Where Logic Meets Love

3BoT Vol. 6: Three Books That Literally Changed My Life

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

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3BoT Vol. 6: Three Books That Literally Changed My Life | 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.

I am guilty of using hyperbole on occasion, and there have probably been quite a lot of books that I've claimed have changed my life. Usually I mean they changed my way of thinking about something, which is great, but then 5-10 years down the road I will have forgotten all about it and need to re-learn whatever lesson it was I learned.

So this month I thought I would share books that have literally changed my life -- that is, I can point to things that I do in my life and tell you which book made it happen.

Unsurprisingly, if you've been around Faith Permeating Life for any length of time, you've probably heard me talk about at least one if not all of these books. But maybe this will give you a needed kick in the butt to check them out if you haven't already.


Here are the books that sparked real change in my life:

#1: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
In case you're not familiar with Barbara Kingsolver, I highly recommend her other books; my favorites are The Bean Trees and The Poisonwood Bible. While those are fiction, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a true story of her family's attempt to eat only locally grown food (mostly their own) for an entire year. Her vivid storytelling is intermixed with informational sidebars written by her husband, and each chapter ends with recipes by her older daughter. I documented the process I went through while reading this book: first, I made excuses about why eating locally was too hard, then I committed to taking some small, manageable steps, and finally I found myself eating vegetarian except for our CSA meat. The book doesn't shove anything down your throat, but it does present a compelling case for why we should be mindful of where our food comes from, and it makes the steps to get there seem not too far out of reach.




#2: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
(I told you these might be obvious.) I picked the perfect time to read The Happiness Project: early December 2010. This meant that rather than thinking, "Hey, I should do a project like this some day..." I thought, "Hey, it's almost January, let's do this for 2011!" I loved Gretchen's approach, which was to pick some guiding principles ("happiness commandments"), then focus on one area of her life each month and create specific resolutions in those areas. This format gave me enough structure that I was able to implement it for myself easily, with enough flexibility that I could focus on what was most important to me. If you want to read all my monthly recaps you can check out the "happiness project" tag, or you could just read my end-of-the-year reflections. You can also check out Gretchen's blog, although I will say that I had been reading the blog for a while when I decided to read the book, and it was the book with its clear structure and timeline that gave me the kick to actually do a project myself. Everything from the fact that I floss every single night to my now-ingrained habit of constantly hitting ⌘+S (Save) while I'm working can be attributed to last year's happiness project. It gave me less guilt and more peace of mind and helped me get my life priorities in order.



#3: The Art of Natural Family Planning published by The Couple to Couple League
Here's a first for 3BoT: I haven't actually read this entire book. The Couple to Couple League and I don't exactly see eye-to-eye on everything, and there's a lot of information on Catholic teaching and the "right" way to do Natural Family Planning throughout this book. That said, this book still had a profound impact on me, and I continue to use it as a reference guide. When Mike and I first decided we were going to do Natural Family Planning, before we were even engaged, I read some other book -- something like Your Fertility Signs -- that introduced me to fertility awareness but also made me super-confused. Like, I charted faithfully for about two years, but I couldn't have told you what any of it actually meant. The Art of Natural Family Planning, on the other hand, is super clear. They have a straightforward charting method (which I replicated using Excel because I didn't want to buy their charts -- sorry!) and there are tons of sample charts in the book as well as actual photographs of stretching cervical fluid. Getting this book a few months before our wedding was a Godsend for me and the reason we've been able to use NFP without any stress or guessing for the past two and a half years. (Click here if you want to know more about Natural Family Planning.) If you're looking for something a little less... Catholic? opinionated? I've also heard good things about Taking Charge of Your Fertility.


What books have changed your life? Leave them in comments or share on your blog and link up below!

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!

Blog Comment Carnival: February 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

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Blog Comment Carnival: February 2012 | Faith Permeating Life

It's the end of February (already!), which means it's time to share my favorite comments from the month!

I have a lot and some of them are quite long, so I'm not going to include my responses this time, but I'm linking back to the original post so you can find my replies there. If you don't usually take the time to read the comments, check these out and know that there are many more great comments than I was able to include. I am blessed to have a lot of intelligent, articulate, insightful readers!

And don't forget to link up at the end if you share your favorite comments on your own blog!

On The Stigma of "Smart": In Defense of Gifted Education, Mórrígan said:
This is a big part of why I want to home school my kids. I don't feel that the classroom model really encourages growth or social skills (the biggest criticism against homeschooling) very well. In no situation in my adult life, outside of school, do I find myself stuck in a room with 20 other people my exact age (and probably ethnicity and socioeconomic status). I feel like it's counter-intuitive to try to make a large number of people of any age learn at the exact same rate. I think that the idea of a classroom-free school would go a long way to helping each young person learn at their own rate.

There were a lot of great comments on Are You a Micro-Manager or a Teach-a-Man-to-Fish-er?:

Melbourne on my mind said:
I can't stand micromanagers. I've had a couple of them at different jobs, and it's a nightmare. Especially as I sat next to them both times. It was amazing how the team dynamic changed when they weren't around - everyone was much happier and everything got done in half the time!

Our concert band conductor used to use the same theory as your awesome choir conductor - she'd start us off, and then leave the room to check that we could keep going without her, and to see how it sounded. And I'm pretty sure that's part of the reason that we got gold shields in the Melbourne School Band Competition a bunch of times - she gave us the knowledge that we COULD do it ourselves, and that it wasn't all about her.

I try to be the same with my niece, partly because I think it's good for her, and partly because her mother is most DEFINITELY a helicopter parent! *shudder*

Lauren said:
As a teacher I find there are certain students who need to be "micro-managed" as they grow and develop habits in self-control, responsibility, attention and obedience. However, as they develop these habits, I really try to stand back and let them see the natural consequences for their actions, even if it is painful - so painful sometimes! It hurts, but I know I'm helping them in the long run.

I wish I could say I was that good at home with the hubby. Sometimes I nag...but sometimes it's the only way he will do something. If I ask something once and don't stand and wait for him to start it...well, I'll be waiting awhile. He has good intentions, but can easily be sidetracked. What I've realized is I need to make sure I'm saying "please" with requests. I didn't realize I stopped doing that with him, and one day he told me he says "please" way more than I do. So, I've made a conscious effort to say it EVERY time. And you know what? It's working more effectively than nagging. Sometimes one word can go a long way.

Katie said:
I think about this a lot. I think about that often I can slip into treating my husband like one of my fourth grade students! My default is definitely a micromanager, but when I stop and think about how my husband is not, in fact, one of the ten-year-olds who I normally spend my days with, I let go and choose my battles. It's definitely made things better in our home! (And as always, I love your posts--they always seem to resonate with me so much!)

On Don't Try to Tell Me What I Want for Valentine's Day, Lozzz123 said:
I think you make some excellent points! I think it's also important to have a discussion with your partner about how their family does holidays/gifts and what they've been used to growing up. My husband's family gives money for most occasions, and so he was very shocked one year when he got me money for my birthday and I burst into tears! I was very upset at the time because in my family chosing personalised presents means thoughtfulness. Eventually I realised he didn't actually do anything wrong there because I never told him what I was expecting!

