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Blech.

I really have no words to describe how it feels to be done with school for potentially forever.  I mean REALLY potentially forever.  Especially when it’s ALWAYS been over my head – for my entire life – now, it’s just…I’m underemployed.  And a well-oiled science-class study machine at this point, which is so out of character that even D is impressed.

Honestly, I have never EVER studied with the intensity that I studied over the last 2 months…EVER.

I’m not really a study-er.  Let’s just say it wasn’t necessary.  I managed, and it worked out, probably because I write decent papers (some might actually say they are more than decent, but there have been some not-decent ones in there, too, started the night before they are due, written with bursts of clarity and “brilliance” at 4 am, and turned in at 9 am with absolutely. no. editing. what.so.ever….I can admit it, those really were not-so-decent) (although unfortunately, I never suffered, grade-wise, for that behavior, which would be the reason that it never actually stopped) (until the last 2 months, when it finally dawned on me that paper-writing really wasn’t the desired skill in biology or physics) – anyway, all of this to say that I am not used to studying.  At all.

(Those previous posts about studying?  Which you can find if you look hard enough?  Yeah, I mean, I did do that for points in time, but it was always a) late at night, and b) a day late, a dollar short…like in o-chem last summer.  So I guess yes, I did study, but not really in the effective way that one really *should* study.) (And I blogged a lot.  And took a lot of internet/walk the dog/talk on the phone/look at Facebook/eat some food/stand on my head breaks.)

And, in the last 2 months of my completely convoluted education path, I figured it out.  It only took….well, I’m 30, and I’ve been in school for most of the last billion years, so….that’s how long it took.

(I am starting MCAT studying next week.)

(I think those study habits of the last 2 months will probably come in handy for that.)

(Because have I mentioned how much I *suck* at science?!?  In hard science, you have a *right* answer and a *wrong* answer.  I INEVITABLY pick the WRONG answer.  And try very hard, with my lovely skills of Logic and Reason and Writing Prowess – that worked so well in previous courses – to explain why, after 4000 years of Conclusive Evidence-Based Research, that, really, it is This Answer that is ACTUALLY the right one.  Scientists have just not really understood anything all these years.  That, really, *they* should be grateful to *me* for FINALLY enlightening them.)

(It hasn’t worked.  Although in social science, where there are almost *no* Right Answers, or, at least, there are Some Right Answers, and Some Wrong Answers, and really, you could make a good case for any of them, and as long as it’s backed up by Someone’s Research, preferably published in a Peer-Reviewed Journal, it is totally fine.)

(Can we see why, perhaps, there was a taking-hard-science-classes learning curve?)

Going out with a bang, I did take the opportunity to write some love notes on my exam last night, mostly as a way to kind of pull it all (as in, all of these years) together.  Sample question:

A woman owns some sheep, and she loves them very much until they are 2 years old, when she ships them off to become food.  However, sometimes the neighbor’s mangy dogs come and eat the little lambs.  They never eat the big sheep, though.  Which survivorship curve best describes this population of sheep?

Now, the whole question of survivorship curves really depends on whether there is a sizeable population of sheep that can make to adulthood – ie, live a long, (prosperous?) life, and then croak.

But I sat there in the damn exam, wondering, “How old are sheep when they are technically adults?  Does it happen at 2?”

(And then, if you really want to know, I thought, “Well, Little is an adult at 2.  But oh, LITTLE!  Would we kill you for mutton chops?  Oh, that would be so sad.  I would not consider Little to be an adult, but I am pretty sure that is the standard for big dogs…isn’t it?  He still acts like a puppy now, and he’s four.  He still scampers!  But for cats – I think that is a year, to be an adult cat, isn’t it?  I wish I’d paid attention to the sheep at the petting zoo.  I wonder if that said when they are adults….” and on.  I’m sure you get the picture.)

So I wrote a little note.  “My answer is D, but if sheep aren’t at maturity at 2, my answer is B.

There were SEVERAL instances in this exam when I wrote such notes.  And, at one point, when discussing adrenal insufficiency – a topic I know a little too well, mostly because I am not the world’s most adherent patient, so I’ve taken it upon myself to be well-versed in what happens if one suddenly *stops* taking prednisone or whatever – which was REALLY not the question, but honestly, this man writes really *confusing* questions, and adrenal insufficiency was a *perfect* answer to his question, although it was not based on anything in any lecture or book – ANYWHOO, I wrote,

“Although I actually know this is correct, if this is not what you are looking for, please give me points for creativity.  Thanks!”

Which, you know, is right up there with Logic and Reason.

It’s over.

Phew.

How’s THAT for anti-climactic?

I guess they walked this week, or last week.  I got an email saying that I could pick up my diploma now, and I know it wasn’t available until after the ceremony…

I actually did not want to walk, but DB thought after the hell of the last (X) years, I should – apparently we settled that one.

It happened without my knowledge.

(If this was really important to me, I could walk in June, but – surprise – it is not.  Important, I mean.  It wasn’t important to me before, and it is *really* not important to me now.)

In other news, the dog is pooping regularly (phew), I am still in a lot of pain, but the blood loss has slowed (I’m sure you all wanted to know that), and this morning is my first morning all by myself since last Wednesday, when our little world fell apart.

(In between, DB has stayed home, or my friend has come over in the afternoons – she has a crazy work schedule.)  (I am so insanely fortunate.) (And yes, I’ve blown off my job for the last week.  Lame job, at home.  One of the (few) benefits.)

I am going to try to study for a Bio exam.  It is actually interesting – finally! – but the professor seems to have a thing for the effect of pregnancy on various body systems, and you know what?  It’s just hard.

We are going to try to go out on a date tonight, if I can make it down the stairs and to our car without gasping for breath.  (How dramatic can I be?  In fairness, I sound like I have run a marathon after going up the stairs.  I assume after my body acclimates to the blood loss, I will no longer sound like a 70-year old with emphysema.)  I don’t know where we’ll go.  I have to say, I am looking forward to it.  A lot.

