Dear Ally,

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Throwback: Men women hate to date

Dear Ally,

This is going to make me sound super old, but here goes…before there were blogs or twitter or facebook, students were invited to submit columns to the student newspaper. One day this article titled, “Women who men hate to date” appeared in our paper, The Post. My roommate and I could not let that go unanswered. The following is our response, published sometime in the early winter of 1999.

Men Women Hate to Date

This Turnstile is in response to the column “Women who men hate to date,” Jan 27. While we haven’t sworn off dating, we certainly have our share of dating horror stories. Besides, we can’t have all of this advice floating around about whom men should avoid dating without its counterpart being presented. So here’s the flip side. If you’re a woman, stay away from these guys at all cost. If you’re a man, work to avoid fitting these descriptions because the truth is out.

Inhales Food Like He’s Goin’ for a Record Guy: Dude, I promise I won’t steal your food, and, yes, I am going to eat all of this. Just give me a chance.

I Live and Breathe Sports Guy: He walks around spewing forth volumes of sports trivia and putting “BABY!” on the end of every sentence.

Won’t Go Away Guy: When a girl says, “Well, I have to do my homework now,” the wrong answer is “Oh, I’ll just watch you. I promise I won’t make a sound.”

Way Too Much, Way Too Soon Guy: True story: This guy was kissing me in his car on our first date, and he had the audacity to reach over me, pull my seat lever so my seat tipped all the way back and practically try to mount me!

Lost in the 80’s Guy: My favorite true story: I’d been dating this guy for several months when he takes me on this really nice date. At the end of the evening, we go back to his apartment. After making me slow dance to three 80’s songs (one of which was “The Search is Over” and all of which were on 45 rpm records), he sits me down and kneels in front of me, holding a small box. He then goes into a speech about how special I am to him. I’m freaking out, thinking, “Oh my gosh! This is it!” I open the box and inside is this clunky dented, huge high school ring that says, “Class of ’88” on it.

My advice: Never – let me say it again – never, for any reason, kneel down in front of a girl unless it is the moment, and especially not with a small box in your hand. Also, do not expect any self-respecting college girl to wear your high school class ring.

Silent guy: Guys wonder why girls never shut up. Somebody has to keep the conversation alive. A grunt or a shrug just doesn’t cut it. Say something, anything.

Suddenly Shock Me Guy: True story: I was studying physics with a guy (such a romantic subject) when out of the blue and for no reason he blurts out, “I love you!” I mumbled something about having a boyfriend and dashed out of the room as fast as humanly possible.

Raging Temper Guy: This is the guy who broke his hand punching the wall and who bursts into English classes shaking his finger at his girlfriend and shouting expletives.

Embarrassing Guy: We’ve all seen this guy. He insists on letting the entire world know how much he loves this girl. He’s often seen kissing her in the dining hall when all the poor girl wants to do is eat in peace.

Aggressive Kisser Guy: This guy thinks he’s Cary Grant. He’ll suck on your lip until you’re sure it’ll be purple for weeks. Then he’ll kiss you so hard his 5 o’clock shadow has scrubbed all the skin off your chin.

Drown Me in Useless Gifts Guy: Flowers and candy are nice, but there is a possibility of too much of a good thing. A girl only can fit so many stuffed animals on her bed and trinkets on her desk. Shoelaces were the best Valentine’s Day gift I ever got – and they were from my roommate.

Take a Clue Guy: When a woman has made it clear that she will not sleep with you, you are not going to change her mind by saying you have coupons to the Super 8.

Can’t Keep His Mouth Closed When He Eats Guy: This is the guy who an eat bread, a seemingly innocent food that’s not crunchy or liquidy and make the most wretched squelching, slurping, smacking noises you’ve ever heard.

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, we hope we’ve helped some of you avoid that fatal dating faux pas. Chew your food before swallowing, hold on to that class ring, keep your coupons to yourself and take inventory of her chocolates and stuffed animals before purchasing her Valentine’s Day gift.

Seems like my writing style hasn’t changed too much in 20 years and I still prefer practical gifts and can’t stand noisy eaters. Our article was mostly meant to be funny, but today when I reread the article we had responded to, it seemed bitter, bordering on angry. Wonder if he ever found the right girl. Meanwhile, I married silent guy, turns out their good listeners and should be listened to when they do speak.

