I want to be a health coach but . . .

Health coach

So I’ve been saying for awhile that I need to figure out my next thing.  What I want to do when I grow up.  What I’m going to do now that our old way of life will never be the same.  (I mean OBVIOUSLY.  But some things take longer to get there in my head.)

My head is pinging with ideas.  The two buckets seem to be writing and health related.  On the writing side, I’ve thought about working on a book proposal.  Or really optimizing/monetizing this blog and writing more regularly.  Or doing a podcast.  (This one doesn’t quite fit into either bucket.)

For health, I’d like to be a health coach.  I’d also like to learn more about fitness.  Either to be a personal trainer or to be a more sort of full service health coach package.

I definitely have more time now that the kids are in school.  (Although it does seem like things are always coming up.)  But I will need to be more focused to make something happen.  Right now I feel like I’m making an inch of progress in twenty different directions.  I need to pick a lane.  Which currently feels intimidating on top of settling in to our new home, travel planning, and general life stuff.

In the spirit of picking a lane, I’m doing a brain dump on all the reasons I’m scared to try to be a health coach.  Here we go.

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Why I Quit My Job to Be a Stay-at-Home Mom in Italy

One of the fun things about blogging is that you get to meet cool people, at least virtually anyway.

I don’t remember exactly when I first discovered Hey Eleanor, the brainchild of Molly Mogren Katt, but I immediately crushed pretty hard.  The blog is gorgeous, the writing is awesome, and I adore the idea.  Trying new things is pretty much my definition of adventure, and you know I’m down for that.

Molly has a series on Quitters, and I realized, hey, I have an interesting quitting storyCheck out my interview over on Hey Eleanor here.  I’d love to know what you think!

P.S.  Another fascinating article on quitting: “The ‘quitter’s mindset’ could be the secret to success

You can’t beat the billable hour

I did well in law school.  I know, I know, this is kind of bragging.  But doing well in law school does not seem to be a marketable skill on its own so let’s give me this one thing.

What was my secret?  (Besides hours and hours of hard work?)  Let me tell you something shocking, particularly for those of you that know me well.  After the first year, I stopped doing the reading.

Wait, what?  How does an uptight, Type A person such as myself do such a thing?  Simple.  I realized that doing all the reading was not the best use of my time to get results.

Results in law school are grades.  For the vast majority of classes, your grade comes down to one exam at the end of the semester.  There are no pop quizzes along the way.  No five page essays.  There may be some amorphous participation component, but the real meat of the grade is your performance on this single exam.

To study for this exam, you outline all the material you learn, putting all the cases into neatly digestible bullets.  This is what you see all the kids doing in every law school movie you ever watch.  You might see study groups splitting up sections of outlining responsibility and then sharing.

The facts of (most) cases don’t really matter on their own.  You read the case to see how some legal principle played out.  This legal principle is what you need to know and what you put in your outline.  The case is just an example.

The first year, I spent WAY too much time reading cases.  I was so nervous about being cold called in class that I read each case like five times.  (And it didn’t even really help that much when I was called on!  It was like my mind blanked and I heard this rushing roar.  It was never the collegial conversation about a case that I envisioned.)  I don’t regret all of that case reading.  It taught me how to read cases.  How to dissect the procedural history and explanations and to see what matters.  To do this, you have to read a lot of cases.

But then I discovered that, after your 1L year, cold calling is not the law of the land.  At this point, professors have different tactics that they publish in advance.  Some professors might have you on call one day a week.  Or one day a semester.  Some might give you an option to be super prepared for one week, but to be left alone the rest of the semester.  Some might go down the alphabet so that you could roughly see when your number is up.  Some still cold called.  I tried to take classes based on rock star professors–I would take shoe law if an interesting professor taught it (wait, maybe shoe law actually sounds pretty interesting)–but I tended to shy away from straight cold call classes if I could.

