I Voted

“I find it poor logic to say that because women are good, women should vote. Men do not vote because they are good; they vote because they are male, and women should vote, not because we are angels and men are animals, but because we are human beings and citizens of this country.”
-Jo March, Little Women (1994 film)

I wasn’t surprised to find out that my least favorite blogger is against a woman’s right to vote, but that didn’t keep me from feeling disappointed by it. Even though it’s been nearly 100 years since the 19th Amendment was ratified, there are still people in the United States that think those of the female persuasion should not cast ballots of their own. I suppose that’s not a huge surprise given the diverse society we live in, but you almost never hear those folks expressing their wildly outdated opinions anywhere that the general public can hear them. Kind of like racism in the days before our current disgrace of a president. We all knew racists existed before he came on the political scene, but they were keeping their mouths shut to avoid derision. It’s sad how times have changed and empowered racists in the last few years. But I digress. Actually, the digression isn’t as off-topic as I would like. Around the 2016 election there was a scary and disheartening hashtag permeating social media – #RepealThe19th. Men (and maybe women too) who recognized that Trump would be elected president by a landslide if only males voted figured that one way to achieve their desired outcome was to float the idea of rescinding women’s suffrage. Pretty despicable by 21st century standards, but Trump tends to bring out the worst in people. Speaking of which, here’s what my least favorite blogger had to say about women voting a week before the 2018 midterm election.

“What are my thoughts on women voting? I have been asked this frequently. I am not a fan at all. Women overwhelmingly vote Democrat. They vote for big government to take care of them which means higher taxes and more laws and regulations which means less freedoms. They vote for free health care and abortions. They vote for leftist policies which are highly destructive to the family and culture.”
-My least favorite blogger, 10/29/18

So her initial gripe is that women vote Democratic, as if it’s a sin to disagree with her personal beliefs. Heaven forbid that we use the brains that God gave us and come to our own conclusions! Turns out my least favorite blogger does indeed vote, but only the way her husband tells her to. Thinking for yourself is just too much of a destructive feminist principle, I guess. Believe it or not, I don’t need a man to tell me my own mind, thank you very much. Even when I was married I didn’t consult my husband before heading to my polling place. We might not have had the greatest relationship, but he did trust me to make my own decisions in that area! Another one of this lady’s objections to women’s suffrage is that females vote for “free health care and abortions.” This is both an oversimplification and a gross inaccuracy at the same time. I don’t know anyone who believes that there is such a thing as “free” healthcare. We’re not stupid; of course we know that our taxes pay for anything subsidized by the government. What we’re striving for is more affordable coverage for everyone, especially for those who aren’t lucky enough to be covered through their employer or privileged enough to pay for it out of their own pockets. And although Jesus would most definitely be a proponent of caring for the sick and the poor, somehow my least favorite blogger disagrees with attempts to actually do so. And while we’re at it, let me say one last thing – absolutely no one is pro-abortion! Instead we Democrats are pro-choice, meaning that a woman should always have the safe and legal option of ending a pregnancy if that is her decision. Abortions are never taken lightly, even if opponents insist that they are, and often terminating a pregnancy is the hardest, most gut-wrenching decision a woman or a couple will ever make. Taking that option away would be a step backwards for this country. Bodily autonomy is something that males have enjoyed since the beginning of human history, but it is something females are still trying to achieve for themselves. We have come a long way, but there are still inequalities that need to be reconciled. This is one of the reasons I vote!

In conclusion, the United States government was founded with the concept of the separation of church and state, and women were granted the right to vote via the 19th Amendment to the Constitution in 1920. If someone wishes to abstain from voting for any reason (religious or otherwise), that is their choice. However, no one has the power to enforce their beliefs in a manner that prevents me from casting my ballot and voting for any candidate I want. As an American woman who wants to have a say in the governing of my country I mailed in my ballot for the 2018 midterm election back in October. I did my civic duty and made my voice heard. What a concept!

