Where Logic Meets Love

Blog Comment Carnival: June 2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012

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Blog Comment Carnival: June 2012 | Faith Permeating Life

At the end of every month, I share my favorite comments from that month's posts, and you're invited to do the same and link up below!

This month has been a bit lighter than usual because of job searching/vacation/moving craziness. However, I still had lots of great comments to pick from!

The post On (Not) Being Forced into a STEM Field resonated with several of you.

Queen of Carrots said:
If someone tried to tell me I "ought" to go into a field that would be a pretty good way to make me steer clear of it. Who wants to base their life choices on evening up the statistics?
I liked math, but I liked law better and I'm still happy with that choice, although I have since discovered a passion for neurology that will probably always go unrequited.
My sister is an engineer, because she loves it, but she does sometimes seem a bit uncomfortable with being the *girl* engineer, as if it mattered.

And Katie made a few excellent points:
I majored in English because it was my favorite subject, but I do like math. (Not science, though- I hate science.) It's so funny- even though I took two AP calculus classes in high school and placed out of math in college, everyone who has met me since high school assumes that since I majored in English, I must hate/be bad at math. As if you can't like both!

I think a lot of people forget that in the long run, your college major really doesn't matter that much. Employers want to see that you have a bachelor's degree but aren't always so concerned with what the degree is in. In my field (college textbook publishing), we have a lot of English majors, but I've worked with people who have majored in everything from business to political science to Spanish to math, and don't necessarily work on textbooks in the same discipline in which they majored. I know plenty of people who majored in some kind of liberal arts and went into business. I had a roommate who majored in nursing and is now a lawyer. My dad majored in early childhood education and he's worked in commercial property management for about thirty years. So, in a nutshell- you should major in what you like. It's not worth wasting college on a major you hate.

On A Split-Second Prioritization Technique, Lozzz123 said:
I definitely need to write something down or it leaves my brain. I find my calendar program on my computer extremely helpful - but again, if I forget to add an item it's unlikely I'll remember it! I like your idea of doing the thing that doesn't have a visual reminder if sidetracked. I think I might have to start doing that too!

I shared my crazy exercise class experiences in I Always Wanted to Be a Dancer... and several people could relate!

Gina also finds choreographed aerobics difficult:
This is funny. I picked up swing dancing in high school and college, and actually got pret good. I competed, went to conferences all over the west coast, taught lessons to earn extra cash, the whole shebang.

But when I go in to a step aerobics class, I look like a world class moron.

I don't know. Something about this stiffness of the choreography just doesn't mesh with my body and it's abilities.

I can handle Zumba classes just fine, and I work out a lot of other ways, but choreographed aerobics? It is beyond me.

And Lozzz123 had a much grosser experience:
The most recent one I took was a boxercise class. It had aerobics which were slightly confusing but fine, but the boxing part got me. Yes it was hard, but mostly the germaphobe in me did not enjoy using sweaty public boxing gloves. The thought still makes me grimace!

Finally I announced some Big News! The moving tips I got were greatly appreciated!

Melbourne on my mind said:
How exciting!!!!! In some ways, it's probably better that you have less time thanks to your holiday - I know that I'd spend the extra time repeatedly wondering if it was the right decision, and then packing and unpacking stuff a hundred times!

You'd think after moving as much as I have that I'd have tips. But all I can think of right now is to set up a bunch of roadtrip playlists and to get hold of one of those doohickeys that lets you play your iPod through the radio. Because moving vans tend to not have CD players or auxiliary ports...

Alice suggested:
Yay! Yay for cross country moves! My biggest advice as someone who's done it before is pack one or two "essential boxes" In these boxes, I put everything that I was going to need right away as soon as I moved in to my apartment. A couple super comfy outfits, a pot and a pan, my blankets, a radio, my favorite show on DVD, things like that. That way I didn't have to run around like a crazy woman trying to find what I *needed* for those first days or felt like I was in silence. It was right there. Then I felt like I was able to unpack more or less at my leisure since what the essentials were already at my fingertips. I'm pretty sure that it helped to reduce my stress that first little bit.

