December 2, 2013


I feel like this semester has been all about sentimentality.

One of my dearest friends, Claire, is getting married in July. I was honored to be asked to be a bridesmaid. She was working on her wedding website and in her description of us (her and I) she said that our relationship could be summed up with the phrase "heavy on the life."

Martha and Claire poke fun at me regularly about my deep and open emotions. Somehow, I've always been this way, but it wasn't until this semester that I was absolutely, acutely aware of it. I feel everything. I have written before about my empathy with May in Sue Monk Kidd's "Secret Life of Bees" - she is touched by just about everything, carrying the weight of the world.

In my Jane Austen class, we talked for a few classes about "sensibility," comparing different interpretations of the word from naivety to intellect. In Austen's era, an awareness, a deep and melancholic appreciation for the world and it's complexities, was a sign of insight and intelligence.  I liked that definition. It corresponded well with my newfound appreciation for my gift of feeling.

I do live with my heart on my sleeve, but that's not necessarily bad. It makes me vulnerable, but it also makes me sure that I give and share all I have. I have also found that living in such a way encourages me to embrace joy and accept the overwhelming feeling of contentment and appreciation that I find fills me frequently. My cup runneth over!

September 25, 2013

No Perfect Man

I feel like I need a template for my first paragraph, repasted with every new post, apologizing for my absence and promising to never do it again. While I know I can't make that promise, I always do have so many thoughts and things I want to say but the day is too short and entire months get away from me. I did hear about a "31 Days" challenge to blog about the same topic every day for the month of October. I have every intention of participating, covering the topic of balance.

Of course, I didn't just come back to post that and be on my merry way. I have something on my mind, and it seemed like something worth sharing so, fresh from my overactive mind, here goes.

There is no such thing as a perfect man.

There, I said it.

There's no such thing as a perfect woman either, but that's not the point I am trying to make. I've had a mostly good but mildly rough summer with my own relationship, stemming from a huge miscommunication leading into a rather unpleasant but necessary discussion. We are good now, mending at the expected pace, but it definitely planted a seed of uncertainty in my head that is hard to shake. My biggest issue is trusting my own reading and instincts of the situation without be "that girl" who overanalyzes and perseverates.

I've thought about small flaws that irk me or inaction that frustrates me. There is a constant grumpy old troll sitting in the back of my mind, reminding me of these insecurities and forcing me to revisit - over and over again - debates that I've already been over. And for a while, I thought I was alone. Everyone else seemed so happy and sure in their paths and their decisions.

One of my very best friends got engaged a couple weeks ago. It really is the sweetest love story of souls coming together and living for the glory of God. Their engagement was so happy and lovely, and we've been giddy about it around the apartment every since.

I'm completely thrilled for her, but it of course drug back up my uncertainties and discontentedness. I was certain that she'd found "the one" and was jealous of her surety.

Over the last few days though, I've come to realize no relationship is perfect. She has complaints about her fiancé and I have complains about my boyfriend. My sister has concerns about her relationship, and another friend is recovering from a heartbreak. Still another is in the beginning throes of a relationship and even through the excitement there are areas that are left wanting.

It's a realization I've always known, but what hit me most was this. There are no perfect men... Except one. The One who made us. The Son who saved the world. There will be no man who can live up to the Man. Ultimately, relationships, in spite of the pitfalls and missing pieces, are the closest we can get to God, because a solid relationship is the union of the halves of God - the two pieces created in His image.

What's important is forgiving and fighting for the relationships because even with the burdens and trials of working together, giving up is far worse. We can't expect the fairytale man or perfect hero because there is not such thing. But that doesn't mean that another person cannot be the perfect complement that you need in order to be your best self. Most important is the expression gratitude for the partner God has placed in your life, regardless of flaws, because they are a child of God, made in his image, with a purpose far greater than your single solitary relationship can imagine.

July 11, 2013

Why I Like Twitter

So I have figured out why I liked Twitter.

Deep down - regardless of my major or internship position or career goals - I am a writer. When I experience something, my first thought is how I can tell the world about it. How can I portray a rich, incredible moment in something as literally black and white as words? I love the challenge, and I always hope to find the right way of saying something so that it strikes a chord with whoever may be reading.

