The Road That Leads to Me

A Different Kind of Teacher

This past week I felt my first small twinges of sadness in not getting to set up a classroom this year. As my friends begin to talk about their plans for the year, arranging and decorating their rooms, and getting their new class lists, I can’t help but feel something I can best describe as a full body sigh. I’m a teacher…it’s in my blood, and always will be. I’ve always said that I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life…until now.

Yes, I’m a teacher, but more importantly, I’m a mother. We’ve made the choice as a family for me to stay at home with our children until the last one (TBD) is in kindergarten. This gives me a 5-10 year hiatus from my own classroom, and yes, a part of me will be unfulfilled for those years, and a piece of my life will be missing. All that said, as I sit here with my son next to me, and my daughter playing happily a few feet away, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am making the right decision.

Does everyone agree with me? Nope. Its actually amazing how some people’s opinion of you changes almost instantaneously when they hear that you are a stay at home mom. You can see their eyes glaze over and the thought process of, “Oh Lord, please don’t start talking about your children,” going through their head. I could do without those people. Almost always, these people are women without children, or women who have chosen to work (which I’m not saying is wrong.) Recently, I had someone say to me (about another person) “She’s probably so crazy because she’s stuck at home with her kids all day.” I just kept my mouth shut, and wanted to say, “Um, did you forget who you were talking to?!” Not everyone will understand. Not everyone will give you the, “good for you,” or the “that’s really the best thing.” (Although those people are awesome!) The bottom line is…it doesn’t really matter what anyone else thinks. You have to do what is right for YOU and YOUR KIDS.

Will I miss teaching? You bet. Do I love planning lesson, designing thematic units, and developing relationships with my students? Absolutely. But…do I love my time with my kids MORE? No doubt about it. Whenever I start to feel slightly jealous of my teacher friends, I look at my children. Hannah, now 28 months, has grown so fast…and has changed so much in just a matter of months. I can’t believe she was ever as little as my young son Henry (3 1/2 months). I can’t imagine missing their childhood, and wouldn’t want to. I need to be here. The classroom is a wonderful place to be. You make a difference. You teach children to read. You introduce children to literature. I yearn for the day I will yet again have my own classroom, and am compiling lesson plan ideas almost daily. However…today I chased butterflies. I made countless pots of imaginary coffee (and even fed it to a red penguin), made a baby laugh, read stories to a two year old, and you know what? I think I made a difference in the lives of my kids…and all in all, thats not a bad day.

I’m really starting to like my new “job.” (And yes, people who have never done it..It is most definitely a full-time job, and probably one of the hardest jobs imaginable.) I will ignore the nay-sayers, and embrace the choice that works for me…I will trade in my students for my children. And give up teaching? There are teachable moments every single day. I am still a teacher….maybe the most important kind.


Self-Deception: Social identity vs. personal identity and its relation to politics and religion

A wholly truthful and authentic life necessitates thoughtful self-examination, that is, the willingness to recognize even the most difficult of truths present within our lives. When the avoidance of truths about certain aspects of our lives extends beyond a single choice, and develops into a pattern of avoidance, self-deception is born. This conscious choice to avoid reality, prevents us from facing difficult facts and certainties, and allows us to remain consistent. In this purposeful distancing of oneself from reality, one adopts a policy of avoidance, which he or she uses as a shield, defense mechanism, or self-created blinder to the sometimes harsh and bitter truths of reality.

The natural tendency to maintain consistency compounds man’s inclination to self-deceive. A lifetime of commitments and experiences can lead men to ascribe to ideas and realities which indeed have changed or ceased to be present. In efforts to uphold a certain sense of stability and self-awareness, the tendency to self-deceive, ignoring obvious changes and truths grows strong. Towards this end, it is those who are good and sincere by nature, that are most prone to self-deceive. The serious tone of these people’s lives holds them in fear, lacking the courage to face reality, and therefore the possibility of their own shortcomings and inabilities.

In an image-based society, where appearance and status make or break one’s individual quality of and outlook on life, it becomes necessary to some to retain a certain self-image. Fear of losing a particular sense of identity disallows a full embrace of the whole of reality. Towards this end, the language, labels, and ideas that surround a person’s sense of self become highly important, as there has become a desperate search and push to “know oneself,” and to gain a firm grasp of who you are as a person. Consequently, identities adopted are not quickly changed, despite changes in the person.

