Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Heart Has Its Reasons

by Kerry Blair (getting by with a little help from her friends)

Sometimes life sneaks up on you. In my case it wasn’t a tornado or a flood or an earthquake or a fire. I am a natural disaster in and of my myself. Enough of one, in fact, to make even something simple and joyful like blogging seem like an insurmountable task of the Herculean variety. As always, when disaster strikes, there was somebody there for me. The world has the Red Cross; I have my family. Every single time disaster looms large (if only in my mind,) my family is first on the scene. Here are two examples: large and small.

Large: When I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had no idea how I would navigate the terrifying waters of chemotherapy, especially with my husband living and working hours away from home, my second-oldest son put his life on hold and moved in to care for me, my elderly mother, and the dozen or so critters with which we share our tiny piece of planet. He somehow managed to shop and clean and tend and fetch and carry—and complete a semester of graduate work. He has yet to accept payment, free rent, or even much in the way of gratitude. I don’t know how many young adults could/would handle what he has made look easy, especially on a moment’s notice, but I suspect the number is very small. Miniscule, in fact. In every way he is my hero.

Small: Though I am through the chemo now, my MS is in high gear and I feel like I am living life in a vat of molasses. I can once again do everything I ever could, but it takes quadruple the effort to produce a quarter the speed. Not to whine (oops! too late for that!) but here are times when walking across the room seems as difficult to me as running a marathon might to you. (Unless you’re Jeff, then it’s a piece of cake.) So, last night at about nine o'clock I pushed myself up from the table where I’d been playing a game with a visiting nephew and said, “I need to write a blog.”

My daughter, who is working here this summer to help relieve her older brother in his mothersitting duties, took one glance at me and decided I looked not only like death warmed-over, but death warmed-over-then-left-out-on-the-counter-about-nine-hours-too-long.

“What’s the subject?” she said.

I told her I had planned to blog about why I write. (Or don’t write, as the case may be.)

“I’ll guest blog,” she decided. “Go to bed.”

Ten minutes later, the blog was on my computer and I was asleep.

I read it this morning and realized that Hilary captured much of what I feel about writing in her reasons for teaching – and said it better than I ever could. Like me and Julie, this is a girl who dreamed of many life-paths as a child. She considered veterinary medicine, zoology, and even (or especially) becoming a professional editor. (She’s been finding errors in my books since she was twelve.) She finally settled on teaching. This is why.

There is a Reason I Will Teach

by Hilary Blair

Last week I attended an annual conference held by NAU’s College of Education: “There’s a Reason I’m a Teacher.” It consisted of several workshops and speeches by the national and Arizona teachers of the year. Although I was annoyed that several of my instructors required me to attend, being the dutiful student that I am, I went. At the end, I was glad I did.

My biggest fear about teaching is not the little monsters . . . er . . . I mean angels . . . I will teach. It’s not the incredibly long and difficult test I have to take to become certified. It’s not working with the other teachers and parents, even though this is what my instructors have told me is the worst part of the job. I worry about the time I will go for my first interview at an elementary school and the interviewer will ask, “So, why do you want to teach?”

I will freeze. My eyes will get huge. I will hyperventilate. Then I will run out of the room, never able to fulfill my dream.

I really, really, really want to become a teacher. I know that.
I just don’t know why. (It’s certainly not for the money).

The typical answers given at the conference by other education majors were: I like kids. I want a better future. I want to teach the next president of the United States. (Really. Someone said this.) To inspire others. Because teaching is the hope of the world. To help just one person. A teacher really helped me when I was in school; I feel I need to pay that forward.

My reason?

All of these. When a child you’ve been working with “gets it” for the first time, their smile lights up the world. I will help prepare the future mechanics, engineers, doctors, military personnel, mothers, fathers, teachers, business professionals and, heck, maybe even a president.

I am not going to be a well-paid babysitter. I am going to be a teacher. A sculptor of young minds – the leaders of tomorrow.

I will know each of my students as individuals, and I will know my class as a whole. I will know their interests and hope to inspire even more. I can’t do everything for the world, but I can’t do nothing.

There IS a reason I will be a teacher.

The son I mentioned earlier is also a teacher. I think you’ll agree that with young men and women like Jake and Hilary preparing themselves today, the future is looking much brighter indeed.

But why have they chosen to teach when there are so many better-paying, less life-engulfing options? Perhaps for the same reasons we write when there are so many better-paying, less life-engulfing activities in the world from which to choose.

Possibly only only Blaise Pascal knew the answer. He summed up his reason for writing thusly:

The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of.



At 6/20/2008 2:51 PM, Blogger Melanie Goldmund said...

