Sunday, November 30, 2008

Halls, Decked

Around 10 p.m. on Friday night, I decided to decorate our house for Christmas. My in-laws were all asleep upstairs, JP was studying, and I had a lot of tension to work off, so I figured I might as well do it productively.

Decorating the house for Christmas was a big deal growing up. My mom replaced almost everything in our entire downstairs with a Christmas version - plates, cups, pictures, candles, wall hangings, knick knacks, etc., it all got switched. My favorite day all year was the day I'd come home from school to discover the magical transformation. Over the past few years my mom has cut back on her decorating and set aside the items she wasn't using anymore in a box for me. That box has been in our hall closet since July and on Friday I finally opened it. It was so fun, listening to Trans Siberian Orchestra, pulling out each piece from my childhood memories and finding a spot for it in my own house. I got so into it that I ran to Wal-Mart at 11:30 to pick up a few missing pieces like candles and extension cords so everything would be perfect on Saturday morning. And just like I used to twenty-five years ago, Landon woke up to a new house, one filled with twinkling lights, snow men, and holiday happiness.

When I was little I always thought I'd be sad to grow up and leave my house and its abundance of love and traditions, but as I realized last year, you grow up in stages, and each year I find myself creating a little more of a holiday separate from the one I shared with my parents. I can now see us spending much of the holidays relaxing in our own home, and I couldn't have imagined that just a few years ago.

We put up the outdoor lights today (and by "we" I mean I decided it should happen and JP and his dad did all the work). Our house and roof peaks are framed in brilliant white LED lights, there's twinkling snowflakes hanging off the front porch, and the bushes are blanketed with multi-color bulbs (I generally dislike multi-colored Christmas lights, but the LED variety are so bright and pretty I find myself growing quite fond of them). There's a big wreath on our front door, lighted garland wrapped down the banister of the stairs, and a mini Christmas tree with all eight of our ornaments hanging proudly on its little branches. The annual letter has been written, the family photo has been taken, and the cards are waiting to be addressed. Christmas has come to the Lag Liv house!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Thanksgiving Story

The day really began last night when JP and I dragged ourselves to the grocery store at 8:30. It was painful, I have never wanted to shop less, but a large dinner requires ingredients so off we went. I didn't have any particular recipes planned, but I had a few printed out and your blog comments to keep in mind, and for reasons I can't explain, I wasn't particularly concerned about the tasks ahead of me. By 7:30 a.m. I had pumpkin bread, made from scratch, baking in the oven for people to eat with their morning coffee. (JP and I hate coffee but keep all the necessary supplies for guests who can't seem to start their day without it.) Landon helped me get out the bowls for the million ingredients that go into the tasty, tasty bread.

Next came the 19 lb. turkey. I combined a few recipes and blog comments and have to say, it came out really, really well. I stuffed it with onion, carrot, and lemon, basted it with chicken broth mixed with parsley and onion, and pretty much let it do its thing. Unfortunately my giant turkey and roaster took up 85% of my oven, so the side dishes were a logistical challenge. I decided to assemble them early and just squeeze them one at a time into the oven whenever the turkey looked like it was willing to share some space. Everything got cooked and I reheated it all at the end while the bird rested and the stuffing and rolls cooked. And as per someone's suggestion, I made the mashed potatoes early and put them in my crock pot to keep warm- that worked out great. I was mostly alone in the kitchen, which was exhausting but truthfully my preference. JP and his dad had taken off to buy a bargain of a train table I'd found on Craigslist, which was of course in an area of Austin that couldn't be further. His mother and grandmother watched the parade and Landon helped me with the dishes I was doing as I went along.

Sometime in the middle of the cooking and cleaning, I washed and dried all our wedding China and crystal. This was its inaugural use- in Chicago we didn't have a table to set or room to store it n our cabinets, so it's sat in boxes for three years. I dug the leaves and extra chairs out of our hall closet and set the table for nine, it looks like a real Thanksgiving table!

The Indians arrived at noon (real Indians from India, not the Native Americans in the Thanksgiving story, JP's grandmother got confused about that when we were telling her who was coming to dinner) and I had cut up smoked meats and cheeses as appetizers. The wife of one of his classmates brought over a traditional Indian bean curry which was very nice and went surprisingly well with our American meal. We had a blast with them, as always, and at 1:30 pm we sat down to eat this glorious piece of poultry:

It was a really nice meal- everyone was complimentary, chatty, and in high spirits. Once it was over the boys worked in shifts to wash and dry every piece of China and crystal, all the while teaching JP more bad words in Hindi (he apparently has quite the cursing repertoire). Lots of Washers games were played before and after dinner and once the dishes were done there was a touch football game in our cul-de-sac. We gave the Indians the most classic, vegetarian-friendly, American Thanksgiving Day we possibly could :) The experience was capped off with pumpkin pie, of which Landon was a HUGE fan. I fed him two pieces!

Now everyone is at the UT v. A&M game. I gave my ticket to my law clerk, he's infinitely more helpful than my secretary and I was having a tough time finding a sitter for Landon. It was a good decision, my feet and back are throbbing and I'm greatly enjoying an evening at home with a glass of wine.