Or we might end up eating fondue at home.  With WINE.

Yup, still looking forward to it.

(P.S.  And yes, this is really a *date*.  Like, picture high school.  Lest you be thinking there is something exciting occurring afterward – oh, no, silly people.  Got 5 more weeks to go before that is even a possibility.)

(And now my poor husband is going to crawl under a rock.  Let’s not tell him I wrote that.)

(In total honesty, that is the last thing on my mind right now.  For the next 15 years.)

(P.P.S.  I texted DB the news that, apparently, I graduated.  He wrote back, “Oh really?  Congratulations!  What did you get me?  It is customary in graduate school for graduates to buy loved ones a gift.”

So funny, that man!)

So about 30 minutes after I turned in that last paper – no kidding – THIRTY MINUTES – my hard drive totally died  (Did that sound like Joe Biden in the VP debate?  Ha!).  I was editing a nice picture of my pathetic little Christmas tree, and I was going to post it with something that said, YES!!!!!!!  I’m DONE!!!!!!!!!!*, and, um, it died.  No warning.  Just kaput.

So we brought it into the Apple store, and the guy confirmed that yes, indeed, it died. 

Thankfully, I had backed up most of my pictures (and documents) a few weeks ago and I don’t delete what is on the card for a while, so I have most of the pictures saved somewhere (in some form), but I did lose a lot of documents.  It could be a lot worse.  But still…

I have no computer.  And nothing says ‘you have a serious addiction’ like losing the object of that addiction cold-turkey.

It turns out that we can get it fixed for free, because we paid for it with AmEx and even though we didn’t buy the extended warranty, it is still covered under the AmEx benefit, which is nice.  Yay!  But still, am without computer for now.  So very very sad.

At any rate, now we are in snowy, snowy, snowy Michigan, where DB’s family is.  We attended the funeral of a distant relative who lived to be over 100 (!!) and it was sparsely attended, mostly because of the snow, but also partially because, um, everyone around her had died already.  That was very sad, and it made me think a lot about whether it is really desireable to live for a long time.

And NOW we are all snowed out.  Holy crap, it snows a lot here.  I think they are up to something like 36 or 48 inches or so now, and there is another storm on the way.  Yippee!!

So that’s my news:  I finished my program (!!), I probably got a new job that sounds AWESOME (!!), and I am spending a lot of time in snowy, snowy, snowy Michigan wishing I had purchased the Uggs (or pseudo-Uggs – something similar) that my mom suggested when we were Christmas shopping the other day. 

I will probably not post for a while, because I am on my in-laws super slow computer and it is kind of painful.  I will, however, check email and try to respond. 

If I don’t get to this before Thursday, Merry Christmas to you all!  I will write a longer post when I have a computer later.   May we all experience the joys of the reason for this season. 

Blessings to all of you!

*Yeah, really, I’m done!  After four years of hell with this program, I am outta there with an accidental master’s!  PRAISE THE LORD!!!!!!!!!!!

NOT blog. I have total diarrhea of the fingers. Is that what it’s called?

So here are my thoughts, and then on to my paper:

1) I just destroyed a perfectly good zucchini. I tried to make it like they make it at Benihana, which looks insanely easy, but it turns out? Not really. Mine is disgusting and I am still hungry.

2) My house is totally clean. Not spotless, but I spent all day cleaning (rather than writing a paper).

3) And the dog is clean.

3b) And we the Deebster made brownies.

4) And the Bible study that was supposed to happen, which was the reason for the cleaning? Got cancelled.

5) Not by me. Amazingly enough.

6) Although I am thankful nonetheless.

7) Because now I can write the paper.

8) Because it was gonna be tight: job interview tomorrow (applied yesterday; wow turnaround can make you feel good about yourself) and paper due tomorrow and some inclement weather headed our way at the SAME TIME as the paper is due.

9) But, again, I did not cancel.

10) Which is a Christmas miracle.

11) So is the fact that my house is clean the day BEFORE we leave for Christmas.

12) But alas.

13) Time to write the paper.

14) Comment please. So I can take a paper-writing break.

15) THIS IS MY LAST PAPER OF MY PUBLIC HEALTH EDUCATION!!!!!!!

HALLELUJAH!

Commence commenting/paper writing/brownie-eating…now!

P.S.  Oops.  Forgot soy sauce.  (Actually, didn’t have soy sauce and thought I could get away without it.)

(Answered that one.)

Paper.

If you are my friend on Facebook, you saw my (admittedly stupid) status update: I am starting a paper. I’m going to do this paper EARLY. Seriously.

I was really planning on it, too. Seriously.

But then I started my bio lab.

And I am very sidetracked by my bio lab. We are supposed to do a chi-square analysis of some ant data. For anyone who has spent any amount of time in public health, or with population (ANY population – ants, monkeys, people)-based studies, a chi-square is Not A Big Deal. At ALL. But here is the statement, in the middle of the paper:

“Do all the calculations, refer to [Table] for the critical value, and decide if you will accept or reject the null hypothesis.”

Emphasis mine.

Anyone see a problem with this particular phrasing?!? I DO! So here it is: My major contribution to the collective knowledge of the internet. Here you go. Ready?

YOU CANNOT EVER ACCEPT THE NULL HYPOTHESIS!!!!!!!!

Let me try it again.

You can NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER accept the null hypothesis.

You can reject the null hypothesis. You can fail to reject the null hypothesis. But you canNOT ACCEPT the null.

I can see you thinking: oh, but Rachel. That is totally an issue of semantics.

Actually, my friends, no, no, it is not.

I will try to explain.

The null states that the number of ants infected in population A are the same as the number of infected ants in population B. Get it? The two populations are the same with respect to the number of ants infected IN THIS SAMPLE OF ANTS. (That is an important distinction.)

The alternative hypothesis is this: The number of ants in population A are DIFFERENT from the number of ants in population B. Meaning that there are more, or less, infected ants in one population as compared to another.

