Category Archives: Marriage

Staying in the Frame

I took a break from culling my family Easter photos to read this article. I loved it. My husband has many good qualities but he often seems to forget that we don’t need to worry about the cost of film these days, and will take a single photo of me and not bother to check if it’s in focus and at all decent/flattering. I was heartbroken after our UK trip when the one photo I had asked him to take, he had taken a single one and it was blurry. We had nowhere to go, and there was no reason that he couldn’t have checked the d*mn viewfinder to make sure our kid and I were in focus. I got pretty mad about it and after much complaining from me, he has improved dramatically, but we still have some of these issues.

Worse is my Dad, who is obsessed with documenting photos but takes terrible and unflattering photos that I don’t want to look at or share.  The complaints of my female friends whose spouses or other family members consistently cut off their heads or don’t focus the camera properly in their zeal to get photos, and never take a moment to look at the back of the camera and see if they got something usable, are numerous.

I’m not a photographer, but a few tips, especially if like a lot of people, you bought a DSLR when you had a baby but never actually use it. First of all, leave your camera out and accessible when you are doing a fun activity so that your spouse remembers to take photos. Secondly, if you are out hiking or playing and bring a camera, make sure to trade off. Nothing reminds the other person to take a few photos like having a heavy camera around their neck. Third of all, if possible, remind them/remember that downward angles are the most flattering, and sometimes, it is okay to interrupt a moment and worry about preserving it by telling a person their hair is in their face (read the room on this one though). Don’t take photos of people while you are sitting and they are standing. If possible, just stand up. Fourth, don’t ever imply somebody is vain because they want a photo of themselves or their kid. Fifth, hire a professional for a family shoot every once in awhile.  Six, keep some of the unflattering photos even if you hate them. Seven, buy clothes you like that you look good in and wear them for special occasions where you know somebody will take a photo. Eight, buy clothes you like that you look good in for family vacation so you don’t hate the way you look in a photo of you with your awkward hiking pants and your stained performance wear shirt that hits you in all the wrong places.

My childhood was well documented on film, but my Dad has been going through slides lately and lamenting how few non-posed photos there are of my mother and her sister, and especially of her mother.  My favorite photos of my mother lately have been ones like this:

Printed February 1984

It is not the most flattering photo, or the best in the world, but tell me you don’t look at that and feel the sheer exhaustion of a new mother. I look at this and I feel the sheer weight of everything that hit my mom that year, the loss of her mother, finally getting the baby she wanted so badly, and she doesn’t know it here but I know she’ll be pregnant again 9 months after having this baby. This picture makes me know my mom better.

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5 Years

We accidentally started house hunting recently.  I say accidentally, but it was sort-of intentional, and mostly, we fell into it.  It feels like the natural next step, interest rates are low, our apartment is starting to chafe a bit.

But house hunting means admitting that neither of us plan to be at our jobs for more than another year.  So does buying a house based on these jobs make a lot of sense?  And do we decide where we want to live, and build a life around that, or do we decide what we want to do, and build a life around that?

I do not know the answer.  But it seems to make sense to ask myself that age-old job interview question: where do you see yourself in five years?  And for the first time in my career, I have a real answer.

I see myself working in either public interest, or at a small firm (fewer than 10 attorneys) – but a bigger office than my current one.  I see myself working collaboratively with others.  I see myself having a strong relationship with my coworkers.  I see myself going to court no more than once a week.  I see myself doing some legislative lobbying work, some outreach work, and some academic work.  I see myself doing work that is challenging but not exhausting; well-paced and well-managed.  I see myself with more support than I currently have.  I see myself working at a place that has secure-ish funding, so that every year, I am not at the mercy of a single grant being renewed.  I see myself working the hours that I want to work (and I think that I want those hours to be something more like 7am-3pm) and being able to have the spare time after work that I need to stay in shape, stay healthy, and have a good relationship with my family.  I see myself being able to sleep at night.  I see myself being able to talk about my job at parties without bringing the room down.  I see myself having a commute that doesn’t make me feel miserable about my work or my house.

If I expand that, to where do I see myself living in 5 years, I still don’t see the answer.  Do I have small children who I’m preparing to send to an inner city elementary school?  Do we have a backyard and an adorable corgi?  Do we have a back patio and an adorable beagle? Do we have a garden or a garden plot?  Do I have small children who we load into the rear trailer behind our tandem and pedal around the local trail on the weekend?  Do we have no children and a life filled with travel and adventure?  Do we have children and a life filled with travel and adventure?

