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?

Monday’s Food for Thought: A Nod to Love

Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm: for love is as strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: its flames are flames of fire, a most vehement flame. – King Solomon

As we come upon the annual day of love, I have been thinking about the meaning of love, and how through my own experiences, my definition of it has changed dramatically over the years.

As you reflect upon your own relationships, especially in relation to the graduate life, what does love mean to you? How do you maintain a sense of love in your relationship? Has your love (or the way you love) changed for your other half in graduate school? Do you celebrate your love more than one time a year? Do you love well?

Something to think about this Monday morning!

~Mandy

Love is…

So, I wanted to be all clever and write a lovely little post on love.  I started to do just that and  I recalled a beautiful poem by Marjorie Holmes  and realized she says it much more eloquently than I ever could.  I think many of us grad wives could easily add in another few stanzas saying something about…romance enticing us with riches and full time jobs and love promising commitment and encouragement even through the rough graduate school journey.

I hope these words speak truth and encouragement to you as we seek to remember what love really is all about.

Happy Valentines!

-M.C.

Romance is flying.

Love is safe landing.

Romance is seeking perfection.

Love is forgiving faults.

Romance is fleeting.

Love is long.

Romance is the anguish of waiting for the phone to ring to bring you words of endearment.

Love is the anguish of waiting for a call that will assure you that someone else is happy and safe.

Romance is eager-striving always to appear attractive to each other.

Love is two people who finds beauty in each other-no matter how they look.

Romance is dancing in the moonlight, gazing deep into desired eyes.

Love says, “You’re tired, honey.  I’ll get up this time.” As you stumble through the darkness to warm a bottle or comfort a frightened child.

Romance is flattering attention.

Love is genuine thoughtfulness.

Romance is suspense, anticipation, surprise.

Love is tenderness, constancy, being cherished.

Romance is delicious.

Love nourishes.

Romance can’t last.

Love can’t help it.

Beauty and the Budget: Valentine DIY

Happy early Valentines Day!  If you are like me, you take every chance you get to celebrate something and V-day should be no exception.  Mandy is not so much a fan :), but I am hoping to rope her into some fun V-day crafting with these amazingly simple, inexpensive (and almost free) DIY Valentines crafts I gathered online.  I have family visiting right now (yahoo!) and sadly didn’t have the time to share a few of my own, but the below are pretty fab to say the least.

 Let’s face it, we are graduate wives, we support, love, and sacrifice a lot during the year so let’s celebrate this season that honors all those things we are learning how to do best.   Treat yourself to a box of chocolates and have fun making some of these goodies for those you love.  Enjoy!

I am kind of into the “You light my fire” theme for some reason…and came across these two little beauties.  Super special and sweet. (for tutorials and sources click here & here)

Seriously….I couldn’t resist this.  Where oh where do our grad school spouses spend most of their days?  Bingo…love note library cards.  Genius. (for tutorials and source click  here )

I mean let’s be honest, who doesn’t wish we still said ‘da bomb’  (This is a great deal, fun to make and just think of how to put the leftover massage oil to work!) (for tutorials and source click  here)

Last but most definitely not least.  Yes, please!  It took me about two seconds to realize I must do this adorable little gift as soon as possible.  If you don’t have photoshop or a scanner, just make a small framed print of your actual thumbprints.  (I hope my hubs doesn’t see this because this is what I am making for him!) (for tutorials and source click  here)

So if even if none of these DIY gems enticed you into celebrating, at least try out one of these fun treats on Feb. 14th.  Yummm! (for ice-cream sandwich recipe click here)

The Glad Game

                                                                                                                       written by Stephanie – a current graduate wife

The movie Pollyanna has forever been one of my all-time favorites.   Pollyanna played “The Glad Game,” and her eternal optimism infected everyone around her.  Even in the face of adversity, she believed that there was always SOMETHING you could find to be glad about.  I think we could all learn a little something from Miss Pollyanna Whittier. As a graduate wife, I have tried to adopt this philosophy as best I can.

