Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Lessons My Father Taught Me

Practicing law is not an easy profession to pursue. Imagine if a large part of that career included criminal defense. What you do can dramatically affect the lives of your clients. Add to that the disapproval of some for defending “criminals.”

I can’t count the number of times I’ve asked why do I do it, defend criminals, that is. My answer is the United States Constitution–due process. My father explained to me at an early age that the Constitution was the foundation of our democracy: everyone was entitled to a fair trial, to be judged by a jury of their peers. He explained that’s what makes us different from the Soviet Union, communist China and other dictatorships. He believed in the value and dignity of every human life.

My father was an honorable man, whose word was his bond. My father believed that the practice of law was a privilege, that should not be tainted with dishonesty, incompetence, laziness or greed. He instilled in me a love for the law, the Constitution and a strong allegiance to my country and its system of government. He also taught me that a strong work ethic, compassion for others and returning phone calls were necessary, no matter what you did for a living.

He used to tell me, if you’re thoroughly prepared for trial, you can recite the facts of your case by heart, you know the weaknesses and strengths of your case and you’re ready to go to trial immediately, but instead, go back and prepare some more! Prepare until you’re too exhausted to go on and then start all over again the next day.

Lastly, he told me a good lawyer is always a little nervous before she enters the courtroom. It shows you care about your case and your client.

Belinda Stevens is a criminal defense attorney who practices in Yazoo City. She is the daughter of the late John Sharp Holmes, a successful trial lawyer who only lost three cases in his legal career. Holmes' father was on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. Stevens' grandfather, John Sharp Williams, was a United States Senator and was good friends with Woodrow Wilson. Her love of history comes honestly, and can be seen in her novel, "Just Out of Reach," which is set in Mississippi in the turbulent 1960's. Stevens has also written a fun parody, "50 Shades of Fur," a bawdy tale featuring canine characters. Both books can be found on Amazon.com. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

What Mama Gave Me

I inherited a great deal from my mother–the most cherished had no monetary value but were priceless just the same. They include a strong belief in God, a desire to educate myself, how to be courageous and a love of reading.

There were two things my mother wanted for her children: a faith in God to rely on and a college education. Sunday school and church were mandatory when I was growing up–a habit that has served me wall later in life. Summer vacation also included vacation Bible school. As an adult, I feel truly blessed to have the community and friendship of fellow church members, as well as my faith that has carried me through difficult times.

Mama’s insistence and dogged determination got me and my siblings through the rigors of a college education. When growing up, homework came first and anything less than good grades were not tolerated. I’ll never forget fall semester of my freshman year in high school. I came home with bad grades and Mama tore my report card in half. Needless to say, my grades were much better the next semester! I didn’t want to go through the embarrassment of returning a Scotch-taped report card to my teachers. If I had a difficult time with a certain subject, Mama through nothing of hiring a tutor to assist me. Somewhere along the way, I developed a love of learning that I still retain.

My mother was one of the most courageous people I have ever known. When she was in her twenties, she lost her mother to cancer. She became a widow with three children at the age of thirty-three. She buried two sons and suffered from cancer and a crippling stroke. Despite everything, she remained strong and carried the rest of us through the darkness. She told me more than once to keep it together during a crisis. Once everything was over, I could indulge in the luxury of tears. She emphasized the need for our family to be strong for one another. She also reminded me that whatever difficulty I was going through would pass. Her famous words, that I still hear, are “this too shall pass.” Those words got me through a lot.

I was lucky enough to come from a family of readers. Both my parents encouraged in their children the love of literature. When I was small my mother introduced me to the local library. When I was sick my mother would read to me. My favorite book, of course, was Little Women. I wanted to be just like Jo. When I was in middle school, my mother took me to a bookstore and let me pick out a book to read. It was a 1000 page book called House Divided by Ben Ames Williams. After that, I began to write as well as read.

Well, there you have it–my inheritance–a rich one, indeed.

Belinda Stevens is a Yazoo City native and a practicing criminal defense attorney. She has published two books, Just Out of Reach, a historical romance that takes place in the turbulent 1960's, and 50 Shades of Fur, a fun parody with a cast of canine characters. She is working on her next novel, a legal thriller. For more information, visit www.belindastevens.com.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Conversations with Barnabas

"What's this book about Mommie?," barked the inquisitive Barnabas.

"It's about a Dachshund like you," said Barnabas' human, Belinda. "Well, not exactly like you, but close enough."

"Woof that again?"

"It's called '50 Shades of Fur,' and it takes place in a daycare center for dogs and cats," explained Belinda.

"Sounds downright furry!"

"It is," Belinda assured the pup.

"Tell me more," barked Barnabas.

"Well, it's all about these critters falling in and out of love, and all the furry misadventures that result due to their love triangles."

Barnabas cocked his furry head, and with a puzzled look on his furry face and asked, "What's a love triangle?"

"Something like your predecessor, 'Hump,' was involved in and I hope your canine self won't indulge in."

"I still don't get it!," barked Barnabas.

"Just love the right kind of she-dog," Belinda advised. "A good companion will go a long way in keeping your doggie self straight. No chasing cats, chewing on furniture and peeing where you shouldn't!"

"Yes, yes, exactly what is my doggie self to do, while giving a bark-out to '50 Shades of Fur?"

"Well, you and I will be going to various locations around the state, talking and barking about the book,signing autographs and pawgraphs, as well as giving doggie kisses to whomever buys the book. What do you think about that, Barn-Barn?"

"Oh Mommie, I can do that! You know I love to give out doggie kisses!"

Belinda Stevens is an attorney practicing in Yazoo City, as well as an author. Her second book is a fun parody called "50 Shades of Fur," and is available on Amazon.com. Follow her on FB, www.facebook.com/belindastevensauthor to see where she and Barnabas will be signing books! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

They Call Me “Mr. B.”

