Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I believe I've rigged blogger to publish a little something to keep you company while I'm gone, and if you comment I'll have something to read on my blackberry should the 17th meeting of the day be less than riveting. It's a win-win situation.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living.
It was a cowboy’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss.
What I didn’t realize was that it was also a ministry.
Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a moving confessional. Passengers climbed in, sat behind me in total anonymity, and told me about their lives. I encountered people whose lives amazed me, ennobled me, and made me laugh and weep.
But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night. I was responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town. I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partyers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory for the industrial part of town.
When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.
Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away.
But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation.
Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.
So I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
“It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”
“Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”
“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”
I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.
“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You have to make a living,” she answered.
“There are other passengers”.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”
I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.
We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
I've been writing a lot lately about soaking up the moment, but before I had Landon that wasn't something I wasn't very good at. I loved lists and countdowns- I bought a palm pilot when they first became popular but quickly abandoned it because I missed the satisfaction of x-ing through the days in my calendar, bringing me ever closer to the Next Big Thing. After watching Landon grow and change so much in the past year I've slowly kicked my countdown habit. At first I had to actually force myself to relax and enjoy the moments of non-productivity; I had to remember how to just play. But I'm a quick study and tonight while I sat on the driveway and flipped through the Wall Street Journal while Landon ran around with arms flapping in big circles around me, all I could think about was making the lazy evening last. I don't fear the passage of time- there's much to look forward to, but I don't egg it on anymore either.
I think this story is mostly about how much our actions can affect others- how giving a little of yourself can mean so much to someone else, but for me it's also reminder of the bittersweet passage of time and that it's the everyday moments that make up the majority of the memories of years gone by.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
This was the view from our back porch this weekend - absolute perfection.
While JP studied on Saturday, Landon and I drove over to New Braunfels to meet my brother, sister, and grandparents for lunch at the historic (and gorgeous) Gristmill restaurant. My grandparents were delightful as always and Landon was most pleased with all the attention showered upon him. My sister was our waitress (eating there was the only way we could include her in our plans) and because we beat the lunch crowd we let Landon run around the place while she chased him. I realized on the drive home that people at the other table were probably thinking two things: (a) what a great waitress for chasing after that adorable toddler, and (2) what terrible parents for just eating and laughing and completely ignoring their child.
On the way home we stopped to run an errand and came across a fabulous playground. Landon had a big time trying to eat the wood chips and climb up the slides.
This evening when JP came home we spent a magical half hour playing with all three of our "kids" outside in the backyard. Some people (especially the ones who try their hardest to make all working moms feel like crap on online message boards) will tell you that quality time can't ever make up for a dearth in quantity of time, and I agree that they are both important; however, I can say that for me, I have never truly enjoyed my time with Landon as much as I have since I started working. When I get home from work I don't answer the phone, check my email, or turn on the TV until he's in bed. I don't make fancy dinners (or, often, any dinner- we live on a lot of cereal and frozen pizza), my floor isn't scrubbed, and Landon's baby book will probably be composed of printed out blog posts. But I am 100% with him- on the floor chasing him, trapping him in corners and watching him fall over laughing, talking to him about his dinner and his day, reading him stories as he crawls around me before bed- and I don't think I was as good about that when I was home with him all day. I felt that because I was home, I should have domestic things accomplished at the end of the day- dinner, laundry, etc., and I worry I spent too much time trying to get Landon to be entertained by something else so I could be productive. Now I'm released from that self-imposed to-do list (though, my house is neat- I can't sleep when things aren't in order, but that's more of a compulsion than an obligation), and I think the little guy derives some benefit from that.
When I think that we were probably outside for less than forty-five minutes, the number seems so small. But it was perfect and like I do so often, I tried to memorize it all in my mind:
The camera doesn't do it justice.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
So, the balancing. Unlike, "having it all," I think it's an appropriate description of my life (really of any parent's life). Because it is a never-ending balancing act- flipping between my roles as attorney, wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, and individual, and dividing my time amongst what I love: family, food, work, TV, books, play time, shopping, and sleep (not necessarily in that order). It all has to be juggled in a way that makes you feel mostly well-rounded most of the time, and so far, I think I've done that.
In the last few weeks our little family has found its groove. It's a groove that has minor deviations every other day, but at least we know what we're deviating from. JP and I alternate who does daycare drop-off and pick-up based on his class schedule. Two days a week he picks Landon up extra early which gives Landon two shorter days at school and me two days where I'm not working against the clock to go pick him up. Drop-off in general has been fantastic since that first week- I actually look forward to my turn. Landon is so excited to be in the building. He points (with conviction- finger straight, arm flung out, and a focused look on his face) the whole way to his classroom door, smiles at his teacher, and then dives out of my arms so he can climb into his seat and cram the pancake that awaits him into his mouth. I get big flappy-armed waves goodbye and continue on my way. It's amazing how much the guilt lessens when your kid isn't sobbing- maybe that's why I felt so different that first week of work. It wasn't because of the baby v. toddler awareness, it was because he never cried when I left him at Maya's? Regardless, things are going well and he always has glowing reports from his teachers (today it said "Landon is our happy guy- always smiling!!"). They do so many neat activities- he's met a pony and painted with water colors, and he absolutely loves all their outside time. As we've both become more comfortable I've found myself checking the daycare cameras less often- yesterday I forgot to check in at all!