Hope you and your guy are doing well! Have a great week!

Aunt Sarah

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Listening Skills

Dear Ally,

Last week I basically shared how to shut down or avoid an endless conversation, but what if the person is saying something important and you need to pay attention or what if it’s someone you care about and you want them to feel heard?

If so, don’t be like these bad listeners:

  • Absorbed in technology. This person is wearing earbuds and constantly looking at a screen. Good if you don’t want to be bothered on the bus, bad if you’re supposed to be listening to instructions.
  • The mind reader. You are passionately making your case and they say, “What are you so mad about?” Don’t jump to conclusions, instead just observe the data and make statements like, “I am noticing that you are raising your voice. How should I interpret that?” (Because remember, loud doesn’t always mean angry.) On the other hand, don’t ignore non-verbal cues that contradict what they’re saying. Show you care by asking how they feel, for example, “You’re saying you’re fine, but your eyes are telling me a different story. Is there something you want to talk about?”
  • The advice giver. A grad school friend of mine imparted this wisdom to me: “Women don’t want advice, they want you to just listen, because when you jump in with advice, they interpret this as ‘Bitch, do I have to solve all your problems?'” He’s exactly right and it’s not just women.
  • The busy beaver. They pretend to listen, but never look up from the computer screen. Even if it’s a time vampire, at least stop what you’re doing and tell them you’re busy and suggest they come back later when you can give them your full attention. It’s more polite than pretending to listen and might actually be a better tactic to get back to work faster.
  • The one-upper. You tell a story, they tell a better story. Something bad happened to you, something horrible happened to them. They’re not listening, they’re taking your moment and turning it around and making it about them – but they think they’re being a good listening by sharing a similar experience. Guilty? I know I am. The term for this is match back and it makes people feel like they don’t matter.
  • The daydreamer. It happens in class and in meetings, it can even happen on the phone. Taking notes or doodling can help. If you missed the last minute of what was said, be honest and admit it instead of pretending like you heard, which can lead to miscommunication or missed questions on the exam.
  • The interrupter. Some of these people think they’re good listeners because they’re interrupting with questions, others are simply rude. Don’t be these people or the over-talker, which is even worse.
  • The rehearser. You’re in a group discussion or an interview and your turn to speak is coming up, you didn’t hear anything that was said just before and maybe you’re about to make the same point as someone else or you didn’t hear the entire question. It’s impossible to rehearse and listen at the same time, but it’s hard not to rehearse, especially if you’re anxious about speaking. Focus on what’s being said and try to picture what they are talking about. If it’s a class discussion, perhaps quickly write down your response or ask the instructor to give everyone a minute to gather their thoughts.

Listening is a skill, so use every conversation as an opportunity to practice.

Have a great week!

Aunt Sarah

 

 

Beware the Time Vampires

Dear Ally,

I was talking with a student the other day who is an RA. She was telling me how hard it is to get her homework done when she’s on duty in the RA office. Apparently at least one resident will come down there to hang out exclaiming she’s bored and there’s a security guard that often comes around to chat. I said to her, “Oh no, you have got to put a stop to that! Those people are time vampires.”

We’ve all experienced that “trapped in conversation” feeling where you’ve gotta go, you have things to do, and some person is going on and on and your day is slipping away. These people probably don’t have enough self-awareness to realize what they’re doing, especially if you’re like me and have worked on being a good listener, so they don’t mean to be sucking up all your time. But what do you do? You don’t want to be rude, especially mid-westerners like us. For me, this is compounded by the fact that I do actually enjoy talking to people, so I need to make sure I’m not a time vampire myself.

Recognize the time vampires. Once bitten, twice shy.

  • Will ask if you have a minute, are you busy, or can they ask a quick question.
  • Often seen hanging out talking by the water cooler or coffee pot.
  • Generally unproductive.
  • May be known drama queens or gossip gremlins.
  • Any salesperson or similar.
  • “Friendly” strangers.

Avoid, ignore, or flee from them. It’s best not to get stuck in a never-ending conversation in the first place, especially if you’re still working on your assertiveness skills.

