Where Logic Meets Love

You Are Not Everyone: Taking Stock of Our Assumptions

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

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You Are Not Everyone: Taking Stock of Our Assumptions | Faith Permeating Life
Assumptions grate on me -- as much as I'm guilty of them myself.

In addition to designing surveys for my job, I take a lot of online surveys, as a way to make (a very small amount of) money on the side. Usually you're required to answer every question on the page, and more than once I've had to either quit taking a survey in the middle or lie because there was no way to honestly answer a poorly written question. For example:
  • Which of the following brands of alcohol have you consumed in the past 3 months? (Um... I don't drink.)
  • Which of these companies provides your landline service at home? (We don't have a landline.)
  • What is your monthly mortgage payment? (We live in an apartment)
And on and on.

This is why "N/A" and "Other" options were invented, people.

Yesterday at work I was transcribing the comments on feedback forms from a recent event. Although the event organizers had tried to cut down on paper use by confining all information to a single handout, several people still complained that the information should have been distributed electronically rather than "wasting" paper.

"We all have smartphones," one respondent explained.

Really? Really? Are you sure that every single one of the other event attendees owns a smartphone?

Let me answer that for you: They don't. Because I was there. And I don't own a smartphone.

I am forever beating down these kind of assumptions in work meetings. As the youngest person in my office, I have to straddle the gap between my coworkers and those "young'ns" -- the students who attend our college.

"Have the students do it on their phones in class. All those kids have smartphones."

"We should do this through Facebook. Everyone's on Facebook."

"If you want all students to know about it, you have to 'tweet' it. They're all on Twitter all the time."

Yes, of course there are plenty of students who sit in class looking at Facebook and Twitter on their smartphones. But that doesn't make it true for everyone. Rarely is there a benefit to making decisions based on these kind of sweeping assumptions.

In light of this, I thought I would list the many truths I try to keep in mind about just how much diversity there is, even within America. I still forget many of these, and I'm sure there are other truths I've missed that you will add in comments!
  • Not everyone is straight.
  • Not everyone believes in God.
  • Not everyone who believes in God is Christian.
  • Not everyone celebrates holidays.
  • Not everyone speaks English.
  • Not everyone can sum up their race or ethnicity with a single checkbox.
  • Not everyone has siblings who are the same race.
  • Not everyone wants to be married.
  • Not everyone wants to have children.
  • Not everyone had a happy childhood.
  • Not everyone has sex before marriage.
  • Not everyone grew up with their biological parents.
  • Not everyone grew up with two parents.
  • Not everyone grew up with two opposite-sex parents.
  • Not everyone can hear.
  • Not everyone can see.
  • Not everyone has two legs and two arms.
  • Not everyone can climb stairs.
  • Not everyone was born in the right-gendered body.
  • Not everyone has a job or the ability to have one.
  • Not everyone has access to adequate education.
  • Not everyone can read.
  • Not everyone knows how to use a computer.
  • Not everyone owns a computer.
  • Not everyone owns a TV.
  • Not everyone eats meat.
  • Not everyone drinks alcohol.
  • Not everyone got drunk in college.
  • Not everyone went to college or wants to go to college.

This is not about being "politically correct" or whether or not you're going to offend someone. This is just a reminder to take stock of your own assumptions. When I look over this list, I "know" all of these things... but I still catch myself making decisions on the assumption that everyone has the same abilities, preferences, and experiences that I do.

Even after years of talking about and working for gay rights, I still have to keep myself from reinforcing hetero-normativity by teasing some little boy about whether he's got a "girlfriend."

Even after having debilitating mono for 8 months, I still have to fight the judgmental voice in my head when someone takes the elevator up one floor.

I want to know: What assumptions do others make that don't apply to you? What mistaken assumptions do you find yourself making most often? There's no way to stop making assumptions overnight, but I think the more we remind each other of our differences, the easier it becomes to think in ways that encompass diversity.

Frugality, Friendship, and Faith

Sunday, August 28, 2011

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Frugality, Friendship, and Faith | Faith Permeating Life

Earlier this month I did a post on why it's OK that I haven't made friends since college.

'Becca asked in comments whether I'd found our church to be a source of friends. The answer is no, and I gave three main reasons:
  • Our church demographics aren't really prime for two 20-somethings to make friends. There's a ton of old people (i.e., 70 years and up) and the rest are primarily families with children who attend the church school.
  • We attend Saturday evening Mass since Mike works on Sundays, so there's no coffee hour or anything afterward, although I don't think there's one after the Sunday morning Masses either.
  • Our particular interests don't lend themselves to meeting people our age: I joined the prayer shawl ministry, where I knit with usually 2 or 3 old women, and Mike volunteered for a while with the teen club, where it was him, a bunch of high schoolers, and the same old woman who runs the prayer shawl ministry.
(I just found out at church last night that there is a choir at one of the Sunday Masses, so I might join that. Then I'd either have to go to church twice each weekend or go without Mike. Hm...)

Don't get me wrong -- we love our church. Our head priest is awesome and has absolutely fantastic homilies that are both extremely accessible and incredibly challenging. And we are friendly with the women who sit in front of us every week. We're very happy there, but it hasn't been a great place to make friends.

This week I realized another reason for this lack of church socializing. Everything costs money.

When we first joined the church I found out they occasionally held evening dances, which I was interested in because Mike and I used to go to dances in college and we were in ballroom dancing club together. But then I found out that tickets for a couple were somewhere around $50 to $100.

I soon discovered that every single event held by our church was essentially a fundraiser. Want to go to the Catholic women's brunch? $10 a ticket. The grade school is putting on a play? $15 a ticket. Want to play in the church 3-on-3 tournament? $40 a team.

Two weeks ago in the bulletin there was an invitation to join the church bowling league, a "fun social league" that meets once a month. I called the number in the bulletin to get more information, and the woman didn't want to tell me anything about cost over the phone and said the league secretary would send us a packet.

Not only did we receive a page full of tiny, single-spaced rules and regulations, but we found out it would cost far more each month to be in the league than if Mike and I just went out bowling by ourselves once a month. Plus we would have to pay extra if we ever couldn't make it and needed a sub. It wasn't worth it to us.

I certainly don't begrudge our parish needing to make money, especially as our priest just told us last night that monthly offerings have gone down steadily to the point that the church may not be able to pay its bills this month. Seriously, I get that. And Mike and I could build these events into our monthly budget if we wanted to -- although they're usually not put in the bulletin until the week of. (The parish secretary is notorious for putting things in the bulletin late, sometimes after they've already happened.)

