Where Logic Meets Love

Blog Comment Carnival: July 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

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Blog Comment Carnival: July 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 was super-light (5 posts) because of the move to Whoville. But of course, you all still had some fantastic comments for me to choose from!

When I came back from hiatus, it was to share 10 Tips for a Smooth Cross-Country Move.

Queen of Carrots agreed that 104 degrees was not ideal moving weather:
Our first four moves were always in the worst possible weather--either the hottest or the coldest day of the year. Since then we've managed to stick to spring or fall, and we moved cross-country in a gorgeous stretch of October weather. We didn't do the truck, though (my dad and stepmother drove it). If you've got an MP3 player, you can download free audios online, which helps if you're paranoid about library returns, and also gives you a wider selection in case something isn't quite the thing. (Of course, the free ones will all be older books.)

And 'Becca added a tip about refilling water bottles:
Nice post! Consider linking this to Works-for-Me Wednesday tomorrow--it's what worked for you!

I'm glad your move went so smoothly and you're liking Whoville so far.

We usually refill our water bottles at the cold-water spout of the soda fountain in gas station stores. I have never had a clerk object to that when we were buying gas. (But it was a good idea to use up your emergency bottled water; it does go bad after a while. We had bought water for Y2K that we wound up opening in the summer of 2001 when there was a water main break--and we decided it was not safe to drink because it smelled like a stagnant parking-lot puddle, both muddy and chemical!)

We had a great conversation about ethics in the workplace on Faith, Ethics, and Work: What Does Success Really Look Like?

Lozzz123 said:
I also have a lot of trouble talking myself up or boasting of my achievements for job applications and interviews. I really would prefer to be humble, but I think it's true that it often comes across to potential employers as a lack of confidence. A really interesting study I read about recently found that people who score much higher in trait narcissim do much better a job interviews and are viewed as more confident because of how much they talk themselves up (regardless of whether they actually would be better at the job).

I also am concerned about gossip. I think it not only impacts job prospects, but also whether I just generally get along with colleagues - if they're not gossiping with you they might be gossiping about you! I don't really have answers about that one either unfortunately.

And Sarah said these concerns impacted her career choice:
Conflicts of faith/ethics at work is actually what caused me to decide not to pursue a career in journalism three months before I graduated from college.

After working with a paper for 20+ hours a week, I realized just how much I had to do to move up the ladder as a journalist and just how much of that I wasn't willing to do. It put me in an awkward position for a while, because if I wasn't going to do what I had studied to do...what was I going to do?

I'm still figuring it out, but now that I'm in an actual office environment, I struggle a lot with the gossip thing. My other coworkers love to bash each other behind each others backs and I have to remind myself that that isn't professional or Christ-like behavior.

Also, 'Becca and Modern Mrs. Darcy posted responses to this post!

Finally, I appreciated the readers who understood the point I was trying to make with This Is What Privilege Looks Like.

Fire Fairy said:
I often feel like this about the clothing industry. I know a lot of people who buy lots of cheap clothes from shops that have a poor track record regarding their factory workers, and they just don't care about that. Instead, they're thrilled that they've got multiple bargain buys. I'm not perfect - I would love to buy all Fairtrade clothes, but I don't have a massive income. I remedy this by buying fewers clothes than I used to so that I can buy Fairtrade stuff, and also by staying aware of where what I'm buying comes from, so am making informed choices when I shop. I do actively boycott Primark, and also the Arcadia group who own Topshop. But I am also part of a little group called 'Don't Shop Quietly', which encourages us to shop at places we like but to challenge the policies of those stores and to push for fair wages and working conditions for their workers. It's true that a lot of clothing chains in the UK have improved over the past few years, but they've still got a long way to go! There is a lot of power in the customers campaigning, and they do listen.

I also boycott Nestle because they infuriate me beyond belief. KitKats are now Fairtrade, so why isn't the rest of their chocolate? The same goes for Cadbury's - only their Dairy Milk is Fairtrade.Sure it's progress, but it's too little for such massive companies when they could be doing so much more. KitKat and Dairy Milk going Fairtrade were the successful results of consumer campaigns, and it shows that campaigning does work, but even so it can be difficult to support an organisation who goes against what you believe, so sometimes it's easier to boycott. However, I acknowledge it is probably better to keep on campaigning, and something I am seeking to do more of.

