Beauty and the Budget · Community

All Things New: Part I (Toddler Shoes)

Written by Deanna, a current graduate wife

A few years back our small family crossed the Atlantic and found ourselves living in a tiny, cold and ugly old block of University owned flats and more broke than ever. In the lobby of our building, (right next to the small, usually broken elevator) was a large community bulletin board. Despite several threatening signs warning against it, tenants regularly left the things they no longer wanted or needed in piles against the wall just under this bulletin board. We saw toys, clothes, games, used magazines, computer monitors, office supplies, posters, TV’s, kitchen items, books and tons of other things there. It was common knowledge that anything left against this wall was free for the taking and we acquired several things from the wall ourselves (random plates and saucers, a white serving bowl, a pair of chairs, salad servers, a pasta spoon). Our lack of money kept me on the lookout for cheap (or free!) things I could use and so, I always entered the lobby with a bit of anticipation. You just never knew what you were going to find! My husband deemed it “The Wall of Hope”. The idea being that someone would put junk against the wall one day and hope it would be gone by the next. But I called it “The Wall of Hope” because I always hoped that something great would turn up like a piano or a sewing machine or a Gucci bag. (No such luck.)

My favorite acquisition from the Wall of Hope was this ratty old pair of toddler shoes. They were in pretty bad shape.
But I’m glad no one threw them out.

A quick trip through the washer and dryer and then a little fabric (from an old shirt) and two buttons later, they were pretty cute and the perfect shoes for my little girl to romp around in!

This was a very satisfying project for me and a good reminder of how, as a Christian, I believe God intends to make all things new. You, me, and even this earth (which I believe once was perfect and new but which we’ve all managed to abuse pretty badly.) Ahh, sweet redemption. I am honored to contribute to it, in any small way I can.

Anyhow, I like this kind of recycling. The old addage, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is so true. There have been numerous times that I have seen things in a dumpster and thought, “I bet someone else could have used that!” But off it goes to a land fill and someone else is left to spend money they don’t need to. What a waste!

In a world where every advertisement tells me I need more, bigger, better, faster, newer, my budget screams back “Impossible!” And so, I am left finding creative solutions with what I have. I am forced to look for the potential of things, to consider how I can improve them. (It is simply amazing what a good scrub or a coat of paint can do to an old (insert item here). I am challenged to be resourceful, quick to share with others, and grateful when others share with us. And to be honest, it’s good for me. I want those things to be true of my children. I want those things to be true of me.

One of the loveliest things about living among other poor graduate students is the way we share and pool resources. Most of my children’s clothes and toys were once worn and loved by someone else’s children. And, when mine are done with them, we will surely pass those that are in decent shape on to be worn or played with by someone else. It’s a beautiful thing really and I would guess a lot less likely to be found in the ‘real world’ beyond grad school.

Do you have any ‘trash to treasure’ stories to share? Take pictures and submit via email to us!

Community

Blueprints

-written by Stephanie, a current graduate wife

During the first year or so of my life as a graduate wife, I often wondered to myself why me?  Why did God’s plan for me include living outside of the United States for two years?  Why did it mean putting my schooling and career on hold and leaving my family and friends so that I could follow my husband around the world helping to chase HIS dream?  I knew there had to be a reason, but in your darkest of days, you sometimes begin to question it.   If only I could have seen the bigger picture, the blueprints for my life that God knew even before I was created, then maybe I could have saved myself the heartache early on.  Then again, maybe the outcome wouldn’t be so sweet.

I am almost done with year two of my life as a graduate wife.  And I can now say with certainty why I’m here, living in the third world country of Grenada.  Within weeks of moving to the island from Newcastle, England, I took on the role of volunteer coordinator for the Significant Others Organization of St. George’s University.  I didn’t exactly know what the role entailed, but I knew I wanted something, anything to keep me busy.  I expected that my new position would keep me active in the Grenadian community, but I had no idea how connected I would become to this country.  After only a few weeks, my heart had been stolen by the children and people of Grenada.