My job is going very well, I really like the pace and variety of corporate work. So far I've been able to leave by 5:30 every day except two, and on both of those days I pushed back enough to still see Landon before bed. I think that's the most important thing - being up front about your boundaries and sticking to them. And rather than be irritated, I think most people appreciate your candidness. Of course when I say "push back" I mean do it respectfully (i.e. not when someone is going to be at the office waiting for you to have your assignment done so they can do theirs), get your work done on time, and make sure it's perfect- the only difference is that you're reallocating the hours in a way that lets you be a parent in the middle of being an attorney. Last Thursday I got an assignment late in the day and told the assigning attorney at 5:30 that I was heading out to get my son at daycare but that I'd get the reviewing done tonight and start combing through documents tomorrow. She thought that sounded great and wished me a happy evening. So I went home and did the full playtime and bathtime routine (complete with his delicious pre-bed snuggles) and then sat at the table and reviewed documents for an hour while JP studied his financial hieroglyphics.
On the flip side, this past Wednesday was a night I needed to stay in the office. A senior associate was finalizing a memo for a client's board meeting at 9 am the next morning and I offered to help him finish it. JP had already picked up Landon and they were having happy daddy-toddler time, so I stuck around, got him his answers, and still managed to race out the door at 7:15 to put Landon to bed. It was by far the latest I've stayed in the office and I think the goodwill my efforts generated was more than worth it (not to mention the fact that I really like the people I work with and want to help them get home to their own families).
We've all been making little adjustments to see more of each other. JP and both get up before Landon to take our showers and get ready for the day. I do my hair, make-up, etc. and then put my pj's back on so I can play with Landon for an hour before we head out the door. It's usually a fun, giggly time of day for the little guy (as opposed to the often fussy early evening hours) and he makes waking up earlier than necessary completely worth it. JP's school schedule has been tough- between all the reading, studying, group projects, and endless evening events, we don't see him as much as we'd like, but we make it a point to do some kind of family outing every weekend and that helps.
I don't know if any of this is helpful to anyone, but I can say that at the end of my 4th week at the firm I feel significantly less conflicted than at the end of my 1st. There's hundreds more weeks to go, so I'm not saying there won't be days when I can't get home, when I miss things, or when I contemplate (and/or effectuate) a change in career path, and I promise to be open about those times too. For now I'm trusting in my firm, my colleagues, and myself to safeguard my family time while building the career I want.
Monday, September 22, 2008
We had another wonderful weekend here at Hotel Lag Liv. One of my best friends from law school took a surprise trip down from Chicago, landing in Austin at 12:30 am Saturday morning and leaving at 6 am today. We had a blast flitting about my new city with Sir Landon (her name for him since he was a little bitty guy). And of course, the best way to see Austin is to eat your way through it: huge breakfast tacos from Juan in a Million, Sonic tater tots and Route 44 Cherry Limeades, copious amounts of beef slathered in bbq sauce from County Line, more breakfast tacos from El Arroyo, more Sonic tater tots, and finally a salad on Sunday night (but a salad with lots of cheese and thick creamy dressing). I think I'm still full. Landon, always happy to have a pretty lady around, also seemed to enjoy himself on our culinary adventures.
In between all the eating we took a tour of my office, took the dogs to play in Barton Creek, accompanied Landon to our local pool, and squeezed in a bit of shopping. And there was lots of sitting and talking. It's so nice to have friends you can just pick things right back up with; it's so weird to not know when I'll see her again, I still feel like I'm just on a vacation from my law school life. I'm hoping to make a quick trip up to Chicago some time around Christmas. By then I'll really be missing the city (I already do. A lot.).
Next weekend I have two friends staying with us for the Austin City Limits Festival and then I think we have open rooms for a while. I'm planning a big law school reunion sometime in February- I those girls so much and can't wait to get more of them down here!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
I left his office at 6:15, with a stack of books (he has a love for "the printed word") and a list of questions. When I sat down at my desk I realized that Landon was going to be asleep in a little over an hour and I refuse to go a night without seeing him unless it's absolutely necessary. I knew there was some urgency with this project - HP wanted to talk with me as soon as I had an answer, but I also knew the conference call with the client wasn't until 2pm tomorrow. Surely it wouldn't make a difference if he had the answer late tonight or early tomorrow, so I popped back in his office and asked if we could meet at 8am sharp (I have a full day of corporate training starting at 8:30 which is already going to be interrupted with a flyback interview at 2:30 with a guy who's resume is significantly more impressive than mine) to discuss my findings and he thought that sounded great. I ran back to my office, piled up my books and notes, and headed home without passing his office on the way out. I know there will be times I will be stuck at work, but unless my physical presence for every one of those evening hours is necessary, I'm going to push back enough to get some time at home with my son.
