Monday’s Food for Thought: Truly Original?

Who doesn’t love to shop at Anthropolgie?  I mean really…I drool over almost everything in the store.

Who doesn’t love unique, funky, cutting edge and original clothing?  I thought I did and I thought I knew where to find it. But I had to think again.

My heart sank as I read this article…and then realized that there are dozens of other articles just like it out there targeting Urban Outfitters (Anthropologie’s sister brand).  So I googled ‘Urban Outfitters’ and ‘infringement’ and found almost a million hits relating to this mega store ripping off small designers and clothing labels.  Really?  Sigh…I don’t even know if half of them are accurate or just exaggerated, but either way it has gotten me thinking.

Thinking thoughts like:

“What does it mean to be truly original?”

“Is all the art/design/advertising etc. that I see around me really only a replication of something else?”

“Have I ever considered myself a ‘social-justice’ minded shopper?”

“Should I look into all the other companies I so quickly ‘love’ and endorse?”

Does this stir up some of those thoughts for you as well?  Please share!

-M.C.

Saving the world…(or something like that)

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go and do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.”

-Howard Thurman (1900-1981) minister, educator, civil rights leader

 

These words have haunted me ever since I first read them years ago, and they continue to now as I sit here with my macbook, curled up in a thousand blankets (because it is freezing in England).  Oh Howard Thurman, how true your words are; how freeing, how powerful they are for me to hear…yet, how hard they are as well.

I have always been a dreamer, a young girl with an overactive imagination and a lot of gusto.  I would get hooked on an idea and within minutes, I could convince my two younger brothers that it was the most important mission in the world, and that we had to dedicate our entire lives to it.  I was also incredibly swayed and romanced by anyone who could speak passionately, especially if they were speaking out for a cause. I watched (true confession) the Maury Povich show when I was ten years old and saw this horrid sad tale of children who died of e-coli in hamburgers, and I promise you that I have only eaten around two hamburgers since then. Because I had a heart for people, I was always attracted to the more extreme lifestyles and careers of those who were living to help/nurture/care for others, even when the lifestyle itself didn’t seem a good fit for me.  For a while, I was sure I would become a nun, then a missionary to Africa, then a doctor.  These people seemed to be the most effective in redeeming the world, and that was my passion, right?  So what if none of these careers seemed to match my strengths & gifts? How else would I be able to act out my passions in any other capacity?

Somewhere between the end of high school and the present, I have thankfully shed the ‘save the world/I can do it all’ mentality and have learned a lot about accepting who I am and living fully within my own skills, gifts and passions.  I have learned, as Howard so eloquently puts it, to stop asking what the world needs and trying to cram myself into certain molds that don’t seem to fit me.  I have learned to appreciate and to flourish in my natural gifts and skills, and I have prayed for eyes to see where they are needed and to be able to contribute and serve in those areas.

It hasn’t been peachy though.  It’s been a loooong  journey for me, and it has involved a lot anguish, fear, uncertainty and questioning.  Because, it’s sometimes easier to take the ‘road more traveled’ and to fall into social norms and to never let oneself dig deep…to dream….to fail and to grow along the way isn’t it?  I know that for some, it actually isn’t financially or physically possible to pursue as a career ‘what makes you come alive’ and I am so utterly thankful I have been able to do so.  I have learned that I am a far better spouse, mother, daughter and friend when I am able to pursue my true passions.  I’m beyond grateful.

But…of course you knew there would be a ‘but’.  It is a lot harder for some reason to encourage my husband at times when he feels the weight of Howard’s words upon him.  I think he actually struggles with this question (of pursing one’s passion) a lot more than I do.  It’s funny how he doesn’t struggle with figuring out what makes him come alive; he knows what does and it is clearly why we moved across the world making many sacrifices to follow that passion.  He is definitely doing what makes him come alive by studying, reading and dreaming of getting to teach one day.  Hands down he is the best teacher I have ever known.

