Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Today's picture - Escape from Alcatraz (aka: a very difficult semester of PhD work!).  I woke up early this morning, I mean REALLY early, like coming home late from the bar early.  I can't really tell you what time, because the clock in our room is between 40 and 55 minutes fast, I can never remember, and it was simply too early to do the mat.  I just know what time I have to get up, after hitting 5 snoozes, to be on my own schedule.  Anyway, I tossed and turned, plotting the demise of all the people that have pissed me off this week - and I realized how utterly counterproductive that was.  So I focused, I visualized, and meditated, and used the time wisely.  If you know anything about me from reading this blog, you know that I value sleep more than most things in life.  I refuse to get out of bed too early, so I lie there, again, plotting the demise, but then pulling myself back to reality.

Okay, what works in my life?  My marriage, for one, thankfully.  That's my one given, my rock.  Next.  School.  I was close, at this hour, to finishing another PhD semester (as I write this, I have turned in all my papers, and the only thing I'm waiting on is one lazy cohort to post her part of a group presentation so I can pull it all together - as you can tell, I'm not much for group work).  I am great at my job, I really am, I'm not being arrogant, but my job doesn't fulfill me (it might define me right now, but it doesn't fulfill me).  I kept coming back to teaching.  I have fought teaching my whole adult life.  I tutored kids throughout my high school stint, and was quite good at it (Lord, it's hard to be humble! - sorry shameless Mac Davis reference.)  My undergrad degree is in elementary ed.  I love training and development at work.  My PhD is going to be in adult education.  I can't escape this Alcatraz - and maybe that's a good thing.  This morning I fought the money battle in my mind.  I already make more than an associate professor, why would I want to go backward?  I love my salary, but I'm hating corporate work.  It's soulless.  I don't want to be soulless.  I am on a 3 year plan; pay off debt, including student loan, get my daughters out of high school, finish my PhD, then I'm free ... free to move on to my passions, my dreams, which, I have to say include teaching.

I'm shaping my topic to be technology and education, some facet of online education, perhaps with a feminism slant, bringing education to women who need it most - those in rural, poverty-stricken areas.  Without online education, I would not have been able to get a Master's degree, I live 2 1/2 hours from the nearest university.  I wouldn't have the opportunity to get a Doctorate, while working and securing my financial future.  More women deserve this.  I have to make that my quest.  I have to make a difference.

I'll start by playing with my new Kindle - a piece of technology I stubbornly refused to buy, but now love!  I need to embrace technology and the advances it can bring to women everywhere.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Gratitude in the Black

Maybe I missed a memo.  Maybe I'm impervious to marketing ploys.  Or maybe I'm just a different person on a different journey today.  For weeks, the television ads have boasted Black Friday sales, open at 5 a.m., open at 4 a.m., open at 3 a.m. - OPEN ALL NIGHT!  Shopping, sales, the deal of the century - can't miss - don't miss!  I watched the madness unfold in front of my eyes with my own family.  Let me back up slightly.  I used to love to shop.  It was therapy, escape from a life that was bleak and miserable.  I'm not sure when exactly it happened - maybe a slow evolution, a coming into the light, or maybe an unconscious choice after dealing with debt and throwing out material items, some new, that had no meaning to me.  So I watched my family pour through the ads for Target, Sears, Wal-Mart, Home Depot (really, Home Depot has a Black Friday sale?), stores I hadn't heard of, all advertising amazing deals that you would have to be a damned fool to miss.  Am I missing something?  I looked through the ads, and found absolutely nothing that I would be willing to sacrifice sleep in order to purchase.  I hate shopping on any ordinary day, what would compel me to shop on the craziest day of the year?

Maybe I've realized that everything I need, I have.  I don't renounce material things, quite the opposite.  I love a good Coach handbag, a pair of sexy heels, and a fabulous black trench.  I love nice electronics and my Apple products.  But I would rather buy less of something with a higher quality.  And then spend the rest on travel, food, and wine.  For me, life is about experiences.  And maybe I can say that because I have seen life from both sides now.  I spent a decade living near the poverty level (I can't say I've suffered true poverty, but enough so to understand gratitude today), and now I am living well, I'm successful - by my own terms.  And I shouldn't judge people, they are on a different journey.  I guess what I'm trying to say is that I love my journey now.  I have nothing but hope and optimism for my future, and the blackest in financial terms of gratitude today for what I have now.

So, my friends, enjoy the early morning insanity, I hope you find some great deals (I know - it's a sport for some).  I loved sleeping in a warm bed next to my favorite person in the world, waking up at my own pace (which was actually 6:30 a.m.), and easing into my day.  Happy Holidays!

Monday, November 22, 2010


If you think there's a more influential, more inspiring person of our times than Oprah, I'd challenge you to tell me why.  I don't get to watch Oprah very often, but when I do, I fall in love all over again.  She is intelligent and generous and charitable, and with her big heart comes her big personality and her true beauty.  As a minority woman, she has struggled, but she never laments this fact, she uses it to make the world better for everyone who comes along behind her.  She believes in humanity, and pursues the best in people.  And she brings Josh Groban onto her show - how can you not love that?  Okay, so I happen to be watching Oprah, with Josh Groban, one of the great voices and personalities in his own right.

