Math Lessons

My dad is really good at math. Like can-do-it-in-his-head good. And of course he is–he’s an engineer. I, on the other hand, am not cut out for the subject. And it shows when I have to calculate grades.

When I was little, daddy would try to help me with my math homework. It usually didn’t turn out too well. I didn’t understand the material so I would get really frustrated, and then he would get frustrated with me because he didn’t understand why didn’t understand. But there’s one particular homework that I still remember.

In elementary school, every class would learn to count to 100 and then we would throw a big party. Well, of course, after we learn to count to 100 we continue on. I had brought home this homework, moving on from just 100, but little me couldn’t wrap my head around what came after 100. To me, it was 200. My logic was simple for a child: 2 is after 1, so 200 must come after 100.

My dad kept asking me: “what comes after one?”

“Two!” I would yell.

His response: “No.”

And I just kept repeating that 1 does come after 2. At some point, I ended up beginning to cry, and I stomped up to my room and curled on my bed. My mom explained to my dad that I didn’t understand what he was asking because my logic was different.

Honestly, I don’t remember what happened in between, but I remember daddy coming up to my room and the lightbulb eventually going off in my head.

. . . . . .

I passed a sticker on a truck today for the 101st Airborne and, though a particular person passed through my mind first (for unrelated reasons, really), this instance of doing math with my dad followed quickly. And for some reason I just thought: “if he had said what comes after zero, maybe I would have understood it quicker.”

My point is that we all see things in this world differently. We come to our conclusions in different ways. Sometimes we can take a “shortcut,” and sometimes we can’t. Because we all have different ways of understanding, it means we have to be patient with others when they don’t see things the way we do or understand things as quickly as we might.

I recently wrote a post about how we cannot place our expectations on someone else. This is similar–we cannot expect others to comprehend or process in the same manner, or even the same pace, as we might.

Sometimes–like in the above instance with my dad–we need to walk away from the situation, take a breather, and then come at it from a different angle. It may take time to come to a solution. What’s important is that you are eventually on the same page. It doesn’t necessarily matter how you get there.

Daddy has taught me a lot of lessons, and he may not even know it. Heck, I didn’t even realize this was a lesson until this afternoon. And then it hit me. He may not have meant to do it, but he taught me something that resounds through the years.

. . . . . .

I don’t know why this came to me so suddenly today or why it resonated with me so much. I do feel, though, that it came at this time for a reason. This knowledge wouldn’t have served me well as a child because I wouldn’t have understood it, and it wouldn’t have been relevant even a year ago because I hadn’t grown in the way I have now.

Maybe it came to me now because God has a plan for it.

And that’s the thing: God has solutions for every problem we encounter. But sometimes we are too busy yelling “logic” and “reasoning” and “reality” at Him to really hear what He is trying to tell us.

Maybe what He is telling me now is to be patient and start simple. And for once in my life, I am content with that solution.

I’m not the same person. And that’s okay.

“A lot has happened…I’m not the same person.”
“I’m not either. And that’s okay.”

I very recently had an opportunity to speak my truth, and I learned something about myself in the process.

I’ve changed; I’ve grown. And that’s okay.

We can’t expect people, especially those we love and who have shaped us so deeply, to stay the same. We can’t even expect ourselves to stay the same. Life changes us; experiences change us. Our faith changes us.

A year ago, I would have been screaming and crying. Now, I can calmly respond with genuine interest. And I honestly found my interest was genuine. For the first time in a long time. I apologized for the way I acted in the past, because the things I said and did were not okay. This time, I said it out loud. And I realized my apology itself was genuine.

I had previously made excuses about my behavior–I was angry, I was hurt, I wasn’t feeling well, whatever. The truth is, no matter how I feel I have the ability to control my reactions. In an odd way, I’ve learned to do that. I’m not saying I’m perfect at it–I most certainly am not–but I’ve improved.

I have had students tell me they have Googled me and have informed me, usually in a tone suggesting nervousness at even mentioning it, they found my writing and/or my blog. I have had students tell me they have seen my Writer Interview with the writing group I write with and edit for, Coffee House Writers. A year ago, this type of conversation (if you could call it that) would have stopped me in my tracks, freaked me out so fully I would have been thrown off the rest of the day. The thing is, though, God blesses us all with gifts, and writing and editing are mine. Why should I deny a gift He has given me? I’ve now had an opportunity to hone that gift and to use it to speak to others. Isn’t that what His gifts are all about, connecting to others?

A year ago I would have told you I have faith, and things always work out, that I’d never had reason to doubt God, so I don’t. Here’s the thing I’ve learned, though: it is so easy to have faith when things are going fine, but it’s hard to maintain that faith when you don’t see evidence of hope. I have doubted–big time. I have yelled at God. I have cried out to God, literally sitting in a ball, tears spilling down my cheeks, speaking out loud. I have silently prayed. I have written my prayers. I have started and stopped (and started and stopped) Bible studies in an attempt to bring something, some feeling, back to my heart. I admit that in these moments, I have lost faith. But I have also found a church that has been helping me to slowly restore that faith through community, connection, and honesty. I have realized brokenness is real–painful, but real–but that God can guide us through it. I have realized we pray and worship in different ways, but God hears all of it. He designed us; He knows how we function. Because of that, He knows not only what will break us, but also how to heal us.

