Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 5.3.2014

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This week’s five things all focus in some way on women.  Enjoy!

  1. This article from Salon.com discussing the problem with using the term “women problem” to describe a cultural failure of including, promoting, or appreciating women.

  2. This story from my new friend Diana, on being a woman in seminary.

  3. This feature story at The Atlantic (from last week) entitled The Confidence Gap.

  4. This New York Post article on the outstanding character and accomplishments of the woman George Clooney is lucky enough to be engaged to.

  5. This list written by my friend Hannah about five things she learned growing up in a fundamentalist household.  This post was so popular that it broke her blog, so that’s a good sign, right?  Right.

So, what awesome things did you read this week?

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 4.18.2014

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This Forbes Magazine article introducing a report by the coalition Americans For Tax Fairness that estimates the amount of government assistance awarded indirectly to Walmart.  Their theory is that Walmart is able to make high profits by keeping its employees’ incomes low, and that those employees are able to survive and continue working due to public benefits like food and housing assistance payments.  What makes this theory even weirder is that a huge portion of those food stamps benefits are then spent AT WALMART, thus forming somewhat of a double subsidy to the corporation.  Note: the math/methodology of this report isn’t a perfect science, but it is a quite interesting assessment.  Either way, definitely take a look.

This Festival of Faith and Writing wrap-up piece by my NEW FRIEND(!!!!!) Anne Bogel.  There were some other goods ones too!  Check out the hashtag #ffwGR to learn more about the festival.  I may post my own reflections here, but it’ll be next week which is a little un-timely so if you are interested now, the twitter hashtag is your friend.

This Inc. assessment of whether or not you genuinely love what you do.  I scored 13 out of 15, which means I am “deeply, madly in love with [my] work!”  That’s pretty cool, right?  What is your score?

Last week I read this article at the Harvard Business Review blog and I was like WHAT THE WHAT, if this ever happened to me I would probably quit my job. Basically, one of the CEOs of PepsiCo apparently calls the parents of her Millennial employees to tell those parents just how special and lovely their children are.  This week, my absolute favorite management blog was like WHAT THE HELL.  Thank goodness there are still reasonable people out there on the internet.  And please read the comments here, they are hilarious.  FYI: Your Millennial employees do not want you to call their parents to tell said parents that their children are special snowflakes.  Seriously, don’t.

And finally, for you guys who, like me, aren’t exactly sure what to do when everyone else starts clapping and/or crying in church this week, here’s a little something for you from Kristen Howerton at Rage Against the Minivan.

Okay, that’s five!  What awesome things did you read this week? 

 

On Powerful Words

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I connected with my law school mentor this week. It’s been a while since we were in touch. She shared some good news I wanted to hear, and I shared a link to the panel on creative writing projects by prisoners INCARCERATED PERSONS I attended last week.

It was just a few emails, sent back and forth while we were each doing our own regular work. Nothing important, really. I asked about her daughter’s first year away at college; she asked how my husband’s job was going and if we’d fallen in love with Chicago yet. [Quite well, and yes! a little more every day.] She asked about my current work, and I wrote back about my ongoing project and how I was surprisingly very happy even though I wasn’t currently practicing law. She replied,

Wow, [pink-briefcase] — that is amazing. Those are some incredible skills you are learning. What is the hardest part? Where do you see yourself after this?

We talked a little more, about law school rankings and the future of legal education and the flowers blooming there but not here, but those twenty-five words worked a powerful magic in my heart.

  .  .  .  .

I have a supervisor that isn’t my supervisor at work. He is kind of a mentor, kind of a boss, and kind of a friend. I’ve learned a lot working for/with him. Every now and then, when things get rough and I start to feel on edge, I read over an email he sent one day, which started off:

Your professionalism, persistence, patience, exemplary work ethic and positive attitude have been evident to all throughout this project.

On days when nothing goes right and all I can do is put down my pen and shake my head and pour the tea and start over again, this sentence waits for me. I look up and see it, hanging on my blue bulletin board right above the empty jar that once held black-raspberry jelly my husband’s grandmother made us for Christmas, which now holds pens and highlighters and a pair of scissors, and I read those words. I remind myself that one bad day cannot cancel out months of hard work.

  . . . .

