Tag Archives: career

New is always better.

A month ago I made a big decision, and I took a new job.  Change is always scary, especially the kind of change that takes you far away from what you know and will challenge you in all kinds of ways.  I’m…leaving legal services.  I’m leaving direct client services. I’m leaving nonprofit life.

I’m going to the government.  People who don’t know legal services act like going to the government is the same. Government/public interest attorneys are lumped together by bar associations and BigLaw attorneys. I don’t know if they think we’re all the same because we make less money or because we have regular hours or what.  But public interest attorneys don’t think that government attorneys are the same as us.  So to myself, and my colleagues, I’m making a big career change.

But then I read articles like this. And I think, “that’s why I’m done.”  Because my opposing counsels, while sometimes lovely, are sometimes people that make me think, “Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters.” Some apartment managers want to bankrupt people over a $400 carpet replacement. Some debt collectors want a confessed judgment when a client was 3 days short of sending their lease termination notice and the lease automatically renewed.  I am so tired of explaining to rich lawyers why poor people need a break. I am so tired of hearing story after story of property managers who just want to wield power over people in public housing.  This work burns you out not because you are emptying an ocean with a teacup, but because you lose your faith in humanity.  Because the people in this who look like you, were raised like you, went to law school to do good, stand there in court and argue with you that because your client was hospitalized and didn’t earn money for a month, they should be evicted.

I don’t know whether I’ll come back to direct service. I don’t know if I’ll find more humanity in government work. But hope springs eternal, and new is always better.  And if new isn’t always better, the new job is also about 28 miles closer to my house. Which is, for sure, always better.

 

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Old job, new job, red job, blue job.

I still think of my job as my “new” job. Even though I’ve been at this job almost as long as I was at my last job.  In nine months, I will have been at this job longer than I’ve been at any job ever.  And yet, I still think of it as my new job. I say things like, “my new job is really low litigation”. I say things like, “at my last job I did x” and I talk about it was yesterday and then I remember that was 2 years ago.

The thing about general practice is that you are constantly learning.  When I first started, I had a case and my coworker asked me if I had ever defended somebody in this kind of case and I said, “yeah, I mean, I think I’ve only done it ten times.” And she said, “I don’t think there is any kind of case I’ve done ten times.” And I have been there two years and I can see what she meant. I had three hearings this week.  They were each my first of each type of hearing. They were each different. One was state administrative, one was federal administrative, and one was landlord-tenant.

So, two years in, I continue to feel like the new kid.  Which is really great, because I love a challenge. I love learning new things and new areas and I love that part of my job. I am never bored.  I am often anxious, tired, stressed out, and hungry, but I am never bored.

I miss, frequently, the simplicity of my old job. I miss practicing in the same courthouse, in front of the same judges, who I knew, who respected the work I did.  I miss working in a coalition of people working towards common goals.  Ultimately this has been the right move for me, for now, but I think I would like to specialize again someday. I’m just not sure in what, and it’s hard to figure it out when you don’t do that many of any particular kind of case.  I think, ultimately, that I may be more interested in specializing in a specific type of lawyering than in a specific practice area.

When I first took this job, I told myself I would give it two years and reassess.  Did I want the same things? How would the commute wear on me? It took me an hour and eight minutes to get home today, so yes, it’s wearing on me. But at the same time, I was thinking last week what a relief it is to go to my neighborhood pool and not worry about clients seeing me in my bathing suit because my clients don’t live anywhere near where I work.  That distance has been surprisingly nice.  I did expect by the end of the first two years to know what I wanted to specialize in, but so far, I’m not significantly closer to figuring it out. I’ve managed to figure out what I don’t want to do, but there are a lot of practice areas and crossing one after another off a list isn’t really the most efficient way to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  But I figure if I keep practicing and keep learning and keep enjoying the challenges, eventually the answer will find me.

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And then it’s March.

And then March is nearly over.

I’ve been continuing in PT, continuing to hope to make my goal of running a half-marathon on May 7th, continuing to go to the gym at my office a few times a week.  I’m trying for daily workouts but like all routines, it does eventually start to fall apart.  My husband started running in the mornings so two days a week, I’m watching the kiddo and trying to get us out the door.  I got assigned a ton of new cases in the last week.  Old cases have come back with crazy new problems.  Life goes on, basically, and exercise is often the first thing to go.  Lately, I’ve been fighting really hard to hold on to my new routine and my new habits.

I don’t talk much about work here but work has been challenging lately.  A heavy caseload and a lot of different kinds of cases.  We’ve been short staffed since last fall, and have only finally just hired a new person, with four more vacancies yet to be filled.  I’m struggling not to let my workload interrupt my routine because I know that when I feel like I don’t have time to exercise is when I need to the most.  I get more done, am more focused, and have more capacity for my clients when I’m feeling good.

