Monday’s Food for Thought: Sketchbook Project

This time last year I was gung-ho about signing up for the amazing sketchbook project put on by the ArtHouse Co-op (a group out of Brooklyn that creates massive international art projects that tie artists from around the globe together).  The sketchbook project takes the sketchbooks submitted by thousands on tour.

 It is like a world concert tour, but of sketchbooks.

Sadly, with our move across the ocean, delayed shipment of my treasured art supplies and a big trip back to the US in December…I dropped the ball and never finished my book.  I had planned the entire theme of the sketchbook to be on my graduate wife journey, even though I was only a few months into it at that point.  Happily, when I discovered the Art House was doing it another year, I jumped on board and hope to have a wonderful sketchbook that depicts in images and a few words,  my graduate wife journey!  It is a challenge to work on something like this, but it is also so good to be stretched and forced to think inwardly about myself and my life in a way that is ‘outside the box’.

I encourage you to check out this fascinating experiment of thought, imagination and the ideas behind getting ‘art’ and ‘inspiration’ to the masses.  It is only $25 dollars to participate and receive a sketchbook. Even if you don’t ‘feel’ like an artist, you should totally give it a try.  You can use almost any materials and you can get really creative.  The deadline is quickly approaching so check it out soon!  Wouldn’t it be cool if we were all able to document our graduate wife journeys in different ways through this project?

Image, word, photo, poetry, color, shape… 

-M.C.

Shuga’ Mommas: Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

Oh, graduate wives. I have failed you.

Today’s lovely post was supposed to have photographs, yes, BEAUTIFUL photographs of Chocolate Chip Banana Bread. Instead, this is what you get:

Batter batter everywhere!

I love to bake. Sometimes, the things I bake turn out so well, I start to get a bit prideful. (Go on, tell me I’m a great baker). And, it would have to be today, of all days, a day when chocolate chip banana bread should be photographed in all its gorgeousness, that this batter decides it has a mind of its own. “SEE!! You can’t put me in a bread pan! I will get out!” Personally, it was great reminder that I’m not Martha Stewart.

But, on most days, I can make a mean Chocolate Chip Banana Bread, and now, you can too!

CHOCOLATE CHIP BANANA BREAD

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened (use real butter, I promise it’s better)
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 bananas (one mashed, the other diced)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • I pkg of chocolate chips (frozen)

Pre-heat oven to 350F (180C).

Roll chocolate chips in flour. When baking, this will keep them from sinking down to the bottom of the pan.

With mixer (hand or stand) cream butter and sugar. Add egg yolks. In a separate bowl, stir baking soda into milk. Add to butter, sugar, and eggs. Add the mashed banana. Combine salt, flour, baking powder, and add to mixture. Stir in vanilla. Beat egg whites and fold into mixture. Add chocolate chips and diced banana. Bake for one hour.

And, please send me photos of your fabulous bread once you’ve baked it. I need to be reminded of what it’s supposed to look like.

Happy baking!

Mandy

PS You can omit the chocolate chips for some awesome banana bread.


Monday’s Food for Thought: Reading Between the Lines

The below piece featured on Monday’s Food for Thought, comes from an online Christian journal, RZIM.  Although it is a blatantly religious piece, the words of truth it shares about biographies, are a crucial part of why TheGraduateWife.com exists.  To journey with each other and to discover that “the afflictions we find wearing are given meaning in the (biographical) stories of ones who have overcome much.”  Life is indeed too short for us to journey alone.

Reading Between the Lines

by Jill Carattini

On any given week, three to five biographies make The New York Times best-sellers list for non-fiction.  Though historical biographies have changed with time, human interest in the genre is long-standing.  The first known biographies were commissioned by ancient rulers to assure records of their accomplishments.  The Old Testament Scriptures, detailing the lives of patriarchs, prophets, and kings, are also some of the earliest biographies in existence.  Throughout the Middle Ages, biographical histories were largely in the hands of monks; lives of martyrs and church fathers were recorded with the intention of edifying readers for years to come.  Over time and with the invention of the printing press, biographies became increasingly influential and widely read, portraying a larger array of lives and their stories.

The popularity of the genre is understandable.  As Thomas Carlyle writes,

“Biography is the most universally pleasant and profitable of all reading.”  Such books are pleasant because in reading the accounts of men and women in history, we find ourselves living in many places; they are profitable because in doing so, we hear fragments of our own stories. The questions and thoughts we considered our own suddenly appear before us in the life of another.  The afflictions we find wearying are given meaning in the story of one who overcame much or the life of one who found hope in the midst of loss.  Perhaps we move toward biography because we seem to know that life is too short to learn only by our own experience.”

