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Week 1

September 2, 2011

I am not curled into the fetal position under my desk at the moment, although that’s what I feel like doing.  And isn’t that a brilliant mental image?  No, I’m fighting the urge to let the stress of the week overwhelm me.  I almost had an emotional outburst last night, but I held the tears in.  I see this as a tremendous leap in maturity over the Catherine of years past.  I suppose that means this week—my first week of grad school—was a success.

 As proud as I am, I expect that this stress will build and erupt in tears any day now.  And maybe that’s okay, as long as I don’t wallow in it.  I don’t have time for wallowing.  Unless I’m wallowing in articles or testing manuals.  Then it’s alright.

 Although I’m up to my eyeballs in unfulfilled requirements, to-do lists, and complex scheduling endeavors, I am still very excited to be where I am.  Last night, when I came home and tried my best to muster some small talk for Chance, he said “you seem so unhappy.”  Maybe I did.  But I’m not—there is a difference between being stressed and being unhappy.  Here are a couple of impressions from my first week:

BAD:  All of the commuting.  I travel 100 miles every day that I have class.  100 miles!  From Richardson, to Dallas, all the way up to Denton, and then back home.  I walk, I drive, I ride the train.  And since it’s still over 100 degrees outside, I’m a hot mess by the time I get to class.  Oh well—at least that part will get better soon.

GOOD:  I just made about 10 new best friends.  Oddly enough, I wasn’t really thinking much about making friends in school.  Maybe because I’ve already got so many friends here.  But I already love the girls in my cohort, which is important, because we’ll be spending a hell of a lot of time together for the next few YEARS. 

BAD: I’m still working 30 hours a week. Not because I want to, but because I need to.  I knew about the Practicum hours I would need to spend in the schools, so I arranged a work schedule that would make that possible.  But all of these other little restrictions and requirements are popping up. Like ‘Hey, we’ve got an all-department mandatory meeting next Monday afternoon.’   I really hope my bosses don’t get tired of all this upheaval in my schedule.  

GOOD: I found my calling, and I’m pursuing it.  I know I will love working as a school psychologist, and I know I’ll be very good at it.  So everything I have to go through to get there will be worth it.

 And now, I am off to spend my Labor Day weekend in a very appropriate manner…wallowing in research articles.

time

August 22, 2011

Free time is the ultimate luxury, in my opinion.  I would much rather work a job that provides ample free time than ample salary.  I’m going back to school to get one of those jobs.

My return to full-time studies will be the end of my free time, at least for the next three years, because I’ve chosen to continue working rather than take out student loans.  I’m equally proud of myself for making such a responsible decision and terrified at what my life is about to become.  But I knew I had to try, and I’m optimistic that I will make it work.  Somehow (emotional stability aside).

I know that my leisure time is disappearing beginning next Monday, so I have really cherished time with my boy and my dog lately.  I really love those two, and I’m sad that I won’t be able to spend as much time with them as I’ve become accustomed.  But it’s good to have these moments of clarity, when the important things in life jump up and scream in your face.  Chance and Jack will always be my home, no matter where life takes us.  They are all that really matters (with the slight advantage in this regard falling to Chance, ha).  I think my biggest challenge during grad school will be making enough time to love and support them as much as they deserve.

let’s just pretend this didn’t happen

August 18, 2011

dog blanket

This is a totally random memory that flooded back into my mind as I was shopping for heated blankets and fuzzy socks on Amazon today.  It’s never too early to prepare for those long Texas winters, you know ; )

I received a heater fan from a friend as a wedding gift.  I hadn’t registered for one, so I was somewhat surprised, but I was thrilled nonetheless.  I’m very cold-natured, so I thought it was a great, thoughtful gift.  It was very bold of her to go rogue like that and dismiss the registry, but it worked out so well!  In my thank you note,  I made sure to elaborate on how excited I was to get a heater fan, and how I was impressed at how well the person knew me, since that kind of thing is right up my alley.  Our wedding was in the summer, and since I had no immediate need for a heater fan, I put the box into a closet, unopened.

