Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.

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

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

I woke up before 5 a.m. this morning, thinking, “Today is the first day of the rest of my life.”  Grades are turned in, and while there are still some things to finish up at the office (mostly moving my things out of it), I’m essentially finished with my academic responsibilities – for the first time in my married life.

Finished finished.  No next semester to think about and plan for.  No dissertation hanging over my head.  Finished.

The idea seems a bit surreal.

I’m not sure if I’m entirely ready to let go.  Finishing a semester is one thing.  Of course, I’m ready for that!  Letting the not-so-positive comments on my TEVALS slide off my now somewhat-thickened skin without having to really analyze them and try to make changes?  Oh yes, I’m ready!  Ready to go through my textbooks and papers, assignments and projects that I’ve created and worked with for four years and try to decide it these things are worth keeping?  That, I’m not so sure.  That process involves a finality that I’m not sure I’m ready for right now.

But, it’s time.

Time to focus on a new adventure, one that requires different skills, resources, and knowledge.  Time to focus on application instead of theory.  Time to be available – for my family and for others.  Time to look to Jesus and get out of the boat.

When I talked to my husband on the phone this afternoon, he said there was already more joy in my voice last night and today.  🙂

I can’t wait to see what God has in store for this next season!

~Dana

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Finishing Strong

The end is near.  The countdown is on…  Two finals to write.  Three finals to give (and grade).  Twenty-two group project reports to grade.  One and a half other assignments to finish grading.  And, all things considered, that doesn’t seem too bad, especially since the finals must be written by tomorrow morning, the students will take them, I’ll have at least a couple of hours to grade while they’re working on the exams, and the project reports are much shorter this year than in the past.  🙂

There are other things that also need to be done also, though, before I leave the workforce.  I need to revise a couple of articles so they may be submitted to journals for publication.  I need to finish a review of an article that is long overdue.  I need to clean out my office, a rather overwhelming and sentimental task.  And, I’ll need to find a place for my academic books at home (also overwhelming).  There are several logistical and administrative things to take care of also.

I keep telling myself to finish strong, but I’m losing steam and motivation.  I’m motivated to work hard to try to finish everything in the next couple of days, but once grades are turned in, I just want to stay home, snuggle with my daughter while reading books to her, bake cookies all day, (Not do the dishes, though.  That hasn’t changed.  See my first post:  A New Beginning), write and send Christmas cards, and decorate our Christmas tree.  (There’s a reason the tree decorating has been so delayed this year, but it’s kind of a long story.)

I “ran” the 3200-meter (~2 mile) race in high school, and I remember feeling the sixth lap (of 8 ) was always the most difficult for me mentally.  I guess I’m kind of at that point now, where the end is in sight, but not quite close enough to pull me toward it.  (That happens starting in the 7th lap.)  I need discipline to finish strong and give my best until the end.

And so, I’ll get back to the grading and exam writing now and try to push myself to finish this race, knowing I’ve worked hard and given my best for my students.

~Dana

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My School Days Are Numbered… For Now

I tallied it up the other day.  I’ve been a full-time student or teacher for 23 years.  Add to that a year of kindergarten (back in the days of 1/2-day kindergarten, a year of pre-school, and 4.5 years of part-time master’s degree study, and I’ve been in school most of my 34 years.  That’s not a bad thing.  You see, I love school!  🙂 

So, it’s strange to think about leaving my job at the university, with my duties with students finishing up in the next two weeks.  No more classes.  No more homework.  No more grading.

You think I’d be doing my happy dance (which is really just jumping up and down with happy screaming)!  🙂  And when grades are in, I (and my whole family) will be celebrating, but this week, as I prepare to give my final “lectures,” I’m finding this ending bittersweet.   

I don’t think it really hit me until I talked with a colleague last week and realized how much I had learned about and from my students these last four years.  I have learned to meet them where they are at.  I have made adjustments to try to speak their language.  I have grown to deeply care for many of them.   Approximately 1,350 students have taken my classes in four years.  I have learned every name.  I have worked hard to serve them and to prepare them well for the workforce. 

I remember dreaming about teaching when I was just an undergraduate student, and maybe even before then.  Many times, I have walked into the front of a dark lecture hall in the engineering building at my alma mater, picked up a piece of chalk, and imagined a full classroom of students before me.   The thought still gives me goosebumps, the good, this-is-what-I’m-meant-to-do kind of goosebumps. 

But this is a season for a different focus.  Is this an end to my teaching and learning?  I couldn’t stop if I tried.  🙂  I’ve always wanted to go back to my Bird, Stewart, and Lightfoot text someday and really understand Transport Phenomena.  I want to learn more about entrepreneurship.  I want to continue to do some research on applied statistics and analyze data, even if it is just from my processes at home.  I also want to learn to sew and crochet, less “academic” (and probably more difficult) skills that will likely serve me better in the coming years. 

And teaching?  I have a sweet toddler who seems to love learning, too, and I am blessed to be able to teach a classroom of 1, soon to be 2, in our home (rather than my usual 180!).  I’m still a teacher, but only the Lord knows how He will use these unique gifts and interests now and in the future. 

I’m trusting Him in new ways through this transition, and despite my uneasiness about this decision at times, I am really excited about this step!   The last time I was asked to step out in faith like this, God provided abundantly, made my dreams of Ph.D. study come true, and brought me together with the man of my dreams! 

May I live with joyful anticipation of what He has planned for us as we follow His direction!

~Dana

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