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Post-Africa

Thursday: September 19, 2019

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I am returned, rested, and back to reality. My trip was great, of course! I started going through photos today so I imagine I’ll have some posts going at least by the end of the year. Wah wah! The finalized plan was this: Portugal – Mozambique – South Africa – Eswatini (Swaziland) – Lesotho – Namibia – Botswana – Zimbabwe – Zambia – Tanzania – with a long layover in Dubai. We spent one month driving (on the other side of the road!), and one month taking buses, trains, ferries, and planes. We saw a beautifully preserved castle, some archaeological sites, Victoria Falls, and the Ngorongoro Crater; met great people (diverse cultural groups and other travelers); and ate delicious food (phew!). We did several different kinds of safaris, including: self-drive, morning drive, night drive, bush walks, mokoro tour, and safari by boat. Also, “safari” by accident, simply because these are wild animals so they aren’t bound to park borders and just kind of appear wherever they please. Details to follow, someday!

In professional news, I’ve committed to assisting on a state-wide project and might also apply for a grant to complete it. The funding is only up in the air because the paperwork is due on the 25th and only now am I barely back to thinking without brain fog  – not a lot of time to write a worthy application! It’s just researching data already collected and writing so I can stay at home for a change. You see, a year or two ago, it occurred to me that I haven’t had a full summer home since the year of 2011. No wonder my garden doesn’t exist! Maybe 2020 will be the year, eh? … Don’t count on it;)

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Round-up

Saturday: February 9, 2019

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Just a catch up on the latest news around these parts.

I submitted the final draft version for the historic iron furnace tour guide as part of the Daniel Boone National Forest project I mentioned earlier. Shutdown notwithstanding, I think it will be publicly available sometime soon.

I’ve helped edit a couple publications so those should be forthcoming in the next year or two, if not out already (a recent one just came out in the belated Indiana Archaeology).

My Africa trip is mostly planned, at least as far as general ideas. I haven’t purchased the return trip just yet, but it looks like I’ll be gone for two months, and flying out of Tanzania. Super excited, but I haven’t let it become a distraction just yet, though I have looked into learning a little Swahili to check that off my bucket list.

I do have some cat updates, so since it is a little science-y, I’ll share them here. Maya is often dehydrated due to her nasopharyngeal stenosis and increasing age (she’s almost 14). We are now trained with an at-home IV kit to give her fluids when needed. Meanwhile, Sasha has been acting unusual in many ways, but most notably in refusing to jump or even stretch up to greet me hello. She most likely has sacroiliac arthritis, poor thing (she’s 11 and a half). However, with the other unusual observations, the vet did a blood test which came back to show she has hyperthyroidism. This is not terrible news, and we caught it super early based on her other numbers, but it isn’t something to write off either. She either has to be given a pill twice a day for life, or turned into a radioactive cat for a one-time curative (expensive with hospitalization) treatment if her kidneys can handle it. She starts the meds today, and a recheck in a few weeks will tell us more. Just call me a cat nurse!

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My greatest journey

Saturday: December 8, 2018

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I am going to Africa on June 30th, 2019.

Planning is currently ongoing but it may look a little like this: Here to Portugal, to Mozambique, to Swaziland, to Lesotho, to South Africa, to Namibia, to Botswana, to Zimbabwe, to Zambia, to Tanzania. Ideally also to Madagascar, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt, and Morocco, but safety and time constraints apply so we’ve nixed those. In fact, I might not be able to get all the way to Tanzania but I am sure as heck trying to make that work!

Life goals possibly fitting into this trip are seeing: 1) amazing animals in the wild including the Big 5 and gorillas; 2) archaeology sites like Great Zimbabwe and human evolution sites like Sterkfontein, Kroomdrai, Rising Star, Laetoli, and Olduvai Gorge; 3) breathtaking nature like the Kalahari Desert, Victoria Falls, Serengeti Plain, and Mount Kilimanjaro; and 4) the numerous diverse and unique cultures from traditional tribes to Portuguese/Dutch/French/British colonial histories.

Thank you, dearly departed gramma and grampa, for always having National Geographics laying around!

Stay tuned.

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Feline Nasopharyngeal Stenosis

Friday: February 16, 2018

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This is a more personal post rather than anthropological, but today I was reminded why I love my science education so much. Though it mainly dealt with bones and teeth (human skeletons) with very little focus on soft tissues (living or recently dead people), it gave me a wonderful understanding of anatomy in general and along the way, through interests I gained in my studies, I’ve picked up medical terminology here and there. And all tetrapods have the same basic body plans, and mammals are even more similar, so my knowledge of human anatomy aligns well with, say, cats.

So, when we picked up my Maya cat today from a teaching hospital where the doctors are heavily steeped in teaching science as their focus more so than dealing with the general public, I can say I understood 99% of their jargon (I didn’t see any attempt at all to speak in layman’s terms).

Maya’s always done maybe one or two “reverse sneezes” for years and within the last year she started to do it more often and added some snorty sounds here and there. Changing her position helped, it seemed. In the last couple months, though, she had developed further into pretty much non-stop wet and snorty, whistley, snoring sounds and nothing made the noise stop; she also couldn’t sleep well, purr well, or eat and drink well. We’ve taken her to several docs, and her treatment included steroids, antibiotics, and allergy pills. None of which really seemed to help and some of which had negative side effects (steroids particularly make her dehydrated and she’s always at a risk of that without the help!). Everyone agreed though: something was up with her nose and none of them had the tools to truly diagnose it.

Well, Maya had a scary episode over the weekend which seemed like hyperventilation (rapid fire “reverse sneezing”) followed by puking a lot so we took her to the ER vet (twice). The first time, she had of course stopped and everything checked out well so they sent us home to monitor her expecting it to have been a one time thing. Instead, it was non-stop after I got her home so they then gave her an anti-nausea shot to break the puking cycle, steroids to reduce possible inflammation, and 100ml of fluid to correct her dehydration.

