Saturday, September 14, 2013

Potpourri No. 38

Getting to know me in brief, but not in briefs…

The semester is going very well. I have 41 students in my logic course. It’s funny, but I think I prefer either small or super big classes. I struggle to feel a rapport with classes of this moderate size. Smaller classes feel more intimate and casual, and that creates a nice vibe. Extremely large classes, such as those with over 100 students, make you feel like you’re putting on a performance, but in a good way. Then again, the only large classes I’ve taught have been ones where there is a lot of classroom discussion. Logic doesn’t really lend itself to classroom discussions, so it’s almost pure lecture. That makes it harder on me as the instructor. I feel boring and tedious sometimes, but it is getting better as time goes on. I’m staying on top of things really well, and that makes me feel both productive and relatively stress-free, which is a beautiful rarity.

Being back in our Tallahassee apartment after living in a full-size Utah home for a month, it can feel a bit stifling. It doesn’t help that it’s incredibly hot and humid here. The heat adds to the tension. But the primary problem is space. We’re too big of a family now to be living in an apartment. We really are. There just isn’t room for us. Everybody’s always stuck within the same couple of rooms, and thus it is constantly hectic. And you can’t move from one side of the room to the other without exercising some impressive feats of contortion, maneuvering your way around various pieces of furniture, toys, and even other human beings. Something as simple as getting yourself a bowl of cereal in the morning can feel like a logic puzzle. There’s about enough room on the counter at any given moment for one bowl, so how do you get out a cereal bowl and the milk and the box of cereal itself? I sometimes find myself looking around for a place to set down something like a water bottle and feeling genuinely perplexed. Do I try to balance it on my head so I can get something out of the fridge? More than once, I have literally set a plate of food on the floor because there wasn’t really a spot to place it on any kitchen counter. I can then get my drink out of the fridge or whatever. I’m sure I’ll look back on all of this and laugh. Laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh, maniacally from the confines of the mental institution to which this way of life eventually sends me.

As of last Sunday, Melanie and I are no longer in charge of the younger nursery at our local church. We have no official church responsibilities at this point, and I have to say, I feel reborn. Every time I think of the fact that, when I attend church tomorrow, I won’t have to prepare anything or even worry about anyone other than my own family, I giggle with delight. When Melanie and I took over the nursery, I tried to be very positive about it, and there were times when it wasn’t that bad. But there were also plenty of times when it made me want to scream, when it quite literally gave Melanie and me massive headaches, and when it left me wanting nothing more than to break the Mormon taboo of quitting one’s “calling,” or the volunteer work that one has been asked to do. Truth be told, that’s what happened. We quit. Or, in Mormon parlance, we “asked to be released.” (Or, to employ yet another Mormon phrase that means much the same thing: “we decided to give someone else the opportunity to serve.”) For the record, Melanie and I had been the nursery leaders for approximately ten months. Official church policy suggests that nursery leaders serve for a period of six months to a year. We did that. There’s no shame in the length of time that we served. Not knowing we had requested it, many of our fellow churchgoers offered a sincere congratulations upon our release. It’s an open secret in Mormon circles that being called to serve in the nursery is equivalent to receiving a social and emotional death sentence. Everyone is always happy to see you come out of it alive and (relatively) well. I feel some guilt when I think of the married couple that took our place. It’s sort of like when you come out of a dirty, filthy, stinky, and otherwise awful, single-person gas station restroom and someone else starts walking in. You pass each other. You know the person is in for something terrible. The person knows it as well. But all you can do is smile awkwardly at each other, pretending (however unconvincingly) that these are much more pleasant circumstances than they really are. Empathy stares into the eyes of resignation. You feel compassion, and yet you thrill at the reversal of fortune. It is, in one paradoxical moment, humanity at its best and worst. It is everything you would expect from a nursery calling.

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