Home ownership, it seems, is maybe something that you should do when you feel ready to settle down, when you are at a place that you are happy with, in your career and everything else.  My friends who bought houses when they were in a state of flux seem to have regretted it, or at least wound up with lousy commutes.  And I remember the lease we signed five years ago two weeks before my then-boyfriend got laid off.  How stuck I felt.  That was a one-year lease!  This is a HOUSE!

But then I consider how terribly happy we are here.  How we committed to building a life here even though I didn’t have a job.  That committing to that for the future doesn’t seem impossible.  I have job options here and I like practicing here.  So…why not commit to living here?  Why not continue to be terribly happy?  (The property taxes are insane in this city, that’s why.)

Has anyone else faced these issues?  What did you do?

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Filed under Job Search, Lawyering, Life List, Marriage

Wales (Part I)

We are home.  The trip was awesome.  We spent 3 full days in Wales, and 3 full days with the husband’s family, and it was everything a vacation should be, except maybe relaxing.

The good thing about vacations that are a little bit stressful is that coming home feels like it is also a vacation.  Yes, I have to go to work, but there are no more hours-long train or coach rides in my future, for the time being.

Nonetheless, we did get a chance to relax.  I will recap our cycle trip separately, but for here I will state that the Taff trail is not “mostly flat” and August, while perhaps the dry season for Wales, is still Wales.

I have created a new rule for trips to the UK, which is, “never travel without fleece.”  I waffled on whether or not to bring my fleece jacket, deciding on “no” and brought a lightweight cotton hoodie.  I wish I still owned a microfleece jacket, something like this, as that would have been perfect for the trip.  The last time I was in England during the summer, they were having a heat wave so it was 85 degrees.

I am taking today off work to do laundry, wash dishes, go grocery shopping, and take care of some other household-related tasks.  Hopefully I can find the energy to do that and not just sort through 500 pictures from the trip :).  I shall leave you with this one from the Animal Wall next to the Cardiff Castle.

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Another Year?

A few fellow bloggers have recently resigned themselves to another year of living in a place they are miserable, with a job they don’t love.  One of them and I were talking and I commented that it seemed unfair that she is stuck in a place she hates with a job; and I’m stuck in a place I love, but with no job.  We debated which one was better.

I love the city where I’m living, but when I think about another year of doing what I’ve been doing – another year of waking up, checking the job listing websites, aimlessly writing cover letters for jobs I would be perfect for but won’t hire me; jobs I’m more experienced than, but won’t hire me; and jobs that are total reach positions and won’t hire me, another year of that, even in a city I love, is unbearable.

I am very lucky that I get to live someplace I like, with my family, friends, and my support system nearby, and that I have a fantastic husband who comes home to me every day, tells me how happy he is to be married to me, and eats my somewhat mediocre and salt-free cooking.  But the idea of staying here, jobless, for another year?  Man, that is a bitter pill to swallow.

The husband and I talked and I asked him if I should be applying to jobs that would require us to relocate.  He requested that I don’t just yet, until I’ve exhausted all of the options with a manageable commute in the area.  A job in the hand is worth two in the bush, and he has it, so for right now, we’re staying put. I’ve put in a few applications, but I’m not looking extremely hard to move to other areas of the state.

So yeah. It might be another year of dues-paying and feeling inadequate and non-contributory because I’m not making money (which I should get over, but it’s hard.) But it’s okay, because as Meg says, we all have access to success.  So I’m just going to have to make some kind of success happen for me, professional or otherwise.

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Filed under Job Search, Marriage, Unemployed

Closet reorganization

image

A few of you asked for pictures once I sorted out my closet.  I haven’t actually painted it like I wanted to, but it is currently functional, and that makes a huge difference.  I have a tendency to focus on small things that won’t actually help instead of big things that will.

A few weeks ago, I came home to my husband building a shoe rack for me. I wasn’t sure how it would go, but once it was in my closet, it was great for boots and party shoes. I then found two shoe racks when we cleaned up at my folks house, and once I had those, I moved my suits and dresses around. My shoes are generally still littered around the house, but at least now I don’t waste time looking for them in my closet. I also feel better and my husband is happy. I also like to keep the top and bottom racks clear so that when I come home and kick off my shoes (I go from suit to playclothes within five minutes of getting into the house), I just kick them under the shoe rack or toss them on top.  I did have to start hanging my pants halfways on hangers to get enough room to see my shoes, but that actually keeps them a little neater anyway.  I have several pairs of activity-specific shoes, like my dance shoes and my tap shoes, which all go on those bottom shelves that are a little blocked, since I rarely use them but won’t get rid of them.  My hiking boots and winter boots are on the floor to the right of the picture, under my sweater rack, since I also rarely use them.

