Desert Flour

A 20-Something's Musings on Life, Love and Faith


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Holiday Pet Peeves

Nothing spreads Holiday cheer like singing loudly about sexual assault for all to hear.

It’s that time of year again. All across our town plastic luminarias are appearing along strip mall rooftops, sweaters with bells and glitter are gleefully pulled out of winter clothes boxes and joyful holiday music can be heard playing from cars, radios, laptops and cell phones.

At least most of it is joyful.

All year round I am a patient person – slow to anger and I try very hard to be understanding or be the first to give benefit over doubt. But there is one holiday “traditional” carol that I cannot stand. If everyone is allowed their short list of things that absolutely drive them crazy then here is possibly the number 1 item on my list:

Baby It’s Cold Outside

I just find it terribly distressing that such a nice vocal arrangement and catchy tune masks aggressive and intense language.  And I know I am not the first to point out that this song has grievous date-rape implications – but this song continues to make the holiday rounds, new artists are re-recording it each year and it seems like there isn’t enough dialogue about how inappropriate, and downright creepy this song is.

If you break down the lyrics and isolate them from their sing-song duet it helps to better demonstrate what I mean. Just taking a look at the masculine lyrics:

“Beautiful, what’s your hurry?
What’s the sense in hurting my pride?
Baby don’t hold out.
Man, your lips look so delicious.
Gosh your lips look delicious.
How can you do this thing to me?
Get over that hold out.”

This isn’t romantic. And the fact that it can be portrayed as such during our Holiday season speaks to the larger societal misconceptions of “healthy” relationships and the power balance in gender politics.

The first line “Beautiful what’s your hurry?” is the equivalent of those street catcallers yelling at female commuters. The real irony in this aggression is that it’s phrased as a “compliment.” Women know that if they passed someone on the street and they heard this question – both responding and ignoring it can lead to dangerous situations (either engaging further in unwanted advancements or encouraging greater verbal/physical aggression).

The remainder of the prose describes the male’s attempt to guilt the female into submission – “What’s the sense in hurting my pride? How can you do this thing to me?; evokes the sentiment he would like to devour his guest – “your lips look delicious”; And of course includes the epitome of blue-balled rage when a man is sexually frustrated with his partner – “don’t hold out.”

Looking at the feminine lyrics provides even greater support for some unwanted sexual advances:

“Really I’d better Scurry…
Say what’s in this drink?
I really can’t stay-
I simply must go-
The answer is no.
I’ve got to go home.”

The majority of the female lines in this song describe escapism behavior – “Really I’d better scurry” “I can’t stay” “I simply must go” “I’ve got to get home”– this language seems pretty straightforward as she is trying to leave this situation.

However others have said this is just flirtation! That kind of cat-and-mouse game where she’s saying she wants to leave, but doesn’t really mean it! Now I could take further issue with the implications of that kind of relationship dynamic – but I think some of the other lyrics in this song speak more strongly towards the aggressive undertones.

The chills you feel in response to the question “what’s in this drink?” is the same defense mechanism when you learned never to leave your drink unattended at a college party. Did he just spike it with extra alcohol or with something else?

And of course the most telling line in the entire song – “The answer is no.” It doesn’t really get any clearer than that, in a sexual flirtation situation, “no means no” is the trump card that says one member of this soiree is not interested and wants you to stop.

But the song doesn’t end there of course and the male advances continue. The predator feeling is even written into the lyrical interaction, as the male part constantly interrupts the female’s protestations. The male part seemingly ignores her lines and is incessantly persistent.  (“What’s in this drink? – No cabs to be had out there.”)

There are more lyrics to unpack in this song, but I feel this should give you at least marginal insight into why this song rubs me wrong.  I think it speaks to the larger societal injustice about rape culture and our victim blaming doctrine (cat-and-mouse games?)

This kind of hostile seduction offends me. I won’t stand it being a part of my holiday celebration.

Again, I am clearly not the only one who shares some distaste for this Holiday Anthem – and I particularly enjoy this remake put out on Youtube a few days ago.

Enjoy!

