Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: Some Ethical Holiday Shopping

new food for thought

Do you ever think about where your Christmas or holiday gifts come from, how they are made, and who they were made by?

As a lot of us mull over those questions, especially this time of year, we know from reading articles like this, that there is an apparent shift in trends as consumers look to purchase from companies who are socially responsible. It can be time consuming and daunting to research every company that you’d like to purchase from, so when we stumbled across this ethical shopping guide, we thought it might assist you in your shopping. (And, it’s handy to have year round)!

Do you practice ethical shopping? Is it something that you would like to begin doing?

Happy holiday shopping!

~Mandy & M.C.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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2012.  It’s come and it’s almost gone.  It’s amazing to look back and see how much a year holds.  We’ve shared our stories and shed tears, laughed uncontrollably, and been inspired and encouraged  in more ways than one. We could go on and on! And TGW celebrated it’s first birthday and even got a facelift.  It’s been a long year for many of us, but it would’ve been a lot longer had it not been for this graduate wife community.

So we want to take a moment of thanks.  Thank you dear readers.  Thank you contributors.  Thank you commentors.  Thank you for sharing the journey with us.  We hope you’ll continue to do so. We’re excited about our line-up of stories for 2013.

We wish all a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year.  We’ll take some time off and see you again in a couple of weeks. Here’s to 2013!!

Much love,
MC & Mandy (the dancing elves)

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Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: The Stubby Pencil

The other day I read a recent post from a friend of mine, Rachel, who has just moved to Malawi (and whose blog is always worth reading). Out of her experience in Malawi, she offers an illustration of want and plenty using a stubby pencil, the prized possession of one of their new friends, six-year-old Asan.

Christmas is a season for excesses, and of course there is something entirely right about that. But Rachel offers a timely reminder  for this Monday’s food for thought to not forget that excess itself is culturally determined, that any abundance that comes to us must be held with the responsibility we owe to the ‘least’ in our societies, whether on a local or global scale – and that we are all impoverished when any one of us is, since that poverty often prevents people from making use of their full capacity in the service of the common good.

Asan, who is six, loves my son Aidan, who he summons daily by standing outside our house and shouting “Ten!”; “Aidan” has morphed in the Chichewa accent into “eh-TEN” and then attenuated, by Asan at least, into, simply “Ten.”

 Asan likes to draw: the first time we met him, he clutched a small composition book, the kind American college students used to write their essay exams in (do they still do this?) and a pencil sharpened at both ends that was, tip to tip, perhaps one and a half or two inches at most.

 Read more here.



Merry Christmas! See you in 2012!

Thank you so much for sharing your stories with us here on The Graduate Wife, and thanks for reading too!  It’s truly been a gift journeying with each of you. We’ll be taking some time off for travel and we look forward to seeing ya again in 2012!  If you can, spend some time writing and reflecting on your graduate wife experiences while you have a break over the holidays and submit your stories to us in the new year!

p.s.  We put together a little dance just for our GW viewers. We hope you enjoy.  :)


I’ll Be Home For Christmas, If Only in My Dreams……

                                                                                             -written by Deanna, a current graduate wife

My husband and I have been doing this grad-school thing for 5+ years now and we have at least 2 to go.  Possibly as many as 5.  We’re in the thick of it.  Although we are both from the US, we started our grad-school adventure in Canada – but only about 7 hours from our families.  We had a semi-dependable car so, of course, we drove home for Christmas.  Easy peasy.  As relative newlyweds and people with great families who grew up with well-loved Christmas traditions, we really enjoyed sharing the nostalgia of childhood Christmases with each other those first few years.

Our third Christmas in Canada our daughter was born.  I literally went into labour after breakfast on Christmas morning, went to the hospital that afternoon, and delivered her at some unholy hour the next morning.  Adoring grandparents and aunts quite literally dropped their forks on their Christmas dinner plates and braved icy roads in the midst of a massive snow storm to come to us that Christmas day arriving at the hospital in the middle of the night… just hours before our daughter was born.  It was an eventful Christmas but needless to say, we didn’t travel that year.

The next graduate degree took us much farther from our families.  Instead of being a few hundred miles away, we were nearly 5,000 miles away (including crossing a rather significant ocean.)  Money was tight… very tight.  A flight home simply wasn’t an option.  In fact this is our third Christmas overseas.  Is it hard being away from the family we love so dearly at such a special time of year?  Yes.  (It’s even worse with a child!)  Does it get easier?  That depends on you.  But here are a few survival tips from a graduate wife who has lived it a few years running. 