And other Alice said:

The other Alice already gave the main advice I was going to (set aside a few 'essentials' boxes to pack up last and unpack first, and be sure to include things like scissors, a flashlight, and other unpacking 'tools').

Other advice:
- consider getting a cheapie hotel for your last night, or treat your last night as 'camping', with only an air mattress, bare essentials, etc. (I was tempted to pack my bed up last once, since I had no air mattress and didn't want to sleep on the floor. Never again.)
- depending on your amount of stuff, consider buying boxes new from Uhaul or some other place - if you have a lot of books or other things that will need to be boxed up, packing a truck is WAY easier if your boxes are all of modular sizes, as opposed to a mishmash of free boxes from all over.

Good luck!

Thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement as Mike and I go through this crazy transition time. I'm looking forward to more great posts (and your amazing comments) soon!

7 Quick Takes Friday: The Moving Edition

Friday, June 29, 2012

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7 Quick Takes Friday: The Moving Edition | Faith Permeating Life

— 1 —

Just popping in with some quick updates! Even though I know taking this break from blogging is the right thing for my sanity right now, it still hurts to see my subscriber count dropping. Please stay! I promise to pick back up again with even more awesome content once we're all settled in our new place.

— 2 —

Mike has been fabulous these past few weeks. He finished up with work before we left for vacation, and he's just been a man on a mission with getting stuff done. Between trying to get stuff done at home, wrapping up my responsibilities at work, and waiting to hear about a job I interviewed for, keeping my stress level in check has been a challenge. It's a big weight off my mind to be able to turn things over to Mike and have them all just get done.

— 3 —

We've been going through each of our rooms to figure out what to keep and what to donate. I was pleasantly surprised to find that we don't actually have that much clutter. We did still end up with boxes for the Goodwill, but a lot of it was "We could do without this" rather than "Wow, I can't believe we still have this." This is one of the benefits of living in a small space (and, obviously, that we've only been here three years), and I know it won't be this easy to keep things manageable once we have a house.

— 4 —

Also, a big reason for the lack of clutter in our apartment was that most of our "extra" stuff was in my parents' basement in storage, and going through that was a bit more time-consuming. Since we'll be moving into an apartment about the size of our current one, maybe a bit smaller, we're going to rent a storage space for the things we want long term but don't need every day: Family things that will go in a future house, seasonal items (decorations, our giant box of costumes), and childhood keepsakes. I've been pretty ruthless in getting rid of stuff -- no point in moving things across the country unless we really need them!

— 5 —

As part of sorting through my old stuff in storage, I went through ALL of my old school papers; my mom had a bin for each year I was in school. I managed to condense all my old school papers down into three medium-sized containers: PreK-8, high school, and college. Boy, did it bring back memories to go through those. It pained me when I saw poorly graded assignments, like my first-grade teacher "correcting" the word definitely to have an "a" in it. Teachers wrote notes in the margins slamming my grammatical mistakes that I now know are actually style choices. There was the teacher who had us fill out our favorites (color, food, TV show, etc.) on the first day and then gave us the same form at the end of the year, marking as wrong any favorites that had changed. Now that I know better and have a voice for myself, you can bet I will be that angry parent calling up my own children's teachers to point out these problems when my children come home with their graded assignments!

— 6 —

I feel incredibly grateful for all the people who have offered to help us with the move. A friend is helping us pack tomorrow, and another friend is helping us load the moving truck. We're staying with friends and family along the way out there, and when we arrive, my parents and aunt and uncle will be there to help us unload. It makes me feel super loved and cared for!

