Stories


When my son was a preschooler, he didn’t subscribe to ideas of mythical figures.  He, like I did as a child, felt that it was his humanitarian service to other children to expose the hoax.  We agreed to esteem the wholesomeness of the mythical figures, but agree in front of other children that we would save face and share an inside joke.  Being firstborn, we assumed that he would set the standard for his siblings.  Apparently, his sister marches to the beat of her own drummer.  She is not privy to the ruse, but wholeheartedly embraces it. (Then again, I’m not entirely sure. She may be playing me too.)

My daughter lost her third tooth.  She had heard a rumor that sometimes the tooth fairy brings chocolate instead of money.  She lost the first two teeth on the same day, so she’s only had one experience before this with the tooth fairy.  She’s still learning the ropes.  I inquired, “What do you think the tooth fairy brings?”  Her face was suddenly all of the beautiful things of childhood.  She paused and answered, “I think it must be money and chocolate.  I know!  It MUST be those gold coins that are filled with chocolate.”  I was imagining Venn diagrams in her head coupled with the wonder of a snaggle-toothed child.  I had to make this happen.

My son and I set out on a late night adventure.  The short version of the story is that we went to four stores, ask a lot of clerks foolish sounding questions, but finally found success (chocolate replicas of monetary units) in the store very close to our house minutes before it closed.  Aha!  This tooth fairy was already a little exhausted, but effective to this point.

When we returned home, I heard the little voices of my daughters (much too late) and my husband upstairs.  They were too excited to sleep, according to my four year old.  My husband had visited them to remind them that they needed to put more effort into sleeping.  So, I took the opportunity to verify that the tooth was in an easily retrievable apparatus and placed properly…for the tooth fairy.  I also reminded them that fairies don’t visit little girls who stay up to see them.  I was anticipating the excitement the next morning when my daughter found that the she really did get gold coins.

Eventually, I crashed into my bed and woke up the next morning in a panic to replace that tooth with the ever important gold coins.  I crept into the room…only to find my toothless darling missing.  I checked her sister’s bed.  I found a pile of blankets and stuffed animals, but no little girls and no tooth.  I was beginning to develop a second reason to panic.

I checked the closet.  There, in the brightness of fluorescent lighting were my two sweet princesses.  I felt under the pillow for the tooth but found nothing.  I reached again and pulled out…a fake pirate coin?  I was utterly confused.  But right before I hunted again, my daughter woke.  I had been caught.  I was holding both the fake coin that was under the pillow and the gold coins in the other hand.  I was confused.  So was she.  She said, “Good morning, Mommy.  The tooth fairy came but she only left me this fake coin.  What are you holding?”  Off the cuff, I insisted, “That doesn’t make any sense!  The tooth fairy was confused.  She knew that there was a tooth under your pillow, but she couldn’t find it.  She told me that she would leave the gold coins with me, but I can only trade them for the tooth so that she can come back and get it.”

My four year old chimed in, “It’s over here in the night stand drawers.  I hid it and replaced it with a coin so that my sister would have something.”  Now, let me get this straight.  The four year old knew that no magic would really be taking place, so she high jacked the tooth herself before I got to it…to preserve her older sister’s spirit.  That’s both endearing and frustrating.

The girls shared the chocolate coins, but I missed sharing the moment of discovery.  I hope that in a few years, she appreciates the humor of the backstory of her gold coins.  Then again, it might be sooner rather than later because she found my back up stash and asked why I had two packs for only one tooth.

Last week, I asked my nearly 4 year old daughter what she wanted to be be when she grew up.  She said, “I don’t know, Mama.  What do YOU want to be when YOU grow up?”  I answered, “If I ever really grow up, I’ll probably still be a math teacher.”
Much has changed. For the first time ever, I have a full-time job.  I’m the coordinator of hands-on learning in the math department.  That’s a fancy way of saying that I use toys to teach math.  I have messes of toys with a thousand pieces to clean up and stuff to organize.  When I don’t have what I need, I make it.  I’ve spent a lot of time in the craft sections of various stores.  Truly, it’s really very much like being a mommy of littles.
I went to Starbucks this morning and used my laptop until I felt ready for my day.  Then, I stopped at Target for yet more craft supplies to use in my office/lab.  (The Target is across the street from the college where I teach a different level of math at night.)  I realized that I sorta kinda became who I wanted to be when I grew up.  I wanted to have an office where I felt that I was doing something uplifting for people during the day and I would split the evening between the gym and volunteer work. I wanted to be educated.  I wanted to surround myself with interesting people. I wanted to travel.  The vision of myself, of course, didn’t include a husband or children or an occupation in education.  I help people (in my office/lab) conquer a fear of mathematics.  I am appropriately degreed.  I spend my evenings teaching college algebra and caring for my household.  I don’t leave work and go directly to the gym, but I can work out in my neighborhood after bedtime.  Yes, many days, the workout’s warmup is taking each child on a walk individually and hearing about their adventures.  I don’t focus on a social life, but my wonderful children keep me from ever lacking for good company.  I don’t travel, but I land securely in my husband’s arms daily.
The picture in my teenage head of who I would become looks a little different, but I am so blessed to have grown up (sorta kinda) to be a very happy and satisfactory version of myself.

My father taught at my high school.   I wish that my peers had understood how much he was bridling himself in order to have to spend the day with teenagers.  Being his student, I had an interesting vantage point to tell stories at the dinner table about my English teacher.  He provided many.  Here are a fistful of my favorites.