The link between personal identity and social identity has grown increasingly, concurrently pushing the need to maintain certain types of social roles. Often, our actions are sharply influenced by the social group to which we ascribe ourselves, or find our identity in. Actions that are perhaps against our own sense of morality are performed, and subsequently rationalized, simply due to our assumed or presumed social role. Additionally, values and ideas may be professed which are against our own, yet personally heralded, in efforts to remain consistent with a social role. Essentially, it is the fear of change, and the subsequent fear of losing a grip on one’s sense of self-identity, that provides the primary cause of self-deception.

Marked as a defense mechanism and coping device, self-deception can be perceived as either positive or negative. At times, self-deception proves to be necessary in order for existence. Often, one must self-deceive by means of blocking out painful images and memories, in order for healing to become a reality. Overburdened by pain, grief, or negative self-imagery, self-deception becomes nearly compulsory, as the burdened individual seeks to temporarily avoid reality in order to establish a positive outlook. However, when this temporary self-deception used as a coping device develops into a permanent life pattern, it moves beyond a coping device to a destructive pattern of thought and avoidance. Illusion cannot be the dominating force within the mind. The extent to which self-deception can be considered healthy, is the extent to which the mind concurrently holds a grip on reality in some sense.

In consideration of and reflection upon self-deception, I am forced to evaluate my own life, and the extent to which I avoid reality. With a personality dependent upon stability, order, and routine, and a concurrent strict and traditional upbringing, the factors which perpetuate the need or drive to self-deceive are highly present in my life. Additionally, the labels I have come to associate with my identity suggest that I ascribe to certain social groups, requiring an additional reflection of the genuineness and originality of my actions.

In consideration of my self-image, several dominant features surface as irremovable and essential to my being. I cannot imagine living a life void of my “Christian” label. However, the stigma of religion often yields a wealth of attached assumptions and social roles. Attacked and marked as a fundamentalist, I recognize that in my youth I overemphasized my conservative beliefs, in attempts to both uphold my controversial label and to stir up dissension amongst my peers. However, as time has passed and the attacks grown more intense, I found myself proclaiming a “more liberal” mindset to old friends, in efforts to gain their respect while detaching myself from the assumptions surrounding Christian fundamentalists. This active proclamation of a “newfound liberality” was due primarily to a subscription to a new social group. Several years ago, the large majority of my friends were those which maintained similar sets of values and ideas as I did. However, upon my attendance at a liberal and Catholic institution, I had been brought from a position of esteem, where my ideas and values were respected and shared, to a place of scorn. Nearly weekly, my fundamental Protestant and Bible-based beliefs were openly mocked and looked upon as intellectually inferior to those not only of the Catholic church, but of the so-called philosophical agnostics, too intelligent to buy into the idea of “God” and a necessary dependence upon Him. Towards this end, I had systematically quieted my beliefs, moving those things which are intrinsic to my being from the forefront to the shadows. Classroom participation in heated religious debates has ceased, arguments with friends surrounding political and moral issues have dramatically decreased, and my promotion of “my new liberal beliefs” has risen.

Some may survey the situation and decide that the changes made in my life were positive, removing enmity with friends while concurrently opening my mind to differing viewpoints and ideas. I myself have heralded this false adoption of liberal ideas as mentally expanding, self-promoting as one willing to move outside of a “narrow” mental perspective. However, reality remains. Despite the repercussions which may follow, I am not and most likely never will be a liberally minded person. Towards this end, I do not hold that liberal ideas bring about mental expansion any more than other schools of thought do. Additionally, I feel that those who prescribe to liberal ideas as strongly as conservatives, are as “narrow” as fundamentalists. My false ascription to a set of ideas, through both silent acceptance and active denouncement of conservative ideas, had served to perpetuate a form of self-deception, in that I had been avoiding the reality of the ever-present existence of my conservative ideals.

This self-deception suggested that I placed my identity in things other than self. This altogether negative habit speaks of an over-emphasis on the opinions and thoughts of other people, as well as a fear of losing this social identity. Reparation of these wrongful avoidances of the truths concerning my true self and ideals can be found in the willing embrace of my belief system, regardless of the reaction of those around me. With or without social esteem or the acceptance of my peers and professors, I am without question, a conservatively minded, Christian fundamentalist. I must forget about survival within a particular social group, and value self-survival as of higher value. Self-deception will breathe no more, as I now willingly face the reality of my true self. Yes, I voted for Bush. Twice. I’ll vote for McCain, and I don’t care what you think about it. I am who I am.

