Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Recap & 2016 Resolutions

My Resolutions from 2015
- run a 10K and 2 other "races" - I ran two color runs and the distance of a 10K (though not a race) so we'll call this one good. 1 point
reach my goal weight - I did reach it. Staying there...that's going to be my new challenge. But 1 point =)
- Buy stock/invest in a CD to better understand money - I made this one cause I didn't have any debt, and now I do have one (thanks to helping Ryan pay off his house) which gets to the spirit of the resolution, so 0.5 points
- Read the New Testament & journal my QTs. I did journal some this year, but mostly about cancer, and didn't touch the NT. 0 points.
- Try a new 'hard' recipe every month Yep! Read my last blog post for the success on this one! 1 point.
Memorize a new scripture passage monthly Sort of? I only started this in November to memorize the verses for the basketball team I am coaching, so...we'll call it a 0.5 point, but it wasn't the whole year.
- Finally visit a gynecologist Yep. It wasn't weird. Just do it girls. 1 point
- Learn how to do makeup Ipsy and Birchbox were great! I cancelled for 2016 - I had so many products! 1 point.
- Attend Grace Hopper (professional conference) and Brick Fair (Lego fan conference) Yep It was great! 1 point
Read the next 2 Song of Ice and Fire books with Ryan Yep. Caught up with the show, probably not going to keep reading since GRRM has not planned the next publication date. 1 point

So, 8/10. That's good!

My New Resolutions
01 - Build my own computer! This is about saving the money to buy the parts and about learning the inner workings of the computer

02 - Cook 12 dishes from non-US countries, one a month

03 - Reduce my running time to a 12 minute mile (for 3 miles, my standard)

04 - Read one non-fiction book every month (see my list here!)

05 - Grow my own veggies! Herbs, Tomatoes, maybe some others but we'll start with those.

06 - Learn about car maintenance - want to be able to do my own oil change

07 - Listen to more podcasts. I think I can learn more from podcasts while running than TV

08 - Make a Project Linus Blanket. I'd like to learn how to knit and if not, I did learn how to use the sewing machine at work, and now I can quilt a little blanket! I'd like to try both but one is a good resolution for now. :)

09 - Learn to make my own pasta! I've got to get the pasta press for KitchenAide, but I want to try

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Cook Something Hard Results

1) January - CrockPot cooking (I wrote a blog about this one)

2) February - Saffron Lamb - I made this fancy dish for Valentine's day, and it was delicious but expensive! I have not used the saffron I bought for it since.

3) March - Checkerboard Cake - I made this for Ryan's birthday and learned that angelfood cake is a terrible choice for this - it's impossible to cut!

4) April - DIY Celery Pickles - this was surprisingly easy, and delicious in egg salad!

5) May - Broiled Hawaiian Chicken - I spent some time trying to learn the difference between bake and broil in order to make dinner on mother's day

6) June - DIY BBQ sauce - I followed a recipe for beer sauce and made some tweaks to the sodium content

7) July - Quiche - I totally burned this one. But it was tasty!

8) August - Fried Plantains - This was so outside of my comfort zone but ended up being super easy and now I make them all the time!

9) Sept - Spaghetti Squash - Definitely an experience to cook this veggie. It's SO yummy though! Don't get fooled - it doesn't sub for pasta, but is good all on it's own

10) Oct - Butternut Squash soup - Ryan didn't like this :( But I also did roasted squash which he liked better - the carrots in the soup was what he really didn't like!

11) November - Pecan Pie - this one was a special request from Ryan for thanksgiving...and I burned it. My reputation with pies is not so great right now!

12) December - for a co-worker who doesn't eat sugar, I learned some baking science in order to make sugar-free banana nut muffins. They were a big hit! :)

When you say goodbye, what taste do you leave?

Yesterday, someone I work with left his job to go to another company. And while I understand why he's making that choice for his career and I think it's the right choice for him and I wish him the best, I'm processing a little bit how you say goodbye to someone that you've seen almost every day, and then your contact with them just...stops.

It doesn't really stop, I suppose - I am still able to reach out to him as needed, but the nature of how we interact fundamentally changes when he's working for another organization.

It's not like this is a new experience for me - at the end of every summer internship I've had, I had to say goodbye to the people who I worked with and saw everyday, and at graduation, I had to say goodbye to classmates I had been with for years. And with all of them, the nature of our relationship somehow changed. I still saw them, I was still happy for them when they got married, but something changed. Experiencing this before doesn't make it feel different, or feel easier, to say goodbye to someone. It's still a bittersweet experience.

At the end of the farewell luncheon for my co-worker, there was a long line of people waiting to shake his hand and say their few words - and three women (one of them me) who got (*cough*, asked for) hugs instead of handshakes. And yes, that was special, and I'm glad I got my hug...but that was it.

I know, from those previous experiences, that this feeling will go away and that my job will stay pretty much exactly the same. But it still feels weird, and I still feel like I should capture it somehow. Sometimes, people go out of your life and come back into them later, sometimes, people go out of your life without your even realizing that they're leaving. But moments like these - abrupt endings - make you think about how many people are in your life, how many lives you touch, and what message you may be leaving with them about you, what motivates you, how you work, etc. When you walk out of their life, how will they remember you? what taste will you leave behind?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Some Gender Observations at Work

This week has been interesting for me in terms of the STEM gender gap - so much so that I feel like I need to write up my observations. Though I have been aware of the STEM gender gap since I decided to go into a STEM degree in 10th grade, I still don't know how to approach it sometimes, or how to educate others about why the STEM gender gap matters (not to mention the STEM race gap). Diversity and the impact of diverse teams is a hard concept to really describe, and the emotions surrounding it are so complex.

1) The Impact of Age
An interesting impact of age is that for men 40 and over, it's hard for them to recognize me (the 23 year old female) as a peer. For some, it's because their daughters are "just a few" years younger than I am (where "just a few" is 6-8 years, when their daughters are in high school). This does not happen to my male counterparts - they don't look at them and get reminded of their sons. I'm not sure why this happens, but it's extremely interesting and has a big impact from a work perspective - it's much easier to talk to someone as a peer when they don't remind you of your child at home.

Also, before you all say I'm imagining it, people have flat out told me "you remind me of my daughter" or "my daughter is a lot like you" and then proceeded to act accordingly. One of my supervisors literally patted me on the head once (he didn't mean for it to be weird, but I flipped out a little bit). Approaching those you supervise as though you are approaching a child is funny sometimes, but more often harmful, and it's my hypothesis (though I can't prove this) that women are more likely to be approached as a child than men.

Now, I'm fully willing to admit that some of the problem is me and how I present myself - I want to be told what to do and tend to speak about myself and my experiences with level of uncertainty that I don't see in my male counterparts. I'm often afraid of being told that I'm "too aggressive" and therefore I act in a non-threatening manner - which leads to my being seen as "young" and therefore treated somewhat with a parent/child relationship. And I know, none of these guys are doing it on purpose and would be upset if they knew that sometimes I feel as though they treat me that way (this is why I'm part of the problem). But still, it's super interesting. 

2) The 'Strength in Numbers' concept at Meetings
Today, I went to three meetings. In each of the meetings, I was the only female. One was a lunch with a high school mentor student (1/2 ratio) one was a project weekly status meeting (1/8 ratio) and one was a brainstorming session for new work (1/6 ratio). In each of these meetings, I was fairly quiet, and I prefaced most of my comments with "Well, I think" or "Well, I don't have X but based on what I do know, Y" or something along those lines. All the things I said, I prefaced with something that, in the event I was wrong, covered my bases so I could say "well, I wasn't certain".