I did the reading on days when I needed to; otherwise, I very lightly skimmed what was assigned and just enjoyed my time in class.  It was such a relief.  I could breathe again.  I could pay attention to what was happening without feeling a sinking feeling and panic whenever the professor looked up.  But then, after class, I spent the time I would have spent reading and dedicated it to my outline.  I may have read some major sections of cases, but generally I just worked at plugging what we learned into a neat set of indents and bullets.  Then by the end of the semester, I already had a full outline, ready to go.  Because the outline, not the reading, was what mattered. 

Doing well in law school did land me a job at a prestigious law firm.  At the firm, I quickly realized that there was no such shortcut.  No hack to promote efficiency.  At the firm, you had to do excellent work.  You couldn’t anger your colleagues.  But the most important yardstick was the almighty billable hour.

You can’t fake the billable hour.  You can’t hack it.  The only way to do it is to put in the time.  You are super productive and manage your energy wisely so you blow through everything on your to do list?  Doesn’t matter.  You still need to work the hours.  You need to take on more work.  No matter that this work might shift your balance so that you have too much work.  After all, that memo you finished today is coming back to you later this week for edits.  Bill, baby, bill.

Lest you think that you can sit down and just plow through eight hours of billables straight, let me tell you that it isn’t possible.  First off, you frequently have to do things that aren’t billable billable.  Yes, you have a code so that you can record your time, but they don’t really count to your total.  These are things like trainings, firm meetings, and clearing out your inbox.  Second, it isn’t possible for anyone to work straight with zero breaks.  You need to eat.  And pee.  And occasionally interact with other human beings.  All of these things mean it takes longer to hit your billable quota.

(To be fair to my firm, I never hit the billable hour quota, and I was never asked to leave.  I was, at times, asked to take on more work.)

Laura Vanderkam, my favorite time management guru, wrote recently about whether billable hours lead to unhappiness.  She understands the challenges of the billable hour.

“[S]pending half an hour on a document instead of an hour doesn’t mean you get to be done. It means you need to tackle some other billable work.”

Vanderkam offers suggestions on tackling billables, such as bill first, start billing earlier, dedicate larger chunks of time (like a dedicated weekend) to have other chunks free, and plan quality activities for when you aren’t billing.

These are good ideas, and I certainly tried some, specifically bill first and bill early.  Post-kids, I adopted the schedule of a 4:30 or 5:00 am wakeup to get a few hours in, spend time with the baby, and then head into the office.  These early hours were precious writing hours, and I tried not to squander them on low-brainpower tasks that could wait until the afternoon.  (In case this sounds horrible to you, all I can say is that I did not do well with a split evening shift–although I sometimes had to work one.  At the end of the day after commuting, dinner, bath, I just wanted to chill with a glass of wine, not log back on.)

These early morning hours were also protected.  Particularly as someone more junior, your schedule is not your own.   You don’t decide when the conference call happens.  You don’t schedule the training.  For someone usually generating the first version of documents, these interruptions can kill your day.  (Maker’s v. Manager’s Schedule.  YES, this.)  My early morning hours at least gave me a jumpstart before the unpredictability of the day.

The suggestion to have dedicated work weekends or evenings to catch up, however, I think is a little trickier.  This assumes that hours are fungible.  One hour could be worked either at 10:00 am one day or 10:00 pm the next.  But hours are not worked in a vacuum.  Enter clients.

Clients pay the bills, and peskily, have certain expectations on when they will receive work.  Ideally, the work-bringer-in-er would negotiate a reasonable schedule so that the work could be done in a timely, but un-crazy fashion.  But that doesn’t always happen.  Emergencies come up.  Things can fall through the cracks.  Sometimes you are just slammed no matter what.

But sometimes you aren’t busy.  Sometimes there are built in lulls.  You just sent a memo to the client or partner and are waiting to hear back.  You just filed a brief and are waiting for the court or opposing counsel.  Ideally, you’d have something else to turn to, but you may not.  If you take on more work, you won’t be able to juggle everything together.  Everyone says to enjoy the slow times; that the busy times will make up for it on hours.  But first, I like my lulls much more when I can plan something, which is hard to do when you suddenly end up with a slow afternoon.  Second, what if the busy times don’t even out, even though it feels like they should?  If you throw in some weekends or nights, it starts to feel like a lot of work, even if your overall hours don’t tell the same story.

