Sugarlaws: Living Sweetly.

afternoon at the zoo

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January 29th, 2015 · Print Print

Bear-Zoo

I have been extremely busy lately.  After starting my own law practice a year and a half ago, I’ve really felt like I hit my stride in the last six months, which is an awesome feeling.  However, the flip side of that awesome feeling is that I have been working really, really hard. 

Bear and I have settled into a fairly predictable schedule in the last few months, and as long as I don’t have court appearances, meetings, or depositions, I usually stay home with him in the mornings and work during his nap, and then take him to school in the afternoons.  I don’t think there’s such a thing as an ideal childcare situation, but ours is a pretty good balance.  Most of the time, it works really well — I have a good chunk of time with him every day, but I also have a decent stretch of uninterrupted work time.

But last week, I just started to feel like I wasn’t getting quite enough time with him.  He was taking long morning naps and I was working on a number of big projects, and I just started to really miss him.  My job is really important to me and I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing now for anything, but I had a day that I almost cried when I dropped him off at school for the afternoon.  I know lots of moms feel this way — they’re proud of their careers, but no matter how much you love your job, it’s hard to leave your baby with someone else every day.  There’s no way around that.  It’s just hard.

So this week, I finally made it past a few big deadlines, and when two of my mom friends suggested a trip to the zoo, I jumped at the chance to have a special afternoon with our baby boy.  We live about a mile from the Houston Zoo, but Bear hasn’t really been old enough to understand it until now, so this was our first visit. 

And we had so much fun.  He loved watching all the people, looking into the aquarium (“Hooray for Fish” is one of his favorite books!), and of course, getting to ride the carousel.  And I loved getting an extra afternoon with our son, watching him experience something new. 

As Bear gets older, I want to make this a tradition: every once in a while, we’ll take a few hours off from school and work, and do something fun.  Whether it’s exploring museums or picnics in the park or just staying home and baking cookies, those memories are ones that I’ll cherish forever.  It feels like he’s growing up so fast — for the past few months, every day brings some new development or change. 

So, that shot above?  It’s the first of many stolen afternoons, and the start of some amazing times together.

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making it look easy?  i hope not.

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January 26th, 2015 · Print Print

Photo Jan 01, 5 16 53 PM

Sometimes when I post a particularly sweet photo, video, or blog post about our son, I get a comment back: “You make it look easy.”

Undoubtedly, this comment comes from a good place.  It’s someone telling me that I’m doing ok at this whole mothering thing (hopefully, I am), that life seems pretty good (it is) and that the baby and I are clearly happy (we are). 

But, oh my gosh.  The last thing I would want to do ever is make it look easy.

Social media and blogging are such wonderful additions to our culture; they let people connect across huge distances and cultural divides.  They make cooped-up new moms feel like they’re part of a community, they help us share knowledge and advice, and they enrich our lives in so many ways.

But they also make us competitive with each other.  They make us compare our real-life experience with a snapshot of someone else’s — a beautiful, happy snapshot, but one that lacks context and background.  Trust me: For every cute date-night outfit, there’s also a day when I don’t have time to even brush my hair.  For every sweet baby smile, there’s a night when he wakes up every two hours in tears.  Those moments are part of reality for any new mom, whether we choose to share them or not. 

Bear-Final-2

I don’t mean to say that there’s anything wrong with posting those beautiful moments — there isn’t, and I treasure all the sweet little smiles I’ve captured on camera in these last few months. 

But phrases like “making it look easy” make it seem like there’s something wrong with you if it’s not easy.  If it’s not easy, that it’s your fault.  That it could be “easy” if you would just do things differently. 

But here’s the thing: life isn’t rewarding or rich because it’s easy.  Life is incredible because of those tiny little moments, every day, when we appreciate something joyful or meaningful in our daily experiences.  Sure, there are great, easy days.  And there are also so many great moments in the not-easy days. 

If you’re expecting it to be easy — just because someone else might make it look easy — you’re always going to be unsatisfied. 

And I wanted to write this, because I worry sometimes that I contribute to it.  I worry that when I write about topics like breastfeeding, postpartum weight loss, or even how I’ve chosen to pursue my career, that others will feel badly because they’re struggling with those same issues.  To write about these topics suggests, in some small way, that you have figured them out.  But these are day-to-day struggles, and I don’t think anyone has fully figured them out.