To get a sense of what she was like, this is a less severe cat experiencing what looks to me like exactly the same thing (but without the puke aftermath and not nearly for as long): Cat Reverse Sneeze – skip to about the 40 second mark. I want to be clear though – we brought videos to the vet and they could not diagnose her without actually looking; many issues could cause this type of behavior so if your cat is doing this, don’t automatically assume it is caused by the same thing. Now, I would suggest skipping all the visits with steroids, antibiotics, and allergy medicines from an uncertain vet and go straight to a vet with scoping and imaging. It would have saved us a lot of money and also rectified her issue so much sooner.

Anyway, we dropped her off at the Purdue Small Animal Hospital Wednesday. Her preliminary work showed she has excellent kidneys (yay!) and everything else was a-ok except she doesn’t weigh as much as she should (we’ve noticed) and her globulin and one liver enzyme levels were mildly high, indicating perhaps inflammation. She was also still dehydrated so they gave her some fluids. Her initial x-rays showed her lungs being a little hyper-inflated, meaning she is straining to breathe and she had some gas in her stomach and small intestine (probably from swallowing post-nasal drip, we now think).

Thursday, they put her under and did a CT scan followed by a rhinoscopy to look inside her nose. This was in conjunction with the radiology/oncology department that fitted her in a special mask to be able to do measurements and whatnot should there be a tumor. Phew, there wasn’t!

They noticed her nose was filled up with mucus. She has never had nasal drainage so it must all be creating post-nasal drip. Here’s a before photo which shows the clear snot (with air bubbles) and a mucus booger plugging her airway (when you see her next photo, you’ll see how blatantly problematic that was!). So, they essentially gave her a neti pot cleanse, collecting the goo to ship off for lab work (testing for a bacterial or fungal infection). It is likely that her Saturday event was an attempt to get the booger outta the way (and her physical stress of attempting to do so upset her gag reflux). Her constant dehydration is likely a result from mouth-breathing. Though it is sometimes apparent, it seems she does it more than we assumed!

After the cleanse, she was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal stenosis. You can see that here plain as day. You’re looking at the hole that connects the airway in the nose to the throat (the nasopharynx). It should be “peanut” shaped and be maybe something like a third of the width of this image. All her soft tissue should also be a happy healthy pink, but hers is pale. This is the stenosis diagnosis. Like any tissue in the body, agitation prompts it either to grow or to recede. Her soft tissue had been agitated enough over the years that it began to grow, scarring over (the paleness). This means it is tougher than normal (not as soft and stretchy), and obviously now greatly obstructing the airway.

To compare, I could not find a photo of a healthy cat airway, but here is one for a dog from Vetfolio. The only difference really would be overall size but the proportions are about the same:

So what’s the solution? It isn’t as easy as a polyp which can simply be plucked out, but we are super grateful it isn’t complicated like a tumor crushing her bone. It is in the middle, where it is a chronic condition that will get worse over time. What we can do is have them perform a balloon dilation – they put her under again, wedge a balloon in the hole and stretch it out a bit, then remove it and wake her up. They were going to do that the same day but her body temperature started to fall so they chose instead to wake her up rather than risk anesthesia complications.

The prognosis is good, except for the crucial fact that many cats need to do that two or three times. A) She is an older cat so that worries me (being put under is always a risk, but the older the higher that is), and B) it isn’t a cheap procedure. Cost isn’t prohibitive with how much we love her, but the thing is, the procedures might have to be done literally one month apart. With a couple grand already spent and at a couple grand each for the ballooning, this is not something we can do tomorrow :/

I can report that except a diarrhea run in the middle of our lengthy ride home with a prompt bath when we got back, she’s napping so peacefully right now on her little heated pad with upside-down Sasha. Not a peep is coming out of her nose, and no air is puffing out of her cheeks. She was sneezing a bit and had some clear drainage coming out of her nose but we expect all that to be cleared up within 24 hours. And she now eats like a hauss:)

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Spring 2017 & then…

Wednesday: May 10, 2017

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This semester just ended! I had two intro to physical anthropology classes that ran nary a hitch. I also had an upper level bioanthropology course with an accompanying bioanthropology and forensics lab. It was another new course for me, and the book I had to blindly select once again ran a little too close to the information in the intro book I use, though it did go more in depth.

For my intro book, I use Kilgore et al.’s Essentials of Physical Anthropology. For my upper level, I chose Larsen’s Our Origins. What I was able to do, though, is run through all the stuff I cover in intro quickly as a refresher (and included all the new more in-depth stuff) and then slow down with the brand new material. I did add material here and there as well. For the lab, I used Walker-Pacheco’s Exploring Physical Anthropology lab manual, though at times I made my own labs. And for the forensics component, I added Nafte’s Flesh and Bone. It made for a great little reader; since the focus of the course isn’t on forensic anthropology, it was just enough.

Other than a few hang-ups with how long each lab took (I never quite got them to fit within the preferred time frame), the class went well.

So overall, the semester was nice. In fact, one Friday afternoon I was in our lab organizing things and I decided to go all in for teaching. Why not? I am the only full-time anthropologist on campus, and the only physical anthropologist. We have one cultural adjunct who has been steady for years, and another that is hit and miss. Though my Visiting position was limited to a two-year term, my department expected me to be extended to three years, and they were pushing to have the Visiting part of my title dropped so that I would be sticking around much longer. I had been contemplating turning it all down, but with the realization that teaching doesn’t have to suck the life out of you if you are actually given time to prep and classes you are experienced in to teach, and the fact that I would be getting a new Chair who was able to stay on top of things, I decided I should in fact just suck it up and act like a more permanent feature of the department. I did in my actions, but it was time to do so in my head.

So off to the faculty organization meeting I went, thinking about the perspective shift I would need to do in my mind. Afterward I checked my email and lo, my Dean had sent me a note earlier that morning reminding me that my contract was ending. He asked if I would like to stay on as an adjunct in the fall.