I just wish there were some social opportunities for us to meet other members of our parish without having to pay for it. This is particularly true because, given the demographics of our church, even if we did pay and went to a church event, there might not be anyone within 10 years of us there.

That's not to say they have to be -- both Mike and I have friends in their 50s and 60s -- but it would be nice to make a connection with someone our age from our church, if there is anyone.

What I want to know is this:
  • How does this compare to your church, if you attend one? Are there a lot of social events you can attend for free, or does everything have a cost?
  • What would you do in our situation? Budget to go to a church event, or just accept that it's an unlikely place to make friends and save your money?
  • Do you think it's possible to be fully involved in your church and not have friends there? Or is that a necessary part of being a member of the church community?
Please share your thoughts in comments!

Keyword Poetry: You're Beautiful Without Trying to Be

Thursday, August 25, 2011

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I've only got a short time to post today because our Internet is completely down, so I'm writing this at the library. I decided to do something fun, in the footsteps of Simcha Fisher and Elizabeth Hillgrove, who have created "poetry" out of the words and phrases people have searched to end up at their blogs.

Although the largest number of searches are still pointing to my Harry Potter movie review, I decided to stick with the other search themes that most often point here.

And as much as it pains me, everything has been left in the exact grammatical state in which it was searched.

why would a man be so eager to be married?
he is trying so hard not to love me
is honeymoon sex amazing?

can you be catholic but not follow every belief?
ignorant children
waiting for marriage is stupid

you can'T take care of everybody so
why wait to kiss until marriage
sex in bed

i'm stressed at work
i don't trust God with my happiness
how is my month of july going to be
I am really tired of taking care of myself

marriage is for life or until
quit job, leap of faith, Trust God
quit job, leap of faith, Trust God
quit job, leap of faith, Trust God
can you stop faith

not everybody is where you are at in your life
Do not be excessively righteous

small steps big hearts
you're beautiful without trying to be

permeating catholic faith in your life
christianity and the happiness project
trusting god to help you to get another job

face permeating life
faith-permeating lfie
faith premeating life

faith permeating life


HOW MANY CATS?



I threw that last line in there because I thought it was hilarious :)

I decided not to clutter up the "poem" with links, so if you're looking for something more substantial today, here are some past posts to check out:Hope you're having a fabulous day!

Dear Freshman: 15 Tips for Surviving -- and Thriving -- in High School

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

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Dear Freshman: 15 Tips for Surviving -- and Thriving -- in High School | Faith Permeating Life

My little sister started high school yesterday. I can't believe it! This prompted me to compile a list of tips about high school based on my experience. It may not cover every high schooler's experience because it's geared toward my sister and, in a way, myself, circa 2000. Please add your own advice and thoughts in the comments!

School
  • Pick electives based on what you are interested in -- not what your friends are taking, not what your mom thinks you should take, not what's going to boost your GPA. You are the one who will have to sit through the class every single day, and if the teacher sucks, you'll at least be interested in the material.
  • Demand a quality education. If you don't understand something, ask, and if you don't understand the answer, ask for clarification. That's why you're there -- to learn! And if a teacher is truly making it impossible to learn, you can go to the chair of the department; they may not do anything, but it never hurts to ask.
  • You will forget your homework at least once, and the teacher may embarrass you for it. You will live through it, and you will be fine. Be the best student you can the rest of the time, and you'll have more license to make mistakes.

Friends
  • Have more than one group of friends if at all possible. A huge blow-up drama is going to happen at least once, and you will need other friends outside that group to rely on.
  • Even your best friend is going to hurt you sometime. Tell them how you feel. The difference between a good friend and not a good friend is not so much what they do, but whether they care that they've hurt you.
  • Assume that everything you say about someone else is going to get back to them, no matter how much you trust the person you're talking to. Speak positively whenever possible.

Dating
  • A relationship should not be like a glass ball, where you're afraid one wrong move will break it. It is not worth your energy to stress over doing the "wrong" thing; be kind and be yourself, and if that's not enough, he or she is not the right one for you.
  • We sometimes have higher standards for others than for ourselves. If you're not sure if you're being treated well, ask yourself what you would tell your best friend if she were in the same situation.
  • In the grand scheme of your life, going to dances and dating in high school are not as important as they will seem at the time. Nothing that happens in high school has any bearing on whether or not you will be married, and is not an indication of your self-worth in any way.

Activities
  • Explore until you find something you love. Try new things. It doesn't have to be at all related to your future career; many colleges prefer people with a range of interests.
  • Your time is valuable. Don't feel guilty about quitting activities that are not providing enough value to you for the time you're putting into them.
  • Extracurricular activites can be a great place to make friends -- or not. Sometimes you'll love the activity but not click with the other people in the group, and that's OK.

Health
  • Achievement will never be worth more your health. Take care of yourself: drink enough water and get enough sleep, even if that means you have to finish your homework on the bus the next morning -- or not at all.
  • You'll be sitting in a desk all day and sitting at a computer at night to do your homework (even my mandatory gym class was mostly sports, which involved a lot of sitting). Find a way to stay active -- whatever works for you.
  • When you reach that point that you feel like you just can't handle everything, go see your school counselor. Skip class if you have to -- they'll work out the details for you. Taking care of you always comes first.
Those are my tips. What else would you add?

Advice for Living (and Blogging): 7 Lessons from the 20SB Summit

Sunday, August 21, 2011

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Advice for Living (and Blogging): 7 Lessons from the 20SB Summit | Faith Permeating Life
This weekend was the 20SB (20-something bloggers) Summit in Chicago. It was amazing. I don't want to do a full recap because 1) I'm guessing a lot of you don't care that much and 2) it would be about 10,000 words long, but I do want to share -- and capture for myself -- the main ideas I'm taking away from all of the fantastic speakers.

So here they are, in no particular order. These are applicable to everyone, not just bloggers!

1. Action is everything. What you say only matters to the extent that it pushes people to act. Getting your thoughts re-tweeted 100 times means nothing if people aren't acting on it, and especially if you're not acting on it. Go after those things that really matter to you. When you want to make something happen, keep track of action items separate from all of your other notes. Always be moving forward in some small way, even when you feel like institutional politics are freezing you in.

