Archive for January, 2012

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Driving

January 28, 2012

I’ve been meaning to do this for a long, long time – but both of our schedules had been too full.  Today, we were both home without much to do (well, I have laundry, but welcome the opportunity to neglect that), so we had made plans to go out for lunch, and then – finally —–

I put Lemon behind the wheel of my car.

And, I can honestly say – it was fun!

We found a big empty parking lot – and it was BIG.  So she had a lot of room to maneuver.

At first, she was very, very afraid.  Even the roll that took place when she lifted her foot off the brake was too much for her, and then she would SLAM on the brake, and my head would roll out the window.

So we worked on “getting familiar with the brake.”  I had her just feel it out – I taught her to be the brake whisperer.  To find where it works, and how to get it to smooth out.

Then, once I knew my head would stay attached, we started working on some gentle gas pedal presses.

Yes, it was this slow.

BUT – she got the hang of it pretty quick once she got over those initial fears.  She liked parking.  She struggled with figuring out which way to turn the wheel while in reverse (as do I – still).   She loved U-turns.

While it wasn’t my initial intent, she did well enough that I offered to let her drive on the street.  Just a quick right turn on, right turn off.  She took me up on it (I didn’t think she would).  There was no real risk in the exercise, but she did get herself initiated at being honked at.  So, that was fun.  🙂

Even that quick blip on the road showed me, though, that while I may think it’s fun in an empty parking lot – teaching her with other cars around will be very, very difficult.  I wasn’t panicky or anxious at all in the parking lot, but with cars honking, and chances of her rolling into the street without looking – the tension went sky high.  I wasn’t yelling or anything, I just saw that maybe – just maybe – I shouldn’t be the one to take her on the road.

She thinks she is going to be a very safe driver.  She loves rules, and thinks they are made to be followed, not bent or stretched.  As in, “Mom, you are going 36 mph, but the speed limit is 30.”  [Insert maternal eye roll.]  And then things like, “well, one thing that just taught me – people who text while driving are INSANE.  Or Stupid.  Or Both.”

Love my girl. 😉

 

 

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Pre-Acceptance Freak Out

January 28, 2012

Friday was a busier day than I anticipated. I thought I’d have my 10 am informational interview, and then a restful day at home, maybe with a phone call or two.

But my 10 am “informational” interview felt more like a real interview, and then I checked in with a friend who works at that firm for a while.  He ended up being close with one of the associates at the offer firm, so he put us in touch to chat.

I went home, spoke to this associate for an hour, and then called next week’s firm to see if I could move things up, and then had real work to do, and then decided to engage in negotiations with the ex to get child support up to snuff. Then I freaked out, a la paycheck calculator.

Here are some of the results:

  • Associate at offer firm gave a very nice and candid view of the firm. I ended up even more excited to work there. It was good.
  • Next week’s interview can’t be moved up: the firm is in talks with a senior person to come in as a partner. They were thinking if he does come in, they’d bring me in as a junior person to support him. But timing can’t be rushed, and the area isn’t my first choice (and isn’t – really – what my resume indicates I would do, so …. ????). I’m keeping the Thursday lunch on the Calendar for the sake of the “longer view.” it’s not going to be an option for me right now.
  • The Ex was less resistant than I anticipated. I’d done a good job for the past year or so in prepping him for the reality that I would not be at big firm forever, and therefore wouldn’t be able to continue to discount child support forever. I think we can avoid court.
  • But the paycheck calculator was mean to me. 

This will not be easy. I’m nowhere near having to make huge changes, like moving out of my house or selling my car, but the series of little changes are going to hurt. 


A friend joked today, “you won’t be able to run out and get the newest iPhone and iPad anymore!” not that I’d need a new iPad. Mine is great. But if the iPhone 5 comes out ….  


No, seriously. The clothes budget will be an issue, the food budget will be affected. Things like $200 athletic fees for sports will start to hurt. 


