Archive for the ‘School’ Category


I haven’t blogged for a long time. And mainly because everything I’ve wanted to write, everything I’ve had to say, needs to be told through this one lens. Which should be announced through a happier/cuter manner, but this is where I am today and how I’m gonna do it.

God willing and the creeks don’t rise, we’re gonna have a baby come January.

Let me back up now. Last time I wrote, it was about needing a job. Partially induced by the “OMG I’m pregnant we’re poor this baby is gonna need somewhere to sleep other than a dresser drawer!” But I also want a job. But John and I have made some choices in our marriage that means we’re gonna do things a little differently than the average people our age. It might come off as more “traditional,” but I hope that as you read you’ll see we made these choices because they were best for us, not because we wanted to fit into some patriarchal ideal of what a family should be.

First off, we got married young. Not had-to-get-our-parents-permission-to-sign-the-marriage-license young, or even MTV-would-want-to-make-a-reality-show young, but raise-a-few-eyebrows young. I was two weeks into my 24th year, and John was just a few months older. I’d been on my own for a few years (though full disclosure – my parents still pay my cellphone bill, mainly out of my mother’s fear that I’ll switch plans and then never call home. Don’t tell her Verizon is practically the only carrier in Montana. They also spotted a few plane tickets home, for primarily the same reason), and I wasn’t exactly moving out of my parents’ house into my husbands’.

We got married young not because we felt like we should, or to have sex, or to move in together (we had already lived together for a year in JVC), but because we were in love, we knew it was right, we weren’t old but were old enough to make this decision, and we wanted to. Had we met when we were 32 instead of 22, we would have gotten married then. Sure, some people thought we were crazy for getting married before finishing law/grad school, but in the long run, it made far more sense for us. Getting married at 24 is definitely not for everyone, but dating for 10 years wasn’t for us either.

The next big factor in this journey wasn’t a choice we made. I got sick. Being diagnosed with interstitial cystitis, a chronic bladder condition, wasn’t just an annoying matter of having to pee more often; it was life-changing. More problems piled on quickly after that (those I chose not to blog about, because believe it or not, they are more personal than my bladder!) and we spent most of our first year of marriage in doctors’ offices, researching treatments, reading books, and in physical therapy. It was stressful, hard, depressing, but we were happier than ever we had chose to get married.

Although IC itself has no effect on fertility, one of my extra problems, endometriosis, meant that we might not be able to have children, and other factors had potential indirect impacts on our ability to conceive. We had both always known we wanted to have kids. We felt it was our calling, that we were meant to parent and raise children. Again, not for everyone, but we knew it was for us. We had never planned on when we were going to have kids, and definitely didn’t plan on having them this early on, but when we realized it was something we badly wanted and weren’t sure was going to happen, we knew we didn’t want to wait 10 years to find out having biological children wasn’t a possibility.

So we went for it. And to our GREAT surprise, it worked.

Which means that we’re having a baby 7 months after I graduated with my MA and 5 months after we move, making the job search pretty difficult. We knew this was a possibility when we decided to have kids, but to be honest, we thought it was pretty remote. But more than that, we knew this was ultimately our priority. The timing means, however, that unless I have a job and am sitting at a desk in 2 weeks (not looking likely!) I won’t have a guaranteed maternity leave (with the state at least, where I am mainly looking. Not a lot of public health jobs in the private sector, let me tell ya). And if I do, it would be for 6 weeks. (You have to work somewhere for 12 months to qualify for the Family/Medical Leave Act where you can take a longer unpaid leave.) It must be my maternal instincts kicking in already, but the thought of leaving a 6 week old newborn at home/daycare isn’t something I can handle. (Not because I think it’s a “wrong” choice for anyone; I just know I couldn’t make it work.)

Since we made the decision that being home with a newborn is a priority, and time is ticking away, (and the economy sucks), finding a full-time job that I can take leave from before the baby comes is looking to be about zilch. Not because of my assumed pessimism, but because I have checked job postings every day for months and there’s nothing really out there that will work right now. I’m still waiting to hear back form jobs I’ve already applied for, but they aren’t looking too promising.

