Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Q&A, Part 1

Thanks for all your questions! It's been fun reading them and seeing what you'd like to know. In Big Move news, I got a call from the SEC today and my background check is complete and they want me to start as soon as possible, preferably by the end of the month. Ahhh and noooo. Crazy day. I was mulching last night at midnight by flashlight and painting over little scuff marks on walls at 2 a.m. ALL I see now are scuff marks. They are EVERYWHERE- on my walls, on my baseboards- and I swear my house looked pretty great only two days ago when I wasn't obsessed with these things. I painted over a few marks in the pantry, resulting in a 12" by 12" swath of new paint only to realize this morning that my pantry is the ONLY room in the house not originally painted "Desert Castle." Instead, it was painted a teensy bit lighter than Desert Castle and I couldn't tell when the paint was wet. I like to think I'm generally operate on an even keel, but I nearly burst into tears staring at the square foot of two-shades-too-dark light beige paint. I covered it with white, thinking too light was better than too dark (that's the rule in makeup, which is really the only artistry and painting I know anything about) and it does look better, but it still kills me every time I open the pantry door. (Neither the realtor or JP noticed, but it is ALL I SEE.)

Luckily for me, my sanity, and JP's sanity, our realtor came by today and enthusiastically signed off on all our changes and updates and said we're ready for pictures and listing! We have a sign in our front yard and the whole thing is getting very real. We head to Ft Worth on Saturday with the kids to look at houses- should be fun!

And now that I made you read about the details I said I wouldn't make you read if you asked me questions, here is the first set of answers to my one-paragraph limit Q&A:

I'd be curious to know more re: your formerly quasi-alcoholic relative - is she still doing as well?

My grandmother is doing fantastic, thanks for asking! Not a drop of alcohol since June 2010. She toasted the last two New Years with sparkling grape juice, drinks the occasional O'Douls or seltzer with lime at parties, and in general just drinks a lot more milk, water, and diet coke than she used to. I can't even express the change we've seen in her, how happy and proud we all are for her, and how proud she is of herself.

How is your sister's puppy?

Louie is great. He enjoys a very active and pampered life with my sister, her boyfriend, and his dog in their house and fenced backyard. He visits every time she comes over and is a good boy despite the fact he’s spoiled rotten. (Much like my children, right?)

Do you think you'll have better work/life balance at SEC? is it a litigation-type practice?

I do. That wasn't the #1 reason I wanted the job (the subject matter and future opportunities topped that list), but it was a close 2nd. The attorneys I spoke with there work pretty hard, but nights and weekends are rare and vacations are respected and encouraged. It is a litigation-style practice (or, it’s definitely not transactional), but what I’ll be doing is the work up of the matter that takes place before a formal investigation is opened and a trial is scheduled. So it's depositions, documents, interviews, reading, and then writing up a big formal memorandum recommended the formal investigation (or not). As the government, we pretty much dictate the deadlines and opposing counsel reacts to me, not me to them. I think it's a great fit and I can't wait to begin!

Did your mom finish her masters or whatever degree she was working on?

She did! She has a Masters of Science in Biology. It was really tough doing that while teaching full-time, but she survived and I organized a surprise party for her in July when she was done. She teaches Biology II AP at my old high school and is quite famous- we can’t go anywhere with her when we visit because she’s always surrounded by current and former students.

Have your in-laws taken further steps? did you tell them re the move?
(lots of questions on this, understandably, so I combined them all into this answer)

No and no. I suppose we'll send them the "we've moved" card that we’ll send to nearly 200 other acquaintances (like we sent them a Christmas card), but my MIL hasn't contacted us in any way since December of 2010. I don't understand this and it makes me sad that they've never met Claire and they don't know anything about Landon now (they last say him when he was still 2; he doesn't know who they are now), but it's their own fault and they've made no move to fix it. My FIL has called JP once or twice to order him to call his mother and "fix this" because "[MIL] has her pride" and apparently can't be expected to even initiate contact, much less apologize. JP turned that down flat. His mother has always thrown overly dramatic, baseless temper tantrums and he’s always been the one who’s had to “fix it” (as ordered by his enabling, back-boneless father) and he won’t do it anymore. If her son and grandchildren don't mean enough to her to make a phone call after she screwed everything up all those months ago, then she doesn't deserve them. For his part, JP is relieved she's not part of our life, and I’d agree that there's certainly less stress and emotional drama. Still, it's sad.

How did JP manage to get to work remotely? that is so cool!

