The Juggle

September 30, 2008 at 9:13 pm | Posted in little bug, the firm | 2 Comments
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In front of the Women’s Memorial on Comm. Ave. this past Sunday (as I lay in bed with the room spinning around me…)

Just logging in to write a quick post, which I am vowing to do even when I think I have nothing insightful (or even interesting) to write, or no time in which to write it.  The picture above illustrates a point, which I will get to in a moment.

Week three: again, so far, so good. I really do like going to work in the morning. I’m learning so much; the work is interesting. I returned home too late to put the Little Bug to bed tonight, which made me a little sad, but it also wasn’t the end of the world. But here’s the catch: I don’t have the time or the energy to do anything else. Will I find it, eventually? Or do you just make the time, find the energy? Far too many people have written about this juggle, and I’m not trying to whine. I’m just trying to figure it out. Once I make dinner, check my work emails, eat dinner, and maybe watch some TV (OK, I suppose I could leave that out), it’s 10 p.m. And if I’m going to write on this blog, or maybe read or take a relaxing shower before bed, then it’s 10:30. And then if I’m going to work out I’m up at 5:30. And then I need caffeine and the next thing you know I have vertigo and can’t get out of bed.

Here’s one way to make it work — have a partner who is on board. Easier said than done, I realize. But that’s how my dad make it “work” (to the extent he did?) — he had my mom at home, making dinner, drawing baths. I have Tim, who rushed home tonight when I emailed him at 5:50 that I was still in a meeting that was supposed to end at 5, who put Little Buggy to bed when I didn’t get home until 7 p.m. Who last night gave her a bottle and cooked dinner while I finished an overdue memo. Who didn’t blink an eye when I was too nauseous to get out of bed on Sunday (once he realized that I wasn’t felled by the Irish Flu — calling my doctor for a prescription was probably a big clue!) and took our Little Bug on Sunday errands and, once those were done, out walking in the rain on Comm. Ave (see picture above).

Welcome to the real world

September 29, 2008 at 10:12 am | Posted in Starbucks, tax law is sexy, the firm, wine | 1 Comment
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Note: I meant to post this yesterday, but was in bed all day with vertigo. Yes, vertigo — room spinning, nausea-inducing dizziness that went away only after I called my doctor and got a prescription for some sort of antihistamine, downed it with two Gatorades, and then slept all afternoon. Both my doctor and my aunt, who also has suffered from this, told me that your body can get so dehydrated over a period of time (think: coffee for breakfast, ridiculously air-conditioned office, low but persistent job-related anxiety, not enough water, nightly glass of vin), your electrolytes so out of whack, that the sediments on your inner ear (something like that?) get messed up and you can be susceptible to vertigo. Anyway, perhaps now especially in light of #10, below, I am going to have to revamp my approach to full-time-working-motherhood: more water, more sleep, less coffee, less wine.  (Thank God for Tim who took care of Little Buggy all day yesterday…)

A few things I have learned in my mere two weeks as a real lawyer:

(1) Actually, you cannot call yourself a lawyer yet. Your email signature and business cards bear the slightly unnerving disclaimer, “Law Clerk,” below your name. When you pass the bar, it gets removed. If you don’t pass the bar, everyone obviously will know by the glaring “Law Clerk” still at the bottom of your emails.

(2) If you actually eat all the free food they throw at you, your clothes will start to feel a bit snug. Very quickly. Seriously, though, there has not been a day in the past two weeks when there has not been a breakfast (juice, coffee, pastries, fresh fruit and, of course, bagels), lunch (catered sandwiches, soup, soggy Caesar salad, juices, dessert), and/or an afternoon treat (any afternoon training session will have coffee and sodas and “fresh cookies”; there have also been office-wide ice cream socials and several post-work cocktail parties).

(3) Tax lawyers are smart, normal, and fun. Our department is significantly smaller than the huge corporate and litigation departments, so I have been able to meet and get to know a bit every tax associate in the Boston office. We’ve also had fun things such as associate lunches with pizza and cupcakes, as well as a semi-regular cocktail event called, “De-Tax” (clever, no?!) where we meet after work at a bar. These sound like small things to be psyched about, but I know that a little bit of camaraderie goes a long way when things get really busy and stressful.

