Sunday, September 30, 2012


On Saturday morning, we woke up to rain and an email that soccer was canceled. JP ran off to swim practice at 6:30 anyway, because he's crazy, and I got to laze about in bed listening to the rain drops patter on the skylights in our bedroom roof until the kids woke up and joined me. The rest of the weekend vacillated between lazy, productive, snuggly, and happy- often all four at the same time, and the rain didn't let up until late this afternoon, just in time for JP to do yard work and me to be lazy a little while longer.

Claire, modeling my shoes after work on Thursday

We took our annual family pictures Friday morning. I like to time it in the Fall- close enough to the kids' summer birthdays to count as their official portraits for whatever age they've just turned, and not too far before Christmas because I'll use that picture on our cards. It's also supposed to be cooler outside, but Friday wasn't cooperative on that front (or any others). As always, I spent hours mulling over outfits as soon as I booked the session, picked out one or two immediately, and then left the rest until the night before. Late Wednesday night found me chatting on the phone with my friend K as I wandered around Old Navy armed with a coupon and the dress I'd bought for myself 4 months earlier (my outfit always gets picked last and I'm almost never happy with it; this year, I picked mine first- I'm the only one who really cares anyway), searching for a shirt for Landon. The mission was successful and purchased on clearance. The actual pictures did not go so well. After telling the photographer I hoped to get a few casual shots of the kids, "because they love each other so much," they of course spent the next 45 minutes refusing to touch, play with, or otherwise acknowledge their affection for each other. Affection which immediately resumed when we got home that afternoon:

besties once again now that it's just mom with the camera and not someone
we are paying money to capture the sibling love and sweetness

Claire didn't leave the house all weekend. I ventured out for some grocery shopping (in pouring rain, joy), and JP ran out to grab the few things I couldn't get at Trader Joe's (SO happy one of those is finally in Texas and two miles from me!), dragging Landon along for moral support, but the Bear did set foot outside. Frequently on our laps, always within 2 feet of Landon, she was in excellent spirits all weekend. Nothing makes Claire happier than having her whole family in one room all day all the time. Sometimes she'd just look up and smile, like yes, this is how it should be.

how she emerged from her room post-nap on Saturday;
the purse was filled with extra necklaces and two plastic dinosaurs, just in case

The kids played a fancier version of their usual "camping" game. Most weekends it's just nap mats and water bottles in the middle of the floor, but the extended housebound nature of this one required a full-on tent, plus pillows and blankets. I was happy to oblige. They spent at least 6 hours in and around this tent over the two days, playing happily. The details are sketchy as we weren't invited to join them. So often JP and I would turn to each other, practically bored of our exclusively adult company, and say, remember when we had one kid? Yeah, this is so much easier.

zomg mom, kids only, no pictures

I ordered the kids' winter coats on zulilly about a month ago, getting what looked to be nice warm ones for less than $20 each. They finally arrived today, just in time for our trip to Colorado to visit my sister (14 hours in the car each way with a broken DVD player, because we like to do things the hard way), and Claire wore hers all weekend.

me, in my gross post-barre, pre-shower glory, and Claire, my adorable pantsless Eskimo baby

Seriously, all weekend.

what temperature is this room?

I spent most of my lazy time indulging in my love-hate relationship with Shutterfly and their photo books. I spent WAY too long on them and I can't say I enjoy the painstaking process I always turn it into (the perfect background, the extreme customization, the rotating of one photo 5 degrees more to the right, oh yes perfect, wait no, one degree to the left, okay, now which color should the text be?, etc.), but I do love love love the result. I re-read the kids' books all the time and they are frequently in their stack of bedtime reading requests. I'm about halfway through Claire's, with Landon's still to go. I give them to the kids each year for Christmas, so I have to get cracking. I also read the first 1.5 books of Lisa Kleypas's Wallflowers series, which I'm LOVING, and I now blame everyone who's recommended them to me for keeping me up way too late last night.

Speaking of, I have a few more chapters to read in #2 before I can catch up on all the sleep I lost last night finishing #1. Happy Weekend everyone!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Soul Food

It's taken a few days to be able to write something that wasn't either a rehashing of words I've already repeated or a story that managed to be both too personal and not mine to share. Mostly because Thursday, JP's first real day of unemployment, was awful. Awful. But it is done.


This is how Claire walked into our bathroom Friday morning. Her outfit and expression (which I was too slow to capture) both screamed, "Let's DO this day." And so we did. And it was better.

(Landon is No. 7; JP is gently reminding him of the location of the ball)

Weekends are easier. For one, not every waking moment between 8-6 is reminding JP he doesn't have a job, and it feels like a benefit to not have to log in and work on Sunday afternoon like he's had to do every Sunday afternoon since he started the job 16 months ago. He assistant coached Landon's soccer team on Saturday. He's an awesome coach. Truly, it is a gift.

