Stephany Mason and Tabitha Mason

Recorded March 17, 2012 Archived March 17, 2012 34:07 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: atl001290


Tabitha Mason, 22, asks her step-mother Stephany Mason, 46, about her career as well as the challenges of joining a family.

Subject Log / Time Code

Stephany always wanted to be a scientist. As a 7-year-old her dream was to be a paleontologist. In college she took a geology class and loved it. After graduate school she got a job doing oceanography. She traveled to Antarctica and recalls seeing orcas and penguins.
Stephany and Tabitha's father, Michael, met on a plane. It was Christmas Eve, 1999, and she was traveling home to be with her family after just turning in her dissertation. She wasn't excited to sit next to such a tall man, but they started a conversation, and when the flight ended he said to stay in touch. She returned to Dayton, Ohio and decided to email him. They met up again and she just knew he was the person she wanted to marry.
Tabitha asks what it was like to join a family with an older kid in the picture. Stephany loved the idea-- she got a husband and a daughter. It was never an obstacle to marrying Michael but rather a bonus.
To Stephany, religion is a personal venture. Jewish is who she is culturally and religiously and she doesn't feel the drive to make "a big deal of it." She's also not the biggest fan of organized religion. For example, she does not like attending church with Michael because she feels like churches make it all about Jesus, not God. She feels unwelcome.
They talk about living in Atlanta, GA. Stephany always said she'd never live south of the Mason-Dixon line but "then I met your father." Maybe one day they'll move to Florida: "You move far enough south and you're back in the North again."


  • Stephany Mason
  • Tabitha Mason

Recording Locations

Atlanta StoryBooth

Venue / Recording Kit


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00:02 My name is Tabitha Mason. I'm 22 years old. Today's date is March 17th, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia and my relationship to my Storyteller is she's my stepmom.

00:24 And I'm Stephanie Mason. I'm 46 years old. It is March 17th, 2012. We're in Atlanta, Georgia, and I'm here with my stepdaughter.

00:37 Okay. I have a couple of questions. I've always wanted to ask you so.

00:45 I know you're a scientist and I've heard a couple stories from when you're younger collecting rocks. And but what was your true inspiration becoming a geologist?

00:58 I

01:01 I don't know that I miss what he wanted to be a geologist when I was younger. I definitely wanted to be a scientist everything for me revolved around science. I would go out I would collect leaves out of rocks or anything that was out there in nature are the names of all the trees. It was just that was was fun for me. I was like I wanted to know about the world around me. So I think maybe I was seven or eight years old and you may not know them talking view Masters, which of these round cards with little little slide cards and you put them in the machine and it gives you pictures and tells a little story and that's the one that I loved was about paleontology the study of fossils. So I was probably the only seven-year-old that wanted to be a paleontologist. That was my dream.

01:51 And then you As I Grew Older at one point. I wanted to be an astronaut. I'm sure a lot of kids want to do that and when I went to college I actually started as a biochemistry major.

02:03 And I don't know what happened. But for some reason I took a geology class. It sounded like fun and I loved it and and it struck me as so I can get a degree I can get credit for going on field trips.

02:21 It was I can we get rewarded for doing something. I love. I mean there's nothing better than that. And so that's why I became a geologist. I love going out in the field. I just loved everything about what I was doing and then when it came to going to grad school

02:38 It was I don't know. What happened. For some reason I decided I'd go a little more applied and I wind up in Material Science and Engineering but that wasn't for me. I needed to be back outside.

02:52 In nature setting that and I fell into a job doing oceanography. And again, I loved it. I got to travel all over the world for that studying the chemistry of the ocean.

03:06 I like the stories at least tell them when you're on the ship and you like going to Antarctica and all that jazz your little penguin that bobbleheads knickknacks from the different locations that we sell to and you probably seen the the picture for my trips to Antarctica that we have hanging in the hallway being able to get out on the ice get off the ship onto the ice was amazing being able to see penguins.

03:35 In their natural habitat

03:37 Swimming underwater of PETA somebody on one of the ships had a underwater camera and they put it down and we were able to watch the penguins swimming around that was just amazing to see orcas in the wild. It was I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I mean, I I was giving a gift to be able to go out and do that and it was wonderful.

