advice

“More” is not always “Better”

In a culture where everything is disposable, the latest is a necessity, and bigger is better, it can be difficult to explain why you may find your self valuing “less” over “more.” It is counter-intuitive, but the effort of consciously rejecting the “more” mentality has advantages.

This exact challenge has presented itself in at least four different circumstances in the last week alone. Each time, it was absolutely true that “more” was not “better,” but this seeming contradiction had to be explained nonetheless. As much as we like to think we are logical beings, the most certain truths can seem upside-down at first. It is worth the fight to flip our heads over again.

When requesting additional time to file a court brief.

I am involved in a proceeding at the moment in which we find ourselves in the briefing phase. We submitted our brief, and the other side submitted their’s, and now our brief in response thereto is coming due soon.

Under ordinary rules, our brief is due twenty days after the other side filed its brief. However, because it was filed on a Thursday, we did not receive our copy until the following Monday, essentially robbing us of four days of precious time. We requested an additional ten days from the Court in which to file our reply brief, and after notifying the client, he asked (justifiably), “Why so little time? I want more. We gave them two extensions!”

He was correct: when the other side was filing its brief, we consented to two extensions of time for them to finish. We consented for two reasons: first, not consenting was pointless because they would probably get the time anyway, and it is not the sort of thing to make an argument over because we will want them to return the favor some day (like right now, for example). Second, we were in no rush: they needed the time to get it done and we had no deadlines in which to get this case resolved. Why press them if there is no reason? Save the fight for a day that matters.

But my client was not correct that more time is better. Just because they had more time, does not mean we needed it. Sometimes, especially when assembling a reply brief, you can end up damaging your argument by re-writing and pouring over the document too many times. The longer you have to wrestle with it, the further you stray from the key points. The judge can get lost in your rabbit trail, and you become less effective. Plus, more time puts the pressure on us to finish it. If we have two months to finish, other pressing matters will probably require us to let it sit for six weeks before we start work. By closing the window of working time, we make this a priority and we are forced to get it done.

When looking at houses to buy.

We are in the early/potential house-buying phase, and are having trouble finding a house that is the right size for us. While we have a baby on the way, and plan to have ??? more baby/ies, under no circumstances are we interested in a 2,000 square foot plus house.

We saw one house that had 2,500 square feet of living space, and we would still have to add on to build Massimo’s workshop. Although the house was brand new and well-made, we could not get over how huge it was. We simply could not justify it.

People kept telling us, “Well, you will have more kids, and they will grow and need more space,” or, “You will be shocked how quickly the space fills up! You will need it!” And while that could very well be the case some day, for now, the cost was too great and we could not justify the expense of all that space: buying all that square footage, heating/cooling all that square footage, paying taxes on all that square footage, cleaning all that square footage.

Then there is the mentality of having a large home. I tend to think that stuff is like goldfish: that is, it will fill the space of the home in which it lives. When I was younger, I could fit everything I needed in my Corolla and brought it back and forth to college twice a year. Of course, marriage, parenting, and home ownership will bring additional necessities, but I believe there is still virtue in limiting the accumulation of things. And the more space you have for things, the more things you will have, in my experience.

When my sister is making her wedding registry.

My beautiful, brave sister is getting married in August, and will promptly be moving to Germany to join her new husband at his Air Force Base. This makes the concept of a wedding registry particularly challenging. The big and little things one would typically request seem silly. “Why would I pay to ship that over to Germany?” she rightfully asks. She is one hundred percent correct: shipping a bath mat and soap dishes would be ridiculous. So she had to get creative.

First, she had to decide whether or not she even wanted a registry. What she really needs is money, to buy the things a registry would ordinarily supply once she lands in Europe. But people don’t really like wrapping cash, so there is something to be said for providing at least options to those inclined to shop, so she does not end up with a dozen crystal bowls for which she has no purpose.

Second, she had to decide what was worth it enough for her to request. While dozens of hand towels may not be worth it, this might be her only chance to ask for a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, which she will have to patiently wait to use when she comes back state-side.

Ultimately, she started to get creative with it: she will have a different life in Germany, hopefully filled with once-in-a lifetime opportunities to travel and experience unique places. She decided to include AirBnB vouchers and travel gear on her registry: items she would actually get use out of. Sure, she can also include dish sets and sheets, some of which will stay here for her when she returns, but there is virtue in curating a wishlist that – though not traditional – will provide her much more joy than ordinary “stuff” might.

When collecting baby gear.

Babies are small, but grow fast. Nothing grows faster, however, than baby stuff. At the moment, I have not an atom of baby gear in my home (it is all at my parents’ and in-laws), but this little person will make an appearance in just four short months, and so will its gear.

I have gotten in more than one debate with other parents over what gear is “absolutely essential.” For some reason, like all baby advice, opinions and facts often confuse each other. (We often laugh about how similar pregnancy is to engagement, when marriage advice was dealt with the same resolution. But that is for another post.) The facts are that everyone is different, every baby is different, and what you loved or hated, our family could have the opposite reaction to. But thank you for the input, we will take it under advisement.

As of this moment, I have no idea where we will be living when we have this baby, but I have come around to the reality that we could be living in our one-bedroom apartment for at least some time. With that reality, I have attempted to whittle down our “necessities” list, which has been met with criticism. But we are trying to stand our ground, because our reasons for not wanting to live in a crowded Babies “R” Us store are many fold.

