Category: Issues and Current Events

Real Life

Hi Friends.  It’s been a hot minute since you’ve gotten an update, so that’s what you are getting today!  Hope you are doing well — can’t wait to hear about your fabulous lives as well.


I told you how I signed up for a writing class thing for the summer, remember?  Well, it doesn’t start until July 1st but during June I’m using Elora’s 30-days of writing prompts geared for finding your purpose.  I’m not even half-way through the prompts, but I’m loving how they excite me about writing and also kick me in the butt for being lazy and not prioritizing my gifts in my own life.  If you’re interested in purchasing the prompts, you can get 30 days of prompts for only $30.  It supports a great writer, and it supports you as a writer, so it’s basically win-win.


In our last update, I mentioned that I might have a position in Chicago but that it was tricky and not certain and that I wasn’t sure if it would be with my old job or my new (same agency but different division) job or something altogether unexpected. . . Well, it’s settled now and I officially have a position and I officially start on August 12th — the same day H starts his new job!  It’s a dream come true for making our physical and financial transition smooth and I am so excited and thankful that it worked out.  I mean, I couldn’t imagine a better scenario.

Well, unless Rahm called me and was like Hey, MB, we really need a lawyer to work for us in the City of Chicago and really, you are the only one we want.  So can you come and re-do our land-use policies and make sure our master plan doesn’t accidentally (or intentionally) discriminate and be in charge of ending homelessness and economic development grants and just spend all of my city budget helping people? And can you please wear jeans and a blazer to work every day, because dress pants just aren’t our style.  That would be a pretty great scenario too. 

The Daily Grind.

H is fishing three days a week and reading Game of Thrones during his well deserved summer break after graduate school, and I’m enjoying my job a lot.  I’m incredibly busy and working on some organizational planning efforts that are complicated and messy and exactly the kind of projects I love.  I’m doing a lot better at getting to work early on time and getting full nights of sleep, and I’m trying to get to the gym twice a week and eat fewer calories and more vegetables.  I even had a glass of wine and a BLT instead of two glasses of beer and a cheeseburger at Trivia last night.  Impressive, I know.

Our Move.

We’re still planning to find an apartment after the July 4th holiday and move up the first weekend in August.  Now that we both have start-dates for our jobs, it’s getting more real.  Once we find our new place in only SIXTEEN DAYS!!! we will schedule our movers.  Between now and then, I’m going to start  going through some of our things and packing/donating.

Let’s talk about donating for a second — do you guys ever feel like Goodwill doesn’t want your donations?  On the day of my last drop-off, I was asked if the clothes I had in sacks had been dry-cleaned and were on individual hangers.  I’m not dry-cleaning t-shirts, but I don’t want to just throw them out.  Is there a better way to donate used items that still have some life in them?

We’re also looking at a lot of furniture stores, because we have a lot of things to purchase in the coming months and want to be responsible about such large expenses.  For a new sofa, we’re considering Basset Furniture — we really liked their selection and service.  We also found this AMAZING coffee table (minus the wheels) but it seems weird to pay so much for something that looks so simple. . . not that furniture making is simple, just that I wish it were so I could have whatever kind of furniture I wanted.  (P.S. Sorry this photo is a little blurry.)



We spent last weekend in Virginia Beach, and we had so much fun EXCEPT that the traffic on I-95 from DC toward Richmond was HORRENDOUS.  When we left at 10:30 a.m. I anticipated arriving by 3:00. . . but it was actually 6:30.  That’s how much traffic it was.

But, it was so fun to get away, and I only took one picture!  Below please find Virginia Beach’s favorite drink, the Orange Crush.




Professional Photo Shoot

Last Friday afternoon I accepted a volunteer leadership position with an organization I am a member of.  It is a fantastic opportunity for me to do legal work in a field I care about, and a great way to expand my network since I’ll be moving to Chicago and basically starting my professional network there from scratch. 

Once I’d accepted, I received a final request that said (paraphrasing here): “Thanks!  Please submit your professional head shot to xxxxxxxxx at [email address] for inclusion in our leadership directory. 