I confirmed this news with my colleague (who would be Chair). A huge disappointment all around. I notified our students because quite frankly, I was personally pissed. Not that I was losing my job – in fact, it was amazing I even got the opportunity with only a Master’s (though this is part and parcel to some of the issues I discovered there: the path of least resistance and how I just happened to be there at the right time) and I was aware that it had a 2 year limit when I signed on. Instead, I was angry because as a former student, as a mentor to these students, and as a sane professional, how could the University offer a bachelor’s program without any full time staff? This is the type of stuff I found in the news on and off during my searches about how crappy adjuncting is. Here is an article at the AAA’s Ethics Blog that pretty much summarizes the issue: Fighting Academia’s Contingency Crisis Together. Of course I was professional when I discussed it with them – I asked them not to panic and simply explained how it may affect them (lack of mentorship, lack of letters of recommendation, lack of consistency in courses offered, possible lack of quality of courses because of the trials adjuncts experience to survive in our economy, etc). The students opted to write letters, as did my department. None of it was about me keeping my job – I made it very clear that my contract was over and it was completely fair on the University’s part (even if it didn’t make sense under the circumstances).

I have yet to hear what the University’s plans are (and may never), but it is difficult to remain positive for the program. I declined adjuncting – I would still be expected to carry the load of the physical courses (some outside of my area, and developing new courses) and I would not feel right asking our sociologists whom we share the department with to take over as advisor to the anthropology club or lab and whatnot, so I knew that if I stayed on, I would just enable the current situation further and be paid even less than pennies for a job well done. No thanks.

They notified me mid-semester and it did indeed take the wind out of my sails. Why was I making a brand new class? It was hard to convince myself to stay a good educator, but I think I succeeded overall. It wasn’t the fault of my students and they did not deserve what the University was doing (basically not supporting their major, yet taking their money).

I shifted my perspective – it was nice they told me so early so that I could begin a job search. What happened at the University was no longer my problem.

At the end of the semester, though, they asked if I wanted my contract extended throughout the summer. Curious they didn’t realize they needed me until the last moment, but I was not surprised if I am being honest. If it wasn’t for the fact that it was a science class online (I totally oppose that), and that I would have to develop it since I had never taught it online (besides I hate online classes – as a former student of them and as a teacher of them), and that it started in just a few weeks, I may have considered it more seriously. Instead I politely turned down the offer. I mean, I have been looking for opportunities since they notified me, and it is more important I pursue what I like than throw the towel in for another few months with a company that can’t get it together in my opinion.

It is a bittersweet ending because although teaching is a humongous cosmic joke for me, I excelled at it – I am not ashamed to say that (real funny, Fate!). It is disappointing that I finally came around to the idea to then have the rug pulled from under my feet. It is sad that I can no longer help our region’s students learn how to learn and build the confidence in themselves that they apparently weren’t given within their own support networks. It’s terrible I can’t share my love of anthropology daily with people who have no choice but to listen (ha!). It’s frustrating that the University doesn’t support a major that is more vital today than possibly ever under our new administration and the increasing globalization of our world.

But… though I am nervous about the unknown future, a smile keeps appearing on my face. I am free of the mess of academia (I am not searching for another teaching position). Since the very beginning, I have been confused by how it operates. “Ivory Tower”, indeed – the whole system doesn’t make sense to me, a person who has been “in the real world” as I like to say, at a corporation that mostly made sense in their doings. I am free of the particulars I discovered with this specific University (some which had not been changed since I was a student). I find it humorous that I have been assigned an office in the new building for the fall, by the way. I wonder if I have a name plaque?

So my future plans are this: I have not been job searching. Boy and I had some serious discussions about it and he needs help at his office more regularly than I was giving him while teaching. But it is only part time. My mother-in-law runs a candy store, so I can once again help her out here and there when needed. Again, part-time. The plan for now is to see how bored I get. There is a ton of things to do around the house that was post-poned when I began teaching and me doing it will be cheaper than hiring people. I joined an embroidery guild and will possibly delve deeper with the EGA, learning about the history of stitches and what-not through their education programs. I will focus on my arts & crafts side.

And then I will get bored. So in the back of my mind I have another list: I am free now to actually be a legit volunteer at the Field Museum; I found a community development center that focuses on adult education and English as a second language so I might work there; I can seriously look into archaeological CRM work, or perhaps join DNR at the Dunes (once the current administration realizes the importance of DNR anyway); I can get a second Master’s degree or jump in to a PhD (Boy’s least favorite, of course). Essentially, I’ll be looking casually for experiences until I become bored or money becomes an issue.

What I won’t be doing is looking back at my teaching experience and regretting anything (even the Year From Hell last year). In fact, I can now claim that I made the University pay me back all the money I spent on it and then some, ha!

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Going on an adventure

Friday: April 3, 2015

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I’m going on an adventure. Since I have not yet embarked on it, I will categorize it as an adventure of my dreams (for there does exist a slight resignation that it may end up quite the opposite…) :

  • Free!
  • Extended stay!
  • Foreign culture!
  • Adventure-y activities!

The way my brother sells it, it sure does sound amazing. In a set of unfortunate events, he needs some replacement gear and long story short, it honestly makes more sense to fly me down there pronto, gear in hand.

How could I say no, right?

This trip will include a short stay in a city I’ve already fallen in love with: Lima, Peru. Then we journey north to one of a few areas: Tarapoto, Yurimaguas, or Pucallpa. It will depend on the complete travel arrangements, because either by boat or by plane (since those are the only options), we will end in Iquitos.

Who doesn’t want to float across the river systems in the Amazon? Who doesn’t want to venture to a city inaccessible by road? Who wouldn’t want to stay deep in the heart of the jungle and tour it’s amazing ecosystem?

It is an anthropological dream.

So, next week, I leave for 20 days. Most of my old vaccines are still valid, but I need typhoid again (and for whatever reason the nurse failed to give me the third Hep A last time, so I still need that booster). My malaria pills were picked up today. Between my archaeology stuff and Boy’s survival gear, I have everything I need already.

Somehow, while I am gone, I will need to tackle teaching online and taking a teaching online class. Oi.

I will leave out all of my inhibitions until the next time I post about the excursion. No need to freak you out about the thieving; the tarantulas falling on your face; the boats being plugged with chicken feathers; the e. coli, salmonella, and malaria; or the backpacks being lost to the piranhas, electric eels, alligators, and anacondas that I’ve read about. No need at all…*cough*.

Seriously, though – could you have passed up this adventure? No matter what happens, I know it will be another experience of a lifetime. I mean, it’s nothing a hobbit couldn’t do. (And let me just take this moment to once again be positive about not having a set and stable job at the moment so as to allow me this chance!)

