Stop Asking Where I'm From

Good thoughts appreciated! (I’ll be fine, though.)

Written By: humarashid - Jul• 30•16

So it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I haven’t been around because I’ve been burned out on blogging, and very busy with work and life. But more and more people have been telling me over the past few months to get back to my blog, so I figured I could give it a shot.

I’m dealing with a little something right now, and figured I would share it. I’ve had some health issues recently – specifically, multiple trips to the ER with unexplained, off-the-pain-chart abdominal pain. No one could tell what it was. At first, it was deduced to be a bladder spasm, and I was put on medication to help with that. Then I had it again, and it was deemed to be an ovarian cyst and/or an ovarian torsion (it wasn’t a torsion). Then I had crippling pain while I was trying to drive to court, and later realized that I had been passing a kidney stone (my third), while driving, without any pain medication. So THAT was interesting.

 photo lisa rinna this is not okay with me.gif

But the pain stayed with me, and it was determined to be a cyst that is a bit larger than my left ovary. I’m fine with it all as long as I know what it is, you know? And what can be done about it. I’m very much of a get-in-there-and-fix-it kind of person, with anything.

Then my doctor said the C word. He said he was concerned, based on a few things but I wasn’t paying attention at that point, that it might be cancer, so he ordered the tests. That was the day before I left on a week-long trip to Michigan, so it’s fair to say it put a damper on things a bit.

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I got a call almost a week later that it wasn’t, and that the growth (the cyst) was benign. But still getting bigger. So a surgery was scheduled.

I’ll be having surgery August 3, 2016, and will take about a week to recover while a pathologist takes a look at the stupid thing and determines conclusively the cancer question, why it grew so big, etc. etc.

So that’s what’s been going on. I’m pretty nervous, which is hard for me to admit, because I’ve never had surgery before. But whatever. I’ve got a few surgeon friends, and some doctor friends, and they said that it was a fairly common procedure because so many women get cysts – although most of these cysts go away on their own, even if they grow to the size of a grapefruit.

The issue is, during the surgery, if it’s determined that the cyst is too entangled with the ovary, I’ll lose the left ovary.

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Now, practically speaking, I don’t really care about that. Conceptually, I am struggling with it. My doctor obviously doesn’t want me to lose the ovary, because he says I’m still young, and I may want to have children, and if I develop autonomous cysts on the right ovary, then I may have to lose that, too. So he’s assured me over and over that he will do everything to spare the ovary if he can.

Again, on a practical level, I’m cool with it.

Even if I lose an ovary, so what? I have another one. And I don’t anticipate that losing it will change my life much.

Plus, thinking forward (and perhaps over-thinking it), I don’t really want kids, I can’t really imagine myself having kids, and, given my disastrous luck with men, frankly, I can’t really imagine a situation in which I’d have a partner and would be in a position to try to get pregnant. Plus, I don’t really like kids. I fake it just fine, and depending on their age I connect with them well enough, but, damn, I don’t go out of my way to spend time with children. Just not my scene. So if I lose my left ovary and this diminishes my chances of carrying a pregnancy to term, then, okay. It is what it is.

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But here’s the thing – and I’ll let you guys in on a secret – I’m kind of a spiteful person.

Don’t you dare tell me I can’t do something. Because I’ll do it and stick it under your nose just so you’re well aware I went ahead and did it.

This has worked very well for me my entire life, mainly because the things I was told I “couldn’t” do were things I was discouraged from due to misogyny and other limiting social structures and beliefs. So when a bunch of people in my community told me I shouldn’t be a criminal defense attorney because it wasn’t “a good job for women,” or because “you’ll be defending guilty people and that’s forbidden by Islam” (this is horseshit, and super ironically, was said to me BY MY FORMER ISLAMIC STUDIES TEACHER, which made me severely question her credibility on anything having to do with religion), you can bet I worked incredibly hard to learn all I could about criminal law, which ultimately led me to my career as a criminal defense attorney.

And yeah, you can bet that at dinner parties, I say, “I’m a criminal defense attorney,” loud and proud, so that the older people can quietly disapprove while their daughters flock to me and ask me questions and start thinking that maybe they, too, can be defense attorneys (much to their parents’ horror, and my glee).

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So yeah, I can be a spiteful person, and I have been very blessed that it has worked out very well for me.

It’s the same with this situation. I don’t believe I want children, but don’t you dare tell me I can’t have them.

But I realize I’m getting ahead of myself. One of the many valuable lessons I’ve learned during my career is that it’s not a problem until it’s real. If I wasted my time worrying about every potential problem before it actually reared its ugly head, well, I’d never do anything else. It’s a good thing to anticipate a problem so you can plan what you’ll do and how you’ll fix it, but there’s no sense in fixating on that.

So the surgery will be August 3, 2016. Hopefully I’ll come out of it with both ovaries intact; if not, hey, that’s okay, too. I’ll need about a week of recovery, so instead of flitting about from one work/social engagement to another, I will be in bed. Which is gross, but whatever.

That puts me at August 10. The next day, August 11, is my 30th birthday. I don’t foresee any crazy celebrations. ;) I think I’ll do what I do every year: a quiet dinner after work, by myself, at my favorite restaurant, then home. It seems as though that’ll be the best option.

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So. I feel gross sharing this much personal information in such a public place (as in, my blog that is attached to my actual name) and probably sharing it on FB so I don’t have to have the same conversation over and over again when people inevitably ask me why I wasn’t at this or that event, or why I can’t come to dinner, but … yeah. I feel gross sharing all this personal information, but it is what it is.

And who knows, maybe a week off will give me the incentive to blog more. (NGL, I’ll probably be writing like 20 motions in limine while I’m convalescing. No sense in wasting that much uninterrupted time.)

Good thoughts would be appreciated. Even though I’m probably being a big baby about all of this.

Business Casual Superstar #508: Dress It Up!

Written By: humarashid - Sep• 14•15

I’m back. I missed this thing. I missed doing business casual outfits like I used to back when I was in law school. I’m obviously an attorney now, so my focus has shifted a bit: I’m still into business casual, obviously, but I’m also into court wear. And the best thing is when you can easily switch between the two … and possibly switch the same outfit easily to something to wear out at night, too.

So the next few posts in this series will be outfits that are easily convertible: wear it to court, wear it around the (business casual) office, wear it out at night.

In order to keep it under $100, I’m often going to presume that you have a basic black blazer, a cardigan, things like that. I will of course be providing links to some of those basics, but I’m playing the $100 a little fast and loose, because a black blazer is something most of us already have in our closet (but if not, never fear! I’ll provide some).

Here we go.

I love, love, love dresses. I love them. I wear them with and without pantyhose, with stockings, with opaque tights, with leggings, whatever. I’m all about dresses. BECAUSE THEY AREN’T PANTS.

Here’s my thing: I fucking hate pants. Like, no, fuck pants. They are the worst. And if you roll out of bed, shower, and throw on a dress with a cardigan and some flats, you just managed to get dressed in about 2 minutes, and you look like you put way more thought into it than you did. And I’m all about looking like I put more thought into things than I actually did, because I don’t have all that many thoughts to spare, guys.


Oh, whatever, you know what I mean.

So here we go:

BCS 508

Isn’t this nuts? This whole outfit for under $50? Ok, bear with me while I explain this shit.

Star Vixen Bar Back Dress: $8.84

Romwe Round Neck Cropped Blazer: $14.67

Qupid Dress Pump: $17.85

I found this dress on Amazon. I never would have thought to buy clothing on Amazon, but for the past two years, BobBlahBlawg has been randomly IMing me and being like, “What do you think of these shoes?” and he’ll send me Amazon links to men’s shoes. And I mean I can’t fault the guy; he’s got good taste. But because of that, I’ve kind of been able to wrap my mind around buying clothes on Amazon.

So the dress is from Amazon. It’s knee-length, and it’s not super booby, so it’ll be fine for court, especially under a blazer. It’s got a barred back, which you can’t see in this pic, but you can if you click on the link and go to Amazon.

It’s not indecent, but you’re not going to be walking into court like that unless you WANT people to think that you won that Motion to Dismiss for reasons other than your stellar legal arguments. (Is that slut-shamey? Help me out. I don’t want to be slut-shamey.)

