Showing posts with label Q/A. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Q/A. Show all posts

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cora Quests and Q&A

In between getting back on track for the week (I think we're almost there! now that there's only 1 day left), trying (and failing) to go to bed early to recover from the 3 hours of sleep I got a night during Renyart Wedding Weekend 2014, and obsessively stalking our photographer's facebook page to see if she's posted a preview of our session from the end of June (she has not, though it's been 45 seconds, so I should probably check again), I thought- hey, I should write a blog post! But then I didn't really have anything to say- you've heard about my weekend, my deep-thoughts well is dry due to lack of sleep, and I've only taken two pictures post-wedding.

They're of Cora, on the loose and on the hunt for the big kids.


I'd only set her down moments ago in the TV room and next thing I knew she was but a dot on the master bathroom tile- and a rapidly disappearing dot at that.


(If you're concerned, she did find them- soaping up in our giant shower and she seemed as sad as Cora ever seems that she wasn't in there with them, but it was bedtime for our little party bunny and down she went moments later.)

I also have this picture my sister sent from their honeymoon in St. Thomas. I believe I was cleaning bottles and making dinner and plotting the murder of the 6,000 mosquitos in my 100+ degree backyard when I received it.


So St. Thomas has been bumped way up on my life-long travel list. It was already on the list (along with just about every other domestic and worldwide destination), but it's in a more urgent traunch now.

And so, I saw there was a question about swim lessons on the last post (which Simi, I promise to pass on to JP and write about here), does anyone else have any blogging fodder, questions, and/or prompts for me? I enjoy writing at night, but I feel like there's only so many times anyone could want to read a weekend recap or menu post (not that those are going away, they're my life, but I'd like to mix it up) and when I don't have anything else to say, I end up re-reading a book or filling a zappos shopping cart I then delete before purchasing.  Feel free to write questions to JP too- I don't know what he'll answer, but I'll transcribe the ones he does! So ask away!  In the meantime, I'll be googling "inexpensive St. John vacations" and watching google laugh at me.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Weddings and Fairy Tales

I went to DC this past weekend for one of my best law school friend's weddings. It was a lovely reunion of my closest friends (from LA, Chicago, DC, and Hong Kong) and an even lovelier celebration of the new bride and her husband. The travel was long (9 hours both ways to use miles and make the whole trip as cheap as possible), but the weather cooperated and the food was delicious and I love any excuse to walk around a city and use well-organized public transportation.


bigger belly, better view

And this weekend I head to Austin to attend the wedding of my best childhood friend. JP gets to go with me this time- our first night away from the kids in years, so for the first time in a very long time, I get to go to a wedding with a date! It's so funny that two of my favorite people in the world ended up getting married one week and 1500 miles apart. I wish it wasn't when I was 6 months pregnant (I do love champagne), but I'm mostly just thankful they didn't end up on the same day.

The last time I was in DC for work I had dinner with my friend E (this past Saturday's bride) and she very seriously asked if I had any advice on marriage. I was honored to be asked, but found it hard to answer. Every person, every relationship, is so unique and private- it's hard to go beyond the generic "communicate," "listen," "forgive," that you're going to read in any article on relationships. I did have a story I happened to be thinking of, particularly in light of her hopes to start a family in the very near future, the moral of which is that "sometimes the best thing you can do for your marriage is to go to bed angry." I know it's contrary to the sweetly morbid idea of never going to bed angry because you don't know if you'll wake up, but the chances of not waking up are quite slim and the chances of you or your husband hurting each other's feelings for reasons that are increasingly unrelated to the original anger-inducing situation simply because you're both tired and need to go to bed are far greater. In my experience, particularly when Landon was a baby and nobody slept, even if you are so angry you can't cuddle or kiss each other goodnight, and you lay on your side of the bed in a militantly tense line to ensure that you don't accidentally brush shoulders with the love of your life, you are still doing more for your marriage simply by trying to go to sleep than if you stay up trying to work it out. In the morning, if whatever set you off still matters, you will now have the energy and perspective to deal with it, and if it doesn't, you are now in a better place to make up and deal with that too. Either way, an extra hour or two of sleep instead of yelling can only make things better. I remember a string of about 5 days in 2007 when JP and I couldn't even talk to each other. We were working and studying so much and Landon was sleeping so little and were so fucking tired we could barely function- everything we had was gone by the time we were alone with each other at 9 p.m. Any attempts at speaking ended in a near-fight about something, so we simply stopped interacting much at all. For days. And I remember when the weekend finally rolled around and we both went to bed during Landon's morning nap and we found each other under the covers mid-rest and cuddled and slept more and woke up and talked and just let the humanity come back. It's not a typical romantic story, but I still remember that morning- bringing Landon in bed with us when he woke up and talking with a smiley baby between us and it makes me happy. It had been such an awful week- so tense for no reason other than the fact that we had nothing left to give the other, and the only reason we didn't end every day in yelling is because we trusted our marriage to be bigger than a few really shitty days. No dissecting or analyzing or questioning our relationship, just making food and going to bed and trusting in our foundation. And in doing that, we really only made the foundation stronger.

