The World According to Tiff Sniff

Meandering ponderings and wonderings on the state of things.

Life as a Lawyer

I have spent the last day and a half in a continuing education course in a roomful of attorneys. It's not as exciting as it sounds. I'm behind on my CLE credits, of course, so I'm having to cram a bunch in before June. So this week it was the Tennessee Bar Association's annual Intellectual Property Forum at the Doubletree Hotel. Are you on the edge of your seats yet?

Well, for us copyright nerds there was some fun stuff, anyway.

I have to tell you about the highlights, though.

3. A cute tourist watched me walk all the way across the lobby during a break. I look great in my black suit.

2. Listening to FedEx's lead IP counsel talk about the issues they had to deal with when filming Castaway.

1. During a session entitled "Enforcing your Copyright Rights", a 60-something white Tennessee lawyer gave us a practical demonstration from a case he had worked on. First, he played a snippet of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic's song "Get Off Your A** and Jam" (lyrics: "Sh-, G-D--, get off your a- and jam!" over and over), and then showed us an excerpt from the movie I Got the Hook Up, starring that illustrious thespian, Master P. If you've never seen an older white man repeatedly say, "Get off your a** and jam", you haven't lived, my friends. The only thing that would have made it funnier would have been a female 60-something white Tennessee lawyer.

The Today Show

is filming in Nashville today, in case you missed it. As I sit here typing letters to send to clients, I've been watching, and just have to comment on the irony of Kenny Chesney performing his beachy songs to an outdoor audience when it's rainy and 39 degrees. And 500 miles from the closest beach.

Celebrity Dreams IV

Last night, Donald Trump was hitting on me. And I thought, "well, he would only stay married to me for a couple of years before moving onto the next supermodel, and then he'd probably give me enough money in the divorce settlement that I'd never have to work again." Apparently that thought was enough to get me past the hair.

I woke up before I made a decision, unfortunately.

Previous Dreams

Royal Romance with the King of Heaven

A few days ago, my friend Michelle put this post up. I think that is what started this train of thought.

Thursday, my friend Christy flew into Nashville for the Singles Retreat. She couldn't stay with her boyfriend, so she came and stayed with me that night. While I was waiting for her to get in, I popped in Beauty and the Beast. You should know I'm a sucker for kids movies. I consider myself something of a connoisseur, having spent so many hours babysitting and teaching. BATB is one of my all-time favorites. The songs are catchy, without being annoying, the characters are well-done, the story is a classic. So because I hadn't watched it in a while, I did.

And I got a whole new take on it this time.

If you haven't seen it in a while, let me paint the picture. At the end, Beast is fighting Gaston (the bad guy) on the roof, and is just giving up, believing Belle has left him forever. Then he hears Belle's voice, sees her, and rallies. He and Gaston do battle all over the castle's turrets, and the Beast finally gains the upper hand. He has the opportunity to throw Gaston off the roof, but shows him mercy instead. He climbs up to the balcony, where Belle waits for him, and they are reunited. But Gaston takes advantage of his turned back, and stabs the Beast fatally (and then falls to his own death). Beast collapses onto the floor, and Belle leans over him. As he dies, she cries, and whispers, "I love you." Her tears have a unique effect. The rain falling on them gets all sparkly and colorful, and he is touched by the magic. He not only is healed of his wounds, but transformed into a new creature, one worthy of Belle.

Is this a mind-blowing portrayal of God's love, or what? The image of God (Belle) loving us enough to not only heal and forgive us, but to transform us through his mercy into new beings - his children! I think even the battle between Beast and Gaston has meaning: we can fight Satan with all our might, but ultimately, he has a weapon we don't (death), and is sneaky in his approach to us. We cannot defeat him without God's power. But with God, nothing can touch us.

All weekend at the retreat, every time we sang or heard about God's love, my mind brought up the image of the Beast bathed in the power of Belle's love, being made perfect and whole, and I would just tear up!

