll add a little information from the previous two months as well.
I’m using Kaplan Bar Review, for multiple reasons, but I think any upper tier bar review would provide the tools necessary for success. As much as it seems to be the opposite sometimes, there really is a finite amount of material, there are techniques to learn that will give you an advantage, and anyone is capable of the skills with enough practice.
Kaplan markets its Bar Review program as an 8-week intense, 7-day-a-week, 12-hour-day effort. I’m sure thousands of folks have had success doing it that way – I can’t imagine it. My brain is done and done after 8 hours in a day. I have known for a long time that I am a morning person, have high energy and go strong until about 2pm, when I start a long, slow slide into evening. Therefore, I took Kaplan’s 8-week program and turned it into a 16-week, 6-8 hour a day schedule. I’ve been totally happy with it.
My life circumstances are favorable for this study schedule. I’m not working, my kids are all grown and independent, I live alone, my honey lives in another state and comes and visits occasionally. I have a small hobby farm in middle Tennessee with cattle, donkeys, goats, chickens, which all require maintenance and care, but that’s minimal, and the balance is they are a delightful distraction and helps to ground me.
My study partner and co-student Liz is on the same schedule, and I don’t want to underestimate her contribution to my progress. It’s not that we study together that often – it’s more passing questions back and forth through instant messaging, and the solidarity and companionship of a fellow student. She and I have shared rants about everything from tedious lecturers to impatient family to poorly-written hypotheticals to stress management tricks. She has not only made it tolerable, but has been fun and funny and a huge academic help. (*6/5 edit: Liz was one of our co-valedictorians at graduation – how lucky am I?!)
My posse of friends have been beyond supportive. Last fall my honey put out the word that he was seeking help with a 100-days-of-encouragement calendar. The response was overwhelming, and opening each envelope in the morning before study begins is my favorite part of the day.
I’ve been eating Paleo for years. Meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds. I still loves me some onion rings now and again, and wine is a food group as far as I’m concerned.
I knew before I began bar review that I needed to be careful about medicating with food. I know the physiology of the sympathetic/parasympathetic systems, and that food elicits the relaxation response that I would desperately need undertaking this monster. I know I sleep better, concentrate better, everything better when I eat clean. The extended nature (4 months) of bar review could lead to a disaster of biblical proportions (pants-wise) if I entered the venture unprepared for the phenomena.
So why do I want macaroni and cheese, cornbread, apple crisp, hashbrown casserole, and snickerdoodles? I have never wanted comfort food as badly as I want it now. I’m sure it’s about the insecurity I’m feeling, the anxiety about the test, the need for everything associated with that food – the caretaking that went into that food, both when I was the consumer and the creator, the memories of the family environment that accompanied the meal, not to mention the actual food, with its taste and effect of excitotoxins that evolved in the grains to make me want to eat more to distribute the seeds for the immobile plant.
But in my effort to avoid emotional comfort eating, I’m undereating, and having a weird aversion to eating anything, for fear of medicating with food. So in this whole psycho Bar Review process, I’m having to revert to old-school, food-logging, calorie-counting, structured eating, because I’m not able to properly assess if I’m hungry, or stressed, or full, or whatever. Sheesh.
Gah. What an experience. I’m at the 5-weeks-out point, and I alternate between panic at how fast the time is passing to not being able to face one more day and can’t wait for the end of this intense academic challenge.
I’m doing between 8-10 hours per day now, and the schedule is strict and tight. I take one half-day off per week, which requires a whole other post to describe the significance of getting in my car and driving, seeing people, buying food. As of today, I have 37 days left to prepare for this undertaking. I cannot yet say that I’m confident I’ll pass. What I am confident of is that I am doing all I can to prepare to be ready. It is not hard for me to stick with the schedule. I’ve done an Ironman, and I know what discipline is. What is hard is doing it with a positive spirit.
No, the schedule is not the challenge. The challenge is the beatdown.
So here’s how it goes. I do 50 multiple choice questions every morning between 6 and 7:30am. I did well in law school, graduated with honors, passed what’s know as the Baby Bar on the first go (California’s First Year Law Students Exam, required when you attend a freaky-deaky online law school like mine). I consider myself a smart person. The detail and the volume of information one must know on these multiple choice questions is staggering. The bar review course I’ve chosen allows the option of practicing the MCQs in timed mode, or in what they call tutor mode, where you can reveal the answer after each question, absent the ticking clock, with the explanation of why the correct answer is the correct answer.