And Mary Kate shared her thoughts on the right to boycott:
If it's something you don't believe in then you have every right not to go there. For example, I know many people who do not want to buy at Target now or who do not want to buy General Mills or Nabisco products because of their support for SSM. So I don't see a problem with letting them know you're not happy with stances and keeping your money from them. I find it interesting from a business perspective that ANY of these businesses would want to take a stance on it (you'd think they would want the chance for EVERYONE'S business, gay or straight), but hey, they are privately run business and all of them can do that. One guy on Facebook who was gay and pro-SSM thought it was ridiculous that I wouldn't buy something from Target, but he was doing the same thing by not going to Chick-Fil-A. When I tried explaining that he proceeded to say that I was "stupid".

As far as the hiring piece goes (I'm not trying to stir anything up, I just want an answer):

1. How are the hiring managers finding out people are gay/lesbian? If they are asking flat out then it's stupid and illegal, and
2. Why would a gay person want to work at CFA?
[See my responses to her questions here.]

Thanks once again for taking the time to share such interesting and important thoughts here. You all rock!

This is What Privilege Looks Like

Thursday, July 26, 2012

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To help understand the point I'm going to make today, we need to do a little imagining.

For the purposes of this illustration, we're going to say that you are white and Christian, so if you aren't, just pretend for a moment.

First you're going to get in a time machine and go back to the 1950s. You are still you, with all the same things you know about the world and about history, with the same friends, and the same neighbors, and the same coworkers.

The time machine drops you off in a little town somewhere in the middle of the United States.

You're hungry, so you go looking for a place to eat, and you come upon a little cafe selling sandwiches. You're about to go inside when a sign in the window catches your eye.

It says, "No Dogs, No Blacks, No Jews Allowed."

So my question to you is: Do you go in and eat there?

Just stop and think about that for a minute. What if you knew there were other places in town that did not have such signs, where anyone could eat? Would you save yourself the trouble of walking around to find another place, and just eat here? No one's going to stop you.

I'm going to guess that most of you would say no, you wouldn't eat here. You wouldn't give your money to a place so that so overtly discriminates against people different from you.

Now let's say you see your friend Steve sitting at a table in this cafe. (Steve also has a time machine.) And you go in and you say, "Steve, man, what gives? Didn't you see the sign on the door? These guys are total racists."

And Steve says, "Hey, listen, these sandwiches are delicious. That's all that matters to me!"

Now how do you feel about the restaurant? Any different?

How do you feel about your friend Steve now?

[No offense intended to any actual Steves out there.]

OK, come on back to 2012 now.

So, you're wondering, what's the point?

This is the point:

(Apparently she's not alone in these thoughts, as this was promptly retweeted several dozen times.)

In case you're not aware, Chick-fil-A has a long history of discrimination against the LGBTQ population, from refusing to hire gay workers to donating millions of dollars to blatantly anti-gay organizations. Most recently, the family that owns the company has made public statements against same-sex marriage, and as a result, Chicago's mayor Rahm Emanuel and a local alderman are attempting to prevent Chick-fil-A from opening a store in Chicago.

To be clear, I am NOT saying:
  • that boycotting is always the most effective strategy for making change.
  • that I will hate you if you eat at Chick-fil-A.

What I take issue with is the notion (as voiced by Ms. Renaud and others) that people should always spend their money on the items they want, regardless of whether that money is supporting bad business practices or blatant discrimination.

As I've said again and again, each of us can only do so much. If I wanted to boycott every single company that had some practice or other that I disagreed with, it would be really difficult to spend my time doing anything other than researching companies and occasionally succeeding in buying guilt-free food or clothing. Avoiding meat from CAFOs is enough of a daily victory for me. (And we don't buy bananas because of this film Mike saw in college.)

But I also don't want to ignore the reality that customers' money funds the way companies run. And I'm not about to tell anyone that the only thing that should inform whether they buy that shirt or that sandwich or that banana is whether they like that shirt or that sandwich or that banana. That's not only an incredibly self-centered and short-sighted way of viewing our entire economy, but it's also an idea spoken from a position of privilege.

When you don't have to worry about making a livable wage... when you don't have to hide things about yourself for fear of getting fired or deported... when you don't have to worry about other people voting on the legitimacy of your family... when you don't live in fear of dying in unsafe working conditions or getting raped by your boss... then yeah, you can shop pretty much wherever you want, and it won't ever affect you.

Unless, you know, you care about other people.

