Accidental Wisdom


I accidentally said something wise at work.

Co-worker Elaine had asked me about Ragnar because her husband and some of his friends were getting a team together and she wasn’t sure if she should run or not, and I have a bunch of Ragnar stickers on my car.

Of course, I told her Ragnar is the best. I told her that it’s my favorite race, and that she is totally capable of running it. I told her that people run in costume and there’s a unique camaraderie in the van. I told her it’s a chance to feel like a kid again.

Still, Elaine was worried about her pace. Evidently her husband’s friends are cops and are pretty competitive. They didn’t love that she runs like an 11-minute pace. In our conversation about pace, she was saying that she just didn’t think she would ever get faster, and I said, “Pace is really just dependent on how uncomfortable you’re willing to be. You can get faster; it just might not be worth the discomfort.”

Of course discomfort is not the only factor. If I’d lose 20 lbs, it’d be a lot easier for me to run faster, but the variable that’s always a factor is discomfort.

I am a firm believer that anyone can run Ragnar, anyone can run a half marathon, and anyone can run a full marathon. The question isn’t whether a person can do it. The question is whether a person is willing to do it. The question is how uncomfortable a person is willing to be, because running a marathon is really uncomfortable for a really long time.

Elaine recently quoted me back to myself, saying that she actually thinks about discomfort every time she runs now. She thinks about how if she’ll just be a little more uncomfortable, she’ll also be a little faster.

It’s really cool to hear that it helped her. Even though I didn’t intend to be particularly awesome or helpful in that moment, what I said to Elaine has actually been really helpful to me in studying for the LSAT.

The LSAT is an obnoxious test. And I’m beginning to believe that taking it is a lot lot running a personal best on race day. It’s not just about getting up to the distance; it’s also about being efficient. It’s about pacing and constant forward motion.

I scored my first 160 on a practice test several weeks ago, which was awesome. 160 is the median score U of A accepts, and it’s at the lower end of the range where they offer merit-based scholarships. It was also my goal score, so I got to adjust my goal up, which is always such a confidence-booster. But it took a lot of discomfort to get to that 160. It took a lot of sitting at sbucks, reading and practicing a bunch of stuff that has nothing to do with law school. I’ve done practice questions about giraffes, race cars, evolution, public parks, furniture, bread deliveries, tropical fish, computers, drilling fluids, choreography… you name it, I’ve studied it. Some of the questions are about literature, which always makes me happy, but the vast majority of my preparation has been reading about crap that really irritates me.

Also, it would have been easy to score 160, then stop worrying and studying. And yet, here I am, at sbucks, getting ready to work through my third thousand-plus page book, in the hopes that reading about the history of model airplanes will provide significant compensation in a few months. Discomfort now, for comfort in the future.

That’s what running is like. The more uncomfortable I’m willing to be, the better I will likely perform on race-day.

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About My Week


I had a difficult week – not bad – just difficult.

The primary struggle this week was friendships.

There were two or three different instances when I felt like a friend or friends were being competitive with me. It centered around the big life decisions I’ve been making, and really stirred up anxiety and sadness in me.

I hate comparison.

People are different. Circumstances are different. There is no possible way for one person to look at another person’s decisions and believe they should also do (or have already done) the same thing.

I completely close off when people start comparing themselves to me, and I wish I didn’t. I wish I had it in my to tell them things like, “Don’t play that game. Don’t get sucked in. Make the best decision for you. Don’t take the decision I made for myself and think it somehow provides commentary on the decisions you’ve made for you.”

One of the times I felt I was being watched and compared to others this week was at a get-together of some old friends. There were about 9 of us, I think, and I hadn’t seen or talked to any of them for months. Realistically, I’ve been intentional about moving on from 7 of them, so it was bound to be weird. I almost wish, however, that I didn’t have so much news to tell them. I wish I could have faded into a corner and let them catch up with one-another. I wish we’d gotten together a couple of months ago when I wasn’t getting ready to take the LSAT and sell my house.