We like Calistoga Springs sparkling water, the orange flavor. David tends to buy a case of it now and again, bc it’s cheaper by the case. I was having a glass last night, and wondered “can we keep buying this?” I asked him how much it was, and he really didn’t know. “do you think we will have to look at things that closely?” he asked.  Yes. Yes, I do.


I may need to have Lemon quit her voice lessons.


And the  there’s my other hold out – Third to house and car – the housecleaners. A $200/month expense that I just can’t imagine giving up. I’d rather cancel cable. Having a lower income doesn’t mean I have a lesser job. (Odd as that may be, but the reality when you start out in BigLaw). I don’t have any more time to scrub and polish. The housecleaners don’t tidy – they keep up with the floors, the bathrooms, the dust bunnies under the radiators. And they force us (because all of our personalities require force) to keep up with our personal messes on a twice-monthly basis, so the dust and grime underneath the clutter can be addressed.


Before we had them, I was a sad lady. A mad lady. Weekends were unhappy times because I was resentful that I spent the week working and then the weekend cleaning. So maybe I’d sit on the couch and pout, instead of cleaning, and things were yucky. Then we’d plan to have friends over, and I’d have no choice but to tackle the weeks’ (or months’) worth of grime, and I’d go on a rampage. Cleaning and bitching would go hand-in-hand. I would, essentially, turn into my mother. And like the generations before them, my kids and husband would hide in corners somewhere or leave the house. 


I can’t think of anything other than these housecleaners that has increased the quality of my life to this degree.  Maybe my iPhone. Maybe – but it may have detracted, really, because of the, well, distraction.


So I will tenaciously hold on.


And we will tighten the belts and see how it feels.


And David is still on the job market. It was easier for me because the legal market here is picking up, but other markets are still slow.  I also am currently employed, and he, in contrast, has been managing the home for the past 5-6 years. He got a masters in that time, too, but even that is somewhat in the past. And in the time that he’s been looking, he kinda caught pneumonia – so, things have been slower.


Once he’s settled, I think we will be even closer to ok. 


And so – there I am. Freaking out, but still optimistic. Could be worse, right?


I could have to move … And I do not.

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Job Search Diaries, III

January 26, 2012

The third installment in my chronicling of looking for a new job.  Here is the first, and the second.

Two interviews in one day is hard.  I wasn’t wrong that a 4 p.m. interview would be very, very hard.

I also had a decent amount of work to do today, for my current job.

Tough day.

Anyway, as predicted, the 11:30 interview was meh.  I met with a partner from another big firm, who referred to the environment as “a pressure cooker” on multiple occasions.  Frying pan —-> frier, not my idea of an intelligent move.  I liked her, and the work itself doesn’t sound horrible, really (nice qualifier), but – well – meh.

Then at 4, polar opposite.  Minimum billable hours: 1600.  Huh?  Is that even full time?  A 30 hour work week (assuming no vacation).

But it was also in the ‘burbs, and requires a daily drive, and is super-tiny, and doesn’t really have a copy machine. Most importantly – it doesn’t seem to have opportunities for growth/promotion.  I don’t know – I can live without a copy machine, but the vibe didn’t feel right to me.  I know a few people who have interviewed there in the past and in this current round, and they “really liked it.”  I wonder if we were in the same place?

So now we have the Trial Firm, The Pressure Cooker, and The Burb-Firm.

What’s next is an informational interview with a very well-respected medium sized firm, and then an initial partner interview with another smaller firm.

But then, the huge News Flash:

I got an offer today!!! 

From the trial firm.

I am a happy camper about this.

First of all, I am excited about this firm.  I keep soliciting opinions from others, to make sure my  impressions aren’t off the wall,  and they all are coming back positive.