I think the fact that we think of God in only masculine terms keeps us from seeing Him in female archetypes. We forget that He revealed Himself as father because He set His plan into action in a patriarchal world, where only the strongest male would be viewed with respect and awe. And that it was a patriarchal world not because He is male, but because in a world where physical strength is power, men are necessarily going to dominate. In our world, power is defined by money, intelligence, ambition, and other characteristics found in both sexes; it is why the patriarchal system is (slowly) dying out. I hope that we can begin to see God as He is - as above both genders, embodying them both.

Did you know that there are more references to the "feminine" characteristics of God than the "masculine" in the Bible? Not a ton more, but at least enough that we can see both. (I wish I could cite that; I learned it in Jan Fortner's Women's Ministry class at Harding.) God as redeemer, comforter, care-giver, is at least as present as God as protector, victor, provider. Just food for thought.


This weekend was the spring retreat for the oc Singles. It was by far one of the best retreats I've ever been on. John Alan Turner spoke on fearlessness, and it was so what I needed to hear. Especially with my non-existent income and new job, I needed a reminder to face those fears and deal with them. He also did a fantastic job of dealing with the inherent Single fears of loneliness and the desire for companionship, encouraging us to make the most of our singleness, without making us feel ungrateful or unfaithful.

Retreats have always played an important role in my spiritual life. Unfortunately, I'm not very disciplined, and so my daily life doesn't include enough time dedicated just to God. So an entire weekend away from my life, focused simply on God and my Christian family, always does me a world of good. Retreats allow me to re-center and face head-on some of my deeper issues. It's also the best time to catch up with friends and make new ones.

And, just as a fun fact, my tattoo (gasp!) is symbolic, at least in part, of two retreats in high school: a fall retreat at which Melody and Ethan and I stayed up late on that concrete slab at Meribah, watching the stars and talking, and a spring retreat at Neyati, where I spent some amazing alone time at the end of the dock, looking up at the stars. (It's a shooting star, on my right ankle.)

So between the amazing worship times, the spades tournament, the long talks, and singing through Great Songs of the Church into the wee hours, I feel like a new woman. I hope you all have been blessed in some way this weekend!

Women in the church

Check this article out.

After my "glass ceiling" post the other day, I have been following links through several other blogs on this issue. Anyone who knows me fairly well knows that this is an issue I am passionate about and committed to, but that I also think it is one that has to be resolved by the males who are "in control" right now. For women to make a big stink, I think, will only cause more division and strife.

That being said, I am not going to be silent on the issue, and will talk with anyone who wants to discuss it with an open mind.

My mother, the daugher of a very conservative COC preacher, was quite subversive, at least when it came to raising her own daughers. She used to wonder aloud why a woman can pass communion side to side but not front to back. She also wanted me to sign up for my Christian high school's homiletics (preaching) class. (Unfortunately, I was too concerned about my status to do that!) And so, in spite of everything the men in my life were teaching, I grew up believing that I had as much worth and talent as any of them, and that my gender should not exclude me from a role in God's family. Here is my position (note the frequent "I think"s - this is opinion!)

I think the New Testament is unclear on the role women are to play. I think Paul himself gave conflicting messages. The commands concerning women say one thing; the stories about what women were actually doing in the early days of the church say another. In addition, if you look at the role of women throughout the Bible, you find women like Deborah, who was the spiritual leader of the entire nation of Israel, or Esther, whose faith and leadership saved the day. Clearly God doesn't think there is something inherent in females that makes them incapable of such positions.

Change is coming, whether we want to admit it or not. Either the churches of Christ will get on board with the rest of the developed world, and offer both sexes equal position within the church, or we will see a pretty serious split between the two camps. I think the changes need to be embraced, but not without prayer and contemplation. I think changes need to be implemented slowly, in steps, and not all at once. I think plans and procedures need to be in place for accepting and working through the conflict that will arise as this issue is addressed. (Pepperdine's Straus Institute has wonderful men whose life work is to resolve and prevent conflict in the churches.)

