Thursday, April 17, 2014

Home is Wherever I'm with You

By Julie Baldwin

It's a funny topic Mary and Joy write about - home. I currently live 13 hours away from home - or is it my home town? Can one have multiple homes? I hope so.

My husband and I have been married for almost 16 months. The first six months, we continued to live apart (except on weekends) while he finished medical school in Louisville and I continued working in Cincinnati. Then, in June, we moved South to New Orleans. We had visitors three months later when our daughter was born, and then two home visits for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and then a long drive back South, where we are staying till our move to Pennsylvania in June for residency (for three years!).

Almost 75 percent of Americans move every five years; that's about 40 million Americans per anum. I lived in three houses growing up; I'll have lived in three different places by my second wedding anniversary.

I grew up thinking I'd go to college, maybe work/live in Washington, D.C. for a few years, and then live the remainder of my days in Cincinnati. Now the possibility of never returning to my home town is just as possible as returning. My husband's family is much more transient, so he's far more open to moving where the weather suits him. I'd like to be close to family and friends, at least reasonably. I'll get my way in Pennsylvania.

It's time for me to re-evaluate what "home" means, and how I can best cultivate a lovely one for my husband, our baby daughter, and myself.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Accidentally Delicious Chocolate Coffee Mocha Cake

By Mary C. Tillotson

We had an occasion for cake not too long ago, and coffee-flavored cake was requested. Following the advice of the internet, I made a cake that ended up being way more delicious than I expected. It's not complicated. Here's the recipe:

1. Brew two cups of strong coffee. Luke usually buys high quality dark roast coffee, and I put 3/8 C coffee and two cups of water in the French press and brewed for three minutes, then poured it into my big measuring cup. It's nice to have a pour spout and I'm told bad things happen if you over-brew. The coffee doesn't need to stay hot so go ahead and get this ready ahead of time. (Luke's normal recipe is 1/8 C coffee with 1 C hot water, brewed in the French press for three minutes. His other tips: buy good coffee and keep the coffee maker clean.)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Privacy and Isolation when Life is Tough

Appearing calm; paddling frantically.
By Mary C. Tillotson

When I was in college, a Difficult Thing occurred in my life. I don’t see any reason why the internet at large needs to know the details, in part because it’s personal and in part because plenty of other people were involved, and I don’t think it’s fair to them if I share personal details from their lives. Suffice to say something had been brewing for a while and it came to a head when I found out there would be undeniable physical proof of what had been brewing. I had to figure out how to transition from pretending everything was okay.

What made it more difficult, as you might expect from your own experiences with the Difficult Things in your life, was my belief that nobody else struggled with anything like this. I remember walking to the cafeteria with some friends the day I found out, silent and mentally absent from the conversation. Mostly I was ashamed: all these people with Perfect Families and Perfect Lives hung out with me now, but how could they even relate when they found out about This? Would they assume a bunch of other stuff that wasn’t actually true? Would they start treating me differently?

After dinner, I finally accepted an offer from a friend to talk about it. I cried. She listened. To my surprise, she related: she had a similar Difficult Thing in her life, and so did several other people we knew. It just wasn’t coming to a head in everyone’s life that week like it was in mine.

Have you had that experience? Probably. I think most of us have: we face a Difficult Thing, feel ashamed and isolated because we’re probably the Only One dealing with it, then find out we’re not alone and at least feel better (even if the Difficult Thing isn’t resolved).

This brings me to a question: where is the balance between oversharing and isolating?

Whether it’s an embarrassing medical problem, a misbehaving family member, a marital conflict, an anxiety or depression disorder, sexual abuse, or whatever, sometimes life is just really tough and it seems like there’s no one to talk to. It’s an isolating Catch-22 where no one wants to air their dirty laundry, but we all desperately need someone else to air theirs so we know we’re not alone.

Some find a solution in talking frankly, openly, and publicly about their Difficult Things. This can be helpful, but I don’t think it’s always the best solution. Sometimes a Difficult Thing touches multiple people, and I don’t think it’s fair to say publicly “such-and-such a family member did this horrible thing, and I’m really suffering from it” because, if it’s my uncle (for illustration; all my uncles are actually really good people), maybe my mom or dad doesn’t want you to know that about his or her brother; maybe my aunt doesn’t want you to know that about her husband. Sometimes Difficult Things really are personal; they involve a kind of intimacy that the whole world really doesn’t need to know about. And while one blogger may feel comfortable telling the internet at large about her anxiety disorder, other people with anxiety disorders need to feel that it’s okay not to tell people if they don’t want to.