Now I just tell him what I'd like (e.g. I said for Valentine's day I would like flowers and a card but he doesn't need to get anything else) and it saves a lot of hassle on both ends.

On Why the SAHM vs. WOHM Debate Is Stupid -- and Inaccurate, 'Becca said:
I agree!! Being interested in parenting and cooking, I often find myself reading SAHM blogs that carry the false dichotomy to quite an extreme of self-justification and WOHM-bashing. But at times in my real life (usually not online) I also talk with WOHMs who are dismissive of SAHMs. Argh.

A topic I've been meaning to write about for years now is (briefly) this: In the 1970s, my feminist activist SAHM had a T-shirt that said, EVERY MOTHER IS A WORKING MOTHER. It's true, caring for children *is* real work! I agree with that sentiment so strongly that when I'm not using abbreviations I say "employed mother" rather than "working mother" to refer to those who have paid jobs. (Same for fathers.) But these days, I want to tell the world, EVERY MOTHER IS A FULL-TIME MOTHER. I feel sick when I hear the term "full-time mother" used to refer to SAHMs because it implies that I am not a mother when I am at my job--and I know that I am. "Full-time homemaker" is fine; you can call me a "full-time data analyst" because that's what I do 40 hours a week, and I hope that most homemakers do not spend much more than 40 hours a week actually on-task doing housework. But I am a mother all the time. My father was employed 40-70 hours a week throughout my childhood, yet I would never, ever call him a "part-time father."

Of course, I realize "stay-at-home mother" is not a particularly accurate term for many...but I don't think I've heard anyone feeling offended by it, just laughing about how it seems they really spend their time everywhere else!

And finally, on A Practical Guide to Prioritizing Your Life, Vonae Deyshawn said:
Wow, this is defininetly a great way to prioritize your life and time. I can totally relate to the taking on one more thing at church because your expected to. I have to daily decide what I'm going to sign my name to. I'm such a yes yes I'll do it type of person that I realized I was getting burnt out. At one point I didn't want to do anything at all but then decided I would stick to things that aligned with my life goals. Like helping women live their best life. For me, when they asked me to help with women's ministry I said yes because it's something I'm passionate about. I guess it's just that, only picking the things we're passionate about and then saying no to the others. I'm happy I found your blog on Twitter! Happy writing!

Thanks to everyone who takes the time to contribute to the discussions here! Your thoughts are always appreciated.


A Bird in the Hand: On Being Satisfied and Still Dreaming

A Bird in the Hand: On Being Satisfied and Still Dreaming | Faith Permeating Life

Mike and I love the apartment complex where we live, but a few months ago we started discussing moving from our 1-bedroom to a 2-bedroom apartment. We hate not having a guest room to offer people who are visiting Chicago or for my sister when she spends the night; right now the options are the couch or an air mattress.

We asked our landlord to let us know if a 2-bedroom opened up. As luck would have it, somebody moved out of one recently, and it was the largest of the 2-bedroom layouts. The landlord left us the key so we could check it out when we got home from work.

It was weird to go back into apartment-hunting mode. Last time we were looking for an apartment, I was a month out of grad school, looking for a job, and two months away from our wedding. It was a time of huge change, and I was looking forward to moving out of my parents' house and finding the place my husband and I would call home together.

This time was a lot different. Since we knew we liked our town, the landlord, and the complex itself already, we could focus solely on the apartment itself.

And... it kind of sucked. Yes, it had a second bedroom, a dishwasher, and a slightly larger living room. But it just felt cramped. The kitchen drawers were half as wide as the ones we have now. The pantry was too small for the shelf we use now. We would have had to squeeze past the dining room table just to get in and out of the kitchen.

Thankfully Mike and I were both on the same page about it right away, so neither of us had to argue or defend our position. Sometimes he and I are just in tune like that, and I'm grateful for it. We both like our current apartment a lot, and when we got back home, he said, "If only we had our exact apartment now... but with a second bedroom!" My thoughts exactly.

If we'd moved into that apartment two and a half years ago, I'm sure we would have adjusted to it just fine. But since we have such a great place now, our standards are a lot higher for what it would take for us to move. The second bedroom by itself was not worth shelling out a lot more money every month for, not to mention having to go through the whole process of packing up and moving our stuff and trying to reconfigure everything to fit the new layout.

We could have easily gotten fixated on the idea that we need a second bedroom. But we don't. Not right now. It's not worth giving up what we have right now, that we know makes us happy, simply because we have this idea that having a second bedroom would be even better.

So our friends will have to live with the air mattress for the time being. Sorry.

This experience tonight gave me some much-needed perspective on my career. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned before that Mike and I are aiming to move to Seattle eventually -- move back, for me, since I was born there. This is a struggle for me because on the one hand I tell myself there will never be a perfect time to move, I don't want to put it off forever, I will be so happy once I'm there, and so on. It doesn't help that I'm re-reading The Four-Hour Work Week, which is basically like, "If you don't go after your dreams now, you will regret it forever."

But -- I really, really love my job here. I love the college I work for, I love my boss and coworkers, and people across the college, like, hardcore love the work I do, so I feel super-appreciated.

And so I often think to myself, "If only I could keep this exact same job... but have it be in Seattle!"

But, as I wrote recently, nothing in life comes in a perfect package. And it's not worth sacrificing the happiness I have now for this notion that being in Seattle will be that much better. It needs to be the right job, at the right time, to make it worth moving.

So for the moment we will stay in our little apartment, and I will keep the job I have, and we will continue being happy. And I will continue building connections and learning new skills, and we will continue saving up our money.

And then, just as Mike and I looked at each other tonight and shook our heads, I feel confident that the day will come when we'll look at each other, nod, and say, "OK, let's do this."

The future will unfold in its own way, on its own time. And I'm OK with that.

What Marriage Means to Me: Emma

Monday, February 27, 2012

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This week's What Marriage Means to Me post comes from another blogger I met during the SITS Girls' Blogging Challenge. Emma blogs at LLM Calling, and is our first contributor from the UK, as well as the longest-married so far, at 13 years. She tells us about how each chapter of her marriage has brought new lessons about what marriage really means.

~~~

Mike and I have been married for thirteen years, mostly happily. Over that time our marriage has changed a lot and it's in those changes that I find what our marriage means to me.

We met at university, were friends first and then realised (with the help of our friends) that we could be something more. We spent a year travelling between our two Masters' universities at weekends before finding jobs close together, moving into a flat and then getting married. We rubbed along well with our friends, jobs, travel and lots of chill out time together. The first lesson about marriage was as early as this: love needs compromise; we compromised on where we'd live and what jobs we took.

After five years or so in our normal routine we decided to try for a family. The journey was long and emotional and took us to the edge of our coping abilities. At times we were emotionally miles apart and yet we somehow held together by respecting each other's needs; something only possible because we knew each other so well. There is lesson number two; to give each other time to process grief and loss and lean on other people rather than just ourselves. We learned a lot about each other then and how we processed emotions and dealt with stress. We learned why we loved each other and it was the deep friendship.

We were lucky; eventually we held a child in our arms and so another chapter started. Suddenly my career was unimportant; I was a mother and that trumped everything. He was the sole breadwinner and was no longer the number one in my life. It was the happiest of times and yet the biggest challenge on our marriage; we were a threesome suddenly. So lesson three was the acceptance of change; people change over time, relationships change, marriages have to change. What matters in a marriage is the willingness to keep trying and working on it.

If that wasn't enough I realised I was being called into church ministry, an unpaid career with a Boss my husband didn't believe in. It never occurred to me that this would be a problem. He had built a successful career and continued to be my rock, as ever. Looking back I can't believe my selfishness, but he says I'm wrong to think like that. Lesson number four: Never take your spouse for granted even when you know you can. Marriage means leaning on each other, but it's a two-way street.

Thirteen years have seen us changing from students to graduates to professional engineers to parents and now to a manager and a minister. We've laughed and travelled and learned and grieved and loved together. We couldn't be more different than we were when we met, but we love each other in those changes.

What does marriage mean to me?

It means wanting to see the one you love be happy and helping them achieve that. I thank my lucky stars that my husband is so great at that; I promise to keep trying harder.

