h1

Self Promotion

October 31, 2014

It’s review season at my firm.  This year, I was pretty pleased with mine, but quite daunted by the fact that the message was loud and clear:  You are more senior (i.e., closer to the partner question), time to get yourself out there and develop some business for us.

Shit is getting real now.

Not bad timing, really.  In the past the kids were younger, had more activities and events, needed a regular dinner time, bed time, etc., and it was really near to impossible for me to fit in regular bar events, etc.  Now, I only have one at home, and she is at the school until 7 or 8 p.m., comes home and does homework until 11.  I can take a night or two a week to put myself out there and make a name for myself in the broader legal community.

GULP.

h1

Brief Reminiscence

October 29, 2014

I married the Ex in December of 1994, and about a week later moved with him to Birmingham, Alabama, where he was in law school.  I worked as a legal assistant first at a large multi-city firm (which has since grown to BigLaw proportions, from what I can tell), and then moved over to a small boutique litigation firm.*

In the smaller firm, I worked for an attorney who was as rare as they come in Alabama in 1995:  A woman partner.  She was around my mom’s age, and she had a reputation for being …. difficult.  Yet, she and I clicked.  For some reason – this is a strength of mine.  I work well with very difficult people.

Anyway, she frequently encouraged me to stop supporting the Ex and get my own butt in law school.  “Go to the University of Alabama, and then you and I can be partners!”  I think I was pregnant with E at the time, and while law school was still a long-term goal, it was not on my immediate horizon.

The office manager at that firm abhorred the attorney I worked for, and the feeling was mutual.  The office manager knew that I got along well with the attorney, and so she took out her issues on me as well as on the attorney.  One year, she chose not to give me a bonus, despite the fact that both attorneys I worked with thought I did fantastic work and we all worked well together.  When pressed, the office manager said it was because she based the bonuses on the number of “documents created”. This was the dawn of the Document Management System era.  Allowing her to count the number of documents each assistant created.  She didn’t really care that the way my team worked was for the partner to open a document and type a mishmash of craziness in, and then tell me to go in and prepare it for filing or sending or whatever.

The attorney I worked with was very apologetic that I was being treated this way, and wrote me a personal check for the amount of the bonus that the other legal assistants received.

I don’t know what made me think of that today.  But I do know that I just can’t imagine someone’s performance being measured by the number of documents he or she created.

How stupid.

*Kind of funny that my legal assistant career in Birmingham matches my legal career post-law school.

h1

Still Snotty

October 17, 2014

This cold is a pain in my ass.  For 40 years, I had the immune system of the gods.  Nine times out of ten, a sniffle or scratchy throat would resolve itself within 24 hours.  Throughout the latter half of my thirties, I enjoyed a position of great smugness, in relation to my 10-years-my-senior husband.  A bug would come into the house and he’d be on his back for two weeks.  I’d blow my nose once, and go about my business.  Now, since I’ve turned 40, I lost my advantage.  I have a COLD.  Not the flu, certainly nothing hysteria-worthy.  It’s a COLD.  But it won’t go away, and I can’t sleep a solid night without coughing and finding myself unable to breath.  I can’t take NyQuil, because then I can’t wake up and go to work (at least not efficiently).  It’s been 10 days!  What the hell!!??

In other news ….

I had a court hearing last week.  In an interesting turn of events, I wasn’t the lawyer, I was the client.  After 10 years of amicable negotiations and renegotiations, through job changes, moves within and without the country, new children (his) , remarriages, etc., etc., my ex and I ended up in court.  Fighting over college costs.

Here’s the deal:

My kids are looking at (and in one case, attending) relatively prestigious colleges, and these colleges base their financial aid primarily on need.  They can’t give merit scholarships, because then everyone would get a scholarship (so goes their tale of woe).  Happily (???) I qualify for financial aid.   And that’s good, because after becoming a single mother when my kids were in preschool, and choosing to go back to school to improve our quality of life, and having the requisite loans that go with that, I’m not in the same financial shape of those who maybe started their careers before their kids were born and paid off grad school loans in time to start saving for college.

