Entries Tagged as 'life'
January 22nd, 2015 · 4 Comments
One of the things that I promised in 2015 was that I’d share more with you guys about my legal career. From the start of this blog, I’ve struggled with how to incorporate my professional life with the content here, and up till now, I’ve never felt like I had the right solution.
Honestly, in the past seven years since Sugarlaws was founded, I’ve largely ignored the topic of my job on here. Except for writing about the challenges of being a working mom, I haven’t written much about my life as a lawyer, and often it feels like a gaping hole that this blog is missing. As much as I love fashion, food, and our son, my work is an integral part of my life. So this year, I’m making a conscious effort to share more about it with you guys.
But when I think about my legal career, I have to start at the beginning.
So today, I want to tell you about Lonnie Jones.
This was one of the first cases I ever worked on as a lawyer, and still one of the absolute most meaningful. When I was a second year law student, I spent the summer working at Davis Polk, the firm I would eventually join after graduation, and one day, a senior associate asked me to help with a pro bono brief he was working on. (For those of you who aren’t lawyers, pro bono work is legal work that law firms do for free for people who can’t otherwise afford it.)
The brief was a criminal appeal for Lonnie Jones, a man who had been wrongfully convicted for murder and sentenced to life in prison. Lonnie’s conviction was based on flawed testimony from a single eyewitness, and even in my first days working on his case, it was crystal clear that his conviction was a serious injustice. I helped with the brief and then went back to law school for my third year, hoping for the best but knowing how difficult it can be to get a criminal conviction overturned. DNA evidence has helped immeasurably, but when a conviction is based on eyewitness testimony, even drastically flawed convictions are very, very hard to overturn.
Fast forward one year, I graduated and joined the firm. And in my first week, the same senior associate told me that we had won Lonnie’s appeal: his conviction had been overturned, and he was getting a new trial.
And we would be representing him.
Now, I know that TV and the movies give the impression that murder trials happen every day, for a lawyer with a white-shoe corporate litigation practice, they happen exactly never. I immediately asked to join the trial team, knowing that this might be my only chance to work on a criminal trial — and, more importantly, knowing that we had a chance to correct the injustice that Lonnie had spent almost six years in prison for.
For confidentiality reasons, I can’t say anything about the substance of our trial preparation, so I’ll tell you about the mood of our team, which was something pretty incredible. For months, we spent every night and weekend gathered around conference rooms in our office, talking with witnesses and debating points of strategy. We learned firsthand about New York City gangs and inner city housing projects from people who lived in them. I visited Rikers Island and learned that an underwire bra sets off their metal detectors (who knew?).
And then, in the middle of winter in Brooklyn, eight months after I graduated from law school, we took Lonnie’s case to trial.
He was acquitted of all charges by a jury, and I’ll never forget the moment that the jury read his verdict: there was so much relief and joy in that courtroom, it was like nothing I’d ever experienced. After six years in jail, Lonnie left that courtroom a free man. The bailiff cried as she took off his handcuffs, and he went home to his wife, who had stayed by his side and believed in his innocence for all those years.
In many ways, that case is where my legal career started. This month marks eight years since that trial, and since then, I’ve tried other cases and gotten other verdicts, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had one that meant so much to me as that one did. It was an incredible experience to begin my career and one that I’m still grateful for every single day.
I’m not a criminal lawyer and chances are, I’ll never try a murder case again. But having that experience as the focal point of my first year as a lawyer shaped me in so many ways. It gave me faith in our legal system to get the right result and the courage to seek justice, no matter how tough the odds.
And most of all: It taught me that the best lawyers look for the truth rather than spinning a story, a principle that I carry with me to this day.
You can read more about Lonnie’s case on the National Registry of Exonerations here, or see the article that my firm published after the trial here.
Tags: life · work
What a year this one has been!
I’m charging head-on into 2015, but before I do, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on all the wonderful moments from this past year. So, if you’re new to this blog or you missed a few posts here and there, I’ve pulled together some of my favorites from the last 12 months.
This marked the birth of our son, which turned my life upside down in the happiest, most wonderful (and yet totally overwhelming) way possible. I think my favorite post of the year was on my decision to give up the idea of being a “perfect” parent and to focus on enjoying time with our son. This is something I still struggle with nearly every day, but realizing it has made our lives so much happier and better. If you’re going to read one post I wrote in 2014, head over there.
In other news…
I briefly turned into Godzilla at the sound of our baby crying… and wound up breaking our freezer.
