Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.

A novice homemaker's attempts to use her engineering Ph.D. to serve her family

Occupation: ___________

I filled out my second form today that asked for my occupation.  “Homemaker,” I wrote.

It looks a little strange to me.  I’ve written “Development Engineer” in that blank before.  “Student” has also been an occupation for me.  More recently “University Instructor” was my answer.

Of course, the lines that follow regard my employer.  Who do I put?  Myself?  My husband?  My toddler?

I speak with joy as I tell people about my new role in life, but it feels different to me to see it in black and white on a paper form.  I imagine that people are more impressed by seeing something like “Engineer” or “Instructor.”  (They probably aren’t though.)

I think what also bothered me was that there was only one blank.  There was no room to indicate that I had a college degree (or 3) and work experience or anything else that I think might tell my story better.

I must be needing this lesson in humility – and in pride.  I need to be proud of the right things, things that really matter.  Right now, that is obedience to Christ and my husband in this calling to stay home.  And, I need to not think more highly of myself than I ought.  And I also need to be careful not to judge others by what they may put in that blank.

~Dana

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Little by Little…

Reorganizing is taking longer than I expected.  I’m eager to have my things placed in logical, efficient order that is consistent and to have the boxes out of the “staging area” in our family room.  I’m also eager to have Baby’s room cleaned out so we can start putting his or her things there.

It’s easy to forget that I haven’t ever done this before.

When I moved to college, organizing was relatively easy.  I didn’t have very much stuff.  🙂  I also didn’t have very much space.  After college, having a one-bedroom apartment to myself and then moving to a 2-bedroom loft allowed me the luxury of accumulating more things that I liked, and there was enough room to handle them then.

But, then I went back to graduate school and shared an apartment with a new friend.  Yes, I went through things as I packed.  I gave away some of my treasures and packed others into storage (Mom and Dad’s basement), but when moving day came, I moved many things I hadn’t yet gone through down to Arizona.

A year went by.  I married.  We created a new household together.  We received many nice gifts!  And, the house we rented accommodated all of these things very nicely.

A year and a half went by.  We moved half-way across the country to a small rental house.  There was not time to go through much of anything before that move since we’d been swamped with finals, had traveled to see a very ill family member, celebrated Christmas out of town, and then moved ourselves on a rather tight time schedule.  The unfinished basement was filled with boxes.  And, those things I had left with my family (mostly a lot of books) came back to us.

Six months went by.  A tornado struck our town.  Houses adjacent to us were totalled.  The main path was about 1 1/2 blocks away from ours, but we were able to continue living in our house while the relatively minor (Praise the Lord!) repairs were made.

Another five months passed, and we found an opportunity to move again, which significantly cut down my commute.  Again, we moved around the holidays and finals, limiting my time to really evaluate what was necessary to keep.  One room became a “storage room” as my husband called it.   Our house again  could accommodate my “clutter.”

But now we’re sharing our home with a toddler and soon a new baby.  There isn’t room to be so inefficient.  And, for me, going through things takes time.  A lot of time.   Since our toddler is very curious and interested in everything.  This work goes best when she is asleep.  How many nap times will it take, I wonder?

With Baby due in about eight weeks, I wonder how much I’ll get finished and how much will be pushed aside again…  such as the 10 years of paper memories to scrapbook I’m behind on, the photos that need to be printed and put into albums, and whatever else may have been tossed into a closet to deal with “later.”

Little by little, I am making progress.  Sometimes, it’s not very noticeable. Sometimes, like my work on Monday in our bedroom, it is.  🙂

Here’s hoping the rest of the week will bring some progress that will make operations more efficient and our home more comfortable!

~Dana

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Flashback Friday – Remembering The Book Closet

We are in the process of moving our home office downstairs to prepare a room for Baby.  This has been an ongoing challenge due to many factors (that I’ll likely be posting more about as I find issues I need to work on as I start this new season):

  1. I also moved all of my school office books and supplies home last month.  These have never needed a place in our home before.
  2. I’ve had three years to clutter up the office with my good intentions and little time to organize or go through the many papers I’ve collected.  I have a rather major problem with this habit.
  3. I have too many books and not enough shelves.  This has been a lingering problem since we moved to Kansas and I was reunited with the many books I left in storage when I moved away for graduate school.
  4. My time to work on this project is limited by other tasks and is mostly only possible when my toddler is sleeping since she likes to “help.”  🙂

But, my amazing husband gave me a new book case for Christmas, and the “new” office is taking shape.  I carefully selected which books would make the “cut” to be on this special shelf.

