Sunday, March 19, 2023

St Lucia Spring Break!

We got back from our Spring Break getaway at 2:45 a.m. on Thursday night/Friday morning. I realized, as I was driving to Fort Worth Friday afternoon to pick up Maggie from Doggie Camp at my best friend Kim's house, that exactly one week before I was flying back from Austin and we hadn't even left the country yet. The last few weeks have been crazy.
Two weeks ago I was in Miami for the ABA White Collar Conference and the Women in White Collar Defense Association's Annual Meeting. It was a fabulous, inspiring few days networking with women at the very top of their game. One year ago the first event I attended in my new role as a partner in private practice was the WWCDA dinner the night before the same conference, that year in San Francsico. I remember looking at a patio FILLED with a couple hundred women and being overwhelmed with the realization that I didn't know a single one. I took a breath, checked my brand new business cards in my pocket, and walked in. I introduced myself to a group and got to chatting, ending the night with new friends and connections.
This year I saw nearly every one of those women again, and at least two dozen more I've gotten to know over the last year, and it felt so familiar and warm and happy. It's scary to start, but I feel really proud and optimistic about where I am.

I flew home on Thursday, worked in Dallas for a few days, had a belated birthday brunch with new local mama friends that was wonderful, and flew to Austin for our annual partner meeting the next Wednesday. Every partner in the firm converged at a beautiful campus on the lake for meetings, connecting, and new cowboy boots. The dress code at these things is always complicated, but I was pleased with my day and night "looks," largely cribbed from Bonnie's album and the fact that I've been dying to wear that blue dress since I bought it before Covid for my brother's rehearsal dinner that never happened.
I flew back Friday afternoon, unpacked, repacked, and supervised the packing of the kids in preparation for St Lucia! We set our alarms for a horribly painful 2:30 a.m. to catch our first flight of the day, to Atlanta, at 5:05 a.m. A short layover, second flight and a few time zones later and we were deplaning on the ground in St Lucia!
This trip was my indulgent 40th birthday present to myself. I found the spectacular house we rented online one day when searching for "luxury homes on the beach with a pool and chef." This checked all boxes.
Our travel there was a bit of an adventure. The flights went fine, Dallas to Atlanta and Atlanta to St. Lucia, and customs and immigration was pretty smooth. We carried on our bags, so there was nothing to collect, and went to get our rental car. That went pretty well, though we thought it was funny they immediately showed us where the jack and spare tire were stored. A few kilometers we figured out why- the roads were ROUGH.

Driving from the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road is one thing. Doing it on narrow streets with no lines, no rails, deep ditches on either side, up and down steep inclines (18%!), tight switchback turns you couldn't see around, and dodging potholes was A WHOLE OTHER. At one point, as we slowly drove along, we hit another pophole and suddenly the road felt even rougher and we realized we'd popped a tire. Luckily we knew exactly where the spare was kept and some locals walked over to help switch it out for a tip. I got the feeling this happened frequently. About 15 minutes later, we were on our way again, driving even slower along even rougher roads.

Several wrong turns later (most of the roads do not have names and my phone was refusing to connect to the international cell plan), a few phone calls to the company we rented the house through, and we arrived!