So I don’t think a dedicated work chunk would be helpful, at least in my previous corner of biglaw.  If I had a dedicated weekend, I might already be working it or burnt out from whatever I’d just worked.

The closest efficiency hack I could offer would be to avoid all non-billable activities.  Don’t be on a committee.  Don’t be social with summer associates.  Skip the trainings.  Don’t stop and talk to your neighbor.  These activities are double whammies because they eat time and take away from possible billing.

But this approach isn’t very fun.  Or sociable.  It creates people who are not good firm stewards.  It may work in the short term, but I don’t think it would sustainable over a career.

I never found any secrets to fix the billable hour.  Someday I will figure out a new pricing system for firms and become a gazillionaire.  For now, I’m just enjoying not having to bill my hours.

Fellow lawyers, did you adopt any more successful strategies?  Or anyone else on the billable hour? 

5 Things I Wish I’d Known When Going Back to Work After Baby


It’s hard.  Whether you are going back after a few days, a few weeks, or a few months, going back to work after welcoming your bundle of joy is tough.  Your body is still healing, you are faced with the delightful choice of putting on the maternity clothes AGAIN or stuffing your body into your prebaby duds, and you will be spending a bit less time with your new arrival.

Even if you are psyched about the prospect of picking up where you left off or just enjoying conversations with other adults that don’t revolve around poop–no judgment here–change is hard.  Going back to work is definitely a change.  On top of that oh, you know, no-big-deal-you-just-produced-another-human-being change.

Here a few tips to help you keep your sanity during this super fun time.  I certainly don’t have anything figured out, but I wish I’d thought of these before.

1. Just go ahead and get some labels already.

If your child is going to be cared for in any setting that will involve multiple children, just get some nice labels.  After months of cobbling together schemes of permanent marker and painters tape, we finally got some Mabel’s Labels.  I immediately wondered why I had not done this sooner.  See, for daycare, you have to label EVERYTHING.  Bottles, bottoms AND lids.  Pacifiers.  Sippy cups.  Onesies.  Shoes.  I heard of a friend’s daycare where you actually had to label individual diapers.  Say what?

I would do things like, of course, label the spare outfit, but then forget to label the outfit the baby was wearing, which was much less obviously your baby’s once it was removed.  Just do it.  Invest in some labels.  The ones we got have survived eleventy billion dishwasherings and umpteen laundryings.  It will keep your daycare providers from silently, politely cursing you out and from you losing that one Ralph Lauren ensem you got as a gift.  (Aside: labels are a great gift for a new baby.  They would make a great shower gift, except no one shares that name anymore.)

2. Think about a schedule.

That’s right.  I said it.  The controversial “s” word.  This one applies to babies that are more in the months-old rather than weeks-old stage.  If you aren’t into schedules, that is totally cool.  Do you.  But I posit that it is less stressful to hand your baby over when you can provide clear guidance on what the baby likes.  At least for me, being able to say “he eats around 11:00 and around 3:00” was more calming than having to say “oh, just feed him whenever you think he seems hungry.”  You know your baby better than anybody.  Being able to share some of that knowledge can give you peace of mind.  Also, some daycares have schedules they do for all the kids.  It’s worth checking on to see if you should be working toward that schedule.

And I don’t just mean schedule for the baby.  Think about your schedule.  You and your partner have to now–on a daily basis–perform a coordinated operation on the level of planning of some military attacks, just to get your baby out the door and back in.  (This applies less if you have a nanny or someone coming to you.)  First, think about what makes sense given your work.  Do you always have a client calling you at 5:00 pm?  Maybe pick up is not for you.  Dreading the psychological toll of drop off every day?  Maybe you can negotiate with your partner and do pick up.  Doing extra stuff (aka retrieving your very precious cargo) on top of your work day is hard.  Think about how you can do this as painlessly as possible.

Also, make a plan for getting out the door.  For a long time, I had a post it on our front door with a list of what was needed each day for the baby.  It did not prevent all failures, but I’d like to think it helped on some.  If your partner is in charge of dropping off a stroller so that you can walk home with the baby, you don’t want to just leave that to chance.  (Or vice versa of course.)

