on finding the reason…

Posted by on Sep 16, 2012 in career, Cornerstone | 0 comments

When I agreed to teach a public speaking class this fall, I did it with a bit of resignation.


I had a bit of a bad attitude about it, if I was honest. I lamented the fact that I was going back to teaching, the amount of time I knew that I was going to have to spend on prep time, the early wake-up call for a 7:30 am class, and whatever else that popped into my mind. I just didn’t want to do it.

What I think I was ignoring was coming to terms with the period of time in my life when I decided to take a break from teaching after Fiona was born. It was a struggle. I knew that I should quit, but I didn’t want to quit, even though it was shredding me up physically and emotionally. I cried a ridiculous amount about my decision, and I am certain that everyone around me was sick of hearing about it, especially me.

It was the right decision, and it gave me the space to do other things. I started working part time for Ben. I helped launch MCG. I volunteered. I started to lead a Bible study group. I convinced myself that my teaching “break” was permanent. But then somehow, one thing led to another, and I agreed to teach again this fall, which takes me back to my bad attitude, which was in serious need of adjustment.

About a month ago, I found myself complaining to some friends of mine, and one of them told me that she had been praying for her soon-to-be freshman son’s professors.


Then she said, “Maybe you should be looking and praying that God will show you the reason why you are teaching this semester.”


So, ever since then, I have been thinking and praying about that very thing – maybe there is something my students need to hear from me, and even more likely, maybe there is something I need to learn. I was still a little grumpy as I tried to plow through a new textbook, dig through my notes from 2008, and deal with some unanticipated jitters.

Jitters? Really?

Fast forward to the first day of class. It was okay. Yeah, I was a little rusty. Plus, that bleary-eyed 7:30 am crowd is tough…none of my sorry attempts at jokes seemed to work. But as I sat there and listened to their first impromptu speeches, where I asked them to talk about a “defining moment” in their lives, I realized that I was in one…right now.

A moment where obedience took precedence over my preferences. A moment where I allowed myself to look beyond the now to the bigger picture. A moment where it wasn’t about me anymore, but was about the people around me, the students whose path had collided with mine for 14 short weeks. It wasn’t going to be easy or simple, and I’m certain it will be more than a little frustrating, but it is my path, and I will be keeping my eyes open for the reasons I am on it.

on new plans….

Posted by on Mar 29, 2012 in career, Cornerstone, faith | 0 comments

I volunteered last week at our elementary school’s speech meet, listening as they recited scriptures, told fables, and recited poems. Carefully, I filled out my rubrics with checks and tallies, encouragement and praise. It felt familiar, like leafing through the pages of a well-worn book, grading presentations on a warm spring day. The speakers were pint-sized rather than gangly college freshmen, but oddly enough, they had very similar feedback.

Remember to smile…

Use your hands to engage the audience…

Add variety to your voice…

The comments rolled off my pencil with barely a thought, and I couldn’t help but think about being back at Cornerstone someday, teaching speech and comm theory. I shook off the feeling, and walked out into the warm sunshine to drive downtown to create seminar materials and MailChimp templates for Ben’s firm for a couple hours.

But then, two days later, I received an email about teaching in the fall, and I literally and figuratively, fell apart. It should have been an easy “yes”, because it’s just one class, a familiar gig, close to home, and we could use the extra money with all three kids being in school either full or part time next fall. But it wasn’t an easy answer, and I struggled to figure out why. Part of it was that I left teaching because it had become a physical and emotional liability, and I have been enjoying having my evenings back to work on things other than filling out speech rubrics. To go back felt like putting on a pair of ill-fitting jeans…uncomfortable and frustrating.

I have also been thinking a lot about listening for God’s will in my life, so that when He tells me to do something, I would just do it with no reservations. But…I was kind of thinking that He would ask me to do something a bit more exciting or at least more thrilling than teaching. Then and only THEN…I would dive in with both feet, be brave, and be courageous.

Instead, I cried. I complained. I waffled. I was incredibly emotional…and horribly hormonal.

But after a day of feeling equally sorry for myself and annoyed at myself, after a day of going back and forth between “don’t take the job, and God will provide a different one” and “take the job, because that is how God is providing right now”, after a day of swollen eyes, after a day of praying desperately for clarity…I started to get some.

What I found is that once I gave up on the notion that “there is no way I could teach again” and started believing that “God is big enough to handle it”, the decision seemed less threatening. Once I gave up my hold on what I thought was “right” for me, and opened up to God’s will, I felt much more at peace about sending the email with my availability.

The class may not pan out. Probably not, in fact. But this opportunity has been a testing ground, uncovering where I am weak…and I am indeed weak. Just like Peter, who denied that he knew Jesus but went on to be one of founders of the Church, I find myself denying the faithfulness and power of God.

