Saturday, December 31, 2011


I doubt I will make it to midnight. Years past, I welcomed the new year with friends, drinks, kisses and songs.  This year, I will stay cocooned in my bed, with my sleeping husband and baby.  I will rouse myself and my husband briefly, we will kiss each other, kiss our sleeping little boy and welcome 2012.

2011 has been an amazing year -- amazingly wonderful and so very tough.  But, I know that I will always look back on this year as the year that my little boy was born, the year that I became a mother, and the year that my husband and I were transformed into a family.  For those things, I am so very grateful.  We drove past the hospital where the little man was born yesterday, and I felt nothing but warm fuzzy feelings and cozy memories of a snowy night in February when our midwife announced that we had a son.  I remember driving home from the hospital, feeling so vulnerable and that the world was so bright, so colorful.  I remember the months that followed, learning my little boy.  I learned that he liked to patted so softly when falling asleep.  I learned that I loved having him in the bed right next to me.  I learned how to finally get out of the house on my own.  My husband and I learned how to relate to each other all over again.  And that was the part of the year that was tough.  I was not prepared for how this year would rock my marriage.  How it would tear us down in front of each other, and how difficult it would be to learn to love again.  Despite the sharpness, the bitterness of this year, I believe my husband and I are stronger as a couple than we ever have been before.

2012.  How I look forward to this year.  This year, I will escape from my biglaw job.  Even though it is still a few months away, I can taste the freedom that leaving biglaw will bring.  I can feel the relief and the stress melting away at just the thought of leaving.  Ah, how I long for this freedom.  It feels so long in coming, and the taste of it so sweet.  This year, we will escape the city and return home.  We will (god-willing) sell our house in the city, and buy a new house and land in our home state.  We will purchase the home that the little man will grow up in, the place that he will call home.  In my mind, I can see my husband, the little man, the Monster and I walking our new land.  Creating a path over the land that, with time, will become well troden.   I will cry when we leave the house that we brought the little man home to from the hospital, but I will know that there are such good things ahead of us.  And then, this fall, I will return to a job that I love, to a boss that I adore and to coworkers who are true friends.  

There is so much more that I want for 2012.  

Most of all, I want my husband to find a job that he adores.  For him, I want a job that makes him feel like all of his hard work has been worth the sacrifice.  I want him to wake up excited each morning, a little scared too, of the challenge that lies ahead of him.  

I want to write more -- three times a week.  I want to write with reckless abandon and not be concerned with perfection.  I want to believe that I what I have to say is worthy of being written, even if I cannot make it perfect.  I want to stop caring about perfection.  I want to banish the belief that if something is not perfect, it should be discarded, that it should be erased, deleted.  (Thank you biglaw for instilling in me a belief that only the perfect should be published.  A fine belief for biglaw, but not a great belief for small law, let alone life.)

I want to run.  I want to push my body and feel the achy tiredness of a long run.  I want to loose the little belly that remains from the little man.  Meh.  I just want to run, if the little belly disappears, fabulous, but I'll survive and love my body either way.

I want to stop buying things.  My biglaw job has afforded us the ability to purchase without thought.  I don't want my son growing up believing that things are more important than people, and I don't want him believing that we can just buy things without needing them.  So, I want to stop buying stuff.  I am fine buying the things I NEED, but I want to cut back on the stuff that I WANT or just WOULD LIKE to have.

I am so excited for 2012.  There are fabulous days ahead, of that I am sure.  And I am excited for what I do not know is coming.  Will the house sell quickly?  ( I REALLY hope so.)  Will we find the house and land of our dreams?  (Whatever we find will be great.)  Will I get pregnant this year?  (Maybe) Will I run a half-marathon? (Absolutely.)  

So here's to 2011, an amazing year.  And here's to 2012.  I cannot wait to see what this year brings. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thing 2 Comes Home

Late September 2010, J and I finally headed to my family house in the country.  Normally, we spend almost every weekend in the fall out in the country, but for one reason or another, last fall we were stuck in the city.  That weekend it was gray and drizzly.  J, Thing 1, Thing 2 and I spent the weekend curled by the fireplace, working, reading and napping.  In my memory, it was a wonderful, cozy weekend.  When we packed the car to return to the city on Sunday afternoon, Thing 2 tried to jump into the car.  He uncharacteristically missed, yelped and fell onto the ground.  J helped him into the car.