Because our high school doubled as a church building, there were often stacks of unclaimed Bibles in the lost and found.  My dad chose one of the unclaimed Bibles to keep on his desk in the classroom.  It had been engraved.  A student asked, “Mr. Gordon, who is Retha English?”  With an absolutely deadpan expression, he told the high school student, “That was my name before the operation.”

My dad is a very strong man.  When I was in the 9th grade, one of my classmates (who has since become a marine) believed himself to be large enough to challenge my father.   They got in position to arm wrestle.  My dad signaled, “Go.”  The fifteen year old heaved, grunted, and finally, started pulling with two hands.  My father had an expression on his face that made him seem belabored also.  But his expression suddenly changed, exhibiting that my dad’s “struggle” was a ruse.  The student now seemed an unworthy opponent for my dad.  My dad asked effortlessly, “Are you ready?”  The student, groaning and now confused, bellowed, “Yes!”  “Are you sure you’re ready?”  “Yeah!”   SLAM!  My dad soundly won and said very innocently, “Well, you said you were ready.  Would you like me to let go?”  The student begrudgingly admitted defeat and my dad was never challenged again.

After extensively teaching the forms of adjectives, my dad assigned an exercise where we were to identify and label all the adjectives in their forms.  When the students said that they didn’t understand, he patiently explained again, noting the lessons that he had painstakingly taught all week.  They still contested.  With a hint of exasperation (and it is noteworthy that he never uses profanity), he said, “Underline all of the adjective forms in the passage.  Then, label the KIND of adjective it is.  There are determiners (what our curriculum called articles) like ‘the’ and ‘that,’ regular adjectives like ‘juicy’ and ‘red,’ and modifying nouns like ‘brick’ in ‘brick house’ and ‘feather’ in ‘feather duster.’  If it’s a determiner, write a big D (he demonstrated by writing a large letter D on the board behind him without turning around).  If it’s a good ol’ fashioned adjective, write a big A (and wrote likewise on the board.)  Finally, if it’s a modifying noun, write MN (and modeled on the board without looking at his handiwork).  This (pointed to the board behind him) is what I want you to do!”  He did not realize that his labels were an acronym.  (This was especially entertaining and surprising because my dad never used the, ahem, acronym on the board behind him.)

In 12th grade British Literature, the class watched Macbeth on video after studying the unit on the Shakespearian play.  Near the end, Lady Macbeth began disrobing to deliver her monologue.  My father, who despises public nudity even for the sake of art, would never have shown that to a class, but had been assured that it was safe for school.  When he saw, to his horror, that it was not, he employed his high school football tactics and ran to tv avoiding desks the way that he would have run to an in-zone avoiding defenders.  He wheeled the tv backwards out of the view of students and fast forwarded until all of the characters were decent.  As he was fast forwarding and watching the distorted picture of the VHS tapes, the students were laughing.  They knew that he intended to be above reproach.  One of the boys in my class asked, “Hey, Mr. Gordon, does she look good?”  Without missing a beat, my father responded, “not as good as me.”

One of his classes (eighth graders) was so ill-behaved that he decided to use a Dictaphone to list referrals to write later.  Despite the frustration that he felt for students squandering their education, the silver lining was listening to the “highlight reel” as he wrote referrals and called parents at night.  We heard, “So-and-so is talking out of turn.”  A voice in the background would be murmuring loudly, stop, and respond, “I am not!”  One of the “So-and-sos” did an impression of my dad (years later) using his Dictaphone.   I thanked So-and-so for being such insolent child that he had provided hours of laughter around our dinner table while my dad wrote out his referrals.

When I was pregnant with my third child, one of my coworkers commented that I really relish the mommy role, noting that I had been pregnant with somebody or another for half of the time that I had worked with him.  I also sometimes wore my “Epidural?! SCHMEPIDURAL!!”  t-shirt to work.  (I was pregnant and it fit me.  Fitting was the main requirement for clothing then.)  I assured him that, no, I didn’t particularly enjoy pregnancy, I was merely of childbearing age and having children fit my family.  The childbearing seemed to be my responsibility because my husband lacks a womb.

My coworker noted that I am obviously one of those women who genuinely enjoy being pregnant.  “Nope,” I responded, “if I could grow them in jars in a laboratory, I would find that to be preferable.”  Pregnancy seemed a little more pragmatic than the large jars or the other option of fearing pregnancy and childbirth too much ever to have children.

My brother-in-law noted recently that I am more of a girl than I let on.  For example, I readily discussed natural childbirth with our then pregnant friend.  Nope, it’s just a relevant topic and one where I have knowledge and experience to offer when it is asked of me.

When one of my daughters was hospitalized as an infant and I contested that formula was not the solution because it was not reasonable and it would not fix her, but mask a symptom.  We needed to focus on finding the root of her problem, I was told, “Well, you’re just one of those super-natural mamas.”  I just think that I should feed my infant something that is really food (breastmilk) for the same reasons that I use whole wheat flour instead of Bisquik (aka internal glue) when they’re approximately the same cost.  Our bodies function better when they are fueled properly.  It’s again about pragmatism.

