Archive for Faith

A Poem for Canada

View from Tunnel Mountain Hike in Banff, Canada

Canada, O Canada

where moun­tains reach to the clouds
where rivers, green, rush and tum­ble
where trees are var­ied, diverse, and brave
where lakes are serene, peace­ful, calm

Canada, O Canada

where peo­ple are kind and polite
where locals come from all over the world
where vis­i­tors feel wel­come
where peo­ple learn to respect the land
where natives are still respected

Canada, O Canada

where ani­mals are “slaugh­tered kindly”
where food is thought­fully pre­pared
where meals con­sists of elk, bison, veni­son, and duck
where veg­e­tar­ian meals are rare
where restau­rants have gar­dens on site
where food is expensive

Canada, O Canada

where parks are guarded
and val­ued
and cher­ished
where ani­mals are pro­tected
and roam free
where elk and bears wan­der unin­hib­ited
where chip­munks draw near
where nature is savored
respected
treasured

Canada, O Canada

where life is lived out­doors
where you hike, bike, raft, boat, fish, kayak, ski, and canoe
where you walk in the rain
where you linger
where you smile
where you pon­der
mean­ing
and life

Canada, O Canada

where silence can be heard
where sounds can be felt
where God can be found
and remem­bered
and thanked

Canada, O Canada,
how I love thee

Thank you
for allow­ing me
to expe­ri­ence you


Why I Chose a Bible as My Literacy Artifact

Last week I wrote about the process I went through to choose a lit­er­acy arti­fact. I was to share this object with my col­leagues at the pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment work­shop I was attend­ing at Michi­gan State. It wasHoly Bible Pink Cover to rep­re­sent some story of my lit­er­acy and edu­ca­tional jour­ney. In that post I explained the var­i­ous objects I con­sid­ered and then ulti­mately revealed the arti­fact I chose: a Bible.

In today’s post, I explain why I chose the Bible as the arti­fact that best rep­re­sents my story about lit­er­acy and edu­ca­tion. Some peo­ple may not think that the Bible would have much of a role on edu­ca­tion, learn­ing, or lit­er­acy. It’s a book, and we know books can teach, but the Bible is not con­nected to school­ing (at least not pub­lic school­ing) and it doesn’t explic­itly teach about learn­ing to read or write. How­ever, the Bible did impact my devel­op­ment as a learner, as a student.

What fol­lows is not a straight­for­ward, lin­ear nar­ra­tive about the Bible’s impact on me as a learner. I pro­vide a mere glimpse into its impact on me, a few sto­ries that con­tribute to some part of the story. The story is not a com­plete (or com­pletely accu­rate) his­tory. I do not want to share every story and expe­ri­ence; some things I still like to keep to myself. And I hon­estly can’t pin­point all of the ways the Bible has impacted my edu­ca­tion (or my life). Plus, this is my per­spec­tive; my par­ents might have a dif­fer­ent story to tell.

The Bible is the first book I remem­ber. I car­ried one to church with me. My par­ents read it to us as kids. My sib­lings and I put on drama skits for my par­ents and oth­ers who would watch in which we acted out sto­ries from the Bible. We used the Bible to plan and study and learn the sto­ries. We used the Bible as part of our weekly fam­ily devo­tion­als. When I learned to read, I began read­ing the book by myself. I con­tin­ued to read it grow­ing up. It was the cen­ter of our church ser­vices, at least metaphor­i­cally. Preach­ing, teach­ing, singing, and fel­low­ship­ping were cen­tered on this object and its mean­ing. The Bible was the lens through which I looked at life. It is a part of my lit­er­acy story like no other object is.

When I was around eight years old, my dad decided that it was time for me and my older sis­ter Kim to start read­ing the Bible every day. He bought both of us a new Bible, one of those “Read through the Bible in a Year” ones. We were excited to get new Bibles. I remem­ber the first one he got us: it was red and each day included a pas­sage from the Old Tes­ta­ment, New Tes­ta­ment, and Psalms. This Bible would allow us to read through the Bible in a year. Each day, we read the pas­sages and then signed our name when we were fin­ished. We couldn’t play out­side or watch TV until we had com­pleted our daily Bible read­ing. On some nights, my par­ents would quiz me over what I read for that day. Other times my dad would ask me ques­tions about the story to see what I knew or what I had learned. These con­ver­sa­tions often devel­oped into longer dis­cus­sions about what the pas­sage meant or how I could apply it to my life. The Bible became rel­e­vant to me.

For at least ten years of my life, I read through the Bible in one year (I did skim some days and did not always read even when I said I did; I was a kid.). I knew the Bible. I could tell you story after story after story and where that story was found and what it might even mean. I could name ran­dom peo­ple in the Bible. I knew the gen­er­a­tions of the Hebrew peo­ple. I knew para­bles and mir­a­cles and the men and women God used to tell the story. I could quote long pas­sages from the Bible. I knew a lot of mem­ory verses. I was proud of what I knew about the Bible. I gained con­fi­dence in myself because of my knowl­edge of the Bible.

The Bible became a part of me, my iden­tity. (Of course, I didn’t know what every­thing meant and didn’t know how to con­duct exe­ge­sis over a pas­sage. But I don’t think that was the point—to fig­ure it all out. I still haven’t fig­ured it all out!)