Second of all – I’m not gonna be unemployed!!  Even though friends and even my career-dude have been pretty consistent with “there’s no shame in applying for unemployment . . . ” I didn’t want to do that.  My rent is $2500. Unemployment is $653/week in Mass.  Okay – I can cover the rent with that (I didn’t think I could – but just now googled it for the first time) – but I can’t buy FOOD!!!  (Okay, so David just pointed out that I could get food stamps, maybe — HOORAY!) BUT — there is no aid that covers car payments, or student loans (well, except for deferments). But WE’D STILL BE SCREWED!!

So a job offer is very welcome.

The fact that this one comes with a major (i.e. 50%) pay cut, well, doesn’t detract.

I’ve been working at one of these crazy-paying law firms for 5 years.  I’ve made a lot of money, but I haven’t done enough with it. We have some savings, but we should have more.  If I continued with this salary, would I have more savings?  Maybe not.  Probably not.  Despite the stupidity of that answer.

I’ve always known that the big (ridiculous) salary wasn’t forever. Not-forever is now.   That’s fine.  We can do this.  My resulting salary is a good one. It goes up even more every year.  There are bonuses, decent benefits.

Things will be fine.

[College?  What is this word, college?  i do not understand.  Is this a word from my language?  Please.  Leave me alone. I need a fucking job.]

 

 

 

 

 

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Job Search Diaries, II

January 25, 2012

Much activity since my last post!  The good kind (for the most part).

By the end of last week, I had 5 interviews lined up for this week and next.

The first one was Monday – and I knew it was going to be relatively intense, with 5 attorneys, and pretty high standards. The job was at a medium sized firm that focuses on trial work.  I bought a new suit, I reviewed a booklet from my career dude with “30 tough interview questions,” and studied the firm’s website.  I worked hard on coming up with my story about why I was leaving my current firm (you know, short of saying “I got fired,” but yet being honest that I was shown the door . . . ).

And the interview went great. I left there feeling really good about the way it went.  I liked the firm, the location is easy-peasy, commute-wise, and — I can still interview!!!  I was on a high over it all day long.  I knew that an offer was not guaranteed, but just knowing that it went well made me happy.  It made me think I can sell myself, and that I will, eventually, be sold.  (Hopefully to the highest bidder.)   I also really wanted an offer.

That evening, I signed onto facebook and saw that an old colleague of mine was posting about the fact that she had  2 job offers and had to choose RIGHT NOW.  I reached out and told her I’d been looking around and have done some research into firms, and did she want to chat about it?  So we did, and . . . she got an offer from the firm I’d interviewed with that morning.

As it turned out, she was in another conference room across the hall at the same time as me. She had an offer in hand, and knew she had to respond to that offer ASAP, and so the firm scrambled and gave her an offer.

I was bummed. I know it would be silly to think I’d get an offer from my very first job interview, but I did like them, and I think they liked me, so it was a little sad.  At the same time, I told myself, I wasn’t sure that they only had one opening.  My colleague had heard through her grapevine that another associate gave notice while we were each in our respective conference rooms, and so it could very well be that we’d both be getting offers.

I gave my colleague all the information I had about the firm (all positive), from partners at our firm and from people I know outside the firm.  I knew less about the firm she had her other offer from, but we talked about what she did know.

She wrote me yesterday morning — she declined the offer and went with the other firm.

At noon, I got a call from a partner I work with.  She had been called for a reference.  At 4, I got an email from a senior associate I worked with.  She had been called for a reference.  I then wrote to another partner I work with and told him, “they’re making phone calls – please check your voice mail?” He wrote back “They called!  I’ll call back in the morning.”  (I will remind him.)

Today, I have 2 interviews.  One at 11:30, and one at 4 p.m.  I also have a meeting at work at 10, but the 11:30 interview is in my current building.  I may come home right after the first interview, because I don’t know how else to keep my energy up for a 4 p.m. interview.  This one is another appealing firm, which is not in the city, proper.  It’s in the quasi-urban town next to ours, and I’d need to drive to work.  That would be weird.