The kids swam in the now freezing pool, probably for the last time until Spring. JP sliced open his leg with a saw while taking down a branch in the front yard. He insists it does not need stitches; I am not so sure, but am humoring him while applying lots of neosporin. He may be headed to the doctor tomorrow. In the meantime, it forced him indoors to prop his leg up on the coach and look up jobs while the kids played, quite literally, at his feet. Their new game is to make houses in whatever room JP and I happen to be in. A "house" is made up of a barrier of just about anything- a line of books, a hodgepodge line of tiny toys collected from goody bags over the years, cardboard boxes pulled from the recycling, and/or a strategically placed cozy coupe. There was a lot of "knocking to come in the house" and "squealing and exiting the house." As always, watching them play together makes my heart happy.

ready for yoga

I went to yoga, grocery shopped, and cooked a lot. One benefit of our cutting back completely on restaurants is that I'm trying all kinds of new recipes, and one benefit of my job and its decreased pay is that I have the time to spend making them. I enjoy cooking; I love the dicing and little prep bowls and music playing and kids underfoot. But I enjoy it a lot more now that I'm home from work at 5 and don't have my blackberry on the counter with me.

Tonight's menu consisted of Beef Bourguignon, whipped potatoes, and fat crusty bread. I made the mashed potatoes this morning, boiling Yukon potatoes, and mashing (and then whipping with an egg beater), and adding butter and sour cream and salt and heavy cream until I couldn't stop licking the results off the beaters. I spread those in a casserole dish, topped with little slivers of butter, covered with foil, and stuck them in the fridge for later.

Then, at 2:30, I began the Bourguignon. I read about 5 different recipes online and combined them all to make this one (which I'm sure is probably some violation of the French classic, but oh my lands it was delicious).

Beef Bourguignon

1-1.5 lbs. beef stew meat, trimmed
1.5 Tbl. flour
4 carrots, peeled, cut into 1" pieces
1 onion, sliced or diced
1-1.5 c. red wine (pinot noir is great)
1.5-2.5 c. beef broth
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
1/4 tsp. dried cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 lb. mushrooms, cleaned and sliced (I used about half; I usually hate mushrooms and didn't yet know the magic that butter and red wine would bring to them)
1/4 c. butter (4 Tbl)
1/4 c. red wine

1. Prep beef (trimming all visible fat), carrots, and onion. Place meat in mixing bowl, add flour and toss to coat/combine. Place carrots and onion together in separate bowl to wait their turn.

2. Heat 1-2 Tbl. oil in dutch oven over high heat. Add meat in batches, cooking 4-5 min. one one side before turning to cook 2-4 min. on other. Remove meat to new bowl (bowl #3 if you're counting) as it is cooked. Continue in batches until all meat is browned.

3. Heat 1 Tbl. oil in dutch oven, still over high heat. Add carrots and onion, thyme, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring frequently, for 5-7 min. until onions are golden brown. Add browned meat back to pot.

4. Add 1+ cup wine, stir, bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered 5 mins.

5. Add 1.5 cups beef broth, cayenne pepper, and bay leaf. Stir, bring to boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 2 hours (I only did 90 minutes as we were too hungry to wait). Stir frequently, making sure bourguignon isn't sticking. Add beef broth as needed throughout if pot gets dry.

6. After 1.5 hours, melt 1/4 c. butter in small saute pan. Add mushrooms, 1/4 c. wine, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir frequently, sauteing approximately 5-7 minutes, until mushrooms are soft and cooked.

7. Add entire contents of mushroom pan (it should still be soupy) to bourguignon pot.

8. Stir and simmer together 10-30 mins. more, until you can't stand smelling it anymore and not eating it. Serve over mashed potatoes and/or beside warm crusty bread.

It was amazing. The separate sauteing of the mushrooms was my own invention, but I hate mushrooms and usually leave them out of any recipe with more than five main ingredients. This one didn't meat that threshold, so I thought that maybe if I made the mushrooms taste like wine and butter they wouldn't be so bad. Well, it worked! Even the kids ate every bite and there wasn't even a scrap left on the bottom of the pot when we were done. The rest of the week consists of the following first-time-trying from scratch recipes:

Mon: pad thai with chicken, snap peas, and dumplings from Trader Joe's (update: the pad thai was not good, way too sweet and saucy, but the TJ appetizers were a delight as always)
Tues: pan fried pork chops, zucchini, corn, and tomato side dish
Wed: lasagna soup, garlic knots
Thurs: leftovers of the above
Fri: homemade pizza

My fridge is full of produce and proteins, the kids are healthy and happy, and JP, despite the gaping wound in his leg, is largely back to his optimistic entrepreneur-y self. He applied for another job tonight (this time in Seattle, because why not move twice in one year) and has calls and other potential leads sprinkled throughout the week. Life really is quite good, even if small parts of it are sometimes not, and I'm so glad I know I can come here to write about both.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In the Firelight

JP likes fire. As a child he used to set army men on fire and drop them off his roof, and though he is violently anti-smoking, he firmly believes one can never own too many lighters. I bought him a gas grill for the new house for Father's Day, and while he likes it, he misses having an excuse to use lighter fluid. I didn't realize quite how much until he saw some on a TV commercial a few weeks ago and I heard him sigh and say, in a voice filled with longing, "I miss lighter fluid." Only JP could that much emotion into a response to a commercial with dancing hot dogs.