Look, whether or not you boycott Chick-fil-A or any other place is between you and God, but don't try to tell me that the deliciousness of a chicken sandwich ought to outweigh any concerns I have about supporting a company with discriminatory policies.

Are there companies, organizations, or products you boycott? In what situations, if any, does it make sense to "vote with your money"?

The Best Skill I Ever Learned (...or How to Change My Mind)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

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When I was in college, I worked for two and a half years in our office of alcohol and drug abuse prevention education. It was a great job to have in college and I learned a lot, but probably the best skill I took away from the office was something called motivational interviewing. You can check out that Wikipedia link if you want more in-depth information, but I'll explain how we used this approach in our work, and what it's taught me about other areas of life.

My last year on the job, I ran some of our Alcohol Skills Training Program groups; people could join these voluntarily, but they were almost always students who had been sanctioned to a group because of an alcohol policy violation, which was generally underage drinking. Here's the important thing to understand: We never tried to get these students to stop drinking alcohol. From an ethical perspective, this might seem problematic, since underage drinking is illegal, right? So, what, we're condoning breaking the law?

Well, there's two things to consider:
  • First, if we tried to convince these students to stop drinking, the program would be ineffective. These students came in completely defiant, angry that they even had to attend some kind of session. You might scare a couple of kids into stopping, but if the law wasn't a deterrent before, it's not going to be afterwards either.
  • And secondly, why is there a drinking age in the first place? To keep people and property safe. So if there's a way to make people and property safer even if people are still drinking underage, that's going to be a better approach than pushing for an absolute result you're just simply not going to see.

So the first step was always to ask the students to identify their goals when it came to drinking alcohol. In other words, they named the benefits of drinking: They were able to fit in. It helped them relax. It was expected of them. Most opportunities to meet people happened around alcohol. And so on.

Then they would name the potential negative consequences of drinking: They might embarrass themselves. They might blackout and have to ask their friends later what happened. They might vomit, pass out, or otherwise get "sloppy" where no one wanted to be around them. It was important that the students came up with the possible negative consequences, rather than being told what they were.

Finally, we'd look at a chart of different Blood Alcohol Levels and their effects to figure out where the students felt they could maximize the positive consequences and minimize the negative consequences of drinking. Then they'd have the chance to calculate how many drinks they could have per hour, based on their weight and sex, to stay in that zone.

(This was the core of it; we also talked about how alcohol affects your body, myths about drinking, safer vs. less safe ways to drink, and so on, and they'd come back a week later to report what changes they'd made.)

What made this program effective was that it functioned within the students' reality. They were motivated to change their behavior not because it brought them in line with some external set of rules or laws, but because it brought them more in line with their own goals. Occasionally I'd get students who planned to stop drinking altogether, not because they were afraid of getting caught again but because they'd realized that they could achieve their goals (spending time with friends, having fun) without any alcohol at all.

So why am I telling you all this?

What I learned from this experience wasn't just about curbing underage drinking. It was an incredibly powerful truth about talking to other people: If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them first. And if you want to convince them of something, you have to do it in terms that make sense to them.

It sounds simple, but I rarely see it put into practice. I discussed this a bit previously when I talked about explaining my beliefs to those who have all the answers. But what I've been thinking about lately is people trying to convince me to change my mind. And how much they suck at it.

For example, let's say you have a problem with the fact that I support same-sex marriage.

The first thing out of your mouth should not be: "Well, the Bible says..."

Nor should it be: "Well, the Church says..."

And definitely not any form of: "Well, you're wrong because..."



If you want to get anywhere with me on this (which is unlikely), the best place to start is:

"So, why is that important to you?"

Now we're having a conversation.

It's the same with anything. I often draw comparisons between vegetarianism and Christianity. There are so many different reasons a person could choose not to eat meat, or to limit their intake of meat. If you start trying to point out the problems with my personal diet without having any idea of why I eat what I do or what I'm trying to accomplish by it, you will get nowhere. If you ask me questions about it and then you take issue with my reasoning on one point or another, we can totally have a conversation about it.

And, like, no offense to my Muslim friends, but if you start pointing out all the things I do that are wrong because they're not in accordance with the Qur'an, I'm going to look at you like you're crazy. If you want to first ask me how I seek spiritual guidance in my life, and then tell me how you believe the Qur'an fits with what's important to me, then I will be willing to listen to you. (I use this example not because anyone's been waving a Qur'an around me lately, but because people like to wave the Bible at me without first bothering to find out how I read the Bible, and I feel my point gets through better when I use another Holy Book as an example.)