I've also attended three all-female meetings in the past two weeks (not today, because the all-female meetings are fewer and further between). In those meetings, I speak with confidence and act on my experiences without hesitation. Part of this is because I am just more confident speaking to women, but another piece is that if there's another woman in the room, I'm less likely to feel judged for my opinion. Knowing that you're not the only one out there - it's a real thing, and it helps.

3) The Funny End Note
Now, before you go away all depressed about the gender gap in STEM, here's a funny ending note about gender differences - It is easier for guys to just wear a funny or nerdy t-shirt, and call it a Halloween costume. Case in point - on Friday, Oct. 30th, my project manager was wearing a star trek t shirt, and getting away with calling it a costume. His boss (a woman) was wearing a full on pink bunny suit. Another guy was wearing a Darth Vader jacket, while a different woman was wearing a Minnie Mouse dress, gloves, and ears. It's so much harder to dress up for Halloween as a female (especially in a work appropriate way)! I demand equality in Halloween costumes! (just kidding). 

The point my boss made was this - no one expects a guy to make an effort in his appearance, so remembering to put a geek t-shirt on in the morning is quite an accomplishment. Since women are already known for taking time to look good, more is expected from their costumes. Which I guess I can accept.

Anyways, I'm interested in hearing your take on gender gaps where you work - especially those of you who work in female-dominated jobs where the males are the minority!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Airplane Musings and Kind Strangers

I wrote most of these notes in a journal on the airplane on the way back from the Grace Hopper conference in Houston (please note, this was on an almost four hour flight that arrived at 11 PM). They all tie to my Dad's cancer diagnosis. I'm reluctant to share them since they're a little all over the place, but since my previous written in one sitting post was so well accepted, I am going to go ahead and post what I wrote then, and then post my one-week-later follow-up thoughts (so please read to the end).

- I'm never entirely sure how to break the news to someone. People at work ask me how he's doing, and I don't want to deal with their sense of loss, so I fake it. I tell them the positives, tell them there are no new tumors, tell them about his leg wound healing - am I lying to them? Not really, I'm just letting them believe that things are OK. I'm selfish. I want people to just BE NORMAL. I know I have more of the facts than you do and that you want the facts, but just let me be normal! I want my dad to come back to work so they can ask him, not me, I want to hide. I want to push the responsibilities and the everything off onto other people.

- I don't know how to use time the between now and the mysterious "then", how to use the time we still have because things already feel a little different. For example, Stephanie saying "Dad, don't eat that!" doesn't seem relevant anymore. Why worry about dieting when you're worrying about dying? And I hate the feeling that we have to take a family photo at EVERY opportunity. We didn't used to be that way!

- I freak out often thinking about the future where I can't ask my dad for help or advice or anything,where I can't say, "Dad, I need this advice". Is that making me loose my chances to get that advice now? Do I even know what pearls of fatherly wisdom I want to get while I still can?

- I'm afraid of people's pity. I don't want to be the daughter with the dying dad, don't want to think I owe anything I get to that circumstance, don't want to use it as an excuse for failures. But by not talking because I fear pity, I shut people out.

- I'm afraid of what this means for the rest of my life, of what it will do to the life I always expected, to the life I thought I deserved, And I'm angry I'm not getting what I thought I deserved. And then I think, you know, we don't deserve anything. And then I worry I'm taking other things for granted and that I don't know precisely what it is that I take for granted, that might not be granted, and yet I do nothing to appreciate what I've got any more than before.

- Knowing the impact of other people's loss makes that anticipation all the worse. It just seems like it's going to be soul crushing. For example, at the conference I was just at, Sheryl Sandberg told a story about how after her husband died she continued a challenge ge gave her about writing three things you did will everyday, and some days her grief was so dark that the best thing she could write was "Made Tea". Everyone dreads pain. I don't want to hear how they've felt what I feel, because even if it's true, I'm so obsessed with my own experiences with it that I cannot imagine that anyone else can have felt exactly this way before.

Here is one quick retrospective note on those thoughts. I wrote those notes as a reaction to a book loaned to me by a good friend (the book is called "A Grace Disguised"). Before I picked up the book, I spent some time talking to my airplane seatmate, a young man who had graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and was on the plane for a weekend where he was planning to talk with his girlfriend's father about proposing (so he was understandably excited). He and I had talked for a while about his elaborate proposal plans and then had split off to our separate books to read. He had asked me what I was reading, and I said something like "A book about grief", which he remarked was, "an interesting choice", at which point I said, "well, my father is dying of cancer". That's a pretty good conversation killer, so he expressed his sympathies and left me to it. As I scribbled my above notes, he tapped my arm and asked if I wanted to talk about it - and I said no. At this point, he pulled out a rosary (he was Catholic) and told me he would just pray for us instead.

This airplane experience isn't the first time some stranger has expressed genuine concern for me and my family. About a year ago, I was interviewing for a job that would require me to move around the country. A year ago, my Dad still had to undergo leg surgery, and I was reluctant to take a job that would have moved me away from family. When I explained this situation to one of the interviewers, he immediately expressed his empathy (his mother had just died of cancer the previous summer) and volunteered to pray for us - and I know he meant it because he wrote down my father's first name and the type of cancer that he had. I recently saw this gentleman again at a professional networking event, where he remembered to ask for an update.

While these stories don't invalidate the feelings expressed in the notes above, I wanted to add a general positive note to the end of this otherwise emotionally draining post. I know you all hurt for and with us - it doesn't change how I feel, but I do know and notice. Even with two strangers, I know and notice and appreciate.

PS - to my airplane buddy, I hope your talks with your hopefully-future-father-in-law went well and that you and your lady have a wonderful, enriching marriage :)

Friday, October 9, 2015

My UMBC Story

Today, I went to the launch party for UMBC's 50 year anniversary celebration, which will take place on Sept. 19th of 2016. Today was the beginning of a year long campaign to get more alumni involved with the campus. UMBC has over 70,000 alum, only 20,000 of whom remain connected to the school. The goal over the next year is to get 10,000 more alumni involved with the university again. Part of the campaign asked us to tell our UMBC stories. I've been thinking about it all night - and this is my story.

When I was a senior in high school, I did NOT want to go to UMBC. I did not want to be in the suitcase school, I did not want to be so close to home, and I definitely did not want to go to a public university. I had my heart set on going to a private liberal arts school in Pennsylvania. I interviewed at primarily private liberal arts schools in PA, and I fell in love with one in particular - Ursinus College, where every student got a free laptop, and the Intervarsity student I had lunch with was very attractive (so, no good reasons, just greedy),

I visited UMBC three times, and I had a bad attitude about it every time, I remember walking around Patapsco dorm, being told that it was a typical freshman dorm, and thinking "this is not where I want to be". But I applied anyways, because it was free, and I applied for the CWIT (at the time, that stood for Center for Women in Information Technology) Scholarship, because I was an Asian kid and I applied for all the scholarships that I was told I had to apply for, and I applied for the Honors College, because I applied for the Honors College at every school. And that's when my UMBC story began to change.

