The Irreverent Professor

Unvarnished realities about life, teaching, learning, and change in this wild, wild world

Archive for the tag “family”

Things That Make My Life Easier

When we moved to our dream location last year, we vowed to live a “simpler, smaller life.”  Who knew that the biggest challenge to living simpler and smaller would be…me?  A lifetime of indoctrination into the world of more and bigger is not easy to overcome.  It requires a serious mindset shift.  And I slip…a lot.

Watching my husband set off on his bike to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner just now made me think of some of the things we’ve put in place to keep our lives simpler and smaller.

Our beach bungalow

Our beach bungalow

  1. We right-sized our house.  Ok, technically we down-sized.  We have lived in homes as big as 3500 sq. ft. and as small as 1200 sq. ft.  The truth is, our needs are small and simple.  We need three bedrooms: one for us, one for our son, and one (or a den) to use as a home office since we both work from home.  Check.  We need a kitchen.  Check. We need a place to eat (dining room).  Check. We need a family gathering place (living room). Check. We had to get rid of about half of our furniture when we moved and I had to get rid of about half of my clothes since we now share a closet.  I don’t miss any of it.   That we have a front porch is a bonus.  That we added a (bug-free!) screened in back porch is positively decadent!  Sure, I would love to have a proper guest room for the occasional guests we have.  But guests are rare and we make due with air mattresses and a trundle when we do have some.
  2. We have a housekeeper. A splurge.  Worth the money and a great time-saver.  The time we don’t spend cleaning house is spent with each other.  This morning my husband and I took a walk on the beach together while our house was being cleaned
  3. We order our groceries online. Any chance my husband gets to avoid talking to a human being, he does so this works great for him.  We order online, swing through to the special lane at Harris Teeter to pick them up, and bring them home. Probably less impulse buying too.
  4. We use HelloFresh for meals.  We love it!  It has given my husband (the cook) three new menus to try each week (they take about 30 minutes to prepare) and the fresh food comes boxed to our door. Less waste and some new tastes!
  5. We did have a yard guy, but he wasn’t helping keep our plants alive and I can kill them myself without paying him to do it.  And we only have a tiny swath of grass that I could cut with a pair of scissors in about 30 minutes (but won’t).
  6. Next thing I want to try is Stitch Fix which will do my clothes shopping for me.  They surely will do a better job than I do for myself (I’m fashion-challenged and will wear shorts, a t-shirt, and flip-flops any chance I get).

I know some of my simplifying measures are just paying other people to do things for us.  But that’s the great thing about it…we would rather pay people to do some of the things for us that we don’t like to do than pay for a giant house or newer cars or rounds of golf or whatever.  Everyone’s different.  But these things make our lives easier and we don’t feel like we’re sacrificing anything.  Others might really want a golf club membership but be willing to clean their own house.  It’s all about prioritizing.  And everyone’s priorities are different.

The one area in which I just can’t seem to simplify is pets.  We have three cats and a dog.  That’s a lot of fur in a small house.  (Thank goodness for Swiffer.)  But it’s also a lot of pet love. And while that doesn’t make my life smaller or simpler, it makes it more wonderful.

Autumn, the latest addition to our family

Autumn, the latest addition to our family

Carpe easier!

Once Upon A Time, 15 Years Ago…

I was just reminiscing about my wedding day.  We’ve been married fifteen years.  Fif-teen!  In these days of disposable marriages, I’m pretty proud of that.

Our wedding day.  A few years (and pounds) ago.

Our wedding day. The first dance.

I know everyone says marriage is hard.  It’s not.  At least not for me.  But I think that’s mainly because my husband is an extremely affable, friendly, conflict-avoidant guy.  The word everyone (and I mean everyone) uses to describe him is “nice.”  I don’t think that’s the word that first comes to mind when they meet me.

I grew up in a house where yelling was a perfectly acceptable form of communication.  We got mad, we yelled, we slammed doors, then hours (or days) later, we pretended nothing ever happened.  In my family, there was some crazy behavior (that in my childhood involved tossing me out a first-floor window and shuttling me over to my grandmothers to get me out of the middle of it).

My husband grew up in a Norman Rockwell painting.

Our wedding was a perfect illustration of our differences.  His dad was his best man.  He gave a perfect toast.  His mother made centerpieces and help decorate the reception hall.  They gave me pearls to wear on my wedding day.

