I just submitted final grades.  I thought it was a particularly emotional and time consuming semester-end.

My husband whisked me away for an anniversary trip.  I sat in the car with my eyes closed.  He asked me to discuss major educational changes for our children.  I told him that I was too mentally tired to think about serious matters.  I hadn’t had any coffee.  I just wanted to be in chill/vacation mode.

He stopped and bought me coffee.  After a few sips, he asked, “Are you ready to talk about next school year yet?”  I rolled my eyes and obliged…sort of.  He acknowledged that I wasn’t in the mindset to talk so he said, “Okay, no more serious discussions for the rest of the day.”

A few minutes later, we arrived at our destination.  I stood up.  Then, I immediately leaned over the trunk of the car.  I have low blood pressure and often get dizzy when I stand up too fast.

My husband, who had just promised to keep serious talk on the down low, said, “So, we can expect about 35 years or so before you need a pacemaker?”

Face palm.  LOL, I guess the guy has nothing but serious matters on the brain!

My husband gives me much more credit than I am due.  We are out celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary (dubbed the deca-versary).  He took me camping to a beautiful beach city that we recall fondly from our second anniversary.

I packed as lightly as I could.  I threw a few things in a bag (mostly swimwear and sunscreen) and happily dropped the kids off with friends.  We hurriedly set up the tent and headed straight for the beach.

We split a sub, bought a rope for the hammock, and made a quick stop McD’s for his beloved sweet tea.

While we were in the McD’s drive-thru my sweet honey said to me, “You know…” he moved my Starbucks cup from earlier out of the way to make room for his sweet tea. “…I’m really glad that you’re so willing to rough it with me.  I suggested camping and you just went with it.  You didn’t demand a four star hotel.  You’re just ROUGHIN’ it with me.”

Let’s review.  I’m not chasing the children.  I’ve been to Starbucks, Subway, Wal-mart, and McDonald’s.  I’m at the beach, sitting next to the beautiful fire he built me, eating strawberries, and not being eaten alive by mosquitoes (mosquitoes don’t like the beach or campfire smoke).  I’m typing on my laptop.  Really, how am I roughing it?  :)

Dear 30-something self,

You may not remember me, but this is 29-year-old self.  I’m just a couple of days into this 29-year-old thing, but I think I have enough experience to write to you.  I have a to do list for you.  The items are of varying importance.

1)      Find your abs.  I know you remember them.  Remember being 21?  For a few months of being 21, you had abs.  Then, the children happened.  The youngest one is no longer feeding off of your flesh, so I give you permission to search for the abs that you lost several years ago.  This isn’t high on the importance list in the grand scheme of things, but I think that it will be a mood booster.  We both can attest to the value of that.

2)      Get a grown-up paycheck.  Up to this point in my life, I’ve either been in college or had a human leach.  No more humans are leaching, but the youngest is still a few more years from being old enough to “go” to school.  I’ve spent several semesters putting in the hours of one who gets a grown-up paycheck, but because of mommy duties, I haven’t been able to equate that time to a grown-up paycheck.  Now, don’t ever give up the mommy duties for the paycheck.  The little humans are much too important.   Just wait until the little humans are big enough to spare you some time.  In the mean time, I give you permission to go back to college to remember all of the things that you forgot while the humans were really little.

3)      You’re going to have to get in the habit of changing your schedule so that you’re home in the evenings.  These kids are getting bigger and they will have more and more games and activities on weeknights.  Stop spending your evenings toiling.  Spend your days toiling and your nights building memories with the most important people.

4)      Volunteer through church.  I’m not dependable because I have three little children and two part time (yet, time consuming) jobs and I live in a different county than church.  I can’t sign up for regular, methodical volunteer work because I’m not dependable.  I have too much going on.  However, you, 30-something me, have found your groove.  Your schedule is planned and you are dependable.  *I* am the one to whom strangers say, “Oh, honey, let me help you.  I remember THOSE days.”  You are not in THOSE days.  You have photo albums full (and a heart full) of the sweetness of THOSE days, but you are no long in the immense frustration that THOSE days bring.  You can aid people who are in the midst of THOSE days.  Religion, defined in James 1:27, is doing right and helping people.  *You* can be the one who not only serves the Lord with mind, heart and tangible resources, but with time.

5)      Kill the student loan.  See item #2.  The change that #2 brings will tackle the student loan easily.

Here’s the big picture.  Take the good parts about the person you were in the beginning of your twenties and take advantage of the hard work that you put in during your twenties.  See you on the flip side, 30-something me!

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!

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 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.’”

My mind is gone…but only in blips.   Much like my digital converter to the analog tv that we use for a rare football game, the images in my brain may suddenly pixelate and return in a few seconds or they may proclaim “no signal” and the channels need to be reset.  Either way, blips are frustrating.  In keeping with my classroom traditions, allow me to interject a seemingly unrelated story.

Mixture problems are the thorn in the side of algebra students.  Every textbook advocates the use of a chart.  I rebel.  Solving simultaneously is a challenging enough task that students do not need to be confused with creating a graphic organizer where they perform different operations on the rows and columns.  Explaining the change from multiplication to addition goes back to a more reasonable explanation that does not require the use of the use of a chart, therefore rendering the chart useless.  I felt that I was successfully articulate as I guided students though these problems.  This was on the tail end of communicating several word problems that solved for two variables simultaneously.  I had already exhibited a thorough understanding.