My husband Josh is now amid his second year of medical school at St. George’s University in the Caribbean.   His first year was spent in Newcastle, England as part of the Global Scholars Program.   We had been married for only 4 weeks when we boarded that international plane to the United Kingdom.  Talk about a whirlwind first year.  It took me months to feel connected to anything and anyone in England and by the time it started to feel a little bit like “home,” it was time to uproot and move again, this time to the 22 mile long island of Grenada.   We will leave Grenada in May 2012 headed for hospital rotations in the States, but we won’t know exactly where we are going until weeks before we go.   Two years of rotations, God willing in the same place, will only be followed by a residency that will more than likely move us yet again.  I try to take each day as it comes, because thinking too far into the future only gives me a panic attack.  Not having a place that I can really call “home” is challenging.  I sometimes envy the graduate wives who get to, at the very least, stay in the same place for the duration of their husband’s schooling.

GLAD:  At only 25 years old, I am GLAD that I have had the opportunity to do this much traveling so early on in my life.   I’m GLAD that I get to experience all of these exotic places with my best friend.  It’s not a vacation like so many assume, but it IS a once in a lifetime experience.

Medical school is no walk in the park.  Josh studies ALL the time and there are many nights where I eat alone, watch romantic comedies by myself, and go to bed solo.  Date nights are often canceled because there just aren’t enough hours in the day to study.  Many holidays and birthday celebrations have to be put off because finals are only days away.  I do all the cooking, cleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping.  I manage our finances, keep up with the financial aid paperwork, and stay in contact with our families and friends.  On my worst days, I feel like leaving and going home to California because after all, besides not having food in the fridge, a home cooked meal, or clean underwear, would he ever even notice I was gone?

GLAD:  I am GLAD that Josh is pursuing his dream of becoming a doctor and excelling in his classes, in part due to my support.  I am GLAD that having so much alone time has allowed me to take up hobbies that I always hoped I’d have time for.  I scrapbook, read, send letters to friends and family, exercise, participate in volunteer work, and started a blog

Most days of the year, we are thousands of miles away from our family and friends.  Last year we missed Thanksgiving, 4th of July, Easter, birthdays, friend’s weddings, family vacations, and so much more.  We see our families through Skype more often than we see them in person.   On top of that, we have nobody to run to when we are upset with each other, and nobody’s house to go to in order to get away for a little while.

GLAD:  There are times I am GLAD that we can’t run to anyone else when we are struggling with each other in our relationship.  It has forced us to work through our issues without the interference of our family and friends opinions.  When you live half way across the world from everyone you know, the only person to turn to is God and each other and because of that, our relationship has grown immensely this past year.

I didn’t go to graduate school.  Admittedly, this has been the hardest part for me in being a graduate wife.  There was a time when I was not going to be the graduate wife.   I was going to be the GRADUATE STUDENT.   I did all the work leading up to actually going to school.  I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Kinesiology.  I did over 2,500 hours of work in the field.  I applied to more than 15 doctorate programs, wrote 13 essays, got the recommendation letters, filled out the applications, took the GRE, paid the money to apply, and went to the interviews.  My hard work paid off.  I got in to a Doctorate of Physical Therapy program in Southern California.  I even paid the deposit to hold my spot for the August 2010 class.  But when Josh got into school and the decision had to be made whether or not to follow my soon-to-be husband to England, or to go to school myself, I made the decision to follow him.  Unfortunately, there are times when my resentment creeps up.  Moments when I think to myself, “What if I was in school right now?”  “What if I wasn’t following Josh around the world?”

GLAD: I am GLAD that I made the decision I made.  While being a physical therapist was my dream career, I reasoned that school would always be there if I wanted to go back, but I could NEVER get my first few years of marriage back.  Being on this journey with Josh has allowed us to become closer to one another than I ever could have imagined.  We are growing together.  Every week, I see subtle changes in us, changes that, if we weren’t physically together, would seem HUGE later on.   While my career aspirations might have thrived while I was in school, my marriage would have suffered.  And so I am GLAD that I’m here, on an island, growing and changing together with my husband.

Sometimes, as a medical school wife, it’s really challenging to find the GLAD in any given situation and on any given day.  But it is there.  It’s always there.  It might be a really small thing to be glad about, but if you look hard enough, you will find it.  If you can at least find a little bit of GLAD then it helps make the bad not so bad anymore.  Try to find the “Pollyanna” in yourself on a daily basis and I guarantee you will be a happier graduate wife because of it.

Do you ever find yourself playing “The Glad Game” in order to make dark days seem less dark?  If so, what do you find to be GLAD about?