The 11:30 is less appealing.  It’s for a position at another big firm in a specialized area, and I’m not sure I want to specialize in that area (although I do have a lot of experience in it).  I just don’t have the best feeling about it.  But I will give it my all, nonetheless.  The firm that’s been calling my references – as well as every other firm I’m talking to – is going to come with a huge paycut.  Huge.  This other big firm will come with a small pay cut. We are hoping huge pay cuts will be mitigated by David finding a job, but that hasn’t happened yet. So I don’t want to shut the door on something that could be easier for our budget.

Friday is another medium sized firm, and next THURSDAY, is yet another.  I’m afraid next Thursday is too far away, if the Monday firm makes me an offer.  I’m hoping I can call the Thursday firm and move things up.

So, there’s the update!

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Job Search Diaries

January 18, 2012

January has already been a huge roller coaster on the job-search front.  With the return to school for the girls and “work” for me (in quotes because I’m not really working – but I am showing up at the office to clean out my drawers and use the printer for resumes), I knew the pressure was on to find a freakin’ job.

Prior to January 1, I had many (good) reasons to put the search off.

  1. My severance package creates a situation where it behooves me, financially, to stay at my current firm for the entire “transition period” (i.e., 3 months) – searching in November to start a job in March is a little awkward, at best.
  2. I produced Mouse’s school play, and it was a great way to throw myself into a productive endeavor and not feel like shit about myself for getting laid off.
  3. The holidays.  Not only did they give me something positive to focus on, but they tend to get in the way of most hiring cycles.

Despite these reasons, I did keep checking job postings, and threw my resume at a few opportunities (a “few” means 5 or  6) throughout December.  But never heard a peep.

But come January 1, I had nothing.  No play. No holidays.  Nothing to talk me into putting this off.

I (potentially naively) expected to wake up on January 3, the first true “business day” of the year, and see the world smattered with job opportunities. And to be dripping with responses from the December submissions.

Instead, I woke up on January 3 and saw – nothing.

That whole week, postings were light and my phone was silent.  I was kinda bummed.  And I started to feel some actual anxiety about whether I can pull this off – whether I can manage to get a new position before this one ends.  A gap in employment will not be easy for us.  Not at all.

Then the following week, postings picked way up.  I reached out to some people I know and had some nibbles.  I sent resumes to various places. I felt good! about things!

But some of my networking emails went unanswered (the minority of them, but still).  The resumes I sent received no response. By the end of the week, I felt – bleh.

But then I had a meeting with my career-dude (firm-provided career consultant), and he made me feel better, because he’s smooth like that.  Then I made some phone calls inside the firm to people I work with and sent an email to a friend outside the firm (a fellow parent who is also a lawyer who graduated from my law school, but a decade before me), and the responses I got were overwhelming.  Not just “oh, why don’t you call so-and-so?”  But rather “I am going to call so-and-so for you!  They are looking for people, and you are perfect!”  And then – they did call their so-and-sos.

I was kind of blown away by their generosity and proactive response.  My career dude has been pushing me all along to be up front with people in my community and at my firm about my situation, for this very reason.  “People want to help you!” he said.  But I was still shy.  I forced myself, though, after our last meeting to reach out a bit more.

I stayed optimistic all weekend.  Which is nice for a long weekend.  And then the last of my networking people who hadn’t responded DID respond (with apologies for the delay).  And yesterday, the postings were again voluminous, and I sent my resumes to the s0-and-sos.  Within 2 hours of sending my resume to one of the so-and-sos, I got a response setting up a meeting.  Then I sent out 4 more resumes to the day’s postings.  And I woke up this a.m. with another interview request.

So.  Hooray!  Two interviews!  Of course, they may just be the warm-ups.  I haven’t interviewed since 2006.  5 1/2 years ago.

But I think I can do it . . . .