Just say no to NaBloPoMo 2018

How is it November already? It really snuck up on me this year. October was pretty much a blur, and then Halloween was over in the blink of an eye. Needless to say, I will not even be attempting NaBloPoMo in 2018. I completely forgot about my annual 30-day webpage update challenge until yesterday, honestly, and by then it was already the second day of November. Far too late to post anything legitimate for the 1st. So the pressure to flood the internet with any and all of my innermost thoughts for a month is off the table this year. That’s a relief! There are far too many other, more significant things to worry about. 2018 has been quite a mess so far and I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. Mostly my health because my body is trying to drive me insane. Luckily it doesn’t seem to be killing me with cancer or some other degenerative disease (at least not that I’m aware of), but I’m still having a rough time. I’m simply not sleeping properly and it’s negatively affecting every facet of my life. In an effort to fix that, I have a second sleep study scheduled for next week so hopefully at least some answers will be forthcoming. At an appointment last week my neurologist said that he didn’t want to just throw more medications at the problem until he has more data. He wants the sleep study to check for “everything,” whatever that means. I’m sure that the bottom line is that I will have another thoroughly miserable experience, but I’ll happily endure it if that means getting one step closer to normality. Not only have I not gotten a good night’s sleep in maybe years, but there have been more tangible losses as well. I’ve missed out on more things than I can count. For example, on Tuesday when I woke up in the early hours of the afternoon I panicked. I had missed yet another day of work due to my unknown medical issues and, in addition, I was literally sleeping away the precious hours before a couple of rapidly approaching events. First of all, Halloween was less than 24 hours away and I had done very little to prepare for the annual chili cook-off at work. It’s one of my favorite days of the year and I hadn’t even made my own chili yet. But that was minor in comparison to what was coming next. I was supposed to fly to Orlando on Thursday for the Wine & Dine half marathon weekend, but how could I possibly justify that? I’ve missed way too much work already, my sleep pattern has been erratic at best, and my life in general has just been too chaotic recently. I couldn’t perceive any scenario where going on vacation, even to Walt Disney World, was a good idea right now. So I made the hard decision to cancel the trip I’d been looking forward to all year. I’m disappointed to not be there this weekend enjoying myself, but I’m actually feeling much more relaxed here at home where I can rest and catch up on what I’ve been missing. Nothing is 2018 has been easy so far, but I’m hopeful that better days are on the horizon.

Follow your instincts

Earlier this year a woman posted in the Seal Beach Facebook group to warn residents that her daughter had been followed down Main Street and into several different shops by a man she didn’t know. Her instincts told her that there was something off about the situation so she pretended to take a photo of the man, causing him to quickly flee the scene. Fortunately for this young woman the story has a benign, although unsettling, ending. And most of the folks in the Seal Beach FB group agreed that she was lucky and had handled the situation well. For the most part, our little town is incredibly safe and I have rarely been fearful for my security. But to reiterate that dangerous situations still happen, even in our sleepy beach community, I told a condensed version of a story where a man followed me in the grocery store parking lot late one night. (I’ll expound on this is a separate post.) Here is how the FB comment section unraveled afterwards. (Note: Last names have been removed, and I have edited the comments somewhat to keep the narrative as brief and to-the-point as possible.) The bottom line is, follow your instincts and believe women when they say they have been targeted!