All our lives are different.  And it’s important to remember that.  Each mom out there — each person out there, parent or not — has their own ups and downs that are unique to their family.  And I know that some of my toughest moments — the 2 a.m. wake-ups and the mornings that I frantically proofread a brief while our son naps in the next room — are the memories that I’ll look back on, years later, when he’s all grown up, and smile. 

So who really wants ‘easy’ anyways?

Prep-1

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career: where it all began

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January 22nd, 2015 · Print Print

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One of the things that I promised in 2015 was that I’d share more with you guys about my legal career.  From the start of this blog, I’ve struggled with how to incorporate my professional life with the content here, and up till now, I’ve never felt like I had the right solution. 

Honestly, in the past seven years since Sugarlaws was founded, I’ve largely ignored the topic of my job on here.  Except for writing about the challenges of being a working mom, I haven’t written much about my life as a lawyer, and often it feels like a gaping hole that this blog is missing.  As much as I love fashion, food, and our son, my work is an integral part of my life.  So this year, I’m making a conscious effort to share more about it with you guys.

But when I think about my legal career, I have to start at the beginning. 

So today, I want to tell you about Lonnie Jones. 

This was one of the first cases I ever worked on as a lawyer, and still one of the absolute most meaningful.  When I was a second year law student, I spent the summer working at Davis Polk, the firm I would eventually join after graduation, and one day, a senior associate asked me to help with a pro bono brief he was working on.  (For those of you who aren’t lawyers, pro bono work is legal work that law firms do for free for people who can’t otherwise afford it.)

The brief was a criminal appeal for Lonnie Jones, a man who had been wrongfully convicted for murder and sentenced to life in prison.  Lonnie’s conviction was based on flawed testimony from a single eyewitness, and even in my first days working on his case, it was crystal clear that his conviction was a serious injustice.  I helped with the brief and then went back to law school for my third year, hoping for the best but knowing how difficult it can be to get a criminal conviction overturned.  DNA evidence has helped immeasurably, but when a conviction is based on eyewitness testimony, even drastically flawed convictions are very, very hard to overturn.

Fast forward one year, I graduated and joined the firm.  And in my first week, the same senior associate told me that we had won Lonnie’s appeal: his conviction had been overturned, and he was getting a new trial. 

And we would be representing him.

Now, I know that TV and the movies give the impression that murder trials happen every day, for a lawyer with a white-shoe corporate litigation practice, they happen exactly never.  I immediately asked to join the trial team, knowing that this might be my only chance to work on a criminal trial — and, more importantly, knowing that we had a chance to correct the injustice that Lonnie had spent almost six years in prison for. 

For confidentiality reasons, I can’t say anything about the substance of our trial preparation, so I’ll tell you about the mood of our team, which was something pretty incredible.  For months, we spent every night and weekend gathered around conference rooms in our office, talking with witnesses and debating points of strategy.  We learned firsthand about New York City gangs and inner city housing projects from people who lived in them.  I visited Rikers Island and learned that an underwire bra sets off their metal detectors (who knew?). 

And then, in the middle of winter in Brooklyn, eight months after I graduated from law school, we took Lonnie’s case to trial. 

And won.

He was acquitted of all charges by a jury, and I’ll never forget the moment that the jury read his verdict: there was so much relief and joy in that courtroom, it was like nothing I’d ever experienced.  After six years in jail, Lonnie left that courtroom a free man.  The bailiff cried as she took off his handcuffs, and he went home to his wife, who had stayed by his side and believed in his innocence for all those years. 

In many ways, that case is where my legal career started.  This month marks eight years since that trial, and since then, I’ve tried other cases and gotten other verdicts, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had one that meant so much to me as that one did.  It was an incredible experience to begin my career and one that I’m still grateful for every single day. 

I’m not a criminal lawyer and chances are, I’ll never try a murder case again.  But having that experience as the focal point of my first year as a lawyer shaped me in so many ways.  It gave me faith in our legal system to get the right result and the courage to seek justice, no matter how tough the odds. 

And most of all: It taught me that the best lawyers look for the truth rather than spinning a story, a principle that I carry with me to this day. 

You can read more about Lonnie’s case on the National Registry of Exonerations here, or see the article that my firm published after the trial here

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