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A mom survival skill leads me to a behavior that is silly, but provides me with a psychological benefit.  I create my “to do” lists when half of the list is completed.

When I first get up in the morning, I have three sleeping children upstairs who would hinder my productivity.  I can’t use these precious productive moments to make a “to do” list.  I need to sort/start the laundry, clean out a closet, check email from both colleges where I work, check couponing blogs for the deals, clip the coupons for the week (and put them securely away before the kids wake up and play in them like fall leaves), pay bills (and place them on a shelf higher than the kids can reach), prepare class materials, and declutter a zone.  As I’m doing these things, I feel as though I’m racing against the clock.

Between ten and eleven, I’m in full mommy mode.  I’m greeting each newly awakened child, assembling morning beverages, feeding the kids breakfast, kissing boo-boos, articulating the day’s plan and listing what they will accomplish that day.

By eleven, I’m finally ready to sit down to plan my day, but I’ve already done so much.  I don’t want to make a list of what I have LEFT to do.

I can’t make a “to do” list first thing in the morning because I can’t afford to use that time sitting.  I can’t make it when I have time because I don’t want to feel badly about writing a few measly things down.  I want to have a scribble pad full of accomplishment.  I can’t permit myself not to make a list because there are many things that won’t get done if I don’t.

So, I list everything that I need to do plus all the things that I have already done—and immediately check them off.  I feel better.  Later, as I look back on what day I accomplished a task, I can see a record of my productivity.  I know that it’s senseless, but I feel better about the monotony of the day to day and feeling as if I can never complete a task when I can list things that I’m glad that I’ve done under the guise of the proficiency that list making provides.  Maybe I should call them “Accomplishment” lists instead of “To Do” lists and not reference a time frame.

Much of my childhood, I was identified by my father’s profession.   In kindergarten, I was the preacher’s kid.  In high school, I was the teacher’s daughter.  In college, I was the seminary professor’s daughter (as in, “Hey, you’re Dr. Gordon’s daughter.  I LOVED his class!”).  While I relished those titles, I have greatly benefited from the underlying characteristics that directed him into those professions.  My dad is a man of great logic, nostalgia, levity, scholarship, methodology, and especially integrity.

I remember as a child being mesmerized by my dad’s sermons.  When I was nine, he preached a sermon about the biological ramifications of the crucifixion on Christ’s body.  When I was fifteen, he preached on modern-day fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.  When I was eleven, he preached about the target audience of each of the Gospels.  When I was seventeen, I heard cassette tapes of him in a theological debate.  My dad has a pleasantly unique thread in his oration style.  Emotion is second to logic.  Yes, we are thrilled about the solace we have in Christ.  Yes, we are sobered by the gravity of living a life without Him.  However, these emotions are conclusions we draw from the logical course that we have traveled.  His sermons are as beautiful as two column proofs in geometry.  The “given” is the deity of Christ and second column is composed of scripture references instead of postulates and theorems.

This is the man who is the public figure.  I, however, have the advantage of knowing him personally. When I was in high school, I felt very privileged to have exclusive access to his discourse on the way to school.  We discussed words that were used as a different part of speech than the original intent (like gerunds are verbs being used as nouns and modifying nouns are nouns being used as adjectives).  We discussed how neither one of us truly understood why teenagers choose their behavior.  We discussed foundational biblical truths.

One morning, I was memorizing Hebrews 4:2 from a note card.  He stopped me.  He said, “Now, I understand that you’re memorizing the whole chapter and there are so many celebrated verses in that chapter that you might miss the magnitude of this one.  Think about that.  Without faith, the Gospel is useless to us.”  The next year, I memorized the book of James.  In James 2:17, he stopped me again.  He said, “Okay, consider this.  If the Gospel must be met with faith to be valuable to us (Heb 4:2), and faith must have works to show that it’s alive (James 2:17), then your good works are motivated by the Gospel.  That’s why we are told to ‘work out’ our salvation (Phil 2:12).  We are not ‘earning’ our salvation; we already owe it.  So, doing good things does not earn salvation.  It is 100% faith.  Then, we live our lives showing our gratitude for this amazing gift by our good works.”  Then, he discussed the original Greek.  I love when my dad says, “In the original Greek…”

My dad taught my SAT Prep class.  I was always flattered that he took it upon himself to compete against me when we took practice tests.  He took the test himself, not to compare with the class, but with me.  I thought that it was a great compliment that a man of his intellect considered me a formidable opponent.

