Archive for October, 2013|Monthly archive page

#UMWFG: The Dream Maker

In Education, Happiness, Law School Problems, Lawyer Problems, Somewhat disjointed rant... on October 28, 2013 at 3:23 am

That’s exactly what your brain is: a dream maker of the sleeping, waking, and life-long varieties. As a teacher, one of my favorite things was watching a student formulate a dream and begin to articulate that dream and take steps toward that dream. My 7th graders are now 11th graders, and it is so ¬†cool to see them pursuing fashion, writing, graphic arts, computer science, music, dance, engineering, skateboarding, sports, public speaking, and general happiness. Encouraging and equipping young people to make dreams and pursue dreams is THE most important function of our education system.

But, I digress. The point is to use my words for good. At this moment, I want to celebrate by using my words for good. I found out Friday that I passed the Georgia Bar examination. I get to be an attorney ūüôā I have wanted to be an attorney since at least the fourth grade and probably since the first grade.

I am blessed to say that I didn’t reach this dream by accident, by luck, or particularly quickly. ¬†While I am not insane enough to believe that every human being should become a lawyer, I am insane enough to believe that EVERY human being needs a dream to chase. More than that: every dreamer needs encouragement and the occasional push while hunting down that elusive and nearly invisible dream.

Here are some mental and emotional obstacles that I have encountered on my continuing journey:

1. I AM NOT TOO OLD. “By the time you graduate, you’ll be 32!” They said. But, I was going to be 32 either way, right? Don’t listen to this one.

2. I AM NOT TOO YOUNG. Ok, ok, ok. So, yes. LOTS of young people need to experience life before honing in on THE DREAM. But, I knew in high school that I wanted to major in political science and minor in history. I took a long path trying to make “sure” that the dream I had was the right dream. There is no “right” dream. There is my dream and there are the dreams that don’t belong to me.

3. THERE ARE NEVER TOO MANY PEOPLE. ¬†“There are so many lawyers out there already. Do you really want to be one more?” They said. ¬†Incorrect thought process. There is not another me who is already a lawyer. There is a reason that God dropped a love of politics and law into a 6 year old’s heart. I may indeed be one of thousands of lawyers, but I have a purpose that is unique.

4. MY DREAM IS NOT THE ONLY DREAM. There’s no need to trample someone else’s dream. That’s just rude. I have no right to do it to another any more than that other has the right to do it to me. It all comes down to the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

5. SOMEONE ELSE’S DREAM IS NOT AN INDICTMENT OF YOUR DREAM. “Oh. A lawyer? Well, that’s not my thing. I’m perfectly ok with ______.” A few times when I told others that I was quitting my job and going back to law school, I was met with a chill. I don’t think that law is the best profession. Law is simply the best profession for me. The fact that I chose law doesn’t mean that I think that anyone else should choose law. Be careful of people who meet your dream with this reaction; before you know it, you might begin to think that your dream is TOO big, TOO impossible, and TOO impractical for you to chase.

6. DREAMERS NEED COMPANY. But, not just any company. I had to surround myself with like-minded dreamers. Dreams are tiring, exhilarating, elusive, and tangible all at the same time. That roller coaster can put pressure on partnerships and friendships if both people don’t know first-hand the weight of a dream. I lost friends and made friends during law school. The making of friends felt great. The losing of friends was wrenching.

7. SHORT TERM SACRIFICE IS CONTINUALLY IN THE WINGS. Dreams are time-consuming and/or money-consuming affairs. Before I started law school, I was focused on paying down my loan from getting my master’s degree and also with saving money in general. So, no fancy handbags; no new cars; no elaborate vacations; no fancy crib. I didn’t have time to plan all my meals. Regrettably, I ate many meals from the snack machine. I didn’t have the money to get the AC in my car fixed right away, so I hot-boxed my way through town for a few weeks. I had to cut down on my church commitments. But, now I know that none of it was permanent. I can lose weight. I got my AC fixed (eventually). I have more time now to spare, and I have learned that new cars, vacations, and houses are not the causes of happiness but are rather the least important symptoms of success. Fancy handbags, I must admit, are my weakness.