— 7 —

I decided (and talked with Mike about) how much I want to share about where we're going to be for the next few years. The job Mike accepted is for a residence hall director on a university campus. This means we will be living in an apartment within a residence hall, which means free housing and a meal plan (yay!). Being back on a campus will be an interesting experience; the college I've worked at for the past three years is in downtown Chicago so it's not really a traditional campus. The job is going to be a WAY better fit for him than his restaurant manager position, and I'm super excited about it!

What Marriage Means to Me: Elizabeth

Monday, June 25, 2012

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And we're back, with another great contribution to the What Marriage Means to Me series! When I saw Elizabeth (aka Sister Salad Lizz)'s latest YouTube video in which she detailed how she and her husband started from scratch planning their wedding by "spen[ding] several months discussing the meaning of marriage," I knew I had to get her perspective for this series. And she did not disappoint! Here she shares how the two of them dug through all of their preconceptions and expectations of marriage to figure out what their marriage was going to mean.


Although my now-husband and I had been dating for less than a year when we first started talking seriously about marriage, by the time we actually decided to go for it there were family members on both sides exasperatedly exclaiming, "Just do it, already!"

I think a significant reason for this over-extensive analysis stemmed from the fact that I sensed, lurking within my psyche, a motivation for marriage which I feared was a dangerous one, and I wanted to root it out before it became ensconced in the foundation of what I intended to be a lifelong commitment.

Specifically, I realized that a deep, dark part of me saw romantic relationship in general, and marriage in particular, as an end in itself – an important element of the Satisfying and Meaningful Lifestyle I wanted to secure, with my romantic partner as placeholder/facilitator of this idealized existence – rather than an interactive experience with a particular individual.

A large part of my initial desire to get married had to do with a picture I had long held in my mind of myself as a Wife and Mother, of various activities and experiences which required a Husband and thus a Marriage to bring into being. And I don't think there's anything wrong with those activities, or with the relationships out of which they grow. But I do think there's something wrong with entering into a relationship – especially a proclaimedly permanent one – for the express purpose of manifesting a particular vision of the future.

First of all, I think it's problematic because life is unpredictable, people are constantly changing, and just because someone currently seems like the perfect match for the carpet and curtains with which I would one day like to adorn my living room doesn't mean they will stay that way forever.

And second of all, even if my selected partner did manage to remain the type of person who could make all my anticipatory imaginings come true, it just doesn't seem like a very nice way to relate to another person. Who wants to be little more than the satisfactory means to an end?

So when the time came that I felt ready to take the marital plunge – the moment at which I saw my visions of a Glorious Married Lifestyle at long last within my grasp – I forced myself to take a step back and rethink my most fundamental reasons for wanting to plunge myself into matrimony.

Thus began our lengthy process of defining what, as two unique individuals coming together in a particular relationship (rather than generic instantiations for one another of largely interchangeable Husband/Wife Accessory Figures), this ostensibly universal institution of marriage might mean for us – and whether, in fact, it was something we actually wanted to undertake.*

Much as both of us held cherished visions of what married life together might offer, we realized that what we both considered most important in life was what we believed to be our God-given purpose to express love (not in a stereotypically romantic sense, but rather through acts of caring for all kinds of people, whether partner, family member, friend, or stranger). We saw marriage as one way in which we might seek to fulfill that purpose – through supporting one another in loving other people, and also through enhancing in various ways our ability to love each other.

In fact, ultimately we decided that our marriage was simply and solely a commitment to love one another – and we acknowledged that that might not always end up looking like a traditional vision of marriage. We could imagine circumstances under which we could best love each other by living separately, by not having children, by having no contact with one another whatsoever, and in those cases, we would choose the path of love even if it conflicted with a coveted life vision.

Which was a scary reversal for someone who had long dreamed of marriage precisely in order to facilitate that vision. And yet, thus far at least, I am exceedingly glad to have traded in my rosy pictures of Conventional Wedded Bliss with a Perfect Paperdoll Partner, for a vision developed jointly with a real, live, unique, complex, and ever-changing human being.

