The His & Hers Guide to Work on the Road Pt. 1

Now that back to school season is in full swing, graduate students and postdocs everywhere are getting ready to leave.  That’s right, leave.  It’s very common for graduate students to bring their research to conferences all over the nation, often the globe, and for postdoctoral professors to be invited as visiting professors or researchers at other colleges.

Academics are often on the move, researching abroad, attending seminars, and teaching at different schools.  This helps expand their scope of knowledge and promote their research to others in their field.  It’s also pretty stressful for the academic and the people they leave at home.  Most of the mathematicians Josh has met have a rule of how many trips per year they take without their spouse; some count days or weeks, others always bring their spouse with them.  If you’re lucky enough to join your spouse on their work trip, awesome!  (If you’re holding down the fort, read part two.)  To reduce the stress of time away, the motm household has developed some travel tips for international trips, and a packing list that works  well for the academic.

his and hers guide to work on the road part one mathonthemoveblog spouse abroad work travel

 Have a good data plan.

When traveling internationally, most people will say you can get away with hopping on wifi and using chat apps like Viber or Google Hangouts.  I don’t recommend this.  You will need access to your phone for maps, translate, and your colleagues at your university abroad will need to contact you.  Having a method of communication that is professional and easy to access is key.  If you travel internationally a lot, or find yourself overseas for a long period of time, it may be beneficial to get a phone that works with an international SIM card, like a Pixel. That way, when you are overseas, you can pop out your domestic SIM card and purchase a pay-as-you-go plan, which would be less expensive than buying international data on your domestic plan.

Don’t fight the time change.

Whether it’s international or just an hour, try to adjust to the time zone change as quick as possible.  This will reduce stress, and prevent you from becoming tired, worn out and sick during or after your trip.  Pack melatonin to use as a sleep aid if needed, but I recommend avoiding any unnatural or unhealthy sleep aids.

Practice the language.

If you are traveling to a foreign country, most people in your field of study will speak English, but people outside of the university may not.  Be a good visitor and do your best to learn common phrases before your trip.  Some people are more willing to speak English if you attempt to speak their language.  Duolingo is a free app you can use to learn languages.

Bring your own adapters.

I’m not just talking outlets here.  You will need an outlet adapter, but I also suggest bringing an Ethernet adapter/connector.  While most places will have wifi, their speeds will not be as fast as you could get on an Ethernet connection.  We learned this the hard way.

Expect to be uncomfortable.

Your plans will change, flights get delayed, trains are late, you will get lost.  Give yourself large enough windows in your travel plans to allow for things to go wrong, and be pleasantly surprised when you get to slow roll it to your destination when everything turns out just fine.


This is probably the most important tip.  Always leave enough room in your suitcase to bring home candy for every day you’re gone.  Trust me, your spouse appreciates it.

Academic Packing List:
  • Laptop
  • USB drive
  • Laptop charger
  • Pens and paper
  • Other work
  • Ethernet to USB adapter
  • Outlet adapter
  • Laptop adapter


packing list mathonthemove his and hers guide to work on the road

Do we live in a Food Desert?

A Rotten Problem

I didn’t know what a Food Desert was until I moved to Ohio.  Growing up on the west coast means an ample supply of sunshine, lemons, and fresh produce.  Moving to Colorado didn’t change that much, my sunshine allowance increased, I was introduced to even more produce, and yet still had access to California’s fruits and vegetables.  I didn’t realize how much I took it for granted until I stepped into a grocery store in Northeast Ohio.

When 2-liter soda is cheaper than water, ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem.

When lemons are $1 and garlic is $7.99/lb, we have a problem.

When parsley is $1.99 for a wilted little handful, we have a problem.

We went to 2 different grocery stores with similar results before I started thinking that perhaps we lived in a food desert.  According to the USDA, a food desert is a place that lacks fresh produce and other healthy foods, usually due to a lack of grocery stores.  Typically the area is rural or impoverished.  In a food desert, at least 500 people live 1 mile or more away from a grocery store (you can check your community here).

With Kent being pretty close to Akron, and Ohio itself a major distribution gateway for truckers, there really is no excuse for the lack of access to affordable fresh and healthy food.

A Fresh Fix

The city of Kent is doing something to fix that, and they’ve been doing it for 25 years.  The Haymaker Market.

The Haymaker farmers market is every Saturday, and is right down the road from us.  We bring our own bags and join our fellow Crunchies (and sometimes, the Amish) for some farm-fresh larger-than-life produce picked that morning and ready to wash (and you better wash it, because there are beetles chilling in those rainbow chard leaves).

