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.
With spring comes the hope of better weather and I’m fully guilty of that hope even though I live in the Pacific Northwest. We took advantage of it “only” drizzling off and on Saturday morning to take the girls on their first real hike of the year.  They did great, but we definitely need to get them new shoes if we’re going to get some miles logged this year. One of the twins ended up with the backs of her heels really irritated – I lamented that it was too bad we didn’t bring a change of shoes for them and of course my husband laughed and pointed at her sister. If we hadn’t stopped and switched their shoes when we did she would have easily had a blister which is not a good way to get a 4-year-old back in hiking mode. We still ended up having to put some moleskin on the backs of her heels to help protect the newly damaged skin. They LOVE using our hiking poles though, so that’s a big help for motivation. I think they’re a little bummed that we didn’t bring the packs since this will be their first full year without being able to use them – a bummer for us as well since we have to go their speed all the time now. It was a good start, though, and we’re going to try to get out for little hikes as much as we can this year now that I’m in a better routine at work as compared to last year at this time.

In the rundown of family happenings: our oldest daughter is going to test for her first degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do on Friday and Saturday nights, so we’re going to have a low-key Easter at home this year which I’m very okay with. She’s going to be testing with two of her peers, so it will be a great challenge for her. My hubby is back in the garden again this year and has been breaking out some cookbooks to find new vegetarian recipes for us to try. It’s always interesting to come home to see what new dish he’s trying – quite a few with curry last week!

Work is moving right along for me, more design work and construction support for my projects all the time and we’re still waiting on some new projects to come in and make us super busy. I’m still not mentally back in for the long-haul, but I’m here for now and that’s what matters to my family. I’m back to resisting the constant stream of sugar that seems to go around the office since I think any weight loss I had in January is creeping back with my accepting little bits of sugar here and there enough to add up to more than I really would like. That’s the other reason I’m getting my family going on hiking again – it’s for me to get outside and get moving!
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!