And it was GORGEOUS. We didn't leave again for two days.
There were in fact three pools: the big main one, a smaller one you could jump into from a platform off the main pool (an idea literally plucked from my kids brains and hearts and made into reality), and a private pool off the master bathroom.
There were five bedrooms, all en suite, a large living area, a game room, lush grounds, and a staff that keeps it all running. Everything was open air and beautiful. It was like checking into a lush resort as the only guests. I am social all day every day in my regular life, but on vacation I don't want to talk to anyone in the tourist category beyond those I'm related to. It was perfect.
We could walk down to Sugar Beach, which was beautiful, and soak in the gorgeous 360-degrees views- from the ocean to the pitons rising up around us.
We were greeted by the house manager, who lives year-round on the grounds, and the kids ran around comparing the pros and cons of various bedrooms before selecting their own. Five seconds after that, all 3 were in the pool (4 if you count James), I had a glass of prosecco, and we watched the sunset over the ocean in front of us.
Our Chef, Diane, had a delicious dinner ready for us and, since we started the day in Dallas at 2:30 a.m., were in bed by 8. In the morning we had a fabulous breakfast spread, talked with Diane about the rest of the meals during our stay, and sunscreened up to head down to the beach.
The beach was beautiful- bright white sand and turqoise waters. James and Landon swam back and forth across the expanse a few times, much to the bemusement of the workers at the nearby hotel. The next day, Claire joined them for two of the laps while the boys did at least 6.
Cora, our forever beach baby, played in the sand and the surf and nearly glowed with joy.
We walked back to the house for lunch. I took a nap- something I never do except apparently when I've been traveling and working non-stop for three months and escape to a beach house where I don't where a watch and set my schedule to the sun. I read. There was more swimming. Dinner was delicious. We played card games and went to bed early again, as would be our theme for the next few days.
You guys, it was so wonderful. I napped EVERY DAY. I read five books. James and I got to sneak off regularly to our very separate master suite that was its own whole building. The kids had a blast. We had a blast with them. It was absolutely everything our family needed.
This was the view from my bed where I hung out whenever I felt like it, which turns out, is often between 2-3:30 pm.
James swam and worked out every day. He even made a video about it!
I did not. (Work out. Or make a video either.)
Everytime I see him I yell "mine!" inside my head like the seagulls from Finding Nemo. That's normal right? I mean, he's my favorite on the inside too.
(Oh! I forgot to post at the time, but this guy went two new lifetime best times two weeks ago in the 100 and 200 breast, broke two new masters national records, and was introduced as a "Legend" in the A finals at Sectionals. So damn proud of him.)

I worked the tiniest bit, and even that wasn't too bad when you've got this view.
I did have to relocate myself for a call when I realized the pool waterfall behind me was making too much noise. Vacation problems.
Our only activity was the ziplining tour I booked when we realized Cora didn't remember our zipline adventures in Costa Rica (even though I will never ever forget our little tutu-clad 4-year-old flying through the trees exclaiming in glee). As excited as the kids were, it was actually hard to make ourselves leave the house, particularly since we now didn't have a spare tire and this drive was longer than the one from the airport.
But we made it! James is a great driver. And the tour was wonderful.
We got to fly across 12 lines and the guides were so great. The kids had a blast, and James and I did too.
Even with the long drive, we were so glad we did it, and then we didn't leave the house again until we drove to the airport three days later. It was breakfast, followed by the beach, followed by lunch, followed by rest and downtime, followed by dinner and cards and bed, with swimming in the pool 100x in between.
James bet Landon he couldn't swim butterfly all the way across and back and an impressive 45 minutes later, Landon was $100 richer.
Cora built a lot of sand castles.
I wore swimsuits and even got one wet!
I am a very graceful jumper. When Cora saw this picture she said, "Oh mom! I look like a ballet dancer! ... You kind of don't."
Travel home was long. We didn't leave the house until 1 on Thursday, which was great- we got to swim and eat breakfast and lunch before we left, but our flight out of St Lucia was delayed, customs in Miami was crazy, we had to go back through security which had the longest lines I've seen in years, and then our flight to Dallas got delayed more. We landed in Dallas just after 1 a.m., waited for the bus to our remote parking, and got home at 2:30 a.m. Which happened to be exactly the time we woke up to leave six days prior. Full circle!
As always I'm so thankful for our cheerful and confident little travelers, who handle whatever comes their way with patience and a general sense of the adventure that international travel is.
I think of travel as something that really defines our family. We had kids young and didn't have grandparents free to watch the kids, so we decided we'd take the trips we wanted to take and bring them with us- they might not remember everything yet, but we sure would. On a tight budget it was planning years out, snagging deals, renting condos before vrbo was even a thing, packing and making all our meals at every destination... It's been a decade+ of talking at family dinners about where we want to go next and having the kids help us research. It's been soaking up memories at state and national parks, road trips, airplane rides, beaches, waterfalls, volcanoes and more. It's passport stamps, local experiences, and the purest form of family time.
St Lucia we loved your views, your turqoise water, your hospitality, your Johhnycakes, and the spectacular views of the Pitons rising up from the water. Now it's a countdown until our next adventure!