My fellow students identified a few of his interesting qualities.  They noticed that he was spouting off answers to a biblical knowledge competition though he had not studied the material recently.  He had studied it so much in his lifetime that he had etched it into his memory.  Another classmate said, “Your dad always wears the best ties.”   I also heard, “Your dad is Mr. Personality.”

At my wedding, he named me a “high octane young woman.”  When I was a teenager, he said to me, “You are a whole lot of personality.  If you live for yourself, your life will blow up in your face.  You must always surrender that powerful personality to the Lord.  He can direct your life better than you can (I John 2:17).  Frayed wires can create a destructive fire, but appropriately directed electricity is useful and is a blessing.”

My dad is very nostalgic.  He values his heritage.  He recognizes the pleasantness of the past, the sweetness of today, and the excitement of the future.  He is in the process of passing the family stories down to my son.  I truly delight in hearing my son tell the stories that sprinkled my childhood like confetti, but he giggles uncontrollably before reaching the punch line.

My dad has a unique ability to balance gravity and levity.  He is a master of appropriateness.  He knows exactly the right moment to tell a joke at a funeral.  He transitions smoothly from a light ending note of a sermon to a solemn invitation.  While raising his teenage daughters, he greeted possible suitors with varying levels of levity and gravity depending on how much he liked the guy.  If he was unsure about the guy, Dad spoke with seriousness and listed possible dangerous scenarios for the fellow.  If he liked him, he laughed as he described bizarre and comical methods for inflicting bodily harm.  The message was the same.  The delivery varied.  If Dad didn’t like the guy, there was no need for discussion.  Dad never made use of a proverbial shotgun as a prop.  He’s nearly 6’3”.  As a platonic friend from school described my dad using the men’s weight room, “Buddy’s a BEAST.”

My dad stops to smell the roses.  He paraphrases Matthew 7:9-11 by saying, “The same God who made the Brussels sprouts also made the strawberry shortcake.”  He makes no qualms about enjoying fishing, Red Lobster (or eating anywhere, really), Jeopardy, the Gaithers, Andy Griffith, and anything vanilla.

My dad is a scholar.  When I was in high school, I heard someone tease, “By the time Dr. Gordon’s lesson is over, my page-turning finger is exhausted.” I also heard, “The sounds of Dr. Gordon’s lectures are his deep resonating voice over the flutter of pages.”  He uses so many references because he KNOWS so much scripture.  He delights in knowledge.  He watches the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and PBS for leisure.  He saves his real academic time for sermon prep and whatever book(s) he’s reading this week.

My dad is methodical.  Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are weight training days.  Cardio days are dictated by his schedule.  He used to tell me when I was a teenager, “You’re young, but you’re going to be old.  You can find time to exercise now, but you need to make sure that one of your health goals is to make time for the rest of your life.  Develop the habit.”  He has also benefited from setting his keys down in the same place every time and assigning a spot for each pair of shoes in his closet.  (I want that last one to be one of the life lessons that he imparts to my son!)

While he is tenderhearted, emotion does not motivate his behavior.  He is motivated by integrity.  He said, “People make the mistake of measuring behavior by ‘normal.’  Normal changes.  It’s in a constant state of flux.  People should measure behavior according to what they ought to do, not what is commonly done.”

My dad is full of logic and laughter, but, above all, integrity.  Thank you, Dad, for the wonderful heritage.  I love you.  Happy Father’s Day!

My students seem to think that I’m some sort of uber-nerd.  While I reject that assertion, it’s not because I reject the negative connotation, but rather that I can only hope that my scholarship could reach that pedestal.

In my College Algebra class, I chided the students, “Only 25% of you got the quiz question right.  It seems that you’re trying to MEMORIZE the distance formula instead of UNDERSTAND why it was constructed.  The ‘formula’ has a bunch of subscripts and signs.  I’m losing you in the subscripts and signs.  I advocate that if you recognize the Pythagorean Theorem and if you know how to count, you won’t have to memorize a new formula.”  A student asked, “It’s going to be the right number if we count the spaces?”  “Yes, the formula was constructed to cause you to get arithmetically the same number as counting spaces.  When part of the formula says (x(sub2)-x(sub1)), that’s just math code for ‘count the horizontal spaces.’”