I’m not sure that either of these mentor-friends knows how important their words were/are to me. I didn’t write back “HOLY COW THAT IS SO NICE I’M GOING TO PRINT OUT THIS EMAIL AND HANG IT ON MY BULLETIN BOARD AND LOOK AT IT EVERY DAY FOREVER.” I said thank you and continued on, slightly embarrassed about all of the fuss. No perfectionist really wants to be congratulated for doing a good job (don’t I always do a good job? I always try to do a good job! why is this time different? did I screw up something terribly last week?! . . . ). But as awkward as I may feel when I first receive these affirmations, I am completely changed by knowing that people I trust think these things. I am confident and brave and resilient because I trust their opinions of me to be true, even when my opinion of myself falls far short of their esteem.

We talk a lot online about how words have consequences, but we often really mean that words have negative consequences. We criticize and condemn each other too freely, with too little concern for the way another might feel to read a scathing review, a bullying comment, a snide remark. We forget too quickly that it could easily be the negative comments they are printing out and hanging up on the blue bulletin boards of their hearts. Negative words do have an undeniably strong hold on us, but I’m becoming more aware of the immense power positive words hold as well.

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 4.11.2014

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  1. The Culture of Shut Up, by Jon Lovett for The Atlantic.

  2. What Abandoning Evangelicalism Does and Does Not Look Like, by Zack Hunt for The American Jesus.

  3. Am I Overstepping When I Try To Be Emotionally Intelligent?, by Alison Green at Ask A Manager.

  4. The recovery puzzle: A new factory in Ohio struggles to match jobs to job-seekers, by Monica Hesse at the Washington Post.

  5. Why I’m Done With Letting Critics Tell Me Who I Am, by Esther Emery. >

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 4.05.2014

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It’s a beautiful, warm and sunny morning in WASHINGTON, DC!!!!!  I’m spending the day with my favorite people doing my favorite things.  Here are five great reads for your first official April weekend.  I hope you get a little sunshine today, too. 

On building a good-looking work outfit:  Work Wednesdays: Decoding the Mystery, from Belle at Capitol Hill Style.  I have a similar approach to building a great work outfit that usually involves khaki-colored top, khaki-colored sweater, neutral pants, neutral shoes.  It still covers all the important parts but the result is a lot less interesting . . .

On being an internet sensation:  Julie Deneen at Fabulous Blogging with Clawing Your Way to an Online Presence: The Difficulty of Building a Brand.  There are definitely some blog-focused terminology in this post, but it is also an interesting look at how to be a success — and wait for success — in any professional field.

On Following Your Dreams, You Guys {For Reals}, by my friend Esther Emery.  Esther is legit.  This blog post is like When Women Were Birds (have you read that?  It’s one of my favorite books on writing) if you take out the pretty flowers and you turn up the intensity.  Esther is simultaneously super-human and incredibly vulnerable and I really like her.

On that whole World Vision thing:  Evangelicals Punish World Vision for Walking Down ‘The Romans Road,’ by Ken Wilson and published at The Huffington Post.  This is the right kind of approach.  I really, truly believe that more people agree with this response to homosexuality in the church, but they are just afraid to say it because of the social ramifications of doing so.  I wish more Christian leaders would be brave and speak what they think is right the way that Ken describes here.

Before making my views widely known to my congregation, I felt stuck, much as I imagine the leaders of World Vision must have felt stuck before they decided to hire (or more like, not to fire) people in covenanted same sex-relationships. People who like the other employees of World Vision, love Jesus and want to relieve human suffering. In my mini-version of the World Vision leadership dilemma, I wondered, “How can I tell my congregation that I cannot enforce these exclusionary policies without blowing up the church I love?”

On what we keep hidden from friends:  The Splenda Level of Friendship, by Megan Gahan for She Loves Magazine.  I loved this.  It’s reminiscent of what I was saying last week, when I wrote this.

 

On Looking Professional without Sacrificing Productivity

Being successful at work is really important to me, and I’m at my best when I am completely focused.  If I’m in “the zone,” you might find that if you walk past my cubicle and say hello I’ll jump a bit, completely startled that anyone else was in the room.  (Thankfully we have security doors, so I don’t have to worry too much about someone sneaking up behind me!)  That’s just how I roll: I sit down, dig in, and get things done.