Food Desert kent ohio akron mathonthemoveblog

And then you can compare the store bought parsley to the Haymaker parsley.  Which would you prefer?

So yes, I will buy the parsley on the right, support my community, promote small farms, and eat organic.  But if anyone wants to send us some citrus we are totally OK with that.

Strangers: 5 ways being in a new town can be a rewarding challenge

Hi, I’m new here.

We stick out like sore thumbs.

It might be the Colorado plates, or the dog, or that we walk around everywhere (usually with said dog), but this town is small enough that it’s obvious we are new.

There are no sidewalks.

There are no bike lanes.

The grocery stores leave much to be desired, but that’s another blog entry in itself.  We feel like we live away from everything, on the edge of town (if you even want to call it a town).  The second we pulled up to our apartment, Josh and I both wanted to leave.  The first day moving in, everything out of our mouth was a complaint.

The truth is: we were spoiled in Fort Collins.  We moved from California to a smaller city that is on numerous top 10 lists for best places to live.  And now, we’re in Kent, a place that probably has never made it on a top 10 list in its 100+ year existence.

And then on Sunday, we went to church.  They were sending a missions team off to the Dominican Republic, and as we were praying for them, the pastor read from the book of Joshua.

This is my command—be strong and courageous!  Do not be afraid or discouraged.  For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

strangers mathonthemoveblog new town

Every once in a while, God punches you in the gut right when you need it.

So, we made a decision.  We gave ourselves a week to make introductions with Kent, shake hands with the city, get over the culture shock of the Midwestern countryside, and try to find a routine.  We worked to make our apartment more like a haven and a home (yet still missing a couch).  I unfollowed the Coloradoan on Twitter, deleted all Fort Collins related accounts on Instagram, and started following Kent and Ohio accounts like ohioexplored.

And we went outside.  A lot.

We went to Downtown Kent, discovered the best Chai latte this side of the Mississippi (Lavender Chai!) at Tree City Coffee, which we have been to at least 3 times now.

Found numerous epic parks (none within walking distance of where we live, but we won’t complain because the views make up for it).

Discovered Kent’s involvement in the Underground Railroad.

And in doing so, we have started to adjust to life outside of Colorado.  I’m by no means a master, and I may still be a bit homesick for bike lanes and the Poudre river, but my tricks have helped and the Cuyahoga is growing on me.

So, for the movers and strangers like us, here’s some tips to shake off homesickness and adapt to your new surroundings:

Reserve judgement.

Like I said, the first day we moved in, we were complaining.  We came to Kent and arrived at our apartment a back way, so we didn’t go through the town at all.  Don’t allow yourself to form an opinion of your new home based on a first impression.  For every complaint, say one good thing.  I don’t like that there are no sidewalks in my neighborhood, but we live right next to a bog!

Be a tourist.

Use Google and local guides to introduce yourself to your city.  Find out where to go for coffee, groceries, etc. but remember that you are still exploring and your habits may change.  The roads you’re taking now may be ones that you will never drive down in 2 months.

Be friendly.

Most likely, you might not know anyone where you are moving, so on your first day (while you’re sweaty carrying boxes), make an effort to say hi to your new neighbors.  They can be a great resource for information, and who knows, you might even have something in common.

Don’t compare.

Your new home will be different from where you came from.  Sometimes very much so.  It’s okay.  It may be hard at first to avoid comparing the old town to the new one but try.  Comparison leads to discontent.

Be courageous!

Get involved in the community.  Join a church, book club, sports team, etc.  Find a way to get connected and feel like a part of your new town.  You might find that people here aren’t so different than anywhere else.

Moving Cross-Country: My Dashboard Confessional

If the Beatles were American, “The Long and Winding Road” would be a completely different song.  Those highways are boringly straight and it makes moving cross-country mind-numbing.  The only exciting part was when we had a bird run into our car and go up in a puff of feathers, and we hadn’t even left Colorado yet.

Fort Collins Colorado Ohio Kent Moving Mathonthemove Cross country roadrtrip Dog travel
Bye Fort Collins

I will say, driving through Nebraska was one of my favorites, simply because they had a bunch of windmill farms, and plenty of historical sites regarding westward expansion and native Americans.  We stayed the night in Omaha and both think it would be a cool city to visit. By day 2 in the car, we all had a system, even Sherlock, who had the backseat all to himself in his hammock. He enjoyed watching the horses and cows out the window, and dreaming of squirrels.

