Entries Tagged as 'life'

the best piece of wedding advice i received

September 30th, 2015 · 5 Comments

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Yes, yes, I know, there’s a lot of wedding advice on the internet.  From favors to registries to dress and decor, the internet is chock full of ideas for making your wedding day incredible.

But the best piece of advice I received had nothing to do with my dress or the ceremony.  It wasn’t about the prettiest invitations or the perfect Pinterest-worthy shots for our photographer to capture.

It was this.

The day of our wedding, one of my best girlfriends told me to focus on remembering the day.  To take in the experience, the way that it feels as you live it. 

It sounds really silly, but six years after our wedding, sometimes it’s hard to separate my actual memories from the photographs.  The photographs are mementos that I look through every few months: I could tell you every shot, from the one above (my favorite) to me walking down the aisle with my dad, to the wide-angle scene of our brightly lit tent against the night sky.  The photographs are easy to recall anytime I want; they are permanent.

My memories, though.  Those I worked to capture. 

Everyone always says that your wedding day goes by in a blur, but I worked hard to slow down that blur.  To focus on the moment I was in, instead of getting wrapped up in the excitement of trying to experience everything at once.

Do you know what my favorite memory of our wedding is?

For our first dance, Chad and I picked a slow, romantic song.  We planned to dance by ourselves to that song, and then invite everyone up for the next (faster) song, to get the party going. 

But somehow there was a miscommunication between us and the band, and midway through our slow song, the band invited all our guests to join us on the dance floor in the middle of our first song.  That special moment that was supposed to be just ours?  Suddenly we were packed onto a dance floor with well-wishing guests, following the band’s instructions.

And then, in between the first dance and the next song, while the band took a short break, apparently, someone told them that they’d made a mistake. 

So they decided to fix it. 

By starting the second song (a fast, rock song) and telling our guests not to come onto the dance floor, because Chad and I wanted to dance by ourselves.

Yes, seriously.  In front of a hundred and fifty of our closest friends and family, our band told everyone to stay off the dance floor so Chad and I could dance to a rock song.  By ourselves.

I can’t even type this story without feeling a little mortified.  Chad and I are not dancers — sure, we have fun in big groups and we goof around in the privacy of our own home, but having a hundred and fifty people watch us bop around is the stuff that nightmares are made of. 

But what choice did we have?  We were already standing in the middle of the dance floor.  As the music started, we frantically gestured for everyone to come join us.  The guests were (rightly) confused and stayed firmly in their seats. 

After what felt like an eternity (while I, in my wedding dress, tried to bust out some dance moves), a table of my college friends joined us on the dance floor.  Once they did, the rest of the party followed, and the moment was over.  It turned into a memory, right then and there.

And you want to hear something crazy?  That was the biggest snafu of our wedding: it was both mortifying and completely, unpredictably random.  And it is one of my favorite memories from the whole day.  I can’t tell the story now without cracking up — when one of us is in a bad mood, Chad or I can bring up our first dance and we both fall apart laughing. 

It was mortifying. 

It was amazing. 

It was one of the moments in this life that I’ll never, ever forget.

So, good or bad, my wedding day advice is to remember the experience itself.  To focus on the experience, instead of whether everything is perfect. 

Because, who knows? The imperfections just may become your favorite memories of all.

Tags: life

the more things change…

September 25th, 2015 · 7 Comments

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A few weeks ago, Chad and I were getting rid of a bunch of our old iPhones, and in the process, I stumbled on some photos from a few years ago that I hadn’t seen in a while.  (This one became a #fbf on Instagram, and both Chad and I get a little teary seeing snaps of our sweet dog Calvin, who passed away last year, back when he was healthy.)

And that photo above?  That’s me, in 2013.  It was taken a few weeks before I got pregnant, and in a lot of ways (although I didn’t realize it then), that photo is the “before” to everything that came after. 

In the month after this photo was taken, my whole life changed.  Right around this time, I quit my law firm job to start my own practice.  Two weeks later, I found out that I was pregnant.  I was thrilled and excited about both, but together?  At the same time?  I was blindsided by confusion and uncertainty.  I questioned my decision to quit a job with paid maternity leave (a benefit that far too few women in this country receive) almost every day.  We had a mortgage and a baby on the way, and I’d just taken a stable, well-paid job and tossed it out the window. 

If I had known that I was about to get pregnant, I probably would have talked myself out of taking that leap.  The fear of losing a stable income with a newborn would have been too much.  I would have stayed put, on the track that I was on. 

In a lot of ways, the last few years would have been easier if I’d done that.  But I would have missed out on so much.  All of the excitement and challenge of building my career in the last few years.  All the skills and experience that I’ve gained, but would have been too afraid to reach for.  I would have taken the safer choice, a choice that I thought would have been for the benefit of our son.  But, you know what?  Taking that risk turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made. 

