Sunday, February 27, 2022

Birthdays and First Days

After two weeks off that were crammed with more things than my usual weeks on (except for my last Friday at home when I set down my to do list, grabbed a fuzzy blanket, and watched "Tick Tick Boom" on Netflix at the indulgent daylight hour of 11 a.m. and it was WONDERFUL. Absolutely worth the busy weekend I had to make up for it), I started my new job this past Monday.
I recreated my "first day at V&E" photo I took with Landon in Austin in 2008. He's now a gangly 120 lb. teenager with giant feet, so James had to pick him up and put him in my arms and then quickly take the photo, but we did it!

I'd been by the office the week before to do my headshot, attend a meeting, and bring in some of my office decor. It was my first headshot in 14 years and I knew it would be on any article or speaking engagement I did for the next few years, so I hired a hair and makeup artist to help. They came to my house that morning, set up at my kitchen table, and blow dried and airbrushed me to perfection. Or as close as I can get from the neck up.
I wore my new suit, a beautiful fun necklace James bought me years ago, and my Grandma Mary's pearl earrings. I felt SO self-conscious about how much makeup I had on, but when I saw the picture I was so glad I brought in a pro.
The firm's PR rollout proceeded as planned and my name popped up everywhere for a few days.

I'm still getting to know everyone, but it's been really nice to be back in an office again. The firm is officially going to a 3/2 model starting next week of 3 days in the office and 2 days at home. Working from home has been great, and I wouldn't be contemplating this change without knowing I'll still have 2 weekdays at home, but there's an energy and connection that comes from being together in-person on a legal team and I'm excited to be part of it. And to wear pretty clothes. As much as I love my pj's, it gives me a boost to put myself together in the morning and head out.

Speaking of my commute, it started out well! I bought a new car in my time off and that helps a lot. I can also play with my arrival and departure time to help avoid traffic. Without traffic it is exactly a 41 minute drive from my driveway to my office parking garage. THe kids decorated the kitchen table to greet me after my first day and later told me James had told them "not to put ANYTHING on the kitchen counter before mom gets home. She needs to see it clean." Clean kitchen counters are my love language and the table decor was all Landon and the girls' idea and I just feel so loved by my crew.
On Wednesday things took a turn for the worse when temperatures plummeted from the 70's to the 20's and a light rain rolled in. Ice formed immediately and in a city without salt or sand trucks, the whole world was a skating rink and it was a dangerous disaster. I left work early, at 2 p.m., but 1/2 mile into my drive home I got stuck on an overpass on-ramp for over an hour. They closed the ramp 3 cars behind me, but without anyone actively injured, emergency crews just taped it up and drove off. Two trucks in front of me had spun out and hit the sides overpass. The drivers were fine but couldn't move their cars. The rest of the cars on the ramp were sliding everywhere and every time I took my foot off the brake, my car would slide sideways. It was so extremely not good. Eventually cars were able to slowly weave around the crashed cars to actually get on the highway. I went exactly 2 mph for a very long time. 2.5 hours later I was home. Schools and offices were shut down the next day and I was very glad to never leave again.
I got my home command station all setup (the rest of the room is still a work in progress; the contractor and crew arrive this week!) and Maggie was VERY HAPPY to be my legal assistant once again. She literally never moved from under my legs. Poor girl, the transition has been toughest on her.
I bribed Milo with a new tunnel the day before I started and he seems fine. Moose refuses to enter the tunnel of death but seems pleased with my absence.
On Friday I turned 39. Schools had a 2-hour delay because of the lingering ice, so it was the perfect lazy morning followed by everyone going to school which is the very best working parent combination.
The kids decorated the table from our well-used birthday drawer and made their sweet signs and homemade cards.
Maggie wore her hat with pride and Claire even made the cats a tiny hat.
Milo almost loved it.
Moose wondered how much you valued your life.
James was SO excited about his gift for me and he did a very good job.
Mama's first fancy purse. It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.
The kids went off to school, I picked up my birthday Starbucks, and then I worked from home the rest of the day.

I cut out early for a happy hour with law friends at my very favorite nacho place with my very favorite sangria swirl margaritas. I've been going there for every birthday since 2014, except the Covid shutdown year, and it was so nice to be back.
They surprised me with a cake and it was the sweetest. A litte later two of my mama friends came by after work! I got to catch up with them and open the cake and just have the nicest time waiting for James and the kids to get back from swimming.
Once I reunited with my swimmers and swim coach, there was more cake and a birthday song.
I love this crew of mine so much. I love how excited they get about birthdays and celebrating each other and reusing the same birthday decor and hats for the last decade.
So here's to my last year of my 30's! I got pregnant with Cora on my 30th birthday and when I look back on my 30's they just feel filled with the joy of smiley babies and chunky toddlers and our little pack playing together at home and on our travels around the world. Our world seemed so small 9 years ago - just the five of us, day in and day out, and we defined the kids' whole universe. Those early years were love and laughter, steady discipline and boundaries, and our house at the center of all. Now at the end of my 30's our world seems so much broader. The kids are older, so much of their day doesn't involve us at all, and our parenting is so much more advisory opinions and talking through their days at dinner each night. They seem so formed- not to say we don't still shape them or that our presence doesn't matter because it does. But compared to 5-6 years ago, they seem to be so much of who they are and will become. And I like who they are and will be so very much.
So here's to 39! A great end to a great decade and I'm so excited about all that lies ahead.