The next day, we thought Thing 2's knee was swollen.  It was probably because he missed when he jumped into the car, we thought.  We gave Thing 2 a few days, but his knee remained swollen, and he was just a bit less himself.  Off to the vet.  Maybe lyme's disease, said the vet.  We came home with a bag full of meds.  

Two days later, Thing 2 was not doing better.  He was definately worse.  His nose was swollen.  He was losing weight.  He didn't come upstairs to the bedroom with us, instead preferring to sleep in the kitchen. Off to the vet.   Maybe an allergic reaction, said our vet.  We switched meds.  

Two days later, Thing 2 was even worse.   Off to the vet.  Different meds, different possibilities.  For two weeks, we went to the vet almost every other day.  On a Tuesday night, I sat with Thing 2 from 4 to 5 a.m. as he laid in our room, panting and in obvious pain.

The next day, J and Thing 2 saw a different vet who immediately sent them to the emergency animal hospital in town.  Thing 2 was admitted immediately.  J called.  He could barely get the words out.  He didn't want to tell me because he didn't want to hurt me.  Thing 2 was in serious condition.  Maybe cancer, maybe an auto-immune disorder.  Tests were ordered.  We would be contacted the next morning.

On Thursday morning, the emergency vet called.  She was wonderful:  thorough, compassionate and encouraging of my questions.  The prognosis was not good.  They could not figure out what was wrong, and Thing 2 was fading.  On Thursday afternoon the vet called to say they were going to try a last effort.  She said that we should come visit Thing 2 that night, to say goodbye.  I remember sitting in my office, taking the call and trying to be strong.  I closed the door, crawled under my desk and just cried.  I left the office early that night with puffy eyes.

We walked into the pet-equivalent of the ICU.  I walked over to Thing 2 and dropped onto the floor next to my puppy.  He was so very weak.  He was refusing all food.  He hadn't stood or moved in twelve hours.  The vet reiterated that it didn't look good.  I held Thing 2's head and cried.  Then, like I had so many times before, I picked up a couple pieces of food and tried to feed him by hand.  To everyone's shock, he took the food and started munching away.   We stayed as long as we could, me on the floor in my work clothes, feeding my dog by hand.  When I stood to leave, Thing 2 tried to stand.  As we walked out of his area, he tried to follow.  And as we turned the corner, I recognized a familiar sound.  Thing 2 was howling for us.

The next morning, the wonderful vet called to say that Thing 2 was doing so much better.  He was walking around, eatting and loving everyone.  We visited again Friday night to a much improved Thing 2.  On Saturday morning, we were told Thing 2 could come home.

When we drove up to the emergency vet to pick up Thing 2, I was so thankful.  I knew that we were lucky, that we had dodged a bullet.  Thing 2 was coming home.  I walked into the waiting area, grasping his collar and leash.  Ten minutes later, Thing 2 came trotting down the hallway to me, tail going a mile a minute.

Thing 2 was much changed.  He had lost 25 pounds.  He would always bear the scars of this illness (a severe auto-immune disorder).  He would probably never run with me again.  But I didn't care.  Thing 2 was coming home.  As long as he was happy and not in pain, I was just happy to have my Thing 2 back.  That night, I refused to leave his side.  I sat next to him, next to the fire, telling him how I was so proud of him.  He had been such a fighter.  I would do everything to keep him happy and healthy.

After such a rough few weeks, Thing 2 was home.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Are You Sure You Want To Do That?

I have not kept my fighting-for-part-time situation a secret from my coworkers.  In fact, I have tried to do the opposite.  Keeping this struggle a secret, known only to the powers-that-be, my family and me, while perhaps safer for me, is not what I want to do.  There is power in a fight being public.  There is liberation is saying "this is not fair" to the group that is trying to put you down.  There is unity in telling others and having them stand beside you in the fight.
I guess it should not be surprising that I had a coworker tell me that I should just go along with whatever the Firm/the partner wanted.  Don't I know that he is powerful?  Aren't I aware that he could make my life a living hell?  Don't I know that it could be worse?  Am I sure that I want to do this?
Yes, I know.  I am aware.  And, yes, I am sure.
For years, women have been told to keep their problems private, that their problems are relegated to the domestic sphere, that their problems are not the problems of the public.  And it is that privacy that, in part, has kept women down. 
I have no intentions of running through the halls screaming.  I will not intentionally burn bridges.  BUT, I will diplomatically state what the problems are.  I will make my voice heard.  I will not be quiet. 
A strange thing has happened since I decided that I would not go quietly.  For years, I have felt as though the Firm, the work, the people were draining my self-confidence.  I felt as though I had no power over my life.  I could have hours, days and months taken away from me.  I had no voice. 
About a year and a half ago, my husband and I had planned a long weekend away and I was going to take Monday off.  At the last minute (about 5:00 on Friday), I was told that I was needed in the office on Monday, just in case one of the higher ups had questions for me on a pro bono brief that I had written a month earlier.  A bit later that evening, the same partner called and said, "hey, since you're not going away this weekend, would you pitch in on a project on Saturday and Sunday?"  I wrote a snarky email and said "no."  It was the only time I said no to work (well, that time and the request to pitch in on a "time intensive" project the day that I went out on maternity leave).  But since I have decided to fight, I feel like I finally have a voice.  I feel like, bit by bit, my self-confidence may be eeking back in.  I have decided to stand-up for what I believe in, and it feels so very good.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Time To Fight