Now, if we find there is an important distinction between the ant populations, we will reject the null hypothesis. We will say, “NO! One species of ant is way more infected than the other species.”

However, what if we find they are the same? We will say, “We cannot reject the null hypothesis. We do not have the evidence to suggest that it is any other way than they are the same”. We cannot say “We believe that all ant populations are the same with respect to infection.” We are simply saying, “we cannot conclude with any evidence that the null hypothesis is WRONG.”

Does that make sense?

If it doesn’t, just go with me on this one: You cannot prove a null hypothesis. You cannot accept a null hypothesis. All you can do is REJECT it, or fail to reject it. That’s it.

This is much more important in humans than in ant populations, but it’s statistics and thankfully, statistics is actually the same across disciplines. I know. I’ve gone through a few in the last 10 years.

If you would like more information, you are welcome to contact me.

I am now done with my Stats 101 post. Phew. That feels better now (a little bit.  Except I am still annoyed.)

(Argh.)

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This just in:

If you abstain from caffeine for four weeks and drink a cup (even a cup of half-caf) of coffee at 9:00 pm, you will not be sleepy at 2:00 am, EVEN IF you thought you were immune to the effects of caffeine.

Who knew?!?

So my days of chaos are over for now.  Only one more paper, and I will be done with the school of public health for a very long time – as long as I pass this class (I believe it is impossible not to), I will graduate in a few months with an (unintentional) second master’s degree.  Only one more lab report, and I will be done with my undergraduate science classes until the new year (when I have to take finals, and then start the spring semester).

So much has happened in the last few weeks.

I don’t know where to begin.

I would like to write about all of my thoughts and feelings around this time:  this master’s degree, although unintentional, is bringing up all sorts of unexpected struggles for me.  It is the culmination of almost five years of grief with this program, and although I do have incredible JOY when I think about my alternative – sticking with the doctoral program – I am still dealing with the occasional pang of “what did I do?” and “should I have done this?”  I look around at the students in my research class who are eager to be attending THIS school THIS year and I realize that my attitude is poisonous here – it was the wrong decision for me to come back to matriculate full-time in the program last year, and I am unsure of where to go next.  There are so many thoughts swirling around in my head about this decision – thoughts I really didn’t anticipate I would have – and because a lot of them are tied to my program and the actual school itself, my subsequent posts will be protected on the subject.  I hope you understand.  I realize that many of these posts have nothing to do with the chief reason most people read my blog (although frankly, I do not know why ANYone reads this blog – ha! – so perhaps you actually ARE interested in my career paths, although I find that hard to believe), but it helps me to process things by writing about them, and I seem to like the feedback from other people, too.  🙂

We have made a lot of decisions in the last few weeks in the baby journey (I can see you start to get more interested now 🙂 ).  Those decisions, coupled with some recent developments in the adoption world, have really occupied a lot of my brain space (which was in high demand, given the whole studying thing that needed to happen this last week).  I would like to share my thoughts on that but I am debating the best way to do it.  I share a lot of my adoption opinions in the open and I love the feedback; I share a lot of my health and genetics concerns out in the open and I have serious concerns about continuing that, to protect my current family (DB) and anyone who might join us in the future.  Although I feel strongly that some of what I write is important to disseminate to the world (even though I do not have a huge readership, the fact that I still get 50 hits/day for the phi symbol shows that I can totally capture some small sliver of an audience!), I am realizing that protecting my family needs to be paramount to anything else.  I am not sure how to proceed, although one thing I *do* know is that I will be writing about those things, too.

We are debating starting a second blog that eliminates any mention of the FBI so I can talk about these other things freely:  my career, our future children, my health, our plans and our lives, our LOCATION (which is integral to who I am and what I do).  I am debating starting a second blog anonymously so that I can write freely about these things without my neighbors and friends and family reading about my personal thoughts, but I love the community from blogging and I seem to be incapable of very much anonymity.  (DB once told me to apply for the CIA because I would find it interesting.  I think we can see why that would be a poor match for me.)  I am debating shutting this blog down entirely and migrating the FBI stuff to a new one and starting fresh with  another one.  I am debating continuing my current path, where I can post whatever I want and change the password every three months for the posts I want to protect.  However, I am conflicted.  I love writing, although I am not necessarily very good and I never actually edit what I write here (what you read here is the Very Rough Draft).  I love having an audience – is that bad?  I love having people read and comment and I love making new friends.  But I also want to share freely and not have people feel uncomfortable asking for passwords – that is really not my goal.

I am open to suggestions.  I know a lot of you are seasoned bloggers and might have some opinions about this.

Also, all of the above might become completely moot in the morning, when I have had an epiphany about what to do.  Just to warn you.

In the meantime, you will see some new protected posts.  I am going to start to share some of what is going on in my head and it will be less about mean girls and more about my faith, my pride, my career, and my struggles in finding my role as a wife, a mother, and as a contributor to society (like what on Earth am I doing here?!?).  I mean, don’t get me wrong – if something funny happens, I’ll be happy to share it.  But I think it will help me figure out where I’m going if I can share the other parts freely, too.  As always, reach out if you are interested in continuing to follow this blog.  I will try to gather a list of names of those I *know* read the blog and will pass along the password to those people.  If you don’t receive an email in the next week or so, please reach out to me.

Blessings to all of you this holiday season.

down in my heart.

Where?

Down in my heart!

We taught English in Cambodia last year and this was one of the songs that our (adult) students adored.  They also loved to play musical chair-body-parts, where you stop the music and call out a body part and they have to put the body part on the chair.  I have video.  It’s awesome.  But I can’t post it, cause that would be a breech of…something.  I just wouldn’t feel right about it.  But those early mornings (class started at, like 5:45 or something….yes, am) were awesome with the body parts musical chairs.

That is so not the point of my post.