…. ummm, my professional head shot?  Do people normally have those just sitting around? 

Working as a government policy-maker (and not in an Office of General Counsel or fancy-schmancy law firm) has some great perks.  I get to make decisions like, we should do this instead of that “for policy reasons.”  So, even though an idea is technically legal I can argue against it just because it sounds stupid/inefficient/like a bad idea/is unsupported by research/ or is otherwise unlikely to help families and children as much as another idea could or would.  I never have to work more than 40 hours each week and I get great benefits.  But there are things the job doesn’t include that I miss: things like CLE and bar expense reimbursements, administrative leave for lawyer training events and conferences, business cards (yes, really), and a reason and venue for taking professional head shots. 

I’ve been working a little at a time to fill these tiny gaps in my portfolio.  Earlier this year I ordered beautiful name cards from to use while networking, and I was incredibly impressed with the quality of the design and paper/printing.  Today, I had an emergency photo shoot with Gretchen from Honey I Shrunk the Gretchen so I could send a head shot to the organization.  We met up during my lunch break today and had a 30-minute photo shoot plus meet-and-greet in the L’Enfant Plaza-Smithsonian area.  The weather was perfect, Gretchen was fantastic (and funny!), and our hastily planned quick-and-dirty photo shoot was a huge success.  

Check out a few photos from today’s session!  I think Gretchen did a wonderful job of making me look smart AND pretty, and that’s exactly what I was hoping for.  We were able to squeeze in a few more casual shots too, which I will be revealing soon as the blog gets a facelift over the next few months.  Adding professional-quality photos to the blog, linked-in, and other social media accounts has been a goal of mine since last November, and I’m excited to have one more item checked off of that list. 


Three New Blogs and a Fulfilled Promise

There are a few promises I’ve made to you over these last few months that turned out to be flat out lies remain unfulfilled.  It’s time to start making that right.

On March 11th, I told you that I was tired of jumping from online clique to online clique, and that I was going to mix up my blog reader, which would hopefully have a similar impact on my writing style.  I told you that “While faith issues are an important piece of who I am as a writer, that tiny piece of the internet world is not enough on its own. What you read is what you write, and I’m just not cut out for a one-subject career.” 

And while I have not mastered the art of a delightfully varied yet cohesively themed blog yet, I have found some pretty fabulous reads on this here internet.  I tried a lot of new blogs, and while there are a ton of new additions in my reader, these are the top three:

1.  Corporette.

Corporette is the perfect mix of fashion + work tips + balancing family life and work life.  I enjoy the fashion pics — although I don’t always read them — but I absolutely love the comments over there and always learn something from the Weekend Open Thread.  Something work-related you’ve been wondering about, or need a professional woman’s opinion on handling issues with your in-laws?  Need advice on handling a sexist partner in your law firm or how to pick out a maternity suit?  Corporette has you covered.

2.  Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Anne and I are soul mates.  I mean, if your soul mate can be someone who has never heard of you and has no idea you exist.  [Hi, Anne!]  She loves writing and literature and is funny and writes about a good mix of life-things, which is what I want to do, eventually.  Story time:  When asked to introduce myself to the class by explaining which literary character I most identified with and why in my undergrad literature course, I said “Elizabeth Bennet, pre-love discovery.”  Which got some weird looks but was pretty honest, given that I sometimes say inappropriate things in social situations…

3.  Lawyerist.

I just like it.  It’s about lawyering and about life.  I find it so entertaining and sometimes educational.  If you aren’t a lawyer (or a half-lawyer struggling to find your career identity in a policy position…) then you might not love it, but I do.

Post Script

Google Reader is leaving this world in a few months, and I’ve started using Feedly as a replacement.  It is a little less convenient than Reader, since my internet connection can be fuzzy on the metro and it takes a bit longer to load, but the graphics are AMAZING and I’m starting to forget that Reader ever existed.  I especially love the “save for later” feature — it makes Five Things posts incredibly easy.  Check it out.


Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week: Gideon Edition

Five Awesome Things I Read This Week copy

This week marks the 50th Anniversary of Gideon, and while it is one of the most important cases in our society it is under-represented in American cultural conversations.  So I’m bringing it back.  Just like JT and sexiness.

The Basics:  Gideon v. Wainwright, a case decided by the Supreme Court on March 18, 1963, established the fundamental notion that any person accused of criminal behavior has a right to counsel even if he or she cannot afford counsel.

“The right of one charged with crime to counsel may not be deemed fundamental and essential to fair trials in some countries, but it is in ours. From the very beginning, our state and national constitutions and laws have laid great emphasis on procedural and substantive safeguards designed to assure fair trials before impartial tribunals in which every defendant stands equal before the law. This noble ideal cannot be realized if the poor man charged with crime has to face his accusers without a lawyer to assist him.”

Pretty convincing, right?

Okay, so now that you are as in love with the principles of fairness and justice as I am, now that you are thinking of naming your first child Gideon after a heroic man who stood for justice for himself and ended up ensuring justice for us all (not to mention that whole other Gideon character in the Bible, am I right?), let’s jump to our Five Things.

  1. The Atlantic published a great introductory piece that provides the history of Gideon, the resulting limitations on the right to counsel, and a charge to the American public:  “Either there is a right to counsel or there isn’t. And if there is such a right, we all have an obligation to ensure it is recognized — not just in the history books, and not just in a television movie, and not just in a dusty law book, but in the everyday lives of our fellow citizens.”
  2. Another great piece from The New York Times details how Gideon has been ignored (or worse) across many states, including one woman who sat in jail for eleven months before counsel was appointed to assist her.
  3. “Funding indigent defense isn’t funding criminals. Funding indigent defense isn’t paying incompetent lawyers to do nothing. It’s funding something far more important. It’s funding the protection of the Constitution,” says a blogger using the name “Gideon,” blogging over at A Public Defender.  He attributes the lack of funding and other failures of our justice system to people just not giving a shit about indigent defense.  And he’s funny.
  4. Lawyers have ethical obligations to be prepared, diligent, zealous, and more, but when many public defenders are over-worked and underpaid, does their lack of time lead to under-preparation and less-than-fair representation?  An examination of how different states and parties are responding to this office is over at the National Law Journal.
  5. Finally, a summary of remarks made by Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan at an event honoring the 50th Anniversary of Gideon v. Wainwright at the Department of Justice this week, brought to us from The Blog of Legal Times (The BLT).  She indicates that an indigent (poor) client is not entitled to all the bells and whistles of a “Cadillac lawyer,” but certainly is entitled to “a Ford Taurus defense,” an attorney who can appropriately advise and represent the client’s interests.

Oh my gosh, you guys…

I have something exciting to share! If you’ll remember way back to my “What I learned” post in early December, I committed to a few goals for this space and for myself as a writer. It’s taken a little time, but I’ve hit one of those goals in a big way: I’ve engaged with an online community about something I care deeply about, and as a result I’ve written a guest post on the topic which is posted on a “real” blog. An issues blog, the kind of blog that is deep and moving and serious and the kind of things I want to write about when I “grow up” as a writer.

Seriously, I am so pumped about this and I would love for you to click this link to read it! The series is entitled “Questions of Travel,” and it’s a collection of experts who have gone into “othered” cultures (think: poverty, cultural differences, racial divides, the bad side of globalization, that scary part of town where you won’t go alone, etc.) and talk about the ethical and human rights aspects of this work in a very personal, revealing way. I’ve been learning a TON as I read through the different perspectives, including to be careful how I tell stories and to watch the way I may be “other”-ing people in my own life.

And as you guys know, I’m not an expert on any of these things. . . But I’m kind of an expert on feeling confused about what to do about these things [and other things, while we are at it]. And so that’s what my guest post is all about.