~~~

Emma is a mum, wife, licensed lay minister, babyloss counsellor and blogger at http://llmcalling.blogspot.com. You can also find her on Twitter and Pinterest as emmuk74.

Adulthood, the Future, and Our Weird, Beautiful Lives

Sunday, February 26, 2012

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Today's inspiration comes from another YouTube video. You don't have to watch it to read the post, but I think you'll be glad you did.


There are a lot of things I love about this video.

Adulthood

Since I recently wrote about how much of my time gets sucked away by customer service problems, I thought his comment that "adulthood primarily consists of standing in line and being on hold" was one of those statements that is both funny and sad because of its truth.

But aside from that, his comment that he thought adulthood would consist of having interesting conversations about great books made me exceptionally grateful for the blogosphere and my fantastic readers specifically, since even as an adult I do get to continue having interesting and challenging discussions -- sometimes about books, but also about religion, marriage, politics, education, sex, and all of the other topics I find fascinating.


How the Future Unfolds

By chronicling the career paths he and his friends took after college, he deftly dismantles the notion that our college dreams (and majors) somehow dictate our future. And hearing the paths that he and Randy each took, I was reminded again that it's impossible to predict exactly how our future will unfold because so much happens in response to unexpected events. I mean, no one says to himself, "Yes, I am going off to make films and think that I will end up writing for a magazine because my friend who is going to divinity school is going to drop out and end up working for a magazine and will want to hire me."

I'm less than three years out of college and I could have never predicted when I graduated that I would be working not in publishing but in data analysis. You don't plan for things like, "I'll get an administrative assistant job because I'm desperate and then the director of assessment is going to move onto the floor where I'm working and I'm going to be bored and looking for extra work and that's how I'll end up running the entire school's course evaluation system."

I believe this is what Ramit Sethi calls "being open to serendipity."


What Life is Really About

What I love most about this video is when John points out that, as cool and crazy as it is that he and his friend are both atop the New York Times' Bestsellers List, that isn't what gives meaning and beauty to his life. His friendship with Randy is wrapped up not in their career accomplishments but in the times they've spent together and the memories associated with those.

What does it mean to have a "successful" life? We will not all have the opportunity to be on the New York Times' Bestsellers List, or whatever the equivalent is in our own lines of work, but we all have the opportunity to build strong and lasting relationships. John has had the good fortune to have both experiences, and he places more stock in those relationships and memories. That should be a clue to the rest of us about where our time and energy are most valuably spent.


Also, I enjoy getting to see John Green as a dorky college student :)

A Practical Guide to Prioritizing Your Life

Thursday, February 23, 2012

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A Practical Guide to Prioritizing Your Life | Faith Permeating Life

You may remember last month when I told you I was drowning in my never-ending to-do list.

I recently hit upon one of the key problems I was struggling with when it came to accomplishing things: I was overwhelmed with responsibilities, but had no idea where to start or what could be cut out, if anything. As a result, I was letting myself be driven by other people's urgency or expectations or due dates.

I had in my mind this notion of life priorities: my faith, my health, my marriage, etc. I knew the parable of the rocks, the pebbles, and the sand. But I couldn't figure out how to actually "live out" these priorities in my day-to-day life. There was a disconnect between my larger life goals and my daily to-do items.

The strategy I created probably isn't a new one, but it was a breakthrough for me.

The idea came from the work I do in student learning assessment. Ideally, each course should have its own "learning outcomes," or goals for what a student should be able to know or do by the time he or she finishes the course. But those course outcomes need to "map" onto the larger program's learning outcomes, which in turn need to map onto the college's learning outcomes.
  • So a course might have the outcome that a student can properly cite sources in a research paper,
  • which maps to a program goal that students will be able to critically review literature by synthesizing research from multiple sources,
  • which maps to a college goal of turning out graduates who are skilled researchers and writers.
(These are just off the top of my head, so there may be very good reasons these aren't ideal learning outcomes. Just roll with me here.)

Here's how I applied this idea to my life priorities:

1. First, I made a giant list of everything I needed to do, felt I should do, or wanted to do. It ranged from things I wanted to do that night to things I wanted to accomplish in the next month or two, from large things like "Start investing" to minor tasks like "Repair my hat." I ended up with about 20 items. I put these into a single column in a spreadsheet.

2. I made a second column called "Life goal." Here, I wrote down the larger reason this item was on my to-do list. I didn't start with a pre-defined list of goals, I just went through each item and asked myself what overarching goal this item was working toward. These ranged from "Peace of mind" to "Financial security" to "Continually learning." Quite a few items were things I wanted to do with my blog, but I decided that "Growing my blog" was not really a life goal; the larger reason was to provide quality content to improve people's lives.

3. I got rid of anything that didn't map to a life goal. I decided not to join the Easter choir at church even though it's basically expected of me because I'm a member of the regular Sunday choir. I'm part of that choir because singing every Sunday is important to my spiritual health, and the weekly rehearsals are a necessary commitment. But it didn't seem worthwhile to give up a second evening every week for the next six weeks when this would conflict with another goal (Health - going to bed on time) and would result, I knew, in me sitting there the entire rehearsal stewing about how our director has zero sense of time management or respect for our time. Not exactly bringing me closer to God, huh?

4. I assessed what was missing. For example, I had a bunch of items tied to the goal of Financial Security, whether taking Mike's paycheck to the bank or opening an IRA, but nothing about maintaining strong friendships, which is definitely a priority for me -- or I want it to be.

5. I added two more columns: Effort Required and Impact on Life Goal. I used High, Medium, and Low, though in retrospect it would have been easier for sorting just to use 1, 2, and 3. Then I rated each one on how much time/effort/energy it would require to get it done (or do it regularly), and how big of an effect it would have on my larger life goal. For example:
  • Going to bed on time requires a lot of effort on my part, but it also has a huge effect on my health and mood.
  • Promoting my blog's Facebook page would take a moderate amount of effort, but by itself would probably have a low impact on providing quality content for improving people's lives (less than, say, writing this blog post!).
I didn't put a huge amount of thought into the ratings, just decided "High or Low?" and if I couldn't decided, rated it a Medium.

