365 Days of Grateful

This weekend I had a small meltdown – an “I need a new car because my current car had to go into the shop for the 8th consecutive month and I’ve had enough” meltdown.  So I dragged JP to a car dealer, made him sit through a test drive of a car I knew we’d love, and then listen to the salesman’s offer that we both knew we couldn’t afford…yet.  And then we went home empty-handed, in my old car.  If cars had thoughts, mine would definitely have been thinking “um, you drove me through moves to four different states – how could you not expect me to show some wear and tear?”

But regardless of the logic from JP and my car’s imaginary voice, I had latched onto this idea that having something new would make me happy.  Then (oh the irony) my dad called and reminded me to be grateful for all of the good things in my life. And then I sat down to read The Happiness Advantage that my mom sent me, wherein Shawn Achor also reminded me of the benefits to practicing gratitude.  And then, because clearly two reminders weren’t doing it, I was poking around one of my favorite blogs and this popped up on my screen – 7 Ways Practicing Gratitude Makes You Happier.

OK universe.  Message received.  

So I started a practice of coming up with one thing every day that I’m grateful for.  If you follow me on Twitter, I’ve started cataloging my #365grateful.  There’s nothing like the social network to hold you accountable to a goal, eh?  🙂

So far, it’s working.  I still want a new car, but I’m starting to feel excited about the prospect of getting one in the future, rather than angry that I can’t have one right now.  Baby steps, but steps in the happy direction.

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A Little Piece of “Home”

“Do you want to do something tonight?  Y’know, since it’s Valentine’s Day…?”  I honestly didn’t know how to answer JP’s question.  On the one hand, my entire body felt like it didn’t have anything else to give, and I wasn’t quite sure I would even make it through my long commute home.

It had been a long week.  Long two weeks really, since we moved to Kansas City.  We had moved across several states.  I had started a new, demanding job almost 25 miles outside of the City, and my early mornings had gotten much, much earlier.  It was cold, and wet, and more cold all of the time.  So yeah, on the one hand I wanted to curl up under a down comforter and not come out again for our next 6 months here.

On the other hand, a little piece of me wanted to give Kansas City a chance.  Or rather, I wanted to give JP and I a chance at actually enjoying our time here.  I didn’t want our not-so-well-felt-out decision to keep us in a perpetual funk for 6 months

“How about dinner and a movie?” JP continued. “It’s not going to be like the Alamo Drafthouse, but I’m sure there are good movie theaters in a city of this size.”

For those of you who haven’t experienced the amazingness that is the Alamo Drafthouse, the short version is that it is a dinner/movie theater from Austin.  But it’s not just that.  It’s fun and funky, with a menu that generally follows the theme of whatever movies are playing at that time.  Like the Vesper drink that popped up on the drink menu right after the most recent James Bond came out.  Or the hulk burger that was oozing with avocado and hatch green chili peppers.  The Alamo Drafthouse is a movie-watching experience.

I googled “best movie theaters Kansas City” and much to my surprise…and complete and total joy…(drum-roll please) the Alamo Drafthouse Mainstreet.  By some miracle, Kansas City is one of the few cities outside of Texas that has been blessed with an Alamo.  So we bundled up our freezing selves and headed downtown that night to watch the new Robocop 2014, and felt for at least a few hours like we were back “home” in Austin.

Ok, so the menu wasn’t quite as “weird” as the one in Austin.  And the long tables had been replaced with tables for two.  But as soon as the Alamo-exclusive previews started to play – showing clips of the old Robocop movies, Robocop music videos, Robocop at the Oscar’s with PeeWee Herman, and so many more quirky original clips – we were able to put away the stress of the past two weeks and just enjoy.

Austin wasn’t perfect, but it was home for almost two years.  Not only is the Alamo Drafthouse a super fun place to watch a movie, for us it’s now a place for a pick-me-up reminder that there are pieces of our Austin home in more places than just Texas.

One Foot on the Brake

My dad always told me that “you move forward with one foot on the brake and one on the gas.”  I’ve been wanting to make a change from the practice of law for a long, long…long time.  But never fully committed to “leaving” the law, and instead bounced around from attorney job to attorney job trying to find one that, well, wasn’t an attorney job.

I stumbled upon Leave Law Behind, a blog for attorneys like me, who really wanted to put their skills to a different use but couldn’t seem to take the foot off the break long enough to make change happen.  Fueled by the realization that I wasn’t alone, I did apply to several non-attorney jobs.  But in every interview I was asked (in a very accusatory tone), “why don’t you want to be an attorney?” And so I kept retreating back to the feeling like there was something wrong with me for not wanting to only be an attorney.

Eventually, I came back to Leave Law Behind and the advice to, at the very least, figure out what my unique genius is.  As Casey, the blog’s author, describes it, “Your Unique Genius is made up of those skills and strengths that come so naturally to you, so effortlessly to you, that you don’t even think of them as a skill.”  Casey sets up three questions that help reveal unique genius, or as I call it, dharma…

1. What are you already doing (or would you do) for free to help people?
Teach!  I love teaching, being able to watch people grow, learn, have that “aha!” moment.  I would teach just about anything that I qualify to teach, but if I had my druthers, my preference would be to teach writing skills.  And writing, that’s another thing I would do for free – research and write about issues I’m passionate about, like issues facing incarcerated persons and criminal sentencing issues.  Travel – I would travel to teach or write or research.  If I could do that for free, I would hope on a plane now to pretty much anywhere I wouldn’t get shot at and assist with whatever my nerdy little self could do.

