Inspiration · Marriage

REPOST: Pockets of Time

-written by Keeley, a current graduate wife

It was Valentine’s Day of the first year in our marriage, and we were living in Cambridge, Mass. in a little apartment halfway between Harvard and Central Square. I was scheduled to work the closing shift at Au Bon Pain, a bakery chain that’s very popular in the Northeast. Instead of having a fancy dinner, I decided we’d do a special lunch before I went in to work, composed of meatloaf, green beans, and mashed potatoes (incidentally, the supper my mom fixed on my husband’s first visit to our home while we were dating). It wasn’t until the phone was ringing did I realize how silly I was being, calling my mom at 7:30 in the morning to ask her how to make a meatloaf. It was one of those dinners I had made about four times growing up, on those nights when my mom was coming in late from work and I had to pinch-hit, so I couldn’t remember the details but could have sworn it took 3 to 4 hours to cook. Fortunately for me, she was awake, she is ready any moment of the day to share how to make a meatloaf, and it doesn’t take nearly that long! We will never forget the Valentine’s Day morning we spent watching a movie and enjoying our home-cooked lunch before walking to work through a snowstorm.

That Valentine’s Day, and that year, will always be special to my husband and me, partly because it was our first year of marriage, but partly because we made such an effort to spend pockets of time together whenever we could. Finding these pockets is a skill which only grows more valuable as time passes and a temptation to take one another for granted subtly sets in, particularly once children arrive, so I’ve heard. I remember our Monday afternoons, especially. I had work at Au Bon Pain from 7 a.m.-3 p.m., and Jason had work at City Sports, about a block away, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. We decided to meet in the middle and spend the hour together, sitting on the grass and enjoying the occasional treat I was able to mooch from work, sometimes a scone or a “practice” sandwich I had learned to make out of the extensive lunch menu. We were creative and resourceful about our time, because for whatever reason, we felt compelled to make the most of every moment.

Our rhythm has lost some of the urgency of that first year–we’ve moved and are now in the fourth year of Jason’s PhD program and have settled into something of a routine. But I am grateful for the habits that we formed so early, particularly sharing meals together. Breakfast, dinner, and the occasional lunch will find us at the little round wooden table we found at Target the summer we were married, one or both of our cats looking on curiously. We both are great appreciators of food anyway, but it’s also a time when we are completely focused on the conversation between us, looking directly at one another as opposed to having a computer or two in the way, as is so often the case!

My work schedule is odd because I work retail, so my day off is Monday. Just this week, we packed a simple picnic lunch and found a new hiking trail that led to a small pond, where we enjoyed skipping stones and looking for frogs. I haven’t had regular Saturdays off since we first moved to Massachusetts six years ago, but it’s fun being able to have a special outing on an otherwise nondescript Monday. Because Jason is at the writing stage in his program, every day is pretty much the same–full of writing with a few breaks!

Another tradition we have is to take a day trip sometime around our anniversary. This doesn’t have to be expensive, although it will of course depend on where you live. We’ve enjoyed getting away and seeing some of the sights around where we have lived, whether it’s to the mountains or the beach, or to Amish country. A few times we’ve saved up and stayed in a bed & breakfast, but other years we’ve just taken a day off to spend together in a different setting.

One thing that I hope we never forget is the reality that we will always be busy. We will always (hopefully!) have work to do, other friendships and relationships to pursue, and chores to get done. But for us, finding a moment here and a moment there has made our marriage a lot stronger than I think it would otherwise be, and has made us a family, operating with a sense of unity and a mutual rhythm in how we live our days. I am grateful for a husband who values this as much as I do, and pray that we will continue to find ways to take advantage of these pockets of time as we grow and pass through the seasons to come in our life together.

What are some creative ways that you make the most of the time you have with your spouse? Do you have any weekly/monthly/yearly traditions that you feel have especially enriched your marriage?