My father-in-law has a graduate degree in agriculture.  He planted a backyard garden for us.  I haven’t done any work in it, but I get to go to my back yard to get side dishes.  He ups my crunchy credit when he’s the one who should be receiving the credit.  My zucchini is delicious and free…and easily accessible!

Now, these are all reasons that I have been called “crunchy” or “natural.”  I’ve even received the snide, judgmental, “Well, aren’t you just trying to win a medal, aren’t you now?”  But really, do not give me credit where credit is not warranted.  I am much too selfish to do these things to create a super-pristine environment for my family.  I’m much too apathetic to care about the opinions of other moms.  Let us replace descriptions like “crunchy” and “natural” with “pragmatic” and “reasonable.”

Natural childbirth.  Yes, I know that hospitals are where they keep the drugs, but it’s also where they keep the knives.  I don’t like to be cut especially when it’s entirely unnecessary.  I have been told 4 different reasons in 3 pregnancies why I needed to have a c-section.  I’m not in the mood to argue about everyone’s experience and hear about why her OB was right that that c-section was the only way, but it was obviously incorrect on 4 bad calls and 3 homebirths later.  I heard, “Well, aren’t you (snear) brave!”  Nope.  Just want to get it get it over with faster.  Don’t slice my abs or my hoohah.  Don’t paralyze and inhibit my body’s ability to birth gently.  Hospitals give people more injuries from which to recover.  When I’ve just had a baby, I don’t want to have to do any unnecessary healing.  No, thank you.  I have plenty to do without interventions adding extras.  Hospital birth as a whole process is just not as efficient as it’s cracked up to be.

Breastfeeding.  Yes, it’s appropriate food for a human and it’s created by a brilliant God, but, people, it’s FREE.  I repeat, FREE!   Furthermore, it’s really easy to administer meds (or herbs as the case may be) to a baby when my work is take the herbs myself, wait an hour, and feed the baby.  While it was not easy for the first two months, it was AMAZINGLY worth it.  Free.

Furthermore, the fact that my children are children makes it very hard to sit down and pay attention to them when they have so little to add to the conversation.  I breastfed them until they were very conversational (1 ½ years).  Breastfeeding was not something that I did because I already felt this mommying desire of sitting and bonding with the baby; it’s what I painstakingly chose to do to CREATE any mommy mojo that I could find.  Now, my children are pretty hilarious people and I love having one-on-one time with each one…and no one has to chew on me.

I was infuriated when I was told that I was breastfeeding because I enjoyed it so much.  Are you bleeping kidding me?  I ENJOY the process of teaching someone with limited communication skills not to bite me?  I ENJOY not getting to do an occupation that I love because I’m too busy feeding someone every 2-3 hours?  I ENJOY being sent to the proverbial corner because someone might suddenly become aware that I possess such appendages?  I ENJOY having sensitive skin cracked open and bleeding?  I once had someone tell me that I was nursing for more than 3 months because it felt good.  What?!  I don’t even know what to do with that.  It hurt.  That was just rude.  Nope.  I nursed the kids because I thought that if I actively chose to do my part in his or her creation, I owe it to him or her to provide proper nutrition for as long as I am responsible for nourishing the child.  Okay, and it’s free.

Couponing.  I really have no idea why this is ever categorized as super-mom material instead of just pragmatic plain and simple.  They let you have stuff for cheaper.  It’s pretty awesome.  Just don’t get free stuff that isn’t food but is masquerading as food.  That doesn’t nourish and is no longer pragmatic.

Herbs.  They work.  Prescriptions have lots of elements that I don’t find to be pragmatic. 1) I have to go to an MD and pay a lot of money to get them.  2) Then, I have to pay for the expensive prescription.  3) The prescription probably won’t work–at least that has been my repeated experience.  4) There are often yucky side effects.

I have a different idea.  Dr. Google is free.  Herbs are significantly cheaper than MD+Rx.  Then, people get well.  Be well is very pragmatic.

Backyard Garden.  I haven’t put work into it.  My father-in-law and husband have worked in it while I was at work.  I just harvest lettuce, zucchini and potatoes.  Maybe I wouldn’t think that it is so pragmatic if I had been the one putting in the elbow grease, but the backyard is more easily accessible than the grocery store.

Cooking at Home.  I deviated last week.  I told my husband that I didn’t want to bother packing a lunch for a family of 5 for an outing.  I should not have told him that.  He was even willing to pack food for me.  He stopped at McD’s.  It took forever.  It was $14 going the “cheap” route.  In the end, it took too long, we overspent, and we felt like we had eaten garbage.  Lesson learned…again.  Home is more pragmatic.  Hubs was right.  There’s produce ready for the next outing as I write.  We can pack what is delicious, easy, inexpensive, and makes our bodies feel well to play all day.

No TV.  This one makes me such a “tough mom.”  “What?!  You don’t have a TV??  That’s inhumane!”  Our antenna gets no reception.  The cable company (the only one in the area) wants to charge us an extra $50/month to watch what comes on hulu for free.  Furthermore, if our kids had anymore venues for media, I’m pretty sure they’d become zombies.  It’s cheaper.

Making Laundry Detergent.  This one is kind of a fad.  I keep the stuff on hand to make it when I run out.  It’s not very pragmatic to run out of detergent with this many mess makers in the house.  It’s cheap and functional.

Making Face Scrub. If I can be diligent about making it once a month, my face appreciates the homemade scrub better than anything store bought.  Pragmatism.