Naturally it has to be paired with a blazer. I’m super biased here, because I LOVE cropped and/or fitted blazer. I’m a small girl: I’m only 5’1″ and if I wear normal boxy blazers I look like I’m swimming in fabric. I’ve already gained some weight since law school, and I do not need to look even fatter. I mean, it’s bad enough that I’ve been forced to realize that I can no longer eat pizza and ice cream for a literal week without gaining a literal pound. (UGH. WHY CRUEL WORLD WHY.)

So I go with fitted or cropped blazers. And I like this one. I’d totally wear it to court. I’d look great. (I have blue and silver blazers just like this, so it’s not a stretch – I really would wear this to court.) If you want a more normal blazer, consider this long-sleeve black blazer from JCPenney for $25, currently on sale. Everyone’s tastes are different, and everyone’s bodies are different. Cropped/fitted blazers might fit you in a way that doesn’t make you comfortable. So throw on a more traditional, looser blazer if that’s your scene.

The shoes are also from Amazon. I should just do Amazon-only outfits from now on because I swear they have everything. They tend to run a half size too small, according to the review, so I went with the price point for a 7.5 shoe, since I’m a 7. They’re just normal black pumps, and I threw them in kind of as an afterthought, because I figure most of us have black leather pumps in our closet anyway and don’t need to buy these.

Actually, I no longer have black leather heels. Mine were looking ROUGH so I got rid of them. I tend to walk hard and fast. My heel strikes the concrete pavement hard and I walk quickly, so the tips of my heel gets worn down quick. Sometimes I step in those stupid grates and nick the leather. I am a literal disaster. I am not one of those poised, graceful, gazelle-like creatures that can float down Dearborn in the Loop looking like she just stepped out of a White House Black Market catalog.

No. If you see me walking down Dearborn, I am striding purposely toward the Dirksen Federal Building, running through crosswalks with 3 seconds left on the orange timer, sucking down as much of my iced caramel coffee as I can before I dump it in one of the garbage cans outside the building and barrel through the revolving doors because those fuckers start on TIME.

I am hardly a vision of feminine loveliness when I’m walking down the street to get to court (or ever, really). So my heels get roughed up quick, which is why I wear flats everywhere, because fuck that.

Ugh, I need to buy black heels.

ANYWAY. This outfit pictured above will carry you through your morning court call, easy. But what about when you get back to the office?

Ditch the heels for these black flats, $12 at MyHabit.

black flat

They’re comfortable and easy on your feet, and you can flit about the office for the rest of the day in comfort. (The soles might be kind of thin, because they’re rather discounted in price, so be cautious.) If I’m wearing shoes at all in the office, I am wearing flats or sandals. (No, I’m serious, I’m often just not wearing shoes in the office because fuck shoes.)

Also, you don’t want to hang out in a blazer around the office, do you? Unless a client is coming in, I’m walking around in just my dress, to be honest. But when we do have a client meeting, I quickly grab either my blazer or a sweater that I keep at the office. That’s what you should do, too: ditch the blazer for this loose, flowy, open-front grey cardigan for $20.50 on, you guessed it, Amazon.


Look at how cute! I love flowy, draped cardigans. And cardigans in general. Like the blazer, it hides the slightly racy back very well, and you still look cute and professional and most importantly, comfortable.

But what happens when the clock hits 5 (or 6, or 7) and it’s time to get your ass on out of there and do something fun with your girlfriends (or, my favorite, by myself)? You want to go out to dinner or for drinks or coffee or whatever, and you don’t want to look like you just came from work … even though you just came from work.

Ditch the sweater and the blazer, forget the pumps and flats, and throw on something strappy, like these silver sandals I found at Nordstrom Rack for $10.

silver heels

Yikes, you could put an eye out with those. But they’re so pretty and strappy. The strap on top would keep me from dangling them off my feet, which I love to do maybe as a nervous or bored tick, but whatever. Throw them on and go have fun.

And the best part?

Even if you buy every single thing I posted on here (but pick one blazer – either the fitted or the normal one, not both!) the total price is still at around $92. For everything! Court to office to a night out! YAY! I outdid myself! I love that feeling.

Anyway, there we have it: an outfit that can transition from court to the business casual office and to the bar or brewery or restaurant or lounge you find yourself at afterwards. Whatever, I’m not your mom, I don’t care what you do. Go stick your tongue down some random’s throat for all I care. (And have fun!)

Poor Raymond

Written By: humarashid - Mar• 29•15

Raymond and I were in his car, driving to a location of an alleged criminal offense so we could take a look around, get a sense of it. His satellite radio started playing Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.”

Me: I love this song!

Ray: [kicks up the volume]

Me: [sings along]

two minutes pass…

Me: [still singing along until there’s a break in vocals]


Bahahaha. We just cracked up for the rest of the song.

Renowned Muslim Cleric Represented by Wigell Criminal Defense

Written By: humarashid - Mar• 26•15


On March 25, 2015, attorneys Raymond G. Wigell and Huma Rashid appeared at the Cook County Courthouse in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, as attorneys of record for Mr. Mohammad Abdullah Saleem. With Mr. Saleem appeared approximately 30 supporters from the Muslim community, who sat through the day’s court appearance in a show of support for the respected and beloved Muslim cleric, or Imam.

Mr. Saleem was formally charged yesterday in an 8-count indictment regarding an incident of alleged sexual abuse. An indictment is not evidence; it is not a proof of anything in and of itself. An indictment is merely an allegation, an accusation. It was tendered (that is, given to Mr. Saleem’s attorneys) by the Honorable Judge James Karahalios.

Attorney Raymond Wigell acknowledged receipt of the Indictment, waived a formal reading of it in open court, and entered a plea of Not Guilty to all eight counts.

Mr. Saleem’s attorneys also filed a Motion for Discovery, requiring the State to tender all material it anticipates using against Mr. Saleem at trial. It is premature to discuss whether or not the case shall proceed to trial, or whether it will be a jury trial or a bench trial, but that discussion will become more important as the case matures.

After the filings were made and materials were tendered, Judge Karahalios set a date for Mr. Saleem, through his attorneys, to file thhe defendant’s Answer to Discovery, as well as any initial pre-trial motions. Pre-trial motions are requests to the Court to determine specifics prior to and in anticipation of trial.

The next court date will be May 19, 2015, at 9:00am, before Judge Karahalios in Room 107, at the Cook County Courthouse in Rolling Meadows, Illinois.

Once the court proceeding was concluded, Mr. Saleem left the courtroom, flanked by his sons and grandson, and followed closely by his two attorneys and many supporters. There were a handful of individuals who supported the accuser, and have been observed approaching Mr. Saleem’s supporters on this and previous occasions in the courthouse. They attempted, without success, to engage Mr. Saleem’s supporters in a heated discussion.

However, due to the maturity and respect of Mr. Saleem’s supporters for the criminal justice system, as well as the assistance of the Cook County Sheriff’s deputies in the Rolling Meadows courthouse, all involved exited in an orderly manner.

Attorneys Raymond Wigell and Huma Rashid spoke briefly with many members of the community (both supporters and the opposition) about various issues connected with the case, before excusing themselves to move forward and address various news outlets that had assembled in anticipation of Mr. Saleem’s plea of Not Guilty.

The attorneys spoke with George Houde of the Chicago Tribune, Barbara Vitello of the Chicago Daily Herald, and appeared in a televised news segment with Regina Waldroup of NBC 5 Chicago. Each of these outlets have been present for the previous court dates in this matter, and have put out numerous reports regarding this matter.

Mr. Saleem is set to appear in court next on May 19, 2015, at 9:00am before Judge Karahalios. Having entered a plea of not guilty to all counts in the Indictment, he is prepared to continue to fight the questionable allegations and restore his good name and continue his status as a respected and revered pillar in the Chicagoland Muslim community.

Rolling Meadows rs

For more information about attorney Raymond G. Wigell, please refer to his Avvo profile and the firm’s website, as well as his Twitter and LinkedIn.

For more information about attorney Huma Rashid, please refer to her Avvo profile, Twitter, LinkedIn, and her personal blog.

