To PhD or not to PhD, Part 2 – Onward with Life!

DSC_0602nal banjoTo PhD or not to PhD, Part 2 –  continued from Part 1:

The mystical irony was in the timing that I received the no go PhD news. Relaxed from a Cascade, Idaho cabin retreat with my inspirational women friends, I immediately spotted the letter on the kitchen  table.  The weekend was rich with soul-searching conversations, vision boards, dream exploration, laughter, delicious food, and plenty of opportunity to snooze.   I tore into the envelope ready to accept my next challenge in life.

“Dear Ms Emerson – I regret to inform you that your admission to the PhD in Public Policy and Administration, State and Local Government has been denied.”

My fall higher education plans completely derailed, and mixed emotions swirled in a recipe of bruised ego, anger, and disappointment.  Then I felt embarrassed because for over a year, I talked incessantly to friends and family about my PhD plans. Next, a simple, subdued  thought, “Now what do I do. Reapply next year or apply to other universities?”   Finally, a curious feeling emerged  – relief.

Then the big question, do I want a PhD  and why? I know I can achieve that goal, but is that how I want to spend my time. Lack of a PhD does not prevent active involvement in affordable housing advocacy.

Since that March 2014 spring day when I opened the “No” letter, my life rapidly changed. Fall 2013, I had received a promotion into a new job as a Proposal Development Specialist with the Research Computing department. As a result, the rest of my spring 2014 melted into a flurry of travel to trainings and conferences that revitalized my talents and put my MPA to use.

I went on a glorious trip to the Washington Olympic peninsula, camped out, took long walks on foggy beaches, and explored the rain forest. I visited my daughter in Portland, Oregon and we shared an incredible weekend in Cannon Beach. My other daughter returned from New Zealand with loads of stories and pictures.

I decided to downsize, simplify, and sell my house, move into a smaller apartment and use precious time and money to travel, visit friends, and write. Instead of mowing the lawn or home maintenance projects, I plan to devote time playing the banjo, going to bluegrass festivals, writer workshops, and blogging conferences.

My PhD plotting plans did not leave a void for long. Other opportunities rushed in to seize the moment. As the gorgeous, cooling fall weather eases into the Treasure Valley, I am able to pause, thoroughly enjoy the transition, and not worry about getting an assignment completed, or that next paper written.

In October, I travel to Taos, New Mexico to join friends for one week to work on Habitat for Humanity build. I became involved with Boise Valley Habitat in 1994, when hired into a support staff position. After the position had ended, I remained involved with the organization locally, national and internationally. In addition to local builds, I joined Global Village teams in Northern Ireland, Romania, Guatemala, Hawaii, and a Jimmy Carter build in Valdosta, Georgia.
I look forward to additional volunteer opportunities and a chance to spend time with friends as result of my long involvement. Onward with an adventurous life!

photo (13)photo (10) (1)I look forward to additional volunteer opportunities and a chance to spend time with friends as result of my long involvement. Onward now with an adventurous life!


From Cantankerous Behavior to Laughter

SAM_2647Friday finally arrived after another busy week at work and I felt that wonderful euphoric relief.  The mood in the office always relaxed, jovial as we all look forward to the weekend break.

However, somewhere in the day, my mood took a dive, perhaps due to fatigue.  Tunnel vision descended, a lighthearted mood spiraled to cantankerous behavior that took comments, and emails out of context, the wrong way, or personal.

The result, at the end of the day I apologized for a mean-spirited email I sent to a boss, and to another coworker for an unnecessary comment specially designed to make him feel bad.   They both graciously accepted as we all realized we have our less than stellar moments.  I berated myself a bit for the level of meanness that I am capable of, and then felt a surge gratitude that I work with good people with large hearts, always willing to talk out issues and find solutions.

Still,  I wanted to immediately leave work and take a reality dive complete with massive amounts of chocolate and blanket over my head.  My escape plan was suddenly interrupted by the loud  buzz of my phone that signaled an incoming text message.  It was an invitation to go to a movie with my dear friend Sharon.

My inside voice immediately responded, “Oh no, I am tired, feeling low and need to go home to engage in a massive self-pity reality dive.”