First things first, admit that it sucks.  If you’d rather be back home – just say so.  Don’t bottle it all up with a brave face until you crack and turn into a big weepy puddle on Christmas day.  Talk to your spouse.  Tell your spouse about the specific things you’ll miss.  Chances are that they have a list of things they’ll be missing as well.  Grieve it if you need to.  And don’t forget to tell your family and friends back home too! They’ll be thrilled to know you want to be with them – even if you can’t be there that year.  Be sure to plan a time to video chat with your family too!

But then you’ve got to move on.  Don’t wallow in self pity day in and day out.  It isn’t pretty.  Turn off the sad songs you’ve had on repeat.  (I may or may not be speaking from personal experience when I’m guessing your repeat list includes Michael Buble’s ‘I Want To Go Home’ and the Christmas classic ‘There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays’.)  Whether intentional or not, your wallowing will likely make your spouse feel like scum for dragging you away from your family at the holidays even though, in reality, you probably made the decision to move far away together.  Instead, try to be thankful that you don’t have to deal with the headaches of holiday traffic, airport crowds, and jet lag.  And then use some of the following tips to keep your Christmas spirits up and truly enjoy the season where you are!

1.    Make some of your favorite traditions from back home happen where you are.  It may take a little ingenuity, and it won’t be perfect – but it can be done!   Here are a few of my favorites:

• Bake a plate of Christmas cookies for your neighbors (or just for yourself!),

• Put up a tree.  Make it out of paper or felt and tape it to your wall if you must – but at our house we don’t go without a tree of some sort.  Then cover it with ornaments, homemade if you didn’t bring any of your own (we didn’t).  Cut out paper snowflakes, tie a bit of string to the top of pine cones (and add a little glitter?), shape some stars out of pipe cleaners, and string popcorn.  Is it going to look like Rockefeller Plaza?  No.  But it will still be festive!

•Bust out some nostalgic Christmas music.  Try Grooveshark to put together free playlists of all your old favorites.

•Make yourself an advent wreath and follow the true story of Christmas for the 4 weeks leading up to the big day.  It can really help your perspective!

•Curl up with your spouse and watch your favorite Christmas movie with a cup of cocoa.  (Stir it with a candy cane if at all possible.)

2.  Embrace where you are.  After all, you may never be here at this time of year again!

•Pick something to do with your spouse that you couldn’t do back home.  December is packed full of concerts, plays, Christmas fairs and festivals, tree lighting ceremonies, church services, Christmas carol sing-alongs, etc. pretty much wherever you are.  Find a unique setting like a cool playhouse, grotto or cathedral near you to experience some of these things in a new way!

•Take advantage of the weather.  If it’s cold where you are, go ice skating or build a snowman with your spouse and then take a picture of the two of you with your snowman and send it to family and friends.  If it’s warm where you are, hit the beach for the day to work on your tan and fire up the BBQ for Christmas dinner!

•Try some local Christmas food traditions.  Here that means fresh roasted chestnuts, mince pies, mulled wine, bacon-wrapped sausages, brussels sprouts, roast potatoes, stuffing rolled into balls, roast turkey, Christmas pudding (doused in brandy and lit on fire!), Christmas crackers and wearing a paper crown during dinner and/or dessert.

•Volunteer in your community.  Chances are, as poor as you might feel sometimes, there are people in your city who are much worse off than you.  Find a soup kitchen or homeless shelter to help out at.  Bless people less fortunate than you are and then go home feeling grateful for all that you have instead of feeling miserable about all the things you don’t.

•Find out who else is spending Christmas away from their families and plan something fun to do together:  attend a midnight carol service together, invite someone to Christmas dinner, host a Christmas cookie exchange, organize a white elephant gift exchange, bundle up for a walk together and then head back to one of your homes for a Christmas movie and some hot apple cider, etc.  The possibilities are endless – and all the friends who traveled home for the holidays will be sad to have missed such a fun time while they were away!

3. Create new traditions.  Old traditions are great.  But creating a tradition that is unique to you and your spouse (and kids!) is especially wonderful!  I’m not sure we would have discovered this truth if we had simply gone back to our parents’ house every year to take part in their traditions.  Let me encourage you to seize this opportunity!  Here are a few simple ideas:

•Build a gingerbread house together.  Can’t find gingerbread where you are and don’t want to make your own?  Browse the cracker, cookie, and candy aisles at your local shop and get creative with what’s available to you!

•Hang a stocking (or just a sock!) for each person in the house on Dec 1.  Then every day, write down one thing you appreciate about each of the other people in the house or perhaps something funny/memorable they did or said that day on a small bit of paper and put it in their stocking.  On Christmas day, each person will read dozens of affirming observations about themselves!  What a gift!

•Go for a Christmas day walk.