For previous coverage of Mr. Saleem’s matter, please see the links below:

Business Casual Superstar #507: Red flats that won’t put you in the red

Written By: humarashid - Mar• 16•15

Man, it’s been a while since I did one of these, huh? What can I say, I felt like getting back on the bandwagon. When I stopped with this series, it was because, frankly, I was burned out. Too much fashion, too many articles of clothing, too much pressure to feel like I was coming up with something new and original and entertaining, too much pretending I knew what I was talking about. :P

But whatever. I’m in the market for red flats, because the ones I have are looking a little shabby, and so I figured I’d whip up a quick post.

I love, love, love red flats because red is a total power color for me. I love to wear red lipstick (NYX soft matte lip cream in Monte Carlo, NARS velvet matte lip pencil in Dragon Girl and it’s far cheaper dupe with less staying power and more of a bleed, ELF’s matte lip pencil in Rich Red – these are some of my favorites). My only real handbag that I carry with any regularity is a bright red leather Coach bag that I absolutely adore and will carry to court even though I generally hate purses. I have a bunch of red sweaters that I always get compliments on, and I have red shoes that I love because they always add a nice pop of color to my outfits.

And I have to say, I especially like wearing greys/blacks/whites to court and then adding red shoes and a red bag. Yes, that’s kinda way too matchy-matchy, but it’s the only truly matchy-matchy thing I do, so I’m not all that concerned about it.

So today, I’m putting together a collection of red flats that are under $50. Some are extremely low end and some are higher end on sale, because I wanted to cover lots of different price points for you guys. I know the struggle: you’re either un or underemployed, you’re employed but trying to pay down loans, you’re employed but not making all that much yet, whatever.

But you’ve still got to look put together, so hopefully this helps a little bit.

2015-03-15 20_20_31-Pointed Toe Ballet Flats_ Charlotte Russe


Charlotte Russe flats in Dark Red – $9.99

These flats are just $10, a total steal, at Charlotte Russe. They’re probably not going to last you very long, but if you’re just looking for a pair of flats to wear around in relatively nice weather for, like, a year or so, these aren’t a bad option. The color thing says these are “Dark Red,” but, I don’t know, they look more like a red-orange or a coral red to me. It doesn’t really matter, because all those colors are pretty.

2015-03-15 20_26_33-Qupid Round-Toed Ballet Flats_ Charlotte Russe

Charlotte Russe – Round Toe Ballet Flats – $13.99

Another find from Charlotte Russe, just a little pricier than the previous one at about $14. It looks a little sturdier than the last pick – just looking at the sole and the reinforcement at the heel. Of course, they could still be very thin and offer very little support. It’s hard to tell. But as far as a pair of cheapie flats, this isn’t bad, either.

And the color seems a little more true-red than the last one.

2015-03-15 20_30_28-Michael Antonio Women's Pavia Flat _


Pavia Flat $14.70

The price is based on my size; it may vary slightly if you pick something other than a size 7. I liked the oxford style of these, and actually have something very similar in a dusty tan color.

2015-03-15 20_35_35-Crocs Kadee Slip-On Shoes - Women


Crocs Kadee Slip Ons – $20.97

…Nah, I’m TOTALLY fucking with you guys.

Don’t buy these.

Don’t ever buy anything that looks like this.

2015-03-15 20_39_54-Cute Pink Shoes - D'Orsay Flats - Pointed Flats - $21.00

Suits Me Grapefruit Pink D’Orsay Flats – $21

If you’re into the two-piece looks, these are pretty adorable. They’re very summery, and even though they’re more pink than red, I threw them in because why not. I could totally see slipping these on with a summer dress and a pretty hat.

If I wore hats.

Which I do not.

I look atrocious in hats.

2015-03-15 20_44_19-DV By Dolce Vita Women's Langely Laofer _

Langley Loafer – $32.13

For something a little more conservative, these are a good pick. The gold chain on the top is purely a matter of taste: I’m not a huge fan but I have several girlfriends who rock this style.

But then, I kind of hate yellow gold in general. Probably because I have so much of it – all gifted down from my grandmothers and mother because yellow gold is a huge thing for South Asian women. And I’m just like, eh.

BobBlahBlawg gets so mad at me because he’s a white boy and yellow gold washes him out and he’s like YOU ARE THE PERFECT SKIN COLOR FOR YELLOW GOLD AND YOU WON’T WEAR HIM but fuck that guy what does he know amirite.

2015-03-15 21_00_00-Neiman Marcus Saucy Quilted Suede Ballet Flat, Opera Red_Black

Saucy Quilted Suede Ballet Flat in Opera Red – $49.50

These are from Neiman Marcus, and I love the rich red color. I’m not big on the quilted look – I don’t know, quilted shoes are always very Margaret Thatcher to me (did she ever even wear quilted shoes? I’m probably making that up but whatever, Margaret Thatcher sucks). I tend to avoid quilted things – what is Karl Lagerfeld thinking with all those Chanel quilted bags he’s been churning out? – but a lot of people really like them. And I’m all about giving people options, even if I’m not particularly wild about the item.

2015-03-15 21_06_57-Liz Claiborne Iris Falt+Ballet Shoe - JCPenney

Liz Claiborne Iris Flats – $41.99

These Liz Claiborne flats are faux-leather with a rubber sole, and feature some hardware that reminds me of Tory Burch flats. They look a little sporty to me – is that crazy? But those wide grooves in the rubber sole are always something I associate with a sportier look.

Still, they’re on sale at JCPenny’s for $42, so that’s not bad.

(Although Liz Claiborne is still a brand I associate with my mother’s generation, despite the way they’ve been busting their asses trying to rebrand. Sorry, Liz C.!)

2015-03-15 21_12_10-Amazon.com_ AK Anne Klein Women's Tyrik Leather Penny Loafer_ Shoes

Anne Klein Tyrik Leather Penny Loafer  – $50.36

Okay, so it’s technically over $50, but I’m including it anyway. Unless it’s $51, it doesn’t count! Okay, okay.

I’m a big fan of Anne Klein, because of the quality. Anne Klein pieces are well done and durable, and last for quite a while. I had a pair of black leather pumps that I wore frequently from AK, and other clothing items as well. So I’m a fan.

These penny loafers are super cute if you’re into penny loafers. TBH, I’m not wild about penny loafers in general, but if I was, I’d wear these.

2015-03-15 21_18_14-Toe-Tapping Time Flat in Burgundy _ Mod Retro Vintage Flats _

Toe Tapping Time Flat in Burgundy – $34.99

Basically half my closet comes from ModCloth, and if I had more disposable income (ie, no student loans), my ENTIRE closet would come from ModCloth. Everything they have is super adorable (okay, some of it is ridiculous – why would I want a dress with cat faces literally all over it?), and these shoes are no exception. I love the color, which is kind of close to the marsala color that is the Pantone color of the year for 2015, if you care about that sort of thing (I don’t – I like the colors I like no matter what year it is). I bet they’re super comfortable, too.

And there we have a few red flats that won’t break the bank, as they all come in under $50, except for that one that costs $0.36 more. (I KNOW OKAY STOP REMINDING ME.)

The bad thing is, I still haven’t found red flats that I want to buy. :| I know. I spent a whole post babbling on about shoes, and I haven’t found anything that I myself would buy. Maybe it’s just my mood. I despise shopping, as most of my longtime readers know, and I have to be in the mood (ie, determined and fed up) to buy something. And when I do, I normally log onto a certain site, or walk into a certain store, head right to where the shoe is, and get it and get out.

Ugh, I hate shopping so much.





The Budget Game: I went to law school, now I have to pay for it.

Written By: humarashid - Feb• 09•15

And I mean that literally: I have massive student loans. I was very lucky and paid about $2,000 total for my undergrad tuition (not including books, which I tried to buy cheaply online, and other incidentals, so the total was probably around $3500 with all those things considered), so I had no loans from that period in my life. Law school was another story.

I went into it like many law students: without the best understanding of how student loans would impact my future. All I knew was that I wanted to go to law school, and this was a necessary evil.

I am occasionally asked if I regret taking out as much money as I took out for law school. I always answer no. I wanted to go to law school and be an attorney, and in my first year, I realized that I really wanted to be a criminal defense attorney. And I got to to do that. I love what I do (minus the criminal appeals, which make me want to kill myself and have sucked literally all the joy out of my life), so how could I regret the loans that got me here?

