Happy Saturday! I’m so happy to be home this morning after a whirlwind, awesome week in Georgia. I’m looking forward to celebrating Mother’s Day with my own mom and then of course the girls who call me Mom, and I really can’t ask for much more than that.
This week I’m featuring Amanda as the “Saturday Sit-Down” blogger! She and I are actually from the same hometown, went to the same university, and were both members of the same sorority (just a few years apart). She is an incredibly gifted writer and story-teller, as you’ll quickly pick up on when you read her feature. She knows how to draw me in! Meet Amanda. 🙂
Q: Hi Amanda! In three sentences or less, briefly tell us about who you are. 🙂
A: First and foremost, I am a daughter of the King, wife of an amazing former military officer, and puppy mom to Bear, a 7-month labradoodle. I’ve spent the last 10 years in advertising/public relations in various capacities and recently returned to graduate school to complete my Ph.D. in mass communication with a health communication research track. My greatest passion is to mentor young people and to expand their horizons in the classroom, and I hope to use my degree to help build medical school curriculum to teach pediatrics residents about strategic communication in their own practices.
Q: When did you start your blog, and what has your blogging journey looked like the last few years?
A: Luke and Manda began 7 years ago, at the end of 2011, when my husband Luke was a firstie (senior) at West Point. I started the blog as a way to document our then-long distance journey. I try to post monthly updates and blog about topics that may be relevant to others in a similar stage of life such as military life, marriage, our faith and life philosophies as a family, work life balance, graduate school, traveling, friendship, and most recently, puppy parenting. Despite having blogged this whole time, my goal was never to have a major following or daily posts; for me it is just about documenting the journey and sharing when inspiration strikes. 🙂
Q: What are some of the biggest “life” events that you’ve documented and shared on your blog over the years?
A: Since I started the blog fairly early in our journey, I was able to capture most of the big stuff including my surprise proposal in the Azalea Bowl at Callaway Gardens, our college graduations and subsequent careers, both of our weddings, and young married life as a military couple which included two cross country moves and culminated in a mutual decision to go back to graduate school. I also talk about some of the tough stuff including divorce, death, and simply adulting. I try to remain transparent and authentic in my posts, and through sharing my heart about where we are at, I hope to reach someone in that same position and maybe help them to feel less alone or that someone out there “gets it.”
Q: You are on such an impressive academic route! How did you choose to study at The University of Florida, and what are you studying?
A: Oh thank you! That is too kind. I applied to (and was accepted to) four reputable Ph.D. programs in my field of advertising/communication. It was such a tough choice of where to actually move because Luke insisted that I decide the final location 100% on my own without any feedback from him. In fact, he made a “deal” with me early on in our marriage that because his career, and more specifically Uncle Sam, was calling the shots for the first five years, I would get to choose the place we moved right after our military chapter ended. He knew pretty early on that his path in the military would be “five and fly,” which means he paid back his minimum commitment to USMA for facilitating his education and then decided to pursue a career in the civilian sector. So, in that one year limbo between him finishing his contract and being done with Army service, I applied to these various programs that would allow me to teach and research with the ultimate goal of becoming a college professor in communication. Although each university offered unique benefits including diverse geographic locations, the University of Florida ultimately ended up being the best possible fit. I chose UF due to the supportive adviser and colleagues I would have, the strength of the program curriculum, the warm weather, clos(er) proximity to family, beautiful beaches, and an environment that seemed conducive to Luke getting a job that he desired in shipping and logistics. Icing on the cake, he is also able to pursue his MBA through the professional program that UF offers.
Q: You recently shared your thoughts on getting your Ph.D. How did you decide to go back to school after working full-time? Also, how did you decide to attend Florida?
A: I always knew that I wanted to obtain my Ph.D. due to my desire to be a professor of communication at a research one university; the Ph.D. is pretty much the entrance requirement for that someday dream job. However, I put it off for a couple of years due to the uncertainty of Army life; as you know, moving from place to place does not offer the kind of geographic stability I would need to complete a 3-4 year degree program.
The plan was always for me to go back to school once Luke’s military contract was complete; I did finish my master’s degree online while Luke was still in the Army. The master’s degree is a prerequisite for a Ph.D. in my field, so this is something I had to knock out. It wasn’t always easy while simultaneously working 50ish hours per week at my full time job managing a medical group with three clinics and six providers and owning my own social media consulting firm, Backward Bullseye Branding, but I made it through “tunnel vision” just focusing on one task and assignment at a time, and a lot of caffeine. All in all, that took 2.5 years just because I could only take one class at a time. Compared to balancing several pursuits at once, going back to school full-time for my Ph.D. feels almost like a luxury. It is a LOT of work, but it is work that I love, and I truly feel like I am living my dream here in the land of palm trees. 🙂
Q: What advice do you have for someone who wants to go back to school but feels intimidated after being in the workforce?