  • Lauren: “I had a man follow me out to my car in the Pavilions parking lot one night. Fortunately I saw him and got in my car quickly and locked the door. He stood next to my driver’s side window and waved at me. I believe he was just asking for a handout, but I didn’t give him a chance to say anything. Once I got home I called the store and told them about the situation.”
  • Josh: “Personally, I’d rather enjoy life and deal with situations as they arise and not be on constant alert, believing everything is a threat. Terrorism works because the actual harm is statistically small (3k people died in 9/11; 35k people die every year in car accidents alone), but the emotional reaction ruins people’s lives, ruins entire economies. Bad things happen, but not very often, statistically, and media that implies that bad things happen all the time is, in my view, salacious and manipulative.”
  • Lauren: “Unfortunately as women we have to be vigilant or we are vulnerable. Take a look at the comment I made just before yours. I was not a victim because I was alert, recognized the situation, and got myself to a safe place. Others are not so lucky.”
  • Judi: “It’s easy to feel this way when you’re a man. You have no idea what it’s like to be a woman – we have to be ever vigilant and aware. That’s not to say we have to live in fear and paranoia, but for us, the threats are very real. Sex trafficking aside (which is also an increasingly growing threat) – 1 in 4 (or more likely 1 in 3) women are sexually assaulted in their lives. Don’t deny or diminish our experience as women, you really have no idea.”
  • Josh: “You should become aware of any sudden increase in immediate physical risk to you (or your family). But that is not the same as ‘increased vigilance,’ which I am thoroughly against. Increasing vigilance decreases the threshold for threat detection. This might seem safer, but you pay for it. First, you live a more stressed life. Second, you run a higher risk of false positives. If everyone becomes hyper vigilant, society as a whole suffers. Seriously, if you want to actually minimize your risk of harm and not just make yourself stressed: be extra careful crossing the street and never ever drink before driving.”
  • Lisa: “Josh, first of all, I’d like to address your lack of grace. This was a warning, which is a reminder to be ‘more aware.’ Your comments have intruded and quite honestly lacked any compassion to this topic. Secondly, because you’re a man does indeed make it feel ‘minimized’ by you. Obviously you have a right to feel the way you do and have your judgements but because the nature of this awareness is scary – is not the right time to blast your thoughts of ‘mass hysteria.’ Sir, I have been prey to this type of situation and also was a victim of a mass shooting! There is no harm in saying keep your eyes, and ears open, and look for your exits. If you disagree, then give grace and get off the thread. This I guess, doesn’t apply to you.”
  • Lauren: “Josh, you have every right to live your life in whatever way you wish. And so do we. The fact is that you cannot understand the female experience if you aren’t one. I don’t live my life in fear, especially in Seal Beach, but I am still aware of my surroundings. And it has served me well.”
  • Josh: “I will not raise my daughter to live in fear. You are welcome to do as you like, of course. Sharing my view is no more or less intrusive than you sharing yours. Cheers and may reason prevail over emotion.”
  • Lauren: “And may real-life experiences open our eyes to what is actually going on around us.”
  • Judi: “Josh – I do actually understand what you’re saying and to some extent, I can agree on certain points, but you’re off base to not acknowledge that sex-trafficking and also generalized threats to women and children are very real. You may be able to assess risks based on statistics and even empathize with a person’s experiences in life, but that doesn’t give you the authority to speak to the experiences of women in the same way I – as a white woman – can’t speak to the experiences of a black man navigating life in our society. There’s a difference between being aware, knowing our individual risks, and being smart about how we handle those vs. living in fear. I’ll opt everyday for the first two for myself and to teach that to my children. My husband and I were discussing this recently when we parked at the mall. We parked in a not-well lit structure at dusk. I told him that if I were alone, I never would have parked there knowing I’d be returning to my car after dark. That really gave him pause and he said he’s never given any thought to where he was parking based on lighting or the time of day. Exercising caution about where I park and teaching my daughters to do the same is being aware of our risk and being smart – not living in fear. There’s a difference there that you don’t seem to be delineating between. Why wouldn’t I want to become aware of a sudden physical risk (one that may cause me harm), as you suggested, than use extra vigilance and take precautions to not end up in that situation in the first place?”
  • Mark: “Josh, big difference between ‘situational awareness’ and being ‘paranoid.’ I would suggest you get up to speed with human trafficking numbers. The vast majority are young women, and it’s a lot more than 100. California, Texas, and New York have the highest numbers. San Francisco and San Diego top the cities in CA. It’s real, and it’s getting worse.”

Feminine wave

I purchased a lot of dresses and skirts over the summer, mostly because I like the way they make me look and feel, but also because they are comfortable and stylish in the heat. But then I realized that they also make me feel more confident in my less that ideal body at the moment. (As always, it’s a work in progress. My exercise routine is great at the moment, but my diet is terrible, and my sleep is just plain atrocious. So there’s still progress to be made.) I originally wrote about this feminine overhaul back in April as part of my retail therapy series. I’ve worn those Old Navy swing dresses that I wrote about in that post many times, for work and on the weekends, and I’ve added to my collection as well. I now have a number of beautiful dresses which make me feel pretty and at least slightly fashionable. Trust me, I’m not trying to keep up with the younger/thinner/cuter, ladies at work, but I always seem to have a more positive mindset when I like what I’m wearing. And most of this new apparel was inexpensive (from Amazon or Uniqlo) which is a major plus. (Not too long ago I realized that I need to cut back on my emotional (but never completely frivolous) spending, but that’s a topic for a separate post.) However, some of my new clothes have cost a bit more money. Earlier in the summer two of my close friends helped me select three dresses at Ann Taylor and Loft, during a fortunate sale, and I found a beautiful black shift dress for presentations at work which was sadly not marked down at all. But it was too perfect to return. I’ve learned that money can sometimes buy small slices of happiness.

