Wednesday's Weekly Tip

Thanksgiving Hosting 101

For those of us celebrating, Thanksgiving is almost upon us and it’s a wonderful time for us to stop and reflect upon what we are grateful for. It’s a time of hopefully slowing down a bit, eating delicious homemade dressings and pies and just relaxing with family and friends.  However, if you have ever been the one hosting the Thanksgiving meal, you know that might not be the case.

Thanksgiving can be an incredibly rich and beautiful meal to share around your table, but it can also bring an enormous about of stress as you prepare for the big day. We know many of us grad students aren’t always able to travel to be with family for Thanksgiving and end up opening our own doors to friends and neighbors for the first time. If this happens to be you this year, below are some super handy last minute tips that we have found helpful. Happy feasting, hosting and giving thanks!!  -The Graduate Wife team

1) Proper Table Prep 101: Super simple  image teaching you how to properly set a table!

2) Thanksgiving Decorating 101: Check out these sites for some great, easy peasy tips to make your table look beautiful and inviting. (Two more: here and here).  (My favorite is the ‘thankful tree’ idea listed as a centerpiece!)

3) Last Minute Hosting 101:  Great tips on how to prepare to host a party in 24 hours or less!

4) Some Cheap Thanksgiving sides to impress your in-laws

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Dear Laura

Dear Laura: One Guilt Trip Away

Dear Laura

Dear Laura,

I’m the oldest sibling in my family and the first one to get married and move away from my parents. Living in a different state makes me miss my family quite a bit, but I think the transition has been harder on them. After living three states away, we have now moved to *only* one state away. My parents want to take this as an opportunity to visit us almost every month. While I try to be accommodating, I have to tell them, “no” sometimes because of the difficulty of fitting visiting relatives in to our already hectic grad life schedule. When I talk to my parents on the phone, they always seem so desperate to hear even the most boring tidbit of my life. It makes me feel guilty and sad for them. Is there any way to help them be more ok with me being far away?

Sincerely,
Only a Guilt Trip Away

Dear Guilt Trip (if I may),

My husband and I just celebrated an anniversary, one of the double-digit ones that seem like they’re creeping up with a suddenness that is difficult to wrap our minds around. As part of our two-day celebration we sat down one night with a bottle of red and spent a few hours remembering.  We recalled travels and moves (and moves and moves) and stages and celebrations and milestones, but what was surprising and striking to me was how many of the most poignant and substantial memories were so simple and so deeply woven with people, our favourite, beloved people, and what was so clearly absent was…everything else.

The things we thought were so challenging and difficult and overwhelming at the time of their occurrence didn’t rise to the surface at all; it was our spirited and hilarious best-people that were sharply present in our remembering; those nights of board games and hot fudge sundaes, travel weekends, wine nights, and leisurely walks with these cherished friends and family cut right through the days, weeks, months, and years that at the time seemed so full of the pressures of life .  So, here is why I’ve started to answer your question by instead talking about myself (which is obnoxious, but thank you for indulging me):  it struck me so clearly that when we hit the greatest milestones – anniversaries, birthdays, and even death, what is going to be the best stuff of our memories, the stuff that makes everything else fade into the background is….people.

The stresses of the grad student journey will fade, the weekends you wish were spent recuperating on the couch instead of entertaining guests will fade, the irritation with the needy phone calls may even eventually fade, but your family is going to be there until the end. With that end in mind, let’s figure out a way for you to draw some boundaries around your rest-time and couple-time and give you a shot of confidence as you uphold these boundaries. It is great to have limits and to learn to express them clearly – what a gift to the people with whom you share relationships! – and it is also fantastic to serve the people you love by giving them time and access to your life to the extent you are able. What would that look like? Can you and your spouse talk about what the balance might involve and then can you gently start to work toward achieving that balance with your parents? Is there anything you can do to make the visits more enjoyable and less taxing? All worth a good discussion and planning session.

Also, I think we need to remember that the graduate journey, with all it’s trials and sacrifices and joys, does not belong only to us; our families and friends are affected deeply as well (especially when you start introducing grandchildren into the mix!). You’re not responsible for their emotional well-being and you needn’t feel guilty for launching out into this life adventure, but a positive response to their sadness involves striking a wise balance between your own needs and theirs. So, let’s be both wise about what we need as far as protecting our own marriages and selves, but also gracious to those people who are trying so hard to let us go, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so.  (Come to think of it, perhaps we need a new blog called “Graduate Grandmas”…. you’re welcome, Mandy and M.C.!)

-Laura

Laura M. Benton, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and professional Graduate Wife (12 years, friends. Two MA’s and a PhD.)

To write with your own question for The Graduate Wife team, email TheGraduateWife@gmail.com or LBenton.LMFT@gmail.com

Family · Inspiration · Marriage

Grad Life Voices: Living in the Moment

https://i1.wp.com/123daytrade.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/live-in-the-moment.jpg

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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?

Wednesday's Weekly Tip

Wednesday’s Weekly Tip: Thanksgiving Hosting 101

Thanksgiving is almost upon us and it’s a wonderful time for us to stop and reflect upon what we are grateful for. It’s a time of hopefully slowing down a bit, eating delicious homemade dressings and pies and just relaxing with family and friends.  However, if you have ever been the one hosting the Thanksgiving meal, you know that might not be the case.