“I am, by nature, a positive person. I can’t change that about me.”

That much has always, and probably will always, be true. Even in the midst of pain, I hold dear to the things I choose to see as positives. Even small victories. I managed to feel well enough to give Belle a longer walk today? Yay, me! I wrote something for my novel? Score! I worked myself up for the absolute worst case scenario, including inducing tears, and the worst case scenario didn’t happen? Yay! (Don’t you love anxiety? Not!)

The point is, I may not be the same person I was a year ago–I may have experiences that have changed me, been able to reflect on things more fully, been able to dig deep and look at myself honestly–but the core of who I am has not changed. I’m a reader, writer, editor, crazy cat lady, crazy dog mom, crazy animal lover, Harry Potter nerd, lover of education, enjoyer of the outdoors. I indulge in afternoon naps and too many sweets. I love coffee and tea (I know, weird!). And a whole slew of other things. But I’ve also learned new things about myself. I used to hate running, but, now, it’s not so bad, especially running with Belle (though it still brings a bit of knee pain). Exercise isn’t entirely ugh-worthy (though winter definitely adds to the ugh-factor). I want to travel. In fact, I wouldn’t mind not being entirely stationary. I want to experience things. I want to write articles for magazines, I want to publish a book, I want to take lots of pictures…I want to have adventures. And I’m okay being by myself sometimes.

I’ve spent time getting to know this “new me.” I’m not entirely sure who she is yet, and I’ve had moments that I’ve been scared to death about it all, but, again, we can’t expect anyone–even ourselves–to stay the same forever.

So, if you’re worried you’re not the same person, don’t be. There’s always an opportunity to get to know the new you. (And be sure to let others get to know that new you, too.) If you’re not worried you’re not the same person…well, you’re braver and more advanced than I am, and more power to you.

“There are all kinds of courage”

“It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” – Albus Dumbledore

As you know, this year has been rough. It didn’t start off that way, and I didn’t anticipate that it would be, and yet…well, here I am. With the new year quickly approaching, I have been reminiscing. While it is, of course, sometimes quite painful, I have begun to see that I have choices. I have a freedom I didn’t see before, and I accept that.

This hardship has given me an opportunity to learn about myself and to accept myself in ways I maybe didn’t before.

My mom insisted I open my presents on Christmas Eve, as we were leaving Christmas Day for Orlando. She told me I had to specifically open a large, rectangular package. As I sat on the floor, drink next to me, and opened this box, I began to realize what she had gotten me and why she wanted me to open it before we left. Lifting the cardboard lid, I pulled out replica Hufflepuff robes. I bounced up and down, hugged her, and cried my thanks. Literally, I think there were tears in my eyes.

Maybe it was wearing the robes and being able to represent my house. Maybe it was using the interactive wand and watching the scenes in shop windows move. It all felt more magical this time.

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I think, though, the reason it felt that way was because I allowed myself to be more…well, myself. I was excited. I was having fun. My mind wasn’t whirring with what ifs or trying to connect dots that don’t make sense. I didn’t feel like I was being judged by anyone, even when my mom and I went to the hotel’s rum bar for drinks and the bartender simply said “You know, I don’t see a lot of Hufflepuffs.” For once, I simply took it as a comment on my t-shirt, without a hidden meaning of a passed judgement.

As the new year fast approaches, I have begun to make my own type of resolutions. The biggest being:

  1. I am going to stop trying to make sense of something that doesn’t make sense
  2. I am going to be unapologetically me

and

  1. I am going to make plans I want to make

It’s been on my mind for a while—years, actually—but, for some reason, my most recent visit back to Diagon Alley sparked my desire to begin planning a trip to England. I texted a close friend of mine to see if she’d be interested in joining me, and, to my surprise, she said yes. We haven’t even hammered out actual dates, but just the simple idea of getting to plan such an adventure with a friend got me really excited. I don’t think I’ve come down from the high yet.

For me, this is huge. A few months ago, I could barely fathom planning a semester. The key here is planning things I want to plan, things that bring me joy. Yes, I still have to plan for my courses, but this makes it easier somehow.

I still don’t know what will happen this year, but I know it is through God that I am beginning to have some sense of clarity and patience. It is only thanks to God that I have seen I have choices, too, and I can stand by what I believe. It is only through God I have the strength I have.

As it is a holiday weekend, of course there is a Harry Potter marathon on TV. (I swear this particular station plays a Harry Potter marathon for everything.) As I’m still on my “Harry Potter high,” I’m eagerly watching as much as I can.

At the end of Order of the Phoenix, Luna gives us some wisdom: “things we lose have a way of coming back to us in the end, if not always in the way we expect.”

As I said, I have realized I have choices. So, this coming year, I am choosing to take Luna’s outlook. The alternative is depressing.

I don’t know what this choosing says about me. That I am a true Hufflepuff, “patient, true, and loyal”? That I have more faith than I thought? That I am stronger than I think? It tells me I have more power than I thought I did. It tells me I am growing. And that is a pretty decent way to start a new year, if you ask me.

As Dumbledore tells us: “There are all kinds of courage.”