As far as the existing clothes that were clogging up my closet even before I purchased anything new, I am starting to make some strides. I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I am never going to wear a lot of the dresses that were previously in my wardrobe. They are currently two sizes too small, and I don’t want to torture myself by gazing at them wistfully anymore. So I decided to get rid of the colorful shift dresses one way or another. So far I’ve given three to a friend, after a visit to the dry cleaner, of course. It’s good to know that they will be worn by someone who will appreciate them. My next stop will be a consignment shop or two to see if I can sell any of the remaining pieces. They are all high quality, semi-pricey dresses in great condition, but who knows if they have any resale value. I guess I’ll find out. The final avenue will be pursuing a donation to Dress for Success, a charity that provides professional clothing to women in need to wear to job interviews, and when they are newly employed and getting back on their feet financially. I can’t think of a better way for my old dresses to be used to make the world a better place. Plus, I’ll feel a lot better when I reduce the clutter in my life as much as possible. I’m trying to purge not only the negative thoughts from my mind, but also everything unnecessary from my house. I have acquired way too much stuff over the six years I’ve lived here and it’s getting a bit overwhelming. I have my retail therapy spree in the first have of the year to thank for a lot of that! It’s time to start scaling back again, but this time while wearing a dress.

Only the beginning

“My personal conversation with my body hasn’t yet progressed far enough to the point that I love what I have. It’s a process, I know, but frankly, I want to spend as little time as possible thinking about my arms and legs and the way the fat on my back folds when I’m not paying attention at the beach. I just want apathy – to feel nothing about my body at all, to be merely grateful that it functions as I require, that I put clothes on it (when forced), and food in it when necessary (surprisingly often!). Love, like hate, requires too much active effort for something I don’t even want to deal with.”
-Scaachi Koul

It’s no secret that I have less than loving feelings for my body. In fact, I’m undoubtedly its worst critic. I am rarely happy with how I look, much to the detriment of my self-esteem. This is something that I am working on. (Yesterday morning I gave myself compliments as I was putting on my makeup.) Specifically, I wrote about focusing on my successes rather than my failures not too long ago, but it’s (unsurprisingly) an uphill battle. I keep trying to remind myself of the progresses I’m making at the gym and with my running, but I still have a long way to go when it comes to obsessing about my weight and the size of my clothes. Fortunately, taking a break from the 6-week fat loss challenge that ended last month was very beneficial. I kept exercising as much as I had been before, but I worried less about strictly following the diet plan and posting pictures of every single meal and snack for the trainers to comment on. This greatly reduced my anxiety and allowed me to focus more on my overall health. The Monday after the fat loss challenge ended I weighed in at the gym and I had only lost 4 lbs, but I had also lost inches on just about every measurement. That was encouraging. Not that I kept the progress going since then, in fact I’ve regressed a bit, but it’s good to know that if I can find the energy to work hard enough I can eventually get where I’m going. It just might be a long road with a number of obstacles along the way.