First, we value space and time over comfort. While many items are cute, clever, and maybe even extremely helpful, we have to balance those virtues against the space and time they will consume. Space is easily determined, but time is more abstract. Time is consumed when selecting or collecting the item, setting it up, cleaning it, repairing it, moving and storing it when it gets in the way, and eventually determining where it will go once the baby (inevitably and quickly) grows out of it. With both parents working full-time, there are some things that are just not worth that time.

[As a note on this, the “cleaning” part deserves a moment of attention. Many of us don’t think about the time spent maintaining our stuff. This is a consideration I came across in reading about minimalism that resonated with me, and is especially true since we have no dishwasher or washing machine. Everything we clean is cleaned by hand, which takes a lot longer. Appliances and gear which pride themselves on being “dishwasher safe” are not in the slightest attractive, especially when I see its odd nooks and crannies I will have to clean by hand! Laundry takes three times as long as someone with a washer in her house, because we have to sort it, pack it in the car, drive it to my parents’ house, binge through as many loads as possible in an afternoon, load it up, drive it back, fold it, and put it away. And all that while not being able to simultaneously sleep or do other chores, as those who do laundry in their own home can. The less high chair covers, changing table pads, and play mats are in that laundry, the better!]

Second, babies grow so fast. Like seriously, so fast. Some “essential” items are literally only in use for a month or so before they are useless! This pregnancy has already gone by so fast, I cannot imagine how quickly that first year will fly. I would so rather spend my time with my baby playing and learning, than constantly switching out baby gear he or she has outgrown. Since we don’t have space for all the first year stuff, our home will feel like a rotating storehouse of equipment if we collect items for every stage. Instead, we try to focus on things the baby will need for several months, and which can grow with the baby for years!

Third, a lot of “stuff” comes with other “stuff,” and so the cycle continues. Some baby gear is not just the gear itself, but the covers, mattresses, sheets, decorations, extensions, extra parts, etc. etc. etc. All that stuff really adds up! And again, all that stuff will also need to consume time and space, and need to be cleaned. We are not interested. Instead, we like to focus on items that are already complete, and don’t require add-ons to be truly useful. By eliminating one item that comes with add-ons, you actually eliminate a dozen items!

Sometimes, more is just more.

5 Reasons Young Attorneys Are Better

I get it, I am young. I have reached the end of many meetings and consultations to be asked on the way out, “So, how old are you?” And when the room is full of people bonding over the challenges of calculating Medicare benefits, they do not always find my presence as obviously ridiculous as I do. They usually get snarky about my age.

But it is not all bad. This kid, the fresh meat that is advising You: a business owner three times her age, on tax and liability matters may not be your favorite experience, or one you ever imagined as the ideal. But I believe there are several distinct advantages to having a young attorney that I urge you should consider. I have made it easy for you and listed them below.

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Stock photos are going to make this post funnier, I promise. He looks scared, but you should not be scared of young attorneys.

1. We start everything from scratch.

You may be confused as to why it is better to start something from scratch, when a well-seasoned counselor can re-use her prior work for your case. Yes, it will take them less time and they will be less stressed about it. But here is the advantage of staring over: things change, procedures get updated, laws are removed and re-written, and forms are created. When a new lawyer gets a problem they have never seen, they start from the beginning: we check the latest statutes and cases, and then find out what, if there is, a form we need to use. When we start over from the beginning, we create the most up-to-date product and arguments. It takes more time, but it feels good to know something the older attorneys don’t. And the Court’s don’t care how much experience you have; they want accuracy and they want things done their way. I have gotten complimented by the Chief Clerk of the Middletown Superior Court that he had never seen anyone put as much careful effort into drafting a judgement file as I had!

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Look how fun we are! We get along with everybody!

2. We don’t have bad blood with anyone.

Although the Connecticut Bar is a professional, courteous institution, there are occasional tiffs that arise between colleagues. It is not uncommon for a new attorney to take the place that would typically be occupied by her superior because the attorney on the other side does not get along with said superior. We are still meeting everyone, so we have no reputation to precede us. When we introduce ourselves to a judge or work with another lawyer, their opinions are blank slates. Most often, that works in our favor. And you never have to worry about someone taking out a past beef on you and your case.

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See how we can creepily stare you down? It is one of our gifts. We are trying to hypnotize you.

3. We are careful as ever.

This goes along with the “starting from scratch,” but also includes the fact that we are not prone to taking big risks because of over confidence. We are cautious, and careful. We try to be courteous and considerate. It usually makes people like us more, which helps us get away with things a jerk might not. Judges tend to like us because we treat every case with extreme importance because every one is our “first [situation]”, and are usually over-prepared. While other attorneys can do “small stuff” in their sleep, we lose sleep over the most inconsequential details. It helps us make fewer mistakes and makes us the most alert person in the courtroom.

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Staring into the future – our future.

4. We are up to date on the latest trends.

We are the most recent graduates from law school, where we learned the latest trends and developments in all areas of the law. While the more experience members of the Bar have the history and the, “When I was starting out, it was like this…” (which are great and interesting stories, don’t get me wrong!), but we have the now, which is what matters to you now. We know what has been happening and where it is headed. Law doesn’t change overnight, developments usually start on one of the coasts, jump to the other, and then start popping up in places like Ohio and Texas, before trickling down to others. We learned and continue to read up about what is coming around the corner, and may even be able to use changes in other jurisdictions to your advantage. We are still the babies of the field, so we work hard to keep up.

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Yes, Chris, the words you are writing here can be typed directly into your laptop. And then you can change them without white-out. Isn’t that amazing?