I’m not selling my house to make money, although I am glad to discover that I probably will make money. I’m not taking the LSAT to feel smart or to impress. I didn’t quit teaching as a commentary that all teachers should get out. But it feels like that’s exactly what 6 or so of those old friends saw… the assessment, judgment, and occasionally envy or admiration was palpable last weekend.

It bothers me. It feels too much like a jockeying for position, like there’s some hierarchy and everyone is trying to figure out where I fit and where they fit in comparison to me. I don’t want to fit. Anywhere. I don’t want to fit at the top or at the bottom or in the middle of any hierarchy. It bothers me that a hierarchy exists.

My anthem for this season: “It is the most difficult thing in the world for a person to run her own pace when she knows someone is watching.”

I no longer even remember where that quote comes from, but I find great comfort in it. That quote brings me a peace, because it strips away the hierarchy and recognizes that every runner has a pace that fits her, that’s her own.

When I start to see my flaws or my strengths, this quote reminds me that racing isn’t about beating anyone else. It’s about taking the person I’ve been given – taking Katie… her muscles, her fat, her brain, her heart, her whatever – and running the best pace she can run. This quote reminds me that no matter how many people are watching and evaluating my race, the pace I set can never depend on their evaluation.

Have a good week, friends, and run your pace, regardless of the pace others around you are running.

It All Changes When You Interact with Your Boss Daily


I’m really struggling with my relationship to my boss. In part, this is because I’ve worked mostly autonomously for my entire adult life. Now, I see my boss and interact with her every day.

Note: it’s really hard for me not to write a hilarious post right now, because it would be easy to do. It would be easy to make fun of my boss, but I’m going to try not to do that. In fact, so many moments in my relationship with my boss should’ve been made into episodes of The Office. However, I’m going to try to be real about the way I ache over this relationship right now.

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My boss is an interesting lady. She’s raised a bunch of kids – none of whom were hers. They were her siblings’ children, and she took them in when they had nowhere else to go, because their parents had mental breaks. There is an elderly lady my boss visits once a week. She helps out at her church.

I so wish I could admire her properly for those actions, but she’s so… aware of them. Instead of keeping her right hand from knowing what her left has done, she seems to be holding a sign with her right hand that’s a constant headline of what the left has done.

Taking in and raising another person’s children is HUGE. I don’t want to miss that. She gave up much of her life willingly.

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My boss is the type who exerts power as a default. I think this comes from becoming a mother abruptly, rather than growing into it as the child grows. When a woman takes on a teenager, I think it’s easy to view her role as one of the enforcer. With teenagers, and especially teenagers who’ve not had strong parenting previously, it’s important to be able to say, “No,” and say it loudly.

I think that’s why my boss interacts with the people around her as if she’s been appointed the enforcer. The volunteers who are almost all older than she is call her “Mom.” They do so teasingly, but she takes pride in the sense of authority that comes with that title. She doesn’t quite get that only half of them call her “mom” with any affection.

Her previous job experience comes from working at Intuit, where she did tech-y things, and moved up through the company into mid-level management. Her career advancement was through hard work, and despite the absence of a college degree. Her time at Intuit created in her a strong respect for process documents and the chain of command. She won’t do anything outside of the normal process without permission from her direct superior, regardless of how insignificant such an action might be, and she sees it as incompetence and rebellion when anyone else does anything outside of what’s written on the process doc.

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My boss is proud of her Christianity, and talks a lot about her good works. Along with that, she’s judgmental, believing she knows what’s right and that all people should conform to her sense of morality. She doesn’t take the Bible seriously as the Word of God, but sees it more as a bunch of parables and metaphors, so the majority of her beliefs about morality are centered in church culture.

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My boss is insecure about her appearance and her weight. She’s made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, and has given up… well… most of her diet for the foreseeable future. She points it out when I eat anything she can’t eat on her diet, and does so in a sort of, “That’s a lot of calories,” kind of way.

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My boss panics and/or gets angry when a day strays off its intended course. If a volunteer doesn’t follow a process laid out in their training, she thinks less of them and expects them to continue “failing” as we go forward. She also continuously admonishes me for my tendency to give such volunteers the benefit of the doubt. She believes I see them with rose-colored glasses. Her greatest mission with regards to me and my performance seems to be to squash any amount of patience, peace, and flexibility I have with people who draw outside of the lines.