Any final thoughts on your opinions of this song? Or some Holiday Pet Peeves you have?

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Thick Skin in the Professional World

There’s a reason phrases like – “Never let them see you cry” or “Emotions are for the weak” are consciously, or unconsciously, adopted by a significant portion of Corporate America. To be successful you need the winning combination of skills, determination, luck and emotional fortitude.

The ability to act rationally, without allowing your emotions to interfere with your work is a highly valued skill for many positions.

I wouldn’t say you need this same kind of extreme corporate behavior in the realm of psychology, but you do need to grow some thick skin – or you’ll fail.

That ability to take space away from your gut reaction to a situation can help you when working with patients or research participants.  If they reveal some harrowing experience of trauma or abuse – they don’t need your shock and horror, they need some more appropriate response to help them manage their own emotional turmoil. You have to be the one to gain some external perspective – and not be consumed by their subjective experience.

Similarly this kind of critical thinking applies to the world of psychology research.  When you receive negative feedback from your professional colleagues or government institutions on projects towards which you’ve devoted countless hours of passion and energy, you have to respond with humble grace and carry on a constructive dialogue.

Rationally I know this.

I know the motions you are supposed to go through and the words you should be saying when you receive harsh criticism – “I appreciate your thoughtful comments, these will help improve the ultimate quality of the piece….yadda yadda..”

But still.

This week I finally received feedback on my first manuscript I submitted as first author (meaning I created this article from the ground up: did the background literature review, collected all the participant data, analyzed the data for significant statistical findings, created the tables and figures, reported my conclusions, edited the article to match the journal’s stylistic specifications and submitted it 6 weeks ago feeling quite self-satisfied).

And then, I receive:

“The reviewer(s) had significant concerns about the manuscript but also judged that it has potential to be publishable.”

What did I see in this opening email line?

Significant concerns… Significant Concerns……SIGNIFICANT CONCERNS

panic

Concerns?? And they’re significant??

(Oh and the other additional horror feeling coming from my realization that I submitted this same manuscript version to all of my graduate schools as my writing sample and now I know my peer reviewers have significant concerns with the article so did I also sabotage my applications into graduate programs because of this early bravado? Why would I have submitted that ahhh!)

I know now I definitely submitted this first article with the naïve pride of a young professional thinking everyone will love this work I did! I mean I got great grades on all of my school papers – why should this scientific community think any differently?

Womp. Womp.

Hello reality check.

I realize also, the editor was sending me a rejection with suggested major revisions – but that they were also still interested in the topic and invited me to resubmit it again for further review.

Still – I am obviously a work-in-progress when it comes to growing some of that professional thick skin. I was feeling pretty crushed the first two days after receiving the reviewer comments.  They didn’t feel the discussion was nuanced enough, they didn’t like my title, they were confused that I didn’t distinguish between participants and patients more distinctly.

I took two days and set it aside for a while. But then now as I am starting to work through some of the comments in more detail, I will still bristle at things I disagree with – using “written” vs “documented” – but overall the reviews are from insightful professionals that will help improve the quality of the manuscript.

I needed to give the manuscript some space when I first received their reviews – but I can now approach it with a mind towards making the necessary changes.

I am doing important work! And I will happily jump through your recommendation hoops to get it out there!

But more seriously – I learned some important self-humbling from this first review. I may approach my next submission with more caution. I know I’ll still be hopeful they’ll approve of my work, but, ideally, in the future I’ll also be a bit more prepared to handle some of the criticisms I will inevitably receive.


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Passive Aggressive Behavior – Dealing with Masked Hostility

In my work space and personal life I take on a number of different leadership roles. These are often team-driven positions that require an ebb and flow of sharing ideas and responsibilities.

My work life is a great example of how this can be done efficiently. We have open dialogues, respectful disagreements and know that when we ask someone to complete a task – we can count on them to complete it.  This is effective collaboration. This is how people act professionally.

Unfortunately some of my personal life commitments struggle with this kind of group cohesion.

This is where the ugly monster of passive aggressive behavior exists all while hiding behind the mask of a smiling everything-is-fine behavior.