The solution I think best is friendship. Relationships secured by a deep trust can be safe places to confide Difficult Things.

But it takes time to build these kinds of relationships, and most of us young people end up moving again before we’ve had time to get to know anyone that well. We often live in cities or towns that don’t have very good getting-to-know-people structures; we’re often too busy with work and family to have energy for the historical society or some church group that doesn’t sound all that interesting but might have people who could be really close friends if we kept going for three years, maybe.

I don’t know the answer. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Personality Typing and Human Relationships

By Mary C. Tillotson

A phlegmatic and a melancholic are sitting on the beach, soaking up the sun and sipping lemonade. The phlegmatic sighs dreamily and says, “Ahh, this is as good as it gets.”

The melancholic, horrified, says, “Yeah, you’re probably right!”

* * *

The “four temperaments” is an idea going back to ancient Greece which seems to becoming more popular as of late – the idea is that there are four basic personality types, and depending on who you talk to, everyone has all four in different amounts, or everyone has a primary and a secondary. You can read more in-depth about the four temperaments here, or about the Myers-Briggs personality typing here. It’s all very interesting.

It can be liberating to find out that you aren’t quite as weird as you thought, that there are other people with quirks similar to yours. It can be relieving to find out that you’re not necessarily a total failure at life; you just have a different set of strengths and weaknesses than the people who often succeed at the things you have a hard time being awesome at.

It can be helpful to read profiles of personality types that are different from yours – especially those of people you interact with frequently, like spouses, friends, and co-workers. It’s helpful to know that what motivates you might not motivate them, and that they tend to look at problems differently than you do. (One of my earliest experiences reading personality profiles was a confused shock: some people are like this? That explains so much!)

But it’s important not to reduce yourself or anyone else to their temperament or personality type. There are as many kinds of people in the world as there are people, and though we can group people into broad categories, the categories are broad. I know people who score the same four letters on the Myers-Briggs test as I do, yet we are very different people.

In a similar vein, I think it’s important not to let personality typing get in the way of getting to know a real person. Healthy relationships of any sort start by sharing things that aren’t very personal and then progressing gradually into more personal matter. I can say “I’m choleric” or “I’m an ISFP” and you automatically know more about me than maybe you need to know at this point in our relationship. I could tell you, in Myers-Briggs terms, “I’m a T,” which tells you I instinctively make decisions based on logic and objective facts, but it doesn’t tell you how hard I’ve worked to develop my (naturally weak) ability to consider my gut instinct and how the decision will affect everyone else, or whether I’m any good at it.

If you’re looking for insight into your strengths and weaknesses or how different people see the world and act in it, personality typing can be helpful; if you’re looking for your identity or anyone else’s, look elsewhere.

* * *

I know my temperament and my Myers-Briggs type, but I don’t share them publicly and I try not to tell people unless we already know each other well. Do you? What are your thoughts on all this?

And for some fun, if you know your Myers-Briggs type, check out these prayers and stress-heads! (Thanks to Anna and Laura who sent them to me!) (And the joke at the top isn’t mine -- it’s an old one.)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Marriage Doesn't Have to Be Hard

By Brittany Makely
Guest Contributor

Everyone who is engaged or married has heard the warning – Be prepared. Marriage is hard. Maybe that’s true, but can someone please tell me what stage of life or life-altering decision does not include a challenge? It seems like too many people (intentionally or not) paint a picture of marriage as a toilsome, yet worthwhile, endeavor. Let’s be honest, being single is often at least as toilsome as being married. Staying in school and graduating takes roughly 18 years of focused, often-hard work. Succeeding in the professional world requires dedicated effort.

