Necessito una Maestra Simpatica

Seven months ago, I desired full immersion in a Spanish speaking society in order to use my knowledge, albeit elementary, of the language so that I could both perfect my use and spread the message of Christ. Well, I did get my desire, but not as I thought I would have it. Isn’t that how God usually works?

Instead, in beginning my masters program in Curriculum and Instruction, I am taking a Special Topics in Bilingual Education and the course – I’m laughing in the circumstance as I write this – is completely in Spanish. Oh, Kristel, you mean the instructions are in Spanish. No, I mean exactly that plus completing all of our assignments, tests, forum discussions, diary, and I’m pretty much guessing that will include speeches too, in Español. I believe the experience is supposed to really let us live what it is like to learn in a language that is not your own.

I was kind of shocked at my reaction when learning of this minuscule detail. My typical response would involve me furtively searching for an “un-enroll me” button on the Blackboard site, e-mailing the professor of this gargantuan mistake, pressing the “return this purchase” for the book I got off Amazon.com, anything to avoid the sheer embarrassment that will befall me when I make my first Spanish speaking/writing/reading/interpreting gaffe. Instead, I actually welcome the challenge. I feel that yes, it will be quite arduous, but so would going to a country and having nothing else to rely on but what has been stored in the recesses of memory. At least this way, God has given me access to translation services and using the skill I know best: escribir.

Diffident Observer Equals Diffident Voter

I hate discussing politics.  The fact that I’m writing about them now causes all sorts of nauseousness rising in me like a volcano.  The main reason I hate discussing them is because, the “conversation” is mostly me listening to someone else rant about why such-and-such president/candidate is not a good fit for our country.  I’m not that passionate about either side, because I don’t take sides.  I’m a peacemaker, a stand-in-the-corner-while-others-hash-it-out type, a write-about-it-later-but-never-utter-a-word-in-person type.

I hold personal beliefs that both Democrats and Republicans are for and against and so I can never decide.   When I listen to political debates, all I hear is “money, money, money” and “this is who should get it.”  As a Christian voter, I’m equally torn.  Many Christians believe that in order to fix our country we need to tell people that they can’t have abortions and they can’t be gay.  Many Christians believe it’s not right to favor those who won’t take personal responsibility and clean up, shape up, and move up the economic ladder. Alternatively, other Christians feel it is right to be the voice for the lower class, even when some of those in this class don’t try to help themselves.

I find myself adhering to my Republican beliefs when I am among my conservative friends and my Democratic beliefs when I am with my liberal friends.  This shapeshifting is a conundrum for the undecided voter.  I want to be true to myself, but there are just some issues that I worry about facing if I vote a particular way.