Later, the textbook instructed them to manipulate (in a calculator) a kind of function that they had not seen.  “I know that this is not exactly what you’ve seen before, but think about all of the similarities with the problems that you HAVE seen.  Format it so that it is easy and common place.”  I wrote the same problem in a simplified form.  “What do you do with this one?”  They answered correctly.  “Okay, then do that same stuff to this one.  See?  You really DO know what to do with these!”

I continued, “Later this semester, I’m going to give you problems like this…”  I showed them another complexity of the same problem. “…and I will expect you to identify the similarities to the simplified problem again.”  We worked it together.  Suddenly, the moans turned into ohs of satisfaction.  One student said, “That was a LOT easier than I thought it was going to be!”  I said, “THAT’S what I’ve been trying to tell you guys.  This stuff can be really, really easy!  Just don’t be afraid of it.  Work towards understanding the construction of algebra instead of memorizing specific cases.”

The next (rainy) day, I took my kids to the indoor playground at Chick-fil-A while I used the wifi to create College Algebra course materials.  Three complete strangers saw the textbook, approached me, and bewailed the course.  “I hated that class!  That was the worst 2 years of my life!”  (This reminds me of one of my favorite sitcom scenes ever—Mad About You, Ep Moody Blues, where the stranger tells Helen Hunt, “This is my WEDDING HAIR.”  I think my initial reaction to this guy was the same expression that Helen Hunt had.) “Um, I’m sorry?”  I told him as I shoved another bite into my mouth to keep from pointing out that the course lasts 4 months instead of 2 years.  Oh, my!  Another said, “I took that several years ago.  I’m SO glad that’s over! Blech!”  A third said, “Oh, DEATH to that class!  It KILLED me.  I picked an MA program based on which one didn’t require the GMAT because I hated that stuff so much.”

Let me guess, you approached the class as a memorization of formulas that you promptly flushed out of your brains after finals?  Uh, huh.

When I first started teaching, I was a little concerned that I had not picked a lucrative skill.  I was afraid that people would figure out that algebra is quite easy and not need me anymore.  I was mistaken.  As long as people perpetuate the idea that math is hard and that algebra is exclusively memorization of useless formulas and computation of large quantities, I have job security.  As long as they are tethered to the idea that algebra is a completely unattainable skill set, they will bathe themselves in fear instead of the power of accomplishment.  While I jest about my job security, it’s still very sad that most people will refuse to divorce the idea that math is beyond their aptitude.  As long as they do that, I cannot show them the beauty that I see in it.

My husband asked me what I was mumbling.  He said, “You just said ‘hate,’ and ‘school.’  Were they part of the same thought?”  He’s referring to my “thought leakage” where I mumble bits and pieces of thoughts.  He tries to put them back together as one thought, but they may or may not be from the same idea.  He was asking if I hated school (or if maybe I was thinking that I hated beets and saw a school of fish).  Not yet forming full sentences and suddenly realizing that thoughts had leaked out where he could hear them, I responded, “Inadequate.”

I feel inadequate as an educator.  I’m tired of students complaining out loud about my methods and other students privately thanking me for my innovative and helpful methods.  I’m tired of students saying that I don’t spend enough time lecturing in the face of other students who ask specific homework questions until they understand.  From both sides, I’m being told that I am inadequate.

I’m baffled when students say that I only teach a little and spend a lot of time discussing homework.  Maybe if I lectured for a little bit on math and then spent a lot of time discussing the homework topic of puppies (not on the test, but there’s homework on puppies), then I could understand why this is a problem.  Because I make the tests from the algebra homework, I don’t see how an algebra homework discussion is not teaching math.  The tests come from the homework.  The homework list is from the same people who write the final.  How is discussing the process of completing the tasks that are on all the tests not teaching?  I’m apparently ALWAYS inadequate.

