The Neglected Blog

I asked myself, “What happens when no one posts to a blog for three years?” Do people still see the blog? Does it even exist if no one reads, posts or comments?

Answer: It lives! But only kinda, sorta. Like a soul not ready to transition, the blog sits in the internet wilderness, waiting to be read, to grow. Occasionally the site goes down. Links stop working. Its abrupt end leaves a few wondering, “What happened? Did the gap year end? Did she lose interest in writing? Did she get a job?”

Indeed, she got a job. And the past three years have flown by. And I am still wholly unsatisfied with my career, family and life balance. But something happened to me at the end of 2020. I had enough. I pulled together all the strands of life I was unhappy with and set myself on a new path, with defined goals and timelines. I bought plane tickets. I set my oldest up with an SAT study plan. I committed to workouts and social hours with my mother runners group.

And then, this weekend, during a family weekend in the woods, I finally had a flash of inspiration for my next career steps (more to come on that!). In thinking about what’s next, I realized that I spent too much time during my gap year worrying about my next “job” instead of focusing on what path, what type of position, what skill building, would make me happy.

I realized that I didn’t do such a great job with this blog. The purpose was to share my journey to help others negotiate this vulnerable time of life. I don’t think I did that. So, I am back.

And it turns out when a blog is abandoned in the wilderness, it just sits, waiting for your return.

One Year No Work-iversary

I started writing this post almost two weeks ago. Where has the time gone? I feel like that is my personal theme of the month as I look back on this past year. This week marks the one year anniversary of the beginning of my career break. When I started writing this post, I decided to give myself the month of December to reflect on this last year.

When I decided to up and quit my job, I had so many ideas about how I would spend my days. Some have come to fruition. Most have not.

I have re-committed to running. Shortly before we moved to Portland, I had a stress fracture in one hip and had surgery. I was training for my first marathon, so it was a huge bummer. I worked my distance back up over many months, ran my own personal marathon, and will hit over 1,000 miles for the year.

I have been present for my kids and held down the home fort like never before. When I was lobbying, my schedule was very unpredictable. Our schedule revolved around the unpredictable general assembly. Now, my husband can schedule work trips without worrying about whether our babysitter can stay late or whether I will be in town. I am here. I am here for homework, bedtimes, practices, meets, tournaments and field trips. It is still not always enough. There are three of them, two of us, one of me.

I have felt incredibly guilty many, many days. Guilty that I have this privilege. Guilty that I am not fighting the good fight with my fellow nonprofit unicorns and social justice warriors. Guilty that I am not contributing financially to our family. Guilty that I am setting a bad example for my daughters. Guilty that I am throwing my career, and years of hard work, away.

I have thought a lot about applying for other jobs. I have applied for some jobs. I have started cover letters and then decided not to apply. I have applied to the wrong job (as in actually submitted a resume and cover letter to the WRONG job!). I thought for the first time that maybe I might want to do something completely different. My children suggested I work at the Athleta store at the mall. Not that different.

I have figured out what to wear. This sounds silly but not working requires a completely different wardrobe. And people dress different in the PNW. For good reasons, like, it rains ALL THE TIME. I have embraced Columbia. I tried wearing leggings as everyday wear, but it’s just not me. I bought some new shoes. I actually shopped at the mall some and am trying out a wardrobe subscription service of sorts to change things up a bit.

I have done and arranged for a lot of home maintanenace. We have two houses in need of repairs. New toilets, (another) new water heater and fixing the work of the a-holes who installed the water heater the first time at the beach. Making the Portland house our own, including new floors, a new wall, and soon to come – a pricey new deck to replace the current leaning tower of Dolph. Not to mention the rooms painted and furniture refinished. There is still wallpaper to take down and more furniture to work on. The beach house is in desperate need of new siding and doors. This will all take more time, and, of course, money.

I have not caught up on seven years of scrapbooking, haven’t even started. I have not sorted through the papers in my office space. I have not made that gym membership worthwhile. I am still striving to mix it up more in the kitchen with healthy dinners. I am desperate to read more.

For my one year no work anniversary, I will hit the 1,000 mile running mark for the year. I will enjoy chauffeuring my kids to volleyball, Tae Kwon Do, gymnastics, the school play, and a field trip for the Improv class to perform at a local elementary school. I will laugh a lot. I will probably yell some. I may get a little teary when I see my girl up onstage. I will find a fun dress for a cocktail party at a brewery with a Pearl Jam cover band.

Happy No Work-iversary to me!

What’s a Gap Year?

I have had a job since I was ten. No joke. Before I was old enough to babysit, my mom’s boss at the decorating center* where she worked paid me to black out codes in the wallpaper books** with a china marker.