For my part:

  • I got lost on the way to the church (or rather, my cousin got us lost taking a “shortcut”).
  • I had to carefully manage three (count ’em three) pews of parents…on MY side…to include my dad and his wife, my former stepfather and his then-wife, and my mom.
  • I forgot to put on my garter and didn’t realize it until they announced the garter toss (which was good, because there was only one single woman there and she would have been very embarrassed).
  • I chose a wedding venue with no alcohol permit so I wouldn’t have to worry about the behavior of certain members of my family.  As much.
  • I instructed them not to play the “Electric Slide” because I loathed it…and they did anyway. And it was a big hit.
  • The weather between Atlanta and Tennessee was so bad, most of my husband’s extended family couldn’t make it.  We had tons of food leftover and the venue staff ate well that night.
  • The music and video guy stepped outside in the middle of our ceremony to have a smoke and the “Ave Maria” played in a loop over and over…and over. I very nearly stepped away to turn the music off, but my almost-husband had my hand in a vise grip.

That last one was not my fault.  

But it was still a perfect day.

Older, wiser, a little heavier, but happy.

Older, wiser, a little heavier, but happy.

More importantly, it’s been an awesome marriage.  Fifteen years, six moves, one son, and countless jobs later, we’re still going strong.

Carpe anniversary!

Don’t Have Kids

This is what my mother said to me.  Well, actually what she said was “No” (in response to the question “Do you think I should have kids?”) but I didn’t think that made a very good blog title.  I asked her the question just before I surprised her with the news that my husband and I were going to adopt a child, so I set myself up to be especially dramatic and distressed by her answer (dysfunctional much?).

Image

My mom in a field of Texas bluebonnets

The reasons she said I shouldn’t have kids were two-fold:

1. She said no woman should have a child unless it was her intense heart’s desire to be a mother.  And since I had spent most of my married life saying, “No, we don’t want kids.  We are happy with our life as it is.” she felt pretty sure it wasn’t my heart’s desire.

2. She pointed out that I didn’t like kids.  I didn’t.  And I still don’t really like other people’s kids.  (Except the kids of my friends who are reading this.  I love your awesome, talented, wonderful kids, of course.  Really…)

My mother was a smart woman.  But she and I never really understood each other.  She didn’t understand my life choices, I didn’t understand hers.  We had exactly three things in common: a love of animals, a love of food, and a sense of humor.  But I loved my mother very much and am sad that she never got to meet my son (she died of cancer earlier the year he was born).

And here’s the thing: she was right.  I totally, completely, vehemently didn’t want kids…until I did.  And the fact that I was over 40 when I finally did…well, that’s just the way it happened for me.  There was a spell just after we were married that we “tried.”  And when it didn’t happen for us in spite of the evil, crazy-making fertility drugs that I took, we stopped and said, “Wait.  Is this even what we want?  Or are we just doing this because we feel like that’s what we’re supposed to do–get married, buy a house, have a kid?  So we embarked on a fun-filled 10 years of living child-free by choice.  Getting lots of education, traveling, building our careers.  Until we were 40-somethings saying, “What are we going to do for the next 40 years?”

Now I have an awesome, incredible, smart, hilarious son who is four and a half and I can’t imagine a life without him in it.  Sure I get frustrated and tired and aggravated with him (as I’m sure he does me).  That’s part of being a mom.  But he’s the best part of my life…other than my husband, of course.  (Dodging bullets left and right.).  My sweet son makes my life richer.  I have become more mindful because of him.  I stop and look at bugs, pick flowers, sing songs, dance in the rain.  Image

So mom was right.  And wrong.  Don’t have kids a moment before you are ready for them.  But if you do have them–by choice or otherwise–give them your whole heart and embrace your “momness” (or “dadness”).  No matter what anyone says.

Carpe momness.

Happy Mother’s Day.

To Endings…and New Beginnings

This weekend I attended a college graduation.  It wasn’t my graduation.  And it wasn’t my first graduation.  As a professor (and serial student myself), I have attended a few graduations.  What made this graduation different is that it may have been my last.

Look at all the shiny, happy almost-college-graduates

Look at all the shiny, happy almost-college-graduates!

I resigned from my professor job to move to the place where my heart is and has always been.  The place I call “home” even though I haven’t lived there in 20 years.  The place I grew up, learned to ride a bike, had my first crush, my first love, my first heartbreak.  My first prom, my first…well, nevermind.  You get the gist.

I resigned from my professor job because…well, I’m not really sure why.  My husband said, “Why don’t we move home?”  And I said ok.  We move about every three or four years at the suggestion of one or the other of us, so this wasn’t a shocking idea. But for the first time, we are moving for the quality of our lives and not for our careers.  And that makes it very different.  But home is the where of our happiness so it must be a good thing… right?