This prac­tice of daily Bible read­ing also coin­cided with another prac­tice my dad insti­tuted for me and my sis­ter Kim (and even­tu­ally my brother, too). My father decided that we needed to take notes dur­ing church. As a kid (and maybe as an adult, too), the ser­mon is the longest part of church. You had to sit there, qui­etly (this was of utmost impor­tance), “lis­ten­ing” (to words, names, and ideas you didn’t under­stand), and doing noth­ing (there was no Children’s Church or iPads or iPhones). It was the longest, most dread­ful time of the entire church ser­vice. I tried my best not to be loud, not to fid­get, and not to get taken out to get a spank­ing (this did hap­pen more times than I want to admit). I always became excited when I could tell a preacher was wrap­ping up the ser­mon. Whew. I made it!

My dad didn’t want it to be like this for us, so he came up with a plan. He had an idea for some­thing we could do dur­ing this time, some­thing use­ful and prac­ti­cal. He bought us spi­ral note­books, which we were sup­posed to bring with us to church each time, and required us to take notes over the preacher’s sermons.

This began in the third grade for me. I had to sit there each Sun­day morn­ing and Sun­day night with my pen and paper in hand and take notes over what the preacher was say­ing. I could not sit with my friends in the youth sec­tion; instead, I had to sit with my par­ents and lis­ten and take notes. What’s even cra­zier is that as soon as we got home from church, my dad checked over the notes (yes, checked them) and either approved them or not. He gave us con­struc­tive tips to improve our note­tak­ing skills and helped us to bet­ter under­stand what the preacher was say­ing that we didn’t quite get. I am going to write another post in which I give more details on this prac­tice of ser­mon note­tak­ing, but suf­fice it to say that I believe one of the rea­sons I was such a good stu­dent in high school and col­lege (and grad­u­ate school, too) was my abil­ity to take notes.

Although the Bible has been an impor­tant object in my life, my rela­tion­ship to it has changed. The object itself remains the same, but my rela­tion­ship to it has changed. I look at it dif­fer­ently. I read and under­stand pas­sages dif­fer­ently. I no longer “read it like a child”; instead, I read it under­stand­ing that I am read­ing it through a cer­tain lens, com­ing to the text with my own assump­tions, biases, and per­spec­tives. Instead of learn­ing the “right answer” (or how to find it), I have learned, instead, the impor­tance of ask­ing ques­tions. Of pon­der­ing the text, respond­ing to it, ques­tion­ing it, just like I do with other texts I read. When I strug­gled with doubt or faith, I went back to the Bible and inter­preted it dif­fer­ently. When I went through grad­u­ate school, I began to notice much more about social jus­tice, women’s rights, and com­pas­sion. I begin to see how my own per­spec­tive and beliefs impacts what I find in the Bible.

The Bible has impacted my edu­ca­tional jour­neys in pro­found ways, and it con­tin­ues to do so today. These are just a few sto­ries how. What I didn’t know back then is that one day I would marry a preacher and become a preacher’s wife. I won­der if my preacher hus­band is going to make our preacher’s kids take notes over his ser­mon. If he does, I will be the one to check them.

This is my story. Do with it what you will.

The clos­ing line of this post comes from the beau­ti­fully elo­quent (and uncon­ven­tional) CCCC talk given by Malea Pow­ell from MSU. This line was stated at least 10 dif­fer­ent times by the var­i­ous par­tic­i­pants who spoke, and it had a pro­found impact on me in terms of think­ing about story, both telling my own story and lis­ten­ing to the sto­ries of oth­ers. Isn’t that state­ment bril­liantly provoca­tive?


Reflections on Eating Vegetarian: A Week in Review

I recently embarked on a crazy jour­ney. My goal was to eat veg­e­tar­ian for one whole week. I was out of town at a pro­fes­sional Sum­mer Sem­i­nar in Rhetoric and Com­po­si­tion at Michi­gan State Uni­ver­sity and was able to eat five days worth of meals at a five-star cafe­te­ria (see this arti­cle for more), and the other two days in air­ports. The food in the cafe­te­ria was espe­cially good. Not what I had in The World Famous Bean at ACU back in the day (over 15 years ago–wow!). The stu­dents donned chef coats and cooked the food right in front of you. Amazing!

Many of you fol­lowed along dur­ing the jour­ney, but if you did not (or if you just want to re-visit some of the pages), you might be inter­ested to see with your eyes the vari­ety of food I ate and the many dif­fer­ent options of eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian. It isn’t all steamed cau­li­flower and roasted pep­pers (although those are good!). The pic­tures are also really pretty! I have included links to each day’s food, includ­ing ver­bal descrip­tions and visual pho­tos of what I ate at break­fast, lunch, and dinner.

Back­ground of Exper­i­ment, Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six, Day Seven

Phyllo and Zucchini Strudel with Summer Squash Saute

Though short, this jour­ney opened my eyes to a vari­ety of issues about food, eat­ing, meal­time, fel­low­ship, and myself. I share some of these with you in today’s post. Since it’s Tues­day, let’s just make it part of the Tues­day 12 Series.

1. Eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian reduces the num­ber of food options avail­able, which sim­pli­fies the process of order­ing food.

When I go to a restau­rant, I scour the menu look­ing for some­thing to eat. I am not one who orders the same thing each time. I actu­ally order a dif­fer­ent meal each time. Even when I cook at home, I rarely make the same thing twice. I like to cook and eat a vari­ety of foods. Some­times, it takes me at least 15 min­utes to decide on some­thing to eat.

But eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian meant that I was typ­i­cally given two main meal choices along with soup, salad, and veg­gies. I didn’t even look what else was being served. I saw the veg­e­tar­ian options and decided what I wanted. It was so sim­ple. And since I’m try­ing to sim­ply my life and my mantra is becom­ing “less is more,” I think sim­pli­fi­ca­tion is a good thing.

2.    Eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian does not equal healthy eating.

This may not come as a sur­prise to veg­e­tar­i­ans, but I guess it did to me. I assumed that a veg­e­tar­ian diet meant a healthy diet of fruits and veg­eta­bles and legumes. And it does. But it also includes the oh-so-yummy dairy food group of but­ter, cheese, and milk, oils (even healthy ones still are high in fat), and desserts. I do think, though, that eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian means that you can enjoy these foods more often since you aren’t eat­ing high-fat meats and maybe fewer calo­ries. Although I can’t point to any “real” data to back these points up, I can say that I didn’t gain any weight this week–even though I had more dessert than I have had in a very long time.

3.    Meat sub­sti­tutes taste good (at least most of the ones I ate).

The vegan hot dog wasn’t my favorite, but the ground meat sub­sti­tutes and the tofu were both tasty and served their respec­tive pur­poses in the dish.

4.    When you don’t eat meat, peo­ple assume you are a vegetarian.

The peo­ple at the Sem­i­nar assumed I was a veg­e­tar­ian. I never ate any meat, so, of course, I was a veg­e­tar­ian (really, this makes log­i­cal sense). But what’s inter­est­ing is that I never told any­one I was a veg­e­tar­ian. They just inferred, after look­ing at my plate, that I was a veg­e­tar­ian. My suit­e­m­ate, Karen, knew about my “exper­i­ment,” but I didn’t tell any­one else until much later in the week, and only if they asked. I found it really inter­est­ing that after the first or sec­ond day, many of these col­leagues even pointed out veg­e­tar­ian dishes that they thought tasted (or looked) good. They often directed me to a cer­tain sta­tion to make sure I tried one of the veg­e­tar­ian dishes being served there. I found this quite endearing.

I also noticed that the cafe­te­ria staff made assump­tions about me when I ordered the veg­e­tar­ian option from their sta­tion. These assump­tions weren’t bad; I just noticed it, that’s all. Veg­e­tar­i­ans are typ­i­cally a cer­tain type of per­son (more health-conscious, more environmentally-friendly, more lib­eral, etc.). I could tell this in the ques­tions they asked me and in their friendly smiles and eye con­tact. This gen­er­a­tion of col­lege stu­dents (the peo­ple work­ing the food sta­tions) seems very aware of the impact, the dif­fer­ence, one person’s per­sonal choices can have on the larger soci­ety. To me, they seem more socially aware than my gen­er­a­tion, which, I think, is a good shift.

5.    Indi­vid­u­als and restau­rants can be very accom­mo­dat­ing to veg­e­tar­i­ans, veg­ans, gluten-freers, or oth­ers with dietary food requests and restrictions.

Many restau­rants these days are con­scious of the wide vari­ety of eaters com­ing in their doors. Many now have a wide vari­ety of options for all kinds of peo­ple, and the food is quite com­pa­ra­ble. Even when we went over to one person’s house for din­ner (who is not a veg­e­tar­ian or vegan and has no known food aller­gies), she thought in advance and made vegan hot dogs, gluten-free dishes, dairy-free dips, and many other dishes that peo­ple with spe­cialty requests could eat. I find this to be extremely thoughtful.

6.    Eat­ing a veg­e­tar­ian diet can cause mas­sive prob­lems on your intestines.

Not eat­ing meat can con­sti­pate you. It hap­pened to me on Day 2 and lasted until Day 6 (Fri­day). One col­league at the con­fer­ence told me to eat more fruits, so that’s what I did. I don’t know if the relief on Fri­day was the result of eat­ing more fruits or if my body adjusted to a plant-based diet. Either way, I was thankful.

In the same vein, I did notice that bowel move­ments are not the same (If this topic grosses you out, embar­rasses you, or makes you uncom­fort­able, pro­ceed to #7. If you read on, remem­ber that YOU WERE WARNED!).  Instead of the long, S-shaped pieces of poop Dr. Oz once told Oprah were ideal, my poops were shaped like small round pel­lets. This hap­pened the entire week, every time.

One inter­est­ing benefit/side effect of not eat­ing meat is that your poop smells dif­fer­ent; it doesn’t stink quite so bad. I hadn’t really con­sid­ered this point–that not eat­ing meat would impact the smell of my poop–which is odd con­sid­er­ing I have a 9-month baby who doesn’t eat meat yet and whose dia­per does not smell near as bad as it will in a few months when we intro­duce meat into his diet. I’m won­der­ing if this rings true for any veg­e­tar­i­ans out there??

7.    Eat­ing less meat is a really good idea.

Eat­ing less meat can be good for your health, as much research on eat­ing a plant-based diet sug­gests, even if you pri­mar­ily eat low-fat meats. It can also be good for the envi­ron­ment. I’ve heard it can be more cost-effective and cheaper (Have you noticed how expen­sive meat is?). It can make you think more reflec­tively about food and eat­ing and meal­time. It can get you to change nor­mal rou­tines and be more thank­ful for what you do eat. I could go on and on here, but I firmly believe that eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian, even if it’s only once in a while–is a good idea.

8.    Eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian encour­aged me to slow down, talk more, lis­ten more, and really pay atten­tion to each and every bite, to savor the fla­vor and pon­der the taste.

I was shocked to see how my eat­ing habits changed when eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian food. Granted, I was not eat­ing these meals with small chil­dren, where the words slow, savor, and pon­der don’t often show up. How­ever, I do think it was more than the fact that I was eat­ing with adults. The food I was eat­ing was on my mind the entire time. I stud­ied it. I pon­dered the food com­bi­na­tions in a dish. I ana­lyzed how I thought the dish was cooked. I ques­tioned what spice was used. I tasted the food, I mean, really tasted the food. I didn’t just eat with my eyes, but I also ate with my mouth…in a deep way that I often miss when eat­ing before. This habit could have been because I was doing an exper­i­ment about food. I’ll grant that. But even at other times, I think about food all the time–what I’ll cook, what I need from the gro­cery store, which food is the health­i­est, etc. This time, how­ever, I thought about food while I was eat­ing it. This is a new thing for me–to be con­scious of every sin­gle bite that goes in my mouth. It was a neat dis­cov­ery, and I thank this veg­e­tar­ian exper­i­ment for it.

9.    I had more energy through­out the day.

Usu­ally after lunch, I expe­ri­ence what I like to call–“the after­noon crash.” Right after lunch, I sud­denly become so sleepy that I can do noth­ing but think about get­ting in bed and going to sleep. This feel­ing of exhaus­tion is over­whelm­ing. If I am home, I may go take a nap. If not, I just try to make it through the next cou­ple of hours. Either way, this sen­sa­tion comes almost every day (depend­ing on what I ate at lunch).

Inter­est­ingly, I did not expe­ri­ence “the after­noon crash” one time dur­ing the entire week, even though we went imme­di­ately back into the Sem­i­nar for another half day of work. I didn’t get sleepy. I didn’t get tired. I was able to concentrate.

What’s more is that after the Sem­i­nar ended for the day, between 5:15 and 5:30, I exer­cised. I either went to the gym or jogged around cam­pus (all but one of these days when we went over to a colleague’s house for din­ner one evening). One might think I would have wanted to lie in bed and read or just rest (this was actu­ally my plan), but I had more than enough energy to work out for well over 45 min­utes each day I was there. THIS IS HUGE. And it felt great. My energy level was amaz­ing, and this alone is mak­ing me con­sider being a veg­e­tar­ian, at least for break­fast and lunch.

10.   I slept bet­ter at night.

I am a per­son who gets up at least twice a night to go to the bath­room. Dur­ing my time eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian, I did not get up ONE SINGLE TIME to use the bath­room. I drank just as much and drank it just as late. But I never had to go dur­ing the mid­dle of the night. I don’t know if it’s con­nected or not, but it was an obser­va­tion so I put this here. I have decided that I prob­a­bly still needed to go (I had to go badly when I woke up in the morn­ing), but I was sleep­ing bet­ter and was not awak­ened by the need to go. I’m inter­ested to hear from oth­ers: Does this ring true to your experiences?

11.   I felt full and was always sat­is­fied after fin­ish­ing a meal.

Eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian can be quite fill­ing. You’re not just eat­ing “rab­bit food.” Rather, the meals were sat­is­fy­ing and delight­ful. And because I ate slower, I was full faster, often­times, before I had even fin­ished my plate. It’s inter­est­ing how all this works together. I even noticed that I was focus­ing on what I could eat, rather than what I couldn’t eat. I didn’t even glance at the meat dishes served. I didn’t even miss them–in looks and desire or in taste.

12.   Eat­ing veg­e­tar­i­an­ism brought me closer to God, the cre­ator of all things.

I have been taught my whole life that, “in the begin­ning,” humans and ani­mals were veg­e­tar­i­ans (Gen­e­sis 1:29–30). Even though meat was avail­able, only a plant-based diet was ordained by God. It wasn’t until the flood that God told peo­ple they could eat meat (Gen­e­sis 9:1–3).

This week reminded me that God is the cre­ator of all food, meat, grains, fruit, veg­eta­bles, and other won­der­ful del­i­ca­cies. And I thank God for all the food sup­plied to me. As an Amer­i­can, I rec­og­nized how blessed (some would say cursed) I am (we are) to even have the choice to do some­thing like this. Oth­ers in the world–too many people–are starv­ing, lit­er­ally, and here I am able to eat with so much to choose from. I have learned that food is a gift. Eat­ing food is a a git. And being thank­ful for it should be part of our daily lives…whatever you con­sider yourself.

***

Over­all, this was an inter­est­ing expe­ri­ence. I learned a lot and I’m left with even more ques­tions than with which I began this jour­ney. I hope my expe­ri­ences have shown you that it isn’t too hard to eat veg­e­tar­ian once in a while. Even if you would never eat veg­e­tar­ian for an entire week, I do encour­age you to chal­lenge your­self for one meal, prob­a­bly din­ner. I think it’s worth it. Maybe it will make you appre­ci­ate where you food comes from. Maybe you already appre­ci­ate that. Per­haps you want to see how it impacts your bud­get, or what a com­plete veg­e­tar­ian meal tastes like. Or maybe you just want to pull an April Fool’s Joke on your loved one. Going veg­e­tar­ian just might be for you.

If you’re inter­ested in this topic or in try­ing it out for your­self (even one day a week), check out these sources for more information:

***

One final note, this exper­i­ment did not involve me cook­ing veg­e­tar­ian food, which would be a dif­fer­ent thing entirely. I am so used to cook­ing food with meat, and I have become quite good at it, and cook­ing veg­e­tar­ian “main” meals seems like it would be a chal­lenge. Although I cook veg­eta­bles with almost every meal, they are the “side,” the appendage to the meal, the part that my hus­band could do with­out. It seems to me that cook­ing veg­e­tar­ian would take this chal­lenge to the next level. Maybe that’s what’s next.

Here are some ques­tions I’m con­sid­er­ing now:

  • What would “going veg­e­tar­ian” look like if I actu­ally had to cook all the food? How would the food taste? How would I feel prepar­ing it? What would the food taste like? Would I like it? Is it more dif­fi­cult to pre­pare veg­e­tar­ian foods?
  • How does eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian impact a food budget?
  • How does eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian impact my chil­dren? Would they go for it? Would they express “not feel­ing full” or “still being hun­gry”? How does one move a fam­ily toward a veg­e­tar­ian diet?
  • What would my church fam­ily say if I brought a veg­e­tar­ian dish to the weekly potluck, espe­cially some­thing more “exotic,” like edamame, lentils, and quinoa (yes, these are exotic around here)? Would any­one but me even try it?

***

Thanks for jour­ney­ing with me. As always, I love hear­ing from you (even if you disagree—just be con­struc­tive, not rude, demean­ing, or mean).

What is your response to this exper­i­ment? Would you ever try to eat veg­e­tar­ian? Why or why not? What are you favorite veg­e­tar­ian recipes? What is some­thing you have learned about eat­ing veg­e­tar­ian? What have you noticed? What resources (doc­u­men­taries, movies, books, cook­books, etc.) do you rec­om­mend that I (or my read­ers) take a look at? What assump­tions do you have about veg­e­tar­i­ans?


Storying Your Education through an Artifact

“What object would you use to tell the story of your education?”

This ques­tion was posed to me by Jenn Fish­man, an Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor at Mar­quette Uni­ver­sity, who is today’s speaker at the Sum­mer Sem­i­nar in Rhetoric and Com­po­si­tion that I am attend­ing. Jenn asked us before­hand to bring with us an arti­fact that would help us tell the story of our education.

I thought about this prompt for at least a few weeks before com­ing to the con­fer­ence (Isn’t it such a provoca­tive thing to con­sider?). I even posed this ques­tion to my friends on Face­book, who responded with cre­ative and inter­est­ing arti­facts, includ­ing a flute, library, teach­ers, a spread­sheet, a human skull, and a lap­top. Notice that these items were not lim­ited to school­ing; instead, these (smart) peo­ple looked at edu­ca­tion from many dif­fer­ent van­tage points, includ­ing school­ing, of course, but also extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties, hob­bies, places, peo­ple, and extra­or­di­nary objects.

When I began think­ing about how I would answer Jenn’s ques­tion, the object that first popped to my mind was a Bible. But this was not the story I wanted to tell about myself. I didn’t want to be one of those peo­ple who, at least in acad­e­mia, are often viewed as narrow-minded, pre­dictable, igno­rant, judg­men­tal, and hate­ful. I didn’t want to be char­ac­ter­ized, stereo­typed, or judged because of this arti­fact that I might bring.

So I began to pon­der other artifacts.

I looked around my office. I noticed the three diplo­mas hang­ing on the wall. I con­sid­ered bring­ing one of those. I even took a pic­ture of my Ph.D. diploma–just in case I chose to use it. This diploma holds great mean­ing to me, and not just in ways you might think (but that’s another story).

I con­sid­ered telling the story about how I over­came a speech imped­i­ment when I was young. I couldn’t pro­nounce my els, rs, or esses. I couldn’t even say my own name cor­rectly. This story has defined me in ways that I can­not fully artic­u­late, that no one else quite under­stands even when I try to explain. It is con­nected to why I try so hard at things, why being a vale­dic­to­rian and get­ting a Ph.D. mean so much to me. But I couldn’t think of an object to bring. I thought of My Fair Lady but decided against it. I thought of bring­ing a pic­ture of my speech teacher whose name I can’t remem­ber but who, in the sec­ond grade, showed me how, though six months preg­nant, mater­nity pants worked. I couldn’t find a picture.

I also thought about bring­ing a bas­ket­ball. Bas­ket­ball was not the first sport I ever played or the first sport I was good at, but it was the sport to teach me about dis­ci­pline, team­work, ded­i­ca­tion, and hard work. It was also the sport I loved the most, the sport I excelled at most, a sport I now play today with my own chil­dren. I learned about my strengths, my weak­nesses. I noticed that some of my strengths and weak­nesses were innate (I had a log­i­cal mind and could pre­dict where a player would throw the ball and inter­cept it; I was short and could not block a shot); oth­ers were devel­oped in life (I could nail three point­ers from all over the arc; I could throw a ball poorly to a team­mate and get it intercepted).

I learned so much about myself through play­ing basketball.

I learned about life and peo­ple and love.
I learned about good teach­ing through both good and bad coaches.
I learned about pas­sion and prac­tice and per­for­mance.
I learned how to have a good atti­tude, not be self­ish, how to lose, how to win, how to be a good team­mate, how to be a leader, how to for­give other’s mis­takes.
Bas­ket­ball taught me how to expe­ri­ence and live life.

I also thought about bring­ing one of my all-time favorite nov­els, The Grapes of Wrath (To Kill a Mock­ing­bird is another favorite of mine.). I read this book my senior year of col­lege. It was in “The Amer­i­can Novel,” the first upper-level Eng­lish course I took after switch­ing majors my junior year. This book changed me. It changed how I viewed the world. It changed the way I approached peo­ple and story. It expanded my under­stand­ing of lis­ten­ing, emphathiz­ing, under­stand­ing. I iden­ti­fied with the Joads and Tom and the pain and suf­fer­ing and loss this fam­ily expe­ri­enced. The sto­ries within this book broke my heart. I quickly bought and read as many John Stein­beck books as I could, includ­ing Of Mice and Men, Can­nery Row, East of Eden, and Trav­els with Charley.

John Stein­beck, I might argue, made me more socially aware.

More aware of injus­tice.
More aware of the ter­ri­ble ways peo­ple treat each other.
More aware that the idea of pulling one­self up by the boot­straps is a myth.
More aware of sys­temic poverty, racism, clas­sism, and sex­ism.
More aware of priv­i­lege.
More aware of my own sub­ject posi­tion.

The Grapes of Wrath gave me rea­son to be angry. To be rav­ing mad. But it also allowed me to under­stand the dig­nity of wrath. It led me to want to fight injus­tice. It changed me.

Even­tu­ally this book led me back to the first book I con­sid­ered as my arti­fact: the Bible. And, in the end, the Bible is the arti­fact I chose. I thought the risk was worth it.

Holy Bible Pink Cover


How I Planned a Teacher Appreciation Banquet and What I Cooked

A few months ago, I had an idea to honor the teach­ers at our church. Our teach­ers sac­ri­fice so much of their time, not just on Sun­day morn­ing, Sun­day after­noon, Wednes­day morn­ing, or Wednes­day night when they actu­ally teach, but also in the time they spend out­side of class plan­ning and prepar­ing and pray­ing. I wanted them to know that I—as a par­ent of three chil­dren and as a stu­dent in sev­eral adult Bible classes—appreciate them.

I thus decided to host a Teacher Appre­ci­a­tion Ban­quet for all the teach­ers in our church—from cra­dle roll to youth to adults to men’s and women’s classes. I had been to one of these din­ners before at a dif­fer­ent church when my hus­band was invited to be the guest speaker, and I thought it was a great idea then. Noth­ing like this had been done in the almost three years I have been at this church, so now was the right time.

With­out talk­ing to any­one except Shane, I put together a pro­posal for the elders at our church (yes, I teach tech­ni­cal and pro­fes­sional writ­ing and must prac­tice what I preach when it comes to ideas and sug­ges­tions). This pro­posal was com­plete with a ratio­nale, bud­get, and agenda. I then dis­trib­uted it to the elders who dis­cussed it, thought it was a great idea, and approved it. They even told me they would like to help serve the food. Great!

One thing that sur­prised me through this process was when I learned that noth­ing like this had ever been done before at this church (at least accord­ing to the peo­ple I talked to). I’m not sure why, but I can only guess that it didn’t hap­pen because the peo­ple who would have done this are all teach­ers them­selves. Most (not all) of the really involved peo­ple at our church teach and would not have planned this for themselves.

I began tak­ing pic­tures and shoot­ing video footage of all the chil­dren and youth. I decided on music for the video (it’s hard to beat Ray Boltz’s “Thank You”), and then our youth min­is­ter put the video together. I mailed invi­ta­tions to all of our teach­ers, planned the menu, bought the food, ordered gifts, and bought lovely rose bou­quets for the tables.

The day of the event comes. I had orig­i­nally intended to ask par­ents of chil­dren and youth whose kids are blessed through these teach­ers to help me pre­pare the meal. I thought that was a great idea, but the din­ner ended up falling on Memo­r­ial Day when many of our young fam­i­lies were busy or out-of-town. So, it was just me and two other people.

Ter­rie, a sweet woman who is always quick to vol­un­teer to help out.

And Terrie’s daugh­ter Hol­lie. I did not know Hol­lie very well before­hand because she cur­rently lives in another town a few hours away, but she just took a teach­ing posi­tion here and will soon be mov­ing back and wanted to help out.

My Helper!

Hol­lie, and I had a great time prepar­ing the meal. We blabbed the whole time and the six hours we were there went by very quickly (The only way I knew how long I had truly been up there cook­ing was by how badly my feet hurt!). Here’s Hol­lies blog post about the event.

Here was the menu:

Straw­berry Pecan Salad

Strawberry Pecan Salad

Apple­wood Smoked Bacon Pork Ten­der­loin and Din­ner Rolls

Applewood Bacon Pork Loin Roast

Twice-Baked Pota­toes
I used the Pio­neer Woman’s recipe. It is def­i­nitely the best recipe I’ve ever tried. A healthy-minded per­son can­not have these

Twice-Baked Potatoes by Pioneer Woman

Green Bean Bun­dles
Hol­lie wrapped at least 200 of these! The Green Bean Bun­dles I make have but­ter, soy sauce, Worces­ter­shire sauce, brown sugar, salt, and pep­per. Yum.

Green Bean Bundles

Green Bean Bundles and Twice-Baked Potatoes--Yum!

Daz­zle Berry Pie (a light and tart rasp­berry dish that my sis­ter gave me and I have adapted somewhat)

Dazzle Berry Pie

Here I am hold­ing one of these yummy pies (notice my Sonic drink in the background!).

Holding one of the TEN Dazzle Berry Pies I made.

The tables with the flow­ers (beau­ti­fully arranged by Terrie)

Teacher Appreciation Banquet Tables

Each teacher also received this pitcher as a gift. (I got a great deal on the pitch­ers, thanks to Jes­sica Turner at The Mom Cre­ative).

Simple Graces Pitcher Given to All Teachers

I end this post in the same way our video did: In the words of 3-year-old Mal­lory, “I love you, teachers.”

I hope you have been blessed by a teacher.


Inventing a Winning Machine

Ear­lier this week, I was look­ing through my 1st grade daughter’s back­pack and found a piece of paper from school with Elizabeth’s writ­ing. Eliz­a­beth wrote the following:

My inven­tion is the mushen that can make you win evry game. I invented the mushen that can make you win evry game.”

Children Racing Black and White

Image cour­tesy State Library by New South Wales. Flickr’s Cre­ative Com­mons License.

Two sen­tences. Two sen­tences that reveal a lot about my daugh­ter. Eliz­a­beth likes to win. She doesn’t like to lose. When given the oppor­tu­nity to imag­ine a machine to invent that would make life bet­ter, eas­ier, she chose a tech­nol­ogy that would make win­ning at every­thing pos­si­ble. (Of course, there are prob­lems with such a tool, because some­one has to lose, right?)

(Funny note: One of my friends told me that her inven­tion already exists; it’s called “The Bribe.” Ha!)

Eliz­a­beth comes by this desire hon­estly (just like she does her stub­born­ness, inde­pen­dence, and strong-willedness). She gets it from me. I like to win. But if I could invent such a machine, I would want the oppo­site of her; I would want some­thing that would never allow me to lose. Because, yes, I like to win, but even more than that, I don’t like to lose.

When Shane and I first moved to Louisville, Ken­tucky (we had prob­a­bly been mar­ried 4 months), my dad was mak­ing a speech in Indi­anapo­lis and we drove up to see him. It’s about a 2 1/2 hour drive to the city. We picked him up at the air­port and walked around down­town for a while, vis­it­ing the stat­ues, parks, and other out­door sights. Indi­anapo­lis has such a lovely feel. We ate din­ner and then were head­ing back to the car (after sev­eral hours of walk­ing around).

On the way back to the car, Shane was argu­ing with me about the route we were tak­ing back to the car. He said the car was the other way; I said it was not, that we were headed in the right direc­tion. This was ten years ago, well before GPS and Smart Phones. Shane kept insist­ing that we were going the com­plete wrong way. He decided to ask my dad what he thought.

My dad told him that he thought we were headed in the wrong direc­tion (my way) and that he thought Shane was right and that we had come from the other direction.

Then my dad paused and said, “But I’m going to just keep fol­low­ing her. I learned a long time ago that you don’t argue with Kara. Even when I dis­agree with her about stuff like this, I have learned to go with it. Why? Because Kara is never wrong. Really, she is always right. But, if she IS wrong, then we can give her a hard time.”

We all burst out into laugh­ter. It was a les­son from the father-in-law to the son-in-law. My daughter/your wife is right.

At this point, I started second-guessing myself. I kept walk­ing the way I thought was the way to the car, and, voila, I WAS RIGHT. We found the car, and, whew, I wasn’t wrong.

I don’t like to be wrong. I don’t like to lose. It comes from lik­ing to play games, just like Eliz­a­beth does. Card games. Board games. Sports games. I’m com­pet­i­tive. I don’t like to lose.

When I win, I don’t gloat. I don’t cel­e­brate. I don’t “rejoice” (this is the term I use for ath­letes when they start gal­li­vant­ing down the court after mak­ing a bas­ket or a touch­down, espe­cially when they’re on the OTHER team, and I don’t want to see such cel­e­bra­tion!). Instead, I act like I’ve been there before.

Because I have. I have won lots of things. Small things. Big things. Things that mat­ter. Things that don’t. Things that had major con­se­quences for me in terms of schol­ar­ships, pres­tige, fame, and recognition.

[L]losing draws on my inse­cu­ri­ties of not being good enough, not being smart enough, not being able to do it all. Los­ing hurts. And it hurts real bad. Not when I lose a card game, but when I lose big things.

[One side­note: It is inter­est­ing when I play games with other peo­ple, which I love to do, they ALWAYS strive to beat me. They gang up on me so that I will lose. They tar­get me (in Hearts, Double-9 domi­noes, Monop­oly, etc.) so that I will lose first. Then, they make big shows of it when they win. They rub it in. They jump up and down. They cel­e­brate. They “rejoice.” I guess that’s what I get for being com­pet­i­tive and win­ning a lot. I can take it. It’s just a game, right?]

But win­ning isn’t what moti­vates me; what moti­vates me is NOT los­ing. I’m sure there’s a lot of com­plex­i­ties going on in this state­ment, but let me just say that los­ing draws on my inse­cu­ri­ties of not being good enough, not being smart enough, not being able to do it all. Los­ing hurts. And it hurts real bad. Not when I lose a card game, but when I lose big things.

When an arti­cle I’ve writ­ten gets rejected.

When I don’t get a grant or sab­bat­i­cal for which I’ve applied.

When I don’t get a posi­tion for which I’ve applied.

When I receive a set of neg­a­tive teacher evaluations.

When some­one says some­thing neg­a­tive about me.

When I com­pare myself to other moms. 

When my chil­dren mis­be­have and dis­obey me.

When I fail as a Christian.

My iden­tity is wrapped up in NOT los­ing. And when I do lose, it hurts. So, if Eliz­a­beth could invent that machine, I would buy it. But I don’t think it would be enough to con­front the under­ly­ing inse­cu­ri­ties of losing.

 


Why I’m Uncomfortable with Mother’s Day

When I was in high school, I became really close to one of my boyfriend’s aunts. She was close to her twin nephews because she was very devoted to her sis­ter, their mom. But this woman was also close to her sister’s kids because she didn’t have any chil­dren of her own. She couldn’t have chil­dren. She and her hus­band had tried for years to con­ceive, but they never did. I don’t know any of the details except that she wanted kids and couldn’t have them.

I was sad for her. She had a deep desire for chil­dren but couldn’t have any.

She was sweet, lov­ing, kind, gra­cious, and hon­est. She was a dot­ing aunt, a con­fi­dante, a friend. She would have been a great mom.

As the years went on, we kept in touch (even though her nephew and I had long bro­ken up). I con­tin­ued to think of her. I empathized with her because she couldn’t have children.

One year in col­lege, Mother’s Day rolled around and I had an idea to send her a Mother’s Day card.

Happy Mother's Day Card

Image cour­tesy of http://stacy.typepad.com/stacys_paper_crafts/2009/04/happy-mothers-day.html

This card came from me, but I wrote about all the people—all the kids, like me—that she had touched. Even though she didn’t have a child of her own, she influ­enced so many chil­dren. I expressed to her my appre­ci­a­tion for the influ­ence she had on my life, prob­a­bly one that she never even knew about.

She was touched by my ges­ture. She told me that she cried read­ing the card. She had never received a Mother’s Day card before, and this card was so unex­pected. I think what affected her the most was that she felt nobody cared about her on this day.

She was left out of the cel­e­bra­tion because she wasn’t a mother. Yes, she had a mother (a great one), but she also desired to be a mother and she wasn’t one.

While most peo­ple cel­e­brated moth­er­hood, she mourned it.

While (male) church pas­tors and lead­ers spoke about how God insti­tuted moth­er­hood and how won­der­ful it is and on and on and on, she grieved.

When Hall­mark com­mer­cials came on, (I imag­ine) she changed the chan­nel, or watched it with sad­ness, lone­li­ness, and pain.

I love my own mother, my mother-in-law, and my grand­moth­ers. They are spe­cial women. But I’m extremely uncom­fort­able with Mother’s Day.

I’m always think­ing about the peo­ple left out of the “moth­er­hood celebration”.

Women who have suf­fered a mis­car­riage.
Teenage girls or young adults who have given their chil­dren up for adop­tion.
Women who have had abor­tions.
Women who can­not bear chil­dren.
Children—young and old—who have lost their moth­ers to death.  
Chil­dren who do not have the “type” of mother pro­moted through greet­ing cards, retail stores, and even the church.
Moth­ers who do not feel they meet up to soci­etal or Chris­t­ian stan­dards about what makes a “good mother.”

I’m uncom­fort­able with Mother’s Day.

My hus­band does not preach a Mother’s Day ser­mon for many of these same rea­sons (How­ever, he is giv­ing a 4-part trib­ute to the moth­ers he loves in his life, includ­ing my mom).

This Mother’s Day, think of women:

Who are not in the mood to cel­e­brate this hol­i­day, a national one, mind you, not a Chris­t­ian one.

Who do not have the emo­tional energy to come to church on that day because of the pain they will feel.

Who grieve every day but on this day, in par­tic­u­lar, the grief hurts even more.

Who feel alone and lonely.

Who want to be a mother but can’t.

Who were moth­ers at one time but decided not to be.

Think of these women when you go to church, when you call your mom, when you talk to friends, when you buy gifts.

Pray for them.

Do some­thing spe­cial for them.

Lis­ten to their sto­ries, and let them know you care.


My Popular Posts: Two Weeks in Review

My web­site has been active for two weeks now, so I decided to take a moment to list and exam­ine my top three posts. Here, they are, my most pop­u­lar posts.

1. “Run­ning Around Like a Crazy Woman: Why Less Is More.”

This post is my most pop­u­lar, most likely because a few peo­ple tweeted or posted the link to Face­book or their blog, which led to many more peo­ple click­ing on it and view­ing it. I am amazed at the inter­con­nected nature of the web, and I have enjoyed con­nect­ing with peo­ple I would not oth­er­wise know (thanks for read­ing, you people!).

This post is also my first book review on the blog. I actu­ally plan to do many reviews in the future. Per­haps my read­ers like book reviews. We shall see. I was actu­ally sur­prised how many peo­ple clicked on the book’s link from my site to read about the book for them­selves (over 35 of you!). I won­der how many of you will read it. I’d love to hear what you think about it and how you have tried to imple­ment the mantra, “Less is more,” into your life.

2. “Up in the Clouds or Down on the Ground: When Mar­riage Is Dif­fi­cult.”

I only posted this piece yes­ter­day, but it’s already close to becom­ing my most pop­u­lar post. I guess when you speak about mar­riage, peo­ple are interested.

I have been so hum­bled and encour­aged by the many mes­sages, texts, and emails I have received from you about this post. Many of you wrote to me about dif­fi­cul­ties you are (or were) hav­ing in your mar­riage, and how this post came “at just the right time.” I’m hum­bled that my words were able to touch and encour­age you in this way. Thanks so much for let­ting me know!

3. “I Am a Mother; I Am an Aca­d­e­mic.”

This post was one of my firsts, and it still remains a pop­u­lar one. Almost every day a few peo­ple still read it.

I like this post because it hints at the daily strug­gle I have to be both mother and aca­d­e­mic. And to do each well. It’s not as easy as it seems. I will con­tinue to exam­ine and write about moth­er­hood and acad­e­mia and explore the ten­sion I con­stantly feel nego­ti­at­ing the demands of both.

Thanks so much for read­ing my blog. Remem­ber, you can sub­scribe to my blog by click­ing on the RSS feed but­ton at the top (the orange but­ton at the top).

Which blog post has been your favorite?