2. Everyone starts small. Stop being afraid to go after a goal just because you can't do it overnight with no mistakes. Every big website or blog I heard about this weekend started by someone just putting something out there. It might have looked really crappy at first. But the important thing was that it got put out there, for better or for worse, so it could start to become something. You don't have to be an expert or even the best at what you do -- what you do will work for some people, and those people will find you.

3. You don't have to do everything yourself. There are different kinds of people out there with different strengths. Leverage the power of collaboration and community. If you want a professional site but don't know enough html to do it or don't have the time, pay someone else to design it. If you don't have the money, find some other benefit you can offer in exchange. Brainstorm big, or work with people who will help you brainstorm big. Trust your readers. Rely on your readers. Ask for help when you need it. Give help wherever you can.

4. Don't do things halfway. If you're going to take a risk, take it. You can't stay in your comfortable status quo and make a big change at the same time. If you're going to launch a new site, build up 3 months of content before you start publicizing it (except to get feedback from your trusted circle), so you can find your rhythm and make sure you're passionate enough to really commit to it. If you want to do something, tell your community you're going to do it. They will hold you accountable.

5. Be true to yourself always. If you hate doing something, don't do it. If your job is making you sick, quit. But every big change doesn't have to mean quitting your job. If you hate being self-employed, that's OK. Do what feels right for you. Be authentic. Don't try to become a mommy blogger or fashion blogger just because that's what's popular right now. Do things because you love them -- that's it. And don't try to lie to your readers, because they will call you out on it.

6. Carve out your space. Figure out what your boundaries are, whether that's what you share on your blog or what you do with your time. Take some time to unplug, recharge, and take care of yourself. You can't figure out what you love and what you want to do if you're constantly just reacting -- to comments, to Twitter, to your page stats. Make sure you have time for thinking, for reflecting, for decompressing, for brainstorming.

7. It's OK to be called crazy. When you find that idea that everyone says won't work, then either it won't work or it will become huge, because that means you're doing something new. Your family and close friends want to protect you, so their natural reaction is to keep you from taking giant leaps of faith. Trust the people who say, "I can see this is what you're truly passionate about." Passion is enough to keep you moving forward if you know how to feed it.

I came away from this weekend with both practical tips and huge amounts of inspiration to go after the ideas I've been sitting on forever. Plus -- and I know this is shocking -- I actually made friends! Some of whom actually live near me! For some reason, knowing that almost nobody there knew each other offline pre-conference gave me the confidence to introduce myself to everyone I sat down next to. That and I'd bought 250 business cards for my blog and I was determined to give out as many as I could. It made me feel like I might actually be OK at "networking" despite my huge fear of talking to people I don't know.

Two moments were hugely gratifying to me as a blogger:
  1. One of the first people I met recognized my username (my nametag had my first name and Twitter handle), had read my blog, and remembered what it was about!
  2. I had given out my card to someone I was sitting by and was talking about some things I've written about, and two other people sitting near me asked for my card so they could check out my blog also. Amazing!
20SB is already planning to make this an annual event, and I am going to try my best to make it to the next one. I found this conference more helpful and inspirational than any conference I've been to for my job. I highly, highly recommend attending next year -- you don't even have to be in your 20s. Or a blogger. Seriously. It is worth it!

---

If you want to see more wisdom from the summit, just search the hashtag #20sbsummit on Twitter.

These lessons are a mish-mash of ideas from the following conference speakers:

Do Kids Need More Education?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

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Do Kids Need More Education? | Faith Permeating Life

Somehow this turned into Sex Ed Week at Faith Permeating Life... so let's round out the week with one more post.

Macha left this great question on my honeymoon myth post:

Am I crazy or does every post you write really come down to "More education please!!!" ;)

The answer is: Yes and no. (Well, I mean, every post? No. But do I believe kids need more education? Yes and no.)

We put a lot of pressure on our official education system (by which I mean primary and secondary school, either public, private, or homeschool). When I was in college, it seemed like every discussion of a problem stemming from ignorance came down to "kids ought to learn this in school"!

One thing that I do think is missing from most schools is financial literacy. It seems like kids are always asking for practical applications -- "when am I going to use this stuff?" -- and this is one area that I think would be to the benefit of everyone. It wouldn't require adding an additional subject, since it could be taught alongside the relevant math concepts. And I think our English classes could include media literacy when discussing plot and storytelling.

But the truth is, kids already spend a lot of time in school. Despite the push from some corners for longer school hours, I don't think that more time with some of the teachers I had would have done any good. I doubt I would have learned more by spending an extra hour a week with my middle school science teacher whose sole goal in life seemed to be to make us feel as stupid as possible, or with my high school French teacher who spent class reading aloud from a book in French and translating each sentence into English -- after we'd already done that for homework the night before.

For the most part, I don't think *more* education is what's needed. I think it's better education.

As much as I love to rant about the quality of education in this country, for the moment I'm going to stick to my original topic of sex ed.

From both my personal experience and that of others I've talked to, it seems that sex ed curriculum at most schools is treated as a necessary evil.

That is, it is not approached as "We really need to equip kids to be sexually healthy, to feel good about their bodies, and to make intelligent, informed decisions about their sexual activity."

It is instead usually taught in a way that seems to be a reaction of fear and resignation. Fear of kids getting STDs and getting accidentally pregnant -- so let's show them pictures of STDs so they'll be too freaked out to have sex (clearly that's working well). And then, well, if you insist on having sex anyway, here are your options for contraception. (Unless, of course, you're getting abstinence-only education, in which case we'll just use fear and authority to keep you from having sex for as long as possible).

I've already written about what I think good sex ed looks like, so I'm going to try not to repeat myself, but in thinking more about it, I don't think this kind of change can happen until everyone -- teachers, administrators, parents, and everyone else -- starts to think about sex ed differently.

Right now it is based on a kind of deficit model: Here is this problem, so let's throw fear and information at kids to get them to behave the way we want.

I suggest conceptualizing sex ed more like skill-building -- not in the sense of "here's how you put a condom on," but teaching students how to have a conversation about sex before they have it; how to take care of their body and be respectful of their partner's body; for women, how to pay attention to their signs of fertility. And they don't have to learn everything in health class -- let's give kids scripts for talking to their parents and their doctor about sex.

It's not more education, exactly, it's just a different way of thinking about and planning the lessons that are already built into the curriculum.

What is one thing you wished you'd learned in sex ed class? Leave it in the comments!

In Which I Swap Blogs... With Myself.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

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In Which I Swap Blogs... With Myself. | Faith Permeating Life
So I'm pretty bummed.