So I don’t.

I hate them, and yearn for the day when they’re off my back, and I think it’s criminal that banks get to borrow at like 1% interest from the government but students borrow at like 7% (which is my rate, which sucks but whatever), but I still don’t regret them. They have changed my life, and will continue to do so, but I can’t regret them.

Like many law grads, I have a student loan debt in the six figures. And I have to deal with it, so I am.

How? Here’s how.

After law school, I used the deferrment because I was unemployed. I was unemployed for a while, so I used another deferrment that was offered under the 2008 (I think?) Obama student loan legislation. Thank goodness for that. I had some savings, so I just chipped away at the interest, but those payments were few and far between.

Then I had kind of a mini breakdown and broke with reality. I’m not proud of it, but that’s what happened.

I stuck my head in the sand about my loans. I decided that I just wasn’t going to think about them … and maybe they’d go away. That’s not how it works, obviously, but the anxiety about the six figures hanging over my head became too much. And I just ignored it.

I didn’t make any payments. When I got letters in the mail, I threw them away sight unseen. When I started getting calls from my loan provider, I let them go to voicemail while I internally panicked. This happened for about 3 months. The anxiety about my loans was crippling, and I just couldn’t face those calls, or face the fact that I had these huge loans.

I know, a total weenie reaction. But that’s where I was with it.

Finally, one day, I was walking out of a cute Naperville boutique having just bought a birthday gift for my best friend. I was feeling pretty good. And right as I stepped outside, I got a call from my loan provider.

And for whatever reason, I picked it up. I decided to nut up and accept the call. It was a good thing I did, because the automated recording was a new one: it was warning me about the prospect of default.

Now let me tell you, even though I was only at the 120 day mark, and not yet halfway to the 270 day mark that triggers default and fucks up your credit rating and all that, that word caused me even greater panic and anxiety than the loans themselves.

So I went home, pulled out my checkbook so I had my account number handy, and called the loan provider back. I spoke to a very nice representative, who informed me that I owed like $4,000 or something – just in interest. I don’t know if that number is right. It might have been lower. Let’s say it’s right.

Now, I had more than triple that in my savings account alone at that point, so it didn’t trouble me. The idea of getting that number to 0 was very attractive. I still remember how surprised the representative was when I asked, “Can I pay that entire balance off right now?”

I gave her my account number and it was taken care of. And I decided that I was going to face my loans head on and make every effort I could to pay them down.

I logged onto my loan provider’s site and created an account. I looked at my balance and looked at my next due date a month out.

Now, I’m luckier than most, even with these huge loans. I live at home (which is basically cultural – I can move out, and I want to, but at this point since my parents are so resistant to it, I’m just not willing to hurt them by leaving although I will be leaving in the not too distant future), so I have fewer bills than most. I basically just have my car bill (which is hefty, because I have a wonderful car, basically my dream car, and that’s fine, because I drive so much and I love it and it’s comfortable and it’s an expense I’m willing to bear and it’ll be paid off in less than a year, anyway), and my loans, and slightly more discretionary things like food and clothing and all that normal stuff.

So a huge chunk of my paycheck isn’t going toward rent. At that point, I was basically socking away most of my pay and putting some in my Roth IRA.

Two weeks later I got another paycheck, and dropped another two thousand on my loans. I felt fantastic.

According to the website, I was paid off for about three months. It was a great feeling, and I chased it. I decided I’d make regular payments toward my loans, and I did that.

Whenever I could, I made payments toward my loans. In about two months, that due date for the next payment was six months off, which meant I was applying more money toward my principle.

When I started, I think my total was $117,000, but that included the interest that had built up. Today, it is $110,000. In another year, if I keep this up, it’ll be in the five figures. Which will be a huge accomplishment.

At that time, though, I was still very disorganized with my payments. I knew how much I had to pay off, I knew how much I was paying, I knew how much I had coming in, I kenw how much I had in savings, but somehow it wasn’t all connected.

I did not want to be paying more toward my loans and my discretionary bills than I had coming in. I had a very comfortable savings cushion, but I didn’t want to deplete it too fast without realizing it. So I started looking for help.

I started with Mint. Everyone raves about it, so I thought I should look into it. I linked all my accounts, even my little PayPal that collects a small amount each month from the pay-by-month advertisers on my blog. (If you want to advertise with a text link, contact me!) And then I looked at the interface. It gave me lots of great ways to track stuff, and an app, but …

This is embarrassing, so I’m just going to say it: it was too complicated for me. I didn’t want to spend that much time tracking my expenses. I wanted to be parked/stopped in the drive-thru, waiting for them to hand me my card back, and be able to enter the $1.89 I spent on coffee into my phone while I did so. Mint was just too much for me.

Then I looked into apps that were specifically geared toward people in debt. I heard of Level and signed up, but didn’t end up fully investigating it and using it. This was probably because I was burned out on all the different services I was researching and all the finance articles and books I was reading. So that’s unfortunate, but not in the long run, since I ended up finding something I really liked. I have a friend that really likes Level, and he swears by it, so if you’re looking around, you may really like Level.

I then saw a Facebook add for Ready For Zero. Isn’t that a great name? Also, those FB algorithms figure out everything. My FB ads changed based on my browser history. So I guess it’s a good thing I’m not trolling for crazy fetish porn? I don’t know. Anyway, I signed up for Ready for Zero and started loading my accounts and my student loan into it. The weird thing was, my loans are consolidated, but RFZ read them as unconsolidated, so it separated them out. Which was weird. And then it encouraged me to pay off the lower interest one first? But they both have the same interest rate, because they’re one loan? So, whatever.

Still, I loved the model for RFZ. It tracked how much money you put into your bank accounts, and then sent you helpful emails like, if you put $100 of that toward your loan balance right now, you’ll pay off your loan by such and such date. If you use $500, it’ll be such and such date. And I’m great with dates and numbers, so that was really attractive.

It also had a built in loan calculator, which was my main reason for going for it. The bad thing was, RFZ only lets you set like $1650 as your minimum monthly payment for the loan calculator to work, and that’s what your little “put this much toward your loan” alerts are based on.

Well, I was NOT able to have $1650 be my monthly minimum payment at that point, which rendered the app basically useless. I’m still signed up, but I delete those emails unread whenever I get them. I really should unsubscribe.

I tried a bunch of little budgeting apps that I can’t remember, too, but deleted most of them pretty quickly. They were just too complicated, or they didn’t let me do what I wanted to do. It was a frustrating journey, but ultimately, I figured out a way that worked.

I’ve divided it up into some categories so it’s easier to follow:

The Loan and Loan Repayment Calculation Aspect:

I found an online loan calculator, and also this one, that was flexible enough to not care too much about what the “official” monthly payment was, but more about how much I was putting toward my loans. When I plugged in everything – my total loan amount of like $117,000, the interest rate of 7.35%, how much I was putting toward it, which are all old figures now – the result was encouraging in terms of how many years it would take to pay off and how much would go toward interest.

If I paid only the minimum payments, I would pay out over the next 22 years, and pay more than my initial loan amount in interest alone. Even though the upside was that at the end of the loan repayment period of 25 years (I think?) I wouldn’t owe anythign and wouldn’t be hit with a tax bill. Although maybe my loan repayment at that time was at 10 years? 15 years? I don’t know. If it was either of those, I’d obviously be hit with a tax bill for the unpaid “forgiven” amount, which is such balls. But whatever. Still, that was UNACCEPTABLE.

Given how much money I was putting toward my loans, less than half of my initial loan amount would be paid in interest. So that was good, but still not good enough.

So that was the loan payback calculation stuff itself, which is different from the personal finance end of it. I researched what I could do to affect the repayment part of it. I realized that my loan provider offered a markdown of 0.25% of the interest rate if I signed up for automatic withdrawal every month. I called them up to confirm that I could do automatic withdrawal even if I was paid up for about a year, which some loan providers don’t let you do, and they confirmed I could. So I immediately entered my checking account information and took advantage of my new 7% interest rate. It’s still terrible, but better than it used to be.