If you have a story to tell where you’ve experienced “other”-ing (on the giving or the receiving ends of this), or if you have ideas for the way we should be talking about these issues, feel free to leave a comment on that page or right here. Even if your vantage point for missional living is different from J.R.’s (or mine), I hope you share my belief that we are doing something right when we talk about respecting others as we try to better our world community.

Thanks for your support as I out myself with my “real” name and my open [often confused] heart.

Career Crossroads, first draft

I’m at a bit of a crossroads currently.  We know that we will be moving because H has an awesome new job — but we are still waiting for the location so I’ve been holding back on announcing this to people in my professional world.  Once we know when and where, we can start discussing, but until then there really isn’t much to say:  

We might be moving somewhere sometime after August.  
It might be earlier.  I have no idea when or where or how
we will make this work.  

Yet I’m trying to make some big decisions in this vacuum.  Do I want to continue doing federal-agency-level policy making, or do I want to jump off this ship and swim back toward legal services?  Do I want to manage a non-profit?  Do I want to do real estate and development deals to create more affordable housing?  And the biggest question of all:  is it too late, is my career too off-the-beaten path, can I even get a job as a lawyer anymore?  Has my resume been permanently stamped with the scarlet letter of a policy-maker?

I don’t know these answers.  I know that I want to make a difference — that when I see a need, I want to meet it.  That this world is broken in so many ways, and that we can soothe the pain that stems from its brokenness.

I have a few dreams right now.  I dream of working in family law and helping wounded mothers and children find protection from their dangerous worlds and benefits to help them transition into a new life.  I dream of sitting in a coffee shop in Chicago or Nashville or Dallas and meeting with low-income individuals who want to understand how to start a business, or provide for their families, or start a non-profit, but just don’t know what the rules and regulations are.  That just need someone to explain the rules of the game, the way insurance works, and how to move forward when so much is uncertain.

But a lot is uncertain for me too, and I wonder sometimes how I can possibly be qualified to provide legal counsel to a family struggling with such difficult issues when my own life is so bland and safe by comparison.

But there is also another option:  an option where I transition into another federal-policy-making position and continue down my current path.  And that option, it is full of job security but not necessarily satisfying work; bureaucracy can be such a bummer.  But it could be perfect.  That job has the potential to change the lives not just of the families I have time to sit with, but families all across our country.  And that is something I could fight for, if the possibility were real, and the cards were right, and the budgets came through and the politics supported the effort.

If I stay in the bureaucracy there is no guarantee that the work I will accomplish will actually change the circumstances of any families.  And if I leave, there is no guarantee that I can find a position that permits me to do the work I want to do — no guarantee that I can articulate the type of work I am looking for, much less find someone in that field prepared to take a risk by hiring me.

But perhaps, just maybe, I’d rather sit down and talk to one family than change a paragraph in a regulation that may or may not trickle down to affect families in need.  Perhaps I’d rather meet one family’s needs where the family is, and help that family find security and peace than to edit all of the regulations in the world.

Calling is a tricky thing, in case you were wondering.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week

Five Awesome Things I Read This Week copy


1. The best tip for being an effective female leader? Stop worrying so much about how you are perceived and focus on getting the job done. This and more from Herminia Ibarra in How Female Leaders Should Handle Double Standards.

2. & 3. There were two fantastic posts on sex, gender, and the church by Preston Yancey this week, and I’d like to tell you which one is the most essential for your weekend reading, but honestly? Both.

First up was his piece on how adolescent boys understand sexuality and purity when our youth pastors tell young women to “cover up,” instead of telling young men to see their female peers [and all peers, while we’re at it] as human beings made in the image of God.

And right behind that came a call for continued feminism in the church. And this one line still rings in my heart even now, like a battlefield call to action:

“Put a woman behind the pulpit so I can hear He is risen! in the tone it was first shouted.”

4. A little land-use nerd alert for you guys: RegBlog’s update on the forthcoming Supreme Court case on regulatory takings.

5. Oliver’s guide to reading like a writer (beer in hand) over on Literature and Libations.

Okay, there you have it! Have a fantastic weekend and feel free to link up to what you’ve been reading in the comments.