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Inspiration · Marriage

Pockets of Time

-written by Keeley, a current graduate wife

It was Valentine’s Day of the first year in our marriage, and we were living in Cambridge, Mass. in a little apartment halfway between Harvard and Central Square. I was scheduled to work the closing shift at Au Bon Pain, a bakery chain that’s very popular in the Northeast. Instead of having a fancy dinner, I decided we’d do a special lunch before I went in to work, composed of meatloaf, green beans, and mashed potatoes (incidentally, the supper my mom fixed on my husband’s first visit to our home while we were dating). It wasn’t until the phone was ringing did I realize how silly I was being, calling my mom at 7:30 in the morning to ask her how to make a meatloaf. It was one of those dinners I had made about four times growing up, on those nights when my mom was coming in late from work and I had to pinch-hit, so I couldn’t remember the details but could have sworn it took 3 to 4 hours to cook. Fortunately for me, she was awake, she is ready any moment of the day to share how to make a meatloaf, and it doesn’t take nearly that long! We will never forget the Valentine’s Day morning we spent watching a movie and enjoying our home-cooked lunch before walking to work through a snowstorm.

That Valentine’s Day, and that year, will always be special to my husband and me, partly because it was our first year of marriage, but partly because we made such an effort to spend pockets of time together whenever we could. Finding these pockets is a skill which only grows more valuable as time passes and a temptation to take one another for granted subtly sets in, particularly once children arrive, so I’ve heard. I remember our Monday afternoons, especially. I had work at Au Bon Pain from 7 a.m.-3 p.m., and Jason had work at City Sports, about a block away, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. We decided to meet in the middle and spend the hour together, sitting on the grass and enjoying the occasional treat I was able to mooch from work, sometimes a scone or a “practice” sandwich I had learned to make out of the extensive lunch menu. We were creative and resourceful about our time, because for whatever reason, we felt compelled to make the most of every moment.

Our rhythm has lost some of the urgency of that first year–we’ve moved and are now in the fourth year of Jason’s PhD program and have settled into something of a routine. But I am grateful for the habits that we formed so early, particularly sharing meals together. Breakfast, dinner, and the occasional lunch will find us at the little round wooden table we found at Target the summer we were married, one or both of our cats looking on curiously. We both are great appreciators of food anyway, but it’s also a time when we are completely focused on the conversation between us, looking directly at one another as opposed to having a computer or two in the way, as is so often the case!

My work schedule is odd because I work retail, so my day off is Monday. Just this week, we packed a simple picnic lunch and found a new hiking trail that led to a small pond, where we enjoyed skipping stones and looking for frogs. I haven’t had regular Saturdays off since we first moved to Massachusetts six years ago, but it’s fun being able to have a special outing on an otherwise nondescript Monday. Because Jason is at the writing stage in his program, every day is pretty much the same–full of writing with a few breaks!

Another tradition we have is to take a day trip sometime around our anniversary. This doesn’t have to be expensive, although it will of course depend on where you live. We’ve enjoyed getting away and seeing some of the sights around where we have lived, whether it’s to the mountains or the beach, or to Amish country. A few times we’ve saved up and stayed in a bed & breakfast, but other years we’ve just taken a day off to spend together in a different setting.

One thing that I hope we never forget is the reality that we will always be busy. We will always (hopefully!) have work to do, other friendships and relationships to pursue, and chores to get done. But for us, finding a moment here and a moment there has made our marriage a lot stronger than I think it would otherwise be, and has made us a family, operating with a sense of unity and a mutual rhythm in how we live our days. I am grateful for a husband who values this as much as I do, and pray that we will continue to find ways to take advantage of these pockets of time as we grow and pass through the seasons to come in our life together.

What are some creative ways that you make the most of the time you have with your spouse? Do you have any weekly/monthly/yearly traditions that you feel have especially enriched your marriage?

Holidays

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!

Moving · Sacrifice

Our Little Adventure

written by Emily, a current graduate wife

My journey begins probably much like many others who have, along with their spouses, made the decision to attend graduate school.  John and I were college sweethearts and had the wedding of our dreams soon after we graduated from Samford University.  After our honeymoon, John and I fell into a wonderful rhythm of living and working in Memphis, TN, and enjoyed a season of sweet friends and family there.  We bought a house and spent months renovating and decorating it, planning on staying there until we had a few children of our own.  Well the Lord had different plans for us and a fire was ignited in John’s heart to pursue his dream of going to graduate school to earn his MBA.  We prayed, and prayed, talked and talked, cried and cried (ok, just me), wondering if this was the right decision.  We decided to uproot our comfortable lives and move twelve hours away to North Carolina.  We left great jobs, great friends, our first home, and a wonderful church, not knowing what the future might hold.  We did know however that we were in this together.  Our little adventure, we liked to call it. Something so ‘out of the norm’ and something so challenging, exciting and new.