I know this is a sticky issue, and that people have really strong opinions and emotions on both sides of the argument. I also think that it is NOT cut and dried, no matter what critics on either side would say. But I think, given the unclear stance given us in Scripture, along with our equal status in America in all other areas (at least nominally), that the church cannot hold back any longer. The church has always been reluctant to accept changes - abolition, that the earth is round, evolution (whoops - another bucket of worms!). I'd love to see this not turn into another black mark on the church's history.

Other links I've found interesting:
Bad story of a young woman's experience in church
Good outcome for a similar story
Christian group dedicated to gender equality

Here's another great resource (thanks, Phil!)

One more thought (this from Rubel Shelley, not me: back when the church started, and the believers were meeting in homes, and the Lord's Supper was a full meal, does anyone actually believe that the men went and got the food and served everyone, while the women sat patiently by?)

Multi-post Days

Here's another one. While in Chicago, we saw a TV commercial for ONE. However, the TV was muted, so we didn't know what it was for. So I looked it up this afternoon.

It looks like a really great grassroots campaign to make Americans more aware of our wealth and responsibility in the world. I checked out the local links, and there was one for getting your church involved. They had a lot of ideas for worship services and the like. They also had a list of sermons and articles written on poverty issues by Christian leaders. This one is powerful and challenging. Check it out, and let it move you where it will.

I'm baaaack

It's been a while since I've been here. A week, almost. Most of that time I was in Chicago. Yesterday I was here, but in court all day, and didn't feel like trekking over to mom and dad's to use the computer (my keyboard isn't working - a common problem with Dell laptops. New one is on the way).

Anyway, we had an amazing time! More on that later, when I get some pictures back.

I had an interesting experience in the car on the way back, though. (Yes, we drove the whole way, and it was the first time I'd taken a road trip with both my parents in a long time.) My parents started talking about what would have happened if they hadn't opened the Donut Den, or at least if they had sold it. Both of them were teachers once upon a time, and running the store guided them into different paths. My dad, after teaching for a while, went back to run the store full-time. My mom, discovering that she enjoyed the bookkeeping, went back to school and is now a CPA. The Den is a challenge, to say the least. The last few years, we've seen sales go down, but we're having to spend more to run the business. So money is a huge concern.

They eventually started imagining what our family financial situation would have been if they had both stayed teaching, and decided we'd be a lot more stable today.

Well, that just froze me up. Here I am, on the verge of a new career, trying to decide what path to take, and I'm scared to death all of a sudden. This process has been scary enough, but in an exciting, bring-it-on kind of way. Now I'm paralyzed, afraid of ending up in 30 years regretting the path I chose. The rational side of my head tells me not to worry, God has it in control, etc., but my heart is really shocked. Will I regret later the decisions I'm making now? Is there another path? Will I one day think that financial security would be worth sacrificing some degree of enjoyment or adventure in my job?

Yesterday, as I sat in the courtroom watching a GAL case, I felt it even more deeply that this is a good fit for me. I hope I can hang onto that confidence as things are hard, when money is tight, when I'm discouraged. I pray I can trust God's plan (something I've never been good at).

And, if nothing else, I'm tucking away a key parenting tip: don't discuss the way you wish your life had turned out with a child who is scared of the future as it is.

Celebrity Dreams III

Last night I dreamed I was at a house somewhere, in the bathroom, and Martha Stewart walked in on me. She had a stack of freshly-laundered towels she wanted to put in the closet.

Previous Dreams

No glass ceiling?

At our CABLE lunch Wednesday, we were given the first look at the results of study conucted in Tennessee by CABLE and Vanderbilt. The researchers studied the inclusion of women in corporate leadership. The results were shocking, to me.

Only 7% of seats on corporate boards in Tennessee are held by women. 52% of corporations in the state have no women at all on their boards. Only one has three (usually out of at least 10-12), and none have more.

Yet women make up 44% of the total workforce. If you ask me, that's a pretty serious discrepancy. The numbers for other minorities are equally bleak.

If you want to read more about the study, you can access the report here.