So the options I have left are to a) be a stay at home wife, and b) do part time/temporary work. While I’ve had some leads on some temp jobs (and even one interview!) they’re looking tough too. One goes from November-March, so that’s obviously out. The other starts a few weeks before my parents want to take a big family reunion trip. Because we couldn’t afford/didn’t have time to fly home this summer, and none of my family came to visit this year, it’s the only real chance to get together. It’s a bummer to have to turn down a potential job for it though.

So it looks like I’ll probably substitute teaching come fall. (Which does have a small potential to make more money than above temp job, if I work every day!). Does it upset my feminist heart that my husband will be the primary bread winner while I twiddle my thumbs doing part time work I’m overqualified for until the baby comes? Yes. But I chose to get married, I chose to go to school, I chose to move, I chose to have kids, and I chose to have them now. And this is the way it worked out. It’s not ideal, but we are thrilled that we have the chance to become parents.

It’s not a life for everyone. I’m sure there are people who will think I am an idiot and a disgrace to the feminist cause for not getting out there and using my degree before having kids. And there are others who will say (I know this because I’ve heard it!) “it doesn’t really matter; your husband has a job!”

It’s hard. I hate being unemployed. It’s embarrassing and frustrating, not to mention difficult financially. But I know it’s just a season. I am happy I finished my master’s before we had kids. I’m very excited that we are going to have a kid. And although the timing could be worse (I could have gone into labor during my defense!), it couldn’t be much worse.

But so what? I’d rather be a parent than an anthropologist/public health worker. And I can go back to work in a year or five. Sure it’ll mean starting a lot lower than I am qualified now, but it’s a sacrifice I chose to make. And while that doesn’t make things easier every single day, I know it’s the right decision in the long run. For us.

And we hope it will be the right decision for our little one too. You are loved. We are blessed.


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Thesis Defense

If you’ve been reading this blog for a bit, you might remember that I’ve been doing this thing called “grad school. Totally forgot, right? Its okay, I sometimes do.

But not this week. This week I defend my thesis (on guard!). To be specific, tomorrow I defend. Tomorrow! I have been slaving away over this puppy for over a year. I took the entire summer off (well, plus working part time) last year to focus on the research. I have spent hundreds, hundreds! of hours researching, interviewing, transcribing, analyzing, compiling, writing, and editing. And it’s almost done.

Hurrah! Sing hallelujah!

I’m getting my degree in a field called Medical Anthropology. If you’re thinking “what’s that?” that’s cool, I think most people related to me have the same question. Anthropology is essentially the study of humans, or more specifically, that which separates us from non-human animals. There are four major sub-fields of anthropology: biological (studies evolution and the body itself. Think Jane Goodall and Bones the TV show); linguistics (language, something again, mostly unique to humans. Think Noam Chomsky); archaeology (that’s the one where you dig up stuff. Think, of course, Indiana Jones); and socio-cultural anthropology (everything else. The study of culture. Think….old white guy studying small tribes in the Amazon).

Cultural anthropology has come a long way since it’s admittedly, somewhat racist roots. (From “Discover the ways of the savages!” to “Preserve this culture before we kill them all off!” to “Hey, every group has a sub-culture. Let’s study white people too!” Medical anthropology, what I do, largely falls under the umbrella of cultural anthropology (though you will have people who argue it’s its own subfield. Overachievers).

Medical anthropology essentially studies diseases, health, and healing in a cultural context. While it does sound super-obscure, it is actually one of the most developed subfields of cultural anthropology. My particular branch of medical anthropology, (or at least what my research is on, I do work for a professor who does medical anthropology with a very different focus and population) focuses on the effects of social stratification on human health. Why are poorer people more likely to get sick and die? What has happened globally as underdeveloped “third-world” countries have shifted rapidly to a capitalist country? How are bio-medical fields and traditional medical practices combining? Why do people who live in inner cities have less access to health care? How do older beliefs of healing persist in rural areas? Those are the kinds of questions we ask. It’s a pretty fascinating field, really, especially realizing how complex health is. We tend to think of it in very black and white terms using our biomedical framework. But what about diseases that exist only in countries like America and aren’t found elsewhere? What about very real, very obvious diseases that occur only in India? Why doesn’t “understanding” what doctors say always result in action?