I don't know if that will be remotely helpful to my friend- going to bed angry isn't your typical marriage advice, but it's what I happened to think of at the time. And maybe she won't even need it- it's been years since JP and I have had to go to bed mad- Claire never made us very tired as a baby, and when rested, we very rarely fight. But the general concept, trusting in your marriage to be bigger than a particular day or week is something I think of often. Our conversation also made me think of an old Q&A I got from a reader several months ago and never felt I could answer. She wrote, "I'm newly married, and I'm surprised that it's not as 'fairy tale' as I thought it would be. Have you ever felt a little bored in your marriage? If so, how do you and J.P. keep the fire alive?"

The short A to the Q came easy- no, I've never been bored in my marriage. We have quite a lot of fire, and while we've gone through some difficult things- law school, Landon's first ten months, a DCFS investigation, unemployment (twice), entrepreneurship, a business break-up, a family break-up, surgeries and more, it's life that's been hard, marriage has always been the easy. It's what makes all the life stuff more bearable. Not that we don't have our moments of marital strife, but they're moments. Our few fights or rough patches are generally attributable to something that life has shat out at us combined with the fact that only with each other are we secure enough to completely let down our guard and just be our worst selves. I'm both softer and harder around him- softer because I don't have to be strong, and harder because I trust him to think I'm wonderful even when I'm showing my selfish, tired, complainy side that no one else gets to see (lucky, lucky him). And the security that allows for the occasional worst comes with the love that brings us back to the best- the apology, understanding, and, most importantly, the moving on from whatever life pulled out of us. Neither of us is particularly forgiving by nature, but for each other we manage, and again, it's the love that makes it, if not always easy, then at least possible.

But the "fairy tale" part of the question kept me thinking for a while. I didn't want to be flip, so I pondered, and I pondered through some rough months of JP's unemployment, but all I kept coming back to is that it is a fairy tale. At least it is to me. It is a fairy tale that two very independent, very strong willed people can love the other person so much more than themselves that both the independence and the strong wills take backseats to compromise, love, and affection. Maybe I just have lower expectations, but for me, the everyday living- the waking up together, going through our morning with the kids separate but in step, smiling when the phone rings and it's him on the screen, being able to say "I miss you" if we get a minute to chat in the middle of the day and meaning it, laughing over the kids' heads at dinner, tucking them in and settling in on the couch for work or reading or tv, and going to bed with the indulgence of cuddles and affection. Reaching my hand out in the night just to feel him beside me. It's a fairy tale.

There are rough times in the fairy tale, even Disney allows that, but there's laughter and affection to balance it, and the hard only makes our relationship stronger. And because of the crappy times, I get to know without a doubt that our marriage is bigger than a few bad weeks. It's bigger than us and at times, we've had to get by on our faith in that alone. That, and the deep-seated knowledge that he loves me like no one else. When I get too focused on something trivial, like his inability to properly hang a bathroom towel or efficiently load a dishwasher, it helps me to pan out and remember the sheer luck of it all. That he's my favorite and he's sexy as hell and he loves me so much. There's nothing he wouldn't do for me if I asked, and most of the time I don't even have to, but he's still so much his own strong-minded person that I get to feel a thrill of victory any time I convince him I'm right about something. So I suppose that would be my other bit of advice- zoom out of whatever little thing you're gearing up to argue about and decide if it's worth it. Sometimes it is, I'm a proponent of a bit of selfishness in a marriage- after all, you're going to live with this person forever and they should know if they're doing something that bugs you, but much of the time I find it's just that I'm annoyed in general and JP is a convenient target. So zoom out, go to bed mad, be kind, fight fair, forgive, touch a lot, and say I love you more. That's most of what I've learned so far. And when things are hard, I just try to remember how incredibly lucky I am. Because for someone who is as independent and stubborn and occasionally argumentative as I am, with my high expectations of others and borderline unrealistic demands of myself, it is nothing short of a fairy tale that I could find such happiness and love and simple ease with another human being as I've found with JP. Or maybe it's a miracle, but fairy tale sounds better.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The A, part Almost Done