6. Finally, I sorted my whole list by Impact on Life Goal (High to Low), then by Effort Required (Low to High). This means that I can start with the things that would take the least effort for the most payoff, all the way down to the things that would take the most effort for the least payoff. It also means that if I'm tired or only have a short amount of time, I can pick something that requires Low effort (whatever the impact) and cross it off the list.

I don't know if I will continue to use this whole spreadsheet on a daily basis -- it's still easier to jot down daily items in my notebook as I think of them -- but it's a helpful tool for tackling a huge, unwieldy list of items that are overwhelming me. I immediately felt more focused and purposeful after sorting my items.

It also gave me some needed perspective: Yes, it may suck that I have to contact State Farm again to figure out what happened with our mileage tracker, but I'm doing it because I value financial security for my family. Not just because I'm an adult and I "have" to do things like this. On the other hand, I shouldn't stress myself out too much about doing it when there are other things I can do that will have a bigger impact on our financial security than whatever money we'll save from the mileage tracker.

If you're feeling overwhelmed by all the things you need to get done, this might be something to try. It didn't take too much effort, and it had a big payoff for me! :)

How do you prioritize what to work on, and is it connected to your larger life goals? Share your own strategies in comments!

Ever Wonder Where Your Time Goes? I Found Some of It...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

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Ever Wonder Where Your Time Goes? I Found Some of It... | Faith Permeating Life

If you added up all the time in my life that I have spent taking care of other people's mistakes, do you know what you would get?

A very frustrated Jessica.

Usually I just let this kind of stuff slide unless it's a major disaster or drags on for a long time.

But somehow I've managed to have a whole bunch of customer service problems hit me in the past few weeks, and it dawned on me how much time I waste chasing after crap like this.

Here is a sample:
  • I signed up for State Farm's new "Drive Safe and Save" program back in December because one of our cars only gets driven back and forth to the train station, so we could potentially save a lot of money. There were two options, In-Drive and OnStar, and I picked In-Drive because it was cheaper. Then a month passed. Then I got a letter in the mail saying I was enrolled in OnStar and needed to become an OnStar customer within 60 days. So I called State Farm (on my lunch break at work, because of course they're only open when I'm working) and told them the problem. They called me back and left a voicemail saying they'd switched me to In-Drive. That was 2 weeks ago and I still haven't received any information about In-Drive. Do I wait longer? Do I call again?
  • I got Mike a CarMD for Christmas and it turned out to be broken. So I called customer service and they said they'd mail me a shipping label so I could mail them the broken device. I waited a few weeks, and nothing came. I called again. It turned out they'd left our apartment number off our address. So they e-mailed me the shipping label, and I mailed the device. Two weeks ago I got an e-mail saying they'd sent me a new device, and here was the UPS tracking number. I tried to check it a few days later, but UPS' online tracking system was down. Then I tried again a few days later, and the tracking number didn't work at all, so I had no idea if they'd even sent it. Lo and behold, it arrived yesterday, sent via FedEx. Of course.
  • I ordered some food for our rats online last week. It was supposed to get here Thursday, so I was surprised when Saturday afternoon got here and it still hadn't arrived. Then I checked the shipment tracking information and found out it did get here on Thursday, they just delivered it to the leasing office and didn't bother leaving us a note or anything. And at this point, of course, the office was closed and I had to wait until Monday to pick it up, which is when I discovered the CarMD had also arrived.
  • Finally, I had called our leasing office Saturday morning with a maintenance request because the track fell off the side of one of our kitchen drawers. Somebody's supposed to be there at the time I called, but no one answered so I just left a message. Then I got home yesterday and there was a note from maintenance that said "Doors." I don't know what doors they "fixed," but our drawer is still very much broken. So I had to call again and leave another voicemail since by the time I got back to my apartment the office had closed again. Sigh.

This doesn't even include the crap that Mike and I have each had to deal with at work in the past week. Stuff that could be avoided if people would just do their jobs.

Don't get me wrong: I understand that everyone makes mistakes. It just seems like so much time could be saved -- on everyone's end -- if everyone took just 30 seconds and made a little extra effort.

To enroll the customer in the correct program.

To list the right shipping company.

To leave a "we delivered your package" note.

To make sure they understood the maintenance request.

Am I asking too much?

Do you feel like you waste a lot of time making up for other people's mistakes? Or am I just extraordinarily unlucky?

What Marriage Means to Me: Kathy

Monday, February 20, 2012

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This week's What Marriage Means to Me post comes from Kathy of That's What She Said. Kathy and I recently discovered that we are both proud Nerdfighters! Kathy shares how marriage didn't change her relationship with her husband, but it made other people take it more seriously. She also included lots of pictures, so enjoy!

~~~

I've been trying to decide exactly how to explain how I feel about marriage ever since I heard about this series. I feel like my views on marriage are somewhat unconventional and I don't want to come off sounding harsh or like I'm criticizing anyone else's views on marriage.

What Marriage Means to Me: Kathy | Faith Permeating Life

Christian and I have been married for almost two years. We are happy to be married and to be sharing our lives together. But our relationship hasn't really been any different since we've gotten married. We were together for five years before we tied the knot. Now, there have been conflicts and issues and good things that have changed our relationship over the past two years, but I don't really think that getting married was one of those things.

What Marriage Means to Me: Kathy | Faith Permeating Life

Christian and I lived together before we were married. We shared a bank account and all our finances. We spent holidays with both sides of our families. And I really considered him a part of my family long before he officially became a part of it. By the time we graduated from college, we knew we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together, and getting married didn't change that either.

What Marriage Means to Me: Kathy | Faith Permeating Life

For me, there were two major reasons for getting married. The first is my family. As much as my family supported our relationship by the time we got engaged, many of them didn't accept how committed we were to each other. We were constantly criticized for living together, making life decisions together, and sharing our finances. For example, I was constantly given job listings in cities other than where Christian and I were planning to live. Whenever I expressed this as an issue, I was blown off by, "You shouldn't put living with your boyfriend ahead of finding a job." And we were already engaged with a wedding date set at that time. And I knew they would never suggest that I move away from my husband for a random job. Christian and I knew that we would be together forever, but my family wouldn't accept that unless it was made official.

What Marriage Means to Me: Kathy | Faith Permeating Life

The second reason is the government. Unless you're married, you can't share benefits, like health insurance. And after college, there were (and still are) periods of time where one of us didn't have a job with good benefits and depended on the other for health insurance and the like. Once again, we just needed to make things official.

What Marriage Means to Me: Kathy | Faith Permeating Life

While I was engaged, people used to ask me all the time if I was nervous about getting married. I never really understood how I could be. Nothing was changing for us except that our feelings and commitment to each other would be official. We didn't get married to bring on a new level of our relationship; we felt like family long before we were husband and wife.

What Marriage Means to Me: Kathy | Faith Permeating Life

So I guess my point here is that even though we had a lovely wedding and it was nice to celebrate our love with our family and friends that way, the major reason I wanted to get married was to make the relationship we already had official in the eyes of everyone else. But don't get me wrong, I love being married to Christian very much.

What Marriage Means to Me: Kathy | Faith Permeating Life

~~~

Kathy is a Nerdfighter and proud of it. She loves to travel and has been to 5 of the 7 continents. Harry Potter is one of her biggest obsessions. She likes reading, video games, and TV. She is currently unable to work outside of her home because of her anxiety disorder and neck injury, so she spends her days blogging and vlogging and working on her Etsy shop. You can find her at That's What She Said!