If you want to learn more about Medical Anthropology, I can’t recommend enough the book: Mountains Beyonds Mountains by Tracy Kidder. It profiles Paul Farmer, a MD and anthropologist, who starts a network of clinics in Haiti and other countries. (His partner, Jim Yong Kim – also an anthropologist, was just named head of the World Bank).

For my thesis, I looked at food insecurity in people who are homeless. It was very enlightening and exhausting research. And I’m happy to share with you the abstract below, in part because it’s arguably the most well-written part of it all, and in part because all 130 pages won’t fit in this blog post.

Another Day, Another Donut: Political Economy, Agency, and Food in a Montanan Homeless Shelter

Despite widespread undernutrition among the homeless, there has been little anthropological research on the experience of food insecurity in this population. Between 20 and 40 percent of the homeless population is undernourished and one third regularly miss meals (Gelberg 1995). This thesis addresses the significant problem of food insecurity in the homeless from a political economic perspective, analyzing how larger social structures influence the individual person. Fifteen residents at a shelter in Missoula, MT were interviewed about their dietary practices and experience of social service programs. The macro-social level influences the diet of the individual in two important ways: first, by creating the environment in which homelessness occurs, and second, by regulating the social measures which address food insecurity. These social measures which are designed primarily for the needs of the housed are insufficient to deal with the unique challenges of food insecurity. An inability to cook and store food limit how effectively homeless people can utilize these social programs. It is necessary for these programs to appropriately adjust their services for the homeless; however, to truly solve the problem of food insecurity, the reality of homelessness must end.

The defense is at noon tomorrow (MST) so if you want to send some prayers/good thoughts/rainbows/butterflies my way then, it would be appreciated!


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Just kidding. Obviously that bill hasn’t kicked in yet. But nevertheless, the government funds the National Institutes of Health, who gave my professor a grant, who decided to kick a portion of it over to…



The other day my advisor asked if I would be interested in being his research assistant. Maybe I should’ve waited till I signed something to announce it, but I’m assuming he won’t renege. It’s about 30 hours of week, which I am more than a little nervous about. I’m in the middle of data collection for my own research and taking a full load (which includes my thesis, so really I’m only taking two classes).

This past year I’ve taken life a little easier than I normally do. In college I was probably working on school 30-40 hours a week, plus volunteering with Young Life, a Christian mentoring program for high school students for another 20 hours, not to mention babysitting and volunteering with our church Haiti twinning project. Compared to last year when I took 9-12 credits a semester (and I’m going to be honest with you, grad school is way easier than undergrad) and that was about it.

Maybe after two years of busting my butt for little pay in JVC made me lazy. But I think more than that I was just trying to keep up with my health. It was like living in one long sick day. And I think it helped. Sure it left me feeling bored and guilty a lot but that’s better than being doubled over in pain.

It’ll be interesting going back to a full throttle schedule. I’ve still got to remember to take it easy, rest, be kind to my poor little bladder. Probably buy one of those donut butt cushions for my office (I think I get a little dorm room converted into an office, we’ll see). It’ll be an interesting experiment to see if I’m really able to work full time. I’ll probably be quitting my job at the shelter, which will be sad since I’ve been working for them for two years now.

Hey and guess what. This job pays. Real money. More than I’ve ever made in my entire life. Not many people consider living on a RA stipend luxury but we’ll sure appreciate it!

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This has been a long week.

Saturday night I worked from 7pm to 7am Sunday morning.

Sunday night I worked from 7pm to 8am Monday morning.

Monday I worked from 5pm-11pm.

Tuesday I did an interview (I started my thesis! Yay!) and then worked from 3pm-11pm. At this point I had put in a 39 hour work week within 76 hours.