Every once in a while, in life, you’re lucky enough to see life changes coming from a mile away.  Most of the time, though, they sneak up on you and hit you out of nowhere.  Only afterwards can you look back and realize that everything suddenly changed. 

And that’s what I see when I look at that photo. 

A girl who was just on the edge of something, with no idea what. 

Tags: life · work

the city that never sleeps

September 12th, 2015 · 1 Comment

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The stars aligned this month for a quick trip to NYC for me — a quiet week at work coincided with an invitation to two events that I didn’t want to miss in the city, so before I could second-guess the decision, I booked a flight. 

{Side note: I’m still trying to figure out when my idea of a “Can’t Miss” event became a fundraising dinner with the dean of my law school…  When did I become such a grown-up?!}

But I was overdue for a trip and this was a great excuse, so I kissed Bear and Chad good-bye for a couple of days and hopped on a plane. 

And oh my gosh, you guys.  New York.  Sometimes I still miss it so much

Every time I go back, it takes me a little bit of time to adjust.  For the first day or so, you have to get used to all the buildings, all the people, all the rushing and hustling and nonstop motion of the city.  It’s a little overwhelming.  It’s also completely amazing.

A while back, I wrote about our decision to leave New York — it was a really hard one for me, because I knew that I wanted the life that we could only have outside the city, but I wasn’t sure I wanted it just yet.  I kept wanting “one ore year” of our life the way it was, our cozy one-bedroom in Greenwich Village where I could walk to my favorite gelato shop or all the way to my office in midtown on a sunny day.  I loved the diversity and the culture and the food and all the amazing things that only emerge when you pack about a million people into a few square miles. 

Yes, it was expensive and exhausting and challenging every day.  No, I didn’t mind one bit. 

But if there’s one thing that’s almost as good as living in New York, it’s this: visiting New York as a former New Yorker. 

It’s amazing because you can experience the city any way you want.  You can see friends and visit favorite spots and remember exactly what your life was like.  You can walk by your old apartment door or the place you met your husband (ahem, ahem).  New York changes every day, but no matter how long you’re gone, there’s always somewhere to come home to.

But on the flip side, you can also do something else.  You can experience it as a tourist.  And in the four years since we left, that’s the part I’d been missing.  I’ve gone back frequently, but I’ve always had an insane schedule that left me running around from morning till night. 

This time?  I had a whole afternoon off.  A very rare luxury for me, so I wanted to make the most of it.

So I experienced New York as a visitor.  I shopped at Saks and spent too much on sunglasses.  I went to a museum, just to look around.  And then I took myself out for dessert at the Rainbow Room, which is a bar on the top of Rockefeller Center that’s been around since the 30’s.  It probably the most touristy, vacation-er, guidebook-hyped spot in the entire city. 

No native New Yorker would ever show their face there. 

But, you know what?  Although sometimes it makes me a little sad to admit it, I’m not a New Yorker anymore.  And as a visitor, sometimes those tourist-y, guidebook-hyped spots are exactly what you’re craving. 

Sometimes you just want to sit back, and enjoy the view. 

And so I did.

Tags: life · travel

to baby bear, at sixteen months

August 31st, 2015 · 4 Comments

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Sixteen months.

That’s how old you are today. 

When our friends mention your name, they call you “Baby Bear,” and then smile sheepishly, because you’re not really a baby anymore.  Or you are, but only to me.  (And you’ll never get big enough to outgrow that!)

Because suddenly, in the last few months, our little baby became a kid!  It’s the craziest thing — it feels like a moment ago that you couldn’t even hold your head up by yourself, and now you’re running, dancing, throwing a basketball (I kid you not.  A full size basketball!) and asking for bubbles and Rambo by name. 

What!  How did that happen so fast?

Parenting a toddler is totally different than parenting a baby, and I have to say — I think it’s a lot more fun.  Sure, newborn snuggles were wonderful (I miss them sometimes when you won’t sit still in my lap anymore!) but it’s so much more exciting to watch your personality grow and take form.  To actually communicate with you, even if your vocabulary is still limited.  (‘Yes’ and ‘No’ were life-changing developments!) To make faces and watch you laugh, or see you bop your head to the songs that we sing. 

There are a million little things I’d like to remember about the last month, but my favorites, by far, were these…

… how you call both me and Chad “Mama.”  Sure, this breaks my heart a little bit (I’m your one and only Mama, kid!) but it’s also so darling.  We’ve started explaining to you that I’m the Mama-Mama and Chad is the Dad-Mama.  And we also regularly explain to our families and babysitters that Bear thinks he has two mamas.  Funny kiddo!