But here’s the thing:  if my sweater sleeves are itchy, if my pants are ill-fitting, if my bangs fall in my eyes or if my shoes are uncomfortable, I can’t do my best work. My mind will be distracted by how much I hate my outfit or how uncomfortable I am.  I’m not sure men have these problems.  But that’s not what this blog post is about. 

To do my best work, I need to be comfortable. A dress with a cardigan or blazer is ideal, so long as hosiery isn’t rolling down or bunching up. Slacks and a sweater or blouse can also be great, if the pants fit well and my cubby isn’t too hot or too cold. I really like to wear heels at my desk – partly because they feel fancy and partly because I don’t have to wear socks so my feet don’t get too hot.  I try to wear layers that can be stripped off without scandal in case I get too warm.  My ideal work set-up requires changing from flats to heels and a sweater to a blazer just like Mr. Rogers did.  (Dreams do come true, kids.)

If this all sounds a little crazy to you, that’s okay – my productivity makes me a fantastic employee, so if comfortable clothes and fancy shoes are what it takes for me to strategically plan broad organizational change or write and edit convincing and accurate reports on a deadline, I’m down for a little craziness.

This past week, however, a blog I read was talking about the difference between wearing clothes that make you feel good, and wearing clothes that make people think of you as the boss. As young female professionals, we want to do whatever it takes so that our management thinks of us when developing the organization’s succession plan, filling vacancies, etc. And what this blog post and the comments that followed boldly stated was that the best way to be empowered in your workplace is not to feel valued and loved and comfortable in whatever position you hold or clothes you wear. The most effective way to be empowered in your workplace is to have actual power in your workplace — a.k.a. to be the boss.

While I absolutely want to dress in a comfortable way that allows me to do my best work, I also want to look like someone who should be in charge. If someone new walked into the room and scanned the people sitting around the conference room table, I want that visitor to assume I’m already holding a management position.

Spring is coming (slowly but surely) and each day I’m edging closer to 30 and farther away from 25. It’s time for a[nother] closet overhaul.  It seems like I need one of these every now and then!  I’m not sure if fashion posts are your thing, but I’ll be checking in for the next few weeks on my 2014 closet revamp.

To kick us off, today I’m linking you up with my favorite fashion blogs:

1. Capitol Hill Style – Belle’s a former Capitol Hill Staffer, and she provides realistic and specific advice for a professional wardrobe on a variety of budgets, and she includes plus size options and hair and makeup recommendations.

2. Corporette – Fashion, lifestyle, and career advice from former firm attorney turned full-time blogger, Kat. The comment sections here are incredible, and if you have a question about how to navigate a difficult work situation or what to wear to work-ish events, this is where you want to go.

3. The Small Things Blog – For hair and makeup and all-around beauty, Kate’s blog is the place to go. I used one of her hair tutorials for my hairstyle during one of my best friend’s weddings last summer, and she gives honest reviews of products to help you find what works for you. She also just had a very adorable baby. Kate’s archives are gold.

 

Okay, so tell me where you fall on the spectrum:  do you dress for comfort or to make a positive impression?  Maybe a little bit of both?  Does hearing this perspective on empowerment make you re-evaluate your own wardrobe choices? 

What I’m Loving — March 2014

Whew, where did March go?  I can’t believe it’s already time to link up with Leigh once again. 

WORK.  Is that a weird thing to say, that I’m loving work?  Well, I have been.  I started this month off with a business trip to Florida (thank you America), and have been doing hard, challenging work this entire month.  So basically, I’ve been living the dream.  [Literally.  Working incredibly hard every day is exactly what I want to do with my life.]

FRIENDS.  Oh, that’s right, we’re finally using the “f” word here in the Windy City.  I’m setting into some very enjoyable friendships/co-workerships in the office, which is starting to feel like a great fit.  On March 8, in honor of International Women’s Day, I met up with a half-dozen members of my writing group who also live in the greater Chicago area, for drinks and food and writerly hang outs.  I also attended my second Kappa Delta Alumnae Chapter event this month, grabbing dinner and meeting some new women in the city.  It’s so nice to have “people” once again.

Oh, and we’re still looking for a regular trivia night and trivia people around the loop/south loop.  Just an FYI in case there are any random internet stalkers close by. 

