Peacebuilding, Education, Tech


Why I Want to Be a Software Engineer

Why I Want to Be a Software Engineer

Silence on the other end of the phone. “Are you even good with computers? You don’t seem like a techy kind of person.” My friend was understandably incredulous of what I had just told her: I want to be a software engineer. I am an […]

Thank You to Teaching

Thank You to Teaching

We balked when the Career Counselor at my college told us that the average person changes careers – not just jobs, but careers – 11 times in their lifetime. I remember thinking that this number was a little drastic. However, in the decade since my […]

Creative Logic

Creative Logic

Going through the process is the essence of creative work. And logic IS creative work, despite what dichotomized left-vs.-right brain evangelists may tell you.

It’s a sea of methods in Ruby. there are methods that do cool things, like make your whole sentence lowercase. Or! methods! that! can! add! an! exclamation! point! to! every! single! word! of! your! sentence! Some methods remove things. Some methods transform things. The main problem with methods is that there are SO many that it is tempting to spend hours and hours searching for the perfect one. The golden ticket.

If you method-hunt, like this article says, you will a) probably not find exactly what you need, and b) miss out on an opportunity to deeply understand something.

I had this experience with a Launch School problem that ended up being a good illustration of this. I could have probably figured out that they meant for me to look for a method because they said something like, “What is a simple way to center a string over a space with 40 characters?” They actually used the word “simple,” or maybe it was “easy.” I don’t know. All I knew is that it was late, and I didn’t want to spend an hour looking for an alternative of the word “center” if I could just write the thing myself.

So if the title is “Title,” I need to count the number of characters in the title, subtract that from 40, divide it by two, and add that final number of spaces to the beginning of the string to make it centered. I’ve never considered myself to be a very logic-minded person, so I was inordinately proud of my self-made method.

Of course, there IS a method for centering text. Guess what it’s called: center.

But no worries here! I had deeply understood the process behind the already-existing method, and I had proven to myself that I can invent the processes necessary to get me to where I need to go.

The ability to think deeply about something instead of depending on already-existing material is the difference between artists and performers. I shared my experience with my husband, and he compared it to acting: “That is why going through the process for yourself is so important. I never let myself watch another production of the same play before I give myself the chance to go through the process of developing the character on my own. A lot of theater productions do that, and they end up copying what’s already out there instead of making something new. It feels false and boring.”

To push the bounds of what we think we understand about the world and how it works is never easy, but it is always rewarding. Yeah, maybe someone else figured it out first. But I can now connect with their figuring on a much deeper level. Eventually, I can challenge the logic and create new processes that are all my own. Logic IS creative, because it is creation.

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock!

Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock!

Breaking down a problem seems slower, but it helps speed up the process in the long run. I lived this firsthand when making the game Rock Paper Scissors Lizard Spock.

Rubocop Musings

Rubocop Musings

Rubocop helps standardize Ruby code. Rules give you freedom. It’s a paradox, I know. Here are some lessons I learned the hard way.

American Dream

American Dream

Honduras is a fairly small country when you look at the population. The city where I grew up, Houston, has 4 million people. In comparison, the population of Honduras is just over 8 million now. Some basic facts about Honduras:

  • 50 % of the population is under 19 years of age
  • 1/3 of the population is under-employed
  • it is estimated that 1 million Hondurans are currently immigrants in the North (documented and undocumented)

Honduras has a young population, young and without too many job prospects, even for the educated. The formal jobs that exist often pay enough to rent a room and have the basics, but to pay for more expensive needs like quality health care, higher education, the initial payment on a house, or a car, it is simply not enough money. People in the upper-lower class, those who have enough to survive but always seem to be on the edge of a crisis, are frustrated by the lack of opportunities and look with longing at the idea of paying for their own house instead of paying monthly rent, or at having a little extra cushion for if someone in the family is having a health crisis, etc. (This is not unique to Honduras and is very similar to the extreme wealth disparities found in North America.)

The majority of taxi drivers or small-business owners that I have met have been able to break through the lower class-middle class divide because they themselves have been immigrants for a time and returned, or they receive remittances, money that immigrants send back home. Many people who have been able to buy a plot of land to build their own houses have done so with this same source of money.