So it was a really good day. We had wonderful guests and much to be thankful for. I never forget that a year ago today things weren't quite so perfect in our little world. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Thanksgiving Due Diligence

I worked until 11:30 last night, I'm working from home right now. My in-laws arrive tomorrow, I'm cooking a full Thanksgiving dinner, for the first time ever, for 9 people on Thursday at 1. I had to say no to a partner this morning when a deal that I thought had died popped back up in the form of a box of diligence materials FedExed to my office. I talked with another first year who had nothing on her desk, filled her in on the deal's background, and then informed the partner of my full plate and fully briefed replacement. He was happy with the switch, at this point I don't think people care much which first year is doing their work as long as it's getting done. I was sad to turn him down since I haven't worked with him yet and the deal is an interesting one, but given the sheer volume of material I have a feeling I'll be taking some of those documents home over Thanksgiving anyway.

Sometime before Thursday I need to grocery shop and look up recipes for turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes (can you believe I haven't made those before? I love them so). Getting some sleep would also be good or else I'm going to crack under the strain my in-laws bring to the house. My role is to keep everyone calm and rational and not yelling at each other, and escaping to my office to review some contracts might sound good by Sunday. Luckily we can all agree that we adore Landon and he's such a busy little guy these days, I'm sure we'll stay entertained watching him dance and run around the house.

I can't believe Thanksgiving is in a day and a half. I can't believe I'm cooking the 19 lb. turkey that's sitting in my fridge. Is it hard? I'm a good follower of directions, I should be okay right? Four of our guests are Indian MBA classmates of JP. They've never been to a Thanksgiving dinner and won't be eating the turkey, so that takes some of the pressure off. Plus they're funny and friendly (we've had them over several times before) and I'm looking forward to introducing them to lots of delicious side dishes. Which reminds me, I need to keep the stuffing vegetarian and keep it out of the turkey -- how do you make stuffing? Sometime tomorrow I need to look up recipes and create a shopping list. I am a Doctor of Law but I'm not sure I'm qualified to cook a Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Burning Through the Midnight M&Ms

It's 10:30 pm, I'm at work, and I'm not sure when I'll be able to go home. I'd complain about this fact except that it makes me feel like a real lawyer and I'm dorky enough to get a kick out of that. I also have a caffeine free diet coke and pile of m&ms on my desk, so really, it could be worse.

I did get to see the Landon. I went home at 5:30 and spent two hours eating graham crackers (I know, parenting fail, but it's all he wanted and then I decided I wanted some too and so that's the healthy, wholesome dinner we shared this evening- he eats very well at daycare, I promise), banging spatulas on various household objects, and reading Brown Bear Brown Bear on repeat while he did some kind of interpretive dance to the words (he's an artist, what can I say). The 26 lb. ball of pure joy he has been for the past several weeks deserve so many posts but I never have time to write them. I put his snuggly self to bed at 7:30, kissed JP goodbye for the second time today, and headed back to my office.

There's mountains of paper all over my desk, my extra chair, and the floor- I walked in to this morning hoping it wasn't as bad as I remembered from Thursday afternoon when I abandoned everything to run to the airport. Unfortunately, I think it might be worse. The good news is that I genuinely like what I'm doing. I don't think I love it, not yet anyway, but I'm not unhappy, I like the people I work with, and I make enough to support my family, pay off my loans, and buy Landon a play kitchen. I'm challenged by the work I'm doing on this deal and I've developed a small crush on the person who organized the virtual data room for the other side- such organization and comprehensiveness I thought only existed in my dreams. And of course, there's also the m&ms- they always make burning the midnight oil a more enjoyable experience.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Back to a Pumpkin

I'm back from my whirlwind trip to Houston for my firm's annual meeting and prom, and now that I've unpacked everything and eaten a delicious peanut butter, banana, and honey sandwich, possibly topped with powdered sugar and followed by a peanut butter cookie, I feel ready to tell the tale.

In short, it was a good time. I flew out Thursday evening, checked in at the Four Seasons, and headed to dinner at a nearby sushi restaurant with a group of people from the Austin office. Lots of raw fish and four bottles of wine later, I found myself in the hotel bar ordering a Long Island Ice Tea. I haven't had a Long Island since 2002 and I think it'll be a good six years before I have another because oh my goodness they pack a punch. Luckily I was surrounded by 100 other attorneys all at varying levels of intoxication so no one noticed any rambling or two-stepping that may or may not have taken place in the lobby. I got back to my room around 2am- so much for the evening full of rest and relaxation I so sorely needed.

Friday was our annual meeting which I found interesting and informative. There were some good speakers talking about various aspects of the economy, along with the annual financial report and naming of the new partners. JP and Landon drove over in the early afternoon; Landon was deposited with his grandparents and JP joined me at the hotel. We had a suite and JP thought it was important to spend time sitting in each chair in the living room- it reminded me of that scene in Knocked Up when Paul Rudd gathers all the chairs in their Vegas hotel. I started getting ready and had a minor crisis about hair. It's naturally curly so I usually step out of the shower, stick some mousse in it, and wait for it to dry and curl itself. Straightening it is as fancy as I get, I have never owned or operating a curling iron or other electric hair-styling device so formal events are tricky. I ended up just gathering my wavy hair into a low pony tail and wrapping a strand around the rubber band to hide it, I suppose it looked okay but other people had very elaborate 'dos. My dress was very fitted (i.e. very tight), dark fuchsia, satin, ruched, and hit just above the knee. I got a lot of compliments and I was probably one of very few people whose outfit cost less than $40. At 8 pm we were on a bus heading over the Museum for the party.