I hit my two year therapy anniversary this month.  My therapist and I talked about how much progress I’ve made and how much work I have left.  There isn’t really an “end” in sight, but I have goals and I am working towards them and I am in such a better place than I was an anxious puddle sitting in that office two years ago.  I talk openly about therapy at work, with my family, and with my friends.  The more open we all are about our need for mental health help, the better off we will be.

I read this article recently and I talk about it with my therapist.   Self care is important for me, but I hadn’t made the connection that I was basically coming home empty after a full day of caring for other people, social working them, and dealing with their problems.  So I would lose patience with my kid and didn’t have anything left for her, let alone my poor spouse at the end of a long day when all I wanted to do was sit on the couch, not deal with the dishes or our house or anything else.  So I’ve been working on radical self care.  What are the practices I’m stepping up?

  1. Exercise (duh). Particularly my Fit4Moms group where I get to be social about my exercise.
  2. Books on tape. I’ve been listening to audiobooks on my commute constantly and I feel like I’ve been able to tap into my imagination more and have been really excited about books and reading, which has been hard for me. It also gives me space to switch gears really fully after a long day.
  3. Therapy. At one point last year my therapist asked me what kind of self care I was doing (my kid wasn’t sleeping, I was working a lot, I was eating poorly and generally a mess) and I told him, “I come here once a week.” He has a pretty good poker face and he looked horrified.
  4. Mindfulness. I’ve started doing deep breathing exercises when things get to be too much.  It’s hokey but it’s helpful.

Anyone else engaging in radical self care? What do you do?

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2016 – Goals

I do believe in new year’s resolutions.  A new year’s resolution in 2007 started me running and down the path to losing 30lbs.  It led to me discovering all kinds of wonderful things about myself.  A resolution in 2011 to Get a Job led me to two fantastic opportunities that paved the way to better things later.  In 2012 my resolution was to Get A Better Job.  In 2014 my resolution was to Have a Baby and Do an Olympic Distance Triathlon.

So, right now I’m still stubbornly at around the weight I was post-delivery.  So my goal is to kick the baby weight, now that I’m done nursing. I’m signed up for another session of Fit 4 Mom’s Body Back boot camp, which is awesome and includes a meal plan and journaling and feedback on your food journal.

I signed up for a half marathon and a sprint distance triathlon. I signed up for a training plan for the half marathon and I have high hopes of doing the local Masters swim class this summer.

My other main goal is to simply my life. To spend more weekends at home.  To say no more.  We have a toddler now, and our life needs to be more about making sure she is enjoying herself and getting to do things that suit her and challenge her.  None of us is at our best when she is running around a brewery and getting stuck to the floor and my husband is trying to chug a flight of samplers and I’m chasing down the waitress with my credit card to get the check paid ASAP.  We have a few big trips planned, but we have a lot of weekends at home.  We built a deck. We joined our local science museum.  The good thing is, it becomes easier to say no when your child is less portable.  Our daughter has needs.  She wants our attention.  She does not want to linger at a bar for cocktails.  She isn’t happy to sleep in her carrier or nurse at the table anymore.  And people don’t invite you out as much after they see an epic meltdown.  (My in-laws had asked if we’d like to go out to dinner tonight, and we passed, and once they saw our kid have an epic meltdown over the mere existence of her Ikea play tent, they understood why we had opted for takeout.)

Anyone else make goals? Setting limits for themselves this year? What are you going to make happen?

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Working and Pumping, 8 months and 5 pumps in.

I got a new pump from my insurance company on Monday.  It is my fifth pump.  It’s also my favorite.  It’s the Spectra 2.

I started pumping when my daughter was a week old.  My sister had given me tips on starting pumping right away, so I would get used to it and also so that I could build a freezer stash.  I went back to work at six weeks with a full shelf of milk bags.  As my baby wouldn’t eat at daycare, I added to the stash.  Around six months, I started to experience a supply drop.  It was pretty consistent.  Nothing seemed to help much – not eating more, not hydrating more, not taking fenugreek or drinking the mother’s milk tea.  I rented a hospital grade pump for an overnight trip away from the baby and kept it for two weeks, hoping it would improve my supply.  I returned it and my supply went back down.  We started supplementing with the freezer stash.  Which gave me irrational anxiety.

My friend gave me her coworker’s old pump, which I took gladly because I am a forgetful person.  I did not want to run the risk of forgetting my pump for work one day, so I wanted a home pump and a work pump.  I got the work pump (my main pump) from my insurance company last fall.  My home pump and work pump were both the Medela Pump in Style Advanced and I had two sets of parts.  It was great, until the motor wore out in my home pump.  Around that time, an Ameda Purely Yours came up on our listserv for $20 and I picked that up.  I already had the parts because I had used a hospital grade Ameda pump in the hospital, so it was fine.  Except the Ameda Purely Yours is not a great pump.  It doesn’t have an auto let-down feature and they don’t make bigger flanges for it – the ones they make insert into each other and it’s weird.  I just used my Medela flanges inserted into the Ameda flanges and that helped.  But I consistently got less than I got from my Medela pump, so when my friend was selling her barely used Medela Pump in Style, I snapped it up.