PassiveAgressiveMonster

Everything is fineee…..See? Smiling?

First I’ll say – I don’t think it’s fair to call all passive aggressive behavior negative. At times it stems from a position of wanting to avoid unnecessary direct conflict and can serve as a form of compromise. “I don’t really agree with you – but I don’t want to make this a huge issue so I’ll just go along with it.”

Under this rationale, it is passive aggressive behavior because you aren’t openly acknowledging your disagreements – however there isn’t an underlying hostility in the action. While it may not be the best form of group work, it can still result in a workable outcome for everyone.

It’s the other traits you see with passive aggressive behavior that are rooted in actual anger or hostility that can completely derail a group’s momentum. These look like:

Sarcasm

Withholding any opinion

Being critical without solid rationale

Conscious or Unconscious Sabotage

Running Late

Not doing something that’s asked of him/her

These actions may not even be intentional – but they are predictable behaviors that come from someone who is dissatisfied with the group and is acting with a kind of tempered hostility. It’s really damaging to both the group’s productivity as well as the friendships or interrelationships amongst the members.

I am getting better at recognizing these signs within our group – when someone will smile and agree with a group conversation – but then never complete the task of sending out an email or making a contact call. They didn’t want to do it, and instead of saying something outright, they just “didn’t get to it” for whatever reason.

Or the times our group will propose an exciting new idea for growth and someone will tear it to shreds for no real tangible reason – perhaps other than it wasn’t their idea to begin with?

Or the person who doesn’t have prior work or family commitments, but still comes late to your designated meeting time, because they just really don’t want to be there.

It can be hard for me to understand.

I really care about our group and about being an effective leadership team. And whenever you are passionate about a cause or a group you really want those who are supposed to be on the same page as you, to show the same kind of dedication and excitement you feel.

And so I am trying to be patient and kind and loving to my friends, but it is taking a significantly greater amount of energy to self-check that I’m not responding in passive-aggressive ways to their initial passive aggressive behaviors.

When someone needs another reminder to compete a task – I’m trying to let go of my frustration and impatience and just be glad when it does get done.

When someone makes unreasonable demands or snarky comments on a proposal – I’m trying not to mass text other people for confirmation on just how unreasonable and snarky they are, thereby perpetuating these feelings of negativity amongst our other group members.

I think it especially helps me to understand that a lot of this behavior is stemming either from a place of indifference or insecurity on their part.

They are acting hostile either because they are so checked out and really need a break from some of this stress. Or they are acting this way because they feel their own power is threatened and they are doing what they can to assert themselves – in what they feel is a socially acceptable manner.

Especially as we turn to the end of this week towards giving thanks for all that we have and hold dear – I am trying to look at these petty squabbles as just minor irritations.

They will flow off me like water over stone.

(I recognize this simile also implies the water will wear the stone down eventually …. But I am finding it a nice meditational touchstone image for now…)

So I would encourage you to approach those passive-aggressive people in your life with some more patience this week. Don’t necessarily back down on things you really care about, but just try and gain some elevated perspective on why they may be acting a certain way or pushing your buttons.


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The Cost of a Healthy Lifestyle

Two weeks into our clean eating meal plan for “8 Weeks to a Hot Body” we have come to the same realization that many other healthy eaters have surely encountered before – it’s rather expensive!

Now this does require some consideration of perspective. What is “expensive” to me maybe reasonable for others, but I have never been one to spend significant amounts of my monthly earnings at the grocery store.  College loans sure. Movies and other entertainment you bet. Bars and restaurants – all the time.

But I guess I never realized if we stopped supplementing our meals with times we eat out, we obviously would buy more food. And particularly if we spent more time and care in buying healthy food – that cost goes up even more. I might eat out a bit – but I’m looking for those Happy Hour cheap menus or the 2 Dinners for $20 deals.

It’s tricky though, because when you are in the store it all seems necessary at the time!

Our Week 1 Grocery list was designed to just purchase the ingredients that we would need for two people to eat 5 times a day for 7 days. … Ok so 70 meals worth….  (Ok maybe that is a big number? That’s a lot of meals to prepare for?)