But you see, these moments always seem to occur at the most inconvenient times. I'm not just talking about the ones when I'm in the shower or driving - where I literally can't record my thoughts. I'm also talking about when I'm sitting in a meeting or a class, standing in the grocery store check out line, out to coffee with a friend. That's where Twitter comes in. In 140 characters I can at least wrangle my sentiment into something legible and sharable. Sometimes it results in a gross oversimplification of a situation, but sometimes it is a beautiful challenge of finding just the right, succinct words to get my point across. It allows me to be a writer (albeit limited).

But I do love writing - in the longer form sense. And in that way, I hope to write more. Both here and for my technology blog. So wish me luck. And keep me honest!

July 1, 2013

Book Review: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

I really wish I could read more often and this summer would like to read at least 5 novels. I've finished two and started a third, so I'd say I'm on track.
The one I read first, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson, was absolutely delightful. I don't even remember where I stumbled upon the recommendation - it may have been a blog, Pinterest, or simply Amazon. Either way, I'm glad I did. I would recommend the book highly to just about anyone.
As a quick summary, the novel follows the title character, Major Pettigrew, through his journeys as an old man. It felt somewhat of a coming of age story, but at a very different point in life. He is a stand-up, respectable, thoughtful old man with the rich traditions and standards of the British army. He lives in an adorable small town in the English countryside where he lives a proper and amiable life after his wife and brother have passed away. The Major must come to terms with what he considers to be his son's appalling lack of manners, civility, and respect for tradition. He also reaches a point that he must find within himself his own values and how they fit into a world that is so different from when he first transitioned to adulthood. Charming and sagacious, Major Pettigrew might be one of my new favorite literary characters. He is friendly, but unapologetic, in a world of people-pleasers with noodles for backbones. He is also an introvert, not needing a whole lot and thoroughly enjoying his books, tea, and view of the countryside. What I really like though, is the fact that he can be both traditional and poised without being cynical or bigoted. Throughout the book, he has moments of heart-wrenching frustration at the world, and in other moments, clarity about what has changed and how he must follow suit. There was so much chance of the Major coming off as crotchety and begrudging, but he is open-minded and logical in a way that compliments his commitment to what he knows from his earlier years. His outlook is  infectious and endearing - I could listen to his commentary on life for many more precious pages than are contained in this novel.
I would love to share a few of my favorite quotations from the book. Simonson writes with a tone of simple and observant truth. She finds a way to make comments about people without making judgments, observations about shortcomings without being condescending. It's thoughtful and meaningful without being heavy. She truly is talented.
Part of what makes the Major charming is his internal observations of others. A few of my favorites are:
"The Major marveled anew at the way so many people were willing to spend time and energy on the adverse judgment of others." (page 155). This theme runs throughout the book in a powerful, powerful way.
"Such an awful fragility of love, he thought, that plans are made and broken and remade in these gaps between rational behavior" (page 291). I believe Shakespeare would approve of this line.
"It was all unfamiliar and therefore very taxing" (page 305). From one introvert to another, I hear you, Major!
Just as (if not more) powerful that these internal thoughts are the Major's interactions with other characters. He has a few strong and meaningful relationships, making up the fabric of the story, as he finds out more and more about cultural and generational gaps and how his mindset is not always popular or fitting - with either crowd.
In a scene when Major Pettigrew is interacting with a young, single mother who has a tough skin and abrasive (yet somehow endearing) demeanor, they have a revealing conversation about the generational gap regarding respect (among other things). At one point, the Major says,
"…in my own case, I believe there is a great deal too much mutual  confession going on today, as if sharing one's  problems somehow makes them go away. All it really does, of course, is increase the number of people who have to worry about a particular issue… Personally, I have never sought to burden other people with my life history and I have no intention of meddling in theirs."
Noreen counters with, "But you're making judgments about people all the time - and if you don't know the whole story -" The Major interrupts with,
"My dear young woman, we are complete strangers, are we not? Of course we will make shallow and quite possibly erroneous judgments about each other… But we have no right to demand more of each other do we? I'm sure your life is very complicated, but I'm equally sure that I have no incentive to give it any thought and you have no right to demand it of me."
She responds to this by saying, "I think everyone has the right to be shown respect." The Major shakes his head and replies, "Ah well, there you go. Young people are always demanding respect instead of trying to earn it. In my day, respect was something to strive for. Something to be given, not taken." (page 150).
The scenes when the Major interacts with his son can be the most difficult in the novel. Their relationship is stilted and the Major struggles to see Roger's approach to life as admirable. At one point, he is attempting to scold his son for his poor judge of character in business partners and Roger cheekily counters by saying, "Oh, it's simple pragmatism, Dad. It's called the real world. If we refused to do business with the morally questionable, the deal volume would drop in half and the good guys like us would end up poor. Then where would we all be?" To which the Major suggests, "On a nice spit of land known as the moral high ground?" (page 175).
There are light moments too, where the Major's outlook brings such logical and  clear answers to questions that you can't help but smile. In response to a comment on relationships, the Major states, "The human race is all the same when it comes to romantic relations. A startling absence of impulse control combined with complete myopia" (page 181). Well said, Major, well said.
The Major's conversation topics vary impressively, and touch all the corners of the reader's heart and thoughts. At one point in the story, he is with a new friend Mrs. Ali. Looking out over the ocean from the tops of magnificent cliffs of England, he says, "… there is something about the edge of the land that does make one feel closer to God. A sobering sense of one's own smallness, I think" (page 193).
Occasionally, the Major made me smile with deprecating, hysterical truths: "… Philosophical rigidity is usually combined with a complete lack of education or real-world experience, and is often augmented with strange haircuts and an aversion to bathing." He isn't wrong, and never means it in a rude way. I laughed out loud more than once while reading this book.
Something about the Major that makes him so likeable is that he doesn't remove himself from reproach. In a conversation with his friend Grace he notes, "It's so much easier to tell other people how to do their job than fix one's own shortcomings, isn't it?" (page 288).
I have many more highlighted passages, but I'll end on one of the best. The Major - exasperated, desperate, and confused - goes off on Roger about what he considers to be love. In a very powerful turning point he says,
"Unlike you, who must do a cost-benefit analysis of every human interaction, I have no idea what I hope to accomplish. I only know that I must try to see her. That's what love is about, Roger. It's when a woman drives all lucid thought from your head; when you are unable to contrive romantic stratagems, and the usual manipulations fail you; when all your carefully laid plans have no meaning and all you can do is stand mute in her presence. You hope she takes pity on you and drops a few words of kindness into the vacuum of your mind" (page 298).
While that collection of quotation covers a lot of ground, I cannot communicate the simple power and endearing nature of this novel without typing out the entire book. I highly recommend it. It has a place in my top five books, and I hope to enjoy it again someday.