Wednesday I started class, boo. Its a seminar, which always freak me out in the beginning. My train of thought usually goes something like “WHAT? He wants us to talk in class? I have no idea what to say! We have to do a paper? What would I even write it on?” Somehow having years of seminars under my belt has given me no confidence that I could participate meaningful. Which I always end up doing, but nevertheless there is that initial moment of panic.

Thursday I went to see this thing at the law school where lawyers present oral arguments to the 9th circuit court of appeals. I’m sure my husband is rolling his eyes right now as I’m sure there is some name for whatever it was, but I didn’t pay attention to that part. It was pretty interesting – the lawyers presented three cases that were being appealed. I liked discussing them as if I had actually gone to law school and I knew what I was talking about. My husband didn’t enjoy that part as much.

But Sandra Day O’Connor was there, who as you all know, is the Chancellor of William and Mary. What’s a Chancellor? I don’t know but they where really big fancy robes at graduation. So this is totally like the third time in my life I’ve seen Justice O’Connor in person. We’re practically best friends.

During the question and answer part I asked her what her favorite sandwich at the Cheese Shop was.

I didn’t, because obviously it’s virginia ham, house dressing, focaccia, swiss cheese, house dressing, first name Jackie last initial D, and yes any good W&M student had not only the number of the Cheese Shop in their phone so they could call in their order for pick up and not have to stand in line with tourists, but also had the entire menu memorized and could say their order in one breath.

I digress.

After that I did another interview and then came back to work on my school work.

Meanwhile, I wake up this morning and can barely open my eyes because my damn allergies have taken over my face. My eye won’t stop watering, my nose won’t stop running, and any sign of bright light means I can barely hold my eyes open. It’s been a really pleasant day.

Friday Luckily the only thing on my plate tomorrow is trying to recruit for another interview. And cleaning the whole apartment cause as you can imagine, after a week like this its a wreck. And I’m putting in another 35 hour week in four days between Saturday and Tuesday.

So my point is I’m tired. And it’s almost Friday. Huzzah.

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Nothing says summer like high 40s and rain. So I thought that maybe I would update you on my “summer” plans.

This summer I had pictured myself getting some fabulous internship that was well-paid and would offer me a job next spring. Then I heard these words:

“Your timeline for finishing your thesis is . . . optimistic. It’s a bit ambitious.”

So change of plans. Instead of looking for an internship (also realizing their aren’t just fabulous internships to be had in this economy. Oh people who graduated before 2008, you don’t know how lucky you are!) I decided to work full time on my thesis.


Me. Sitting at home at my computer. Reading. Writing. Fabulous, right?

I’m also still working part-time at the two transitional housing facilities, one for families and one for veterans, but I haven’t been getting many shifts lately. Well, I put in about 20 this week but have nothing on the schedule as of now. Which is fine, because this summer is for research, but let’s just say cash is always appreciated.

I’m not going to lie – I feel like kind of a bum. My husband is out there working hard (he got a fabulous internship this summer, by the way!) and I’m basically a stay at home wife.

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with being a stay at home mom, but I don’t have kids. (And really, women who have had kids that are out of the house usually have enough going on in their life by that point that even if they don’t return to work full time they have figured out some way to make their days useful and beneficial and contribute to society.)

But being a 24 year old (part-time) stay at home wife is a little different. I feel a little bit useless. I’m not bringing home much money, though in the long run I realize I’m saving us money by getting thesis work done over the summer when I don’t have to pay to be enrolled as opposed to staying on an extra semester to finish it up.

On the other hand, I’m kind of curious to see what it’s going to be like. I’m all for splitting household responsibilities equally among the sexes, but obviously when one person is working full time and the other one is not, it’s not going to kill me to do the dishes/cook/clean more often. We view our marriage as a partnership and during the school year we were completely equal. But for the next few months I get to see what more traditional gender roles will be like.

It will be interesting to see what other ways I can contribute to the house since I’m not bringing home a full-time paycheck. Cooking more so we’ll eat out less. Baking bread instead of buying it. Cleaning during the day so we can enjoy our summer evenings together.

It will be an interesting experiment – I’ll let you know how it goes!