In addition to making a plan for the stuff, plan on the time suck.  I swear there is a time vortex that eats about 15 minutes between when I lock my house door and get in the car.  I don’t know where the time goes, but the vortex is real and that time is gone forever.  You cannot prevent the vortex, but knowing is half the battle.

3. Make a plan for washing ALL THAT STUFF.

You are probably already accustomed to an uptick on the laundry front. If you have to dress up for work, I recommend waiting until the very last minute to put on your fancy clothes and then taking them off immediately upon setting foot back in the door.  This will save on laundry and dry cleaning.  Trust.

Now on top of the laundry, be prepared to tackle things in the kitchen.  If you have a young baby, that probably means bottles.  If you are pumping, that also means pump parts.  Even with nifty sterilization bags and trays and whatnot, you still have to go through several steps that you did not have to do before.  This is eating into your work or family or TV or whatever time.  Make a plan with your partner.  I don’t know how to make it take less time, but expecting that it will take time can save your sanity.  I also don’t know how to make it fun, but throw in a podcast or glass of wine and it is practically “me” time.  Snort.

4. You found childcare you like?  Great, GET MORE.

You can plan for the known.  You should also plan for the known unknowns.  Right now this means snow days and sick days. You don’t know when they are coming, but they are definitely barreling your way.

I don’t have a good answer for this; it was an area where I failed.  Who will watch a sick kid without notice and who can get to you in the snow anyway?  But, especially if you don’t have family close by, you should try in case your boss still believes in deadlines even when day care is closed.

At least talk about a plan with your partner because this will come up.  Some services watch sick kids.  Your work may have a suggestion.  This would be a good time to make friends with the neighbors as well.  On snow days, maybe you guys could trade watching kids so that you could each at least get a half day of work in.

Also, if your work offers any sort of possibility to work remotely, make sure you have that all set up and ready to go.  You don’t want to wait until there is ice on the road and your kid is streaming snot to find out your VPN fob is only a decorative key chain.

5. Expect it to suck for awhile.

You may hate the first day.  You may hate the first week.  Don’t make any snap decisions.  I’ll grudgingly admit our moms were right; time does help.  It takes awhile to settle into any new routine.  Give it some time.

You are returning to work a changed person.  Your world has been turned upside down and put back together with gummy smiles and spit up.  But you are returning to a world where little has changed.  Your colleagues, who may have been covering your TPS reports while you were out, are likely dealing with the same problems, same clients, and same everything.  They just don’t understand how fully your world has been rocked.

Maybe it will be smooth sailing.  But I say to treat it as I advise all my friends interested in breastfeeding:  expect it to be the worst thing ever and be pleasantly surprised if it isn’t.  If you are a month or two in and everything is awful, maybe think about some other options.  But remember, give it some time.

How was your transition?  Any other tips?

Are things different? Glad you asked: Lifestyle Edition

Differences around the house summarized here.

Before the move, I was a full-time associate at a law firm in DC.  Henry was in daycare full-time and Mac would have been headed that way.  Now, I’m home with both kids in Rome.  I’m enjoying it so far.  I enjoy it more because what I did before was so different.  I’m sure my thoughts on this will change, but here’s my biggest positive and negative to date.


On the plus side, I’m more relaxed now.  I didn’t realize how draining I found it trying to get everyone places on time.  And it felt like we were always trying to get some place on time.  Rushing to get out the door in the mornings.  Rushing to make it to daycare on time before it closed.  Rushing to get home.  Even meeting up with friends on the weekends could feel like a chore to get out the door.

Now there are rarely places we have to be at certain times.  I like that.  We do have social engagements (not as fancy as that sounds), but they are pretty casual.  Also, many have been in a group setting so we aren’t making anyone wait if we are delayed.

Ditto for deadlines.  Work was–understandably–filled with deadlines.  Clients needed things at certain times.  That meant I either needed to finish it in time to send to the client or in time to send to the partner to review and send to the client.  Sometimes deadlines felt arbitrary.  But even arbitrary deadlines are important when someone is paying you for that timing.