I was super-excited to participate in my first 20SB blog swap... like, I think I was literally the first person to sign up, because my name was at the top of the partner list they sent out.

We were supposed to e-mail our partner right away, and let 20SB know if we didn't get a response. My partner e-mailed me right away... to say that her computer power cord was broken and she wouldn't be getting a new one until the end of this week, so she was bowing out.

I let 20SB know I needed a new partner. On Monday they e-mailed out the new partners for the 10 or so of us whose original partners bailed. I e-mailed my new partner right away to say I'd send my post Tuesday night. No response. I sent my post to her last night as promised. Still no response.

So now it's almost the end of the blog swap day and I haven't heard anything from my partner, nor has my post been posted on her blog. Tons of people are posting all over 20SB and Twitter about how much they loved swapping blogs today and what great partners they had. So I'm kind of sad.

Anyway, rather than letting my post go to waste, I figured I might as well post it here. So here is my post on the blog swap theme of "summer."

---

Twelve years ago, I took a vacation with my family. Like many other vacations, we were flying to Washington State to see the relatives we’d left when we moved five years earlier. Unlike previous years, we'd be driving our rental car a few hours east to spend a week in a cabin on a lake, joining my aunt, uncle, their four kids, and a group of other families from their church who went every summer.

As with every trip to Washington, I was excited to see my cousin who was 11 months younger. She had been my best friend growing up. We had even made up a word -- "fruzin" -- to describe someone who was both a friend and a cousin. Every visit meant sleepovers and staying up late to swap every detail of our lives with each other.

On that trip, though, to my disappointment, my 12-year-old cousin didn't feel like introducing me and keeping me included in her church group. She spent most of the time off playing with her friends while I hung awkwardly around the adults. I spent a lot of time with her 7-year-old sister.

This summer my family planned to go back to the lake with my relatives, and my husband Mike and I decided to join them. I was nervous. I had bad memories and feelings associated with the last visit. Would we be outsiders again? My cousin is now married and has an 8-month-old daughter -- would she have other mommy friends in the group that she preferred to spend time with?

Instead, this summer's trip went better than I could have ever imagined.

There were a smaller number of church families than in previous years, and our group -- my family, my aunt and uncle's family, and my other uncle and aunt's family who stayed at a neighboring lake and came by for dinner each night -- ended up making up about half of the total group.

With such a big group of us and only so much room in my uncle's boat, there were always people around to play card games or board games with. I spent a lot of time just hanging out and laughing with my cousins. I also brought five books and got through almost all of them by the end of the week -- nobody cared if I just wanted to sit around and read.

Mike dove right in and made friends with several of the other families there, doing a crossword with one older woman, then teaching euchre to another couple and their daughter. He tried tubing and wakeboarding and made good friends with my cousin's husband. One day he took my aunt and uncle's dog on a hike.

My cousin ended up staying in their cabin a lot, either to play with her daughter or keep an ear out while she was napping, which meant I had a lot of time to catch up with her. We talked about marriage and children, about work, about books. There weren't many people our age there, as they've all got their own jobs and families and vacation schedules now. I had more time with her than I've had in years.

And all I could think was: I have arrived.

This is what being an adult means. I'm happy to give up the summer-long vacations I had as a kid when I was insecure, lonely, and easily hurt. Much better to carve out a week of vacation days away from work where I can do whatever I want -- read, talk, play games, go tubing, just relax -- and be perfectly content.

Mike has already said he wants to go back next summer. I can't wait!

The Myth of Amazing Honeymoon Sex

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

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The Myth of Amazing Honeymoon Sex | Faith Permeating Life
This is a follow-up to Sunday's post. If you don't want to read about sex... don't read it.

I want to add one caveat to what I said about how most people use rules and fear when talking to kids about sex. In order to entice kids to wait until marriage, Christian parents and pastors alike reach for the same story: The Myth of Amazing Honeymoon Sex.

Jon Acuff describes it well in his hilarious book, Stuff Christians Like, saying that Christians like to rank honeymoon sex "slightly higher than the second coming of Christ." In other words, virgin Christians are really excited about Christ coming back and all, but they really hope they get that one chance to have sex first.

Why? Because they've been told that all of their hopes and dreams and expectations about sex are going to come true in the sex they'll have immediately after getting married.

This great post from the Good Women Project sums it up nicely:
In an effort to combat the encroachment of culture and make sex seem so utterly and completely worth waiting for, Christians can unintentionally spin lies of their own.

[This preacher's] was, “Don’t bother packing anything for your honeymoon. You don’t need clothes. You just need a jumbo pack of Gatorade to stay healthy for all the amazing sex you’ll be having. You can get dehydrated, you know.”
What a terrible lie to tell our children.

Explain this to me: How exactly are we setting our children up for magical and amazing honeymoon sex by degrading sex for the first 18+ years of their life and giving them no practical education about sex?

How is it doing them a favor to make sex seem like a terrible, dangerous thing... except, of course, for when they're married and will suddenly be an expert at having mind-blowing sex?

The false promise of honeymoon sex is just another lie told out of fear, a last-ditch effort to keep kids abstinent until marriage without having to actually talk to them about sex.

Don't you think that if kids knew how much patience and effort it takes to make sex really, really good, that they would be more likely to want to wait until they were with someone they felt completely safe with and committed to, than if they thought it was going to be super-fantastic the very first time?

I do. I think we owe it to our kids to stop lying to them and start educating them.

Were you told the honeymoon myth? Do you think there's any merit to it?

How Short-Term Fear Makes Your Children Bad Lovers

Saturday, August 13, 2011

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How Short-Term Fear Makes Your Children Bad Lovers | Faith Permeating Life
I've written before about what good sex ed looks like and also why I think education is more important than laws.

I want to combine these two topics today to talk about why I think the typical thinking about kids and sex is way off.

Let's say that you are a parent, and you are, like most parents, concerned for the well-being of your child. Therefore, when you hear about STD epidemics in middle school and pregnant teenagers dropping out of high school, you want to make sure that your child makes it to graduation without getting infected or pregnant (or impregnating someone else, as the case may be).