I'm inspired by Oprah.  I wish I could make even a fraction of the impact she has.  Maybe in part that's why I want to earn this PhD, so I have the voice to do so.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mr. Gri-inch!

The Holiday season has begun, Sirius Holly and Holiday Traditions have been bolstering my spirits for the last few days, and tonight, TBS aired the first showing of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas, one of my favorite holiday stories of all time.  I love Dr. Seuss.  Theodore Giesel may be one of the greatest minds of our time.  I remember reading the greats in my childhood, The Lorax, Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop, and reading even more to my kids, One Fish Two Fish - Red Fish Blue Fish, The Thinks You Can Think, Oh The Places You'll Go!.  He's a genius.  He weaves poetry into hilarious accounts rife with political, spiritual, and sociological anecdotes.

I love Christmas, I always have.  Even in adulthood, when I have renounced organized religion and the church.  Christmas is a state of the heart, people are kinder, lighter, and give themselves permission to indulge, just a little.  My dear husband doesn't enjoy Christmas, as much.  Last year, I put my foot down and insisted we buy a real tree.  I ended up decorating it on my own, while he watched sports, and it took the fun out of it; then I had to admit that taking it down and picking pine needles out of white carpet for the next six months was a big of a drag.

Growing up, we always decorated, we had dozens and dozens and more dozens of Christmas cookies to bake, family to visit, presents to buy and create, we lit everything up that we could find, and it was festive.  Coming to terms with Christmas without children, without celebration has been hard for me.  I hate winter.  More and more each year.  The cold hurts - and I live in an area that has the coldest temperatures for the longest months of the year.  I have to listen to Christmas music, drink egg-nog (as a lactose-intolerant adult), host Christmas parties, and be in holiday cheer to make it through.  But I always like to think that even the grinchiest of grinches can grow their hearts maybe a size or two this time of year.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Counting My Blessings

I almost went down the path of a pity party tonight.  But I choose instead to think of the good things.  My daughters dismissed the idea of spending Thanksgiving with us.  We are going to my in-laws' for Christmas, and while they are invited, I know they will choose to not go.  I accept this.  I do regret not bringing them with me when I moved, because I knew their dad would die without them, but you can't reverse some decisions.  Right now, I don't care, because all the reasons I left him have only been amplified in the last six years.  He's a lazy, unmotivated, bitter piece of work, and he and his family enjoy using my daughters against me.  There's a reason he is alone, and I am not. My best girlfriends, all products of divorce, have assured me that they will come around when they grow up.  I hope they are right.  But most of all, I'm grateful for my husband now, who is the opposite of all that I hated in the girls' dad.  

Last night was filled with good times and good friends.  We have become very spontaneous.  After a terrible Wyoming Cowboys season, my husband, who is a rabid fan, insisting on attending every single home game and as many away games as I can stomach, made the call to stay home - avoiding the crappy team and the potentially dangerous roads, with an impending snow storm.  We ended up winning, 44-0, a complete and utter surprise, but it was fabulous watching it from my comfy couch, wrapped in a blanket as the winds howled outside of us.  Anyway, last night on the way home, we texted some friends to meet at the one smoke-free bar in town.  We had a nice party going, full of big, deep belly laughs, the kind that just make you feel so happy inside.  Some of us went to dinner together, and then more drinks at Mike's.  Against my protest, we went to karaoke at the smoky bowling alley bar, which is filled with the whitest of white trash and smoke so thick you can cut it with my Wusthof knives.  But we had a blast.  I drank moderately, which helped reduce the hangover factor this morning, but managed to have a kick-ass time with friends, both old and new.  Two friends, one 50, one almost 60, are amazing women.  They have been through a lot, and they are taking time to be themselves.  And they were the hottest ones on the dance floor - guys kept asking them to dance, and it made me happy to no end that men think they are as beautiful as I think they are.  My dear husband sang karaoke, he is awesome, and he sings songs that I love, offbeat ones, and he even danced with me a couple of songs.  We had a great night, and left at closing time - 2 a.m.  OUCH!  I can't help but feel gratitude at having friends who will hang out with us for hours and hours, laughing, giggling, drinking, making memories.  My dear husband, who has become a raging feminist, like myself (this is NOT a dirty word, mind you), stepped it up.  This poor young drunk girl was leaning on the pool table, it had to have been half an hour, no one even noticed her.  He got up, went to the bar and got her some water, and made her drink it.  Then a slutted-up woman came over, said he was sweet, but then took the water away and made her dance with a guy.  My husband came unglued at this, and well, he has a temper, but I couldn't hold him back, because he was doing the right thing.  He confronted the slutted-up woman, turns out the poor drunk girl was her daughter, and she made her boyfriend dance with her to "get her some air."  She fell down on the way out of the bar, and I couldn't help but think of the horrible things her life was amounting to.  He tried, he did, and won huge points in our eyes, but at the same time, you can't save everyone.