However, he struggles with the reality of fully living that passion out and even though he doesn’t say it, I wonder if his thoughts go something like this:

“I am doing what I feel I was made to do, and I feel like this is exactly where I am supposed to be in life.  I’m so thankful, and I’m loving every minute of it.  BUT…my friend Andrew is literally saving lives in Africa.  He is working on water treatment facilities and he is using art to help heal children who were forced to be soldiers.  Amazing. And my friend Francis has given his entire life to do ground-breaking work in genomic research to help end life-threatening diseases.  And my friend Wendell is writing music that makes the world more beautiful.  And my friend Corrie…and my friend Hahna …  And I sit and think.  I sit in a library.  All. Day. Long.”

 It’s almost not fair contrasting his work to so many extreme examples, but then again it is hard not to.  Don’t get me wrong, I know we have friends right here in Oxford doing amazing research that is literally helping make changes in the world, but it’s hard at times to not contrast ourselves to those out doing seemingly more physical things with more immediate results.  Howard Thurman, it is amazing to get to tap into what makes you come alive and to pursue it, but it is also a hard task to figure out how/why/when/where that ‘passion’ plays into the bigger picture of one’s life and the greater good of the world around you.

We had some friends over for dinner last week and after an amazing discussion we both walked away encouraged and renewed at why ‘we are doing what we do’ here in graduate school, as the student and as the spouse.  We concluded, as we always do, that each of us was created unique and beautiful.  Each of us has a role to play and each of us has gifts that are to be used and enjoyed and applied to help make this world a more beautiful place.  I was affirmed in thinking that although my husband could do the work our friend Andrew does in Africa (these graduate students are always so competent), his heart simply isn’t into it, and it just wouldn’t work as beautifully if he tried to do it. My husband was blessed with a mind that loves logic and reason and loves philosophizing about things.  Big things.  Cool things.  Spiritual things.  Important things.

Sometimes even though the fruit isn’t always as evident in our work, we can’t give up on believing in a greater and deeper work that we are involved in.  Our lives are like a tapestry and each little stitch here and there is woven into a beautiful scene, but it is never fully seen until it is completed.

If you ever have felt this in your graduate wife journey, take courage.  You work is valuable.  Your work is important and its fruit might reach beyond anything you could ever imagine.  You might be creating a tapestry more beautiful than you could possibly dream of.

-M.C.

How have you dealt with these issues in your graduate wife journey?  Have you found anything particularly helpful or encouraging to shed light on this topic?


Shuga’ Mommas: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

True confession: I might have a *small* chocolate chip obsession. (And, no, I didn’t just recently post on my facebook status that I was in desperate need of chocolate chips, specifically Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips, and begged someone from America to mail them to me. Nope, wasn’t me).

Needless to say, if I can put a chocolate chip into a recipe, I’m a happy gal.

My friend, Lisa, introduced me to the concept of chocolate chips + pumpkins = muffins. I doubted her at first, but once I baked them….OH MY.

That, my friends, is how pumpkin chocolate chip muffins became an autumn staple in our home. And because it is now pumpkin season, it’s a great time to make them. So, go do it.

PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE CHIP MUFFINS

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 16 oz can of pumpkin puree (or be daring and roast a fresh pumpkin)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup applesauce (UK friends, this is hard to find. I often just add a bit more veggie oil and leave out the applesauce)
  • 3 cups of flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups choc chips

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

Mix eggs, sugar, pumpkin, oil & applesauce. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt & cinnamon. Mix well. Stir in choc chips. Pour batter into greased mini muffin (or reg muffin) tins. Bake for about 15 minutes.

For my gluten free friends – remove the 3 cups of flour and add 3/4 tsp of xantham gum, and 2.5 cups of gluten free flour. You’ll get the same results.

Happy Autumn!
Mandy

PS – Next time, I think we’ll move off the chocolate chip theme, and on to healthier things. Maybe.

Depression is a Jealous Mistress

                                                                                                        written by Becky, a former graduate wife

When I was asked to write about my struggle with depression during my time as a graduate wife, two thoughts came to me. One, I’m not going to do it. And two, I have to do it. Depression rears its ugly head at far to many to be allowed to remain a silent killer of marriage, family, hopes, and dreams. It is my goal in this snippet to expose it and hopefully encourage some of you to pursue healing.