Yesterday was the weirdest day.  I woke up, and I felt like I’d been run over by a Mack truck (only I bet people HAVE been run over by a Mack truck, and probably the results were worse than what I was feeling, so I feel like perhaps I am diminishing their experience) – and I realized that both the dog AND DB were gone, which was suspect.  Imagine my joy at having a husband that would take out the dog, even though I have nowhere to be – just so I can sleep later to feel better?  Yes.  I love him.

So after sleeping for 12 hours (maybe more, who knows) (yes, I know those of you with kids are envious.  I will also say that I am pretty sure if I was that sick with kids, DB would have taken a sick day to watch the kid(s) so I could have slept, too.  Really, I am not embarrassed about my 12 hours), I woke up, and I found out that that FBI agent had been killed, and that was really sobering.

And then I went to class.

At the school where I left my doctoral program in public health.  (I have to take a class there to finish a master’s degree – it’s a class doctoral students don’t normally take.)

To truly have an understanding of my situation, you would need to read this, this, and this (2nd half of post), and those might not even do it for you.  But let’s just say that I really lamented this decision, and many people were not supportive of the decision.  I left after 4 years of pain and agony at this program, 1 year of full-time work, and 1 year of cultivating some friendships with the people in my cohort.  And at the end of the year, I decided that I absolutely. did. not. want. to. finish.

The rationale behind this is all amply described in that other post (if you’re really interested).

So last night, I’m in this class, which is, incidentally, a Very Agonizing Class for me because I’ve already TAKEN it.  At another school.  And it’s required for me to get a master’s degree (my accidental masters, just to get SOMETHING out of the doctoral work), and it’s required that I take it AT THIS SCHOOL, which just goes to the heart of why I am a little frustrated with this school, but whatever.  So I decide in the middle of the lecture that I Really Need A Snack, and while I was standing at the vending machine (filled with Fake Healthy Snacks – the kind that taste like cardboard and make the public health people feel like we are making ourselves healthier, when in reality they are just grossness) debating what Fake Healthy Snack to buy (I picked some Snackwells cookies – which were gross.  Although I used to like them.  I am so evolved now on my food opinions…if I’m going to eat crap, I really want to eat Real Crap, not fake stand-in crap.  For dinner, I ate Doritos and yogurt.  Hey, dude, it’s protein, ok?) OK – so I was standing there, debating, and my old colleagues came up, super excited that I was there.

“RACHEL!!!!!  You’re BACK!”  – which always is very good for my self-esteem.  Because I am not that cool, so when people get excited about me, I think, “hey!  They think I’m cool!”  – don’t we all think this?  Because now I will feel like a total loser.

And here is where I am going to purposely insert an aside.  I’ve often wondered in the last few months whether this decision – the decision to abandon my plan to get a doctorate in public health – was a bad one.  I mean, in the beginning, yeah, it was all joyous and exciting and I was Walking On Air, but then the reality hit:  I have a lame job, and after being expected to think critically in doctoral-level coursework, I am now taking…undergraduate biology and physics, and being expected to regurgitate facts.  And oh, did I mention my lame job?  Society isn’t exactly awed by what I’m doing right now.

And if I’m honest, I will say that it is ALL about what society thinks that impacts how I see myself, which is just WRONG and I feel incredible guilt about that, but it’s true.  I would love to be able to say, “I feel that God spoke to me and said, ‘Rachel, leave your doctoral program now'”, but I’d be lying.  I don’t disparage people’s experiences of that – at ALL – but I feel in my situation that God could have used me with a doctorate in public health and God would have celebrated my departure from the program.  I don’t think that God really CARED one way or another whether I left my program – what I believe is that He CARED how I used my skills.  Which really puts the burden back on me, right – the burden to live for Him?  This is the spiritual version of lemonade making from lemons.

So I’ve often wondered, “Was that the right decision?  Is that the most God-honoring decision?”  – and my posts over the last few months have been about things like careers and motherhood, and depression over my pathetic lack of job, etc.

And then we had last night.

And my friends came up to me.

And I said, “How are things going here?!?” – and they said, “[qualifying*] exam…blah blah blah…oral exam…blah blah blah…oh I am so stressed…things are OKAY….dissertation…”

And I thought, Oh, I am so, so, so, so, so, so, so happy!  I don’t need to do those things!  I am free of this place!  This totally oppressive, humiliating (not humbling – that is different – no, this place was hellacious) place!  I AM FREE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Joy.  Unadulterated joy.

(And I told them that.  I don’t think they were nearly so excited as I was to find out that I had achieved some sort of freakish nirvana.)

(Although I did emphasize to them that if we were to switch places, they would not be nearly so happy, because that program is right for them.  And it is not right for me.)

(That didn’t really help much.)

It was a totally redeeming experience.

What I am thankful for:  The balls to make a humongous decision that was right for me, and that everyone else discouraged.  I think everyone should do this at least once in their lifetimes.  It is totally liberating.

*AKA comprehensive exam, or comps.  Different schools call them different things.  My school doesn’t use either of these terms.

**You will need a password for the third post.  Let me know if you need it.

I have a confession. Hopefully I will not regret this.

Last spring, one of our assignments for a statistics class was to do this implicit association test. (Go ahead, try it! It is interesting! There is a new poll out for the 2008 Election!) We were analyzing an article on facial features, and the professor wanted us to learn a little bit more about our own implicit associations. I went to the website and took some of the tests, not really knowing what to expect: we plan to adopt children from other countries who do not look like us; I spend a LOT of time researching anti-racist parenting practices, experiences of discrimination and racism, and my own personal beliefs.

I did not realize how much I’d learn about my own implicit associations.

I took several of the tests. As I had expected (and, frankly, hoped) I did not have any huge hangups on race or gender (phew). But I did have one major preference: I strongly preferred Democrats over Republicans.

Like apparently, I cannot stand Republicans. Really. I could be rated as having a “slight”, “moderate”, or “strong” preference for Democrats; I had a “strong” preference. Which is a little disconcerting for me.