Unfortunately my life, and the world in general (more on that soon), has been a bit rough these days so very few things seem positive. But I know that at some point I will find my equilibrium. My first priority is to get my physical health under control. Speaking of which, I have another sleep study scheduled for this coming Friday to determine whether or not I have narcolepsy. The Klonopin prescription that my neurologist gave me a few weeks ago doesn’t seem to be making much difference so we’re taking the investigation to the next level. My first sleep study was no picnic, but I can endure another one if it means that I might get additional answers into what’s going on with my crazy brain. It’s so hard to take care of your body the way you should when it’s causing you so much trouble. However, I am doing a few things in the realm of self-care to keep my spirits up while things are not all sunshine and roses. I have added an extra day at boot camp every week (which means I am sore almost all the time), and I’ve started running more (which my feet and legs are having to acclimate to again). In fact, my workout buddy and I have started running from her house to the gym (~1.75 miles), completing a boot camp class, and then running back. It can be grueling, but I know it’s extremely beneficial across the board. Then when I get home I’ve been pampering myself with some probably unnecessary, but refreshingly indulgent beauty products. I bought some Kiehl’s shower scrub at the airport on my trip to Portland last month, I got a bottle of way too expensive Crabtree & Evelyn body lotion with some leftover Amazon credit, and I’ve been applying Vitamin C serum to my face every morning. These things might not make any real difference in the health of my skin, but the routine of nourishing my body is soothing when it feels like so many other areas of my life are in chaos. But I know it won’t always be like this which helps me get through the hardest days. I’ll get to where I need to be. I just don’t know when!

Debt and higher education (part 2)

“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”
-Brigham Young

Yesterday I wrote a post about the financial aspects of my undergraduate and graduate school education. I was attempting to refute claims from my least favorite blogger that men find women less desirable as potential wives if they have debt incurred from higher education. To take it even further, this woman doesn’t approve of college at all for those of us of the female persuasion. To use her own words, “There’s nothing biblical about young women going away to college.” It’s easy to unravel this argument, though. First of all, college as we know it today did not exist millennia ago when the Bible was written. Of course there were institutes of higher learning, especially in the more wealthy and powerful nations, but I don’t think even those are addressed in the Bible. (Please correct me if I’m wrong!) Second, women had almost no rights or autonomy at that time so I’m sure they received little to no education. They had so few options in their lives simply because of their gender and the male-dominated society they were born into. (This is slightly off topic, but as always, I am unbelievably grateful to all of the women who came before me and made the world a more equitable place for future generations.) Later in her post this blogger continues her rant:

“They [women] will be taught to be strong apart from the Lord and independent of Him and in no need of a man. In fact, they will be taught that there are no differences between men and women and be encouraged to be a man and take on his role. They will be taught about birth control, overpopulation, and the inconvenience of having children. They will be taught to pursue careers so they can make a name for themselves and have money of their own. They will be taught nothing about God’s ordained role for them but instead, spend a lot of money for their college education and gain a mountain of debt.”

To start with, what individual could possibly have the right to determine what God’s ordained role for any person other than themselves? That’s arrogance of the highest order. There are a number of reasons that women want to further their education, but most want to prepare for a career. I was in a sorority at UF and a majority of my sisters had lofty professional dreams that they were pursing, similar to my own. In this day and age a college degree is almost a requirement for any line of work. Of course, I understand that this isn’t universally true, and that college isn’t right for everyone. And that’s perfectly OK! I don’t judge folks for their educational choices, unlike some “Christian” bloggers I know. (I read another article by a different author recently that got me all fired up on this subject, but I’ll have to address that at a later time.) On the other hand, most of my sorority sisters were also eager to fall in love, get married, and start having children. So even though they had ambitions outside the home, they still wanted the traditional house with a white picket fence and a loving family to go with it. We are lucky that thanks to women’s rights advocates and feminists that there’s no reason we can’t have both! For example, where would we be without female-dominated professions like nursing, teaching, and social work? Let me use another quote straight from my least favorite blogger herself. In a recent Instagram post she asked, “Many women believe they are being ‘called’ to their careers but are they really?” For myself the answer is a resounding YES! And I’m sure most of the working women that I know, many with husbands and children too, would have a similar response.

The last point I want to address is single women such as myself. How would I be able to support myself if I didn’t have a good job thanks to my college education? Granted, my situation is unique since I made the choice to be single rather than having singleness thrust upon me. I divorced my ex-husband because he was abusive and cheated on me, but not all women have that luxury. What about women who are widowed or whose husbands leave them? Also, what about married women whose husbands become disabled or unable to work? How do they feed their children, keep a roof over their head, and satisfy their most basic needs? As I mentioned earlier, it’s difficult to get a good job without a college degree now. This is the reason I believe that all women who are inclined to go to college should do so, even if they plan to be a stay-at home wife and mother, just in case they are required to be their family’s breadwinner for one reason or another. It seems prudent to plan for whatever the future could bring rather than relying on a man to fulfill the provider role for the rest of your life. Of course this is just my opinion and I would encourage all women, couples, and families to figure out what works best for them. God gave us free will for a reason and he wanted all of his children to be happy, including members of the fairer sex!