When I come home late in the evening, my children happily run to greet me.  However, within seconds, one of them will start crying because I’m not already doing something for them (holding, feeding, watching, etc.).  I’m usually still holding my school bag.  I’m inadequately meeting their needs.

Last summer, I submitted a two page single spaced letter of resignation.  It was declined and somehow, I’m still teaching.  Now, I understand that I should take this as a compliment, but I was talked into continuing in the job where people tell me how awful I am all the time.  I just feel like I’m also bad at resigning.

I feel that I’m giving all that I have available to give in these different venues, but I’m never enough.  I am the kind of teacher that I would have wanted, but I’m met with criticism from every direction. My children are upset that I leave them for a few hours while I go to the place where no one thinks I ought to be.

I’m never doing enough, nurturing enough, saving enough, cleaning enough, communicating enough.  I’m not smart enough, articulate enough, helpful enough, or available enough.  I’m just so tired of being so inadequate.

We have all heard that statistics can say anything the researcher wants them to say.  Recently, I feel that I have been inundated with pro-coffee articles.  Now, let’s be honest.  I would love to feel confident that my daily cup o’ happy is actually a healthy choice, but this research is competing with years of hearing about how damaging coffee is.

I used to call coffee “my one consumable vice.”  I don’t drink alcohol.  I don’t smoke.  I’ve never done any kind of…well, anything.  I’m even leery of taking medications.  I used to say that chocolate was a consumable vice, but even chocolate has been put on a healthful pedestal.

I hear all of these reports about how coffee is so full of antioxidants and it prevents stroke, dementia, the blues, hangnails and flying monkeys.  Okay, I made up those last two.  These counteract all of the studies that have circulated for years.  (Note that I don’t feel the need to cite any sources because they are highly variable.)

So, maybe it’s not a vice.  How can I be without a vice?  It’s seems unnatural.  I typically use regular white sugar (when raw sugar is not available).  That could be the vice.   There.  That’s my vice.

I might cast aside my skepticism for the love of coffee.  In fact, I think that I may enjoy all of  my life choices as recently or soon to be discovered as wise choices.  Already, I’ve been gifted coffee, long walks (while chatting it up with a buddy and calling it exercise) instead of higher impact exercise, guacamole, chocolate, lots of rest, and the elimination of tofu (soy).   What more could a girl want from research?  Nonetheless, I want to find these researchers and give them a short list of my habits that I want them to discover are healthful habits.

I have had an enduring grudge against my fellow woman. More than six years ago, I was a recent college graduate and very pregnant. Many people, mostly mothers, would ask in a sweet, small-talky way, “What hospital are you using?” I responded, “We’re not going to a hospital. We’re going to have a home birth.” I knew what the next statement would be. Well, I knew the theme of the next statement.

Sometimes, it was a genuine concern for my safety (a result of blind faith in American obstetrics). That one is tolerable. Sometimes, it was a passive-aggressive “You’re so brave!” I can deal with this now having had three drug-free births. More than six years ago, I had no clout and this was an unfair statement.

The response that was truly hurtful was the jovial, yet authoritative, chuckle/cackle followed by, “Oh, Honey! You have NO IDEA what you’re getting into!” “You’re going to REGRET that decision!” “Oh, you WILL change your mind in a few weeks!!” You’ll be SCREAMING for drugs!” “You’re NEVER going to make it!” These statements were almost always punctuated with the same jovial, authoritative cackle.

Really? I’m making a decision in favor of the health and safety of my child and you’re telling me how horrible it’s going to be and how I’m going to fail? I know that birth is a rite of passage among women and at that point, I had not crossed that threshold, but, for heaven’s sake, what’s wrong with all of you?

Having a double “blessing” of third trimester hormones, I cried as I told my husband how several, yes SEVERAL, women at church had informed me of my impending failure. “Why would they say such awful things? Why do they laugh while they are being so rude?!” My husband smiled and said lovingly, “Babe, some women are wusses. You can’t fault them for not being as awesome as you are.” Gotta love that man! My sister said, “Remember that most women in America don’t believe themselves to be strong, healthy women choosing to GIVE birth. They believe that pregnancy is a sickness and they need a doctor to DELIVER them from their medical condition.” I am glad that I had such an amazing support system.