I’ve mulled this over at various points in the last several months. I think part of the issue is my sincere belief, as a Christian, that George Bush is a horrible president who cavalierly risked American and Iraqi lives in a gratuitous and unnecessary war, and to say that this upsets me is a gross minimization. The IAT used pictures of Donald Rumsfeld (architect of the war), George Bush (moron who agreed to war, whether he really played a huge role in the plans or not), Dick Cheney (who is the spawn of Satan), and Colin Powell (who I really loved prior to his speech at the UN, and I had some hurt feelings over his role in this war, too). I think the fact that the test used *these* specific individuals probably skewed my personal results dramatically.

And, in fact, it’s funny – I worked for the Republican party in 1995-1996, when Newt Gingrich was the Speaker leading the “Republican Revolution“. I was a House page (yes, like the famed Foley targets), and I certainly, gleefully, excitedly drank that Kool-Aid…I cursed the evil President Clinton and I fervently believed that it was the Republicans that drove home a balanced budget. (In fact, our checkbook is still encased in a “Balance the Budget” plastic thingy that I saved from that era. Oh, oh, oh, how times have changed). But perhaps that is what is driving my recent hatred of conservatives in general: they say they are pro-Iraq war, yet their platform (until recently) rallied against “nation-building”. It is under a Republican president that our deficit reaches unprecedented levels after a period of surplus. And I took the test a while back, so this wasn’t relevant then, but it is now: It was Reagan who first came up with the EITC (the only way to make more money on taxes than you actually pay – aka a redistributive program – aka sharing the wealth), and there is nothing more socialist than $700 billion in taxes invested in private banks.

In short: hypocrisy, anyone?

But at the same time, I am a little uncomfortable with this…this disgust with any group of people. I’m not prejudiced – I have lots of friends who are Republican! However, I find myself getting really, really, really mad at those who support Republicans in this race! And (this is so terrible – really, it is, and I am praying that this part of me goes away) – I find myself challenging the Christianity of those single-issue voters* (*not the ones who are anti-death penalty, pro-social services, and support life from conception to death – those are not included in this list) – whose pro-life views I see as being limited to one’s life between one’s conception and birth – without regard for the lives that struggle in the period of time after birth. If we care so much about life, why don’t we try to take care of the youngest citizens we do have? What does it say about our society when our foster care system is in shambles? That we have millions of kids going to bed hungry every night? That we fail to provide health care for breast-feeding mothers after three months post-partum? Where is the pro-life in that?!? And, what’s more: What would Jesus say about that?

_____

And as an update:

–We are betting on Obama breaking 340 electoral votes. If I win, I get two Grey’s Anatomy viewings with DB WIDE AWAKE and dinner out at a non-chain restaurant. If he wins, he gets to eat at Chilis with margaritas and as many tortilla chips as he wants without me complaining about how he is eating too much.

I know you’re jealous – oh, the exciting life we lead.

–AND…my internet fights. So Crazy Woman wrote back yesterday: at first, she sent out a hodgepodge of thoughtless commentary (peppered with the occasional “Are you INSANE?” and “Are you NUTS?” – yes, definitely directed to me), and it was quite the entertaining (if unnerving) read. Then she sent out an “oops, didn’t mean to send out my rough draft! Stay tuned for the final!” email, to which I quickly shot off a personal reply – “no need to send the final – I think we all got the picture. May God bless you, and thank Him that we live in a country with free speech, huh?”

Then we got the final draft – a slightly more coherent ramble, complete with some personal attacks on me and copious Republican (and, stunningly, Bush defense) propaganda.

I’m now sitting on a few responses. My poor mother (who lives in the neighborhood with these folks – really, I do not know why I received this, since I have never actually lived in this neighborhood…EVER…unless you count Christmas holidays) would have preferred me to never get into this debate, and is hoping that I do not respond at all. However, the level of personal attack was such that I feel like I should say SOMEthing….right?

I know you’ve all been waiting with baited breath. All…three of you.

I have made a decision (that link is in case you want to refresh yourself on the oh-so-important topic in question. Although there really aren’t all that many of you, I keep opening my big mouth about this election all over the internet, so maybe there are new people reading out there. Hi!)

FYI: This is a really, really, really, REALLY LONG post. I should break it up, and maybe I will do that later, but I’m just going to publish it like this. Feel free to skip it if you want. I’m not going to be offended. I just wanted to document it here in one place so that when I re-think the decision, I will be able to return to my thinking here.

I actually made the decision last Wednesday, but I wanted to sleep on it. A lot. And then yesterday morning, I got majorly cold feet. I sweated. I almost puked. I basically had a panic attack, which I have pretty much never had, and maybe I will regret posting this on the internet when we want to adopt internationally but you know what? It is situation-specific, so not pathological. Moving on…

After months and months and months and months of talking about all of the reasons I did not like my program – months of coming up with very rational, solid reasons for moving away from the program – I suddenly couldn’t bring myself to go to the school to declare my plans. I sat, frozen on the couch, wracking my brain to think of one good reason to leave the program. I couldn’t. Considering that I have bitched my way to this point, I found that amazing (I could remember complaining. I just couldn’t remember why I complained).

I’m not sure what inspired this temporary period of amnesia. Maybe it was because I unintentionally declared my plans by failing to show up for a Very Critical Seminar where it was painfully apparent that I was absent. We arrived back home at 2:00 am, the cat had peed all over the floor (not because of you, L), I cleaned it up, collapsed into bed, and then when I checked the class schedule at 9:00 am, I realized that the class started on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30am. And THAT, folks, was not how I was going to make my exit. I am not a passive-aggressive person, and that is about the most passive aggressive way to depart – by blowing off the course taught by the faculty in charge of the doctoral program.

So I sat.

And sat.

And sat.

(And watched CNN, because as I said, man, watching Palin news is like crack for me.)

After a few hours, I dragged myself out the door, drove to school, parked a ways away, and walked…slowly to the building, trying to think of what I would tell my (truly awesome and rock star of an) advisor. And then I went to the hospital next door to get some blood work done, because I just could not bring myself to walk into that building.

