It’s finally here!!

2014-07-02 17.53.55-1Squee!!! Look what arrived in the mail today …

My dissertation!


It’s surreal to finally hold it in my hands. All that work, bound up beautifully with my name embossed on the cover and spine!

One of the boys remarked, “Wow, so it really is like a book.”

Another one replied, “Duh, because it IS a book.”

I guess this means I should dust off my fiction works-in-progress and try to finish something just for fun in my spare time* over the next few years!

*whatever that is, LOL

The catch-22 of relocating

Q: What do these pictures have in common with each other?

The view from my seats in McLane Stadium, opening football season 2014

The view from my seats in McLane Stadium, opening football season 2014


Cedar Canyon: Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah (photo credit: Google Maps — click for a gorgeous, panoramic photo tour)

Cedar Canyon: Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah (photo credit: Google Maps — click for a gorgeous, panoramic photo tour)


A: Not a darn thing.


Actually, I guess that’s not completely accurate. The images above have one thing potentially in common: me.

In the case of the football stadium screen shot, my window of opportunity to renew my season tickets at the brand-new stadium occurred this morning at 10:06am. I had to log on within a two-minute timeframe to select my seats, and since season ticket allotments are already sold out, you could run the risk of losing your seats entirely if you don’t renew during your appointed time.

It’s very exciting, seeing as I’ve been at this university for 10 years, and for most of that time, you could hardly give away tickets to watch the Bears play football, much less sell them. But now, everyone is counting down the days until football season begins! (Even those who don’t care about football are pumped up, because school spirit has never been stronger.)

So, I eagerly logged on and bought my tickets. The catch-22 is that there’s a chance I might not be able to use them, which brings us to the landscape photo. (For my Texas friends: those bumpy things in the background are called mountains.) 🙂

The photo above is a street-view screenshot from Google Maps, which I linked to a breathtaking photo tour of Cedar Breaks National Monument. There are places of such beauty like this on Earth where I think that sometimes God must lean back and smile as he says to himself, “Wow, I’m good.”

The reason I shared that photo is because I’m heading that direction next week for a job interview! I’ll share more details if it actually comes through, but this is a follow-up to a Skype interview that we had last month. It’s for a faculty position and seems right up my alley, in terms of my preparedness and the direction I’d like to see my career go. I like what I’ve learned about the university; the public schools in the area sound good; property taxes are about 4-5 times less than what I’m currently paying; we’re supposed to hit the 90s this weekend, whereas it’s still in the 60s & 70s there … the “pros” list goes on & on.

There are “cons,” as well, and I haven’t overlooked them. The football tickets are a bit tongue-in-cheek, because if it really came down to it, then I could sell them. Besides, the Bears are playing so well now, odds are good that several of the games will be televised beyond just our local region. More important “cons” include leaving family, friends, church, and the sheer logistics of relocating. But, those aren’t insurmountable obstacles, and I’m hopeful that my path will be pretty clear in the coming weeks.

I hesitated to share anything here about the interview, but several of you have been so faithful to pray with and for me over the years, and I would appreciate your prayers for this season of my life, as well.

On the bright side, if the job doesn’t work out, I still have football to look forward to. 🙂

Pomp and Circumstance (Prayer Devotional for the week of April 13, 2014)

Graduation is just around the corner, and for the life of me, I cannot hum the “Pomp and Circumstance” graduation song off the top of my head. Every time I try to think of it, the tune of “Hail to the Chief” comes to mind. Funny enough, both songs are famous for fancy-schmancy ceremonies where people get all dressed up to go sit and listen to other people give speeches. In the former case, we gather together to celebrate academic achievements as graduates enter the auditorium to the “Pomp and Circumstance” march. In the latter example, we hear “Hail to the Chief” when the President arrives at an official function.

Today being Palm Sunday makes me think of another story about someone important coming to town. In John 12 and Mark 11, we read about Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem, just days before he would be crucified. If you flip back a page to the end of Mark 10, you’ll notice that Jesus had just predicted his death for the third time, dealt with a couple of bickering disciples, and then oh-by-the-way, he healed a blind man.

Jesus was riding high on popularity (with the common-folk, that is; the religious leaders were itching to kill him), and he could have strolled into Jerusalem with all the bells and whistles of a presidential inauguration. Instead, he chose to ride a donkey and enter the city in a rather unremarkable manner. The crowds were still reeling from the amazing news of Lazarus’ recent resurrection (John 11; John 12:9-12), and people came out in droves to see the miracle-worker in person. They sang, “Hosanna!” and blessed him aloud as he came into Jerusalem.

Think about a typical presidential inauguration or State of the Union address. The President talks about his successes, agenda, and goals. I can’t think of any presidential speeches (at least not in my lifetime) where our country’s leader talked about what we should be prepared to do when he was no longer in office. Yet, that’s the approach Jesus took. He spoke candidly (and repeatedly) about his death and the promises of eternal life – about light and darkness, blindness and sight (see the rest of John 12).