 One evening about 6 months later, shivering under a pile of blankets and a dog, I remembered the wonderful heater fan gift.  I went to the closet and pulled out the box.  When I opened the box, much to my infinite embarrassment, it was not a heater fan.  It was the black wrought iron kitchen set from my registry, inside of a repurposed heater fan box. 

 The funniest thing to me about this whole incident is that neither I nor gift-giver has acknowledged that it happened.  It has been more than four years, and we see each other several times a month. Some things are best left unspoken.

Wanderlust

August 17, 2011

It happens every August.  I’m sure it’s related to the oppressive heat that descends upon Texas every summer.  The outdoors become unpleasant beginning in May, but by August the temperatures are even more extreme and my patience for summer has long expired.  We hide indoors, in the same way I imagine Northerners hide during the deep winter months.

 And that’s when these wild, romantic notions enter my head.  I get the urge to GO.  Anywhere, really.  At least anywhere outside of Texas.  In years past, it has been a simple urge to travel.  To take a long vacation.  But this year, I want to leave—I want to up and move, somewhere really far away.  Sell the house.  Get rid of our stuff.  Leave with my husband, my dog, and the clothes on my back.

 This August, I dream of Northern California.  We were just there—it was amazing.  So much natural beauty, and such wonderful weather in which to enjoy it.  I must admit that I’ve spent a rather embarrassing amount of time on San Francisco Craigslist, scouting apartments and jobs.  Shameful.  But I’ve also fantasized about going somewhere more exotic.  Mexico City in particular, although my practical side reminds me that I could never convince Chance to come with me.  I doubt he would ever move to Mexico unless our new digs were beachfront.  And even then—I doubt he would ever move to Mexico.  But I would.  And I found a great ex-pat blog filled with advice on living in heart of Mexico.  It has been bookmarked in my browser for future reference.

 We have a very comfortable life in Dallas (with exception to the heat).  We have stable jobs, a home, and more family and friends than we can even make time for.  Comfortable is…comforting.  But is that how life should be lived?  Seems like if you get too comfortable you slip into a quasi-coma state, and simply go through the motions of living.  Like a zombie.  You need upheaval every once in a while to wake yourself up.  To feel alive.  Moving far, far away would do the trick.

 This, too, shall pass.  Wanderlust has plagued me before, and its onset seems to be triggered by temperature in excess of one hundred degrees.  Fall is my favorite time of year in Dallas, and perhaps I will manage to find a little joy in living here.  Even if I don’t—once school starts, I won’t even have time to fantasize about such adventures.  It’s gonna be a wild ride.  And maybe that’s the kind of adventure  I need.

poetic justice

June 13, 2011

I generally consider myself to be a girly-girl type, but I’m a damn serious sports fan.  And the team that occupies the top rung on my hierarchy of favorite teams—with the possible exception of my husband’s indoor soccer team (go Legends!)—is the Dallas Mavericks.  This is likely the influence of the two most important men in my life—my dad and my husband—who are huge, huge MFFLs.  There are pictures of me wearing my dad’s retro Mavs shirts dress-style as a toddler.  I have memories of going to games at Reunion Arena with him (Popeye Jones was my favorite player back then—I loved his Dumbo ears).  And it seems that he always had the game blasting on the radio as he worked on our cars in the garage or did yard work on Saturdays.  And then I met Chance, who takes this “game” even more seriously, and my fate as a life-long Mavs fan was sealed.  In fact, our very first picture as a couple was taken at the AAC before a Mavs game, with Mark Cuban.  We seriously considered inviting him to our wedding.

 Anyhow, last night was such a magical experience for the Mavericks and their legion of fans.  Being a Mavs fan hasn’t been easy—especially lately.  Our experience against Miami in 2006 was so stressful, so unfair, and ultimately so heartbreaking, that it gave Chance a panic attack (literally).   I can’t help thinking about how poetic this playoff run has been.  Miami stole the title from us in 2006.  They thought they could buy themselves another championship this year, and began the victory celebration long before the season even started.  Remember that spectacle last July when “the big three” where welcomed to Miami with fireworks and smoke machines?  This might jog your memory:

 Our victory feels right.  It feels just.  It proves that you cannot simply buy championships.  It proves that hard work and persistence are still the most important factors.  I definitely got a little teary-eyed last night watching Dirk receive his trophy.  He is the most wonderful sports role model I can imagine.  In fact, I told Chance that I could envision possibly naming a dog and/or child after him someday.  That’s how fond of him we are : )

 This team deserves it—especially our big three: Dirk, Kidd, and Terry.  And we as fans deserve it too. CONGRATS TO THE MAVS!