Anyway, you get the point. If you want me or anyone else to change our mind on something, your best bet is to start out gathering a bunch of information on why we do what we do and think how we do, and then start with those areas where we agree.

Seriously, try it. The next time you're about to criticize someone or tell them how they should be living their life differently, stop yourself, and then ask a question instead. I think you will be amazed at how much more receptive the other person will be... and you just might learn something new, too.

When has someone had the most success changing your mind on something, and when has someone had the least success?

How Did We Get Here? The Steps that Created Our Dream Life

Friday, July 20, 2012

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How Did We Get Here? The Steps that Created Our Dream Life | Faith Permeating Life

I remember a time -- maybe a year ago? -- shortly after Mike and I had started pinning down our life timeline, including that we wanted to move to the West Coast, that we wanted to build our own house, and that we wanted to adopt a lot of kids. I had lunch with several different friends over the course of a few weeks, and inevitably they would ask what our future plans were, and I would lay them all out, then say:

"I feel like I'm waiting for my life to begin."

That is, we wanted to wait to adopt kids and look at land until we moved. And we wanted to wait to move until we could get jobs out West, which required first gaining more experience in our chosen fields. But I didn't know when we would finally reach that point where we could make the leap and start finally putting our "after we move" plans into action.

Today, I sit in amazement at my life. Here we are, in a city that so perfectly fits our values it could have been made for us, a short distance from friends and family, in a beautiful, fully furnished apartment on a gorgeous campus. Mike has a job that couldn't be more perfect for him, one he never thought he'd be able to get. Because the job pays for our housing and his meals, and he has no commute (his office is literally attached to our apartment), we will be able to put most of his salary and all of mine, when I finally land a job, into savings for our life goals. I'm able to take some time to work on a few personal projects, and I have several possible career paths stretching out in front of me, all of which I would love.

So now I have to stop and ask, "How did we get here? What went right?"

It seems like most of the stories I've heard of people "making their dreams come true" have involved huge risk.

"I quit my job to do what I love, and the clients followed."

"I moved to the city I wanted to live in with no job prospects, and the right job came to me."

As a risk-averse person, this frustrated and depressed me. I heard this as "there is no slow and steady path to getting your dream life." The only chance for big rewards was big risk. Period.

Now I know that's not true, and so, for all those people like me out there, I want to share what lessons I can possibly extract from the journey Mike and I have taken over the past few months. (Metaphorically speaking, that is; you can find tips from our literal cross-country journey here!)

Define Your Goals
This is something I learned at my previous organization; my supervisors liked my work and wanted to make me happy as an employee, but their ability to do so hinged on my telling them what I wanted. When Mike and I first got married and he complained about the horrible Chicago winters, we talked generally about moving somewhere warmer (the Carolinas, maybe?) but it wasn't until we locked in on wanting to live in Seattle that our future plans started to take a more realistic shape. Similarly, Mike floundered a bit trying to figure out what other kind of work he could do if he left food service, and he didn't find this job opening until he had decided that being a residence hall director was a position he wanted to shoot for.
Lesson learned: It's hard to hit a target unless you know where it is.

...But Be Flexible
We had both looked occasionally at job openings in Seattle, and I'd made some contacts out there, but nothing seemed like the right opportunity. Then when my brother started talking about Whoville, we decided maybe Seattle wasn't the only place we would feel at home. Almost as soon as we'd opened that door, things started falling into place: Mike looked up residence hall director positions and found one open even though most schools had finished hiring for the year; it turned out we knew a bunch of people with connections to the school; Mike fell in love with the school's culture and mission; and finally he landed the job.
Lesson learned: Be open to chance; don't let your focus block all other paths.

Believe in Yourself
This was truly the largely stumbling block, and I've found this to be true with other job coaching clients. Mike had applied to residence hall director positions before, after he quit his job, and he'd decided that he never got an interview because he didn't have the right master's degree. Convincing him to apply was the biggest hurdle; he wanted to disqualify himself upfront rather than potentially face rejection again. But I knew that not only was he capable of doing the job, he would do it extremely well and would love it, so all that remained was to write a kick-ass application to help them see it as well.
Lesson learned: If you know you're capable of achieving your dreams, trust that you can help other people see your potential.