 

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Braces

January 12, 2012

Mouse still has braces on.  She had some messy teeth issues when she was young, in addition to a genetic overbite, and so braces were a given. (In fact, this is Mouse’s second round of braces.  The first round, when she was very young (3rd grade) took care of the messy teeth issues – where one of her adult front teeth was “blocked” from coming down by an “extra tooth” in the roof of her mouth.) Lemon had braces, too, for a milder overbite.  Mouse’s braces went on in November of 2009, and Lemon’s in January of 2010.  Lemon’s came off on September 1, 2011, and Mouse’s won’t come off until March of this year.*  So she’ll have them on considerably longer than Lemon did.

There’s a good reason for this (in addition to the more severe overbite):  Lemon wore her rubber bands religiously, Mouse never wears them.  You know, the little tiny rubber bands that hook to the braces and stretch from the top teeth to the bottom teeth?

This morning was her second-to-last regular appointment, and her orthodontist** gave her a pretty decent lecture about wearing her bands 23 hours a day.  “This is the last 8 weeks – it’s the final push. You can do this!”  He said she’s right now at 93% of fixing her overbite, but if she just! wears! her! bands! it will be 100% perfect.  Why not be perfect?  After 2 years of braces?  She nodded and smiled her Mouse-like smile and we went on our way.

In the car, I reiterated:

Me: “Dude! You need to do this.  For real!”

Her: “I know, I know.”

Me:  “I think if I check and you’re not wearing them, there will be repercussions. For the last 2 months, you need to be serious about this.”

Her:  blink blink

Me:  “Seriously.”

Her:  twinkle, smile “How about instead of repercussions, we try a reward!”

Me:  blink blink

Her:  “Really, say if every time you check for a week, I have my bands in, I get a chocolate bar!”

Me:  blink blink “We can try that.”

The child is getting dangerous.

 

* I have some anxiety about this, coupled with the job transition.  I still have some monies to pay, and the payments are completely tied up with my job.  Between my health care savings account and my dental insurance – my lay off and my girls’ braces pay off are in danger of colliding here.  I’m hoping I can just pay it off with this year’s health care savings account, but there’s a chance that it won’t fly, because of the timing.  And even though the braces are mostly done, the insurance has been making itty bitty monthly payments, and didn’t reach the maximum that I was counting on.  So.  Grumble.

** I love our orthodontist.  He’s a sole practitioner, and I find him to be very down-to-earth, in tremendous contrast to the orthodontist I had to fix MY overbite.  My guy ran a factory.  Rows upon rows of dental chairs with scores of dental assistants who did the actual work.  The girls’ ortho does everything himself.  He sees us before school, and we’re in and out within 30 minutes.  He also has kids my girls’ ages, and his middle son is Lemon’s age and does crew, like Lemon. So I run into him all the time at one river or another, and we always have plenty to chat about when the girls are getting their teeth yanked on.

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Notes from the Good Jailer

January 10, 2012

On Sunday, I went to a friend’s house to play mah jongg.  My friend’s daughter is Mouse’s best friend.  When I walked in, Mouse’s friend said, “When is Mouse free again?  Monday or Tuesday?”  I said, “Tuesday.”  She said, “You know, she said you’re a good jailer!”

I got a huge kick out of that.

Then friend asked, “Is she allowed to eat dinner with you guys?”

Huh? “She’s grounded, not ex-communicated!”

Mouse kept up her good attitude throughout the grounding.  She requested computer-permissions for her homework, and returned it to the hallway bench without being told when she was done. She didn’t complain one time, and was generally fun to be with.  She complained about being bored once, but I went off a bit on how many things she could be doing.  Once I got down the list to “cleaning your room . . .” she buttoned her lips and found something to do (paint her nails . . . )

Here is one story, and I know that some parents may disagree with my handling of the issue.  I’ve shared it with some friends, and they all agree that my compromise was sufficiently harsh and distasteful so as to avoid being deemed permissive:

Every year, our elementary school (which is a K-8) has a “skate night.”  The local skate rink is reserved for our community, and the skating is free.  This year, it feel on the Saturday night of Mouse’s grounding.  She asked me if I could PLEASE let her go.  “It’s my last year, mommy!  I’ve gone every year! And now I’m in 8th grade, and I really don’t want to miss this!”