CHICAGO.  The weather is improving, the sun is shining more frequently and for longer stretches at a time, and I’m just plain loving Chicago.  Everything about it — the jazz music and the frumpy coats and the popcorn (oh the popcorn!) and the skylines and the way that the best restaurants use animals in their titles (“purple pig,” “little goat”).  My parents were here for a visit and we did basically nothing, but even still — I just love it here.  I didn’t think I would, but I do.

READING and WRITING.  This month has been all about l-e-a-d-e-r-s-h-i-p.  I’ve been reading blogs, articles, and am nearly finished with The Truth about Leadership (Kouzes/Posner 2010).  My favorite tidbit from the K&P’s Ten Truths reminds us that being a leader is all about relationships, and that you need to know the people you are leading and have the right kind of relationships with them to lead them toward positive change.  K&P teach leaders to know their values and visions for their organization, and to know their people — what makes them tick, what their visions are for the future — and to connect these organizational and personal dreams together.   I love it.

ON THE SCREEN.  Television has been kind of meh this month, eh?  (Shout out to my Canadian readers right there.)  I guess Nashville and Scandal are my top choices, but meh.  I also really like Blacklist most days but, meh.  Nothing is really catching my attention for very long.  This weekend we watched several movies, and I’ll give you mini-summaries:

  • Divergent — awesome(!) and now I want to read the books right now.  I’m going to try to purchase them before my DC flight on Friday night.
  • American Hustle — sad but good, with some lovely dresses.  Now I love Jennifer Lawrence a little more.
  • Frozen — what the what is all the fuss about here?  I don’t get how everyone talks about this so much.  Meh.

EATING/DRINKING. I’m a creature of habit, and this month I’ve found myself doing a few things over and over.  Drinking English Breakfast Tea all day long.  Mixing dried cherries, chocolate chips, and raw almonds for my own delicious trail mix.  Also, I’ve been cooking from Bread and Wine (Shauna Niequist) a lot.  I can’t stop loving that tiny little book.

HERE ON PINK-BRIEFCASE.  I’ve been practicing this little thing called speaking up.  Just a bit more than normal, but it’s something I want to do more.  My favorite posts here on the blog this month are

Well, there you are.  March in a nutshell.  April is going to be insane!  We’ll be out of town two out of four weekends.  I’ll be seeing some of my very best friends; trying on my writer hat for four days straight at a big fancy writing conference; and then pulling my lawyer hat out of the closet, grabbing a blazer (it’s been a while, blazers!), and heading to a legal training at the end of the month.  Hopefully I’ll finally get to wear all those new spring shoes I’ve been buying.

NOTE: my friends, our internet has been down to about 10% for days and it is so slow and terrible that I just couldn’t upload any photos for you today.  I also couldn’t really preview this post the way I normally do, so if there are typos here or anything looks weird, I apologize — leave me a note and I’ll try to edit them if we ever have consistent internet again. 

Five [Awesome] Things I Read This Week, 3.28.2014 (updated)

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ONE.  On the give -and-take of the academic job search, and why being “non-traditional” and “less competitive” is worth it:  What’s Not On My CV, by J.R. Goudeau at Love is What You Do.

TWO.  Alison Luna tells her beautiful truth in Leanne Penny’s Love Showed Up Series, titled When Love Drives You Home.

THREE.  How to Get a Woman to Show Up.  Anne Bogel at Modern Mrs. Darcy rounds up the best way to get women to show up and take the stage, the lead, the reins at conferences and corporations.

FOUR.  Joy the Baker lists Twelve Ways to Tart Up Spring — did you know lemon was my absolute favorite flavor of everything?  I want to eat all of these things.

FIVE.  What to Do When You’re Overqualified, some straight-talking, realistic advice from Kat at Corporette.  This is a question many of my fellow law school graduates and I are facing as we figure out whether we are happy with our current gigs, even though we could perhaps be doing more, and whether or not to risk what we have to try for something different.  The discussion in the comment section is fantastic as usual.

UPDATE:  This post from Volokh Conspiracy is so interesting, I wanted to add it in here (this is why I typically wait a little later before posting these round-ups!).  It’s a discussion of social norms in dressing for male and female lawyers.

 

Okay, those are my top-five reads this week!  What have you been reading around the interwebs? 