On tutor mode, the 1-2 paragraph question has 3 or 4 potential points of law, and of course the answers each address one of those potential issues. Sometimes there is more than one correct answer – you must choose the BEST answer. The Corrector answer, as Colbert might say. Before I select, I get my outline out, look at my rule statements, read and research each possible answer of the 4 choices, finally make a choice (this process may take 10-15 minutes). Choose. Check answer. Wrong. Review the answers – why correct is correct, why wrong is wrong. Notate outline/rule statement. Recite aloud what I didn’t know that made me choose the wrong answer, and what I now know about why the right answer is right. Move to next question. Repeat. Times fifty. Times every day.
All of that work for that one answer, memorizing the issue, correcting misinformation, adding minute detail to the already vast accumulation of knowledge from 4 years of law school and 3 months of bar review. Then, move to the next question, until cycling through to a similar question as the one I described first. Read the fact pattern – I know this! I just figured this out a few questions ago! Let me check to be sure I understand it … review all 4 answers, refer to outline, select, check…wrong.
And that is just the multiple choice portion of the test.
That’s what I mean by the beatdown. There are 8 subjects tested on the MCQ, 14 on the essays. That’s a helluva pile o’ facts to cram into one 6-pound brain.
6am-7:30 50 multiple choice questions
7:30-8:30 chat with honey, feed dogs, let the chickens out, make coffee, check email, troll FB
So here’s how it works. There are 14 subjects that can be tested on the essays. Unlike undergraduate essays, this is not about chatting on for an hour about everything you know relating to say, criminal law. Law school and bar exam essays are precise, highly structured, strictly-timed essays testing on issue-spotting, concise statements of law, analysis of the facts in the hypothetical to the rule of law, and a reasonable conclusion.
There are 6 essays on the exam – 3 on Tuesday morning, 3 on Thursday morning. Here are a few to look at, along with CalBar’s opinion of 2 passing answers. Even if one is able to write 2 essays per day during Bar Review, it still takes an entire week to get through all the subjects. The components of practice include a sufficient set of rule statements, which are better understood as definitions of issues….maybe it’s better to show by example:
Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress: Intentional Infliction of emotional distress requires (1) extreme or outrageous conduct (2) intentionally or recklessly caused (3) that in fact causes extreme emotional distress.
Extreme Conduct: P will argue that B’s saying “You made me mad so now I’m going to shoot you” is extreme and outrageous. It would be outrageous to an average person, because they might think they were going to die. They might think about their children or live lives, and be very disturbed. Therefore, this is met.
Intent: B need not have intended to cause extreme emotional distress, he just need have recklessly done so. Recklessness is extreme indifference and beyond gross negligence. A person would clearly know this action would cause extreme emotional distress.
Emotional Distress: P will claim this is met because she fainted, and the court will likely agree. It may be bolstered by psychiatrist testimony.
Conclusion: Therefore, P will succeed in proving this tort.
Sometimes the particular rule statement needs to be dissected further, with sort of mini-analysis of each element of each rule. 3 essays per session, 1 hour each essay, one session on Tuesday morning, one on Thursday morning. While one may choose to spend more time on one essay, mathematically that subtracts time from one of the remaining essays, and we have heard repeatedly from professors and bar review materials to strictly limit oneself to one hour per essay.
PT is short for Performance Test.
It is the most lawyerly portion of the Bar Exam. I’ll take the liberty to speak for my fellow test-takers and say that this assignment would be delightful – a gratifying challenge allowing us to shine and show the bar graders our brilliance as legal strategists and negotiators – were it not for the fact that we have to show all this genius in 3 hours.
Upon the word GO, and within 180 minutes, the 30-page packet is opened, the assignment is read, the file is reviewed, the library is studied, the task is outlined, and the paper is written. In our 3rd year, my fellow students and I spent 6 months, SIX MONTHS, on one brief.
Here are two, plus passing answers, from July 2012. There is a one PT on the Bar Exam on Tuesday afternoon, and one on Thursday afternoon.