... which was absolutely, flat out ridiculous. I have never attended an event like that and it's funny to think I'll do it again. It was Middle East themed to celebrate our Dubai office and guests were presented with belly dancers, two live bands, countless open bars, ceiling-high decorations, delicious food, henna tattooing (I got a beautiful one down my hand that my mother-in-law is going to love when she arrives Wednesday), hookah bar, shoe "buffet" (tables of slippers and sparkly flip flops to change into for dancing), photographers, and lots and lots of tuxedo and formal gown-clad lawyers. I started feeling guilty for how much money was being spent on the affair, but ultimately decided that I'm not in charge, it represents half of a percent of our revenue, and we donate way, way more than that to charity -- plus we work hard and people look forward to this all year, so I just enjoyed my night at the ball. It was fun to see my colleagues all dressed up and even more fun to finally meet so many of the people I've been working with from other offices. After much dancing, a little drinking (I can't do two nights in a row- I'm not in college any more!), and lots of merriment, JP and I boarded the bus back to the hotel and slept in until TEN a.m. I haven't slept in that late in years. It was lovely.

It's a little strange to sit here on the couch in pj's and a jar of peanut butter beside me and think about the fancy dress and champagne glass in my hand 24 hours ago. I feel a little like Cinderella- a Cinderella with less breakable shoes and much happier home life.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Pants and Presents

Yesterday after my swearing-in I finally picked up my clothes from the woman I found to alter them. I had dropped off 6 pairs of pants, 1 skirt, and 1 jacket- all the bottoms needed to be taken in at the hips and waist and the jacket had to be taken apart and reconstructed to fit my narrow waist and not-so-narrow swimmer's shoulders. I was very excited to suddenly have all of my wardrobe available for me to wear, getting ready in the morning was taking forever as I tried to find new ways to match my two pairs of pants and assorted tops.

Because of the work involved I was expecting to pay anywhere from $100-150 and maybe more depending on the cost of the jacket, and given that all of these items had originally been quite expensive (though of course, I bought them on sale) I considered that price well worth being able to actually wear them. And the grand total was: $27.50. When she told me that I waited for her to go on, assuming that was the cost of one item, maybe the jacket. When I realized that was it, I spent ten minutes convincing her to charge more. She had done excellent work and my "new" clothes fit perfectly; there were eight items in there, that's barely $3 per piece! I ended up paying her $40 and still feel guilty about it. I am all for a good deal, but it's different to shop the clearance rack at Marshalls versus a single older lady in a little house who cares for her elderly mother. I dropped off a few more items (I went through my winter clothes and discovered none of them fit either) and next time I'll probably up her bill again, maybe double it for Christmas. JP and I are saving everything we can to build back our decimated emergency fund and my very high loan payments start in January, but I'm pretty sure that extra $25 means more to her than me and I don't care if she insists the time it took to take in my pants is only worth $2.50.

And on the topic of holiday giving, I wanted to solicit advice on presents for the various support persons in your life. Like Landon's teacher at daycare- there are two teachers in his class (one who is specifically his) plus another one who is there in the late afternoon. I'm assuming we get something for all of them, but can the one for his special teacher (who he adores, quick story: the other day when I picked him up she told me they'd had a "lunch date" - Landon had decided to hold her hand the whole way through lunch. Oh, the cuteness.) be different and/or bigger? What are some ideas of things to give? Being very anti-clutter myself I hate just giving them some kitschy holiday thing to put on a shelf and I'd imagine they get a lot of cookies and such. There's also our cleaning woman. I broke down and hired one when I started working, she comes every two weeks and does the major cleaning and we touch up between visits. I miss being able to randomly go out to eat when we don't feel like cooking, but the increase in my free time at home is well worth the sacrifice in expendable income. Any thoughts? Just pay extra the visit before Christmas? If it were me that's really all I'd want. And that just leaves my secretary, but we have a pool so I don't have one specifically assigned to me. I'm assuming there will be some kind of organized gift giving among the attorneys who share the center.

I like getting all of this out of the way early so as to spare our bank accounts a huge blow in December. I already have my gifts for my parents, JP's family, and my sister (still looking for my brother). JP and I never spend much on each other as we'd rather just save the money or enjoy a dinner out- with both of us so busy, time together is immeasurably more valuable than anything we could put on the credit card. We're trying to decide what to get Landon- I think it will either be a train table or play kitchen. Both would be big, solid pieces I hope he and our future children will enjoy for a long time and would be a good addition to our downstairs play room.