04:03 That's cool.

04:09 Do you miss traveling? I know you been here for the longest and you're a free spirit to travel. I do miss traveling and

04:20 I'm hoping that through my work.

04:24 We were just purchased by a larger company which has International locations that I'll get the opportunity to to travel again and your father and I have started to do more traveling now to now that you're older and you're becoming independent and on your own it's a it's a little bit easier for more for your dad to to go away. You know how attached he is to family and I just ran to go even though he loves it. And so it was okay. I mean, I made a choice that I wanted my family was going to take priority over.

04:59 My travel or career in that that's a decision. I'm perfectly happy with I'm glad I made that decision. I mean there was a time I did my travel and then

05:10 Enjoy my family life. And now it's time to go do some more travel and you're still enjoying my family life, but involve them in Israel.

05:24 Sorry.

05:29 Okay, so some wider questions.

05:35 What are you most proud of of your life?

05:39 Well, that is a deep question. What am I?

05:48 I tell you how to show you are proud of my PhD but

05:56 This may sound Autumn proud that I waited till I found the right person.

06:02 In my life to get married to and I I know I was told I was 35 years old. So it wasn't something I jumped into lightly. It was worth waiting, but I'm proud that I waited and I'm proud of the family. I have his your father because you came along with that and that makes me very happy and proud of the woman that you've turned into and I like to think that I had a part in you be being such a wonderful person that you are.

06:30 You making me cry?

06:37 OK Google, what's been your biggest challenge though?

06:42 Being a stepmom is tough It's that balance because I want to be able to treat you as if you were my own child.

06:52 But I know you also have your mother.

06:55 And

06:57 You don't need all that parenting all the time. And so is that balance of trying to help you grow into that wonderful beautiful person that you are but without being too overbearing coming on too strong and so I don't know if I succeeded or not, but that's new been my biggest challenge and also you maintain the relationship of your father so that killing each other the biggest challenge.

07:36 They are so different. Sometimes it's astonishing your grandparents now and they are Polar Opposites and growing up. It always amazed me that they stayed together. I couldn't see it. I didn't couldn't see what it was. They had in common What bond they shared obviously they loved each other and there was I think it was their life goals were so even though they were very different people the big life goals. They had the same values your education. The role of religion is how they wanted their children to grow up. And so when it came to the big questions in life,

08:31 That's where they agreed and that's where you know your father and I agree. And so that helps and Yohe, make me a better person cuz she's she's a much nicer person than I am. It's his nature. He's the most giving person.

08:46 One of the most giving people I've ever met and that's part of why I love him and he helps me be a more giving person. Not that I intend not to be.

08:56 But you know, I'm so focused on.

09:00 Not the emotional but more of the logical and the technical and deepen your data and details so he helps brought him into that more emotional. I think we make a good match together and if we disagree we have arguments but in the end we both it helps us each to see life a little bit differently and broaden my horizons and it helps our love for each other girl.

09:26 I know I've gotten did some parts of like how y'all met.

09:31 Do you mind sharing the whole story the whole story so?

09:38 You know your dad and I met on an airplane it was I was Christmas Eve 1999.

09:48 I had just turned in my dissertation for my PhD and I was exhausted. I was just I was a mess I could barely feed myself. I was so tired and out of it. So I was going down to Florida to see my parents and have them take care of me for a couple of weeks.

10:08 And the flight that I was on left from Dayton, Ohio, we were going down to it going to Atlanta and cuz I had a

10:17 I had to change planes in Atlanta to go down to Florida.

10:22 So before I got on the plane, I had originally had a seat at the very back of the plane in it. I've been flying a lot and I don't like sitting on them at the back of the plane. So I asked if I could if there was a seat available closer to the front and there was so I'm with my seat. So I walk onto the airplane and your dad was already sitting there and you know, your dad's kind of a big guy is very he just a big guy and the first thought that went through my head was great. What is the biggest guy in the airplane always have to sit next to me. I've been traveling a lot.

10:59 All right, so I sat down and I go through my little routine and I put my headphones on and I get my book out and I'm just sitting there and he's just a person on the plane. But you know your dad your dad can't help but speak the people that's what he lives for. So it's like you're you feel like a tap tap on your shoulder.