An Easy-to-Use Meal Plan Display

Sunday, February 19, 2012

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I mentioned... oh, 2 1/2 months ago that I had developed a cute but functional meal planning setup, and then I completely failed to post any pictures of it.

So I'm remedying that right now! Here's what our meal planning system looks like.

An Easy-to-Use Meal Plan Display | Faith Permeating Life

I don't know how well you can see it, but there are seven clothespins with labels for each day of the week. I made up index cards for "Leftovers" and several basic meals that don't need recipes (Spaghetti, Tacos, Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup). Along with these, I clip up recipes from my recipe binder or new recipes from the Internet.

The clothespins are clipped to a clothesline strung between two hooks drilled into the wall. Mike hung it up above the stove, which is not ideal because I keep being afraid something's going to fall behind the stove, but it was the best spot either of us could find in our little apartment. It actually works pretty well because Mike can consult it while he's cooking. And so far we haven't lost anything :)

This picture was taken a month or two ago, so there's a lot more printed recipes than an average week has now. Every Sunday I evaluate any new recipes to see if they should become part of our rotation, and if so, I copy them onto a recipe card. This week's meals were all on cards already. The recipe binder makes it a lot easier on me because I just need to flip through my recipe binder to plan the week's meals.

An Easy-to-Use Meal Plan Display | Faith Permeating Life

So there you go! Maybe not exactly Pinterest-worthy, but if you're looking for a system that works well and looks relatively nice, it's worked for us.

Do you meal plan? How do you organize your recipes and display the week's meal selections?

----

Speaking of Pinterest, here's a tip if you're concerned about properly sourcing your pins, or just want to find the original article. Save the image to your desktop, then drag the file onto Google Image Search and it'll find all the pages that image is on. If there are a lot of hits, you can limit the search time frame to narrow it down to the earliest appearance of the image.

Why the SAHM vs. WOHM Debate Is Stupid -- and Inaccurate

Thursday, February 16, 2012

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Last Friday, Melissa Jenna posted a great video, which you can watch below. Essentially she said that because she stuck to her values, acted in accordance with her priorities, and made the life choice that made her the happiest (starting a family and staying home with her daughter), she shouldn't be considered less "successful" than her friend who was featured in Esquire for her professional work (something that her friend prioritizes and which makes her happy).

What I got from this was that women shouldn't be pressured or congratulated for making one choice over another, but rather should be encouraged to do (and considered successful for doing) whatever works best for them and their family.

I agree, and I think it's ridiculous for anyone to say that working when you have children or staying home with your children is always the right choice. I would speculate that many of the people who make hyperbolic claims one way or the other ("Staying home means throwing your dreams and your ambitions away!" "Working when you have children means you're heartless and love money more than your family!") do so out of some guilt about their own personal decision and feeling a need to defend their choice.

I feel that I should point out that this whole argument is another false dichotomy. It presents two options: a woman can stay home with young children while her husband works, or they can both work and have someone else watch their children. I bet you can think of a family right now that doesn't fit this mold.

Besides the obvious variations (you might have two parents of the same gender, or the man might stay home while the woman works, as we plan to do), there are plenty of other possibilities. You might have a single parent who feels he or she has no choice but to work, or who chooses to live off welfare in order to stay home. You might have two parents who each work part time so they can alternate which days they stay home. Perhaps one or both parents work from home and has to find a way to watch their children and work at the same time. Maybe one or both are students, and they have to figure out class schedules, work schedules, and childcare.

This isn't a disagreement with MJ's point, but an extension of it. How can there possibly be one right choice when there isn't even one single situation to begin with?

No matter the situation, a family with young children will work to find the solution that best meets their needs, their priorities, and their life goals. Those who find a way to do this should be applauded!

There is never going to be a solution that makes everybody happy 100% of the time, but I believe that those directly involved are the best equipped to figure out what works for them. People are most likely to be unhappy with their decision when they're trying to follow a script that was written for someone else. This is true not just for raising children but for many areas of life.

I would honestly laugh if anyone tried to tell me and Mike that our plan (him at home, me working) was not the best choice for us or our family. The other night at dinner he was saying how he gets exhausted thinking about staying in his current job for more than a few years. He said he would get so bored doing the same thing every day for the rest of his life, and that he can't wait for the unpredictability of kids and getting to plan fun things to do with them. I said the thought of that exhausts me, and that I would go crazy if I didn't have a job to get up and go to every morning! Clearly we are suited to complementary roles for the future.

What is your take on this "debate"? Is it even worth discussing?

Don't Try to Tell Me What I Want for Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

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Don't Try to Tell Me What I Want for Valentine's Day! | Faith Permeating Life

It's Valentine's Day, and since I write about marriage a lot, I think somewhere in the bylaws of the blogosphere that obligates me to write about Valentine's Day.

So: Valentine's Day.

Mike and I don't really do Valentine's Day. Some years we'll be like, "Hey, you want to do something?" and we might go out for dinner or something. We tried doing the dinner and a movie thing one year, and that went badly. (Because we decided to see King Kong. What?)

I'm pretty sure it was for Valentine's Day that one year in college we got dressed up and went to Taco Bell. It was awesome. I wore sweatpants under my dress because it was so cold. And Mike didn't care. Because he's awesome.

Anyway.

There are two main things I hate about Valentine's Day. And no, it's not the whole "Oh, it's just a commercialized holiday and acts of love should be spontaneous blah blah blah."

The first is this message: "Men, even though your wife insists you don't have to get her anything, she really wants flowers/jewelry/whatever."

This pisses me off because it assumes that I'm incapable of speaking for myself, and argues that if I do say something, I am lying.

Mike knows exactly what would happen if he bought me a piece of jewelry:
  • First, I would say, "Hello? Have we met? I don't wear jewelry."
  • Secondly, I would say, "How exactly did you pay for this? I know you don't have this much money in your personal account, so you must have spent our money on this piece of jewelry that I'm not going to wear. Why would you do that?"

It would not surprise me if the women at Mike's work asked him what he got me for Valentine's Day, and when he said, "Nothing," they told him, "No, listen, believe us, she really does want you to get her something." It wouldn't be the first time he's had such a conversation.

The fact that other people presume to know what I want more than my own husband makes me angry, and plays into the whole "bumbling, ignorant husband" stereotype that I hate.

The second thing I hate about Valentine's Day is the women who actually do say they want nothing when they want something.

No! Stop it! Why would you do that?

All you're doing is making it more likely your partner will do the "wrong" thing, setting yourself up to be disappointed, and making it more difficult for me to convince people that I'm telling the truth when I say the same thing!

I mean, I get the theory behind it. If you say you want nothing and he gets you something, he has the chance to "surprise" you. If you tell him to buy you flowers and he buys you flowers, then it's like he's just following orders.

But if the goal is for you to be surprised, rather than the "obligation" of Valentine's Day to be fulfilled, then why not say, "I would like it if you surprised me with flowers every once in a while"? If that's the most important thing to you, then the day shouldn't matter so much.

