Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Thanksgiving Memory

Dean and I just had our 6th Thanksgiving together, and it was our 5th Thanksgiving in a row with the kids. For all but one of those, we've cooked our own dinner at home. We've got our Thanksgiving routine down, and by default, created our own tradition.

Dean always makes the turkey.
Elle always sets the table.
Bradley is always our "whatever you need" guy.
I always make the mashed potatoes.
Domi is the "will you go get this" runner.
Mariah avoids the kitchen at all costs.

This is the one time that we break out the "good dishes" and bust out the campaign glasses (Sparkling cider). We have a nice table cloth and cloth napkins. Elle sets out candles. We dust off the "real" silver silverware. It's a nice presentation, and it has become our tradition.

Today (as with every year) we went around the table and mentioned what we were thankful for. Each year the list includes family and friends. As we devoured our meal, I asked each person about their favorite Thanksgiving memory. Every single person mentioned a memory with extended family. The kids all mentioned their grandparents in Washington and the fond memories they have of Thanksgiving meal preparations. Dean mentioned Thanksgivings in Kansas when he was a kid. My favorite Thanksgiving memory also occurred during my young childhood.

It was Thanksgiving 1975. My mom, my dad, my sister and I lived in Millington, Tennessee. My parents came and got me out of Kindergarten early that day so that we could make the trip to Illinois for Thanksgiving. My teacher sent me home with all of the handmade Thanksgiving decorations I had made. I remember nothing about the actual drive; I'm assuming I was asleep. I just know that I couldn't WAIT to get to Aunt Donna's house!!!

My dad's whole family was there (minus the Wisconsin contingency). Uncle Bill, Aunt Susie, Dad, Aunt Donna, Aunt Janine, Uncle Danny, Aunt Judy...and all of the cousins. (Only Clint and Larry were missing.) My Grandma and Grandpa Danley were also both there. My parents had an old reel to reel video camera, and I actually have a few precious minutes of footage from that day.

Why is this one of my favorite memories? I remember feeling loved by all of my extended family. I remember being caught up in the chaos of dinner preparations, football, hanging with the cousins. I also distinctly remember sitting on my Grandpa's lap that day after dinner. He told me about the day I was born. I was born in Anaheim, California on March 21, 1970. My grandpa was ill in Illinois on that day. I was born on his birthday, and because of that, he told me I was special to him! It made my day.

I didn't have very many meaningful interactions with Grandpa Danley. He died when I was just 11 years old. That brief interaction is one of the few memories I have of him. I'm OK with that. I believe that families are forever, and I believe that I will have many opportunities to sit down together and discuss whatever we want.

Here is an old picture that I have from that day. Unfortunately, it has become a bit water damaged over the 35 years that I've had it. When I see this picture, I look right past the yellow speckles. Grandpa is at the head of the "kids table." It means a lot that he chose to sit with his grandkids!Yes, that is me and my sister in matching Hee-Haw overalls! I'm not ashamed to admit that we used to watch Hee-Haw, and I actually liked it!!!

In this picture (looking at the camera) Billy and Scott. Grandpa at the head of the table. Backs to the camera: Kevin, Julie and me (with the long blonde hair).

I'm grateful for many things in my life, but above all, I'm most thankful for my family. Near or far, old or new in this world or into the next....I'm grateful for them all!

Gravy Boat or Neti Pot?

So, this is one of those Thanksgiving moments that we'll forget years down the road, so I will document in cyberspace. (And assume that cyberspace will not go away for a while).

I've used a neti pot for about a year. I saw it on Oprah one day, and Dr. Oz made it look easy. I've got to tell you, I love my neti pot. For those of you who don't know what it is, it's a way to clean our your sinus passages. It sounds really gross, but it's really awesome...especially if you suffer from allergies like I do. it if you want to know more about how it works.

It looks like this:This year we bought two new "kitchen things" in relation to Thanksgiving. We purchased a really nice turkey roasting pan and a gravy boat. We've always put gravy in the glass measuring cup, but a gravy boat is more classy, so we splurged.

The gray boat looks like this:I will admit that there are similarities in their shape and color. However, one is clearly a gravy boat and the other is clearly not. On two separate occasions, both Dom and Elle asked while referencing the gravy boat, "Is this your nose pot?" (Nose pot is what we affectionately call it.)

Of course the answer is, "No."

Interestingly, I couldn't get either Dom or Elle to eat the gravy. I think the thought that it might have been the neti pot was too much for them!

More Thanksgiving photos to follow!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'm a PhD Candidate at the University of Utah!!!!


I have to tell you that on January 1st of this year, it was not in my plan to purse my PhD. I'd thought about it, but I never REALLY gave it serious consideration. I moved to Utah in August 1995, and at that time, I enrolled in the teacher certification program at the U. I thought that I wanted to be a high school social studies teacher. I went all the way through the program at the U (minus one Utah History class and my student teaching). What changed? I got a chance to be in the classroom during one of my semesters, and I couldn't take the kids. Seriously....and that was 14 years ago. Now, it is perhaps fitting that I have 3 teenagers!!!!

I switched gears, and I applied for my masters in political science at the University of Utah. I was rejected. You read that right. I was flat out rejected. I was devastated. At that time, they didn't offer a masters in political science, they only offered a PhD track, and my grades were not good enough. I knew that, but I only wanted my masters. No go.

So, then I applied for the MPA program. I LOVED the MPA program at the U. I was about 1/3 of the way through the program when I took a job at SCT (now SunGard Higher Education). My career required travel, and I was forced to withdraw from the program. Back in 1998, the U had few online options (and still do have surprisingly few social science programs offered on line). I like to finish what I start, so in about 2000, I began looking for a way to continue my education. Don't get me wrong, my career is challenging, rewarding...and great....I just wanted to be intellectually stimulated in a way that didn't deal with software, sales and marketing. Pursuing my academic interests has provided me satisfaction in a completely different way.