  • Take the stairs, not the elevator.
  • Use unisex/ one-seater restrooms.
  • Do not stop walking.
  • Do not make eye contact.
  • Keep your door closed.
  • Do not answer that phone call or e-mail until you have the time (or ignore it completely if it’s unnecessary).
  • Do not linger after meetings, church, yoga, etc.
  • Anticipate questions and communicate all the details the first time.
  • Just say no.

Never invite them in. It’s easier for you to leave than to ask someone else to leave.

  • Arrange to meet in their space or a neutral location, so you have the option to physically leave. Or better yet, speak over the phone or video chat.
  • If they appear at your door, hide and don’t answer, if possible.
  • Make up a reason for which you were just leaving.
  • Tell them to come back later (unless you don’t want them to).

Set aside time to feed them. You’re going to have to interact with some known time vampires, so do it on your terms when you have control over the situation rather than being ambushed.

  • Plan your exit strategy beforehand.
  • Schedule to meet/talk before something else that you must attend so there is a definite time it must end.
  • Never plan to meet/talk before personal time like working out, eating lunch, etc.
  • Multi-task by meeting for a meal or using your phone’s headphones so you can do housework or laundry while chatting.

Slay them. Get away, get away, get away now!

  • Practice using assertive, but polite conversation ending phrases. My favorite is “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to kick you out now,” one my boss often uses. More good ones here.
  • Utilize your phone by setting an alarm to go off when it’s time for lunch or to go home so you’ll realize you need to go and so will the person who’s trapped you. They don’t need to know it’s an alarm, could be a text or a meeting reminder.
  • Have a friend bail you out either in person or via text.
  • If another person joins in, that’s your opportunity to get out.

buffy

I’m writing this to myself as much as to you and hopefully I am not coming off completely anti-social or passive aggressive. The point is that we all have work to do, if we want to achieve our goals, and some people can sometimes kill our productivity. We must not let them.

Hope this help you gain some time back!

Aunt Sarah

Letters of Recommendation – What’s in them?

Dear Ally,

I’m sure you know about the newest member of our household, Tootsie the Tortoiseshell kitten. We didn’t get much sleep last night because her and Woodward’s fighting woke everyone up before dawn. So this one will be short and sweet.

Tootsie 8 weeks 8 -week old Tootsie

Last week, I wrote the first of what will be several letters of recommendation for students who are now juniors that were in my sophomore organic class last year. Most students waive their right to read the actual letter or see the recommendation form, so what they contain might be a mystery.

This particular student is applying to Physician Assistant school and, in addition to a letter, this is what I was asked:

Relationship section:

  • How long have you known the applicant?
  • How well do you know the applicant? (multiple choice)
  • In what capacity do you know the applicant? (also multiple choice)

Likert criteria section:

(answer choices = Excellent, Good, Average, Below Average, Poor, Not Observed)

  • Adaptability
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Empathy
  • Intellectual Ability
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Oral Communication
  • Reaction to Criticism
  • Reliability
  • Self Awareness
  • Team Skills
  • Written Communication
  • Overall Evaluation

Overall Recommendation:

  • Recommendation concerning admission choices:
    • I highly recommend this applicant.
    • I recommend this applicant.
    • I recommend this applicant with reservation.
    • I do not recommend this applicant.

And then it asks you to upload a letter.

I’ve been given recommendation forms that ask about similar or additional criteria such as professionalism, emotional intelligence, cultural competence, maturity, etc. There is always something about collaboration/team skills as well as communication. The “empathy” and “reaction to criticism” were categories that I had not seen before.

Very soon, if not already, you are going to be asking your professors to judge you in these same areas. That fact should be in the back of your mind every time you interact with them and your classmates in their classes. Hopefully, having this list will also help you know who to ask because you’ll know who will best be able to speak to each and every one of these criteria. You should also be thinking about ways in which you can demonstrate or opportunities to develop these skills.

It’s time for bed now, goodnight!

Aunt Sarah

 

Studying Physics is a Privilege

Dear Ally,

Welcome to your junior year!

I’m so excited you are taking physics this semester. It’s the perfect time to tell you about a woman who most people consider to be the most significant woman scientist of the 20th century – Lise Meitner.