P. S. John – this in no way implies I will be wearing pearls and an apron with a roast in the oven every night when you get home. In fact, I’d be surprised if the dishes are even done by the time you get home tonight. Sorry. Busy day. 🙂

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So like I mentioned earlier, I was in Virginia last week for my little sister’s graduation. Really, it was a whirlwind of a trip as I managed to squeeze in my college roommate and friend & aunt and uncle in D.C. in addition to going down to Charlottesville.

It was a little crazy to watch my sister graduate. I remember when I left for JVC, she had just finished her first year at UVA. I felt a little guilty about moving across the country for a year, but I remember thinking that when I came back, she’d still have 2 years of school left so it’s not like it was really that long. Turns out life plans changed (don’t they always?) and I’m still living out west. Wild, wild west.

My sis is the only one of us to go to UVA. My older sister and I went to William and Mary. Of course there was a bit of sisterly drama – I had wanted to go to W&M since I was 8 (although around 10th grade I became a hardcore Notre Dame fan until they wait listed me. Jerks.) I was pre-empted. UVA is the unofficial rivalry of W&M. Though, to be honest, people at UVA don’t think there is much of a rivalry. On the other hand, people at UVA really like to talk about how they don’t have a rivalry with W&M. Kinda like when your friend says she really doesn’t care if you date her ex. Yeah right. But give us W&M kids a break – we just want someone to  be rivals with! No one will play with us. Anyway – we were all really proud of her from graduating from such a fine school (founded by Thomas Jefferson, don’t cha know. And since this post is about my sister’s school, I won’t even mention that he went to William and Mary.)

Little known fact about me – I broke up with my ex of four years the night before graduation. All those black robes brought back some bad memories. I had mono at my high school graduation, so that wasn’t that fun either. Plus I had to give a salutatorian speech which I didn’t ask anyone to edit beforehand, and it bombed hardcore.

So I’m hoping that next year (and I’m just hoping it is next year) when I graduate from grad school the pomp and circumstance will be a little more enjoyable. Though I don’t really care about graduating from grad school as much. It just isn’t the same life-turning point that high school and college are.

But nevertheless, it will bring some new and exciting changes, and hopefully my first full-time full salaried job since college.

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A few good things

Enough of my whining about laundry. Here are a couple of good things going on in my life:

My thesis proposal was approved by my committee. Last Thursday I had to present and defend the proposal, sort of a nerve-wracking experience. But I answered all their questions, even the one’s from my advisor that seemed, in my opinion, a little nit-picky.

In other school related news, I got a teaching assistantship for next spring! That means all my tuition for the spring will be waivered and I will get paid a stipend. I haven’t had  real (aka paying) job since before JVC, so I’m pretty excited about this. And, not to talk too much about our finances, it basically means I’ll be paying about $300 cash for my Master’s degree. For each year in JVC I received an education award from Americorps, which was enough to cover my first two semesters and most of my third. That figure isn’t including books and living expenses, but still. $300 isn’t too shabby!

I had jury duty today. I joked with John that in all likelihood from my experience working at a homeless shelter, I would know the defendant. Turns out I did! At least, I was 90% sure I did. The court had been late starting, so I was squirming in my seat ready for a bathroom break. The second question they asked was if anyone had a physical condition that would prevent them from sitting longer than an hour and a half. Thinking there was no way I could wait another hour before going, I raised my hand. That lead to an awkward conversation about if I could approach the bench, or if I had to say it in front of everyone. But the judge and the lawyer said they had a similar condition (though I’m guessing their’s are prostate related!) and that I could be excused. I kinda wanted to do it, and figured generally I could wait an hour and a half between bathroom breaks. But at the same time, I didn’t know how long it would be until they asked if anyone knew the defendant, so I figured I might as well go. Thought it would’ve been more fun to get excused for knowing the guy! I looked up his name on the jail roster, and the description definitely sounds like the guy I know. I hope he has a fair trial today.

It’s exam crunch time over here, so expect posting to be discombobulated and non-sensical. All brain power is going into distracting myself from my studies.

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