Now, every 25th, $828.00 is automatically withdrawn. I plan for it in advance and haven’t even remotely had a problem with that. (My bank account is kind of dumb, in that I always have to have $1500 in it, so that’s the only problem that could ever come up, but it never once has, so that’s good.)

Another option is transferring it to another provider, which might offer a lower rate. I admit, I’m still researching this, because if I want to do it, I want it to be the right choice and the best option. I know that every day I don’t, I’m paying more in interest, so this is something I’m going to have to put closer to the top of my priority list.

I always plan for the $828, so I don’t even consider that anymore. As soon as it’s in, it’s gone. What I focus on is what extra money I’m putting toward my loans. Since I got my interest rate lower, I turned toward the personal finance aspect of it.

Increasing And/Or Supplementing Income:

The first part of this two-prong approach was obviously increasing my income. Easier said than done, as I’m sure most of you know. But not impossible. Far from it, actually.

I said before that I was disorganized about how much extra money I was putting toward my loans. That had to change if I was going to make some headway on this.

Bottom line, no pun intended: I needed more money.

I had a steady paycheck from work, which was excellent. I was reimbursed for healthcare, so that was cool. I don’t have a phone bill, since my boss pays for that as well. (See what I said about being lucky enough to have limited bills?)

I also got mileage reimbursement for all the miles I drove to court. My boss offered to reimburse me for tolls, but that’s such a pain to document with this iPass bullshit that I just never took him up on it. Once all my ducks are even more in a row, I may look into that more seriously.

For now, I try to offset that amount. I used to pay between $120-$160 for tolls each month, which is RIDICULOUS. That’s because the route I take to work – really, the best way to actually get there without going on a tour of the Midwest) is the pits. The tolls are so fucking high, it’s LITERAL HIGHWAY ROBBERY.

My first epiphany was that if I used a non-toll route to get to a certain courthouse, I actually got there 10 minutes earlier, and paid nothing. So that led me to use (abuse?) the Avoid Tolls option in Google. By doing that to get to court, and occasionally taking the long way home from work (which is roughly the same mileage, so I’m not driving up my already insane amount on the odometer), I got the amount down to $4o-60 a month, which is pretty great.

Another thing I love: cash back awards. I had a Chase Sapphire account already, which gave me decent cash back that I had linked to my Amazon account. I had always kept only one credit card, but soon looked into getting another one with different cashback schedules. I settled on a Discover, and linked that to Amazon as well. I buy a ton of stuff on Amazon instead of going to the store, so it works well for me to have that cashback sent there. So getting another credit card was a good decision, especially since I have never carried a balance on any card ever, and always pay in full each month.

Swagbucks was another good deal, because every two months or so I get a $5 Amazon gift card. That’s not much, true, but it’s an extra $30 a month that I didn’t have before. It all kind of depends on what your shopping habits are.

I’m sure I’m a member of other rewards programs, but I can’t remember them at this point. So much of it depends on what kind of consumer you are, so the programs I use may not be applicable for you.

Another interesting thing I ended up taking advantage of were part-time, contract-based writing gigs on Craigslist. They’re few and far between, but once a week I spend a little bit of time checking the listings. The pay isn’t anything to write home about, but I love writing, and I do it really fast. So it works out, and it’s extra cash that can go toward my income without taking much away from the quality of my life.

I also take advantage of discount offers that come my way. I never used to care, but if I get a $20 gift certificate in the mail to one of my favorite restaurants, I’m an idiot for not using it. This also included signing up for the email lists of some of my favorite places. For example, RA Sushi sends out a $20 gift card during the month of your half-birthday, which is awesome. Little stuff like that.

If I had more free time, I might consider a part-time job. I know many young lawyers that do that. However, I have too much going on at work, and that’s just not something that I want to fit into my life. If I were more desperate, I might. I won’t lie, I’ve thought about it sometime. But I don’t want anything like that taking away from the quality of my lawyerly work, so it’s not going to happen. No disrespect to the folks, lawyers or otherwise, who have part time jobs to pay off their loans or other bills. (In fact, props.)

I also make some money from ad sales on my blog. I used to make way more from it, but extra money is extra money. It goes to my PayPal account, and is a nice little reserve for me when I’m buying random little things that I need for my sanity and happiness, and can pay with PayPal.

But you know what’s really made the biggest difference in my life, both good and bad?

Personal Budgeting:

Yup. I play the Budget Game. My friends mock me for it – and other friends are actually concerned about me because of it – but it’s working for me. And I’m always fine-tuning it, too.

The discussion above focused on apps and services I tried that just weren’t for me. I wanted a simple to use app that still gave me the flexibility to categorize my purchases the way I wanted, not in pre-determined categories, and without having to hunt for all the niche categories. I wanted a no-frills app that just kind of let me do my own thing.

And I found it with iSpending, and I want to show you why I think it’s so great. It’s an iPhone app, and I recommend the paid version, which is just a couple dollars and so worth it.

student loan personal finance 1

This is the home screen of the app, basically. I blurred out my money totals because that’s no one’s business. Basically, you put in all the income you have, without linking to any accounts, and then you track your expenses. It uses that colorful pie graph to show you the balance between your income and expenses, and in my case, the $338.74 is what I have left until my next paycheck. (I tend to do factor in my set amount bills early, and then sock away more toward my loans, and spend whatever is left very carefully so I can put some more toward my loans right before I deposit my next check. So that’s why the amount is always artificially low, because I plan ahead.)

So from this home screen, at a glance, I can tell that I have $338.74 to spend during the next 8 days, which is not even remotely a hardship. In fact, I can easily afford to put another $150 toward my loans right now, and still have more than enough to carry me through the next 8 days without breaking a sweat.

(In fact, I might just do that right now. That would be the Smart Adult thing to do.)

While this app calculates all your spending habits and your income in, expenses out, the home screen only shows that current calendar month, which I LOOOOOVE. I don’t want to see the last thirty days; I want to plan out the month. And this works great. It gives me the exact information I need without giving me too much.

If you want to add an expense or add money coming in, you press one of those two buttons and this comes up:


It’s so so so simple, and it fulfills my desire: to be able to add an expense while waiting for my coffee in a drive through. (Also I avoid buying coffee now, because it adds up. Instead, I invested in a great Contigo travel mug and now I just make tea in the morning, or wait until I get to the office to have some coffee.)

The category option isn’t a drop down menu. So I get to pick what I put in. To resist the temptation of getting too specific, I sat down with a piece of paper and tracked all my expenses on my Chase credit card, and decided which categories they fit into. I think I had 7-9 categories total. Specific enough to accurately describe my purchasing habits, but general enough to keep it all sensical. Only then did I start using this app to track stuff, according to those categories.

So here, you just enter the amount, a broad category, the date if it’s not contemporaneous, and in the Notes section you can put something as specific as you want. So I might put “Shopping” as the category and put “NARS Dragon Girl Lipstick” in the notes so I can see that I was actually splurging on makeup.

That leads me to the fact that no-frills apps are great, but I obviously need more information in order to budget and plan effectively. If you click Details on the home screen, you go to this page:

student loan personal finance 2

The green is the money coming in, which I blocked out. The black is money going out. Depending on how it all works, some purchases are repeated in both black and green. You can see that I counted the $35.38 as both an expense and income; that’s because that gas purchase will be reimbursed since it’s due to traveling to court. (I keep separate records on that so I’m not being reimbursed for more than the proper legal amount.) Also, if I’m paying for something using a cashback reward, or my PayPal money (which is automatic, and not my own money, but money from ads, etc), then I count the amount as an expense AND income, because it’s not going out of my paycheck but is money I already have sitting around.

If I wanted to click on Entertainment, it would tell me that I spent the $6.92 on books from Thriftbooks, because that was the information I put in the Notes section. This way, I have as much and as little information as I want at the time.

I have recommended this app to several friends who asked me about budgeting, so I figured I’d share it with you readers as well, in case you’re looking for something similar. iSpending is hands down the best app I’ve come across, and it really has helped me track my spending down to the cent.

And when it’s the 16th, and I’m depositing my next check, I can look at this app and see that I have $200 left over from the previous check that I haven’t spent. Then I can decide how much of that to put into my IRA or savings account or my loans. To be honest, since I have a comfortable savings account and small IRA going, I put most of my extra money toward my loans. So on the 16th, I could deposit my next check and also put $200 toward my loans. Yay?