*Note: Because I do believe firmly in the notion that romantic relationships should emerge out of the particularities of the people engaged in them rather than culturally prescribed scripts, roles, and stages, I share our conclusions not as universal truths that apply to all people who make the decision to commit to one another in a mode they define as "marriage," but rather as one example of the infinite myriad of possible such definitions.


Elizabeth Corinth is a teacher, anthropologist, writer, and vlogger. She and her husband recently celebrated their tenth mooniversary (in other words, they've been married for just over ten months).

Dan Ariely's Take on Marriage

Monday, June 18, 2012

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Hi friends --

Hanging out on the beach this week, woohoo! And trying not to panic about the impending move. I'm not sure whether it's helpful to take a vacation in the midst of massive stress to help you relax, or not helpful because you make your vacation less fun by being stressed out. I guess I'll find out!

Anyway, I know it's been a few weeks since we've had a What Marriage Means to Me post, but I have an awesome one coming for you next week. In the meantime, I wanted to share this interview from the Happiness Project blog that caught my eye because of what Dan Ariely says right at the end:
Getting married was another thing that surprised me. Before Sumi (my wife) and I got married I was thinking that this is just a ceremony that we have to do for tradition and legal reasons and that it would not change how I feel about Sumi. But it did. Very quickly after the ceremony I felt more commitment, love and caring. Maybe it is cognitive dissonance (why did we spend so much time and money on this wedding? It must be that we really really love each other), maybe it is the social commitment of standing before a lot of people and making a promise, maybe it was the promises we made to each other – whatever it was – I did not expect it.
I thought it was a great perspective to add to the ongoing conversation here about marriage.

You can read the full interview here.

Big News!

Friday, June 15, 2012

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Big News! | Faith Permeating Life
You may have noticed that it's been a while since I talked about one of my favorite topics, marriage. It's not because things are bad between Mike and me -- in fact, they're amazingly awesome right now. It's that during the past few weeks our lives have been CONSUMED with job hunting.

If you've been reading this blog for some time you know that Mike and I have wanted to move out to the West Coast eventually. So when Mike decided about a month ago that he was ready to find a new job, we figured he might as well apply out there.

As of this week, it's official: He has a new job!

I haven't decided yet how much I want to share about where we'll be living, but suffice it to say it's not where we thought we'd end up, but we will be near family and friends, and financially it is a fantastic move for us.

The downside is that the job starts mid-July, so we have a very short period of time to pack up and get ourselves out there. We're also going on vacation with Mike's mom next week, which will be great but will compress our moving prep time even more.

Between vacation, wrapping up things at work, trying to find a new job myself, and packing like mad, I can't promise a very regular blogging schedule for the next few weeks. I do have quite a few people (supposedly) working on What Marriage Means to Me posts, so I hope I'll at least be able to get those up.

One of the things I'm grateful for about Mike is that he took my advice seriously during his job search process. In the past, my eternally optimistic husband might have gone in with the attitude, "I'm sure it will all work out fine," but this time he let me coach him on interview responses and took my advice about doing a massive amount of research on the place he was interviewing at. I'm so proud of him for how hard it worked, and I'm so happy it paid off!

Both of us have also had our faith in God strengthened by this entire process because we both kept getting sign after sign after sign that we were on the right track, to such an absurd extent that it might have even hurt my faith in God had this not culminated in a job offer. It's crystal clear to both of us that where we're going is exactly where we need to be.

We will be making a 5-day trek across the country in early July, which (thanks to Mike having an abundance of cousins) will allow us to see friends and family along the way and only have to stay one night in a hotel. I may live-tweet the experience -- we'll see :) Goodness knows I will need some entertainment and encouragement with back-to-back 8-hour days in a moving truck.

So that's my big news! If you'd like to leave any moving tips in the comments, I would certainly appreciate it!

I Always Wanted to Be a Dancer...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

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I Always Wanted to Be a Dancer... | Faith Permeating Life
I had a dream that I joined a dance troupe.