Author's Note: It's impossible to blog anything these days without feeling like the worst navel-gazer. I honestly have no idea how to merge my awareness, sadness, and awe at the Ukrainian people right now in their war against Putin's invasion with a frivolous birthday post, except to note the stark contrast and add that the situation in Ukraine is part of our dinner conversations and our charitable donations (NPR has good ideas and I always look to World Central Kitchen for a way to immediately help someone on the ground).

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Almost Anniversaries and Happy Returns

I published this (and a related LinkedIn post) a couple weeks ago and then got a call early the next morning from a partner about to go skiing with his kids to let me know the firm had a whole PR rollout planned for my big news and could I maybe wait? Then the global head of PR emailed to let me know they were creating a backup plan if the news needed to go out asap and his team was working on a press release and I was like "oh my god I don't even work there yet and I've messed something up and made people work on a weekend." So I pulled the posts because I definitely did not need to break this newstory via blog post.

So now, please go back in time, to the moment when I was going to announce an ending of one amazing phase of my career and the beginning of another. And then I'll write one about getting this next chapter started!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

[Feb. 4, 2022] Last week, on the exact 10 year anniversary of the day I told my old law firm that I was leaving to go to the SEC, I told my supervisors at the SEC that I was leaving to go back to my old law firm. I left Vinson & Elkins as a mid-level associate in the Austin office and am rejoining as an equity partner in the Dallas office and I could not be more excited about this change and the opportunity it provides for me, my career, and my family.
It's the perfect thing at the perfect time and after a million interviews, a hundred phone calls with contacts and mentors, a dozen business plan drafts, and a full partnership vote for admission, I could burst with how happy I am to have it all worked out and official.
My last day at the SEC was today. The whole family came to help me say goodbye to Office 1930 and the kids posed for one more picture crowded around my desk and one more picture in front of the SEC sign. We got a few inches of snow yesterday and everything remained frozen solid today, so I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to get to the office to turn in my devices, but the roads cleared just in enough in the afternoon to allow James's 4WD car to get me and my pack downtown.
I have two weeks off and then I start at the firm on February 21st. The week of my 39th birthday. The last year of my 30's and the start of a whole new chapter. I am, as noted above, VERY. EXCITED. about every bit of this. We took the kids bowling after I turned everything in and I bowled a strike on my first frame. I'm seeing this as an auspicious sign for this next step.


In support of this new path, James and I have spent a lot of time talking about how the balance of responsibilities will shift between us, the childcare we need to get everyone where they need to be each day, and our overall goals for this next stage. So far this has involved many conversations, watching the final season of Hanna on Amazon Prime, two spreadsheets, several lists, and a consultation with a CPA and financial advisor. I feel like there should be some sort of power point at the end.


In other changes we are finally turning the TV room into a real in-home office for me! No more working out of the corner of our bedroom! I spent a weekend clearing out our old bookcases, selling all our furniture, and am working with a desiger to rework the whole space. My new desk has been delivered and I am obsessed. It is so pretty and sturdy and heavy (300+ lbs!) with beautiful details and all the drawers and a hidden section for the cords to be wrangled. James also has a new desk and we have a really nice sleeper sofa for guests or Landon when he doesn't want to sleep in the girls when we have guests. I'm so excited about using the space in this new way and I have a pink oriental-style rug, pretty chandalier, crazy wallpaper, and the most beautiful art piece for the wall behind my desk. I can't wait for the project to be done so I can show you!


Also on the to do list is finding me a suit. I do not currently own one, and while I did approximately 167 interviews during my job search, they were nearly all on Zoom and I could get away with just a blazer + top + pants (possibly of the pajama varietal). I've tried on everything at Ann Taylor and didn't love any of it. I've now ordered options from J Crew and Banana Republic because Nordstrom has absolutely nothing and Dillards had one (and it was a no). It's almost like stores know people are mostly working from home and not dressing up... [Feb. 23 update - I found a suit! I now have this blazer and this skirt from J Crew in every color because it's the first almost flattering business suit I've ever worn.]


As I make this transition and look forward to all that lies ahead, I've been doing a lot of musing on how we got here. In March it would have been 10 years at the government and will be 10 years in this house and this city- a city neither James nor I had been to until we house hunted for 3 hours and then moved here. I didn't know a single person in the DFW area and often felt so alone and unconnected. Now James has taught 1 out of every 5 kids we see around town and I see someone I know everywhere I go. I've taught barre and yoga to so many, served on PTA Boards, gotten to know my kids' friends' parents, know the names of the people I see each day. I have a community here, a deep, well-rooted one, and for that and many other reasons I will be commuting to Dallas 3 days a week and working from home the other 2 instead of moving. At least for this phase of life, I want the kids to continue in their schools and I want to stay in my community here. James has built an incredible team and reputation as a coach and we both want that to continue (and not just because he coaches our three kids, but also exactly because of that).