June 23, 2013

Soaking It In

Tonight we watched the live broadcast of a man crossing the Grand Canyon on a wire, without tether or rope. He'd practiced and prepared, but the adrenaline in that moment had to be utterly terrifying. He was on the rope for just under 20 minutes, completing the feat with a running finish. But on the wire, whilst being blown about by a fickle sirocco, he had an earbud in, connected to his father who was talking him through the walk. Add onto that the fact that the man had a constant stream of heavenly praise flowing from his mouth, praising Jesus and asking for help, it was quite a site to behold. He thanked God for the beautiful, stunning creation of the Grand Canyon, even as it was beneath him and his sure death should his footing falter. Moments like that absolutely inspire me. I love it when we can see the world around us as God's thoughtful creation, with beauty abounding.

Once the broadcast was over, I glanced out the window. What do you know, there had to be 20+ fireflies dancing around the backyard and garden in the late dusk light. I was entranced, and sat outside on the patio just watching the bobbing lights, trying to track individual flights and spot the next flash. I am completely convinced that there will be fireflies in heaven. Seeing those little critters brought on a wave of amazement and gratitude for God and our incredible surroundings here on Earth. I've had the feeling before, and yet somehow, it always takes me off guard. Things like the Grand Canyon or the Pacific Ocean are usually apt to stir some emotional response and urge to say thank you to the Creator of it all. But little things, like the fireflies, evoke a somehow even stronger reaction of praise. God didn't only think about the grand things, but He thought about every detail. The spark and serendipity of the fireflies' dance brought a smile to my face and joy to my heart in a way that only God could put there. I was filled to the brim - my cup is running over.

I think it is so important that we notice these small things. Not in a way that neglects the true Majesty of it all, but in a way that notices every single thread and stitch as a beautiful and creative masterpiece in and of itself. Like a large, ornate rug, every piece is essential to creating the larger splendor. I love lists of "Things that Make Me Happy" - like Stephanie May's "Loveliest Things" series in her blog. It's a reminder that God is so grand and so good, not only because of the huge (and important!) things, but also because He is so thorough and thoughtful. The fireflies were a lovely reminder. In that moment, I simply couldn't soak in the beauty fast enough. I wanted to bottle it up and keep it forever. I guess that is kind of the idea: stirring up a yearning that cannot be fulfilled here, but with a beauty so delightful that the specks and sparks of light just leaving you reaching for more, not dejected by it's temporary unattainability.