So what do we do about it? I'm not sure. For people working in corporate America, there are more options. For the rest of us, I think it's important just to be aware of what's going on. Not to operate under the mistaken assumption that we are now equals. The opportunities for women today are amazing, compared to what they were even 50 years ago. But there is room for improvment yet.

I hope this doesn't sound too negative. In fact, I think women today have wonderful opportunities. Before I was shown this study, I would not have thought that there was such a discrepancy. We have more choices than ever in our careers, lifestyle, even clothing. I am living in a situation women have really never experienced before - single, on my own, educated, and not considered an old maid! Well, at least by people other than my grandmothers. It's a new world created for us by the suffragettes and feminists and civil rights activists of the last century, and the quiet fighters from time beyond that.

But we can't take those fights for granted. The battle for equality - of gender, of race, of all lines and divisions - isn't over yet.

Perfection in a Cookie

Has anyone else tried Chocolate-Covered Mint Oreos?


Day One

I did it! I got my first court-appointed cases today! Woo hoo! The cases I'm doing now are child-support, and I'm appointed as a defense counsel. For the parent who has to pay the support (and usually isn't paying - that's why they're in court). Only one of my three clients was there today; the other two are incarcerated, and I'll have to request them to be brought to court when we have their hearings. Tennessee law is pretty straightforward on child support: it's a flat rate percentage of the non-custodial parent's income, and if they fail to make a certain number of payments, they're brought in court. Then, the judge decides whether they are put on probation or put in jail. (Really, they only are incarcerated if they refuse to pay.) If they make their payments, nothing happens. If they miss one, they go to jail, for a prescribed amount of time. So really, as their attorney, there's not much for me to do, other than help them if they can't make their payments for some reason. I just stand beside them and tell them to do whatever the judge wants them to.

Yesterday, I went back and observed again in the neglect and dependency court. Last week, that's where I started, but Gayle showed me around and I never made it back in there. Anyway, so I went back yesterday to try to learn what exactly goes on. It was really heartbreaking. The one case I watched was where a mother had apparently given birth to a little girl while high. The child was voluntarily given a safety placement with family friends. The hearing yesterday was to see if the child needed to be taken into state custody and placed in foster care, pending termination of the mother's rights. Fortunately, she showed up, and the family caring for the child stood up in her defense, and the judge let things continue the way they have been. The mom still has access to her daughter, but not custody. Which is good, because she was high as a kite in court. My money is on meth. It was wrenching to see, but it filled me up to see the way the family with custody loves the little girl. I'm glad her mom has a role in her life, but that someone as loving and responsible as the people I met will be raising her. I can't wait to be involved in such meaningful, if hard, cases.

One interesting thing: remember this case? He was in the court yesterday, but I didn't stay long enough to watch any of his case. Still, it's one of the more high-profile arrests in Nashville lately, so I felt pretty cool to be there.

On a positive note, spring is in full force! 75 degrees, some rain, some sun, birds, leaves, tulips, redbuds, dogwoods, daffodils, violets, clover, forsythia, headaches, sneezing. But I love it. Tennessee is definitely my favorite place.

Do Me a Favor

I know most of you do business at a retail or food service establishment pretty much every day. Walgreen's, the grocery, Starbucks, etc. Here is a list of suggested etiquette:

1. Please, please, please, finish your cell phone conversation before you come in to order (or go up to a register to pay). There really is nothing ruder to the person working there than for you to not have the common decency to talk to him or her like an actual person. There is no reason you can't do this. If the conversation can't wait, paying/ordering can. If it's too much of an emergency to wait, you don't need to be buying donuts from me, anyway. You need to be somewhere dealing with the emergency. We don't want to listen to you talk about what Chris may or may not have done last night. I'm waiting for you to notice that I need your money, and a line of angry customers is ready to lynch you.
And whatever you do, don't apologize to the person on the other end of the call for having to interrupt your conversation to talk to the little people waiting on you.

2. If the person smiles, smile back. If they wish you a nice day, say thank you, or wish us a nice day back. For most of us, it's an effort to stay polite and cheerful for hours at a time, and when the customers fail to acknowledge that, it makes it a lot harder on us.