I was still a pretty green lawyer when I started having kids, and we needed the money, so I never even contemplated not working when my kids were babies. Until I had my third child. Our kids are well -spaced so that may have contributed to the shift in the power dynamic, but things definitely got a lot tougher when we had 3 kiddos to contend with. I decided to shift from my full-time nonprofit job to contracting. I kept my employer as a client and intended to limit how much I worked. But then I took on another client, and another, and another. (I have a very hard time saying no to work that I am passionate about.) Still, I did not seriously contemplate stepping out of the workforce altogether.

First there was one. I had a short maternity leave and she would not take a bottle but we were good. We traveled so much!

Then there were 2. But they were at the same daycare!

Then there were 3. Our youngest and oldest will never attend the same school. Next year, they will be at 3 different schools.







Then we decided to move our 3 kids and dog across the country over Winter Break in 2015. After briefly considering that the children and I stay in North Carolina through the remainder of the school year, we decided it would be best if we all moved together over break. I would then take the first several months off from work to get everyone settled in. But then, before my husband had even accepted his offer, a job in Portland for me came up, and then another. How could I say no to paid work? And I needed to make connections in this new state where I have never lived or practiced law before. So, we bagged the idea of me taking time off, and I took one of those jobs.

But something happened to me during that year – maybe it was the travel required by both mine and my husband’s jobs; maybe it was the nature of the work; or maybe it was just September. For the first time, I really wanted to just not work. We were in a place financially that we could make it work (more on the logistics of this later) and I didn’t have a great way to transition to more flexible work, so I QUIT. Straight up quit. I gave plenty of notice. I was very nice about it. I may have even helped the organization out because they were making cutbacks anyway and decided not to fill my position. For the first time, I walked away from a job with no other employment prospects.

And I haven’t done anything work-wise for the past year. No contract work. No projects. No little legal favors for friends or family. When people ask what I do, I have no earthly clue what to say. I am on a career break? I am taking a sabbatical? It was during my annual girls trip with my two best friends from high school that I came up with Mommy’s Gap Year. Have you heard of a gap year? It’s an amazing concept – kids who are not ready to go to college get their parents to pay tens of thousands of dollars for them to travel the world while their parents keep working back at home, lamenting how much more money they should be saving for retirement. I think these kids are supposed to be finding themselves, or maturing, blah, blah, blah (I literally cannot hear young adults when they whine). There is actually an American Gap Association!

Much to my disappointment, my gap year has not included world travel. I have spent my time doing three things: 1) Taking care of my kids, mostly chauffeuring and watching their various activities and volunteering at school; 2) Home maintenance; and 3) Running. In so many ways, it has been great. However, I did not anticipate how much I would second guess my decision. It has also led me to call my entire career path into question. I can’t help but often think, “What’s next?”

More to come on what I have been up to and how to figure out what’s next. For now – next is some more volunteer time at the school library before shuttling four kiddos to gymnastics, hopefully squeezing in a quick run before gymnastics pickup for #3, home with #3 to finish homework until #1 needs to be picked up from play rehearsal, dinner, and then back to the gym to pick up #2.

*”Decorating center” was an 80s term for Interior Design firm.

**Before the internet, these things were necessary – oh, forget it, if you don’t know what I am talking about, this probably isn’t the blog for you.

September, We Meet Again

Last September broke me. It wasn’t just September’s fault. I was complicit.

We made it through a summer of juggling work, summer camps, family visits and travel. Perhaps that led to me being over-confident. Maybe I just wasn’t sleeping enough and was not connecting the dots on what September would bring. Or maybe I just said yes to too many things. Whatever the cause, our usual carefully crafted work life family balance went off the rails.

I went out of town every week from Boston to San Francisco to DC. I walked 50 miles to raise money for the MS Society. Our little guy started kindergarten. Our oldest played volleyball and did the dance team. Our middle stepped it up at the gym in the hopes of making the gymnastics team. She also got braces, which of course involves multiple trips to the orthodontist. My husband climbed Mt. St. Helens, unfortunately without me as I bailed after some really bad toenail and foot damage at the 50 mile walk. There were kindergarten adjustment issues. And our middle has still not forgiven me for missing picture day. By the end of September, The Dolph family was limping along.

First Day of School

MS Walk 2016

The Mt St Helens climb I missed







Flash forward to September 2017. September, I see you. I got you. I am ready. I am 8 months into this not working gig. I have accepted that I cannot run, go to the gym, volunteer at school, and make healthy, delicious homemade meals every day. There will be no unnecessary travel. There will be no races, no fun trips with friends.

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2015 Back to School lines at Target the night before school started

I know the month is not yet over, but I am feeling pretty good about my relationship with September this year. Not only was I here for picture day, I made sure everyone had an acceptable outfit more than 24 hours before the big day. I have not missed a major sporting event, and at least one of us attended both back to school nights. I even bought school supplies in advance (not too far in advance, but it was not the night before school started!). I still have a to-do list a mile long. I do not have six pack abs. And we still eat too many frozen meals. But, I am still marking September 2017 as a win.

We’ll see how I feel when we get to what Oregonians call No School November.