And what a happy time it was. It was a beautiful, bright evening and I could hear Landon laughing when I got out of my car in the driveway. Everyone was out on the back deck- Landon was walking around in big, speedy circles in his diaper, the dogs running around in bigger circles, and JP was watering my flowers and making funny noises at Landon. We stayed out there for a while and I could fell myself just soaking up the good times. Around 7 I gave Landon a bath while JP studied and made dinner (a frozen pizza- we eat like college students). I'll admit that I used to try to get out of doing the bedtime routine. By the end of the day Landon was often so fussy and he rarely settled with me before bed- he's twist and cry and arch and then scream when I layed him down. But the last few nights I've really enjoyed our time. Maybe because I don't get as much of it as I used to, or because I'm not in any hurry for him to go to bed, or because he's exhausted from running around with his toddling friends- whatever the reason, nighttime has become very special. We splash the water in the bathtub, and I line up all his squirt toys on the tub's edge and he carefully selects one at a time to put back in the water until they're all gone. He laughs when I put a toy on my head and then he tries to do the same. Sometimes we just sit and smile at each other. Next is the toweling off and tooth brushing with his beloved electric toothbrush. I think it feels good on his swollen gums, I have a hard time making him give it back to me. He gets a new diaper and crawls around me as I lay down on the floor of the gameroom. Sometimes he'll stop and lay his head down on me mid-crawl, so I know he's tired even though he'll pick suddenly pick himself back up and crawl off at high speed. I read him Goodnight Moon and he usually crawls over and sits by me somewhere in the middle of the book; he really likes to pet the little mouse in one of the pages. I start singing while we sit on the floor and then around 7:30 I pick him up and walk to his room. It used to be that he'd Flip Out when he saw his room was dark and ready for bed, but now he'll just rest his head against my neck and sigh. And I'll hold him and sway and sing far longer than necessary just because it's so perfect. We sing You Are My Sunshine and He's Got the Whole World with lots of extra made-up verses and my voice breaks every damn time. I tell him I love him, lay him down, and miraculously (and only recently) he falls asleep without even a peep. Then I head downstairs to eat dinner with JP.
Now I'm back at work at the kitchen table, securities books beside me. JP is reading accounting and typing in a spreadsheet. Rosie is curled up at my feet, Tex at his. Lilly is stretched out on the landing of the stairs, eyeing the dogs with suspicion. I have a long day tomorrow and so far no answer to most of my research questions, but things are good. Really, really good.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I've now heard from almost everyone I know in Houston. All are fine in body, though many are heavy at heart. One good friend with an adorable 2-year old girl had a tree fall on the cute little house she and her husband had just purchased. There's now a huge crack across one room's ceiling, four holes in her roof, and water damage in every room - the house has been declared uninhabitable and will need to be gutted and rebuilt. The destruction in Galveston and other areas is heartbreaking and will take months to repair. Luckily there are a few bright spots- just as happens in most disasters, people get motivated to come together and help one another. My mom has told me about neighbors with chain saws driving around asking if anyone needed help cutting down and moving trees or branches, the church made sure someone stopped by every member's home to check on them and offer up the building for people who need time with electricity or internet, my firm's Houston office opened up the courtroom for kids home from school and missing TV and electricity, and so much more. There are good people out there rounding up and rescuing horses, cattle, dogs, cats, and other animals abandoned or lost during the storm (there's nothing like an animal rescue story to make me cry at work). I hope people continue to reach out and help one another and that recovery crews are able to working to restore power, water, and roads quickly. I know there are lots of places to donate, especially Houston area food banks and animal shelters. It never needs to be much, a lot of a little can make a big difference!
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
I almost typed, "Look, a Baby!" and then I realized, Landon really isn't a baby anymore. He's a walking, talking, rebelling, charming, frustrating, and utterly adorable toddler.
He loves all food, and is seen here enjoying one of his favorites- blueberry pancakes. He is also showcasing his favorite trick- flinging pancake pieces onto the floor with gusto and without warning. Yesterday a piece landed neatly on top Tex's head; Rosie immediately licked it off.
He loves his wagon, but now only wants to push it BY HIMSELF and any attempts by me to steer, give a little push over a bump, or even get close are met with indignant fury and abandonment of the now tainted toy. Here we are on an attempted walk to the mailbox:
I say attempted because soon after this picture I tried to nudge it in the right direction and Landon immediately walked away from the wagon and threw himself head first into the grass. Later we tried again but only made it to the end of the driveway.
When he's not throwing himself to the ground in frustration, he's the most charming, smiley little guy (and he flips between the two with great speed). His teacher wrote on his daily report today that "Landon is such a sweetheart! He had a very smiley day and loved playing outside with his classmates." I love that - a "smiley day" - he has a lot of those. My very favorite thing he does is walk (yes, walk! there's video proof below) up to me and snuggle his head in my neck. It usually doesn't last very long before he's off to push his mini wagon or bang a block on the tile, but oh how I savor those moments- and memorize every detail so I can recall them ten minutes later when he's throwing a tantrum for reasons I don't think he could explain even if he had the words.