 I have fur the color of honey and eyes that melt your most determined resolve. If given half a chance, I’ll play tug-of-war with your pants leg and stretch my little self across your chest and sleep for hours on end.

To say that I have both a halo and horns is no exaggeration! Im a honey-colored babe that likes to snuggle and chew on anything that doesn’t chew back, from Mama’s bathrobe, the curtains, pieces of furniture–even the carpet. As for my bathroom habits, my house is my toilet. The bath mat, the carpet, the floor and maybe if I’m feeling gracious and accomodating, the newspaper. The outside is for eating leaves, worms and whatever else I can swallow.

But I love my Mama and the term “snuggle bunny” was meant for me. My name is Barnabas, but they call me “Mr. B.”
Note: Barnabas is the newest furry companion of writer Belinda Stevens. Learn more about her books atwww.belindastevens.com.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Fall Memories

My favorite season is the fall. No other time of the year can compare–the winter is too cold, the summer too hot and the spring can be frightful with tornadoes threatening havoc. My autumn memories go far back to trick-or-treat activities, scary movies and wicked witch costumes, as well as football games– both high school and college. The county and state fairs were high on my to-do list.

As I grew older, my memories expanded to include pep rallies, dances at the armory and homecoming festivities. My early twenties were full of dates to college games, picnic lunches and getting together with friends after the big match-up. As I grew even older, the fall ushered in memories of the beginning of the holiday season culminating in Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations with my family. I will always cherish the memories of lavish dinners with my parents and siblings, decorating for Christmas, shopping for presents and the beauty of midnight mass. 

Though most of my family is gone, the traditions and memories they inspired live on in the traditions and memories I have created with friends and family members that are still a part of my life. The fondest of these are set during the fall season.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What Not to Do When it Storms

First and foremost, let me say I don’t like loud noises - never have! As a puppy, I developed an early aversion to fireworks. I don’t even like it when my Puppy Mama loudly cheers her favorite football team to victory. I don’t mind the television broadcast. but clapping, yelling and jumping in place when something called a touchdown occurs is an assault on my floppy ears! I give her "the look". The same look Snoopy gives the Red Baron in the middle of a Dog-fight.

When it storms, I have the same reaction, but more intense. I have learned through experience and my Puppy Mama’s extended lectures that there are certain things no dog should do during thunderstorms. First of all, don’t get up in a chair full of books and knock them on the floor one by one. Don’t get under the bed and tunnel your way through boxes full of Christmas decoration at 2:00 o’clock in the morning. Absolutely do not try to dig your way through your owner’s oriental carpet. And last but not least, do not jump in the bathtub at 5:30 A.M. 

Yes, I did all of the above things. My Puppy Mama decided there was only one solution - to wrap me in a blanket and hold me.

And, you would be right to say I’m crazy - crazy like a fox, that is!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Flying The Friendly Skies


Whoever coined the phrase "Flying The Friendly Skies" would be less than accurate when referencing today's air travel.



The nightmare begins before you board a plane. My recent trip to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is a perfect example of how unfriendly things can get. First, there’s the security check. It’s not enough that you have to take off your shoes, belt, certain jewelry and sweaters, you are also subject to random pat-downs, as well as body scanners which show hidden fat as well as anything else us senior citizens are likely to hide or camouflage.

Then there’s the boarding process. There is First Class, those in need of assistance, those with small children, those with Sky Miles, and then and only then does Zone 1, Zone 2, Zone 3, etc. begin to board. Since every checked suitcase costs extra money, and I’m not talking about a few dollars, just about everyone opts for carry-ons. All this slows the boarding process to a snails pace. Once you make it to your seat and are lucky enough to find an empty overhead within a mile of your seat assignment, you have to tolerate the continual human traffic of those whose boarding process is yet to be completed. If you are stupid enough to require an aisle seat, this continuing process can be downright claustrophobic. Talk about getting up close and personal with your fellow man and his or her over-stuffed carry-ons!

If you are like me, you pay more to get economy comfort. I do this in order to stretch my arthritic legs. The problem is you don’t necessarily get what you pay extra for. It’s not much of a stretch, and there’s always a bald-headed man in front of me that pushes his seat so far back that his receding hairline is practically in my lap.

If you’re really lucky, you end up seated next to someone with a coughing or sneezing fit, or a large framed individual who takes up half of your space as well as their’s and last but not least, there’s the screaming baby whose lungs don’t give out until your two or three hour flight is coming to a merciful end.

If you want to go to the bathroom, make sure you do it before the drink and food tray block

the aisle space next to your seat. Since the aisles on a plane are barely wide enough for one person to walk without bumping into his or her fellow seated passengers, it’s next to impossible to get around the food tray. I use that term cautiously. Referring to the tiny packages of cookies and pretzels that the crew hands out as food is a gross exaggeration.

When your flight finally ends, you go through the excruciatingly slow process of deplaning. My sympathies to those who have another flight to catch and less than an hour to make a connection. Even if you do make your flight, there’s no guarantee that your checked baggage will arrive the same time you do. Another reason to pack light and carry one small suitcase. Which brings me to a very important piece of information. Ladies, some airports and airlines now consider your purses as extra carry-ons. Be forewarned of this new method of torturing female flyers.

If you are a senior citizen who requires a wheelchair, please note that you will be wheeled from one terminal to the next.. You will also have wheelchair access to baggage claim but nowhere else. If you need to catch a cab or stop for any other reason, you’re on your own. Hope you have a cane or a walker to get where you need to go.

By the time you get to your destination, you want to kneel down and kiss the ground in celebration that you’ve finally arrived even if your dignity and sanity are somewhat damaged.