•Plan a yummy Christmas breakfast together.  It doesn’t have to be complicated – just something you’ll do year after year.  We tend to go for homemade cinnamon rolls smothered in butter and frosting served with eggs, fruit, and bacon or sausage.

•If you have kids, pick a small Christmas object (a star, a candy cane with a ribbon tied round it, a particular Christmas ornament, a santa hat, a small stuffed snowman or elf, etc.) and hide it in a different place in the house every day.  Whoever finds it first wins a small prize like a piece of chocolate!

I hope you will try some of these tips and that you will find them to be as rewarding as we have over the past few years.  From my family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year wherever you may be!

Beauty and the Budget

Beauty and the Budget: Giving Gifts

So, we all know that Christmas is about much much more than giving gifts.  So much more.  However, if your love language is ‘giving gifts’ (like mine is) it’s a special time to shower love on those special people in your life.  I am ALL about DIY gifts, especially those that cost as little as possible to make.  I hope that if you are on a tight budget this Christmas some of the below ideas will be helpful and fun!  Enjoy!

1. {For the baby in your life}  If you are anything like me, you have to use your fingers and toes to count the number of friends and family in your life that are pregnant right now.  I have one word for you: onesie.  Being a mom myself, I can’t tell you how many onesies you go through with babies.  So it is great to have some that are fun, colorful and hand-made by a friend to add a little something extra.  I have another word for you: (well two) fabric paint.  Amazing stuff.  Pick some up at any craft store (or order online in the UK on and go to town! I recently picked up a pack of 3 onsesis for £2.50!

Print out a silhouette of any object you like.  I have included a little template here (with some  I made and others I found on google images).  Print it out and then use an exacto knife to cut out the image and then tap the ‘stencil’ onto the onesie.  Paint over the stencil and after giving it a minute to dry, pull it up.

I packaged them up in an egg carton (because I chose a farm theme).  It was free and turned out great.

Could he be any cuter?!! This is my nephew Levi modeling his rooster onesie! :)

2. {‘For the ‘butcher, baker and candlestick maker’ in your life}  Ok, really just for the baker. Super easy little gift below.  Pick up an inexpensive oven mitt (this one was only £1!).

Sew on a little heart and some buttons and tada!  It’s something special.  Tie it up fancy with a nice cookbook (tip: charity shops are GREAT places to find fun/hardly used cookbooks) and your set!

3. {‘For the hard to shop for’ in your life}  Sometimes there is that one person that you really want to find something special for, but can’t quite put your finger on what to get them.  Find something personal that you know they will love, print it out and frame it up!  I simply love finding random old frames at charity shops and markets.  You can create something pretty special for nearly 1/10th of what you would pay to have it done in a framing shop.  Rip open the backing, recover the matting, possibly paint the frame a brighter fun color, add in your personal printed piece and your done! I hope to share more on this process in a later post. You can also find frames at Ikea or even the pound shop (equivalent to the dollar store) and come out with some pretty inexpensive, but personal gifts.

I bought this frame at the pound shop, used a piece of blue paper and then wrapped it around the mat (hope to show more details soon) then printed off this lovely little image from {the graphics fairy} and added a bible verse.  It makes for a perfect gift!

I searched for some vintage postcard images online and printed off some that reflected the ‘home’ state of several good friends.  I then cut them out and framed them with a pack of .50p clip frames from the charity shop down the street!  Pretty great.

Here is another great example from a wonderful blog called: Metal and Mud.  She used the same image I used previously, but printed it on yellow paper and framed it for a piece to hang over  her bed.  All she paid for was the frames!  Great gifts huh?

She also had the absolutely genius idea to frame some fun fabric scraps and then use the frame as a dry erase board!  Talk about a fun and unique gift! And super easy and inexpensive too.

I hope to include some more fun, random and inexpensive gift ideas next week if I can get around to it!

Sharing 'Worlds'

‘Carry me home…’ & more thoughts on ‘sharing worlds’

‘Big wheels keep on turning…carry me home to see my kin’ 

These famous words are running through my ears as I start the tedious task of unpacking our suitcases that are tightly squeezed into my daughter’s closet (because we have no room elsewhere to store our summer clothes than inside these suitcases) and re-packing them for our Christmas visit that starts on Friday.

I have done all the laundry, thought through all the bare essentials I will need on my trip back to the states (because let’s me honest, you know I am needing all the space I can get in these suitcases to bring back some American treats on our return).  I hear my husband telling me what a great packer I am and I try desperately to keep my daughter entertained with my bracelet drawer from my jewelry box so she won’t start to un-pack all I’ve managed to squeeze in at this point.

Carry me home to see my kin…

I am going to Alabama on Friday.