The best advice I received as a new parent: Just Wait A Week.
Our baby broke a $500 jar of Vaseline. Oops.
I shared Baby Bear’s birth story, the most incredible night of my life. And I surprised myself by dreading those newborn weeks so much, and then finding out that I actually liked them.
We had an epic meltdown in the grocery store.
I wrote letters to our son at one, two, three, four and five months… and then somehow completely forgot to keep going. Baby Brain, people. It’s a real thing. I’m hoping to revive these in 2015! (And, if you want to get all technical about it, I technically wrote two letters to him at one month old… with no recollection of the first when I wrote the second. I blame the two combined hours of sleep I was getting per night at that point.)
I wrote about our decision to vaccinate, and why it shouldn’t be a decision at all. Please inform yourselves about the facts on this incredibly important issue, for the safety of your child and others.
I wrote about our struggles with breastfeeding and the solution that worked for us, as well as two posts on nursing mom style tips (here and here). I wrote about the products you actually need as a new mom (hint: it’s not a wardrobe of pint-size newborn clothes)!
I wrote about why parental leave isn’t just a women’s issue — engaged dads make for happier families, and paternity leave is important too.
And finally, I wrote about life as a working mom, and the challenges I’m juggling with balancing my career and our family.
Baby bump posts took up the first four months of the year! I had so much fun styling my growing belly! At the time, I felt huge and totally self-conscious, but now I look at those pictures with so much joy. This pink ASOS dress and this LOFT top were my favorites of the whole pregnancy. And this festival-inspired dress at sunset continues to be one of my favorite photos of the year.
I wore head-to-toe leopard print at eight months pregnant. And full-on sequins. Because, hey, why not?
Post-partum dressing was a big challenge, but I did my best! A great tropical-themed outfit here, and our puppy Rambo had a cameo over here. I did a number of fun collaborations, and this dressbarn style was a big favorite, as was this White House Black Market summer style. I waited nine months to wear this Mara Hoffman dress, which is basically the most perfect thing ever.
I styled an outfit for our imaginary life in California, the one we almost lived. And I shared my top five tips for dressing stylishly while pregnant.
And last but not least, I was featured in the July issue of Glamour magazine! Thanks again to my wonderful readers for pointing this out to me — without you guys, I never would have known!
Our crockpot was the workhorse of 2014 — life with a baby inevitably makes the slow cooker into your most valued possession. They’re great for creating healthy, easy, low-stress meals that won’t burn when you leave the kitchen eleven million times while preparing dinner. I loved our Southwestern Chicken Stew and BBQ Chicken for easy weeknight staples.
I also focused more on breakfasts than ever before, and made egg dishes with quinoa and avocado toasts that were delicious and super healthy, and blueberry sour cream pound cake that wasn’t so healthy but was really delicious.
And finally, you guys know me. There were some dessert creations this year, obviously. Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies that were surprisingly awesome, as were my No-Bake Peanut Butter Bars.
And finally, a two-ingredient cocktail that can’t be beat: Kahlua and Chocolate Ice Cream. Yes. I went there. And it was glorious.
(Caramel Sandwich Cookies weren’t the worst thing in the world, either.)
I shared our “ttc” (internet slang for “trying to conceive”) story, and ups and downs of finding out that I needed surgery almost immediately after we started trying to have a baby. For silly superstitious reasons, I didn’t feel comfortable posting this until after our son had safely arrived, but so many families struggle with infertility, I think it’s important that we share these stories openly and honestly. So I did.
My biggest, most epic pregnancy meltdown: The story of the ceiling fan. (Or: Why Pinterest and Pregnancy Hormones Don’t Mix.)
I wrote about my nervousness with all the ways that our life was about to change, the same way I felt about leaving New York when we moved to Texas.
I tried to remember to enjoy being pregnant, and not just focusing on when the baby would finally get here. (It’s tough, at the end, let me tell you.)
I confronted the terrifying reality that new parents have no idea what they’re doing. And that I’d probably do just fine anyways.
I ate an entire chocolate cake by myself.
And on that note, I wrote about pregnancy weight gain. I spent way too much time freaking out at the numbers on the scale at the beginning of my pregnancy, when I gained way over the “recommended” amount… which was, ultimately, exactly what my body and our son needed.
And finally, despite the many, many posts about pregnancy, I wrote about the fact that there are so many wonderful ways to create a family. Sure, pregnancy is one, but what binds a family together isn’t genetics: it’s love.
