Grad Life Voices: Living in the Moment

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written by Tash, a current graduate wife

I am a planner; not a meal planner – that would be helpful, but instead, a crystal ball planner. I know I want to build a family home, and although it will be years before we can finance such a project, I feel like I am already intimate with every nook and cranny of the design. I knew how our wedding would look years before our engagement, and what we would name the family dog. I’m so goal driven and outcomes based that I sometimes feel overwhelmed by the uncertainty of our current situation and feel an inner desperation to settle, to relax, and to take a breath.

My husband has been my very best friend for a very long time. He is incredibly intelligent, loyal, and loving. He is deep, intuitive and the most incredible thinker. Like most of us, if he isn’t following his passion, he is simply a shadow of himself. Our children are 3 and 5, and, quite frankly, amazing human beings. It’s so important that my children watch what my husband is going through, because, dare I say it, I believe they are wired in a very similar way. It’s so important that my significant other is at university, because he is happy and healthy and smiling!

And then there is me. I am 27. I am a Mum and a youth worker, but most critically, I am the wife of a post grad student. I say most critically because my children deserve the stability of a strong and connected Mum and Dad. Given the pressures of the grad life, I’m okay with my order of focus.

Looking back on my past plans, it seems my crystal ball lead me on a defunct path. Where I once thought I would be a stay at home mum, I actually work. With living in a small country township, and with extended family members who could have that magic time at home with their own children, I was initially resentful.

Eventually I came to an understanding about the gift of our circumstances. My young children have genuine and incredible friendships, built through their time at preschool. They have an understanding of the outside world and a light, but clear belief of the importance of societal contribution. Through the work opportunities I have had, I’ve discovered more about myself and my abilities in the last few years than ever before. My husband’s return to university has pushed me to discover who I really am, and the gifts and talents that I have to offer. Interactions and progress within my career has given me a personal confidence that positively impacts my parenting. The intensity in which we as a household live drives us to be conscious about getting quiet time out in wide open spaces. Grad Life is a gift that has allowed for self development and enriched family life.

Despite this, I still fall into patterns of fear and loss.

I’m lucky in that I know my home is ‘home’ until The Engineer finishes his PhD. But where is home base for the long term? What if I have to let go of the community I’m so attached to, of the friends and neighbours that have been behind us during such an intense time? What if my children will have to learn to let go of their real world relationships and substitute them for Skype and Facebook as they go about making new connections in another town? What if this path isn’t leading us to the security that we convince ourselves it will, and if the husband doesn’t find work that meets his emotional, social and intellectual needs?

It’s a big, scary, wide world out there.

We can plan until the cows come home, until we’ve got the future colour coded, alphabetized, and listed. Then, when plans don’t come into fruition on our time line, it can be a lonely experience, and it can hurt.

So, we have to consciously rewire our brain. We have to push against ourselves, and we have to settle. Because as morbid and as cliché as it sounds, we get to be alive today. Who knows what tomorrow will bring. What works for one may not work for another, but I highly recommend reading “The Happiness Project” by Gretchin Rubin, to help get the inspiration flowing. Listed below are some of the wee baby steps that are helping retrain the way I approach this stage of life.

I began a gratitude journal. It’s where I slow myself right down, and take note of how good I’ve actually got it. My children are healthy, my husband is healthy, and my life has purpose. Some days, it’s simply I found the energy to make my morning coffee – that’s okay too. It’d be far worse a day if you didn’t have the energy to make your morning coffee!

Photography is therapy, it simply changed my outlook on life. I by no means sing my own praises, but I am fortunate to have a camera, and a great local camera club to learn from. I have slowly become aware of natural beauty, the colours of the sky, the shapes of the clouds, and the tranquility of water. I think my children are having a hard time with our lifestyle, but then I look back at the photographic memories and realise just how much mood and attitude can mess with our outlook and opinions. It turns out my kids are having an incredible childhood, and I’ve got the images to prove it. I have amazing relationships with my children’s teachers and they reiterate the balance in our children and the stories they share. So actually, as far as parents go, we’re doing just fine.

I’ve created shrines in my house. A ‘happy place’ shrine has little mementos of time with my family, and a bunch of my favourite flowers. I walk past it and smile, regardless. A shelf in our bookcase has been dedicated to our wedding, with the photo album, a shell from the beach we had our photos, the communion cup and a few other little extras. These things remind me that I am loved.

When I finish work early, I head to the university. It means the hubby and I get to travel home together and score a few minutes down time in one another’s company. Friday nights are simply not work nights. Sure we both want his PhD, but we want our marriage more. We have a jar with about a dozen washi-taped sticks. I googled ‘in-house’ and ‘budget’ date ideas, wrote them on the sticks and the stuck them in our jar. On date night, we don’t have to think about what to do, the jar will tell us. It doesn’t have to be flashy or expensive, but it means I’m not waiting for the day I get my husband back.