And if you do care about getting something on Valentine's Day, then be honest!

Or you can have a conversation about it: "Would you like to exchange gifts for Valentine's Day?"

Or you could say, "I would love for you to plan a surprise date for us for Valentine's Day."

If you are legitimately expecting something and will legitimately be disappointed if you get nothing, tell your partner.

No matter the context, expecting your partner to read your mind almost always ends badly. (Though maybe not this badly.)

I realize this post may be coming too late for some of you, but consider it a lesson learned for next year. Or maybe for your birthday, Mother's Day, anniversary, or any other date you want your partner to acknowledge in some way.

If you're in a relationship, do you and your partner celebrate Valentine's Day? How did you decide how you would celebrate it?

What Marriage Means to Me: Ashley

Monday, February 13, 2012

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I'm very excited to kick off the What Marriage Means to Me series! I've had so many offers to write for the series that it's looking like it will become a regular Monday feature.

Our first post comes from the wonderful Ashley of It's Fitting. We connected during the recent SITS Girls' Blogging Challenge, and I'm happy to host her here to share with us how her thoughts on marriage changed from when she met her husband to now.

~~~

What Marriage Means to Me: Ashley | Faith Permeating Life

Marriage.

An outdated institution? Perhaps. And while I'm not the most traditional of girls, to me there really wasn't an option...

Honestly, though, if there was ever a person who shouldn't have wanted to get married... it was him. And while his story isn't mine to tell, suffice it to say I was not the first. And the first ended very quickly and very badly. And left him wounded and gun-shy when it came to marriage.

I, however, was ready. I was in my mid 20s and thought that I had found myself. I thought that I knew who I was and what I wanted and was ready to settle down with the right guy. And after years of serial dating and in the most unlikely of places, I found him.

I of course knew the first weekend that we met... but it took him a few more years to come around and when he proposed, I was ecstatic, over the moon at the idea of marrying him, because for me this was the ultimate proof of our love.

I understand now how silly it all was to a girl in her late 20s, starry-eyed at the idea of the white dress and the rings. Of standing in front of our family and friends to commit ourselves to each other... thinking that was the way to prove that we loved one another.

But after the birth of our first child 2 years ago I realized that no ring would ever prove to anyone how much I love this man. How much I love him more and more every day. And how not having a ring wouldn't mean I love him any less.

Marriage to me is a bond, greater than a diamond on my finger. But having it means that every day, I look at my hand and recognize its symbol of eternity, and how I will love him forever.

The traditional girl in me realizes that I would have yearned for a marriage, for a symbol to represent our love, but the realist in me knows that no matter what, I will always love him, with or without the rings.

~~~

Ashley is the mom to a 2-year-old heart breaker, and the wife to an even bigger one. When she's not taking care of her kidlet and hubby, she's chasing after 4 chickens and enjoying a (very large) glass of wine. She blogs at It's Fitting, where she talks about her adventures as an urbanite who found her very own Green Acres.

5 Ways to Act Confident: Lessons from an Awkward Vet Visit

Sunday, February 12, 2012

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5 Ways to Act Confident: Lessons from an Awkward Vet Visit | Faith Permeating Life

Yesterday, I took our pet rats to the vet for the first time. (They're fine; it was just a check-up.) There's only one place in our area that sees rats, so that's where we went and got assigned to a random veterinarian.

Given that I've had some issues with my own doctors previously, I was a little nervous that the vet was going to be the overbearing type who would interrogate me about the rats' diet, their cage space, how often we let them out to play, whether we gave them enough vegetables, etc., and then lecture me about everything we were doing wrong.

My visit was the exact opposite of that. The vet was, shall we say, underwhelming. She seemed completely unsure of herself and hesitant, even though she clearly knew what she was doing when she held the rats and talked to me about them. She seemed to be about my age, so I'm going to guess she hasn't been practicing that long, but even so, she could have presented herself a lot more confidently.

However, it's one thing to say, "Be confident!" and another to actually explain what that means. With that in mind, I thought I'd break down my vet visit into some tips for exactly how to act confident and professional.

1. Introduce yourself confidently and shake my hand
When the doctor arrived, she sort of leaned into the room and softly said who she was, then walked over to the counter where I'd set the rats' cage. I replied, "Hi, it's nice to meet you," which seemed to clue her in that she should interact with me so she held out her hand and let me shake it. Yup, it was a dead fish handshake. She wasn't shaking my hand, she was just holding hers there for a moment for me to shake it. Not a great first impression.

2. Make eye contact
The next thing she did was to ask me some questions about how old the rats were, where we got them from, and what we fed them. As far as I can remember, she didn't actually look at me while she was asking me questions, she just read them off the computer and typed in the answers. I felt uncomfortable not getting any kind of reaction to my answers. One thing I appreciate about my primary physician is that he looks at me when I'm talking, even just to look up occasionally while he's writing, and then he'll respond in some way to what I've said, so I know at least whether the information I'm giving is what he's looking for.

3. If you have a question, ASK!
After she'd typed a bunch of things into the computer, she looked at the rats and said (to me? to herself?), "One of them's drinking right now... I don't know one it is..." I said, "Oh, this one here in Bert, he has the stripe on his back; Ernie has the big spots." I didn't know if she actually needed to tell them apart at that moment to record something, or she was just curious, or she was just strangely thinking aloud. But she could have simply asked, "Now, which one is which?" instead of passively and quietly stating that she didn't know which rat it was.

4. Don't ramble
This was probably what made her seem the least confident and made me feel the most awkward. She took each rat out of the cage to check their ears and eyes and then feel their body for lumps. Rats are prone to tumors, which I knew, but after telling me this she went on and on about how they're usually benign but sometimes they get really big and sometimes they have to do surgery anyway because it can be bad if they're really big like for example there was this one rat who had this giant tumor it was like this big and so it was kind of walking like this, like kind of sideways and had trouble walking so we wanted to remove that even though it was benign and so it wasn't like cancerous it was just growing and so it was causing problems. AND rats are most susceptible to mammary tumors, even the males, although you don't see that as often in the male rats, usually the females, like you'd expect, but sometimes you do see it in the males, and even though they're mammary tumors they aren't necessary on the front, like sometimes they can even be on the back, like here, but yeah, the mammary tumors are what you see a lot.

Are you tired after reading that? Yeah. It wasn't like, "I should tell you these specific things to look out for," it was just, "Here's everything that comes to mind when I think about rats and tumors."

5. Tell me what will happen next
I put Ernie on my shoulder after she did his exam, and then she examined Bert and put him back in the cage. I put Ernie back in the cage because I thought we were done, but then she said, "OK, now the last thing is to weigh them," so I went, oh, and took Ernie out again. It wasn't until I was halfway through trying to grab Bert that she said, "Well... I was just gonna take the cage back there." So I said OK and put both of them back in. She picked up the cage and I followed her out into the hallway, where she typed a code into a door with an "Employees Only" sign and went in, letting the door shut in my face. Would it have been that hard to give me a heads up? To say, "OK, I'm going to take the cage into a back room and weigh them, and I'll be right back." Don't let me drive the action -- I don't know what's going on!