Because I put every dollar I can toward my loans, and I have the automatic payment that I’ve already budgeted for in advance, I pay a nice, hefty amount toward my principle each month. And that’s all I care about. Because a lower principle means less interest being paid daily, and that is so important to me. I want to pay this off as quickly as possible and with as little interest out as possible.

There are still other things I can do – like investigate private lenders to see if I should make the switch, and other ways of increasing income, and obviously my tax refund will go to my loans – but for now, this is my strategy. And it’s working so far.

The goal of my budget game is to have broken even at the end of the month. I don’t want to spend more than I earn, and I want to be able to put almost every spare dollar toward my loans. I know I should be paying myself first, but I’m balancing that priority of saving with my loans. It’s a work in progress, figuring all that out.

I hope this very personal look into what I’m doing to attack a huge problem in my life (one that I don’t regret) has helped at least one of you. Do you think there’s anything else I should be doing? What has worked for you? What resources do you use? Do you want to join up with me and overthrow this capitalist system and force a total wiping out of all debt and massive financial restructuring in this country? Wait ignore that last one, I’m totally not serious about it.


Drop me an email, if the comment forms are still hinky. You can do so in the sidebar – just submit a note and I’ll put the suggestions and resources together and post them, crediting you with the idea. Let me know!

Oh, and fuck the fuck off already, any member of a previous generation who only knows how to bitch about how Millenials are “so entitled” and so lazy and all that bullshit. Millenials are a highly skilled, very adaptable and versatile, well-informed, hardworking as fuck generation making the best of a crumbling economic and financial infrastructure put in place by fucking Baby Boomers who worked during the summer to afford an entire year of college because tuition was that low back then and money went so much farther and also didn’t have many of the bills we have today including data and cell phone bills because those things were literally nonexistent and still like to tear down Millenials. FUCK THE FUCK OFF, NO ONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT YOUR WORTHLESS OPINIONS.

And on Mondays, we go to the opera.

Written By: humarashid - Dec• 22•14

I live a little less than an hour from Chicago, and I work about a half hour south of Chicago. One of my favorite things about Chicago is the cultural scene: the big museums like the Art Institute and the Shedd and the Field museum, and all the little museums sprinkled around the different Chicago neighborhoods, and the live music scene and the symphony and the local art. Chicago is the best damn city in the world, and I hate that I think it a drag to drive in, because I’m really missing out on so many things I love.

But hopefully it’ll be easier now for me to get in and out of the city more regularly, since a colleague of mine gave me his extra parking space at his apartment in the Near North Side, with valet parking and a 24-hour accessible heated garage and everything. So I basically have no excuse, right?

That’s why I said yes when my friend James from high school sent me an invite to a performance of “Anna Bolena” at the Lyric Opera on a Monday night. Sure, it was a 4 hour opera and it would be past midnight by the time I got home. Sure, I had an extra early court call the next morning. But why the hell not go see “Anna Bolena” on a random Monday night in my favorite city?

anna bolena

This is James’s sinister plan, guys. And by sinister, I mean amazing. I am 100% down with this. James says he wants to help me be more cultured. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

James and I were friends back in high school. We lost touch after we graduated, but then reconnected in the last couple of months, because he’s also good friends with Lizzy, who is one of my closest friends.


(Yay, grainy Instagram photos! I love this shot of us. He’s the only man I know that just gets more and more handsome every time I see him. How I loathe him.)

We’ve been talking a lot, and hanging out more, and since James is a dancer and singer, we talk quite a bit about his work. He’s performed at theaters and opera houses across the country (and, I believe, the world), and he’s always in the know about excellent shows and, more often than not, affiliated with them in some way because he is so terribly talented.

Recently, he took me to the opening night performance of “Mary Poppins” at the Paramount theater, which was a wonderful show, and introduced me to all his theater friends at the party afterwards.

(God, it’s killing me to spell it t-h-e-a-t-e-r  instead of t-h-e-a-t-r-e, as I always have.)

So when he told me about the (deeply discounted) tickets he had for “Anna Bolena,” I agreed without even thinking about it. After court that morning, I headed into the city and parked at the Park Tower in my colleague’s extra spot (the poor doormen are always so bewildered when I breeze in and out with a sunny, “Oh, [redacted] said I could use his spot”) and found a nearby coffee house where I spent a couple hours working on one of my many appellate briefs. (Kill me.)

Then I drove over to where the Lyric Opera is (hooray for using ParkWhiz to find an $8 spot in a well-lit garage from 7-12:15am!), and ran in to watch the show.

I had excellent seats, in my opinion. The question of what makes an excellent seat is the start of many great debates. Do you want to be close enough to see the costumes and set and facial expressions and to be able to read the translated Italian easily? Or do you want the seat where the performers’ voices will sound the best? Or, if it’s a more dance-intensive kind of show, do you want to be in a spot where you can see the performers’ movements at their best advantage so you can really get a deep sense for the choreography?

For me, what I really enjoy in opera performances – where there’s really not much dancing – is being close enough to see the performers’ facial expressions, their body languages, their costumes, and the set designs and set changes and how the performers move around to accommodate the moving of the set pieces into position.

And I had excellent seats for that purpose – main floor, one of the center aisles. It’s a seat that would have cost me close to $200, but I think I paid like 10% of that, which suits me just fine, thank you. I’ve got student loans to pay back, guys – I don’t have Opera Money to splash around every week. Maybe in ten years when I’m supremely fancy and equally crabby and have paid off my massive loans. (Which, if I can keep putting as much as I’m putting toward them right now, will be a reality! Prayer circle.)

“Anna Bolena” was excellent. EXCELLENT. I’ve always loved the story, and the performance was just fantastic. Such a great cast! Anna was a revelation, really, especially in the end when she was going mad. I particularly enjoyed the woman who played Jane Seymour. She won Singer of the World last year in Cardiff, and it was well deserved.

The performer who played Smeaton was puckish and inspired. So entertaining to watch. Hervey was tall and ominous and just a wonderful, handsomely dark presence that swept around the perimeter but boomed strong and sure.

Honestly, though, I fell in love with the guy that played Henry. AMAZING performance! He made Henry so captivating, so compelling a character, and he had the deepest voice I’ve heard in a long time.

Men with deep voices. Ugh. <3

taylor pleased

Hey, I told y’all I’d be going nuts with the Taylor Swift pics. You should’ve listened and abandoned ship while you had the chance.

This reminds me: I should start wearing winged eyeliner every day, I think? I’m good at it. Maybe it wouldn’t be too much.

Anyway, Henry was amazing. I could listen to that man sing the Federal Handbook to the United States Sentencing Guidelines, I swear. That’s a bad example because I love that book and find it endlessly interesting. Fine. I could listen to that man sing the Fifty Shades of Gray trilogy, which is unmitigated steaming horseshit.

James didn’t come to the show with me, which was disappointing, but I totally understood. He’s in rehearsals now for an opera premiering at the Lyric in February, and the poor man is just exhausted. So he went home and took a nap, and then met up with me after the show.

Once the show was over, I hightailed it to the stage entrance at the other side of the building. James was there with a friend of his, a Ph.D. student from the Czech Republic who was at the University of Chicago writing his dissertation on the Czech community in Chicago. (James is Czech, too.) Such a nice guy. We chatted briefly about the show, and then James took us backstage at the Lyric to meet some of the performers.

The lady who played Jane Seymour is a friend of James’s, and she’s so nice. We waited outside her room and saw her for a little bit, and while we were waiting and talking amongst ourselves, I SAW HENRY.



His name’s John and he’s incredibly nice.

After we talked to Jamie/Jane Seymour for a bit, we headed out and split up not too long after that. I headed home and got like 5 hours of sleep before I had to get up for court, and it was totally worth it.

I’m definitely going to see James perform in February, but I’m hoping to add even more trips to the Lyric into my near-future plans. I absolutely love the opera, and I need to start doing more things that I love. I also love Chicago Symphony Orchestra and haven’t been there in way too long – not since Pierre Boulez’s 80th birthday performance, which was so long ago that I’m legit embarrassed.