I pulled a few out of order because the answers were either too long or too hard, so if your question is missing, it is pending in part III.


Irrelevant, but fun from Monday

I would love to know some of your favorite quick weeknight dinner recipes!

I described most of them here. Now that I have time to cook (and we're not eating out), I've been making about 3-4 brand new recipes a week and filling in the other days with tried and trues: tomato cream sauce over pasta or ravioli, stir fry over rice, chilis and soups, and the occasional breakfast night. I try to do a night of chicken, a night of beef, a night of fish, and a few vegetarian meals. We eat a lot of pasta and a lot of vegetables, and when I do use beef, it is almost always for chili or a nice meaty pasta sauce. We usually do homemade pizza on Fridays. I have an easy crowd- JP loves leftovers (as I do) and the kids are great eaters. Landon told me last week when I made the Southwestern Quinoa Salad I described here that it was his "very favorite dinner" and we should have it every week. There is no way I would have touched that at his age, so I'm very thankful I have two kids less picky than I was (and probably still am).

Please do a post on your favorite/top blogs?

One of my big blogging regrets is that I no longer have the time to find new blogs. There are some great, frequent commenters on my blog and I'm sure I'd enjoy many of theirs, but I can barely manage to write in my own on a regular basis. Not having access to blogs and personal email during the day has really impeded my ability to waste time on the internet in the same way that I used to. But I do have a few long-time favorites that I try hard to stay up with:

  • Go Fug Yourself: celebrity fashion with a delightful amount of snark and talk of sandwiches
  • Tom and Lorenzo: high fashion, celebrity fashion, and the best television recaps on the internet (Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey, Project Runway, and others; they used to recap Glee, until it took a turn for the terrible a season ago).
  • amalah: because she's hilarious and curses in her blog as much as I do in my head
  • Academomia: PhD, three kids, funny as hell.  I've met her several times in Austin and have now hooked her up with one of my friends who has a little boy who might love weather nearly as much as Becca and her brood.
  • Magic Cookie: my first blawg, the woman I emailed the day before I started mine to ask, "hi, how do I start a blog and make people read it." and she actually wrote back. She had a baby in law school too and now has two kids and has lasted in BigLaw many months longer than I did.
  • And all the others listed in my blogroll in the sidebar on the right! I don't have any in there I don't still read every time they post.

You mentioned in a recent article an online savings account you used to save for you ski trip. I am definitely interested in something like this and would love to hear more about it!

We've had an online savings account at Ally bank for several years. When we opened it they were offering by far the highest interest rate in the market and we were banking all my summer associate money for 3L year when we planned to have a baby. Now their rate is pretty average (so, low), but we already have the account and they make it easy to set up autodrafts from your regular checking account into multiple Ally accounts. Plus, because it takes a few days to transfer funds between banks, it has kept us from dipping into savings too quickly in the past. For the 2012 ski trip, we had $300 drafted out of our checking account at the end of every month for a year into our "Family Vacation" Ally account. That account is now empty, but I hope we can get it started up again soon.

Any new shoes recently? :)

Sadly no. The shoe budget was the first casualty of the government lawyer lifestyle. I purchased one (1!) pair of shoes in all of 2012. A beautiful pair of tall, black leather, 3" heeled boots (with built in 1/2" hidden platform, so they're quite comfortable) that I ordered steeply discounted and magically in my size on zulilly with my grandparents' Christmas check. $55 for $150 boots. It was a Christmas miracle and I wear them a lot (with tights and skirts/dresses during the week and over skinny jeans on Fridays). Someday when I return to private practice I will glut myself on designer heels. Until then, I've unsubscribed from zappos, dsw, and katespade.com emails because the memories were just too painful.