While I was knowledgeable enough to be empowered, I was still offended. I received one such dole of discouragement while I was in my graduation garb. I told my husband on the way home, “Why would she say that to a pregnant woman? Is she also going to tell me, ‘Well, I see you’ve just graduated from college. I bet you’re going to fail miserably in your career. Ha, ha, ha!’ How is this any different?”

I recently talked to a young mom about to have her first baby. I knew that she was planning a drug free birth. I told her that if any of the naysayers predicted failure for her, she could tell them where to stick their negativity. She could say so on my authority. She told me that she had, indeed, received the negativity, but she would refute on her own authority. She may not have had the authority of someone who had yet given birth, but she had the authority of being able to make CHOICES about birth instead of succumbing to social norms. She told these naysayers, “How do you know what I can and can’t do? You have never been me and I’m the only one who can attest to my pain tolerance.” Soon thereafter, she gently gave birth to her son.

For the sake of clarity, I’m not saying that I hold a grudge against women who choose to use a hospital for birth. I HELD a grudge against the social acceptance of discouraging women who choose to give birth without unnecessary interventions.

As for the offensive cacklers, I resolve to stop holding a grudge.  I am done holding on to the anger.  I forgive you. I am not saying that I will not say anything when I hear this every-real-woman-screams-give-me-drugs-now nonsense. I cannot listen to it and sit idly by because that is just as bad as actively contributing.  It’s not helpful or healthy to say this to mammalian mothers. It’s a disgrace that we allow ourselves to behave this way. I am truly empathetic for whatever experiences made you describe such a hopeless scenario, but I will refute. I will smile and add a southern “Bless your heart!”

I was reading this passage yesterday.

Revelation 3:15-16

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

We say that God speaks to us in ways that we can understand Him.  I guess my language is coffee.  He told me, “Read it this way.  ‘I want a hot Peppermint Mocha Latte.  I can work with a Mocha Frappuccino.  You are neither.  You are a melted frappuccino!  You are no more than flavored water.  Even the little chocolate bits are unsavory and the whipped cream is flat, bland and oily.  You quote scripture enough to congratulate yourself on not being cold, but you have no renewing to make you hot.  I’m not going to throw you out because I paid dearly for you, but you’re done being a gross melted frappuccino.

You are the cup.  I am the One who will fill you with hot espresso and steamed milk.  Use it quickly while it’s hot.  I will refill you.’”

I’ve seen several status updates urging people not to use the term “Xmas” instead of “Christmas.”  While I will advocate that God should be included in all activities, using an “X” in place of “Christ” is not excluding Him.  For the same reason that it is satisfactory for me to sign the students’ lab assignments with “CBGW,” I don’t have a problem with “Xmas.”

Seemingly, people believe that using an X is crossing off—even scribbling out—the title of the One who we are celebrating.  Remember that the New Testament was written in Greek.  “Christ” in Greek is “Christos” and in the Greek alphabet, it’s Χριστός. That’s spelled Chi-rho-iota-sigma-tau-omicron-sigma.  The English “Ch” is an “X” in Greek.  “X” is an initial, not a snub.

Granted, being a math teacher, I have become familiar with the Greek alphabet out of necessity.  In Logic and Proof, we studied truth tables to develop “tau”tologies.  We used capital sigmas in summation notation and lowercase sigmas in standard deviation.  Rho was used in Calc II when discussing series.  At some point in college, I used each of these Greek letters.  In fact, I’ve used X in place of Ch for other academic endeavors.

Let’s discuss intent.   The switch is linguistic, not anti-religious.  Let’s not waste energy on something like this when there are so many more worthy causes that warrant our righteous indignation.  The world has a 10/40 window where the people have not had the opportunity to hear about Χριστός.  What about those who want to remove Χριστός from public prayer?

Why should we get all riled up about a language tidbit (that is innocuous) when there are bigger things to discuss? When I hear that “Before Christ” and “Anno Domini” are being replaced with “Before the Common Era” and “Common Era” in our textbooks, I roll my eyes and say, “You can’t really replace Him.  He’s always gonna be there.”  Now, if you tell me that I can’t pray in the name of Ιησους Χριστος, I’m totally going to pull a Daniel on you (Daniel 6:10)!