I also love ballet, having grown up in Boston and seeing performances literally every year. Coincidentally, James is also a ballet dancer, so I’m hoping to work that into my cultural experiences again. Plus, the Joffrey Ballet is based in Chicago, and I’d see them fairly regularly when they toured in Boston, so it’s basically a crime that I haven’t been to the ballet in so long. Must fix that.

Taylor ballet

(And calm your tits, I’ll be back with more Drug Rip posts on Wednesday.)

Life Plus Seven. (How does that even work.)

Written By: humarashid - Dec• 19•14

Today was … a day.

I’m not knocking it – it was a good day, really. But it was … A Day.

Alright, I’ll quit vaguebooking and get into it.

We had a federal sentencing hearing in the Northern District of Indiana this morning. I’m admitted there pro hac vice, which means only for this particular case. When it’s officially over in February (there’s a little matter of a restitution hearing) then I will no longer be a part of that district. Which is fine by me. I don’t particularly like that place. I mean, it’s always a trip, and Raymond and I are always doubled over with laughter in the elevator every time we leave, but that’s for entirely different reasons.

I arrived around 9 and met the attorney who will be handling our client’s appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. He’s a lovely man, and was wearing a spiffy bow tie. I love older attorneys who wear bow ties. They’re adorable.

(Young men in bow ties more often than not are fucking dead-eyed hipsters who use words like “shmucko” to address people that they disagree with and post Taylor Swift lyrics “ironically” as their Facebook statuses, and I want to punch them in the face repeatedly. If you’re a young man that wears a bow tie, you may be the exception, I don’t know. Or I may punch you in the face if we ever meet in person.)


Also, I literally just decided 0.02 seconds ago that this will now be a Taylor Swift blog, so here. My posts will now be punctuated at both appropriate and inappropriate times with pictures of Taylor Swift.


We had a nice little meeting in the NDIN courthouse cafeteria – cutely named “the Jury Box” – about the case we were there on (we’ll call it the Rosenbaum case) as well as some other cases we’ve kind of incestuously been mutually involved in. (As in, the appellate attorney originally had the case, but then we got it on appeal, and the trial attorney had been another friend, blah blah blah. Incestuous.)

Then it was almost half past, and time to head up. So we all went upstairs, and were let in by the Judge’s clerk, who is one of the nicest men I have ever met. He’s such a sweetheart. We chit-chatted for a while once we’d settled, and then the Government arrived with its entourage, and the Marshals brought our client up, and not too long after, the Judge came out.

Sentencing was a dog-and-pony show, as it sometimes is (but not in the Northern District of Illinois, which is totally the best federal district in the country, although I might be biased). Whatever. The Judge handed down a sentence of Life plus 7 years, followed by 15 years of mandatory supervised release, formerly called parole.

Welp, it’s a good thing Jews don’t believe in the afterlife. (Har har har. Gallows humor. Don’t mind me.)

Afterwards, we checked a few things out with the clerk and then the three of us headed down to the basement where they have the lockup facilities. The Marshals let us spend some time with Rosenbaum, and then we left.

The appellate attorney split, but I know we’re going to be in touch quite a bit over the next 2-3 years. Raymond and I split up and drove back to Chicago, paying the egregious $4 toll to get over the bridge back into our wonderful, sane state.

(Seriously, though, that goddamn toll really burns me up. I remember being a kid and tolls were like $0.50, and now it’s the price of a cup of coffee just to get to fucking Indiana of all places. Like, I feel like if things made sense, Indiana would have to pay anyone that entered its state lines willingly, you know, because it’s so terrible, basically the goiter of the Midwest, which is also the term I use for Ohio. Why do I have to PAY to go somewhere that sucks so hard. Why. Name one good thing about Indiana. That’s right, you can’t, because there are literally none. None things. Ever.)***

We drove to 26th and California, the Makkah of criminal defense, where we always have a bunch of cases going and usually a couple clients in custody at the adjacent jail. Ray took me to lunch at Il Vicinato, this lovely, cozy, time-honored Chicago spot a few blocks away from the courthouse, where all the defense attorneys have been going for decades to eat after trial as they waited for their juries to come back with a verdict.

Il Vicinato 1

The host recognized him as soon as he walked in, and we found a little table in the back and settled in for a wonderful meal. I believe Il Vicinato was mentioned several times in Defending the Damned: Inside Chicago’s Cook County Public Defender’s Office by Kevin Davis, which was the book that made 1L-Huma long to be a criminal defense attorney. I have read that book cover to cover, and it’s been the basis of so many fantasies back when I was trudging through law school and spending 8 hours a day on the Internet looking at pictures of cats while I should have been studying for the Bar, and I remember reading about how Andrea Lyon, who was and remains one of my idols, used to eat there with all the other attorneys on the Murder Task Force, and my boss, too, back in the day when she ruled the halls at 26th street.

Il Vicinato 2

It was so meaningful to be there, honestly. I felt, for the millionth time since I met Raymond, that I was yet again being inducted into a tiny little club and being shown the secret handshake. I mean, there I was, enjoying spaghetti and meatballs – followed by tiramisu – at the same place where Andrea Lyon and Raymond used to wait to learn whether or not their guy was going to be put to death by the State or not. Incredible.

We had a great lunch, and spent most of it talking about our clients, psychology, the law, which is pretty much what Raymond and I usually end up talking about when left to our own devices.

Finished with the meal – and stuffed to the gills – we headed out into the brisk afternoon and drove back to the courthouse. We ditched the car in the garage and walked across and over to Division 10, one of the two Max Security divisions of the Cook County Jail. (It’s Max, but not Super Max. I’ve been to both, and it’s always a trip.)

The jail visit went fairly smoothly and was uneventful, so I don’t have a cool story about it. Not that I would share it yet even if I did, because it’s an open case, and I don’t talk about those. I could probably talk about the Rosenbaum case, because once the restitution hearing is over with, we will no longer be the official attorneys of record, but the case is going to be appealed, and we’ll still be in contact with Rosenbaum, so I just don’t feel comfortable talking about it until it’s gone as far as it’s going to go. But that case was a story, let me tell you. Lots of craziness, a bad fact pattern, my first and only federal trial, a great cast of characters including federal prosecutors, (hi, Jill! Hi, Tom!), FBI agents, the senior district judge, and so on.

Maybe one day when I’m living in a cave in the Catskills writing my grand manifesto on deer pelts because I’ve inevitably lost my mind and completely caved to my deeply misanthropic tendencies, maybe then I’ll regale y’all with stories about the Rosenbaum case.

No, but I’m joking about the misanthropy. I wouldn’t characterize myself as a misanthrope. As butt-paralyzingly frustrating as we are, I love people, and I love how people have been people-ing for thousands upon thousands of years and none of us knows what the fuck we’re even doing. Ugh.

Life plus seven. That’s what one of us is doing, at any rate, at a currently-undetermined Bureau of Prisons facility. Happy Hanukkah, Mr. Rosenbaum, I guess.

sad thinking

*** It has come to my attention that Illinois criminal defense attorney Matt Haiduk was born in Indiana. So I amend this post to indicate that Mr. Haiduk is the only good thing that I know of that came from the Devil’s butthole, aka Indiana.

Book Club: “The Son” by Phillip Meyer

Written By: humarashid - Nov• 15•14

Most of you know that I’m a part of a great book club composed of a bunch of people I’ve known for like 12-13 years, and that it’s one of the highlights of my social life. There’s always awesome food (and plenty of it!), and our discussions are wonderful. We’ve been doing book club meetings once every 6 weeks for about a year now, and it’s been so great.

Last night, we met to discuss The Son by Phillip Meyer, which is a work of historical fiction. I don’t really read much historical fiction (unless you count all the Regency romance novels I read while I was supposed to be studying for the Bar way back when), and the “wild wild west” really isn’t my scene, but I’m so glad I read this book. I wouldn’t have even touched it had it not been for book club, but it was so rich and compelling, and even though it was emotionally heavy such that I had to sit with it a while to properly process it, I just tore right through it.

Minus the last 20 pages, which I literally read just as we were all starting to gather around to begin our discussion. Oops!

the son by phillip meyers

(I’m careful with spoilers, but this post does kind of spoil certain parts of the book, I guess. Read with caution. I don’t give away any twists or turns, but I do talk about the plot.)

