Tuesday, December 28, 2010


This is the sixth post in my This I Believe series.


Amidst all of the scurrying and hurrying that the holiday season inevitably brings, I’ve found myself thinking about this next entry a few times lately. For a couple of reasons, I’ve decided to choose “existence” as my next topic. I tried to choose one that rather aptly ties in with this miraculous season in the Christian calendar, but none of the remaining 10 topics screamed “Christmas.” However, while thinking about which one to write about, “existence” kept coming to mind, and then I realized that this fits perfectly.

I was standing at the sink in my kitchen the other day lamenting to myself about the bothersome and persistent pain of a cut on my right index finger. In the winter, my hands, like so many other peoples’, are prone to getting overly dry, especially around the knuckles, and the skin tends to crack easily. I have a particularly annoying crack on the aforementioned index finger, which being the dominant finger on my dominant hand, this gets bumped, jostled, and scraped a lot. I was standing there trying to do whatever I was doing without hurting it, and some vague, wispy memory came to mind about pain. Can it exist if we don’t allow it to exist? I’m thinking that it’s some reference to a movie, maybe Denzel Washington? Maybe The Hurricane? But, would pain disappear if we refused to acknowledge its existence? Pain is a pretty powerful and motivational force in our world as well as each of our individual lives. What kind of mental temerity and strength would we have to possess individually in order to distance our belief of what pain is from everything we have previously experienced and been taught about before? Is it possible?

Yet faith is no more tangible than pain. It is equally invisible, elusive, and powerful. This is the perfect time of the year to exemplify this point. What better time than Christmas is there to demonstrate faith, at least from a Christian belief? We collectively proclaim our faith in this newborn child, a seemingly ridiculous act. People re-affirm their intrinsic belief that Christ existed in human form and in so doing has established an eternal existence.

I very distinctly remember the uncanny feeling throughout the first trimester of my pregnancy when I knew that I was pregnant but had nothing outwardly physical to show or touch in order to confirm this other growing being; day to day, I had nothing more than a basic faith that there was another being who was existing. Conversely, I (again) vaguely remember watching a movie or television show where the evil villain was eventually destroyed because collectively, the people he was fighting against turned their back on him and forgot about him, thus destroying any belief in his existence. Ultimately, I believe that we are not inherently born with the ability to forget existence. Maybe collectively is the only way that we are strong enough to both destroy or nurture it.

Monday, December 20, 2010


This is the fifth in my This I Believe Series.


Memories seem to be so straightforward; everyone has them, and how happy many of them make us. Memories simply make the holidays, so this post seems to be aptly timed to some extent. This year, we are staying home on Christmas day, not seeing any other family members for various reasons (not because we’re grinchy and self-consumed). This is really weird to me as if the holiday isn’t really a holiday. I can’t remember ever having such a Christmas ever before, and because I don’t have a memory of this, I feel somewhat lost in this unusual circumstance. I have no memory for it to tell me how it will be.

When I teach Developmental Reading, I choose to read The Giver with the kids, and this book is centered around a community that has no memories. Every memory (which is also translated as historical fact) is kept within one individual and is then subsequently passed down periodically to the next Receiver of Memories. Ultimately, the conclusion that the reader is intended to realize is that we actually cause more harm to our society if we don’t permit individual memories. Such a simple conceptual idea made all the difference for the demise of this community.

Obviously, individual memories are important. Isn’t this ability truly a magnificent gift? Just like any other God-given gift, I believe that we must learn to accept the imperfections that such an ability brings. There are innumerable circumstances where memories prove to be torturous rather than sustaining. Yet I believe that these painful memories are as necessary as any healthful ones. Do understand that I say this guardedly, however, because I am fully aware that such outright statements of belief are forcing me into a gray area between truth and arrogance, even hypocrisy. I truly believe in what I am saying, yet can I make such bold claims when my life has been sheltered and soft? I can’t say that I have had to endure and make some sense of agonizing memories, but does that negate my beliefs? My arrogance says no, that my beliefs are still valid in their honesty.

Regardless, memories are charming, poignant, heartrending bits of the past that are unique to each individual. I am comforted in knowing that for every memory in our individual pasts, there are also countless more that have yet to occur in our consciousness; but, our future memories are out there on our God’s radar. This, I truly believe.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


This is the fourth in my ongoing This I Believe Series.