I was wondering the other day what happened to Rosie? Did you ever talk about her?

Rosie has had a new mom in Austin since January last year. In short, we felt we were never able to give Rosie the bottomless amount of love and attention she needed (and after such a horrible early life, she deserved all of it) and when a friend of a friend was looking for a dog after her longtime canine companion passed away, we thought it might be a good fit. They are both very happy together and we continue to get the occasional picture and update. (And I think Tex likes having JP all to himself.)

Do you ever feel cheated / bad about not having had a natural childbirth (I do; you seem more balanced than me about it)?

Not even the tiniest bit. I'm really the wrong person to ask because I absolutely did NOT want a natural birth and would have been extremely upset (and unprepared) had I ended up with one.

Both of my birth stories were perfect for me. With Landon I had a midwife I adored- a woman who was calm, knowledgeable, and whom I trusted to help me make decisions regarding a process that yes, involved my body, but about which I had no training or experience. Working with a certified nurse midwife meant that all of my check-up appointments were scheduled in a block twice as long as the office's OB appointments (she worked in a practice with 5 other midwives and 4 MDs) and I just always got the feeling that she truly loved women and loved working with them. Illinois allows CNMs to deliver in hospitals, so I felt I got all the benefits of a midwife during my pregnancy and labor (she was in the L&D room far more than an OB usually can be, she let me turn the lights way down, she doesn't use stirrups and doesn't break apart the bed as OBs are more inclined to do, JP was a big part of the process and always felt very involved and welcome; I loved her) and I still got to deliver in a hospital (a definite deal breaker for me) and have an epidural (another absolute deal breaker). And, since I ended up going into labor a surprise 5 weeks early and Landon was born unable to breathe on his own (another big surprise), it turned out to be a damn good thing I was only 1 level up from a top notch NICU. As long-time readers know, Landon ended up developing very bad bruising covering his head, sides, and feet due to delivery trauma, spent 12 days in the NICU getting his heart rate to regulate and learning to breathe on his own (and get off the feeding tubes, IVs, etc.), and then a whole bunch of other bad stuff happened when it was discovered he had partially healed rib fractures at 10 weeks old. In the end, the only cause that was ever agreed on by more than one specialist was that the fractures must have happened during birth. And so we decided all future, hopefully full term babies were coming out into the world via a different route. Claire was a planned c-section and it was also a really great experience. I know some people really hate the idea, but I've had surgeries before (one on my hips in high school; they're narrow, turned in, and generally messed up, so it wasn't shocking that Landon probably only made it out because he was premature and still suffered damage along the way) and I am happy and comfortable with doctors and hospitals. I loved my OB, who took great care to get me full-term, and I felt the OR was full of excitement and happiness for the birth of our baby girl (who, they discovered was wedged up against my pelvic bone and had a deep groove in her forehead because of it; Claire was 1.5 lbs. bigger than her brother and had never dropped, she wasn't going anywhere). It was a perfect day and we got to experience the joys of a sharing our hospital room with our new daughter and taking her home with us when we checked out, two things we missed out on with Landon. Should we have another baby, it will absolutely be another planned c-section and the thought doesn't bother me in the least.

Have you done any depositions or in-person interviews at your new job? How did they go? You've mentioned before being more shy in person than you come across here.

I've done a number of formal interviews, in-person and over the phone, since coming to the SEC, but nothing on the record. It's amazing how much less scary it all becomes when you aren't charging $400 an hour with a partner charging $800 an hour standing over your shoulder with their steady stream of opinions about how you're doing it wrong. In the high stakes litigation my firm generally did, depositions were a really big deal and there was rarely a time the client was willing to let an associate do one. At the SEC, we take interviews and testimony all the time and we can bring the witness back as often as we need, so there's usually a lot less pressure surrounding the whole thing. You start to realize, hey, I'm smart, of course I can do this! And you do and it's good (and it's really fun to remind the witness that it is a crime to lie to an officer of the Commission).