So, thoughts? Gifts for the daycare teachers and maid? Favorite play kitchen or train table? I should warn you ahead of time I'm biased against brightly colored, noise-making plastic monstrosities. Sturdy Little Tikes-like plastic is fine, but I really hate toys that make a million electronic sounds, ours didn't growing up and we did just fine (better, in fact) making them up ourselves. Landon loves the very basic kitchen at his daycare and is obsessed with our dishwasher at home. But he also loves his trucks and trains and a nice wood play table (with storage for said trucks and trains) would be great to have. I can now see how well-meaning parents end up spoiling their children, I'm probably more excited about playing with the kitchen set and trains than he's going to be!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Duly Sworn

Today I, along with what seemed like way too many new attorneys, was sworn in to the Texas Bar. The firm still needs to mail in my licensing fees and attorney taxes to make everything official, but I am in the possession of business cards and that makes me happy. I am very, very busy at work, but given the general state of the economy and the conversation of two girls behind me at the swearing ceremony who were still looking for post-law school employment, I'm not going to complain about that. I'm really enjoying what I do and in my first 2 1/2 months of working I've missed Landon's 7:30 bedtime less than five times.

And speaking of the Landon, he has recently started dancing whenever he hears music. It could be from his mini electric guitar he carries around the house with him, from his Sing Along Stage, or from the TV - when he hears a tune, he shuffles his little feet, waves his arms in a circle, and gets a huge grin on his face. It is quite possibly the cutest thing I've ever seen. When he does it in our bathroom in the morning while we're getting ready it actually makes me forget that I stayed up late reading the 10,000th draft of an S-3 and my eyes are bloodshot and I have to go in to work to read the 10,001th version. He is such a sweet, funny, snuggly, happy, busy little boy- I need to make time to write a separate update for him instead of cramming it into one about my Swearing-In Ceremony, but I need sleep more. Hopefully soon!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Oh Man

It's going to be a hell of a week. I was already swamped with a capital markets offering that is closing in two weeks and I just got an email saying that the M&A deal I spent a billion hours on the first drafts of the charter documents just completely renegotiated its terms and everything needs to be redone "quickly". Also this Tuesday is my Bar swearing ceremony and my grandparents are driving over from San Antonio to attend and then go to lunch and I'm flying to Houston Thursday for our firm's annual meeting and prom and my in-laws are coming for a week in a little over a week and I'd just REALLY rather not have 3,000 papers on my desk that need my attention.

In other news, JP and I bought a new TV for the living room. The one we've had until now is 10-years old, weighs about 1,000 lbs., is as deep as it is tall, and makes a buzzing noise whenever it feels like it. The new one is shiny and pretty and cost the same as my loan payments which don't kick into repayment until January. I figure buying the TV would be good practice for making them. I just watched the Discovery Channel in high definition for the first time and wow, the screen is like having a moving piece of artwork in your house. Almost makes me wish I had more time to watch TV.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Drive Home

Landon and I are in Houston. It was an impromptu trip- a decision made on Thursday, finalized Friday morning, and acted upon late Friday night. I found out that one of my closest friends who I haven't seen in over a year was going to be in town visiting her parents, and I figured that if we were going to be with 200 miles from each other, I could make the effort to close that gap. And so I did. We spent a wonderful four hours together with her boyfriend and Sir Landon and I'm really glad I finally got to meet "her JP" (as she calls her guy). Landon and I will head back home tomorrow after church and a quick visit to my grandparent's house. My sister is coming by in the afternoon so that I can head to the office and finish up a project that is overwhelming my desk at the moment. JP has several group projects due this week so he is spending the two days by himself- we miss him but he has promised to make the most of his time (and not all by sleeping).

I did a lot of thinking during the three hour drive to my parent's house. I left after Landon's bed time so that he would sleep in the car. The radio was off. The road was dark. My mind was free to wander. I thought about all the times I've made this drive - to and from State swim meets in high school, to and from orientation, the many trips up and back during college. My first trip home was October of my freshman year when I brought JP home to meet my friends and see my childhood home. I told my best friend (the one I saw today, she's two years younger than me and was still in high school at the time) that I was going to marry him; we'd been dating for two months. I remember pulling up in the driveway in his SUV, the same one he drives today, and he turned to me and said, "Can't you picture us doing this in the future with our kids in the backseat?" And I could. I remember how much I looked forward to Thanksgiving and Christmas, coming home to visit as the child who was all grown-up and off at college on a swimming scholarship.

I only lived at home for half of one summer, so I did that 3-hour drive quite a bit, usually by myself, and it's funny to think of how my inner monologue has changed. For years it was all about medical school- from freaking out over the way organic chemistry had marred my perfect 4.0 GPA to secretly wondering if I really wanted to be a doctor. I planned my wedding in my head on those drives, thought about children, wondered what my future would bring. But even through all my life changes over the past seven years, I'm still me, and I think that maybe my inner thoughts haven't changed that much at all.

On this particular drive I spent a while being nostalgic about my childhood. I love my life right now, so it's really only a tribute to how wonderful my childhood was, but I would go back to age 5 in a second and do it all over again to come back to today. Elementary school, middle school, high school- every grade was my favorite. Sometimes I long for those days of fun and carefree living- swim meets, nights out with friends, family dinners. I hope Landon feels that way when he's older.