For another two months, I continued to have supply issues, which I addressed in my last post.  After I decided I still wanted to make nursing work, I tried to get my insurance to cover a hospital grade pump.  I had changed insurances from last year, and so I was hoping that even though I had already gotten a pump through insurance, my new insurance might cover a hospital grade rental.  (You can get either a pump or a hospital grade rental, depending on your insurance.)  My insurance provider was iffy when I called about covering a hospital grade rental, but would absolutely give me a second free pump.  I emailed my doctor for a prescription and they directed me to edgepark.com, which is where I had gotten my original pump from.  I browsed through to see if they had hospital grade rentals (they don’t, my OB was confused), and when I put in my insurance info, it told me that I could get one of a number of pumps, which included the Medela PISA, the Ameda Purely Yours, the Freemies Pump (I seriously considered that one, because I think it would be so much better for pumping while driving) and the Spectra 2 Hospital Strength.  A quick review search on Amazon and Google revealed GREAT reviews, a couple of which compared it to the Medela or Ameda hospital strength pumps.  I added it to my cart, “checked out” and a week later it showed up in my office.  It is awesome.  It is super quiet, and generally extremely cool.  It has a built in timer, which is my favorite feature, and the massage/letdown feature is really cool.  It buzzes instead of suctioning the way other pumps do and I’ve gotten consistently higher yields out of it.  I pump into those free Avent bottles they give you at Motherhood Maternity, which is nice because then you don’t have to buy the stupid extra nipples for them.  I can also pump into MAM bottles but they don’t fit as perfectly.

Pumping at work is 100% possible because I have my own office.  This is a luxury that a lot of women don’t have, carting their pumps and their parts to either lactation rooms, supply closets, or even the handicapped stall of bathrooms (technically, that place also had a lactation room but it was really far away so they set up the handicapped stall as well.)  When I go to a training, I demand a private place to pump and our training director is super supportive and finds me one.  Nobody has ever walked in on me while pumping, nor have they banged on the door demanding to know why I’m in a closet with secured files, nor have they walked in to perform maintenance and commented that they “like the smell of breast milk”.  All of these are true stories.  I have pumped in the occasional bathroom, and it’s gross.  I pump in my car all the time.  I pumped in the manager’s office at a wedding.

I did hit a point around 6-7 months where I was SO OVER breastfeeding.  I was over pumping, I was over being punched in the throat and fish hooked and kicked while the baby was nursing.  I pushed through it in the hopes that it would get better, and because after a long day of work, I wasn’t willing to give up my snuggle time.

For the first time in awhile, I’m feeling like I might really make it to a year of breastfeeding.  At the one year mark, I will stop pumping, and see whether I still want to nurse or not.

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Can I breastfeed and litigate?

Monday found me, for the second time, standing in a bathroom stall at the courthouse using my hand pump to pump 5 ounces.  Then I remembered that I had cleverly loaded a bottle onto the hand pump, and I had then left the cap in the car.  Even with an oversupply and a decent freezer stash, I didn’t want to just pour those 5 ounces down the drain.  I felt so angry with myself, and so frustrated.  I had planned ahead, and all for naught!  I wound up just leaving the cap part of the hand pump on and putting the bottle upright in my bag.  When I took it out later, I only had two ounces left.

Let me lay out a typical court day.  Court is an hour away and starts at 8:45 or 9am.  Most hearings take a minimum of 1-2 hours. I usually pump around 8 or 9 am after I get to work and again 3 hours later.  Traffic varies by day and weather.  So here is probably the ideal plan:

-5:30 or 6:00 – wake up, get ready for work
-6:30 or earlier – feed the baby when she wakes up
-6:45-7:00 – leave for work, drive to my office or directly to the courthouse, if traffic is too bad to stop off at my office, drive to court and pump in my car.
-8:00 – stop at office, get whatever files I forgot, pump
-8:35 – pull into parking lot, pay for parking, go to court
-11:00/12:00 – hearing ends or breaks, go back to car and pump or drive back to work and pump.

The courthouse actually has a tiny office that I can get a key to, but I don’t have one yet.  So I’ve been doing an uncomfortable combo of bathroom pumping and pumping while driving back to my office.  The parking lot is a 10 minute walk from the courthouse, and today it was freezing raining.  So pumping in the bathroom was actually preferable to going back to my car and pumping and then going back into the courthouse.  But as I lugged all my stuff up the hill to my car to feed my meter and set my bottle of milk in the car and realized that half of it had leaked into my purse, I started wondering whether breastfeeding is really worth it when it is making my life this difficult.