P.S. In case you were wondering, one of the reasons I continue reading posts from this particular blogger is because they inspire me to think critically about the subject at hand and write these responses/rebuttals. Blogging has always been good for my soul. So even if I get angry reading her posts about how ladies these days are apparently loud, improper, and far too independent, I won’t let it affect how I feel about myself as a woman. I will simply use my visceral reaction as an opportunity to explain how not everyone fits into the same rigid box. Use your God-given gifts and live your life in whatever way you wish, ladies!

Debt and higher education (part 1)

“Imagine being born and finding out that because of your gender you’re expected to do one thing. Boys can be anything, but you, you’re only expected to stay home and cook and clean and make babies. I refuse to believe that that is my only purpose in life and my reason for existing.”
-7/3/18 Facebook comment

I was fairly young when I decided that I wanted to be an engineer. Math and science were always my favorite subjects and my parents, as well as all of my teachers, encouraged me to pursue my dreams. For me, college was a given. I never had any doubt that I would head straight to a university after graduating high school. However, I knew that my family wasn’t rich so my higher education options weren’t unlimited. I think I only applied to two schools, and one of them (Georgia Tech) fell off the list quickly because I didn’t get any substantial financial aid. Fortunately I grew up in Florida and our state has an amazing scholarship program called Bright Futures. When I finished high school over twenty years ago all you had to do to get money for college from the state was graduate from a Florida public high school, earn above a certain grade point average, and receive over a certain score on the SAT or ACT. So I had 100% of my tuition covered, plus a stipend for books every semester. (Granted, it was never enough to cover all of the insanely expensive textbooks I had to buy, but it certainly helped.) This means that I went to the University of Florida basically for free. Since I wasn’t living at home (Gainesville is about two hours away from Tallahassee) I did have room and board expenses, but I was extremely fortunate to have a college fund that my grandparents had sent up for me when I was young. They provided invaluable help to all four of their grandchildren in this manner. I got my Bachelor of Science degree with minimal cost to my parents, and without incurring any debt whatsoever. For this reason I know I am one of the lucky ones.

My least favorite blogger insists that men prefer debt-free virgins without tattoos. I already addressed the purity aspect in my 7/27 post, and now I’m going to tackle the debt portion of this hypothesis. After college I had no debt, but then I headed to graduate school at UCLA for two reasons. 1) I always planned to earn a Master’s Degree, and 2) the job market wasn’t great in 2002. I already had my foot in the door at Boeing due to my three internships, but the managers I knew there weren’t hiring when I graduated. So in the fall of 2002 I started my out-of-state, meaning not cheap, graduate school experience. Fortunately I was offered a position as a research assistant, and sometimes teaching assistant, which covered my tuition (four times more expensive than at UF) and earned me a paycheck every month. The drawback is that it was a very meager salary that didn’t cover the rent on my studio apartment close to campus. I lived for two years on the money I earned working at Boeing in 2000, 2001, and 2002. Usually an internship is an unpaid position, but Boeing is extremely generous to their temporary employees. I had saved a significant amount before starting graduate school, but I still needed additional financial aid to afford my continued education. So for the first time I got student loans. I still count myself as one of the lucky ones because in two years I only racked up about $17k worth of debt. In contrast, my ex-husband had attended MIT for undergrad and his student loans were much more substantial than mine. However, since our education had assisted both of us in finding fulfilling and lucrative jobs, neither of us considered the other’s student loan debt to be a point of contention when thinking about our future. Not that you’ll ever get rich as an engineer, but it comfortably pays the bills. I’ll reiterate the neither of us was religious so we weren’t viewing each other through the lens of Biblical suitability for marriage.

I have a lot more to say on this subject, but this post is already pretty long. Come back later this week so I can use my personal life experiences to refute some of the claims made by this “Christian” blogger about women and college. Educated women need to push back on the antiquated, male-dominated conventions that would prefer to limit our options. To be continued!