8. LIFE IS A WONDERFUL EXPERIMENT. There is no guaranteed outcome for which every human being should be gunning. When I was teaching, I would spend my weekends grading papers and being angsty. Monday morning was a bad time, topped only by the first day after Christmas break. I was overwhelmed and exhausted most of the time. To put it bluntly, I was unhappy. Not because teaching is a bad career–but because I wasn’t meant to be a teacher for any longer than the 4 years that I did it. There is nothing sinful in changing directions. There is no shame in admitting that you need to make a new choice.

9. IT’S RARELY ABOUT THE MONEY. I won’t say never. But, I never cared much about being filthy rich. I’m not sure why, it just never was something I was into. I didn’t go to law school to make piles of money (though, to be sure, if was not blind to the fact that I could make piles of money). When the economy tanked and legal jobs were hard to find and salaries fell to bargain basement levels, I wasn’t *quite* as disappointed as I might otherwise have been. Pablo Picasso, Sigmund Freud, Marie Curie, Thurgood Marshall, Nelson Mandela, Shirley Chisolm and Coco Chanel didn’t chase their dreams for the money (though money several of them made). Money is just a symptom of chasing and catching the dream. Money itself isn’t much good–unless (obviously) you plan on having a Scrooge McDuck-style money tidal pool.

10. TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE. Don’t change your dream because of someone else’s actions or words. Don’t fail to change your dream because of someone else’s actions or words. Your life is entrusted to your keeping alone once you reach adulthood.


#UMWFG: What’s your excuse…?

In Happiness, Somewhat disjointed rant..., Uncategorized on October 23, 2013 at 3:43 am

There have been lots of media outlets flooded with this message: WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE? The fitspo category is flooded with this message. But, it’s not just fitspo. Politics, religion, education, and fashion have increasingly started shouting this question.

Ironically, I’m a ruminator so I often ask myself this question. It has become, frankly, overwhelming. And, I’ve been in a bit of a funk about the whole thing lately. Since I’ve decided to USE MY WORDS FOR GOOD this month, I figured there had to be a way to get out of this funk with words.

I decided to reframe the question. I’m asking myself the same question, but within a completely different context.

Most of the people and entities who ask this question are exemplifying some passionate pursuit: youth, faith, clothing, cooking, jewelry, career, ethics, fitness. Each pursues that which makes him/her/it happy

There it is. The question re-framed.


I watch a lot of public television; Martha Stewart has a cooking show that comes on Saturday mornings. The look of pure bliss that Martha sports while whipping up a coffee cake exemplifies  the feeling that I have when I hit publish on a blog post is the emotion John Legend wears when he is at the piano is the air Stella McCartney floats on when her latest collection is on the runway.

But, back to Martha. Ms. Stewart has no excuse to AVOID making that (admittedly scrumptious looking) coffee cake because making the cake makes her happy. She enjoys making the cake. She likes hosting people who will inevitably eat the cake. She enjoys sharing her recipes with me on Saturday mornings. Does John Legend have an excuse for failing to make a coffee cake on my television on Saturday morning? Yes. He does: playing the piano and singing makes him happier than baking cakes. ¬†There is no reason for him to beat up on himself because he doesn’t bake coffee cakes on my TV screen. But, nothing prevents him from enjoying a slice of that coffee cake if Martha invites him over for Saturday brunch.

So, that’s how I’m going to process WHAT’S YOUR EXCUSE. I will appreciate that other person’s show of passion, and I will remind myself to continue to pursue my own passions at my own pace at my own time. I provide no excuses for being who I am at this moment.

I’ll be John Legend. You be Martha Stewart. I’ll play piano for you, and then we’ll eat cake. We’ll both be happy.