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Project change!

Friday: October 4, 2013

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My summer 2014 project is now a summer 2015 project. Not for any bad reason. On the contrary, the connections we’ve made in the county have been so awesome we can now make our grant proposal so much more cooler. This at first made me sad because I was really looking forward to it, but then I realized just how intense the delayed gratification will be. We have so much more time to put everything together, to continue getting support, to write the best proposal ever. It certainly is for the best, and I am more excited now, I think, than I was when we first tentatively started this thing.

Things on my plate:

  • Co-authoring an article
  • Sending out my CV to local schools to teach next semester
  • Learning HTML mumbo jumbo (for realz this time), to help Boy, to entertain myself
  • Organizing the Floyd County stuff as it continues to roll in, including scheduling meetings
  • Fix stuff around the house (painting, carpentry, yard work)
  • Planning for a conference in November

You know, when I found out I was not going to have an adjunct position this fall, I was terribly concerned how bored I would be. No problem there!

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Summer 2014 Project

Tuesday: September 24, 2013

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I have been working on a grant application through the DNR to conduct a county-wide archaeological survey next summer. It is due on October 4th, but it will take a few more months to find out if we won the money. To raise public awareness, we started a website. Check it out: www.floydcountyarchaeology.com

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Call me Master

Friday: August 16, 2013

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It is finally official: I have graduated, huzzah!

So much to catch up on, but first, I must rest. Physically from 7 weeks in the field and mentally from my 2 years away from home. My adjunct position fell through this semester due to low enrollments (quite possibly linked to all the nay saying about student loans and such currently). That bums me out but honestly, I think I will rather enjoy having the next 4 months to myself (well, and to officially work part time at Boy’s office). Plus, there are some grants to apply for, a house to work on, a yard to tackle, and a plethora of crafting projects to attend to! I definitely will not be bored as I adjust to this new life of mine.

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The end is near

Saturday: May 4, 2013

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This is the last week of my last semester at UIndy. I have a field school over the summer (and afterward, I hope to go to Sapelo again), and to finish/defend my thesis, but the formal education part is over. When I walked across campus to my last class in Lilly, it was kind of sad. I know I will be around all summer, but still…

I am incredibly infuriated with myself too. I’ve been home all week yet I left some important books for my thesis at school. This is what I hate about living in two cities. I won’t miss that part at all! So instead, I’ve taken a breather (read that as help Boy with his office all week). I will be back on campus all of next week and intermittently over the summer, so I think a break is ok. It is nice to cuddle with the kitties for a change *and* play a video game! My goal, however, is to be finished with the thesis before mid-June when the field school begins.

Cursed Mountain, an anthropologically awesome video game

Cursed Mountain, an anthropologically awesome video game


So, about that video game. It is an older Wii game titled Cursed Mountain. It is pretty anthropologically awesome, actually. You play a mountaineer, searching for your lost idiot brother who climbed the Sacred Mountain to find a treasure item. This made the goddess angry, so she cursed the area. It is a horror type of game, with deserted villages and angry ghosts. It is slightly like a puzzle: reading letters to put together the story of what happened. What makes it so anthropological is that they do not skimp out on culture – they use non-English words to describe cultural items and dieties, the village looks like what you would expect for a mountainside village in the Himalayans. There is a lot of lore involved (influenced by Buddhist and Tibetan theology). So far, it does not seem to be the case of a Westerner going to save the people, but instead a commentary on how a Westerner ruined everything (which arguably could be anti-anthropological, but at least the story is being told through the local’s viewpoint rather than your character’s). Your brother doesn’t care about other cultures, and in his letters you see that pitted against your own character, who appreciates diversity and would have loved this village before it was abandoned. I am only about two hours in, so I cannot say much more, but I suggest picking it up if you like games.

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Cranial exercise

Monday: April 29, 2013

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One of the things I learned vicariously through my time here at UIndy is that I am not a distance runner in terms of projects. You know, some people can run super fast but only for a short amount of time, while others can pace themselves and run literally for hours on end? I think the same is true for research projects. Some people are great at writing a 5 page paper and dread the thought of a 10 pager while others can knock out 30 but have a hard time condensing it for an abstract. Still, others I would consider pole vaulters – they can say exactly the right thing and fit all the important information onto a poster. Each one is important, and kudos to those who have figured out how to be a tri-athlete.

I find myself to be the sprinter – the in-betweener. I think 10 pages is about my limit for comfort – after that I get lost in my own writing, and I had trouble shortening my text for the AAPA poster. I also have a tendency to work really hard for hours and when that chunk of time is over, I never want to touch it again. This is illustrated with my day so far: I woke up, I’ve been writing a paper and reading sources all day, and I have not procrastinated once until now to write this post (I have had to force myself to take a break long enough to make food, but I still ate at the computer). It is suppose to be a minimum of 10 pages, due Wednesday, and I have only about 7 pages. Yet, if I stop now, I will not want to look at it again tomorrow nor the next day. I know this about me, so I must keep on keeping on.

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Prospects

Wednesday: March 13, 2013

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My life changes completely in the fall. I had thought my life changed completely when I quit the bank and started grad school far from home, and to an extent it had. However, I had been in school since time immemorial, so although I no longer work outside of school, it isn’t entirely new. Graduating this August means that I have officially changed careers. Not many people I know have experienced this – most people have gone to school and then gotten jobs in their new field, ie. they began their career, or changed positions but stayed within the same company. I had a pretty good thing going at the bank for an entire decade, and this new life will be utterly different.

I am leery to become a full-time teacher at the get-go. For so long, I was against teaching at all. Only through my Supplemental Instructor position as an undergrad, and now adjunct position at grad school have I come to enjoy opening minds (and realizing that I may be slightly decent at it maybe has helped, too). Therefore, I am not in a rush to get a PhD any longer. Limiting myself to an adjunct position by only having a master’s degree will leave me with free time that can be spent on other projects (or if necessary, I can fill up that time with adjunct positions at multiple universities). One of these will be officially helping my husband in his career for a time (self-employed computery mumbo jumbo that you wouldn’t want me to get into here). Other prospects, I hope, will be anthropological in nature.