Rejecting limitations

When I was growing up my parents always told me that I could do anything I wanted to with my life. In fact, I wholeheartedly believed that women were smarter than men. I’m not sure where I got that idea, but I defended it to my male friends on more than one occasion. Also, I was encouraged by my teachers to pursue the subjects I enjoyed and excelled in – specifically, math and science. In spite of the fact that these subjects have always been traditionally dominated by men, none of my elementary school teachers (all women) ever gave me any indication that I didn’t have the ability to follow my dream of becoming an engineer. I had nothing but cheerleaders in my family and in the academic arena throughout my young life. This gave me the confidence I needed to pursue my chosen career as an aerospace engineer. I never once doubted that I had the competence and intelligence to fulfill this ambition. Unfortunately society compels females to hide their intelligence in order to gain the favor of the opposite sex. We are systematically taught that boys don’t like girls who are smarter than they are. Lucky for me I never bought into that ridiculousness. Throughout my childhood and adolescence I was always a little odd, and by the time I was about fifteen I finally stopped trying to fit into society’s mold. It was so liberating! So how did everything ultimately turn out? Well, In December I will celebrate 15 years of employment at Boeing as a spacecraft systems engineer, so I’d call that a success!

A while back I discovered a website maintained by a self-proclaimed fundamentalist Christian woman who basically believes the opposite of the way I do on just about everything. For some reason, in spite of her hypocritical writings and harsh judgements on anyone who disagrees with her, I keep typing in her URL every day to see what fresh nonsense she has posted. This probably isn’t the smartest thing to do if you are trying to keep your mental health stable or your blood pressure low, but I’ve discovered that it’s like watching an internet train wreck. I just can’t look away! On 6/24, upon reading something this lady posted to her Instagram account about women’s career limitations I got extremely irritated and I was compelled to leave a comment. She claimed that, “One of the stupidest things mothers can say to their daughters: ‘You can be anything you want to be!’ This comes from a feminist mindset and is a lie.” Excuse me??? Besides the fact that in the 21st century girls thankfully have almost as many options as boys (thank you, feminists!), but I imagine having your parent discourage you at a young age would severely cripple your self-confidence. And females already have enough hurdles placed in front of us simply due to our gender. How about you don’t limit your daughter’s possibilities before you even know what she’s capable of? Trust you have loved her and raised her well enough that she can make choices based on her interests and abilities that will lead her in the right direction as she grows up.

Later in her post this “Christian” woman asked, “How about teaching your daughters that they should seek to be what God calls them to be instead?” She can’t even fathom that God would call a woman to a career that requires a higher education, like a doctor, a lawyer, or (heaven forbid) an aerospace engineer. At this point I had already been banned from commenting on her Facebook wall (a funny, yet disturbing story for another post), but I hadn’t yet used my “get out of jail free” card on her Instagram. Here is how I chose to play it – “Believe it or not, I am a rocket scientist. Luckily my parents did tell me I could be anything I wanted. Women shouldn’t be limited!” Even though I got a couple of replies (which lacked significant substance), it wasn’t long before my comment was deleted and I was banned from viewing her account. So because I disagreed with this “Godly” woman (her God is most certainly not my God) I was removed from the conversation. That’s one way to avoid having to back up your claims! Fortunately I am a modern woman with an established career, money in the bank, and a pretty comfortable life (except for the ex-husband who is thankfully in my past) who cares very little what other people think of me. Especially not crazy internet strangers. So I’ll go back to happily living my life, constantly rejecting limitations placed on me because I’m a female. Nothing is going to hold me back!

Reaching out for help

I haven’t written about this before because it is such a difficult topic, but in light of recent events I think it needs to be said. I actually wrote an email to a podcast on this subject a while back because I was looking to spread the word about reaching out for help if you need it. Funny enough, I was willing to have this personal information read on a public podcast, but I wasn’t yet ready to publish it on my own blog. Things are different now. There have been a number of high visibility suicides that have left the world reeling. It is tremendously sad and we’re all left asking, “Why?” There is no satisfactory answer to that question. Depression is a formidable foe. You never really know what someone is thinking or feeling, or how much they’re struggling – sometimes until it’s too late. Here is my story as I described it in my email in May.