My goodness, God is amazing.

May 28, 2013

Hippie Dreams

Today, I got my hair done. It happens about twice a year (about a third as often as it ought to) and it always an indulgent pleasure. A chance to change things up and pamper myself. I went to a new shop, called The Head Shop, which is located beneath my dad's new office. It's in an offbeat part of Kansas City and it absolutely adorable. It is vintage and funky and doesn't feel anything like a traditional hair parlor. The walls are plastered and painted, the ceiling is punched tin, the stations are old vanity desks, and the owner is a character. While she did my hair, we had a pleasant and uninhibited conversation, all the while I was admiring her myriad of tattoos and her giant, glamorous poof of an up-do. She told me about her back story and all the grand adventures and forks in her road. Then she told me about her ultimate dream: to live in a self-sufficient, repurposed school bus in the middle of an avocado farm. It was so specific, but I could see it. With her tattooed and pierced husband and their already-developing-dreadlocks three-year-old daughter. The image was absolutely quixotic.

Ok - backtrack to yesterday. I drove down to Branson in hopes of seeing Emily before she left for summer school at Ole Miss. To make a long story short, my car broke and we had to leave it and she had to drive me back to Kansas City. Not ideal for her, but it was lovely to have the whole family in one place for a night.

On the drive back up, she played me some new music (my sister is a total music hipster even if she doesn't want to admit it). One song, "Gang of Rhythm" by Walk Off the Earth has been stuck in my head ever since. This is where it ties back into the avocado farm. The song is folksy and wonderful and absolutely full of life. I have listened to it at least three times since Em played it for me. It brought to mind bonfires, dancing around in long skirts and loose hair, singing at the top of my lungs, soaking up life and friends and the beautiful, beautiful world. That is my hippie dream. No avocado farm or planet-saving school bus. Just me, barefoot next to a bonfire, singing soulful folk music without the slightest consideration to the fact that my voice is far from perfect. It sounds awfully free-spirited for me, I know, which is why it will forever remain a dream unrealized, but it's a nice image to dwell on - to pretend.

I don't think there is anything wrong with having hippie dreams. And sometimes, I consider just running away and doing just that. Life stops me, which I find amusingly ironic, since my hippie dream is so full of life, but you get the gist. But it nice to have something to dwell in. A small possibility. Emily Dickinson would be so proud.

April 30, 2013

Counting Down

The end of the year could not come fast enough. I know I know, I shouldn't wish the time away. Ithaca is finally in its "gorges" phase, elegant flowering trees with sunshine and good smells around. But quite frankly, I am ready to go home. If I could spend my days wandering campus, taking pictures of flowers and laying in the grass looking at the sky, I'd do it in a heartbeat. But unfortunately, that's not quite what my last few weeks promise. My days are planned nearly to the minute from 6 AM until midnight or 1 AM and it still manages to feel rushed.

I have found, that while sometime I complain about the long walks across campus taking up value time, my "commutes" are my best "me" time. I love walking across campus during springtime. I get to think, draft blogs, call home... If my plan pans out as I have it now, I will be spending next summer here, and with a prelude like this, I am actually quite excited.

What is making me so excited to go home is the people here. Don't get me wrong, there are some wonderful people and friends who I get to interact with regularly. But there are also the people I could seriously use a break from. Even people I don't know who email rude things to the Service Desk where I work. Tangential PSA: when you email for help, it goes to a real person. Email etiquette baffles me sometimes: people who don't sign their name, say hello, and are painfully abrupt or curt with their message. But that's beside the point. I am so ready to be home, with my family, in the slow-moving, routine splendor of summertime.

Countdown to May 17...

April 24, 2013

Those Silly Little Metaphors That Make the Big Differences

I'm a sucker for clichés and metaphors and "symbolic moments." Some people find them silly; they roll their eyes because they don't see the beauty and find their joy and hope in other ways. But for me, finding little things coincides with moments when I feel closest to God. I feel like it's His pat on my back, a quick shoulder squeeze, an acknowledgement that we've made it through whatever "trench" I found myself swimming through.