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It’s a really difficult relationship, because she seeks to make me into something I don’t want to be, and believe I should, in fact, never be.

My relationship with her reminds me of my relationship with my sister in a lot of ways.

You see, I’m the worst person in the world for someone to try to control. It’s not that I’m rebellious or competitive… I know some people see me that way. I actually think I have something more akin to tunnel vision. I set my view on what I want to be, and drive towards that without regard to anything else.

My boss wants me to be less forgiving, which is in direct opposition to what I want to be. She wants me to see the volunteers’ flaws, but I intentionally choose to see the best parts of them.

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I’m coming from a place where I was routinely asked the same question 20 times a day, and I repeated my answer (calmly for the most part) every time I was asked… a place where I had to be at peace with those under my authority making mistakes, often intentionally and/or maliciously… a place where I never thought it was within my power to eliminate bumps in the road… I truly saw my job as providing unavoidable opportunities for kids to learn, and continuing to love them when they were least lovable.

So… when volunteers do something that’s in a gray area, it hardly registers to me. It’s just part of the day. It’s to be expected. Of course, there are times when they really cross a line, and we need to sit down and talk, but that’s a rare need in my view. I’d also prefer a casual mention of it the next time we see them to sitting them down and formally telling them they’ve done something wrong and we’ve documented it in their charts.

For the most part, I believe my job is to equip volunteers to see patients. I believe I am to fuel them, advocate for them, and make it easy for them to serve.

I think my boss believes our job is to keep them from breaking rules.

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It’s just a really painful dynamic with my boss right now. My hope is that we will work smoothly together to complement each other in the future, but, I worry that her heart is in the wrong place and that she’s a rude person who oscillates between feeling sorry for herself and undiluted pride.

I try to pick my moments. I try to show her the grace I wish she would hold for others. I try to be gentle and helpful. I try not to point out her hypocrisies. I try not to lose it when she insults me or others.

And it’s been okay. There have been a few times when I believe I said something that’s helping her grow.

And as much as I didn’t want to write a comical post about all of this, the dynamic just reminds me soooo much of Michael Scott. Of course Michael made a few big sales, and all of the characters developed an involuntary affection for him, but sometimes, he just… well…

….

 

 

 

 

Dear Martha McSally, Re: Your Recent Survey


Dear Martha McSally,

I am a registered independent in Congressional District 2, Legislative District 9, and I received and responded to your recently mailed survey. However, I found the survey more than a little lacking, and, because I hope you truly care what I think, I’ve decided to correspond with you in a way that’s not quite so limited.

First and foremost, I’d like to explain some of my bias against this survey and where that bias began. As a registered independent, I received an overwhelming mass of correspondence on behalf of your campaign a little over a year ago, and I was incredibly offended by the negative slant of the majority of mailings I received. However, there was one particular mailing that really sticks in my mind as reprehensible. It featured incumbent Ron Barber’s picture as a parody for Malibu Barbie.

I feel it should be obvious why such a terrible piece of partisan politics was offensive to me and would have offended me regardless of who your opponent was. However, it was doubly offensive for its target. I lived down the street from Jared Loughner. I was personally impacted by the Gabby Giffords shooting, as most Tucsonans were, and Ron Barber took a special place in my heart as a public servant the moment he took a bullet that January 9th. I understand the money that paid for this particular smear ad came from outside interest groups. However, I’m incredibly disappointed that you did not publicly renounce such bull shit, childish, and petty acts made in an attempt to put you in office. Ron Barber deserved better, and I will expect better of any future opponents you face, because such a smear directed at you would be equally reprehensible.

