Heading to higher places

Lift my eyes to the mountains

The view coming into Cedar City, UT

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was traveling to higher places (literally, the altitude is 5,800′) for a job interview. Some exciting things have transpired since then, but I needed to wait until I got my ducks in a row and had a chance to inform the need-to-know individuals (like all of the grandparents). Now that they are in the know, I will share with you that I will be joining the political science faculty at Southern Utah University, starting this fall!

Cedar City is a very kid-friendly town with a surprising number of recreational things to do indoors and out. It is a tremendous career opportunity for me, and the boys are ecstatic about living near snowy mountains. I will be teaching classes in the MPA (Master of Public Administration) program, as well as standard political science courses.

There are umpteen bazillion things that I need to do in the very near future, not the least of which include cleaning/purging/organizing and a few minor touch-ups around my house, so that I can put it on the market asap. My realtor is coming over next week, and the house isn’t fit for dinner company right now, much less a tour. We’ll get there, though. I am tasking the older two with making an inventory of larger-than-a-box items, such as furniture, appliances, electronics, instruments, etc., so that we can determine what is worth moving vs. giving away or selling. The younger ones are tasked with purging their stuffy-stuff collections and making piles to give and/or throw away. I used a tub of Play-Doh as an example: if it can be purchased at the dollar store, then it probably isn’t worth packing and transporting. I’ve also instructed everyone to set aside a couple of weeks’ worth of clothes and bag up the rest to save for next school year and/or hand-me-downs (the older 3) or give away (the younger 2). That’s something that I try to do every summer, anyway, but some years seem to work better than others.

I’ve been going through bookshelves and filling boxes to donate to the church library or exchange for credit at the used bookstore in town. (That may sound counter-intuitive, but if I get one new book by exchanging a couple of old books, then I’m still down by one book, right?? 🙂 )  As we get better organized, I’m going to set aside things in one room for a give-away to friends and family: books, DVDs, furniture that we won’t be moving, etc. Maybe I’ll even bribe some girlfriends to help me clean by offering to pay them in wine. Hey, it’s less fragile stuff to pack! 😉 Besides, Utah is one of those peculiar states that regulates alcohol coming across the state line. The more we drink before I go, the less complicated it’ll be. Hmm, then again, I could just put all the kids in one room and turn the basement into a wine cellar. Heehee, I’m kidding.

Maybe just part of the basement. 😉

A day away from the grid

This post on Momastery spoke to my heart like a friend who gives you a bear hug when you haven’t even told them what’s the matter. I was unofficially a single parent long before my divorce was finalized. Three military deployments nested among years of sharing a home with someone who methodically trudged through the motions of day-to-day life meant that the decision-making, crisis-dealing, boo-boo-kissing, parent-teacher-conferencing and discipline-implementing duties usually fell to me (along with just about anything else that needed cleaned, fixed, cooked or paid).

I’m not bitter about love. I’m actually quite a romantic at heart and would thoroughly enjoy being swept off my feet by someone who is as smitten about me as I am about him. Do you know the last time I went on a date when I didn’t have to decide when and where to go? Me neither, come to think of it. I’m not a control freak; I’m just the only freaking person willing to be in control, historically speaking. I would like the opportunity to hand over the reins to someone someday and make cooperative decisions instead of bearing the burden single-handedly. I am a leader, but that doesn’t mean I should always have to lead. I want a partner, a sounding board, a teammate. I want to be challenged — not in a confrontational way, but in a way that spurs me on to become more like Christ. I want the type of love that says non-verbally, “I enjoy your company, no matter where we are or what we’re doing.” Heck, I don’t even need flowers or chocolate*; a simple text or email out of the blue is enough to put a sloppy grin on my face for hours. (*However, a bottle of wine wouldn’t hurt now & then.)