I currently run an after school program three days a week called “Limes.”  We average 50+ children ages 2-15 every day.  On a good day, we have 8-10 volunteers.  We aren’t teachers.  We meet on a public grass field in the late afternoon while the blazing sun beats down on us.  Many kids don’t have shoes and their clothes are either too big or too small, that is, if they are even wearing any at all.  The snack they get in class might be the only food they receive each day.   We play games, help with homework, and attempt to educate them in things like dental health, how to treat animals, and respecting others.  The program is funded by donations and bake sales.  Most days are completely chaotic.

But, this is where I’m supposed to be. These are the blueprints that I couldn’t foresee. I know that now.  This experience with these precious children has been the most eye-opening, humbling, and rewarding thing to happen in my life.  I don’t have a job, but I get paid in huge smiles and big hugs every day and I promise you that it’s so much better than money.  And though I don’t yet have any children, I feel like I have 50 kids of my own, because I absolutely love them all.  The hardest part about working with these children is that almost every day I see their precious faces, I wish I could do even more for them.

The biggest piece of advice I could give to graduate wives, especially those living outside of the United States would be to get involved in your new community.  Find something you can do once a week, or even once a month that connects you to your new home.  Get involved with an underprivileged kids program, visit an elderly or disabled home, or frequent the local SPCA.  Find something that helps you connect to your new surroundings and perhaps even takes you a bit out of your comfort zone.  Maybe God’s blueprints for your life don’t include volunteer work, but maybe they do, and you just don’t know it yet.  Take the first step and you might be surprised at what you find.

In your graduate wife journey, how are you connecting to your new community?

Community · Moving

My Patchwork Heart

I hear the warm whispers of the North Carolina summers calling me.  I feel wooed by the fast-paced life I once lived in Washington, D.C.  and I hear echoes of the intimate and truly precious conversations that I shared with friends on our small street in Arlington.  I smell hushpuppies and my Dad’s BBQ and all the warm flavors of the deep south tempting me home.  I hear the ancient bells here in Oxford and I savor the fun times shared with dear fellow graduate wives.  I remember the glorious sunsets on the Chesapeake Bay and the unforgettable and sometimes painful community that was forged while living there on the Eastern Shore.  I feel the Big Apple charming me with the adventures & life lessons that unfolded there, and countless meals at my favorite café near Harlem.

Although my graduate wife journey has only really lead me to two different locations, I feel at times like tiny pieces of my heart are scattered about a hundred different places.  Do you ever feel this way? Have you moved around a lot on this journey?  Have you watched friendships grow and then had to watch as one of you packed up and said goodbye, or fallen in love with a city and a community, only to have to let go?

At times I feel so grateful for all the pieces of my heart scattered about around the country, and even the globe.  At other times I feel the weight of heartache for never getting to have all those precious friends and memories and experiences combined into one perfect place.  It’s a blessing and a curse at times…but alas it makes up who I am. A giant patchwork quilt.

I feel that recently I am learning how to relish and treasure all the vastly unique experiences that make me who I am.  Each place I have lived and each community of which I have been a part hasn’t been perfect…but each has been incredible and beautiful in its own way.  In these places I’ve been loved and hurt and supported and broken down.  I haven’t necessarily chosen these communities…they have more or less chosen me.

I feel that as a graduate wife, as a supporter, a mover and a dreamer, I have sometimes tried to resist these changes.  I have tried to resist the sharing of my life and ultimately of my heart with new friends and new settings.  For some reason it never works though.  As a fellow graduate wife once shared, “I tried so hard not to make friends in our new graduate community.  I was in denial of the move and thought that by wishing it away and not connecting, it would go by more quickly.  And sadly after a season of depression, I realized I was very wrong.”