Right now, sitting in Libe café after an incredibly taxing 48+ hours, I am feeling at peace, if for only for the moment. And the window facing The Slope is covered in raindrops and the setting sun is streaming in. It's beautiful. It feels like a nod and a deep breath and a helping hand all at once. And Florence just came on my iPod: "It's hard to dance with the devil on your back, so shake him off! It's always darkest before the dawn." The finishing touch.

I'm never going to have all the answers. I am always going to fall short and am always going to be wrestling with something. But these moments - the sun streaming through the raindrops - bring hope.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.

April 20, 2013

Story Time

No, I'm not about to tell you a story, as misleading as my title may be. This will actually be relatively brief, as a follow up to my recent post about idolatry.

I have started following Stephanie May's "Lipstick Gospel" and she is one of the people that, though I have never and may never meet, I have found myself looking up to in way that hovers on the border of healthy readership and obsession. This girl just gets me. I am beyond grateful to have stumbled on her blog.

One of her most recent posts hit home, especially after writing my most recent blog post. Her post was about stories: their impact on other people and how we use stories to navigate our own lives. Her original post can be found here and is just a beautiful reminder that it is ok to look up to people, to look to them for understanding and guidance, that every story counts and you never know how God is using you in someone else's life. You should never be afraid to live and to tell your stories, no matter how messy they may be.

April 18, 2013

Idols & Role Models

I have a problem idolizing people. Not in the worshippy, follow-you-around, learn-all-your-favorite-foods, obsessive sort of way, but in the way that sometimes I find people who think have all the answers. This is a step beyond healthy respect, and it is something that frightens me. I catch myself doing it and scold myself. I have to remind myself that - in the cliché words of a Pinterest quote - “I am comparing my backstage to their highlight reel.”

It’s different than simply learning from people and their successes and good habits. If it was that, I’d be golden. I am painfully introspective so I am constantly looking for ways to improve, answers to my flaws. But I am also incredibly emotional and I feel everything. It complicates the question, “How are you?”, but that is an entirely different post topic for another day. What it means in this context is that when I find someone who is able to word my feelings, who can solidify some experience or worry I’ve had, I feel inextricably tied to them. This applies even to people I have never met but have simply read.
Now I am not saying there is something wrong with the fact that I relate to people. The real issue is how seriously I cling to their words and how I seek their wisdom and solutions. I am all for using resources and friends and your network and their experiences, but there is a serious danger in putting someone on a pedestal. You probably think you know where I am going with this: “... and these people will inevitably let you down.” Actually, that’s not what I am saying at all. Most of these people never will. They are polished and thoughtful and live life very intentionally. These people end up as my idols for a reason, after all. My problem is the hope, even desperation at times, to believe that they have everything figured out and know black and white solutions. My problem is letting myself think that these people know the absolute truth... They don’t. Only God knows that.

To me it feels like a really eccentric way of pursuing earthly satisfaction. The satisfaction that most people seek in alcohol, provocativeness, or money. I am so plan-oriented and knowledge-seeking. I am not good at trust, even though I really do have faith in God. So I look for answers in all the wrong places, rather than trusting God and paying attention when he tries to tell me the plan. I look to these idols - typically Christians, actually - in hopes that they can tell me the answers to the questions I am wrestling with. I want straight-forward answers and action plans.

Typically, this is where I realize that I am idolizing. When my issue doesn’t seem that big to them, they’ve never thought about it, or they give me an unsatisfactory answer. This can be in the way a blog post wraps up, in the verse they direct me to, or the logic they use to respond. The worst is when the answer is something I don’t want to hear, or something that contradicts the weak, shaky logic I’ve built during my own reflections. None of the answers are wrong or bad, but they are never fully complete or satisfying. I get frustrated.
And then I remember. I remember that no one knows everything! Only God knows everything! And the empty, curious part of me will remain insatiably desirous of the truth until I am with God and He can explain it all to me. Other people can offer wisdom, comfort, and partial answers, but I will never find complete satisfaction and peace through the answers of those I idolize. I have to learn to reel it in to a level of respect. I can learn from them, admire them, and model certain aspects of my life after them, but they will never be able to solve my deepest conflicts and questions. God put these people in my life for a reason, but I can’t allow myself to overemphasize their importance.

I am grateful that I have role models in my life. I am blessed to mentored and challenged even by some of my closest friends. But I have to remember that I have an individual relationship with God, too. I don’t need to assume that they have a direct line up to the big guy and I have to get the answers second-and. And He has a unique plan just for me.