(4) I have never ever been in an office building that wasn’t freezing. I am the woman constantly wrapped in a shawl/pashmina.

(5) An afternoon soy hot chocolate from Starbucks is heavenly (especially considering (4), above!)

(6) Sending off a memo to a partner is highly unnerving. Like I’m qualified to opine on a behemoth regulation such as, say, ERISA — something that, truly, I recognized only because one of my good friends in law school thought for awhile she wanted to be a labor lawyer and mentioned it in passing (in the context of, “I don’t want to be a labor lawyer anymore because all you do is ERISA stuff”). I had to do about eight hours of background reading just to start researching the issue. And, also, when a partner asks you to look into something, obviously it’s because the issue is tricky.  Otherwise, he or she — after many, many years of practice — would already know the answer, right?

(7) Don’t talk politics with your officemate. 

(8) Pro bono assignments are a wonderful way to work several levels “up.” For example, earlier this week I accepted a pro bono project and immediately was able to attend the client’s board meeting — as the “tax expert,” no less (which either underscores or undermines the firm’s commitment to pro bono (ha!)). It was incredibly invigorating. I was up until 11:30 the evening before brushing up on (OK, learning about) tax-exempt organizations. I attended with a second-year corporate associate who was spearheading the project and had wanted some tax backup. There were actually some questions I could answer and not too many where I had to say, “That’s a very interesting question. Let me research how it applies to your organization specifically…” or something along those lines.

(9) If you do your grocery shopping for the week on Sunday and do something highly organized like chop all your veggies that evening, it’s not too too difficult to make dinner during the week. We made it through last week without ordering in once — well, except for Friday, which doesn’t count.

(10) There’s something about having a real job that makes you want to come home and drink wine. Our “no drinking on weeknights” policy has gone utterly out the window in the past two weeks (to the point where a second bottle was cracked open on Thursday night — stop the madness!) I’ll try to get back on the wagon next week.

Poor Sarah indeed

September 27, 2008 at 9:34 am | Posted in politics, read this | 1 Comment
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I just haven’t had the energy to write about Sarah Palin. A hundred pundits and bloggers — not to mention my mother and sisters — can say it better than I can. But something has been bugging me since day one, which I haven’t been able to quite articulate. Fortunately, Judith Warner, a columnist for the Times, just did in this post.

I said at the start, “They’re going to tear her apart.” They being: the Democrats and the media, of course. I thought, she doesn’t know what she’s getting into. But is that her fault? If you were the governor of a small state and were tapped to be the vice presidential candidate of a party who has never had a woman on the ticket, could you say no? (Whether or not she should have considered the effect that her campaign and the intrusive media chaos would have on her pregnant, teenage daughter is a whole other issue…I don’t know that I could have done that to my daughter during what is probably the hardest time of her young life…) It’s how I feel every time someone asks me to do something I know I don’t quite have the time or experience to do: I jump at it! I love the challenge and, of course, my ego loves that I was asked.

However, as my mother is so quick to say (before she launches into one of her Sarah Palin-induced rages…): it is unquestionably John McCain’s fault. How could he “unleash” her on us? What does this say about his judgment? And that, I think, is the bottom line.


September 20, 2008 at 10:14 am | Posted in Massholes, Starbucks, the firm | Leave a comment
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It takes me 39 mintues to get to work on the T (walking to the Hynes or Copley station, waiting for a crowded Green Line trolley to pull up, getting off at Park Street and then walking another 10 minutes to the office), and 38 minutes to just walk. So I guess I’ll be walking (as long as the weather is nice, after which point I might be environmentally and fiscally unsound and drive…). Fortunately, it’s a beautiful walk, as documented below (I have decided that until I can get an iPhone, I am just going to lug my camera around and pretend I have one…)

Commonwealth Avenue

The entrance to the Public Garden







The Public Garden







The Boston Common

Park Street (yes, I was standing in the middle of the street when I took this!)