By asking ;). His company has been pushing that option in the last year so he was optimistic that it would work out. He also just found out that he got the highest rating possible for his year-end review, so that gave him some confidence to ask. He may have to change roles (one boss has signed off, the other is thinking about it) but he'll definitely be able to stay with the company. This will give him back 2 hours of his day, every day, that he currently spends driving, so he'll be able to see so much more of the kids. We're all very excited about that.

How did you deal with some of the crappy aspects of junior associate life?

Oy, I should probably do an actual post on this. It’s a multi-part answer. First and foremost, I knew what I was getting in to, I acknowledged that I was going into it of my own free will, and I understood I was being paid to check my blackberry every few hours at night and on the weekends and generally be on call, all the time, and never say no to much of anything. But, I also started out this job with a baby, so I was determined to place boundaries where I could and seize opportunities to spend time with my family whenever I could. I was also lucky enough to genuinely like the partners and senior associates I worked with, so I generally enjoyed the time I spent in the office- it was fun, I got to be smart, I got to earn metaphorical gold stars—it was a positive part of my day. On the setting boundaries, most of that was subtle. Things like going home at 5:30 without apology when I’m not busy. I see no reason to sit in my office, missing my kid’s post-daycare, pre-dinner time if I don’t have to. I just did it and no one ever really cared. I also tried to make sure my first project for any new partner was PERFECT. Setting your reputation is worth all the extra effort- I’ve found that once a partner thinks you’re great, they view everything else you do through rose colored lenses. If they think you’re a slacker or you cut corners, they see everything else you do in that light (like leaving early when you’re not busy). And finally, I seized down time. If I billed 60 hours in a week and then I had a day where all my drafts were being reviewed and not much would be going on for a few hours, I took them and ran. I’d leave the office at 10 a.m. and run errands or make a few pages of a photo book or leave at 3 to take the kids to the pool- whatever. I’d check my blackberry and then get back to work when needed, but I never wasted those hours sitting at my desk just waiting for comments (I did at first, of course, but after a year or so I learned various partners’ patterns and habits, etc., and I could “seize” a lot easier). Oh, and your city and specialty make a huge difference- an office of a large law firm in Austin is different from the office of a large law firm in Manhatten, and even within my office, being a transactional associate gave me a far more difficult-to-balance schedule than being a litigation associate.

I’m breaking my one paragraph rule, but I’m almost done. I think a lot of it is perspective- you’re paid a lot at large law firms and you’re paid that much, in part, because sometimes the job just sucks. But you signed up for it, so either find a way to make it work for you (setting limits where you can, trying to volunteer to work with the partners you know you like so your plate is full when the partners you don’t like need associates, changing firms or practice areas if needed) or leave. I’m not leaving now because I was unhappy or because I didn’t want to be a BigLaw associate anymore- I left because I couldn’t get the work I wanted and this job will give me a whole new world of opportunities after a few years, but I’m not going to lie- not being an associate is going to be pretty awesome and I don’t think I’m coming back to a firm until I can lateral in as a partner.

When is your next girls weekend with your law school friends? did the one in NYC who was dealing with a mean partner get out from under that partner?

In May! We're headed to Chicago for one of the friend's weddings. I'm so excited- I'll be back in my favorite city, witnessing the wedding of one of my favorite friends, and sharing a hotel room with the rest of the gang (and likely several bottles of wine).

And my friend with the mean partner (in Washington, D.C., not NYC) is still at her firm but no longer working for that partner.

I know this is a sensitive topic, so feel free to ignore this question. How have you handled "the nightmare" with respect to your job search and background investigation? Is it something you had to disclose, and if so, how did you present the issue?

I've never had to disclose it. I read all the questions on any background type forms carefully to be sure, but we were never criminally charged with anything and I was never administratively indicated for anything, and all those records have been cleared. It wasn't a problem for the Bar or my recent federal background check (just found out I passed this morning!). Our biggest question re: the Nightmare is if, when, and how we ever tell Landon. For now, I figure if it comes up, we'll share an abbreviated version; if not, we're not planning a sit-down "here's what happened" moment when he turns 18 or anything.