2. For what type of advice do people come to you? I thought the answers to this one would be the same as question 1, but they were actually quite different.  People come to me for organization.  At least once each year, my sister and I FaceTime so I can help her clear out and organize her closet.  I’ve helped other friends do spring cleaning and follow-up organization, so many times I can’t even count.  Even in my last job, my boss would come to me any time our team needed strategic planning or organizational system creation.  People also come to me for career development.  I’ve been asked for help with everything ranging from college admissions essays to job search strategies to cover letters and resumes to interview preparations.  I do that for free, so maybe it should have been in question 1, but I really look at career development as a sub-set of teaching.  I use the same method – listen and then ask questions so the student comes to the answer on their own.

3. What do people compliment you on? To be honest, I didn’t answer this question.  I honestly don’t pay enough attention to compliments to know the answer to this, so I left it blank.

About a week or so after putting my answers down on paper, I received an email from JP’s dad.  He had a friend in KC looking for a litigation paralegal and would I be interested in a non-attorney job.  Um, non-attorney job?  Heck yeah I’d be interested!  During the interview, the firm’s managing partner asked me if I would mind doing some research and writing for them, along with some organization.  Research?  Writing?  Organization?  Hadn’t I just seen these skills recently?  Oh yeah, they were my answers to my unique genius questions.  Sweet!

I took my foot off of the brake, accepted the paralegal position and gave notice that I would be resigning from my previous attorney job.  Today is my first day as a paralegal.  THE paralegal for a two attorney civil litigation firm just outside of Kansas City.  I am nervous about being in a civil firm after spending so many years in criminal law, but I’m also pretty excited to finally be writing again.  OK, so this job isn’t the “perfect” job.  It doesn’t embrace my entire unique genius and it’s not the job I would necessarily move to Kansas City to take.  But it’s a step in the right direction, and it’s finally moving forward.

Looking on the Bright Side

One of my “sub-themes” for 2014 is to be in the moment and look for the positive in whatever and wherever I am Now.  It’s only February, and my “glass half full” resolve is being tested…

I have moved at-most every 2 years since I graduated from high school.  Sometimes those moves are just to a new apartment, but many times those moves are across state lines.  A few weeks ago, when faced with an ending lease, JP’s graduation from his Masters program, and professor applications that average a 6-month turnaround time, JP and I made the very practical decision to move from Austin to Kansas City.  Even with the moving costs, our rent went down significantly.  Our other costs of living went down.  We’re closer to family, which means travel costs went down.  And JP has connections for temporary work here.

Never has a move been this difficult.  We struggled with every decision, item to pack, service to schedule.  We set out on Friday morning (JP driving the moving truck and me driving the car) truly believing that our decision was the absolute best one – it was, after all, the most practical.  We stopped for gas outside of Oklahoma City, took one look at each other, and realized we’d made the wrong decision.

It was even more clear when we finally made it to Kansas City.  The city itself still made and makes perfect sense.  Our apartment is cute.  We’re saving money.  I have a new job that is a definite improvement on the old one (details to come!).  And already we’ve had a visit from my mom and stepdad, and JP’s mom and stepdad are set to come up for a dinner visit on Friday.  There is nothing objectively wrong with Kansas City at all.  But we still sat in our empty apartment for over an hour trying to decide whether to break our lease and go find something more “us.”

I often tell people that the attorney profession exists because there are an infinite number of ways to look at one “fact.”  I mean, that’s the difference between “glass half full” and “glass half empty,” right?  It’s all about who is looking at the glass in the first place.  When we made our decision to move here, we completely neglected to factor in who was going to be doing the move – US.  And Kansas City just isn’t the right fit for me and JP.

Ultimately, we decided to honor our lease and the job I had already accepted.  We moved our things into our apartment and more things into a storage unit down the street.  We changed our address and made our first Costco run in our new city.  And then we decided to look on the bright side – we will save the money we’ll need to move to a place that really is a better fit.  We’ll make the most of our close proximity to family.  And we’ll know next time to take ourselves into consideration, not just objective items on the list of practicality. 

Goin’ to Kansas City, Kansas City Here I Come

Kansas-City-Missouri-Downtown_at_Twighlight

So I realize in my last post, I said that my theme for 2014 was getting back to basics and enjoying what I already have.  Well…we’re moving to Kansas City at the end of the month.

I love Austin.  We love Austin.  This past year and a half in Austin, despite my own personal challenges, has been one of the best living experiences of my life thus far.  The catch – the cost of living in Austin is very, very high.  Not New York or San Francisco high, but getting dangerously close to the latter.  And being able to enjoy what we have means being able to afford where we live.

We looked at several places to move, but KC is close to Josh’s family, my family, THE Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team, my favorite stylist, and several work connections for Josh.  It really ended up being the perfect place for us to move and live while we’re waiting for the results of Josh’s professor applications.   Plus, Kansas City is the home of Oklahoma Joe’s BBQ (yummmmm!).

Even with the cost of moving, we’ll be paying half the rent we’re paying in Austin; save on travel costs to visit family; watch Jayhawks games in person; and pretty much be able to live off of my salary until Josh finds a job…albeit while freezing our behinds off in the winter weather.

Just the break we need before moving onto our next (and hopefully final…for a long while) physical and career move 😉