The financial district. Note how empty it is. Were you to stop and take a photo in the NYC financial district you’d be run over by throngs of people.

My building — my office is way, way up there!

Most important: the Starbucks in the lobby of my building. I had wanted to take a picture of its morning chaos: a guy on a headset taking orders, three baristas making the drinks, and at least two dozen people standing around waiting in a far too crowded space. But Friday morning was strangely quiet. “Where is everyone?” I asked the barista, joking. Without missing a beat he says, “They all got laid off.” Ummm, ha ha?

And, finally, the view from my office on the 33rd floor of International Place. This is even the actual view from my desk, which is pushed up right against the window-wall. That’s the Harbor Hotel at the bottom of the frame and Logan Airport in the middle ground.

So far, so good

September 17, 2008 at 6:56 pm | Posted in little bug, tax law is sexy, the firm | Leave a comment
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For posterity: First Day of Work, September 15, 2008. Note Little Buggy’s bowl cut (by moi). I have a new “lawyer” cut, too (not by moi).

Potential posts about my first few days at work have been running around my head, but frankly, I’m too tired to write anything all that eloquent. Monday and Tuesday were spent in a conference room at the Langham Hotel for firm-wide orientation: 160 eager associates freezing to death in a mirrored, windowless ballroom. Actually, the firm-wide orientation was quite well-run: lots of breaks, lots of (good!) food (for example: endless snacks and coffee, a dessert bar at 2 p.m., warm cookies and pretzels at 4 p.m., a cocktail reception each night).

As almost every speaker noted, however, it was sort of eerie to begin one’s new profession with the stock market crashing around us — none of the bankruptcy or tax partners could make it to their respective break-out lunches on Monday. Lots of speakers joked about a room full of new bankruptcy lawyers, but also that we should be thankful we didn’t just get an M.B.A. (nervous laughter…)

It was good to see friends both from law school and from last summer. I think people didn’t necessarily recognize me immediately, since the last time they saw me I was 39 weeks pregnant. The firm has made some incredible and, indeed, groundbreaking strides in their work/life balance approach and unveiled to us a new policy, effective immediately, which essentially does away with the former one-size-fits all “part-time” policy (80% time, which meant either four days in the office or five, eight-hour days, and for which one must have been at the firm for two years to qualify.) I think the firm recognizes that now, with its gender division among new associates being exactly 50-50, to invest so much time in recruiting and training, and then to have almost half of the women — or a quarter of the associates — leave within three to four years is not a good business model. The new flexibility policy is just that: flexible. If you want to take advantage of it, your situation will be considered on a case-by-case basis, with no two-year minimum, and might include anything from working one day a week at home, working reduced hours, taking time off to care for an ill family member, or taking yourself off the “partner-track” for a year. Moreover, the firm now offers 18 weeks paid maternity leave and you can go back at 50% for the first SIX MONTHS.

I have been gearing myself up mentally for full-time work for a long time, and while it has made me anxious, I also think that in the very beginning it is a necessity for training and credibility reasons. However, the fact that the firm would be, hypothetically, willing to let me work reduced hours takes away a great deal of stress. I’m actually proud to be working at a place willing to take such an innovative risk — at least in the legal world — and I look forward to seeing how this new program plays out in reality.  Anyway, enough of firm minutiae — but I’m obviously quite excited.

Most associates stayed in the frigid hotel conference rooms today (and will be there for the rest of the week) for either corporate or litigation “boot camp.” I was wavering on going to the corporate one, but then received an assignment in the very field and from the very lawyers with whom I’m hoping to work the most, so I decided just to head to my office and get to work. As all first-years do, I’ll be sharing an office, but I lucked out and am sharing with another (mid) 30-something mother (not at all a coincidence, I am sure, although her daughter is 12). My office is high, high up in the sky, and my desk overlooks the harbor and the airport. And I have a secretary. And I have worn heels for the past three days. I am a grownup (!?!)