It turns out, I won’t get to vote a particular way, or justify my actions to my conservative or liberal friends. I recently looked up my voter status, because I couldn’t remember seeing my card anywhere.  It was effective September 2008 through January 2012.  Awesome.

~~~~~

I’d like to end this post with a Bible verse:  1 Timothy 6:7-10

“For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Birth Order: Our First Neighbors

I have always been fascinated by the innate qualities and exterior factors that shape who we become as a person.  One of the uncontrollable qualities we have that greatly contours our behavior and how we relate to others is our birth order.

Before reading more, have some fun and take this short test on the Big Five Personalities at http://www.outofservice.com/bigfive/

[Now that is done, read on…]

An interesting analysis that can be done with birth order is looking at who you marry.  For example, my husband and I are both firstborns.  He and I both have a well balanced sense of working hard at tasks given us [We must please others! – Seth would say that he doesn’t care what people think of him, but him wanting to be the best at his job makes me think otherwise].  On the negative side, he is stubborn and I’m selfish.  I’m sure growing up with him, he domineered his sister and brother because he was there first.  [Do it my way!] My sister could probably attest to the fact that I did not like to share.  [Those were my toys first!]  As a couple, we both assert ourselves and battle it out for control, but luckily for Seth, I acquiesce due to my more domineering, people-pleasing tendencies.

I wonder what the first couple’s “birth order” means about them.  Eve is quite a firstborn, being able to repeat verbatim what God told her about the forbidden fruit; Frank J. Sulloway, a leading psychologist on Birth Order, says that firstborns “generally are more conscientious than laterborns, a difference that is exemplified by their being more responsible, ambitious, organized, and academically successful” (Sulloway 46).  Eve probably took notes as God said, “Do not eat from the tree of life.”  I guess she didn’t study hard enough.  Adam shows his people-pleasing inclination when Eve “gave [the apple] to [him]…and he ate it” (Genesis 3:6).   No raucous from him!

What Sulloway spends most of his Birth Order research on is within the family and how birth order affects sibling competition and human behavior (39).  In Chapter 2 of his Conceptual Challenges in Evolutionary Psychology: Innovative Research Strategies (2001), Sulloway asserts “birth order is a powerful proximate…source of sibling strategies.  These strategic variations arise because birth order is correlated with differences in age, physical size, power, and status within the family.  These disparities cause siblings to experience family relationships in dissimilar ways and to pursue differing ways of maximizing their parents’ investments in their welfare…even when parents do not favor one child over another, sibling competition influences the dynamics of family life because it promotes diversity.  Such competition generally involves the cultivation and exploitation of family niches that correspond to differences in birth order” (44-45).

After The Fall, jealousy prevails.  Cain’s first emotions recorded are anger and a “downcast” face (Genesis 4:5).  This analysis may be a stretch, but Sulloway states that firstborns “appear to be more neurotic in the sense of being temperamental and anxious about their status” (46).  Finding out later that God favored Abel’s offering over his own probably made Cain “question his status” a bit, not that murdering his brother was warranted.

The next set of Biblical brothers, Esau and Jacob, are also excellent examples.  Sulloway remarks that “the process of sibling differentiation extends to relationships with parents.  When a firstborn identifies more strongly with one parent, the next younger sibling is likely to identify more strongly with the other parent” (48).  First, in Genesis 25, readers are told that Isaac favored Esau because of his connection to the animals and Rebecca favored Jacob.  Second, Jacob begins out his life as the laterborn, who devises a plan, with his mother’s help, to take Esau’s birthright.  According to the Big Five personality dimensions (53), laterborns “seek out an unoccupied family niche, in part by cultivating latent talents that can be discovered only through experimentation.  For these reasons, laterborns are generally more exploratory, unconventional, and tolerant of risk; they also tend to use low-power strategies, such as whining, pleading, humor, social intelligence, offers of reciprocal altruism, and wherever expedient, appealing to parents for help” (47).  To gain his brother’s birthright, Jacob uses his cunning to throw a “tit for tat” situation on Esau, thereby gaining Esau’s birthright so Esau could eat because he was so “famished [he] was about to die” (Genesis 25:30-34).  Jacob also uses his social intelligence to gain the blessing from Jacob in the famous “hairy arms” dupe.  I find it interesting, that despite that Jacob and Esau were twins, they definitely fall into the “firstborn vs. laterborn” categories.