(Also, to the last point, I don't think I'm more shy in person, I'm really not shy at all, but I think I'm less confident. Or I was. I'm not sure that's true now, after 4 years at the firm and nearly a year at the SEC I'm a lot more comfortable and confident in my role as attorney and signer of subpoenas.)

Are you sleeping better? If yes, what worked? I struggle with insomnia too and the times when you've had it, I've wondered if it's pure stress.

No, I am not. My insomnia is definitely exacerbated by stress, but falling asleep in less than an hour or two has been a lifelong struggle for me. Exercise helps some, a regular bedtime helps too, and drugs help the most but not always. It's a continuing battle (and/or cage match) and I'm the loser far too often.

Landon seems like an amazing big brother, but I wonder if he had any trouble adjusting when (and before) she arrived. Any act-outs? Any advice you have to impart for any parents transitioning from 1 to 2? Thanks!!

He really didn't. We didn't do too much prep before Claire arrived, mostly because I didn't think the baby would be real to him until she showed up, but we did read this book a lot toward the end. He loved hearing about "our baby" and how he was going to be a big brother and could help us take care of her at first and then play with as she got bigger. He was super excited about the whole thing and from the day Claire was born, has been her biggest fan (of course, he didn't have to get up with her at 3 a.m.). I think it helped a lot that he stayed in his daycare throughout my maternity leave. He loved school, loved his friends, and the LOVED getting home to check on his "babyclaire." He's also just a super mellow kid who wants everyone to come to his house, play with his toys, and like what he likes. Claire fit the bill with all of that and no one was happier than Landon to have her around. After 2.5 years of sibling love and adoration, they have just now started to purposefully needle each other for the pure entertainment of making your sibling scream. It's annoying, but it brings back memories of me and my siblings, and I know we had a good run of pure peace while it lasted!

You mentioned that Landon wasn't quite ready for kindergarten last year. How is his progress?

Great! Honestly, he probably could have started on time, but that wasn't clear back then (plus we moved here the week of Kindergarten sign-up and didn't know the schools yet, etc.). He's made great strides in pre-K this year with his letters and reading, but the biggest change has been his newfound interest in learning them at all. His love of school has started to expand beyond his love of people and playtime and I think he is going to love Kindergarten, which from my memory, is a great combination of all of the above.

Have you kept up taking barre classes?

I was! and I really liked it. Unfortunately my 10 class pass ran out and another one isn't in our budget of Not Spending Anything Unnecessary Ever (except the surprise pair of Tall workout pants at Costco), but I miss it and am thinking we might just have to make room. It's a great class and is the only form of exercise I haven't found completely objectionable or loathsome since I stopped swimming.

Would you mind listing the paint colors you chose in your recent bathroom and bedroom remodels?

Not at all! Our bedroom is Sherwin Williams Silver Strand. It was the color we used in our Austin bedroom and I adore it. Our bathroom is Sherwin Williams Divine White. I like the color, but I now wish we'd used Silver Strand in there too, just because the tile on the floor is already so light and neutral. Our living room is Kelly Moore Bird Bath Blue. I picked it during a 20 minute lunch break the day the room was supposed to be painted. I love it. The kids' room is Kelly Moore Simply Heaven, another quick pick, but a lovely shade of bright blue that looks great with the navy and bright pink comforters.
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And now, to bed, to fight the good fight against my body for the sleep my body so desperately needs. Last night I gave up around 1 a.m. and spend an hour reading the Downton Abbey wiki pages on my phone. I now know everything that is going to happen in Season 3, but it was better than staring at the ceiling or poking JP awake to tell him I'm not asleep yet. He loves it when I do that. Night!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The A, Part 1

Alright, the answers to your questions, generally in the order in which they were received:

What's the latest with your in-laws? Are you ready to share that story yet?

Nothing at all is going on with the in-laws. We last saw them in May 2010, before Claire was born (so no, they've never met her) and we last spoke with them in December 2010. I sent them a Christmas card, as I do for 145 other people, and they sent one back. For the first time this year, JP's dad added a personal note, writing, "Wish we were seeing you this Christmas, maybe next year?" But then, they never called over the holidays, have never called at any time, and I say the chances of a visit next Christmas are very small. JP loves that they are out of our lives, and even though I am generally an apologist for everyone, I must admit our lives are far less stressful without them in it (For example, I no longer have phone calls that literally make me want to scream and break my phone). But it's sad. It's a sad situation. I can't imagine what is going on in their heads or how they justify the fact they've never tried to contact us or arrange for any kind of reconciliation for a mess they created out of thin air. JP did talk to his dad once, about a year ago, and asked why his mom hadn't tried to call, if not for him, for the grand kids. And his dad said, "Well, you know her, she has her pride." So pride, pride over a meltdown she invented over a crisis she caused, is worth having two grandchildren who don't know she exists. That makes me sad and it makes me angry. The kids are so wonderful and have so much love to give. She doesn't deserve them.