April 17, 2013

The Redefinition of Management

One of my classes this semester, Communications for Engineering Managers, requires us to analyze an engineering event - typically an accident. The challenge is getting engineering students to look past the technical details and consider the communicative events and their efficacy. Seeing as I am not your typical engineer (#shouldacouldawoulda), I am enjoying the presentations and what they are teaching us about to create working environments that encourage effective communication which in turn facilitates innovation, progress, and engagement.

What interested me in today's presentation - all about the Bay Area Rapid Transit System - was something that applies in a very widespread way: the negative implications of the word "management." Ultimately, I think the word is used to describe difficult to work with people, people who don't understand what is going on, people who are trying to make your life hard, people who hold your employment fate in their hands, people who make uninformed decisions, people you can't talk to... The list continues. And while I concede that many of these misconceptions are not unfounded, I don't think that the universal "management" should be a negative thing.

Management is absolutely necessary. Merriam-Webster defines management as follows:
1: the act or art of managing : the conducting or supervising of something (as a business)
2: judicious use of means to accomplish an end
3: the collective body of those who manage or direct an enterprise
None of these imply negativity or incompetency. Management is about the bigger picture, the grander goal, the long-term vision. It's about knowing people's skills, strengths, and interests to best use them to achieve something bigger. Management should tie in closely with leadership. A good manager doesn't need constantly be reprimanding, nor should he/she be constantly micromanaging. This is the crux of the "redefinition."
It ultimately comes down to the fact that little can be achieved without a leader. This leader can take on many forms, but it is nearly impossible to do anything productive without one individual who can make a final decision. If we make every decision by vote nothing would get done because actions would end up contradicting each other or worse, harming each other. You need someone who is going to look at the end goal and figure out what matters, who can contribute and how, what timeline is appropriate, and how to motivate people. Management can be so powerful if handled correctly - it need not be a negative synonym for bureaucracy, inefficiency, or incompetence.
Part of the problem is pride. Managers want to believe that they know best (this is true of leaders too). But, you see, management is meant to know the resources (be it people, objects, spaces, whatever) and find the best use of them. This includes contacting people and gathering opinions. A good leader and manager needs an innovative mind and a solid intuition, but there is nothing that says a manager needs to know all the answers. This mindset plagues management and prevents progress.
Another misconception (fully perpetuated, mind you) about management is that it is a universal skill that can be applied in the same manner to most/all industries. Um, no. Not at all. In a technical setting, a manager with little or no technical background comes off as naïve, undereducated, and, frankly, incompetent. This is exacerbated by managers in these situations who try to "cover up" their knowledge gap and make decisions without consulting anyone or by making assumptions (which are actually so detrimental). A manager from a different industry or background can be wildly successful in a different field as long as they are open to learn and defer to those more experienced for the finer grain details of an operation or project.
Management is a powerful and necessary tool in making a group function productively. It becomes increasingly important as that group grows in size, because no one person can know all aspects of what is happening, let alone make informed decisions about them. This growth step can be when management gets muddled or ineffective, but when they are most needed in order to keep the company moving along.
On a somewhat tangential note, the promotion progression should not necessarily be to management! I think this is one of the biggest flaws of work environments all over the place. Some people are simply not meant to be managers. They don't have the people skills, the vision, the time, or sometimes the desire to be in charge of others. Promoting someone out of a job they excel at does not ensure their success as a manager of those same people. It makes sense if you think of it this way: someone may be the best darn hammerer on the entire construction site, but if they are myopic and technically-oriented and antisocial or abrasive, promoting them to be the Hammer Team Manager will not do anyone any good. More fitting would be a training role or a consultant role that allows him to tap into his expertise and passions without making him uncomfortable with responsibility. This is so much better for everyone.
As some one who loves administrative and managerial tasks, I don't want the idea of "management" to continue to be a bad one. I am still in college and already find myself in multiple leadership/management roles, so I can see the flaws plainly. Their are misconceptions, lack of motivation, as well as a whole slew of other problems with traditional hierarchical attitudes and hiring practices. I hope that some progress can be made (maybe we need managers of the managers?) in making the managerial positions of most workplaces productive and helpful rather than bureaucratic and frustrating.

March 13, 2013

That's Not My Name

Two pet peeves, both related to names: being called "kiddo" or someone addressing me in an email as "Hollie." 

