Monday, December 07, 2015

Mood Swings

I've had "write a Wandering Scientist post" on my to do list for three days. It necessarily had to cede precedence to paid work (I had a Chronicle Vitae submission to finish up over the weekend) and finishing the shopping for our Christmas Adopt-a-Family (gifts had to be dropped off today). Family time gets high priority on the weekends, too, and this weekend we decorated our tree and I took Petunia to a birthday party.

So it is not surprising that it has taken me a few days to get to my post. What is surprising to me is how much the tenor of what I want to write has changed over these three days. If I'd sat down on Saturday to write, it would have been a fairly grumpy post. I was feeling put out by some people who'd implied I only "got" to quit my job when I did  because I'm married and my husband has a steady income. While I won't deny that his reasonably secure income makes the process of starting my own business less daunting, it is inaccurate to imply that his income is what makes it possible. The fact is, once we decided to buy the house we bought 8 years ago, we decided that we were going to be a two-income family. His income cannot cover our bills. My income is absolutely essential unless we want to move.

What actually allowed me to quit my job when and how I did was our financial buffer- i.e., the pot of money we'd been saving up over the past decade or so. Again, I won't deny that being a two income family made that saving easier, but judging from the behavior of some of our peers, it is not a given.

And what actually allows me to make a go at starting the company I want to build is that I managed to secure a contract with a client that brings in enough money to allow me to meet the financial needs of my family. If I lose this contract before I can make the other aspects of my business sufficiently lucrative to meet those needs, I will have to find another or find a full time job.

That is the essence of what I would have written on Saturday, but I would probably have written it in a much rantier tone.

If I'd sat down to write this post on Sunday, I probably would have written an upbeat post about taking Petunia shopping for the Adopt-a-Family gifts- she tried to help me decide what t-shirts 5 and 7 year old boys would like best, and she mostly adhered to my admonition to not beg for things for herself, since we were shopping for others. When she first said she wanted to come with me, I was worried about how it would go, but she did great.

Or I might have written about how much fun we had at the birthday party. It was at the Mission Trails park, and involved a bunch of kids scrambling over boulders, some cake, and then all of us following a trail down to the San Diego river (it is more of a stream at this point). Petunia had such a great time and told me she wanted to come back with Daddy and Pumpkin and "hike ALL of the trails."

Today, though, my good mood is a bit tempered. My Twitter feed was full of the "hack a hair dryer" stuff. I didn't go look to see what I thought of the original campaign. Mostly, I'm just tired of the idea that the reason that women and people of color of all genders are underrepresented in STEM fields is a lack of interest. I'm tired of the well-meaning campaigns that imply there is something wrong with girls, that we need to change who they are to make them more like boys.

There is nothing wrong with our little girls. All of the little girls I have ever met (and I have two daughters, so I've met a bunch) have been curious about the natural world and how things work. They are already interested in science. A lot of them take genuine delight in numbers and math. A lot enjoy building things. I see no evidence that we need to change anything about how we present science or anything about little girls in order to "get more girls interested in STEM." What we need to do is to change our world to stop pushing them away from these interests- a not so gentle push that starts before school and that I still feel today, as a 43 year old adult with a PhD.

Here is the short version of all of that:

But my mood improved again when I took off from my client site a bit early so that I could take our Adopt-a-Family gifts to the office of the non-profit that organized the drive. It always makes me happy to see their offices filled with bags of gifts. This is one of the most important parts of Christmas to me, so much so that even when I was laid off back in 2011, we still donated some money for their drive. (The other important part of Christmas to me: baking. I'm looking forward to starting that next weekend.)

I came home and opened my computer to get some more work done before dinner and saw the horrifying suggestion from Donald Trump that we shouldn't let any Muslim in the US. Not even US citizens returning from abroad. So now my mood has swung back to the negative side. This is going to be a very important election for us. It feels like the most important election I've ever witnessed. I hope Trump is stopped in the primaries. If he is not, I know that I will need to find a way do more to fight this threat than just vote in my safely Democratic state. I am shocked and depressed that we have gotten to this point, but then I think about Fox News and the "infotainment" trends of the past 20 years or so, and I guess we're reaping what we sowed. Yikes.

So my mood is swinging pretty wildly these days. It is almost time for me to go make dinner, so I'll end this post with another thing that makes me happy: in my last post, I asked if some of you would be willing to like the Facebook page for Annorlunda Books so that I could get a decent URL. You did, and I now have Thank you! I still don't understand why I needed a set number of likes to get this URL and not to get the other two associated with my business (Annorlunda Designs and Tungsten Hippo), but now thanks to you, I don't have to figure it out. I really appreciate all of the help and support my blog readers have given me over the years. Choosing to reactivate this blog was one of the best decisions I ever made.


  1. Or change the culture that pushes women already in STEM out.

  2. elodie11:55 AM

    That attitude that you could quit your job due to your husband having a good job drives me nuts. In my circle of friends I have several friends who didn't go back to work, or started their own businesses, after having kids; in every case this is because she saved up a ton of money while working as a well-paid professional, first, and it is this cushion which allowed the later decision! Rather than thinking "lucky her, having a husband with a good job", I wish people would think "she must be great at managing her personal finances!".

    I also enjoyed your comments on STEM. I'm an electrical engineer, and both love my career and am very good at what I do...but a "hack a hairdryer" thing would have had no interest to me as a kid, or now. (To people to whom that sounds fun, great!). I'm a much more abstract thinker, and very unmechanical, but the engineering world has had plenty of room for me! A kid who loves to read, spends lots of time thinking about how to make the world a better place, likes pretty dresses, and doesn't like video games...can grow up to be a great engineer. I wish we could convey a broader sense of who an engineer is to our kids (and grownups!)


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