I am going home to see my kin.

There is always a rush to make it to the awaited deadline of  ‘traveling home’.  So many dinner dates, lectures, evensongs, and coffee dates to squeeze in that we almost tire out before we get to the finish line. We sometimes feel like we try to squeeze every ounce out of the last few weeks before leaving.  We look forward to the time away…the time at home to rest, re-group with ourselves and our families and to feel refreshed.  Although, I know that  for some of us, this isn’t always the case.

 We live really interesting lives don’t we?  We graduate wives.  Many of us have moved away from our family and close friends.  Almost all of us have started over in a sense.  Almost all of us have forged new community around us (or are trying to) and forged  new friendships….which have become like ‘family’ in many ways, when we do find ourselves geographically distant from our actual families.  We have learned to live with many sacrifices and learned to live with much less than we thought we really needed.  We’ve learned how to support, how to give space, how to understand and how to communicate with our husbands in ways we would have never known if not for the graduate journey experience.  We’ve learned a lot about ourselves (and are daily doing so).  We’ve been stretched, challenged and shaped.  And most of all, almost all of us have…..changed.

We’ve changed.  We’ve lived some interesting, hard, wonderful, strange and fascinating stories. Try as we might, it is sometimes hard to communicate on skype just how drastic or significant the change in our lives and hearts might have become.

Sometimes there develops a large gap between our past ‘shared’ lives and our current lives as graduate wives.  For some of us the journey has been painful and it’s been easier to keep the heartache inside rather than try to share with family or friends back home.  For some of us the journey has been more enriching than we had ever imagined and we haven’t know just how to articulate the joys and highs with family or friends back home without making them feel ‘left out’.

With many of us traveling home for Christmas (yeah!) we thought we’d share the below.  It’s just a few thoughts that have helped us along the way as we’ve tried to share our graduate wife journey with those back at home.  I hope you will chime in with any insights or thoughts of your own as well!  Merry travels and enjoy your visits home!!

1)   Be as intentional as possible about sharing ‘your world’ before your trip home:  This one is a bit of a no-brainer, but I have found it so incredibly helpful to share little bits, even if it is just a quick email or a photograph or a one liner on the phone, about my life here.  I then have a seed planted and look forward to the chance to develop it more when I see the family/friend in person.  All it takes is a conscious effort to share things so that when you go for a visit it won’t seem a daunting task trying to fill in gaps on your life over the past months/year.

2)   Make a ‘thanksgiving list’ listing what makes you thankful for your home and your family/friends there:  This is incredibly helpful if you haven’t seen your family in a while and if you have become happily immersed in your current role of a graduate wife in a new environment and setting.  It is refreshing and helpful to remember where you come from and what joys you are getting to return to on your visit.

3)   Bring pictures, items, and souvenirs from your life now Pick up some of the traditional ‘local favorites’ of your new home.  If in England, bring home some tea to share, or if you moved to a new area of your country, bring home a regional cookbook or some local artwork.  Have a slideshow on your computer of pictures of your lives in your new home and point out the faces of new friends, your colleagues and the University.  Be creative on how to visually share your graduate adventure with others.

4)   Don’t set expectations that are too high:  Let your family be your family and let you be yourself!  Don’t try to force anything, don’t come with a long list of things you feel like you have to talk about or share.  Come prepared with lots to share of course, but don’t push it and don’t expect it all to come out at once.   Relax and try to just enjoy the time rather than always having an agenda.  When we are far apart it is so easy to want to pack in 1,000 things into the week or two of our visit, but try to limit that…allow for time to just ‘be’. And don’t expect everyone to ‘get’ you and your lifestyle, now.  Give them space to see and understand the changes you might have gone through.  This can be especially hard for someone who’s family isn’t all that familiar with ‘going back to school’ and lifestyles and research requirements that come with graduate programs. It might take time for them to process your new graduate wife/student lifestyle.

5)   Give them time:  Similar to what I just stated, step back, relax and give your family and friend’s some space.  Just like I shared in my first piece on ‘sharing worlds’, let them share first.  As my husband always asks about my day, before sharing about his, do the same with your family.  Ask, question, listen and learn from them and then give them space to start the process of digging into your life.

6)   Don’t compare your life to others: Beware of this.  It is so easy to do and before long you start wishing that you or your husband wasn’t in grad school and start to question why you ever decided to follow your dreams in the first place.  It’s tempting to look at friends with big houses, with no student budget and who don’t deal with the stresses of graduate school and get envious.  Maybe it is a good idea to even make a ‘thanksgiving list’ of why you are grateful to be a graduate wife and keep it handy as you are home and around friends and family that aren’t ‘in your shoes’.