Let’s study and be knowledgeable.  Let’s use that knowledge and our energies in venues that warrant it.

After class recently, a student and I were talking as we walked to our cars.  I described something being law versus grace “like Old and New Testament.”  A few sentences later, she sheepishly asked, “Are you a Christian?”  I assuredly affirmed.  “Really?  That’s great!  I never would have guessed!  May I ask you some other things…if you don’t mind standing out here in the rain?”  We talked for a while.  I then asked her why she was so surprised that I am a Christian.  Had I given a bad witness?  Had I behaved shamefully? Frankly, I was embarrassed and humbled that my light had apparently not been shining.  She said, “It’s just that you’re so…math-y.”

It was my love of scholarship that makes me an unlikely candidate?  I told her that a mathematician is more likely to believe in God than a scientist.  Usually, studies show a more dramatic difference than this one, but it seems to be the trend.  She asked me, “Why do you think that is?”  I said, “I guess because scientists are constantly trying to bring the makings of the universe down to palatable bites.    In order to continue the drive to understand and discover, they have to make science finite enough for a human brain to understand it.  A mathematician, however, has to accept concepts like infinity.”  She said, “So, that’s where God comes in.”  I said, “Yes, for the same reason I gave for putting a parenthesis on infinity in interval notation, I must accept that mathematics is bigger than I have the capability to understand.  A mathematician knows that there’s really no such thing as random.  Being a mathematician led me to the natural conclusion that there is a deity bigger than I can truly understand who is complex enough and powerful enough to construct an intricate and functional world.  When one accepts this, one has no other logical choice but to serve that Creator.”

Now, the most interesting thing to me is that many students complain that math is too difficult to understand.  Even at the algebraic level, they protest that they OUGHT not be required to begin to unravel its complexities.  So, I am truly astounded sometimes when I hear some of the same students declare anti-religious rhetoric.  If math, the gear that puts a universe of science in motion, is indeed as complex and multifaceted as they describe, they are making an excellent case for intelligent design!

I have a confession.  While I am the one in my marriage who insists on paying homage to Thanksgiving before decking the halls, I love that stores bring out the Christmas stuff on Nov 1.  It’s a double standard.  I know.

My husband is a kid at heart.  He pushes me every year to decorate a Christmas tree earlier and earlier.  When we had been married for 5 years, he said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we had the tree up by Columbus Day?  That would really freak out the Trick-or-Treaters!”  So, as chief homemaker of this household, I firmly respond that we must give our proper thanks on the fourth Thursday of November before we wear jingle bells as accessories.  Yes, in being his balancing force, I am the household Grinch.

However…

I love what commercialism has done to our stores.  I can’t imagine that it is economically advantageous to have Christmas displays for sale nearly two months before the holiday, but, my goodness, it’s pretty!  My home décor is still autumnal and we are anxiously awaiting Thanksgiving (and Autumnal Pi Day and Veteran’s Day), but I love that all of the stores are so holly jolly!  Loud speakers are chiming, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.”  The orange and gold hues with a background of chestnut have already been replaced with metallic reds on pristine whites.

Who’s buying this stuff??  Certainly, someone is.  The almighty dollar has spoken.  The stores wouldn’t keep on doing this if there weren’t bunch of suckers buying all of this.  They’re not selling it to me.   I buy it at 95% off after the previous year’s season.

Let me just go on record saying that I love that there must be people with more money than sense.  I love that commercialism has made us spend a sixth of the year getting ready for the one day.  I love that I can get my Starbucks coffee in the snowflake cup with “holiday flavors” while going to Target to use my giant stack of coupons.  I love that walking past the four aisles of 75% off Halloween clearance (what’s with that, Target?  Gimme 95% off!) reveals the enchanting Christmas hardware.

Because SOMEONE must be spending a lot of money on things that are not really important, our culture spends two months on encouraging a spirit of peace, joy and kindness.  We spend two months celebrating the incarnation of the One who gave the ultimate gift and identifying a role model who personified kindness.  I’m not going to buy into this commercialism, but I LOVE the results of it.  While in my home, I will bah-humbug Christmas until my turkey leftovers are securely in the fridge, but I will squeal with delight for the public merriment!