I’m not necessarily saying that marriage is or should be easy. What I am saying is that I think the seemingly inevitable “Oh, marriage takes a lot of hard work” from all the aunts at your bridal shower, coupled with those knowing nods and glances sends the wrong message. On some level, the fact that our society continues to proliferate this line about marriage contributes to a cheapening of the permanence of the institution. Part of what got us to a point in our nation where no-fault divorces are as common and accepted as corner coffeeshops is the mindset that says, “Well, it’s really hard, so you really can’t fault them for trying and failing.” WHAT?! No parent tells their 5th grader that because fractions are hard, they can just quit taking math. The roundtable response when a niece announces a promotion at work during Thanksgiving dinner is not “Wow, that is going to be a lot of hard work.” It seems like marriage has become one of the only “difficult” things in life that we as a society have decided to let use that difficulty as a partial excuse for quitting.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Switching Careers

By Melissa Cecilia
Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer

I’ll be completely honest: when I graduated from college I had no idea what job I would be able to find. The Class of 2012 (to which I belong) was the first that graduated without “guaranteed” jobs. While it had been my dream to work as a freelance writer, I never thought I’d be able to find a job in the field. Luckily, that all changed 4 months after graduation when I was offered jobs with both a prominent company as well as (what many established freelance writers call) a “content mill.”

As I worked hard for both companies,  I relished in the idea of being in the field I dreamt about. While the prominent company paid well, I have only done four major assignments for them in the year and a half I’ve been employed by them. As for the “content mill”, where most of my work was coming from, it doesn‘t pay very well. Would you like to earn an average of $7 per assignment doing half a day’s worth of work researching and writing?

I didn’t think so. It took me months of the financial instability, and not being able to contribute to the household expenses, to make the hard decision to let go of my dream and to consider a change of career.

While I am a young, unmarried woman, I still have responsibilities that I chose to take on. My little family consists of my widowed mother and I. While she does have a stable job, it’s occasionally not enough to even keep the ‘fridge full since we live in one of the most expensive cities in the country. The older she gets, the more her health fails and the more I feel the need to take over as many responsibilities as possible.

This was my main motivation for wanting to change careers. However desperate I felt, I didn’t want to jump into a job that I would hate just because it paid better. Thankfully, a dream (yes, an actual dream) and my Godmother to help me figure things out.

One night, about a year ago, I had a dream that I was babysitting a good friend’s son. When they returned, I had told my friend and her husband that I wished that I was speech-language pathologist so that I could help them with their son who has apraxia of speech in real life. I normally don’t read anything into my dreams but I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I should look into it.

A couple of days later, I did just that; I researched it and saw that it would be a good fit for me. I’ve always loved children and I seem to have been blessed with the patience necessary to teach; tutoring 5 year-olds made me realize that. Furthermore, volunteering at my mother’s job (at a convalescent hospital) has helped me learn how to communicate with the elderly if that’s where I am needed. As soon as I spoke to my Godmother (who has known me my entire life), and she enthusiastically agreed that it was the “perfect” choice for me, I knew I’d found the right career.

Before I go on, I should say that I didn’t actually know what speech-language pathologists earned on average. I didn’t want my want of helping others to be clouded by the monetary aspect of it. I didn’t look at those numbers but I did check what the projected job prospects were and saw that SLPs are quite in demand. I would be entering a field that I would be happy in (helping others) and I would have the financial stability needed to help care of the household expenses.

Transitioning from freelance writer to (future) speech-language pathologist has not been easy. It took me months to get to where I am; months of prayer as well as taking everything else into consideration. I have begun the process of getting the education needed; I am set to earn my 2nd Bachelor’s degree (Bachelor of Science in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education) in May 2015. I do not know where I will attend grad school but I will continue on until I am prepared to enter the field.

While my career change might’ve started out as a way to create financial stability for my family, it has turned into much more than that. I am so passionate about the prospect of helping my future patients/clients that I will be giving my education 110%. Once I graduate, I will do all I can to help others in any way that I can. More than that, I will be able to help my family move forward and that alone is priceless.

Melissa Cecilia is a 20-something year-old freelance writer from Los Angeles, CA. She holds a BA in Religious Studies and will begin working towards a BSci in Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education this coming May. She enjoys swing dancing, hiking, being a budding photographer, and getting lost in the world of literature. In her spare time you can find her working on her novels and blogging over at Journey of a Catholic Nerd Writer.