It was supposed to be the first day, but it was clear upon arriving that all the other members -- who were all middle-aged women -- had been practicing together for years and had all their choreographed routines down. At the front was a woman who was shouting out directions, but things like "Step out!" and "Push out!" were completely meaningless to me, who scrambled desperately to keep up by watching the rest of the group.

Oh, wait, did I say this was a dream? I meant it was my new exercise class.

Yup, as I said last week, I joined an exercise class through our park district. It's an hour of cardio followed by 45 minutes of strength training.

In all fairness, I did quite enjoy it. My main concerns going in were that I would pass out or I would collapse in a heap of sore muscles halfway through, but I was able to make it through the whole thing without too much difficulty, though I clearly got a good workout and worked probably every muscle in my body. And the instructor has good taste in music -- mostly popular stuff from the past few years.

But I was not expecting to be "the new girl," nor was I expecting that the cardio portion would be like the line dancing lesson we did in middle school, except that everyone else already knew all the moves and there was no lesson, just incomprehensible directions and "follow along!" I found myself being grateful for those dancing lessons in school that I knew what a "grapevine" and a "box step" were, but it was clear that some things were just created out of her own head.

Did I mention everything had hand motions?

This was probably the part I screwed up the most, because while I eventually picked up on what most of the moves meant to do with your feet (though the "double twist" still eludes me), I couldn't keep straight whether your hands went up on the "lift and cross" or the "kick and cross" and if they went up on every step or every other step for the grapevines and shuffles. So I was the one waving my arms in the air by myself most of the time, which everyone could see because I'd positioned myself in the empty spot in the very middle of the room.

So yeah, I looked like an idiot for the majority of the class.

However, the class provided a good opportunity to reflect on how much I've changed. Previously -- even as recently as college -- I would have been mortified to have been stumbling around like a fool in the middle of a bunch of women who were all following along seamlessly. But of all things I felt, embarrassment was not one of them.

I was actually able to reflect on the fact that while everyone else was following along mostly from memory, I was having to go through multiple steps every second: Hear the command, watch the instructor, link the command and the move in my mind, and then actually get my body to reflect what I saw, in rhythm. I felt frustrated when I couldn't get my mind and body to work together. I laughed when she would call out something brand-new and I'd say, "What??" I was proud at how quickly I learned given what I'd walked into, and on the rare occasions that I nailed a whole series of moves, I had a surge of, "This is fun!" the same way I enjoy doing line dances I know at weddings.

I also reminded myself that this wasn't a performance, it was an exercise class, and that given that I achieved an elevated heart rate for the better part of an hour, I had by all counts succeeded.

Thankfully, a few women looked out for me when the strength training portion started. One showed me where the hand weights were, and another offered to share a mat with me when it was time to get one out of the same closet. The first woman did sort of raise her eyebrows at my low choice of weight, though I chose to take it as a compliment that she thought I was stronger than that -- which, believe me, I wasn't, given that I was wishing partway through that I'd chosen a lower one!

Then I came home and slept for two hours.

Looking forward to doing it all over again this Saturday!

Have you ever taken an exercise or dance class?

Plan Do-More-Feel-Better = Success

Friday, June 8, 2012

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Plan Do-More-Feel-Better = Success | Faith Permeating Life

It's been about two months since I told you about my plan to do more and feel better. I decided that the reason I was tired and stressed out was that my life was super boring and not challenging me enough.

The verdict? I feel better!

My three goals were:
1) Sign up for an exercise class.
2) Sign up to volunteer for a non-profit.
3) Launch my job search coaching business.

Having more structure to my life definitely helps me. I will be starting my exercise class this Saturday, and while I really don't relish the thought of doing aerobics at 7:30 in the morning, I know that I will love having an obligation to get out of bed early on Saturday and then having a whole workout done by mid-morning.

