Superwoman syndrome sucks

20 02 2016

me and boys 94

One of the things in my life I am most grateful for is that I failed in my attempt to earn a PhD. Let me explain…

In August of 1994, sixteen days after my second C-section, I left my infant son and his two year old brother to attend my first medical school lecture in the pursuit of my PhD in Physiology. I already had a Master degree in Education, two children, and veteran status. I had just turned 26 years old. My parents lived 12 hours away, but my mom stayed with me for the first week to care for my infant – he was too young for daycare. When my mom left, my mother-in-law took a week and then my grandmother came for two. My husband was overseas with the military, as he was about six months of every year. At six weeks, my baby went off to daycare with his brother. As winter arrived in North Dakota, I woke up each day in the bitter cold and dark to get them both bundled up, drove the highway from the military base (often through blowing snow) 20 miles to the daycare on the south end of town, then drove myself to the other end of town – making it in time for my 8am, five day a week, lecture class. I was also a TA, so after taking my courses in the morning, I taught in the afternoon. Then, the trek to daycare (again in the dark and cold and snow), and home to make dinner and study. Sometimes I also taught night classes. I was expected to be in the lab, all day, every weekday – then, seven days a week once I started working with lab animals who needed to be fed daily. The first year, I took spring break off and was almost kicked out of the program (no joke). I made sure to not take spring break… or any breaks… off again.

Looking back now – 22 years later – it seems insane. Yet, at the time, it seemed normal – expected. I was raised in the 70’s and 80’s – the time of empowerment – the time of the “superwoman” – the time of “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, etc etc”. To not push myself to the breaking point was unthinkable. I’m not bitter about much in my life… but I sincerely hate that Enjoli commercial now. I’m bitter that, although I had a stay at home mom myself, the media and culture of my childhood and teen years NEVER gave the message that, while women could do it all it DID NOT ALL HAVE TO BE SIMULTANEOUS!!

The years from 1994-1997 are a blur to me now. Fortunately, since our families lived so far away, we took hours of VHS recordings of our kids infant and toddler years. I watch them each Christmas season, although watching them sometimes makes me angry, realizing how much I missed. I know my kids were well cared for – they had a wonderful daycare, teachers who loved them, and wide exposure to childhood illnesses (with the resulting great immune systems). Although, there was the one time I brought my son with chicken pox with me to a seminar because there was absolutely no one to care for him and I was told “be there or else”… that didn’t go over well.

In 1997, the town experienced a massive flood – shutting down everything, including the med school, for several months. That flood was a horrible experience for tens of thousands of people. It was a God send for me. I got to spend several months home with my kids. It was spring, leading into summer, and it was glorious.

As the school started to reopen in mid-summer, I went back to assess the damage to my samples (power had been out, many things had been ruined). I was faced with several more years of work to finish the PhD. I couldn’t do it. I went in to my advisor to quit. He suggested, instead of quitting, to write up what I had as a Masters. I agreed immediately. Within a year, I had written and defended my thesis. My transcripts were adjusted and the “admitted to PhD program” was changed to “admitted to MS program” (not sure why they do that – maybe to avoid the stigma of failure?). I didn’t care. I took the MS and ran. I continued teaching night classes and finally spent two years as, primarily, a stay at home mom. It scares me to think that I might have made a different decision. I might have chosen to plow on, thereby missing my kids entire pre-school childhood. I am sincerely thankful I quit. Yes, I failed the PhD, and I’m grateful for that.

And, it was really okay. My degree was enough to get me an excellent job in pharmaceutical research. I started work there the same day my youngest started first grade. I still taught night classes, and transitioned that into online classes as the times changed. In time, we moved with the military and I went back and got my high school teaching certificate when my kids were in middle school. I taught at their high school the whole time they were there – knowing their teachers, seeing them in the halls and when they came to my room between classes (usually for money or food, but still…). I knew their friends.

Now that my kids are grown, I can look back from a distance and see that it all worked out. They are well adjusted and productive adults. I think the world has realized the ridiculous and dangerous expectations of superwoman syndrome, but – if not – I’ll be vocal about paraphrasing Nike… JUST DON’T DO IT!!!


Facing the post-Thanksgiving massive holiday to-do list

28 11 2015

I’m an organized person.  Not a neat and tidy uber-clean person, but organized.  One of those people who makes lists of lists.  Color coded and dated lists.  Lists that aren’t procrastination – I get the items finished and checked off.  I’m motivated by checking items off lists.

