Thursday, February 16, 2012

Q&A, Part 3

And here's the third and final chapter of the Q&A. Thank you for all the questions! I had fun writing the answers- and I'm glad I promised a forced time/space limit, because most deserved their own post and I would have skipped them based on plans to do that and then probably never written them, because there are HOUSES to talk about and at some point I need to write something about my children because I use this blog to make their memory photo books at the end of each year and I have no pictures or stories this month.

So, without further ado, part 3:

Is one of the reasons you are going to the SEC because you burned out at the firm and/or just didn't want to put in the hours anymore?

I think I talked about this a little in a previous question, but yes, that is one of the reasons. Not THE reason, but it’s one I’m appreciating more and more as I start thinking about this new life and schedule that I’ll have. The impetus really was the work and experience- if I had been getting good, substantive work at the firm and felt like I was learning and growing as an attorney, I wouldn’t have looked to leave. But I wasn’t, and now that I am leaving, I’m seeing the advantages of this new path more and more and realizing the extent of the disadvantages of my current one.

I would also love to hear more about the break up in college. Did you always know JP was the "One"? How did you work it out then and how do you maintain such a wonderful relationship now? Any secrets? :)

I did the break-up story in Part 2. As for "the One," I did think JP was it within a few weeks of our first date. We met at the end of August and I decided I was marrying him by Thanksgiving and we openly talked about it from then on. As for maintaining our relationship now, I don’t know, really. I think we’re naturally very well suited and we are also completely dedicated to our relationship and our future together, so we always address issues or annoyances as they come up and do everything with the implicit assumption that we’re in it together. Add in romance, the fact that we each feel genuinely lucky to have the other, and my firm belief the primary relationship in a family needs to be the one between the parents (i.e., we do better by our children by nurturing that relationship between the two of us) and it all works out pretty easily. I know the saying is that marriage is hard, and maybe it will be later (we’re only 6.5 years in), but I haven’t found it to be hard yet.

Do you think you'll do more fashion blogging?

Maybe if I get a better full-length mirror, better self-photography skills, and better at not judging pictures of myself quite so harshly. I do love clothes and love coming up with outfits for work, but I’m not really all that fashionable so I’m not sure how qualified I am to blog about it (though I suppose a lack of qualifications hasn’t stopped me from blogging about anything else!).

I know a lot of people have asked about your in laws and I'm with them, don't share if its too personal, but I have issues with my FIL and I was wondering specifically how you deal with them in regards to JP. My hubby gets so down about their relationship and the relationship between me and my FIL. Anything in particular that soothes JP's hurt feelings or helps take his mind off of it? Just wondering if there was anything in particular that you do to comfort him.

I wish I could help here, but JP is truly completely emotionally cut off from his mother. I think he wishes his dad would step up and fight for a relationship with him, because he does like his dad and I think it hurts him that FIL allows MIL to dictate the terms of their relationship, but he doesn’t get down about it. Not talking to his mother for the past 15 months has been something of a dream come true, though he would never say so because he doesn’t want people to judge the fact that he really doesn’t want a relationship with her (like I used to, before I experienced 9 years of her).

I would love to know how you find the time to meal plan and keep things cleaned up around your place, you seem so organized.

I don’t spend very long on either of those things, but they are absolutely integral for our relatively smooth work weeks. For the cleaning, we just never let it get out of hand. The kids put their toys away before bed, I put away clothes as soon as I’ve folded them, we do dishes immediately after every dinner, and we do a general sweep through the house before bed to put away a few random items that have been left out (I’m fidgety, so I do it naturally as I bounce from room to room at night, while JP calmly sits on the couch and plays guitar). Since we’re gone all day Mon-Fri, it’s rare that there’s much to have to put back. We also have a weekly cleaning lady who does the windows, floors, etc. I keep things neat, organized, and put away, and she does the real cleaning (though I clean the counters every night in the kitchen- that’s a must with dark granite). For meal planning, I sit down on Saturday or Sunday with my laptop and few favorite cook books and pick out meals for the week. I usually start with something I’m craving and then go from there, using up ingredients I’ll have to purchase so that we don’t waste anything. I always include a “pantry pasta” night (Thursday- when we’re out of fresh proteins), a more involved meal (for Sunday, when we’re home all afternoon), something made ahead of time and frozen (for Monday, when Natalie gets the kids and can put something in the oven as early as 4:00), and a a fresh fish (Tuesday, still safely fresh and only takes minutes to cook). Now that I’ve written that out, it’s kind of formulaic, but the planning is important because even taking 2 minutes to think “what should I make for dinner” is too long on the average weekday night when we’ve just arrived home from work/daycare and everyone is hungry.