I went to class today, and then I talked to my (awesome) advisor. And when it was done, and I signed some forms and talked to some more people, I felt more excited and secure about my decision than at any point in the last 3 months. And that, my friends, is peace that can only come from God.

So here are the reasons that I am leaving the doctoral program:

1) It is NOT FUNDED. It is the only doctoral program that I know of that is NOT FUNDED. My school thinks it is so awesome that it does not need to fund students to have them come rushing through its doors. And, unfortunately, it is right. It makes me feel sick to my stomach to think that I have fueled their self-perceptions by paying them tuition myself, too.

My history with this program is long, and I will try to make this short.

I applied to this program straight out of my master’s degree. I worked with a faculty member at Michigan (there you go – a place name!) who really encouraged me to pursue a Ph.D., and I chose public health because I wanted to prevent things. I loved the notion of public health as a field designed to protect and promote population health, and so I applied to doctoral programs all over the country.

When I applied to these programs, DB and I were just friends.

When I got into these programs, DB was on his way to the Academy.

When I learned about the funding at these programs, DB and I were engaged.

And so it goes.

I was offered full funding plus a sizeable stipend at some very competitive schools across the nation. I am not bragging – I am very self-deprecating – but I was pleasantly surprised at the response I received from all of these different schools, save one (that I will call Majorly Sucky School, or MSS for short).

At the same time, DB found out that he would be assigned to the city that we currently live in, aka the location of MSS. So I accepted their offer with the prayer that they would at least ATTEMPT to match the other offers financially and went off to work in Vietnam for the summer. When I returned, the financial situation had no more changed than I had grown another foot, so I took one class (to secure health insurance, since I was also unemployed at that time and had health concerns that required group health insurance – I can’t just buy a health insurance plan on the internet). Then I took a few (sequential) leave of absences. Then I took another class. In the meantime, I worked full-time in various research positions, and when one of them lost its funding for a full-time position, and DB was making enough money that I could work part-time and we wouldn’t starve, I decided that maybe I could stomach the thought of the doctorate. I was getting older, I wanted to start a family, and the timing was pretty good.

There was a lot of drama that surrounded my return to the program, but the upshot of it was that I changed advisors to my awesome current advisor, and I started the program last fall with a fairly awesome cohort of people…but no funding. And I thought I was okay with the no funding, until I wasn’t…because seriously. What does it say about my program that everyone there is getting a degree because they are sitting on a trust fund or have a spouse that can pay their way for them? This is a RESEARCH DEGREE, not a law or medicine degree that has the potential to be profitable at the end.

And I realized: for the rest of my life, I will always be chasing money. That’s what research means. Chasing money.

And I also realized: I should not be chasing money to fund my doctoral coursework, before my qualifying exam. Students often chase money (apply for grants) to fund their research for their dissertations – that’s why so many grants stipulate that they are for “ABD students [all but dissertation]”, or “post-coursework” students. Basically: no grant program wants to pay for classes.

So my school thinks it can just charge tuition. No big deal.

Except it is a Very Big Deal.

And I also realized: this program – solely because of the funding – makes me feel very, very, very, very, very unintelligent.

Some students are (partially) funded, and some are not. Some students are rich because they married rich lawyers, and some are destitute and working three+ jobs (I have two, and I picked up the second mid-term when I realized we needed more money. But I make more than a research assistant because of the autism gig, which was a saving grace, because I need more than the 2-3 hours of sleep I’d be getting with multiple jobs that pay $10/hour). I don’t know anyone who hasn’t taken on at least SOME debt in this process.

Compare that to a program of similar caliber that offered me full tuition and a $25,000 stipend.

And then I was talking to a friend who is on faculty at a nearby university, and he was complaining because HIS doctoral students were bartending (bartending! How could they not be working in HIS lab 24/7?!?) and I said, “you mean most students DON’T rely on bartending?”

It’s only money, but it’s money. And it’s money we could be spending on adoption. It’s money I don’t want to pay in the future. It’s tuition money for a degree I’m not sure I want.

And if I want that degree in the future, we’ll be living somewhere else, and I will go to another university and obtain that degree and be perfectly happy because it will be funded. Because THAT is the way a research degree is supposed to be.

2) Career. This ties into money.

I have said many, many times on this blog that I am not interested in a life solely devoted to research. I appreciate research. I actually love reading research. I reserve the right to engage in research.

But in our classes, do you know who comes to talk to us about their research?

Do you know the qualifications of 4 out of my last 5 supervisors?

All MDs. Not Ph.Ds, who arguably are better-qualified to direct research, but MDs. Clinicians who have an interest in a particular topic.

Ph.Ds, with many exceptions, engage in research with no clinical work. MDs engage in clinical work that directs their research, and they do both.

And I am a strong, strong, staunch supporter of practice-directed research. What good is research if it is not practical and based in reality? What effect will it have on policy? It is great that we find out things like this or this, and it is totally fascinating, but there are other research findings that are incorporated into policy initiatives, and these are the kind of studies that we need to promote as practice-oriented and grounded in reality.

There are other degrees that offer more flexibility (and, I will submit, more pain and agony) than the path I am on, and they will offer very similar options when I am done. AND, more importantly, I believe I’ll be more effective at doing whatever I’m doing at the end of an alternative path.

3) Career. Where can I work?

My husband could be ordered to work anywhere in the country, including places that I might not choose to live (aka the Deep South, or the Middle of Nowhere, or…). While I do not have anything against these places, per se, I have to say that they are not places I look forward to potentially living.

We want to move overseas. In the FBI, if we move overseas, we must start with a place that is less desirable (think hazard pay and one of us – maybe even me – must learn how to actually cook from non-frozen foods. Actually, there are a lot of other things we’d be more concerned with thinking about, but those are the effects I’m comfortable sharing on this blog. Email me directly for more information) and work up the global ladder of desirable locations that way. No one starts out by moving to Paris.