I want to yell.  I want to scream.  I am so very angry.  This just isn't fair.  Instead, I sit here calmly, waiting for the next chapter of my life, this drama, my career to unfold. 
I knowingly chose to return to work part-time.  I was and am fully aware of how part-time attorneys are viewed in my office: we are less than others, we are not committed to the work, we are no longer team-players.  I know the attitude.  I know the views.  But those attitudes, those views?  They are wrong.  My commitment does not wane because my desk is now adorned with pictures of a beautiful son, and I choose to spend Fridays at home with him.  My commitment and willingness to work is not less because it is easier to breastfeed an actual living, breathing baby than to hook myself up to a machine. 
But because I became pregnant, took the maternity leave offered and am now utilizing the Firm's part-time policy, I am less of an attorney.
The liason from the home office called me yesterday.  She had already spoken to the Partner in my office.  She spoke with trepedation in her voice.  She asked whether I was ready to return to the office on the fourth day, perhaps I was ready to come back full-time?  No, I am not.  According to the partner, my return on the fourth day was not up for discussion, but it was "fine" for me to stay part-time for a little longer.  His statement, his attitude, his belief is not in accord with Firm policy.  He will not follow Firm policy.  According to him, I already "agreed" to return.  No.  I did not.  I will not. 
And now I am faced with this:  Do I fight?  Do I try and stand up?  Do I say:  "The Firm has a policy.  The policy is designed to help attract and retain women and mothers.  You will follow the policy."  Do I yell: "I am not less because I am a mother.  I am not less because I 'only' work 40 hours per week."  
I know that if I stand, if I fight, I am burning bridges. 
And that pisses me off.  I should not have to fight for what the Firm has already agreed to, what the Firm acknowledges is good policy.  I should not have to defend that women are not less because we are mothers. 
I refuse to stand on the sidelines any longer.  I refuse to allow the powers-that-be in my office to continue to hold their antiquated views over every woman's head, an ever-present and silent threat to our careers.
Maybe I will burn this bridge.  I do not want to.  I want to be treated fairly.  I want to be judged by the quality of my work and not my anatomy. 
I will fight.  It is time for me to move on anyway.  And if I do not fight, who will?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Thing 2

Before the Monster (our 100 pound, year old puppy) and the little man, Thing 1 and Thing 2 dominated our lives. Thing 1's story is for another day, but for the moment know that she was an english bulldog, born in 2001 and was one hundred percent J's dog. Thing 1 was a sweetheart who lived on the softest piece of furniture she could find.

About half-way through law school, I decided I wanted a dog of my own.  A dog that would love me like Thing 1 loved J.  The fall of my third year of law school, I began the search for Thing 2. I debated breeds, researched breeders, called breeders and owners. Around Thanksgiving, I found the breeder.  She was located twelve hours away, had glowing references and health clearances.  I was a poor law student, so I picked up a job to pay for the puppy and related expenses.

Thing 2 was born in January.  For eight weeks, I lived for the pictures of Thing 2 that we received from the breeder.  I watched him grow from a tiny little puppy into an adorable fluff-ball.   Finally, the week arrived to pick-up Thing 2. I planned all week.  I did our final puppy shopping: adorable toys, a puppy dog bed (that lasted all of a day), puppy shampoo and rug shampoo.  I was ready.

J and I got up at three in the morning to make the twelve hour drive to the breeder's house.  I remember sitting in the breeder's kitchen, waiting for the puppy -- my puppy -- to be brought from the down stairs puppy den.  I saw the door open, and a twelve pound ball of fluff attacked my face with a flurry of kisses.  Finally, Thing 2 was mine, and after two seconds, I was completely wrapped around his paw.  Then, Thing 2 got the hiccups and settled into my lap as we received instructions on his care.

