Sunday, May 15, 2022

New Windows and Old Memories

There's really nothing like getting your home ready to sell to someone else to make you realize that you're perfectly fine living in finger-print covered squalor most of the time.
The beautiful double-paned windows and even more beautiful "I'm going to live in this house forever" doors I ordered a lifetime (8 months) ago when I really did think we'd live in this house forever FINALLY came in last week.
They were installed over the last 3 days and they are so beautiful I keep wondering if I can keep commuting after all.
We're set to move 3 weeks from Monday and I simply can't believe it.
We've been so busy I haven't been able to think about actually leaving this beautiful home behind.
Nevermind the friends, neighbors, connections, and familiarity we've built over a decade- I can't even process that yet. But this house- this physical structure that we fell in love with sitting on our couch in Austin while our then-1-year-old and 4-year-olds slept. It is so unique, so beautiful, so full of charm and quirks and memories.
It was built in 1949 and each owner- each steward- of this property has left their mark. Extensions and renovations and additions... we didn't add on, but we took down the wall to the kitchen, renovated each bathroom, replaced every damn window, and insulated the garage (among many othr more boring renovations, like hot water re-piping, replacing the hot water heaters, replacing the roof, repainting the exterior, repainting the interior, and replacing both HVAC systems).
I love this house.
All its quirks, all the work, I love it.
And I hope the next steward of this property feels the same.
We spent the weekend scrubbing, magic erasing, mulching, Windex'ing, and scrubbing some more. Then we cleared off every surface, cleaned out every closet, and did our best to make it looked like only 1-2 people live here instead of the clan of 8 we really are.
The kids worked so hard and were so great. It was not a particularly fun weekend, but it did end well.
Cookshack chicken, sangria swirl margaritas, and the kids' first viewing of Top Gun, which was a HUGE hit. The kids are now all asleep in the girls' room. We've been letting them do sleepovers every night until the move since they won't be able to do so in the rental house. It feels like the end of an era and that makes me sad too.

Strangely, it helps to think of how many other people have lived and loved here and then moved on. We found this flyer tucked in our door frame when the old one was taken out. Handwritten on delicate paper, the kids wondered why the phone numbers were so short.
Our house gets her pictures taken tomorrow. She's ready and I can't wait to see how she looks! And then I will be sad, again, because I love this house and I LOVE the memories we made here. The last ten years have been so precious and we've been lucky to call this 0.33 acre home for so long.

Claire, 2012

This girl is going to have her 12th birthday party in that pool the day before we move. What a fabulous run it's been.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

On Mothers and Mentors

I have had an absolutely lovely Mother's Day.
I slept until I wanted to wake up (7:30 am, because I am old), went to a cardio sculpt yoga class (5 days in a row!! who I am I? Rebecca from 2017?) with my favorite teacher, and came home to the very sweetest decorated table.
The kids have a tradition of decorating the table for holidays and special ocasions, but they were flummoxed by our empty party decor drawers that we pre-packed for the move. Luckily, they got creative, and during their usual Sunday morning screentime, used a stack of printer paper and the one box of markers we left out and made me a beautiful table.
I thought I'd miss the sweet toddler art Landon produced for me in such volume years ago, but I must say, teen art is pretty fun too. As were the gift bags the kids dragged from the depths of the pantry for the occasion.

We went to a fancy brunch that included a balloon animal artist and live music.
Landon gifted me his balloon creation.
I wore my grandmother's 4-strand pearl bracelet, and dangly pearl earrings, and though her mind is often gone these days, I felt her with me, just like when I wear my Grandma Jo's ring. And my great-grandmother's engagement ring that was put on her finger by my besotted great-grandfather over 100 years ago. It has been so powerful to wear their jewelry and feel the continuation of their spirits with me. It's reminded me to buy the good jewelry (and use the good china, as both my grandmothers often did) and wear it and know that one day my daughter's will wear it and think of me when they do.
We enjoyed a delicious meal, with grapefruit mimosa, and then walked around the fancy shopping area. At every new store we walked into Landon would declare with a huge sigh that it was EXACTLY the same as all the previous stores. He had so much fun.
But they humor me.
We got home and opened presents. James got me two new pairs of Rothy's because "I looked in our closet and they seem to be your favorite thing."