Daycare is going swimmingly. Drop-off was drama-free both Friday and Monday, but since JP did it, I was apprehensive about taking him myself this morning. He's usually a lot clingier with me, but he did great! He smiled when we got in the room and looked very excited at the toast with grape jelly his teacher was preparing. I sat him in his little chair and he looked up at me like, ok mom, there's toast coming, you can leave now. So I backed away and waved, and he looked up and smiled, and then turned his attention to his breakfast. Seeing him at ease and happy from the get-go made my whole day easier, I think I billed 90% of the time I was in my office. I didn't spent hours staring out the window wondering if I could in fact be happy at home or even if I wasn't happy, should I do it anyway. I just focused and worked and smiled on my way to pick the little guy up at 5:15.
Here's two videos I took on Sunday. They aren't very good - I'm trying to hold the camera, cheer Landon on, and move around so he'll keep walking. The first is unnecessarily long because I was never sure if he'd start walking again, so you can either stop watching after about a minute or stick around to the see the dogs, our stairs, and the mini wagon back in action.
The second shows how good he's getting at popping right back up when he falls down. We give him lots of encouragement. It's funny to hear myself in the videos, Lag Liv the mommy sounds so different from Lag Liv the lawyer* who generally refrains from spontaneous clapping. But how can you not cheer for this little guy?
Monday, September 15, 2008
I promised that when I talked about politics it would be in a restrained, well-reasoned, thought-out post. Well, it turns out I don't have time for that and if I hold back any longer from talking about Sarah Palin I fear that I may explode.
First let's start with one of the best SNL openers in a long time, featuring Tina Fey as an eerily perfect Sarah Palin:
Okay, laughing over. Why in the HELL are people excited about her as VP? I absolutely do not understand. Women in general should be insulted by the pick. McCain's advisors seem to think that women are interchangeable, but I'm pretty sure the former Hilary supporters are not so easily fooled. And far from being a step forward for feminism, it's a step back. She was picked specifically because she is a woman, not because the was the best candidate for the job who just happened to be female; there is no way a man with her same political resume (or lack of one) would have made it to the short list, much less be the final pick. The comments from within her own party about her appearance are demeaning (Limbaugh calling her a "babe", interviews of people leaving the convention summing up her credentials as being "one pretty lady", etc.), all of which make the recent Republican ad attacking the Democrats for belittling her rather ridiculous- although it makes me happy to think this is all they have to go on the offensive about. (And, if Karl Rove is saying your ads have gone too far and are beyond the "100% truth test" you should really stop and wonder how much of a "straight talker" you are. You should also avoid denigrating community service when it's part of your campaign slogan. Oh, and she did not "kill" the Bridge to Nowhere, it was already dead, and then she kept the $223 million from the appropriation. Argh! OK, exiting the parenthetical.)
But really, her being a woman has almost nothing to do with my thoughts (and fears) about her as a candidate. It's her striking similarities between Bush and her inextricable popularity that have me scared. After eight years of bumbling inexperience, doesn't America want someone who knows something about politics, foreign policy, economics, the Constitution, etc.? Her interview with Charlie Gibson revealed a frightening lack of foreign policy knowledge, especially given how much she had to have been prepped for her first unscripted televised experience. (For a good write-up of it from a law and international relations masters student, read here.) I realize she's only a V.P. and in general V.P.'s just wait in the wings, but she's waiting in the wings of the oldest man to be elected for his first term, and I think her selection reflects negatively on the man we're actually voting for. This article from the Economist summed it up nicely, "Mr McCain has based his campaign on the idea that this is a dangerous world—and that Barack Obama is too inexperienced to deal with it. He has also acknowledged that his advanced age—he celebrated his 72nd birthday on August 29th—makes his choice of vice-president unusually important. Now he has chosen as his running mate, on the basis of the most cursory vetting, a first-term governor of Alaska.
The political calculations behind Mr McCain’s choice hardly look robust. Mrs Palin is not quite the pork-busting reformer that her supporters claim. She may have become famous as the governor who finally killed the infamous “bridge to nowhere”—the $220m bridge to the sparsely inhabited island of Gravina, Alaska. But she was in favour of the bridge before she was against it (and told local residents that they weren’t “nowhere to her”). As mayor of Wasilla, a metropolis of 9,000 people, she initiated annual trips to Washington, DC, to ask for more earmarks from the state’s congressional delegation, and employed Washington lobbyists to press for more funds for her town.
Inexperienced and Bush-level incurious. She has no record of interest in foreign policy, let alone expertise. She once told an Alaskan magazine: “I’ve been so focused on state government; I haven’t really focused much on the war in Iraq.” She obtained an American passport only last summer to visit Alaskan troops in Germany and Kuwait. This not only blunts Mr McCain’s most powerful criticism of Mr Obama. It also raises serious questions about the way he makes decisions."