Lise was born in 1878, when people didn’t think women needed an education past junior high, after all, what more did they need to prepare them to raise a family and run a household? In fact, the University of Vienna didn’t even allow women to enroll until 1897. But Lise did enroll in 1901, fell in love with physics, and became the second woman to earn her doctorate there.

quote-science-makes-people-reach-selflessly-for-truth-and-objectivity-it-teaches-people-to-lise-meitner-57-31-82

You’d think at this point that she’s made it, but her job prospects were nil. Her first job was unpaid, which is a common thread in many early women scientists’ stories. So she moved to Berlin and was allowed to sit in on Max Planck’s class (who later won the 1918 Nobel Prize in physics and whose name you will hear in your class). She became good friends with many of her physics colleagues and would hang out at Max Planck’s house and listen to him play the piano and Albert Einstein (!) play the violin.

It was at the University of Berlin where she met Otto Hahn, with whom she developed a productive 30+ year collaboration. Hahn was a chemist, so he prepared the radioactive materials they studied, while Meitner explained the math and physics behind their discoveries.  Together they discovered the element protactinium in 1918.

All of this in spite of the fact that Emil Fischer (1902 Nobel Prize in chemistry), chair of the chemistry department, would not allow women into his laboratory, or pretty much anywhere in the building. Lise was given an isolated room in the basement with an external door. If she needed to use the restroom, she walked down the street to a nearby restaurant. Although her physics colleagues accepted her, Lise’s chemistry colleagues completely ignored her and would only address Otto when they were together.

LMEasy.png

Remember that she’s in Germany and, if you remember your history, the next thing she has to deal with is Hitler and the Nazis. Lise was born Jewish. She later converted to Protestantism, but this made little difference. Many of her scientist friends, including Einstein, got out when they had the chance, but she stayed – too long.  She eventually had to be smuggled out with the help of Hahn, who gave her his mother’s diamond ring, Dirk Coster (discoverer of hafnium), and Niels Bohr (1922 Nobel Prize in physics). Once she was safely out of Germany, Coster sent a telegram to Hahn telling him that the “baby” had arrived.

Lise bounced around after that and could never again get a lab going, but she continued to collaborate and correspond with Hahn. He could not explain why he was obtaining barium after bombarding uranium with neutrons. She understood and had the math to back it up and explain the physics behind the phenomenon.  Her nephew, Otto Frisch, coined the term nuclear fission, analogous to biological cell division.

Lise-Meitner-Quotes-4-300x181

After the discovery of nuclear fission, Meitner was given the opportunity to work on the Manhattan Project (the one that created the A-bomb and probably won the war). She refused saying she would have nothing to do with a bomb.

quote-you-must-not-blame-us-scientists-for-the-use-which-war-technicians-have-put-our-discoveries-lise-meitner-54-41-98

Otto Hahn alone was awarded the 1944 Nobel Prize in chemistry “for the discovery of the fission of heavy nuclei” and Lise Meitner’s contribution (which she had published in 1939) was ignored. What is known as the Nobel mistake was somewhat rectified in 1966 when Hahn, Meitner, and Straussmann were awarded the Enrico Fermi Award. In 1997, element 109 was named meitnerium in her honor.

Good luck this semester in physics! Remember to enjoy it!

Aunt Sarah

P.S. This is a very abridged version of an interesting biography. Here are some links to read more, but there are also entire books written about her life.

The Abduction of Lise Meitner (about her escape from Germany)

Who is Lise Meitner?

Lise Meitner (1878-1868)

Lise Meitner Wikipedia page (with an exhaustive list of references)

 

 

 

 

Big Mistakes…Just Run Away!

1 Cor 10_13

Dear Ally,

Last week in church (not yesterday because, admittedly, I overslept and missed it) the sermon was about when Jesus was tempted in the desert. Our pastor talked about how the devil is skilled at making sin look attractive and how, when tempted, we don’t think, “Oh I’m just going to ruin my life now.”