Romance Readers Anonymous updates? I've discovered the Julia Quinn Bridgerton series and like it. (But why I can buy all bar the 5th book on Kindle is beyond me - it's not available to NZ!)

I should do a full post. I've mostly been re-reading lately, particularly the Wallflowers series by Lisa Kleypas (along with Then Came You and Dreaming of You by her as well), Immortals after Dark by Kresley Cole (love love them; she added a new spin-off book called Shadow's Claim and it was great), the Demonica and Lords of Deliverance series by Larissa Ione (the Lords of Deliverance are a particular favorite; she's adding a 5th one and I'm so excited), and Poison Princess by Kresley Cole (my favorite of the last 6 months; I'm completely irritated it's only the first book in the series and I have to keep re-reading it for lack of other options). Diana Gabaldon is finishing up her 8th book in the Outlander series, it should be out this Fall. JR Ward's next book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series will be out in March. And mostly, I just really need to find some new authors and series. (Also, the 5th Bridgerton book was my least favorite, so if you have to skip one, that's a good one to lose.)

Have you thought about doing any non-blog type of writing? I recall you were offered a book deal at one point?

Not really. I used to write a lot at work- formal legal briefs, memos, and articles. A very different type of writing than what I do here, but I enjoyed it and was good at it, or more importantly as an associate at a large law firm, was known by others to be good at it. I miss that. As for other types of writing, yes, I was approached for a book deal, but it involved the nightmare in Chicago and I just couldn't write about, market, or make money off that story at the time. Probably not ever. As for any other type of writing, for as much as I love reading fiction, I have absolutely no interest in writing it, and I don't think I'd be good at any kind of column or regular publication. I like the informality of blogging. It's comfortable. I write into a little white text box in blogger and it goes to the screens of a group of lovely people who are kind enough to read and comment on what I put out there.

Favourite character in the West Wing?

Josh, Sam, and CJ. And of course President Bartlet. And Leo. Not Toby, except sometimes when he is.

Are there women you've worked for who have inspired you/mentored you in juggling that balance?

Not really. I never knew any professional women growing up and I met my first female lawyer when I was assigned a mentor my 1L year of law school. She was quite nice and had three children, but she worked for the DOJ for 20 years before joining her firm as a partner after her kids grown. Impressive certainly, but not as applicable to my intended situation. I met a few more attorney moms as a summer associate, but all with different situations, different priorities, and different levels of satisfaction with their life. So no mentors, really, but lots and lots of examples. Good examples and not so good examples, but I found that every woman's story was helpful in shaping my own. Sometimes it was the exact thing they were praising that helped me realize I didn't want it. Often it was a tidbit, a thought, a way of thinking about a particular situation that made me reach an epiphany or an increased understanding of my own. Now most of my best friends are women I've worked with and all have children. Are they my mentors? No, in fact, I had kids before most of them, but they are my support and my sources of information, perspective, levity, and above all understanding.

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And the kids are up from their nap! Time to close the laptop and start prepping the beef stew for tonight (part bourguignon, part old recipe for burgundy stew I recently re-found, and part of my new goal to buy and use a new item from the grocery store every week (the stew will involve turnips; I'm not sure I've ever had a turnip, but there also lots of red wine and slow cooking of beef, so it is highly likely to be delicious whether it turns out I like turnips or not)). Thanks to all for the questions, they're fun to answer. I'm not sure what I would have written without the prompts which means it's likely I wouldn't have written at all (and there are so many West Wing episodes to watch while the kid are sleeping). Parts II and III coming soon!

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)).

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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)).