 

Here we are 1 1/2 years into business school, and we are very much still living in our adventure.  We have gone through the ups and downs that come with moving and going back to school.  Such as: John staying at school until 10pm every night, only to come home and do more work, adjusting to a tiny apartment where we can hear our neighbors sneeze, me finding a new job and having to work for 52 straight weekends in a row, the we’ve suffered through the stress of being apart for an entire summer as John went away for an internship.

 

Spending the summer apart might have been one of the hardest things we have done together as a couple.  Since I wasn’t able to pack up and leave my job here in NC, John had to gather up his things, his side of the sink, his pillow, and drive 10 hours north to Philadelphia…without me.  For eleven full weeks.  I still remember the day he left, not knowing how I was going to make it without him.  We had never been apart over the 7 years together (3 1/2 married).  Could we survive with just phone calls and skype dates, and only 2 visits over 2 1/2 months?  I seriously contemplated hiding in his suitcase and just quitting my job all together.  The first week was definitely the hardest.  Going to bed alone, cooking dinner alone, and seeing his face on skype brought tears to my eyes every time I saw him.  BUT, the first week came and went…and so did the next two.  each day, I felt stronger and my love for him began to grow in a new light. I could DO this! Our conversations were deeper and more meaningful.  Our skype chats were long and mushy.  My trip to visit him in the one of the following weeks was one of the sweetest times we’ve ever had together.  They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, and I am now a 100% believer in that.  Being apart made us cherish our time together so much more, and although we had to face trials and frustrations, I am so grateful for last summer.  If I had to give any advice to someone who is gearing up for time apart from their spouse (whether it’s an internship, or residency, etc.) I would say these 3 things.

 

1. Start a new “tradition” with each other for that time (whether it’s calling to say goodnight, a “good morning” text, a weekly piece of snail mail, or sharing a daily scripture verse).  Having something to look forward to each day together is fun and exciting and it will bring at least some form of consistency to your life.

 

2. Listen to each other.  Phone and email conversations are probably not what you are most used to in the daily communication with your spouse.  It’s really easy to misunderstand or mis-communicate when you are not sitting right in front of each other.  Sarcasm is sometimes very hard to interpret in a phone call.  Listen well and make it a point to let each person talk about his or her day.  Ask questions.  It’s a new and different way to communicate so treasure learning these new ways to share and grow.

 

3. Enjoy the present.  It’s very easy to just mark off the days on the calendar until you are together again, and constantly look towards the future, but try to enjoy the ‘in between’ phase.  Spend time with your girlfriends and watch “the notebook” 15 times in a row.  Light candles and eat popcorn for dinner.  Take long baths and buy yourself fresh flowers.  Sometimes it’s the little things that make you enjoy the day.  Take time and do that for yourself, trust me you’ll be glad you did.  You will be refreshed and happy when you have your phone call with your spouse later that night, instead of feeling isolated and alone.

 

Through our entire graduate journey, we have learned a lot and have grown in so many ways.  We have learned to never take a single moment together for granted.  We have learned that our cozy little apartment makes us cuddle that much more.  We have been reminded of the importance of encouragement and unconditional love in a marriage.  We have re-learned our love languages and have strived to put them into practice every day.  We have learned how necessary it is make decisions together and for us, to pray together.  We have been through weeks at a time where a quick meal at the dinner table was the only time we had together that day — and have learned to turn off our phones and tv’s during those times.  We have been shown that having friends that are in this same phase of life can make such a difference to your sanity.  And, we have learned what it means to be TOGETHER every step of the way.  Homes may change, friends may come and go, doors may close, and dreams may change, BUT, no matter what — it’s our little adventure. It’s one of support, sacrifice, and unconditional love.  And as long as we are together, there is nowhere else I’d rather be. 

Have you had to live apart from your spouse for an extended period on your graduate wife journey?  How have you handled the transition?