I don't mind having late nights once a week for my volunteer organization because 1) the people are awesome and 2) my boss finally agreed to let me work from home once a week, which I do on the day following our meetings. Having weekly research deadlines to meet each week means that no matter what, I feel like I've accomplished something for the week outside of work.

The third new thing I was adding to my schedule is my job search coaching business, and I'm happy to say that that is off and running! If you or anyone you know is looking for a job, please get in touch! My coaching services are customized around my client's needs, whether it's "I just need someone experienced to read over this resume" or "I'm totally panicked and need someone to walk me through the job search process from square one." It's exciting to be doing something I love and know I'm good at that also makes a big difference for the people I work with (which is how my full-time job is, too, when we're not in a weird, everything-is-on-hold state like we are right now).

Church choir has ended for the summer, which is sad but not too sad. I can't go to prayer shawl meetings anymore because of my volunteer meetings, but one of my supervisors started up a lunchtime knitting group once a week, so I will actually be able to turn out more shawls than I was doing knitting once a month.

So life is busy, but good. Mostly I just didn't want to leave you all hanging about whether signing up for things had actually done any good for me, which it has. And I always feel better once the warmer weather comes around! We are going on vacation soon, which I'm very excited about.

How's your life going? Have you checked in on your stress level lately?

3BoT Vol. 9: Three Books that Will Change How You Think about Death

Thursday, June 7, 2012

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3BoT Vol. 9: Three Books that Will Change How You Think about Death | Faith Permeating Life

The first Thursday of every month, I share three related book recommendations with you. You are invited to link up at the end of the post with three recommendations of your own! Click here for more info about Three Books on Thursday.

This month's books hit on multiple aspects of a topic people don't often like to talk about: death. They tackle the issues of dying with dignity, why God lets children die, and what happens after death.

These are all nonfiction (no surprise if you know my previous recommendations), but death is one of those big topics that both fiction and nonfiction writers alike have tackled in various ways, so please share your own suggestions in comments of books that changed how you thought about death.

Tuesdays with Morrie#1: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
It's a classic, and for good reason. This story is less about dying than about living well, but the life lessons that Albom learned from Morrie Schwartz during their Tuesdays together were framed by the older man's impending death from ALS/Lou Gehrig's disease. Because this is a degenerative disease, you see how Morrie adapts at each stage as he slowly approaches death. What stayed with me most from this book was how unabashedly Morrie asked for help when he needed it. He didn't try to pretend like he was capable of doing things he wasn't. He didn't try to act like he wasn't going to die soon. He saw no reason not to ask friends to move his pillows or help him pee when he wasn't capable of doing it himself. Yet although he was completely honest about his limitations, he remained determined to live his life as well as he could in the time he had left and impart as many life lessons as he could to those who still had time left to benefit from it.

#2: When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner
This is one of those books I recommend reading just to ponder, even if you don't agree with the author's premises. Although the book is concerned more with the general problem of evil, suffering, and pain in the world than death specifically, Rabbi Kushner's reflections originate from the tragic death of his son at age 14 from an incurable disease. He tackles the question of how God can allow suffering in the world by expressing the idea that God cannot be both all-good and all-powerful; God is either incapable or unwilling to stop bad things from happening. One of the key takeaways for me was the idea of praying to God for strength, patience, peace, etc. rather than specific outcomes. I think about Jesus' focus -- in the Our Father, in Gethsemane -- on God's will. How can we, from our position on Earth, say that it is better for a child to stay living with us than to die and be with God? But we can ask for God's help getting through it no matter what.

#3: Spook by Mary Roach
And now for something completely different... Unlike the somber tone of the other two books here, this is a playful trip through everything afterlife: reincarnation, the weight of the soul, ghosts, mediums, ectoplasm, out-of-body experiences, etc. Roach (whose book Bonk, on the science of sex, I also enjoyed) looks at every aspect of death and the afterlife that's ever been put to a scientific test, and there are far more than you might have imagined. I can almost guarantee you will learn something new from this book, and that whatever side you fall on when it comes to ghosts or the existence of the soul, you will have your preconceptions challenged. Plus, Roach is simply a fantastic writer.

