I am 100% in support of our troops and have complete respect for our intelligence personnel as well. What I’m conflicted about regarding the killing of Osama bin Laden yesterday and the subsequent announcement last night were the celebrations that occurred in Washington DC, at Ground Zero, and elsewhere. I think a retweet that ended up in my twitter feed summed it up fairly well: “Tonight is a night for sober and mature reflection, not glee. Mindless celebration is both spiritually inappropriate and politically naïve.”  (@marwilliamson)

I admit that the Team America: World Police song popped into my head last night – “America, f**k yeah!” – but I wasn’t ready to fly my American flag and chant “USA! USA!” with the others they were showing on TV. It was an important enough event that I made sure my oldest daughter was in front of the TV with us to hear Obama’s address, but as my husband and many others commented on last night: it’s morally hard to cheer for the death of someone else even if we know that person committed such atrocities against other human beings.

I’m grateful that Obama was able to come into office and focus on the mission that Bush seemed to lose sight of when he turned our military attention to Iraq as well as Afghanistan, but it’s still crazy to think that it took almost 10 years to bring bin Laden down. That means all the college students out celebrating in the streets were 10-12 years old when 9/11 happened and don’t really have the perspective that older folks have on it.

I am absolutely proud to be an American and to have such an amazing military to protect my freedoms, but I know that the celebrations are not the most appropriate way to mark such a serious event. I appreciate that Obama mentioned that we know bin Laden was not a Muslim leader since he killed just as many Muslims as not; I laughed when someone else mentioned that Obama’s speech was interrupting “Celebrity Apprentice”; and I grew quiet as I tried to figure out how I felt the event will shape America’s future. I thought to the fact that we’re supposed to be withdrawing our troops from Iraq and Afghanistan and that bin Laden’s death will only help in the long-term stability of the region. I also know that bin Laden’s al Qaida and the Taliban had parted ways so it’s not really as simple as that, but it is a step in the right direction.

I respect the political maneuvering that Obama made last week by “finally” offering up his birth certificate and stating that it was time to move on to more important things – knowing all the while that the final stages of the bin Laden mission were in action. I think he proved that there were certainly more important items on the horizon than his long-form birth certificate.

I’m avoiding the news today so that I can filter out the truth from the opinions as time gives us a little perspective on the events of yesterday. I can only hope that this perspective will bring us together as a country. I know that yesterday’s events probably mean more to the military troops and families as well as anyone directly affected by 9/11 – either through proximity to the events or relation to those who were killed. But even for this 30-something West Coast girl, I can appreciate that bin Laden’s death means a great deal to many people. I just hope that we can be respectful of the rest of the world as we mark the end of that era.
 

Choices

04/21/2011

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It seems like the more I hear about various issues going on around the U.S. and the World the more the concept of choice comes up. The biggest element of the human experience that gives us the most grief is free will – there are people who really don’t like that they can’t control other people’s choices and there are the choice-less who just want the opportunity to make the decision for themselves even if it is the “wrong” choice.

The uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East seem to all have that theme: Leaders who are holding their power in perpetuity and not giving their people the choice of who leads them. It has become the rallying point for the uprisings – the desire for choice in leadership and life. I think that’s one of the reasons that so many Americans are apathetic about politics – there are many of us who have never had to worry about choosing our political leaders – we always do every 2, 4, or 6 years and we know that right isn’t going anywhere no matter how we choose to vote. It’s not about picking the “right” or “wrong” candidate, it’s about being able to choose for yourself who you think should be put in that leadership position.

Religion is another example of how the freedom of choice makes a difference. My oldest daughter is doing a report on her ancestry and we’re trying to tell her about why our ancestors from Europe would have come to America to live – it was the “Land of Opportunity” with the freedom of religion that they weren’t getting at home and the potential to obtain land or jobs that they didn’t think they could get in their home countries.