Too bad my kids are out of elementary school age, Hilary, otherwise I'd be camping on your doorstep or taking other drastic steps to get them into your class. Excellent essay.

At 6/20/2008 3:00 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

Wow! I think Hilary nailed it plumb on the head. Many of the reasons she gave apply to why I write, as well. Who knew writing and teaching were so tightly related?

At 6/20/2008 3:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hilary, what a sweet and profound essay. I love being a teacher, and seeing someone "get it" for the first time is really an amazing feeling. There are days when I want to give up, when I'm sure I'm not reaching even one student, but then I get a note that says, "thanks, you made a difference in my life," and it makes everything worth it. I know you will be an incredible teacher and your students will be lucky to have known you.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts today!

Julie Bellon

At 6/20/2008 4:22 PM, Blogger Stephanie Black said...

I studied secondary ed in college, and though I never taught, the experience gave me great respect for teachers. It's NOT an easy job, but a good teacher is priceless. You can touch so many lives. I'm grateful when my children are blessed with good teachers. Thanks for a great blog, Hilary.

At 6/20/2008 4:25 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

My first comment disappeared into cyber space before I got it finished, but I want to say, Hil, you're going to be an incredible teacher. Not only are you bright, fun, and knowledgeable, but you have a deep instinct for kindness and that means a lot. I'm glad to see your concern for the individual and understand how important it is to know each of your students. I had a sad experience when I was sub teaching a class a long time ago. It was in an open classroom style school and there was one little boy in my class who was a terror. He kept some commotion going every minute. Because I was only teaching the class for two weeks and the children shifted to different teachers every couple of hours I endured him by thinking "it's just for two hours then he's someone else's problem." The weekend after I finished subbing for the class his father beat his little brother to death and put my pesky student in the hospital. I've always thought if I'd been a permanent teacher, if I'd had to put up with him all day; I might have made an effort to learn more about him and possibly get him some help. I don't know, but I'll always regret I didn't befriend him and try to do something. The kind of teacher I suspect you're going to be wouldn't make excuses or fail to make some attempt to know him and his situation better.
P.S. All of us who love your Mom really appreciate how thoughtful you and Jeff have been these past few months.

At 6/20/2008 5:05 PM, Anonymous Jeri Gilchrist said...

What I wouldn't give to have my son in a classroom with you as a teacher, Hillary. I know what a wonderful influence you would have on his life as well as his education. My dad was in elementary education and I know the kind of dedication it takes. You have that drive and you will succeed. I know you'll have a great impact on the lives you come in contact with. I also think you are quite a writer! I really enjoyed reading your blog today. I have to admit it brought a few tears to my eyes-- it touched a soft spot, I guess. Good job!

At 6/20/2008 5:13 PM, Blogger Mindi said...

Kerry, your kids are so wonderful because of the wonderful parents that have raised them.

At 6/20/2008 5:57 PM, Blogger Pat said...

Well said Hillary! Kerry, you do have wonderful children!

At 6/20/2008 7:10 PM, Blogger Margaret Turley said...

Having been raised in a family of teachers, grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings it is nice to see the next generation (Yes that's you Hilary and Jacob) carry the torch forward. Teachers are so special, and it makes all the difference when the teacher cares. Obviously you do.
Kerry, I am always amazed how well you manage and handle things. You also wrote an inspiring blog over and around Hilary's guest blog. I feel priveleged to be related.

At 6/21/2008 12:07 AM, Blogger Kenji said...

i believe the heart has a mind of its own. it has a heart too, well, of course, that what its called.

But i think this is the reason why the spirit communicates to the heart. The heart can be pure, the mind cannot.

At 6/21/2008 1:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The heart is an organ that pumps blood. It feels no emotions. Its temperature remains constant. There is a single node innervation directly from the brain which regulates the number of beats per minute and if severed during, say, a heart trasnplant the patient will require drugs to help maintain a normal heart rhythm. Epinephrine and nor-epinephrine is a hormone that when secreted into the blood stream can increase heart rate.

The heart has become, over centuries, a metaphor for the emtions we process, guess where? In our brains. I know its not a romantic thought, but our heart has no ability to process emotion. It doesn beat faster when the nerve innervation or blood epinephrine levels increase which is likely where the idea that that heart plays some sort of role in processing and "feeling" emtions.

But it's only a metaphor. The scriptures use that metaphor from time to time, however, we are instructed that the Holy Ghost functions to bring peace to our minds, to bring things to our remembrance and to teach us. Obviously that is a function more related to the brain than to the heart.