Sulloway does comment on cases of twins, but mostly to show the influence of the family on personality.  Twins seem to offer the constant position in the experiment.  In Sulloway’s 2002 “Technical Report” in which he defended his assertions and claims against naysayers, he states that there is a five percent effect that the surrounding family members have on an individual’s personality, which he is able to find based on his twin studies (The Role of the Family, www.sulloway.org/metaanalysis.htm).  What can we really gain from knowing that family has five percent effect on our personality?  Sulloway remarks that, “the most important conclusion from this research appears to be that the bulk of the influence of the family environment (including parents) is not shared by siblings.  And why should that be?  Parents react differently to each of their offspring, because offspring themselves are different” (The Role of Family).

The fact that Seth and I are both firstborns with very “firstborn expectations” worries me some for Lexi, our oldest.  I, like many mothers before me, am seeing how easy I am on the other two compared to her.  The ultimate lesson is in what I do with all of this information before me.  I think it is natural to expect the most of your oldest, as attested by the aforementioned research, but I can also help us both to not place all this weight on her shoulders.  I think that will make me a better mother to her, and hopefully a more relatable confidant, like my own mother is to me, when she has children of her own.

For an excellent breakdown of most of this information, please visit fellow wordpress blogger hedjumacation’s post on Birth Order at http://hedjumacation.net/considerations/uniqueness/birth-order/.

[Disclaimer: The fact that I’m using a Darwin fan’s analysis on Bible characters is not lost on me; I’m very much aware of the irony here.  However, I found Sulloway’s writing the most informative.]

Torn

As I embark on a potential switch in careers while carrying our third child and wanting the best for him/her, I find myself simply torn.  I battle with serious depression and anxiety, for which I am medicated, but the rift within me seems so much greater than any kind of medical diagnosis.  I want the life of a mother raising her children in a focused and loving environment, but I would be devastated if not given the opportunity to use my intelligence and abilities. 

 Fortunately, we cannot afford for me not to work.  While I find myself dreaming of the picturesque day when I could get in some writing before my children wake up, prepare a nutritious breakfast for them to feast upon, have a day lined out with brainwave enhancing activities for them to practice, and retire in the evening with three in the hay and a nice glass of wine in my hand, I know that this will not be a possibility in any near future of mine.  I have married “under” me, which is a term that inherently seems elitist and probably is more than I would like it to be, but at the time of our marriage my husband had no college degree besides his Associates and worked in manual labor.  I, on the other hand, came from a family in which both parents held masters in their fields and I personally was four months shy of my Bachelors.  I graduated with honors and felt that I was smarter than he.  In truth, I do sound elitist. 

 Work, though, is something I have to do because of my intelligence.  I’m inquisitive and simply enjoy learning.  If there was an occupation in which I could sit, listen, take notes, write papers based on all I’ve learned, and then hopefully be praised by others, I would take it in a heartbeat.  There may be variations of occupations with these prerequisites, like being a Researcher, but to my knowledge no such job truly exits.  However, that does not keep me from seeking a job that could definitely use these skills, these favors towards continual education. Work is a place where I can separate myself from “mother of three” and just be. 

 The rift that I previously referred to has grown stronger since the uncertainties have loomed larger.  This rift caused me to ravenously search Amazon for a book that just might give me a glimpse into another woman’s life, whom might just be experiencing what I was.  Then I found it, a buoy in a sea to which I could hang on to and simply rest when the uncertainties chased me like the current. Samantha Parent Walravens compiled Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career, and the Conflict of Modern Motherhood which is a collection of stories from women all over the world who sent in their day-by-day struggles with balancing children and career.

 I began reading the stories after one of my largest meltdowns I had had in awhile.  After reading a couple of the true tales, my emotions swung like a pendulum to another side of peace, a place I could navigate knowing I was not alone.  God had blessed me with a gift in Walravens’ compilation and I am compelled to share it with women that I know could use it. 

 One such glimpse into a woman’s life struck just the right chord.  Lindsey Mead, in her story “A Foot in Two Worlds” talks about her prestigious Ivy League education being wasted when scaling back in the professional world to align herself with her family goals.  Her fears resonate with me as I hope that one day I will be able to continue in my pursuit of my masters and doctorate in English and that my education and all the money I will spend to attain that education will be worth it and not a detriment to my husband and children. 

 I strongly encourage anyone reading this who may have the same fears and tears in her life to read this book.  It is a fabulous look at what modern mothers struggle with in our society today.  I pray it gives you the sense of peace it has offered me in these past few days.  It might just give you some direction as well. 