One of the continuing “hot button” topics is abortion and the right to choose. I’m pro-choice, but it doesn’t mean I will ever choose to have an abortion myself – it means I believe that I should be able to make that choice for myself and have more than one safe, legal path that I can take with my own body. The decision of Roe v. Wade made a huge difference in the lives of many people just by giving women a choice. This choice factor stands out to me since I just finished “Freakonomics” – they spell out how just having abortion legalized helped the crime rate because the kids who would have gone on to commit crimes weren’t born into homes that didn’t want them or couldn’t support them – a major indicator of future crime potential. Just having it has a valid option makes a difference for a lot of women since thinking about terminating the pregnancy versus keeping the baby makes them realize how much they really do want the baby.

What gets me on the abortion topic is how there are groups that are trying to take away that choice for others. I realize that there are majority opinions that change over time – with respect to slavery, women’s voting, if a Catholic is qualified be President, that the Earth revolves around the Sun – that seem obvious to us now, but weren’t always so clear. Do these groups realize that their oppression is what drove their ancestors to come to the United States in the first place? They just wanted the opportunity to choose for themselves. And now there are people who are trying to limit the choices of others due to their religious beliefs. You have the freedom to practice your religion and I have the freedom to practice mine or none at all. Forcing a woman to have an ultrasound before being allowed to have an abortion is cruel and unusual. Women know what’s going on – we know that it is a potential human life, but please let us make that choice. I don’t see paid maternity leave in the U.S. like in other countries, I don’t see universal health care, or any number of other programs that make it economically feasible to have children. Yes, those women didn’t “choose” to abstain or “choose” to use more than one method of contraception, but that doesn’t mean that they are deferring all future decisions to someone else.

If we keep allowing people to make their own choices for themselves within the framework of a civilization (i.e. I can’t choose to make your choices for you), I think the world as a whole will be a better place. Live and let live.


P.S. Children love choices as much as bigger humans do - the easiest way to get a kid to do something is to give them a choice, even if both choices lead to them doing what you would like them to do (i.e. go potty before getting the car, or getting their shoes on before going out the door). But eventually kids have to come up with their own choices and their own decisions since that's what we expect of successful adults. Choices are important to humans and we shouldn't try to limit them if they don't harm anyone but the chooser.
 
 
I’ve started writing a new blog post every week, but never seem to get past the first few sentences before life gets in the way. Two weeks ago the post was starting out as a rant on my supervisors at work which then morphed the next week into a panic at my chosen profession and now I’m just getting bitter that I can’t get my work issues to go away in a timely manner.

What’s been making my blog turn into a bunch of starts and stops? A project at work that I did the design for over the summer that is now being constructed and running into a couple issues.  Nothing earth-shattering for the world-at-large. Nothing that will make the evening news. It’s not even anything that I’m going to lose my job over, but definitely something that is not “business as usual” for me and it is another nail in the coffin of my chosen profession.

Those who know me in real life or have read some of my older blog posts know that I’ve been struggling with my career choice for quite some time now. Between the timing of my twins and the timing of the current economic situation of the U.S., I don’t really have the flexibility to change careers any time soon. But I kind of had the wind knocked out of my engineering sails at the end of my tenure with my last job and they’re not really re-inflating at this one. I’m just not excited to wake up every morning and do design work anymore. I enjoy the project management side of things, but I don’t have enough experience to jump into that without having to change companies. It’s possible to pigeon-hole myself into just the materials and projects that I’m better at, but that didn’t work out so well for me at my last company when the economy went down the toilet. I have to expand if I want to stay employable, but I have to figure out at what cost to myself and my family.

Since I’m now at a multi-disciplinary company, I’m taking all the opportunities that I can to expand beyond the limits of my current field, but that really just compounds the issue: I’m kind of good at a lot of things, but not really good at any (that I’ve found yet). There are a lot of things that I enjoy doing, but there are a lot more people out there better at it than I am, so I can’t really make a living at doing a mediocre version.

I’m still working on the question I posed almost a year ago – where do I belong?  I’ve already made the decision to stay in my current town to raise my kids even though that means I’m commuting over 75 miles round-trip every day, but I’m really not ready to relocate to the city where my work is, and I don’t particularly want to up-root my family for a job that I don’t really see myself doing in 5 years.  The company itself is great, but I don’t want to string them along if my heart’s not in it anymore.

