Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

WEMon: Aug 18, 2014 – Does God Have a Sense of Humor?

math homework helpSchool starts in a couple of weeks. Judging by the jolt of excitement I get when I think about that, I know I’m ready for the return to my studies. This is the final year of the Mining Engineering Technician Program, barring any unforeseen events. (Unforeseen events = knock on wood.)

I wonder how long the excitement will last? You see, if this year is the same as the last two, I’ll be ready to quit by, oh, let’s say mid-October.

I have done well in my studies and have received encouraging feedback from my instructors. It certainly hasn’t been a cakewalk, though.

Within the first two weeks of the first year, I was stressed out and exhausted. I was able to grasp the technical concepts, more or less, and had a lot of fun with several of the papers and projects. The math? That was a challenge. I knew I had the wherewithal stored away somewhere in the recesses of my brain. I just had trouble locating the lobe that stored the math stuff and coaxing it back to life.  Still, the material was mostly “doable”. Plus, I had a geologist on my team who helped me with the trickier concepts.

It was the sheer volume of work, however, that got to me. I dropped some courses and changed from full-time to part-time. Even then I logged 50 or 60 hours a week.

The most frustrating were the errors in the textbooks or assignment handouts. It takes only one incorrectly placed decimal point to send a student into a fury after she spends the better part of an afternoon trying to solve a question. Especially maddening when other assignments are also due. These tiny but unacceptable “typos”  and my subsequent upset coloured my opinion of the entire program. Let’s call that colour “black”.

Reiner, bless, him, took the brunt of my irritation with equanimity and understanding. Or self-preservation, is more likely. He told me not to waste time on stuff. If I hit a wall, he said, leave it, and he would help me when he got home from work. Don’t get yourself in a lather, he said.

Which was a wonderful thing, right? Well, you’d think so. But I wanted to solve these questions on my own! I wanted to exercise the part of my brain and make it more nimble and less reliant on his help. Besides, as you married folk can imagine, he and I are… well, married.

One Sunday afternoon we worked together on some geology questions. We found a couple of errors in the text, as usual. The mood darkened. Then came a question that stumped Reiner.

“I have no idea what they’re talking about,” he said. “This makes no sense whatsoever!”

Trust me, that made me feel good on several counts. However, the feeling that erupted was anything but “good”.

I snatched the papers from him and slammed the textbooks shut. No doubt one or two syllables of profanity escaped my lips.

“I’m done. I quit.”

“You can’t quit.”

“Watch me.”

“Maggie, stop that!”

“NO! This is %^#*&% impossible. I’VE HAD IT!”

There were tears.

I stormed out of the room and escaped to my computer. I surfed through the regular bookmarked pages: my email, Facebook, the weather sites, and the mineral pages. Finally I clicked on the icon for the college email. My intent was to write a letter of resignation from the program.

Here’s what I found in the inbox, waiting to be read:

Dear Maggie

I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected by the O.E. Walli Foundation as a recipient of the HSMAA Mining Scholarship 2012 for $250.00

There were more tears.

A few weeks later, the scholarship award arrived in the mail. Funny. The decimal place in the email on was off by one digit. The cheque was made out for $2,500.00

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

In response to the weekly writing challenge on

Writing Essential Group WEMon: Aug 18, 2014

Come along and join in the fun!




Categories: Continuing Education

Tags: ,

48 replies

  1. Oh wow, Maggie – what a great story! It’s got everything: tears, anger, happiness – and tension! Love it! xxx


  2. I can’t let the word geology slip by without telling a story….

    Way back in the days of 35¢ a gallon gasoline, I took my first geology course. The final consisted of a written test and a rock identification exercise. I breezed through the written segment and knocked off the names of one rock after another….until I hit a rock wall. The rock was soft and almost clear. It felt soapy. I tried everything. I gauged its hardness, its reaction to white vinegar – everything…

    I never burst into tears like Maggie – instead I burst into profanity which was acceptable in the Geology Department back when gasoline was 35¢ a gallon.

    Then I gave up and asked the instructor what it was.

    He reviewed each test that I applied to the rock and each step in each test.

    Finally, he said, “Did you give it the taste test?”

    “Uh, no,” I said.

    “Then please do so,” he said.

    It was salt.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Congrats on the scholarship award. Something to remember on future tough days.


  4. Oh, what a marvelous story, Maggie. I can relate to every bit of this except the actual interest in mining (sorry.) Errors in the textbooks (I studied business) can be maddening, absolutely maddening. What a wonderfully written and honest story – and with the perfect denouement. Love it.


  5. Now, that’s a happy ending!


  6. My husband recently took a culinary class and had similar problems with unclear, poorly worded, typo-laden textbooks and tests. I remember a few profanities but no tears… also no scholarship for $2,500 (or even $250). What a nice ending to your story!


    • Thanks for reading, and I’m glad you enjoyed the happy ending. I’m sorry to hear that your husband has had the same experience, but take some comfort. You know, the way misery loves company.

      Warning: micro-rant in 3,2,1…

      Education is all about money and profit. Take their tuition, get the butts in the seats, and crank ’em through. Cut corners where ever you can.

      End rant.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I could hardly get past the first sentence. The one about being excited to go back to school. There is misery in this household, let me tell you, when the subject (ha!) comes up. No one. Not one person in my home is excited/happy/enthusiastic/interested in the return of the routine.

    Bravo on the scholarship, though, Maggie. That is VERY exciting.


    • Yeah, sorry about the unpleasant opening lines. I think this is me giving myself fair warning. I do the same thing with my birthday. I won’t be 59 til next April, but I’ve been referring to myself as “almost 60” for months now.