11:21 Hi.

11:23 High and we started conversing because

11:29 It's so easy with your dad and it's so hard not to fall into the conversation with him. So I took off my headphones and we talked about in different places. We've traveled to cuz your dad did some traveling when he was younger because he was in the military and I couldn't even tell you what else we talked about. I remember talking about the travel, but it also turned out that he had requested.

11:54 To change his seat on the plane as well.

11:58 Because it was Christmas Eve and he really wanted to get home to see you. He wants to make sure he saw you cuz that was your Christmas together was Christmas Eve and he had two gifts and he wanted to get off the plane as early as I can. So, I mean, I think we were brought together. Not only were we on the same flight and sitting together, but the circumstances under which we wind up sitting next to each other is that we both requested a seat change and there we were and so that when the flight ended your dad gave me his business card.

12:29 And just said you call him or contact him and I went down to Florida and I didn't think much about it because I didn't think about anything for 2 weeks and then when I came home.

12:43 How is Weis in Dayton, Ohio? There's not a lot in Dayton, Ohio, but I decided why not. I'll see what he's doing. Is he nice guy? And

12:58 We just had some e-mails back and forth and we decided to meet up and that was it. I knew I knew that when your dad open the door cuz I went over he was staying at a residence and I went over there.

13:12 To pick him up to go out. He open the door and I knew he was a person I wanted to marry. I don't know why I don't know how I couldn't tell you. I never felt anything like that before but there he was and I knew it. I was gone. I was Head Over Heels. I don't know what I would have done. If you didn't ask me to marry him. I was actually told him I was in from that moment on.

13:37 Does a real love story like they talk about?

13:51 Well

13:58 I'm going to go back to school for second since I'm in school.

14:03 What's what was your biggest motivated factor factor motivation?

14:09 2 to continue going cuz you ain't got like fries and then your doctorate and I know you're crazy smart, but you know, my my dad has a PHD and I always just assumed that I would get my PhD it was not something that it was. Well if it was when and when after I got my undergraduate degree, I wasn't ready to go out in the workplace. I when I got my Master's Degree, which

14:47 It was an engineering and I was supposed to want it and

14:52 I got a job offer to do oceanography. So I actually went and was an oceanographer not in school for a couple of years and decided I loved it enough and that's what I wanted to do for my PhD and that's when I went back to school. The motivating factor was well, I'm not really good at quitting.

15:10 No, he did not with my engineering degree, even though I really didn't like it. I at least had to get my Master's Degree. So that kept me go in there. And again, like I told you I love my geology undergraduate major and then I got lucky. I got lucky that I got this job in oceanography and I absolutely loved it and knew that's what I wanted to do. I thought for the rest of my life I would have if funding in The Sciences was a lot better.

15:41 So I got my one for my PhD and I had wanted I had aspirations of having my own Lab at a research University.

15:53 But my PhD advisor was so tough.

15:58 So difficult

16:00 He was

16:04 He really was anti-women. I had people tell me that I said no no, no, he's fine and it wasn't until he took on a second graduate student who happen to be male and I saw the difference in the way. He treated us.

16:22 That I knew they were right but at that point I was so far along. I just had to finish up and get my degree, but I didn't want to stay in Academia at that point because of

16:34 What I have been through but I found a postdoc also dealing with oceanography, but it was more Industrial.

16:42 So I went and I did that for a couple of years, but then I wound up back in Academia. I was at Georgia Tech.

16:49 For a few years and I would have stayed there if the first the professor I was working with it stayed. However, he left to go to Florida State and I really didn't want to stay.

17:02 As a faculty member in that department, that would have been impossible Leti if I had to apply for it. They were openings, but I didn't want to because no none of the faculty members seem to have normal healthy family relationships if they if they were dating someone or married to someone they were in different states or different countries are very far away. So nobody Roy had what I would call a healthy relationship normal relationship and I wanted that with your father. So again fortuitous week I was

17:38 Given a a job lead about the time that I was thinking needing to move on and it turned into the job that I have today.

17:49 Which is an industry that was not in Academia and I was able to maintain more of a normal 8:30 to 5:30 life and have that time to spend with your dad. And so the life balance was there and that's what I was looking for.