Then I wondered what I would change if I could change anything about my past. But while I've made mistakes and there's memories that make me cringe, I'm not sure there's anything I would actually change. There's a conversation or two I would do differently, there's definitely an email or three I'd like to rescind, but as far as major decision go, I can't say I'd change anything because all of that lead me to where I am now- with JP and the Landon who was sleeping in the back seat. I do wonder if I should have stuck with medical school, I wonder if I should have gone to New York or San Francisco for law school, I wonder if we should have spent a little more time "abroad" in the US before returning to Texas. But here we are, and it's too good of a place to spend more than a car ride wondering whether I could be someplace else.

And now I'm going to go upstairs to the room I slept in when I was five, back when my two-year-old sister slept next to me and we'd stay up past our bedtime giggling and pretending not to be afraid of the dark. I'll flip through my babybook, remind myself that I need to work on Landon's, and then fall asleep knowing my parents are downstairs and all is good and safe in my world for now. It's good to be home.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Night and Day

Today at work I wore a black and white patterned pencil skirt with a black tucked in button down. I paired that with red peep-toe heels, a wide red bracelet, and a short black, white, and silver double-strand pearl necklace. I clicked my high heels up and down the hall, busy, borderline competent, and generally having a good day. I'm working on the second drafts of all the charter documents I struggled through last week and so far the feedback has been pretty good.

So that's me as a lawyer.

Tonight at home I found myself walking around the upstairs in a long sleeved t-shirt paired with fresh vomit, old work out shorts, a messy bun, and thick framed glasses. I was holding a Landon who had just recently woken himself up by throwing up thick, white, sticky puke all over his hair, ears, face, pj's, bed, wall, and floor. He was clinging on to me for dear life, trying very hard to calm down after his impromptu second bath. And as I walked the hallway singing his favorite songs, slowly, finally feeling him relax, I thought that the lawyer-me probably wouldn't recognize the mommy-me right now. My colleagues certainly wouldn't. Isn't it funny how you can have versions of yourself that seem so different on the outside but are both still 100% you on the inside?

And as a side note, I wouldn't say I enjoyed roaming the halls with a curdled-milk pukey smelling baby, but there's something so absolutely wonderful and almost gratifying about the way your child melts into you when he doesn't feel good. That complete trust and surrender to mommy (and daddy) to make things better is probably the greatest and most terrifying part of being a parent.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Toddler's Tragedies and Triumphs

Landon had a rocky day on Sunday.

It started out well with church. He adores other kids and I left him in the nursery happily shaking a maraca in a baby praise band. He gave me enthusiastic waves bye-bye as I walked away to the sanctuary and big hugs and smiles when I returned after service. It was a gorgeous day and I was looking forward to taking him to the park while JP studied. Unfortunately, Landon's world view went from rosy to black somewhere along the two minute drive home.

Suddenly everything was a tragedy: the ball rolling away when he kicked it, the ball being returned to him, the ball sitting on the side of the driveway, the wagon in the driveway, the wagon not in the driveway, the wagon just sitting there and staring at him- all of these seemingly innocuous happenings sent Landon headfirst onto the (cement) ground, rolling onto his back, and wailing up to the sky. I could just picture him shaking his chubby little fist at God asking why, why must the ball move when I kick it? Whyyyyyyyyyyyy. It was one of those afternoons where you have to laugh at the indignant fury of your toddler because you can't understand it, you definitely can't make it better, and it's way too early to start drinking.

Landon has had a few tantrums before and most of the time they're over things I can figure out - hunger, thirst, wanting something and not being able to tell me about it- these things I can work with. I hold him and let him point me around the room until we find whatever it is he doesn't know he wants, or I can distract him with a book or music or labrador retrievers. But Sunday I had to call his Aunt in from San Marcos for reinforcements, and of course, upon her arrival Landon became his charming, flirty little self. He enjoys making a liar out of me.

That evening we went to a friend's house (the one who's a 5th year attorney at the firm with a son a few months older than Landon, she needs a blog name- "Sarah") for dinner. Her husband made homemade pizza and the boys played and played with each other- it was one of the cutest things I've ever seen. They've hung out together lots of times and generally just play around and near each other, but last night they played peek-a-boo around the island in her kitchen. They were laughing so hard they could barely stand up; full belly laughs from two little boys is truly the best dinner music. And then when we got home Landon played a song on his sing along stage and he danced. He shuffled his little feet and smiled and clapped his hands and was so thoroughly adorable I couldn't even believe my own memories of the early afternoon.

Ahh, life with a toddler.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Toddler-Induced Hangover

Ah yes, so I passed the Bar. I was surprised by my general lack of reaction. I think it's because I'd already been working for 10 weeks and despite my efforts to the contrary, I'd kind of already assumed I passed. It was basically a neutral-lose situation; passing allowed me to keep doing what I'd already been doing for two months (but with business cards and without asterisks!) and failing would have been really bad. This sunk in during the impromptu champagne and cake happy hour the firm hosted two hours after results were announced, all eight people in my class passed and I can't imagine being the one who didn't. Also, the big reveal was rather anticlimactic as I found out via a congratulatory email on my blackberry while I was on a conference call in another office. In Texas the whole list of people who passed is published on a public website, so anyone can see it once it's up. This year it was published about an hour earlier than in years passed so I hadn't even started checking yet!