I’m okay with that (actually, I am really psyched about it) but I want to have a job wherever we live. I want a career that is instantly useful wherever we go – not a career where the local expat community feels it has to create a job for me somewhere. A doctorate is not that kind of useful.

I cannot wait to grow my career in ways that will serve others and glorify God. And while I have no doubt that there are a TON OF RESEARCHERS out there that do EXACTLY that, and that my pursuit of a doctorate in no way precludes that from happening, I feel at this point in time that the best thing I can do is my current plan. That’s just the right decision for ME, right now.

4) Kids.

Our goals right now are to be the best potential parents we can be. We don’t have a kid yet, but we are working on it, and frankly, I have done more research on adoption, child development, attachment, and parenting than anyone I know in real life (and, from reading lots of adoption blogs, more than a lot of adoptive parents. I tend to only read the ones that candidly share their experiences and have clearly done a lot of research, but like anything, there are quite a range of parenting practices out there.)

I care deeply about our future children. I pray for them. I pray for the biological mother of our adopted children, should we be fortunate to have them. I pray for the health of our biological children, should we be fortunate to have them.

I have spent a really, really, really long time thinking about how I want to raise our kids and what my role will be in this process.

I think that’s why I’m so shocked by Sarah Palin (and in this I am talking about her parenting practices, not her policy platforms, which are laughable and scary and are beyond the scope of this post): I’ve always said that it doesn’t matter what kind of job I have or if I’m presented with the job of my dreams. If my kids or my husband need me, I will drop that job – that path – in a heartbeat. Jobs are jobs. Family, on the other hand: we are covenant-bound by God to care for each other. DB feels the same way. We do our best to manage concomittent family and career identities, but if life presents us with something we did not plan for, we alter our plans.

We have a significant risk, as I’ve stated umpteen times before, of having a child with special needs. That’s not complaining; that’s just fact. And I’ve said to DB several times in this process – way, way, way before Sarah Palin’s name ever became a household word – that the moment we learn that our child has a special need, I will quit my job or put my academic career on hold. I have the background to help our child at home, and I will never forgive myself if my child did not realize his true God-given potential because his mother was too busy working.

Of COURSE DB could play that role. But my background is in working with kids with special needs. His isn’t. And his job is a career without the option to take a leave of absence, and once he leaves, that’s it – no returning. So which one of us is going to be the primary caregiver? It sure isn’t going to be someone NOT us unless we decide that’s what’s best for our CHILD.

All of that to say that I haven’t decided fully about medical school. What I have decided, however, is that a research degree – THIS research degree – is not for me. I am taking one more class to fulfill the master’s degree requirements and leaving the program skipping and jumping. I am going to fulfill the prereq requirements for medical school and for a genetic counselor program, because really, my passions and heart are in that field, too. But right now, my efforts are going to be in doing well in school and pursuing the expansion of our family, cause WOW are we in need of a little human.

And bashing the GOP, which is a role I so very much love. (And I used to WORK FOR THE GOP, albeit in high school, but I was one of those little people wearing blue suits and I did it for a whole year, so I think that gives me a little bit more credibility. Does it?)

**My next post will be shorter and will be about scripture and my views on reproductive health. I am sure it will be foreign to 98% of you. However, I think it might help to understand Christianity a little bit, and I’m sorry it wasn’t what I wrote or published tonight. I’d encourage you to read it, if only to realize where you can critique the Christian Right using something other than science or emotion.

And if you’re part of the Christian Right, I’d also encourage you to read it, only because you can comment and tell me how I’m wrong! 🙂 (Nicely, of course!)

(I just vomited a little in my mouth.)

D-day is rapidly approaching. Decision day. And I am really, really, really conflicted.

So I’m not sure how much I can share with the internet. Most of this will probably have to be password-protected, because a lot of my debate is location-specific, and I just. don’t. know. Aagh.

But on the first pass, sans password…

If you have been reading my blog a little bit, you will probably have noticed (because for 3 months, it was all I could write about) that I took a few hard-science classes this summer: gen chem 2 (which was, frankly, the most hellacious class ever) and organic chem (the whole year). I managed to fit them both in roughly sequentially by taking them at different universities.

In general, there are very few reasons for an old person (me, and yes, 29 is old in this arena) to take these classes: either s/he is crazy, or s/he wants to become a vet/dentist/physician. Hopefully, I’d fall into this last category (not crazy) who wants to become a physician.

However, last fall, I finally started – after a three-year hiatus doing various types of clinical research, including research on autism (as you will see from some of my opinions previously – really, my whole resume is in the categories on the left <—-) a doctorate. A research doctorate. At a fairly prestigious university, although if you ask me IRL, I will do anything in my power to avoid identifying the school that I attend because I feel as though it’s not only prestigious, it’s pretentious. I realize if I stay there I need to get over myself, because I’m there, I’m getting a degree there, and I am spending a whole lot of time there. But that’s another discussion.

So with that background, here are my three options:

1) Stay with my program and pretend that the undergrads were all a really, really, really long, bad, dream inspired by my husband’s foray into a war zone;

2) Ditch my program (get a master’s degree), cling to the hope that is medical school, and complete the rest of my prereq requirements (bio and physics – no, seriously, I did not take a single science class in undergrad, unless you could “physics for athletes” (not what it’s called, but I certainly got to know the entire football team that way) or oceanography, aka the world’s second worst class (behind this gen chem class this summer)). Have a baby (by “have”, I mean either birth or adopt. The world of international adoption gets increasingly concerning, international governments are increasingly less excited about adopting to parents with chronic illness – no matter how minor – and although we are warming up to domestic adoption, we just….do not…know. But attempting to conceive is a source of stress all unto its own). Pursue medical school admission next fall, and attempt to matriculate at the ripe old age of 31.

(ouch.)

3) Ditch all higher education and – gasp – get a job. Actually, I will get a job this fall with either routes 2 or 3. The grants that fund my other jobs are drying up, which is probably good for my decision-making.