[Related question] Any suggestions on how to stay on top of things? I've been a long time reader (pretty much since the very beginning), and have always been impressed by your energy and ability to succeed while juggling so many things at ones.

Lists! I’m a big fan of hand-written lists of things I can cross off with great relish and satisfaction (I love technology, but a digital to-do list is just not the same). I don’t watch a lot of TV (we have about 5 shows we try to catch during the week, many nights we never turn the TV on), so during the week, I really USE the time between 7:30 when my kids go to bed and when JP and I go to bed around 11. I’m also pretty decisive and efficient, so that helps I think. I remember watching my MIL wander around their house for over an hour talking about how she was going to take a shower, and then talking about what we were going to do later, and then talking about how she had to run to the store, and just talking talking talking about stuff, but never actually DOING anything. It drove me mad, and that was just a 2 day visit. I’m a doer. I hate clutter, I love bins and containers and boxes, and filing papers makes me unreasonably happy. Also, at this stage of our lives it’s pretty easy to stay on top of everything- our kids don’t have homework, they don’t have activities, and JP and I have 3+ hours every night to ourselves. I expect this to get harder, but I’m hoping we’ve laid some solid groundwork for keeping things neat and me sane as our schedules start multiplying and clashing.

You talked before about how you want to move and live in many more places. Do you still feel this way, or is moving to Fort Worth for your dream job a permanent move?

I think we still have 1-2 moves ahead of us. My guess is that we’ll be in Ft. Worth for 5-6 years, unless a promotion within the SEC would require a move to another office (like Denver!), and then it will be JP’s turn to move somewhere for his career (and I’ll have the specialty experience to do pretty much whatever I want- in-house, law firm, etc.). But who knows, we may fall in love with Fort Worth and never leave (though I think it would make me sad to never leave Texas to live in a new part of the country). I like that we honestly don’t know where we’ll be in 10 years.

What will you miss most about working at a big law firm (besides the pay)? And what will you miss the least?

Miss Most: the fridge of diet coke (and other drinks, but I only make use of the diet cokes), the special spigot of hot filtered water for my tea, recruiting and all events related to it, my beautiful office, the enormous budget for lunches, travel (oh Four Seasons, I will miss you), entertainment, etc., the absolute nerdiness of researching and writing a legal brief and debating the legal arguments with super smart people

Miss Least: entering time, worrying about hours and getting work, not being able to say no, pretending to be excited about terrible assignments

What will you do for childcare when Landon is in Kindergarten? I imagine drop off and pick up would be during business hours, so will you have a babysitter help or can JP do that since he'll be working from home?

Drop off is pretty early, so JP or I can do that before work, and then we’ll likely do an after-school program. All the elementary schools have one in-house, or many of the local activities (gymnastics, tae kwan do, etc.) have their own buses to go to their after-school programs. Once Claire is in public school we’ll probably hire an after-school nanny to pick up the kids so they can come home earlier and be transported to activities.

How did your parents shape and direct you as you were growing up -- and is your parenting style similar? How is it different? To what extent do you credit your upbringing with your success?

I’ve talked about this in the past, here, and it’s way too big of a topic to attempt in one paragraph, but I was thinking about this the other night when I couldn’t sleep – I think the biggest thing that shaped me is love. Their romance and the love they have for each other, and the absolute, frequently voiced, never questioned love they had for each of us. I think their number 1 priority was each other, and their number 1.5 priority was each of us- and no friends, hobbies, or jobs every got in the way of those two things. It's things like the sweet text my dad sent my Tuesday to say, “Happy Valentine’s Day my [LL], You are such a special girl. I am so proud of you and love you always. Your dad.” A little thing and lovely to receive, but not even all that noteworthy because he’s always voiced how much he loves us and I get to take that for granted. And I think it gave each of us a confidence in ourselves, a unwavering feeling of security, and an understanding of how a relationship is supposed to be, that we’ve each demanded that same kind respect and love from the other people in our lives.