While circumnavigating the perimeter of the store we purchased what seemed like a lot of pretty cheap and necessary perishable items: Bananas, Apples, Tomatoes, Oranges, Grape Tomatoes, Avocado, Bell Peppers, Onions, Lettuce, Cucumber, Celery, Zucchini, Mushrooms, Edamame, Sweet Potatoes, Eggs, Laughing Cow Cheese, Almond Milk, Greek Yogurt, Ground Turkey, Deli Turkey, Ground Chicken.

All of this seemed totally reasonable! We also weren’t starting with a bare pantry so we had all of the spices and basics (peanut butter, protein powder, garlic, oatmeal, etc.) already stocked.

This first grocery trip came to $71.68.

Not too bad.

So cue next Sunday when we go grocery shopping for Week 2, with the same idea to get enough produce/protein to cover 2 people eating on this Hot Body meal plan.

We make our circuit picking up tomatoes, bananas, apples, pineapple, bell pepper, onion, carrots, celery, lettuce, sweet potatoes, broccoli, edamame, eggs, Almond Milk, Ground turkey, Salmon, Tuna – and this time we also head down the aisles for Low Carb Tortillas, Brown Rice and Apple Cider Vinegar.  (Gah writing this is making me hungry!!)

Total this trip = $80.29.

It doesn’t seem too bad. But for our previously meager grocery budgets it is starting to feel like a little much.

So far this month we have spent just under $152 on groceries. I anticipate this will remain a pretty consistent pattern so about $300 / month for two people.

Am I completely off base in thinking that seems like a lot to spend on food?? I’m struggling with this number as during our previous grocery runs:

  1. We didn’t have to go once a week – we just got to enjoy the more perishable fruits and veggies when we first bought them and then did without near the end of the cycle and
  2. Our previous grocery bills were only about $150 a month total.

I’m starting to question whether I have just been completely off-base in what proper food and nutrition costs. Or whether this all clean food meal plan is just more expensive? Or whether I really was only buying cheaper processed goods so didn’t notice the actual cost of real food? Or whether I am just shopping at expensive grocery stores and should be heading to more Farmer’s Markets?

I don’t know. But it is taking some budget reorganization.

Healthy food plans also demand quite a bit more of your time than our normal eating habits.

Normal lunch might consist of a PB & J Sandwich, Bag of Chips and an Apple. (No school like the old school?). This might take a max of ~10 minutes to prepare.

Healthy meal plan lunch calls for cooked meatballs, baked sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli. Or ground turkey and mushrooms that have been cooked in chili sauce and garlic. These take time to prepare – maybe ranging from 15-45 minutes. If I am already cooking breakfast in the morning (another 10-20 minutes) I really do not have the time to also cook a complex healthy lunch.

But we are really serious about making this work – so you make the time. And for me – as I am already trying to fit in my workouts in the mornings – I accomplish the week’s worth of Breakfast and Lunch cooking on Sunday nights.

So we make our grocery lists, head out to the store, cart everything home and cook everything that requires advanced preparation for the week all in one big afternoon marathon.

This works really great!

If you have 2-3 hours on your Sunday to devote to getting it done… xD

Healthy food plans are actually quite a bit of work – beyond the working out and dedication to eating the food – getting it and cooking it has been a slightly unforeseen obstacle.

It also has been a very enlightening glimpse to what a privilege a healthy lifestyle can be. I am in the position where I can re-budget some of my entertainment money to go towards my groceries. I only have to give up social engagements or TV time to shop and cook my meals. I can wake myself up early to do Pilates or leave work on time to head to the Hot Yoga Studio without balancing carpools, kids, high maintenance pets, demanding jobs or other family needs.

It can be a lot of work – but it really is a privilege to be able to do what we are doing.

And I am trying to keep that in mind as we continue towards our fitness goals – that our struggles are really nothing compared to the trials standing in the way of other people. This kind of self-humbling perspective may not motivate you, but nothing shuts up my whiny complaints about having to skip buying a movie premier ticket to instead purchase more quinoa like a healthy dose of guilt at my first world problems.

fwproblems qinoa

Let’s not be this person while we work on getting healthy k?