My college counselor in high school used to make fun of me for the Hollie thing all the time, but he knew how to spell my name so I didn't mind. But every so often someone will write "Hollie" and it always baffles me. That is definitely the less popular way to spell almost all the associated rhyming names: Polly, Molly, Dolly... Why the "ie"? especially if you are emailing my Cornell account and my name literally pops up when you type my Net ID in! 

The "kiddo" things started at summer camp and just drives me nuts. I find it really demeaning and dismissive. It makes me feel like the person calling me kiddo thinks I'm incapable or inconsequential. Which I am not! It gets under my skin like nothing else. A woman I work with now called me by the wrong name for a long time and now frequently calls me kiddo which makes me glare at her as she walks away (oops, not very professional of me) and dread her coming to talk to me. 

Moral of the story: learn people's names and be careful with generic nicknames! 

Rant over ;)

March 7, 2013

Ode to My Mama

This is an ode to my mother. Today I was looking through old photos for the perfect “Throwback Thursday” choice and stumbled upon photos from Vail Velocity Volleyball (in itself lots of good memories, but that’s for another time). For some reason, this made me acutely aware of something about my mother that I had always known subconsciously but had never really realized in it’s entirety: My mom never allows herself to be a victim of circumstance. She doesn’t let her situation dictate her fate. She taught me to do something if I am unsatisfied. Vie for a leadership position, seek an ally, create a new situation, make a change. Some examples: can’t find a good figure skating dress shop nearby? No problem, we’ll start our own! Feel like something is being handled poorly at school? Talk to the middle school director! Have qualms with the choices in volleyball clubs in the area? I’ll order jerseys, find a coach, and register a brand new team!

My mama is my (and my sister’s) biggest advocate. And it’s not even in just in the big ways mentioned above. She taught us to carry ourselves with confidence, hold people and ourselves accountable, and ultimately, be useful. I learned that dreams need not have limits from her. Perhaps it has something to do with her craftiness (as in crafts, not mischievousness!) that she is able to configure a solution she is happy with, not just take a canned or obvious one.

She is selfless and loving and determined. Qualities that make her a kick-ass mom and a kick-ass person. And now she is taking on yet another thing: her challenges with her weight. Emily & I are off at school and what does my mom do? Join a club and a weight-loss challenge in which she is not only participating but is ranked FIRST in her club!

My mama taught me the true meaning of “You go girl” and I could not be more grateful. Love you!

March 6, 2013

Tabs on Tabs on Tabs on Tabs

My family continuously mocks me for having an endless number of tabs open on my computer at any given time. Once, feeling particularly playful (or malicious, depending on if you asked me or them), my sister and dad closed half of my tabs arbitrarily. I actually cried. When they asked me why I was so upset, I couldn't figure out how to word my emotions, but it felt so wrong.

Today, I had an epiphany about why I felt that way. Computers are entrenched in our lives, mostly enriching them and giving us new tools to do great things. When computers were first envisioned, they were just a screen with words. The concept of "Windows" with multiple views was a groundbreaking one, and no none of us can imagine any other way of doing it. What made the Windows concept so game-changing was that it made computers more understandable and accessible to the non-nerd. It virtualized the physical world (why do you think it's called 'windows' and 'desktop'?!). But, the virtualizaiton was not entirely complete. In some way the abstraction is good, because it allows us to think beyond the confines of physical space that prevent us from using the full capabilities of our digital devices. However, there are places where the virtualization falls short - like in the concept of tabs.

If you think about it, bookmarks on our browsers are about the closest we get to real-life post-it notes, book marks, and organized piles to control our resources and information. Pinterest is on the right track of what I think we need more of - a way to keep track of things outside without acting on them immediately. I cannot be the only one who uses my inbox as a to-do list, leaving messages unread until I can address them (side note: can't wait to get provisioned for the Mailbox app!). This is the same idea as saving tabs. Unless I "bookmark" or favorite every page I hope to return to later or need a reminder to act on, I lose it semi-permanently if I close it. I can't physically put the page on top of others as I would on a real-life desk. Let's be honest - once it's "bookmarked" it's likely just left in that folder to get dusty and remain unvisited. Some pages can be revived or rediscovered using Google - provided you did not have to go digging for it in the first place and know very important identifying key words. But lots of times, the tabs are personal and would not show up in a universal search engine result set. I use tabs as stars, highlights, and dog-ears to make sure that I don't lose track of the pertinent information in an age where we are saturated with information, references, and sensory overload.

