thoughts

“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.

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15 answers for 15 weeks

  1. I am due in September.
  2. I am actually seeing it as a positive that I will “have to make it through the summer.” I have fewer pregnancy clothes to buy, won’t have to lace shoes or even put on socks. I will wear dresses and flats, and live in either air conditioning or the pool. #winningallday
  3. I am now in my second trimester, but had an extremely easy first. I never got sick, dealt with a few weeks of exhaustion and mild nausea if I didn’t put some food in my mouth every couple of hours, and that was it. I got my energy back well before my second trimester started and had such an easy pregnancy, and I was pretty shocked when the doctor actually found a kid in my belly!
  4. I feel amazing. Every once in a while, I get worried or anxious. I had bad heartburn for a few days that is now under control. I literally cannot tell you how easy this has been so far and how insanely thankful we are for that. No trips to the emergency room, no special instructions. Just a boring,  easy pregnancy. Thank you, Lord!
  5. It doesn’t matter if it was “planned,” does it?
  6. We don’t know the baby’s sex.
  7. We won’t find out until it is born.
  8. We don’t think we are stronger or better or have more will power than those that do find out. We want to be surprised for ourselves.
  9. The nursery does not have a color because there is no nursery. We do not know where we will be living when the baby arrives, and if it is our current home the bassinet will hopefully fit in the corner.
  10. We will both return to work outside the home after the baby is born.
  11. We are extremely grateful to be surrounded by supportive family, all of whom are fighting over how much free babysitting they will be allowed to provide. We are overwhelmed by love and support!
  12. We do have names picked out. Ask next time I see you and I will be happy to share.
  13. I do not know how this baby will be fed, but it will be fed.
  14. We accept all offers of free baby supplies. Between my brother’s baby, our home, my parents’, and my in-laws, I can almost guarantee every item will be well-used and appreciated! And we promise to pass along any extras to others in need.
  15. We are super excited and blessed. Massimo is already an amazing father and takes care of me and loves us like crazy. We are enjoying every day left before we have a child to tote around, but also greatly looking forward to meeting this little person. #humblebragpro

-D. E. Barbi Bee

Thoughts I Always Have In The Grocery Store

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Okay, I’ve got my list, I’ve got my reusable bags, and my husband. Let’s do this.

First up: produce. Wow, why does every dish I want to make involve tomatoes? Can you overdose on tomatoes? I don’t know. “Seven of these.”

Which is the cheapest potato? I know there is an actual difference between the types of potatoes, but aren’t yellow and gold really the same thing? Just get the cheapest.

Oh my goodness why are the plastic bag thingys never close to the food I get?! Oh there’s one! It’s empty, of course.

I look like I’m possessed right now, just wandering around looking through people trying to find the green peppers. Oh! There they are. No, you take your time with your little hand-held space-age check-out gun thing. It’s cool. I didn’t just start.

These were $1.49 each last week, and this week they are 3/5. Is that better? Can I eat three avocados before they spoil? I don’t know. Let’s move on.

Okay, meat. Let’s see… holy not okay! Why does this chicken cost so much? Where are these chickens living, Beverly Hills? What is happening?! Whatever; girl gotta eat.

Just pick a cereal from the wall of cereal choices. Why on earth do we need a whole wall of cereal? Also, I thought cereal was, like, the cheap college kid staple? In don’t care. Fact: Honey Nut Cheerios are totally worth $5 a box.

Aaaaaannnd, canned goods. Garbanzo beans vs. chickpeas. They look exactly the same in the picture, and cost the same. So why do they have different names? Which one do I get? Ahh! I can’t choose! What if I’m wrong?! Okay, one of each.

Oh, old people having a nice chat in the middle of the aisle. How sweet. How about moving it along. Make a date, gentlemen. They only make these two-carts wide. That’s it: read my panicking facial expression. I only need two things in the Asian Foods section, so let’s boogy.

Why aren’t the Ramen Noodles in the Asian Food section? They are the most Asian thing we eat! What on earth is galangal? I need to get out of here.

Tuna: 10 of $10. That looks good. What a second, this not-as-colorful, smaller sign on the “Valu Foods” brand tuna is 80 cents each. Haha, you thought you would get me. I saw through your trickery. I saw…

Getting there, just a few more things. Ma’am: that child of your’s throwing a tantrum is in my way, and he’s going to get run over. Smile at her so she doesn’t know you think her child is a waste of space. That’s it. Yell at him for being in my way. Nice.

And we’re off! Wow, this country is way too into frozen foods. We have a problem. But these aisles are sooo much wider, so maybe I should buy more frozen foods. Look at all this space! I could dance in here!

Should I get frozen pizza? That would make things easier. You know what, no. It never looks as good in real life as on the box.

What time is it? What the cuss?! Stop & Shop? More like “Stop & get all your time sucked up while you shop.”

Cheese. My best friend. Get the largest block of the sharpest cheddar you see. Who even cares how much it costs: it’s heaven!!

Checkin’ things of my list, gettin’ closer to the end. Nah nah nah nah

Now, what are these random things left? Of course! The last two things on my list are waaaay over on the other side of the store. Perfect. This store should be arranged in the order of my list. That would be super helpful. Thanks.

Man, I’m hungry. Maybe I should get a snack for the way home. Oh! These ice cream bars look good. 3 bars in a pack!? What the what? Massimo is going to be super bummed when he only gets one.

Now, to search for the shortest check-out line. Scanning, scanning. This looks good. I’ll start putting my food down just in time to notice a much shorter lane to my left. *Puts the oranges on the belt* There it is! Whatever. I’m committed.

Yes, I have a card. Why on earth would I shop here if I didn’t? Git me them points!

$173!!! Is that really necessary?! I mean, look at us. We don’t have that.

Okay, whatever. It’s mine now. Done. I did it! I’m a survivor! Let’s never do that again.

-debarbibee