The Interview

Karl at St. Stephen’s Musings asked me five interview type questions. You are all invited to participate. (See directions at the end of the post.)

1) You have written some short fiction in the past. Do you have other stories in the works?

Yes, I have been working on a story based on an incident with a college professor. It was about a homework test for a programming class in my senior year of college. I can program practically in my sleep, so I just made sure that I could answer the homework questions in my head. Somewhere there was a miscommunication. We were supposed to write the answers down on paper because the questions on the test were like, “Write your answer to #3 on page 29.” We were not allowed to open the book. So, without the questions, I could not provide answers. I ended up turning in a blank sheet of paper and walking out of class. Later, I talked with the professor. I told her that if she asked me anything from the book, I could answer her right there and then. I knew the material cold. She didn’t ask me any questions. I guess she knew that I knew my stuff from my performance within the class and from a pervious class with her. In response, she quoted the prodigal son parable to me. I earned an “A” in the class, but I always wondered which son she thought I was in the parable. Was I the lost son, or the dutiful son? It took me 17 years to find out what she meant.

2) What made you want to start a blog? What keeps you motivated to blog?

I call my weblog a journal. It is a journal for me to put my thoughts, beliefs, and feelings down on paper. I had always wanted to write, but was never disciplined or motivated enough until I found my faith. A lot of things have changed about me since finding my faith. I wish I had started a year earlier, immediately after finding my faith. I had originally wanted to post entries from many different areas, especially about math (hence the play on words in the name CowPi), but faith in God has moved into the center of my life. (No big surprise.) I joke that Jesus only needed 40 days in the desert, but I needed 40 years. I thought I knew a lot about the world until the Lights were really turned on. I do not believe my story is unique, and if one person can find something in what I write that may bring them a fraction of a bit closer to God, well, isn’t that what community is about?

3) How did you come to settle in Oklahoma?

My wife is from Tulsa. We met during college in Memphis. We married right after we graduated. She had a ROTC scholarship, and was obligated to join the Air Force upon graduation. We requested the air base in Oklahoma City as her first duty station to be near her family. Most people request exotic places like Hawaii or Europe, so getting an Oklahoma slot was easy. After several duty station changes and her medical retirement from service, we came back to Oklahoma.

4) What do you like best about being a high-school math teacher? Would you want to teach at another grade level? Why or why not?

The best thing about teaching is the students. I love doing math, especially the cool stuff in trigonometry and calculus, but it is the people that give me the energy to continue. You cannot touch people without them touching you. I didn’t know it when I first went into teaching, but it is a way for me to serve others, which is ultimately a way for me to show my love for God.

I thought I would like to teach college level, but I don’t think that there is any continuity in it for the instructors. At the high school level, especially so in a small catholic school, I can witness students grow in all areas of their lives from freshman/sophomore level up through their senior year. It is awesome to be a part of it.

5) You had several very influential people of faith in your life growing up. Tell us a little bit about how they helped guide you to the Roman Catholic Church.

I grew up in a home with two loving and supportive parents with a neat little brother. God was not the center of our lives. (Note, all of us, in turn, found God later in life.) Mom took us to a Protestant church for a couple years when I was around eight or so. I loved going to Sunday school, but the whole religion thing never sunk into my happy-go-lucky childhood. As a result, I developed an agnostic view point. It wasn’t until I met a great friend in college did I finally get a glimpse of what faith was. Tim taught me a lot about prayer and a little about the Bible, but I was missing one important ingredient—faith. I just didn’t get it. I didn’t believe in my heart that God affected change within the physical universe. I didn’t understand the relationship between Him and me. I didn’t have any firsthand experience to help me.

I married a wonderful woman who was Catholic. We were married in the Catholic Church. We tried the RCIA classes, but unfortunately, none of this really worked either because I was still missing faith. I could intellectualize it all, but I didn’t feel it with my heart.

I was teaching in a large public school in February, 2001, when I reached a crossroads in my life. A former administrator from the catholic school I now teach at had gone back into teaching that same year for she had reached her crossroads the year before. Gail was there to offer me the choice to move to teach in a different environment. I did not understand it at the time, but it was a move into a faith-based community. And I did not have any faith!

After the move to the new school, and later in the school year, David asked me to go on this retreat called Kairos. (There was also this one particular student that insisted that I go too.) The retreat is for high school juniors and seniors, but staff were more than welcome too. In fact, it was David’s talk at the retreat that God allowed me to step outside of my doubt and skepticism, and find Him, to find my faith. The handle I reached out to was so simple. I had heard it a thousand times. It just took the right moment with the right people for my heart to feel it. God was my friend.

(This is probably why I sound a little possessive about my faith. It was the only thing I could hold onto while my eyes and heart adjusted to the Light.)

Afterwards, I went back to the RCIA classes with my wife. At school, Brian, David, and I formed, for a lack of a better term, a small prayer group. And this past Easter, I received the big three: baptism, confirmation, and holy communion.


Official rules for an interview:

  1. If you want to participate, leave a comment below saying “interview me.”

  2. I will respond by asking you five questions—each person’s will be different.

  3. You will update your journal/weblog with the answers to the questions.

  4. You will include this explanation and an offer to interview others in the same post.

  5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

  6. I will answer reasonable follow up questions if you leave a comment.

(Thank you Karl for the questions.)