I wonder how many of the fans who were shouting “Hosanna!” when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem stayed with the crowd when the cry turned to “Crucify him!” a few days later.


boys in VSU hats - March 2014I have been remiss in posting an update. This week has been a blur! You know how it seems that once you get to a quarter tank of gas, then getting to empty seems to go faster? Or when your phone is on 25% power, then all of a sudden it’s dead? That’s kind of how I feel this week. I’ve been running on full, go, go, go, and then once I got home and sat down, my power drained out. 🙂

Anyway, I have great things to report! My dissertation defense was a success!! The presentation lasted a half-hour or so, and then they asked me several questions and gave a few suggestions on the written draft that they had received beforehand. Most of the recommendations are structural and relatively minor, so my plan is to send out the hopefully-final-draft this weekend. Then, I have to format it to the graduate school’s specifications, pay the binding fees and whatnot, then get ready to go back on May 10 for graduation!!

2014-03-27 14.34.52-1I bought the regalia online and used the free ship-to-site option for the bookstore, then just picked it up while I was on campus. It’s so pretty! I can’t wait for the graduation ceremony, when the kids and my parents will go back to Georgia with me for the big day. I also bought some hats for the boys, which they dutifully wore so that I could snap a photo. (No. 4 got bumped by one of his brothers in the posing process and refused to smile anymore, but oh, well.)

Today was my first day back at work (got home yesterday afternoon, not long before the kids got home from school). It has been a delightful day filled with congratulations, hugs, high-fives … and flowers! 🙂  I work with some really sweet people.

March Madness: Supreme Court Version

I really should get some sleep, but I have to jot down some thoughts about class tonight first. This was one of the most fulfilling days that I have experienced as a college instructor, thus far. The chapter that we covered is probably the driest material in the entire textbook: the judicial system. There are several Latin terms, a lot of procedural dos and don’ts, and it is difficult to make it sound interesting. It is important; don’t get me wrong … just not particularly riveting.

I took my lecture notes with me to lunch earlier today, to spend some more time prepping before the 6pm class. As I was looking back over a few sections, this picture began to piece together in my head. I thought it might be corny, but it was worth a shot!

Here’s what I drew on the whiteboard when I got to the classroom:

The players in the judiciary

The players in the judiciary

Using the March Madness basketball theme, I sketched a basketball court for the University of Common Law whose motto is “stare decisis.” The “C” in center court stands for Constitution. The referee has “jurisdiction,” while the two coaches are yelling, “Justiciable controversy!” and “Standing to sue!” to have their issues heard.

The player with the ball is “activist,” because he’s on the offense, and the player who is just standing there is “restraintist.” The two baskets represent types of precedent that the judiciary weighs when making decisions: case law and statutes.

The cheerleaders represent interest groups on the side of the court. The Supreme Court justices are on the right (there are 9), and four of them are circled, since that’s how many have to agree to hear a case. The Senate is in the lower right corner, keeping an eye on the court and saying, “Bork” because they might not want to confirm one of the judges.

Appellate Courts Bracket

Appellate Courts Bracket

On the far right, next to the Common Law seal (with a scroll to symbolize the Constitution), I put sample brackets to represent the U.S. District Courts (there are 94), U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals (only 13 of these), and finally the end of the line: the Supreme Court.

I really liked being able to reference the board instead of just the PowerPoint slides as we went through the material, and I think it helped to put some of the concepts into practical (albeit silly) terms.

I was pleased enough that the lesson went over better than I had hoped, but that isn’t even the best part of the class. One of the students who is doing really well in the class came up to me at the end and asked for my advice about possibly switching his major to political science. Wow! I know it isn’t just because of my awesome teaching (lol), but I’d like to think that I had a little bit of influence toward his interest in the subject! 🙂  It made my day.

And now, we wait.

I have some exciting news to report, although it comes on the heels of not-so-great circumstances. (If you are a sympathetic puker, then you may want to skip a couple of paragraphs.)

I stayed home sick from work yesterday and slept until after noon (it was about 12:30pm when I got out of bed). I began feeling bad during the night and woke up a few times with shivering chills that made me feel nauseated. My room wasn’t really cold, but I turned on the portable heater and bundled up in blankets, anyway. I slept fitfully until my alarm went off, then after tapping Snooze a couple of times, I thought I would try to tackle the day. I made it as far as the shower before I threw up. Yuck, but at least it wasn’t my sheets. I fell back into bed with damp hair, swype-typed an email to my boss on my phone, and went back to sleep.

My mom had already planned to take the boys swimming at the Y yesterday (since I was supposed to be at work), so they were gone when I woke back up. I’m so thankful for her help this week while they’ve been out for Spring Break. I fixed myself some toast and sat in my writing chair (cushy armchair by my bed). It took a good half-hour before I felt like I could function upright, but at least the nausea had passed. I just nibbled my toast and sipped some water.

