• Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.


Math Geek Mom: Turning the Calendar Page

The end of July.

July 30, 2015

In math, we sometimes talk about a set having a “boundary” that separates it from items not in the set. For example, the boundary of the United States to the South might be seen as the border with Mexico. I found myself thinking of such boundaries this past week as a heat wave swept through our part of Ohio, when I, almost of necessity, brought my daughter to the public pool most evenings.

In the heat of the fading day, some boundaries seemed to fade. It was sometimes difficult to detect where the humid air ended and the water in the pool began. And, after a day of absorbing the sun’s heat, the water in the pool, while still refreshing, seemed less so because it was almost at the same temperature as one’s own body. Boundaries that usually augmented the experience of an evening dip in the pool were, for one hot week, erased. As I thought about this, I realized that tomorrow we will turn over a page in the calendar, marking the beginning of the end of the summer.

This has been a summer that included laughter and tears, the first without my mother and yet another without my sister. It was a summer in which my brave daughter went on a two night tent camping trip, zip lined through the forest, paddled a raft down a river and rode some of the meanest, steepest roller coasters on the planet. I remember a song that was popular as we worked to make her adoption happen; “I Hope You Dance.” As I think of all that she did this summer, I am once again confident that she will never choose to “sit it out.”

This was a summer in which sand caused me to smile and to cry. I got used to seeing a layer of sand left in the shower, signaling another fun day my daughter spent at the beach in our part of Ohio that is sometimes called “America’s North Shore.” But when my three year old nephew got sand in his shoes while visiting the East Coast, I recalled my over- sensitive sister and told him that “your mommy didn’t like sand in her shoes either.” With only memories of his widowed father as a parent, he repeated the comment back to me; “my mommy?” I recalled my promise to his mother to make sure that her children know about her as I wiped back a tear.

This was a summer in which I made a commitment to writing, but, as usual, was not as productive as I had planned. I did find myself creating several of what I call “add water drafts.” The essence of what I want to say is there, but it needs to be expanded by adding details and writing that is more than an outline. I have a meeting in a few weeks by which time I hope to have one piece actually finished, as I work with my co-author to update a text book on a specialized topic in Economics.

This was a summer of meeting up with family and re-connecting with friends, of showing a colleague from work around a New England city I know well and of meeting up with a friend from college to enjoy the town I call “home.” It was a summer that included watching fireworks from a boat in the middle of a lake and a summer in which I saw my little nephew discover that he has what it takes to learn how to swim; “I went under the water!” he would exclaim as he blew bubbles while floating.

Perhaps my fondest thought, as we prepare to flip the calendar to August, was written in chalk on the sidewalk around this time of the year many years ago. I read it to my daughter, who could not yet read, as we entered the public pool. “Happiness is knowing that summer is not over yet.” I wish all of my readers the best for the remaining weeks of this summer.

                                  Wishing my colleagues who are associated with the Jesuits a happy and blessed feast day.


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