Also, any steps toward writing a book? I would definitely buy a copy! :)

Nope, no book. It was an intriguing and extremely flattering idea, and I know I made my potential agent very sad by turning her down (sorry Allison!), but I just couldn't get past the fact that I didn't really want to write one. I love writing blog posts, legal briefs, and articles, but a book has never been anything I wanted to do and I couldn't imagine finding the time to do it even if I did. Nor could I figure out how I'd write the story or who would want to read it (though thank you for volunteering!).

i just got into med school and am a long-time reader of your blog. i'm very curious about how you maintained a healthy relationship with JP while completing your rigorous law school coursework!

Hmm, I’ve never really thought about it. We’d send short emails or share a phone call during the day, but in general the only time we saw each other was at night. I worked hard to get my studying done during the day (I rarely ever brought books home) and we just soaked up the time we had together. He was my escape from the pressure cooker of the law school, so even if it was only 1 or 2 hours together, it was always the highlight of my day. There is no one I enjoy being with more, and I know he feels the same way, so it always seemed pretty easy. We went on walks around Chicago, ate very late dinners together (sometimes something he delivered to the law school lounge), and snuggled and spooned pretty much all the time we weren’t walking or eating. Oh and sex, there was/is lots of that.


And on that note, it's time for bed (ha! on my pre-posting proof read I realized that sounds all suggestive, but it's nearly midnight and after dragging the ladder all around the house to dust the air vents and vacuum corners of the ceiling and sweep the back porch and anything else I could think of for the last two hours, I am going to sleeeeeep). I'll finish the others tomorrow!


  1. A couple home improvement recs... for scuffs - Mr Clean Magic Eraser. We just sold our Chicago condo and the scuffs were totally removed with them. Don't get the ones with extra scrubbing power on one side or something - the best are the original!!

    As for the paint in the pantry - down in the bottom or somewhere not as visible in the pantry take a box cutter and cut out the paper part of the drywall in a one-square inch. If you just cut the square just below surface level of the drywall then you should be able to peel the paper part/paint chip off. Then spackle/sand that hole and have the paint matched to this little chip. Then once you have the paint matched you can paint over the little hole you made. I just did this with our new house - there were holes freaking EVERYWHERE from where the previous owner had hung up stuff and the original builder's paint had gone bad. The great thing about this method was that the home depot guy could even pinpoint what kind of finish the paint was (eggshell) and recommended a type to match it exactly. Ten patched holes later and you can't even tell where they used to be - so happy!

    1. I forgot to respond when I first read this, but awesome recommendations, thank you!!

  2. "Oh and sex, there was/is lots of that."

    I absolutely love that you can go there comfortably. Its good to hear a candid statement that says that even with professional school, babies, a crazy life, jobs, etc. it doesn't all have to go away! I really appreciate that you authentically portray what a real and healthy relationship looks like post honeymoon period, and that it is possible to keep the 'spice'.

  3. On the day care dilema- Go to naccrra.org and find a Resource and Referral agency where you are moving. They can at least tell you what's available. You've had a good experience so that puts you a little ahead of the game since you'll know what to look for. (I know this belongs on another post but I'm too lazy to scroll down.}

  4. I am amazed at what a blog celeb you are. If I wrote a post saying, "Ask me all your burning questions about my life," I would get maybe one comment saying, "What happened to your dinosaur?"

    1. Haha, I doubt that's true! You were the first blog I ever read and will always be my blog celebrity. And what did happen to the dinosaur? I'm sure he'd like the jelly beans.

  5. Haha, CM, I only just recently noticed the dinosaur was missing! :) That one commenter would have been me.

    LL - excited to hear more!

  6. New burning question--what were some of the weirdest things people said to you at work while you were pregnant? A partner in another section at my BigLaw firm asked me today, "Have you gotten cranky yet?" So weird.

  7. I got a Kindle Fire when they first came out, I can not reommend it highly enough. I know you have a kindle as well, but I was wondering what you are reading now? I have been in an historical romance mood, so all the Catherine Coulter, Mary Balough, Julia Quinn, Stephanie Laurens, and Amanda Quick that I can get from the library or on the kindle. I have started checking out books from the library on my kindle, it is fast and quite easy. Have a wonderful, easy, and calm move... As if.

  8. @cm - you require login, right? i would comment on your blog (which i love) a lot more if i didnt have to log in. i'm still sort of a gen-X'r about privacy stuff.

  9. Oh, hi. I'm not sure why I came back here, but glad I did! Just for you, anonymous, I'll take out the login. I started requiring it a while back because I got so many spam comments.

    LL, sounds like the house-selling is going really well! It was such a pain keeping the house in showable condition when we were trying to sell, and at the time we just had the one kid and no pets. I hope you get lots of offers.