But of course, we knew this.  And we discussed what kind of aid we needed, and what we could do.  As both girls think about and consider colleges, we talked about looking at schools that have aid to give, and about having safeties not only as to admissions, but also as to tuition (i.e., state schools).  From everything I was looking at, the “net price calculators” that all schools provide, my income resulted in significant financial aid (i.e., leaving our balance under $20k/year), and the resulting numbers were something I could pay from income and savings.

I filled out the financial aid paperwork, and so did the ex.  Through discussions with the financial aid office of E’s school, I know what the school sees as my financial contribution, and it matches up with the net price calculators (and after some negotiations regarding my own outstanding educational debt, it went down by a decent bit).  It’s very reasonable, based on my salary.  I can do it.

Problem is, they also expect E’s family to contribute what they determine as the Ex’s financial contribution. Which is also very reasonable, based on his salary.

They don’t send a bill to him and a bill to me.  They send a bill to E.  It’s her schooling. If she doesn’t come up with all of it, she doesn’t go.

The ex and I were in touch through the whole process, and it seemed like we were on the same page that we were each contributing, AND that we supported the girls pursuing these schools.  Meaning, the girls and I weren’t/aren’t skipping off toward expensive private schools while he is arguing that we should be limiting ourselves to state schools.  We all knew what were getting into, and what the ramifications would be.

E applied.  Got into her first choice school.  She received her financial aid package, and the ex and I spoke about the numbers.  It looked to me during these discussions that I’d end up shouldering part of what the school saw as his contribution, but based on the sum total of our lives, that was okay.  I’d pay 2/3ds and he would pay 1/3.  I thought it would be harder than if I was only covering “my” share, but it still wasn’t devastating.

He agreed to that.

Then he changed his mind.  He decided nah – he’s actually not going to pay anything.

Now that was devastating.

We argued.  I spoke to a lawyer.  He spoke to a lawyer.  He dug in harder.  Litigation ensued.  (Because in my state, a non-custodial parent is obligated to contribute to a child’s support until they are 18 unless they are full time students, then it goes to 21 or 23.  Support is defined to include college costs.)

And, because of some legal peculiarities between the state I live in and the state we divorced in (and not because of his income or any other practical reason) — I lost.  He’s done at 18.  E is 18 now, and J will be 18 before she even graduates high school.

And he is paying nothing.

Now I’m trying to figure everything out in a way that avoids crushing debt for either me or my children.

I think we’ll be okay ….  ramen is actually pretty yummy!!!

h1

Fall Break

October 14, 2014

E came home* for fall break this past weekend, and we did her the grand favor of passing along our germs, for her to then take off to school with her and share with an even wider audience. Parents (and sister) extraordinaire.

My head is full of snots, and it makes my thinking blurry. I’m trying to prepare for depositions and plan appellate briefs, but instead, I’m responding to texts from both girls, about random mid-day check-in sorts of things:

E: Slept till noon (we drove her back to school last night, because of work schedules, but her fall break doesn’t end until tomorrow, so she has a day off), and doesn’t have the energy to venture to the dining hall for lunch. Big news from college.

J: Progress reports are out. 99% of the texts this girl sends me during the day have to do with her academic progress. PSAT is Saturday, and she’s dragging me out of bed at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow and Thursday to squeeze in a couple more practice sections. I work hard to try and reduce her stress, and let her know that these things are no the be-all and end-all. Let’s see if it works …

________________

Fall break was fun. We saw a movie ( Gone Girl), and we bought pumpkins, and we cooked together and we curled up together and we fed her all her favorite local foods. It was nice having everyone under the same roof again, but it made it strange all over again to wake up this morning with only one daughter to check in on.

I’m thankful that E is only a quick drive or bus ride away – she’s coming home again this weekend to see friends with a different fall break schedule, and the weekend after that is Family Weekend at her school. Makes it hard to miss your kid when you see her this often! Hooray!