But none of that is to say I didn't celebrate it properly anyway. I had multiple glasses of champagne at the happy hour, went to dinner with JP, Landon, and friends, and then split another bottle of champagne with JP after we got home. Good times. I found myself completely incapable of work yesterday- my first day as a real attorney and I billed about .5 hours. I wasn't at all hungover, so I'm blaming the gorgeous weather and reading fatigue (I've been reading election news stories until my eyes bleed), although none of those excuses are going to get the 149-page S-3 that I had to bring home proofed before Monday.

This week has been crazy for an additional reason as Landon has been sick. He was sent home early from daycare Wednesday with a 100-degree fever. He was extra snuggly that afternoon and evening (which was actually kind of nice) and awoke fever-free and in high spirits Thursday morning. He couldn't go back to daycare for 24-hours, which would normally not be a problem as JP and I have flexible schedules, but we just happened to both have mandatory meetings at the same time Thursday afternoon. This also shouldn't be a problem as the firm has back-up in-home care, but when I called at 7am to book someone I found out there had been a shooting in my safe little city and two armed men were still on the loose! This had resulted in several schools being closed and there were no back-up sitters to be found. More scrambling ensued, and we finally found someone who could come from 10-3:30 and a friend of mine covered until I got home around 5. It was a little crazy, but Landon was in his most charming, playful form and everything worked out fine. Yesterday he returned to his toddler friends and had a great day.

Last night we thought his fever had just been a fluke and I was reflecting on how remarkably healthy he is- his first year had so much drama but other than ear infections he's only been sick once, and that was almost 9 months ago! But around 10 last night, just as I was telling JP how lucky we've been, we heard Landon's wail come down the stairs, kicking off a three-hour marathon of attempted comforting. I had already forgotten the details of those nights spent walking a baby up and down hallways trying to soothe him, but they quickly came crashing back. JP and I took turns holding and rocking him and finally resorted to putting him in the car and driving around the block for a while. I think he had to have been hungry (he didn't eat dinner) but his stomach seemed to be hurting him (the classic pulling up of the legs, hadn't seen that in a while) and he threw every cup or snack we gave him across the room (despite our weariness, JP did excitedly remark on his son's good arm). Finally around 1 am he fell asleep in JP's arms and we were able to put him back in bed. We still got about six hours of sleep, which a year ago would have been better than normal, but I'm exhausted! How on earth did we survive all those months? I'm pretty sure I'm the only person in my class whose bloodshot eyes two mornings after Bar results were posted have nothing to do with tequila.

But still, things are great and Landon is feeling perky again today. We cleaned the house and went to Costco where I had yet another "economics of Costco" conversation with JP, this time over 2 lb. blocks of queso fresco cheese (I love the stuff too, but 2 lbs.?! eating something constantly just so it's gone before it goes bad does not equal cost savings!!). Now I'm trying to think of productive things to do that do not involve the S-3 staring at me from across the table. I suppose our hall closet could use some organizing, yes... I think I'll start there.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Time for a New Signature Block

I am no longer a lawyer-with-an-asterisk. I am a lawyer who passed the Bar!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Happy, Hopeful, Addicted

Last night, after spending nearly two hours pacing and cleaning my office because I couldn't sit still, watching msnbc stream live on my computer (expanded to Full Screen mode because who was I kidding, I wasn't doing work), but not leaving work because I really did have SO MUCH to do, I finally gave up pretending to be a productive lawyer and headed out to an election party. The party was also in honor of one of my oldest friend's birthdays and while I was so glad to get to celebrate with her, I was dying for my laptop and TV with sound rather than closed captions. I gave in to my inner political junkie and headed home around 8pm and soon had my perfect set-up: a glass of red wine, a comfy couch, a computer on my lap opened up to my five favorite political websites, and the TV remote in my hand, flipping between MSNBC and CNN. It was heaven.

And then, I got to watch my guy win. I have never thought Barack Obama was perfect or the answer to all of America's problems, but I do think he will be a great president. I think he is extraordinarily intelligent, confident, and willing to listen. I disagree with some of his positions, but it seems to me that a president's agenda almost never gets effectuated- what matters as much as anything is the way he presents himself and the way he represents America to the world, and in that respect Obama is a big step up. Seeing the faces of the people in Grant Park, watching the videos of people lined up around the block to vote, thinking about what election day means for every American no matter your views- I could not stop crying.

I'm almost embarassed to admit it, but I went to bed before Obama's speech. Landon has not yet accepted daylight saving's time and I was exhausted, but I DVR'd msnbc and planned to watch it when I got up (for some reason I really wanted to see it on TV rather than an internet clip). And so this morning at 6am with a Landon in my lap, I watched his acceptance speech. And I sobbed. And the truth is, it wasn't even that Obama won, though I'm happy about that, it was just all the emotions of the night. McCain's concession speech was also moving. It was classy and heartfelt in a way I hadn't seen from him in this election and I couldn't help but think that if he'd sounded a bit more like that during the campaign the results would have been a lot closer. His supporters on the other hand... well, I hope they decide to emulate their candidate. I think one of the biggest messages I found in this campaign is that voting FOR something or someone is more motivating than voting against them. McCain seemed to spend a lot more time telling people why they shouldn't vote for Obama instead of why they should vote for him, and while the negatives and scare tactics will get people talking and shaking their heads (and sending chain emails), it won't necessarily get them to wait in line for two hours to cast their ballot. The faces of the people in Grant Park really believed in something and even if you disagree with every one of their beliefs, it was still rather amazing to behold.