3. Don't use profanity if you can't have exactly what you want when you want. Unless you are talking to the owner of the company, or at least a store manager, you are probably not talking to someone who can change store policy or manufacture what the store sells. At least not immediately. We know how frustrated you are, and we will do what we can to help (we don't, after all, want you to not come back), but we are not magicians.

4. We are also not psychic. If you want your bagel sliced and toasted, please tell us. No, everyone else does not eat their bagel that way. If you want a large drink, order a large. If you don't, we'll have to guess, and odds are we'll guess wrong. Please be specific especially if you insist on continuing your phone call, as you will be angry if we have to interrupt you to ask for a clarification.

5. Don't assume that just because we work at a "lesser" job than yours, we are somehow less intelligent, incompetent, or irresponsible. A lot of people enjoy that kind of work, believe it or not, and a lot of people just can't find something better. For example, I work 3 days a week at a donut store. Every morning, we have a cook with a degree in Biblical languages, a woman with a masters in education, two college students about to graduate, and a lawyer working. The store itself is owned by a former college professor with a biology doctorate. Each of us has different reasons for being there. You are not automatically better than us. Please don't treat us as morons.

Sorry for the rant. It was a rough morning at the store. But I really feel strongly about these things. If you've never waited tables, or worked at a mall or fast-food place, you really can't understand what it's like. People act rudely mostly out of ignorance of the way they are behaving, and I just wanted to address the topic in a semi-public forum.

My Cousins

My uncle got married eleven years ago, and he and his wife have three young boys. The oldest is nine (almost ten), the middle one is seven, and the youngest is three and a half. They are the best kids ever! And I am such a terrible cousin for not getting over to see them more. (I only live about three miles from their farm.)

I have to share a little about the youngest one, Johnny. He wants so desperately to be as old as his brothers, and he is very intelligent and creative. For example, the last time I babysat, he showed me a toy that I knew he had received at Christmas, and he ever-so-casually informed me, "I got that for my eighth birthday". Then he looked outside, where it was raining and sleeting, and said, "I think it's about 87 degrees today." So funny! Also, when the oldest brother got a new bed, and my aunt and uncle had to spend a while figuring out how to fit it into his room, Johnny went to his own room, dug out his toy tools, and began "measuring" his own furniture. (He told his mom his bed was 87x19 inches.)

But my favorite story: There is only one kind of blue jeans he will wear. All of his other jeans and pants make him "look dumb" (his words). These special jeans come from Sears, and my aunt, Tammy, had bought him a couple of pairs. Well, one night she washed them, and forgot to put them in the dryer. So the next day, as he was eating breakfast, she told him he would have to choose another pair of pants to wear to preschool, because his jeans were still wet. He wanted to wait until they were done drying. But Tammy told him that no, they wouldn't have time before school. So he kept eating, but she could tell he was still thinking about it. So he suggested they go to Sears and buy him some more. Tammy, amused, told him that that idea wouldn't work because the mall doesn't open until 10:00, while school starts at 9:00. So he thought some more, and came up with a solution. "I know. I'll wear my other pants, but I'll keep my long coat on so no one can see them. Then you go to Sears when it opens, and buy me some jeans, and bring them to me at preschool." It was all Tammy could do to not just laugh out loud. So she told him, "I'll try", thinking she might swing by and pick up an extra pair or two, and surprise him after school.

When the boys are in trouble, Tammy will say "look at me" or "look in my eyes". Well, when they pulled up to the school, before he got out, Johnny turned to Tammy and said, "Mommy, look at me. Do you promise that you will go to Sears when it opens and buy me some jeans and bring them to me at preschool?"

Monday Monday

I spent most of my morning at Juveline Court here in Nashville, learning about becoming a court-appointed representative for parents and children in cases involving everything from domestic abuse to divorce to criminal matters. One wonderful lady took me under her wing and walked me around for an hour and a half, showing me where to go, who to talk to, etc. I filled out an application and still have to go through training, but I am very, very excited to take some of this work on. It just feels like such a good fit for me. Not sure why I never considered this type of work while I was in school, but I'm glad it's still an available option!!