      Thanks for the “bravo”. It was a nice surprise.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Yay! I mean AYA!!!! Merde… Geode work! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  9. LOL and Congratulations!!! Great fun post with happy ending!!

    Don’t cha just hate getting those feathers all ruffled for nothing because something good is right around the corner and nobody sent you THAT memo?!?

    “Maggie, Alert, something good is about to happen.”

    I chuckled at your math snafus. I never tell anyone my career was in finance/accounting because I can’t add to save my soul. counts on fingers 2,3,5,6,8…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know! I was on a roll! I wanted to blast them! Then… oh. I had to do an about-face and dish out the smarm. Dear College People: You have NO IDEA what this means to me.

      I don’t think it matters that you can’t add to save your soul. They don’t have math in heaven.( BTW, you probably know this, but just in case: you missed a finger. Or three. 😉 )

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I admire your stick-to-itiveness. I’ve toyed several times with the idea of going back to school and getting my master’s degree – but just the thought of it exhausts me. And congratulations on the scholarship and the happy surprise when the check came!


    • Hi Jana – hey, thanks for the congrats. Yeah, it sure was the encouragement I needed to “stick to it”.

      I’m really quite soured to the whole education as business model, though, and if you were to come to me for advice about returning to school, I’d tell you: lower your expectations.


  11. Oh, this was really funny! 😀
    When I was planning to put myself out there as a relief teacher in maths and science, I started working through high school maths books to make sure I could still do it. So many wrong answers in the back – made me apoplectic.
    Loved your happy ending. But, honestly, administration…. Does no one proofread their work anymore??


    • Thanks, Heather, I’m delighted to see that smiley smile. 😀

      Now that everything is on computer and we cut-and-paste and use templates, we should be even more diligent about proofreading. But there seems to be a tendency to do less. IMHO.

      That said, it makes me feel better knowing that I’m not the only on to feel “apoplectic”.


  12. Wow. Great post, great story, well-written, all the elements (can I stretch that to make a geology pun somewhere? Nah…Just imagine Lehrer is singing in the background).

    50-60 hours/week? And you still had time to post? I’m ill. You are friggin’ amazing. One super multi-tasker.

    Congratulations on your great success in a field in which you took an interest only to take an interest. Look out, world, if Maggie ever finds her true passion!


  13. Yay to the money. Great story Maggie but I would top myself if I spent 60 hours a week working on something when the decimal point was wrong. Unless of course it was Bank Error in your favour, collect £2,000. Do not pass Go.


    • Thanks Andrew! 🙂 It was incredibly frustrating and not a little crazy-making to work with the faulty text. Since I knew that errors in the text were possible, if I couldn’t solve a question on the first one or two tries, I started to assume that the error was in the question, not in my work. Nuts!


  14. You deserve it, and I hope you sail through the last of your course without any inconvenient misprints!
    🙂 ❤


  15. Lovely story, Maggie, thank you! Of course the gods have a sense of humour, and irony, and whatnot. A delightful reminder to go easy on ourselves. xxx 😀


  16. Decimal places have been the bane of my existence!!! That’s so funny (not) that you’ve been plagued by them too.
    However, my story isn’t nearly as good as yours. I love the irony of the cheque at the end 😀


    • Sounds like there’s a story in there, Joanne!

      Yeah, I was so peeved, I briefly considered refusing the award. That’s how far out the door I was when I got the “not so fast, missy” message from the universe.


      • My story isn’t that interesting. I transferred elementary schools mid-year when decimals were taught in math. I missed them completely during that transfer and have struggled with decimals ever since.
        That’s a problem when you’re a CPA. I routinely made million dollar errors because of decimal places :/
        Fortunately I had bosses who realized I had other strengths 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  17. GREAT post, Maggie! And congratulations!!


  18. Fantastic post! Man, do I sympathize. I had a similar shoulder-to-rant-on in my older sister, who preceded me by one year through the Master’s of Ed. program I was in, and thank goodness for that or I’d’ve flunked out on the sheer strength of—you guessed it—the math. I only had to take one grad statistics course, but having sneaked through undergrad without a single math class (always took the alternative choices) and having had nothing past ninth grade algebra (a pity B, if I ever saw one!), I was beyond freaked out by the statistics course, which naturally also required a B for continuing in the grad program. My sister saved my bacon, but not without a lot of hissy fits and tears on my part. Thankfully we’re both still here to tell the tale.

    And as is so common in these things, I have never had any use whatsoever for one iota of that statistical hooey, either in my two decades of teaching thereafter or in the real world. Some Rite of Passage horror, no doubt. You, too, will survive all of the trivial and annoying and typographically challenged and otherwise horrendous people and things that stand between you and that degree! The cash will certainly help put a band-aid on the pain, and I congratulate you most heartily on it! Way to go, Maggie!



    • I’m glad (and also sorry) that you can relate. Isn’t it something, these educational challenges? I suppose in some small way, they are learning experiences. But exactly what those lessons are has nothing to do with the curriculum. [grumble]

      Oh yeah, we had the statistics course last year. That had it’s own “fubar.”

      Students get all of their course material through a central software portal called “Blackboard.” After the first week passed and I hadn’t been assigned any work for the statistics course, I made inquiries. Long story short, the incorrect prof had been assigned to my program. It took two weeks for staff to correct the error and for me to start working on the course material.

      In her introduction letter, the new prof notes the importance of meeting the due dates, but of course, in exceptional circumstances, allowances can be made. Great, I thought. I’m behind on this course and will have some difficulty meeting the deadline. I thought it was a reasonable request to ask for a couple more days. Considering, you know, the error was theirs!

      Apparently not a reasonable request.


  19. I’m so laughing. Great story. Oh, and agonizing with you at the same time. Yup.



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