I know that theoretically I should be able to put my head down and trudge through it, but that was how I survived the last two years of college and the last 10 years of my current career. I want to stop and look around now. It’s not even that I’m burned out; it’s more like it was beaten out of me.

Any tips for survival? I’m really hoping that the emergence of spring will bring more outdoor activities for me which will help my overall mood, but that certainly doesn’t give me the motivation to get back inside and work!
 
 
(Apologies for the delay in posting this one.  I had it all written out and then couldn't access my blog server to get it posted!)

I’m a little perplexed by the arguments that are being given for the ruling regarding gays to serve openly in the US military.  The judge ruled that it’s not okay for the military to discriminate based on sexual orientation, so the military told its recruiters to allow openly gay people to enlist.  Fair enough in merits, but then others are telling already enlisted service members to not come out yet since there’s still a chance that this might be overturned and DADT would be back in place.  Also fair enough, but that puts the new recruits in a tough position if it is.  I can see that there’s a little confusion for now, but this is a law being overturned, so it always takes a little while to figure out how things will all shake out.

Opponents are saying that there’s too much confusion, so everything should be put on hold.  If I agreed with DADT I would probably say the same thing, but the only reason it’s confusing is because there are people out there that are going to appeal the judge’s ruling.  It would be much less confusing if the military had seen this coming like three YEARS ago and started getting ready for the eventuality.  How hard is it to say “everyone can and will be a part of the team and treat each other with respect”?  Maybe the gay service members can teach the others a thing or two about being tortured since we all know they have gone through their (un)fair share of teasing and bullying.

Why in the world should the military be turning away and discharging the VOLUNTEERS that make up its ranks when we’re in a war?  I realize it takes time to assimilate new groups of people into the rank-and-file, but this isn’t like adding women into the mix where there is a distinctive physical difference.  This is much simpler – no new barracks or bathrooms required!  Let qualified and willing people serve.  Period.  I’m eternally grateful to those soldiers who have been willing to enlist to serve our country.  It is something that I was not personally cut out for, but am fully supportive of those who are.  I don’t draw the line at people who look, act, or feel differently than I do.

I laughed when I read that Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said that “overturning this law will be enormously disruptive for the men and women who defend our country.”  Just like adding black servicemen or women was?  Does that mean we should have not allowed those things to happen?  Isn’t it disruptive to keep trying to “out” fellow soldiers?  Isn’t it disruptive to keep having this conversation about people who have already shown their ability to serve in combat and otherwise?  Let them serve and get over yourself already.

As an aside: Since we aren’t going the way of Israel yet and having everyone at a certain age go through Basic Training (i.e. we’re a 100% volunteer army), I can see this coming back to bite the military if they ever need to use a draft again.  How many people who don’t agree with the war would engage in just enough gay activities as to be either denied entry into the military or kicked out?  Fastest way to get out of a draft without getting in legal trouble?  It’s just something to ponder since I really have no idea what the answer to that would be.  If we’re in a draft situation and desperate for enough bodies in the military, why would you exclude that portion of the population?  If you need able bodies, don’t turn away the willing and able.  And if your answer is different for 100% volunteer versus a draft, maybe you should think about your volunteer answer a little more.
 
 
I'm starting to get more excited for the fall premieres of TV shows and it totally got me thinking about things that I enjoy that are out of the typical range of geeky engineer types.  I really try not to get into TV shows since I don’t have a lot of free time that I want to spend in front of a screen, but I’ve always gotten into one or two shows and stuck with them.  West Wing was big for me for a long time, then Grey’s Anatomy, and now Glee has joined the list (and thank goodness West Wing “retired” or I wouldn’t be able to keep up with all of them!).  My mom wants me to watch Modern Family since she knows I’ll like it, but I’m trying really hard to resist.

But Glee, oh Glee, how you are my guilty pleasure.  How do I know this?  Because my husband won’t watch it with me.  He watches a lot of things that I don’t and even submits himself to silly romantic comedies that I borrow from the library, but he generally draws the line at musicals.  My sister-in-law gave me the Glee soundtracks from the first half of the season and I’ve gotten the rest from the library.  I love listening to them in the car on my way to work since it’s much lighter fare than the rude guy trying to cut across three lanes at the same time and almost side swiping me. 

