Friday, April 29, 2011

Almost to Kharkov!

A few days before I was to retake the bar I got a call asking me if I wanted to go to the Ukraine with my church from Birmingham. Hmmm, not stellar timing on that one. Fully focused on studying and already guilty about the time I had been away from work, my initial and somewhat final response was "can't." Besides if and when I passed the bar, the mandatory swearing in ceremony was during the week of the trip. Yep, definite no.  But for some reason I was willing to risk jinxing myself and called the Committee on Bar Admissions to just see if I could miss. I could; it would just require an extra trip to New Orleans. Hmmm, I could do that.

So I bounced the idea off my mom who's my voice of reason telling me when I need to stop being so busy. She loved the idea. Hmmm, odd.  Then came a call from dad who'd heard and wanted to help with the funding.  Hmmm, wow.   

And the boss-wasn't sure about asking a most generous employer for even more time off.  His words, "I'll support you a thousand times over. Take the time. Go." 

God opened the door and I ran through it! We are currently in route to Kharkov, Ukraine.  And yesterday I was sworn in during a private ceremony in Shreveport. No trip to New Orleans necessary. God is in the details.  The Louisiana Supreme Court Justice from Shreveport heard about my mission trip and offered to swear me in at his office--something he doesn't typically do.  But more than that, he swore me in yesterday so my baby brother and parents could be there (Mom, Dad & Ryan leave for China for several weeks on another mission trip the day I am returning!) May is a big month for the Browns. 

We've landed in Vienna and by this evening I'll be in Kharkov with eight others from Dawson Memorial starting our week of loving on the kids at a local orphanage. No, I don't speak Russian, but I do speak both the universal language of love and the universal language of sports. And I fully intend to do a lot of communicating this week.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

oh my!

My friend Ginny sent me email with just those words and this picture. Says. it. all. Another one of my beautiful models! Her beautiful daughter Linden…

And what can I say – I have beautiful friends that have beautiful babies – Miss Elynn was also modeling today – the first dress I ever smocked! And I got to spend time with this fun girl this afternoon! Love the Peek family!

What a happy Easter it was for me to have two beautiful girls in dresses I made!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

a day to celebrate.

Nearly a full year after graduating from law school, it's now official - I have passed the Louisiana Bar Exam. And yes, I did take it in July, and it has truly been a roller coaster ride since then.

Last October, I got the news I had failed the July 2010 exam. Yeah. Wow. A most humbling experience. So, a month later for my scheduled appointment with Bar Admissions Committee I headed down to New Orleans to find out just what went wrong. There I was greeted with the “Oops, we misgraded your exam. You didn’t fail, but you didn’t pass. You’ll have to pass two more sections and retake them in February.” Well, they might as well have told me I passed. At that point, I was happy to be a 1 in 5,000 statistic that had their exam misgraded.

My boss is one of the reasons I moved from the most wonderful Birmingham to Shreveport. He gave me time to study and we moved forward at the office. The last week of February I went to re-take those sections.

And, then came TODAY. Before I could even access the website, I had a call from one of my greatest friends with the news - there isn’t anyone I would have rather had tell me I passed! And it was followed by e-mail with a picture of his computer screen with the pass list pulled up. Awesome.

The Lord orchestrates things perfectly; who better to tell me I passed than one of my biggest encouragers through law school?

And I had this sweet girl - Linden Brooke - cheering me on today - look at those cheeks! Her cuteness is a reason all on its own to celebrate!

Today is good. This is a blessing. And praise Him from whom all blessings flow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

the reverend, the lawyer, & the doctor.

the reverend, the lawyer & the doctor – dinner at the farm – april 14, 2011.

a little intro into two of the boys in my life -- brannon & ryan.

The reverend (who despises that name!) is the Executive Director for Lake City Student Ministries in Lake City, Colorado. He inspires me. He makes me a better person. He gets to ski and grill out and hang out with kids for his job. Oh, and sometimes he fills the pulpit at the Baptist Church. I’d put money in his offering plate any day. Oh, and Ryan and I are forever indebted to him for being the first child – worst curfew, worst college budget….you get the picture…he paved the way. Thanks B! And his favorite baked good of mine – Snickerdoodles.

And then there’s the kid. He starts medical school in June….in Shreveport. Beyond excited. And he’s living five blocks away. More excited. God is good. This one has the ENTIRE family wrapped around his finger. It’s hilarious. He’s hilarious. And his heart is really big. He also loves things in multiples - “one is none, and two is one, jess.” The day his high school/college basketball career ended, I cried. If he’d play in a church league, I’d make posters…and he’d pretend not to know me. Like he did in high school – he point blank lied to a teacher that he was my brother; the teacher didn’t find out until his graduation night that he belonged with me. Well played kid. And his favorite baked good of mine – Marbles – chocolate and vanilla cake with chocolate and vanilla icing.

I love, love, love being sandwiched between these two. Love it. And I do consider myself my brothers’ keeper. These two crazies make life great. I had the best time last Thursday night grilling out at the farm with these two. Love having the three oaks together.