The easiest tools to reach for are fear and authority. Why? Because that's probably the atmosphere in which you heard about sex as a child. And if you're Catholic, the rules are already laid out for you, as Macha pointed out in an excellent recent post on why religion cares so much about your sex life:
You can't have sex if you're not married, and if you're married it's okay but only if you're not using contraceptives. And it has to be penis-vagina sex, no anal or oral sex, unless it's just foreplay to the penis-vagina sex then maybe it's okay. And definitely no gay sex, even if you are married! Don't masturbate, and don't help anybody else masturbate, even if you're married ... unless it's just foreplay for the p-v sex. Have we covered everything? No? You cannot have threesomes or foursomes, and you must be monogamous, even if neither of you wants to be. That's just the rules, okay? Anything else? Don't have sex with a pregnant woman because SEX IS ONLY FOR BABY-MAKING GOT IT?! Oh, when you're having p-v sex, you can't pull out before you finish...
Following someone else's rules is inevitably easier than wrestling with difficult questions and coming to a nuanced and comfortable understanding of your own sexuality.

And if you haven't developed a complex understanding of your own sexuality, how are you going to help your child develop one? It's much easier to grab hold of a prefabricated set of rules and try to enforce them through your own authority as a parent and through trying to instill fear of the worst possible consequences of not following the rules.

The problem with being ruled by fear is that it keeps you from thinking long-term. If you're afraid of your child having sex, you're never going to teach them about the positives of sex, about how to be a good sexual partner, about how beautiful and special sex is.

To me, this is akin to being afraid of your kid drowning and so just forbidding them from going near a swimming pool until they're an adult, then throwing them into the deep end. Are they magically going to be able to swim? No.

I would argue that the more we talk to our kids about sex, the more likely they are to see that a full, great sexual experience requires maturity and a committed partner. The more they're going to be able to make a good decision for themselves about when they want to have sex, rather than simply deciding whether or not they want to obey authority and the rules that have been set down for them.

Mike likes to talk about how, at his all-boys Catholic high school, he was actually taught in health class that women generally take a lot longer to get in the mood for sex than men, and how he needed to be doing things all day long to show his love -- like doing the dishes. This didn't negate the clear expectation that sex was for marriage, and he did wait until marriage, but you can bet I was glad he'd been taught all that back in high school!

I challenge you not to take the easy route by punishing your kids for not adhering to your rules about sex. Talk to them about the good and bad of sex. Teach them to have a healthy appreciation for their own body so they want to be protective about who's allowed to see their naked body. Explain your fears and ask them to explain theirs. Don't make sex a taboo topic in your house.

Your child's future partner will thank you!

Mike and Jessica's Guide to Healthy Arguments

Thursday, August 11, 2011

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Mike and Jessica's Guide to Healthy Arguments | Faith Permeating Life
Mike and I don't really fight.

We definitely don't agree all the time, but I would say we argue maybe 3-4 times a month. (And by argue I mean personal arguments, not arguments about politics and such, which we also have.)

We had one such argument tonight, which followed our usual pattern:
  • Argue
  • Come to a resolution
  • Agree that we've reached a resolution
  • Deconstruct the argument we just had to figure out what went wrong*
By no means do I think that after 7 years together we have a foolproof method of communication, and I realize that a lot of our good communication is a result of my master's degree in communication and his master's degree in social work, which makes us both really interested in analyzing our own conversations.

Having said that, I try to share with you, my wonderful readers, those things that I have found to work well for myself in hopes that they will be of some benefit to you.

And so, here are the tips Mike and I have picked up over 7 years of arguing and analyzing our arguments:
  • Set ground rules. Mike and I came from two very different backgrounds, almost stereotypically so: the one in which conflict was avoided whenever possible -- my mom still gets visibly anxious anytime Mike and I so much as disagree in front of her -- and the one in which conflict was woven into the fabric of daily life. In Mike's family, it was understood that when you were fighting, all bets were off and you could just vent freely without worrying about fighting fair. He quickly learned that I took everything he said seriously and was not quick to forgive if he said something truly hurtful.
  • Understand your involuntary habits. We've established that while I hate crying and try to avoid it at all costs, I have no control over my tendency to cry, so my crying is not meant to be manipulative or make me out to be a victim, it's just something I can't help that should be ignored. On another point, Mike will sometimes raise his voice without even realizing it, which I interpret as yelling and which can lead to a subsequent argument about whether or not he was yelling at me. We've talked over these things so we both have a better idea how to react when they happen.
  • Focus on the issue at hand. To my overly logical mind, it's like a courtroom: You can summon evidence to back up a point, but not simply for character defamation. Stick to specific facts rather than making broad, sweeping statements. For example, "I asked whether you went to the store not because I don't trust you, but because last week you said you were going, and then you didn't." That is different than, "I asked whether you went to the store because you're always forgetting to do stuff and I have no idea if I can trust you to follow through on anything."
  • Acknowledge the other person's feelings. When you focus on actions and reasons, you may lose sight of the real issue. "You did X." "I did X because of A, B, and C!" The point is rarely whether you had a good reason for doing something. In a relationship, the important thing is to act in a way that doesn't hurt the other person. This is why Mike always uses the phrase "Have you considered..." rather than "Why don't you..." even if he thinks that "Why don't you..." is a perfectly reasonable thing to say.
  • Similarly, explain how you feel. I know it's a cliché to use "I feel" statements instead of "you did" statements, but it really does make for a better conversation. As mentioned above, focusing only on actions can derail a conversation. If you keep your focus on why the other person was wrong, all you're going to do is make the other person defensive because they don't probably feel like they were wrong. But if you help them understand the connection between their actions and your feelings, you can reasonably request that they don't do it anymore without having to prove that it's the "wrong" thing to do.
  • Focus on solutions rather than blame. There are two ways to work toward a resolution: past-oriented and future-oriented. Past-oriented is saying, "You did X, which upset me." Future-oriented is saying, "If you could do Y in the future, then I would not be upset / not react the way I did." Certainly you can explain both, but focusing more on what you would like to see happen rather than what you didn't like that happened will help you agree on a solution more quickly.
  • Clarify the solution. Maybe your partner says, "If you did Y in these kinds of situations, that would really help" and you're thinking, "But I already did Y and it didn't work!" Rather than privately stewing or lashing out about it, just clarify. Say, "I thought I was doing Y when I did A, B, and C. How is that different from what you're asking?"