I remember going to the CWIT Scholar Interview day. I wasn't particularly nervous, because I thought I didn't want to go to UMBC anyways. That day was the day that I met the professor that I would ultimately end up doing graduate research with, and the day I started to think that maybe I was wrong about UMBC. Dr. desJardins asked me the typical college interview question - "give me three words to describe yourself". I said two other words that I forget, and the word "sister". I described how I was the oldest in a family of nine (at the time, my youngest sister had just turned one), and how my entire life had been about being a part of communities. I described the communities of girls from summer camp and youth group at church (girls I'm still friends with today) and how my life had revolved around being "the big sister". I looked up to see the student interviewer's face glowing. She said, "you'll fit right in with CWIT". She described to me how CWIT called their monthly meetings "Family Meetings" and described the Big WIT/Little WIT program, where new CWIT scholars are assigned upper classmen mentors to offer them advice. After the interview day, one of the CWIT scholars showed us her room on the CWIT LLC (Living Learning Community). And I thought "hey, this dorm isn't so bad, and it's cool that they're all the same major". And my heart thawed a little bit towards UMBC.

Fast forward to Honors College Accepted Students day. I still have a crummy attitude, but we go to the event. I heard a panel of honors college students talking about their experiences in student leadership, their experiences with studying abroad, and their experiences in the Honors College freshman class, Honors Forum, and how Honors Forum helped them get into undergraduate research opportunities. I heard Dr. Simon Stacy, the then assistant director of the Honors College, say these words - "In the Honors College, we want you to be able to have conversations about things that interest you with people you can assume are also interested". Later, I heard a student address Dr. Stacey as "Simon", and I thought "Wow. I want this experience. I want this community of interested people, I want this comraderie with professors."

So when it came time for college decisions, I had boiled my choices down to Bucknell University (a private, liberal arts school in PA) and UMBC. I had scholarships for female engineering students at both universities, and I was in the honors college at both schools. I remember being in my room with my mom telling me to choose UMBC (which admittedly, was way cheaper) and my dad coming in and telling me to make my own choice, but that he thought the CWIT program would give me a more personalized experience - and I decided that yes, I was going to go to UMBC.

Fast forward through high school graduation and most of the summer to Honors Students Orientation Weekend. I met my Orientation roommate, a talkative Honors College student and Linehan Artist Scholar named Dianne. We didn't really spend much time together then, but Dianne and I interacted all throughout undergrad (we both had Sch- last names). I went to all the shows she did as a theater major, and she read my articles in the newspaper when I started writing for the paper my sophomore year (but we're getting ahead in the story). At that honors orientation, I met Lily and Stevo, two CWIT scholars who gave us homework for the CWIT summer retreat, which would be later that summer. And I met two of my three suitemates, Karen and Katrina.

A few weeks later, and all the CWIT kids were back at UMBC for the CWIT scholars summer retreat. We learned about being A students, we were told to always sit in the front row of classes, I met my freshman year RA (who I loved) and I was excited to hang out with those kids again when school started in a few weeks.

Freshman year started. Of 14 new CWIT students, only three of us didn't have boyfriends - me, Karen, and my soon-to-be best friend, Christina. Karen had friends from her high school, so Christina and I became fast friends. Because of Christina, I became friends with other people - she knocked on every door in the hall for dinner EVERY SINGLE NIGHT our entire freshman year. Without Christina, I would not have met anyone in my dorm in college. Christina and I also did our first undergraduate research experience together! On our floor, besides our excellent RA Tom, we had a great Welcome Week Leader (or Woolie), Andrew. Andrew was EXTREMELY memorable. He made us paint our faces and wear ninja headbands to welcome events. He'd sit in his dorm room and play the guitar with the door open, just inviting us in for conversation. He never wore shoes. And he also just happened to be the small group Bible study leader for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship in my dorm. Me and all of my suitemates all went to Bible study together. Our small group not only had dinner together, we had weekly fun nights, we had after-church lunch on Sundays - it was the best small group experience I have ever had. But my freshman year wasn't just centered around dorm life - I took a class from UMBC's recent Faculty-of-the-Year award winner, Dr. Tara Carpenter. She was an AMAZING Chem 101 teacher. I learned so much from her and had an excellent experience in my Chem study group and going to her office hours. She was just the first example of what UMBC professors could be for me. Anyways, those are just a few highlights of my freshman year at UMBC.

My sophomore year had a few highlights of it's own. I started meeting one-on-one with Andrew's girlfriend-now-wife Bethanie (the chapter president for Intervarsity). I got assigned an honors college advisor, Dr. Kelber-Kaye, who taught me a lot about gender equality issues, and who helped me (mostly by having opinions I disagreed with) really examine what I thought politically and personally about a lot of issues surrounding gender, race and politics. I took CS341H with Dr. Tim Oates, the professor I took classes with for five of my eight UMBC undergrad semesters (and TA'd for his class for my final undergrad semester). Dr. Oates is easily, without a doubt the best CS instructor I have ever had. I remember things I learned from his classes (even 341 several years ago) because of his teaching style. I also became better friends with Alec, the "guy CWIT scholar" in our graduating class. I pin-point 341H as the place where Alec and I became real friends. In spring of my sophomore year, I started writing for the technology section of the Retriever Weekly, which would have a major impact on my final years at college, and I took a UMBC Ballroom Dance class - where I met my husband. My sophomore year, CWIT really helped me out of the rut of "sophomore slump" and I began to appreciate my program for what it really was.

My junior year I became the president of the ballroom dance club, the section editor for the technology section of the retriever weekly (which allowed me to visit the university president in his office!), and a teaching assistant for the first time. I met my CWIT Industry Mentor, a female engineer from Lockheed Martin, and was completely, utterly in love with UMBC. This was the year that my friend Tom (not the RA, a different Tom) said "Emily, if there's such a thing as too much school spirit, you have it". This was the year I got into a comfortable community with the other Intervarsity upperclassmen in our apartments Bible study. This was the year Christina got me out of my goodie-two-shoes shell and got me to go to parties and actually enjoy myself. This was the year I felt confident about UMBC, and this was the year I started taking graduate school classes and officially enrolled in the BS/MS program.

My senior year, I gave a speech for CWIT's yearly scholar reception alongside my good friend Alec. I went to Andrew and Bethanie's wedding, where I cried because my "big sister" was marrying my "big brother" and I was thrilled (remember, I described myself as a sister at the start of this post). I took my final honors college class with Dr. Kelber Kaye and made her cry talking about how her classes had taken me full circle - I had started in an honors class with her and would finish in an honors class with her. I mentored my two little WITs (two of the most precious girls) and tried as much as I could to give back to the school that had given so generously to me. The school noticed - I won the CS department leadership award upon graduation for how much I had represented the department and for my participation in candidate interviews, most notably the interviews for the new dean of the college of engineering. After my senior year, I did one extra semester to finish my graduate school education, and I graduated from UMBC twice in the same year.

The great thing is, my UMBC story doesn't end there. This past summer, when I got married, my class valedictorian and fellow honors college member, Travis, came to see my wedding. Alec and Christina, my CWIT friends mentioned earlier in this post, were both IN the wedding (as DJ and bridesmaid). And of course, a whole table of Intervarsity kids were there, with big brother/big sister pair Andrew and Bethanie (who brought a board game to play at my wedding reception - something I absolutely loved). My little WIT Sophie was there too. I saw my good friends from Intervarsity, Alan and Kelsey, get married about a month after my own wedding. Today, I was back at UMBC for the UMBC 50 launch, and tomorrow I'll be back for the honors college reception. In two weeks, I'll be back for the CWIT Fall Networking event. One of my co-workers, Katherine, is serving as a CWIT industry mentor because I recommended it. I went from the kid who did not want to go to UMBC, ever, to the woman who loves her alma mater with a fierce passion, and who will do whatever it takes to make UMBC proud of her.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Three Thoughts from a Working Woman

Dear Blog Readers -
I have had the following posts brewing in my head for a while, and since they all relate to work, I thought I'd post them all at one time. Enjoy! :)
1) Have you ever heard of the Bechdel test?