I think if I didn’t follow the cast on twitter I’d have enough time to watch another show, but they are so much fun!  The set pics are always good for a giggle.  I think at this point I’m also rooting for my home-town guy: Harry Shum, Jr.  Turns out he went to my rival high school – which I found out when he mentioned via Twitter that he went to the same HS as Zac Efron.  Now I’m cheering for “the dancing Asian guy” to get a bigger role in the show because he’s from SLO County!  And as much as there are serious moments in Glee – and oh my goodness how much do I love the scenes with Mike O’Malley as Kurt’s dad – it’s really a fun show and the musical numbers are great.

I also think I need to watch Glee to balance out the fact that I can probably count on one hand the number of Grey’s Anatomy episodes that I’ve made it through without crying.  And yet I can’t stop watching it!  Grey’s I started watching because I enjoy Sandra Oh and gave it a try.  The fact that it takes place in Seattle didn’t hurt, either.  Six seasons later and I’m still looking forward to the season premiere coming up next week.  Grey’s was the one show that I had to watch when I had newborn twins.  Don’t ask me why since the writers love to have crazy-sad birthing stories, but it was my way of trying to feel human again: If I could stay awake long enough to watch one hour of TV a week, I was still my own person and not just a stressed-out new mom.  (They were 3 weeks old when the season premiered back in the fall of 2006).

Grey’s Anatomy doesn’t seem as “guilty” of a pleasure as Glee even though they are both highly-rated shows.  I think it’s because it hits a different aspect of my geeky side, and not one that has to do with math or computers.  What’s your guilty pleasure and how did you “discover” it?
 
 
There was an interesting piece in Slate today regarding the reasons that women remain childless that have nothing to do with having abortions.  It has a lot to do with the choice that comes with having access to legal abortions, though.

Having been in the camp that I was not going to get pregnant and had no desire to procreate for much of my adult life, I can totally understand where this article comes from.  Growing up I always assumed that I would get married and have kids some day, but I never planned my dream wedding and I never named my future kids.  I didn't necessarily want those things, I just assumed I'd have them.  My junior year of high school I had a guy friend state that he wasn't going to have any kids and it got me thinking: Why should he defend his position without me having to defend mine?  I didn't really want to be pregnant, I didn't really want to be in charge of another human being.  Looking back, I think that's a REALLY good way for teenagers to think.

Abortions have nothing and everything to do with this mentality.  The great majority of women don't go out and get pregnant solely so they can turn around and have an abortion.  Thankfully that's not how it works.  But it was always assumed growing up that as a woman, I had choices.  Having choices is empowering and though I don't know life any other way, I'm still grateful for all of the things that I was exposed to growing up - choice in childbearing, a mixture of races, acceptance of sexual orientation, even equality in sports that wasn't there for the previous generation.

When I did get married (we eloped so I never did have to plan a wedding), my husband understood that I didn't want to have any children.  He was highly supportive of me - it just turns out he was really hoping I'd change my mind.  Darn him.  I can still give much more rational reasons why NOT to have children than why.  Children aren't rational beings, so this makes sense.  What doesn't make sense is my hormones dictating another woman's procreation.  Just because I decided a few years into my marriage that maybe having kids wasn't such a bad thing after all and maybe we could try for one, doesn't mean everyone needs to do the same thing.  Sometimes people just don't want to have children and it doesn't matter what the reasons are.  Now that I've been pregnant once, I have no desire to do it again.  Maybe if I'd had only one child as a result of that pregnancy and not twins I'd feel differently, but I really don't feel the ovaries yearning for another and my brain is fairly convinced that we don't need to add to our family again for any number of fiscal and societal reasons.  It amazes me when people see the twins and ask if we're going to have another - can you think of no better question to ask new moms?  Seriously?  Ask me about the weather, but random people on the street don't need to know about my plans for my uterus.