We inherited a freestanding fire pit from the previous owners and now that the temperature is finally dipping below 70 at night, JP is using any excuse to fire it up. Last night, after we put the kids to bed, he made a roaring bonfire (using the tree limbs he cut up last Friday and a wee bit of unnecessary lighter fluid) and we spent about 2 hours sitting out there together. He played his guitar, I sat and sipped my wine. We chatted between songs, laughing at silly things the kids had done, wondering about bigger things we can't help but wonder about. It was the eve of JP's last day at work; as he noted, "this time tomorrow I'll be unemployed." And last night, in the firelight, it was easy to grab his hand, kiss his lips, and say, "it's going to be fine." I believe it. I think he does too.

He drove to Austin today to say goodbye to co-workers and turn in his computer. He could have mailed it, but he really liked his colleagues, nearly all of whom are doing all they can to help him find another job, and he wanted to say goodbye in person. He called at 2:30 to say he was on his way home, and while he still sounded sad and a little down- no surprise after turning in his credentials and doing the exit interview with HR- he also sounded really glad he'd driven over.

At 4:00, I looked up from my bank records and decided I didn't want him to come home to an empty house and our planned dinner of leftovers. Why had I earned all those credit hours two weeks ago if not to use them? I logged out of the computer and raced home, determined to make his favorite homemade meal (pasta with tomato cream sauce, garlic bread, salad, chocolate chip cookies), even if it required a stop at the grocery store in 3.5" heels that had started giving me blisters 3 hours earlier. Love, it's hobbling through the aisles of Kroger to buy heavy cream and chocolate chips.

He came home to the sauce simmering and the cookies baking. He'd picked up the kids, who were beyond thrilled with the cookie situation ("Is it someone's birthday mommy?!" asked Landon). They ran off to play in the living room and I hugged JP and waited for him to talk.

"I can't believe I don't have a job tomorrow."

"I know, I'm sorry."

"I hate that I'm not going to have a job."

"I know, but you're going to get another one."

"The cookies smell good."

"They do."

We ate at our little table in the sun room. Claire got pasta sauce all over her face. Landon asked every 5 seconds if he was going to be allowed to eat a cookie. JP did the dishes; I supervised the kids' bath. We did the tickle-pile-on-cuddle game our bed, which is always unfair because JP isn't ticklish but the other three of us are extremely so. JP sang Claire's goodnight song request of Wheels on the Bus, adding lions, tigers, and doggies to the mix. Claire looked skeptical, but barked along by the second verse. The kids were tucked in, kisses were given and blown again from the doorway, JP went out to indulge in a bit of pyromania.

Later, we sat by his fire, him with a guitar, me with my glass of wine, and enjoyed the glow and light breeze. I still hate that he has to go through this process again- the looking, the applying, the interviewing, the rejecting; I hate the way I know he feels about his newly unemployed state; I still dread a day he finds out he didn't get a job he wanted and worry that, like last time, I will at times not be able to find the words to make him feel better.

But that is later and this is now, and in the firelight I know to my soul what everyone else has been telling me for the last 10 days- that we're good, JP and me and our little family, and even if it gets worse first, it's also going to get better, and we can take on just about anything as long as we're together.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Precious Moments

Did anyone else collect Precious Moment figurines when they were little? I never had much of a collection- 5-6 assorted items at most, but the person I am now that hates clutter and small purposeless things on shelves is kind of appalled that I used to lust over those little cherubs in tourist tschotsky shops on vacation.

In real life precious moments that are also kind of appalling, we attended a friend's daughter's petting zoo birthday party yesterday. Rabbits, chickens, goats, geese, and pigs and at least two dozen minimally supervised children.

my bunny mama

Um, okay, let me just...

Petting zoos stress me out- I feel so awful for the animals being choked to death by small children on sugar highs that I can barely watch. I actually snapped at a kid yesterday- yelled, really. His parents were MIA and he kept picking up bunnies by one foot and shaking them. I found myself thinking, a grown-up should intervene! And then I remembered, wait, I'm a grown-up! I asked him firmly, but gently to put the bunny down. I told him he needed to be more careful, that he was hurting and scaring the animals. He looked at me and smiled. Obviously, he's going to be a serial killer. I realized my mom voice was not going to be enough to bring him to the path of righteousness, so I just kicked him out of the animal pen. Later I saw him shove a friend's 2-year-old little girl to the ground and grab an animal feed pail straight from Claire's hands. That kid needed about 4 years worth of time-outs, with interest, but at least that's my first story of having to intervene and parent someone else's child. Obviously I usually only hang out with parents and children of the highest caliber.