My 5 year old is often in mismatched clothing.  I usually don’t care if my 5 year old is wearing mismatched clothes because she deliberately designed that ensemble.  She dressed herself in clean clothes.  Done.   Some say that I’m a “free spirit” for allowing it; others say that she’s “being raised by wolves.”   I’ll let my apathy soak up the being raised by wolves part so that she can be the free spirit.  There’s something about her free spirit that I think needs to be nurtured.  It’s a part of her that can become the most beautiful.  She’s weird and different kind of weird than I am.  Whatever.  Maybe she’ll grow up with the apathy that becomes so pragmatic.

Don’t eat stuff that’s not food.  High fructose corn syrup and modified food starch are bad.  I sound crazy when I’m in the grocery store with my kids and I REPEATEDLY respond to their questions of why we don’t buy what other families buy with, “Because it’s not…” and the prompted kid responds, “healthy.”  “Right.  It’s not really food.  If you want to eat stuff like that, go somewhere else because you won’t find it at home.”  There’s a lot of unhealthy garbage that they have access to everywhere else (like the pseudo cheese slime that I saw one of my kid’s classmates eating in a school lunch.  Ew.).  I lack the ability to monitor all of that.  So, I’m not going to introduce that stuff into their normal eating hub too.  “If you want to kill your insides, you’re going to have to do it not on my watch.  If you have health problems when you’re an adult you won’t be able to blame me.  Now, have some hummus with cucumber and carrots.  I’ll make you almond milk/avocado chocolate pudding when you’re done (all delicious, by the way).”  Not crunchy.   If Type II Diabetes comes from my genetic line, it would not be pragmatic not to give them the habits and tools not to develop it later.  That’s a life goal, by the way—don’t get all of the nasty diseases that come from lifelong unhealthy eating habits.  All the bad ones in my family seem to be controllable by diet/weight.  Sick doesn’t seem pragmatic.

Therefore, doing what is “crunchy” has nothing to do with winning proverbial medals from other moms; it has to do with reevaluating choices and putting more stock in the best option over what is commonly done.  Again, I am much too apathetic to be concerned winning medals.

A few nights ago, I was talking to friends, none of whom have children, and one of the young men added to the conversation ever so humorously, “When I have kids, I’m not even going to touch them for the first few years.  I mean, they’re weird.  They have that soft spot thing in the head.  They can’t even sit up; their heads flop all weird.  So, when they’re born, I’ll wave.  I’ll say, ‘I’m your dad.  I’ll see you in a couple of years when we can do cool stuff.’”

The other woman in the group noted, “No, you won’t.  Not when it’s your own kid.”

He contested, still intending to make light, “Even my own kid.”  He continued to discuss how he ought not be responsible for a fragile person.

Granted, new dads (and this guy is a long way away from fatherhood) can be afraid of the frailty of a newborn (a fear that can be overcome), but too many dads are quick to believe that they get a pass from “baby stuff” merely because the baby is not appealing to him or that women are better equipped to know how not to break them.  I think that this largely stems from the idea that women in general are naturally inclined to enjoy everything in the baby realm.  I provide myself as a counter example.  I barely liked kids before I had them.  After I had children, I had a great appreciation for my own, but a growing dislike for other people’s kids (underdeveloped humans).  The fact that I was used as a vessel for gestation does not mean that I think that every weird thing that the baby oozes (out of innumerable orifices) smells like flowers.  It weirds me out too.

So, I decided that this nugget of wisdom should be shared with this young fella.  Here it is folks: “YOUR WIFE IS INCLINED TO TREAT YOU THE SAME WAY YOU TREAT THE BABY.  Wives, ahem, provide a lot.  If you want to be held and coddled, hold and coddle the baby.  If you look at the baby and say, ‘Ew, that’s gross.  I don’t find that to be appealing at all,’ your wife will look at you and say, ‘Ew, that’s gross.  I don’t find that to be appealing at all.’  You’re either a help (as a fellow grown-up) or a burden (leaving her to think of you as another child).”

He laughed, “I just don’t want to touch it.”  I replied, “She won’t want to touch it either.”  When it appeared that he wasn’t following the logic, another man in the group piped up, “She’s talking about a different ‘it.’”

Dads would do well to understand the mindset of their wives when they are new moms.

A dad who believes that he is not responsible for taking care of a small child, especially a newborn, contributes to his wife thinking, “This broke me.  I am BROKEN.  I feel terrible.  I look terrible.  I can’t even remember what it feels like to be me.  I have lost my identity.  I am no longer a woman.  I am a pair of sunken, puffy eyes sitting on top of what feels like bruises instead of internal organs and skin that is torn in a variety of ways.  My hormones and brain chemistry tell me that I might hate you, and you’re not making any sort of rebuttal.  You take a pass and rest because you’re a man, because you WEREN’T the one who was broken.  Taking all of the physical stress of gestation was my lot for being female, yet all of the exhausting caretaking is still my job.  You might ‘help me out a little’ with ‘my’ responsibility.  You are killing any hope I have of ever feeling better.  I’m sorry.  I CANNOT take any more.  I have nothing left to give.  Please, as long as you feel that way, don’t get near me.  This is not manipulation or lack of loving you; this is solely because YOU TERRIFY ME.  I am injured (for now, a lot, but a little injured forever) because you came near me.   I’m scared of you and I hurt, but you’re going to let me deal with it all by myself.  Please, I beg you, don’t hurt me anymore.  Don’t crush the broken pieces of me.”