We are still doing well on Day 10 of this plan, but I’m trying to remain humbled and still think of creative ways to make this more sustainable for us in the long run.

Do you have any advice on where to get more cost effective groceries?
How much do you typically spend a month on food? Are your numbers like ours?


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Self-sabotage: Hot Yoga and the Sniffles

Isn’t it always funny when you finally commit to something mentally and you are charged up, ready to achieve your goals, won’t let your laziness or other distractions get in your way – and then your body decides to give you the big nagging finger — nah, ah ah!

Fitness journeys are always complicated and bumpy.

But it’s just so frustrating that the day after we decide to start our 8 Week Hot Body Meal plan and to work out 3-5x a week – I come down with a nasty head cold.

It’s that self-handicapping behavior that drives me nuts!

It happens in other areas of life, but for me, my workouts and eating habits seem too often sabotaged by my own behaviors, health or moods. I’ll have had a really rough day at work and feel lousy so come home and eat chips and salsa and drink a beer instead of heading out for a run. I’ll sign up for an intense Pilates Caliente class the day I know I’ll feel bloated and have terrible cramps. (Ladies you feel me?)

So this time I refused to let myself get in my own way.

I woke up early and put on the MOVEmber Blogilates playlist for the day and started the first Youtube video — and couldn’t breathe and suffered miserably through the 10 minutes of cardio. Womp. Womp. (There is a reason most people don’t wake up sick and then break out in star jumps). I didn’t even play the remaining videos I just sat on my living room floor, guzzled water and looked at other people getting fit on Instagram.

But! I wasn’t about to call it a day after that embarrassment. This week, for me, is all about committing to my health again and that means motivating myself to get my butt moving in some physical exercise – no excuses!

So during work I bought 10 classes at Blissful Spirits Studio and made the commitment that I was going to take my sniffling, leaky head to the Hot Yoga class I registered for that night and get those Sun Salutations done!

While you have to admire that tenacity – probably not the best choice of workout.

Most of you know that when you are having a constantly runny nose (excuse me while I pause to go blow it again >.<) you need to drink a lot more fluids to avoid getting dehydrated. You are losing a lot of water. You may also be aware that Hot Yoga classes run at a pretty toasty temperature and cause you to sweat a lot. It can be a really refreshing detox as you flush out your body’s toxins – but you are also losing a lot of water.

Add Flushing Sinuses + Flushing Sweat Glands + Standard water intake = Light headed, dizzy and sweaty Caitlin stumbling out of the Yoga Studio.

Oops.

However. Despite how I felt pretty weak afterwards and that it really wasn’t my best practice – I felt super accomplished! I am still so glad I went!

We are only on Day 3 now of the 8 Weeks, my head cold is still rocking me full force, but I feel so charged about successfully committing to the health food plan and getting the workouts in one way or another.

While I may not suggest everyone try and kill their workout when they are sick – I do think you should examine how you are getting in your own way with regards to your fitness and try and find some way to remedy whatever obstacles you are putting in your path.

And I’ll be trying to remedy this cold before the next sweatfest.

Cheers!


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Graduate Application Anxiety

Applying for Graduate School programs out of state creates a lot of anxiety.

Not only the expected application anxiety as you try and create witty, representative essays that speak to all of your amazing merits vs. your actual desperation for acceptance. Or the endless rewrites of a simple paragraph describing your volunteer experience because you have to fit a lifetime of experience doing service into 150 characters (including spaces).

These challenges – while daunting – were expected.

Perhaps also expected was the anxiety caused by second guessing yourself.

It’s very easy to have all of these self-doubts when looking at the sophisticated rankings of these schools and the meager matriculation rates. I don’t think I am applying to any school with an acceptance rate greater than 8%.

So you really question – am I really prepared to beat out the other 92% of applicants trying to get into this school? Am I really the best for this school? Why should I even apply here if their average GRE scores are 20 points better than mine? What if during my interviews the advisor doesn’t like me? What if I say something stupid? What if I don’t even get an interview? What if I am just rejected from the start because they can’t figure out how to match my test scores and transcript with my new name change and just toss my application?