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Q&A, Part 2

Our 12-hour round-trip journey to Fort Worth is complete. I have a house I am in LOVE (and lust) with and we've had fifteen showings of our house since Thursday late afternoon. I'm crossing every digit I have in hopes that we get a contract soon, so we can put in an offer for the most amazing house ever 5 minutes after that. Then we have to pack and move and a few other pesky to-do's I'm trying not to think about.

Because I don't want to jinx and/or put too much pressure on my budding love affair with a large, inanimate object (LOVE!), we're turning back to Q&A until I have a contract and can post some sort of "squee!" post with pictures of my new home.

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Burning question: why did you and jp break up in college? I've always wanted to know, because your relationship serves as a great example for marriage, and the fact that you went through a difficult patch but managed to stay together and have such a great marriage is a true testament!

A good question- I just posed it to JP and he had absolutely no idea. My memory is that the paths we thought we were on (JP to investment banking in NYC, me to medical school in Texas) didn’t seem to include the other. I always assumed JP would switch his path and when he started interviewing with investment banks his senior year in the business school I kind of flipped out – I mean, what do you mean you’re thinking about moving to a city you know I’m not going to be living?? It never occurred to me to change my plan to better fit with his (like go to med school in any of the great schools in NY) and he didn’t think to change his to fit mine (like apply to one of the many banks in Houston or Dallas). This is what happens when two very driven people meet when they are 18 and 19 years old. So after a night of me demanding JP to not do investment banking (a ridiculous stance) and JP refusing and going home (an admittedly reasonable reaction), I decided he’d broken up with me, something he did not realize had happened until the next morning when he saw my AOL Instant Messenger away message (do you remember those? Facebook statuses didn’t even exist yet). It was a dramatic, traumatic, and tumultuous few months. I cried for about 14 days, failed 3 tests, and then got my shit together, got back to straight A’s, and dated someone else. JP developed the social life I had always had to force him to have, only to lose his shit when he found out I went on a date with someone else. Much angst, many weeks, and a kitten later, JP had an epiphany at an investment banking callback interview. Listening to the fellow i-bankers describe their schedules made him realize he’d never see me if he worked there, and he loved me and he wanted to see me as much as possible, so he wrote me a heartfelt letter (which he would no doubt be horrified to know I still have in a file in our desk, it's about 4-pages long) while on the plane ride back to Austin and then parked himself outside my apartment door every single morning for about 10 days before I finally let him in. We decided a future together was more important than any of the particulars of our individual plans.

The irony of course is that we ended up leaving Texas because of me, I didn’t go to law school after all, and JP ended up in investment banking after we got married. The break up is actually what made me question my set-in-stone med school plan and led me to law school, and we’ve had an unwavering commitment to each other- a commitment that trumps any individual plan we think we have for ourselves- ever since.

I also want to know about your gay best friend, r u still friends? Is he in a relationship?

Most definitely, though he lives in New York City now so I don't see him very often any more. And last time I checked, he's single. Rarely alone, but single.

And also, if you have any tips on getting baseboards clean! We are not moving but the baseboards in my house are my nemesis.

None! I even googled it. I vacuumed with a brush to get all the dust up and then got on my hands and knees with a magic eraser. My knees and legs are covered in bruises from kneeling on the tile- it has not been a fun project. I never noticed my baseboards before, but after obsessing over them for two days I can spot a smudge from across the room and it haunts me until I go erase it.

I know you might not have a time for a full RRA post (was that the acronym?) but if you had a top 3 either series or individual books as must-reads, what would they be? I have gone back and looked but I am always overwhelmed by how many books are listed. I am only recently discovering the genre, I used to read a lot of non-fiction but of course now I read contracts all day so I need ESCAPE.

For historical romance: Sharon Kay Penman’s Welsh tilogy (starting with Here Be Dragons- very heavily researched and fact based; a great start to the genre) and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. For paranormal romance Larissa Ione’s Daemonica series is fabulous, as is Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark. I’ve read all of those books at least four times each. Other fun reads are Nora Roberts’ Circle trilogy and Sisters of the Heart trilogy. Harry Potter is the best series I’ve ever read, ever, and the Sookie Stackhouse series is fun literary candy.

What is your system (or lack thereof) for budgeting/managing household finances? You seem to be so on top of meal planning and household organization that I'm thinking your finances are equally in order.