I would say having been in the workforce really better prepares you for graduate school even more than going straight through school (in my personal opinion). I learned so many lessons through my real world work experiences that have translated well to academia and, if anything, have made me a better teacher, researcher, and scholar. Also, it is never too late to chase your dreams! I once heard someone say that you have to work every day to build your dreams, or instead, you will spend your days helping someone else build theirs. That really stuck with me. Even in the workforce when former bosses or colleagues would not understand my desire to go back to school, I always knew I was chasing my path and MY dream, which is so, so important.
Q: One thing (out of several!) that we have in common is that our husbands recently got out of active duty Army. Was the transition to civilian life easier or more difficult than you imagined?
A: For us, I would say it has been surprising overall; you just don’t know what you don’t know. I think managing expectations was a bit of a struggle at first because we kind of approached his official end date with the Army as a kind of fairytale ending; “And they lived happily ever after.” Except, instead of riding off into the sunset, we both jumped right into new jobs and new lives here in Florida. While Luke’s work here is a bit more steady and there is not a very high chance of him deploying to dangerous parts of the world anymore, the hours are still long, and our family time is still limited. Part of this is just the season we are in; both going back to graduate school at once was a decision we made together, and one we are super grateful to have the opportunity to pursue. But, civilian life and Army life really aren’t so different when you are in your late 20’s and really chasing your career…long hours abound. Our time is much more about the quality than the quantity.
In many aspects, we miss the Army more than we expected, particularly the built-in support system of families in your same stage of life and just the sense of camaraderie that comes with serving in the same unit (or FRG in the spouse’s case.) Fortunately, the Army family is a lifelong one and a community which we are so proud to belong to near or far. I love being able to maintain relationships with friends from former duty stations on social media and use my blog Luke and Manda as another outlet to keep family and friends apprised of life as we know it these days.
As any former or present military spouse will tell you, home is where the heart is after all, and every place is what you make it. Because we will be here in Florida for a temporary season, a total of only 3-4 years before moving again, it almost feels like another duty station. Our next move is pretty much a guarantee because the school where you obtain your Ph.D. typically will not hire you right afterward; so, we are doing many Army-like things here including blooming where we are planted, forging new relationships, and building a family right where we are in the Sunshine State. I will say we bought a house here for the first time EVER, which we love, and we hope to put down some even deeper roots in our next place.
Q: Where should new readers start on your site?
Our Recent Home Renovations “To Love Honor And Renovate”
Do I Really Want To Get My Ph.D.? (For those contemplating their own graduate school decision)
“Navigating Life After I Do” for other young married couples out there trying to “figure it out” after the Big Wedding Day is over & the marriage begins https://lukeandmanda.wordpress.com/2016/02/10/navigating-life-after-i-do/
Q: Where can we connect with you on social media?
And just for fun…
- Text or call? Text!
- Early bird or night owl? Night owl
- Swimming or laying poolside? Laying poolside
- Pizza or pasta? Pasta
Thanks so much, Amanda!
Is this your first time to Whimsical September? Welcome!
Hello! I’m Erica, the blogger behind Whimsical September. I created the “The Saturday Sit-Down” series in January 2017 as a way to give back to the blogging community and link readers with new bloggers whom they may share similar interests with. Click here to discover more bloggers that have been featured on “The Saturday Sit-Down”. I promise you – there’s some GREAT ones!
Want to be featured in this series?
I have openings starting in June and would love to feature you! Please email me at WHIMSICALSEPTEMBER@YAHOO.COM and I’ll be in touch with you. It’s totally free and a fun way to bring new sets of eyes to your blog. PS: Bloggers with any-sized following are welcome to be featured!
Whimsical September Email List
Hi! I’m Erica, and I absolutely adore sharing my life on this website with you! I come here almost daily to blab about all of the things related to being a regular wife and mother is today’s ever-evolving society. I share about our new home, what’s on our kitchen table, what we’re hanging in our closets, where we’re traveling to next, my crazy 5 a.m. work outs, how I make time for girlfriends, our faith, and much more. We always have a lot of balls in the air and somewhat thrive on the chaos. I believe in the power of story-telling as a form of inspiration and entertainment, so I’m here to do both! I was born and raised in north Alabama and recently re-planted roots here again after my husband transitioned out of the Army (he is now in the Reserve and it’s going so well!) I’m a super proud mom to two little girls (ages 4 and 2) who seem to be the stars of the show around here (for good reason – they’re pretty great!) I’m so glad you found me and are here reading! I hope we can get to know each other here on the blog as well as Facebook and/or Instagram. xoxo