The Bechdal test ( if you don’t know, basically asks if in a work of fiction, do two women have a conversation, in a room, alone, about something other than a man. And I usually test movies that I watch against these standards, and judge them for not portraying real life.

However, about two months ago, I had a conversation alone in a computer lab at work with my co-worker Elizabeth, and realized something - that was the first day in that week that I had a conversation that passed the Bechdel test.

Now, I realize that may sound a tad extreme, so I started doing some review of my life, and taking stock before I decided to write this blog post. Where I work, groups are divided into sections. In my section, I am one of eight, and I'm the only female. My group is a little better, but still, I think we only have 8-10 women in a group of over 60 members.

I've worked on two main projects (with a third project that has rotated around to be several different things at different times). On my two main projects, there's Elizabeth on one of the projects, and just me on the other (I had another female co-worker, but she's had to shift to other tasks). I do have a female office mate, but she and I don't talk on a daily basis - we're both too busy! Sometimes we do talk, but when we do, we are usually talking about our male co-workers (not in a gossip-y way, more in a "have you seen Aaron today" way), or our significant others. Not something that would pass the Bechdel test.

OK, so that's just at work, right? That's because I am a STEM female, I signed up for this life, I signed up to work with the guys.

Well, I looked at my life after work too, and I determined that I don’t spend time with other women on a daily basis. I am in a book club and I meet with a small group of gal pals from childhood, but I’m mainly hanging out with guys – my guy friends, my husband, and his guy friends. And I have seven sisters! I don’t believe the movies that fail the Bechdel test are true to life – my life is not the rule for all women – but it is interesting, given my STEM career, that I don’t pass this test most days. At least, I thought it made me feel funny, and it made me more conscious of seeking out those other ladies.
2) How Work is Like College (a humorous list):
-         You have a room that you decorate. Sure, you call it an office or a cubicle, but the principle is the same – you decorate with posters of your sports teams, TV shows you like, etc. No posters about alcohol here though.
-         You split your space with a roommate/officemate/cube mates. They sometimes have visitors, and you have to be quiet and leave. It’s not because they’re in a relationship anymore, but you still know – a closed door when you know they are in there means you should find somewhere else to be.
-         You have a hall and a “dorm” (building) and there are parties and email list just for the “dorm residents”.  Instead of being reminders about quiet hours, the building emails are usually about cars with headlights left on, but the food at the building parties is way better than it was in college. In fact, at APL our group admins are somewhat like RAs – you go to them for all the answers.
-         Everyone hates on the cafeteria. No explanation needed. Rumors of building a Chipotle nearby are still as rampant as ever and still never come true.
-         Extra-curricular clubs still all meet at the same time. Sure, the clubs are a little more technical – Computer Security Reading Group vs. Machine Learning Forum where in college it would have been the DIY Sundae Stand vs. the acapella choir singing, but everything is still scheduled for noon to one pm, usually on Wednesdays.
-         The gym still sucks. You still see the athletic people and feel lame for running so slow on a treadmill. But my co-worker Barry said that if you’re at the gym at all, you shouldn’t feel lame because you’re trying to better yourself. So that was a nice sentiment.
-         There are still finals. Instead of the end of the school year it’s the end of the fiscal year, and instead of professors, its executives, but you still have to prove you have done work and that you accomplished, aka learned, something.
-         So essentially, work is college, only you can’t take summers off, and you don’t constantly have homework (it’s constrained to the 40 hours in the office).
3) The problem of “How are you”
Earlier this week, I attended an event hosted by the Hopkins Women’s Network titled “Strategic Connections: How to make your connections count”. It was designed to encourage professional networking, but one part in particular stuck out to me as true across the board, in a professional context or in any other context – the question “how are you?”
The presenter at the professional networking session thought that this was a bad question because of how easy it is to turn into a “nothing question” in the hallway – that is, it is easy to fall into this pattern  - “hey, how are you?, fine, how are you?, I’m just fine, what’s new?, nothing much, new with you? Not too much. Cool, we should talk again sometime.”
Did that count as a conversation? The presenter went on to say that a better way to do that conversation is to try to think of one concrete detail you know about that person, and what you can ask them. For example, “How’s your wife?” if you met their spouse, or “happy birthday!” if you happen to remember that.
Personally, I’d say at work, skip asking how are you at all. In my experience, people ask it as they pass in the hallway, and they don’t want an answer. They are just conditioned to say that after hi. If I give a real answer, people are often shocked. If we're just chatting, ask me what you want to know – how’s work on X project, how’s marriage, did you like the luncheon - something specific. Or if you’re just passing me in the hall, don’t bother – it’s OK to just say hi!

But if you ask “how are you” when I’m having a bad day (which happened recently) it will do more damage to our relationship than good if you’re already moving to your prepared “good to see you” response to what was supposed to be me saying fine, but was really me crying out for you to be relational with me, to hear what was overwhelming me at that moment. It's OK to not want to be uber-relational at work. Here's the deal though - I want to spend time on real relationships, so if you're gonna ask, I'm gonna give real answers. And sometimes, those answers will be outside of our happy technical realm (sometimes they won't be). Bottom line: At work, either be relational, or don’t be. But don’t fake it just cause it's work.

PS - as I read this over I realized it sounded pessimistic. Understand, some people at work ARE relational, and really ARE invested in me personally and professionally. It's not like I have NO work relationships, it's just not everyone, and the assumption that "how are you" should always be answered with "fine" got under my skin. Thanks, people who are invested in me and are taking our relationships past the "simple associates" level, and who really want to know what's going on with me. Y'all are great.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Saying thanks by "wearing my heart on my sleeve"

For a lot of my life, I've been told that I "have a big heart" and I "wear my heart on my sleeve".

I've never been totally sure what that means. I cry when characters die in movies or TV shows, and my husband tells me I have such a big soft heart, and has to remind me that it's all fictional, and that the little girl that just died in Game of Thrones is really just fine. Before I got married, I'd tell my Dad about this or that boy that I had a crush on in high school, and he'd warn me not to "wear my heart on my sleeve" (in fact, when my husband asked if we could date, my Dad warned him about me "wearing my heart on my sleeve" then as well!)

My friend Alec recently said the same thing to me, but for a very different reason. His dad just passed away, and my heart is breaking for their family. I offered my services, and my condolences, and Alec texted me thanking me for my "big heart".

I'd always thought having a "big heart" was a bad thing - it made me particularly susceptible to emotions, prone to tears or hot, harsh anger. But I'm learning that having a big heart and wearing my heart on my sleeve is not a bad thing.

It's what allows me to see injustice in the world, and want to do something about it. It's what allows me to feel empathy - while it might be stupid to cry for the little girl in Game of Thrones, feeling emotions is what lets me cry for others hurting, what lets me support my friends (like Alec) in their time of need.
And finally, having a big heart is what lets me be vulnerable. My "heart on my sleeve" is what let me vocalize the last post on this blog, about prayer and about my Dad's cancer. And it's what helps me see the love and genuine aching of other people's hearts for our family.
Thank you, to everyone who responded to my vulnerability with vulnerability of your own. Many of you reminded me that I am not the first to feel grief and emotional pain, and that I will not be the last. Those of you who have felt the shadow of death all had the same thing to say. None of you minimized my feelings or emotions - most of you said "yes, this is a painful place to be" - and that was enough.
For the rest of you, thanks for doing what I asked and telling me what you pray for, or telling me that you also don't know what to pray for and are crying out like I am, "Why, God, why?" Thank you for praying for my mother. I wrote some before how I am struggling with watching my Dad walk this path, but in fact, it's even more of a struggle to be watching my mom walk this - because when this trial is over, my Dad will be rejoicing with his Father in heaven, and my mom will just be starting a new trial, a new kind of sadness. Thank you for praying for our relationships with God and with one another, thank you for praying for relief from suffering. And my mother is living a life that reflects Christ in ways that I can't comprehend right now. I won't share her words cause they're not mine to share, but her prayers are so, so much better than mine.
For those of you who didn't know what to say - I know you love me and love my family, even without the words or if you feared you said the wrong words.