Under a heavy load
July 14, 2008, 4:32 am
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God often gives us a “truck-load” of burdens, and things we must carry  as we travel through life. These burdens and weights we must carry are often necessary to our existence and survival…things we are unable to drop. Often we don’t receive help, and the load can be heavy. However, as we move on, though often slowly and with pain, we slowly make progress…our “truck” keeps moving. We do what we have to do…going on even when it seems to hard, and that our weary bodies can’t move another inch. We must keep moving, knowing that the pain we are bearing now will lead to something else…something for our good. It is in these times that we must remember that ALL things work together for the good of those who love God. What seems unbearable in the moment is often a blessing in disguise…something we might not be able to see or understand, unless we are willing to assume God’s perspective and dare to look at our lives in an unconventional way. We CAN make it. Nothing we are given is beyond what we are capable of bearing. He may bend us, but He will not break us. We have to remember that if God is behind it, it is worth it. He heaps on us things that may be difficult, but which can also build our strength, determination, and faith in Him and His perfect plan. We must press on, forgetting what is behind, laying hold of the goal which is ahead…God is God, and we are not. We won’t always understand, and sometimes it might take us years to be able to look back and say, “Ohhh, that’s why that happened.” But we can’t allow our fears, doubts, and sinful perspective to prevent us from carrying on. We have to remember that our troubles are light and momentary, and that Christ carried the ultimate load..all of our sin…He allowed us the chance to trust Him…the ultimate privilege..the ultimate reward…We MUST be faithful. He will protect us, and lead us to the place He has for us. Keep going….

Riding the Jesus Couch

“What I believe is NOT what I SAY I believe. What I believe is what I DO. ” ~ Donald Miller

Christians have a tendency to ride the Jesus couch…lounging in their own comfortable bubble of isms, mantras, and other media-ized “spiritual” propaganda. We’re purpose driven-coming back to the heart of worship-opening the eyes of our hearts- prayer “mmhmming”-“Jesus has a plan” Christians. We’re great actors really….It truly is amazing how much we can pull off..The question is, “who are we fooling?” The only answer that matters is, “not God.”

Is this the life we want? Do we want to fake our way through the only relationship that truly matters? Is it enough for us to profess and not act? We can close our eyes during the songs all we want, take as many sermon notes as possible, and even skim our Bibles every single day, and NEVER truly know the God we claim to love. Imagine if we treated our spouse, our children, or our family the way we treat our relationship with Jesus? Imagine if we only spoke to them once a week…on Sundays? What if we chose not to listen to 90% of the things they said to us? What if we took for granted all of the things they did for us?  Would the relationship last?

We get busy. We get tired. But building and developing our relationship with Jesus is not what we need to take a break from….its the vacation. But, we don’t care. We know all the right answers. Most of us can look to a time when we were right with God and remember the way we felt..we remember the fire…we remember what it was like to rely on Him…to trust Him…to really and truly LOVE him.

So why are we still on the Jesus couch? Why are we sleeping through this life? It may be comfortable…its certainly easier. Any relationship takes work, and the Jesus couch often looks more inviting, more entertaining….The thing is, He won’t give up…Even when we refuse to even glance His way…when we talk about Him one way and behave another…..when we refuse to pay any attention to Him…The question is, how far do you want God to go to get YOUR attention?

Its time to get off the Jesus couch.

If only Chandler and Joey lived next door…
July 2, 2008, 7:19 pm
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Every so often as we sit and watch “Friends” reruns, I can’t help but feel envious. Granted, I’m envious of fictitious people in a scripted environment, but the basis of my envy remains. There are six people who each have five other people that will be there for them no matter what. Five people who they can depend on, laugh with, cry with, build memories with…five best friends.

Developing close relationships becomes more difficult as you grow older. You have the most intimate relationship possible, and at least for us, can grow to be content with that one relationship. However, God made us relational…We are hard-wired for relationships..plural. Its hard…When we were younger, work didn’t get in the way…we certainly didn’t take it home with us…We didn’t have kids to play with, tuck in by a certain time of night, or cart around anywhere…We weren’t as stressed, as tired, or in truth, as in need of these relationships as we are now…They happened naturally.