I’ve been saying for years that I wouldn’t use a standard shoe rack, but it turns out the problem isn’t my shoe rack, it was my closet.  If I can’t see my shoes, I won’t use a shoe rack, so as soon as I got all the long stuff out of the way, the shoe rack was easy.

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Weekend Plans

At Writing Group tonight, it came to my attention that there are married couples out there who have not seen the Weekend Plans video.  Go. Watch.  http://youtu.be/IegSRQwS8ZQ  Then come back and discuss how couples can make friends with other couples.

Without being mad weird or creepy.

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Nesting

When I first started this blog, my purpose was to have my “married” blog talk about the reality of being married, but also about my life after marriage.  I didn’t want to get sucked into a “we” and talk about throw pillows all the time.  I get really sad when smart, funny women bloggers go forth into their next endeavor and feel like they have to write about their married life together.  I started writing a wedding blog to write about the challenges I faced when planning a wedding, and I started this blog to write about the challenges of being an unemployed, twenty-something lawyer working to navigate the world of job hunting, employment, and professionalism. 

Nonetheless, I’m four weeks in at work, loving it, even though it’s really hard, and my husband’s sister just bought a house.  As we walked around it last weekend, I found myself getting increasingly jealous of their home improvement.  I’m not jealous that they have to completely redo their bedroom and bathroom, repaint all of the rooms, and put down hardwood floors, but I am jealous that they get to do those things, and also they’re really happy about it.  I also saw Bunny’s goreous and well organized closet and got majorly envious of her organization.  When we moved in, my husband promised me a proper shoe rack, but I’ve been putting it off.  Finally, I decided I must have one, because I am now in a position to be using my closet daily and need to keep my shoes organized. 

Then I thought, well, if I put in a shoe rack, maybe I could also finally live my dream of painting our apartment just a little bit.  I would really like, for example, to paint my closet a bright, sunny color.  Maybe a yellow or a blue, but I’m open to ideas and suggestions.   

(source)

I’m also obsessed with doing some kind of temporary backsplash or other improvements in our kitchen.  Or at least painting the backsplash.  Maybe the same color as the closet.  Our kitchen is extremely dark and the cabinets have these really ornate old fashioned handles, which I would like to replace as well.  I’m thinking something modern, perhaps in an aged copper-type finish.  Our cabinets are really dark (and I don’t want to paint them), so a bright chrome would be too much contrast.  We also desperately need a new kitchen rug, as husband decided to use ours as a potholder and melted it.  Also it’s too small for our kitchen and very old.  I think it’s actually a bathmat. 

Anyone have suggestions as to what projects are good to undertake, or where to start?  The aim is to just generally have a place that I’m happy to come home to.  (Not that I’m not happy now, but I feel that a few small changes would make a big difference.  We’re pretty sure we’ll be staying another year (at least), as long as our rent doesn’t increase, so I’m looking to actively nest this summer.   (I also want a new couch for the living room.) 

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Filed under Crafts, Life List, Marriage

It’s Senator Clinton, b*tch.

My first year of law school, back in 2008, our lunchtime TA session got cancelled at the last minute, so a couple feminist friends and I went to a lecture on feminism.  We didn’t know it, but it was being offered by the Federalist Society, which, it turns out, is a bunch of backwards thinking law students, or at least, it was at my school at the time. 

The speaker was introduced with a rattling off of her credentials, talking about how she was an economist during the Reagan administration and I realized what we were in for and what a terrible mistake we had made.  So then the speaker started.  And she started talking about Gloria Steinem, who was coming to campus the next week, and why everything Gloria Steinem does is wrong, and totally unnecessary, since feminism is over.  (Which is fighting words.) 

