Sunday, March 24, 2013


I started this draft weeks ago, back when I really didn't know what we were doing next, and every time I went to try to finish it, our plan would have changed anew.  It started as a retrospective- I was musing on the past and the decisions we've made to create the dotted lines of our career paths and addresses so far. Everyone has a path that jumps around a bit, but it gets a little more jagged when you marry young, before you're settled anywhere, and you have two people planning on careers and additional education. It gets even more jagged when you have differing opinions on what states and types of cities you want to live in (I'd love to live in DC, he won't consider anything within 100 mile of his parents; I love big cities, he hates them; he loves Texas, I... do not). And then if you start your family rather early in the path, you quickly have to start worrying about things like schools and neighborhoods and maybe not moving every 3 years so your children can have a simple answer to, "where'd you grow up?". Mostly, the jumps in our path have been caused by situations entirely out of our hands- a great job opportunity for one party, grad school acceptance for another... other than our first 6 months in Chicago, I'm not sure it's ever truly been in both of our best career interests to be wherever we've been. Luckily, we like each other far more than we care about our next career move, but it's still interesting to muse. Particularly when things are at a crossroads, as they've been for JP (and us generally) over the past few months.

We have three framed posters by our front door of the three cities we've lived in before Fort Worth: Houston, Chicago, and Austin. All of those moves were for JP. I went to Houston to mooch off him after I graduated early from college and he was working for a Big Oil Co. That one barely counts since I just used his credit card to fund our life while I planned our wedding and occasionally worked in the men's section at the Houston Galleria Banana Republic. But the big move to Chicago actually started out as a career move for him. I'd been accepted to NYU and Columbia's law schools and assumed we'd move to NYC in the fall. JP was looking around for finance jobs there when he found out he was being transferred to Big Oil Co's Chicago campus. I found out later that week I'd been accepted to UChicago law school, so despite never having been to that city and already owning a "Not For Tourists Guide to New York City" as well as a collection of NY subway maps, I accepted the school's offer immediately. Big Oil Co. would pay for our move, we could afford a much nicer apartment, and Chicago seemed pretty in the pictures- why not? Of course I immediately fell in love with Chicago and hoped to remain after graduation. I had offers from some fantastic top firms in the city, but JP hated it there by the end of our three years and only applied for grad school at UT in Austin. And so back to Texas we went. When he graduated from business school, I encouraged him to look for jobs in Houston, because there's so many more companies there that fit his profile and I could go much farther at the firm, and get much better work, if I was in our Houston office rather than Austin. I didn't push hard though- I love Austin and it was a great place for our family, but there's no doubt it was limiting to my budding litigation career and he was job searching in a much shallower pool. Just when he really started expanding his job search to Houston, he got the Dell position and we settled in once more. Seven months after that, I applied for and got my dream job at the SEC, and this time, though the timing really was not great for him, we felt like I had to make the jump. I couldn't grow in Austin, he didn't want to move to Houston or Dallas or any other big city, and there was truly no possible better career move for me to make as a mid-level associate. The SEC would give me the opportunity to develop expertise, substantially boost my resume, potentially jump to partnership when I went back to private practice, and I'd get to do it all while spending 50% more time with my children and husband. And so we went. Eight months after that, JP lost his job, and now we've spent 6 months wondering what next.

We looked at other big cities and JP even applied for a few jobs scattered throughout the country. I'm always up for a move- I love change and exploring new places and I'm always up for living in not-Texas. It was a little frightening to look at law firm positions again. I'd basically be back as a midlevel associate facing all the same career concerns I had one year ago today- not enough good experience, too much hierarchy, too little flexibility, and too little chance of making partner. I'd need a new solution to the same problem and the SEC was one of the best solutions I ever came up with. As an added wrinkle, we really wanted another baby. We didn't want to want another one, two is so easy and so perfect and they get along so wonderfully well, but we can't seem to shake it. We've known it forever and have spent most of the last year trying to talk ourselves out of it and now we're in the weird position of trying to get pregnant at a time when we might be moving and I might be needing to change jobs in the next few months. This is the problem of two careers in an economy where layoffs happen with some frequency and finding another job is not always an immediate fix, and a husband who doesn't like big cities so we always end up living somewhere that works great for one person and not the other.