I didn't get any answers last week. I didn't want "answers", I didn't want platitudes about the Holy Spirit. Wearing my heart on my sleeve means you see all the good and bad parts, and see that I'm sad and angry all at the same time. But I think that wearing my heart on my sleeve in this situation is letting me allow you all to walk with me in this emotional mess. So thanks for being honest when I was honest. I will try to continue to be honest as this goes on - in this case, I want to be "wearing my heart on my sleeve". I want you all to see the things I'm feeling, and to not have to pretend things are always OK. This blog is not "the cancer place", but it is where I sometimes sort things out in public, and right now, these are the things I'm sorting out.

Friday, August 21, 2015

How I Don't Know What to Pray For

Dear Blog Readers -
Fair warning: this post is probably going to be pure, raw emotional response. I don't plan to proof-read it or anything, so if I offend you, then I'm sorry in advance. Also please don't try to "fix" the emotion that you read it this post - that will make things worse. Thanks.
So, if you don't know, my Dad has some pretty serious cancer. People like to ask what kind, and my response to that in my head is usually something like, "who cares what kind, it's cancer and it's bad, OK?". When he was first diagnosed, so many people told me about various family members of theirs who had beaten cancer - which is great. But it isn't as encouraging as it sounds - what you're really doing in my head when you say that is downplaying the news that my family has recently gotten by saying "it's not that bad, we already got through it".

Anyways, that aside, my Dad got treated for cancer, then it came back, then he got treated again, (you can read about that on my blog here:

But then it came back again. And again. And again. AND AGAIN. Here's my Dad's most recent Facebook status update:

"I suppose it's time to add my cancer spread news to Jimmy Carter's. The chemo I have been on the last ~40 days has not been effective and my tumors continue to grow and sprout in new places in my body like dandelions in a yard. I have at least 10 active tumors now including the new one I discovered in my right forearm this morning. Like Jimmy, I am not without hope come what may and I remain grateful for daily grace over these last many months. Hopefully our experience of that daily provision has prepared us some for the harder days to come. With respect to attempts at treatment, my counts were too low for anything this week but perhaps I'll start on a different chemo regime next week."

All the comments from my Dad's Facebook friends are some variation of  "we're praying for you". This drives me insane. I know most of those people personally, and I know their hearts are really hurting for us, so it's not that - I just don't know what they're praying for, and that drives me crazy, and it hurts me, and it feels trite.

Are they praying for my Dad to "get better"? Well, in that case, they're praying for a miracle, because this is not like those cancers that people come back from - this is the terrible horrible body-betrayed you kind of cancer.

Are they praying for our family to feel peace? Peace, when my Dad has a six year old child, when the unfairness of it all rests so strongly in our minds? Peace, when I can't even walk around the grocery store without crying because I see a Hallmark book "Messages and Memories from a Father" and think that books like that might be the only thing my kids (if I have any) will ever know about my Dad? Would you feel peaceful in the face of that massive upheaval to the life you always expected and took for granted? My family always joked about who would take care of Dad when he got old - we never thought he might not get the chance to grow old.

Are they praying for his treatments to buy him a bit more time, to start being successful? This one I understand the best, but I also see the bad things that chemo causes. I see my dad sitting on the beach for my sister's birthday with fruit flies buzzing around because his surgery site is attracting them. More time, while it has the potential to be great, also has the potential to be terrible. I want more time for him too - but I want it pain free, and that just isn't going to happen, and that makes me so, so angry.

Tell me what you pray for, because I don't know how to do that. I honestly don't know how to pray right now, or what to pray about. There are times where I can "forget" that my dad has cancer - I go to work and keep living my life - but there are also times where I just can't stop thinking about it. I want to be praying, I do, but all I can think is "this is not fair", "this is not how things are supposed to be", "I don't know what would make this better" and "I don't understand why".

I don't want to pray for peace of mind - you shouldn't have peace of mind when you're watching your Dad be so sick - so I don't pray for that. I don't want to pray for a miracle - I want to feel like I'm being realistic. I believe God can do that, but I don't want to be disappointed and even more upset if he doesn't.

So I mostly say the things that I just told you. I say "God, I don't know what to say. You know my Dad's situation, and you know how mixed up I feel about it, and that I think it's crazy and makes no sense. Please communicate with me how to feel and what to do and how to be the best daughter possible. Oh and also please help my angry little heart feel less mixed up about you right now for letting this happen. I still believe in you and want to have a relationship with you, I'm just confused and everything's complicated right now. And now I feel bad cause this started as praying about my Dad and turned selfish. You and Dad have this whole cancer thing figured out better than you and me, right? It seems that way watching him from the outside. Thanks for letting me have him as a Dad. Help me turn into a woman who reflects you like he does. Just fix everything, OK? Then tell me why the thing you do is a fix cause I might not understand why). k thanx bai. (little humor there). For reals though, Amen"

I started this post really sad and angry and ended it more peaceful (with love and encouragement and kisses from my husband to help along the way). Thanks for letting me be vulnerable, y'all.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Why Space?

I've been meaning to write this post for a long, long time (ever since APL's "song of ice and fire" concluded  - New Horizons, the mission to Pluto, finally made it on July 15th of this year, and MESSENGER, the mission to observe Mercury, hit the planet in April. Get it? Ice and Fire? Furthest from Sun and closest to Sun? OK, I'll stop explaining it now).

However, it has slipped my mind until now, when a co-worker asked me about why we were so excited about visiting Pluto, and what the point was of space exploration. So here's what my answer to that question would be, and you all can answer the "Why Space?" questions yourselves.

My Personal Interest: The summer between my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college, I worked at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Not only was it my first paying job (err, internship), it was the first time I'd felt like my computer science knowledge was useful, efficient, and saving me time (They had planned a data entry task for me that I managed to automate, taking a task that was supposed to take me six weeks and turning it into a task that only took two). Anyways, when I worked at Goddard, I was working on a project called the "Virtual Wave Observatory" ( It collects wave data from many different missions and allows you to conveniently search it in one place. I was amazed to find spectroscopy data collected on the day I was born - though I couldn't interpret the picture, the rainbow peaks and valleys tied to my birthday were indelibly etched in my mind. While an intern at Goddard, I also heard from a number of great speakers (most memorably for me, astronaut Piers Sellers, who dazzled me with his two step career - starting as a computer modeling analysts, and ending as an astronaut). One that struck me the most was a scientist who talked about seeing the moon landing and dreaming of the day when men would walk on Mars. So I've been hooked on space for a while.

The History and Research: Pluto was the last of the original nine planets that we hadn't explored. We explored Neptune over 25 years ago. They've been campaigning for a mission to Pluto for a long time, and we finally made it. This is kind of the last chance we have for history making. Why wouldn't you be excited? Also, this mission took us from a fuzzy, pixelated image from the Hubble Space Telescope to a high resolution, high definition image that shows the cool heart shaped mountain plain! Now we know more about the universe than ever before. I think that's worth it!