I realized last night, though, as I often do, how much I love being married to him.  I hated dating. Men are difficult.  They are not all good.  Dating sucked.  Being married to him is great.  I love coming home every night to one person whom I truly love, who gets me, who will challenge me, who is not afraid to push me, even when it pisses me off.  These are my blessings.  As Thanksgiving rolls around, I will be sad that my daughters won't be there - mostly sad for my parents and grandparents, who rarely get to see them, but I'm going to focus on the beauty that my life has become, the life that I've always wanted has materialized.  I have so many things to be thankful for, I have to push aside the things I regret and cannot change.  Life is good.

Monday, November 15, 2010


  Epic is how you'd describe our vacation.  For 9 1/2 days, the longest I have ever gone in my professional career, I didn't check e-mail or answer the phone.  It was phenomenal.  I was relaxed, I was happy, I focused on my favorite things in life - my husband, friends, travel, the beach, and food & wine.  Reality check when we hit the Wyoming border on the way home last night - snow, slick roads, accidents, closed roads (other side of the interstate - we got home just fine), and then another reality check this morning with 355 work e-mails and a phone that rang every 5 minutes.  OUCH.  But here's the lesson - there's always tomorrow.

Finding the beauty in everyday life, even coming home to snow, realizing how lucky I am to lead the life I lead, this is what life is about.  I did a little mini-experiment, I said nothing about my feelings toward snow and cold, and I think that's the way I have to deal with life.  Would I love to live in California or Oregon, on the coast - hell yeah, but can I right now?  No.  I have an incredible job, with a 401(k) and a pension, and while the job itself is not up my alley, how can I walk away?  My challenge is to live on my dreams, working toward an even better life, but having gratitude for where I am now.  Oh, and finishing this PhD.  I talked to my advisor this afternoon, and she was incredibly helpful.  I was grateful for the time I spent listening to her talk, and brainstorming with her.  I'm working on an online/distance study of how to either better serve people through online education, or even narrow to women, but I'm interested in helping people get access to higher education, even when they live halfway to anywhere (okay, can't take full credit - I saw this sign driving through Nevada - "halfway to anywhere" - aka "middle of nowhere").  I will have to do a lot of rework, but I just have to make it through this semester, a few short weeks, and then recreate the literature review and the qualitative research.  I can do this.  Did I mention I got to cook for the first time in 10 days?  That was rewarding.  More rewarding than 3 hours of phone calls with my PhD classes.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

California Here I Come ...

Tomorrow we are off ... headed farther west for a long-overdue vacation.  I spent the last three days interviewing dozens of operator candidates, which at best is dull and mundane, but truthfully, is the worst of the worst of my responsibilities.  Sure, it's boring, but I'm making decisions about people's livelihoods that I just don't want to make.

I've bitched about my job enough, but one candidate gave me an answer that rang true.  I asked him the best decision he's recently made.  He told me it was to take a vacation with his family, because he was burned out and developing a negative attitude.  Hmmmm - THIS IS ME!  I couldn't even take a sick day this year without being bothered at home, or having to still do a phone interview because no one would help me.  Starting tomorrow at noon I am shutting off the phone, I'm not looking at e-mail, I'm going to leave school behind, and I'm going to relax.  For 9 days I will let myself be ME - indulge in my food and wine passions, concentrate on my marriage, and our friendships, and stop stressing about work and school.  I am hoping to have an epiphany, a moment of clarity, something that makes it easier to finish this PhD and find my true path.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends

In a moment of self-pity last night, I lamented my PhD woes on Facebook .  I was met with nothing but strong cheerleading and encouragement from my girl friends.  Of course, my husband encourages me, but there's something about girl power that motivates me like no other.  (Let me say this, though:  I am fortunate to have a husband who is not afraid to stand behind all of my achievements - even when it means surpassing his own - see the end of this post for my Anais Nin quote).  I have to get this PhD, for all the women before me who have paved the way, and for all the women behind me from whom I must pave the way.  

So, I was hopped up on feminism all day.  Voting day - I reminded myself how many women fought with their own blood, sweat, and tears, for my right to do this.  I kicked it into high gear with my dissertation topic, women in male-dominated industries.  I did some more lit review, I did some more writing, I did some coding of my field work, and then finally, I faced up to the deadlines looming in the next four weeks.  After a semester of deep soul-searching, insipid, vapid, gut-wrenching mind-changing, and general digging my heels in the ground, I am seriously behind.  But today, I felt something small click inside of me.  I can't NOT finish this PhD.  I can't give up.  I tell others not to give up - what kind of person does that make me to not take my own advice?  To top off my lit review, tonight I've dug into my feminist books, Falduci, DeBeauvoir, Steinem, Friedan, the greats of the second wave, and also some new feminist literature - yes, Virginia, anti-feminism still exists.  It's enough to make your blood boil - and enough to get me off my ass to keep fighting for equality!  

"I, with a deeper instinct, choose a man who compels my strength, who makes enormous demands on me, who does not doubt my courage or my toughness, who does not believe me naive or innocent, who has the courage to treat me like a woman. " Anais Nin