18:05 How is wonder that?

18:11 Figured you were just looking for something else.

18:22 I keep jumping back and forth but things to keep popping in my head.

18:30 I know you talked about earlier that.

18:37 When you met Daddy and I was part of the package kid, but a little older kid. How did it feel?

18:51 Like since I wasn't younger 2

18:56 Coming to our little house.

19:00 And I know I wasn't the easiest person to get along with and I apologize that cuz I regret every second of it cuz you absolutely amazing.

19:10 But

19:12 How did it feel coming in with me in the picture? I love the idea.

19:20 There was never a negative to it.

19:22 From my perspective. I was great. I didn't know I got a husband. I got a daughter as much as you would let me be your

19:31 Your parent as much as I was there for you as much as you will allow me to be and in other ways more that you didn't know about when I would seem to get upset with you. It was because I cared about you and because I wanted you to be your best and

19:50 It would frustrate me if I saw that you were getting in your own way. So I apologize if that came across the wrong way, but it was only because I loved you and cared about you and I tried to treat you to the extent possible as if you were mine. You were my first child. I didn't want to see yours different because of that your family family is family regardless, and you were my family. So I was happy about it. That was never

20:28 Obstacle for me, too.

20:31 The marrying your father. That was a bonus has no negative about it. I was always concerned about that thinking like you found your love. I was just there. I knew you been married before and I knew he had a daughter and that was great. I was also when I was thirty-five, I wasn't expecting Teenage Love and the lifestyle that went along with it. We were grown adults soon. That was great. I was I felt ready for it as much as you can feel ready for it doesn't mean I was but I thought I was

21:19 Do it all over again have soy. I'm I'm grateful for having both of you in my life.

21:29 Sorry, I keep crying.

21:37 I know there was talk about.

21:40 I wanted to have another child.

21:44 I couldn't.

21:47 The hard question

21:49 Are y'all ever going to adopt or anything like that?

21:53 I still think about it.

21:57 I wouldn't say that no will it'll never happen but I won't also say that. Yes, it'll definitely happen.

22:05 If we are going to adopt because

22:10 This is something that you know is going to happen. When you go down that pathway. I want us to be in the best shape emotionally and financially and physically that we can be so that if we bring another child into our home and it would probably be an older child that were as equipped as we can be to to accommodate that to to add to her to our family if something were to happen. I don't know what to tell her to fall into her Lies We greatly

22:45 Accept them but if we're making the decision, we just want to make sure that we're ready and we're accepting of the sacrifices that we'd have to make with the freedom in our lives with having another child. So it's where do we want to be at certain stages of our lives and I owe you said I still think about it.

23:07 I think your dad would be definitely open to it, but I would be the one that would have to initiate it and it's great having you in the world and we wouldn't be adopting because you're not enough or because I feel like I need my own childhood because

23:26 There's children out there that don't have families and

23:31 And I feel like we would be able to provide a family for some child. That doesn't have one.

23:39 But like I said, if we do that I want to make sure that it's the right time so that that child feels fully loved and doesn't feel like

23:51 We were doing this for some other reason then we wanted to expand our family and

23:57 Give someone the opportunities in life that they didn't have.

24:03 I have asked daddy that question, but I've always been afraid to ask you that question. I don't I don't know if you know if you ever want to ask me anything. I'll answer you.

24:17 Let's I have nothing to hide from you.

24:21 I know that.

24:25 Just such a personal question.

24:29 And for family and personal questions are allowed in fat.

24:37 I don't know know you can ask me anything at anytime and if I don't want to answer I'll tell you but I won't be mad at you.

24:45 I'll never be mad at you for asking question ever.

24:49 Ever

24:52 The scientist in you asking wise and always trying to figure something out.

25:03 What's one thing that you would change about yourself?

25:07 You want to change about myself?

25:15 That's a really tough question, and I'm sure I have an answer.

25:21 What would it be?

25:23 I wish that I was.

25:26 A little more

25:28 More extroverted like your father more it was easier for me to engage with other people and that I had the ability as your father Dustin put other people before me to the extent that he can.

25:46 I think that was just being more open person opened other people into their lives.