But back to my kids -- behold, Claire in a dress! You cannot believe the negotiation it took to get here to wear it.

I let the kids pick out all their own clothes; Landon hasn't matched since he turned 2.5 and Claire isn't much better, but I'd taken the tags off that dress and I was not going to waste it.


She ripped a pocket climbing 6 feet up in the air on a jungle gym, terrifying every parent in the vicinity except her own (we're used to it), but seemed to find the dress generally acceptable. Not that she'll probably wear one again between now and Thanksgiving (when I have an adorable sweater dress that is GOING to happen).

When she wasn't scaling small buildings, Claire and her boots spent a lot of time running in circles around the goose pen. They flapped their wings and ran with her- I'd say she was chasing them, but I think they might actually have been chasing her. Either way, they didn't seem too bothered by it.


Landon stuck with the goats. He pet their horns, because that's what goats want you to pet, duh.

Both kids have a blast and Landon asked to bring home a bunny.

(with their party favor bags, no bunny)

Since the animals couldn't drink wine, I drank two glasses for them. Really brought their spirits up.

We put the kids to bed early- it had been a long day of soccer and yard work, and then I fell asleep on the couch at 8:30, totally freaking JP out and prompting him to shake me awake and ask if I was pregnant. (No. No no no.)

This morning we woke up to light rain, grey skies, and kids who slept in past 7:30. To celebrate the pre-Fall teaser weather (65 degrees!), we ate lunch by a blazing fire in the backyard fire pit and I made pumpkin bread and chicken pot pie from scratch. I went to my yoga barre class; the kids colored and played "camping trip" in the living room. JP played guitar, shot lighter fluid into his fire, and had a few informal interviews for jobs. We went on family walks, the last one with Claire on her Spiderman big wheel that took 20 minutes for 0.15 miles, but she kept exclaiming, "I'm coming Daddy! Behind you! Daddy, I'm comin!" (usually followed by "No help Mama; NO HELP.") and she let Landon push her up the driveway at the end. There was no eating out and no shopping except for the grocery store- it was not a fancy weekend, but it was an absolutely lovely one.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Last night as we were laying in bed, JP asked what I was thinking. He never asks that- mostly because I tend to give him a running monologue of whatever is going through my mind (generally to his great amusement, sometimes not so much), but I've discovered that we've been asking each other that question a lot lately. I've also discovered that for the first time ever, I don't always want to tell him. There are two facets of your response when your spouse loses his job: (1) the emotional- the I'm so sorry this happened, I want you to know there is at least one person who always, always thinks you are awesome, and I know this will work out in a way we'll be thankful for one day, even if we can't see it now; and (2) the practical- the calculating of expenses and payments and worrying about both. There's also the personal emotional- the fact that I too find the whole situation sucky and occasionally need to wallow in it, a wallowing I can't exactly ask my husband to join since (1) he doesn't have a lot of emotional support to give and (2) it just makes him feel guilty and responsible for causing the wallowing. In his words the other day, "it's only been a few days; I can't handle thinking there's problems with us too." True, and neither can I. And there aren't, we just occasionally catch each other in the wrong segment of our reeling response circle. Which is why I sometimes lie silent in bed for a few record-breaking minutes in a row, prompting him to panic about what could possibly going through my head that I'm not telling him, but what I was thinking at the moment he asked me last night was simply, "I can't believe Friday was only a week ago."

Because it feels like a lifetime. The ups- it's going to be fine! The downs- ohmygod this sucks I can't believe you have to do it again. The middles- really, it is going to be fine. There were events- a UChicago law alumni reunion in Dallas that I am SO glad I dragged myself to Wednesday night. It was lovely to meet so many alums from the DFW area and I nearly cheered during a rousing speech by the Dean. UChicago law is a special place. Hard as hell, and 1L is still something I wouldn't voluntarily do again, but special. Thursday was a securities conference we co-host, so I got to be in my suit like a real lawyer, although given the FBI presence in the room with their shiny badges and conspicuous guns, I didn't feel like much of a law enforcement agent. Friday was more of the conference and an early release time because the golf outing was canceled for rain (yay for rain; I would never have golfed anyway- I don't do land sports). I got to spend the whole afternoon with JP, feeling no guilt for leaving the children at daycare until nearly close, while we sat together, talked together, and even, in a moment of insanity, went on a run together. After about half a mile JP looked back at me and said, "ready?" Um, ready for what? "To get started." You guys, I was already running at top speed. I lasted 0.5 more miles before using Tex as an excuse to slow down. JP took off and lapped us and then walked with us the rest of the way home.