The top shelf is filled with the books from my grandmother.  I have desired these books ever since I discovered them many, many years ago while exploring Grandma’s “junk room” in an upstairs bedroom of their old farm house.  The room was cluttered with miscellaneous toys, furniture, and more.  The light primarily came from two windows, but my sister and I often took up the red fluorescent flashlight to explore the room in more depth.

There were two closets in the room.  Neither had lights within, so by the glow of the flashlight, I perceived shelves of old books.  I cannot remember a time when I didn’t love books!  I savored the musty smell.  Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Longfellow.  Classics and poetry, all bound in leather with different colors and textures – and very old.

I can’t count the times I went upstairs to that closet just to look at the books.  Sometimes I would read from them.  Often I didn’t, but I held a sense of awe for the books and the collector.  These books weren’t Grandma’s.  She said they belonged to either her father or her Aunt Emma, a maiden school teacher who lived with the family while my dad was growing up.   I felt a connection to the original owner, and I hoped that one day, I would be able to have these books – and a library of my own.

The dream of having my own library will have to wait, but I do have the books.  The treasured volumes from Grandma’s house have their place of honor on my new shelves.  My own, newer, but no less beautiful, leather-bound copies of many of the greatest books ever written (according to Easton Press) also have their places in book shelves around the house.

For the ones that remain without a designated place, I may have to create my own book closet.  Perhaps it will excite and inspire the younger ones in our family as Grandma’s closet did for me…

~Dana

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Experimental Baking – Honey Whole Wheat Bread – Part 2 (with recipe)

Hooray! The dough rose as it was supposed to for me!

On Monday, I baked bread for the first time in years.  If you’d like to read about my experience, click here for yesterday’s post.   Today, I’m sharing a picture of how the loaves turned out and the recipe.   The bread is hearty, filling, and delicious!  I’ve been eating it with butter spread on it in the mornings, but I can’t wait to try using it for a sandwich.  We also enjoyed it sliced, spread with butter, and sprinkled with garlic salt then put in a 350° oven for about 15 minutes as garlic bread with our Parmesan chicken earlier this week.

Delicious warmed and spread with butter!

Here’s the recipe that even I didn’t mess up.  🙂

Honey Whole Wheat Bread

from Farm Journal’s Best-Ever Recipes (1977), edited by Elise W. Manning, p. 132

2 pkgs. active dry yeast

1/2 c. lukewarm water (110 to 115°)

6 tbsp. shortening

1/4 c. honey

4-1/2 c. lukewarm water (110 to 115°)

4 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. instant mashed potatoes (not reconstituted)

1/2 c. nonfat dry milk

1 tbsp. salt

6-1/2 to 8 c. sifted flour

Sprinkle yeast on 1/2 c. lukewarm water; stir to dissolve.

Melt shortening in 6-qt. saucepan; remove from heat.  Add honey and 4 1/2 c. lukewarm water.

Mix whole wheat flour (stirred before measuring), instant potatoes, dry milk, and salt.  Add to saucepan; beat until smooth.

Add yeast and beat to blend.  Then with wooden spoon, mix in enough flour, a little at a time, to make a dough that leaves the sides of the pan.  Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and satiny and small bubbles appear, 8 to 10 minutes.  (I didn’t see these bubbles appearing.)

Place in lightly greased bowl; turn dough over to grease top.  Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, 1 to 1-1/2 hours.  Punch down dough, turn onto board and divide in thirds.  Cover and let rest 5 minutes.  Shape into 3 loaves and place in greased 9x5x3-inch loaf pans.  Cover and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Bake in 400° oven about 50 minutes or until bread tests done.  Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.  Makes 3 loaves.

Note:  You may use 1 c. mashed potatoes in place of instant potatoes.  Combine with the honey-water mixture.

Enjoy!

~Dana

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Experimental Baking – Honey Wheat Bread – Part 1

I have found that I have a tendency to binge bake.  Before Christmas, I had a desire to make every type of cookie I’d craved throughout the year and was disappointed when I didn’t get them all made.  Back in July, at county fair time, I filled my head with ideas of bringing home purple ribbons for beautiful loaves of bread and other baked goods while I finished trying new canning recipes and harvesting in our garden.

I never baked that bread, though.  Honestly, any ribbon I would have won would have been by chance or grace since I’ve never really baked bread.