This same week a friend of mine who is also a chemistry professor very publicly admitted to a huge mistake – he cheated on his wife and was fired by the university where he worked.  You might be thinking at this point, “Wait a minute, was it a student?” It was not a student and this is the reason he went public, to dispel any rumors to the contrary. I assume the university is conservative and religious and must have some clause in employee contracts about sex outside of marriage being a fire-able offense.

Also this week I’ve been conducting search committees for several open positions. One candidate let me know that I may find something in the background check from a mistake made when they were young. Turns out this person is a registered sex offender. Yikes! I was thinking maybe it was a DUI or something.

Both of these situations are extremely unfortunate examples of people’s personal mistakes also ruining their careers. With all of this being within a week, I’m sensing a theme and looking over my shoulder like any moment the devil is going to try to get me and I guess maybe that’s how we should be all the time.

Matt 26_41

So what does this have to do with you? Just one thing – don’t get pregnant. There’s probably nothing else that could so easily derail your future. I remember the struggle in college and there was a reason why I had 1 Corinthians 10:13 hung up on my wall and why my roommate and her boyfriend always sat on our floor instead of the bed.

And with that, I will say goodnight and it’s time for your uncle and I to take down some Pokemon gyms.

Aunt Sarah

Thrive in the On-line Environment

Dear Ally,

You’re about to take your first on-line class! I think most students expect on-line classes  to be easier than the face-to-face version. While taking a class on-line offers flexibility, it requires self-discipline and motivation and involves a significant amount of reading and writing. Depending on how the coursework is structured, the door could be open for some serious procrastination. Assignment deadlines could be once a week or even further spread apart or the class could require small daily tasks. Either way, you should be prepared to spend 9-12 hours a week on this course or even more if it’s an accelerated course.

Let’s talk about technology requirements. You’ll need the following for the average on-line class:

  • Reliable, high speed internet connection. You’ll likely be watching videos and downloading and uploading large files, so the faster your connection, the better.
  • Microphone/ speakers or headset. You’ll need to be able to hear the videos well and you may also have to either record and upload your own videos or live chat.
  • Webcam. Useful for live chat sessions/ on-line office hours and could be required if your class has on-line exams where you must record yourself taking them to ensure academic integrity.
  • Printer/scanner/smartphone. If you’ll also be on campus for other courses, a printer is not necessary, but is convenient. Depending on the course, a scanner might be useful, but most smartphones have nearly equivalent capabilities these days. My face-to-face organic chemistry students often take pictures of their homework or their computer screens to send to me with questions when they get stuck.
  • Software. You’ll need all the same programs you use in a face-to-face class: Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Windows Media Player, etc. Check the syllabus to see if the course requires anything out of the ordinary.

Now let’s talk about the typical computer skills needed…

  • Course content navigation. Be sure you know how the course content is organized – is it chronological (this is best practice, but not always the case) or is it set up so that like items are in folders together? Most on-line instructors will have either a course orientation video or at least a welcome message that explains how to get around the course.
  • File transfer. If you’ve never electronically submitted an assignment to an instructor, you should familiarize yourself with attaching files to an e-mail message (and how to open an attachment) and/or how to upload a file to a dropbox. For large files, you may also need to know how to compress (zip) them.
  • Discussion board posts. Most on-line classes have some kind of discussion board on which you need to post and reply to posts. Be sure you understand the different ways the posts can be displayed or organized and how to tell the difference between a post you’ve read and a new post (and perhaps how to mark as unread if you’ve read it, but want to be reminded to respond).
  • Manage notifications. As soon as I submit grades to the on-line grade book, my students know it because they receive a notification. Your on-line learning management system should have settings where you can choose to receive notifications when your instructor submits a new grade, a new news item/ announcement, or a new discussion board topic. Some learning management systems have a corresponding app for mobile devices so that notifications appear as a banner on your phone or other device. This is extremely convenient and can help you keep track of course activity without having to log on constantly.

All of the tips I’ve mentioned in past posts about making a schedule, putting due dates in your planner/calendar, and staying organized will become crucial for success in an on-line class. You won’t be in the class to receive reminders about what’s going on or when assignments or exams are going to be. You’ll need to become an independent learner.