5. We just get technology.

Look, it is not a universal truth that older people and”varsity” attorneys are technologically challenged. All I am saying is that young people see technology as a tool that is makes things easier and can adapt to new technology faster. It is intuitive for us. We are less scared of it, and understand the options out there. We have grown up with the stuff, so if there is someone who needs to know how to open an email attachment or submit paperwork online, it is more likely to be the freshly-minted attorney. Why is this better for you? Technology makes things faster and makes us more responsive and approachable. Time saved equals money saved. We also understand the real risks out there – including the ever-growing threats of cyber crime against law firms and you. We tend to better understand the tools, so we understand the holes.

-D. E. Barbi Bee

3 Steps to Being Good With Money

My husband and I have a saying we use when deciding whether to buy the cheap version of something (that will probably be less functional, soon break, and have to be replaced) or buy the more expensive, higher-quality version. We say that we’re too poor to not have the best – meaning we can’t be wasting our time and money on ultimately worthless goods. And the same applies to your finances: we’re too poor to not be good with money.

I used to get so frustrated with “money saving tips,” thinking, “How can I get on a budget when I don’t even have enough to pay my bills?” Guess what: you don’t need a lot of money to sharpen your smart money skills. And if you can be smart when you are making minimum wage, think about how much more your dollars will go when you land that big career! So let’s get going!

Step 1: Open a Money Market Account

You want to save, but you’re paying bills out of the same account where you keep you “someday I’ll get to do ______” money. Two problems: you can never really tell which is which, and have a habit of dipping into your “savings” to pay everyday expenses.

Here’s what you do: open a money market account (I have and love the simple, no-fee, no-minimum money markets with Sallie Mae bank*). Put some money in there – anything. Now, you have a dedicated account for saving up for the emergencies or the somedays (ours is for emergency savings and a down payment on a house).

Bonus: establish an automatic savings plan: every month (or week, or whatever), automatically transfer funds to your money market account. You will watch that money GROW! Plus, you’ll earn a competitive interest rate (that Sallie Mae account is a cool 1.05%, which is shocking for money market accounts these days).

 

2. Make a budget and use an awesome budget app.

Mint and Goodbudget are two great free apps (I use both: Goodbudget to track our spending in different categories (groceries, eating out, etc.) to make sure we are staying on track with our budget; Mint to get the big picture of all my accounts, debts, and assets).

A simple spreadsheet is all you need to make a budget. Start with how much money you expect to take in each month, then take out your expenses: tithe, rent, food, insurance, savings, etc. At then bottom of the spreadsheet, you should have nothing left! Adjust the budget every couple of months as you get the hang of it, and make adjustments for seasonal changes and extra expenses.

3. Pay down your cussing debt.

I currently am on the cusp of breaking down below $60,000.00 in debt – that’s right, I am this just a few thousand dollars close to getting into the $50,000.00’s! I’m so excited for many reasons, but mostly because the sooner we pay off these student loans, the sooner we can move on with our lives. Our monthly student loan payments are almost exactly the same as our rent – which means we’re basically paying two rents every month! This just won’t do…

What’s my strategy? First, I took the fastest plan to paying off my loans. I realize this is not an option for everyone, but for us, it was a worthy sacrifice. I signed up to pay off my loans in 10 years – which gave us huge, steady payments that are a struggle to pay now, but over the years we will save tons on interest and will eventually be able to make those payments (and maybe even extra) more easily as our income gradually increases.

Next, I’m paying down extra to reduce my monthly payments. I found my smallest loan, which also happened to have the highest interest rate, and one of the higher monthly payments ($50.00/month). When we get extra money – tax refund, bonus at work, refund from my Bar review course – it goes towards that loan. We are tackling that loan head-on, and we’ve paid it off in just a couple months!

Now that this loan is out of the way, we’ve reduced our loan payments by $50.00 per month, and we’ve saved hundreds in interest! What will we do with our new-found $50.00 per month? One idea is to put it towards our next-smallest loan, to pay that off faster. The other idea is to start an IRA and put that money in the IRA every month. Another idea is to just save it, and get into a house even sooner! The point is, paying off debts means money in your pocket – scraping and fighting in the short-term to get to freedom later! It’s 150% worth-it. I promise.

Go forth and be smart with your money now! You’re too poor to put it off.

*Not a paid endorser, just a huge fan of this account!

Everyday Sexism

1383197_10151744923592798_958827039_nAccording to a recent survey conducted by activist organization Girlguiding UK, 75% of girls aged 11-21 think sexism affects most areas of their lives.

70% of respondents aged 13-21 report experiences of sexual harassment at school or college.

Reading the synopsis of the report, I was reminded of the first time I was able to identify sexual harassment in my own life.

I was in eighth grade, about 13 or 14 years old. In science class, I was assigned to a lab table with mostly, if not all, boys. We were in the far back corner of the classroom, where the teacher was often out of earshot. Because of this lab table, I hated going to this class, even though I usually loved school and always got good grades. After several classes of sitting silently at this table with these boys, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I finally got up the nerve to go to the guidance counselor and ask for her to do something.

I walked into her office and sat down.

“What’s going on?” I took a deep breath and finally opened my mouth.

“It’s these guys at my lab table in science class. All during class they are constantly making sexual jokes and comments, talking about things and making gestures and comments about girls and sex – I hate it. I can’t take it anymore. I’m just sitting there, so helpless. I can’t say anything because I have to be at this lab table with them: if I say anything, they could retaliate against me. I’m so uncomfortable I can barely concentrate on the class. Please make them stop.”

“Okay, so that’s actually sexual harassment and they can’t do that.”

“Really? Can you talk to them?”

“Yes, well did you ever tell them to stop?”