Thing 2 slept in my lap the entire ride home (and then refused to sleep when we finally got home).   I remember looking down at him and being deliriously happy with my new puppy. That semester, I rigged my schedule to be home more. I would race home to spend time with Thing 2.  I would walk him through our neighborhood as he pranced and fawned at the attention from everyone.  He would get scared easily as a puppy and would race to me for comfort.

Thing 2
That summer, I studied for the bar cramped into a small room in our new apartment. Thing 2 stayed by my side.  He would cuddle at my feet while I studied, waking only at lunchtime with  high-pitched yawn.  In those final few weeks before the bar, when I was stressed beyond belief, Thing 2 was the only living thing I could stand.  He didn't seem to mind me repeating over and over various rules of evidence or the elements of crimes.  After the bar,  he was delirously happy when I spent three days sleeping in bed with him beside me.

After I started at the firm, he would wait up for me on nights that I had to work late. When I walked through the door, he would snort at me, walk upstairs and then ignore me. The next morning he would be sitting in front of me, just waiting for me to wake up.   I had been forgiven.

Thing 2 loved to sleep next to me on the bed. He loved to go to my family house in the country and tear around the yard and then collapse in a heap. He was the typical younger brother to Thing 1. He would wait for her to fall asleep and then pounce or sit on her head, depending on his mood. When I would get sick, he never left my side. Even though he easily weighed 105, he thought he was a lap dog and would huff down on my lap whenever I sat on the ground.

When I finally became pregnant last summer, he was gentle and more protective. He loved me like Thing 1 loved J, and I loved him right back.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Set-Up: An Update

Some assignments ask that you make 2 + 2 = 4 in three hours when you really need five or six hours.  I get those assignments.  We're biglaw attorneys and cranking out a high quality work product quickly is part of the job.  I may get flustered and a bit stressed, but I can do it and have done it many, many times.  

Some assignments ask that you make 2 + 2 = 9.  (This can also be the "guess what I'm thinking game.")  Those beasts are trickier and always land you in hot water one way or another.  This non-billable research project is of that variety.  I can't answer the question.  I've tried.  I've run it by other associates.  They agree.  I've spent hours upon hours on the question.  I am no where.  I have run back to the partner with results, only to be told they are insufficient.  Try harder.  So I do.  I try harder.  I spend more time, more energy, more resources.  I show my results, yet again.   

Last night, I received an email from the partner:  insufficient.  I clearly had not spent the time or energy.  I mentioned that I had billable work that was going undone.  It didn't matter.  I needed to try harder.   And now, I cannot help but believe that this project truly is a set-up.  A set-up for failure right in time for review season.   

Now, I anticipate the conversation at my review:  "The project did not go well.  I slacked off.  I did not use my resources well.  I am insufficient."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Inner-Jerk

The stars aligned this morning, and I managed to make it down town thirty minutes before I had to be in the office.  Thirty minutes to myself that I did not anticipate or plan.  It was blissful.  Since I had the time, I decided to grab a cup of expensive coffee.  The line was short and I was soon waiting for my lovely coffee.  

The barista making the coffee was in her grove: checking the cups, steaming milk and moving the cups along.  The song playing in the store changed and she started singing.  She appeared happy.  I found it endearing.  And then something in my head snapped: she was happy at her job.  I am not.  She was genuinely enjoying what she was doing at that moment.  What was endearing became annoying.  I became grumpy, took my coffee and trudged into the office.  

A few years ago, a guy left our office for a clerkship.  A month before he left, he began transitioning one of his cases to me.  One day, he came into my office, closed the door and said:  "I'm not sure what it is about this place, but if you stay for any length of time, it turns you into an a$$hole."  

He was right.  Something about the environment brings out the jerk in people.  The people who survive in our office, who last more than a year, we all become a bit of a jerk.  I've written about snapping at the delivery guy.  I have seen a senior associate be condescending to a waitress, just because he could.  I have seen support staff scream at junior associates over truly mundane matters because that member of the support staff was herself just torn up and down.  Maybe it is self-defense.  Whatever it is, I am not a fan.  I'm not a fan of it in others, and I hate when I see my own inner-jerk come out.  But most of all, I do not want my son to see that part of me.  I want that part of me to go away for good.  There is a time and a place to be a jerk, to bring out one's inner b, but it should not be a routine way of dealing with others, with life.  And it most definately should not be evoked simply by seeing others be happy in their jobs.