JP goes through his own ups and downs, but his direction is always forward. He's had call after call with co-workers, contacts, contacts he's been recommended to by co-workers. He's sent resumes and cover letters and applications. He has his down moments of course- who wouldn't- but he's rather convincingly optimistic about the whole thing. Part of it is that he only has the occasional flash back to "oh yeah, the last time I looked for a job it kind of sucked didn't it?" Most of the time he just remembers that it worked about and he got a great job. I remember the whole damn thing in all its suckiness all the damn time, which is probably why I felt like I fell down a deep hole the moment he told me the news. Luckily I can always, always be the positive party when it comes to him personally. He IS awesome; he WILL find something; I believe absolutely that any party rejecting him is the one losing out. And, as he's already noted, he doesn't get weighed down with worry about the practical financial aspects of things because "I know you're doing that non-stop for both us." True that, but he feels it lightens his load, so at least it's doing someone some good. Teamwork.

That pretty much sums up the last few days. Circles. Cleaving to each other whileoccasionally processing things apart. Marriage. Circles.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Now, Later, Before

I did a back of the envelope calculation today (back of the seminar handout to be exact) and found that by making strong, but realistic budget cuts we have 6 months before we reach a paying our mortgage-level financial crisis. The kids will move to part-time daycare on October 1 (already got approval from the director), JP will defer his MBA loans, and we will cut our discretionary spending by 50% (hard, but doable- down to only food, gas, and limited access to Target). There's room for deeper cuts if needed, including doing something with my loans, our cars, and eliminating daycare altogether, but we can hold off on any of that until at least January, I think. I cannot tell you how good that made me feel. Something out of plan will pop up, it always does- another tree will fall down, a car will stop working- but hopefully 6 months is a big overestimation of how long we need to stretch the severance anyway. It's all about contingencies. Until this contingency proves to be untenable, I'm taking comfort from it and am going to try very hard to stop staring into space. Which is good, because JP already got 3 rejection emails and I need to be the rock for the next few days. Last night was a low point, today I seem fully capable of hugging him and saying convincingly "I'm so sorry, but it's going to be okay." It's a big improvement from knowing he's hurting and wanting to run and hide under the covers by myself. It's a process, quite likely a circular one.

But as long as I'm in a forward portion of the circle, let's go back to happier times- the first day of school!


Why look at the camera when you can gaze adoringly at your big brother?


Landon got a special Sunday night fro yo treat for being so good while I was out of town and for helping his daddy do 6 hours of yard work on Saturday without complaint (seriously, he swept and picked up leaves and hauled wood until he was about to fall over). Claire did not get any because of a screaming incident during dinner, but she's smiling here because she thinks she can convince her brother to give her some.


Earlier in the day, Landon had his first soccer game! He is far more interested in the ball this time around, but still not so interest in scoring goals. JP remains baffled, but supportive.


Also on Saturday, Claire had her first dance class(and through all of these firsts my mind was reeling and desperately needing access to blogger). She was skeptical.


She refused her pink ballet dress, hair bows, tights, and ballet shoes. She deigned to wear a skirt- albeit a black and white striped one- and insisted on her beloved stained "bubblebee" shirt and hot pink cowboy boots. I was not allowed to leave the room like all the other moms and she was most insistent that she sit IN YOUR YAP MAMA.


She ventured to stand a few times, only to bolt back to my lap if I dared to move. Sitting cross-legged on a wood floor in skinny jeans and riding boots, feeling like some sort of ancient giant compared to the 10 toddlers and 4 high school age ballerinas, was not how I expected to spend that 45 minutes. I think she would have done much better had JP taken her and/or had I not spent the previous three days in NYC.


In the end, we decided to pull her out and wait until the Spring. She did seem to enjoy it (from a distance), and I'm certain that by class 2 or 3 she would have been running to join in, but I just couldn't bear the thought of an additional expense right in that moment and her hesitancy gave me the excuse to pull the chord. I'm just proud I managed to tell the office manager of my decision without bursting in to tears and launching into a monologue of the blog post that was about to pour forth from my fingers 45 minutes later. Small dignities.

For Claire's part, she jabbered the whole way home about how she "went dancin!" She did not, but hopefully in Spring she will. Or she won't and she can try something else. Who knows what we'll all be doing 6 months from now- and while I make no guarantees regarding my feelings 10 minutes from now when I go to bed and stare at the ceiling, but for this very moment, I'm mostly at peace with the uncertainty of it.

Monday, September 10, 2012


All I could think about on Saturday morning was getting to my laptop and writing a blog post. It has been a long time since I've needed to write like that. Usually I'm commemorating an event, filling a gap, or writing down thoughts that have been ruminating for a while. Saturday it was a torrent- I had to get the words out or else I was going to burst and cry and tuck myself in bed at 3:00 in the afternoon (actually, I still did the latter two). And more than the writing- I needed the comments. Shamelessly needed them, looked forward to them, read them repeatedly. I needed the community, the slightly cheesy but still real internet hugs, the knowledge that if we all lived in the same town like the olden days, there would be sympathy and empathy and margaritas and then a lot of laughing about something irrelevant and inappropriate. Reeling is the best I can describe it and it doesn't come close.