This stream of questions then leads to the advice that one should “cast a broad net” when applying for graduate schools.

Which in my case manifested into 9 different school applications scattered across the US. And this is a pretty conservative number of schools to apply for within my field.

But that range of diversity can also be quite distressing as it means we have no idea where we could be living next November. We could be in California, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Florida or still in our same apartment in New Mexico.

Map Grad Schools

At least you can’t take us out of the Desert! Mostly…

These schools are also so diverse it’s hard to even paint a picture of what our life could be like once we get there. Will we be renting a house with a yard in Northern Dallas? Or will we be subletting a room in high rise apartment in Downtown LA?

No matter what happens it’s going to be a huge change from our current situation. Currently, we live by ourselves in a comfortable 2-bedroom apartment, with both of our families only a 15 minute drive away. We both have stable jobs that we enjoy and have surrounded ourselves with a multitude of friends and social support connections.

Moving to a completely foreign environment will totally disrupt all of this. Change is challenging for me and even more so for my Hubby.

I realize what I am asking him to do will be even harder for him.

If we move I will be looking forward to some kind of purpose – some program to fulfill; some new colleagues to meet; new classes and new students to interact with. But he will just be moving to a city, to be with me and not really have a sense of whether there will be a reasonable opportunity available for him there.

A great source of anxiety for us both is that I will be moving towards my doctorate degree and he will feel stuck in a city he doesn’t like and where he doesn’t know anyone and potentially where he will be forced to do some job that doesn’t fulfill or challenge him. (you know.. if he can get a job.)

And it will be on me if things go badly.

So in those moments of hope where I have confidence that I will be able to surmount this huge application obstacle and receive acceptance into some program – I could also be doing devastating harm to my husband and putting some severe strain on our new marriage.

No pressure.

Despite these relationship reasons – we also have a wonderful group of friends that we rely on and who rely on us. We will also be abandoning them here when we leave to go pursue a new life in a new state.

Honestly I can’t even really blame them for hoping my applications will fail. (Ok well maybe I can feel a little chagrinned – but not resentful.)

This is hard. The whole process is hard!

It’s an emotional rollercoaster of being excited at the possibilities and loving the programs I could be a part of for the next 5-7 years – but it’s also terrifying and stressful. This is one of those huge decision points in our young marriage that will change the course of the rest of our lives.

And this is all just the beginning. Setting our course all by clicking a hyperlink with red text: “Submit Application”


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Cooking Trials: Pumpkin Gut Stew

(Pumpkin and Black Beans)

Halloween has ended, but Fall is still ripe with pumpkins and the perfect time to warm your belly with soups and stews! This recipe is super easy and came out of a pantry raid for what we had available for a last minute potluck dish.

IMG_3384

The Set Up.

This was a bit of a hodge podge from a couple different recipes and some kitchen improve, so let me break it down for you.

Ingredients:
3 cans of Chicken Broth
2 cans of Black Beans
2 cans of Pumpkin Puree
1 White Onion
10-15 Cherry Tomatoes
½ Bag of Baby Carrots
1.5 Ground Turkey (not pictured)

Spices (Season to your taste – I just put a healthy dash of the following):
Cayenne Pepper
Herbs de Provence
Rosemary
Basil
Garlic

There are really only 3 main steps to this dish:

1) If you want to add some protein – cook your Ground Turkey on the stove first.

2) Chop up your veggies into small diced, bite-size pieces.

3) Open your cans and put everything in a crockpot on High for 4-6 hours.

For this recipe we used our large crockpot, which is really the best tool you can have for easy Fall cooking. It is so wonderful to just put everything into a big pot and come home to a house smelling super delicious. And dinner is all ready and waiting! Hurray for minimal effort!

This particular soup is also a huge hit at Company Potlucks

IMG_3385

Ta da! Even ready with it’s own serving bowl!

Hope you enjoy!
Would you add anything else to the soup? I really wanted to add some corn to it, but I forgot it in the freezer 😦
What are some of your favorite Fall dishes?