...But Be Realistic
We had talked about moving a year ago, after Mike quit his job, but I was only a few months into my new position and knew instinctively that it would be very difficult to get an equivalent job in a new city. I did apply to a few places just to see, and I never heard back. A year later, and I've only applied two places and landed interviews at both. Similarly, I launched my job search coaching business as a side venture to my day job, not only because I'm not looking to do it full time but also because I knew that, realistically, it would take me a while to build up a client base, and I couldn't rely on it to immediately replace my full-time job.
Lesson learned: Know your strengths and weaknesses and what you need to do or learn before you can make a leap.

Don't Rush Yourself
One of the things that was most frustrating to me when I was having those "I feel like I'm waiting for my life to begin" conversations was the feeling that my life was never going to begin. If I couldn't find a way to make my dreams happen right now, then they would be forever postponed, forever a faraway wish, a thing to look back on wistfully in ten years and say, "What ever happened to our big plans?" I had no way of knowing that everything would fall into place in a year's time. What kept me sane was reminding myself how many decades I likely still had to live, how many people made big life changes when they were 10, 20, 50 years older than me, and how much had changed just in the last five years of my own life.
Lesson learned: Don't despair if you can't start living your ideal life tomorrow. Plant the seeds now and trust that they will flower in time if you take the right steps.

...But Be Willing to Set Deadlines
About six months ago, I again brought up the topic of moving, to see what Mike's thoughts were on our timeline. He was insistent at that point that he wanted to stay at his restaurant long enough to see more changes implemented. I said I wanted to put a concrete deadline on it, so that if those changes were never implemented, we wouldn't be waiting around forever. We decided on one year; we would start looking for jobs out West at the beginning of 2013. Putting a deadline on it made the whole thing infinitely more real and changed it from a dream to a plan. Well, when Mike's supervisors suddenly started making it clear that none of his suggestions were going to be implemented, and he got fed up with working there, it made complete sense for him to start looking for jobs on the West Coast. Why would he find another job in Chicago when we were going to move the following year anyway?
Lesson learned: Setting concrete goals and deadlines can put your wheels in motion when nothing else will. Even if you don't meet your deadline, you'll probably be a lot closer to your goal than when you started out.

Final thoughts:
  • Pray: God doesn't always answer my prayers, but the ones that have been answered tend to be the ones that come from my deepest heart, driven by sincere emotion. I prayed hardcore about this, mostly some variation of, "Put us wherever You can use us best, Lord. And if that's on this campus, then help Mike present himself the very best that he possibly can, and help the decision-makers to be fair." When we got a million signs back that we were on the right track, it gave me such peace of mind; I'm not even that worried about my own job search because I trust that wherever I eventually end up will be where I'm needed most.
  • Rein in Your Doubts: Once Mike was offered the position, I nearly made myself sick with worry that something was going to happen to take it away. I did the same kind of thing before our wedding; it seemed too good to be true, and I was sure something was going to happen to prevent it from happening. The truth is, if something terrible does happen, having anticipated it isn't going to make it suck any less. Allow yourself to celebrate when things start going your way, without just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
  • Make Some Concessions: I've said it before: Even the very best things in life are not 100% perfect. In this case, we had to find a new home for our rats because they wouldn't be allowed in the residence hall. It wouldn't have made any sense to hold out for some other school that would hire Mike, allow us to be near friends and family, in a city we love, in a beautiful apartment, and let us keep our pets. Nothing in life is perfect, and if you wait for something (or someone) who fits your 100 specific criteria to a T, you could be waiting forever. Find what's most important to your happiness, and let the rest go.
Those are the lessons I took away from this experience, which I hope I'll be able to apply to our future goals as well.

What would you add? What has helped you reach your life goals?

Faith, Ethics, and Work: What Does Success Really Look Like?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

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Faith, Ethics, and Work: What Does Success Really Look Like? | Faith Permeating Life

In recent months, as I've immersed myself in job search strategies and career advice (for my job search coaching business, helping Mike with his job search, and preparing to find a new job myself), something has started nagging at me.

I have a much better grasp now on what it takes -- or what many experts say it takes -- to succeed in the working world: to land a great job, get promoted, save up a lot of money. And much of it has been positive, helping me to be more assertive, more knowledgeable, more focused on defining and achieving my long-term goals.

But I've also discovered this truth: Many of the things that help one advance in Western work culture are directly contrary to who I want to be as a Christian, or simply a good person.