Second, I’d like to point out that your survey did not address education in any way. I’ve been told that avoiding questions about education is a common practice in such surveys, because its something that you cannot have much of an impact on… it’s basically a lose-lose situation for you. Yet, I wish you would have asked. I wish the survey had been sent out with the intent to truly understand where your constituents stand on all of the issues, regardless of which issues you can truly expect to impact. Also, I hope and pray that you will re-prioritize education and fight on behalf of Arizona students, even if you believe it is a losing battle. I hate believing you’ve given up on an issue that’s so close to my heart.

I am among the many teachers this state (alongside the rest of the nation) is currently bleeding. I taught for 7 years, and gave it up last year when I discovered that assistant managers at Starbucks receive greater compensation than what teachers in Arizona receive. I now work as a program assistant for a local hospice and I make more than I made in the classroom, without even using my degree. Education is too important an issue to be omitted from any venue that’s purpose is to better understand where people stand on the issues.

Finally, I’m disappointed in the manner in which your survey addressed the issues it addressed. An overt selfishness bled through most of the questions. While I don’t recall the exact wording, as I already mailed in my responses, many of the questions were skewed so that only a fool would answer in a way that provided data to oppose your current stances… “Is a strong national defense a priority for you?” Of course – it’s a priority for everyone. It’s a priority for those who would prefer to move money from defense to agriculture, and it’s a priority for those who want to move money from agriculture to defense. If you truly wanted to know what your constituents think, you would write the question rather differently. However, as it stands, the results of that survey can only be used to reinforce your beliefs, rather than providing an opportunity for you to re-evalutate them. I’m sure those results will be published and say something to the effect of: “96% of voters polled responded by saying that a strong national defense is a priority for them.”

I want to believe you are different from other politicians. However, you have claimed to be different while simultaneously playing by the commonly accepted rules of politics. I generally don’t vote for the person with whom I agree most frequently. I vote for the human being who reveals herself to possess the integrity, intelligence, and courage to do what she believes is right, regardless of what would be most advantageous for her career. Thus far, you have not been that person. You have allowed outside interest groups to come in and insult a man who served honorably, and to insult him on your behalf. You have asked for feedback, but eliminated the possibility of dissent against you.

Please, don’t send me another survey or mailing that so lacks the substance and idealism necessary in representing me. In fact, each time you’ve mailed me in the past, you’ve diminished what esteem I held for you, so, honestly, you’d be better off to stop mailing me altogether… unless you can significantly step up your game.

Sincerely,

Katie James

The Sexist Nature of Video Games


Of course video games have sexist elements to them – OF COURSE they do. But that doesn’t keep it from irritating me when those sexist elements interfere with my enjoyment of gaming.

RPGs (Role Playing Games) often have romance storylines. RPGs are not linear. Thus there is a ton of replay value and they end up being somewhat similar to Choose Your Own Adventure books. There are tons of variables the gamer faces and he or she makes choices about what characters do, where they go, when, whether they have a sense of morality, and to what extent they build relationships with NPCs (Non-Player Characters) in the game. The choices made throughout a game impact how much NPCs trust the gamer’s character, and what he/she will do.

The romance storyline is almost always a part of this. In order to get a romance storyline working, the gamer has to have his/her character talk to the desired love interest a ton, and say the kinds of things the NPC will appreciate. Additionally, there is also almost always a side quest to complete to really, truly gain the NPC’s trust and affection. This takes hours. I’m not exaggerating. I get that gaming is often viewed as a pathetic sort of thing because of the time it consumes, but I guarantee you’ve spent more time watching tv than have in the past year.

So… the thing about being a girl gamer is that the storylines are set up to be for a dude. Mass Effect 2 is a great example. In it, there are 4 romance options for a dude. All of them are pretty decent. There are 4 romance options for a female character – 3 of them suck.

As a dude, Shepherd can sleep with a woman who has been bio/genitically/whatever engineered to be really sexy and competent. He can also have romance (no sex) with a crazy girl who has tattoos all over her and walks around the ship barely clothed. He can also have romance with an alien whose face you never see because of her special space suit, but she’s got a REALLY human and female shape, voice, etc… He can also talk a lesbian into doing a sexy dance for him in his quarters.