I'd hoped to be feeling a bit better by today. More grounded, less like I want to cry. I don't. If anything, I'm worse. I was at work thinking "oh my god what if I have to leave this job in two months and what are we going to do." And I came home to a grim looking JP who'd spent half the day working and half the day job hunting and said, "I think maybe this is going to be harder than I thought yesterday. I can't believe I won't have a job a week from today." I hugged him. What else can I do? I had little to no patience for my darling children and just wanted to hunker down in my bed. I hate feeling like this. I'm a bright-side person by nature. It's just so soon to go back to a time that still feels so raw. I want to spend a few hours wallowing in the suckiness of watching your spouse go through it all again, of being the sole-income-earner again and the stresses that come with that, but I can't really, because obviously JP is the more injured party and I feel emotionally selfish and I don't want him to see me wallowing in my morass of sadness and fear and touch of panic over something he feels is his fault. Because it absolutely isn't his fault, and I can't give in and instead spend a lot of time staring into space and blanking out over what's happening around me. Works great on conference calls.

As I said on Saturday, I'm not handling this well.

In other news, while I was gone and JP was on his own with the kids and spinning from the news he'd be unemployed in 13 days, a giant tree limb cracked off our front oak tree in the middle of the night and landed on the gate, effectively trapping the car at the top of the driveway. He called a team of emergency arborists who came out at 7 a.m. the next morning to use ropes and pulleys and giant chain saws to deal with it. A negotiated $350 later and he was left with a giant trunk in the front yard that he'd volunteered to chop up himself to save the disposal fee. It was that huge branch (and I mean huge- the main trunk was at least 12" in diameter and I now realize we are so lucky it hit the gate and driveway and not the roof) I wanted to ask about when I walked in the door Friday night, just before learning the bigger news. On Saturday JP rented a chain saw for 4 hours and spent that entire time sawing up branches for firewood. I brought him out some water somewhere in the middle and casually mentioned that I would probably not have handled the "tree falls on house/gate" situation well had I been alone with the kids (see, for example, the dinosaur roach incident), particularly if I'd been dealing with the kind of news he'd been processing on his own, and he just smiled and said, "well, I've always wanted to use a chain saw." He is such a solidly, amazingly wonderful guy (and husband/friend/father/etc.) that I feel guilty for my not-yet-even-close to thinking of the silver lining state.

I just, I need a minute. Several minutes. I don't do well with uncertainty. I'm all for change- I love change. The adventure, the research, the to-do lists and contingency plans. I am all over that. But this is change wrapped in a dripping turd of uncertainty and I don't know the next step to prepare for, I just know I need to brace myself and curb my aimless stares because I can't honestly answer JP's "what are you thinking?" inquiries without making him feel depressed or guilty, which are of course the last things I need to make him feel, maybe because I am feeling them, and I know so many people have been through this and so many had/have it even worse (and I'm realizing nearly all of you will end up reading this on 9/11 and fortheloveofgod you'd think I could have a little perspective), but in this late-night moment of calculating how many months it will take before we can't pay our mortgage, I can't seem to get a grip on myself.

I'm not handling this well.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I spent most of last week in New York interviewing witnesses. It was a great trip- the flights went smoothly, I even caught an earlier one back, landing at 9 p.m. last night instead of 11; the interviews went well and we made great progress in my case; I met up with two friends, eating dinner Wednesday at an excellent midtown restaurant my would-be literary agent, and eating Thursday's dinner at a secret "beside (not behind) the red velvet curtains" no name delicious $10 burger joint with a close friend from law school I somehow hadn't seen since graduation. I walked and walked and walked- Times Square, Fifth Avenue, Central Park, half of it in 3" heels. I attended Fashion's Night Out and bought a very cute top at Ann Taylor while drinking a free glass of champagne. I ran into (literally) Snoop Dogg in Times Square as I rounded a corner and he exited a building. I nursed glasses of red wine over draft interview outlines and live music in the hotel bar until it closed at midnight each night. It was the perfect lawyer's business trip to Manhattan, with the welcome extras of being back in a big city, some personal down time, and spending time with good friends.

The only downside was that I didn't sleep more than 5 hours over the whole 3 days I was there. My hotel sleep issues have reached epic, near-tears-at-4:30 a.m.-because-I-still-haven't-fallen-asleep-yet proportions. By the time I landed at 9 p.m. last night (I can't sleep on planes either, obviously), I was moving around in such a haze of exhaustion I was concerned about my 45 minute drive home. My head was killing me from skipping dinner to make the plane and blinking was starting to get painful. I made it though, steering down the highways through sheer will and the anticipation of jumping in JP's arms for a fierce hug, spending no more than 15 minutes generally making up for my days away, and falling dead asleep before we had to leave at 7:30 a.m. for Landon's first soccer game this morning.