My job is definitely not perfect. I just finished up another Friday night/all day Saturday combo of grading and grad work. It’s a wicked combination, but one that is thankfully nearly done, at least for the time being (oh, I’m such a waffler). Luckily, I’ve never been someone who lives for Friday/Saturday night. I like being at home, comfy, cozy, preferably doing nothing important. Yet for about 9 months of the year, my weekend nights are often quiet, comfy nights doing the necessary chore of grading.

But this post isn’t about grading, so I’ll give up my wayward rant and return to the crux of my belief—I believe in learning. I know, shocking. Revelatory. I’m really throwing myself out on a limb on this one. Who would ever have thought that Amy would believe in learning?!? I admit that I’m an educational junkie. Why else would I shell out about $12,000 for a degree that will potentially be insignificant in the long run of my career? For that matter, why else would I choose to work as a teacher? I just believe that there is an inherent necessity in all of us to form a basis of understanding about a plethora of interdisciplinary topics. I mean, of course I’m glad that I’ve been forced to take science classes insofar as I appreciate having some basis of understanding from them. But I also truly believe that the greater role of education is instilling a fundamental realization that we are all life long learners (yeah, I know…Manchester was a great fit for me, right?). So it turns out that I basically just stumbled into going to Manchester, but what I learned there about not only the process of education but also how to accept education are fundamental beliefs that guide my professional career now.

For those of you who wonder what I’m going to do once I graduate—I’m going to work. Yep. There you go; that’s my answer. Way before Abby, when Ben and I were engaging in a discourse that involved such abstract concepts as marriage and potential children, I clearly remember swearing that I would never permanently be a stay at home mom. I still don’t think that I ever will be because I’m too addicted to education. I will work in the educational field for the rest of my working life, of this I am certain unless something freakish and/or horrendous happens. This is not only my professional identity but it is also a belief that I have chosen to embrace regardless of how many Friday and Saturday nights are devoted to senior Composition essay and vocab tests rather than television and movies.

There are so many problems that we must confront in education, really scary problems that will affect our children. But I can’t give up on it just because it’s sometimes broken. I won’t be able to fix it on my own, but I can still hold out some hope in it. This, I believe.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mr. President, please let me through your police barricade

President Obama came to visit me today for the second time in 2 years. Wow!

Actually, I'm all for the president coming to town for a whirlwind tour, even if it is for PR purposes. (Um, Repubs do it, too. Don't be hypocritical.) Not only was it good for the president, but it was equally good for Kokomo. We seem to be in his good graces or those of the PR gods. NY Times articles. Stories on national news broadcasts. Personal visits from the president. Ah, good times are had by all when the stimulus money gets spread around. But, in all actuality, Obama's stimulus money has essentially saved Kokomo from the fate of Marion and Anderson. I'm all for that if I'm living here. By the way, Obama spent over $90 at a bakery here in town buying doughnuts and cinnamon rolls. That's kinda hard to do, I think. That's a whole bunch of stimulus money (whoa, I'm joking) right there, and his daughters better have gotten some of the goods. I admit, I now want to go check this bakery out.

But herein lies the heartrending issue for me. President Obama was leaving his gig downtown on the square at 3:00 this afternoon. I pick up Abby from the sitter at 3:00. I drive through downtown to get to the sitter, which happens to be absolutely, positively, as far away as can be managed and still within Kokomo proper from where my job is. The whole schedule for his 3 1/2 hour trip was kept so under wraps that I was NOT aware of this conflict. But I quickly found out when it was a) too late and b) too late. I managed to become completely enmeshed in the presidential snarl, which ordinarily I wouldn't much care about, enjoy even. It's really something of an out-of-body experience trying to pick your way through roadblocks in Kokomo, IN because the President of the United States just happens to be about 2 miles south of you and heading your way. Weird situation, really.

This next thing that I'm going to say kinda sums up my entire motherhood experience to date (though I like to think that I'm getting better). When I got so enmeshed in the traffic snarl that it appeared that I was going nowhere quickly, I found myself completely agitated, panicked almost. I could not get to my daughter! I was stuck and could not get to my daughter! In hindsight, I'm really scoffing at myself...oh heavens to Betsy. Really.