He has showed you oh man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Thursday, April 7, 2011

happy birthday boss

I just finished baking my first cake since I left Birmingham on August 7, 2010…the kitchen at the new house is open…And given that the cake is for my boss’s 60th birthday celebration at the office tomorrow, I think it’s only fair to give the start to this “lawyer” side of the story. My kitchen looked like this all evening…

But at the end of the night, we’ve got this.

I am working for a man I told repeatedly I’d never work for….I’ve told him that for the past eight years, since the summer I came and interned with him to see what this lawyer thing was all about. Though John, my boss, had been a great mentor and dear family friend, I refused to do medical malpractice. And I swore I’d never be a plaintiff’s attorney. The commercials. The jingles. The billboards. The liberals. No thank you. But oh how things change. Oh how I am eating my words every single day but loving it every single day. God often has a much different plan than the one in my finite, selfish mind. So here I am, BACK in Shreveport, Louisiana practicing plaintiff’s medical malpractice where I first decided law school was for me. And just why and how I ended up here will be fun to tell too one day. One I’ll tell after I know if the boss likes the cake – if I get to keep my job and if I haven’t botched every future raise or bonus.

And, p.s. our firm only has a picture ad in the phone book. The day we do anything else, I think I’ll throw in the towel . :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

the baker

I loved the day my dad emailed me this photo from Maine – the lawyer and the baker. Seriously, had someone found a way to combine two opposites, the two things that consume my time?

So this story starts in Birmingham with what I affectionately call my bakery (but really belongs to Dennis & Carol Gregg who I love dearly and who need an entire post of their own, each)...My mom and I LOVE wedding cake. Really we just love cake. About a week after moving to Birmingham in September 2006, she and I stumbled upon a little bakery, not yet on the map. Best. Cake. Ever. I was starting my MBA at night at Samford and needed a part time job. I fell in love with the bakery and two days later I started work at Pastry Art Bake Shoppe. Four years later, my days there were the highlight of my week (well a tie with hanging out with the people at 1417 Badham Drive). Even now, after moving, and now practicing law, I long for a Saturday morning at the bakery decorating cupcakes – insanely busy and stressful – but what fun.

Pastry Art is all things mom and pop; just about nothing is commercialized. Antique glass pastry cases, a chalkboard menu, and cafĂ© tables. People who you and your order by name. There’s a line that’s regularly out the door. Pastry Art is known for its Baby Bites – cake bites in all flavors – a brilliant creation. Rather than buying an entire cake in one flavor, you can have it all in these cake bites – literally any flavor. If you visit Birmingham, you must a have a Baby Bite – specifically French vanilla. And tell the Greggs I sent you.

The bakery opened its doors in April 2006, and when I started there were days we might see five customers. But on the day our caramel baby bites were featured in the Birmingham News, we never looked back. All days, all nights, all weekends making cake. I was a part of someone’s dream becoming a reality, and that, in my small world, is big. Then along came Southern Lady, Southern Living, the cover of Birmingham magazine, and various bridal magazines. I love that people book in January for the Christmas holidays. I love that Nick Saban has these on signing day – that I have monogrammed hundreds, likely thousands of “A”s on red velvet baby bites. I love that Jennifer Anniston and Sheryl Crow love our baby bites. Oh, and let’s not forget our hilarious television debut on Good Morning Alabama, where Carol and I did a how-to on Halloween decorations. Just prep for Cupcake Wars.

I’m generally a creative person but to be honest I’d never done much more than help my mom ice cupcakes (that we were convinced were the best ever!) I’m a bit assertive and on the first day, I’d redone the entire menu in chalk in “Jessica font.” To this day, it’s never been changed. And I dare the new girl to touch it. I was hired to be “general” assistant but that only lasted about two weeks. We were so busy I learned to decorate, and fast. And I loved it. Cupcakes, baby bites, all of it. And Birmingham is the first place I’ve lived where the general population loves and embraces monogramming to the extent I do. I was MONOGRAMMING baked goods by the dozens. Perfection.

After being accepted to law school, I had to go part-time, but I never gave up working at my Pastry Art - Saturday mornings & Christmas holidays. After every law school exam, I would leave school and go decorate a cake. Decorating and working alongside Carol was a great joy and stress reliever.

Out of this job spiraled a love for baking. About a month into law school, I lost a bet with two of my guy friends. My end of the deal – bring cookies to law school, wearing an apron. Make an idiot of myself. I left off the apron, but that particular professor still called me “Cookie Queen.” It was shortened to “Cookie,” but it stuck for three years of school. And I promise you, if I walked into her office right now, she’d be saying “Heeeey Cookie.” I made chocolate chip cookies for the school one or two times a week. I baked hundreds for her birthday party. Baked goods can get you somewhere in life – I think it might have helped me get a couple of A’s and likely how I became one of research and writing fellows my 2L year. Yep, baked goods open doors and can give you a reason to blog.