I know that at times it’s easy to just try and ignore our current situations.  To dream of bigger houses and steady incomes for our families and to try and deny the reality of where we are now for this season of life.  And so I just wanted to encourage each of you fellow graduate wives today.  You might be avoiding your current grad school location and counting down the days until graduation or you might be feeling heavy with heartache over a previous home and community that you once knew.  You might be anxiously dreading an upcoming move and new graduate program, or you might be so in love with your current graduate wife life that you never want to see it end.  Wherever you find yourself, I hope you are able to step back and soak up all the flavors that make up who you are.  Smell and hear and taste the unique tapestry of friends, places, jobs, and experiences that this journey has brought to you.  I hope you can open up to a new community around you if you haven’t already.  Share bits of your story with others and be open to letting them make an imprint on it as well.  I know it’s not always easy … but when you take a step back, aren’t patchwork quilts breathtaking?

On your graduate wife journey how have you dealt with moving and uprooting community, friends, jobs, etc.?

-M.C.

Community

Monday’s Food for Thought: A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

In the last few months, I’ve become interested in photography. I’m definitely not great (or even good) at it, but I’m learning what it takes to capture an image, and I have enjoyed reconnecting with the artist dwelling in me.

A friend of mine sent this article to me, and to be honest, I think it is absolutely fabulous what Help-Potrait is doing. I can honestly say that I’d never considered photography as a way of giving back to a community; it has challenged me to think outside of the box in my own community, and how I could ‘give back’ using what I consider to be a dabbling hobby.

In my own world, it made me think of the thousands of photographs my mother has of our family; or my friend, Tracey, who literally spent weeks going through photographs, cataloging them for her six children; or my own stack of photographs I’m collecting of my son.

I don’t think I ever realized what a treasure a photo can be; but even as I sit here, I look around my flat, photos of friends and family displayed everywhere, beautiful reminders of people I love.

And they are treasures.

-Mandy

Community · We're Done! (life after grad school)

Our Transition Beyond…

written by AB, a former graduate wife

Our graduate adventure began with my husband and me working on our master’s degrees while living in Dallas, TX.  Following my graduation, I began working as a speech therapist while my husband pursued further graduate qualification.  When the time came to make the transition into a PhD program we decided to move to Oxford. It was our best option and we had nothing holding us back, so we went for it! For two relative homebodies, the decision to change continents was a difficult one. It was by far one of the craziest and best decisions my husband and I have made together.  Over the past five years, or the majority of our marriage, we met our dearest friends, and expanded our family not once, but twice. And now, after our time in the UK, we find ourselves once again back in Dallas, TX.

As we make the transition into life outside of our graduate study, I find myself desiring the same sort of community we enjoyed in Oxford.  Sadly, it was not until the end of our time there that I realized what a gift we had been given in the friendships cultivated during this time. We were surrounded by like-minded people with similar goals, that loved us, treated us as family, and would do anything for us.  We gave of what we had, celebrated accomplishments, shared in difficulties, and sharpened one another.  At a time when we were so far from home, this community became our family. Although it finds easy expression in the graduate community, I am convinced that such community can be cultivated in countless different contexts. The challenge is finding it in those seasons of life where it doesn’t come so easily.

Since returning to the States we have been very blessed to have our family close by; family who have supported us through every leg of this journey.  Despite this support, I find myself feeling a bit behind in some way, often asking myself ‘what have we been doing the past five years?’  Yet, even as I struggle with this I am surprisingly not envious of those around me who I am tempted to consider ‘ahead’ of us.  We have neither finances nor job security, but there is so much beauty in a shared adventure, and I would not trade any amount of security for our time in Oxford.  For our family this adventure has lead to a greater trust that we are a part of something larger than ourselves. As hard as parts of this process have been, given the opportunity I wouldn’t change a thing.

As a graduate wife, how are you fostering community where you live?  

Has it come naturally or is it a challenge?

If you have transitioned to ‘life beyond graduate school’ have you had a similar experience as AB’s at finding community?