How do we solve this problem? I don't know. I don't believe in the entire digitization of all physical things, but, as I mentioned above, Pinterest is on the right track. In real-life, I would rip out a magazine article I liked or keep everyone's phone numbers and addresses together in such a manner that I would know where to look. There has to be a happy medium between the elegant organization of physical spaces and the incredibly robust usefulness of a "Ctrl+F" search function.

Sounds like it's time for a brainstorm. I love this sort of problem!

March 1, 2013

Life, Friends, and God

It's no secret that the last few months have been stressful, which is painfully clear from my radio silence. I always have lots of thoughts but they tend to occur to me at inopportune times (i.e. walking) when writing is not feasible. But here I am. Not with anything groundbreaking, but rather with thoughts & tidbits that are floating about my mind at the present moment.

Today was a good day. And that is mildly shocking considering I haven't really had what I'd call a good day at all this semester. Nothing about today was revolutionary or exciting, but it was pleasant and productive and I spent it with people I love. I only attended one class and, in typical Cornellian fashion, skipped my other two in order to do homework. I spend most of the day sharing a table with Claire Volk at the Big Red Barn, sitting in mutually content silence as she did Spring break prep, shopping, and a little bit of reading, and I responded to emails, worked on a speech for tomorrow's White Rose ceremony, and tackled a little bit of my Networks II problem set. We took a break around noon to chat and eat. We always have wonderful conversations covering lots of things. I am blessed to have a friend like Claire that I can be open and honest and sincere with. I cherish our friendship probably even more than she knows. Today was a nice reminder of a little saying I found on Pinterest: "In the middle of my little mess, I forgot how big I am blessed." It now resides in my planner as a daily reminder. However seeing the words and being reminded with a feeling of calm and gratitude are different things.

Lots of things have been going on recently. But of course, that's nothing new. Between Kappa Delta and school, I'm a busy bee. KD takes up most of my time and is teaching me a lot about people and leadership and poise. It's a rough ride, but I'm doing my best. Initiation is this weekend which is always beautiful so that will be a nice & centering.
Having Emily here last weekend was such a blessing. I love my family so much and her presence meant the world. I wish we could have spent more time together. Having someone to talk to that understands me entirely was really refreshing, and the cuddling wasn't bad either!
I'm in countdown mode to Spring Break. I'm riding at a constant level of mild panic when it comes to getting everything done. There is always homework to be done and things to read. There are always emails to respond to and calls to return. It will be nice to totally disconnect and spend time in warm weather with one of my favorite people, Jackson.
Recently, I've been getting better about reading my Bible. It is a nice respite during the day, and rather than feeling like an obligation or expectation, I have really come to enjoy and look forward to my reading. Though it doesn't happen every day like I'd like it to, it has become more of a habit, and I am glad that God is working in me and drawing me closer. Lots of little things have shown up in my life that have made me feel closer to him and the effect is so powerful. It is a constant source of comfort in times of stress when I start to lose myself a little bit. Right now, I am memorizing a verse a week (based on this list I found on Pinterest, of course). This week's is Isaiah 40:28... "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the Everlasting God, The Creator of the ends of the Earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom." It's a great reminder that God matters, and the rest of the stress is trivial. I have not totally overcome my worry-wart habits, nor do I think I will be able to be any time soon, but it is nice to be reminded that God is good and omnipotent and in control. That's what's important. I am grateful that He is working in me. And I hope to keep my heart open and willing to listen.
I'll leave you with one more link: The Lipstick Gospel. I found it through a posted link of a Facebook friend I haven't talked to in 5+ years and followed the link on a whim. I was engrossed by this woman's love for God and appetite for life. I have subscribed to the blog and am always excited to see a new post show up in my inbox. I feel a strong bond with this woman I have never met because she sees and recognizes God in the little things and sounds a lot like someone I'd like to have coffee with. It's just another blessing and source of encouragement that God has given me. Maybe it will ring true with you, too.
It's a strange feeling, to feel calm and content amidst stress and strain and a societally imposed definition of success. But I continue to find support and encouragement in my life, and I am blessed to know that God is lighting my path and acting as my navigator. The moments that I manage to let go of control feel so comforting - like the nights as a child when I would fall asleep in the backseat of the car on the way home and be carried inside my mom or dad. It is terribly hard to surrender control, but when I manage to, I always wonder why I don't do so more often (read: always). It's a work in progress, I suppose.
Here's to blessings and grace and the good Lord above. Life is good - and I know that, even if it gets buried sometimes when I let myself get carried away in the current of this life.