And so we went in circles until a month ago when it seemed like moving back to Austin was the perfect solution. It all started when a partner I used to work for left the firm and started his own firm and asked if I wanted to come join him. For a brief moment I realized I could make a lot more money and free JP up to do whatever he wanted next. I had realized one of the reasons it wasn't as hard on him (and us) to look for a job last time around was because he was coaching the whole way through- something he loved, something that made some money, and something he knew he was good at. As I phrased it to him that evening in January, "you could stop getting ripped apart looking for a corporate job you don't even want. You could coach and pursue your entrepreneurial interests and pick Landon up from school- everyone wins!" When he replied, "well, I mean, that would be my dream," I was done, we were going. While I enjoyed my job in the SEC, I also genuinely missed much of what I used to do as a litigator (writing, oh I miss the writing), so I immediately contacted a bunch of other people I know in Austin (one benefit of your section at your firm imploding is you now know people scattered all over the city!) and got a few more solid leads to balance against the first one. As it turns out, while getting a job in Austin as a 1L looking at big firms is quite hard, once you have that big firm experience, there are a much larger number of boutiques- boutiques with better work and good clients because Austin companies generally like things like that are local- that want and need you. I went to Austin the first week of March, met with lots of people, got two job offers, one at a fantastic, established firm with a promise of being partner in 2 years and a lot of other great things.

In the mean time, JP got an offer to start a swim school in Fort Worth. There is a good USS club program here and there's a high school team, but there isn't much of any swim classes or groups for kids. You can do a few rounds at the YMCA, but then you either need to be ready to jump into the rather intense world of club (something I didn't do until 8th grade) or you just splash in your friends' pools for a while and maybe remember you like swimming in 5-6 years when you could join club. There was a retired club coach who was sort of running a program, but he didn't have enough time to dedicate to it and he passed away a few months ago. JP's master's coach (part of the club team) brought the idea to him, said he could have the website and client list for free, and that everyone- the club, master's, and high school- just really wanted to get a kids' swimming program going in the city. He sat on it for a while, which I didn't understand at all, and then just when I thought he was going to pass because he just couldn't get excited about it (my concern at that point was that he wasn't going to get excited about anything), I went to Austin to get something there so he could be in his favorite city and I could make more money and take the pressure off him (though, about that time I'd gotten to some really substantive parts of my investigations and no longer missed litigation quite as much).  It was literally while I was on that trip that he decided to dive into the swim school head first.

In the last two weeks he has incorporated, got a merchant marketing account, hired a graphic designer, and been to mixers and meetings and every pool in Fort Worth. He is working on a bank account, on getting licensed as a pool operator, on designing progress reports and lesson plans for classes. He has meetings and phone calls all day and most of the night. His website is launched, he has hired two instructors and has met with them several times to practice the lesson plans on our kids, and he is already getting phone calls and requests for lessons. He's excited. He's withdrawn from the few corporate job leads he still had pending. I'm excited (also, terrified, but mostly excited- as I told him a few weeks ago, if I was going to invest in a company of his, and that's exactly what I'm doing as I watch him pull out of his job applications, then it has to involve swimming/coaching. It's what you love, it's what you know, and it's what you're incredibly good at. I'd make that investment with no qualms- or as few qualms as I'll ever have in anything besides putting money in my mattress).

This decision has meant not only the reawakening of my husband, but also some much-needed certainty on our future location. We're staying in Fort Worth for the foreseeable future and we're all excited about that. Landon will be registered for our nearby public Kindergarten for the Fall (ah!), Claire will move back up to full-time at our beloved little Montessori-light daycare in the summer, and Landon will be enrolled in various summer camps around the city until school starts. And I, I will stay at the SEC and soak up more experience and try harder to adopt a Plaintiff/Prosecutor mindset. And even more importantly, I will soak up every single extra minute I will have with JP and the kids because I'm there. Interviewing at the firms in Austin really made that hit home for me, with the talk of hours and billables and surprise working weekends. I genuinely enjoyed my work at the firm and I miss certain aspects of it on a regular basis. However, and this is a HUGE however, my life working 8-4:30 at the SEC cannot even be compared to my (relatively laid back) schedule at the big firm. Not only do I have double the amount of weekday time with the kids, and every minute of my weekend time has become my exclusive property to do with as I (or, usually the kids) wish, but I have so much more of me to give them in that time. That is the part I wasn't prepared for and didn't realize was missing (and then found I wasn't ready to give up). It's not the minutes- though those have grown increasingly important as the kids have gotten older. A 9 month old is thrilled to see you whenever you cross their line of vision- their day is the same at pretty much any hour and you can "be" with them at any hour you happen to be there for. But with a nearly-6-year-old, I can't force togetherness. He's always excited to see me of course, but sometimes he's busy when I come home. Sometimes he's already told his dad about his day and is pretty sure it's far too great a burden for me to expect him to go through it again. He has more events and sports, he opens up at random times about random things, and now, I can be there for so, so much more of it. And, even more importantly, I'm generally open to receiving whatever input he offers. I'm not working, I'm not looking at my blackberry, I'm not looking at the clock worrying about a deadline and rushing bedtime so I can get back to work. I'm just here, quality and quantity. Cooking, dancing with Claire in the kitchen while Landon looks on with mockery and amusement, doing word flashcards at night, and planning weekend excursions only the weather can ruin. And just as important- I can curl up next to JP every night on the couch with my Kindle (that I have time to read) while he asks me his 600th question about how the swim school website should look or how he should word his response to a parent email. There is so much more of me, and even as I worry about how the swim school will do and how we'll afford any unforeseen expenses in our already massively trimmed budget, I'm more glad than I thought that my path will stay the same for "what's next."