I get that some people may go into working with animals because they're more comfortable with them than with people. But there are few professions where you don't have to work with people in some way. These are a few small behavioral changes you can make that will make you seem much more confident to other people. Introduce yourself and shake their hand firmly, make regular eye contact, speak up with any questions you have, and clearly outline what they need to know and what you're planning to do next.

What other tips do you have for appearing confident? Do you have a story about working with a professional who seemed totally unsure of himself/herself?

For What It Is

Thursday, February 9, 2012

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For What It Is | Faith Permeating Life

Once a month, on Wednesday night, I attend a prayer shawl ministry meeting at church. We knit shawls for those who need a physical reminder that people are praying for them, and we talk.

Usually it's me, a 90-year-old woman named Phyllis, a 75-year-old woman named Shirley, and occasionally a wildcard, one of the handful of women who show up a few times a year. Every month, Phyllis and Shirley have the same conversations. Not so much with each other -- Shirley glides from one topic to the next, and if someone tries to respond with a similar experience of their own, she'll say, "Yeah, no, that wasn't what happened here..." and repeat the story. We've yet to have a meeting in which she didn't tell me that Mike looks like he's 16. Phyllis spends most of the time in her own world and then will suddenly start talking, loudly interrupting whoever's talking. It's truly exhausting.

But for what it is -- a chance to keep up with my knitting, if only for an hour a month; to do something good for someone in need (even if it takes me several months to finish a shawl); to listen to old ladies talk and be grateful for my youth and my health and my living husband -- it is enough.

On Thursday nights, I have church choir practice. Most of the time my friend comes, which makes it more bearable and fun, even if we don't have much of a chance to talk. Our choir director drives me nuts because he rarely wraps up rehearsal before 8:30 even though choir practice "ends" at 8:15. It's not like we're rehearsing the whole time -- he goes off on long tangents about music theory, always saves the brand-new music for the very end, and has the most irritating habit of asking us whether we know a song already, getting a resounding YES from the choir, and deciding to go over it anyway. And then sometimes I sit next to this older woman whose mind is mostly gone; usually there's at least one time every rehearsal -- and at Mass every week -- when she gets momentarily angry at me for no reason.

But for what it is -- an opportunity to be singing again after 8 years of choir and then a 7-year break; to be greeted every week by genuine smiles and warm welcomes; to giggle with my friend over how dramatic some of the women can be; to praise God with my voice and not have to worry about overpowering the singers around me -- it is enough.

Although I do believe in taking small actions to increase your happiness, I am reminding myself that there is a mental part as well, a part that perspective and attitude play in making the most of what you have.

Nothing about life comes to you in a perfect package. My marriage is everything I could ever want, but we still argue sometimes and Mike still frustrates me sometimes. I have a job that I love, working with and for people I love, for a great college, and yet I have to freeze my butt off every day.

And so even in the most ideal of circumstances, we have to make some sacrifices and live in the brokenness of life. I've had to come to terms with the fact that immersing myself back into the Catholic/Christian community where I used to thrive means dealing with some prejudiced, misguided, and even downright ignorant people. Putting a focus on maintaining friendships means accepting that some friends aren't going to put in the same effort that I do. Digging farther into the good things in life inevitably means turning up bad things as well.

The question is: For what it is, is it enough?

Is there enough good in whatever you're doing to focus your mind on the positives and let the negatives flow past you?

What you're exhausted and beat up at the end of the day, are you satisfied? Are you happy? Are you going after the things that bring you joy? The things you feel called to do?

Life doesn't have to be easy to be good. In fact, it will never be easy. But through a combination of positive attitude and determined action, I believe you can still "suck out all the marrow of life," to quote Thoreau.

Sometimes I get so focused on the obstacles, the speed bumps, the things dragging me down, that I forget that this road I'm on is the one I want to be on. That the things on the horizon are the things I want to be moving toward. That by and large I'm spending my times on things I want to be doing.

What are your speed bumps, and what's on the road for you that makes it worth it anyway?

Are You a Micro-Manager or a Teach-a-Man-to-Fish-er?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

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Are You a Micro-Manager or a Teach-a-Man-to-Fish-er? | Faith Permeating Life

When I was in high school, we had two choir directors. One taught the choirs I was in my first two years, the other taught the extracurricular choir I was in that sang music from around the world, and they co-taught the top-level choir I was in my junior and senior years.

The first director... Let's just say he had a high opinion of himself. He was very focused on getting all eyes on him during rehearsal and while we were performing. He seemed to believe that if we looked away from him for a second, to glance at our sheet music or look out at the audience, the performance would fall apart. How would we possibly know what to do next unless we were watching him for direction?

The second director, by contrast, was a humble, soft-spoken man. He took a very different approach. You'd think, for both the extracurricular choir that included students with zero prior musical experience and the top-level choir that was singing the most challenging music, he too would have felt the need to give a lot of direction and keep everyone's focus on him. But he regularly taught us songs with the intention that he could start us singing and then walk off the stage. He taught us to be responsible for knowing our entrances and how to adjust our tempo and volume at the appropriate times.

I was thinking about this contrast the other day, and how it mirrors that proverb, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." And then it struck me how much this plays out in other areas of life.


Parenting

Nowadays we hear about "helicopter parents" who want so much for their children's path in life to be smooth that they'll hover over them, trying to ensure their children are making the right choices at all times and that no one's treating their children unfairly. It's as if they believe that if they let their children loose to make mistakes and deal with the consequences, all hell would break loose and their children would be forever ruined.

When I have children, I don't want to be the kind of parent that does everything for my children. I want to be a model and help them along the way, but my end goal is that they are able to make decisions for themselves.


Religion

Here's another realm where teachings can go either way. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that each person has a moral conscience to guide their decision-making, and even goes so far as to say (quoting Pope Paul VI's Dignitatis Humanae), "[Man] must not be forced to act contrary to his conscience. Nor must he be prevented from acting according to his conscience, especially in religious matters." Yet I shared with you last month the article about the Minnesota archbishop who insisted priests agree with him or say nothing. Some religious leaders seem fearful of letting people have too much control over their own lives.


Work

Mike and I were just talking about this tonight, about how as a manager he tries to train his employees to be self-sufficient so he doesn't feel the need to micro-manage them. This is one of the things I greatly appreciate about my own boss; he trusts me to get things done and rarely follows up or reminds me. My previous boss went even further and asked me to never cc: her on anything; if she asked me to do it, she would assume I did it, and didn't want me adding to her overflowing inbox.

I've thankfully never had a micro-managing boss, but I did have a coworker one time who had held my job previously, and she kept reminding me to do things before I'd even had a chance to do them. I finally had to tell her that she would never be able to see that I knew what I was doing unless she backed off and trusted me a little. Did I make mistakes? Sometimes. Were they catastrophic? Never.


Marriage

Do you remember when I gave up nagging Mike for Lent? That was SO hard! I wanted to be that controlling choir director, reminding him of his appointments and the errands he promised to run and making sure he did the dishes every night.