There are women who just nurse at night and on the weekends and formula feed at daycare.  Nursing, and breastfeeding, remains really important to me.  Our kiddo has a hard enough time taking a bottle, I think feeding her formula would actually really upset her.  So, continuing to pump it is.  I just don’t know how to make this work.  Of my coworkers, one exclusively pumped, and the others were in court less and have less of a commute.  (Exclusively pumping would be easier because I could pump in the morning instead of depending on the baby’s timing.)

I spent some time looking at the Freemies system, because the idea of wearing something that I could wear under my clothes and discretely pump in court is pretty appealing.  However, based on this review, they don’t look that discreet.  I will be getting a key to the closet my organization has at the courthouse, and I will be working really hard to be more organized so that I do not have to stop at my office before court.  The end result of this, for now at least, is that I will have to get ready to leave a full hour before I actually leave the building.  I will make sure I have everything for court the next day, if I’m going straight to court, and then I will pump and clean my pump parts, and then I will make whatever final notes I have to make, update whatever to-do lists I have to update, make sure I sign out on the office clipboard, and then head home with all my files and documents for court.  I will also have to use the same rule I use with the baby for everything else in my life – assume it takes another half hour to get anywhere.  If I have an extra half hour when I get to the courthouse, I have time to pump and make sure I have everything for my case.  I have time to talk to the clerk about the docket and maybe let her know that I’m breastfeeding and if I’m not in the courtroom around noon if they call my case then, it’s because I’m pumping and can they pass the case until I come back?

I have never been an organized person, but as my last therapist used to remind me, if you do not practice a skill, you do not get better. So I’m going to practice being organized and put together, and see where that takes me.  Every month, I tell myself, “at least I’ve made it this far.” Then I ask myself if I think I can do another month.  Which feels manageable.  And so, we go, onward.

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Well.

So how is my new job? It’s great. It’s fascinating. It’s mostly new areas of law, but I still get to do some domestic violence law.  The people are fabulous and overall everything is going swimmingly.  Except for two things. The commute, and this pregnancy.

The commute is long. It’s 45 minutes to an hour, and if I take the train it’s an hour and ten minutes, including riding my bike a mile to the train, then a mile to my office, and the same going home.  I like the bike ride and it’s nice to take the train.  Unfortunately, sometimes it’s not an option – if I have court or a meeting or a doctor’s appointment, I have to drive.  Which is exhausting.  Even if I’m not driving, I’m still losing 2 hours of my day – which basically is the time I used to spend cooking and that I used to spend going to the gym.  So my gym routine has suffered considerably.  I’m working on figuring out how to work out at work on my lunch break, but there isn’t a nearby gym and walking laps around our parking lot is pretty dreary.  We have a lovely trail nearby, but it’s pretty much a mile to get to it.

As an aside, let me just say: Pregnancy is an awfully humbling experience.  It’s really really easy to judge other people who are pregnant for subsisting on bacon cheeseburgers and then you get pregnant and you can’t keep anything down but grilled cheese.  What to Expect is like, “eat 19 servings of vegetables a day, it’s not hard!” and in the beginning you believe them but then you quickly realize that it’s actually not possible to consume as much food as they recommend.  And maybe there are women out there who are still able to be awesome and feel fit and good up through their third trimester, but I’m going to let you in on a secret: a lot of us are faking it.  I did a 5k over the weekend and pretended I felt good, but really it was uncomfortable because they did not have a bathroom on the course and also walking a 5k by yourself is pretty dull, especially when it’s on a runway.  I’m glad I’m still able to walk, and I’m glad I’m signed up for another 5k, because it is keeping me motivated to stay active, but man, did I have expectations which are ridiculous.  Third trimester is uncomfortable.  It’s exhausting.  I thought I was going to be better at being pregnant than I am, and I’m just not.

Anyway, the reason pregnancy has made my job transition difficult is that about a week after I started, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes and classed as “high risk”.  Which means more doctors appointments and more monitoring.  They’ve had me coming to the OB weekly, plus I have to see an endocrinologist and go in for additional ultrasounds and monitoring to make sure the baby isn’t growing too big.  I also have regular therapy appointments, so I’m seeing a minimum of two doctors a week, pretty much.  Which means needing to work longer hours on some days to make up, and means driving to work when I have doctor’s appointments.  I don’t really like coming into the office at 11am or leaving early to go to yet another doctor’s appointment, so it’s been pretty frustrating.  However, the hours are flexible and my supervisor is very understanding and sympathetic about being high risk.  A lot of my coworkers have kids and are full of helpful working-parent advice and it’s just a good environment to be in.

So overall, things are going well, but my blogging has suffered and will continue to suffer.  IT can also always log into my computer, so I can’t write from the office in my downtime anymore.  But I will continue to update when I’m able!

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