However, I paused, and instead simply responded, “Yes, thank you.”

From that point, we hashed out the evening plans via text.  First on the agenda was a stop at the famous Whole Foods Market to partake of their diverse food menu and eat on the patio.  Next stop was the Flicks movie theater for see Austenland, a movie I essentially knew nothing about other than it is a romantic comedy centered on  a young woman’s obsession with Jane Austin and Mr. Darcy.

Still feeling a bit surly, edgy, and discontent, I nonetheless enjoyed chatting with Sharon as we watched the theater fill up primarily with women. Chick Flick night!  What a great evening, not only with Sharon but also with a theater full of women (and three guys) that I did not know.  A charming, entertaining, witty movie that we all easily laughed,  chortled, clapped, and completely gave ourselves too for our own gala evening.

At the end a woman behind me cheerfully remarked, “This really is one of the best shared audience movie experiences I have attended in a while.”

We all left the theater smiling.   I felt terrific and slept incredibly well, a tangible testament to the power of laughter, friendship, and sharing a movie night with live people.SAM_2648

Text Messages and Spiritual Faces

On December 7, my daughter Jen and I had a spiritual text conversation.  One of our infamous, special meaning of life, things feel sort of strange, something is afoot in the cosmosworld mother-daughter connected moments.

Most parents feel and experience unspoken connections with their children.  Even as both my girls are grown up and living away from home, I can sense when something is wrong.   Sometimes images occur in my dreams or generally I experience a sensation of uneasiness.  I wonder if one of them is sick or having a difficult time in their lives.

The mystical clan bond cuts both ways.  I have traversed some sad turf in the last year,  and at certain times received calls from either Molly or Jen inquiring, “Hey mom, you okay? I felt an overwhelming rush of sadness and apprehension and am checking in, you okay?”

The calls always came at critical junctures when I had just received difficult news concerning the health status of a dear friend or some other dire information.

Early entries in this blog joke about our “spiritual faces” during periods when we enjoy a special event, vacation, music, scenery, tender conversational interludes, or unique occurrences.  Least my moods get too uncontrollably sappy, my daughters often jolt me back to earth exclaiming, “Oh, Oh, look out, mom has spiritual face on!”    Spiritual Face Alert

Meanwhile, with permission from Jen to share, I present one of our classic  “what is going on here?” text conversations:

Jen – “Today I keep getting these “bouts of anxiety… are you getting them too?”

Me – (the mom)-  “Yes, I feel unsettled whereas on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I felt really grounded and peaceful, not sure what is going on.”

Jen – “Yeah me too, I just feel anxious and shifty about something I guess we will have to see.”

Me – “Well there was an earthquake in Japan and I think a storm in the Philippines this week.”

Jen – “Are they shockwaves before or after hurricane?  I ahhh, I just don’t know hahaha.  Ha-ha weird but I mean like is there still a shit storm to come?  Or maybe things beginning to shift…”

Me – “I believe things are beginning to shift.”

Jen – “We’ve all been feeling things changing inside and outside of us and perhaps this just the turnover.”

Me – “I like the way you worded that I tend to believe it is the turnover too.  I feel pretty grounded lately and wonder if the anxiety is us picking up other people’s fears and worries.”

Jen – “Hmmmm, interesting thought.”

Me – “The other is that our spirits are vibrating at a higher rate so we can make the change not sure that makes sense will have to explain that more later.”  (oh dear, I have been having difficulty sleeping lately, and I am not sure what I am talking about here – little mind slippage going on.)

Jen – “Hahaha okay mom.  Either way, I feel like the tides are definitely starting to turn.  I don’t know what that means for either of us, yet but it is happening ha-ha.”

Me – “Whoa I kind of got out there whoohooo..”

Jen – “Hahahah its okay mom, I understand, just reel it back in a little bit, we can still talk about it though … sounds interesting either way.”

Me – “For sure reeling me self in now and going home love you. – I have my spiritual face on, do you?”

Jen – “Oh yeah hahahah.”


The Emerson and Nelis Clan. Jen and Molly Emerson in white sweaters.
Susan Emerson in glitter dress, my mom, Bonnie Huff, and sparkly Gabrielle Nelis.