I usually have no problem performing arithmetic operations where most students reach for a calculator.  I did so numerous times during the course of the lecture.  Eventually, I said, “Why am I doing this?  You’ve already proven that you have fantastic arithmetic skills.  It would be a better use of time and utility to use a calculator for three digit products.”  Two steps later, I wrote 522 – 432.  A seven-year-old wouldn’t have an issue with this.   I said, “It’s not ten.  Why am I saying ten?”  A student answered, “Ninety.”  I said, “Thank you.  Of course.  (I was thinking that it was 10 less than 100 and got the 10 stuck in my head.)  As I was saying, we’ve all proven how awesome we are at arithmetic!”  Ha, ha!  At least the students laugh with me.

Apparently the problem with brain blips is a combination of things.  I have three small children with dynamic needs.  I have no repeat preps (each class that I teach, including college and 2nd grade homeschooling, requires its own planning and assessment creation).  I have a partial nursling who is still taking my brain enzymes.  I work at different colleges on different nights of the week.  I am the matriarchal figure who is in charge of all of the meal planning, laundry, decluttering, mopping, and colossal couponing.  Then, though we know that caffeine is not a solution, it does not help that my caffeine consumption is reduced.  I’m not reducing my caffeine because caffeine is unhealthy, but I need to focus on cramming more healthy things (80 oz of water and 32 oz of herbal tea) down my throat every day and there’s just not enough room for beloved coffee.

In the wake of my caffeine deprived brain blip, a student asked about a mixture problem.  I read the problem aloud, “’A coffee shop is blending two types of coffee beans …’ Well, that’s just rubbing my nose in it!”  :)

I miss my brain, but I don’t think that it’s coming back any time soon.

Though Senator Daniel Webster has been the victim of a smear campaign by Alan Grayson (where Grayson claims that Senator Webster wants to remove women’s rights), I prefer Senator Webster’s brand of women’s rights to the opposition.

I must preface this by saying that I am a (sometimes outspoken) woman and have known Senator Webster personally since I was an adolescent.  If all men were as honorable and principled as Daniel Webster, women would have no problem submitting. Truly, his message is to men.  The message is that men should love their wives.

A man in who follows the principles that Senator Webster prescribes loves his wife, takes care of her, does not compare her to pornography, does not abuse her,  respects her, and praises her.  How’s that for women’s rights?

Senator Webster is attacked for his stance on women’s rights issues.  His opponent harps on the issue of abortion, accurately describing Senator Webster’s ban on abortion—even in the instance of rape.  That is true.  The principle that Senator Webster adheres to requires that those in power protect the life of those who cannot protect themselves.  Therefore, protecting the right to life of a person (having a new set of DNA upon conception) is no longer an issue of women’s rights.  Truly, the right to avoid stretch marks and childbirth pales in comparison to the right to live.  However, this is deviating from Senator Webster’s point.  His call is to men.  He calls men to be principled.  If men would follow the principles that Senator Webster teaches, there would be no rape in the first place.

Senator Webster is also attacked because of the covenant marriage bill that he supported.  His opponent said, “[the] bill reduces the institution of marriage to a roach motel: You can check in, but you can’t check out.”  Isn’t that the point?  Why does his opponent expect the constituents to make poor choices when choosing a spouse?  This was another example of Senator Webster knowing his audience.  He was making it available as an option to the people who are choosing to adhere to a set of principles.  One of these principles is not to cite “irreconcilable differences” as a reason to divorce.  He is not advocating that women should be abused.  He’s advocating that people reconcile and become better people.  Again, if men lived by the principles that he teaches, there would be no abusive husbands.  To his opponent, if the women in your constituency are too short-sighted to choose a good husband with whom they are willing to experience that “for better or for worse,” then maybe they shouldn’t choose the covenant marriage option.  How’s that for women’s rights?

I’ve seen news clip after news clip where Representative Grayson attempts to discredit Senator Webster by describing him as a religious fanatic.  While Senator Webster did use Bible references in a speech to people who had asked him to come teach biblical principles specifically, his “radical” and “bizarre” message is “love your wife.”  Whoa, Nelly!  If these are principles that Alan Grayson defines as radical, I’m glad I don’t live at his house!

I have the kind of husband who Senator Webster describes.  While it is my responsibility to choose goodness for him and for our children, it is HIS job to take care of me.  He regularly sacrifices his own comfort to make me happy.  When he makes a “head of the household” decision, he insists on asking for my input first.  I seriously have the better end of this deal!  Because my husband chooses these principles, I am needed, respected and valued.

When a man is good at I Peter 3:7, a woman is happy to be I Peter 3:1-6.  The kind of man who follows these principles inspires (not forces) his wife to submit. We need more men like Daniel Webster (who conducts himself by principle and diplomacy) in our homes and in our government.

Because I am not only picky, but cheap, I made a wallet to fit couponing and financial/organizational needs.  I had enough fabric leftover to make a matching super-duper mom bag/purse/tote.

The bag has small pockets for little stuff that gets lost in a mom bag (sunscreen, baby nail clippers, chapstick, towellettes, phone, keys, camera, etc), big pockets (diaper satchels, extra baby clothes, wallet), and a stiff middle slot (papers that shouldn’t bend, netbook)

My son is very proud of himself for choosing the fabric for the lining.  My MIL showed me a stitch for the wallet.  Having a MIL who literally has a home ec degree came in handy.  :)

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