I accept where I am right now, in this moment. If I’m happy, that is okay. If I’m sad, that is okay. If I don’t feel up to entertaining once a month, it is okay. I am me with my strengths, weaknesses, dreams and desires and there is nothing wrong with that – in fact, it’s perfect. There is a reason I am the way I am, no justification required. There is a roof over my head, so therefore I need to love it. This is my home, and I am blessed to have one. It’s a time consuming but incredibly rewarding project to make it the best darn home I can, spending as minimally as I can. The future house loses its lustre when it means I have to leave the one I’ve created!

I haven’t nailed it, I still struggle with the concept, but living in the moment is certainly one of the key and most meaningful lessons that is emerging throughout our journey. Rest assured that if this post resonates with you at all you’re not alone, and that supposedly, one day we’ll look back and realise just how awesome we all really are.

Graduation day will come, for our significant others, and for us.

 As a graduate wife, how do you live in the moment?

The Graduate Wife Dictionary: Vocabulary of Grad School

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When stepping into the world of graduate school, how many of us knew the lingo used? We know we spent a good while asking our husbands, “What does that mean?” when they first started grad school. For those of you starting out on your graduate journey, our team thought we’d create a list of words we’d wish we had known when we started our journey! We hope it helps. -Mandy & M.C.

Working on a Degree

Admissions- Admissions is a general word for the steps a person must go through to officially become a student at a University. Almost all universities have a dedicated admissions office, and all but the smallest have admissions staff that specifically work with graduate students. Some of the steps in the admissions process include taking an entrance exam, submitting an application to the university, applying to a specific program of study (like Music, or Biology), sending in undergraduate transcripts, applying for financial aid, and possibly one or more interviews.

Blackboard and Canvas- Blackboard and Canvas are software programs used to deliver online courses, post reading materials, and record grades and attendance.

Comprehensive Exams- Comprehensive exams are tests (possibly written or oral) given during the last year of a graduate program as a requirement for graduation.

Cohort- A cohort is a group of students going through graduate school together and at the same time. Cohort may refer to all graduate students at a university in the same year, or more specifically those in the same degree program in the same year.

Defense (of thesis or dissertation) – A defense of a thesis or dissertation is when a student presents their thesis or dissertation to a committee of faculty members selected for that purpose. The committee members ask questions about and evaluate the paper. The committee must approve the thesis or dissertation for the student to graduate.

Dissertation- A dissertation is a paper or book written as the culmination of years of research in a graduate degree program (usually a doctoral program) and presented before a committee of faculty in a defense as a requirement for graduation.

Licensing Exam- A licensing exam is a test required by certain professions to be qualified to work in that field. Examples of fields that require licensing exams are education, accounting, nursing and law among others.

Matriculate- To matriculate is to enroll in a university.

Peer Review- Peer review is the practice of submitting a paper to other experts in a field of study for comments and criticism. Peer review is important in academia for validating the results of research studies and maintaining high quality publications. To have a paper peer reviewed means that other experts have looked at it and said, “Yeah, that seems correct, and this is a good paper.”

Thesis- A thesis is a paper written in culmination of a research project as a requirement for graduation, usually from a master’s degree program. While defended, like a dissertation, theses are usually shorter than dissertations.

Thesis/Dissertation Advisor- A thesis or dissertation advisor is a faculty member who oversees a graduate student’s work on his or her thesis or dissertation.

Thesis/Dissertation Committee- A thesis or dissertation committee is a committee of faculty members who advise a student on his/her thesis while it is in progress, and to whom the student defends the completed thesis. At the defense, committee members ask questions regarding the thesis or dissertation and determine if the student’s work is satisfactory for him or her to graduate.

Viva- Viva is a term specific to Oxford and Cambridge Universities in the United Kingdom that is a synonym for a dissertation defense.

We’re Back!

Hi GW Readers,

We hope you’ve had a fantastic summer. We think it’s safe to say that it’s been transitory for us, but we are now officially settled and ready to start this new season of our lives!

Over the past 4 months, we’ve heard from many of you who wished to help continue this blog. We were overwhelmed with the responses, and grateful to know how much this virtual community has impacted your own graduate journey. It affirmed for us that even though we are now former graduate wives, it’s important that it keep going.

We have a team who’ll be assisting us in running the blog (seriously, go check them out here), doing a myriad of things from writing, editing, idea mapping, etc. We’ve all worked very hard this summer to make this a reality, which is no small feat considering we are scattered all over the world!

We are still looking for people to write for us, so if that’s you, please do get in touch with us at: thegraduatewife@gmail.com.

As a new school year kicks in, we hope your journey is filled with love and life.

In admiration to all of you with the daily support you lend to your other halves!

-Mandy and M.C.

Found: Two Missing Bloggers

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Hi.

Remember us? :)

We can’t believe it’s been almost 3 months since we’ve posted anything. Life has been busy, and we’d like to share some of what’s been going on with us.