All that said, I also think it is wise to guard my heart from unnecessary aches & pains. For that reason, I’m planning to go off the grid tomorrow and avoid looking at Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest because I don’t need to be bombarded with mushy-gushy Valentine’s Day posts about everyone’s picture-perfect relationships with their doting husbands and boyfriends. Gag me with a spoon and drown me in chocolate; the last thing a single parent needs is to have her situation rubbed in her face. Anticipating all of the lovey-doviness tomorrow helps me to understand a little better now what a childless friend once told me she felt like on Mother’s Day.

Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail in pictures

2014-02-01 12.25.26The Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail features seasonal events throughout the year, and this month is a wine & chocolate pairing. My best friend and I try to “run away” a few times a year (we have 8 boys between us), and this sounded like the perfect girls’ weekend!

There are seven participating wineries* along the Hwy 6/Hwy 105 corridor in south-central Texas. Each winery featured two tasting selections and a sample-sized chocolate dish. Since the event ran Sat-Sun, we needed something to do on Friday evening. So, we started our wine tour off the trail with three stops in the west Houston area: Cellar Door, Circle S Vineyards, and Braman Winery (which also had live music that night).

Saddlehorn Winery

Saddlehorn Winery

*In case you’ve never been to a wine tasting before, I should clarify that the tastings are usually 1 or 2-oz pours, so if you sample 2-3 wines, you get a half to one glass worth, and that’s if they are generous pours. 😉  I promise we didn’t get hammered!!

We stayed in the Katy area on Friday night and started on the official trail with the three participating wineries in the Brenham area on Saturday: Saddlehorn, Pleasant Hill & Windy Wineries.

Windy Winery

Windy Winery

Pleasant Hill Winery

Pleasant Hill Winery

Next, we went to Bryan/College Station for two official stops, plus one extra just for fun. Messina Hof is an old favorite of ours (and their featured jalapeno chocolate truffle was to die for!), but we were excited to discover Peach Creek Vineyards (where we savored a terrific chocolate mole dish!), and we enjoyed some more live music and a sample flight at Perrine Winery in town. We stayed the night there before we hit the last two wineries on Sunday.

2014-02-01 14.24.24The last two wineries were tucked away, one in the rural town of Montgomery (Cork This! Winery), and the other was down a semi-paved road that were it not for signage, we weren’t sure we were going the right direction.

Bernhardt Winery

Bernhardt Winery

Bernhardt Winery was worth the drive into the boonies, though, because we enjoyed a fantastic port-filled chocolate candy, as well as a delicious chocolate cobbler with a dab of ice cream. It was so good that we stayed and tried a port flight, as well. We learned a lot about the history of port wine and sampled some truly delicious wines.

2014-02-02 18.45.35To round out the trip, we got a souvenir glass and handy-dandy corkscrew! We had a blast, learned a bit about some of our favorite wines, but best of all … we relaxed, got away from the hustle & bustle of “real life,” and recharged our batteries for a brand new week ahead. 🙂

What else to study

I learned recently that our local technical college offers enology & viticulture certificates (as well as associates degrees, but that’s kinda beside the point, at this stage). Enology is the study of the winemaking industry, in general, and viticulture is specific to grape-growing. How interesting would that be?? I may be at risk of becoming a professional student, but either of those programs sounds like a much more fun way to spend my post-doc “free time” than catching up on four years’ worth of tv shows. 🙂

2014-01-23 19.30.32-3

Dissertation notes & a few minutes of quiet time while practicing my vinter skills 😉

Besides, I could consider it an investment in my retirement years … one of these days! 😉 Ah, just imagine: a quiet home in the country with acres of grapevines, winemaking equipment, and my own cellar to host friends and enjoy the fruits of my labor. A girl can dream, can’t she?

Alas, I’m no where near retiring yet. I still need to finish my dissertation, and then I hope that I’m on the cusp of a new direction in my career — meaning that I’ll be able to move into a faculty position in the not-too-distant future (hopefully by the fall semester).

As for the dissertation, I’m making progress on Ch. 4, and I intend to have a pretty solid draft before the end of the month. I’ve already got an outline of Ch. 5 in the works, so I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ll be able to defend in mid-March as I have been hoping to. Cheers to that!