Friday, March 3, 2023


Hi everyone! (And Landon's girlfriend who has apparently found this blog, according Landon, who seemed tickled by the whole thing.) Since we last spoke I have turned 40 and the wisdom of the universe has been bestowed upon me.

It's nice.
Honestly, turning 40 was pretty great and I've decided I'm going to stick with it for a few years. Forget 39, 40 is where it's at. I have MANY highlights from the last two weeks, so this will be more of a bullet point list by picture.
Last week I flew to New York for work. I deeply love that city.
Even when it rains.

Or maybe especially when it rains- makes me feel like I've earned its greatness for the day. I packed my waterproof Blondo booties, the gorgeous Burberry trench coat James surprised me with for Valentine's last year, my Lo & Sons travel backpack, and my V&E branded umbrella I took from a recruiting event and I WALKED.
To and from lunch, to and from dinner, and around and around and around the city before work.
On Tuesday night I got to have dinner with our amazing female NY partners and had an absolute blast.
It was actually my one-year anniversary of returning to private practice and the firm and celebrating with this group of smart, badass, powerful women was absolutely perfect.
I didn't get to post on my anniversary, but it feels like both less than a year and more than one, in all the best ways. I've spent it traveling and speaking and building a practice after a decade in the government. It has been so hard and so scary and so incredibly exciting. It ended up involving two moves and huge changes for James and the kids. It’s required new routines, new support, new ways of doing nearly everything, from getting the kids to school in the morning, to learning how to save documents, open new client matters, and send bills. And it has been perhaps the best year of my life.

I LOVE my job. I love being a lawyer. I love counseling my clients through difficult situations and being an expert resource and guide. I love connecting with other attorneys and experts and professionals. I love being a partner and contributing to the firm and mentoring our associates. I love the badass women who are not just surviving but thriving in this field and I will never stop wanting to hear their stories of success. It's been a great year, and I'm certain turning 40 is going to make it that much better.

I woke up early to use the hotel gym on Wednesday before flying home, because that's a thing I do now. It feels so dang good.
Then, sweaty and pink-faced, I was walking on the elevator to head back to my room, and I hear, "is that Rebecca?!!" I pull my airpods and look around and it's an attorney I started at V&E with in Austin in the fall of 2008!! He now lives in Denver, I'm in Dallas, and somehow we were both in NYC and walking into/out of the same elevator in the basement of the Hyatt Andaz on 5th Avenue at 9:10 a.m. And he was with another attorney I worked with and summered with at V&E in Austin and haven't seen in years. I've always said NYC makes me feel like the world is so big and so small and then I got to live it.
I went out to dinner with friends the night I got back and I wore a sequined shirt that felt very "I'm turning 40."
The meal was fabulous and the company better. Because we just moved (again), I ended up being able to celebrate in tranches- a dinner with old friends, a night out with a new best friend, shopping with my mom, time with family... it was a perfect representation of my slices of life.

In keeping with that theme, I had a spa night with my new bestie at work who I feel so very lucky to have in my life. It was my first fancy spa trip EVER, my first massage in way too many years, and it was WONDERFUL. Highly highly recommend The Joule if you're in Dallas. It was everything I wanted it to be and more.
On Friday my mom drove over from Houston for our traditional birthday shopping which began in 2002 when I was in college and she'd visit, take me out to lunch, and then we'd go to TJ Maxx or Marshall's to spend my birthday money. She always found treasures I couldn’t see and she always pushed my sartorial boundaries.
In Fort Worth we discovered the Dillards clearance center and our shopping hit new heights. Then we moved to Dallas and I wondered how our shopping would carry on. But never fear. There is a Dillards Clearance Center in Irving, a mere 30 minutes away! We’d never been to another Dillards, how would it compare? Could we recapture the magic Gigi drove from Houston to see? We need not have feared.