#UMWFG: be right or be for the good

In Happiness on October 17, 2013 at 2:29 am

I’m on a mission through the end of November to live a happier life by focusing on using my words for good (#umwfg).

So, I’m a lawyer to be. And, I’m the youngest in my family. I like being right. It’s satisfying at a molecular level. But, being right does not always lead to good feelings. Even after I announce that I’m right, I’m usually still annoyed; I feel self-righteous, ruffled, and generally contrary to the person who was wrong.

Perhaps being right isn’t always important.

Today, for the first time, I tried thinking about whether it would be more important to be right or to be for the good. Essentially, the reason being right seems so important to me sometimes is because I take it so personally that the other person seems wrong to me. I take it as an actual person affront that this person, for example, thinks that Lil Wayne would make a great President. I’m offended. I’m outraged. My whole sense of self has been called into question!!!!(!!!!!!!!!!!).

But, is that really necessary? Obviously, it’s not.

The next time one of my colleagues is looking for something that I obviously must have (even though I know that I don’t have it….obviously), and then I find said thing on his/her desk….in his/her plain sight, I am going to TRY to remember to use my words for good. It’s just as easy to say, “Oh, here it is. Found it” as it is to say, “See. I told you I didn’t have it. Come here. Look at this. Just look at this. Here it is. You see it? It’s right there on YOUR desk. If it had been a snake it would have killed you. Next time try looking in front of you.” For the record, this last example is pretty close to something I’ve actually said…..more than once in my life.

The first response will likely lead me to feel more peaceful and will likely not engender disdain in the heart of my colleague.

Using my words for good.


Happiness Project or Joy Journey?

In Happiness on October 14, 2013 at 3:51 am

I just finished Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. Each month for a year, she chose to focus on a central theme that she felt would improve her overall happiness.

I like this idea. But, what I like even more was the fact that Gretchen encourages her readers to pursue happiness in unique ways.

I have been debating whether I should call my own pursuit a happiness project or a joy journey. It strikes me that the difference is both semantic and subjective. Happiness is different for each person, so happiness encompasses more or less what I want it to encompass.

One part of my project involves my spiritual beliefs. It further strikes me that JOY is one of the fruits of the Spirit spoken of in the Bible in the fifth chapter of Galatians:

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things . . . Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another. (Verses 22 and 26).

And, I don’t want to focus on just one fruit. I would, in the end, like to cultivate all the fruits. This project is not meant to be overly mystical or complicated.

So, I am sticking with the Happiness Project moniker.

Gretchen also looks for SPLENDID TRUTHS in her life. These splendid truths are rules that, she realized over the course of her project, by which she lives her life. For example, she says “the days are long but the years are short.” This truth reminds her to slow down and enjoy each day.

I like the SPLENDID TRUTHS. The word splendid is totally fun and thoroughly under utilized. When I say splendid, I feel like I’m in a Disney movie.

But, I am also a questioner. So, in addition to SPLENDID TRUTHS, there will also be BIG QUESTIONS.

 I have 24 things that I want to work on. I am going to make an initial one-year commitment to my Happiness Project.

The first month–and it’s going to be extended through the end of November–is using my words for good. This idea appeals to me. Being snappy and short with people is a huge source of guilt for me. And, I know myself well enough to know that if I don’t feel connection with the Hap-ject fairly quickly: I will give up.

Smiley faces

In Happiness, R[evol]ution on October 11, 2013 at 4:53 am

This post is sort of about Gretchen Rubin’s Happiness Project–a book and a website all about her one year journey to finding a way to a happier life. It may sound like a tome of first world problem angst, but the book is really about the habits, words, and thoughts that make one’s self and those around one happier. All in all, I found the book to be a great and worthwhile read.

Gretchen (because obvi, we’re like bff) offers lots of practical tips and illustrations from her own life and the lives of others. Her own happiness project was broken down into monthly chunks, with each month allowing her to focus on a different aspect of happiness.