I'll share a few examples, but I want to say first that I recognize that many of these things shouldn't make a difference in your career. In a perfect world, all that would matter would be that you worked hard, produced quality work, and achieved positive results for your company or organization. But the fact that something should be so does not make it so.

While I am far from being the kind of person whose primary goal is to move up the ladder into upper management or who measures my worth by the size of my paycheck, I am nonetheless realistic about the fact that my long-term goals cost money. I want to give myself the best opportunity to support our family comfortably, and I also feel that, being someone who identifies as female, I benefit women generally when I assert myself in order to be paid and recognized in accordance with my abilities and responsibilities. I'm personally not cut out to be completely self-employed, so this means that my ability to be paid a fair salary is directly related to how I am recognized and rewarded in a professional working environment.

So that's where I'm coming from when I think about these things.

Promoting oneself
This is something Mike struggles with even more than I do, so when I help him write cover letters I have to push him to talk about his strengths and not just why he would love the job. The oft-repeated advice in business is that you have to promote yourself because no one's going to do it for you. (I have not always found that to be true.) On the other hand, Christianity celebrates humility and not drawing attention to the good things you do.

Where the rubber meets the road
An example of when this might put me in a dilemma is if I'm in a meeting and someone else takes credit for something I did. Do I subtly find a way to point out that I actually did the work? (Don't be like most women, who let themselves be a doormat because they're too afraid to create conflict.) Or do I keep quiet and trust that the truth will come out anyway? (Trust in God to take care of you; be a person of honest and hard work regardless of whether you get the credit.)

Wearing makeup
What originally prompted me to start thinking about this topic was MJ's 40 Day Makeup Fast. Whereas MJ struggled with what her addiction to makeup was doing to her self-identity, I have wondered if the fact that I never wear makeup is hurting me professionally. Do people take me less seriously or compare me less favorably to other professional women? Yes, it's a gender double-standard, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. But Mike hates makeup, and I hate the feeling I get when I wear makeup: that my real, God-given face somehow isn't good enough.

Where the rubber meets the road
As I think about going for job interviews soon, I've gone back and forth about whether or not I should go back to makeup. Part of me says, Be your true self! If they don't like it, you don't want to work there anyway. But the job-coach part of me says, Give yourself every advantage! You wear your nicest suit, right? Don't let them find any reason to disqualify you before you land the job.

(Update: Want more information on why I don't wear makeup? 'Becca wrote a great follow-up post explaining all the reasons she doesn't wear makeup. Pretty much everything she says is spot-on for me.)

Gossiping/office politics
This is probably the area where the book Nice Girls Don't Get the Corner Office convicted me the most. Yes, I am that woman who just sits at her desk and works hard and doesn't want to exchange office gossip around the water cooler. But that whispered chatter is often how relationships are built, and relationships are vital to a successful career. It took me long enough to learn NOT to indulge in gossip with my friends, because it was mean and hurtful and not a Christian thing to do (plus things often got back to people). Now I have to learn how to encourage coworkers when they come over to talk office politics with me? I get the advantage of it... but it just makes me feel kind of icky.

Where the rubber meets the road
It makes sense that the people who know ahead of time which jobs are likely to open up or which offices are going to be reorganized are in the best position to use those situations to their advantage. I would have been at a much greater disadvantage if my boss hadn't been so connected and shared his knowledge with me when it was going to affect our office. Now that I'll be starting a new job, I have to decide how much effort I want to put into building those personal relationships with coworkers, even if it includes discussing other people in the office. Is there a gray area, like I'll listen to things but not repeat them if I'm not sure they're true? Or I'll discuss only those things related to my office or the organization as a whole? That seems difficult and potentially hair-splitting.

For-profit work
One of the reasons Mike wanted to leave his previous job was that, at the end of the day, everything came down to making more money for the restaurant. In his position now, his primary objective is to be a role model, mentor, and support for students at a critical transition period of their lives. I feel like I would find it difficult for me to be fully engaged and excited about any job in which the top priority was profit. But the reality is that non-profit jobs just don't pay as much. I once heard someone -- Tim Ferriss, maybe? -- say that he didn't understand how someone felt they could have the maximum positive impact on the world if they were making a relatively small salary, with the implication that you should get the highest-paying job you can and then spend your money where you think it will have the biggest positive impact on the world. But could I do that without hating my job and/or getting sucked into feelings of pride and greed?