Hopefully, I will be that shining example of someone who lets Christ permeate every decision…someday…

One more day…

Posted by on May 3, 2010 in career, Cornerstone | 3 comments

In August of 2004, I walked into a stuffy classroom at Cornerstone University, hooked up my laptop, straightened my stack of speech syllabi, and flashed a nervous smile at a classroom of freshmen. I was pregnant with Madi, newly laid off from my job at Byron Bank, and entirely unsure if I was going to make it through the first class, let alone ever teach another semester.

I survived, and proceeded to teach for the next five years. But after giving my notice back in January, it was time to move on…time to focus more on the homefront…time to find different ways to spend my evenings than just grading research papers…

It is the right decision, one that I feel good about, but when it came down to my last day of classes, I didn’t feel so good. Somehow, I thought that I would feel joy and relief, like I was throwing my graduation cap up into the air, but all I felt was…loss…kind of like wanting to simultaneously bury my head under my pillow, scream into the wind, and puke into the nearest trash can.

I wasn’t prepared for it, and didn’t know how to handle it. Maybe I had been so focused on surviving the semester that I didn’t think about ending it…who knows…

So I floated through that last morning, going through the motions…putting Fiona down for a nap, helping in Madi’s class, making lunch, driving to class…distracted by what was to come and confused about the wave of emotions that threatened to drown me.

I sat in the parking lot, trying to figure out why this sense of loss was so strong, when it came to me. I felt like a part of me…the “me” that is a professor…that loves a challenge, loves seeing students grow, loves the rush from being in front of a crowd…was being hacked out with a dull blade…neatly boxed up…wrapped in brown paper…and put in a nondescript storage locker, next to “news anchor” and “corporate executive”.

Is it what I am supposed to do? Absolutely. Will I teach again someday? Maybe.

But that gaping hole…in my identity…is going to take a little time to heal. And I think…when September rolls around, and I don’t find myself in a stuffy classroom looking at another batch of eager freshmen, that loss is going to ache. Because as much as I complained about the workload and the low pay and the late night prep sessions…I absolutely loved my job.

I unstuck myself from the car seat, pulled my backpack from Fiona’s carseat, and trudged towards the building.

One more exam review…

One more day of speeches…

One more chance to make a difference…

One more day…

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Life is too short…relationships first…

Posted by on Jan 30, 2010 in career, Cornerstone | 0 comments

The first assignment for my Business Communications students is to send me a persuasive e-mail. They have to assume that the class is full, and they have to convince me to add them to the class.

The reasons are usually pretty standard…need the class to graduate, want to be a better communicator, nothing earth shattering. Some are well written and others could (ahem) use some work.

I was clicking through this semester’s batch of e-mail, jotting down some feedback, when I came across an e-mail I won’t soon forget.

It was from a student that I had for Intro. to Speech two years ago. He…well, this is part of what he said:

“In Speech, I learned many things, but I also learned about loss. The death of Kendra Ross helped me learn to trust you as a teacher and friend. I have a tremendous amount of respect for you, and this helps me stay focused during the class. I feel that taking Business communication with a Professor that I trust and respect is the best environment for myself as a student.”


Two years ago, one of my Speech students was killed in a car accident. I attended the funeral, and took a few students that had become friends with her during Speech. I guess I figured there was strength in numbers, and I wasn’t feeling so strong. It was a beautiful service, and we spent the ride talking, remembering, even joking around a little bit…reaffirming life even in the face of a terrible loss.

I didn’t think much about it at the time, especially because I appreciated the company, but I guess it made an impression. It’s humbling, and a little bit terrifying. If I spent as much time thinking about casual student interaction as I do preparing my lectures and class discussions…makes me think.

I can carry this through to other parts of my life too. I barrel along, multi-tasking my way through my to-do list, forgetting that what the kids remember isn’t my efficiency (or lack thereof), but the time we spent having picnics in the living room and giggling our way through a game of Jelly Bean Jumble.

Don’t worry, I’m not tearing up my “to-do” list or implementing “Wing-it Wednesdays” at school, but it did remind me to stop and talk to my students, and to make focused play time a priority…life is too short.

Way too short.

— Rachel

Learning to let go…one finger at a time…

Posted by on Jan 26, 2010 in career, Cornerstone | 3 comments

There is a scene from the show Monk, in which the title character is asked to be the best man at his friend’s wedding. He approaches the task as he does everything, more than a little obsessively, including the job of taking care of the ring. He will not put it down for fear of losing it, so when the ceremony rolls around and they need the ring, two guys have to pry open his hand, one finger at a time.

I may not have Monk’s issues, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t hold onto things with an iron tight grip. This came very obvious recently with my job.

I have been working as an adjunct professor since the fall of 2004. Other than the spring Madi was born, I taught between one and three classes a semester plus three years of J-term classes. I even taught a class the spring Parker was born…for half the semester, Ben went in and videotaped debates and I graded them at home.

At the beginning, I just taught Intro. to Speech, but over time, I have branched out to teach upper level Communications classes too. It has been great to have a job I enjoy with a flexible schedule and limited time away from home.