I honestly couldn’t remember. I’m sure I had said something, or made a facial expression that they must have understood.

“Yeah. I think so. Why?”

“Well, I can’t do much until they know that you wanted them to stop. They have to know that you want them to stop, and then do it again.”

I couldn’t believe it. They couldn’t just know? They couldn’t just realize or be told or SOMETHING to help them figure out that an eighth grade science class was not the appropriate time or place for such language? Why did I have to subject myself to ridicule and victimization before they got in trouble? It was ludicrous: I knew they knew what they were doing was wrong, and they should be punished. They were interfering with my education – shouldn’t that be enough?

“Yeah, I’m sure they know.”

The next time I was in science class, their language improved, but one boy made a comment about getting in trouble with the guidance counselor, although he didn’t know who had told on him. He generally asked if I knew anything about that. I can’t recall if I lied or didn’t respond; either way it was not a great place to be.

I try not to dwell on the everyday difficulties and special challenges that come along with being a woman today. If I did, I think it would so overwhelm my brain power that I would never get anything else done. I don’t like identifying as a victim; I find it keeps me from moving forward.

But this study brought it all back. And the recent announcement that, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote, a woman will be featured on the $10 bill – alongside Alexander Hamilton – brought it back. And when I learn about the virtual disaster that is parental leave in the US, and wondering about how on earth I will ever be able to afford to have a child when I am self-employed.

“Only half of all first-time mothers in the US take any paid leave, [Vicki Shabo, vice president at the National Partnership for Women & Families] says, and that payment usually comes from other benefits such as vacation time, sick days or short-term disability coverage. Only about 13 percent of the private sector workforce is employed by companies that offer designated paid family leave, she adds.”

And the fact that women still get paid only 77 cents on the dollar (for a number of complicated reasons), and that my own state ranks 46th in this area women in Connecticut earn an average of $13,367 less per year than their male counterparts, according to a Fall 2014 report by the American Association of University Women.

And the fact that a former boss called me “aggressive” for sending out letters looking for a job in the legal field one summer, after all attempts to find a job through traditional searches and listings failed. Or that I was called “snippy” for posing a question about why my boss favored one phrase over another in a piece we were working on together.

And just the simple fact that in seven years of working for lawyers, I have worked for five male attorneys, and one female attorney – which leaves me so hungry for a female mentor that every time I go to court and see a female attorney, I track her every move (what she’s wearing, how she walks, where she sits, how she talks to her colleagues and her clients, how she addresses the judge) to learn what is expected of me as a female in this male-dominated field. And the fact that (for whatever reason) I have earned less money than my husband in every job we’ve had since getting married; and right now he makes almost twice what I make (he has a high school diploma, and I have both bachelor of arts and law degrees).

[Please don’t misconstrue my words, my husband deserves every penny he earns and more, he is underpaid as it is; it is simply that one would think that someone in my field, with my training and education, would also be entitled to a little more compensation.]

And the less damaging, but more annoying everyday aspects of sexism – like comments on the Internet, or being stared at and treated so differently at the grocery store when I’m with my husband versus when I’m alone, or when we females are given full responsibility to dress modestly for the sake of our “brothers”, or how the “girl’s” heath products cost so much more than the “boy’s” version, or when the male FedEx employee would not help me with my package until I smiled, or being afraid to walk or run too late in the evening, because I would be alone in the dark and unable to defend myself.

There are so many ways that sexism affects my daily life, that it is simply impractical for me to dwell on them – it would take over my life. So what’s the answer? There isn’t one – there are many.

For one, acknowledgement would be nice. There are many ways in which men are treated unfairly in this society as well; I make it a point to attempt to acknowledge this unfair treatment, especially to my husband or other men I know are affected by it. My husband does the same for me. He actually said he was sorry when I told him that a women would be escorted by Mr. Hamilton on the $10.00 bill. That acknowledgment meant a lot.

Once you realize what is happening, we all have a responsibility to try to change. Not because it’s “P.C.”, or because sexism hurts people’s feelings, but because it impacts our lives – our studies, our jobs, our ability to participate in society. If sexism is preventing women and men from contributing to schools, communities, the workplace, and the economy, then who knows what we are all missing out on? Change because it’s good for everyone. 

I know for a fact that you are not responsible for the sins of others, because you, dear reader, cannot change everyone else anymore than I can. There will always be jerks, and misogynists, and we will deal with them. That is not what is required; all that is required is to try to change yourself, and see where our daughters and sons and sisters and brothers go.

Finally, when you are affected by sexism, remind yourself that it is not stronger than you. I learned a long time ago that when I felt like sexism was getting in my way, to remind myself that God didn’t make me a woman by mistake. He made me on purpose, and he knows what I’m dealing with and he’ll see me through. We actually are stronger than any evil force on this earth. It that’s not encouraging, I don’t know what is.

-debarbibee

The Case for Lawyers

//stereotypes//

I took a class last semester called “Introduction to Representing Clients.” It was all about talking to clients, counseling them, negotiation tactics, conflicts of interests, and how to avoid or get out of complicated situations when representing someone. One of the first days of class we did an exercise where we listed off various stereotypes about lawyers.

Let me tell you, it was not difficult to make a list: greedy, stingy, aggressive, mean, selfish, manipulative, workaholics, dishonest, etc., etc., etc.