    This happened tonight when Mike and I were talking. He said, "I'd appreciate if you just asked whether I'd thought about some detail, rather than assuming that I hadn't and telling me to do it." I asked, "Hm, I thought that's what I was doing when I asked, 'Have you thought about when you're going to send the fax?' How could I ask differently?" He thought about it for a minute and then decided that actually the way I'd asked was fine, it was just the fact that I'd asked while he was in the middle of doing the dishes that was the problem. I could have said, "No, I already tried that and it didn't work!" but instead I tried to clarify exactly what Mike wanted me to do, which led to a better solution.
  • Once you've reached a resolution, stop. Let's say your partner acknowledges that the thing they did upset you or hurt you, and they explain how they will avoid doing it in the future. It can be so tempting to continue hashing out why it upset you so much or how many times they've done it in the past or trying to make them apologize, but none of that is going to make things any better. The goal is to make sure both parties feel heard and understood and that you both understand and agree on the solution.
Those are the main things I can think of. I'm sure there is lots more to be said on this topic! Please leave your own tips in comments, or share what struggles you have with handling conflict in your partnership.

*EDIT: I realized after writing this that there's actually one more step, of agreeing on a second solution about how to avoid turning this kind of conversation into an argument in the future. We realize that often what leads to an argument is not the topic itself but how we communicate about it. Thus, in tonight's argument, our first resolution was that Mike was going to make a doctor's appointment for next week. Our second resolution was that I wouldn't bring up things like that while he was doing the dishes.

Why I Don't Post Pictures of Myself

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

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Why I Don't Post Pictures of Myself | Faith Permeating Life
A few weeks ago I had a guest post on She Got Married. I appreciate that Emma gave me the opportunity to post, although she mentioned in the post and in her e-mail to me that she was disappointed I wouldn't share any pictures of myself and Mike. (I did send her one picture, of our art project, but she didn't post it for some reason.) So I thought I should devote a post to talking about the issue of photos.

It's possible I will decide to post a picture of myself in the future, but for now, these are my reasons not to:
  • Semi-anonymity. I am a semi-anonymous blogger, which means, for me, that my friends and family know about my blog, but none of my coworkers do. I try not to write about work too often, and never anything really negative, but I do write about a lot of private things like sex and religion that the people I work with don't need to know about. If one of them were to stumble across my blog, they might eventually put two and two together, but putting a picture of myself would mean they'd identify me in about .02 seconds. On the flip side, I share my first name and my husband's name on here, but no one else's. This blog is out there so you can read my thoughts and have a conversation with me, not so you can get a complete picture of my entire life and track me down in person.
  • Snap judgments. Whether or not we like to admit it, I've taken enough psych classes and read enough books to know that people make judgments about you from the moments they see you or meet you. I much prefer to have my words stand on their own than for people to filter them through preconceived notions about my personality or my lifestyle because of a picture of myself. If you want to make a quick, dismissive judgment of me, at least do it based on what I've written and not because of my skin color or my hair color or the expression on my face.
  • Vanity... or lack thereof. For pretty much all of middle school and high school, I considered myself unattractive. Who doesn't at that age, right? Yeah, but... seriously. I was the only girl in my group of friends who didn't get asked to dances or "asked out." And my guy friends made it pretty clear that physical attractiveness was high on their list of requirements, which meant I had good reason to believe that no one found me attractive. At one point I considered getting surgery on my large nose (I didn't), and my mom, probably trying to be supportive, helped me plan for it, which confirmed my suspicions that everyone agreed on my lack of attractiveness. It wasn't until I was pursued by Mike in college and told many, many, many times that I was beautiful, that I started to believe it. Still, posting a picture of myself just opens up all sorts of concerns and self-consciousness. And while I know that simply by having a blog I open myself up to potential trolls and other rude comments, at least I know that if someone wants to rant and insult me by calling me ugly, they're doing so just out of their desire to be hurtful than any actual assessment of my face.
  • Lack of good pictures. This is silly but true. My Facebook picture is still a picture from our wedding two years ago. The picture I use for professional needs (LinkedIn, our website at work) was actually taken by a friend at a "photo shoot" my matron of honor arranged for my bachelorette party. Pictures of me from the past two years pretty much fall into two primary categories: Candid photos where I'm not smiling, or group photos where I'm outside with sunglasses or squinting or my face half in shadow. So I have no really good recent photos.
  • My relationship with photographs has changed. In high school, I was the group photographer among my friends. I wanted to major in photography in college (that's its own long tale). I took lots and lots and lots of photos. Then Facebook happened when I started college, and suddenly everyone else was taking a million photos to post on Facebook. And I just stopped. At some point among the people I knew, photography had stopped being an art or a talent and had become synonymous with "OMG I have to document every moment of my life." Mike also got me to question a lot of the cultural norms around photographs, like how people didn't use to smile for posed photos and now it's expected, or how someone will stop a group of people who are in the middle of a conversation or doing something fun and have them freeze for a picture. All of this is not so much a reason for not having a picture of myself, but it's a reason I don't post photos of my weekend or my vacation.
  • I used to have a photo blog. It ended badly. My senior year of high school, I had a greatestjournal (which doesn't exist anymore) where I posted my digital photos to share with friends and family. This was pre-Facebook, and it worked great -- I just had to give people the URL and they could visit the site and see my pictures. The summer after I graduated, I went on a mission trip with my church, where I was matched up with people from all over the country on a small crew that did work on a local family's home. At the end of the week, I gave everyone on my crew the link to my photo page so they could see the pictures I posted from the week. I'm not sure if anyone visited it except for the man who was our crew leader (all crews are one adult and 3-4 high schoolers), who commented on my post and thanked me for sharing the pictures. Then I went off to college and continued to post pictures for my friends and family. Then the crew leader started commenting on my posts... and it just weirded me out. He was probably a perfectly nice guy, but why did he keep checking back to see my pictures from college? I stopped posting pictures on the site. Then, later on, when I got prints made of my digital photos, I went back to get my captions from the site to jog my memory about the various photos, and found out that greatestjournal had been shut down. I found out that of all the possible journal sites I could have picked, I chose the one site that went down completely and left no traces. That whole experience turned me off from the idea of sharing my photos on the Internet.
So there you have it -- the reasons I ignore all the blogging advice to post pictures of my life, and instead just stick to words and stock photos.

What are your thoughts on posting pictures of yourself online? If you have a blog, do you include pictures of yourself and what's going on in your life? Does my decision not to post pictures affect how you see my blog?

One final note: If you are really dying to meet me in person for some reason, I will be at the 20 Something Bloggers summit the weekend after next. You don't have to be a 20-something to come. I hope to meet some of you there!