Thanksgiving can be an incredibly rich and beautiful meal to share around your table, but it can also bring an enormous about of stress as you prepare for the big day. We know many of us grad students aren’t always able to travel to be with family for Thanksgiving and end up opening our own doors to friends and neighbors for the first time. If this happens to be you this year, below are some super handy last minute tips that we have found helpful. Happy feasting, hosting and giving thanks!!

-Mandy & M.C.

1) Proper Table Prep 101: Super simple  image teaching you how to properly set a table!

2) Thanksgiving Decorating 101: Check out these sites for some great, easy peasy tips to make your table look beautiful and inviting. (Two more: here and here).  (My favorite is the ‘thankful tree’ idea listed as a centerpiece!)

3) Last Minute Hosting 101:  Great tips on how to prepare to host a party in 24 hours or less!

Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: All my family’s waste for one year fits into just one small jar

new food for thought

Lately, one of the things I’ve become much more conscious of is how we go about teaching our son to care for the environment. So, when I ran across this article on one of my commutes, I found myself challenged to review and rethink our own family’s sustainable practices. Could we reduce further waste and continue to make our lives easier at the same time? While I may not go as far as Bea Johnson, I do appreciate the simplistic graduate life we do live.

Bea’s book, Zero Waste Home: The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Your Life can be found here.I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

What steps have you taken in your Graduate Journey to simplify your life?

Happy Monday,

~Mandy

Monday's Food for Thought

Monday’s Food for Thought: The Awesomest 7-Year Postdoc or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tenure-Track Faculty Life

new food for thought

A reader of our blog, E, sent us this amazing article written by Prof. Radhika Nagpal, a junior faculty member at Harvard. I know that most of us aren’t academics, and the only reason we find ourselves connected to this world is due to the fact we’re supporting someone in it. I think the message Prof. Nagpal gives is universal, and a wonderful positive message that can be integrated into everyday life.

In her own words:

I’ve enjoyed my seven years as junior faculty tremendously, quietly playing the game the only way I knew how to. But recently I’ve seen several of my very talented friends become miserable in this job, and many more talented friends opt out. I feel that one of the culprits is our reluctance to openly acknowledge how we find balance. Or openly confront how we create a system that admires and rewards extreme imbalance. I’ve decided that I do not want to participate in encouraging such a world. In fact, I have to openly oppose it.

So with some humor to balance my fear, here’s goes my confession:

Seven things I did during my first seven years at Harvard. Or, how I loved being a tenure-track faculty member, by deliberately trying not to be one.

  • I decided that this is a 7-year postdoc.
  • I stopped taking advice.
  • I created a “feelgood” email folder.
  • I work fixed hours and in fixed amounts.
  • I try to be the best “whole” person I can.
  • I found real friends.
  • I have fun “now”.

I decided that this is a 7-year postdoc.

I hope you enjoy it!

Happy Monday,

~Mandy

Inspiration

You’re My Home

home

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-written by Keeley, a current (but soon to be former!) graduate wife

As I was listening to this song by Billy Joel on the way to work this morning, it struck me as particularly appropriate for the Graduate Wife journey. I feel sure that it wasn’t written in that context, but I literally teared up thinking about all the places my husband and I have lived and all the unique experiences we’ve had over the course of two graduate programs. Billy Joel evidently feels the same way about his companion:

Home can be the Pennsylvania Turnpike

Indiana’s early morning dew

High up in the hills of California

Home is just another word for you

I think about my friend K, who, along with her husband, grew up in Oklahoma then moved to Nashville, then to Princeton, and will move who-knows-where next. I think about C, who grew up in New Jersey and has accompanied her husband for nearly four years while earning her own Masters degree, partially online because of an unexpected move to Atlanta. And M, from Kansas, whose husband is from Minnesota, and how they live in Tampa because of his calling after completing her, and then his, Masters programs in Princeton. And L, who has been with her husband for over half their lives, moving from Missouri to North Carolina to New Jersey.

Certainly, it’s true of our generation that we simply move around a lot, and that relocating is an essential part of our social skill set. However, I am grateful for a companion who helps to make any place feel like we belong there, because of the history and love that we share. As I listen to this song, I picture the knee-deep snow of Boston, our “special” nights out to Qdoba during his Masters program, and the poor little Christmas tree we carried to our apartment after a ride on the T bus. I picture our favorite ice cream parlor  in downtown Princeton, visiting the Christmas window displays in New York City, and picking blueberries, a summer tradition in Hammonton, New Jersey. I see snapshots of beautiful stone edifices in Cambridge, London, and Edinburgh, where he has done research and had conferences, and remember the feel of the soft moss under my shoes as we hiked along the shore of Loch Ness. I see the red hills outside Kampala, Uganda and taste delicious barbecued goat, while hearing the first storm of the February rains on the tin roof of our cottage, or feeling the wind through my hair as I rode “side-saddle” on a motorcycle taxi in a bright turquoise dress. All of these have been “home” to me, not least because Jason and I have been there together. I wonder how it will be to live in the dry, arid climate of Phoenix as we move there this summer to embark on his career as a professor, times zones away from our families, but feel peaceful that it will work, because we have each other (plus one, due in June!). These words resonate like a benediction as I contemplate the past, present, and future of our time together:

If I traveled all my life

And I never get to stop and settle down

Long as I have you by my side

There’s a roof above and good walls all around

You’re my castle, you’re my cabin and my instant pleasure dome

I need you in my house ’cause you’re my home.   

As a graduate wife, what does home look like to you?