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. >

DC Weekend Play-By-Play

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It’s weird, how they say you can’t go home again and yet — you can.  You just purchase a plane ticket and pack a bag and there you are.  This weekend we traveled back to Washington, D.C. (our home for the previous five years) and spent a few days in our favorite city, visiting with our favorite people and eating at our favorite places.  This isn’t a recipe for a perfect tourist weekend, but here’s a DC resident’s perfect weekend in our Nation’s Capitol.

FRIDAY NIGHT:  land in city and sleep in the guest room of your bestie’s house.

SATURDAY MORNING:  eat Bethesda Bagels.  Recommendation:  bacon, egg, and American cheese on an everything bagel.  Grab coffee at Quartermaine next door.  If you go with a friend one of you should order coffees while the other stands in line for bagels because, unless it’s snowing or raining the bagel line will be out the door.

SATURDAY ERRANDS:  close your old bank account.  Or, you know, whatever.

SATURDAY MORNING HANG-OUT: meet your best law school buddy for coffee at Politics and Prose Bookstore‘s Modern Times Coffeehouse, the place where you studied for all of those finals before they instituted completely unacceptable laptop policies that ruined everything forever.  Recommendation: London Fog.

SATURDAY LUNCH-ISH: brunch/lunch at Open City in Woodley Park.  We learned that the music makes babies dance.  The service can be a little slow so make sure to tell the waiter exactly what you want the first time.  Recommendation: Greek Pizza, BLT, iced mocha.

SATURDAY AFTERNOON HANG-OUT:  Smithsonian’s National Zoo.  Avoid boring pandas but be sure to see the Lions.  They are awesome.  Best part of America are the Smithsonian’s river otters.

SATURDAY DINNER: Coal Fire Pizza in Gaithersburg. Recommendation:  Dark and Stormy, Ring of Fire Pizza (Italian sausage, banana peppers, and spicy marinara).

SATURDAY POST-DINNER:  Celebrate your friend’s birthday back at her house with carrot cake and red wine.  They are a perfect pairing.

SUNDAY MORNING:  Grab a coffee and cheer for your husband and friends as they run a ten mile race around the National Mall.  Take in the monuments for a bit while it is sunny and relatively warm, but head toward brunch by 10:30.  It’s definitely time to eat.

SUNDAY BRUNCH:  Ted’s Bulletin on Barracks Row is a bit of a wait, but totally worth waiting for.  Recommendation: homemade poptarts (strawberry is the best), sausage biscuits and gravy.  If you’re lucky you’ll see the cadets marching around with their giant guns.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON: After a shower for the runners, head down to H Street to hang on the back patio of the German Biergarten.  Recommendation: the hefe-weizen that is “very carbonated,” pretzel buns with mustard.  The mustard is the best part.

SUNDAY EVENING: Return the rental car and grab your last dinner at The Silver Dinner, airport edition.

We landed in Chicago late Sunday night and it was technically early Monday morning before we were back in our Condo in the South Loop.  We both worked today and we are exhausted, but our wonderful weekend was worth every minute.

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? 

This is about religion. Sorry, not sorry.

Here’s the thing. I don’t really believe the Bible is inerrant the way a lot of people do. And I know that writing that down and publishing it on the internet means some people who share my faith tradition will lose respect for me, but I need to start there. I think that reading the Bible brings me closer to God, and helps me to know him better — but reading the Bible also reminds me of the ways people have [mis-]used Scripture to silence me and to silence my brothers and sisters on this planet.

It’s a complicated relationship, for sure. I want it to be less complicated. I want Scripture to bring only joy and not pain, but that just isn’t where I am right now. I haven’t been there for a few years, actually. Life is a journey, and I do not believe we are called to check all the boxes while shutting down our brains. Faith shouldn’t have to be a mental power struggle, where we refuse to acknowledge our thoughts and feelings and confusions and doubts and scream out an unthinking “YES” to all the things they say we have to believe. For me, right now, it’s an ongoing effort to seek God’s love and pursue relationship. To follow Jesus. To find the arc of redemption moving in our world and to follow it, and to hope for the redemption that we believe will come. So, while I’m often frustrated or unsure about where I stand with the Bible, I trust that if I am seeking God and trying to follow Jesus, that one day I’ll be in a better place with the Bible too.

I still think I’m a Christian.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I spend every minute of every day seeking God and trying to reconcile with the Scriptures. Because I don’t. Reconciliation with Scripture and communities of faith is something I think about often and hope for. Scripture and faith communities are intrinsically linked to my childhood and my understanding of the world. But I’m not necessarily doing that full-time right now. I think about a lot of other things too.

I still think I’m a Christian.

The internet makes it harder. I read blog posts and articles and comments saying that if you interpret differently the meaning or application of one or two sentences of a certain translation of the Bible, you are throwing out the entire gospel narrative and you can’t be a Christian anymore. And I’m stunned because, holy cow, I wish it was only one or two sentences that I didn’t interpret literally. I wish it were that simple.

This week, with all of the World Vision USA hullabaloo, I read your words, and I felt even more that I didn’t belong. Here I am: I grew up in your world, I followed all your rules, I learned all of your Bible verses, I went to your camps and I graduated from your college, and I don’t belong. I still think I’m a Christian, but if I told you the truth, would you agree? Would you say that it’s okay to be different, to not understand the world in the same way as everyone else, that God is bigger than our doubts and our questions? I’ve heard that before.

But I wonder sometimes — is God only bigger than my doubts and questions because I am a straight, white, married female?

I want to hear you say that the world is full of nuance. I want to hear you say that we can all work with people, live in community with people, shop at grocery stores with people and bake cakes for people who believe different things than we do. I want to hear you say that you don’t believe everyone who thinks differently than you about the world, or religion, or the Bible deserves to live in constant fear of poverty because they cannot find or keep employment. I want to hear you say that each of us finds God and faith on a different timeline, and that it isn’t up to us to save people. That we pray and wait for the Holy Spirit to move within us and our neighbors, and that we love each other while we wait.

Instead, I’ve been hearing you say that a Christian organization that decides to stop excluding certain groups of people from its hiring pool has thrown away the Gospel. The entire Gospel. Now that they’ve changed their minds, I’m hearing you rejoice, slapping hands and taking credit for standing your ground. For the Gospel. And I wonder, what would you say about me, if you knew my doubts and struggles?

Well, now you know.

Monday: My Little Elk

I’ve been using up all of my good thoughts in other places these last few weeks, and I haven’t been giving you my best work.  I think you know that, in my actual life, I do a lot more than just write this blog.  I’ve told you how my job can be really hard, and that it’s been a challenging few weeks, and that I really love my work.  I also mentioned last week that I’m working on a writing project outside of this blog.  I love this space, and I want to treat it right, so today I have something special for you.

Elk March 22

It’s a photograph of an Elk, taken on Saturday.  

I was going to find a good poem about an elk for you to make this super literary or what-not and, what do you know, the only poem I could find was about a bunch of wolves stalking and then murdering an elk.  Not exactly what I was going for.

Instead, I have something better than a poem about elk for you.  I have an article about a little boy who loves My Little Pony, and a school district that learned [unfortunately a bit too late in this case] not to punish the victim.  You’re a bit of a slow learner sometimes, America, but I’m forever proud of you when you try to do better.

Happy Monday, my friends.  Have a wonderful week! 

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