I hate it when people point to the pay gap and say, “see, we’re done!”  They say, “You ladies are going to be lawyers! We’re done!”   They say, “feminism has destroyed the world as we knew it, but women are equal now so ya’ll can go on home. You fought the good fight.”  Which the speaker began by referencing Mrs. Hilary Clinton and everything she had accomplished.  Mrs. Clinton was a lawyer, you see.  And a Mom.  And a wife.  So didn’t we all see, we were done.  Feminism was done.  At this point, I passed my friend a note, which read, “it’s Senator Clinton, b*tch.” 

The conversation devolved quickly, with a discussion why women don’t go into math and science.  You see, it’s because women don’t want to.  They might be good at math, but they like English better.  Men, since they will have to support families, go into smart fields.  At which point, I asked, “Do you think it’s because women don’t get pushed into fields like science and business because they aren’t being told they will have to support a family?”  “Oh no, it’s because they choose fields like the Humanities.” 

My favorite was the guy who raised his hand and said, “once I’m done with law school, I’m letting my wife go back to school.  Of course, we have a kid, so she’s going to do something like education, so she has flexible hours.”  “letting” and “of course” were the parts of this statement that nearly made me seal the room and light it on fire. 

I don’t understand how somebody can stand in front of a room, and tell women law students, who deal with a harrowing amount of sexism, that feminism is done.  The pay gap I see between my male friends, who aggressively used their networks and connections and went after every opportunity that they could, and my female friends, who hung back and were more timid in their job searches, thinking, “nobody will want me” instead of “they would be lucky to have me”, is pretty high.  Lawyering is still a boys club a lot of the time.  In my trial advocacy class, the professor, a judge, talked a lot about wearing skirt suits and high heels to look more professional.  A guest lecturer added that when she argues in front of a judge who likes women in red skirt suits, dammit, she puts on her red suit. 

I know plenty of women lawyers who worry about how to balance family and career.  I know a lot who would like to opt-out when they have children.  I know a lot that would be happy to work part-time jobs.  But I also know a lot who are fiercely driven, and incredibly smart.  I know, looking at these women, that women still face inequalities, based largely on “choosing to have families.”  As the speaker said, when women choose to have families, they should find a way to make it work and still be able to make delicious pancake breakfasts for their kids.  Women should also stop griping about how much choosing to have a family will cost us. 

But choosing to have a family doesn’t cost men.  It simply doesn’t.  Particularly men who have wives.  On the campaign trail, my candidate was running on a slate with a guy.  They both had young kids (under 8 years old).  He had a wife.  She had a high-powered, hardworking husband.  She had to negotiate childcare.  He didn’t.  Having a family helped him, and it didn’t cost him.  Men in law school have a really easy time having kids.  Women in law school who have children stop sleeping and sacrifice a lot of things like potential work experience and the development of a professional network.  Men who have children are often seen as an asset to the company, whereas women with children are seen as a detriment.  Women risk not being hired because they are of childbearing age and men do not face this risk in the market. 

A week later, when Gloria Steinem came to campus, I got up and asked her, “there are a lot of people out there arguing that feminism is done.  What do we say to that?”  Her response?  “Look around you.  We have a lot of work left.” 

“In Her Own Words: In Celebration of International Women’s Day 2011” was created to share and celebrate the experiences of women from many walks of life. All day Tuesday, March 8th Any Other Wedding and One Cat Per Person will feature posts written by a collective of intelligent, passionate and opinionated women bloggers from the United States and the United Kingdom.  I decided to join in at the last minute, so this post probably won’t be featured over there, but be sure to stop by Any Other Wedding and One Cat Per Person throughout the day to read all of the posts in the series. For more information about International Women’s Day, visit http://www.internationalwomensday.com/.  (From Any Other Wedding.)

 

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Work-Life Balance

I could talk about Justin Bieber saying that rape is sad, but everything happens for a reason (I’m vehemently pro-choice but annoyed that people are fixating on him being anti-choice rather than ambivalent about rape); but instead I’m going to talk about the conversation that a few awesome women I know had today at my law school.  I helped organize a panel on family planning and the work-life balance and got some really great insights into how to plan my own career and family, which is something I’ve been obsessing over since I took the bar exam.  Because once you’re married, you actually have to face the question of, “when do I want to have children?” rather than saying, “we’ll talk about kids after we’re married.” 

I have been turning over two schools of thought when it comes to reproducing:
1. The economy sucks, and I won’t be able to afford childcare, so I should just have kids now.
2. I should get a job and work there for at least a year so I have an income and some benefits accrued. 