Mom, as we walk into a Dirty Dillards somehow even bigger and more ruthlessly organized than the one in Fort Worth: “Oh. Oh wow. I mean, it’s a little overwhelming. We might be here all day.
Mom, taking charge and immediately getting lost, “We start with the shoes! I’ve always needed a pair gold shoes. Do I need black shoes? I always think I do but I’m not sure that’s right. Oh there’s no silver shoes for me, I’m so disappointed.” [walks out holding 3 other pairs in gold and black]

Mom, moving on to dresses, “I don’t think I can be held responsible for what happens here.”

Mom, in the skirts section, “Oh my gosh Rebecca, THIS SKIRT! with a crop top??!!

Mom, walking ahead as I drag our basket behind me, “I guess I should have gotten my own cart.”
Me, “Yeah I was surprised that you wanted to share.
Mom, “Well I didn’t. I was hoping you’d just volunteer to push both.”

Mom, in separates, “OH MY GOSH REBECCA!!
[holds up gold and silver metallic crushed velvet leggings, speechless]
Mom, back in dresses, “okay, I have to be VERY picky. I have very specific needs now that I’m retired.”
[moments later, five dresses in hand]
Rebecca look! I found a dress that doesn’t check ANY of my boxes!”
In the end we walked 8,000+ steps and 4+ miles all inside a Dillards. We finished the day with wine and pizza at the kitchen table, our carefully selected bounty before us, basking in the glow of all the money we saved and the new birthday memories we made.
On Saturday, my birthday!, I woke up to the sweetest surprise decorations. Apparently I fell asleep quickly and James and the kids reconvened and went downstairs to decorate the table. It's the cutest tradition.
My mom headed home, I worked out, worked a bit, hung out with the fam, and got dressed for our fancy dinner in one of my new Dillard's finds.
We don't usually take the kids to what I'd call a "date night" restaurant and it was great dressing up and having them there. I wore one of my new dresses and opened my sweet cards and ate all the food.
It was an utterly lovely day. I love this crew of mine so much and this man most of all.
On Sunday Bonnie came over for our Spring styling! My love and respect for her only grows- she is just so talented and makes my clothes sing. This time we also talked about a few things I could look for to add to my wardrobe, like looser white pants and a crisp button-down.
After a walk, I got ready to meet a friend from Fort Worth at a bowling lounge place. She was driving over for my birthday and we were all going to join. When we arrived, I turned the corner and WHAT?!!
I absolutely never thought there would be any sort of party- we just moved, my FW friends are an hour away and busy, so many of my friends are scattered throughout the country, I just hoped I could maybe have a party in a couple years, sort of a "I'm in my 40's!" shindig.
And yet, my sweet sweet work friend had found James's website online and reached out to him and they put something together with some of our FW friends and new work friends and it warmed my whole heart.
A coworker made these hilarious signs of me and Maggie and everyone was wearing them over their faces when I walked in.
Maggie really liked hers.
We ended the weekend with family dinner and playing Life.
This week I was in Miami for work, wearing Bonnie's outfits, of course, and I'm in Austin next week (Bonnie's outfits already selected), but we'll talk about that later (though hi to Caroline! a blog reader who happened to sitting at my table at one point during the WWCDA annual meeting!).

James is at a swim meet in another city and the kids and I ordered pizza and are watching a movie and I am reflecting on the last week and am just so excited about the decade ahead. In the next 10 years all 3 of my kids will go to college (sob, omg, but also a little bit of squee!), we will hopefully not move, we will travel a lot, everyone will learn to drive, I will still be lawyering, and James will probably still be swimming.

~ Continue to find ways to keep movement and exercise in my life. It's annoying but it makes me feel a million times better to be strong and fit and flexiblen and it's worth the committment and earlier alarm to do so.
~ Continue to prioritize family time. Set boundaries around it, enforce them (to myself and my increasingly busy kids), and soak up this last decade with kids in our house (SOB).
~ Appreciate James to the fullest. He deserves it.
~ Keep up with the little things. The thank you's, the appreciation, and putting pen/text to thoughts of friends far and wide when I have them.
~ Enjoy what's in front of me.

Here's to 40!