The wires of the Interwebz at Boy’s office.

So where does this leave me? Well, I did have an interview at my alma mater and I do have a teaching position this fall, yay! It really wasn’t much of an interview, I admit. I stayed in contact with one of my professors and she let the Chair know I was interested in the position. My advisor also caught wind and all three were very excited. I brought my updated CV, and we chatted for quite some time but I was essentially hired immediately. They always felt I was a star student, and I excelled as an SI leader. In addition, they get a lot of adjuncts from bigger universities (with money and dorms). These adjuncts do not usually understand the student base; the school itself is in one of the most down-trodden areas of the state and most of the population commutes (as far away as 2 hours!). People have full-time jobs that take priority because they have to support themselves, and many students have families (whether or not they are traditional or non-traditional students). I get this entirely; in fact, I had a hard time adjusting to the students at UIndy where many have never worked a day in their life, everything is paid for by their families, and they live on campus. UIndy has many more dedicated students, but my alma mater has many more life-experienced students. It is interesting to me that academia can be so different, and a shame that not everyone can have both qualities.

To start, I will do intro classes to either cultural or physical anthropology, and in the future I may be able to teach 200 level courses like archaeology (I already have plenty of ideas for that!). The program has been changing since I graduated there (indeed, when I was there, there was no anthropology bachelor degree), and I am excited to aid in that change. Here’s another photo; I am with the Chair 5 years ago – you can read about it here.

I received many awards at the College of Arts and Science Honors Tea Ceremony over the years at my alma mater.

The faculty at UIndy seems sad to see me leave (side note: I’ve been known around the lab as Rebecca the Grey because Boy’s computer wizardry has worn off on me slightly and they believe I have magical powers with technology – but recently we had a get-together and I was elevated to White, whoo!). They have said that I can always count on them for support in the future and such. And, since they know I am dedicated to the field, I may be able to do summer archaeology projects around the state with them (starting with, perhaps, my home county in Southern Indiana). I will use my free time to write grant proposals and they will help mentor me with their experience in the field. I love this idea – it keeps me from being “just a teacher” and I do not mean that as if teaching isn’t a worthy occupation. I simply mean that I don’t want to be only a teacher; I want to be an active anthropologist.

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photographic legacy

Friday: March 1, 2013

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My image will now be public for probably years. Eep. Our anthropology homepage has just been updated, to include not one, but two photos of me! Apparently I signed a waiver, because no one asked. For shame. I am digging with Anne under Field Opportunities opposite of some of my undergrad buds, and I am with the WLCP opposite of Laura under Lab & Research Opportunities. I attended a retirement party today for my boss back at the bank (for 10 years – a good third of my life). That in itself, and speaking to a bunch of old colleagues about how my time at UIndy is just about over kind of made me melancholic. It’s been a good run, and I hope that the momentum keeps going forward, even if I cannot see the path just yet. I think having a photo legacy on UIndy’s anthro page is, therefore, somewhat cool.

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The Last Semester

Tuesday: January 15, 2013

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Today I began my last semester at UIndy. I am enrolled in Mortuary Archaeology, Applied Statistics, and some Thesis Writing hours. I am also auditing Soil Morphology and teaching Monkeys, Apes, and Humans (an anthropology class cross-listed as a biology class). I have two teaching assistants to help with the labs and grading.

This will be a new teaching experience for me in several regards. First, the room is not optimal. It is very, very cramped, with a projector not a tv, and the layout is awkward. Second, I am to mirror my advisor’s class, so essentially I am using his power points (though I made them more visually appealing, in my opinion). At first, I thought this would be much easier than starting from scratch like I did with Cultural, but I failed to realize that I am a linear thinker, which maybe is not how anyone would describe him (at least, not myself). It will be interesting to see how I can work with the materials provided. Third, I have obviously never worked with teaching assistants before. I know them personally, so I know there shouldn’t be any issues, and just the idea that they can do the grading for me is exciting! Fourth, this class has a lab component. Essentially, this should not be all that different than from when I TA’d a year ago, except that more will be expected from me as I travel throughout the room. I am the teacher, I ought to know everything, right?

My husband has a bet that I should drop Soil Morphology. I have until the end of this week to decide for a full refund. I want to keep it (auditing Comparative was so awesome because I got to do my favorite thing – learn – but without the stress of turning in assignments or being assessed on a grading scale), but the reality is that I do not want to repeat what I did to myself last semester.

I am experiencing different thoughts this semester than in the past. I am not sure if it is from being burnt out last semester, being pushed to the edge but surviving and growing from last semester, or a wee bit of impatience to be done and get back to my life up north. Likely a combination of all and then some. But I am in a good place right now, and I hope this semester will not be as trying personally for me as last time.

It is my last semester though, which gives me a bit of melancholy. Now, I do still have a field school requirement to meet this summer and finish my thesis project, but essentially, I am almost done!

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End of 3rd Semester Update

Thursday: December 13, 2012

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Well, well, has it been another semester already?

I realize that this blog cannot have the priority I wish it could until my work at school is done. Which is ok, considering I am doing so much and it’s thrilling, but I feel like I have so much to say!

Over break, I will try to update some, but no promises. Here are some pics to hold you over:

Pirate me burning GRE study material.

My husband, housemate, and I throw an annual Halloween party. As hosts, the three of us dress similar, and this year we were pirates, arg. My friend Jaclyn and I burned her GRE study materials. It was therapeutic.

My undergrad gang, mascot included.

I think the photobomber was friends with the dude who took the pic, but I am not sure. My cohorter Anna calls these three my “posse” because we hang out a lot, but really I am more like their rescued and adopted stray animal because they are experts at UIndy stuff, and I am always asking them where to go, who to talk to, and what things mean. My husband teases me that I can get along so well with people literally 10 years younger than me, but I can just as easily get along with people 10 years older, so I don’t take offense. Maybe I am an ageless spirit.

Enjoying dinner and drinks at Shallow's.

Minus faculty, the bio department, and about 2 others, the above group is pretty much all the people I hang around with at school. It is a mix of grads and undergrads. It was to celebrate the end of our Theory of Archaeology class, though not everyone in the photo took it; some were there to celebrate Zach’s 21st birthday too. And Amy is graduating this semester. It was just a good time to finally get together and celebrate.