I know that this is a huge topic and also a highly-debated one in the US. There is much that is written on this topic, and many more things that need to be said and re-said. I am going to leave for another post the economic importance of immigration, the human rights issues of migration that North America (Mexico, US, Canada) often leaves unaddressed, the social repercussions of divided families and 1/8 of the population of a country absent, the extreme risks of migration that have been exacerbated by increasingly deadly border control tactics and the dangers of narco-and human-trafficking, etc. etc.

The decision to run these risks, the thought process and social context that leads to this decision, is called: the American Dream.

What is this Dream? Is it to go to the US and start a new life, get a job and a house and never again want to return to Honduras? This is sometimes the case. Especially with the increasing rate of violence, it is a sad fact that many people just cannot or do not want to keep trying here.

However, for every story of an immigrant who never wants to return, there are many more of those who leave to just be able to make enough money to buy their house and small plot of land, to buy their car, to start a small business, to put their child through bilingual school, to pay for different family health needs, etc., and return. This idea of the “American Dream” challenges what it means to be American (more than North American – Central American), and what it means to dream.

Here is the story of a young woman I know who decided to go to the US undocumented. She is a young, very hard-working single mother who lives with her family, has a steady job as a teacher at a private school, and has a university degree. Yet she wanted to go on this dangerous journey. What is wrong with this picture?

“I look at the situation here, I look around me and realize that I will never get beyond this. The education system is so messed up – I left my job last week and they tricked a 19 year old into taking that job with the same low salary, and in all my 8 years I didn’t make more than $250 monthly, not once did they raise my salary. That 19-year-old has no higher education, and I who have my university degree received the same as him. I look at my salary and know I will never have enough to buy my house, to live there with my daughter. I have nothing of my own, just that bed there. Not even a car. And my dream is to have my own home, for my daughter to have a good life. I also dream of putting a roof on my mother’s house, because now when it storms heavily the rain comes in. I am the only sibling that really looks after her; my other siblings look to me for support, since I am the only professional. But what do I have to give them?”

Can she succeed without migrating? It is hard to resist the siren call of the American Dream in her situation. The pressure of the despair she feels at not being able to break through the low-class ceiling is unbearable.

What can I say to this despair? As much as I want to say, no! It is possible to live well here, don’t give up hope! I cannot say that I understand the depths of her disappointment with her country and her situation. I can only pray that she stays safe on her journey.

“I have prayed about this endlessly, and feel that God is saying it is okay to go, that he is with me. Many other people have been praying for me, and I feel that God is with me. I have faith that I will make it.”

Reconsidering the Migration Narrative in Honduras

Reconsidering the Migration Narrative in Honduras

Is a lack of positive thinking the reason that so many people are leaving Honduras?

Peacebuilding Thoughts

Peacebuilding Thoughts

“I just want to be able to provide for myself and my family, and be able to give back to my community.” The young woman looked at the group of young people surrounding her. They nodded, understanding. It is hard to provide for your family […]

Life is a journey

Life is a journey

Uncle Paul, the HNGR director at Wheaton College for many years and one of the most influential professors in my life, often said that life is a journey. His frequent caveat was that the journey itself is, in fact, the destination – moving and growing IS the purpose of life.

I see his wisdom daily in my journey as a teacher, teaching a growth mindset to my students. Having set goals and visualized plans for the future is great, necessary, even, but even the best plans can fall through, and even the loftiest goals can be shot down. If the destination is the only thing that matters, students tend to become frustrated with themselves to the point of giving up when faced with even miniscule failures.

Life, therefore, is about taking every step as being as important as the final destination, and being present in our missteps, knowing that failure is just another step on the road to growth.

As I have learned about myself and my tendencies as a type 9, I have realized that I often tend to live in the future, to daydream, to wish for easy answers to the big questions. Another one of Uncle Paul’s most-repeated insistences is to “live the questions” and not worry so much about finding the “correct” answer right away.

I don’t remember if he shared this quote from Rainer Maria Rilke with us, but imagine my delight when I found a quote from the poet that urges a young writer to follow the exact same instructions:

I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

From Brain Pickings

I seem to have worked out a certain truce with my big philosophical and religious questions since college, but as I am taking steps to start changing my career, I want to know the answers to the “little” questions. The little questions, the daily debacles, the everyday errors, are more terrifying than the big questions, because of that urgency of the now and the immediate and seemingly irreversible consequences of every tiny step.

This blog is my way of making peace with the little guys, those everyday sticklers that keep me up at night. So cheers, ya lil‘ goobers. This blog journey is for you.