25:56 Yeah, Daddy always has that ability to just tell the whole life his whole life story within first 5 minutes of meeting. Somebody we always we have just a little bit.

26:13 I think he's glad that I'm there sometimes to random in because he also needs to look after himself and sometimes he doesn't do such a good job about that. So again, that's where our balance. Have a good balance. I like to think so.

26:35 I asked something about your religion.

26:44 You're not very.

26:46 Open with your religion sometimes and I just wanted to know what your opinion.

26:57 Some people Turner

27:00 I'll push they really didn't and I didn't ever really seen you talk about yours.

27:09 Because I don't if I'm asked I will send me it's a personal.

27:17 Venture

27:21 For me and me alone. It's I believe others are free to worship the way they were like, I don't like it when it's forced on me.

27:33 Again

27:35 In our religion, we don't Jews don't go out and try and convert other people. So you're Jewish. That's who I am.

27:45 Culturally religiously, myheritage this no

27:51 Drive to

27:54 Morissette on other people or even let other people know because I I don't want people to see me as being Jewish. I want them to see me as Stephanie.

28:04 I'm so I don't make a big deal out of it. Your dad is gone to Temple with me a couple of times.

28:13 I'm also not the biggest fan of organized religion.

28:20 So given that I don't feel this need to miss our joint at Temple.

28:26 It's for me. It's a very personal thing.

28:30 And though what I do believe Falls in line with the Jewish beliefs, but if you had any questions about any other particular holidays or anyting from what I can remember now because it's been a while. That's what we share them with you.

28:51 As you know that you are Jewish people don't believe that the Messiah has arrived on hers yet. So that's why we don't accept Jesus prices and that's that's my belief.

29:10 I'm not saying others have to share that belief but it's one of the reasons I don't like going to church so much with your father because most of the churches.

29:22 It's about Jesus Christ and not about God for say and so I don't feel comfortable and I don't know so you can feel welcome. Sometimes give him where we live. I'm definitely in the minority and I just don't like to beat make a big issue out of it. It's

29:40 Judaism is it's me as who I am, but I don't destroy share that unless I'm asked about it.

29:50 I don't know if it's just because we live down below the Bible Belt and you just see people push their religions that I just thought it was different that you didn't but I've never really had the courage to ask you why it makes sense makes perfect sense.

30:13 Begin feel like

30:17 Well, I don't know.

30:22 I was going to say speaking application house you grew up in the north. How's it different when you came down here to this lovely?

30:35 I always said I would never live south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Never forget then I met your father and here I am and a little bit of an anomaly because there are so many transplants from other locations a lot of Northerners. Unfortunately, most of them do not live up in our and so I don't always feel like I fit in I try

31:08 Is this where I would I I would have chosen to live. Absolutely not is this Miss Right Where I want to spend the rest of my life.

31:19 Probably not.

31:21 But then again

31:23 Your whole father's family is caused by my family split between now between Ohio and Florida. So it's the midpoint.

31:36 Maybe one day we'll go down to South Florida which you know, if you go far enough South in Florida, you're back in the north again. We'll have to wait and see results talking about moving down there and then my whole family be down there and

31:54 With airplanes, it's not that difficult to.

31:59 To come back up this way in and see everyone but we'll see so no, I don't love living here. But I love your father and being with him and I make the best out of it and it's okay.

32:15 I don't didn't really have a choice always in my mind. I knew I wanted to be with your father and he were here and that was fine. I don't know what girls I mean a little more every year of your nose 5 years from now. I might love it. I know whether transplants have moved down here and now love it. So maybe it's just a matter of time.

32:42 You miss your family. I know you don't get to see him much.

32:48 Sure, I miss them but I've since I've been.

32:54 We're graduated high school. I really haven't lived in the same place that they've lived and so I'm used to it. That's just the life that I've chosen but we have telephones and emails and see them a couple times a year and that's okay.

33:14 That's what I'm used to I'm not as used to the whole big family being together all the time. So yeah, I miss them but

33:31 I don't necessarily feel the need to live in the same place they do.

33:43 I just want to thank you for opening up to me and accepting any question and I love you and thank you for coming down here. And

33:59 Interviewing me I enjoyed it and I love you.