So here I am, still not sleeping or working because it turns out all those political websites I was watching up to the election are still there, and now they're filled with fascinating behind-the-scenes campaign details. I'm deeply disappointed in the results of California's Proposition 8 ballot measure; I'm a little amazed that a senator who was recently indicted on 7 felony counts won his reelection bid (seriously Alaska?); I'm still in awe at the states Obama managed to win (Bush won Indiana by twenty points in 2004 and Obama flipped it, that's amazing); and I'm really, really sad I couldn't join my friends in Grant Park (which we could have walked to from our first Chicago apartment - argh!). I'm excited about the years ahead. I'm excited to have a new president to read about, criticize, praise, and see made fun of on the Daily Show. I'm hopeful that someday my children won't get why it was such a big deal that we elected a half-black man named Barack Hussein Obama as their president because electing someone on their merit rather than their name or color will be all they know. I'm happy, I'm hopeful, I'm completely addicted to politics. It's a good time to be an American.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Yay America

I am drowning in work. There are incorporation documents all over my desk, unnecessarily complicated stock redemption and conversion provisions have given me a splitting headache, and sometime yesterday I reached the unfortunate conclusion that I have NO IDEA what I'm doing. To top it off, the senior associate I'm working for had two closings today so he has not been available to answer my myriad of questions. I'm an excellent swimmer but I am barely treading water right now.

But you know what? I don't care today. I can't stop clicking on CNN and MSNBC and and a million other political blogs and sites. You'd think being busy would serve as a perfect distraction until results start rolling in, but I've found I can't focus until those results are announced. I'm excited, nervous, and feeling almost overwhelmingly proud of being an American. It's not just that I'm excited about my candidate, I'm practically giddy over how many people are voting. The stories of people getting in line before dawn to cast their vote keep bringing me to tears (I am seriously not that emotional of a person, I don't know what it is about the electoral process that does this to me. This story, courtesy of Citations, did not help). Turnout looks like it will finally be what it should be- quotes like this are just so fantastic: "Secretaries of state predicted turnouts approaching 90 percent in Virginia and Colorado and 80 percent or more in big states like Ohio, California, Texas, Missouri and Maryland."

So whether you're GObama or NObama, yay to all of you who voted. Yay for waiting in line, yay for being informed, yay for exercising your right even in states where your electoral votes are pretty much locked up for the other side. Yay for this election being over and a new chapter in American history beginning next year. I'm off to a big election/birthday party tonight for one of my closest friends- we'll hopefully be toasting to our candidate's victory, but regardless we'll be celebrating the fact that so many people turned out to vote. And hopefully the news will stop showing pictures of people waiting in line because my eye makeup is not going to stand for much more of my continual eye watering.

Time to put on my political party hat - Hooray America!

Monday, November 3, 2008

On Marriage, Giraffes, and Proposition 8

I have little respect for people who see the world in black and white- especially in politics, where you can find intelligent, thoughtful people on both sides of almost any issue. However, there is one issue on which I cannot understand the other side, and that is gay marriage.

This is an issue that feels so personal to me I can barely write about it without tearing up. My best friend since I was five, the boy I grew up with, who was a "bridesman" in my wedding, and someone I've known and loved longer than my own brother, is gay. He told me that in high school and it rocked me to my core in a way you can only understand if you grew up in a suburb as conservative as mine. And while I struggled with what that meant in the aftermath of our conversation, one thing remained absolutely clear: this was my best friend, the same boy I made forts with on the greenbelt and immediately told the truth about Santa Claus when I discovered it - nothing about him had changed and my friendship with him didn't change either. From that point forward I was a secret gay-rights activist. I glared at those who used "gay" as an insult (which in high school is pretty much everyone) and I worried about my best friend growing up in an America that discriminated against him.

And that's what it is- discrimination. Treating two like people differently. I have yet to hear a single coherent, non-religious reason why same-sex couples should be an exception to the Constitution's fundamental right to marry. I've heard "marriage is a religious institution" and while that's true, it is also a governmental one, and until the government stops being the regulator of marital unions, you can't use religion as an argument when there is a Constitutionally mandated separation between church and state. Of course the flip side of that is that churches don't have to have anything to do with these ceremonies, but as a governmental matter, there is no reason to deny a governmental right to an entire class of people. And those rights are numerous and important- joint tax returns, hospital visiting rights, rights of survivorship in wills, the right to sue for wrongful death, automatic inheritance of a portion of your spouse's estate, exemptions in estate and gift taxes, insurance benefits, and so many more.