But, even as an organized person, I have a secret to confess – I dread the day after Thanksgiving.  It’s not the shopping – that’s all done and stashed (accomplished online, of course).  It’s because the day after Thanksgiving is when all of my holiday and end of fall term/start of spring term lists are programmed to start alerting.  “Assemble lab kits”, “Inventory cookie baking ingredient spreadsheet”, “Program course updates – spring (sublist: 87 tasks)”, and on and on.  Since I take a school “computer break” from Christmas to New Years, and since I have a far-flung cookie-loving family, the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is my marathon.  It’s exhausting, but being organized helps. Sort of.  Some days I wonder if I might not be better off not seeing the massive day after Thanksgiving lists?  But, I try to look at it as a delayed gratification kind of thing.  If I get my list done before Christmas, then I know that I’ll have fall classes done, spring classes ready to go, and cookies to eat by Christmas Day.

Through the years, I’ve come up with some tips and tricks to accomplish what is important to me and my family – and to cut the things that aren’t.

  1. We don’t do many gifts. I pick up little things here or there, but I don’t stress over what to get for whom. I have a huge family – most people get cookies.
  1. Cookies. The list takes days to bake. I have no idea how many dozen I make – certainly more than I could estimate off the top of my head.  I am cutting back this year on the cookies and ramping up on the white chocolate covered pretzels – they are usually the first to get pounced on. (Side note: if I could buy the cookies, I totally would – can’t, peanut allergies, don’t trust anyone else to make cookies.  Plus, it’s something my grandma did, and she’s no longer here to do it).
  1. I make lists for the next year as soon as a finish a project each year. trello 1115The lists are programmed to alert the day after Thanksgiving the next year. As I said above, it’s overwhelming to see them all pop up – but at least I know I won’t forget something – and, I’ll get the sense of accomplishment that comes with marking things off a list.  I make lists of things like which cookies were the last to go from the plate (eliminate them from the line up) and who has which favorites.  I track cookie ingredients and recipes on Excel to make it easy to adjust batch sizes and to consolidate ingredients for a shopping list.  This year I’ve also started to use Trello to track my tasks.  Trello lets me color code task cards and either give each card a due date, or not.  Trello allows me to drag and drop and/or copy cards from list to list so that I can make a working copy without disrupting my original master copy list.  It allows multiple boards, each holding multiple lists with multiple cards per list.  Trello has allowed me to consolidate my holiday and school prep/grading lists from OneNote and Wunderlist to just Trello.  Anything that combines the functionality of two apps into one is a winner for me.  Plus, it’s universally accessible (phone, web).  I’m still faced with a massive list, but at least it’s one that’s both pretty and functional.

And, the things I don’t do?

  1. I very rarely do holiday cards. If people want to know how my year went, there is Facebook. Or, they can email me and ask.  One year I sent out holiday cards June 1st (start of summer vacation – my “new year”).  That was a hit – lots of good feedback on that, but that was before Facebook was a thing.
  1. I don’t put up a tree. We have a small pre-lit shrub somewhere we put on a table. Our kids are 20-somethings now so the tree isn’t really a must-do.  Plus, the kids still live at home (with all their stuff) so there isn’t actually room anywhere for a tree.
  1. I don’t worry about cooking traditions. On Thanksgiving this week our “poultry and potatoes” meal was chicken tenders and fries. Christmas will be pizza (actually, the Papa Murphy’s folks tell me Dec 24th is one of their busiest days of the year so we may be on tradition there).

For me, the holidays are a time of family and faith.  I’ve learned as I age that it’s not about the obligations, or the turkey or the tree, it’s about spending time with the ones you love and relaxing.  The holidays don’t have to match the Norman Rockwell pictures to be valid experiences.

Now, on to that to-do list…

The more things change…

12 12 2012

I started this blog years ago as a project for my national board certification while teaching high school.  With the rise of social media and my busy schedule, the blog never really took off.  Now, while searching for a way to keep my recipes and craft info accessible to me “in the cloud”, I came back to this blog.  Welcome to those who stumble upon it!!  But, even if it’s just me here, at least I’ll have my recipes in one spot 🙂  And, if anyone is wondering about the app status mentioned a couple of years ago – times change!  I now use the app Wunderlist to track to-do’s, grocery lists, and packing lists.  On a daily basis, I access information on an iPad, iPod, android phone, Dell laptop, Dell desktop, iMac, and MacBook Pro.  Cloud storage and universal access are a must!!

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