Where the rubber meets the road
In the bit of job searching I've done so far, I've been looking almost exclusively at non-profits. Occasionally I will venture over to look at for-profit postings, but they almost immediately make me go bleeeccch and retreat back over to Idealist. Then I have to wonder if I'm doing a disservice to my future kids -- are we going have to scrape together money for adoptions, or adopt fewer kids than we planned? -- or to Mike, who feels like his life calling from God is to buy dozens of acres of land and open a retreat center / farm. I trust God to find a way... but I also know he gave me the brains and skills to be a very successful professional, and I wonder if that's part of the way.

Tell me: Do you struggle with these kinds of dilemmas? Are there other ways professional success has come up against your personal ethics or faith? How have you dealt with it?

10 Tips for a Smooth Cross-Country Move

Friday, July 13, 2012

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10 Tips for a Smooth Cross-Country Move | Faith Permeating Life

I'm back!

Thanks for your patience during my extended blogging break. We are still knee-deep in unopened boxes here, but we're settled in enough that I can take some time to write a post. I am absolutely in love with this place -- our apartment, the campus, and our city, which will be known on this blog as Whoville -- but there will be more time later to gush and break down how we made our dreams come true.

What I want to talk about today was the move, which (in case you don't follow me on Twitter) was documented with the hashtag #FPAA for "Faith Permeating Across America." (Thanks to my friend Dan for that suggestion.) It went incredibly smoothly for a 5-day cross-country trip. So, as I tend to do on here when I find something that works, I wanted to share some of the details in case it might be helpful to you at some point.

Here are a whole bunch of things we did that I believe made the move go well. Keep in mind that we are one couple with no kids moving from an area near family and friends to another area near family and friends, so not all of these tips will be applicable to everyone.

1. Say "yes" to offers for help.
My best friend offered to help us pack, and I said yes. She and her husband showed up with fresh energy and enthusiasm, and between the four of us we got at least half our apartment packed in about six hours. Another friend, a big strong guy, offered to help us pack the moving truck, and I said yes. My parents were a huge help on both ends, helping us get stuff packed that we were storing at their house, and then meeting us in Whoville with my aunt and uncle to help us unpack the truck when we arrived. We could have done it all ourselves, but we would have been way more tired, sore, and cranky with each other. (I think it also helps to be the kind of person that others know will help them out when needed, so they're willing to offer!)

2. Talk through the pre-moving steps.
Mike and I made a lot of to-do lists in the weeks leading up to the move, and this also forced us to talk through what needed to get done when. Probably the most stressful things were finding a new home for Bert and Ernie, selling one of our cars, and giving away most of our furniture, so we made contingency plans for each. (e.g., "We'll ask these people first, then we'll post it on Facebook, then we'll do X as a last resort.") We also figured out which things could get packed right away and what needed to be kept out until the morning we left (or until I finished work, or whatever). This planning led to very few "Oh shoot, that already got packed" moments.

3. Go with Penske.
You all know I don't recommend specific companies unless I truly love them (and I never do sponsored posts). Mike was all set to get a U-Haul, not really knowing there was another option, until I started looking up reviews and found lots of horror stories about their old, unreliable trucks. Ditto with Budget. I expected to find the same for Penske -- you can find bad reviews for practically any company, right? -- but everything I found was positive. Our truck was clean and new enough to have both a CD player that read MP3 CDs (good because I accidentally ordered an audiobook as MP3 CDs) and an iPod jack. We weren't charged by miles and they let us pick up the truck a day earlier than we reserved it for no extra charge, so Mike was able to pick it up and drive it out to my parents' house to load up all the stuff that was going into storage. They didn't have a tow dolly because he showed up a day early, so we got a full tow trailer for no extra cost. We never had any problems with the truck, even going through the mountains, and the car stayed secure on the tow trailer. We didn't have to unhitch the trailer to get into the truck, so we could keep our suitcases in the truck and just get them out every night. Penske is a little pricier, but with our AAA discount it ended up being the same as U-Haul even after we added insurance.

4. Make it a vacation.
This is one of the pieces of advice I got when I announced we were moving, and it was definitely true for us. We have friends and family all over the country, and so when Mike looked at our route he was able to find people to stay with for three out of four nights of the trip, and this made a huge difference in our frame of mind. Rather than constantly thinking about how freaking far we still were from Whoville, each day we woke up and said, "Tonight we're going to visit so-and-so." It had been anywhere from six months to four years since we'd seen these folks, so it was a great opportunity to visit and catch up with them. Even if you don't have people you know to stay with along the way, picking some vacation spots along the way can help make each day something to look forward to. My brother's moving next month and said he might make a detour to camp at Yellowstone, just because he's always wanted to.