Now, that last part was too much truth to lay on someone.  So, I didn’t .  I, instead, noted how my husband models good dad behavior.  I said, “You know what’s delicious?  My husband carrying our daughters, one in each arm, to their beds is delicious!  They each pick a different animal to pretend to be.  They roar, meow, bark, oink, moo, and hiss all the way up the stairs through their giggles.  I’ll tell you what, that shirtless man’s muscles ripple ever so exquisitely when he’s cradling 80 pounds (total) of preschooler.   You know what else?  My son greets me at the door when I get home from work and says, ‘Dad told us to clean up our messes before you got home.  See?  He’s in the kitchen loading the dishwasher.’  Beautiful.  Mmm, hmm.  When a toddler climbs up in his lap and finds comfort, I look forward to procuring that same seat later.  ‘Good dad’ is yummy.  Remember that.”

When a dad takes responsibility in caring for the offspring, the mother is inclined to think, “He will sustain us!  There will be a day when I will feel healed!  I will survive!  I have hope!  This man is interested in sustaining me and the fruit of my womb!  We are a team and together, we will thrive.  My goodness, he’s hot.”

That last little bit was running through my head as the rest of them discussed.  I think they deviated from that conversation, but I wasn’t really listening; my husband texted me and said that he picked up the kids and he was on the way home.  The night ended at that time when I chuckled loudly and awkwardly.  I didn’t know where the conversation had gone, but I gathered by the way they looked at me that a loud chuckle was very misplaced.  I explained, “heh, heh…my husband’s a really good dad.”  There was a consensus that the night was over and Courtney obviously needed to get home.

There was a sudden change of plans on Saturday.  I told my husband that I wanted to use the spare time to take a friend to a Saturday night service.  He said that he wanted to go to church too.  He said that because I had nursery duty in the morning, he could go to a Saturday night service and “not have to get the kids up so early.”  “But Honey,” I rebutted, “I can’t focus on caring for a friend then.  It’s like in I Corinthians 7 where it says that single women can focus on serving the Lord, but married women have to focus on their husbands…and three crazy children.” So, that last part was a paraphrase.  I ended up not being able to reach the friend and hurriedly went to church with my husband (as he wished) to hear a replica of the service that I would miss during nursery duty.

The next morning, I wanted to get up and have a morning where I had the bliss of only scheduling myself.  8:00-8:30 read the Bible, 8:30-9:00 jog, 9:00-whenever I was done getting ready, leave before 10, be early for nursery duty.  That was the plan.  At 7:56, I was making my morning hot beverage and considering the scripture that I posted on my cabinet.

I Peter 3:5, 6 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

I was nestled in my spot, equipped with a mug, Bible, and laptop.  8:05, my husband, who had woken up and perched himself on a nearby couch, asked if I had fed the fish.  I did it then for the same reason I feed the fish while my children are watching; I was hoping that the movement of the shimmery creatures would deter his attention away from me.  He, instead, gave me a play by play of the fish.

8:15, he told me that the whole family was going to leave together.  Wait, wait, wait…yesterday, there was a big to-do about not having to get up and go in the morning and now you’re telling me that you’re going to leave at the same time as you would to get to church, yet when we travel as a collective, we’re always late…and I can’t be late today.  I was stringing sentences together like that as I was talking to him too.  There was a 45 minute discussion about the logic involved in his planning.  I told him that he was not only illogical, but his lack of logic cost me my Bible reading time and the majority of my jogging time.

It all simmered in my head while the shortened jog cut into the getting ready time.  I was mad that I was going to get to make a list (including devotions, exercise, volunteer work, lesson plans, church, and small group Bible study…all good stuff that needs to be done anyway) and accomplish it and neither he nor the spawn were going to prevent me from finishing.  I simmered down but still in my righteous indignation.  I mean, for goodness sake, I wanted to take the time to hear a message from the Lord and my husband wasn’t even going to stop bothering me and trying to change my plans long enough to sit down and read according to my schedule!

For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.

Waaaaaaiiiiit.  Did I just ignore the obvious lesson right my (flaring) nose?

So, as we all rode to church together (ahem.), I apologized to my husband.  He gets to change my plans.  I can’t claim that my husband is getting in my way of serving the same Lord to Whom my husband has to answer.

One of my shortcomings as a professor is that I am much too lenient with partial credit.  I have started using technology to combat that.  When I give a test, 15-20% of it is on paper (mostly graphing and occasionally showing one process over another) and the rest is on a computer.  The questions are algorithmically generated so that each student gets a different problem on the same concept.  I also have the software lock a student out of a test when he or she hasn’t exhibited a reasonable performance on a practice test.

The paper and pencil version is given only once (in class) and partial credit is granted.  The computer portion is given in class and no partial credit is given.  The computer is a machine and will grade rigidly.  When I give generous partial credit, students are not inspired to improve.  They settle for pretty close.  However, grading so rigidly is disheartening to students.  So, I aim not to let them settle and not to be disheartened.  I allow them to take the computer portion of the test again in the college’s designated testing area.  We’re talking about maybe 4 or 5 students per unit (trying to turn a B into an A or a D into a C).  Wanting to perform well is a worthwhile academic process.  I have found that this system promotes mastery instead of barely passing.