“At the beginning of the year I wasn’t taking care of myself. I didn’t eat right and I didn’t exercise for a long time. Finally, at the end of January, I called my doctor and told her I was depressed and admitted that I needed help. To her practice’s credit they got me an appointment that same day and I started taking Lexapro immediately. A few weeks later I felt like a new person. It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses since then, and I have some other subsequent medical issues that I’m dealing with, but I am doing so much better now. After fighting this battle and finally finding myself on the path to recovery I wanted to send this message to your listeners – if any of you are feeling depressed and thinking that you might need help, DO IT! Call your doctor ASAP. Don’t be ashamed. You don’t have to feel this way. You can be happy again. I hope this helps someone out there who is struggling like I was.”

I waited longer than I should have before asking for help. Unfortunately society teaches women that we are supposed to be invulnerable. We must be strong, silent, efficient, and most of all, uncomplaining. I thought I needed to power through the sadness and hopelessness because that’s just what everyone else does. But when I started talking to my friends and colleagues about my difficulties I discovered that almost every one of them has been in the same situation at one point or another. Nearly every woman I know has experienced depression and benefited from medical intervention. But before I started this conversation I had no idea! This is why we need to have an open dialogue about mental health – to normalize it enough that people know that there are readily available resources when they’re fighting depression. So if you are reading this and you’re feeling low and contemplating hurting yourself, please reach out to someone, anyone for help. Also, do not hesitate to call your doctor. You don’t have to feel this way. The world is better with you happy, healthy, and still alive.

Shutting down hate

“In the past I don’t think I have expressed my opinions as freely as I should have. Before now I have felt intimidated by opinionated people and rarely did I oppose them for that reason. Everyone should be able to say what they think, but in a way that does not degrade any particular person for their beliefs.”
5/19/99 webpage post

I was reading my very first webpage post from 5/19/99 the other day and I was struck by the above excerpt. It’s remarkably wise for my immature and inexperienced twenty year-old self. I’m pretty sure I talked a big talk, but didn’t live up to it in real life. Even so, my thinking was on the right track at a young age. Unfortunately I met my ex-husband a couple of years later and over the course of our eleven year relationship I was groomed to keep any displeasure to myself. I’ve written about emotional abuse in my marriage before and this was another aspect of it. Anytime I expressed unhappiness I was somehow persuaded into thinking that everything was my fault and that I should fix the problem on my own (whether or not I caused it) and keep quiet about it. It was a real step backwards in my personal development. Eventually I came to the miraculous realization I that I didn’t need to live that way! I rescued myself from that toxic relationship and a lifetime of misery with someone who didn’t respect me.

Now that I’m older and finally free to be whoever I want I am relearning the same lessons that I did back in college. Not long ago there was an incident at work where I was compelled to shut down hate speech. Working closely with a lot of people I am fully aware that we all have differing opinions, and we are entitled to them, but there are lines that I am not willing to tolerate being crossed in my presence. So when I heard a co-worker expressing anti-Muslim sentiments there was no way I could let it go. In no uncertain terms I informed him that his conversation was not appropriate for work. I didn’t try to correct his views (although I consider them repulsive – I respect all religions while not being religious myself), but made sure that he knew that he should not be discussing them at our place of employment. I’m pretty sure he thought I was joking because he ignored me and kept talking. So I raised my voice and forcefully said, “I’m not kidding, that is not an appropriate topic of conversation at work.” (As a side note, internally I feared I was being bitchy. Thanks to society women are conditioned to be pleasant all the time or risk being considered bitches, but that didn’t stop me from standing my ground when he didn’t shut up.) So what was the response after my second admonition? “I thought this was a free country.” Seriously? This made me even angrier than the initial religion bashing. Some people don’t understand that free speech means that in the United States you can’t be arrested or executed for your opinions, but it does not mean you are completely free from the consequences of what you choose to say. Hate speech can absolutely get you fired. My blood was boiling at this point, but I had a job to do so I got back to it. Later that day I described the incident to a manager because I think all employees have an obligation to stop this despicable sort of discrimination. Fortunately management took my report seriously and the situation was quickly dealt with. Still, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. It blows my mind that people walk around with so much hate. Our world would be a much more harmonious place without it.