Hello, grad school

June 2, 2011

Goodbye, discretionary spending.   I’m trying to do this without financial aid, which means cutting all of the fat from our budget.  Oh yeah, and it also means that I have to keep working.  Guess I’ll be pretty busy for the next couple of years.

 I’m confident that we can make this work.  Within the first year of our marriage, Chance and I ran out of money.  We had each brought our “life savings” to the marriage, which amounted to about $4000 total.  It felt like a lot of money at the time, even though our naiveté makes me laugh now.  But it was sufficient to get us started. We paid the deposit on an apartment, and set up our utilities.  I immediately found a job (with a measly salary, but an income nonetheless), and Chance had a pretty steady flow of contract work.  We never established a proper budget, because Chance’s income varied so wildly.  So we went on our merry newlywed way, spending modestly, getting by with a little left over each month.  And then something hit us, from out of the blue.  Taxes.  Taxes we hadn’t paid all year because Chance was self-employed. Taxes we were too clueless and naïve to fit into our (non-existent) budget.  Oops.

 We had enough money to pay the taxes due on Chance’s income…barely.  We had less than $100 in our checking account at the end of April.  It was terrifying.  If I had to name the one experience in my life that forced me to grow up instantly—that would be it.  Not going to college, or even getting married.  Waking up one day with less than $100 in your bank account.  We had to start over.

 Suffice it to say that we developed some really good spending habits in the wake of that incident.  For about 6 months, we didn’t buy ANYTHING that was unnecessary.  We ran a tight ship.  By the end of the year, we had a little breathing room in our bank account.  But I think we would both say that our financial habits were permanently shaped by that stressful experience. 

 Anyhow, back to grad school.  I don’t anticipate that I will have a problem cutting down on spending, because I’ve had to do so before.   We have developed some fairly expensive hobbies (triathlons, photography), but I think there’s still room for those things as long as we’re diligent about careless spending.  The two biggest temptations for me are clothing and home décor.  These obsessions are fueled chiefly by blogs, which constantly reinforce the idea that I have nothing to wear and my house is ugly.  If I stop frequenting the sites, I expect that my appetite for new stuff will diminish.  Goodbye Apartment Therapy, Lonny, Young House Love, Polyvore, Sartorialist, and Pinterest.  I love you all, but you make me want to buy unnecessary shit.  You are not good for me.  I won’t have time for you anyway.  I

 I am so excited about starting school again.  I’m ready to grow my brain.  I’m ready to start a career that suits me fulfills me.  Just please pardon me if I wear the same 5 outfits over and over again for the next 3 years.  And if my living room is “so 2010.”

an incomplete education

May 23, 2011

 

When I was a baby, my parents fled ‘inner-city’ Dallas for the suburbs in an attempt to secure the best education possible for their children.  The particular suburb where we landed was (and still is) regarded as one of the best public school systems in the area.  I have a beef with that claim.

 Never once in all my years of English courses did I encounter the work of Flannery O’Connor.  And I was even in the literature-intensive AP track.  What?!

 I’m sad to say that I did not encounter Ms. O’Connor’s prose until recently, but I suppose it’s better late than never.  Her writing is impeccable.  Her characters are twisted and flawed and charming all at once.  Her stories leave you with an unsettled feeling in your gut and a lump in your throat.  Only a very, very talented storyteller can stir those kind of intense emotions. 

 Although I’ve taken to using the public library for books, I went out and bought a complete anthology of O’Connor’s stories immediately.  I want to have her stories in my permanent library, because they deserve to be read more than once through.  And hopefully someday my children will be able to borrow my Flannery anthology for the AP English class.

 My favorite O’Connor stories so far: Good Country People and A Circle in the Fire.  The latter would make a deliciously eerie short film.  If your education was lacking in the great American short stories department, I would highly recommend Ms. Flannery O’Connor.  You’re welcome : )