Now my deadlines are my own.  And are more goals than deadlines.  I’m working to post here every weekday, but the world doesn’t end if I don’t.  I’d like to get a little more on top of tasks like emailing so and so, scheduling a photo shoot, booking trips, etc.  But these are all my tasks to do, and I get to decide when to do them.  Or when James gets to do them.


I like that I can breathe a little easier.  But I do miss what I describe as “bodily autonomy.”  The ability to just take yourself by yourself wherever you’d like to go.  Before I had hours each day where I could do this.  Granted, I was usually just commuting, working, grabbing lunch, etc. but oh the freedom of movement!  Now, we were here more than two weeks before I used the stairs in our building.  Because every other time I had the stroller or a child strapped to me.  Getting out the door now requires packing the stuff and equipment to transport 50 pounds of children.  Even inside the house, things like bathroom trips are strategic.  You always have to know where all the players are on the field.  I remember now hearing other moms saying that sometimes they just didn’t want to be touched by the end of the day.  I get it now.  Oh, I get it.

I know that some of this I’m doing to myself.  If I wanted to head out alone, I could do more.  But when James comes home after work, it’s time for dinner.  And then bedtime.  Which I could skip.  But at the end of the day, I’m not usually jumping to go bounding out the door by myself.  Ditto for weekends.  I could definitely do more by myself, but this is family time.  I hate to miss it.  I’m sure things will change as they get a little older.  Until then, I’m working on putting together some ladies nights.  I registered for the lottery for the Berlin marathon to see if I can cross that off the travel list, and if I get in, that will mean plenty of solo training time.

So plenty of other differences, but those are my big two.  Anyone made a similar switch?  What was your biggest difference?

Daddy working; Mommy running?

I finally made it out for a run.  (Ok, more of a run/walk if I’m being honest.)  It only took a little over a year since the last one.  This was sadly the first time I used the stairs in our building.  Every other outing, I have been accompanying a toddler or the stroller and opted for the elevator.

I got to explore more of Villa Ada.  This is a mega-huge park a few blocks from our house.  We’ve all been to the dog park on the fringe, but had not yet made it inside.  I aimed to remedy that.

I jogged over the footpath and found myself in the woods.  Very tall trees/shrubs and muddy paths.  Huh.  After the manufactured beauty of Villa Borghese, it was not at all what I expected.  But it was great for running.  The trees provided shade and the dirt was nice and soft.  My only worry was getting lost.  I ran and ran.  (Probably only like 10 minutes.)  Eventually, I found a clearing and turned back.  There are supposed to be gardens and lakes and all sorts of other things in this park.  I’ll have to come back.

It was a good run.  Good to get out of the house.  Henry seemed to miss me.  Once he realized I was not anywhere in the house, he apparently had a minor freak out.  When he learned what I was doing, he wanted to go running too.  (I’m sure I’ll have a good running buddy very soon.)

Henry misses his dad too during the days.  He talks about him much more now than I ever remember happening when we both worked.  “Daddy? Daddy?”  Now it is “Daddy working” said randomly throughout the day.  When we were in DC, I think he thought James worked in the car.

We have had workers in our place three out of the last four days.  There was some sort of water leak in the unit below, which meant a lot of drilling and patching in our unit.  All the workers were male.  Henry has been good about staying out of the way.  “Men working.”  “Men working.”

One of Henry’s sweet new friends got him a Lego set for his birthday.  It’s really cool.  It has a working dump truck.  It also has a little man in a construction vest.  So now even more “Man working, man working.”

To sum it up, we have a lot of men working around here.  I’m sure I’ll work again some day, but it is weird to think that the kids will (very probably) never know me as a biglaw type.  I’ll tell a story some day about “when I worked at that big law firm” and they won’t really get it.  It will just be a story.

And I know Henry will see plenty of women working, even if I’m not at the moment.  He’s only 2.  There’s time.  But it is nice to have a thing that Mommy does.  Something that takes her outside the house.  Something easier to explain than “Mommy blogging.”