I have mixed feelings about this ending.  Although I’m excited to be moving “home,” I’m not sure what this new beginning means for me.  Sure, it means living at the beach (yay!).  And it means raising my son in the place where I grew up (yay yay!).  But what does it mean for ME, you know, professionally?  My husband teleworks, so he takes his job with him.  But I’ve been working at a brick and mortar university.  And now I’m…not.

Beach boy

Beach boy

People keep asking, “So what are you going to be doing?”  Some persistently believe I’m retiring at 47 despite my efforts to dissuade them of the notion (it probably doesn’t help that my flippant answer to the question is occasionally “be a kept woman.”  It’s a joke!).   Answering “I have no idea” seems to make people uncomfortable (including me) and if I’m not mistaken, I’ve gotten a few pitying looks…and a few envious ones.  🙂

My goal is to relax, get quiet, and spend a few months figuring out who I am.  I call it a self-imposed sabbatical, in keeping with the professorial mindset.  Marlo Thomas (whose awesome webcast I attended last week) would probably say It Ain’t Over and Jane Pauley (whose book Your Life Calling: Reimagining the Rest of Your Life I am reading now) might call it a step toward reimagining my life.

Endings are difficult…but exciting, because they mean new beginnings.  New beginnings are scary…but exciting because anything is possible.

Carpe new beginnings.

Today I am Grateful…

I’m selfish.  And self-centered.  And I have (as Meredith Grey on Grey’s Anatomy would say) a dark and twisty side that sometimes takes over.

And boy, do I complain.  I complain at work.  I complain at home.  I complain on social media.  I complain about my kid, my family, my work, the weather, how hot my office is, my weight.  I complain.

But today I am grateful.  Today I am thinking about two friends roughly my age who have recently had serious health crises.  One had a double mastectomy after getting breast cancer for the second time.  She’s a single mother of two girls in and barely out of high school.  The other is a man I know professionally, but now feel like I know personally after following his journey through stomach pains that turned out to be a plum-sized tumor that now has surrounding blueberries, which is scary.  It is being taken out today (“fruit extraction”) and my thoughts are with him.

Today I am thinking about my mother, who died at 69 of cancer, six months before I got my son, the grandson she’ll never know.  (Although I’m convinced she does know him from wherever she is because I swear I hear her laughing when he does something that makes me crazy.  She loved the “payback” concept of her kids having kids.)

Today I am thinking about friends who have been through divorces–or worse–in their marriages.

How can I not be grateful every day for these two awesome guys?

How can I not be grateful every day for these two awesome guys?

Today I am thinking about people who have lost children, truly the most horrible experience I can think of.

And today I am grateful for things that I complained about yesterday.  Today I am grateful for:

  • Having so many opportunities to do work I love that I’m overwhelmed.
  • Having an energetic (and healthy) kid who runs me ragged.
  • Having a sweet and loving husband who doesn’t mind being portrayed as either “robotic” or “stable.”
  • Having students to teach (some of whom actually want to learn!).
  • Having the opportunity to live my dream when I get to move back “home” in six months to raise my son and be a multipreneur.
  • Having no answer (because there are so many possible answers) to the question, “What will you do as an entrepreneur?”
  • Having so many kind friends and family members that sent my son birthday presents and cards that I can’t find the time to write all the thank you notes.

Sure, I’m still hurt that my own father said “No, thanks” when I suggested my husband, son, and I come visit after Christmas visit (after 1,000 “Come visit us” comments from him).  But today I’m trying hard to remember to be grateful that between us, my husband and I still have one parent left.  Our son has one grandparent left.

And I’m impatient to move home to the beach.  But today I’m trying to be grateful that I have a job that gives me the chance to help (when I can) college students figure out their careers.  Because I totally dig that.

And I get frustrated at students who go through the motions and give me snarly faces in class.  But today I’m trying to be grateful for the ones who “get it” and who are making the most of their time in college.

So dark and twisty or not, today I am grateful.

Carpe gratitude.

What’s the Big Hurry?

This post is going to seem contrary to my usual “Carpe everything!” and my personal motto “Now is better than later.”  But it’s been on my mind for a while.  What’s the big, honking hurry everyone seems to be in these days?  Why are so many people (including me sometimes) so focused on getting to the next thing that they forget about the now things?

I have had several college students who got engaged during their senior year of college…or so soon afterwards, they still had awkward hair from wearing those ridiculous mortarboards.  Many got married to high school or college sweethearts.  They had been together a long time, so they were “soulmates” or such.  As soon as they graduated (and sometimes before), they got married.  Although I suspect some of them are in college to get their M.R.S. degree (yes, that phenomenon is alive and well, at least here in the South), some of them surprise me.

Really, no one looks good in mortarboard. But I was still happy to be getting my Ph.D.