Yeast dough rather intimidates me.  I didn’t help Mom bake bread growing up.  When I had baker duty at my scholarship house in college, the more experienced bakers paired with me decided it was easier for them to make the dinner rolls than for them to teach me, I think.  My only instruction with this type of dough has consisted of a kolache-making class at a community college about ten years ago.

I also have this silly sense of pride (or disillusionment) that I’ll be able to do anything I want to, though, and so, checking to make sure the needed ingredients were on hand, I held my breath and began to attempt the recipe of honey wheat bread Monday afternoon.

Lukewarm water.  You’d think that’d be easy, right?  For those of you more experienced than I am, please chuckle.  🙂  I don’t trust my senses for feeling if the water is “just right,” due to my inexperience.  A temperature range was given in the recipe, but then I found I wasn’t trusting my measurement device (thermometer) either.  I knew if the water was too cold, it wouldn’t activate the yeast.  Too hot, and I would kill it.  (I do have enough practice to have erred on both sides of this.)  I did end up going more by feel, but with very little assurance.

I measured and mixed a midst various distractions from my toddler.  I kneaded by hand, though not satisfied that I had achieved the “satiny” finish that the recipe mentioned.

We went out for groceries, and when we returned, ALLELUIA!  The dough had risen!  JOY!  I punched it down, separated the three loaves, and let it rise again while I started making supper.

At 8:00 that night, I pulled the bread from the oven.  It looked good!  It smelled good!  And it tastes delicious!  In my next post, I’ll share the recipe.

Stay tuned,

~Dana

For the recipe, see my post: Experimental Baking – Honey Wheat Bread – Part 2

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My Life…Unplugged

No, I’m not talking about my limited acoustic guitar-playing skills.  🙂

We recently returned from a long trip that had its share of amazing scenery, convicting lessons, cherished family time, and “limited e-mail access.”  Yes, there were hotel lobby computers available and online access at the home where we spent much of our time on our trip, but I stayed away.  In two weeks time, I did little more than check my Facebook home page for a few minutes, once.

With the habits I had developed over the last year of using a borrowed laptop from the comfort of our living room to check e-mail, create work documents, write blog posts, look for information, or anything else that crossed my mind, I was afraid being offline may be difficult.  I made plans to buy a new laptop so I could continue these behaviors without really thinking about the wisdom of that approach.

But, my somewhat-over-analytical decision-making process was too drawn out, and that purchase hasn’t yet been made.  With me being to, um, frugal to buy a replacement battery for my older laptop, that means our computer work is now limited to our home office, a room that is rather off-limits for our little one due to the horrible disarray (okay, disastrous mess), so I can’t be online and also with her.  The speed of this older computer is also sometimes a deterrent as the delays make us question if our inquiry is really important enough to sit down and wait for the answer.

Sometimes I marvel at our cordless society.  I grew up with land-line telephones with cords.  I remember getting up to change the TV channels (channels 2-13 since we lived in town and had cable).  Laptops were not yet available.  (Had they been imagined yet?)  Cell phones, when I was in college, were kept in large bags and were usually used in cars or, in the house where I lived, by the girls to talk to their boyfriends long-distance for free after 9 p.m.

With all our wireless options today, though, are we not even more tethered to our devices? 

I was refreshed by stepping away for a while.

I didn’t obsess over my inbox or how many people were or were not visiting this site.  I didn’t worry about taking two weeks away from posting.

Instead, I talked with our family that lives out-of-state.  I tried to help with the work that we had gone out there to do.  I visited with a dear friend across her dining room table while our toddler ran in a circle around her house, entertaining us.  I talked with and hugged my mother-in-law who suffers from Alzheimer’s.  I discussed Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with my 15-year-old niece while she worked to complete her homework.  I even washed dishes.  🙂

So, the lessons for me have been:

  1. I need to be intentional with my time online.  Am I letting these resources distract or really help me accomplish what is most important in my life right now?
  2. The constraints we have in place at our house are not necessarily bad.  They may keep help me be more disciplined and focused on the tasks and people who are much more important.
  3. I need to limit my computer time, regardless of when it takes place.  What I’ve been finding the last couple of days is I’m still getting sucked into spending too much time on the computer, though it’s after everyone else is in bed.  The danger in that for me is I am not able to wake up as early or as refreshed as I need to be in order to be in God’s Word before I start the day with little Clara.  When I’m tired, my patience is shorter.   And, when I’m still not getting other things accomplished (Right now I have a LOT of sorting and organizing to do before Baby comes.), I get more stressed and frustrated.

I do hope to be able to write a post each weekday, but I’m not going to let it be my top priority right now.

~Dana

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