As I look back at the last decade I feel so grateful for all that my last job change gave us: incredible legal experience and expertise for me, a new and fulfilling career path for James, our SEC ThirdBaby who brought us all immeasurable joy, opportunities for all three kids to explore their interests and have very present parents...


Besides marrying James, joining the SEC is the best decision I’ve ever made and I’m so grateful for my amazing colleagues and the opportunity I've had to serve the public. I’ll never forget sending my first subpoena and taking my first testimony- it’s been a joy and honor and I’m proud of every case I’ve brought.


The last ten years have been an adventure and a gift; I can’t wait to see what the next chapter brings!

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Checking In

Big things are happening and announcements are coming (I accidentally jumped the gun with a post a few weeks ago, so for those who caught it, it will be back on Tuesday!) and it's hard to post when so much of what is going on involves this new thing but life does continues on in the in between.
I took the kids to Hamilton as their Christmas present and they LOVED it. We're back to watching the Disney Plus version regularly and singing every word of Helpless and Satisfied in the car when we drive anywhere.
Bass is such a beautiful theater and I'm so glad the kids were able to experience it!
James met us for a fancy dinner downtown after the play and we tried to get the kids to order steak but Landon couldn't get past the prices and ordered two kids pizzas "for less than half the price TOTAL mom" instead. He also just got a new ski jacket because he's in MEN'S SIZES now and he is delighted by the "tiny armpit pockets" that are actually airvents.
Claire continues to swim and now has play rehearsals and soccer practice. She loves it all.
Cora finally has an after-school nanny to play with her when school gets out instead of a mom who is working and says "just a minute" while never actually meaning it.
Home office updates continue. My new rugs arrived last week- the pets approve (and me too).
We got another snow storm last week (or the week before? who even knows)! Thank goodness it was nothing like last year's true snowpocalypse, but it was enough to shut down schools and businesses for a few days.
My kids have now officially reached an age where they saw no reason to go play in the snow when they could stay inside all day where it was warm. "Texas isn't supposed to have snow mom," said Landon. "I'll just wait until we're in Colorado. It's supposed to be cold there."
A massive fort was built and lived in for two days.
Maggie was the only child to touch the snow, and that was only becaus I wouldn't let her go potty in the house, but she could NOT BELIEVE I would force her fat little toes onto the freezing cold wno. She's only barely forgiven me.
One crazy family member embraced the frigid temps and got in his swim workout in our backyard pool when the Y closed. He is completely insane, but I love him and his swimmer self very much.
Meanwhile, I'm a certified yoga instructor with at least 3 yoga mats in this house and I didn't roll one out once. Snow days are meant to be spent on the couch with fuzzy blankets. Assuming there are any left after your children built their giant fort. (There were not.)
Last week (pretty sure this actually was last week) I drove to Austin for dinner with a bloved mentor and an overnight with one of my dearest friends. It was a lovely mini getaway followed by a visit to San Antonio to check in on my three remaining grandparents. I got to have lunch with my Grandpa Jim in Assisted Living. He was delighted to have a guest and I got introduced to many of the other residents. I remain so very glad I can see my grandparents as often as I can.

I then met my other Grandma and Grandpa at their apartment to take them over to Assisted Living for an evaluation for a transfer. We've entered a tough phase of life and my grandma is declining quite rapidly. It's been hard, and obviously isn't my story, but I'm glad I was able to be there to help drive them over to the building and meet with the head nurse and then drive them back. But it was hard, so hard to see the differences. To see my grandpa want so badly for my grandma to answer the questions right and show the spark she needs to be a candidate for transfer. To see them hold hands and show such love for each other, even as she's less and less herself.
My mom was able to come visit me overnight a few days later to squeeze in a pre-birthday shopping trip. We were quite restrained, selecting only the most perfect of items, and walked out of our clearance Dillards with less than 5 things between us. I'm very proud.
I can't believe I turn 39 this Friday. I spoke to a professor friend's law school class a few days ago and it hit me that I started law school 17 years ago and I've been a practicing lawyer for 14 years. And while it really is the "practice" of law because it is always changing and you are always learning, it is so nice to sometimes realize why yes, I know the answer to that or I've seen that before. I know things! Many things! Even if Milo is unimpressed.
Speaking of unimpressed, our weather jumped 50 degrees after our snow storm because of course it did and Maggie refused to come inside because the sun felt so nice and I'd made her get her toes so cold just a few days before. And because she called my bluff when I told her she had to come in, I went and got some sunscreen for her scar and sat on the front porch watching her for 30 minutes.
Life may be hectic (did I mention we are also renovating our bedroom and backyard? it's not like this house is also my office or anything), but it's always nice to take a moment to make your bulldog happy.