As a female, Shepherd can have a pretty decent romance with a guy who has excellent abs, but kind of isn’t impressive other than that. She can also have an alien who REALLY doesn’t look like a human at all and they have to discuss whether or not their anatomy will even allow for sex. I didn’t play that one all the way through, because it weirded me out a bit too much. She can also have the same alien male Shepherd can have with the very human female shape, voice, etc… She can also have the lesbian.

And, okay, as a female, what I really want out of the romance is not at all the perfect abs, or the animated cut-scene sex. I want to have a character who is important to my character. I want to have the flirtatious dialogue options. I want to have the sense that he’s fallen for my character fully and will never want to be with anyone else. WHY DON’T THEY GET A WOMAN TO WRITE THE FEMALE ROMANCE STORYLINES?!?!?!?!

Why am I on this rant, you ask?

The last thing I did in 2015 is beat Dragon Age: Origins.

Best romance option as a female is Alistair, and I have to say, he is a REALLY GOOD option. He’s well-written, sympathetic, adorable… However, at the end of the game, female Gray Warden either has to die saving him or he dies saving her. There is no option for both of you living unless you pimp Alistair out to a witch who will become impregnated with his baby, which she will raise however she sees fit, without Alistair ever seeing it. Also, you can try to persuade him to marry his half-brother’s widow.

This isn’t a problem when you play as a male character… the romance interests for you don’t end up in either of those messes, or, at least I don’t see any way they possibly could…
I’m just saying… it seems slightly unfair….

The Car Accident and Singleness in the Church


I got into a minor car accident last night. I was in the Walmart parking lot, contemplating the changes to my personality that may prevent me from every shopping at Walmart ever again in my whole life. I’m beginning to hate that place.

I was in the lane to exit the parking lot and turn right onto a relatively busy road. There was a j-wad blocking our vision because he intended to make a left across three lanes of traffic and he was pulled way farther forward than was necessary.

The car in front of me hit their gas, so I let off on the break and tried to see around the j-wad blocking my view, and I coasted forward, right into the car in front of me’s bumper. Evidently, they gave it gas, and then hit the brake.

We got out, and I apologized. We all checked our bumpers and, seeing as I didn’t even leave any paint on theirs, we told each other to have a good evening, and we drove away.

I would like to thank God that I’ve never had to submit a car insurance claim. I’ve got no tickets or accidents on my record… hallelujah!

The incident caused me to hate Walmart even more than I already hated it… all I really wanted was a few light bulbs, a space heater, and some garbanzo beans. I usually shop at Trader Joe’s, but sometimes you actually need to purchase something from a stupid place that has 42 options for which type of pen you want.

Oh well, nobody got hurt, I found everything I needed and wanted, and all is well.

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As a side story, there is a new guy attending my church, and I had one of those moments that made me want to punch Christian culture in the crotch.

I have been running the coffee bar at my church, which is nice because I get to meet people without having to initiate anything. However, I had not met the new guy, because he hasn’t been drinking the coffee. Being that he’s the only new person of many who I hadn’t yet met, I made sure to join a conversation he was in and introduce myself.

When I did that, the other person in the conversation made an excuse to go do something else…

In all fairness, this is obviously not something isolated to Christian culture, but really?

I totally wasn’t trying to flirt with him. I felt like I’d shirked my responsibility by not introducing myself prior to that day.

So, we talked a little, and he turned out to be applying for residency at Banner Medical in Neurology. While that’s cool, and I can see why people think that makes him appealing, I’m really hoping no one thinks what I know they’re thinking… that, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Or something like that… that quote is the opening line of Pride and Prejudice, and it’s meant as sarcastic and humorous. If anyone tries to talk to me about the prospects of me dating and marrying this guy, there’s a distinct chance that I’ll say something rude and offensive.

I Found My Bonhoeffer!!!!


The funny thing is that I looked on top of the chair. In fact, I removed everything from the top of the chair to ensure it wasn’t hidden underneath a grocery bag. You see, that chair is my just-walked-in dumping grounds. Everything goes on top of that chair.

As you can see….

   
    
 
I almost moved on to the next book, but I am overjoyed that there’s no need.
Happy Halloween!