So, it's up to you to decide, "why space?". My co-worker dramatically announces, "FOR SCIENCE", which may be true, but you have now learned why I find space so exciting. YAY PLUTO! (A month late)

Friday, July 24, 2015

The disappointment of Scarlett Overkill

At the end of our recent honeymoon, my husband took me to see the new Minions movie. I think he wasn't really all that excited about the prospect, but I dragged him to it because I really wanted to see Scarlett Overkill (the villianess that the Minions worked for before Gru). In the trailers, she just looked SO COOL and I couldn't wait to see her. After Lucy in Despicable Me 2, I was excited to see what DreamWorks would do to create another femal counter to Gru.

Oh DreamWorks. How you have disappointed me. Here is a list of all the things I didn't like (Some Movie spoilers to follow)

1. The princess Dream

Scarlett Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock, an actress I tend to favor - a trait I inherited from my father) is the definition of a spoiled, selfish, and insipid little girl. As seen in the trailer, she "really-really-really wants Queen Elizabeth's crown". Which is all well and good - nothing wrong with wanting to steal a crown, even the world's best villian, James Moriarty, wants England's  crown. The question is, why does she want the crown? 

Scarlett wants it so that she can look like the princess that she drew at age 5. 

In fact, she has spent her entire life trying to be this princess. Her evil lair is a pink, purple and white castle, much like a five year old princess would want. She throws spoiled temper tantrums (because women who don't get what they want are angry!) and in general acts like an entitled brat - because that's how a baby princess would act. But that's not how a powerful woman would act. DreamWorks got it way way wrong.

2. The body image

As seen in the trailer, Scarlett adjusts her boobs mid-air while being the keynote speaker at Villain-Con. While this is a pretty common thing for women in strapless dresses to do, there is no reason to include it in a kids movie. Little kids will not understand, and animated boobs always stay perfectly in place. So why include it? To remind you that Scarlett is a woman, with all the curves in the right place.

There's another scene in the film where Scarlett is preparing to be crowned queen, and she is cinching herself into a corset. She declares "tighter!" until she can't breathe. This is something we freed women from AGES ago, long before queen Elizabeth the second started her reign. So why are we telling little girls that they should have boobs so big they need to adjust their strapless dresses, and waists so tiny and tight? Oh, "for comedy"? But you have two other movies that don't rely on portraying women this way that were funny and did just fine, so you should think again.

3. The Husband to build things

I have to start by saying that I found Herb the husband to be one of the best and most hilarious characters in the movie. He is incredibly supportive of his famous villain wife and is fairly cute and hilarious in other ways.

However, what annoyed me about Herb is that Scarlett doesn't build her own cool super villain tools. Herb builds them. As a female computer scientist and big advocate for girl engineers, I found the fact that Scarlett needed Herb to build her tools almost as annoying as that Barbie book "I can be a computer engineer" (look it up it you are confused by that reference). Thankfully, there are people like Debbie Sterling out there, putting toys like GoldieBlox on the shelves for little girls, but they have a long, LONG way to go with Mattel and DreamWorks both telling our little girls that a man has to build their tools and fix their computers.

The Minions movie overall is definitely meant for kids - after all, the plot focuses on three little yellow blobs that speak a combination of basic spanish, basic english, and gibberish - so maybe I'm over analyzing (I know my sister will say that I am).


But the portrayal of Scarlett was so, so far off the mark from Lucy (Gru's Wife), Margo, Edith, and Agnes (Gru's Daughters), that I felt like it was a different writer...oh wait, it was! (Brian Lynch wrote this film while Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio wrote the other two). Here's an idea - DreamWorks, next time you make a movie in this universe, bring back the old screenplay writers.

Sincerely, a disgruntled STEM female

"Real Life"

Recently, a good friend of mine from high school asked me "is real life everything you thought it would be?"

I found this question to be a little confusing, so I answered her by saying (among other things) "just because my life is relatively straight and static doesn't make it more real than yours".

To understand this exchange, you have to understand where this friend and I both are in our lives. I have recently graduated a master's degree program, have a 9-5 desk job (that I love, but it's a "standard" job), and a husband (of-three-weeks). A year from now, I will (most likely) be in the same job, in the same house - "static". My friend is currently living in France, taking whatever cool opportunities come her way, and has no idea where she will be a year from now.

But that doesn't make my post-college life "more real" than hers. There's this false perception among college students that "this isn't my real life, this is school". And yes, it is different to be a summer intern and to know that at the end of August, if your job is boring, you'll be leaving. But at the same time, your summer internship is a real taste of what your full-time career will probably look like - if you don't like it, then you should change your major, or something.

Besides my adventurous friend in France, I have other friends doing other non-traditional things - running their own photography buisnesses, teaching in Texas when we grew up in Maryland, and working for a Maryland state delegate. All of those jobs don't follow the "traditional" time table, but we're all still living real life. We've all been grown up and out of our parents houses for a while.

In all honesty, my life is changing and will change just as much as theirs. Real Life is happening to everyone - to my little sister, who I just realized is starting in our church middle school youth group in the fall, or my other sister who just turned "sweet sixteen", and maybe most importantly to yet another sister headed off to college in the fall. Growing up as a child was not fake life. You'll keep growing up, and growing up, and facing new things. Even my mom and dad are still "growing up" as they learn how to handle my Dad's ever more complicated cancer.

If you have the attitude that "this is not real life" and "I'm just waiting until X", then you will look back with regret on that time you "wasted" thinking that it didn't count. Like the lyrics to the Chris Rice song, "Tick Tock", you gotta learn to live today.

And for those of you who are still wondering - yes, my "real life", from 1992 when I was born up until now - has been just as fulfilling and interesting as I would have wanted it to be. :)

Sunday, June 7, 2015

A response to my 13 year old self

For context: Every year for the past ten years (on my birthday) I have written a letter to myself  one, five, or ten years into the future (sometimes all three or some other combination). This past birthday I opened my first letter from ten years in the past. I have decided that rather than sharing the actual text of the letter with you, I'm going to write a letter "back" to myself, which will be more fun. :)

Dear Thirteen year old Emily -
Do I remember you? Of course, though not as clearly as I'd like to ("old age" will do that to a person). I agree with your opening statement - Hermione Granger is a pretty cool person, and Emma Watson (the actress who portrayed her that you say you want to write a fan letter) is very cool as well - check out this amazing speech she gave at the UN this past year! (

You ask a lot of questions about people - let me see if I can help answer some of them. First, yes, me and Ben are still thick as thieves when it comes to being cousins, though things like jobs and graduate school make our conversations probably something that you would say is "boring" as compared to the imaginative games we played in the basement when I was you. Yes, Emma, Chelsea and LA are still your friends - in fact, you ask about them being married - not yet, but you'll probably be surprised to hear that "little Tommy Belliveau" (you know, in Abigail's grade in Sunday School?) - well, Tommy and LA are getting married in just three weeks! I know, you think LA is destined for another (cough cough). Well, little Em, times change, and boys change, and they're not as important as you think they are. Besides, little Tommy turns into a pretty cool guy one you stop thinking of him as "Abigail's friend". Here's a secret: it's OK for you and Abigail to share friends. I know that's a hard concept, but I promise you, it's OK.

You say that you hope we go all the way to senior year in GCT, and ask me about all the boys in the class - like I said, those boys aren't as important as you think they are! Sure, you still know where some of them are thanks to Instagram and Facebook, but things changed. One of the biggest things, little Em, is that you're not going to stay in Granite - you're going to the big public school down the road. Now, before you gasp and cry (which I know is what you'd do if you could read this letter), please let me tell you that going to that high school was one of the BEST things you have ever done with your life. In high school, you'll be challenged a lot - you'll meet friends who help you learn how to share the gospel in love (yay, Dave, Julie, and my year's Tim Team girls!), who will challenge your thinking and encourage you to grow, and, with the help of one of the best teachers you'll ever have (thank you, Mrs. OC!), you'll discover something that you're passionate about (computers!) that you would never have found otherwise.