Constant vigilance. I have tried various programs and attempted to use spreadsheets, but our finances are pretty easy to keep track of- massive debits from the 1st to the 5th (daycare, loans, mortgage, cars) and then we charge all our other expenses on a credit card that we pay off in full at the end of each month. I check the card balance daily (an obsessive morning habit) and if it’s getting high, we just stop spending money for a few days (except for groceries and gas) until it’s a new month. Every month has its surprise expense (car repair, AC broken, etc.) so I find planning never works out all that well. We have a certain amount we expect to pay on the card for all expenses combined and we try stay under that. We also max out our 401k’s through a direct debit from our paychecks (i.e., we never see that money, which is for the best) and transfer a set amount to savings every month, which then gets transferred to the highest interest school loan. It’s not fancy, but it works.

I'm also generally curious about your school debt repayment progress, but I understand if that is too private.

Ugh, my law school loans are my greatest nemesis. Basically I graduated with about $140,000 in loans. We made some big payments while I was in school (through my summer internships, at least until I got pregnant with Landon and we saved all that money to support our family of three during 3L) and then when I graduated I put all of them on 10-year repayment plans. I could have dragged it out over 30 years because the principal was so high, but I was determined to get them GONE. My payments are nearly $2,000/month but after 3.5 years of paying we're finally making some progress on the principal. The original plan was to pay extra every month, and we have done some of that, but something has always gotten in the way of it being a regular thing- JP being in school (without paid summer internships) and then JP looking for a job for a year made for a different set of finances than we thought we'd have by the summer of 2010. But I'm glad for the short repayment plan because it's forced us to pay a high monthly amount when we might otherwise have balked and found excuses to pay less. We were nearly done paying the largest one down in the months after JP started his new job, but we've paused in order to save for a down payment for a house in Fort Worth. As I said- something always gets in the way, but someday they'll be gone, and that "raise" is going to feel so good!

Tell me more about your siblings. Then . . .now . . . whatever.

Well, I have two. My sister is 3 years younger and my brother is 5.5 years younger. My sister works in Austin and has been a great local babysitter and aunt – we’re going to miss her a lot when we move. We did not get along when we were younger (I mean seriously did NOT- growing up a girl with a prettier popular younger sister is an immensely painful process) but are good friends now. Val is outgoing, funny, and has a new boyfriend we all like a lot. Eric is in his last year of college and will graduate in May, hopefully with a job in Austin or Houston. He’s my dad’s best friend and #1 helper in all projects involving engines (boat and car), remodeling, building, lawn care, and golf. He’s an amazing athlete, was the smiliest most adorable baby, and somehow always got along equally with my sister and me.

Would love to know a little more about how you approached partners when you were looking to publish an article to help fill in your resume. I would like to take this sort of initiative, but as a brand new second year, I'm not sure whether I'm seasoned enough to initiate this without getting laughed at/dismissed out of hand. Did you come up with the article topic and present it to partners? Or did you just offer a hand in research and writing?

You definitely won’t get laughed at or dismissed. I get the law.com headline email every day (if you don’t get this, sign up for it) and when there was a decision on something important or something else securities-related, I’d go to our securities partner and ask if we should write an article about it. I’ve never been turned down. I would also just approach a partner who works on stuff you like or have experience in and ask if he’s interested in writing an article- for a publication or to be sent around for clients. You’ll do all the legwork and the first draft, s/he’ll edit, and then it will be published with their name first. It’s a great way to augment your resume, online profile, and visibility within the firm.

Is your new job with the SEC or is that an acronym for a different firm? Now I'm confused.

Yep, I'll be an enforcement attorney with the SEC (the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, not the Southeastern Conference, to the disappointment of a few of my friends and family).

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Alright, just one more part to go! I haven't re-read or proof-read any of this, so please forgive the probably plentiful typos. My eyes are crossed I'm so tired, so it's off to bed, then yoga, then an open house and many more showings tomorrow. At some point I hope to actually be in our house for a few minutes over the weekend so we can grocery shop and otherwise prepare for the work week ahead.

Six weeks from today and we'll be driving a moving van over 200 miles NE to Fort Worth. (Hopefully to the beautiful new object of my housing affection. SQUEE! Wait, shhh, no jinxing.)

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.

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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!