A bonus recommendation: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, which unlike the others is fiction. The main characters are two teenagers with cancer, so they're basically staring death in the face, but it's clear that their lives are no less worthy or important for their potential brevity. Like Tuesdays with Morrie, it's perhaps not so much about death per se as it is about mortality, and how we live our lives given our knowledge of that mortality.

Click here for other 3BoT posts!

Please note that this post contains Amazon Affiliate links. If you click on a book cover and make any purchase at Amazon (including but not limited to the books suggested here), your purchase will be supporting Faith Permeating Life. Thanks!

A Split-Second Prioritization Technique

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

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A Split-Second Prioritization Technique | Faith Permeating Life

It's been a while since I shared a priorities / life planning tip. So since this is a busy week for me, and we've had some heavy topics lately, here's a quick post with a strategy I've been employing to help me prioritize tasks in the moment.

Although I don't personally have ADD (that I know of), there's no doubt that I find multiple things competing for my attention at various moments throughout the day. I might start on something, then remember something else I meant to do but didn't write down, so I open up a new browser tab to take care of it, just as the phone rings and my attention is diverted again. The most challenging aspect of this is having things that slip through my mental cracks -- things forgotten almost as soon as they're remembered.

The main rule I live by to deal with this is write everything down. At work, I know that anything not written down immediately will fly out of my brain and not come back until my boss asks about it again. I've finally learned that the words "I'm sure I'll remember" are a red flag telling me something is in my short-term memory and needs to be added to my to-do list or calendar as soon as possible. If I'm lying in bed about to fall asleep, I grab my phone and text a reminder to my e-mail address.

I also use an "inbox zero" approach, which -- the way I do it -- means everything in my e-mail inbox is either a message to respond to, a to-do item, or information for an upcoming event. Everything else is filed away to folders. I use Boomerang for Gmail and Reply Later so things I need to take care of at some point in the future stay out of my inbox until I need them. I also use Google Calendar reminders to e-mail me when something is coming up that I need to take care of.

But even these systems can't capture everything, and I found myself getting frustrated at how I would get sidetracked. I'd suddenly remember I meant to take some meat out of the freezer to thaw, and then when I walked into the kitchen I'd see the half-made sandwiches on the counter that had been interrupted by a phone call, so I'd end up finishing the sandwiches and then forgetting out the meat until hours later.

I finally came up with this helpful, if imperfect, rule: If I'm deciding between two tasks in the moment and one has a visual reminder, I do the other one first.

Meaning if I walk into the kitchen and see the sandwiches, I ignore them until I've finished taking the meat out. I know it's unlikely I will forget about the sandwiches altogether because I will see them when I turn around or come back in the kitchen again, but I don't have anything to remind me about the meat.

This rule has a corollary: If neither task has a visual reminder, or I have to do the visual one first for some reason, I create a visual reminder for the other as quickly as possible. I scribble a Post-It, I add it to the to-do list next to my computer, or I text it to my inbox.

These tips may sound obvious, but the biggest hurdle for me was acknowledging just how much I rely on visual reminders. I like to act like I have these great memory and can keep track of so many things, but it's only because I make extensive use of the tools available to me. So when I'm being pulled in multiple directions, I use this strategy to figure out which task I'm most likely to forget by acknowledging my limitations.

How do you remind yourself of tasks to be done? When you remember multiple things at once that have to get done, how do you decide where to start?

On (Not) Being Forced into a STEM Field

Friday, June 1, 2012

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On (Not) Being Forced into a STEM Field | Faith Permeating Life

All this recent discussion of gender here, and also this article (and its comments) on girls and Legos, got me thinking back to my experiences in school.

(I know I've shared these thoughts elsewhere, so forgive me if you've heard this before, but I realized I'd never shared it here.)