Then we talked about where these stereotypes might have come from. Some of them, we concluded, came from a lawyer actually doing his or her job well. A lawyer may be seen as aggressive or mean just by filing a piece of paper, but lawyers don’t always have a choice in whether to file a piece of paper because ethically, the client often has the final say. A lawyer may be seen as a workaholic because of the long hours he or she often works. But a lawyer facing a deadline or a sudden change in the case might feel required to work around the clock for a bit to resolve this issue, get to know the law inside-out and backwards, or come up with a new plan or argument. 

Lawyers get blamed for a lot: from changes in the stock market, to the cost of going to the doctor, to the type of curriculum taught to your children in school. And to be honest, lawyers can and might have played a role in each of those scenarios, but that is not all they do.

Some lawyers are greedy, manipulative, mean, and stingy. But you know who else is? Firemen, politicians, real estate agents, gas-station owners, babysitters, librarians, and gym teachers. I believe it’s not so much the profession that makes a person, but the person who makes the profession. If you are a greedy, mean person as a preschool teacher, you are still going to be that person as a lawyer. It’s not the job that’s the problem: it’s the person.

But that is not the kind of lawyer I would like to be. No, sir. I want to be the kind of lawyer who is also any of these jobs at any given time:

counselor
social worker
stylist
chauffeur
accountant
insurance agent
adviser
author
world-changer
listener
guide
advocate
representative
relationship expert
truth-seeker
teacher
student
artist
preacher
judge
ambassador

And I could probably go on with this list. But the point is this: lawyers aren’t the root of all evil, that’s sin’s position. And if you’ve had a bad lawyer or a better lawyer representing your opposition, then I’m sorry. But we are not all like that.

Personally, I’m psyched to be an attorney. Although it’s stressful beyond belief and crazy difficult, I really do believe I can do all kinds of great stuff with my degree and in my job. And even though I don’t have one of those eternally benevolent-sounding job titles like “teacher” or “in-home nurse,” I do want to do Good in my work, an I’m so insanely blessed to have been chosen for this job. Like it or not, people do need lawyers; so why not me?

-debarbibee

How to Avoid Being Asked When You’re Going To Have A Baby

It’s wedding season, and although I’ve already weighed in with my marriage advice, there was one important topic I did not discuss, but should be disclosed to all you newlyweds. So listen up: the truth is, now that you are married, you need to be prepared for the semi-constant stream of questions regarding your plans or opinions on having your first baby. And although the subject is deeply personal and really none of anyone’s gosh darn business, it will happen, over and over and over again. (In fact, I’m looking for information on exactly how long you need to be married without children before they stop asking: 3 years? 7 years? 15 years? Anyone?)

You thought they would be satisfied when you got married, after all, that’s what they asked about for years prior to your wedding. But no, now that there’s a ring, they need a BABY!

So how can you avoid this shameless invasion into your privacy? Here is some advice, but beware: it can happen when you least expect it.

1. Never, ever, EVER under any circumstances hold a baby in public.

This is such a rookie mistake. You thought you were just meeting your new niece/nephew/cousin/best friend’s infant, and that the polite and desirable thing would be to hold the thing. Hahaha you are not just holding a baby, like any ordinary person, you are auditioning, you are modeling, you are displaying you parenting skills for the world to critique. So put that baby down and walk away.

The last known picture of me holding a baby, from 2010, a good two years before I started dating my husband.

The last public picture of me holding a baby, from 2010, a good two years before I started dating my husband.

2. If you must hold a baby, DO NOT TAKE A PICTURE!

Another sad, rookie mistake. That’s not just capturing a brief, precious moment in your life, that picture is going on the Internet, and the Internet is going to comment that, “A baby suits you!” and “Look’s like you’re ready!” Bad. Or even worse, “When did you have a baby?! Congrats!”

Exception: If grandma just wants the shot, and has no access to the Internet, nor can she pass the photo to someone else to post on Facebook, take the picture, and get rid of the baby before anyone else gets any ideas.

3. Have an ally with you at all times.

This could be your baby-phobic spouse or an empathetic friend or parent, but it really helps because for some reason when  you say, “No, no babies for me now,” they don’t hear it, or forget it 25 seconds later. But when your friend or parent says it, then it is suddenly in a language they can understand. My mom is great at deflecting these. (Woot woot!)

4. Never, ever express your interest in children generally or in a specific child.

You can no longer say how much you like babies or that her baby is so cute. While I understand the difference between liking a baby and wanting to have one yourself, right now, this minute, adults do not understand this dichotomy. If you like children, or are good with children, then why aren’t you pregnant? Well, from my understanding it takes more than liking children to be prepared to get pregnant, deliver and care for the thing, and raise it for the next 18+ years. Just saying. But yeah, you can’t compliment another person’s kid. You will become a jerk, but that’s what it takes.

5. Do not decline alcohol, complain of an upset stomach, say, “I’m so tired and I don’t know why,” go to the doctor without explaining a non-pregnancy reason, wear empire-waist clothing, or gain small but noticeable amounts of weight.

These will all be quick indicators that you are pregnant! Only pregnant people don’t drink, only pregnant people get tired, and only pregnant people have stomach aches. You no longer will have any ailment or reason for acting weird other than pregnancy. Isn’t that exciting? That stomach flu you thought you had? It wasn’t – you are PREGNANT!

 

However,  let’s say some of these fool-proof methods do not work, here are some possible responses when a stranger pops the question:

1. Sarcasm

“Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you how I’m totally with child!”

(Danger! Danger! Only use with someone fluent in sarcasm. If not, it could spin out of control faster than you can imagine.)

“I can’t wait to get no sleep and clean up someone else’s bodily fluids all day.”