Celebrate! · Community

Celebrate. III


Today, we celebrate friendship.

A  couple of weeks ago, a group of graduate wives gathered together on a slightly rainy English Sunday to celebrate a dear friend’s 30th birthday and the impending birth of her second child.

In honor of her, we wore beautiful hats (indoors, no less!), and ate delicious treats prepared by serving hands. We were able to love and bless her, the same way she does to us.

As I looked around the room, I couldn’t help but smile at this amazing group of women whose paths have crossed in England. And it struck me that this is what community is supposed to look like.

I know everyone left that afternoon, feeling grateful and loved and, overwhelmingly blessed.

So to our dear friend, LL: We are so glad to celebrate you and your friendship,  and the joy you’ve brought to our lives!

Celebrate! · Community · Family · Inspiration

Celebrate.

I recently finished reading Cold Tangerines by Shauna Niequist, a collection of short essays on celebrating the small things in life. I can honestly say that celebrating small things isn’t something that I do naturally, but I now believe it is a discipline that needs to be incorporated into my daily life.  One of the ways I plan to celebrate is to keep a notebook with two things from that day that can be celebrated. I’m still not sure how I will incorporate celebrating into the rest of my life, and I know it will be a work in progress, but I am resolved to this: life is short enough, but even shorter when we don’t take (or make) the time to celebrate.

The graduate wife journey is often fraught with worry, shattered dreams, and crushed expectations.  The darkness crowds out the light, the bad outweighs the good.  Those feelings often define our journey.  What would it look like if we took the time to celebrate even the smallest of things?  Would it bring us joy amidst the pain?  This question has plagued me for the past month!

Because of my reflections on this issue and a few discussions with thoughtful friends, we’ve decided to start a ‘Celebrations’ section on this blog. We want to hear from YOU. What are you doing to celebrate in your life? It literally can be anything – a new baby, a husband passing an exam, a good day at work, getting a job.  Whatever you decide to share with us, we will post it.  Let us celebrate with you!

I am selfishly writing this post, celebrating a BIG event that took place in our lives earlier this month. My husband graduated with his PhD. (Can I get an AMEN?) We celebrated. We’re still celebrating. I think I will be celebrating for awhile. This 7 year chapter in my personal graduate wife journey is over, and I’m turning the page, greeting the future with courage and a hope of things anew.

So, I ask again. What are you doing to celebrate in your graduate wife life?

Mandy


Community · Expectations · Family · Moving · Sacrifice

There’s No Place Like Home

         Written by Amberly – a current graduate wife

Another year of holidays, family celebrations and special events have come and gone; and here I sit 900 miles away participating via Skype. Don’t misunderstand me; I am grateful for Skype every time the computer rings, but it is not quite the same as being in the same room with my family. Isn’t it everyone’s ideal Thanksgiving to stay awake until midnight just so you can see your family as they gather around the table eating foods you can’t even find in your local supermarket? (As a side note – did you know that you can make cornbread dressing with maize meal or that not all turkeys come with their internal organs already in a bag? This southern girl learned both lessons in 2006 when I attempted to make my first solo Thanksgiving dinner!)

This past Christmas was the first Christmas we didn’t go home. We had just returned to the UK in October and it didn’t make sense to fly back to Atlanta so quickly. When we made the decision, we thought it would be a good opportunity to begin our own traditions. We decorated and bought presents. Our families shipped so many gifts that we could barely walk through the living room without tripping. It all seemed to be going well until Christmas Eve….carols played on our computer, and we sat looking at each other realizing that we were alone. No amount of presents or tinsel could change the fact that our families were gathering together and we weren’t there to be with them.

Of course, it is not just holidays that can be hard; I’ve missed weddings, baby showers, funerals, birthdays, beach vacations, and family portraits. My little sister will graduate from college in two weeks, and I won’t be there to give her a hug that only a big sis can give. I don’t want to miss that day or my other sister’s 16th birthday, or when my brother brings his new girlfriend to meet the family. But, we aren’t the only ones missing things. Our families don’t have the daily privilege of seeing their only grandchild grow up.