  1. HOW did you handle all that? The job interviews alone... contemplating all those big decisions... trying to keep you head in the game at work and your chin up at home... on TOP of all the everyday stuff. My heart is beating faster just reading this post. (And aching a little when you describe how much more present you are at home when you're not worrying about emails coming in and the work you have to get back to the moment you've put the kids to bed.)

    I'm so glad you ended up at a decision you're all happy with!

    (Also, you never mentioned what company JP worked at before... did you mean to now?)

  2. So excited to see (well, read about) the next chapter of the Lag Liv Family! Thanks for sharing the details of your journey!

  3. My favorite part of this update: hearing you officially say you want a third!

  4. Hi, I've been reading your blog for a long time, and always admire your strength and candor. And your family is adorable, of course. :)
    This post hit home for me, because I'm going through a similar situation with my boyfriend at the moment (trying to find a place to live where both of us are happy and fulfilled. As classical musicians, it ain't easy.) We're working hard on our diplomatic discussion skills, and I wanted to ask-this whole post seems so cool and level-headed. How did you find your way from fear and worry to calm and compromise? Sometimes it's so hard to see what you want life to look like, even, and to be honest about that and optimistic about the's been tough for us recently. I'm in my mid-20s and understand that a lot of this will resolve with time, but do you have...advice? ideas? for how to get through with grace? How do we keep sight of what we want to accomplish individually, but commit to and deeply support each other?
    Thanks for any feedback you might have :)

  5. Although I'm sad the Austin move got called off, I'm more glad to hear JP is enthusiastically moving forward and you all are in a happier place in general. I wish JP the best with his new budding company -he'll be a great small business owner!

    And who knows, maybe YOU will be the pregnant one in my bridal party in August!! :)

  6. I'm glad you wrote this - it gives us insight in what you haven't been saying for the past few months. Best of luck on your new venture. Congrats!

  7. So happy you have made a decision and one that sounds perfect for your family!! Yay...hope #3 comes true! You and JP really make such beautiful children...can't wait to see what your future holds! Wishing JP the best of luck with his new business! Thanks for are a wonderful writer and storyteller!

    Patty from TX

  8. Hi LL,

    I’m an avid reader and have been for a few years now but don’t comment too much. However just wanted to drop you a quick line to say how much I love your blog and its refreshing honesty and straightforwardness. You’ve got such a strong (and smart!) head on your shoulders I’m sure whatever you eventually decide will work out. It’s interesting to see you’ve decided (are trying?) for a third – good luck with that and the swim school!!


  9. So happy for you guys. I am sure JP is going to be a huge success and I can totally see you as a family of five! As someone who came from that, its pretty awesome (but totally nuts.) Good luck and I can't wait to read what comes next.

  10. Hi! Long time reader but have never commented before. I live in MI that has a GREAT swim school that has recently franchised, if anything the website may give you some fun ideas as you venture into your next journey! Www.

  11. This is awesome! I can't wait to hear how his company takes off and I just know it will. :)

  12. This makes me so happy. I have been reading your blog since Landon was a new born, and truly it's such a gift that you have this time with your family. My job is moving 75 miles from my house in the next 12 weeks, and with a 15 month old and a 2.5 year old it just isn't a commute I can make. So I'm interviewing and realizing how much a value those moments with my kids. I know that the swim school will be a huge success.

  13. Definitely awesome! Glad things are settling down and JP found something he really loves to do. And can't wait for the updates on any family additions! :)

  14. This post makes me so happy for you both! Congrats and best of luck (although you and he won't need it). :)

  15. Love, love, love! So excited for y'all and JP! And congrats on #3!

  16. Hi Lagliv,

    I feel like I owe you an apology. I made a comment that may have precipitated this post. The comment was in regards to giving JP a chance at his career and exploring the possibility of moving to a big city.

    I made the comment without knowing all the facts behind your decision. I'm reminded once again that your blog only gives us a glimpse of your life and its wrong to assume we know everything about you, your family and decisions.

    I am very grateful that you allow us to get a glimpse into the wonderful life you have created for you and your family. I wish you and your family nothing but the best in your future endeavors and decisions.

    Congrats on your new bundle of joy!

    1. If I remember right, I think you did prompt the musing that started my writing of the post, but not in a way that requires an apology! No one knows more than me the glimpse that you all get into my life, and I never mind comments that come from a place of reading and caring about my family, even if the facts aren't all quite right (largely because you don't have them all). So no worries, but I do appreciate the follow up, and if you are grateful I write, I'm more grateful that you read!