… dancing with you to Let It Go!  Ok, ok, sometimes you get cranky at the end of the day.  But one day, after dinner, when we were playing in the kitchen, Let It Go came on my phone and I decided to teach you some goofy ballerina moves.  For the next three minutes, we twirled and leaped around the kitchen together, and you thought it was hilarious to mimic every move I showed you.  If only I’d caught it on video — this would be excellent blackmail material for your teenage years!

… Hi Mama!  Every morning these days, you greet me standing up in your crib with an excited “Hi!”  I love it!  I’m not a morning person and your 7 a.m. wake-ups are pretty tough for me, but opening the door and hearing a big “Hi!” and a smile makes it all worth it.  (Sort of.  It would also be worth it at 8 a.m., just in case you were wondering…)

… Banana.  Ok, so, this one was my bad.  Again, at the end of the day last week, we were done with dinner and playing in the kitchen.  And I took out a banana and told you what it was, and you repeated back to me “ba-nweh” or whatever toddler approximation sounded a tiny bit like the word I’d just said. 

And I freaked out.  I was so excited (a three-syllable word! you’re heading straight to Harvard!) that I kept repeating it to you, over and over: “Banana!  Banana!  Banana!”

And then I realized that you had a banana graphic on your shirt.  Yes — on your little tee shirt was a picture of a banana.  So I picked you up and we ran over to a mirror, and I pointed at your shirt and tried to show you the banana picture, which was basically me just pointing at your chest and saying “Banana!” again and again. 

And then we went back to the original banana and I decided it would be funny to pretend the banana was a phone, so I picked it up and held it to my ear and said, “hello?”

And then you took the banana and did the same thing, held it up to your ear like it was a telephone… and then looked at me with a very perplexed expression. 

And suddenly I realized that I had just confused you beyond any possible understanding of what the word “banana” actually meant.

First, it was pretty clear.  This is a banana. 

And then I grabbed you and pointed at your chest in the mirror and basically said “You’re a banana.”

And then we got back down on the ground and I told you that we use them as telephones

This is a banana.  You’re a banana.  And we have conversations, using bananas. 

Yes, our son calls his dad ‘Mama.’

And he will probably call just about everything else he lays eyes on: ‘Banana.’ 

Happy Sixteen Months, Baby Bear.  I love you so.

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Tags: baby · life

career: find something challenging that matters.

May 7th, 2015 · 13 Comments

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A few weeks ago, after I wrote this post, I got an email from a reader asking me to write about a different career topic, one that really resonated with me.  She asked if I had any advice for tackling those mid-career moments when you struggle with motivation and direction:

Hi Katy,

I’m a longtime reader (I found your blog via Ramshackleglam years ago!) and loved your recent post on wearing red for a confidence boost; I was wondering if you had any further advice that have helped you with your career or still follow to this day.  I’m not in the legal world but I would love to hear any tips you have on how to navigate a demanding job without losing motivation or feeling overwhelmed by everything.  Or even how you managed your time to successfully run a blog and write three books on top of being a lawyer!

My first year in my current role was fantastic as I had so much to learn, but now that I can navigate things easily I’m not sure how best to hone other ‘professional’ skills, or even show my managers I am ready to work at a higher level.  So this was just in case you had been thinking about writing more work-related posts – yes please! 🙂

I thought about this a lot, and get ready, pour some coffee, because, man, I have a lot to say.

In some ways, it’s easier to be relatively junior in many fields.  Sure, the hours are long, but in most jobs, for the first years, someone tells you what to do.

Sure, there’s a reason for that: you don’t have the training and experience to know exactly how to do everything, yet.  So your job (even in a very challenging career) initially is more task-oriented.  The downside is that you’r often working really hard, long hours, but the upside is that you have a pretty good sense of what’s on your plate at any given moment. 

But here’s the thing no one tells you: that changes.  If you stick with it for a while, suddenly you’re not the one taking orders anymore.  You’re giving them. 

That’s a little terrifying.

And it’s also completely amazing. 

Here’s the thing: it’s a scary thing to be in charge.  But at the same time, being in charge means that, suddenly, your work feels incredibly important.  For me, it marked the moment when my job became a career.  It was when my work stopped feeling like work and started feeling like a vital, integral part of my life. 

And you know what?  It wasn’t the moment that I started my own practice.  It would be easy if it were; that’s a clean story.  “All I had to do was start my own business, and then I was the boss and everyone lived happily ever after, the end.” But that’s not the real answer. 

The real answer is: it happened at moments, off and on, at different points in my career. 