I would like to do my own happiness project, but it occurs to me that I lead a pretty happy life. I could simply follow Gretchen’s plan, but that wouldn’t mean as much to me. So, I am going to start by identifying areas in my life that could include more happiness.

1. My relationships with my family members.

2. Honesty about my spiritual life.

3. Body love. I need to accept and nurture the skin I’m in.

4. Be easier to work with and be more accepting of those I work with.

5. Make quality purchases at quality places.

6. Eat good food.

7. Build closer friendships.

8. Try more new things.

9. Be more forgiving and let go of old grudges.

10. Get rid of clutter.

11. Stabilize and learn more about my mental health.

12. Feel and express gratitude.

13. Celebrate more.

14. Express my emotions at the right time and in the right way.

15. Volunteer more.

16. Communicate immediately, openly, honestly.

===========10/11/13 Update

17. Use my words for good.

18. Brush up on my French.

19. Grow things

20. Develop my art skills

21. Talk on the telephone more

22. Relax more.

23. Exercise more.

24. Be more collegial

C.S. Lewis makes me smile

In and other uncomfortable topics, Encouragement, R[evol]ution, Thoughts on Christianity on October 7, 2013 at 12:02 am

I love The Chronicles of Narnia. I return to those stories at least once a year. They refresh me. Therefore, I have always had great respect for the author, C.S. Lewis. He was a great writer, a great thinker, and a great Christian. He did radio broadcasts in Britain during World War II to help keep the morale of the British up. His books are mainstays for theologians, apologists, and anyone looking to find out more information about Christianity. He married late in life, and his wife died after a prolonged struggle with cancer. In the days and weeks after her death, he kept journals.

Oddly, these journals are the things that have made me smile.

Lewis later published these journals under the title A Grief Observed. He grapples, transparently and despairingly and courageously, with the loss of his beloved wife and the delicate nature of his faith in God. Lewis says things that many people are too scared to admit about faith.

But go to Him [God] when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited?

Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘so there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.

Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.

And, I smile not because his wife, Joy, is dead. I smile not because he is suffering in these pages. I smile because his path of grief that is so sharp and so different from anything I have ever known, reminds me that I am not alone. His grief reminds me that sweeping away my feelings and telling myself to buck up, man up, and put on my big girl panties is nothing. The missive “hold on to God’s unchanging hand” is not something that I have to do. I believe in God, but I think that anyone who tells me to hold on to His unchanging hand doesn’t quite understand. God does not change, true enough. But, what I understand about God changes. I cannot hold on to His hand…that is a part of the journey of being human and separate from God, yet with the ability to unite myself with Him.

My faith, in plain speak, is shattered and it has been for some time. I am thankful to God, I love God, I believe in God, I appeal to God, I worship God. But, I no longer understand what it means to be a Christian. But, surely I am a Christian–I believe that Jesus died on a cross to make right all my sins.

In this world of church politics and genocide and Twitter and great poverty thrown against great wealth—-no. Let me cut straight to the chase rather than do this whole poetic list. Between church politics and my stance on LGBT issues and my (bleeding heart liberal) politics in general……..I’m just not sure where I fit anymore.  Like Lewis, I’m not afraid that I will quit believing in God or Jesus. I’m afraid that I will realize, ‘This is what it meant to be Christian all along.’ And, then where will I be? A woman who believes in the Creator, in God, in Christ, in the cleansing of sin, in eternal life….but without Christianity? Without church? That’s blasphemy or something like it.

God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down. (–C.S. Lewis)

And, I smile. My faith is knocked down. I am winded. I am feeling alone. But, I am still moving. I feel alone, but I know that I am not. I smile. I am in the process–and if even a man like Lewis got mired for weeks and weeks I know now not to despair at being mired for months and months. Maybe what I have been involved in and what I have given myself to for all these years has not really been Christianity, but only my understanding of Christianity that looked very much like Christianity but just wasn’t. Maybe Christianity means something that I don’t quite understand yet. Here is one of the shortest, strongest, and truest sentences in A Grief Observed: