Tag Archive for identity

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?


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


It’s a Matter of Perspective

When Shane and I first moved back to Texas from Ken­tucky, we lived in Gatesville, a small town about 45 min­utes west of Waco. Shane was the preacher at a church there. I became good friends with Amy, a girl who lived with her hus­band about 5 miles out­side of the town. When we talked at church or on the phone about what we would be doing the next day, she often told me, “I have to make a trip to town tomor­row.” The first time she used this phrase, I thought she meant that she would be dri­ving to Waco. That’s what I meant when I said I was dri­ving to town. Cool! Let’s go together. To me, dri­ving into town meant a long drive to the “big city.”

Living in the Country

Image cour­tesy of freefoto.com

But I soon learned that she did not mean that at all. Instead, when she said she would be dri­ving into town, she meant that she would be dri­ving the five miles into our town, not to Waco. She lived in the coun­try and “town” for her was Gatesville. I lived inside the city lim­its (and also came from the big city), so, to me, “town” was the big­ger city of Waco.

It was a mat­ter of perspective.

Last week I posted 12 rea­sons I like liv­ing in the coun­try. A lot of peo­ple read that post, and, since then, at least five peo­ple have told me, “You know you don’t really live in the coun­try.”* They have pointed out to me that since I have city water and city sewage, I do not live in the coun­try. They also used as evi­dence the fact that I do not have well water. No, I do not live in the coun­try, they say; I live in a “rural com­mu­nity,” “a small town.” One friend at my church even com­mented that she must have me out to their house so that I can see what liv­ing in the coun­try truly means.

In some sense, I agree with them. Yes, I do live in a city. It is rural and small, but it’s still a city. We have about 7,000 peo­ple liv­ing here. I do not have to “drive into town” for gro­ceries. I have neigh­bors. I have a city address. I live on a paved street. I do not have a well. I do not have a stock tank. I do not have cows or horses or pigs. I have inter­net access and it is fast. I have good cell ser­vice. We have 4G.

No, I do not live in the coun­try in the same sense my great-grandmother Meme did while she was alive. She lived in a single-wide trailer with noth­ing else around her for miles. No gro­cery stores, gas sta­tions, or schools. Not even a Wal-Mart. She used well water. She had cats run­ning all over the place. She had a big tank in her yard that we liked to climb all over. Skunks lived under her trailer and made a major mess of things. She lived in the country.

Shane’s grand­mother also lives in the coun­try. I love going out there to the ranch. She lives in the coun­try in a way that I do not.

But, in another sense, I do live in the coun­try. Although it may not be the coun­try in the tech­ni­cal sense of the word or in the same way my great-grandmother did, I still live in the coun­try in com­par­i­son to my expe­ri­ences of city life.

As I men­tioned before on this blog, I grew up in Hous­ton. For those of you who live in or have lived in big cities, this doesn’t need much expla­na­tion. For those of you who were part of my life in Hous­ton and knew what life was like for your­self and for me, you know what a state­ment like this means. Images of city life imme­di­ately take hold, and you can imag­ine what big city life is like.

But for oth­ers who have not lived in a city or a big­ger city, say­ing that may not mean very much.

When I grad­u­ated high school and first moved to Abi­lene for col­lege, I thought I had moved to the mid­dle of nowhere. Abi­lene was con­sid­ered a “small town” to those of us who came from big­ger cities. It was. About 150,000 peo­ple. Fast for­ward sev­eral years later to Gatesville: 10,000 people.

My def­i­n­i­tion of “small town” soon shifted. Gatesville was a small town; Waco was the “big city.”

How we regard life is a mat­ter of per­spec­tive. Where we’ve come from. Where we’ve been.

Our per­spec­tive shapes what we see. Our per­spec­tive lim­its what we see.

Only when we inter­act with oth­ers who come from dif­fer­ent places than we do, who have dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences, who believe dif­fer­ent things, can we truly under­stand how lim­ited, sit­u­ated, and incom­plete our per­spec­tive is.

Only when we get to know oth­ers can we truly grow in our own per­spec­tives.

*My hus­band was one of the peo­ple who told me that I am wrong, that, no, we do not live in the coun­try. I think this is inter­est­ing because, like me, he lived in big cities for most of his life. I think it’s even more inter­est­ing because he has  referred to where we live as the wilder­ness.


Bad Moms and Being Mom Enough: A Reflection

By now, you have most likely read or heard about the recent arti­cle in Time mag­a­zine titled, “Are you Mom enough?”. The blo­gos­phere (and the media) has been abuzz over this article.

I'm not a bad girl; You're a bad mommy!

Image cour­tesy of http://themotherlode.wordpress.com

Some authors have addressed the title of the arti­cle and all that it implies (com­pe­ti­tion, self-hatred, guilt, mommy wars, sex­ism, iden­tity issues, etc.). Oth­ers have com­mented on the cover image in which a three-year-old boy is suck­ing on his mother’s bare breast while look­ing at the cam­era (how it is going to scar him for­ever, how pub­lic breast­feed­ing is fine, how this goes on in all areas of the world, how this mother is a heli­copter par­ent, etc., etc.). Most dis­cus­sions have addressed the topic of the arti­cle, attach­ment par­ent­ing.

I’ve read many com­men­taries on and responses to this arti­cle. (I par­tic­u­larly liked what my col­lege room­mate had to say about it, as well as another blogger’s provoca­tive post, “Where Is the Mommy War for the Moth­er­less Child?”.

I have my own opin­ions on all of these mat­ters. I obvi­ously do not choose to do attach­ment par­ent­ing. I stopped nurs­ing my chil­dren when they were between 8–10 months old. I do not carry my baby around on me like a papoose; he weighs too much and I would break my back. I do not, under any cir­cum­stance, allow my chil­dren to sleep with me and my hus­band in our bed. I also work out­side the home, which Dr. Sears, the founder of the move­ment, dis­cour­ages women who want to incor­po­rate attach­ment par­ent­ing philoso­phies from doing.

I don’t love my chil­dren any less. I love them a lot, actu­ally. I believe it’s impor­tant help my chil­dren feel loved, safe, con­fi­dent, self-assured, and inde­pen­dent. I let my chil­dren play for long peri­ods of time with­out get­ting involved or inter­ject­ing my own agenda. I let them work out prob­lems. I tell them, “No.” I ask them to be cre­ative. I chal­lenge them.

Most moth­ers do.

What I have learned from being a mother for almost seven years is that there are many dif­fer­ent ways to mother. There are dif­fer­ent ways to be a mother. And there are dif­fer­ent def­i­n­i­tions of moth­ers and moth­er­hood and mothering.

As moms, we have images in our head about the kind of mother we want to be. If you’re like me, you often feel guilty about ways you do not live up to your own expec­ta­tions. Our cul­ture and the media (and some­times reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions and peo­ple) send the mes­sage that we are not good enough, that we are not “Mom enough.” My recent post about Pin­ter­est images attests to the per­va­sive­ness of soci­etal expec­ta­tions and norms.

But who are we to judge other moth­ers? Aren’t we all just try­ing our best to do good our their children?

We are all “Mom enough” to the chil­dren in our lives.

They love us. They know we love them.

We must know that who we are is enough.

 


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.

 


12 Reasons I Like Living in the Country

I did not choose to live in the country.

My hus­band took a min­istry job in a small town out­side of Waco, and I fol­lowed him here (just as he fol­lowed me when I went to grad­u­ate school). I was skep­ti­cal of mov­ing to the coun­try. I grew up in Hous­ton, the 4th largest city in the United States. And I liked it.

When I left Hous­ton for col­lege, I moved to Abi­lene, a small West Texas town. I thought it was a small town (about 150,000 peo­ple). It was small. And, when I moved to Cen­tral Texas to work at Bay­lor, I thought Waco was a small town.

But my def­i­n­i­tion of “small” has changed since liv­ing where I live now.

I live in a town of about 7,500. I still con­sider myself a “city girl,” but I do like some things about the coun­try. For today’s Twelve Series, I’m going to write about rea­sons I like the country.

1. The wide, open spaces. I love the Dixie Chicks song, “Wide Open Spaces,” but this has new mean­ing to me liv­ing here. Most peo­ple here, even those who live in town, have large yards (front and back) and quite a bit of space between homes. Many peo­ple own acres and acres of land.  I like hav­ing my own space; it doesn’t feel like peo­ple always know when I’m com­ing and going or what I’m doing (I do live in a par­son­age, though, but that’s a dif­fer­ent story). If I ever do move back to the city, I would like to have some land, if pos­si­ble. Not much, just some. 

Even the idea that things are slower here really appeals to me. Even though I still run around like a crazy woman, I also slow down. Sit on the front porch, watch my chil­dren play in the back­ground, and enjoy life.

2. We don’t need a Farmer’s Mar­ket; we have the farms! I love going to the Farmer’s Mar­ket, and one con­cern I had mov­ing to a small town was that I would no longer have access to the Farmer’s Mar­ket I had vis­ited for years. Come to find out, one of the farms rep­re­sented at this Farmer’s Mar­ket was from the town I now live in! So, I can now drive 3 miles to the farm and pick out all the pro­duce I want. And, unlike the Farmer’s Mar­ket I vis­ited before, which was only open from May through Sep­tem­ber, this one had a year-round farm stand. Buy­ing my food from them makes me happy. I also like that my chil­dren are learn­ing where food comes from, how it’s grown, and what it means to buy local produce.

3. The close-knit com­mu­nity. In some ways it feels like the bar in Cheers where every­body knows your name. Shane and I have got­ten to know so many peo­ple, far more than run in our “typ­i­cal” cir­cles. Peo­ple who (in some ways) are dif­fer­ent from us but who are liv­ing life and try­ing to do the best they can. We love this com­mu­nity. No, it’s not per­fect, but the peo­ple here will always be very close to our hearts.

4. The stars. The wide open spaces allow for us to see so many stars at night. “The stars at night. Are big and bright. [clap, clap, clap, clap]. Deep in the heart of Texas.”

5. No traf­fic. I grew up in traf­fic. I went through 32 (red) lights on my daily com­mute to school. Traf­fic was a part of life. Some­times it took an hour to go to a friend’s house. When we trav­eled for junior high and high school sports, the trip could take an hour and a half, each way. My dad worked Down­town, 19 miles from our house. It took him well over an hour each way. Dri­ving long dis­tances and and wait­ing in traf­fic was a part of life. I didn’t know any different.

Even though sev­eral major high­ways (both state and national) go through our town, traf­fic is not much of an issue. It’s easy to get around and there isn’t much wait­ing. Now, when I go back to Hous­ton to visit my par­ents or to Austin to visit my sis­ter or Shane’s par­ents, I dread the traf­fic. It takes 20 min­utes to go two miles (and that’s good!). Shane and I com­ment each time we go that we are glad we don’t have to expe­ri­ence traf­fic like this on a reg­u­lar basis. It’s a perk.

6. The oppor­tu­ni­ties to be involved in many aspects of the com­mu­nity. Get­ting involved is easy. There are so many ways to help this com­mu­nity, and we like get­ting involved, serv­ing oth­ers, and mak­ing our com­mu­nity a bet­ter place. I like to feel like my life mat­ters, that there is a pur­pose greater than myself, that I can use my gifts to help others.

7. My big back­yard. Hav­ing a huge gar­den and still enough space to run around and play games with the kids is amaz­ing. We don’t have neigh­bors beside us (on either side) or behind us. It’s quiet (when the neigh­bor down the street isn’t play­ing the drums!) and relaxing.My Backyard

8. The ecu­meni­cal nature of the churches here. We have a great diver­sity of churches here–all types of denom­i­na­tions. We even have a Mor­mon church. In large cities, peo­ple often get together with other churches from their same tribe (Bap­tists with Bap­tists; Pres­by­te­ri­ans with Pres­by­te­ri­ans; etc.). Here, though, since there is typ­i­cally only one church for each denom­i­na­tion, the churches work together, play together, and serve together. Recently, we had an ecu­meni­cal prayer walk. It was so neat to see all these peo­ple com­ing together to pray to our one God.

We do have peo­ple from other reli­gions liv­ing here, but I do not know of syn­a­gogues or mosques in the area; the great major­ity of peo­ple here are His­panic, and most of them are Catholic. 

9. The diver­sity. Even though I come from a big city where peo­ple from all walks of life live, I also live in a town that is extremely diverse. Approx­i­mately 80% of the pop­u­la­tion are racial minori­ties (45% His­panic, 30% African-American; 25% White). This is a very, very poor town, and my kids go to schools with other chil­dren they never would have been exposed to in the sub­urbs or in pri­vate schools (at least not at the same percentage–Elizabeth is one of 3 White kids in her entire class). The rate of peo­ple with col­lege degrees is very low, but it does allow for us all to learn from each other and to see how to live together even though we come from dif­fer­ent back­grounds and places.

10. Our church. I love the church com­mu­nity of which we are a part. Our church is at the top of our list on things I like best about this town. Great peo­ple with ser­vant hearts. I’m glad to be a mem­ber here. 

11. The teach­ers and prin­ci­pals and coun­selors and nurses and admin­is­tra­tors and para­pro­fes­sion­als and jan­i­tors at my daughter’s school who know our chil­dren and us very well. Attend­ing a small school has its perks, espe­cially how “every­one knows your name.” These peo­ple care for the chil­dren and know where they come from, which, I think, makes a dif­fer­ence in being able to meet (and exceed) each indi­vid­ual child’s needs.

12. The numer­ous small busi­nesses in the area. Many peo­ple who live here decide to open small busi­nesses. Retail stores. Quaint bou­tiques. Deli­cious restau­rants. Con­sign­ment shops. And other unique places. This entre­pre­neur men­tal­ity helps our com­mu­nity in many ways.

If you live in the coun­try, what do you like about it?
If you don’t live in the coun­try, what do you think you would like the most? The least?


Motherhood as Materialism: The Myth They’re Selling

I am a mom to three viva­cious, spunky, inde­pen­dent kids. I like being a mom. It’s dif­fi­cult to define and artic­u­late what moth­er­hood means to me and how much of my iden­tity is wrapped up in my role as a mom. So much of it is a feel­ing, an emo­tion, and words are often not enough to explain my feel­ings about motherhood.

That being said, as I men­tioned in my last post, I don’t like Mother’s Day. I’m extremely uncom­fort­able with this hol­i­day. So many women (and men) expe­ri­ence pain on Mother’s Day.

  • Some­one is think­ing about their own mom (per­haps she has died, she gave him/her up for adop­tion, she was not the mother they had hoped for, or some­thing else that brings them pain).
  • Some­one is think­ing about the loss of a child–through a mis­car­riage, an abor­tion, an adop­tion, a death, a kid­nap­ping, the loss of a young child who has grown up.
  • Some­one is think­ing about not being able to con­ceive or still being sin­gle and not hav­ing a child.
  • Some­one is think­ing about how they do not mea­sure up to the “ideal mother” (see my recent post about guilt for some com­ments on this issue).
  • Some­one who is griev­ing the choices their chil­dren have made.

Mother’s Day is not a happy day for every­one, con­trary to the pre­dom­i­nant nar­ra­tive greet­ing card com­pa­nies, retail stores, busi­nesses, and cor­po­ra­tions are sell­ing us. Many peo­ple have great big holes in their hearts.

Mother’s Day became a fed­eral hol­i­day in 1914 when Pres­i­dent Woodrow Wil­son insti­tuted it. I do not know the his­tory of this hol­i­day, but what I do know is that, at some point, Mother’s Day became syn­ony­mous with mate­ri­al­ism, with giv­ing and receiv­ing gifts (just like Christ­mas). This hol­i­day equates love to gift-giving.

It pro­motes moth­er­hood as materialism.

Stores tell us we should buy gifts for our moth­ers. Our moth­ers deserve as much. If we love them, we would buy them something.

I saw this image today while I stopped in to drop off some clothes at my favorite con­sign­ment store.

Selling Mother's Day

Make Mom’s Day! Buy Her an iPad (the new one!)!

This image screams consumerism.

Mate­ri­al­ism.

But it belit­tles moth­ers.

This image, and most other mar­ket­ing that sur­rounds Mother’s Day, equates lov­ing your mom to giv­ing her expen­sive gifts, or, at worse, not giv­ing her expen­sive gifts and thus not lov­ing her.

The con­sumerism of Mother’s Day defines how we are sup­posed to expe­ri­ence Mother’s Day–as one who gives or receives gifts. It’s not about love; it’s about buy­ing and giv­ing and get­ting more stuff. Even if show­ing love through gifts isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, the mar­ket­ing of this hol­i­day takes the focus off hon­or­ing your own mother or (being hon­ored your­self as a mother) to focus­ing on the buy­ing and sell­ing of prod­ucts. It equates love with giv­ing expen­sive gifts.

Cor­po­ra­tions have decided that they can manip­u­late dads and chil­dren and spouses and moth­ers into mak­ing this event–motherhood–all about mate­ri­al­ism. They send the mes­sage that the only thing moth­ers really want is “stuff.”

They dimin­ish moth­er­hood when they equate it to materialism.

If they knew moth­ers at all–sitting from where they are mak­ing a profit off of us, off of OUR role, as moth­ers (or sons or daugh­ters or fathers or husbands)–then they would under­stand that we do not want this. No, moth­er­hood is more than mate­ri­al­ism. Much more. And if these cor­po­rate pow­ers tried to under­stand moth­ers at all, they would real­ize this truth. Instead, they belit­tle and degrade us and treat us like chil­dren in a candy store.

No, moms do not want more “stuff.” We are more com­plex than that. We are deeper than that. We have other val­ues besides gifts. Our hearts are with our chil­dren, not with what they do or not give us.

If cor­po­ra­tions really wanted to show us honor, they wouldn’t mar­ket to our chil­dren on this day. There would be no signs and images and ads and com­mer­cials about “the per­fect gift for mother’s day”.

There would be no profit, no cap­i­tal­iz­ing on mothers.

Honor us by refus­ing to coerce and manip­u­late our hus­bands and sons and daugh­ters and moth­ers and grand­chil­dren. Honor us by leav­ing our fam­i­lies alone, by leav­ing us alone.

Moth­er­hood is much more than their min­i­mal­iza­tion of it.

Dear read­ers: I hope these posts about moth­er­hood and Mother’s Day have not offended you, but I do hope you see my per­spec­tive as hon­est and real, and a lit­tle mad, too.


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.