Life After College: Where's My Friend Group?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

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Life After College: Where's My Friend Group? | Faith Permeating Life
When I finished college, moved into my own apartment, started a job, and then got married (in the span of about three months), I found myself for the first time not living near any friends. The only person we met in our apartment building was an old woman who died about a month after we moved in. All of my coworkers were at least 10 years older than me. My high school and college friends were scattered throughout the country. And I started to feel bad about it.

I started feeling the pressure of everything I've ever read saying I shouldn't rely solely on my significant other, that I needed close friendships for my mental health. Friends of mine who were still living near their college talked about going out on the weekend with groups of college friends. I had nothing like that. I "got involved" in what interested me, which meant joining the prayer shawl ministry at church and knitting once a month with two or three women in their 70s through 90s. I enjoy it, but it's not exactly the kind of people you go out with on a Friday night.

Finally, thankfully, I had a realization: I don't like going out on the weekends. I never have. Why was I craving this cultural sign of "normalcy"? Yes, the only people I saw in a regular week were Mike, my family, and my coworkers, but I would also exchange e-mail updates with my close girlfriends, comment back and forth with people on Facebook, and gchat at work with my best friend. I've always done better with most friendships one-on-one anyway. I wasn't feeling deprived or lonely. Mike met the majority of my needs for support and companionship, and for everything else, I could use technology to connect with other people.

I still need to see my friends occasionally, but as I've been putting more effort into it, it hasn't been too much of a problem. My friend who lives on the East Coast was in Chicago for an interview in the fall, and we went to dinner. I've gotten together for lunch a few times with my friend who teaches about an hour away, and I sometimes judge speech tournaments where her team is competing, and we catch up then. When my family flew out to Colorado in the spring for Ultimate nationals, I called up my friend who lives out there and got to catch up with him for an hour or two during one of my brother's games. My friend who works in Alaska has to make trips to Ohio and Indiana occasionally and always tries to arrange a layover in Chicago so Mike and I can pick her up for dinner.

There are occasional group gatherings as well. One of my friends has hosted a New Year's Eve party every year since high school, and even though he lives in Nevada now he still hosts it at his parents' house because many of us are home for the holidays. Anytime there's a wedding, I get to see many friends. This weekend, my friend who lives in Wisconsin had nine of us up to her house, so two friends who live a few hours south of me picked me up Friday night, we had dinner, and then we drove up to our friend's place.

So it works for me. It's a little harder on Mike because he craves more time with his friends -- to use a broad generalization, women connect more through talk (which can be done online) while men connect more through doing things together. He tries to drive to Indiana at least once a month to see his friend there, and he sometimes gets together with a friend from grad school who lives near us. He joined a volleyball team through our park district and sometimes goes out with the guys after games, but they're all 10-15 years older than him so it's not exactly a peer group. We went out to Pennsylvania in February for a get-together with his childhood friends, and then we hosted them here in June. We're trying to make it work.

For anyone else who may be feeling deprived of a friend group for the first time, here are some things I've learned:
  • Reframe. First, take a step back and figure out what it is you really need to feel supported and happy. Not everyone wants a Friends-style group of people their age to hang out with on a regular basis. Do you like spending time with a big group of friends, or do you prefer one-on-one time? What are the emotional, mental, social, etc. benefits you expect or need from friendship, and which of those are already being met in one way or another?

  • Make an effort. Once I let go of the pressure to make new friends and have a regular "group," I started thinking about which friends lived a reasonable distance from me and how I might be able to see them more often. I sent out e-mails just to say hey, I'm interested in getting together with you, what days are most open for you? Mike really worked hard to arrange a weekend that all of his friends could come to Chicago. And if I knew a friend was going to be in the Chicago area for any reason, I'd try to make time to get together with them.

  • Maintain friendships from a distance. Part of the reason I know when friends will be in the area is because I've gotten better about e-mailing friends more often just to see what's new with them. Sometimes I get no reponse, but sometimes I have really great exchanges. Since I'm not the kind of person to share every detail on Facebook, it's nice to have one or two friends in the loop if something big is going on, so I feel like I have someone I can call if I need to and it won't be out of the blue.

  • Feed your needs in other ways. Not all of your needs have to be met by a close friend or significant other. Mike likes getting out to play volleyball once a week even if it's not his best friends he's playing with. I appreciate that my boss and I always chat about our weekends so I have someone to share with (other than Mike, who was probably there) if something interesting happened. One of the things Mike and I love doing with friends and family is playing games, so we've started playing Scrabble over Facebook with my mom and aunt.
I'm interested to know your thoughts and tips! How do you make sure your needs are being met when it comes to friendships? How do you maintain old friendships or make new friends?

Unfairness and the Happy Marriage

Thursday, August 4, 2011

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Unfairness and the Happy Marriage | Faith Permeating Life
The summer Mike and I got married, several of my friends did as well, which meant lots of bridal showers and the corresponding obligatory marital advice from older married women. Some of the advice consisted of platitudes that I've since learned are bad ideas, like "Never go to bed angry," but one notion came up several times that struck me as unconventional: "Marriage is not 50-50. Sometimes it's 90-10, and that's OK."

The "equal marriage" is an ideal I think many people of my generation have going into marriage. It seems to be the farthest you can get from the old-fashioned notion of gender roles, where everything from money-making to child-rearing to house-cleaning is pretermined for you by your sex. Instead, we strive for partnerships where both partners contribute equally to making money, raising children, and cleaning house.

There are a few problems that quickly crop up with this model. One is clear if you read Spousonomics, the marriage/economics book I've recommended a few times. In most cases, household chores get done better and everyone is happier if you each specialize in different things rather than taking turns doing the dishes or the laundry or whatever.

Another problem is that this equality mindset provides a slippery slope into scorekeeping. You expect that for everything you do, your spouse will do something in return that you consider to be of equal time and effort. For every sacrifice you make, your spouse should make one in return. For every time your spouse slacks off, you figure you're allowed to slack off in return. And soon the things you're doing are less out of love and service than out of a careful calculation of balance in your head.

After two years of marriage, I've found that those women were right. Marriage is unbalanced and unfair. But -- and here's the catch -- if you're both committed to giving 100% to each other, it's unfair... equally.

For example:

Mike and I merged our finances the year before we got married, when we were both starting grad school. I had a full ride for my undergrad and an teaching assistantship for grad school, whereas Mike had student loans from undergrad and we didn't want to take any more out for his grad school. At the time, I had roughly 60 times more money than him in my bank account. It went toward paying his grad school. When my grandfather passed away that December and I received some inheritance, that went toward paying his grad school. The money I made from my assistantship? Went toward paying his grad school. Unfair? Unfair.