* I tried a catch up post, it felt boring. So I’m just diving back in. Emma’s in college. She’s loving it. Life is amazing.

h1

2014 – Getting a Handle on Things

January 19, 2014

I’ve been enjoying the clean slate of a new year.  2013 was alright – We all plugged along, and things were fine.  2013 had been spent on work, and college searches for Emma.  But I wasn’t very intentional about things, and at the end of the year, I felt scattered and disorganized.   The big things were good: kids, marriage, work.  But I felt unhappy about the background things.  So I tried to break it down:

  1. It’s ridiculous that I’m still fat. I am capable of meeting goals and working hard. Why have I been whining and unhappy about this for years?  There’s no excuse.
  2. My house is a mess, and that’s ridiculous, too.  I canceled our housecleaning in November because it’s $3,000 year that can go toward college tuition.  After I lost that every-other-week spruce-up, things spiraled into chaos. I need routines that I’ve never really established. (It’s like I’m a freaking teenager or something.)
  3. $$$.  I need to pay for college, and it’s going to be hard because I haven’t saved like I should have (especially while in BigLaw).  My salary is smaller now, and that will mean I get some aid, but I will likely be responsible for at least $20K a year, and maybe significantly more.     

So I made plans, and I’ve been implementing them, and it feels pretty damned good.  

First, David and I have been focusing on healthy eating for a while – since at least August.  We were doing very well for most of the rest of 2013, but the holidays hit us hard.  So now we’re back to healthy eating, and we joined a gym.  For two weeks now, we’ve had a new morning routine, and it’s harsh, but it’s working:  my alarm goes off at 5 am, but I have to hit snooze twice.  David’s goes off at 5:15.  We leave the house at 5:30 on the dot.  Work out for an hour, and come back home at 7 for showers and making sure the girls are out of bed and heading toward school.  

Us going together makes all the difference in the world.  If I were trying to do this on my own, I’d be hitting snooze 4 times, 5 times, and then “oops, it’s too late to go now.”  But he’s more regimented than I am, and I’m accountable to him.  

I certainly get tired earlier at night now.  We are heading to bed at 10, instead of 11:30 or so.  But that’s okay, too.  

The only thing that will stop us is (a) if I have a trial or other work-related thing that requires me to get to work before 8:30, or (b) we get sick.  (Which David’s body is trying to do right now, but we aren’t letting it.)  

I’m very optimistic that this will help bring the change I need.

Despite being oh-so-very-tired in the evenings, I’ve also been working to keep up with the clutter and messes in the house on a daily basis.  I’m making myself lists of “tasks” that I need to complete each night.  I’m not tackling huge projects on weeknights, but doing little things.  The list includes things like “clean off the living room end table” and “sweep the stairs” – just things I can do quickly but contributes to me being caught up.  Once I’m home and tired and I think “the house is a mess” – it’s too huge and I am less capable of breaking it down.  So I make the lists during the day, and at night it feels good to cross things off.  

This worked well until I had a couple of nights where I had to work late, and I didn’t get to the tasks.  But I can catch up on the weekend, and still be good.  

On the money front – I put myself on a very tight budget.  Not only saving every penny that I can, but also aggressively paying off debt.  Personal debt is not factored in when colleges give aid packages.  My car payment and credit card payments are monies that I will be expected to give to colleges.  So I’m working to get rid of as much of that as I can before August.  Fortunately, I don’t have huge credit card balances, and so I can make a real dent.  With my plan, I should have no credit card debt by 2016.  Law school loans, however, are a different story.  Those are still there, in all of their $100,000+ glory. 

I am kicking myself for not dealing with this nitty-gritty $$ stuff a year or two sooner, but I am going to cut myself some slack in light of the fact that my income changed drastically in the last 2 years, and adjustments were slow.  When I first took the pay cut when I left BigLaw, it felt huge.  Now, I feel like we’re okay, and we have plenty of $$ to do the things we need to do, as long as we’re disciplined.  And we will be making some serious sacrifices – there won’t be a vacation this year, for example.  I’m hoping that after this year (where I have some taxes to deal with), we can add the vacation back in.  

But you know what?  I really miss my house cleaners.