About 7 months ago, I (Mandy) relocated with my family to Sheffield. My husband took a job at the University here, I started a new job, our son started a new nursery, and we’ve been settling and getting to know our new community. It’s a lot of ‘new’ that we’ve been looking forward to for a long time. But, as with any major move, starting over takes time. More than I remembered.

In the next couple of months, I (MC) am about to leave Oxford to head back to the USA. With another baby on the way in a month, a husband hurrying to wrap up his thesis here at Oxford and then starting a new job, and settling into a new community back in the US, we are about to embark on a season of immense change as well.

We’ve been relatively silent over the past three months, pondering what to do with the blog. I (Mandy) have especially felt this, as I am in every sense completely disconnected from graduate life. It is no longer part of my everyday life. It’s weird to write that. M.C. is about to head in that direction as well.

For us, the graduate journey chapter has and is closing. It makes it difficult for us to keep a pulse on graduate life and how we can be encouraging to other graduate wives…

So……where does that leave The Graduate Wife?

We’ve spent quite a lot of time discussing this over the past three months. Talking about you, our readers, who have encouraged and formed our time in graduate school with your stories and support. We’ve both gone back and read almost every piece this blog has published over the past three years. The more and more we read, the more we kept thinking, “This can’t stop.” Just when we think it might be time to hang up the ‘blogger’ titles, we get another email from another graduate wife to say, “I am so glad I found this blog….I can’t stop reading.”

Your stories continue to encourage us and others, and we don’t want that to end.

However, the longer we are away from graduate life, the harder it will be for us to keep current with what’s important to you. Yes, our new readers can go back and read what’s been written in the past, but it’s also important to us that what is said here reflects what’s going on out there. Does that make sense?

We have decided to ask for your help. We are looking for 4-6 graduate wives who would be willing to work alongside us to run The Graduate Wife blog. This is not a time intensive deal; It would only require 1-2 hours of your time a month. It doesn’t matter where you live, what you do, what school you’re attached to; If you’re interested, please get in touch with us by 30th April at thegraduatewife@gmail.com and we’ll give you a few more details. We’re excited to share with you what we think the next season of The Graduate Wife should look like.

We hope you’ll bear with us over the course of the next couple of months as we attempt to deal with the changes our families are embarking on. We hope that the momentous life changes ahead of us won’t significantly change how this blog operates. We want this blog to continue to be a catalyst for your graduate stories, if you’ll allow so.

Thank you for continuing to read and follow our blog even though we’ve been radio silent over the past three months. Thank you for sharing your life stories, struggles, and celebrations with us.

With grateful hearts,

Mandy & M.C.

Shuga’ Mommas: Weeknight Mushroom and Kale Pasta

I’m a huge fan of the blog 100 Days of Real Food. (You should check them out if you haven’t). Last week, Lisa posted a wonderful recipe for Mushroom and Kale Pasta. I decided to cook it for my family, and it was a huge hit! Given that it is a vegetarian meal, it’s also extremely cost effective for those of us on a graduate budget!

I’ve included Lisa’s recipe below; the only changes I made was serving gluten free pasta, instead of whole-wheat.

Weeknight Mushroom and Kale Pasta

Serves: 3-4
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces whole-wheat pasta, boiled and drained according to pasta directions
  • 1 ounce dried mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 2 cups loosely packed kale, with big stems removed and cut into strips
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Pepper, to taste
  • ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. In a small pot, add the dried mushrooms and cover with water (minimum of 1 ½ cups). Bring to a boil and cook until the mushrooms have softened, about 3 to 4 minutes. Drain while reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Dice the cooked mushrooms (I do this by using culinary scissors).
  2. In a sauté pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the shallots, mushrooms, and garlic to the pan and cook while stirring for 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Pour in the white wine and turn up the heat so the mixture comes to a boil. Cook until the wine almost completely boils off, about 3 to 4 minutes (if you are doubling this recipe, it will take longer).
  4. Pour in the 1 cup of the reserved mushroom cooking liquid and cook until reduced by half.
  5. Turn the heat back down to medium and add the heavy cream, kale, salt, and pepper to the pan. Cook until the sauce thickens, 2 to 3 more minutes. Fold in the noodles, garnish with Parmesan, and serve.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

~Mandy

Monday’s Food for Thought: Books to Read this Year – at least before they hit the cinemas!

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Do you have a list of books to read for 2014?

I’m the kind of person that usually reads a novel before it comes out in movie form. (Case in point, if I love the book I will often refuse to see the movie, as I have specific ideas of what the characters, etc look like)! This list came out and I wondered if any of our readers had read any of these books, or will you just be watching the movies when they come out later this year?

In parallel, The Atlantic just published an article on how reading changes your brain. The study suggests that ‘reading could have long-term effects on the brain through the strengthening of the language-processing regions and the effects of embodied semantics.’

I hope you enjoy reading in 2014! If not, let us know if the movies are any good. :)

Happy Monday!

~Mandy