Fort Collins Colorado Ohio Kent Moving Mathonthemove Cross country roadrtrip Dog travel
He did well in the hotel rooms too, although at first he would try to bark when a door slammed or he heard someone walk by.  He was a bit skittish and would hide under the desk or sink.  He was also not eating as much, normal dog stuff for an animal on the move and out of routine.

We finally made it to Kent, Ohio on day 3, after 22 hours of driving, 2 time zone changes, and 1 Amish buggy sighting.

Fort Collins Colorado Ohio Kent Moving Mathonthemove Cross country roadrtrip Dog travel
I think we might stick out like a sore thumb.


We did it. We jammed our possessions into a six foot box and it’s off to Ohio a week before us.

Not only did we do it, we did it crazy fast.  We planned for two days to pack and  load the cube(s), expecting it to leave on Wednesday.  We had everything packed by Sunday.

Today, we rented a u-haul, filled that bad boy up, moved everything to ABF and then unloaded the u-haul and proceeded to fill our cube. We had every intention of using 2 cubes, but we only ended up needing one, which is a great feeling.  It probably helps that I am so good at throwing things away. 

possessions cubed moving mathonthemoveblog kent colorado ohio

So since it’s all done earlier than expected, it’ll arrive earlier than expected. Which I guess is a good thing. In the meantime we are camping on an air mattress, eating pizza and playing board games on the floor.

possessions cubed moving mathonthemoveblog kent colorado ohio

It’s a strange feeling seeing your worldly possessions fit into such a small space.  It’s a good reminder that 1. You don’t need a lot to live off and 2. things are just things.

Today’s stats:

1 busted pinky finger

1 split lip

3 bloody knuckles

1 sunburn

2 pairs of sore arms and legs

1 grateful wife that’s married to a mathematician who has the spatial intelligence of a Tetris master. Cube loader, PhD.

Decided: The Academic Interview Process

We know where we’re going.

We’ve known for a while now, we’ve had an inkling before we had an offer, but it’s official, and Kent, Ohio will be our new home.  I’ve already been boxing things up in anticipation, and the office has been cluttered with moving supplies.  But, you gotta make a mess to clean a mess.  We’ve been working hard to hide the boxes and put things away to make room for visitors coming to stay for graduation this week.  So as I put the packing on pause, let me tell you about our decision process.

The Academic Interview Process

Like in all job searching, searching for a job in academia is a process, and it works on a specific schedule.  Due to the school schedule, most first-round interviewing starts as early as January or February, typically with a phone or Skype interview.    This may happen more than once per school, with different people within the department.  If you get lucky you will be invited to the school for an on-campus interview, where you will most likely be asked to teach a class or give a lecture.

The on-campus interview is a day scheduled with multiple interviews within the department, talking to multiple people individually or in conference.  Bring water and throat lozenges because you’ll never remember a time you’ve talked so much before in your life.  By April or May, you’ll hope to hear back from a school with an offer for employment, which will start in August.

It’s nearly a 6 month process to find a job in academia, all while finishing up your doctorate, sending out applications, doing interviews, and fielding questions from relatives asking if you have a job yet.  Once you get the offers, you need to consider each one.  The point of a postdoc position for a mathematician is to allow yourself to build up a reputation in your field by doing research.  These positions typically will last for 2-3 years and will mainly be research positions, but might require the employee to teach a few classes each semester.  Postdoctoral research is very important because it will set the foundation for future funding and tenured positions within academic fields.

decided academic interview process mathonthemoveblog job

Considering Factors

We had to take these factors into consideration when making our decision.  But most of all, we had to do what was best for our family.  Did we want to accept a job that might have paid more, but was farther away, involved more work and less time for research?  It might sound good on paper, but in the long run, it could have been detrimental to career and relationships.  If you are an unmarried PhD student, go for it. Live your best life.  But there are some of us in the world of academia that would prefer to live our best life with our spouses (and dog), so that’s what we are doing.

The worst decision to make is to not make one.  Whatever you decide, make sure you make your choice wisely.  Always talk to your partner about the choices you make regarding your family.  It’s not my job we are moving for, but I am fully invested in this life and I get a say in every decision we make (especially veto power); that’s what a partnership is about.

The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.” Psalm 32:8

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Purge Before you Pack

When we moved to Fort Collins six years ago, we put everything we owned into our car and drove 16 hours from California. Since then, we acquired a few more items (including a dog).  We’ve also been throwing out a few more items, mainly in anticipation of the move.

The great thing about moving is purging.  I love throwing things away.  There’s a freedom in empty space.  (I highly encourage everyone to watch the Minimalism documentary on Netflix).