I found Tim Luke and the On Line Master Program in political science at Virginia Tech. You can find a lot of MBAs on line and some MPA programs, but I challenge you to find an advanced degree in social science from an R1 university. VT's program is unique. It was designed for people like me, and I thoroughly enjoyed my program. It was challenging, and it helped me to be a better thinker and a better writer. I am proud of my thesis, and I worked hard for my degree. I earned it. Some contend that online degrees are somehow "lesser" than other degrees. I can see how that might be in some cases, but I have a degree from Virginia Tech! I took the whole family to Blacksburg in 2007, and I walked at graduation. I thought that might be the end.

I remember on graduation day, one of my thesis committee members asked me what was next. I threw out the idea of the PhD. I got an interesting response. It was a response that has stuck with me for two years. Is there a place in academia for someone like me? I've had a lot of life experience. I've had several jobs, and I've had a great 12 year career. I have a family. I've traveled the world. I'm not a "traditional" academic. I don't want to be a famous writer. I'm not necessarily interested in publishing studies that will change the world. I do want to contribute to the discipline, but I don't plan on being a poli sci "rock star." Was there a place for me? I think so. I think academia could use more people like me....mix it up a bit....bring a different perspective.....

This summer I was at Mt. SAC in Walnut, California. I did a presentation for the President and his board, and afterward, the VP of Enrollment had a 2 minute conversation with me that changed my life. I firmly believe the timing was right for the idea to be planted in my mind. He had done his EdD at Utah, and he just mentioned it in passing. The next day, I called him to quiz him about his experience in the program there. I was considering an EdD or a PhD in poli sci. I decided to "go for it," and applied for poli sci.

I've had tremendous support from Dr. Tim Luke, Dr. Georgeta Pourchot, Dr. Michael Bagley and my former manager, Dave Becker. They all wrote letters for me, and I'm very grateful.

What is my endgame? I don't know. I was talking with a dear friend today from Croatia, and he said it best, "It will all crystallize at the end; it always does." He's so right. My life has been a wonderful journey of opportunity and calculated risk. For now, I'm grateful I have a job with the best software company in the world! I'm grateful for the flexibility to pursue an education. I'm grateful for my husband who understands the words "I'm working on a paper this weekend." I'm excited to become acquainted with the other PhD candidates and get to work!!!!

Yes, it comes in email these days!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's been a while.....

I've been INSANELY busy...too busy to post much. That does not mean, however, that nothing has been happening. Hopefully, I'll have more of a chance the week of Thanksgiving to catch up a bit. (I took the whole week off.)

Let's see if I can give a quick update:

Dean. Well, if you haven't heard, Dean is looking for a new job. Yep, we are now officially affected by the recession. Dean's group at work had a 10% reduction in force, and he was one of the unlucky ones. The exit package was more than generous, and we're ok for a while. We're confident that he'll be able to find something...even if it has to be part time for a while.

Luckily, he's been around the house to help with house things and the kids while I've been traveling.

Wendy. I've been traveling a lot...which is always good, right! I've also had a class this term at the University of Utah. I'm waiting to see if I'm officially admitted to the PhD program in Political Science, but so far....still waiting on an accept or reject letter. I've also been engaged in some volunteer efforts with my alma mater. There is a lot going on.

Bradley. Bradley had surgery on his left shoulder at the beginning of October. He had an accident a year earlier during baseball practice, and his shoulder has never been the same. After three dislocations this summer, he finally had an operation to correct the problem. I'll scan in the surgery photos one of these days. It's quite miraculous what you can do orthoscopically these days. Bradley is a SENIOR and working toward graduation. So far, so good (barely)...but so good. He's also taken to dying his hair at home...which is freaking annoying....and also makes him look a bit freaky. His red hair is one of his distinguishing characteristics. Someday he'll appreciate it again...hopefully sooner rather than later.

Mariah. She is on the go, non-stop. She seems to be enjoying her sophomore year. She also has an after school job so that she can afford all of those extras that she wants. She's a good student and has ambitions to go into nursing. Riah has a renewed interest in exercise and eating well, and she's all but given up her favorite restaurant: McDonalds. Seriously, I tempted her the other night, and she ordered bottled water! Total determination and self control! Did I mention that she's always on the go? She enjoys spending time with her friends, going to movies, going shopping....and pretty much just going.

Elle. She's our sports girl these days. Elle continues to excel at Tae-kwon-do. She received her black belt back in September. (I'm lame and haven't gotten the pictures up yet.) She also just finished her season with her softball team, KOSS (sounds like chaos). She has been playing catcher. You'll not find a better follower of instructions than Elle and one who really wants to learn. She's becoming quite proficient at the Clarinet and absolutely LOVES Jazz band. She's growing up....

Dominique. Dom is our last one in elementary (where did the time go???). This girl loves to talk....her teacher has told me so....and I've witnessed it myself. She's a popular chick; her friends are always calling and wanting to talk, have sleepovers, hang out, go out....blah, blah,'d think she was a teenager. Dom is SO EXCITED...she recently got her very own cell phone. Let's hope she understands the privilege and doesn't get hers taken away. Domi plays violin in the advanced class, and she's quite good. She's a bit shy about playing, though. She wants to be in Jr. High so badly and acts like a teenager already. Lord, help us.

That's the 411 on what's been going on with us.

We plan to celebrate the holidays close to home....for many reasons.....not the least of which is the unemployment situation...

More postings to come as soon as I get a spare few minutes!