With all of this in mind, you might be envisioning me writing while curled up in a ball under my duvet with a quart of ice cream. And I would be remiss if I lead you to believe that I don’t have days when that is exactly what I feel like doing. I am happy to say that those days are far and few between, and along the way I have learned a few things that might help someone else trying to come to terms with being separated from family.

Make a plan. With the busyness of life, it is easy to wake up one day and realize that you haven’t spoken with your parents in 2 weeks. Losing touch happens so quickly, even in some of our closest relationships. We make it a point to talk with our parents once a week on a specific day around the same time. While this worked for our parents, I have learned that every relationship is different and communication styles can be different. My siblings are all in school and keep crazy student hours so planning to Skype at a specific time is really impractical. Email, Facebook and our family blog all serve as vehicles to keep us in touch with one another. Find a way to communicate with each other and make it a priority.

Embrace your new home. No, it doesn’t make your family any closer, but when you accept your new life and find things big and small to enjoy, it makes the distance not feel quite as far. Find a church, a library, a coffee shop, a museum, a great restaurant, a bookstore – anything that makes you happy and allows you to begin to be connected to your new home. It can also help your family to know that you are settling in. My mom has said many times that knowing we are happy and content in our home helps her to not worry about us nearly as much.

Surround yourself with memories. I love to have family pictures in our home. We have moved a lot in the last 5 years and no matter where we are living, it doesn’t feel like our home until our pictures are around us.

Be honest. I really struggle with this at times. I want to present the perfect front to our families. I don’t want them to worry about us. Although I don’t think having an emotional breakdown every time we talk is helpful, I have had to learn that it is okay to let them know when I am struggling with being left out.

Develop new relationships. I could never replace my family or friends I have known for years. However, developing relationships in the places we have lived has made a huge difference in dealing with being separated from our old lives. We have had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world with different backgrounds. We would never have met them if we had not stepped into our new life. These relationships have shaped who we are today and I am incredibly grateful for every one.

Remember why you are separated from your families. When you are the supporting partner it can be difficult to remember what your spouse is doing, the pressures they are under and what the ultimate goal is. Remember why you made the decision for your spouse to pursue further education and what your long-term family goals are.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list and I am far from an expert. Being separated from family is never easy and it does take time to adjust. Know that if you are willing to make the effort it can be done without sacrificing the relationships that you cherish.

If you have found yourself relocated to a new place on your graduate wife journey, how do you handle being separated from your family and friends?

Community

Welcome!

 

If you googled “Supporting Spouse Through PhD”and found this website, then you’ve come to the right place.

I’ve been a graduate wife for 8 years. There has been many a time over the past few years where I felt alone, and was sure no one knew what I was going through. When I began to have conversations with other women who were in similar shoes, I started tracing themes: identity, finances, careers, motherhood, family, dreams, desires, depression, and goals in the graduate life. After many, many, many months of conversations with graduate wives, and graduate husbands, this blog was born.

MC and I truly believe life is to be lived in community, and we want this blog to be part of your journey.  A journey down the graduate road should not be traveled alone. While we will cover issues that we think relate to being a graduate’s wife, we also want this to be an interactive community.  If you post a comment in the comment section, we will answer; or, feel free to email us at thegraduatewife@gmail.com if you have any questions about graduate life. If you have an idea for a blog we’d love to hear it, but don’t be surprised if we email you back and ask you to write it!

My own personal hope is that the women who write for this blog will be an encouragement to the women who read it. We are telling these stories to nurture you on your own journey.  You are not the first woman to walk this road, and you definitely won’t be the last.

It takes an amazing woman to set aside her own desires and dreams to support the one she loves the most. Not many can do it; but if you’re taking the time to read this blog, then consider yourself amongst family.

And know that you are loved.

~Mandy