Maybe I've always been raised to be accepting of childless couples because my parents' best friends were.  It's like how my children can see for themselves how gay marriage works by seeing their aunts love each other just the same as their aunt-uncle pairings; I was raised to not really know any different.  It worked for those friends to not have kids of their own.  I don't know the process they went through to get there, but they've never seemed discontented with their decision, so why should I?

I'm at a point in my life where I'll defend the childless more aggressively than the mega-families, but for each end of the spectrum and for all of us in the middle, just having that choice is what makes me proud of how our country has maintained the rights of individuals.  Good old free will.
 
 
There's an article on Yahoo! this morning regarding how workers in China are starting to make enough money that with the extra shipping costs/time for having overseas production, there's new incentive for U.S. companies to bring jobs home.  Does anyone else see how perfect the timing is with this one?  How there are so many jobs lost in this recession that will never come back, that it's a great time to re-introduce some of the jobs we've lost in the States in the last couple decades to the Asian markets that could produce items so much cheaper.

I for one would be happy to see more opportunities to buy "Made in the USA" products again.  I really hope the Chinese (and others) can get their wages higher, not only because of the chance to bring jobs back to the U.S., but because then the production lines that are left in China won't be as emotionally tough to buy since the conditions will be better.

I've been working too many hours lately, so I'm sure this isn't the most eloquent way to put this topic, but I felt it was important to give more attention to in this week of such slow news that LeBron James got a one-hour press conference to announce his decision in the free agency.
 
 
I just read an article about how the federal government is debating about banning peanuts on commercial airlines.  I can understand that it would help people with peanut allergies, but it's fairly standard for me to have PB&J's when I travel.  I have small children who eat a lot of "P-Jellies." 

I'm totally fine with requesting the airlines to not distribute peanuts, but from the wording, it almost sounds like they'd ban them entirely and have a "peanut-free zone" like they do in classrooms now.  Please don't take away peanuts from the passengers, it's not something like cigarette smoke that can drift.  I bring it, I eat it, I clean up after myself.  I'm not going to smear peanut oil all over the tray and seats, but I think it's a slippery slope for all the other nut allergies - I know more people allergic to almonds than to peanuts.

My husband is allergic to animals, and yet he can travel just fine even with small pets in the main cabin.  It's like any allergy - you just have to come prepared.  He's also allergic to apples and pitted fruits, so it would be great if no one brought fresh apples on the plane to eat either.  I understand it's tough for parents of kids with the peanut allergy - my oldest had an apple juice concentrate allergy for many years; do you realize how many drinks have apple juice as filler? - but let's not make it any tougher for the rest of the parents than it has to be.  There's already
 

New Job

06/11/2010

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After all the fuss of being unemployed for a few weeks, I've now been at my new job for over a week.  It's a bit further from home than I would like, but it's work that I'd like to do, so I took it.

As a follow-up to my Anchorage post, I went and had my interview and wandered around town.  The weather was great (better than home!) and it's a great city... however, the job wasn't quite what I was looking for in something that would have caused me to displace my family so far (and the pay wasn't as good).  I'm sure my mom was the most relieved of anyone to hear that I had declined the job.

Of course now I'm gone from home almost 12 hours a day, 5 days per week, but it's only temporary until the work load dies down and I learn the in's and out's of the new place.
 
 
I have an opportunity to fly to Anchorage to interview for a job up there and I'm going tomorrow evening to interview on Thursday.  I've been to Alaska, but it's been 17 years and it was only as far north as Glacier Bay - hardly a scratch.  Everyone I've talked to thinks we'll love Anchorage since we enjoy hiking and outdoor activities.  My brother-in-law even mentioned making sure that we budget for at least one week per winter to fly down to sunshine.

I'm excited at the prospect of moving to Anchorage, now I just have to make sure I do it for the right reasons.  This is one of those times when I feel like I'll be interviewing them more than they'll be interviewing me.

My biggest hesitation is the fact that I'm already 1,000 miles from my mom and adding 1,400 flight miles (almost twice that to drive) isn't going to help when it comes to assisting my mom if she needs me.  But first!  I have to get to the interview and see if it is a beneficial setup for both myself and my prospective employer.  Should be interesting!