The most important aspect of on-line teaching and learning is communication. Pay close attention to what the syllabus says about the best way to contact the instructor and what method will be used to send information and instructions to the class. Be sure to check your school e-mail address and log into the course on at least a daily basis. All communication with your instructor and your classmates should be carried out in complete sentences using proper grammar.

It’s spring break week here, so I get a chance to get caught up on my class and am hoping to post everything my students will need for the rest of the semester before the weather gets nice.

Good luck and hope you have a great week!

Aunt Sarah

Being Pulled in Different Directions

Dear Ally,

I have sporadically kept a journal throughout my life. I wish it had been more regular, but sometimes I’m too busy living my life to record it. Anyway, I found my journal from my sophomore year of college, a time when I did write regularly, and was reading entries from January and February 1997 for inspiration. There was some high drama back then!

At that time I had been dating a man who was older than I was. He was already out of college and working as a minister. The “stage of life difference,” along with the fact that he lived over 2 hours away, made things difficult. Even so, we’d been together for almost a year.

I had just been told about a wonderful opportunity for which I could apply that involved doing chemistry research at your former school. The program was 10 weeks long, paid a significant stipend, and provided housing. When I excitedly told my boyfriend about the program, he became upset and proclaimed, “You’re telling me that we have four months together out of the year and you want to take away two of them.” That was not what I was expecting at all. In my mind, if we got married, we’d have our entire lives to spend together, so what was 10 weeks now? This was a highly competitive program that could give me invaluable experience that could lead to acceptance into a good graduate  program or an excellent chemist position. He had envisioned us spending the entire summer together and said, “Do what you have to do.” (In my journal, I wrote, “You bet I will. I may not get another opportunity like this.)

We had another conversation the next day where I was asked what my priorities were and I honestly said that, for now, school and my future career had to come before him.  In my journal, I described this period and these conversations as a tug-of-war for control of my own life.

About a week later, he told me he’d been offered a job out of state. He said that he will go if God leads him, but he doesn’t feel lead yet. The next line in my journal says, “Everything seems to be working out great.” We broke up a month later. There were more issues than what I’m telling you, including a friend of mine that I was in denial about being attracted to, but the part about it being OK for him to take a permanent job out of state, if that was where God wanted him to go, really bugged me. Why was it possible for God to send him out of state and not me? Does God only lead ministers or does God’s direction for my career not matter because I am in a secular field or because I’m a woman? Did he think I didn’t pray for guidance? I felt accused of being so driven for monetary reasons alone, as if my career path was not a calling or life purpose.

Anyway, I’m happy to say that I did get into that research program (of course, you know this because I told you about my summer there). I don’t regret being honest about my priorities. If I had not applied and we stayed together, I may grown to resent him for holding me back. Back then I wasn’t even thinking seriously about grad school. That would have surely put an end to things, considering 10 weeks apart was a travesty and grad school took me over 6 years.

You are probably going to have to make some tough choices in your life at some point, probably sooner rather than later. Do not make your choice solely based on what someone else tells you do to or to avoid disappointing someone else. Do what is best for you and your life goals – with prayerful consideration of course.

Have a great week and happy belated Valentine’s day! 🙂

Aunt Sarah

 

Why We Still Need Women’s Studies

Dear Ally,

We currently have a President that has been quoted as saying, “A woman who is very flat-chested is very hard to be a 10.” The first time I saw this quote, it was written across a woman’s bare chest as part of 18-year old Aria Watson’s #SignedByTrump photography class final project.  I’m not going to lie I looked at all those pictures and I got pissed. I think that’s the point and proves the power of art.

It’s not one of the first words I’d think of these days to describe myself, flat-chested, but I when I was younger, I was definitely more conscious of the ways I was different from the way the world defined beauty. My college friend, Mark (yes, the one from the calculator and snowball posts) once asked me if it bothered me that I had small breasts. You might think this was a completely inappropriate question, but we had the kind of relationship where we’d had other personal conversations and I knew he was being genuine. At the time, I responded in the way I usually did when something was kind of awkward, I made a joke. I said, “No, it doesn’t bother me…because I can do this and this…” and I proceeded to easily reach first one arm and then the other across my body without turning. It is true, in my very active lifestyle where I enjoy running, horseback riding, and backpacking, that having large breasts would be annoying.