Of course, what did I find? Mike stepped up to the plate, big time. He took complete responsibility in the areas where he'd allowed himself to rely on me and my reminders previously. And it took stress off both of us: I wasn't stressing about having to remind him all the time, and he wasn't stressed out from constant nagging from me.


As you can probably tell, I'm a proponent of the teach-a-man-to-fish philosophy. I try to avoid being overly controlling (or controlled) wherever possible. I'm sure most people probably fall somewhere in the middle -- not micro-managing, but not explicitly trying to help others become self-sufficient -- but the extremes help to show the comparison.

What's your philosophy? Do you think there are times when it's better to micro-manage?

Four Ways the Superbowl Is Like a Bad Marriage

Sunday, February 5, 2012

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Four Ways the Superbowl Is Like a Bad Marriage | Faith Permeating Life

A week or so ago, I asked my Twitter followers for post suggestions, and Erin asked me, "What qualities, dynamics, values, etc lend to a happy and successful marriage?"

Broad as the topic is, I was going to attempt to tackle it today, but as it's Superbowl Sunday, I got the idea to do a fun twist on it instead.

So I present to you: Four ways the Superbowl is like a bad marriage.

1. The Goal Is Winning
The Superbowl is essential a big battle to see which team will come out on top. One team will emerge victorious, while the other will slink away in defeat.

While marriage can sometimes feel like a battle, healthy communication, even when arguing, focuses on reaching a mutual understanding and working out an agreeable solution. If your focus is instead on proving you are "right" or that your partner's feelings about a situation are illogical, you might win the argument, but you're not helping your marriage. Put your pride in the backseat and stop focusing on proving that your way is the best way -- even if it is.

2. The Focus Is On One Big Day
Just like a wedding, the Superbowl brings people together; people throw parties to watch the game (and the halftime show) with their friends and family. They eat, drink, talk, and laugh at the commercials that companies have poured millions of dollars into just for this single day. Then it's over, the football season is over for the year, and people go back to their regular lives.

A surefire plan for disaster is to put ten times the effort into planning your wedding that you do into thinking about -- and talking about -- what married life will be like. Sure, it's fun to get married, but being married is tough work that requires lots and lots of open communication, decision-making, and trust.

3. It Involves Secrecy and Deception
I'm not the world's biggest football fan, but I do know that each team wants to keep their strategy a secret. They'll have a lot more luck getting the ball down the field if the other team thinks they're going one way, and they go the other way instead.

I once heard it said that privacy is good for marriage (like closing the door when you use the bathroom), but secrecy is bad, and I like that distinction. Trust is incredibly important in marriage, and the quickest way for trust in your partner to be eroded is to find out that they've been hiding things from you or even outright lying to you. Birthday gifts and surprise parties aside, if you're having to cover up from your spouse how you're spending your time or money, you're headed down a bad path.

4. People Who Aren't Even Involved Take Sides
A very tiny percentage of Americans will actually be on the field during the Superbowl, but a much, much larger number are rooting for one team or the other. There are far more people invested in the outcome of the game than there are people playing the game itself.

Be cautious about sharing marital issues with those outside your marriage. It's one thing to open up to a counselor or spiritual leader, but another to constantly bash on your partner when you're with your friends. It's rare that I talk with a friend about personal things going on in my marriage, and when I do, it's generally to ask for help finding a solution and not just because I want validation that I'm right and he's wrong. And I tend to agree with Tony and Alisa DiLorenzo's advice that it's bad news if you're, say, a straight female, to spill your marital guts to a straight male friend. If you're upset with your partner, they should be the first one to know about it -- not your blog readers or Twitter followers.

So there are four ways the Superbowl is like a bad marriage. No disrespect is meant to football fans; what's bad for a marriage works well for the big game!

What do you think? Are there other parallels I missed?

3BoT Vol. 5: My Three Favorite Children's Books

Thursday, February 2, 2012

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3BoT Vol. 5: My Three Favorite Children's Books | 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 information about Three Books on Thursday.

I've been recommending a lot of nonfiction in past months, so I wanted to switch it up and share some very different recommendations: children's books!

I'm not sure exactly what makes something a children's book vs. a young adult book, but according to the Scholastic Book Finder these are all around a 5th to 6th grade reading level. Still, these are books that I've enjoyed re-reading as an adult. And that's saying something, as I rarely re-read books, since there are so many ones I haven’t yet read!

Here are my top picks for books enjoyable to kids and adults alike:


Matilda by Roald Dahl
#1: Matilda by Roald Dahl
I don't remember exactly when I was introduced to Roald Dahl's books, but I became an instant fan and had read most of what he'd written by the time I finished grade school. Matilda remains my favorite, and is also one of the few cases in which I like the movie just as much as the book. Matilda is an extremely smart girl whose intelligence is completely ignored by her parents and her school's headmistress, both of whom abuse their positions of authority to belittle Matilda and make life miserable for her. Rather than feeling bad about herself, she finds clever ways to get back at them, typically by causing them to humiliate themselves in front of others. The book is silly and fun while dealing with heavy topics like bullying, self-esteem, and right and wrong.





The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
#2: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
If you love clever wordplay as much as I do, then you will likely find this book an absolute delight to read. Milo is bored with his life until the day a tollbooth shows up in his living room, and driving his toy car through it transports him into another world where he ends up on a quest to rescue the princesses of Rhyme and Reason. The comparisons to Alice in Wonderland are inevitable with all the fanciful characters Milo meets, but the book has its own flavor altogether. Stitched throughout are reminders about having a worthwhile life -- being curious, paying attention to the world around you, spending your time on meaningful pursuits. Yet all of these are woven into a fun, clever story. Even re-reading it, I find unexpected twists on nearly every page. Here’s one of my favorite exchanges:
"How are you going to make it move? It doesn't have a–"
"Be very quiet," advised the duke, "for it goes without saying."
And, sure enough, as soon as they were all quite still, it began to move quickly through the streets, and in a very short time they arrived at the royal palace.
I can't read that without smiling. Seriously, I love this book a ridiculous amount.



Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
#3: The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
OK, how could I not include Harry Potter on this list? Truth be told, I read the first two books when they first came out and didn't find them engaging at all. But then I started dating Mike, who doesn't read much but was a huge Harry Potter fan, so I decided to give them a second chance. Somewhere around the third or fourth book, I fell in love and haven't looked back. Rowling is truly brilliant. I recently re-read the entire series and discovered details she snuck into the first two books that don't become important until the sixth or seventh book. She planned it all out that intricately, and it shows, especially the deeper you get into the story. There are so many good messages to these books that it's impossible to name them all: dealing with peer pressure; the importance of friendships; the power of love and sacrifice; why people should be judged on their abilities and not their family background; the destruction that thirst for power causes; the emotional turmoil caused by a loved one's death; how even great leaders are human and have flaws. And on and on. My favorite book is probably the sixth one because of the relationships that develop: romantic relationships, but also the mentor-mentee relationship between Dumbledore and Harry, and the friendships forged by the DA that expand the Harry-Ron-Hermione triad. (Unfortunately the sixth movie was the worst one because of some key points they screwed up!) I believe these books are popular for a reason: They are thoughtfully written and resonate with our life experiences.


Have you read these books? Did you enjoy them as much as I did? What are some of your favorite children's books?

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