But who wants to write something like: I trust you deep down in my brain? Or: I love you with all my brain.

Stick with the heart metaphor, but just remember, revelation is given to your mind, emotions are processed in your mind, the holy ghost brings things to remembrance in your mind, it is your mind that is given rest and peace. So next time you think you want to diss your brain, think again.

The heart is just a pump.


At 6/21/2008 11:42 AM, Blogger Marnie Pehrson said...

Great post, Hil! Teaching can be one of the greatest thrills. Watching those eyes light up during your students' "aha moments" is priceless. When I think back on all the people who have influenced my life ... the people I love best ... they are the people who have taught me something of value. (Your mother being a prominent one of them!)

Also, a little side note on the heart. Did you know that they're finding that the heart does hold memories. Google "cellular memory" sometime and you'll find some fascinating studies they've done on heart transplant patients who pick up characteristics, likes and dislikes from their donors. For example, I remember one cute little example where a patient who disliked chicken nuggets suddenly developed an indescribably craving for them after receiving a heart transplant from a man who ate them like candy. :)

Seriously, I think the scriptures may be trying to tell us something quite literal about the heart that scientists are only just discovering. :)

At 6/21/2008 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kenji, I loved what you said. Very eloquent and a sweet thought.

At 6/21/2008 12:58 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Thanks for all the comments! I know Hil very much appreciates them, as do I.

Kenji: What a touching comment! That's better than what Pascal came up with. Thank you.

Marnie: I love it! (The comment; not chicken nuggets.) I also love the way you always have something truly interesting to add to any discussion. You're amazing.

LYcurgus: Give me a break. Use half that massive brain of yours to think romanticalLY now and then, will you? Nobody is dissing gray matter, not even yours. :)

At 6/21/2008 10:40 PM, Blogger erin said...

Hilary I am so glad you are going to be a teacher. You are what I want my kids to experience. I am hopeful that there are more teachers like you out there.

Kerry I absolutly love you! Rob and I both look at you with tons of admiration.

At 6/21/2008 11:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I love you with all my brain!


At 6/21/2008 11:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't know you well enough to love you with my brain. But you can have my heart.


PS: Kerry, am I doing better?

At 6/22/2008 12:23 AM, Blogger Kenji said...

nice here, i will be adding your site to my links. I never thought it could be so fun and light and worthwhile reading down here with my isles. I always come up and play with the big guys up there, in the large and spacious isles...kidding!

Thanks for the comment Kerry and the visit! Thanks also Ly...

I like you here guys, with all my brain. Promise.

At 6/22/2008 1:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Kenji:

All the way from Saudi Arabia? Wow. I read a post at Top of the Morning blog about Saudi Arabia and Lehi's dream of the tree of Life.

It's great to meet you. I mean that from the bottom of my brain.

Take Care.


At 6/22/2008 3:29 AM, Blogger Kenji said...

Yes Ly, from Saudi Arabia. Where all brain stinks, but heart abounds and flourish.

We are wardmate of George Potter, the one explorer and responsible of the Nephi's Project.

At 6/22/2008 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


That is very cool. I had lunch with George Potter a few years ago. Very interesting, intense, opinionated, driven, focused, man. And some of his explorations and discoveries are astounding.

We have lots of heart on this side of the world too!!!!

Have a great Sunday.


At 6/23/2008 12:57 AM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Ah, Ly, ever so much better. I think you've got it. :)

Kenji: Absolutely do take Ly's advice and check out Dave Woolley's blog. (Everybody else, too!) You'll love it. It's at www dot davidgwoolley dot blogpsot dot com.
I put it in all lower case and it works for me. I'm not sure if that's "right" or not, however.

At 6/23/2008 5:16 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

I can't believe you all are completely missing the obvious:

Hillary is totally cute! =)

At 6/23/2008 6:52 PM, Blogger Cheri J. Crane said...

Hil, I'm late chiming in (In my defense, I was out of town the past few days)but I agree with what has been said. You will make a fantastic teacher! A favorite aunt of mine taught elementary school for years and loved it. She recently retired and misses the challenge of working with young students. You and Jake will do good things out there in the big wide world.

And Kerry, my brain is giving you a standing ovation. You have raised wonderful children who will make a positive difference in this world, much as their mother has done.

At 6/23/2008 6:53 PM, Blogger Cheri J. Crane said...

P.S. I meant to add that Matt and Scott are also making heroic efforts in this mortal realm.

At 6/24/2008 3:30 PM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

Loved the post and I agree that hillary is amazing. Loved the comments too. The heart conversation was hilarious and interesting. Kerry, you are one awesome mommy.


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