It’s all fine until the only women you see portrayed as beautiful are busting out of their tops. It’s OK until another college guy friend tells you that you have the body of a 12-year old boy. Couple incidents like this with the fact that I was taught in church that not being content with the body that God gave you is a sin. At a time when I was discovering my identity and questioning everything, including my faith, these kinds of experiences could have been devastating – at best you feel conflicted and confused and at worst, worthless and guilty at the same time.

This same friend, Mark, gave me the book “The Search for Significance (Seeing Your True Worth Through God’s Eyes)” by Robert S. McGee. Maybe Mark knew what was really going on in my head then. He is a very astute person. I can’t say that that book alone completely changed my life, but it was helpful, along with discovering my own purpose in life and receiving other messages that counter those that say a woman’s only value is as an object of beauty or vessel of procreation.

Maybe that’s why I enjoy working at a women’s college so much now. I don’t teach women’s studies or discuss anything really controversial in my chemistry courses, but I’m proud to work with people who do. I get to support awesome women and men that teach about the inequality and injustice all types of people experience. And I get to  foster young women’s growing confidence by helping them shape their values and discover God’s purpose for their lives and by contradicting negative stereotypes that are so often internalized.

Twenty years ago I would have scoffed at the idea of learning more about my own gender, so I didn’t. I liked men and didn’t want to be part of what I perceived would be some kind of weekly man-bashing event. All I remember about women’s studies in college is that my boyfriend wore a pink shirt to the final exam – probably to mock the course. It’s funny how life can turn out. Anyway, I don’t want you to miss out, so if you get the chance to take any kind of course where diversity is celebrated, take it.

Have a good week!

Aunt Sarah

The time I almost burned our dorm down…

Dear Ally,

Just a short story about sophomore shenanigans for some stress relief for today’s post.

My sophomore and junior years I lived in the exact same dorm room with the roommate that I would live with my entire last three years of college. We lived in the same all-girls dorm building all three of those years. Our sophomore year was the year before every dorm room on campus got micro-fridges. No, they weren’t tiny fridges, they were dorm-sized refrigerators with a microwave attached to the top. Before that we had this small appliance in our room called a “hot shot” that boiled water for oatmeal or ramen and a microwave down the hall.

Microwave popcorn was a favorite snack of mine and I even had a traditional dance that went with the shaking of the bag to mix the butter all around in the bag. The rule was that you could not leave the microwave running unattended, you had to stand there and watch your food warm up or, in my case, I had to wait around doing nothing for the eternity that it took to pop a bag of popcorn.  The microwave was way down the hall – too far to check on something multiple times, but not so far that it wasn’t worth going back to your room to wait.

So one night my roommate and I were studying in our room and I wanted to make some popcorn, so I popped it into the microwave and went back to my room thinking I was an experienced microwave popcorn maker and what’s the worst that could happen. Our room was a corner room with a short hallway to it and the room across the hall that connected to the main long hallway. After a few minutes, I started down the hall to retrieve my treat, but as I rounded the corner, I stopped short. The hallway was filled with smoke and a girl, looking completely pissed off, was holding a smoking, flaming bag of popcorn and carrying it down the hallway, probably to take it outside. The smell was awful. Oh crap! I probably only stood there for a few seconds, but to this day I can picture that scene vividly.

I immediately bolted back into our room and told my roommate that if anyone asks, I am not there. Then I proceeded to hide in our closet, our enormous closet that went way back into the wall, that had housed many a random friend or friends wanting to pop out and scare whoever happened to be in our room.

I was just in time too, because it wasn’t long before the popcorn police, who’d been going door to door investigating and interviewing witnesses, knocked on ours. I felt kind of bad asking my roommate to lie, but I don’t think they actually asked where I was, just if the popcorn was hers and whether she’d seen anyone recently using the microwave. She could technically honestly answer no to both questions. She covered for me brilliantly and I stayed in the closet a little while longer in case they came back.  I guess there had been no witnesses to my crime because no one ever knew it was me. At least not until now.

Before I came out, my roommate took the picture below to commemorate the hilarious occasion.

imhiding

Well, I hope this got some much needed laughs! It still cracks me up.

Have a great week!

Aunt Sarah