5. Don't push yourself too hard.
We planned out days that were about 8 to 8-1/2 hours on Google Maps, which in the truck ended up being 9-10 hours depending on the terrain we were driving through. This was great because it allowed us to get up, eat breakfast, get on the road about 8am, and get to our next destination in time to have dinner with the people we were visiting. We had several hours to visit with them, but could still get to bed in time to be rested before hitting the road again the next day. Taking care of yourself is important! I've heard too many stories of people who planned to drive through the night, switching drivers and sleeping in between, and ended up having to pull off at some truck stop to sleep because everyone was exhausted and miserable. Yes, I believe you can do a 14-hour day, but are you really going to feel your best when you have to get up and face the next long day of driving?

6. Plan out your food.
We were blessed to get homemade dinners and breakfasts on most days of our trip, and we avoided stopping for lunch all but one day because we had enough good snacks in the truck cab with us. This is where I didn't plan well enough -- I'd packed all our silverware, and I ended up getting a plastic knife from my brother's roommate so I could actually make sandwiches with the bread, peanut butter, and jelly I'd brought. We got a cooler and a bag of ice from my parents (because all our ice cube trays were packed) so that we could have some refrigerated snacks, and we picked things we could both eat on the road -- grapes and cheese. We had Triscuits, Chex Mix, and granola bars, and some less healthy options (Gushers and Cheez-Its). All of this lasted us the whole trip, and we stopped for lunch on the fourth day only because it was our longest day on the road and we wanted to break it up.

7. Bring some gallon jugs of water.
Normally I am not an advocate of any sort of bottled water, but I had a few gallons from our emergency stash and so we brought them in the truck. This ended up being great because I could refill my water bottle every time we stopped for gas, so we didn't have to buy drinks at any gas station, and it also meant less trash/recycling to deal with. We did have a few other drinks we'd brought in the coolers -- Gatorade, juice, and iced tea -- and Mike refilled his iced tea bottles with water when he finished them. We stayed plenty hydrated, which also helped us take care of our bodies on the long trip (see #5).

8. Have a trash bag in the cab.
This is something Mike thought of, thankfully, which helped us keep the cab clean. I don't know about you, but one of the things I hate about road trips is having to clean out all of the wrappers and bottles that accumulate on the floor during the trip. If I had to do it again I'd have brought a separate bag for recycling, but as it was I was able to pick out the bottles and cans when we finally got to an area that had recycling containers at the gas stations.

9. Prepare to entertain yourself.
We got two audiobooks, but ended up not quite finishing up the first one (Wizard: The Life and Times of Nikola Tesla); it was very interesting, but it was kind of dry and not the kind of thing we could listen to for more than an hour at a time. So we also listened to music, and talked, and tried to spot license plates from all 50 states, and I read to Mike from a book my coworkers had given me on Whoville. One thing we wished we'd done was to get some Mad Libs or even a crossword book for which I could have read Mike the clues. (He drove the entire time -- thankfully!)

10. Take breaks when you need them.
Mike stopped roughly every 2 to 2-1/2 hours to get gas, even though we'd usually still have half a tank at that point. He basically just stopped whenever he was getting bored or sore or had to pee. This gave us a chance to get out, stretch, take a bathroom break, refill our water bottles, and so on. Again, going back to #5, we knew we had to take care of ourselves. A cross-country move is a marathon, not a sprint. Once you arrive, you're going to have lots of unloading and unpacking and cleaning and organizing to do, so you don't want to have all your energy sapped by the time you get there, nor do you want to be irritable with each other.

Those are what I think helped our move go smoothly. If there was one thing I could have changed, it was the time of year that we moved. The day we packed the truck, Chicago had record-breaking heat (104 degrees), so it made the whole day absolutely miserable and also made it go more slowly because we needed frequent breaks to sit in front of our tiny wall A/C unit. We were both super cranky and exhausted by the time we were done, and it was one of the least fun experiences I've had in a long time. Unfortunately we only had a week-long window between the time we were allowed to move in to the residence hall and the time Mike starts work, so we didn't have much of a choice about the weather in which we moved. But all in all, the move went very smoothly.

What tips would you add, for long moves or just long road trips?

Update: I've linked up with Works-for-Me Wednesday! Check out the link-up for more great tips on all kinds of things.
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