When I was in school, I generally did well in my math and science classes. I mean, basically, I did well in all my classes (except gym -- I'm not cut out for sports!). Because I was in the gifted program in middle school and honors and AP courses in high school, as were the majority of my friends, I never felt the need to downplay my academic abilities.

What this meant was that I suddenly found myself under immense pressure to go into a STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) field. This was particularly true when people found out I was going to college for photography and journalism. Instructors tried to impress on me that I had a gift for quantitative reasoning. People tried to guilt me about the fact that there weren't enough women in engineering and girls needed role models. Everyone made it seem as if I had a responsibility to major in a STEM field.

This pisses me off for several reasons.

1) My own interests were completely ignored. My passions were photography and writing. But no one seemed to care; it was all about what fields "needed" me. Nobody was encouraging me to go into a STEM field because I sucked at everything else; no, I knew I could do pretty much anything I wanted to. The key words being I wanted to. And while I liked my AP Physics and AP Calc classes well enough because I had great teachers, I had no burning passion to spend my life pursuing either field.

2) Non-STEM careers were treated as fluff. I just got told repeatedly how I was "wasting" my intelligence because I wasn't going into a STEM field. What?? How would that be any good for our world if all of the brightest people were limited to only a few select professions? Don't you think it's important that the newspapers that inform many, many people's daily decisions be written by people who know what they're talking about, who are going to provide accurate, well-researched information? Granted, I never wanted to write for a newspaper, but trying to keep me out of journalism still makes no sense.

3) This was an insult to women generally. The general feeling I got was not just "there aren't a lot of women in STEM fields" but "it is so rare to find a woman good at science and math that we must snatch you up immediately!" Rather than helping the general perception of women's science and math abilities, this kind of attitude perpetuates the notion that the reason for the gender disparity in STEM fields is that women with quantitative reasoning skills are incredibly hard to find. And that therefore, when you find one, you must force her to major in a STEM field at all costs, regardless of whether she has any interest in it. (See #1.)

4) This encouraged the idea that money is the most important thing in life. All of the above reasons crystallized into one main message: This is the only way you'll make any money. As if making lots of money is more important than doing work you care about. As if all fields other than STEM fields pay a pittance on which no one could live. As if women have the complete inability to negotiate for what they're worth, so their only chance of getting a high salary is to go into a traditionally high-paying field. When people couldn't convince me that I had a moral obligation to balance out the gender inequalities in STEM fields, they thought the money aspect would definitely persuade me.

The irony, of course, is that I now work as a data analyst. I ended up dropping my photo major two weeks into college because I couldn't handle the required art classes, and I focused entirely on journalism. One of my communications instructors saw my abilities and offered me the opportunity to get a master's degree for free with only one extra year of school (which I took, duh). My master's classes and thesis sparked my love of research and statistics. Even then, I ended up getting a job as an administrative assistant and only moving into program evaluation and data analysis work because an opportunity presented itself to take on extra work, and I loved it.

This is how it should be, in my opinion. If it's that important to have more women in STEM fields, then the solution is not to force more women to major in it. We need to provide the opportunities for all students to explore these areas of study, and then provide encouragement for them to pursue the intersection of their gifts and their interests, whatever field that might be in.

I ended up in the field I'm in now not because anyone made me do it, or because I felt an obligation to balance out a gender inequality, or because I wanted to make lots of money (ha, I wish). I'm a data analyst because I was given the opportunity to do statistics work, and when I found I enjoyed it and was good at it, I was encouraged to continue. And now I have the blessing of having extensive experience with both quantitative reasoning and writing/communication, which makes me that much more valuable as an employee and researcher.

I'm curious to hear your experiences, especially if you're female. I've generally only heard stories about women being overtly discouraged from pursuing STEM fields, but I haven't heard of many women being aggressively pushed toward these majors like I was. Please share your own stories in comments!

UPDATE: Also check out "the most patronising attempt to get girls involved in science ever" from Tiger Beatdown.
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