The testing center sent me a long letter. It said that I needed to fill out a separate form for each student (!), that I was creating too much extra work for her staff by not letting them know how long each test was or when it was allowed or when the due dates are, that they only have two calculators assigned for testing, and that the testing center was “not for convenience.”  While I asserted that *I* set the testing parameters and her staff doesn’t need to worry themselves with it as they lack the ability to give my test without my consent/requirements (and that I didn’t need her staff to report back to me as the computer tells me all of the information that she insisted that I needed from her staff), I was enraged by the suggestion that anything I do as an educator is for convenience.

Let me be perfectly clear.  Being an educator is inconvenient.  I hear my son say, “Mom, I wish you didn’t have to go to work.   I miss you.”  My daughters and I have the same conversation.  “Mommy, I want to go with you.”  “You can’t.  I’m going to work.”  “Please, Mommy, I’ll go to work with you.  I want to be with you.”  Then, I have to leave a sobbing child and instruct my husband to hold her back and not to let her run out into the driveway as I’m backing out.  My husband sometimes calls me while I’m grading papers, “Just wanted to know when you’re going to be home.  I want to see you.”  All of these ideas swirl in my head while I consider that my friend who is a cashier at a home improvement store has a higher annual income than I do.

Being an educator—especially a part-time educator—is certainly NOT FOR MY CONVENIENCE.  I daresay that I really enjoy saying “asymptote,” “logarithm,” and “the gog of x.” Maybe I’m trying to give them a foundation and inspire them that they can conquer algebra…something they believe to be unconquerable.  Maybe the fact that I’m giving the students a second opportunity to perform (something else I have to grade) is evidence that convenience was never really my goal.

The only reason I send students to the testing center at all is because I am an adjunct and have not been blessed with an office where I can have students prove themselves academically.  It would be much more convenient for me to take my children to day care, work full-time…from an office, and never have to talk to the testing center.  Yes, being self-contained and earning a grown-up income and being provided with space to accomplish goals sounds more convenient.

Lastly, the testing center’s goal is not to be convenient?  Really?  That seems like that would be the primary reason that it exists.

Ms. Xxxx,

Pardon my surprise.  This is contrary to what I was told last semester.  An emailed roster with a password was exactly what I was told to send.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that 4 years ago, I was told that there was a version of this document that was easier to edit electronically.  Maybe I could mail merge it.

I do not require that my students have a specific calculator that belongs to the testing center to test.  I clear programs that were created for cheating before he or she is allowed to test.  If a student has a “program” that is intended for cheating, I clear the RAM.  It’s a simple process and it could fix the problem of a mere two learning center owned calculators.  It’s how I test in my classroom since I do not have a classroom set of calculators.  

Also, the software where the test is located allows me to control the testing parameters.  The form wants me to list the testing time allowed, the dates that students are allowed to test, and where to hold the test.  I assume that these are listed so that your staff can make sure to follow all of each professor’s procedures.  I assure you that I have set those testing parameters online.  If the student is no longer allowed to take a test, the link to the passworded screen will disappear.  If the student has not finished the prerequisites that I assigned, the link will not be available.  When the student’s time is up, the software will not allow the student to answer any more questions.  Frankly, while I will fill out the form as procedures dictate, your staff lacks the ability to give my test without my consent. 

I have admin rights to the course.  Without paperwork from your staff, I still have the ability to see what time a student took the test and how long it took him or her.  While I’ve never tried (because the password removes the necessity), I bet I might be able to find an IP address to ensure that the student took it at the right location.

You mentioned that your staff might have had an additional workload because of this.  I assure you that that is entirely unnecessary.  I intended for them to do three things: 1) ID matches roster, 2) calc has RAM cleared if applicable, 3) password.  I would, however, appreciate if my passwords were protected a little better.  Forms that I have filled out in the past (with my attempts to hide the password removed and my password exposed) were stapled to the roster that students sign.

Additionally, I appreciate that you clarified that the learning center’s assessment services are “not for convenience.”  While I assumed it was never for mine, I thought that it existed for the students’ convenience.  While many of them work full-time, care for dependents, and are terrified of the subject matter that I teach (as the subject of algebra is often the barrier between them and achieving their life goals), we have found a system where their work ethnic is rewarding them academically.  While I am trying to promote mastery for their success instead of barely passing (or not at all), this is sadly not within the little box of traditional assessment. I was under the impression that the learning center was in the business of fostering that (even if it might be slightly non-traditional).  I should have known. Alas, it is not the educational practices of archaic classrooms full of university students of 50 years ago.

As an adjunct, I’m frustrated.  Maybe as a full-time instructor, I could take care of this in an office…where I have my blessed control and I don’t have to create an inconvenience for the sake of my students’ success.  This is, of course, assuming that it would be highly inappropriate to invite students to my house to allow me to proctor between loads of laundry, scrubbing toilets, and wiping noses.  I thought that using a place whose goal is to proctor tests would be a great compromise and appropriate use since I am only allowed to be a “professional” from 6pm-10pm.  Forgive my misconception.  

Thank you for your help.  Please expect forms and rosters very soon.  Have a nice day.

I wasn’t “so brave” to choose home birth, despite the chorus of people who told me otherwise. I was just way too terrified to go to a hospital.  “It’s where they keep the knives.” was my response to the chorus of people who reminded me, as if I had forgotten, that the hospital is where the doctors and the drugs reside.