To me, it is a civil rights issue. Just as I find it crazy that my grandparents lived during a time when it was illegal in some states for blacks and whites to marry, I hope that my children will find it bizarre that I lived in a time when it was illegal for two gay people to marry. Another argument I've heard is that marriage has traditionally been between a man and a woman- well, black people were traditionally slaves and that didn't make it any more right. There's also the "it isn't natural" argument which I'm pretty sure people also said that about interracial marriage, plus there are numerous members of the animal kingdom who prefer to mate with the same sex and I'm not sure it gets much more "natural" than a bunch of giraffes out in the wild who have more same sex "couplings" than heterosexual ones (a random fact brought to you by Wikipedia). But as a married person, the argument that offends me the most is the one that says heterosexual marriage is somehow threatened by same sex marriage. I don't know about the state of your marriage, but mine is decidedly not threatened, weakened, or undermined in any way because more people want to join in pledging their lives to each other. And it's probably worth noting that this is one of the few issues on which JP and I are in total agreement.

Jerry Sanders, a conservative Republican mayor of San Diego who has campaigned for Proposition 8 which seeks to "eliminate the right of same sex couples to marry" (quoting the text of the Proposition), decided not to veto a city council decision to support same-sex marriage. In an emotional press conference that made me cry at my desk, he gets it right: "As I reflected on the choices I had before me last night, I just could not bring myself to tell an entire group of people in our community they were less important, less worthy or less deserving of the rights and responsibilities of marriage than anyone else simply because of their sexual orientation... In the end I couldn’t look any of them in the face and tell them their relationship, their very lives, were any less meaningful than the marriage I share with my wife."

We need more politicians like him- and by that I don't mean ones who think like me (though I wouldn't complain). We need leaders who are willing to truly reconsider their positions, who don't cling blindly to the positions of their party, and who are willing to take a stand and do what is right for the people they serve. I wish I lived in California so that I could vote No on Proposition 8 tomorrow for my best friend who deserves to have his relationship respected by the government just like mine.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Economic Stimulus

This weekend the Lag Liv house did its part to boost the Austin economy- not that the Austin economy seems to need much of a boost.

On Saturday morning JP and Landon had some big man/little man bonding time while I headed to a seamstress to finally get all my pants altered (I brought her ten pairs, turns out I actually do have a lot of pants in my closet, it was just that none of them fit) and did a little winter work clothes shopping at my favorite discount stores. I had great success at Ross. I don't think every state has these little gems, and I have no idea how they get their merchandise, but there is no better store for bargains. Sometimes you walk in and its all crap, other times you can strike gold. On this trip I found a dress for my law firm's "prom" in November- an absolutely gorgeous Nicole Miller-like dark fuchsia ruched satin dress that fits me perfectly, as long as I don't attempt to breathe, with original tags for $228 and a Ross price of $39.99, a beautiful purple dress for future wedding-type events for $40, and two black Calvin Klein dresses for work that quite possibly fit better than any dress has fit me before at over $250 off the original price. I felt extravagant spending that much money, but I knew I'd kick myself for leaving something that perfect and marked down on the racks. I wear a lot of black and have a lot of different shoes and accessories to play with, so I'm certain the investment will pay off (unlike our stocks right now). I also picked up a few things at Marshall's and didn't even look at the shoe section! It was a productive day.

This morning we went to church and then embarked on our first visit to Costco EVER. We went with a good friend of mine (she's a 5th year at the firm and lives near us) and her husband and nearly two-year-old son, all of whom are obsessed with Costco and their pizza. We kicked off the trip by eating several slices of the fabled pizza and then roamed the aisles looking bargains. Although, as I explained to JP, it's not a bargain if it's something you wouldn't normally buy. Here is our conversation in the refrigeration section:

JP: Look I found two-packs of big Naked Juices for only $7- I got two!
Me: That's $14 on green juice!
JP: But it's way less than at the grocery store.
Me: But we don't buy it at the grocery store.
JP: But we would if it only cost $14.
Me: No we wouldn't. This is how these stores make money- they make you think you're saving a bunch but really you're just buying things you normally don't get because they're too expensive!
JP: You are sucking the joy out of my first Costco experience.

He ended up with one two-pack of Green Machine and I ended up with pretty new glasses for the kitchen. Landon made off with a new Sandra Boynton board book - and oh my goodness, Landon-- I don't know whose toddler was in our cart but he was the most happy, pleasant, perfect toddler who has ever been in a Costco. We were shopping well into his nap, trying to push it back for daylight savings time, which I used to love but now hate, and he was so smiley and clappy and just absolutely delighted to be alive and sitting in a shopping cart. The last time I tried to take him shopping I had to abandon my cart in the middle of Walmart because he was screaming and I will not be That Parent. I didn't want to go home and break the magical spell- I must have said "he's just being so... pleasant!" a dozen times. People around me probably thought he was usually a monster and he's not by any means, it's just that this baby, whoever he was, was unreal.

We got home, unloaded the back of our car (we may have picked up a few other items while we were basking in Landon's idyllic behavior), and stuck him in bed. He slept for THREE hours and then continued on his happy, perfect day. We went to the park, where I continued my quest to cross the monkey bars (how were those so easy when I was little? they're so hard now!) and otherwise make use of my outdoor gym since I will apparently never again make it to a real one. Landon loved the slide and the feel of the wind in his face as he flew down it.

Man I love that kid. And Costco.