(Though I am quite taken with my new Birdies and may need a pair or two more. High heels are so pre-2020.)
And Cora's card made me laugh.
"I hope that when I grow up I will be just like you except for the job part."

"Oh you don't want a job?" I asked, my Type A perfectionist self immediately wondering if this was a subtle rebuke of my working mom status. "Of course," said Cora, "but not a LAWYER. You just type and read and talk. I want to be a vet and play with puppies."
Oh, yeah, that makes sense. Working from home the last two years really took all the mystery and allure out of my job for the kids.

I've been thinking a lot this past week about how thankful I am for the amazing women and mentors in my life. I got the sweetest gift from a new contact, a forensic accountant I served on a panel with, and a note saying, "you are going to crush it." He helped set up meetings for me with contacts of his when I was in Chicago to build my referral network and I had the best aternoon walking around my favorite city, going from meeting to meeting, and talking to people who love what they do and are damn good at it. It was like vitamins to my legal and business development soul and the whole trip made me reflect on all the connections that brought me to the new ones I was making.

I had never met a lawyer before I applied to law school. I did some case clerking my last semester of college and got to know a few - one of whom is still a dear friend and mentor who I called as soon as I realized it was time to go back to private practice. But generally, I didn't know any lawyers or women who worked after having children. I grew up in a suburb way outside of Houston where moms stayed home or maybe had part time jobs they could do from home. Maybe a few were teachers, like my mom became later, but generally, the image of a working business woman was one I had from the Diane Keaton movie Baby Boom and she ended up going to the country and inventing gourmet baby food and I didn't see that path in my future.

And so I went to law school and enthusiastically attended any event where a lawyer would talk to me, especially a female lawyer. There are so many women who spoke at lunch events during my law school years who have NO idea the impression they left on me. Just hearing them talk about their practice, their firms, their lives... even if I didn't get many details, even if I never thought I'd be a BigLaw partner in Chicago, I absolutely soaked up their examples. Their proof that it could be done. At happy hours or other events, if I was lucky enough to speak one-on-one with someone, I'd follow up and ask if they could meet for coffee. And so many said yes! I thought I knew, but now I really know how absolutely precious every minute of their day was and they gave me 30 of them- a random 1L law student with wide eyes and lots of questions and I just feel so overwhelmingly thankful to them for doing so. And once I got to the firm, the women I saw- balancing, struggling, handling setbacks, cheering successes, building their lives and their practices- I learned from every one of them.

I've been blessed with many great mentors- men and women- and it's my goal to pay their time, knowledge, and relationships forward to others. Mentoring, and the ability to connect with law students, younger associates, and senior associates, is one of the things I've enjoyed most about going back to private practice. It's important to me to be a successful female partner in this space. Part of the reason we're moving is that how much I enjoy being back in the office- working directly with our associates, having them drop by the office, being present in our practice group, participating in social events, recruiting events, client events... I know I'm still in the honeymoon phase, but damn if I'm not enjoying every minute of it.
Happiest Mother's Day to all the moms, mentors, and caregivers out there. To mother is a verb, and a powerful one at that. I keep this photo on my dresser and though it's of me holding my sweet Cora, it stands in as the perfect image of how I felt holding each one of my babies, and how I still feel when I look at them in equal parts love and awe that they are mine.
I'm so lucky to be their mom and so thankful for the paths in my life that have allowed me to walk with them and with James, and to now forge this new one for me back at the firm, but with all of us together in it, with them at my back and by my side.
Nearly fifteen years into this mothering thing, and as we all sit on the couch together watching Thor (we're slowly working our way through the Marvel timeline), I love knowing that it just seems to get better.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Family Fun Times