#50daysawriter Update: The Half Way Point

As I’m typing this post, it’s the middle of the twenty-fifth day of my 5o-Day commitment to thinking of myself as a writer.  This won’t go live and you won’t be able to read it until sometime Monday morning, which is technically past the half-way point of this journey and eight hours into Day 26.  Let’s agree to ignore the actual math involved in defining the “middle” of a journey the way we agree to accept that television chefs always have perfectly baked final products ready to pull out of the oven and taste at the end of their thirty-minute episodes.  The middle of a journey is really whenever you end up stopping for lunch, isn’t it?

I’ve learned a few things about myself, written words and paragraphs in my journal and on my computer, and wasted a lot of time during these first 25 days.  I’ve been focused on my writing but also completely absorbed in my actual job, which is keeping me so incredibly busy during these early spring-ish months.  My brain is buzzing with stress and deadlines and ideas, and that seems like the perfect mix to me.

  • I tried a few coffee shops/writing locations near my apartment in Chicago and have adopted a location three blocks away.  There are outlets everywhere, the espresso drinks are delicious, and the coffee shop is operated by some church so I feel better spending $5.00 on something I could make for myself at home.  I’m here now, and a poster from an event at the Ryman Auditorium is hanging on the wall that faces my table.  I’m sitting in the sun, looking at the words “Nashville Tennessee” and drinking a latte with chocolate, hazelnut, and cayenne pepper.  I can’t think of a better way to nurture my creative insides.
  • During a ten-day bootcamp with my writing group, I chose a topic for my writing project (even if I’m not quite ready to call it a book), told my writing group what my topic was, and felt the soothing coolness of positive feedback and acceptance calm my nerves.  I also mustered the courage to reach out to a few friends about my silly dream, so I’ve taken the first few steps toward using the “w”-word [writer] with my real-life friends and family.
  • I have 4,000 words, notes, and research in a highly rough and scattered word document that has the headings and pagination of a non-fiction book proposal. It’s not actually a book proposal today, but I’m using that structure to sketch out my project.  Working in this format is oddly comforting, because it is exactly what real writers do for every book they write.  I’ve found the language of the world I’m walking in, and I’m ready now to meet people without feeling like a fraud:  I can spend the next five years saying that I’m “working on a book proposal” before anyone that doesn’t know me well might become suspicious.  It’s completely normal for that process to take forever and for “real” writers to get distracted for months, discouraged for years, or otherwise lose focus for a long while before getting a final proposal together.  I know how to introduce myself and vaguely describe my project, so I’m ready to rent a car and drive to Grand Rapids and meet other writerly people.  That goal is officially accomplished.
  • My friend Abby has scheduled a public event at the end of the conference in Grand Rapids where my writing group will take turns reading our work out loud.  To strangers (and worse, to our friends).  While the pre-#50days me would say oh, no, I’m not really a writer and so I will just cheer the rest of you on, the me that is 25 days into being a real writer has [unfortunately] accepted the challenge and promised to find something, anything really, to read.  I’m much more driven by external expectations of those I love than my own secret dreams, so I think this is actually the perfect thing to push me during the second-half of this journey:  I have an idea and some draft-quality words, but now I need a chapter-ish length piece that is good enough to share, along with a gallon of confidence and a cute new outfit.  In the next three weeks I need to finish a draft piece so I can edit it, and then prepare to present it with/to my people.

This effort hasn’t been on my mind every minute, and for the last few days at work my brain has been swimming in deadlines and spreadsheets and official communication materials, but I’m here on Sunday afternoon, as scheduled, thinking about this project.  I’m thrilled with how far I’ve come in these first three and one-half weeks and am proud to share with you that I am working on a book/something proposal and preparing a mystery piece to read at my first ever reading as a [writer].  Nothing really has changed just yet, but I am starting to believe my own truth.

Thanks for joining me on this adventure.

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Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day, Lucky Family!  AOT 

A Metaphor

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This beautiful piece of art in the northwest corner of my building lobby is known to my colleagues as The Big Pile of Garbage. We sometimes use the pile of garbage as a landmark for meeting locations, such as: let’s grab coffee at 11. See you at the pile of garbage.

It also has another name, abbreviated BPOS, which is an accurate metaphor for how I feel about this week. Being alive is still baller, but I am ready for the weekend.

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