In the trench, cleaning up.

Those of us who have been involved with excavations at the Lew Wallace Study were invited to a private sushi dinner hosted by the new owners of Lew Wallace’s house. It was a pretty cool experience – not only to see his house, or to have a personal chef preparing food, but the owners were very friendly. The tornado that blew through and left us in a hail storm? I could have done without that. Anyway, when I got there, Anne told me people had mistaken my photograph for hers. I wasn’t sure what she meant until I saw it on the table: I was in the newspaper. Here is a link to the article: History Beneath Us Returns to Study.

Site survey in a field.

This photo was taken in northern Indiana. While there isn’t much to look at, it captures how unexciting some aspects of archaeology is. Dr. M is using the total station, sighting in the prism that is being held by someone at the copse of trees, far enough away you cannot see them. The purpose was to lock in on the backsight, so that the tripod could record points accurately on a grid created in previous work. We then walked the majority of this field, all the way back to the horizon line of the field, then returning to the street, then moving over a couple feet to return back to the horizon line. We flagged every significant item: broken ceramic pieces, unusual rocks (possible tools), historic brick pieces (there was a brick factory here once), and modern day trash (to do research on how garbage moves across the landscape). Then we went back to each and every flag with the prism, while someone sighted in the points. It was hot and unexciting except for the humor in company. Yet, I would always choose this type of work over my previous job (sorry chicas!).

I have much to share, but alas, I still have responsibilities. Tonight, I will be grading my students’ finals, reading some late submitted papers, and submitting final grades.

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Decision

Thursday: September 20, 2012

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Oi. This semester has been too trying. I did some cost-benefit analyses and weighed several options:

  • Quitting grad school
  • Leaving Comparative Osteology and the archaeology project with Dr. M
  • Getting piss-poor grades
  • Dropping Medical Anthropology

Quitting grad school: Just not an option. I like everything about it (well, mostly). Trouble is, I have too much of everything.

Leaving my volunteered positions: I find them practically useful and that would only free up six hours a week – not nearly enough to be a true benefit.

Poor grades: That was a joke – I am an all or nothing kind of girl. If this were possible for me, without the anxiety that it induces, I would have settled on this option.

Instead, I chose to have a difficult conversation with my advisor and Medical Anthropology professor about dropping the class. It is not required, and I will still have enough credits to graduate. The conversation was difficult on my end, for emotional reasons. The faculty recognized that I am human and supported my decision, even if it was not one they wished to see happen. Should I find the time, I can still sit in on the class, which is great. The only reason it came down to Medical is because it was the one thing that gave back the most time.

Now I can get back on track for my scanning job and my thesis work. Now I can have an hour or two during the week to chill out and reset my stress. Now I feel I can continue on, and not idly think of that first option listed.

Oh, and the exterminator came and thus far no roaches. Cross your fingers!

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Adjunct Professor

Thursday: September 6, 2012

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I haven’t posted because all summer I have been working diligently to design a course for Cultural Anthropology when not scanning teeth. When the opportunity came up to teach this semester, I did not take it lightly. I am still working as a Research Associate, and it is getting to be crunch time for my thesis. The addition of teaching (not one, but two classes!) on top of that is a heavy task.

This semester will prove to be the busiest yet. Aside from teaching and DENTALWEAR work, I am enrolled in Archaeological Theory and Medical Anthropology. But of course, my utter despise of free time (what?) has coerced me into auditing a Comparative Osteology class as well. Plus there is still that whole commute thing on the weekends to see my husband and cats.

Oh and I moved to my own apartment literally right next to campus – I can walk! However, there are roaches, and I may be forced to move again if the landlord doesn’t get it under control. Soon.

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Semester II

Monday: January 23, 2012

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After I get situated with all the new assignments, I will begin posting class notes again.

Aside from my cohort, I share classes with some undergrads I already know which is cool. We also share classes with some biology grad students (mostly focused in forensic anthropology). At first that seemed daunting: perhaps because their program is not new but well established, or perhaps because there are so many of them. I am not sure, but I felt like it would be hard to keep up, that they must be more advanced than me, something. Silly of course, because they wouldn’t be taking the same classes if that were the case! They all seem cool so I look forward to getting to know them.

I did get the TA position for undergrad Monkeys, Apes, & Humans (all three of us were fortunate for a position) – two classes back to back with two different teachers. I am also sitting in on the undergrad Human Evolution class to refresh myself and hear perhaps other perspectives as well as updated discoveries. I will be working on a project for the Indiana Academy of Science coming up in March, traveling to Portland for the American Association of Physical Anthropologists in April, and writing up a report on my own research by the end of the semester for Archaeology of Eastern North America (with the possibility of publishing). I’ll also have had to decide what my thesis will be, write a paper in Molecular Anthropology, and do fun things with teeth in Dental Anthropology. My job as the Research Associate is going much smoother this semester too, I feel like I have the system down and will really get to make a dent in the project.

This semester will cut me deep to my core, though: I have a class at 8:30am. Since that aligns with a lot of businesses, I give myself about an hour for traffic, with an hour before to wake up and get ready, and with winter upon us, an extra half hour just in case. Meaning that I wake up at 6am. For the last half of my life, I have been on a night schedule, waking roughly by 1pm (last semester I averaged 9AM and that was rough). Going to sleep at 9pm makes me feel silly but hopefully I will get the hang of it quickly (why yes, I need 9 hours of sleep). You must keep in mind that as you scoff at my hardship, if most people wake up by say even 7am, imagine trying to wake up by midnight. Exactly. Add to that, my school is in another time zone, an hour ahead of what I am use to. Having a home and husband on Central Time prevents me from fully switching to Eastern so I feel caught oddly between. Oh, and need I even bother mentioning I am not a morning person?

Overall, I feel busier than ever. I’ve had one week and it really feels more like a whole month!

Here’s a quick sketch for a dental lab assignment. I do not have Aperture reloaded yet so forgive the crummy quality, I used the print-screen option to resize the image.

sketch of a mandible

Quick sketch of a mandible, highlighting key features.