For as long as I can remember I hid my struggle. I was so ashamed that I didn’t have it all together and that I wasn’t really the outgoing bubbly Becky everyone knew and loved. I was so dark, angry, hurting, and no one saw it.

No one except my husband.

In his second year of seminary, my husband had to pick up the phone and call the seminary’s counseling department because I was suicidal and wouldn’t leave my bed for three days. He helped me when my depression brought me to where I had no voice. He was my voice.

A year of intense counseling later, I thought that I was free.

My son Nolan was born one year after Graham graduated from seminary, and the joyous time that should have been wasn’t. Tainted with extreme weight gain, exhaustion, crying everyday at 4 o’clock on the dot, anger at everyone, and isolation, my son’s first months were shrouded by a cloud as dark as those Floridian summer afternoon thunderstorms. I thought it was the baby blues and normal issues brought on by moving across the country, trying to put down new roots, buying a home; all those things associated with a major relocation. Yet, six months passed and I was still a mess. Finally, a friend suggested I see the doctor to ask about medication.

Meds, I thought, were for the truly insane. Not for me.

I was so desperate, however, to get better, I went and was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety. In a weird way I was relived.

I wasn’t crazy.
Just sick.

Oh sweet, sweet meds. I had found myself again. The medications took three months to really start working but once they did, I didn’t know how I made it this long without them.

Am I healed? Is life perfect? No way. Depression is a jealous mistress that fights for your attention daily. You carry it with you like the diabetic carries their diabetes or the cancer patient carries their cancer. But how I choose to carry and deal with my disease makes all the difference in how I do life in the uncertainty of being married to a man whose direction in life turns on a dime. I could choose to go back to my hole of hiding and shame, and sometimes in my weakness I do go back, but most days I put on my boxing gloves to get out of bed, take my meds, and live life to the fullest, squeezing every drop of beauty and love out of every moment. I don’t try to be that fake outgoing bubbly Becky anymore; I try to be the truest and most raw and real me.

Beautifully broken.

If there is one thing a graduate wife is, without a doubt, it is strong. Sometimes, however, if any if my ramblings are hitting you and you’re thinking, “Yeah, that’s me,” being strong means getting the help that you need to be able to be your truest and most raw and beautifully broken self.

Don’t let depression kill you.
There is hope.
There is help.
There is healing.

All you have to do is ask, or in my case, have your already stressed, stretched, academically overflowing husband ask. That’s what marriage is all about. Holding each other up. There is no shame in your struggle. Be free to pursue healing and get the tools you need to control that mistress. Be free to be you and all of you. After all, isn’t that why most of our husbands are in this? To bring hope and healing whether through academics, ministry, medicine, or law to a world that is in need? Allow that hope and healing into your heart and soul.

After all, doesn’t the graduate wife deserve it?
With a smile on my face and warmth in my heart to you, the graduate wife reader, I say a big resounding…

YES! :)

As a graduate wife, have you struggled with depression?

Conclusion from Mandy –

I asked my friend, Becky, to write about her struggle with depression during (and after) her time as a graduate wife. Even though we were friends while our husbands were in school together, I had no idea she was going through this, until our last 2 weeks of living in Florida. Let’s be honest: depression isn’t something really talked about among graduate wives, and in my opinion, it’s often because we think other people might view us as weak.

I have been there.

I, too, told people I was fine, while I suffered silently. It was only after I reached out for help did I truly understand how much I needed it.

My challenge to each of you: talk to each other. Be willing to be vulnerable to someone, even though it may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. If you think you need help, pick up the phone and find someone to talk to. DON’T do this journey alone. And, by reaching out, you are being ridiculously strong and brave. As Becky said above, “…being strong means getting the help that you need to be able to be your truest and most raw and beautifully broken self.”

MC and I are also here – feel free to contact us at thegraduatewife@gmail.com if you feel like you need someone to talk to. This is why the blog was created.