The STEM Needs the Flower

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Oh, Ronald Reagan. In 1983 his administration presented A Nation at Risk, a report that would forever change the game in American education.

In short, it claimed we had everything to fear. We were falling behind. Our teachers weren’t good enough.

And so began our collective sprint to a finish line where all children succeed, where domination in math and science would be as natural as breathing. To achieve these goals, however, we had to shed the excess – the nonessential.

And, just like that, the STEM virus began.

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The Scientist

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“I think you should consider medical school.”

I was 26 at the time and only two months from finishing my second graduate degree. But, still, my advisor’s words were tempting. And, let’s be honest, coast has never been a word in my vocabulary.

In that moment, I saw two paths my life could take. In the first, I could work hard and sacrifice for a dream job in obstetrics and gynecology. Or I could make my way back into the classroom – likely to teach language arts (the field where my initial training occurred).

For many days, life begged the question: Science or the arts?

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Love: Where Fries Overcome Fear

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When life hands you a free milkshake, you say “yes”. But, the truth is, the last thing I wanted was more food.

For several moments, a scene had been eating away at my thoughts. A homeless man – not more than 30 years of age – waited on a curb of desperation outside of our local Walmart as we drove past. To help or not to help? The restless toddlers in the backseat only encouraged the excuses my mind so effortlessly generated.

No. Not tonight.

So we stayed the course to Chick-fil-A. The kids would share a “happy” meal, I would enjoy a leafy green salad, and the sunset would end a perfect evening.

Only I ordered fries I couldn’t eat. Then my son’s order was wrong, which resulted in four free chicken nuggets. And, perhaps most surreal of all, a cashier placed a free milkshake in my hand: “We forgot the whipped cream and cherry. Here!”

As my son’s ice cream cascaded down my wrist, I pondered the sticky dilemma. Light was fading, and so too was an opportunity.

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Things Fall Apart

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I don’t remember the trip home.

My first late night at the office this semester proved nearly disastrous. When my senses entered shutdown mode, I faced two choices: drive home sleepy or pass out beneath my desk.

But, in the middle of deep contemplation (i.e. the edge of hallucination), I heard an echo of laughter…and perhaps reason. It was a woman’s voice.

Immediately, I found myself overwhelmed with sadness. It was 11:45 p.m. and a lady – just outside my door – would soon retrieve my trash. What a life.

My very presence soon startled her. But, with one hand on her chest, her earnest eyes challenged my entire existence.

What are you doing here?

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In Sickness

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I hold this fear that I will die before I see 35. I worry I won’t know my son and daughter as teenagers. The very thought of never meeting my grandchildren, indeed, takes my breath away.

But I am overall healthy. I run 3-4 days a week. I don’t drink. And my days are fueled by oatmeal, nuts, and vegetables.

Recently, however, I was quite ill. Six hours of vomiting – to be exact. The virus was so powerful that I found myself gasping for air between commode encounters. On a makeshift bed of well-used towels – given to us at our wedding – I laid myself down. At 2 a.m. the Earth is silent.

Until, that is, I heard a door creak.

“I think I’m dying!”

“No, you’re not.”

And, with that, a hand I know so well rubbed my back.

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An Opt[ional] Out[look]

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“He’s at a great age for swim lessons.”

It’s one thing to hear such a statement from a stranger, but it’s another when the voice belongs to your three-year-old son’s pediatrician.

Truthfully, I had been preparing myself for this for some time. After all, older, more experienced parents have been warning me since pregnancy: “Just wait until the activities start.”

And now, it seems, the time has come, and the question is felt from all sides.

In which activities will we enroll our children?

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Preschool vs. Teenager Mom

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Few things bring anxiety like sitting down to Google “preschool crafts”. Really, I love creativity. I love artistic expression. But my brain just isn’t wired to seek out toddler activities when mental space opens.

Which leads me to consider advice I gained from a mommy mentor of mine just last year. I had recently shared my personal struggle in falling short of my own dreams for mothering two small children.

“Don’t beat yourself up. There are preschool moms and there are teenager moms.”

The relief, I must admit, was instant. But lately, that very idea has come to haunt me.

Am I okay with being one or the other?

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A Birthday, Bittersweet

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“How was your day?” It’s a question I have found myself automatically asking my son on our ride home from preschool each afternoon.

[Silence]

For months, this has been his response…that is, until just a few days ago. The weather was obnoxiously humid and the kids – most inconveniently and unsurprisingly – wanted to play outside. I found respite on our porch swing and a blonde-haired boy quickly climbed up to join.

And in the swinging, this magical thing happened. He started talking.

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Embracing Discomfort (My First Year Blogging)

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I think blogs breed narcissism. But, then again, what social media account doesn’t?

Ironically, this is one of the reasons why I began my blog in the first place. By my third year of parenthood (shortly after my daughter’s birth), I started to feel particularly weary from endless “perfect child”/“perfect mother” musings that I encountered throughout Facebook.

When you are raising your children hours away from family and find yourself daily questioning your parenting abilities, this environment is, quite frankly, damaging.

So I had a pretty bold idea. Why not use a blog to work through my own struggles? Why not highlight how I am coming to peace with imperfection? Why not share my story to, perhaps, empower others?

Except what I didn’t know then is this: Honesty makes people uncomfortable.

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Happy Trails

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The week after my freshman year of college, my first love broke my heart. He ripped it out, used it as target practice, and urinated on the tiny fragments of my innocence.

So I agreed to an overnight camping adventure with my childhood friends. Tears were shed, alcohol was consumed, and a battle of the sexes resulted in toilet paper and Pop-Tarts being burned beyond recognition. I needed to remember how to laugh again.

Most vivid, however, was my endless night in a poorly pitched tent. I tossed. I turned. Despite my best efforts, I could not escape a jagged rock beneath the nylon.

Yet, somehow, I found healing in the midst of my life’s first mental crisis. And – just before sunrise – the mountains closed their arms around me.

You are home.

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