 References:

 Mead, Lindsey.  “A Foot in Two Worlds.”  Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career, and the

            Conflict of Modern Motherhood.  27 April 2011.  Coffeetown Press. 

            Originally published online in PAW (Princeton Alumni Weekly), September 22, 2010.

 Parent Walravens, Samantha.  Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career, and the Conflict of

            Modern Motherhood.  27 April 2011.  Coffeetown Press.

Diffident, that’s me

I finally did it.  After almost six years — yes, six years — I took the opportunity to express my ideas to the world.  I started a blog.  My mom would be so proud.  Okay, not really, but what may seem like such an easy decision to many has been a mountain to me.  Actually, make that more like Mt. Everest.  My life is a moment-by-moment mountain where self-doubt towers over me and tells me “there’s no way you can.” 

Several post-graduate ventures on my part testify to my constant refusal to refuse to give up.  I, the “major in what I love” not what is practical, graduated with a B.A. in English and almost as soon as my diploma was in my hand, had the startling, pull-into-reality question of “now what am I going to do with this degree” ground me into dust.  Which direction would the wind take me?  Notice, the wind would do something, not I.  With a (minimal, kinda, sorta) interest in the legal field I would test the waters with a position as a legal secretary.  However, I had no idea exactly how hot the water would be.

I struggled with my perfectionism and learning to put my soft heart aside.  I struggled while trying to emulate the direct, no-holds-bar, extremely confident lawyer I had to impress with my skills.  Who knew that although I felt that I floundered in this position, he would see skill?  It worked, for awhile, but my crying when I felt I didn’t master the attempt at making my working-self a 180 degree of what I had grown up to be the past twenty-three years was constantly in the way.  I thought – more like fraught – that there was no way for me to succeed in this field, so it was time to move forward. 

After gaining employment at the law office, there was always this nagging in my idealistic heart that I wasn’t effectively using my degree and I should pursue, instead, the education of children in all things English.  I had my bachelor’s already, so I set forth and completed a one year post-bacclaureate certification program at a local, albeit expensive, university.  As you read this, you may think that I was surely undertaking productiveness versus hesitancy.  On the contrary, most of my bachelor’s program was a swing between several majors: journalism, psychology, criminal justice, and finally English – education was far from my ambitions.  All of my college hours were also “accomplished” at three separate colleges nonetheless.  I had made my decision over several months of weighing pros and cons of pursuing education and then jumped off the cliff. 

Four, tumultuous years later, I’ve taught English to 10th graders, 9th graders, and will possibly do so for 8th graders this coming fall (I’m still tipping the scales back and forth as expected).  After finding out in March that I would be non-renewed due to my inept classroom management skills, I thought this is the end.  I even applied to the law office I had worked at prior to teaching, hoping that I had done enough of a good job to be reconsidered.  I joked with interviewers about my flightiness with careers, saying that I should have worked in high school education before embarking on any legal career. As it pans out, no such luck winning any lawyers over with this phrase.  I could write lesson plans out the wazoo, implement them to some degree, but expect me to control other people who have very independent minds of their own and I lose. 

Right now my indecision is based on uncertainty.  My husband, who has recently graduated from an working-adult based program pursues a teaching position in the worst possible time — legislatively speaking.  In order to make himself more marketable he has stated he would coach and decline the first year stipend.  We also attempt to sell our house and downsize like millions of other families, raise an independent and stubborn four year old and a “terrible two’ year old, and expect our third child in November.

The question floating in my head since December 2005 has never ceased to tick across my brain.  Another question that follows it is “why haven’t you written anything worthwhile since graduating with your beloved English B.A.”  I feel like a stock broker monitering my constant influx of self-depreciation. 

However, now I’ve done my research by subscribing to Allena Tapia’s articles on Freelance Writing at About.com, signed up with an account I’ve had for six months at Freelancer.com where I’ve bid, but fear has kept me from responding with samples.  I decided I would begin creating samples by starting a blog to hopefully remedy this fear. 

I did it.  I created a blog.  The questions that come now are: “will I keep up with it?  What if no one cares?  Will I humiliate myself and have nothing to add to the billions of blogs already out there?  What if I fail at something once again?”

Today I took a step forward toward my writing future.  I really hope it sticks.