Break up with your stuff

There is so much stuff that we hoard that we don’t use or need and we keep it for what purpose? The only joy we get from it is when we donate it.  It’s time for some spring cleaning.

Things you need to ask yourself when you are going through your items:

  1. Does this item serve a purpose in my life?
  2. Is this item useful and convenient to me? Is it saving me time?
  3. Do I get joy out of this item?
  4. Is this item in good condition? (seriously, how much stuff do we keep that’s broken, ripped, etc?)
  5. Do I have another item that does the same thing?

mathonthemove how to purge before packing

How/What to Toss:

  1.  Start in one room.  Focus on one area of your home and go through that room corner by corner, drawer by drawer.
  2. Pare down your supplies. Do you need 5 sets of scissors, 50 pens? Probably not.
  3. Backup all your music/discs, etc onto an external hard drive.
  4. Donate books to your library (unless they are Harry Potter books. Those can stay).
  5. Check your medicine cabinet and bathroom for expired goods. Toss makeups/hair products, etc. that are expired, unused.
  6. YOUR CLOSET! Oh my goodness, your closet.  So many people look at their closet and then pass out, run away, cry, hide, etc. Project 333 will save your life.  This is what my closet looks like:   you can learn more about my love for Project 333 in my Throw it all Away post (are you seeing a theme here? Because I am!).purge before you pack

When we clean out, we are physically cleaning and donating items to people in need, serving our community and doing good.  But we are also cleaning out and creating space in our homes and lives for other things.  Things like relationships, conversations, peacefulness, contentment with ourselves and a feeling of peace with our situation.  The less things we have the more time we have to spend on things that really matter.


Do you have a hard time cleaning or getting rid of things?  What are your tricks for staying organized?

Stressful Schedules in Grad School

I haven’t seen my husband in a month.  He’s been around here and there, but for the most part, we are like separate entities, ships in the night, waving at each other from afar.



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I can practically hear the echo.

Separate Timelines

Let me give you the rundown of a grad student’s schedule:

  • March 13: Spring break starts. “Yay!” you might say.  “NO!!!!” Says the grad student.  This triggers the massive push to complete dissertation.  He has 3 weeks to complete it.

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  • March 14: Skype interview
  • March 16-19: Math conference.
  • (And when he returns, he is greeted by family friends visiting from out of state.  Less time for him to get work done, but hopefully he gets to relax a bit.)
  • March 20-24: Colleague from another college is visiting.
  • March 24: Skype interview
  • March 24-27: I am gone for a work conference. 
  • March 28: Skype interview
  • March 29-30:  Math talk at Princeton
  • March 31: Skype interview
  • April 3: Birthday!!!!  He said “I’m too busy, let’s ignore my birthday until after I graduate.”
  • April 4: Skype interview
  • April 6: Turn in dissertation
  • April 6-13: Germany
  • April 14: Skype interview
  • April 16-18: On-campus interview
  • April 18-19: On-campus interview
  • April 20: Defense
  • April 20-24: Friend visits from out of state.

It is Done

Josh officially submitted his dissertation and passed his defense, he has a PhD.  He can graduate.  He is a doctor, just not the useful kind (as I like to joke).

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What’s Next

We’ve survived a crazy season and we can take a deep breath, but only for a moment.  We just need to gather enough air to swim to the same boat so we can be together, journey on, and decide where we’re going next.  Sometimes I think this is a little bit crazy.

“What are you doing this summer?”


“Oh, where are you going?”

“We don’t know yet.”


We get a lot of looks.  But there’s not a lot we can do about it right now anyway, and it’s not really our decision to make.  Whatever we decide, whatever God decides for us, we will do together,  waving at the passersby as we drive to our new destination.

I don’t have Facebook.

Yes, I am well aware that I don’t have facebook.  It’s not the end of the world.  I figured if you wanted to keep tabs on what we were doing in the world, where we ended up moving, where we were scamping (I’ll cover that in an other post), you’ll have to work for it.

(Insert diatribe on the pitfalls of social media and the timesuck of Facebook and how it’s the death of modern society here.)

Here’s my 3 reasons for creating this blog:

  1.  To provide a resource for postdocs/grad families.
  2.  To give you an insider’s perspective of life in academia (it’s not as thrilling as you might think).
  3. Gives me something to do.

So join me!  Give yourself something to do besides roll your eyes at people on the internet (who knows, that might still happen on here!)  I promise to keep you in the loop and give you an insider’s look.  No paperwork, thesis, or deadlines required.