Happy May! Life remains crazy and full and wonderful and I'm trying to take this hour while we're all on the couch watching the first Ironman to capture just a bit of it. Like how one week ago we decided to go bowling between the girls' soccer games. A few of our previous weekends had not been particularly fun thanks to packing and cleaning and I thought we could use a full family activity that did not involve packing tape.
I always forget how fun bowling is until the next time we bowl again.
And this time was particularly fun because I WON! I'm a very erratic bowler, but it's so good for the men in my life to be reminded that I can occasionally beat them at things. Landon remains shook.
The next day I flew to Chicago for work.
One of the first things I did at the firm was asked to be involved with law school recruiting and now here I am, the partner in charge of University of Chicago and Northwestern Law School recruiting for the next year.
It is so weird much that building defined my life for 3 years and how it still rattles me a bit to see it now. It looks exactly the same.

We hosted a dinner for the students already interning with us this summer and starting in the fall and then hosted a lunch event for any prospectives who wanted to learn more about the firm, our practices, etc. It was great.
I also managed to walk 7 miles, buy Chicago Mix popcorn at Garrett's, and even squeezed in a stop at Giordano's for a tiny Chicago style pizza on my way back to the airport.
I LOVE this city.
I truly think that walking among tall buildings is my love language. I just smile like a crazy person the whole time. Even in non-walking shoes, a too-light coat, 33 degree weather, and gray skies, I just grin and walk and watch. I love our life, but it will always be mildly mysterious to me that I live in these non-walkable Texas cities.
I arranged for several other meetings while I was there and at one point between appointments, I happened to walk by the very restaurant where my water broke when I had Landon! Talk about a blast from the past- I had vivid memories from nearly 15 years ago when we had to tell our waitor I was in labor and then taking a stack of napkins with us for me to sit on in the cab we hailed to head to the hospital. I loved that it was still there.
I stayed at the Ritz Carlton and ended up participating in a presentation for the board of directors of a potential client from the empty lobby bar at 11 am after I checked out. I managed to angle the camera juuuuust right to avoid the rows of liquor AND the TV screens.
James spent this past weekend at the Masters Nationals meet in San Antonio. He won multiple events and set a new National Masters record in the 100 IM (50.65 which is so fast). He met up with lots of fans and followers and then, even though it was 45 minutes out of his way, surprised my grandpa (and me!) with an in-person visit between events. It was so sweet and meant SO much to my grandpa who is so very lonely now that my grandma is down in memory care.
The kids and I were in Houston visiting my family for the weekend. My sister flew in with her crew and my brother and the twins live nearby, so we got to have a full Rice family reunion.
We spent Saturday on the lake on my parent's boat, tubing and swimming and picknicking at the kids' favorite island.
The tubing was a hilarious bit of insight into everyone's personalities. Landon and Cora were crazy- constantly yelling "faster!" and eventually flipping off the tube.
Claire chose me as her tubing mate because she knew I didn't want to get my hair wet and chanted "you only live once" the whole time- except for her, the fact you only live once means you should live as cautiously as possible. This is also the girl who threw herself off a 40 foot cliff into the ocean Curacao, so she's maybe not the best judge of danger.
But we went VERY slow, my hair did not get wet, and Claire was perfectly pleased with the experience. Even after her much younger cousin flew around in circles on the tube after her.
The swim mat made an appearance, babies ate sand on the island beach, toddlers and little kids spent a lot of time and energy scooping up sand in the water and dumping it in a bucket, and big kids threw footballs and frisbees. It was a lovely lovely day.
We celebrated my oldest niece's 6th birthday on Saturday night and headed back to Fort Worth on Sunday.
All weekend I just kept thinking what a delight it was to be around these 3 kids of mine. We chatted and sang songs on the car rides (Encanto forever), they are SO helpful with their tiny cousins, and are just generally a joy. At one point on our lake adventure one of my little nieces was crying for a totally normal baby reason and Claire looked over at me and whispered, "aren't you glad we're all grown up?"
And though James and I often long for those sweet toddler years, and we are both in pre-mourning for when they will leave us, I thought, yes, yes I am.