My mother has been here so far this week watching the Little Bug, which truly has helped me, mentally, with the transition. It has been wonderful (although she left this morning), and while I’ve been getting home a bit later than I hope will be the norm, the separation hasn’t yet been too awful. Talk to me in two weeks, however. I did feel some anxiety today when a partner called me into his office at 5:15 to talk about a project, and I left an hour later with a scant 15 minutes to get home to relieve Janet (and thus took the first of what I’m sure will be many $13 cab rides!)

Anyway, all the poingant things I was going to write about starting my new life, being away from Little Bug, becoming a “real” lawyer are sort of blurred by the overwhelming and unsettling feeling of being in a new professional environment (how do I get a notebook? A real pen? A security pass?) Hopefully, more eloquence to come…


September 13, 2008 at 4:33 pm | Posted in little bug, music, running | 1 Comment
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I was downloading some music for the Little Bug today. She loves Johnny Cash. Not kidding — she hears a baseline goes starts bouncing and going “Ch ch ch ch.” I ended up going on sort of a country music binge. So here’s today’s running mix, entitled “Country running.” I’m about to go test it out — we’ll see if you can actually get motivated by all that slide guitar. (There are a few non-country songs just to keep it interesting.)

Ready to Run — Dixie Chicks
Where the Green Grass Grows — Tim McGraw
Me and My Gang — Rascall Flatts
Convoy — C.W. McCall [old school!!]
She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy — Kenny Chesney
Chattahoochee — Alan Jackson
Beer for My Horses — Toby Keith & Willie Nelson
Indian Outlaw — Tim McGraw
Last Name — Carrie Underwood
What Hurts the Most — Rascal Flatts
Apologize — OneRepublic
All I Wanna Do — Sheryl Crow
Rockstar — Nickleback
Someone to Love — Fountains of Wayne
A Change Would Do You Good — Sheryl Crow
Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) — Big & Rich [even if they did perform at the Republican Convention]
I Hope You Dance — Lee Ann Womack
Live Like You Were Dying — Tim McGraw

Ok, so the end of the playlist isn’t as strong as the beginning: this might not be a very long run…

Update: It might have been the time of day (just before dusk) or that I needed to run out some anxiety, but this playlist produced an excellent run — the kind where you tack on an extra half-mile just because you feel too good to stop. For any runners reading this, I highly recommend you download “Me and My Gang,” “Beer for My Horses,” and “Last Name” as soon as possible!

Unemployed almost no more

September 12, 2008 at 3:14 pm | Posted in law school, Starbucks | 2 Comments
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When I started this blog, I had hoped that I could provide some sort of relevant commentary on being a law student and mother and/or lawyer and mother. But as my days grow busier, I’m realizing that this is probably going to devolve into more of a journal-type blog, to be read mostly by people who know me and want to keep tabs on me. So this won’t be my book-deal making masterpiece — sigh — but at least it will keep me writing.

My last few days of relative stay-at-home-motherhood have been sweet — probably more sweet than they might otherwise be. Morning trips to the Duck Pond and Make Way for Ducklings statue (via Starbucks, of course). The Little Bug goes absolutely crazy for both, jumping up and down in her stroller as soon as she sees the gates of the Public Garden ahead of us. We’ve run into lots of moms and babies every day, and I always have to drag her home. If I were a more prepared mother — or had an iPhone! — I’d have snapped some cute pictures. As I’ve posted about  before, I’m not very good at documenting Buggy’s baby-hood — we have a rarely used video cameras, there is no real baby book. I should post a picture of her new hair cut (she looks more and more like I did at that age, probably now due in very large part to the bowl-cut bangs…but what else can you do with a squirmy one-year-old?). I should order pictures for my office. Actually, I should upload our vacation pictures, too. Why is this one area of my otherwise relatively organized life that I’m so bad at keeping up-to-date? I keep telling myself that an iPhone will solve all these problems! (ha.)

But I’m ready. I think. I had drinks with Meg last night, who started work on Monday, and she was visibly excited and enthused about her new life as a lawyer. In fact, we also ran into her walking across the Garden to work, looking adorable in her suit. I’m excited to look adorable in my new suit.