Little Em, I know you won't understand anything that I just said - and there's some things I don't know if I would tell you about, given your age. Things like what being lesbian means (don't ask!), what drinking is like and how to keep it in control (yeah, I know you hate the smell of beer - there's other drinks out there, Dad just doesn't like them), and other stories and adventures that will just come with age. But, little Em, here are some things that I will tell you:

- Mr. Rossell's class isn't your favorite class just because he's such a young, hip, cute teacher. You actually REALLY like Logic class, and the proofs that you're learning now will form the basis for the entire computer science degree that I have recently received (that, and the patience and encouragement from Mrs. OC for you to participate in a lot of engineering based after school activities when you get to high school!).

- You ask about all of those GCT tutors - while I don't know where they all are, I do remember and appreciate all the lessons they taught me! Some of those lessons were more painful than others - one thing, little Em, that you'll learn as you grow up, is that the grownups you love and admire are sinners too, and that sometimes, they can make mistakes. I won't explain more about that for now, but remember to give people the grace that's been extended to you.

- You WILL get a cell phone someday. Just be patient. :) And as for the iPod, eventually you'll learn that Apple is not your favorite tech. company - you only want an iPod now because everyone else has one. There are other MP3 players out there - in fact, the cellphones of today can play music JUST LIKE AN iPOD. I know, it's crazy. They're called "smart phones", and in our job at APL (by the way, we work at APL like Daddy, but not with Dad - APL is a lot bigger than we thought as kids!) anyways, in our job, we're writing a computer program to run on a smart phone as a side project. I know, it seems weird, but trust me, it's fun.

- You wanted to be prettier - here's a few hints. First, exercise! Being chubby turns into being outright fat, and makes you really miserable about your body for a long time! In fact, it's only now that I'm starting to go running and make up for those mistakes. Second, when you get to college, eat less tater tots - they're not as good as you think and they make you get zits. Finally, the things that make my fiancee (that's right, little Em, we're getting married!) - anyways, the things that make him think I'm pretty are things you already have. That crooked sunshine smile that got you named "Co-Yala", or "She who smiles/laughs a lot" at the visit to Historic Jamestown with Bestemor. That long brown hair that you hate that Daddy doesn't let you cut - turns out, Daddy's right, and lots of men like long brown hair - and finally, those almond shaped, dark Asian eyes that sometimes get you picked on by silly people who can't appreciate the beauty of ethnicity - those are all the things that matter.

- At the end of your letter, little Em, you give me a list of books that you like to read - the Harry Potter books, the Narnia series, the Anne of Green Gables books, and the little house on the Prairie books. Little Em, I read that list and I just think how happy Dad would be to see that you wrote that list, given how many of those books started as books he read out loud to you. One of the primary things I've tried to do as little sisters have come along (Oh yes, that's right, little Em, I almost forgot - after "baby" Nathaniel, mom and Dad have THREE MORE little sisters in store for you. It gets crazy, but you can't imagine life without them) - anyway, one of the things I've tried to do is share some of those books with them. So I've been re-reading them like you asked, don't worry.

Well, little Em, I've come to the end of your letter. It was SO much fun to read, and remember, and to see how far ten years has taken us. You have so much growing up to do, and I promise, it will be fun, but also hard work.

Older Emily (if you come back and read this at age 33), I'm sure you'll read this and have even more lessons for both me and for little Em. I'm both excited and scared for what the years ahead hold for me, for my immediate family, and my family (by that I mean my future family with my soon to be husband) - but you'll look back and already know, just like I look back and already know about college and high school. So that will be a fun adventure. See you in ten years!

- Emily (age 23)

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Life Pro-Tips from a non-pro

I have been kicking around the idea for this post in my head for a while, finally sitting down to write it. If you don’t know, I recently graduated from the bachelors/masters accelerated program at UMBC (in December) and started a job at APL 9in January) and got engaged (in March) to get married (this July).

One of my co-workers recently joked (about me passing a five month work anniversary) about it being “five months of the next forty years” since that’s roughly the expected time to work (until about age 65 - he thinks I'm older than I really am). I've been engaged for two months (two months of the rest of my life, you could say). Hence the title of this post “Life pro-tips from a non-pro”, since I am most definitely a non-pro, at both work and this whole engaged thing. However, I feel like I've learned a lot as things have been changing around me, and so I wanted to capture that on paper somehow – so blog post!

As my mom frequently points out, only people who know me will enjoy this post – I’m not a particularly gripping writer, by any means, but I am the kind of person who likes to process externally, so pardon me while I publicly process.

Work Tips:
1.       Join groups and communities
As a student, I took a single class in Hadoop based distributed computing. I don’t think I’m an expert on Hadoop at all, but when I started my job, I joined  the “Big Data Users” community. I was able to use those connections for one of my projects. I’m also a part of the machine learning community, a topic I enjoyed in college but didn't ultimately focus on. I’m getting the chance now to focus on it more. Networking in college seems like this thing that are constantly talking about – I didn't really see it in action until now, but it’s proven to be one of the more valuable skills I learned. I'm also in some fun clubs - APL Dancers and APL Board Gamers! Yay Community!

2.       Never turn down invitations to lunch
For super-extroverts, this seems obvious. While I am technically an extrovert, saying yes to going to lunch with people always intimidates me – what if I’m boring? What if they don’t really want me and are just being polite? (Mostly, this is because I’m insecure). But generally, I say no. But saying no might mean not getting invited again, and it’s way better to know and be slightly, uncomfortably social with your co-workers, than to not know them at all. One of my favorite co-workers is this guy named Chris - he has an awesome beard, and a great way of persistently bugging me about lunch (twice as an intern, and several times as a full time hire).

3.       Tell a good story
One of my favorite co-workers/boss figures (I have multiple “bosses”) says that work is all about telling a good story. He’s definitely, totally, 100% right. Every project I've worked on has been about telling a good story, about describing how you've exceeded the expectations set for you. Telling a story about why your work is good is really, really important. Of course, it’s easier to tell a good story if you are already doing good work J

4.       Presentations
Presentations were the bane of my existence as a student, but I’m really good at them now, because I’ve practiced and I continue to practice. Being able to make good, concise PowerPoint slides, or to write clear, objective short papers, is essential for work. I have volunteered for a number of presentations at work (some have gone well, some have sucked), but every time has helped me improve. Also, the presentations in school, where everyone has to present and you only have a five minute slot – not realistic. Be prepared for it to be just you, for 30 min-1 hour, and for random questions to interrupt your train of thought.

Wedding Tips:

1.       There’s no way everyone is gonna be happy
I am a people pleaser. I want everyone to be happy all the time and will bend over backwards/over commit myself/make myself miserable trying to make everyone happy. Wedding pro-tip: there are way too many people involved for them to all be happy all the time.  I’m not saying you should just throw all caution to the wind and ignore everyone, just recognize that you have to be OK with saying no to some things some of the time. Of course, the flip side is to say no to everyone all the time – you have to be in relationships with these people for the rest of your life after marriage (parents, future in-laws, and future husband) so if you say no all of the time, that’ll be tough too.