We'll pretend that I had an angry confrontation with an armed sniper where I verbally demanded admittance to the path that I desired, whereupon he caved to my wishes. Instead, I jagged around cop #1, pleaded with cop #2, turned around, came back to cop #1, pleaded some more, and was allowed to commence on my way on my improvised route, which, incidentally, took me through a historic neighborhood of Kokomo that I had heard about but never driven through before and was completely taken with the super lovely architecture of the stately homes.

What befuddles me still is the roadblocks. The path whereupon the President would be leaving downtown and heading back to the highway was *not* the only path that was barricaded by armed guards. What??? Is this meant to confuse potential assassins? Let's block off four consecutive, parallel streets so that no one will know which road the procession will travel down, even though it's obvious because all but one are quiet little residential streets. And, my final barrier that I had to "break" through was west of where the President was and was going to be traveling. There was utterly no way that any car even remotely associated with the hubbub would be coming to where I was finally stuck.

So in the middle of my mini meltdown, I called the sitter with an I-won't-be-there-on-time-but-I'm-coming-as-quickly-as-these-darn-cops-will-let-me message. Why would this even be a concern? I'm fully comfortable leaving Abby there all day, but once 3:00 strikes, someone turns into a pumpkin? To my credit, our neighbor called me moments before I called my sitter with an equally frantic I'm-stuck-in-traffic-and-can't-believe-it-arrrgggh! message because she wouldn't be home to let her daughter into their house and would I please let her in our house until she got there? We chuckled about that just a touch, and funnily enough, ended up one in front of the other once I got Abby collected and was on the way home.

Still, it was a humorous experience and an interesting memory. This guy has some cool power and importance to require such protective measures. Regardless of political affiliations, it's pretty cool but only because it was slightly inconveniencing one time. I don't want him to move in beside me.

Friday, November 19, 2010


In honor of Thanksgiving, this is the fourth in my This I Believe series.


I saw a story in the paper today (front page, hard to miss) about how Americans are changing their perception of what constitutes a family. I kind of wish that I had it in front of me right now so I could rattle off some statistics from this poll, but truthfully, I don’t need it. I know the gist of what it said: Americans are shifting their thinking away from the traditional nuclear family to a broader sense of the term that encompasses more nebulous boundaries and a variety of configurations.

I see this in my own family, too, though I would never have thought of such a possibility when I was younger. And I’m not writing here to label my belief of what is “right” and “wrong” about what the make-up of a family should look like, especially given that one definite thing I’ve learned in the last decade is that there is no one right way. I can respect that, and often find myself wanting my way to be just like someone else’s way.

I believe that when Abby is in her twenties, the idea of “family” will be radically different from what it is even now. That’s okay; we change. But what I believe in most wholeheartedly is that “family” will always revolve around love, acceptance, and memories. To me that is what “family” has always been and what it continues to be, regardless of who makes up the dynamics of the “family.”

I also believe that Abby will grow up with a definite understanding that her family is vitally important to her life, the foundation upon which she will stand as she both succeeds and fails. Family will not desert her and will be the first to cheer for all of her accomplishments.

It will be interesting to see our family in ten or twenty years. Will it be more reserved like my side or boisterous like Ben’s? At what point will our family be complete?

I believe that the day Abby was born, my perception of family changed. It is so delightful to be our own little subunit of two greater families. And this little family of three chooses to abide by that familial triune: love, acceptance, and memories.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


(This is the third in my This I Believe series.)



I feel like I need to preface what I am about to write with the disclaimer that I love my country. I love it and have always been nothing but proud to be an American. Even when our country makes silly mistakes and screws up, I’d still rather be an American (I totally disagree with you, Johnny Depp). We all make mistakes. There is much to appreciate about being a citizen of this country.

So here comes the part that I have carefully choose my words. I don’t believe in Veteran’s Day as is. I don’t support blind hero worship of a job that someone chooses to do. I just don’t. In no way am I trying to devalue what our military personnel do for this country. I really appreciate those who are willing to take these risks for what they believe in. I find that admirable. And I don’t mind having a day devoted to the remembrance of all of our service men/women past & present. But, I do object to hero worship of persons who choose to take on this job. Where is Firefighter’s Day? Police Day?