Here’s one example.  When I was about three years out of law school, I worked on a case that exploded from a relatively small, discrete project into almost a year of non-stop work with dozens of people tackling different parts of it.  I was a third year associate, and found myself suddenly managing a team of a dozen other associates who were only one or two years junior to me.  This wasn’t because I’m an exceptionally good lawyer, although I’d like to think that was part of it.  It was partly luck, and it was partly because I’d worked really hard at the beginning of the case to make myself indispensable to the partners who were in charge of the case, and they’d decided I could do it.

Overnight, my role was flipped.  Usually, as a junior person, you’re the one asking all the questions.  But suddenly, I was the one answering them.  I was saying “yes” and “no” and deciding what got passed along to the partners at my firm and the client, who were trusting me to manage the small stuff myself and know when to consult them on the big stuff.  It was terrifying, and it was really, really cool. 

And I felt like what I was doing was important.  People were depending on me.  I’d check my blackberry at 3 a.m. not because I was scared that I’d get into trouble if I didn’t, but because I felt like my input mattered to the work we were doing. 

But.  You know there was going to be a ‘but’, right?

That moment didn’t last forever.  A year later, that case had ended, and I was still working long, hard hours, I wasn’t as excited about them as I’d been before.  I didn’t want to spend five more years getting back into that same leadership role that I’d stumbled into by accident.  I loved the people I worked with, and I still had the same job, same title, and yet something had changed.  It was the kind of high-stakes, demanding job that required you to give 100%, 24/7.  And there’s no way to do that if your heart isn’t there.  There just isn’t.

People sometimes hear that you should love your job, and they think it means that work should be all fun, all the time.  “I love windsurfing and I’m supposed to love my job, so I guess I’m meant to be a professional windsurfer!  Whee!

But the best job isn’t going to be fun all the time.  It’s going to be hard and challenging and sometimes require effort you don’t feel like you have.  You’re going to beat your fists against walls and feel like you have no idea how to get from where you are to where you want to be.  Those are really hard moments. 

So where do you go from there?  How do you figure out when you’re in that moment, and what you can do to change it?

When this reader wrote to me, she asked about finding career motivation and feeling overwhelmed.  But those are two completely separate things.

I feel overwhelmed all the time.  I have a career and a family and a house and two dogs and this blog.  Some days, that’s a little overwhelming.  I think it’s ok to feel overwhelmed sometimes.  And I think it’s ok to admit it. 

But the motivation side isn’t a question: it’s the answer.  I have a very demanding job.  But my career motivation doesn’t stem from winning and losing, or from the excitement of going to court, or the adrenaline of negotiation.  Some of that is part of it.  But what motivates me are two things. 

My work is challenging and I think what I do is important. 

That’s it.  That’s the secret to loving your job.  I can give it to you in five words.

Find something challenging that matters.

It doesn’t bother me that the work is difficult; I like hard work.  But that work has to matter.  It doesn’t have to matter to anyone else.  It doesn’t have to be high-paying or glamorous.  But it has to matter to me. 

For me, those two are enough.  They’re where my heart is.  When I check those two boxes every day, I feel good when I go to sleep at night.  Even when I’m stressed out or overwhelmed or unsure of what to do next.  And on the flip side, when I’ve gone through moments in my career without those, I’ve lost motivation. 

When I started thinking about this post, I thought that my answer was going to be: I can’t tell you what motivates you. 

But, actually, I think I can. 

Find work that’s challenging and that matters.  To you, not to anybody else.  Look deeply into your heart and your gut and if you don’t like what you’re doing, then change something.  And then change something else.  Keep going until your vision is crystal clear.

It doesn’t mean everything will be easy.  In fact, it probably means the exact opposite.  You will work harder if you approach your career this way, but it will be because you want to.  It will be for yourself (even if you aren’t the boss).  You will be choosing it because it matters to you. 

Almost six years ago, I ran a marathon, and I used to joke that the secret to marathon training was this: You get to the point where you want to stop running.  And then you just keep running.  And pretty soon, you’ll have run a marathon. 

But I think I was a little bit wrong.  Sure, that was part of it.  You can’t run a marathon if you stop after a few miles.  You have to keep running.

And yet it was more than that.  I came across a moment in life when I wanted to run a marathon, and I chose to run a marathon.  The motivation to keep running was completely secondary: the choice was to run the marathon in the first place.  After I made that choice, all I had to do was put one foot in front of the other.

In a lot of ways, running that marathon was the best piece of life training I’ve ever gotten. 

And I think it’s also the best advice I can give.  Commit to your career like you’re choosing to run a marathon.  Turn left or right, slow down, ice your knees, hobble along, sprint for a little while and then crawl if you have to.  But just keep running.

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Photo credit: Kate Robinson

Tags: life · work