In October, we left the baby behind for a pretty amazing trip to Mexico. I slept for, like, fourteen hours a day. And it was basically the best week of my life.
I made over our breakfast nook and created the most gorgeous nursery in turquoise and white. My IKEA dresser hack went viral on Pinterest, and well deservedly so. At under $400 for all the supplies, it simply can’t be beat.
Chad and I had our five year anniversary, and I shared our very unprofessional (but totally wonderful) wedding video here.
And in September, we lost our beloved dog Calvin, who I still miss every day.
I shared some meditation tips for beginners – one of the biggest changes in 2014 was that I started meditating on a regular basis, and it has improved my outlook so dramatically. If you haven’t given it a try, I definitely recommend it!
I wrote about our new puppy Rambo, who eats poop. We like him anyway.
I had an incredible baby shower, and was so grateful to celebrate with our wonderful friends and family.
I cancelled my trip to New York for Fashion Week because I was pregnant, and then promptly reconsidered. I ended up going at seven months pregnant and had a total blast — my video diary was posted here.
And I capped off the year by finally telling you guys about my disastrous Christmas dinner in 2013. Oops!
What a year! Just writing this has put a huge smile on my face. It’s been a crazy, wild ride and a joy every single day. Can’t wait to share 2015 with you guys, too.
Tags: baby · food · home · life · style
December 31st, 2014 · 1 Comment
The week before Christmas, I had an incredibly wonderful experience. Through an organization in Houston, my law firm participated in a huge annual Christmas party for an elementary school in North Houston, buying gifts for a classroom of second graders. For each classroom, a law firm sponsored the party and we visited the class, ate pizza and junk food, handed out our presents, and played with the kids for a few hours to celebrate the holidays.
It was a really, really special afternoon and by far the highlight of my holiday season. Before the party started, I sat down at a group of desks with four girls and colored with crayons, and after the party ended, I couldn’t leave for well over an hour because we were having so much fun trying out all the new toys, arts and crafts projects, and games they had received.
And I want to tell you about a truly wonderful moment I had that day.
When I went to pick out toys, I wanted to find toys that would be fun but would also help each kid learn and discover new interests — science kits and art supplies and crafting projects they could use again and again.
And when I got to the classroom, we distributed each of the boxes and then waited as each kid unwrapped them… something funny happened.
One little girl opened hers, and it was a “Stomp Rocket” — foam rockets that soar into the air when you stomp on the launcher. I was watching when she opened it and suddenly, she looked distressed. The teacher came over and she pointed down at the box and said, “it’s a boy’s toy.”
And you guys, I’m well aware of the stereotype is that rocket toys are for boys and dolls are for girls, but I had purposely bought this as a present for one of the girls because I think that stereotype is garbage. And yet… I felt terrible for picking something that she wasn’t excited about.
But then, the coolest thing happened.
The teacher came over and looked at the box and smiled at her. She assured her that no, this wasn’t just a toy for boys. This was a cool toy that any kid would enjoy. And then — this teacher was clearly such a good one, who really cared about this little girl — she opened the box and assembled the rocket for her, right on the spot. And once it was set up and the rockets were loaded, every kid in the classroom was gathered around this little girl’s Stomp Rocket. Both the boys and the girls couldn’t wait to give it a try.
And this is a pretty cool toy — these little rockets fly up into the air so fast, they’re super fun for any kid, boy or girl. When she stomped on the launcher for the first time, the classroom literally erupted into shrieks as the rocket soared right into the ceiling.
And do you know who stayed around it, watching it lift into the air again and again?
Every single one of them wanted to try this rocket, and couldn’t believe that it worked. We had so much fun launching those rockets over and over — at least twenty or thirty times — and each kid who wanted to got to try, boys and girls both. The little girl’s disappointment of being given a “boy’s” toy was quickly replaced by excitement about being given the toy that every kid in the classroom wanted to play with.
And I was so, so happy.
I hope that I’ll see that little girl again — I plan to sponsor the same party next year, although it’s unlikely that I’ll see the exact same kids as their classes and grades change. But for this awesome afternoon, I got to see first-hand a barrier breaking down and a little girl getting excited about something she might not have been exposed to otherwise.
It was a great way to close out 2014, but the best part? Each kid in the class wrote a card that I got to take home.
The sweetest one was one line long. It said: “Thank you for my best day.”
These kids gave me my best day, too. The afternoon I spent with them was the best moment of my holiday season, and I am so very grateful to them for it.
Happy New Year, everyone. May your 2015 be filled with love, peace and joy.
Tags: life · work