And here's another mention of the similarities between Bush and Palin from conservative David Frum, the President's former speech-writer: "George W. Bush had very slight executive experience before becoming president. His views were not well known. He won the nomination exactly in the same way that Palin has won the hearts of so many conservatives: by sending cultural cues to convince them that he was one of them, understood them, sympathized with them. So that made everything else irrelevant in 2000 - as it seems again to be doing in 2008." Frum also admits that Bush lacked "important aspects of leadership which is how we got into the mess from which he needed to rescue the country and himself." (quoted from the article, "George Bush in Lipstick")
I realize this post doesn't get at policy, though it appears that I disagree with her on just about everything: being pro-life no matter what, abstinence only education, teaching creationism in public schools, total environmental irresponsibility (ex: global warming isn't man made and the way to reduce our dependency on foreign oil is to drill into our own limited reserves rather than explore alternatives), and fiscal irresponsibility (inheriting a small town with zero debt and leaving it with $20 million, even after increasing taxes. Source). And there's things I admire about Sarah Palin - she's a strong woman, raising a family, and pursuing a career that matters to her. I just can't imagine her "a heartbeat away from the presidency" and don't understand how a party that was all up in arms about Obama's experience a month ago is suddenly explaining away their VP's lack of it. When I heard the news of her pick, I was elated- I thought for sure this would hand the election to Obama. All I kept hearing about from my Republican friends was Obama's lack of experience and the vast majority of Americans claim to want a change from Bush, and yet Palin has brought the presidential race to an apparent dead heat. I misunderstood America in 2004 when Bush was reelected - it didn't even occur to me to be worried that he'd stay in power, and it appears I'm confused again.
I sincerely hope, for a lot of reasons, that Obama/Biden win in November. Until then I'll continue reading about politics, donating to Obama, arguing with JP (who, in case you're curious, is completely disgusted with both McCain and Palin and has decided to abstain from voting for any party which I think is wrong because someone is going to be President and you as an informed citizen have a duty to select the person you think is best - or least worst - from the options available), and possibly writing things here, though now that I have my Palin frustration out of my system, I may be able to stick to posting about noncontroversial things like airplane seats and breastfeeding (kidding, there's no way I'm touching those again). Sometime before the election I really would like to write about my thoughts on the major issues and why I hold them- I could send it to my dad to prove this Democrat thing is not a phase and it would be helpful to me to explain and justify my views, but that will probably take way more free time than I have at my disposal. (This post is brought to you courtesy of a bad cold that's kept me home from work without a baby, billables, or anything good on TV.)
Oh, and my previous discussion about deleting negative comments applies to my personal career and family choices, not my politics. I look forward to reading your own views, disagreements, and/or explanations as to Palin's appeal (or McCain's for that matter).
Friday, September 12, 2008
I just turned the TV on to The Weather Channel and there's a guy in an LL Bean rain jacket reporting from one of the evacuated coastal towns. Rain is pouring down, he's straining to stand up straight in the wind, what looks like a large tree is blowing across the street behind him, and he says, "the wind is really picking up... it's going to be a difficult night, but luckily we've got some protection from this... [rests hand on a thin post behind him] gazebo here." I was expecting something more along the lines of "concrete bunker" but apparently he thinks this flimsy wood, open roofed, gazebo is going to keep him and the camera crew safe.
I hope they are safe, even if I question their intelligence for relying on a gazebo to shelter them from a hurricane with more power, water, and diameter than Katrina. I hope everyone in Houston and anywhere else in Ike's path is safe. I'm praying for you all.
Update, Saturday at 5pm: FINALLY heard from my parents. They're fine, house is standing, lots of branches and trees down all around them. I had a horrible, horrible day with a screaming, teething Landon waiting for my phone to ring and wishing JP didn't have to study on campus. We're having some friends over for dinner and I'm looking forward to eating my delicious chicken enchiladas (which Landon stopped screaming long enough to let me make), drinking a margarita or two, and releasing my irrational anger at JP and my parents for daring to NOT BE IN MY LIVING ROOM ALL DAY. And then I'm going to bed early because Landon was up every hour last night crying and stuffing his hands in my mouth and I'm exhausted. My prayers continue for all those affected by the storm; I'm so very glad the surge was less devastating than anticipated.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
The occasional soul-baring requires honesty. I don't mind being honest. Nothing in life is black and white and as much as I'm sure I want to work, that doesn't mean I don't think about the alternative. I want to be able to admit my doubts without having to defend my continued status as a working mom. I want to be able to write about a late night at the office or a project that is time-consuming but thrilling without having to reiterate my love for my son. I teared up as I left daycare this morning, Landon had sobbed when I set him down, and walking out the door was so hard. I thought about how I wanted to write about that and then I thought about a comment on an earlier post about working where the person told me the reassurance I wanted shouldn't come from a blog and added that "This is a lifelong decsion, everything he will become rests on it. Choose wisely." At the time I wasn't looking for reassurance, I was just talking about my thoughts before starting my job. I'm not really looking for reassurance now either, I still know this is the right choice for us, I just want to be honest about the fact that it's hard. Every day is not perfect. I may love my job (and I do) and Landon may be happy at daycare (and I have the video footage to prove it), but I spent 20 minutes in traffic this morning wondering whether I was doing the right thing. I'm probably going to wonder that frequently and I want to be able to talk about it.