Really, no one looks good in mortarboard. But I was still happy to be getting my Ph.D.

I’m not saying getting married straight out of college is necessarily a bad thing (and I will again catch all kinds of flak from my friends who did this and are still happily married).  But these kids (and yes, I think of them as kids) are missing out on experiences that come with being single in your 20’s: having your own apartment and never having to fight over the remote with anyone or eating the last of the chocolate peanut butter ice cream in the freezer.  Life-shaping stuff.

Without my single years in my 20’s, I wouldn’t be who I am today.  Maybe I’m just a late bloomer, but I needed that time to feel lonely, to learn to be alone happily, and to make some moves I could never have done as part of a couple or family.  I am not at all the person I was in college.  Or in my 20’s, for that matter.

This “what’s the big hurry?” also applies to the career types who are in so much of a hurry to climb the corporate ladder that they forget there are a lot of great things to experience (and learn) where they are–and more importantly, outside of work.

And to the students who are in such a hurry to graduate that they forget why they are in college in the first place–to learn, to experience “college life” which is a unique once-in-a-lifetime free-for-all the likes of which we long for the rest of our lives.  Don’t get me wrong, the Real World is great.  But there’s something about college…

And to the dreamers who are always thinking about the future (this is where I’m guilty) instead of relishing the present.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery. Today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.”  –Kung Fu Panda

I read a blog post by Rachel Macy Stafford “The Day I Stopped Saying Hurry Up.”  It struck me right in the gut.  How many times have I said that to my son as he watches the ants scurry around on the anthill or searches for the perfect rock?  Because wherever I need to go or whatever I need to do, I need to do it now.  Because now is better than later.  Only sometimes the now thing is the anthill and it’s really not going to make a big difference if I get to the office 10 minutes later.

When's the last time you took the time to climb a tree?

When’s the last time you took the time to climb a tree?

My life could have been very different.  I could have gotten married right after college except that He Who Shall Be Known as The One That Got Away and I couldn’t seem to get our acts together and ultimately married other people–all for the better I’m sure.  Instead I spent some time alone, learned to move around to different cities, eat out by myself, enjoy business travel, and accept the torture know as dating.  Ultimately I married Mr. Perfect when I was 32 and he was 35 (yep, late bloomers).

Lately I find myself in less of a hurry (my husband, one-speed Phil might disagree)…sometimes.  I’m a work in progress.  But after seeing so many friends and family struck down with serious illnesses, I realize hurrying past today toward tomorrow and next week and the next experience causes me to miss a lot of things and leaves me empty.  Now it’s time to stop and smell the roses.

Carpe now.

New Years Resolutions of a Teacher…and More

It’s almost New Year’s Eve here and so of course I’m thinking about my new year’s resolutions.  And all the resolutions that came before and were not achieved (or were – but mostly not).  Which makes me realize that I need to frame my New Year’s Resolutions a bit better.

So this year, I am not going to make my new year’s resolutions…

  • To lose weight (although I need to)

    G and TW

    My cousin G was kind enough to say that I was “the thinnest she’d ever seen me” on this visit. I’ve gained it back. Viva la chocolat!

  • To exercise regularly (although I need to do this too)
  • To be less stressed (although I desperately need to be)
  • To travel more (although sometimes I want to)

And so on…

Instead this year, my New Year’s Resolution will simply be this: to be a better me.

  • To be a better professor to my students. For any students reading this: that doesn’t necessarily mean easier or higher grader.  But it does mean trying really hard to come up with new and improved ways of conveying information with the end goal of helping you gain knowledge and experience that will help you in the “real world.”
  • To be a better wife. My husband is a saint and does far more than his share of everything…well, everything except shopping for our son’s clothes.  He hates that.
  • To be a better mother.  Everyone has gifts.  Patience is not one of mine.  Having a child has not improved that.  Fortunately, one of my gifts seems to be acting completely silly, so that helps.

    The greatest motivator of all for improvement.

    The greatest motivator of all for improvement.

  • To be a better friend.  I am not a great friend.  I prioritize a number of things (including all of the above, as you see) above being a friend.  I want to be a better friend, whatever that means.  I hope it means happy hour once a week with my friends, but we’ll see.

    Friends at PCMA Dinner

    Dear friends at a fancy pants dinner in 2012

  • To be a better professional.  I love the field that I’m in and I enjoying speaking, presenting, and training.  But after a while, it becomes easy to “phone it in.”  And that happens when I start getting bored.  So this year I’m going to figure out how I can provide something the industry needs and be true to my own interests, too.  No compromises.

Stay tuned for improvements to be made.

Carpe the new year.

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