It’s kind of long – about 600 pages – but well worth the read. The story is broken up into three separate but intertwined narratives: that of Colonel Eli McCullough, his son Peter McCullough, and Eli’s great-granddaughter Jeannie McCullough. The book takes place over 150 years, and focuses on this Texas family-run oil dynasty.

(I swear, the inspiration better not have been the Bush family, because fuck them all.)

The book focuses heavily on Comanche culture as well, which was easily the most riveting and compelling part of the whole work. Meyers’s descriptions are so vivid, just absolutely unreal, and so beautifully done. He meticulously researched everything that went into this book, particularly Apache and Comanche and Lipan culture, to mention the names of a few tribes that pop up in this book, and even went so far as to drink buffalo blood.

(There’s a passage where one of the characters, Eli, drinks buffalo blood, and there is a great description of how it tastes, and how warm it is, and then how it coagulates the longer it’s exposed to the open air, etc.)

Our book club host asked a question toward the end of the night that elicited some excellent, provocative responses. She asked, “If you had to distill this book down to one idea, what would it be, how would you articulate it?”

It sounds like a pretty standard “book club question,” really, but we’ve never asked that about any of our books. To be fair, we also haven’t really read much fiction – just The Son and Camus’s The Plague, which I loved.

I loved the discussion that came out of that question.

For me, personally, the message (or distilling, I guess) of the book was plain. Due to the jumping around of the narratives, and the fact that one character was the great-granddaughter of the other so there was a huge time gap, it took me longer than I want to admit to realize that Eli was Jeannie’s great-grandfather, and Peter’s dad. So I’d be reading the book, before I realized this, and thinking, “Man, Peter’s dad is such a fucking dick. Ooh, here’s Eli! I love Eli!”

So, yeah, that was embarrassing. Hah!

But anyway, once I realized that, this entire book just became so shiningly, blindingly beautiful to me. Holy shit. It was the story of the rise and fall of a family. Of trying to form genuine connections with people, and failing miserably for a variety of reasons. Of how the people who lived for something other than themselves were the ones who were killed off, one by one, throughout the course of the book. Of a man’s search for something that would pull him out of his own head.

So for me, the message of The Son was that damaged, flawed people create damaged, flawed people, and that we’re all struggling with the ghosts of the pasts that we often then allow to poison our future.

That was what happened to Eli, who was kidnapped by the Comanches as a 12 year old boy and watched his mother and sister be raped, and killed along with his brother. Who lived with the Comanches and became one of them. Who left the tribe when everyone was killed off by smallpox. Who found himself a “proper” wife (it was more like a shotgun situation, but, hey, you can’t be too picky, I guess) and had a few babies. Who built an incredible empire from the ground up: first cattle, and then oil. Who killed white men and Indians, as Meyers writes. Who was a terrible fucking father and basically a despicable human.

That was what happened to Peter, who was the only voice of reason during the gruesome murders of his neighbors, who watched his mother and oldest brother get murdered during a Comanche raid on their home but managed to escape without a scratch alongside his brother Phinneas, whose “proper” wife was the physical manifestation of all of his self-loathing and negative self-talk, who fell in love with a woman that Eli did everything he could to get rid of until succeeding at long last. Peter, who spent almost his entire life since boyhood knowing that he would never be good enough for anyone in his family.

That was what happened to Jeannie, who spent her whole life proving her mettle in a boys’ club Texas oil dynasty, so strong and yet so deeply insecure, so desperate to live up to the standards she has set for herself – modeled in the image of Colonel Eli McCullough – and utterly unable to do so despite all of her success and power. Who looks at future generations – her children, her daughter’s children – and knows that they are soft, that they are not interested in the family business, that the legacy will likely die with her because no one that comes after her knows what it takes to keep the empire strong.

All of this is what is perfectly summed up in one of Peter’s journal entries, in which he writes, “This family must not be allowed to continue.”

And in an earlier entry about his family, particularly his father, “They have buried me alive.”

That problem in family dynamics – screwing up your kids as a reaction to how you believe your parents screwed you up – is what I saw emerge as the strongest theme in this story. Eli screwed up his kids – who screwed up their own – mostly, in my opinion, because he lived for himself and after his entire tribe died off was unable to form meaningful bonds and connections with others.

Closely tied to that was the idea that you must live for others first, and yourself second, which is an idea that is very common in Native American culture no matter if you’re talking about the Comanches or their parent-tribe the Shoshone or the Ojibwe, the Great Sioux Nation, etc. It is also an idea that is very common in Eastern belief systems.

Until you love yourself, the love you enact for others (the things you do for them) is meaningless. It’s a bunch of empty people performing empty actions, and it adds up to nothing. Whereas the Eastern understanding in love, which is very similar to the Native American understanding of love, is that it’s like a cup. You have to fill that cup for yourself, so that it can overflow and touch others. That’s when the ego is removed from it, so you’re no longer in a position where you feel like saying, look what I have done for you out of the goodness of my heart, but where you’re doing all of those loving things because that is just your essence, your only way of being.

(Eli definitely did not embody at that. Peter did, as much of a coward as he was in certain ways.)

So those ideas of family and love formed the real message of the book for me, and made it an excellent read. I want to end with something that Jeannie McCullough said when reflecting on her late husband Hank, who she loved very much. It’s a passage that I underlined twice and blocked out in brackets because it was so poignant and hard-hitting. It was hard for me to read, actually, because I saw a lot of myself in it.

But it’s worth sharing.

Of course she could not help but be drawn to people like Hank,
people with their own fire, but no matter how much they thought
they loved you or their family or their country, no matter how
they pledged their allegiance, that fire always burned for them alone. 


Sometimes, I’m not that cheerful.

Written By: humarashid - Nov• 04•14

There’s this public defender at one of the Cook County Courthouses that I’m at almost every week. He’s a veteran with the office, if I recall correctly, and he’s a really nice guy. He often comments that whenever he sees me in the various felony courtrooms, I’m always smiling. He’s an excellent resource for if I ever need help, and is also a pretty good source of courthouse gossip (which we use to our benefit whenever we can). I saw him the other day when I was there on a surrender, when our guy was turning himself in to begin serving his 8.5 year stint in state prison.

He saw me walking down the hall, grim-faced and preoccupied.

PD: Hey! Where’s that smile? How am I supposed to be cheerful if you’re not?

Me: There’s really nothing much for me to be cheerful about today.

PD: Aw, jeez. What have you got up?

Me: We’re turning in one of my boys. He starts an 8-spot today.

PD: Ahh. Yeah, that’s rough. That’s always rough. I’m not all that thrilled to be here today myself.

Me: Why? What happened?

PD: I’m here on a drug case. The cops pulled a crackpipe out of my client’s butt.

Me: Ah.

PD: Yeah. She bled out from her injuries and died before she could even be arraigned.


I walked away from him – after expressing my condolences – and continued down the hallway to the felony rooms. And even though few things shock me anymore, few things upset me anymore, few things make me clutch my head and duck into a quiet corner until it stops hurting – and to be fair, his story hadn’t affected me in that way, as shocking as it was – still, in that moment, I felt like Alice having fallen down the rabbit hole.

Where the fuck am I?

Where the fuck am I that this is what we talk about casually as we snatch a few minutes of friendly conversation while walking in opposite directions down the hall?

Where the fuck am I?

Where am I that this is my new normal?

That these are the stories I trade? That these are the stories that, as jarring as they are, barely do more than put a slight crimp in my even-keeled demeanor?

I don’t know.

I wouldn’t change it for the world. Truly, I wouldn’t. But still, sometimes, I wonder where the fuck I am and how I got here.

I have a lot more to say about the case I mentioned here – the one about my client who has just started his 8.5 year sentence in the Illinois Department of Corrections. It was a very long case – four years – and I came in on the last two. I learned so much from working this case, and it left its mark on me. And I came to care very deeply for that client and his family, and still do. So in the next week, you’ll see more from me about this, as I finish processing my thoughts and feelings and insights enough to comb them together into some sort of slightly coherent post or two or five.

I was saying on Twitter that I’m glad I’m blogging again, because I have a lot to say about this case. You guys told me you wanted the honest perspective of a young attorney; you’ll be getting it.