And I'm going to. And I'm going to delete any overly negative or cruel comment about it. This is my forum and despite what some people think the Constitution guarantees them, there is no freedom of speech here (this has become my pet peeve since attending law school, the Bill of Rights protects you from the government, not individuals). It's not even so much for myself, but because there are other working moms who come here and I'd like to have an online space that avoids some of the nastiness that abounds in most working mother websites. I've been blessed with a wonderful community of readers and I welcome your comments, both those that agree and passionately disagree with what I've written, I'm just certain there's a way to phrase anything with a bit of respect.
And now with all that said, I have to admit that today was really hard. Dropping off Landon as a baby was easy for me. I loved his snuggly self, but truly, he was happy to snuggle with anyone and I know Maya held him for much of the day. He slept the vast majority of the time he was with her and even though on some level he knew I was mom, it wasn't like he was watching the door for my return. Now he is a real, mini person with emotions and attachments and he actively misses me when I'm not there. He started crying as soon as we walked in the building today. I stayed in the room for a little bit and he started smiling as he pointed out all his new toys (pointing is his new favorite thing, he does it with such conviction, even though most of the time he's not pointing at anything in particular). I could tell he was comfortable there and he smiled at his teacher several times. I set him down at the table for his breakfast and he screamed. The teacher picked him up and I asked if it was better for me to stay or leave, and she said to leave but stop and wave goodbye at the window. I thought that would make things worse, but he calmed down some and then I hugged the wall and peaked back in the room 15 seconds later to find him sitting in his mini chair at the mini table awaiting his biscuit with a look of excited expectation on his face.
So I guess what I'm saying is that I love my son, love him like I can't explain or fully comprehend. But I also want to work and enjoy my time in my office. I'm proud of my job, proud that I'm providing for my family, and proud that JP can follow his own dreams because he knows the mortgage will be paid. Today Landon's teacher report said: "Landon is doing awesome in our class - very smiley! He is a lunchtime pro - always ready to eat! He loves to push around the cars outside and shares very well with classmates. He is adjusting perfectly." We're all adjusting. Some days are going to go better than others, and I look forward to sharing the ups and downs of our journey with you all.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Yesterday Landon had his first day of school- well, really just daycare, but calling it school meant I could force JP to smile through the obligatory "first day of school" pictures taken outside our front door in the morning. Landon looked snazzy in colorful shorts, red shirt, and black and yellow crocs.
JP didn't understand why Landon was allowed to wear crocs outside the house when he isn't, but I explained that this was the rare exception to the rule as I realized only that morning that Landon did not have any shoes. Up until now he has lived his life barefoot- shoes just seemed unnecessary when it was 100+ degrees outside and he wasn't walking. I rectified the situation with a late Monday night run to the mall and he's now the proud owner of adorable mini black converse sneakers. See how I can turn any post into a discussion of shoes? Speaking of which, how cute are these?
I got them very on sale at Ann Taylor while I was hunting for Landon's shoes (what? Ann Taylor could have had the perfect pair for him) and now I'm planning my whole outfit around them tomorrow. My feet will one day revolt against me, but for now, I love my heels!
Anyway, daycare. All three of us handled the big drop-off well. Landon immediately dove out of my arms when he saw the other babies and ALL the new toys and things he could bang on the floor. JP and I said hello to his new teachers, filled a cubby with his accessories (fitted sheet, blanket, extra clothes, diapers, wipes, walky talkie wired to ring in mommy's office if a baby is mean to him- you know, the usual), and gave him a kiss on the forehead. He looked mildly concerned as we walked out the door, but seemed content to chug his cup of milk and stare at the baby sitting next to him. JP rushed off to class, I drove to work, and then we both logged in to the center's cameras to check on the little guy. Each classroom has a video camera on the ceiling and parents are given a password to view their child's room. At various points during the day I saw Landon push a chair across the room, carefully move a pile of trucks from one location to another, eat his lunch, and listen to a man playing guitar. He seemed pretty pleased with his new surroundings. When I went to pick him up at 5:30 I could see him sitting happily on a mat with the other toddlers (there are 8 in the class, ages 12-20 months), but as soon as he saw me coming his little face crumpled and he buried his head in my neck with big tears. I think he was just exhausted. I know from the cameras and the little "daily report" the teachers give you that he had a good day. We enjoyed a quiet evening at home with lots of dog petting, swinging on the playscape (Landon now points out the window with great conviction every time we pass the back door - he adores that swing), and crawling up and down the stairs. It was nice to be so excited to be with him - I didn't check my email, answer my phone, or look wistfully at the clock, wishing it was a little closer to bedtime. I just enjoyed him.
This morning's drop off also went well. He leaped out of my arms again, but this time started looking around with a worried expression when he noticed I wasn't on the floor with him. I said goodbye, gave him a kiss, and walked out the door (tempting as it would be to sneak out when he's distracted, I think that would be much worse in the long run - I don't want him scared that if he turns around mommy will disappear). He looked like he was going to cry, but I peaked through the window around the corner and he was smiling at his teacher and banging a plastic car on the floor. We'll see how the rest of the week goes. I know that some time soon he's going to start getting clingy as soon as we walk in the door and I'm dreading it. Dropping him off was much harder than I anticipated.