 

 

 

h1

Finally, a Week Off

November 24, 2013

I was just about to ask my daughters if they had any plans for tonight, when I remembered it’s a school night.  Back in August and September when things were INSANE for me, I declared this week mine.  A full week off while using only 3 vacation days – perfect!  So I’m home, cozy, most of the Thanksgiving shopping done, and three days and nights of blissfully work-free organizing/cleaning/relaxing time ahead of me.

A quick run down of what I’ve been doing for the past few (silent) months:

College Hunting.

Emma is a senior.  We had her last first day of school EVER.  Crazy.  We’ve seen many colleges, and a few of them more than once (first a tour, then an interview, and in one instance, a final “let’s check it out one more time before I decide to apply Early Decision”).  I’ve spent many an hour when I should have been drafting motions instead crunching numbers, running my data through FAFSA calculators, perusing scholarship options.

Volunteering.

I’ve helped with plays, I’ve organized the National Honor Society Ceremony, I’ve coordinated faculty breakfasts, and now I’ve signed on to chair the high school’s mandatory After the Prom Party.  It’s a very big task.

When I got my review this year, there were a few comments about how I was too busy to focus on marketing, and how partners hope I can free up some time for that purpose.  I know I need to spend more time on that.  I need a book of business of my own, and I need to have some name recognition.  But right now, I use my free time at the girls’ high school, and I’m really not up for changing that.  Not yet.  Even when Emma graduations, Jules is the one who really WANTS me engaged.  I’ve definitely developed significant organizational skills in these years of school volunteerism, so once I do make that shift, I think it will go well.

Prepping for the Empty Nest.

I almost feel like I’m nesting.  I don’t know what is going on.  I’m purging, organizing, and redecorating.  First, it was Emma’s room, because she was in the midst of SATs, college essays, etc., and her room was a little overwhelming.  Now I’m working (slowly but surely) on my closet and bedroom, and also our office, which is gross.

Also, David and I have been getting ourselves ready, relationship-wise, to be alone.  In a good way. Sorting through some things, emotionally and physically (like that gross office), and thinking about what we want to do with our time and our lives.  We certainly have time – our options are going to be quite limited during the 6 years of college tuition payments!

So, that’s what I’ve been up to.

 

 

h1

Between Trials, Thinking About the End.

September 3, 2013

2013 has been a very, very busy work year.  Since I left my BigLaw firm, I’ve taken a 50% pay cut, and have had an INCREASE in my work hours.  There is no doubt that the work I do is more satisfying, and that my firm is a better fit, and the people I work with are really awesome, but I could use to have the hours lessen up a bit.  I’m on track for a 2400 hour year, and it’s, honestly, poops.  It means that I’ve had great experiences, and have grown as an attorney, but since I’m still years away from any kind of “promotion” (i.e., partnership), the pace of this growth could slow down, and I’d be in good shape.

On the home front, the girls are STILL not back in school.  The Jewish holidays fall in such a way that we couldn’t start this week, so the school district starts on Monday the 9th, but my girls (10th and 12th graders now) start on Tuesday the 10th.  (The Freshmen get the high school to themselves on the first day of school …).

Tomorrow at 10:15, my Emma is getting a “pixie cut.”  She is looking for something like the other Emma.  (Well, one of the other Emmas.)  Currently, my Emma’s hair is almost to her butt.  This is going to be a huge change, and I have to say, I’m a little anxious that she’s going to hate it, and there’s going to be nothing we can do about it until it grows out. But you know, it’s her head.

It’s also not a small thing to me that she’s filling out college applications right now.  A year from now, she won’t be living in my house.  And she (likely) never will be again, other than school breaks.  I am capable of being very sad about this.  Very sad.

In the meantime, Juliette is being a total homebody.  She likes to be at home, to sleep at home, and to eat at home.  She’s watching her sister’s process, and is already starting to freak out about her own.  So maybe to make up for Emma leaving, J will never leave.

This year is going to fly by.  I’m going to be juggling college visits, college interviews and college applications with volunteer duties, school performances, regattas, and trials and arbitrations.  I want to be sure that I figure out how to enjoy it, at the same time, as it’s going to be tough to turn around and find that it’s August of 2014, and my baby-girl is packing her boxes.

 

 

 

 

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 71 other followers