(This is a little more obvious, so it could actually work with someone not fluent in sarcasm. Be careful, though, because a very nice person will try to tell you how “It’s all worth it though.” Barf.)

“When do you think we should have a baby. We were looking for a stranger’s opinion.”

(A little rude, but it might just be the only way to get the message across. Or they will actually give you their opinion, which is….nice.)

2. Lies

“We’re looking into adoption, actually, would you be interested in donating?”

(This may or may not be true, because adoption takes so long, you could actually be in the pre-early stages and not even know it yet. But it is nice because it puts the buck back on them: will they give you a check? Bonus: you might get money.)

“I’m pregnant right now. Shhhh, it’s a secret.”

(If you are talking to someone who will forget your name when they turn around, this could work. But it’s extremely risky because they could blab and then you have rumors to kill by wearing super-tight clothes for the next three weeks. Use only if you are in a particularly snarky mood.)

3. Deflecting

“Hahahaha Me? As a mother? You must be crazy!”

(This is a little self-depricating, and a nice church lady might try to reassure you. But someone with a sense of humor might let it go here. Bonus: you get to call them crazy, even if you were the only one who noticed.)

“We really want to get a house first.”

(This is nice because it gives them a timeline: you can’t just buy a house tomorrow, it takes a long time to save up and find one. Suddenly that baby is looking like  a good three years out!)

“Have you seen these pictures of my dogs?”

(This totally puts the baby subject aside, and may even get rid of them because, generally, other than puppies, no one wants to see pictures of your dogs.)

4. Ignoring

“How was your son’s graduation party last week?”

(Anything that is about them and will get them talking a long time will do: parties, trips, specific projects at work. Just make sure it doesn’t look like you are trying to keep a secret by changing the subject because they could start some rumors.)

5. What you really want to do.

“Why ONE EARTH would I take into consideration your opinion when trying to figure out if I want to become a parent?! I did not ask you when I got married, I did not ask you when I chose were to live, pick a job, or pick a restaurant for dinner. So why in all this green planet would I want to know what you think about my uterus and our decision to have or not to have children.

“FURTHERMORE, how do you know that I”m not pregnant now, and just waiting to tell you, or children are a super duper sensitive topic right now. Huh? How do you know? You DON’T! It is never ever enough for you people. Please go back to wherever you came from and never ask another person when they are going to have a baby.”

-debarbibee

Loving and Respecting My Church

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Open space in the church – where there is room for each other. photo via @darlingmagazine

Our church is a Love & Respect church. I love our church and I really do believe that the book, video series, workbooks, follow-up studies, and retreats have truly helped many families in our church. And I’m really glad that they were able to find a safe place to talk about some conflicts in their marriage and work on ways to resolve them. Satan hates happy marriages, and a place where the church can support them is a very positive thing.

However, I have struggled for years with this book and some of it’s dedicated following. A whole book based on a single verse in the New Testament? A wide-reaching, money-making campaign with THE SECRET to a long and happy marriage, based on two words and a 7,000-person survey – what could be wrong with that?

The website for Love and Respect proudly states that the founders realized the key to marital bliss when they asked 7,000 people at their marriage seminars one question, and then they found the universal truth! 7,000 people?! That’s like asking 8 people in New York City where the best pizza is, and if 6 of them agree, you’ve found the unquestionable answer. No ifs, ands, or buts about it.

Also take a look around their website and you’ll notice something: a lack of diversity. I wonder why a book written by two white, 50-something, middle-class American’s doesn’t translate to all other cultures if it’s supposed to the universal truth? (Who, by the way, had revenue to the tune of $1.8 million in 2010 for their “secret”.) That seems to be a problem.

I haven’t read it. I have had at least a dozen people tell me to do so. I have read their blog and their daughter’s blog. I have watched their videos and interviews. I have read the testimonials and the critics. I probably know about as much as I can about this book without actually opening the front cover. And I don’t want to.

Why? Because I’ve been hurt by sexism in the church before, and every time it rears its ugly head these days it brings back painful memories. I’ve been treated with disrespect by pastors, Christian camp counselors, authoritative voices in the church and online, and I’ve even been hurt by people very close to me, whom I love. It’s the book, it’s the idea, and it complementarianism in general.

It sucks when someone tells me my husband has to make more money and have a more impressive job than I do to feel good about himself. No he doesn’t; please don’t treat my husband like a bank account. He’s really not.

It find it downright disrespectful when someone tells me I, as a women, tend to act with my heart, and not my head. It is a basic principal in negotiations that you cannot let your emotions rule. If I’m not good at that, then I can’t negotiate. If I can’t negotiate, then the last four years of my life leading up to and studying in law school have been a waste and I need a new career.

I really don’t like it when Dr. Eggerichs uses an analogy that women see, hear, and say everything through a pink filter, and men through a blue filter. No, actually. I see, hear, and say everything through a Deborah filter, and Massimo through a Massimo filter. Get to know me and I’ll get to know you. Then we can understand each other.

I cannot understand it when the founders assume that men do not listen and they only want to fix things. Actually, my husband happens to be a top-notch listener, but we both tend to want to fix things for the other person. That’s what happens when you love someone: you want to make their world better.

I’m insulted when people make jokes about men being the head, but the woman “can move the head any way she wants.” Apparently the only way I have a voice in my relationship is through manipulation and guilt? That’s just being plain rude to me and my husband.

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Basically, every premise that this Marriage-Saving conglomerate puts forth hits us like slaps in the face, telling me once again that I am in the wrong career, so is my husband, and we are nothing more than our defined sexes.