As a Christian, I am called to move similarly.  The most direct attempt in Scripture to define faith is done so by the writer of Hebrews.  The eleventh chapter begins, “Now faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see” (11:1).  To be honest, it is a definition that has always somewhat eluded me, and I was thankful to read I am notalone. John Wesley once observed of the same words, “There appears to be a depth in them, which I am in no wise able to fathom.”  Perhaps recognizing the weight and mystery of faith and the difficulty of defining it, the writer of Hebrews immediately moves from this definition to descriptions of men and women who have lived “sure of hope” and “certain of the unseen.”  From Noah and Abraham, to Rahab and saints left unnamed, we find faith moving across the pages of history, the gift of God sparkling in the eyes of the faithful, the hope by which countless lives were guided.  In this brief gathering of biographies, the writer seems to tell us that faith is understood functionally as much as philosophically, and that our own faith is more fully understood by looking at the lives of the faithful.  For in between the lines that describe faithful men and women is the God who makes faith possible in the first place.

At the end of his compelling list, the writer of Hebrews concludes: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (12:1). The lives of those who followed Christ before us urge us onward, strengthening our hearts with stories of faith, stirring our minds at the thought of God’s enduring influence, reminding us that God moves in our biographies and yet beyond them.

Jill Carattini is senior associate writer at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.


A Happy Life


                                                                                    written by Angie, a current graduate wife and student

“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

So remarks Leo Tolstoy in his opening to Anna Karenina, and it seems his observation applies to graduate students, too. The happy ones usually have the same reasons for being happy— they find what they’re studying interesting to them, they have nice comradeship with other students, they have helpful supervisors, they make good headway on their work. But the unhappy postgraduates are unhappy for all sorts of different reasons— they lose interest in their research topic; they feel lonely and isolated in their work; they feel homesick or stuck in a town they don’t want to be in; their supervisors are unsympathetic, unhelpful, or unavailable; they feel paralyzed by the mountains of reading and writing to do; they have writers’ block; they get intimated by the academic world and its intense competition and pride; they have financial struggles and burdens of loans or family financial sacrifices, and a constant questioning of whether the money spent on their education is justifiable; they have a hard time being present to their families; they have a constant sense of not having enough time; they have loss of vision and vocation and wonder why on earth they ever thought it was a good idea to start those degrees.

My husband and I are both PhD students, and between us we’ve felt most of those things. At the moment I’m more in the happy-student-camp, while my husband has been fighting off a flood of factors making him an unhappy student. Even though we’re doing the same degrees in the same university, the same department, and even the same area (Old Testament studies), we’ve had really different experiences. Maybe it’s because I’m a year ahead of my husband that I have more hope— I can see some glimmer of not being a student anymore!— but our experiences have made real to me how different each graduate life can be. All sorts of factors can make it enjoyable or miserable, and each person has different understandings of why they’re studying and how that study fits into the wider work they feel drawn to do.

But I think Tolstoy may have been off in his assessment of happy families—they actually are happy in different ways, too. And so, I must now qualify, are graduate students. It’s possible to be happy in the graduate life for different reasons, and there are healthy and unhealthy ways of finding that happiness. Some postgraduates base their happiness on their success in the eyes of the academy (how many publications, conferences, accolades they have under their belts), and they have their self-worth wrapped up in their achievements as academics. This seems to be the most common form of unhealthy happiness in academia— I see a lot of students fall into that trap, and it’s hard to get out of. But at the end of the day, it won’t give a lasting happiness, as all success is relative. It hardly ever is enough. My husband and I have had a long haul of learning that our work is not who we are, though the two things are related. Even as our work is part of our passions and interests and callings, it does not determine our worth, nor can we base our happiness upon it.

So we’re learning instead to seek out the deeper reasons for being happy in our studies, knowing why we’re studying, how our work might be formative in making us into the persons we’re called to be. What I’ve learned most these past six years of postgraduate life is that how one studies matters. A theologian I’ve been reading, Karl Barth, taught me that, as he said, “The real value of a doctorate, even when earned with the greatest distinction, is totally dependent on the degree to which its recipient has conducted and maintained himself as a learner. Its worth depends, as well, entirely on the extent to which he further conducts and maintains himself as such.” Learning, whether as a graduate student or as any other calling in life (including the calling of being a wife!), is a deeply personal act, an act that involves not just the mind and specific practices, but even more so the soul of the learner and the kind of life she goes on to lead.

And so, what we’re seeking on this graduate journey is in all things to journey in our hearts towards becoming the persons we are called to be. The writer of Psalm 84 puts this well, as he says, “Blessed are those whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways.” It seems the psalmist is saying that those highways are not the roads of particular situations one is traveling upon, but rather, the groves of one’s heart that are being worn as one lives, the ways one’s heart is heading in all things. What matters most is the way one is journeying and growing in her heart. A heart of highways that is ever striving towards more lasting and beautiful and broader things— that’s something needed for all of us caught up in this graduate life, happy and unhappy alike. And with those hearts of highways, we may come to find ourselves, wherever we are and however it’s going, somehow happy and at home.

In your graduate wife journey, how are you finding your journey of happiness?