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Technology Woes

Monday: January 16, 2012

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Over break, I had intended on catching up on all my class notes to start this semester off right. I had a bit of an issue with that though – my computer.

About mid-semester, I ran an update for the OS but silly me did not have it plugged into a power source and it shut down mid-update (Never. Ever. Do. That. ! ) While my computer worked well enough for homework assignments, bits of it were messy. My email client was all confused on sending and drafts and read items; my usb would charge my iPod but not recognize it; etc.

Boy suggested the best way to fix it would be to reinstall the OS fresh and start over, and so over break when I finally got around to it, I made a back up to my trusty time machine and formatted my hard drive. Everything was good, except that ten minutes later when I went to recover my back up, my external back up hard drive FAILED. My entire computer life history gone to the technological purgatory. I believe most normal people would freak out but I am married to Boy, super genius of computers! No problem too tough, no data loss too big! It was a close one, but all my data is back as it should be, yay! …

At least, that’s how I would like the story to go. He spent hours trying to recover my back up drive, then ditched that idea in favor of trying to recover my original drive. These things take humongous amounts of time and school starting soon meant that for now I got a fresh new drive as he still haxors away on the old stuff when he has time.

It is looking good though, so I will maintain my ever optimistic view that I did not lose the last 15 years of computer bits, photos, and whatnot to the evil gods of disk failures.

Before all that, I did manage to whip out some Human Osteology class notes, so I backlogged them all. If interested, check out the older posts.

And my second semester begins tomorrow. My class load includes: Dental Anthropology, Eastern North American Archaeology, and Molecular Anthropology. I will also be attending the undergraduate Monkeys, Apes, and Humans class since it is a possibility that I will have the opportunity to teach it before I graduate (it is also possible that I fill a TA position for it this semester, but I am not sure yet).

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First Semester Complete!

Wednesday: December 21, 2011

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I am very proud to say my first semester as a graduate student has been a success! But there is sadness there too – only three more to go… Once there was a time I hated school and all the boredom that came with it. And then I discovered anthropology. I’ve been waiting hardcore for my grades to get posted because one of my classes had me on edge and I wasn’t sure which way it would swing. Rest assured, I have successfully secured all three A’s this round, whoo!

I want to chat a bit here about the semester as a whole, and in total honesty. My two and a half year break was very good for me and in no way do I regret it, but I did struggle getting back into my groove. Much of that may simply be the caliber of this program versus my undergraduate one. Commuter schools, even if associated with larger universities, are just no comparison to research orientated institutions, at least in my experience. I expected this of course, but did not know how to prepare for it (nor do I have any advice). Also, I am not as young as I once was. True story. I may have rocked out with 50-60+ total hours a week semester after semester (class, campus jobs, work, volunteering), but I have tasted the slow life while on break and decided there is worth in that.

So moving on, geoarchaeology was my toughest course. I had no prior experience with the subject, I was not good at standard geology, and the class demanded a lot of time reading articles and writing weekly essays. Furthermore, some reading assignments were uber boring for me, so simply getting through them was rough. Top it off with a teacher who expects high quality essays (as opposed to some teachers who water-down their expectations), and you can probably understand why I found it challenging. My course of action was to slip a bit on my other two classes that I was doing well in to really focus on this one. It worked, and I got good scores.

Not until it was almost too late did I realize that the slip in my other classes was catching up with me. But around this same time, I had to come to terms with balancing my life with school. Thus, my husband and I decided that on weekends, when I made it home (which was not always), school wasn’t allowed. For both our sakes. (Of course, my cats couldn’t care less if I were sitting playing a video game or sitting reading homework, as long as my lap was available).

This was a bit stressful though, because I was not about to let my graduate program take a second seat. I signed up for it and so I needed to rock it. I set a new plan in action, scheduling slots all week to get various projects and assignments done. And of course at this time I also realized that my job in the lab had indeed been taking a second seat which was not fair since I had already been paid for it through tuition. I squeezed it in my schedule and will be working over winter break to make up for it. The upside to all this was that I really got efficient with my time. The downside was that trying to cram so much stuff within basically a 4 day period (Monday night to Friday afternoon) led to unanticipated burnout. I may have hung out with the undergrads a little more than I should have a time or three, but it helped me keep my sanity and, hey, I got free food;)

What I’ve come away with is this:

 Grad school is about balancing time almost as much as grasping the material. I have the class assignments to read, essays to write, and presentations to prepare. I also have side projects like BARFAA and other skeletal projects. I have the lab job which includes casting, scanning, and cleaning. Cohort meetings with my advisor, and random lunch meetings with professionals in the field. I additionally have issues because of my long commutes to school, long commutes to home over the weekend, and a husband to hang out with during the weekends. Grad school, therefore, hones your time management skills.

The most difficult classes will be the most awesome for their challenges. Geoarchaeology was hard for me, mostly stemming from how boring I originally found it. It is hard to be invested in something you aren’t interested in, plus falling asleep while reading gets you nowhere. But then boredom changed to determination to get the grade, which then lead to understanding, which ultimately made it neat.

The internet will give you humorous relief and tips to deal with grad school. Googling random thoughts I had during the semester (try “grad school is” and have a peek at what it autofills with) has taken me to many sites offering tips. There are caveats though. While it may be true that you can get away with not reading everything assigned for every class (I am a bit ashamed to admit I tested this), you’ll need to be careful of crossing the line and cheating yourself. You are in grad school for a reason so “just getting the grade” is no longer appropriate.

I have trouble with visual learning, and I never knew this. My trouble with osteology is in line with my trouble of identification of rocks and minerals in geology. It is a weakness that surprises me, being artsy and having such a visual memory with my notes. Alas, visual memory is not the same as visual learning. I did not identify this problem until the day of the final, unfortunately (someone mentioned his own trouble with it and the thought clicked for me). It is likely this issue went unnoticed all this time because visual learning is not used in many subject areas, and if it were used, it was only for a small segment that did not affect my grade (as in the case of geology). I’ve put some thought into how to correct it (see, although I scored an A, my self assessment finds my skill lacking). I plan on drawing all the bones. This should pen them into my memory like any other note, right?

