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    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Math Geek Mom: Thankful Thoughts
November 17, 2011 - 7:07pm

Since I will not be writing for Inside Higher Ed this time next week, I thought I would take some time this week to reflect on some of the things I am thankful for at this time of the year. I am sure that everyone could add to such a list from their own lives.

I am thankful for my family, especially my daughter, as I am constantly amazed at the person she is growing into. When she was a tiny baby and was placed in my arms for the first time, she looked up at us and stuck out her tongue. Seeing that, my husband and I looked at each other and said “yah, she is meant to be ours!” These days, I occasionally catch her sticking her tongue out in defiance, and am reminded that my first interpretation of that gesture was that it was her way of telling us “I love you.”

As I read many articles about how to succeed on the job market, I am once again thankful that I not only have an academic job, but also have one that I enjoy and one that nourishes my soul. I realize that this is not always the case, and wish those on the job market this year only the best.

I am thankful for the recent election, in which a candidate my husband worked hard for was elected, in which no unethical activities were reported in our area and which once again reminded me of the privilege of living in a democracy. I am thankful for the defeat of what Ohio called “Issue Two”, which asked the voters if they wanted to restrict the option of collective bargaining for public service workers, including firefighters, police and public school teachers. These teachers included my colleagues at public universities in the state. The voters in Ohio overwhelming said “no,” chanting at the victory celebration that “this is what democracy looks like.”

I am thankful for my former student whom I saw recently. A math major, she was recruited by the Army upon graduation and joined over the objections of her friends and family who worried for her safety. As she completes her graduate degree, she makes plans to leave as an officer for Afghanistan soon. I worry for her, but am amazed at her courage and determination.

I am thankful for my students this semester, and realize that I will look back with fondness on some of the topics studied this semester. I am sure that I will especially remember the group effort we recently put into learning to decipher. I stood at the board recording hash marks as they called out letters from a coded message. Using math, we were then able to translate the message back into its original form. Who knew math could be so much fun?

I am thankful that my sister continues to battle the cancer that showed up completely unexpectedly only weeks after she delivered her youngest child. While there is a long road ahead, she is putting one foot in front of the other as she faces “one day at a time,” all while caring for her tiny son, who I learned will someday call me his godmother.

I am thankful to all the people who research ways to treat cancer, especially those who study the rare “bile duct” cancer that is ravaging my sister’s liver. It typically shows up in older men with damaged livers, and not in (relatively) young women who are healthy enough to carry a pregnancy to term. Those researchers are giving my sister not only time, but, perhaps more importantly, hope for many more years of life. I still plan for the day when we can bring our grandchildren to splash in the ocean together, many years from now.

And, finally, I am thankful for the opportunity to write this blog column for Inside Higher Ed, and I am thankful for my readers who join the conversation here, in response to what I and others write. Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!


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