About seven months into marriage, I came down with mono. Mike took on everything at home. He was going to school and working two jobs, and he cooked every night, did the dishes, cleaned the apartment. He would drive me to and from the train station every day so I didn't have to walk between the parking lot and the station, and so he could help me up the stairs at the end of the day. I was utterly useless. My immune system was weakened, and so I got sick a lot, and Mike would make me tea and run out to the store at 10pm for medicine, tissues, soup, whatever I wanted. He put his heart and soul into taking care of me at a time when I could give nothing back. Unfair? Unfair.

When Mike finished grad school and couldn't find a job for a year, when he quit his part-time job and then didn't take the next one offered to him, there was a period of time when he was doing nothing and making no money. I was working full time and combing over our finances to make sure we would be OK. If he hadn't been married, he wouldn't have had the luxury of having a secure place to live and money for food every week. He hated job applications and sometimes went a week without applying for a single job, and I had to get on his case and sometimes sit next to him and walk him through applications while typing up cover letters for him. When he finally landed a full-time job, it wasn't one he'd even applied for, he'd just been called up by someone who'd gotten a recommendation to interview him. Unfair? Unfair.

This past week we were on vacation, and I was reminded how much of the burden Mike shoulders for me, literally and figuratively, in these kinds of situations. In addition to his own carry-on and suitcase he willingly carried my heavy carry-on bag so I wouldn't hurt my back. At the airport ticket counter, after we'd been standing for 4 hours in an insanely long line and missed our flight along with most other people there, he calmly and easily charmed the woman behind the counter and we were both able to make it on the next flight out. At the rental car counter, he told me to take it easy and watch the bags while he stood in line and got our car. Then, because he didn't want me to freak out about driving in the city or through the mountains, he drove the entire 3-4 hours to our destination even though he had a horrible neckache from the plane. I didn't have to do anything but go along for the ride. Unfair? Unfair.

The point, in case you were thinking along these lines, is not whether these specific sacrifices balance each other out, whether they're "worth" the same. The point is, I don't think either of us generally thinks about these situations in terms of fairness. We both step up when we're needed and do whatever we need to do for the other person. That's what we've both committed ourselves to, and that's why our marriage works.

From the beginning, our marriage has been about service -- that was the theme of Mike's proposal and our wedding. This is not a business partnership or a roommate arrangement. We've committed to love and serve each other unconditionally, regardless of what we get back in return. It works for us because both of us made that commitment, and neither of us is keeping score.

How does this work in your relationship? Do you strive for an "equal" partnership? Are you accustomed to thinking about things in terms of fairness and scorekeeping, or do you try to serve your spouse without worrying about what you get in return?

The Happiness Project: August is Work Month

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

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The Happiness Project: August is Work Month | Faith Permeating Life

I'm baaaaaaack!

I had a fantastic week of vacation at a lake in Washington with my family (parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and of course Mike)! You can be sure that insights from my vacation -- about happiness, marriage, etc. -- will crop up in posts to come. I also got through a ton of interesting books on my vacation: Rats, For Better, Spook, Switch, and Drive. (Can you tell what my favorite kind of book is?) I'm sure I'll have thoughts to share from those books as well.

But in the meantime, it's August already, so you know what that means. Well, besides the fact that Mike and I celebrated our two-year anniversary (with dinner atop the Space Needle, no less!). It's time for a happiness project check-in!

I'm very glad that I decided to take the month of July to regroup. I was able to focus on those resolutions that really made a difference in my happiness, which helped me maintain momentum and also gave me the boost of having a completed checklist again every night.

Switching the format of my gratitude/anticipation journal was definitely a good decision. By keeping an ongoing list of each, I can quickly skim them and see a bunch of things I'm grateful for and a bunch of things I am or was looking forward to. It's also made keeping the journal less of a chore (which is my goal with "Don't let fun become a chore") by making it quick and easy to add something to each list.

On a broader level, as I mentioned in my mid-year round-up, my level of procrastination has dropped to almost zero, thanks to my commitment to "do it before it's too late." I've built up a habit that as soon as I think, "I should do that," I get up and do it. This made a big difference on vacation because I became the person I'd always like to be when traveling -- for example, on the day we left the lake, I woke up and thought, "I should get my suitcase ready," and then got out of bed and packed everything up. And unlike many other vacations, I didn't forget to bring anything because I followed my "assume mistakes" commandment and made a very detailed packing list for myself. It made traveling a much more pleasant experience.

So what's on the menu for August?

It might seem strange to choose this, a summer month, to devote to work, but it's good timing for me. After a relatively long vacation, I'm ready to get back to work. I'm recharged. And some of the books I read gave me ideas for the coming semester, which I want to start planning for before it starts. The summer has also given me a chance to work on some large, interesting projects at work, the kind that remind me why I love this job and which I don't have as much time for during the school year.

Here are my goals for August:
  • Read work-related books. Because I have the most awesome boss ever, he turned over the remainder of our "books" budget to me and told me to use it up before the end of the fiscal year (July 31). I got a mixture of books on assessment, survey design, advanced statistics, and data visualization. They should have arrived while I was gone, and I'm excited to dive in! I still have so much to learn in all these areas, and this is the time to do it, when I have a stable job where I can apply what I've learned.
  • Find ways to work smarter. This probably sounds too vague to be effective, but what I'm hoping to do is find ways to automate my work or otherwise be more efficient. However, I might come up with other ideas that I can apply to this goal. This is a once-a-week Friday goal, something to tackle after watching myself work for a week and pinpointing slow or repetitive work. After being disconnected from the Internet for a week, I came home and immediately got more aggressive in unsubscribing from newsletters and blogs I don't read often and better filtering my e-mail. Seeing what piles up in a week was a way to show me how much time I waste in little bits during the day.
  • Make a portfolio. This is a larger goal for the whole month. I've got a bunch of examples of the best work I've done -- surveys I've designed, data I've analyzed and then visualized -- that I've been wanting to get nicely compiled into a binder. Even once I have more experience at my job, I think it's going to be my work samples that get me noticed for my next position. I want to get that together now so I just have to make adjustments and additions down the road.
That's the plan! A few small steps to help me feel more accomplished and focus on my favorite parts of my job.

I'd love your input. If you were going to focus on improving happiness around your job, what would be your resolutions? (Remember these are things you can do on your own, not goals like "Make my boss stop being such a jerk"!)
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