Maybe it’s because of the hospital births that I have witnessed.  Maybe my sample set is too small to conclude that this is an accurate view of birth in general, but all three of them were so infuriatingly invasive (yet different) that any one is enough to keep me out of the hospital.

The first one was the birth of a 5 lb preemie. I watched as the doctor mocked the mother (who had requested an epidural, but wasn’t granted one) for screaming, treated her like she was insignificant, and then sliced an episiotomy as casually as I slice sandwiches for my children.  I repeat, he performed an episiotomy for a 5 lb baby who was not in distress and was coming out just fine on his own.  Why?  Just because.  It’s what he did at births.  This experience inspired the mother to become a midwife because she wasn’t going to get magical hospital drugs that people insist are so necessary and maybe she could avoid being ripped a new one (literally) and the subsequent reconstructive surgeries.  Oh, yes, the reconstructive surgeries…because of the hospital’s unnecessary intervention, she had to have two reconstructive surgeries in the four years following.

I was eleven when I watched it.  I did not question the hospital practices then.  There were only two places to have babies: in hospitals with doctors or in elevators like in sitcoms.  So, the thought that I ought to choose home birth eventually had not crossed my mind.  Joining a convent, however, suddenly sounded like a great idea.

I was reasonable enough to assume that the terror that I was feeling was due mostly to my age and inexperience.  I should just trust that the doctors and the grownups were making wise decisions.  I discovered later that my terror was completely founded.

The second hospital birth (also by a mother who had chosen to go there willingly) was after I had had my first home birth.  All of the machines were there: the epidural button, the pitocin apparatus, the monitor that predicts seismic activity (okay, I jest), and assortment of screens showing all kinds of data.   The mom was instructed to stay on her back.  She obeyed.  Then, sixteen hours after she arrived for the scheduled induction, I lost all faith in the education of OBGYNs.  At about 10pm, the doctor walked in and announced that because she had only progressed to 9 ½ cm, they were going to have to give her a c-section.  I was confused.  Was the doctor bad at biology and didn’t know that she only needed to reach 10 or was he bad at math and was not familiar with how small half a centimeter is?  I didn’t understand why he had said something so ludicrous until The Business of Being Born reported that most c-sections are done at 4pm or 10pm because that’s when shifts end.  It had nothing to do with biology, math, or even the mother’s wellbeing.  It was for the doctor’s convenience.

While my friend was being prepped for a c-section, her mother whispered lovingly to her, “Honey, it will all be over soon.”  I had a stupid moment.  My home birth lasted twice as long and with no drugs.  Why would I do such a silly thing if I had the opportunity to go to the hospital and make it “all over soon” with a doctor?  My question was answered in her recovery room.  Days after the baby was born, she was suffering in her hospital bed whereas I was chided not to jump up and answer my front door for visitors when I was a few hours postpartum.  Again, two months later, she was clamoring to hold on to tables and countertops because her core muscles had been lacerated.  I was running through the campus to proctor a final exam when I was equivalently postpartum.  It WASN’T all over very soon.  It was made to last way too long.  Comparatively, MINE was all over soon.

The third birth that I saw in the hospital was with a mother who was determined to have a natural birth despite the raw deal that medical professionals had given her, mandating a hospital birth.  Without an epidural, she was given a pit drip.  I walked out of the room to make a call and returned to the buzzing of nurses.  I asked my friend’s mother what had happened and she said, “They increased her pit…a lot.  Then, they ran in her to reduce it because it was about to rupture her uterus.”  Awesome.  Recall, no epidural.  I think my friend has a steel pair…of ovaries, I guess.

The well-trained, well-meaning nurses ask her repeatedly to get an epidural.  She, while in labor and the magic drugs readily available, refused.  Steel.  Then, the nurses pulled me aside and insisted that I talk her into it.  Haha.  I had had two births without interventions.  The nurses cited her inexperience and told me that it was “mean” for her to have to endure unnecessary suffering when the epidural could remove it.  I started my rebuttal by listing risks that the epidural introduces.  Next, I listed that her mother and I had plenty of experience to make up for her lack.  Furhermore, I truly understand the compassion that makes the nursing staff believe that birth without epidural is “mean,” but my friend is a well-informed, smart woman and she thinks that the incessant opposition is “annoying.”  After being threatened with a c-section and enduring a failed attempt to hook up an internal monitor, she birthed as well as she was allowed to (on her back, with a crowd staring, with an OB who slept sitting up between contractions, where she wasn’t allowed to film her own birth).  Her second birth was at home.

So, my observation of hospital birth has been statistically better than average.  I’ve only seen a 33 1/3% c-section rate where hospitals in my area were 45% in 2009 (the last time it was relevant to me).  Nurses were compassionate and they all meant well.  Despite the fact that the births that I’ve seen are as close to textbook perfect as hospital births go, I still cannot fathom why one would submit herself to this if she didn’t have to.