I pulled up in the driveway to see JP sitting in the living room strumming his guitar, with all the rest of the lights off. I walked in the house and he very carefully put down the guitar, gave me a hug, and rather awkwardly stated, "I have something to tell you: Employer cut a bunch of jobs this week... and one of them was mine."

I just stood there. I was so shocked, I was so instantly panicked, I was so fucking tired. He'd just won a most valuable employee award on Monday! Our savings account consists of three renovated bathrooms- we were working carefully to rebuild it, but we've barely started. He just did this- WE just did this. The job hunt. The getting excited for interviews, doing (or watching) the research and prep and dressing up in the suit, so excited and optimistic in the beginning, far less so months later. We just moved, I just took a substantial cut in pay, he liked that job, and ohmygod this is at least part my fault. Working remotely could not have helped when they came down to deciding the people (as it turns out, 20% of the whole division) that had to go. JP is so good, so smart, he deserves so much better than this, he already feels like he doesn't contribute enough, that he hasn't hit his career stride, and now it's another job hunt, another round of trying to tell strangers across a table why he's great.

It took about 5 seconds for all that to go through that in my head and then I threw myself at him. I felt him tense, then relax, and then his jaw start to shake.

"When did you find out?", I whispered.

"Wednesday morning," he answered, unevenly and very quietly. "I didn't want to upset you before the trip. There was nothing you could do from there anyway."

I hugged him tighter. He had spent 3 days alone with it, taking care of the kids, telling me everything was fine, while I was gallivanting around playing power lawyer in Manhattan. No parents to call, no me to hug him and tell him we'll be fine. I hate it. I hate that he was alone with it. I know him well enough to picture him on Wednesday and Thursday nights, worrying, feeling sad, embarrassed, and angry all at once. I also know him well enough to know those few days alone with it might have been what he'd have wanted anyway.

I still couldn't say anything because I felt so badly for him it felt like I'd been punched in my own stomach and I thought I'd probably cry if I talked and I didn't want him to think I was upset at him or that I was worried (which I was, but it was a low boiling distant third to how awful I felt for him) and suddenly he started talking, telling me that he was already on top of emailing out his updated resume. That all his coworkers had been amazing- so upset on his behalf, telling him repeatedly it was the position cut and not him, putting him in touch with contacts all over the DFW area. He's had several calls, submitted his resume for at least 15 positions, and working on more. He kept talking and talking and I wanted to tell him to stop- that of course I knew he was working on that and I knew he'd find something and we'd find a way to be fine in the interim and just STOP IT, I'm so, so sorry you lost your job. And I'm so sorry I wasn't here, I hate that I wasn't here. But I still felt like I'd been punched and I'd only been home for about 10 minutes and I was so tired and I still knew that if I talked I'd cry and I never cry and he'd think I was scared or upset on my own behalf, but I wasn't, I was upset on his. I finally just put my finger on his mouth and managed a "shh" and hugged him. I said that I was so sorry. We'll deal with everything else, but right now, I'm just so sorry. It wasn't enough- I have no idea what would be, but he stopped trying to reassure me that he was working diligently to fix his perceived failure to the family. I could have smacked him for thinking for even a second that was how I'd view it, but it seemed like the wrong message to send.

He sat down and talked about the call- a call he knew couldn't be good when his boss introduced an HR person on the line, and the incredible number of other people whose positions had been similarly terminated. The severance pay- short, but existing; the way he sat in his chair for hours Wednesday morning wondering what he would/could do next.

A little while later we went to bed. Not the fun reunion romp I'd looked forward to the whole flight home, but a quiet, tight cuddle. Despite my 60 minutes of sleep the night before, JP nodded off before I did. I think he was relieved. The event was 3 days past for him, he'd recovered from the blow a bit, taken steps to move forward, and, finally, shared it with me. I was reeling. I am reeling. All day today, I can't stop thinking about it, worrying about it, feeling sad, bad, sorry. Wondering how he can possibly find something in this small city we moved to because of me; fearing he'll end up with a horribly long commute again, this time to Dallas. Wondering if we'll move. Wondering if we can afford to move. Wondering if I'll leave my job so soon after I started it. And feeling, over and over, like I just watched someone I love get knocked down on the street and have to stand behind a glass wall while I watch them get back up.

I'm being dramatic. I try not to be overly dramatic.

I'm not handling this well.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Vacation Slides

We've only been back a week and a half, but it already feels like forever. Work is really, really busy right now (the main difference between my old job and my new one- no one even hinted I should not be going on my vacation last week and my blackberry stayed behind on the kitchen counter at home). I'm en route to NYC to conduct some witness interviews and I'm so excited. It has been WAY too long since I've seen the Big Apple- the big city, the lights, the walking, the friends (both bloggy and law school related) I'll get to see while I'm here. Oh, and the fact that I get to be the woman in charge instead of the woman carrying binders- it's going to be a good three days. I love Manhattan; sometimes I wonder if I made a mistake when I picked UChicago over NYU and Columbia. But then I think about how much I adored Chicago, the wonderful friends I made there, and the (comparatively) large apartment we were able to rent (which enabled us to have room for the Lanman), and know I probably made the right decision, but it's fun to walk around the city streets and ponder the what ifs.