Work is going very well. I've got the challenging task of drafting the language for a new, unusual stock option agreement for an Austin startup company (one great thing about working in this office - very cool, mostly small, corporate clients). I've also recently received a huge capital markets due diligence assignment - remember that stack of barbri books that was nearly as tall as Landon? The stack of documents I need to comb through is taller than that. But I'm secretly happy about it; I love busywork, especially busywork that requires a bit of brain power, but not so much that you're worried your brain isn't up to the task. I like keeping the precarious balance between being bored and hiding under my desk- due diligence tends toward the rote and things like creating a contract from scratch make me at least check out the square footage under my office furniture. And luckily there's plenty of space- now whether I use it first to cower from an assignment that I'm sure was explained to me in Greek or to hide my tears on the day Landon doesn't exit my arms on his own volition, only time will tell.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
Landon has been standing up on his legs since he was four months old. He's been pulling up, walking around the furniture, and pushing anything with wheels for what feels like forever. And then finally, about a month ago, he took a few tentative steps on his own. The first time he did it he was in our bathroom while I was getting ready to go to work to study for the Bar. He had been holding on to the drawer where I keep my hair products (he loves them- so colorful and so loud when you bang them on tile) and suddenly he pushed off from it, took three steps, smiled, and sat down hard on his diapered behind. Since then we've all known he could walk if he wanted to, he just preferred to crawl at hyper speed, carrying things in his hands, and banging them on the floor with every move. For the last week or so he's even stood up on his own in the middle of the room, taken a few steps, clapped for himself (while standing), and then sat down with a smug smile as if to say "see, it's so easy I don't even need to prove I can do it."
I've been trying to capture these short bursts of vertical mobility on film since they began, but Landon recognizes the camera and seems to take great joy out of NOT walking as soon as he sees it. He smiles and laughs and claps at his own refusal to cooperate- I think he knows he's thwarting my motherly need to document his every developmental move. But then this morning I was taking some random video of him in the living room, hoping to trick him into walking once the film was rolling, and he finally obliged.
So here's my increasingly mobile, chatty, oh so handsome, sometimes serious, and always smiley, little man:
Saturday, September 6, 2008
My first assignment was to do a research project for a partner looking for quotes for a presentation he's giving, so I got to put my Google skills to good use, if not my legal ones. After that I spent some more time wading through our benefits package- I've spoken with the benefits person in the firm's main office at least ten times. Everything is so much more complicated when you have a child and it suddenly matters financially if you die or become disabled.
On Thursday afternoon the head of the transactional group came in my office to pull me on a brand new deal that will close at the end of October. It's a very exciting company doing exciting things and I get to use almost everything I learned in my Advanced Corporations/M&A class. Words like "spin off," "drop down," "stock split," etc. were just thrown around during the conference call and I kept thinking, "this sounds like a law school exam fact pattern." Except that in law school I could drop down a new company by drawing a box, labeling it NewCo, drawing a dashed line between it and the parent, and then just listing the fact-specific issues an attorney would have to address in real life. Now I have to help wade through and address all those fact-specific issues, which are already much more complicated than I initially imagined. Right now I'd say I'm feeling a good mix of fear and excitement, but that could be because I haven't had to do anything yet. Yesterday I just read through the term sheets and background documents and brushed up on some M&A treatises I pulled from the library. My first deal assignment comes Monday.
Landon has done great with the babysitter. He's excited to see her each morning and super excited to see me each afternoon. He's a happy, busy baby and I'm looking forward to showing him his daycare on Monday. This weekend one of JP's friends from Chicago flew down to visit (we really are Hotel Lag Liv) and two friends I haven't seen in a long time are stopping by Saturday and Sunday. I also have a pile of laundry to do (or get JP to do) and some picture frame and other office decor shopping to accomplish. Oh, speaking of my office! A very sweet attorney friend in Washington, D.C. (who I met through the blog during the nightmare posts) sent me a beautiful purple orchid yesterday. I was so surprised to see the flower box on my desk, especially since JP is under strict orders not to spend money on me (our anniversary involved the exchanging of cards and a nice meal sans Landon). She said she remembered her office was barren in the beginning and the little potted orchid should live much longer than fresh cut flowers. I've decided I'll continue the tradition when my friends start work next year. People can be so lovely.
I have much to say about the DNC, RNC, Palin, etc. but no time to craft my words as carefully as I'd like. One problem with living with someone who thinks differently from me is that I immediately think of the rebuttal to anything I type, so then I want to address that with another argument, but then I think of what JP would say to that, so I want to make sure I counter that next point, and next thing you know I have a novel written on one small point. But just as a warning, there will probably be something political in the next few weeks.
*Well, kind of. Technically I can't say that until I pass the Bar, as the asterisks in my email signature block make clear.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Three years ago today I married my soul mate. I have never been so happy or had so much fun and I'd do it all again in a second if I could.