I’m apparently not a “real” mom. Apparently, there are mom characteristics that all “real” moms possess, but I don’t exhibit.
Moms, the very second they become moms, are granted the mom-ness…that is if they have any “real” mom value at all. Moms like other people’s children merely because they are children. Moms know that children don’t like vegetables, so they feed their children “kid” things like mac’n cheese and hot dogs. Moms seek out other moms for the purpose of talking about diaper contents (color/scent/frequency). Most of all, “to a mom, her kids ARE her life.”
Now, when the first little embryo attached (the official Republican beginning of mommyhood), no angels descended to bestow upon me the ability to identify the perfect contents of a birthday party goody bag. (I did, however, become a bad driver at that moment because that is when I started overcautiously and overzealously using the brake.) I guess that was supposed to happen. I’m just the weird mom. I served sweet potato fries at an orange-themed birthday party. My kids were the only ones who ate them.
Furthermore, I don’t assess whether or not I enjoy another person’s company based on that person’s age. Children are not magical simply because they are children. Some kids are cool people. (I don’t necessarily enjoy the company of all adults either for that matter.) I like my kids, but not just because they’re kids; I like them because they are interesting. (Of course, I LOVE them, but I’m discussing why I LIKE them. Different concepts.) I love discussions with my seven year old. I love watching the cogs turn in his head. I love hearing my daughters describe events from their points of view. They always provide new information. (I’m also weird because I talk to my children like people instead of children. Aren’t children people?)
Yes, I get weird looks when my kids tell people that I have never bought Pop-tarts, nor do I ever intend to do so. Being a child is not a good enough reason to replace food with garbage that doesn’t nourish. The goal is not to fill an empty space, but to nourish. Now, this one, I think should give me mom cred. But still no. The fact that I tell the kids, “well, you better get your fill of junk food before we get home because I’m not buying it” means that I don’t understand the nature of a child. Oh, well. This is an Easy-Mac free zone. My kids are HUGE fans of the wheat-free homemade breakfast bars though.
I’m also not a “real” mom because I don’t seek the company of those who want to discuss all of the places where babies leak fluids. Not my crowd. My friends have a few common threads. They are all articulate, educated people who will discuss doctrine and correct me when I’m wrong. Sure, there’s a mom or two in that group, but the mommyhood is not the primary reason for me to seek those friendships. It’s about the type of person, not the occupation. Because I still have friends who are not in the same season of life as me, I’m not doing the mom thing correctly…because certainly “real” moms seek out only moms.
Finally, I have to disagree with the statement that for the devoted mother, her children ARE her life. My children are wonderful blessings for whom I am responsible physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They are my primary occupation. They are my most important occupation. However, they are not my whole identity. When I tried to be a “real” mom, it was difficult not to resent motherhood for making my identity die. I guess I’m not a “real” mom. They are not my life. They are not my identity. That implies an objectivity that I find to be unfavorable for the child. Instead, they are my blessed little responsibilities. They are unique individuals instead of extensions of me. I savor their progress, but I realize that my job as a mom is to work myself out of a job.
I do other kinds mommy things. I administer arnica and grapefruit seed extract as needed. I applaud successes and disapprove of misbehavior. I have magic mommy kisses that fix everything. That’s apparently not enough. I’m insufficient because I don’t intend to understand the mind of a child, but expect the child to grow. I want to discuss quadratic equations instead of another human being’s fecal matter. I just don’t understand being a mom because I don’t understand children. Granted, I didn’t understand children when I was a child.
I feel as though there’s a cookie cutter mom that I’m supposed to be, but I don’t see why. I don’t like the mom I am when I intend to exhibit the “real” mom characteristics. I feel as though I’m playing dress-up instead of nurturing those in my care. I’m really bad at being a poser. Sorry, kids. You’re stuck with me.  Now, eat your plants.

I’ve had an unbiblical philosophy for many, many years.

I will never really be good at anything.  I get that.  I’ve been aware of this my whole life.  My reasoning for choosing to sit on my, um, Blessed Assurance was unbiblical.  I would much prefer to serve in areas where I won’t be seen.  That was code.  Did you catch that?  This is to say that I prefer to serve in areas where, when I screw it up, nobody cares.

For two decades, I have grown very tired of people telling me that my areas of service are insufficient for my personality.  I met all of the “you should…”s with “No, the Lord has not equipped me.”  Then, I have heard the rebuttal, “Oh, being fully equipped comes with time.”  I am nearly 30.  For all of my experiences within the last two decades, I can say, “Bull.  It does not come with time.  Age comes with time, but ability is still lacking.”  “Pray for ability.”  He doesn’t choose to provide it.  Now, God gives out wisdom freely (James 1:5), but not necessarily ability.  He doesn’t have to.

My response to this repeated conversation has been unbiblical.  I said, “If He wants me to do (x, y, and z), then HE needs to provide me with the capability.”  Not biblical.

From Exodus 4,

10 Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” 11 The LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.”13 But he said, “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.”

It is not my place to wait until capability is divinely granted.  It is not my place to “bloom where I am planted.”  It is my job to tell the Planter that I will let Him pick where I’m planted and it’s okay with me if I never, ever, ever bloom, but am withered and trodden underfoot.  It’s my job to be whatever cracked, old, crummy, asymmetrical vessel and let Him do the using.

When I don’t have any abilities or strengths to submit to Him, I will still submit my will to Him.  The philosophy that I need to correct is that “Here am I, Lord.  Send me.” is not just for the capable; it’s for the willing.

I’ve been saying, “Here am I, but would you please mobilize someone else…someone who is capable of representing You well.”  Fine.  I will NEVER be capable of representing a Holy God.  Never.  Not my problem.  He already knew that I was broken.  If my brokenness doesn’t keep Him from calling, it shouldn’t keep me from being willing.

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