My school has a teacher who is uber invested in the Veterans Day program that we hold at our school every year. Therefore, my school hosts an extensive Veterans Day program every year. It’s really uncomfortable for me to be around for the week, especially Veterans Day itself. Blind, unquestioning hero worship.

Do we need to post Facebook statuses to prove that we too appreciate those in the military?

Do we need to stop and shake someone’s hand if we see a person in fatigues?

Do we need to unthinkingly recite the Pledge every morning to prove our devotion to our country? Doesn’t this seem rather…wrong to anyone else? Militaristic?

I’m all for my country, but this just rubs me wrong. I believe that patriotism should not be forced. Love of country can be a really powerful emotion, but let’s leave it as a choice, eh?

It’s difficult to find the wording for a topic like this to convey what I really mean. Thanks for reading. Please don’t send me hate mail or stop talking to me. We can disagree and still be friends or at least in dialogue with each other.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Just because pictures

I'm wasting a few minutes on here, so here are a couple of recent pictures that I like.

Ben raked the yard last weekend, and while it looked like a pitiful amount of leaves before he started, in actuality, it turned into a couple of decent piles. Much like snow, Abby didn't like laying down in them, but she romped and frolicked with big smiles.

Abby really enjoys numbers now, including counting Daddy's fingers. Here's a quote I heard coming from the direction of the couch tonight: "Abby, don't put that finger up all by itself!"

On a random sidenote, I find myself preoccupied with thinking about whether (or not) we should add another baby to our household. True story--on down time, I have surveyed a couple of my students about whether or not they appreciate having siblings or prefer being an only child. I pick the brains of my teacher cohorts, too. Unfortunately, the results are inconclusive. Can someone just tell me yes or no? Please???

Monday, November 8, 2010

Why can't my child eat food?

Why? Arrrrrrggggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I've gone out of my way to not give Abby processed foods as much as possible, to always have a fruit and a vegetable as part of her meal, to give her organic foods when possible, to not introduce crutches like ketchup and syrup as staples to convince her to eat, to do everything that I possibly can right so that she'll eat food because she likes it. I've tried SO hard!!!

Yet she'll only eat certain foods, in certain situations. I feel like I'm holding my breath every meal to see if she'll eat. The kid just seems to eat the same things every day. EVERY day. Little variation.


Friday, November 5, 2010


(This is the 2nd posting in my This I Believe series.)

* * * * *

I have no idea how one human brain can hold so many snapshots of their life. What an incredible amount of things that one person can remember! And how thankful I am that there is such a thing as the capacity to remember. How many absolutely vital parts of my life would be lost if I could not remember the people around me and the places that I have been. This may be one of my favorite God-given gifts.

And memories are so perfectly personal. I love that no one else can remember the sound of Ben’s voice that April day in the Peace Garden when he proposed or the rush of euphoria when I first saw Abby and thought how amazingly, perfectly beautiful she was (I admit, I’m not someone who things that babies are inherently adorable; I was expecting a wrinkly little red thing). No one can possibly remember those moments just like I do. It’s impossible for someone else to have the same memory no matter how I describe it; those are strictly mine.

Of course with the sweet memories come the depressing, hurtful, and melancholy ones as well. But we have to have these, don’t we, in order to better appreciate the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful ones? I choose to be thankful that the sheer amount of fantastic memories I have far far outweigh the less than stellar ones.

Several years ago, my Grandpa Eager died as a victim of Alzheimer’s. I don’t know for certain that he lost all of his memories, but I do know that if he couldn’t remember who he was, his family remembers for him. I’ve heard repeatedly how people live on through others’ memories, and while I don’t disagree with that, I don’t know as it captures exactly what I believe. I think that other peoples’ memories of us also serve the necessary purpose of helping us remember who we are before we die. For every moment when we are lost or forget who we are, someone else has the gift of a memory to remind us, to pull us back within ourselves.

I always have a hard time replacing pictures in frames. Something about that, like it’s hiding a memory, seems wrong to me. This is something that I’ll gladly be a packrat for; what better purpose is there than to hoard memories? Keep a camera ready and your memory album open. It’s good to review them once in a while and meander down memory lane. This, I believe.