And I’m not the only one. I was so relieved to see that Elizabeth Esther also did not find the book’s old-school misogynistic tone very female-friendly. The thing is that it’s not just insulting to women, it’s also rude to men. They are supposedly the “stronger” sex, but at the same time, they act like a crazy child when their gender trump-card is declined.

My stomach churns when someone brings it up. I know they mean well – it helped them, so they want to pass it on. But it hurts. And it makes me angry.

Anger. That’s not the way I should feel on a Sunday morning. But Satan knows my weaknesses and he grabs a hold of those moments. My mind starts spinning, going faster than I can even form words. I start writing, furiously. Massimo and I vent to each other in the car. “Why? Why is this message still out there? And why do I fall victim to these scars every time this book is brought up?”

The thing is that I know in my head that this is what some people believe, and how they’ve modeled their marriages. Personally, Massimo and I prefer more of a co-leadership model. We respect each other’s hearts and minds, and use them together to make decisions as a team. We don’t worry so much about who’s in charge and who has the last word. In fact, if those thoughts do present themselves in our relationship, it is a sign of a conflict that needs to be sorted out.

But that’s what works for us. And it may not work for you, or your friends, or your kids. I don’t know! But I do know that my past is having a bad influence on my present, and it’s causing internal and sometimes external conflict. And for I while I’ve been stuck: what can I do about it? I’ve been praying and praying for relief from this battle.

And finally, I read this: “Fighting Words.” It’s about the battle between complementarians and egalitarians, and how we are too often either defending our stand or attacking the other. It’s about how we need to lay our weapons down, especially if we truly believe in equality. Since both views are biblically-based, we don’t need to fight about it. If we truly believe in equality, then that should also hold true in our respect for interpretations of scripture contrary to our own.

The message came through even more when I read this, about what feminists and complementarians have in common. It’s not a war, not even a battle. There is grace and there is love and I can stop worrying about defending my views or my decisions. That doesn’t mean we have to stop the conversation, but it does mean that I can show respect for the other side. And that truly, at the end of it all, we’re on the same side: that of defending Christ-centered marriages.

I will continue to have to work on healing the scars from sexist Christians in the past, and I will defend my husband from the same kind of mistreatment. But that is a battle that God and I can work through together. And in the mean time, I can be loving towards couples who find helpful advice in Love & Respect, I can have respect for the leaders who advocate for it’s message, and I don’t want the church to stop talking about marriage. After all, we ought to be submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (see Ephesians 5:21).

-debarbibee

Real Advice for the Class of 2014

So far, I’ve had a pretty relaxing summer. We have had a few big events, but nothing compared to the school year. But this week, all that changed.

Let’s see: the travelers arrived home from Peru at 2:00 am Sunday. Then it was a pretty quiet Father’s Day, where we ate hamburgers, held alpaca blankets, and heard all about their trip (with a surprise visit from Uncle Stephen and my cousin Jack!). Then Monday my Grandparents arrived from North Carolina for the festivities. I’m pretty sure there was nothing big Tuesday, but who can remember?

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All the sisters with Baby Giraffe in her cap and gown!

Wednesday – double graduation, Thursday more preparations (and I think Mayra’s family is coming into town one of these days? There is so much, I don’t even know.), and today (Friday) is setting up the church and last-minute shopping for the Wedding Reception, tomorrow.

Following our Wedding Fiesta tomorrow, we’ll have church Sunday (Massimo and I are on for music – of course), followed by my sister Susannah’s Graduation party. Oh, and in the middle of all that, Massimo has been working extra early and long days to finish some big orders at work.

Let’s just say, emotions are on short fuses these days, and we are just plain tired. But the Grace of God shines through, as always. Massimo got a raise this week, out of the blue. And I couldn’t be more proud and thankful! I’ve gotten to see relatives and friends more than usual, and some that I haven’t seen in a year. I can’t wait to celebrate my brother and his wife (still sounds weird) tomorrow, and, cherry on top: I got to attend my 13th Hale-Ray High School Graduation to see two sisters graduate!

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These girls…

And that was probably the highlight of my week. I’ve been to a lot of graduations (13 at Hale-Ray, 6 college graduations, and a few others). Most of them are generally the same: gowns, hats, “reach for the stars”, “remember your past”, etc.etc.etc. But there is still nothing like seeing someone you love walk across that stage. There is something about that moment, that tradition – it’s like it’s all been leading up to this moment. I’ve seen it many times, with many different people, and now Susannah and Emily have also participated in the rite of passage. They’ve closed one chapter of their lives, and have the pen to the paper to write the next. Well, I suppose it’s more accurate to say read the next chapter, since you are not really the writer.

And that brings me to the shortcomings at your graduation. Don’t get me wrong: it was beautiful and honorable and Hale-Ray did a great job. But being at your ceremony also reminded me of what was missing: Jesus. (There was mention of God, but it was in the Pledge of Allegiance and a song.) Graduation advice tends to be filled with cliches and slogans that make for light, cheery speeches . (I mean, every big event does: weddings, baby showers, birthdays – you name it!) But if you want real advice, the kind you can look back on months and years from now and it’s still the Capital-T Truth – you have to go straight to the source.

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Me and Massimo with our sisters.

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The Grads – Susannah and Emily.

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The Hale-Ray Class of 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I struggle with this. I have gone through periods where I read a lot, and then times where I can’t remember the last time I opened it on my own. One trick I have for getting back into it is to read the Psalms: they are short, beautiful, and jam-packed with the most honest, brutal Truth. I like to read through and underline the promises and actions of God, while circling my actions. This way I can meditate on who God is and what he is doing, while also learning what my response should be. I found this Psalm today for you girls, and I think it pretty well sums up the adventure on which you and your Heavenly Father will find yourselves. Moving on from high school is scary and exciting, and sometimes you can feel pretty alone in this big world. But if you stick tight with The One who made you and loves you more than you can imagine, then everything will be okay (even during crazy weeks like this one!).