Having a “best” friend is something I haven’t felt like I’ve had since graduating college. (David, my husband, is of course my BEST friend, but the husband/wife relationship doesn’t really count.) There have been and are, people that I’ve felt closer to than others, and would give titles such as, “my best friend from work,” or “my best friend from my old church,” etc. However, I’ve never been certain that any of these people felt the same way. I wonder if any of them have felt the way I do..wondering if someone considers them their best friend? Do we tell the people closest to us that they matter, or are we too afraid of rejection, or that awkard, “umm thanks,” we might get if we open up and make ourselves vulnerable.

My Dad once told me about how he would sit on a rock in the schoolyard and wait for kids to come and play with him. He said he never made any friends that way. David and I learned a similar lesson at our old church. We waited around for a year or two for people to come to us…for people to invite us over…We were sitting on a rock. We eventually got off the rock and made a lot of effort….We would seek out young couples in church and invite them over. We made our best friends by dropping a note in their lap in the middle of service. (literally.) We even started up a young couples fellowship group. However, we then found ourselves on the opposite side of the spectrum. We were the ones making ALL of the effort. Sure, we had friends…but, if we wanted to see any of them, we ALWAYS had to be the ones to ask them over….There needs to be a balance. We need to re-claim the type of give and take friendships that were so easy to make and keep when we were in school.

The question is how do we do that? How do you overcome the obstacles that stand in the way? How do you maintain a close relationship with people who are just as caught up in life’s “busy-ness” as you are? How do you open yourself up and be vulnerable enough with someone to truly get to know them, and more importantly, and even harder, let them get to know YOU. The real you. How do we do that?

All I know is that I’m going to try to find out…I’m going to try. I won’t be a rock-sitter, although the proverbial “rock” is often a much more “comfortable” place to be. However, I refuse to be the sole giver in a relationship as well. I will strive to find balanced and authentic relationships. I’ll let you know if I figure out how to do this…

“Pecking away at our confidence”: Mother hens and the quest for validation

As a new stay-at-home mother of two, I have found that one of the things I most desire is validation…Yep..not help with diaper changes, not a barrage of meals from family and friends, not even a nap…What I want most is someone else to say, “Yes! I understand what you’re going through!” and, “Don’t worry, I feel that way too.” or “You’re not the only one.” and “My child also…fill in the blank.”

So many people are quick to offer “advice”, and so-called “encouragement” to mothers..Why anyone feels compelled or in the right to do so baffles me…Would you walk up to a mechanic and give him tips on engine maintenance? Would you tell the cashier at the grocery store a better way to bag the groceries? Of course not…you don’t tell people how to do their jobs, or feel the need to shower them with cliches and pithy advice. However, people seem quick to forget that a stay at home mom is a full-time job, and perhaps one of the hardest jobs a person can undertake.

I think though at times a mother, especially a new one can end up feeling isolated and completely invalidated by these “well-meaning” comments. One of the things I remember ladies (especially older “churchy” ladies) telling me is that, “Being a mom is such a blessing.” or “Your children are the greatest and most precious thing imaginable,” and other such saccharine pith. Don’t get me wrong..both of those statements are absolutely true..without a doubt. My children are a blessing, and are two of the best things to ever happen to me..However, when that is ALL people tell you, you can sure end up feeling like a louse for ever feeling tired, stressed, you need a break from your kids..Good heavens, did someone just say that??

With all of the “mother-hens” breathing down our necks, and all of the pressure to be super-mom, we can feel as though we are in the wrong for being aggravated that you have to get up at 3 in the morning, or like the worst mom ever for just not wanting to play Play-dough right now, or feeling really selfish because all you really want is just five minutes of quiet. Its okay to feel like that…You’re not a bad mom for craving balance…for being human…

So don’t allow yourself to give in to the negative thoughts that are eating away at you…Don’t let other people’s words take away your confidence as a mother. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. IT IS OKAY. We’re great mothers…we do the best we can for our kids every single day…but, we’re human, and that’s okay too.

An Ode to Baz Luhrman Part 2: Life’s Absurd, yet Amusing Lessons
June 23, 2008, 5:57 am
Filed under: Life | Tags: , , , ,

As part of my series of blogs inspired by the single, “Suscreen,” (if you have not heard it, I highly reccomend picking it up…its so choice) I have decided to include  a list of the mundane and often times ridiculous lessons I have learned. This list also teaches an important lesson…Poke fun at yourself. Everbody does stupid things….might as well learn from them, have a good laugh, and pass on your hindsight to others.