Friday night I went to a creative writing group. We did an open-topic writing exercise, and here is what i came up with:
(This is for you, Vick!)

Just so you know, I had to pee when we started. This starts off describing an actual experience I had when I was in London with Harding in 1997, but it deteriorates fast:

" I’m in the “loo of the year” in Bayswater with Trudy and Olivia. The walls are black marble and gold-colored tile, and the fixtures are gilded. Potted plants stand in each corner, and I wonder how they get enough light to live. I then wonder if they’re real, and wander over to one, breaking a leaf to determine that they do, in fact, live in this dark, damp, underground world. The air smells like every other clean public toilet, of water and mildew and air freshener hiding the more odious aromas usually found in public rooms. There are only two stalls, which seems odd for such a public place. But we are the only ones availing ourselves of the facility this night, so we take our time and laugh at the many plaques on the wall. Apparently this loo has been the best on in the city of Westminster for many years running.
When we’re finished, we wander up the stairs to the street; the stairs open onto a median in between two lanes of traffic, one in each direction. It is by far the strangest place I have ever done that. We walk back toward the mall, stopping in a music shop so Olivia can buy The Verve’s CD before we catch the Tube back to Gower Street.

Five years later I’m back in that same neighborhood, walking that same street by that same mall. The music store is gone; I can’t remember now where it was, and don’t know what replaced it. The Indian restaurant we’d eaten at, Khan’s, is still there, and as good as I remember. Tal and I eat there regularly. We live, now, in a basement flat a few short blocks away. If I need it, I know live within a five minute walk of the loo of the year.
When we first moved into the neighborhood, and I realized where we were, I took Taleen and showed her the “loo of the year”. I was curious to see if whoever managed such an odd place still managed to do so in a superior manner. Sure enough, several more plaques had been added to the walls. The black marble walls were a little cloudier than I remembered, the fake gold not as shiny, and the smell was closer to what I would expect of an unattended public restroom. But the potted plants still thrived in the corner, watered and cared for by some unseen nurse, whose job it was to make this place the most attractive room in London in which any member of the public can urinate. Who has that job? Is it someone who works for some part of the government? Is there a department of public toilets? Or are these facilities managed by private companies? Who has the pride of introducing him or herself as the owner of the public loo of the year? How many toilets do you have to own to make a good living? Are such men the partners of trophy wives and owners of multiple homes in the country? Do their children attend posh boarding schools scattered around Europe? Are their kids teased in school because of what their families do? Do they lie about who their parents are?
Do these men and women ever meet the queen? She surely has never had need to enter such a facility, so it must not be up to her to judge such competitions as Loo of the Year. Whose job is that? Is it a full-time job? Or is it just a part of someone’s otherwise boring bureaucreatic job? Or is it a volunteer position, something people vie for each year? Is it an honor to be selected to judge the public toilets in London? Do you put a picture of a commode on your business cards? Are your bathrooms at home as nice? Or are you like the contractor whose home needs repair? The preacher with wild kids? Does your family resent that their toilets never flush correctly, while you spend all your time ensuring that rude tourists and drunk pub crawlers have a fancy, clean facility to use after a night of too-much fun? Do the owners of these toilets resent that, ultimately, people will urinate on the floor, vomit next to the sinks, leave toilet paper and paper towels on the floor? Do they wish that people would be more respectful of their efforts on their behalf?
I wonder if the loo of the year is still there. I’m sure the facility still exists; I just wonder if it is still as nice, and as award-winning as before. Coming up the stairs into a sunny Bayswater afternoon, I can hear children screaming at each other, some in laughter, some in tears. Muscular, oafy men make their way to the health club at the end of the cul de sac. Afghani women in long robes and headdresses lead their children home from the grocery store, each of them holding a bag full of vegetables and other necessities. Young girls crowd in and out of the doors to the mall, watched with envious eyes by older women who remember those days. All are headed to the same stores, to try on the same clothes and feel badly about themselves."

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