All that said, my first semester of grad school has challenged me on numerous levels and I am getting more out of it that I expected to. One semester down, and I still love it. Now that I am on break, I intend to catch up on some overdue posts, so look for those. Meanwhile, here is a random colorful pic from campus.

Hydrant on campus

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Funny Story

Wednesday: November 9, 2011

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It is apparent that I am a non-traditional student. 30 year olds can only pass for just-out-of-high-school college kids in bad movies. I am ok with that: I bring a lot of life wisdom and experience with me but it is certainly awesome when I surprise people with my age. Several of my undergrads were (are?) in denial.

The other older grad student, Andy, called me out on it. Being non-traditional himself, he had to know my age. He guessed first and filled me with cheer at the ripe young age of 26. [Most of the undergrads put me at 25 or less.]

That being said, my geoarchaeology teacher is young, and I had determined he was young enough to be my brother. One day, while having class outside working with the total station, I heard Andy refer to our teacher’s birth year. Imagine my surprise when it was made known to me that we were born in the same year.

I only let a few minutes pass before I had the nerve to ask. I mean, egads, what if I was OLDER than my teacher, right? Right?! I had to know.

“So, when is your birthday anyway?” I asked nonchalantly.

“August 11” came the reply.

Needless to say I was stunned and calmy replied “Really? That’s mine…”

So, ok, I may not be older than my teacher (dare I ask if he was born in the morning or evening??), but it has been something, I tell you, getting my head to wrap around the idea that I am as old as my teacher. I am totally use to people with grey or greying hair, or at the very least, born in a different decade for Pete’s sake.

Brightside: He is the first person I’ve ever met who shares my birthday. In celebration, here is a sketch I whipped out for osteo class way back when I still felt young.

Sketch of a skull

Human skull sketch for a Human Osteology lab worksheet identifying synapsids.

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checking out campus

Sunday: August 28, 2011

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Thursday night, Boy and I stayed in Indy with his mom so that I could move some of my stuff to her guest room. On Friday, we wandered around campus to get my parking permit, find the different offices that may come in handy, locate the cafeteria and bookstore, find my class rooms, and so on. Dr. S had also invited me to attend a MS thesis defense by Lindsy Frazer, titled “Dental Microwear Texture Analysis of Early/Middle Woodland and Mississippian Populations from Indiana.”

This was the first defense I had attended, and it was much more relaxed than I had expected. I followed her presentation pretty well, though she said afterward part of her committee had a question or two they felt were unanswered. Her thesis hits on a difference between the SEM technology and the new 3D technology that she utilized at UIndy (I will explain in another post). Defending a thesis sounds really horrible, but watching her public presentation lightened my anxiety somewhat. Of course, I was not there during the private committee part and I am sure that will be much more difficult.

During her private defense, Boy and I met my cohort – there are three of us on the bioarchaeology track. We also hung out with a third year student, Laura, who showed us the white light confocal microscope (which I will reference from now on as the WLCP, and when I learn more about it I will explain that that means to you, but this is the new 3D technology I mentioned). I only got to hang out with one of my cohorts because the other had to leave campus right away, but I feel I will have a good time there.

Afterward, I met with Dr. S to discuss a funding opportunity that equated to roughly half the tuition cost for the entire time I am at UIndy. It is a research associate position, which can basically be thought of as a research assistantship (RA). I will be in charge of making sure all the incoming molds of teeth from around the world are getting examined with the WLCP, and that any student needing to use it will get an appropriate time on it. This is great for me, because I wanted to be a part of this new technology, but I am not sure I wanted to base my thesis with it, since I very much like macroscopic research (things you can see with your own eyes without technology). Having this position will also give me something to do on my off time down there on campus, and of course the funding aspect is wicked cool. He is going to train me on it this week, so I should be able to post more details.

Boy was impressed that the whole campus uses Lenovo instead of the “crappier Dells and other garbage” you see at other universities. He also enjoyed Dr. S’s sense of humor. A lot.

I am looking forward to class starting tomorrow. I am enrolled in geoarchaeology, human osteology, and bioarchaeology. I’ve had two weeks off of work now and my brain is fully recharged and itching to go. I do feel a bit of anomie going into this new situation without really being able to understand the changes my life will take until it happens. In addition, a lot of stuff started to go wrong right when I was leaving my job (my car stopped shifting, my glasses broke, and some other snafus popped up). I suppose a pessimistic person would have told themselves that it was Fate trying to tell them something. I looked at it differently. In the face of all these unexpected expenses, I asked myself, “How sure are you that this is the best decision to make?”

Absolutely sure.

Undaunted and uprooted, I will be a Master of the Universe! Science! :)

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through dangers untold

Sunday: August 14, 2011

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I begin this journal shortly passed my 30th birthday and shortly before I uproot my life and attend graduate school. School begins at the end of the month and I will be staying with my gracious mother-in-law during the week, while visiting my husband, my cats, and my home two hours away on the weekends across a timespan of one and a half years.

Let me start with a short history:
In high school, I hated school – it was boring. I decided to start my college career as early as my junior year so that I could get through it and get on with life. My first full year of college was declared as general studies, at IUS. My second full year, at PUC, led me into computer programming. I loved it, but could not see myself working in that environment. I took two years off with the promise that if I could not determine my passion, I would finish college with a fine arts degree. Two years came and I enrolled at IUN with that intention. But then I took an elective class, an anthropology course on human origins, and the rest is history.

Working full time through school delayed my graduation date, but I also had a craving for learning more. When all was said and done, I ended up with a bachelor degree in sociology (anthropology track), an associate degree in anthropology, in French, and in fine arts (photography focus), and minors in anthropology and in art history.

Then I needed a break and gave myself at least two years off before pursuing graduate studies. Amid the third year off, this year, I learned of a new anthropology master’s program at UIndy and went there to check it out with the idea that maybe I would go next year. Instead, they offered me enrollment for this fall and accordingly, I did my part with the GRE and other enrollment processes. The official acceptance letter came, and I left my position in the banking industry after ten years with some slight misgivings.

I look forward to opening this door to my future and plan to keep a record of my classes and anthropologically awesome adventures in graduate school.

Huzzah!

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World Map World Map
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