When I finally felt like I was coherent enough to string a few words together, I opened my dissertation draft and started working. Over the next few hours, I completed the almost-final draft that I needed to send to my committee before my defense on the 24th. (<<That’s only 10 days, y’all!!) They will likely have more edits to recommend after the defense, and it’s possible that some of the committee may respond beforehand with other changes, but for now … I wait.

I texted my bff to tell her the good news, and she suggested celebrating with a glass of wine. Unfortunately, the very thought of drinking anything other than water or eating anything at all made me feel gross again, so the celebration will have to wait. Worst yet, the last thing that I ate the night before I got sick was fried mushrooms from George’s – one of my favorite dishes at one of my favorite restaurants – but now, I think it’ll be a very long time before I can stomach them again. I don’t know if that’s what made me sick (I hope not!), but just the association with being sick will take a while to get over. (It’s the same reason why I couldn’t eat pineapple for nearly a year after a bad episode in Thailand, but I’ll spare you the details of that ordeal.)

So, here we are. I will hit the road a week from tomorrow with a girlfriend who graciously offered to tag along for the drive, and we’ll get to Georgia sometime on Sunday afternoon. My defense is scheduled for 3pm EST on Monday the 24th, and I would appreciate your prayers for a clear head, articulate presentation, favor with my committee, and/or whatever else comes to mind. 🙂 We’ll start the return trip on Tuesday and get home on Wednesday. I really appreciate the grandparents for tag-teaming with the kids at home!

Favorite shirt

Human emotions are so peculiar. In the midst of being sooooo very excited about my upcoming dissertation defense, I have also experienced waves of anxiety (time is running out to make these edits!), frustration (the kids are driving me bonkers!), and one that surprised me last night after the younger kids were in bed, as I happened to be walking into the kitchen — grief. Suddenly, I had a fierce desire to call Nathan and tell him about my dissertation progress and talk to him about the defense, graduation, and the whole nine yards. I sat down in a nearby chair and just cried for a few minutes.

I know that he would be proud of me, and I know that heaven is a lot more awesome than driving 17 hours to sit through a graduation ceremony just to watch me walk across a stage to be “hooded” by my faculty. Still, I miss him. So many times when I think about things he is not here to experience, it usually has to do with the boys — achievements in school or other milestones in their lives. But this, this is something that’s just for me … an accomplishment that I wish my brother was here to celebrate with me.

So, that’s where my heart was when I saw this week’s Haiku Friday post on Osler’s Razor this morning. (By the way, if you are interested in law, politics, or poetry, you should check it out. I love the invitational feel of his posts, where disagreement is ok because discussion is welcomed. Plus, Haiku Friday is a favorite treat.) Here’s my entry for today’s topic of favorite clothing:

Dr Pepper red:
my brother’s faded t-shirt,
cotton soft with age.

Along with others,
I took it from his closet
to be reminded

Of his warm bear hugs.
It smelled like him for a while …
I wish it still did.

Teaching evaluations

Today I received the evaluation summaries from my fall course in Federal Government. Even though I believe that I am a good teacher, the packet of student comments that arrives in my mailbox the following semester makes me a little nervous. Was I really as effective as I thought I was? Sure, they laughed at my stories and analogies, but what if they were really just laughing at me? Did they think the course was a waste of time? Was I boring?

Thankfully, it appears that I am my worst critic. The most common complaint about the class was “having to wake up early.” 🙂 It was a 7:20am class, so I certainly can’t fault them for that!!

Some of the remarks that made my heart smile (I didn’t correct spelling):

  • “She is very chilled and layed back, not to mention she is hilarious.”
  • “I don’t not like her at all.”
  • “I also liked the personal feel of the classroom and the freedom I felt I had to ask questions.”
  • “Knowing that she cares about us is encouraging.”
  • “She makes waking up early for class not miserable.”

Hooray – I made an early morning government class not miserable! 🙂 By the way, could someone please tell my kids that I’m very chilled, laid back, and hilarious? They seem to think that all I do is bark at them.

Less than a month to go!

Something truly fantastic happened this week! I was going to wait and write about it when I knew all the details, but I can’t wait any longer to share the exciting news. I received an email from my committee chair saying: “Your committee has unanimously agreed that you should set your defense date in March.” Squee!!! I cried lots of happy tears and practically ran through the building sharing the good news with my colleagues.

We are still ironing out the details, but it’s looking like Monday, March 24, or at least sometime that week. THAT’S TWENTY-FOUR DAYS FROM NOW!!! 😀 😀 😀

I spent some time last night reading through the committee’s comments on my latest draft, and I was nearly brought to tears again with relief. The suggestions that they want me to make are relatively minor, whew. I still have a lot of work to do on Ch. 5, but I’m motivated to finish asap!

Everything (that is, a draft of the full dissertation) needs to be submitted to my committee two weeks before the defense, in order for the department to make the public announcement. That means I have a week to get my act together! :p

Thanks for all of your prayers & encouragement over the past four years. I can hardly believe that we’re this close to the finish line!!