But then, even as I ducked out solo to run some errands this afternoon, I saw a toddler being pushed in his stroller by his babysitter, and I had a pang of sadness. He was so cute, just as cute as my little Bug, who is going to spend more time with her babysitter than with me. I’m not going to rehash the Mommy Wars anymore — at least I’m going to try not to — but instead will approach Monday remembering two things my mother recently told me:

First, I walk out the door every day knowing I am providing a good life for my child. And she’s a happy child, and she’ll be just as happy when I’m working as she’d be if I weren’t.

Second, I am very, very lucky that I have a baby at home to miss. A healthy, happy baby who will keep me focused at work and who will continue — as she always has — to give my life purpose. So missing her is a good thing.

Nevertheless: check in with me Monday to see if I haven’t broken down and bought an iPhone (even though that will make me the woman who is checking her email on her work Blackberry and then on her iPhone!)

P.S. Random aside: my brother-in-law texted me today to see if I wanted him to get me a ticket for the musical Legally Blonde, which apparently is headed to Boston. I was like, “Um, do you have to ask? I am Legally Blonde!!!”

Urgent fashion question

September 12, 2008 at 9:31 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I can do bare legs at work, right? At least for a few more weeks? I hate hate hate pantyhose/stockings, and refuse to wear them. I will wear black tights when the weather dictates. But when is that? Now? Oct. 1?

I saw a lot of “girls” walking to work today in black tights and trenchcoats. Fall is perhaps already here…

Why listening to Coldplay and drinking wine is not usually a good idea

September 10, 2008 at 8:53 am | Posted in law school, little bug, music, wine | 1 Comment
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I got uncharacteristically weepy last night. I spent the rainy afternoon indoors with the Little Bug, dancing to the Dixie Chicks and cooking dinner for us (Tim was coming home late, so she and I noshed on butternut squash ravioli and blueberries — doesn’t it sound like an In Style party re-cap?), while simultaneously trying to keep her away from the unprotected electrical socket and out of the toilet. The song “I Believe in Love” came on (by the Dixie Chicks — the Coldplay came later), a beautiful song made melancholy by its minor harmonies. I just held my Little Bug (and she let me, putting her little head on my shoulder) and wiped away the (my) tears. My time being home with her is almost over. For the past year, except for some crunch times around exams (and the bar), I’ve spent at least some part of every day with her, mostly in the afternoons, strolling around Boston or hanging out playing at home as we did today. I’m not second guessing my decision to be a full-time+ lawyer, but perhaps finally (and perhaps necessarily) I’m feeling acutely the close of this rather wonderous year.

After she went to bed, I opened the Sauv Blanc and put on Coldplay (a combination which just screams “Warning! Warning!”) and organized the kitchen cabinets (not kidding.) When I finished, I realized that I’m now also done with all of the reorganization/cleaning/redecorating/shopping I meant to do in my post-bar/pre-work hiatus. Now I just have to sit around until Monday. And, again, tears. This larger, three-year period of my life also is coming to a close. These three years when I moved out of my longtime holding pattern to what I knew my life always could and should be. I’m very much at peace — surprising for me — with where I am in my life. And, yet, I’m again a bit blue at this crossroads. I loved law school from the very first day; then I met Tim and pretty much loved him from the very first day; then, of course, there was the Little Bug. And in between, the intellectual stimulation of classes, the camaraderie of my classmates, and a deepening and strengthening of my existing friendships as I began to find my footing again. It was a whirlwind, and still it was incredibly grounding. And this interlude in my life is now over.

So, onward (although first I shall spend the next three days drinking wine at lunch, sleeping in, and reading every trashy magazine I can get my hands on!)

What to wear: Lady Lawyer edition

September 8, 2008 at 9:40 pm | Posted in tax law is sexy | 3 Comments
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Wonder what this girl is wearing to work

My only other post concerning clothes has been this blog’s most searched, viewed, and commented on (by people other than cadre of loyalists!), so I thought I’d try again. I’m no fashionista — though I’d really like to be — so I shall now document my attempts to transform into one. Well, one who is a corporate lawyer at any rate.