But about a year ago, I started to notice the toll that my “great” job was taking. I was grumpy and perpetually tired. Because Madi & Parker stopped napping, I found myself starting my grading and class prep at 9 p.m. It didn’t help that I was pregnant. Toughest semester…by far. But, I figured that everything would go back to normal once Fiona was born, and I signed up to teach one class last fall, a J-term class, and two this spring.

Even though I had just one night class last fall, I still found myself struggling. I was tired out, still up at night with Fiona, and it showed. But, I refused to loosen my grip as I prepared for my J-term class.

Why was I hanging on so tight? I needed to figure out how to let go as I realized something had to change.

The first finger to loosen was my pride. The reasoning that “there are plenty of Moms who work a lot more than me and survive, so why shouldn’t I” just couldn’t cut it anymore. I needed to accept the fact that quitting didn’t mean I had failed.

I also had to let go of my worry about the future. I always felt that I needed to keep working so that I had options once the kids were all in school. I still think that stay at home Moms need to be proactive about their long term plans…keeping contacts fresh and skills up to date. However, I needed to ramp up my faith that God would provide…He always has.

The next finger I had to pry up was my financial contribution. My little paycheck helped to pay for groceries, dance costumes, Christmas expenses, stuff like that. Not much, but it made me feeI “important”. Unfortunately, once I took away the cost of my time, energy, and babysitting, I was barely breaking even. Plus, I needed to remind myself that there are many families who don’t have the option to have one parent stay at home during the early years, and if we could make it work, my desire to contribute to our bank account had to bite the dust.

Another thing I had to remember was the source of my identity. Our pastor talked recently about how our identity should come from Christ, not temporal things like people or positions. It’s not that it is bad to have those things, but we can’t rely on them to define who we are.Your kids grow up and move out…jobs come and go…but my status with Christ is infallible.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer that there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution for all families. In fact, I recently read an interview with Jennifer Garner where she lamented the grief we give each other as moms about the decisions we make and I heartily agree. We need to make decisions that are right for our families, not decisions that are right for someone else.

But for our family, after prayer, long talks with Ben (who is so supportive), a budget review, and self reflection, we decided this would be my last semester of teaching for at least a few years. Not an easy decision, but the right decision.

Back to Monk…when they finally pried Monk’s hand open and retrieved the ring, his hand stayed in a semi-clenched position. You could tell that his hand ached from gripping the ring for so long.

I can feel his pain. I have twinges of guilt, fear, and sadness. Letting go isn’t an easy gig for this Type A girl, even when it’s just a part time job.

Leave it to Madi to put it all in perspective. After I told her that I wasn’t going to teach for a while, she thought for a minute, and said, “Don’t worry, Mom. God has a job for you.”

You are right, kiddo, absolutely right…

— Rachel

Goose Eggs, Professors, and “Secret Lives”

Posted by on Jan 13, 2010 in career, Cornerstone | 2 comments

A few weeks ago, my Mom and I were shopping at Macy’s when I heard someone call out, “Hi Professor Hammond!” I turned around to see one of my former students behind a checkout counter. I headed over to chat about how she was doing, how her law school applications are coming, when she is getting engaged, that sort of thing. After I said goodbye, I walked back to where my Mom was browsing and she looked at me, somewhat incredulously, and said, “Professor Hammond?” I didn’t think anything of it, but she had never heard anyone call me professor before, and it kind of took her by surprise. She got a kick out of calling me “professor” for the rest of the night.

It was pretty funny, but it got me thinking about the different personas we have at home, work, church, ect. We are the same person, obviously, but status, background, experience, relationships all shift slightly. It’s sort of like having a secret life without it really being a “secret”. And then, sometimes you get glimpses into those other contexts, like my Mom hearing me being called “professor”.

I got a glimpse into my sister Renae’s “secret life” as a Nurse Practitioner when we were in St. Joseph for Christmas. Madi had fallen off one of the extra-bouncy beds, and got a huge goose egg for her trouble. We were having a hard time calming her down, and a little worried about a concussion, so Renae put on her “medical professional” hat and checked it out.

While I have asked her (too many) medical questions before, I had never seen her truly in action. She was obviously trying to keep it light for Madi’s sake, even donning a goofy headlamp to “see better”, but the questions she was asking and the tests she was performing had a serious undercurrent. It was so cool to see her in her element, applying all of her classroom studies, clinical hours, and nursing experience, even with this small issue. I could imagine her in the exam room at work, talking through the medical history of a patient, determining the best course of treatment.

It is one thing to “know” about Renae as my younger sister or as my friend. It is another thing altogether to “know” about her in a completely different context. Hmmm… I’m trying to think of the word to describe the feeling it gave me. Pride, perhaps? Inspiration? Confidence?

Whatever it was, it was quite the moment.

It made me want to see the rest of my family in their “secret lives”…fixing quality issues, drawing, analyzing data, teaching, arguing motions, caning, wiring, stamping…just so that I can get a more complete understanding of who they are.

Madi’s bump is gone now, but how I look at Renae is forever changed…for the better.

— Post From My iPhone

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