As for parenting styles, I think we’re similar. It’s hard to say- my kids are still younger than my earliest memory, so it will be interesting to see how JP and I approach issues that I actually remember my parents dealing with each of us. I would aspire to be similar, though there will be certain differences based on our different personalities and family structure (my mom stayed home with us, JP and I don't and thus divide various family labors more evenly, etc.). But they were strict about behavior and manners and we definitely follow that. And finally (each of these questions deserves so much more than a sentence or two!), to the extent I credit my upbringing for where I am now, I don’t know-- a lot, I would think, but at the same time, I know much of what I did—my grades in school, my focus and dedication to swimming, my studious nature—these things came from inside of me. Absolutely supported by my parents, but truly initiated by me. And my siblings are each very different from me (not in the success, just in what we want, how we are getting there, etc.). But we each share a world view that includes a lot of empathy, a natural understanding of right and wrong, and an understanding that success takes work and you have to earn money before you can enjoy it. And that foundation in general is probably responsible for a lot of the specifics in my life now.

I have a random question - I hope its not too late! What cleaner do you use to clean your granite countertops? In your pics you just posted of your house - they look so shiny! I have searching for the perfect cleaner for forever.

Method glass and surface cleaner (I get it at Target). Also, their all-purpose cleaners and daily granite sprays are great. I just found the glass and surface cleaner is as good on the granite as the special granite spray, so now I don’t buy both. The bottle lives on my counter and I spray it down all the time- plus it smells so good!

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.

Ha! I never had anything weird. My section was over 75% female and all but one had been pregnant before, so everyone was so used to it, I almost wished I could get some weird reactions and/or comments about it.

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 you read Sara Donati? She has a great series that begins with “Into the Wilderness.” Kathleen Woodiwiss has some good ones. Loretta Chase’s “Lord of Scoundrels” is fabulous, I re-read it all the time, and Kresley Cole’s English/Scottish historical romance trilogy, starting with “If You Dare” is also great. If you’re reading Julia Quinn, you’ve probably read the Bridgerton series, but if not, it starts with “The Duke and I”- go read them! (And I had no idea you could check out kindle books from a library- we don't have a public library near us, but we will in Ft Worth and I am definitely checking that out! No pun intended.)

What's your methodology for the task of organizing things like your closets or storage areas? How do you avoid being a pack rat like us?! Is it about not getting too sentimental about stuff or perhaps just having better/more efficient ways of organizing it? Clueless people over here!

The bulk of this answer is above, but to the pack rat point, I think I just have an innate dislike for large quantities of Stuff. No amount of sentimentality can overcome that dislike, so I get rid of stuff constantly. We keep a plastic “to Goodwill” bin in the garage, just to the left of the door into the house and throw stuff in it all the time. We drop it off when it’s full, which can take as little as 5 days or as much as 2 months, but it's a frequently revolving door. Landon outgrows a pair of pants? I toss it in the bin. I get a new shirt to replace an older one- to the bin. For paperwork, I keep files in the study and each kid has a small personal file box with a folder for each of their first 5 years. I add special daycare art (especially hand prints, footprints, funny quotes or “interviews”), extra copies of our Christmas cards and their birthday invites, and special birthday cards, to the file and recycle the rest (after an evening spent admiring it, of course). But mostly I just hate clutter and I’ve never donated something and regretted it or felt the loss. My goal is to never have full closets and never, ever own a separate storage unit.

What the heck is a cookie cake?

Only the most delicious dessert ever invented! Picture a giant cookie, big enough to fill a cake pan, approximately 1/2 - 3/4" thick, with white buttercream and chocolate buttercream icing around the edges. It is glorious. See here for examples- Great American Cookie Company makes a good one, but we think the ones from the HEB bakery are even better (and way cheaper- for $8.99 you get more deliciousness than any two people should eat in 2 days (ahem, like we did)).


El fin!

(also, things are happening on the home front. I slept like a baby and am back to saying things like "squee!! over and over again (inside my head)).


  1. Yay one house! (Or making progress toward it, anyway.)

    I love your posts about your parents. (Love and envy a little bit, since I did not share your experience.) My two top priorities as a parent are to keep my kids safe and healthy, and to make sure they know they are always loved.

  2. Thank you, LL, for taking your time to answer these!
    I LOVE your blog and it has been very inspirational to me over the years. I've always been so impressed by how strong and efficient you are. Making lists is a brilliant idea and I will try to incorporate them more.

    Keeping my fingers crossed for an offer asap (or do you already have one?!) Can’t wait for an update!