Background: I start work a week from today. When I was a journalist, I had no clothes. This is because half the time I worked from home. When I did have an office to go to, if the editor wore slacks (yes, slacks) instead of jeans, something important was going on. The underlings (i.e., me), dressed even less consciously. Fast forward a decade to law school. Law students wear jeans. And then when I was a summer associate, I was nine months pregnant and ended up alternating between the same two pairs of Gap maternity pants for the last six weeks of my pregnancy (once my ankles became too swollen in the summer heat to wear all the cute maternity skirts I had bought. Oh well.)

Ergo, I have no lawyer clothes. And I needed to buy some lots.

But what to buy? I know I’m not the only soon-to-be lawyer suffering this anxiety (see this post on this brilliantly named blog). Because I have reached a certain age, with a body that has resettled into a slightly different shape after having a baby, I wanted clothes that really fit, that would last, but most of all would be a little more sharp (“fashion forward” is a term some might use) than either the A-line skirt & sweater set or pants suit & pastel pink or blue button-down that seem to be the standard lady lawyer uniform in my office building. So I did some real plotting and thinking about what I wanted to buy. There was an article in last month’s Domino magazine (the article is not online, but see the reference to p. 70) in which some lucky woman hired a “closet consultant,” with an end result of having less actual clothes cluttering up her tiny closet, but more options and outfits. This is what I want and need! I consulted not only my trusty InStyle and envy-inducing Vogue magazines, but also one of my best-dressed friends. I set out to shop with an actual plan.

Here’s what this 30-something, post-baby, clothes-loving, very-soon-to-be-lawyer’s closet now contains:

First: I went to BCBG (a store that’s always been good to me, fit-wise) and found a black-and-white silk dress, which I can wear now with flats and in the winter with tights and boots (also can dress up with heels for an engagement party or something); a flaired skirt with a tie-belt in a taupe-ish color (I’ve seen the term “griege” bandied about recently. This is definitely “griege.”); two interesting white blouses (one short-sleeved with a tie in the back to make it fit nicely, and the other with black and gray piping along the button line, as well as slightly flaired sleeves. Sounds weird, but it will look good under suit jackets); a purplish/cobalt colored blouse; a black cardigan with a belted waist; and, finally, a bright pink wrap sweater (you know, those ones you see everywhere now that you can tie in like four different ways.)

Next: I went to Saks and did some major investing in two Theory suits. I went all-out on the black suit: jacket, skirt, and two pairs of pants. On the advice of my tres stylish friend, I had one pair tailored for flats and the other for heels. I also got a gray suit (pants) — not a charcoal gray but one that almost borders on the aforementioned griege color.

Then: I went to a boutique on Newbury that someone had mentioned might be a good place to find work clothes that were more “interesting.” It’s a British brand called Reiss, and, much to my surprise, once I got the clothes off the hanger (where they looked sort of strange and drape-y) they fit me well (lots of jersey!). I got a purple skirt with a black belt (so not me! Or so not the old me — but I love it. I wore it to a lunch today with flats and a black button down shirt and know in the midst of February I’ll love putting it on with tights and boots). I also got a black shift dress with just the slightest flair in the skirt that I could wear with a cardigan at work (tights or right now while it’s still warm with just flats or heels) or even with heels to a party. I love it — it’s very Hepburn-esque!

My big splurge was a black-and-white Rebecca Taylor jacket. It looks sort of tweedy from far away, but up close it’s a teeny black-and-white pattern. There is a small fringe on the bottom, and it’s cropped, bracelet-length sleeves, and has a flower applique on the lapel. Again, something I can wear to work or out to dinner with jeans. This, and the black shift dress were my two favorite purchases.

Now: I just need a good pair of black pumps. Yes, pumps. Pumps I can wear with pants, skirts, and maybe even out to dinner on Saturdays. I went to four stores today, and tried on only pairs with toes too long and pointy for work, heels that were too low or too high, or were overall just boring and/or uncomfortable. Think: the style of Manolo Blahniks but affordable and you can wear them to work without walking around in almost mortal fear of a scuff-inducing brick sidewalk. Do such shoes exist? Please advise.

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