We got engaged unofficially sometime in March - unofficially as in, I decided we were getting married (we'd been talking about it since our second date on Sept 7, 2001) and I wanted to do it before law school started, so I called our church and country club to check on room availability over Labor Day weekend. This snowballed into full blown wedding planning and sometime in May JP finally proposed with my beautiful ring, just in time for engagement pictures to be taken before I jetted off to Europe for 4 weeks. The day after I got back we moved to Chicago, I flew back to Houston a month before the wedding to get my wisdom teeth out and complete the preparations, JP flew down to marry me, and we drove my car up to Chicago together two days after we got hitched. Looking back, that should have been a very stressful summer, but I had a blast. I loved wedding planning - even with only a few months, a very limited budget, and no help (not that I wanted any). I don't understand all the articles I read about women freaking out during the planning process or getting depressed once the big day is over - it's a day, a great day, but it's only the first one of your life together. Have fun, enjoy your friends and family, and as long as your minister/priest/rabbi/officiant knows what s/he is doing, at the end of the day you're going to be married, and that's pretty much the point. And if you're lucky, like we were, you'll also get to be the star of one hell of a party.
My first year of marriage is difficult to characterize. It was one of the hardest and most stressful of my life thanks to 1L at a school that brings new meaning to the word "rigor," but at the same time I can't help but smile when I think back on it. I was just so happy with JP. We were 1,000 miles away from anyone else we knew and quickly learned to rely on each other and ourselves more than we ever had before. I loved coming home to our little loft in downtown Chicago, loved our walks around the city at night, and loved the little ways we made time for each other in the midst of our first years of law school and investment banking. We had dates at crazy times and in crazy places, but we always had fun. There were nights I couldn't sleep because I was just so freaking happy, I'd lay in bed and kick my feet under the covers like a little kid.
Actually, sometimes I still do that. Happy Anniversary babe!
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
At the office I was presented with a welcome gift (beautiful snow globe with the Austin skyline from Saks), large insulated plastic cup and coffee mug with my name on it (part of the firms' effort to be green, no more styrofoam or other disposable cups), two huge binders full of training manuals and employment forms, and my personal favorite - a stack of empty legal pads with the firm name on the top. Oh how I love a freshly bound stack of blank paper. We ("We" being me and the two other associates who chose to start on the first day possible - I think everyone else is starting on the last day possible, 5 weeks from now) had introductory meetings with HR, Marketing, and our secretary staff, went on an office tour (oh my office - so pretty! with such a beautiful view), and then out to lunch with our mentors. The entire afternoon was spent in computer training, which we will also be doing for 8 hours tomorrow. I now have a snazzy laptop and docking station, black berry, and a growing fear that sometime soon I'm going to have to do actual work involving real legal matters and someone might find out that I know nothing at all. Luckily my desk is big enough for me to hide under whenever I feel the need.
Training was over at 4:40, so I was home by 5. I could hear Landon squeaking in the dining room when I opened the door, and I got the biggest, scrunchiest face smile I've ever seen. He exclaimed "Dat!" when he saw me, which we thought was his word for "dad" but now I think it's just "parent!". And really that makes sense- to him, JP and I aren't very different. We both do the same things with him, and pretty evenly divide his care, so just as he has two dogs that are different but both called "Dug," he has two "Dats" - his mommy and daddy. I kind of like that. He smiled and flapped his hands enthusiastically as he waved goodbye to his new lady friend, and then we went inside to chase each other around the living room.
I'm now sitting on the couch next to a one inch thick stack of employee benefits papers, feeling very grown up as I select insurance and retirement plans. It's a new responsibility for me, being the provider for my family, but one I'm happy to take on. It still feels weird to be starting something without an end date, which is a first for me. But I think it's going to be good - exciting, fun, challenging, stressful - really, all my favorite things.
Monday, September 1, 2008
We had a lovely cookout with JP's business school friends - a married couple and another male student, all three from India. The menu consisted of grilled veggie burgers and chicken breasts, fresh cut veggies and dip, chips, vegetarian baked beans, and brownies with chocolate icing and vanilla ice cream. Oh, and lots of beer.
I really enjoyed JP's new friends- they're so fun and funny and I love the stories about our different cultures. At one point we were talking about Indians and vegetarianism and one of the guys admitted that his first taste of beef was a hot dog, which resulted in this quote, "You lost your virginity to a cheap hot dog?!" It pretty well captures the good times, and it turns out that was a six dollar hot dog, so not so cheap after all.
Landon was at his best as the very busy host - crawling around all over the place showing off all his tricks.
S, the wife of one of the students, asked me if I was sad to leave him during the day when I start work tomorrow. And I admitted that I am, but I'm also really excited. I'm finally starting my career - not just another job, but a career that I have worked for and one that will support my family and give JP the ability to do whatever he wants out of business school. Landon will do great in daycare, we'll still have lots of time together as a family, and I will enjoy each second I have with him even more.
Tomorrow begins a new chapter in my life and I can't wait to see what it brings!