A shoe does not make an effective hammer.

Steer clear of underage, highschool drop-out  rappers with multiple felonies and misdemeanors on their record. You are not that desperate for male attention. Run away.

If you are planning on trying sushi for the first time, have a vomit bag handy. At all costs, make every attempt to not leap over people to get to the trash can…especially when the trash can is situated directly in front of your highschool’s entire varsity football team.

It is possible to get a priest to dance in a cage. ( I’m not lying.)

Cloves have nothing to do with garlic, and DO NOT belong in spaghetti sauce. (At least I was ten when I learned this lesson…I’m a good cook now.)

Have the hose ready on the fourth of July. It is almost inevitable that one of your relatives will catch on fire…at least in our family.

Cookie dough tastes better on an ice cream cone.

If you are going  to downtown Portland, jot down which streets you are parking on. It is not pleasant to wander the streets for several hours trying to find your car.

Along the same lines, make sure you are getting on the correct Max. Winding up on the opposite side of town as your car at one in the morning is not a good thing. Interesting people hang out at the max station in the wee hours of the morning…

Under no circumstances leave your wet laundry in the washer while you are away on vacation.

If you happen to notice that water is pouring out of your ceiling fan onto a couch, something is probably wrong with your upstairs toilet.

If you live in an apartment or a condo/townhouse, and you are tired of your neighbor’s constant video game music, talking, etc., it is quite effective and rather amusing to open all your windows and play Barry Manilow music as loud as possible. In a pinch, you can also use Neil Diamond.

Always double check that what you are assuming (and about to dip a banana into) to be whipped cream, is in fact whipped cream. This is especially important when it is taco night in your school’s cafeteria, and when you found the bowl of “whipped cream” right next to the giant bowl of salsa. Also, question the quality of friends who don’t question why on earth you have a giant plate of sour cream.

Ottoman racing is a quality sport.

Nothing happens to worms when you put spray paint on them. (I swear I’m not a seven year old boy.)

If a movie features a rapper as its star, it probably isn’t worth watching. (Bones starring Snoop is my one exception..and perhaps 8 Mile.)

No matter how hard you try, your husband will probably not do your yoga DVD’s with you.

It is very funny to send your mother a subscription to a gay men’s magazine.

Do not eat more than four or five sugar free gummy bears at a time.

Waterslides give you wedgies.

Under no circumstances should you ride on the Spinning Strawberry  at the fair.

Should you happen to be in college, make friends with all RA’s just in case you decide it is a good idea to run around a dorm after visiting hours and pound on all the doors.

Inevitably, your child will poop immediately after you have finished changing them.

If someone has toilet papered your house and you are in the yard cleaning it up in your pajamas, make sure yo u do not lock yourself out of your house…especially if your husband is not home, and you have just moved into your house and do not yet know your neighbors, and you have to walk a mile and a half to church to find your husband….

It is quite funny to exchange all the Tums in the bottle for Shock Tarts.

Powdered iced tea tastes like fabric softener.

If you ever have the opportunity to be a “rent-a-cop”…take it. Its quite funny to bust little punks at a hotel and get them sent home from their conventions.

Aquafresh Extreme Clean tastes like Lysol.

Avoid guys who think it is fun for you to watch them play video games.

When you are working in an office and someone requests the number for another department, don’t accidentally give them your home number and then proceed to tell them that you are retarded.

If a college course is difficult for you, it would serve you best to pay attention to the material being presented, rather than the fact that your professor desperately needs to purchase an undershirt.

Don’t ever take a group of fifty children to the Pearson Air Museum.

Oatmeal is very hard to get out of your hair.

Don’t use the public bathrooms in Mexico.

Ketchup goes on anything except corn chips.

Hotel beds were not made for jumping.

If you lie very still on the ground, the search light won’t find you.

Beware of people who do any of the following: start screaming nonsense in German, hide in the cupboard in your dorm room, sing a Savage Garden song at the request of their mother to impress you on a first date, think that swim trunks are appropriate attire for the mall, and/or people who are carrying bags of trash that chase you down the street yelling that they will not hurt you.

If you heed my above advice, you will do yourself a favor. However, it is possible to live through all of these mistakes. Trust me, I know. =)