Every year, if she has gone (I dispute that claim . . .) it’s been with a friend.  Because skate night is often from 5:30 – 7:30, and I am at work until 6 or so.  And we used to not have a car, and it’s not a public transit-friendly location.  I’ve never been to skate night.  And my impression of skate night is that it’s designed for the 1st- 4th grade set, not the 8th graders.  But I cannot deny that over winter vacation, Mouse and her friends chose to ice skate almost every day.  And then posted about it on facebook:

Nevertheless, skate night wasn’t something I was feeling particularly generous about.  “You are GROUNDED,” I reminded her.  “But it’s SKATE NIGHT!” she wailed.

And I laughed.

I guffawed, actually.

She got mad at me.  “I understand if I’m grounded, but I really don’t appreciate you laughing at me! Please just answer my question, don’t LAUGH at me.”

(I love that my kids can put me in my place. I apologized and did not laugh again.)

David and I thought about the situation.  He said, “no way,” and I thought, “maybe there’s a way to make this work for her.”

While pondering, I told Lemon – “Skate night is on Saturday, and Mouse is grounded.”  Lemon laughed (she guffawed, really, showing the proximity from the apple to the tree), and said, “oh my god, you should make her go!”

I laughed very hard at that.  Mouse wasn’t around to hear.

Then I went to the dentist.  She said, “how are the girls?”  I said, “they’re good, but Mouse is grounded.”  She said, “Mine is grounded, too!”  Her daughter is 15, and came home well after curfew with no phone call.  She is grounded for a month.  My poor dentist wasn’t sure what to do, because her daughter’s best friend’s Sweet 16 party fell during the grounding.  I said, “maybe you can trade — let her go to the party in exchange for some chores.”  “No,” said my dentist, “she’s too old for that.  She’ll do the chores and then later decide she can break curfew every night and just do chores.”  I said, “Maybe you can let her have that one night off, in exchange for an extra week of grounding.”

My dentist’s eyes sparkled.

I kept thinking about the trade-off idea.  I came up with what I thought was a pretty harsh trade-off.  I presented it to David.  He sighed and said, “Fine, I do think that’s fair. But when we tell her, we need to tell her that this is not an option in the future!”  I said okay.

That night at dinner, I told her:  Your infraction was serious.  I am not okay with what you did. But I understand skate night is [snarfle] important to you.  So I have a deal that you need to choose whether or not to take.  If you would like to go to skate night, I will drive you and drop you off at the moment it starts, and I will pick you up at the moment it ends.  You will not get a ride from a friend, or give a friend a ride (thereby extending the reprieve).  In exchange for this limited outing, you will, for a full week, set and clear the table each night for dinner (we usually all take care of our own selves), and you will empty the dishwasher.  This means you need to get up early and do it before school.  If you complain or whine about these duties even one time, you will have additional grounding time.  If you are running late for school, you will not be excused.  You can take the school’s consequences for being late, or you will have additional grounding time.

Her eyes kind of bugged out of her head, and she asked for permission to make sure her friends were really planning to attend before she agreed to my terms.  Within 30 minutes, the agreement was made.

She had fun at skate night.  There was a slight blip where the event was extended to 9 p.m., and her freedom was not. She didn’t complain, though – she just told us in a matter of fact way.  And even though it’s now in the distant past, she is continuing with her chores without complaint.  Having chosen to take the deal, her punishment is now lasting almost 2 full weeks, rather than 1, but it was her choice.  I wasn’t going to give in without some amount of discomfort.

So I sort of caved, sort of didn’t.

Any thoughts?