Sunday, January 25, 2009

Good Question

Kaibab's Good Question would have been an excellent G litter name! But it isn't -- it is just the topic of today, based on an email that I got from Carol, who always asks such good questions.

The question of the day is that given all I seem to have in Salt Lake City, why Montana? Why not stay put in Utah? This is a question I ask myself a lot.

After teaching part-time for the many years I was in school, I got my first full-time faculty position at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I spent three happy years there but wanted to go west, since that is where I am from, and so I took a position at the University of Utah. I immediately knew it had been a mistake -- but I cannot really say that because so many good things came from my time in Utah. But I will say that the "climate" at the School of Social Work was not a good one and I could tell that right away.

Things went okay for a few years as we had a wonderful administration who kept things balanced but suddenly they all moved on or retired and a new Dean came in who did not understand the unique dynamics of the school -- it was a disaster, and especially for me, who had enjoyed the protection and good will of former administrators.

I went from Golden to dust in a matter of months, and left disillusioned and heartbroken over the loss of what had been a fast moving career; I also sued the School and the University. The lawsuit was about making certain such things never happened to anyone else -- they leveled me and I am hard to level. They made changes, we eventually settled the lawsuit in a way that I was satisfied with, and I felt good about fighting for justice without being vengeful; even a lawsuit can be character building :)

But the grief I felt and the disillusionment were incredibly profound and really took a toll on me and my whole family. Academics can be so dirty and wrong -- I have since called that university the University of Evil, which does not thrill Kim, who graduated from there :)

As I was licking my wounds, a position opened up at the pediatric hospital two miles away -- they needed someone to start a bereavement program. And so I started working there, helping people who were even more broken and sad than I was -- and I healed.

Kim and I had married and were raising our combination family -- we could not move so that I could take another faculty position and truthfully, I was so burned that I was not sure I wanted to ever step foot in another university. But time helps a lot and when BYU asked me to teach part-time, I hung up the phone and cried because I felt like I had been invited to come home.

And even in my clinical position I kept doing research and in so many ways acted like the academic I wasn't -- and was. I loved my clinical work at the hospital but I always felt like a round peg in a square hole -- it was where I needed to be to learn all the lessons I needed to learn, but it was not "me", if that makes sense.

Finally the kids were all graduated and I started looking for faculty positions -- my number one criteria: the people have to be nice. A close second was that it had to be in a place where we wanted to live -- west, smaller town, rural so we could have land.

The University of Montana fit my requirements and offered me a very nice package -- just one problem -- Kim had been promoted. He needs to work three years at his higher rank to maximize the promotion in his pension. He could move today but it would cost us a good amount of money for the rest of our lives. I do not care and want him to move now, but respect his desire to realize the full benefits of his promotion (okay, most of the time I feel that way ;).

And so that is why I am in Montana and he is in Utah, and this will continue for 14 more months unless I just cannot stand it and insist he move here or I go back there. My wonderful job is here and my wonderful community is there -- and therein lies the dilemma. Would I feel differently if Kim were here? If I were more settled and did not have a foot in two places?

When I am in Utah, I want to stay there but when I come back up to Montana, I want to stay here -- see the problem?! As I was driving to/from the Invitational in December I was wrestling with this whole thing, and in the end I decided not to decide but just to write the book -- I am not sure exactly how they are related but I have learned to trust process.

I never in a million years thought that having my career blow up in my face would be a good thing -- but it was and I am better in every way because of it. So many of the best experiences of our lives come because fate or God or whatever pried our fingers from that which we held so tightly and booted us into the abyss. Once the tears and panic stop, you see a whole new world and if you are open to it, a new way of being -- and then the gratitude comes and you are not quite so scared the next time you find yourself in what seems like an impossible place. I guess one of the best things I have learned is Trust -- and so I sit here on the mountain trusting that everything will be okay and likely better than okay -- no matter what happens.

So no answers to Carol's inquiry but now you better understand why it is such a Good Question :) What do you think I should do? Maybe I should start a poll :)

Where we live in Montana is not brutally cold but this morning we have wicked winds and so the wind chill is bitter. I knew this was coming and so had some stuffed frozen kongs and bones ready for indoor chewing this morning. Everyone started with their own and look at this picture of Halo-- there is a political message in this, I am sure :)

Zoey is such a sweet, wonderful girl -- I love the temperaments of the Halo/Zack kids and Zoey certainly reminds me why I feel that way. Here she is chewing on the tracking line that Asia won last year at the Specialty -- she doesn't hurt it and it makes her happy so whatever :)

And here is Zoey again, being chewed on by cute Sydney! Remember there is just 2.5 months between the girls -- isn't it amazing how they grow?

I hope your Sunday is a warm, happy one and provides you with ample opportunities for gratitude!


  1. I knew someone a couple of years ago who had lived thirty years in the same town, in the same house, at the same job, and hated all of them. When she finally considered moving, she was terrified, and had to do it in stages (a long visit with me, temporary accommodations, etc.)

    I certainly learned to go back and re-evaluate the (sometimes unappreciated) changes that I had gone through in my life!

    There's no doubt that several years from now, when you look back at these months, you will marvel at how valuable they have been -- not to diminish how hard they are.

    Susan and Djinn

  2. I am very sad that this is such a hard time for you... The strain of being seperated from sweet Kim is enough in itself even without all of the other complications!!!!
    The more I see of Utah - the more I like it, so my vote is to move back to SLC, write wonderful books, and give the grief/dog training seminars that you are sooo good at!!!!

    Spousal lonliness is not a good thing, almost as bad as being snowbound.

    Hang in there,
    Cindy H.
    ps I love being a puppy grandma - Mika is a real doll, very spunky and smart and gets a bath today :)

  3. Carol not only asks good questions. She is very accomplished at many things, and will probably be a bit embarassed that I'm telling, but in the end she will laugh. I am grateful that my life changed for the better when, through a puppy berner, Carol came into my life. She is a great human being, great friend and she makes me laugh. I hope all of you have a Carol in your lives. Jill