Psalm 86

Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.

Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.

You are my God; save you servant who trusts in you.

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.

Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

You are forgiving and good, O Lord, abounding in love to all who call to you.

Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.

In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.

Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours.

All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.

For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in the truthgive me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

I will praise you, O Lord my  God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.

For great is you love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.

The arrogant are attacking me, O God; a bend of ruthless men seeks my life – men without regard for you.

But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.

Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant your strength to your servant and save your faithful [daughter].

Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see if and be put to shame, for you, O Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Congratulations, girls! Stay strong in the faith.

-debarbibee

Marriage Advice from a Very Experienced Woman Who’s Been Married 11.5 Months

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Look at those kids: they didn’t know anything! Married for 45 minutes – those babes were just starting out.

My little brother William is getting married tomorrow in Lima, Peru. I am super duper totally excited for him because he’s marrying an amazing, godly woman named Mayra. And I won’t be there. BUT, as his big sister, who has been married a whole 11.5 months, I thought it was my sisterly duty to offer the young man some solid marriage advice. I’m so much older and so much wiser (which are the only qualifications for offering advice, according to The Sound of Music). We’ve found that these were important fundamentals to keep in mind in our marriage, so we wanted to share them as a little gift to you guys.

1. Every marriage is different.

People always ask me, “How’s married life?” (They will ask you, too. A lot. Figure out a thorough, yet succinct answer fast because you will need it on-hand at all times.) I think that’s such a funny question because I’ve only been married once, to this one man. What do I know about “married life?” I know about my married life. That’s all.

You are unique. Mayra is unique. That means that your marriage is totally unique! And that’s awesome and beautiful and amazing. It’s like this precious little other being that is being born, and you get to spend the rest of your life taking care of it and getting to know it and watching it grow. So when someone says something about “marriage,” or “wives,” or “husbands,” or you have expectations about what “marriage” is like, just check those expectations at the door, and examine them fully before you let them in. Focus on how God made You, and Mayra, and brought you together. Start there.

2. That doesn’t mean I can’t give you advice.

Well, it doesn’t mean no one can give you advice. There are some similarities between marriages (like there are some similarities between you and your pastor, or me and my sisters). Marriage, as we know and think of it, is a sacred covenant. It’s an ancient sacrament that is mysteriously binding you both to each other, and to other married couples down the ages. It’s like becoming a citizen of a new country: you have new rights, new responsibilities, and a new identity. But you are also still yourself. Basically, it’s a confusing and pretty miraculous thing. The point is: be wise and cautious about who you listen to, and set a good example for others

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But look at these mature, knowledgeable adults! At 11 months, we’ve seen a thing or two.

3. You’re giving up a lot, and getting a lot.

I didn’t really know what I would have to give up when I got married. I knew I would have to give up some things, but I really couldn’t comprehend how much everything in my life would get re-prioritized. (You really can’t comprehend it before you’re in it; so just hang on.)

Church obligations, social circles, family, school, work, leisure, health, money: everything gets shifted. It’s sort of like on those shipwreck movies where everything’s cool and you’re on a relaxing vacation, and it’s all, “Who wants another soda?” And then all of a sudden you are lost and you need to make a shelter from leaves and sticks and drink pee to survive. Like, whatever your reality was before, you can’t take anything for granted and you have to re-prioritize and start from scratch. It can get messy, and a little painful.

The good news is: you are getting a partner for the rest of your life. And I can’t really begin to explain how much you gain with a partner by your side, through thick and thin. So try not to mourn the losses and focus on building up and investing in the gains.

4. For goodness sakes make each other happy.

When the terrible, stressful things are happening and it’s just one of those days, what makes Mayra happy? Does she like gifts, or time alone, or time with you, or does she like when you help take over some of her usual responsibilities, or does she want relaxing time away? Like, figure it out (ask her), and do it. (Recall the part where she is unique and everyone’s different and stuff? Yeah, she’s super special.)

Find out what makes you happy no matter what terrible thing is going on and tell her so she can do it. (P.S. Did you know that good communication is A-tops first primo important? Mhm. Tell Her!!! Ask Her! Mayra: Tell Him! Ask Him!!!)

5. Pray pray pray together and for each other.

Pray before meals, pray before bed, pray in the store and in the car, pray when your spouse is having a bad day, when he or she is having a good day, pray when you are upset with him or her. Pray all the time, for all the reasons, especially when you are upset. And tell the other person that you are praying. No matter what else Massimo ever does for me, my favorite thing is when I know he’s praying for me. It’s basically the most loving thing you can do for a person.

6. Communicate

Neither of you are mind-readers (as far as I know). We decided early-on in our relationship to not hold each other accountable for something we didn’t know. I can’t get upset with him for something I wanted him to do when I didn’t tell him, and vice versa. Honest, open communication is so crazy important, and non-verbal communication doesn’t count.

There are SO MANY less misunderstandings when you use your words, like our good parents taught you. We are not monkeys; we have a verbal and written language, and that’s why we are able to get married. You don’t see monkeys on Say Yes To The Dress, do you? That’s my point. Talk it out. (And you guys have two languages to use, so you have no excuses.)

I love you both and I can’t wait to see your love for each other and marriage grow over the years!

-debarbibee