Sidenote:  I will also point out, that for me personally, infertility runs in my family so the option of waiting until after I’m in my thirties to have children is really not an option for me.  My parents are also older and their health is starting to decline rapidly.  They lean a lot on my sister and I, so I don’t want to risk being in a position where I have to both care for young children and aging parents.  I also would like to be able to use my parents as babysitters, but this will require me to have children younger (again, before 30).  I am currently 25.  And a half.  And unemployed.   

So it was really nice to finally get some much-needed advice on how to manage career and a family.  To which my career counselor says, “you can do it, but you can’t do everything the best all the time.”  She also added, “You’re gonna have to let stuff go.  Like the dishes.  I want to exercise and hang out with my kids.  So I don’t always do the dishes.”  This isn’t surprising to me, because it’s pretty much how to combine law school & family. 

The most helpful advice was things like:

  • Work someplace for a few years so that they know you and will make maternity leave/flextime/parttime work happen for you
  • Working part time (hourly) or 3 days a week is ideal
  • You probably won’t make partner unless it’s something you want really badly and your spouse at home is supersupportive
  • Public interest salaries don’t pay enough to make childcare for two kids worth it
  • If you are going to take time off, consider spacing your kids closer together so that you speed up the timeline for getting back into work
  • If you do take time off, make sure you have an on-ramp when you want to get back on – continue to have networking lunches with former co-workers and drop by the office to stay in touch. 
  • Consider getting an au pair. It sounds weird, but is supposedly great and helps a lot if you are going to have evening commitments.  It also means you don’t have the hustle associated with packing kids up and getting everybody out the door in the morning.  This works best when you have a walk-out basement or some other separate part of the house (something to think about when house hunting). 
  • Wait until after you have a job offer to start asking around about family-friendly work policies and figuring out whether the environment is supportive. 
  • Consider pursuing a non-litigation job – it is much harder to be a litigator and take time off if the nanny gets sick/daycare closes/schools close.  A job where meetings, etc. can easily be rescheduled would be ideal – a problem with public interest jobs is often that your client doesn’t have a phone number and you can’t reschedule. 

Anyone else struggling with trying to figure out when to reproduce and how to get a career off the ground?

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Filed under Family, Job Search, Life List, Marriage, Unemployed

Gratitude

Anyone who has been in the job market these days will tell you: it sucks.  If they don’t think it sucks, then they’re lying to you or themselves.  With the short days of winter passing, it’s hard not to get downright depressed.  In fact, I do.  Sometimes I don’t want to get out of bed.  I don’t want to write more cover letters, I don’t want to go volunteer because I know it won’t get me a job; I don’t want to go exercise, even see people who love me and support me (the emotional cheerleading is just too much sometimes.)  But something I have found that I do want to do is yoga.  Unlike spin class or boot camp, which I know I should go to and drag myself to, yoga is a treat. 

So I started going.  And somewhere between downward facing dog and warrior II, I found gratitude.  Gratitude for, above all else, my physical health and the present moment.  Gratitude that I live with the man I love, in a city we love, and we are creating a life for ourselves that isn’t about money or status.  Gratitude that oranges are in season and inexpensive right now; gratitude that spring is just around the corner.  That the days are getting longer and I’m taking better care of myself. 

I am a genuinely lucky person, not just because I come from a life of privilege which has, in many ways, led to my being well-educated, debt-free, and happily married.  I could tell you that I got into law school through my own hard work, which I did; but I also went to law school because my parents pushed me to it.  I could be angry about that, in this economy, but instead, I choose to be grateful. 

I remind myself, as I shift from pose to pose, that today is short and life is long.  That I am young, and fortunate, and I may very well not find a job today, or tomorrow, or next month.  It could take me awhile to find something.  And so my career isn’t, and can’t be, what defines me today, or tomorrow, or next month.  I am who I am, regardless of where my paychecks come from, when they come at all.  I am a lawyer, regardless of whether I’m “practicing” or not.  I am also a wife, a hockey player, a long-distance runner.  I’m an amateur photographer and a wanna-be writer.  I’m a sister and a daughter and even still a granddaughter.  I’m crafty, thoughtful, and smart.  I am grateful for all of these things, and my ability to be these things.  And above all, I’m grateful that today gives me the chance to try to be better at these things, and strive, like I strive to sink deeper into a twist or let my heart come forward more, to simly do more, be more. 

Namaste.

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Filed under Exercise and Fitness, Job Search, Marriage, Unemployed, Volunteering