While I'm doing that, here's a quick look back at our unglamorous, but super fun trip to the Ozarks, because one day I'm probably going to make a book out of these posts and our Summer Vacay 2012, in which we hiked and whittled and searched for monkeys, deserves a page.

Cue projector:

Devil's Den Falls

something is missing...

Miss Independent. NO assistance accepted.

I was allowed to spot on the climb at the end
(also, this is why she's usually in a carrier)

Devil's Den trail, morning 1:

Ready to hike!


balance beam

Devil's Ice Box (it's freezing in there)

Yellow Rock Trail, day 2:

more of the balancing

spot the Landon

making mommy nervous through the camera lens


honey badger

Badger was PISSED when she found out how cold this water was


s'mores (within the guidelines of the drought-induced burn ban)


It really was a great little vacation. It came about in May when JP was about to have a nervous breakdown and I was completely irritated over how much he was working. He thought he could make a break in August and I immediately thought of this state park I'd loved growing up. I called, they had one cabin available for one weekend, at the very end of August. We carefully starting setting aside $500 for the trip, and including gas and our one big dinner out in Fayetteville, spent exactly $520. Not bad for 4 days of hiking, fun, and relaxation. And by keeping me away from the Targets, Costcos, and the internet generally, I figure we saved at least half that in purchase avoidance. So, by my sound economic logic, we saved money.

We hope to go back in the Spring when there's usually water. There were so many dry waterfalls and creek beds we hiked over- it was still beautiful, but I can't wait for JP and the kids to see it in all its waterfalled glory.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Seven Years

I post this same picture every year on our anniversary, but I don't think any other one captures the day quite so well. So young, so excited, SO damn happy. I wore brand new 4" heels for 10 hours to avoid the expense of having my dress hemmed and at the end of the night my cheeks still hurt more from the smiling than my feet hurt from the blisters.

I remember the newness of it. The first time I heard JP refer to me as "my wife" (shopping for his running shoes at the Sports Authority in downtown Chicago 4 days after we were married; randomly to the store clerk, "I think my wife prefers this pair") and the look and smile we both shared as we realized what he'd said. That whole first year in Chicago was one big honeymoon- a honeymoon filled with law school stress for us, a long commute for JP, and having absolutely no money, but we were 1,000 miles away from the friends and family we'd had our whole lives and living smack in the middle of a fabulous city where walking for hours at night in the city lights didn't cost a thing.

7 years. It's not very long in my family. My parents have been married for 32, my grandparents for 57 and 59. My aunts and uncles all somewhere between 20 and 30. But it sounds significant to me- weightier, I feel less of a need to add in the 4 years we dated to prove we're in this for the long haul.

Everyone always tells you that marriage is hard, but until recently my mental response was always that LIFE is what's hard. Marriage is what makes it- if not always easy, then certainly easier. The companionship, the partnership. The sharing of everything, from chores to money to nighttime feedings. The smiles across the dinner table when one of your kids is being particularly adorable (or particularly awful/two), the surreptitious locking of the bedroom door when the kids are busy playing two rooms away. It's having a shit day and coming home to strong shoulders and the best hug. Waking up and scooching over into the perfect spoon.  Being told you're beautiful, knowing you're not, but loving that the person saying it believes it to be true. Love, laughter, friendship, sex, and a lot of cuddling. Marriage is, was the easy.

But then this year- this past 6 months really, there have been moments of hard. Maybe it's because life itself got easier. Sure the move was a hassle, but no one is in grad school, there are no babies, no job searches, no unexplained illnesses- just life, two jobs, and two pretty great kids. So when I found myself so hurt and furious at something JP had done I actually cried, something he hadn't made me do since our dramatic break-up in college 9 years ago, I remember thinking, oh, this is the hard. Not that moment exactly, but getting over it. Not letting my righteous fury prevent me from listening to and ultimately accepting a genuine apology, not flinging his actions back at him weeks later when I was annoyed over something small, not answering the tentative "how was work?" a few days later with a curt "fine." It was taking a breath and relaying a story and laughing with him about it. And then choosing to do that again and again every day until the ease that was always there is back. This is the "work" I never understood people were talking about.

Last night we celebrated our 11-year first date-iversary with fancy wine, meats, and cheeses (and fruits and olives and chocolate; the checker at Trader Joe's was impressed with my spread, and even more impressed when she found out it was for 2) and the Breaking Bad mini-finale. And tonight we went out for a real date at a fancy restaurant. Seven years ago we exchanged vows and smiles and an un-rehearsed overly enthusiastic kiss in front of a church full of people.

Today we celebrate with fewer onlookers, but I'm sure there will still be a few kisses.

To many, many more.