2.       You can’t force someone to be the kind of bride/bridesmaid that you would be
I’m learning this in my role as a bride to be and as a bridesmaid in a good friend’s wedding – everyone does things differently, and if I wanted everyone to be the same type-A, plan everything to the minute details, complete things way in advance person that I am – well, I’m living in a dream world if I want that. Just got to go with the flow, ya know? That's not to say that as a bridesmaid, I should ignore the bride I've agreed to "serve" - I should just do what serves HER, instead of me. I know, it seems obvious but ya know, things are obvious and cliche because they're true.

3. Being engaged (and I assume being married) doesn't have to mean always doing the same thing
This applies to regular dating as well. One thing my fiance and I are constantly doing is the "what do you wanna do, I don't know, whatever you want to do" dance. Eventually we figured out we can hang out and be together without actually being in each others faces all the time (he's playing Supreme Commander while I blog). Happy We figured this one out before the wedding, folks - I definitely plan to bring books on my honeymoon to read while Ryan does other things! Because while we do want to be together and spend time together, time alone is absolutely invaluable.

Other things I've been bopping around:
1. Friendship is hard
Post-college relationships (besides the fiance) is one of the hardest things ever. Finding time to maintain relationships with people when you don't see them everyday like you used to takes a lot of work, especially when eight hours of my day are consumed by working. Scheduling time is something that isn't natural when you used to spontaneously meet in the dining hall but has to happen if you are actually going to see each other.

2. Church is hard
Being recognized as an adult at church is hard for me, and it doesn't help that my church's 20-something nights is on Friday (when I'm usually exhausted from work). Of course, going to a new church would also be hard (see point about friendship being hard). I know community and relationships are important so I stick with it but that doesn't make it easy.

The end.
Thanks for listening me to process externally. To see some of my other friends process about their more interesting (Nancy) or more artistic (LA) lives, check out their blogs at: and

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A month of slow-cooking

So, one of my new year's resolutions was to cook something "hard" each month. This month I made a quiche for Ryan (one of his top ten favorite foods) but I've also been using my Christmas Crock-Pot quite a bit. Usually, I prep the food before I leave his house for the night, and Ryan just has to plug it in before he leaves for work in the morning. Then, when we both get back to his house, it smells great and is hot for us to eat!

Here are the things that I've done so far, and some of the things I've learned about slow-cooking:

1. Sesame Chicken. This one was good, except that slow cooking relies on a long, simmering process. If you don't have enough sauce to simmer, then the bottom layer of chicken will burn and stick. The top layer was really good though. Also, I learned not to add broccoli to a crock pot all day - it got WAY soft. But the sesame sauce was really good, and I'd definitely make this again, just save the veggies for after I get home, and put more water in the bottom of the pan to keep it from burning.

2. Chicken Tortilla Soup. This one was absolutely amazing. No complaints. I plan to make it for the chili cook-off at work (even though it's not really chili). It's a Six Sister's recipe and can be found here:

3. Applesauce glazed Pork Tenderloin. This one is when I learned that just because a recipe in a magazine says slow-cook, it does not always mean crock-pot! So one night Ryan and I waited 2 hours and ate dinner really late, but it was delicious and I would definitely eat it again. I think it can be done in the crockpot, but it would have involved figuring out how to alter the recipe so that the glaze would be more simmer-y to prevent the meat from burning (see above).

4. Pea Soup. Ryan's second favorite meal (after the chicken tortilla). It's literally peas, onions, and broth, but it makes the house smell amazing and is really cheap and filling. I'd call it a hit.

5. Carrot Soup. After the successful pea soup, we thought a carrot recipe couldn't be that bad. We were wrong. It was primarily ginger-based, which Ryan didn't like, and since he doesn't have a blender, I used a food processor. They are not the same - food processor leads to a weird grainy texture where blender (I assume) should have been creamy and smooth.

6. Imtation Crab Chowder. This one turned into more of a gumbo, since I left the cream out of the soup and kicked up the cajun flavor with Tony Chachere's seasoning. Very hot, which made it a hit for Ryan. The recipe called for real crab but the imitation stuff held up better in the slow cooker.

7. Homemade Spaghetti Sauce. I've made this one for a while now. The slow cooker let me leave out the water and just stew the tomatoes until they were mushy. I don't use tomato paste, just fresh tomatoes, so the texture sometimes comes out too thin, but with the slow cooker, it was a lot better.

Stay tuned to see how I try to get fancy on Valentine's day, my next month of "hard' cooking.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Years Resolutions 2015

First, a recap from last year
My 2014 resolutions:
- read and watch A Game of Thrones
I read A Game of Thrones and watched the first episodes of the show. I have the rest of the Song of Ice and Fire book series to read, and the rest of the TV show with Ryan.
Technically it still counts as a pass, 1 point :)

- floss, wear retainer and mouthwash
I wore my retainer and used mouthwash but I didn't get around to flossing my teeth. 2/3 of a point?

- twice weekly regular exercise
I ran the Color Run! Thanks to Ryan I've been able to run regularly, and I lost 22 lbs. 1 point, plus much better self-esteem (I hate being/feeling fat)

- consistent Bible reading plan
Nope. I started this one and didn't finish it. I changed phones, and the plan was on my iPod touch, so I lost it. 0 points.

- 10K in savings after fully paying off school
I had this one, and then I spent it on a car, but I still have a huge chunk in savings so I am happy with the result. We'll call it 1/2 a point, with a bonus for getting my licence and having a car, so 1 point

Total: 3.67 out of 5 (73%, far better than last year but still a low C)

My 2015 resolutions:
I am going to be vague with some of these, leaving out numbers, because I still don't want to put my weight on the internet!

- run a 10K and 2 other "races"
Not sure which 10K yet, the other two are the color run again and the dazzle dash (hence the quotation marks - they're not competitive races, but are lots of fun!)

- reach my goal weight
If I get to this one, the sub goal is to tell you all what it is at the end of the year, breaking the social stigma about girls and weight. Plus, I'll be in a more healthy weight range by that time, if it happens.

- Buy stock/invest in a CD to better understand money
I'm starting a job since I just graduated with a master's degree and want to understand money better. I don't have debts to pay off, so I thought I'd try this!

- Read the New Testament & journal my QTs
More attainable than the whole Bible in a year, and that leaves the old testament for 2016! :)

- Try a new 'hard' recipe every month
While in college I had fun learning to cook things (including pies, a previous year's resolution) and I want to keep that up post-grad! "Hard" means something that actually improves my cooking, not, "Oh, I've never made pasta salad with eggs before". Hard means risotto, lamb, etc. - something to make me a better cook at the end.

- Memorize a new scripture passage monthly
I fell out of this habit after high school and would like to return to it. We used to do a passage every Tim Team meeting in high school, so I thought I'd stick to that schedule.

- Finally visit a gynecologist
This one is silly, but I've been afraid of it for a while. In 2014, I got over my fear of wearing tampons, so this is the next thing to conquer! (Sorry boys if that got too gross for you. If it did, maybe you should resolve to be less squeamish about women's hygiene!)

- Learn how to do makeup
I don't really know when this one will qualify as "done", but I am subscribed to ipsy and birchbox!

- Attend Grace Hopper (professional conference) and Brick Fair (Lego fan conference)
Cons are everyone's new favorite things. I would like this to become a new year's resolution every year - one professional and one fun conference. Already planning to hit up the JASNA AGM in 2016 for Emma's 200 year anniversary! Eventually, I hope to be able to go to ComicCon and some of the other "big" ones. Maybe the Stratford Shakespeare Festival? =)

- Read the next 2 Song of Ice and Fire books with Ryan
It takes GRRM so long to writer them, I can take my time reading them!

Ten resolutions this year. :)
Let's see if I can do it, and see what surprises the year holds for me!