OK, so here are all the things I think about:

1) Kids. We want kids. We want kids bad. We are old (DB – mid-30s, I’ve mentioned my own far too many times at this point). We went to a pet store the other day, just because I haven’t seen a pet store that actually SELLS ANIMALS in the longest time (and I was appalled!) and there was a little mini schnauzer in there. He was SO CUTE! And I have never seen DB so smitten by a living thing before.

This, to highlight that we really. want. another. dependent. Preferably one with two legs, versus four (it can have four temporarily).

(We didn’t get the puppy. We would never do that. Pet stores = SO BAD!)

2) Kids, but I wanted a new bullet point.

Trying to conceive and staying in my program would be a major challenge with the impending written exam in May…given my health issues and the potential for things that would preclude my ability to sit for that exam on THOSE DATES (and if I miss THOSE DATES, I need to wait another year!) Adopting – well, I guess with adopting the biggest concern is the finances. We want to be able to afford adoption and with DB’s current salary and option 1 (staying in my program), it will be really, really tough. Plus, we would probably adopt a child with some special needs, which would increase the expected cost of caring for the child (plus, let’s face it – kids are crazy expensive).

Kids, part 3: caring for them.

We run the significant chance (I won’t say risk) of having a special needs child, either a biological child on the autism spectrum or a child with other needs by adoption (and as someone who strongly believes in attachment parenting, we expect even a “typical” child who joins our family through adoption have some adjustment.  Adoption is a loss, and we understand that…so while that seems not relevant, actually, it is).  I want us to be able to provide for our children’s needs, both financially (in terms of services and care) and emotionally – and if that requires me to stay home with them, so be it. I’ll be honest: I’d rather work at this point than stay home with our children – I’d rather have that balance – but if we have a child with special needs, I do not know that I’d trust another caregiver to deal with meltdowns and picky eating.  I am a little bit of a control freak.

3) Money. Oh, money. So here are the facts with money:

a) Until I take that written exam, I cannot get more money for my degree. So delaying it by a year has incredible impact, beyond what it would be in any other doctoral degree program.
b) DB cannot take a second job because the FBI prohibits him from working a second job. I will not get started on this particular rant here, but let’s suffice it to say that the federal government does not pay that well BUT the burden of making enough to do things like adopt (which is admittedly expensive) lies with me, his intrepid and hardworking spouse with two part-time jobs and full-time school. (Just saying.)
c) Med school is a LOT CHEAPER than this degree.
d) Oh how nice it would be to have a salary for the next two years! (Option 2 and 3)
e) (In little font) I would make more money as a physician than a researcher. (Emphasize little font!)

4) Jobs:

a) I have been doing research for the last 5 years in three different topics and with 3 different functions. I have designed studies, created protocols, written assessments, administered assessments, and analyzed data. Oh, yeah, and I’ve written grants.

I would rather eat worms than commit to research for my entire life.

I have a clinical degree! It is not one that inspires a lot of confidence in my abilities, but I have one! And I never pictured myself doing research for my life’s work. Yet – somehow – I am getting a research degree. (Does that make you think? It makes me think to write that.

b) I COULD use my Ph.D. to do consulting or policy work. However, my policy professor told me that I should leave the program and pursue a degree that is more likely to make change in the world – law or medicine. I respect this professor immensely and I don’t think that she would want to know that this is how I’m interpreting her thoughts – but at the same time, it gives me pause for thought.

c) I love clinical work. If I had to commit to one or another – analysis or clinical work – it would be clinical work, hands down. But I could do clinical stuff now without another degree at all.

d) I would like a job that allows me to do clinical work AND research if I choose (that would be medicine, or option 3, and probably less so option 1, because once you have this degree you are pretty much pigeon-holed).

5) The Bureau: Yes, it gets its own bullet. Because it has its own effects on my (yes, my) career choices.

We are required to move anywhere they want us to. Which could really be an issue for, oh, say, RESIDENCY.

DB and I want to live together for our marriage.

I cannot pursue a tenure-track position because what’s the point? -if we move. Plus, um, I just vomited a little in my mouth again. So now we know what I think about that.

I need to make enough money to support our needs in conjunction with what they pay DB. This means I would like a career where I can move anywhere and become instantly useful. There aren’t many of those careers around. (FWIW, I always tell DB that the best job for me would be a preschool teacher or a nurse. If only I liked preschoolers more…but nursing has not been eliminated yet.)

We want to live overseas. We can do this with the Bureau but requires some strategic moves by us (now).

6) What I really want: A job that contributes to the greater good of society, pays well, allows me to take time off to parent, expects a lot of me (has high expectations of me), allows me to grow as a person, lets me continue to learn. A job that (ok, nonChristians, avert your eyes) glorifies God. (A few years ago Wheaten College – which is a fairly conservative Christian college – was looking for coaches for the sport I used to do, and stated, “looking for those who ______ for the glory of God.” I thought that was the most hokey thing I’d ever seen.)

That’s all. So now that I’ve written all of that out, I am not one bit closer to making a decision. I wish I had more time, but somehow I do not think that more time would help me much.

Thoughts? I know a lot of you have significant others in medicine, or are in medicine yourselves…or do research…anyone? Or want to recommend a really inspiring movie that will help me get motivated to make a decision?

The other thing is….I read my musings from oh, say, May, when I was finishing up the second semester of the doctorate, and realize what I need to do. I just need to have the stomach to do it. So hopefully this long, boring post will serve the same function when I flunk physics and start wondering, “what, oh what, did I DO?!?”

Blech, that vomit taste. Going to wash the dog now. Woot!

So I’ve seen heaven, and aside from the obvious that it is the dwelling place of God, it comes via DB and a dude in an Edible Arrangements truck to my house. Heaven = chocolate covered strawberries and chocolate covered pineapple.* YUM. I think the arrangement was supposed to feed a few people, but I have managed to polish off most of it on my very very own. I mean, seriously, who knew that the combination could be so addictive? I’ve never had such a spread of fruit placed in front of me with no other competition!

DB is the best husband EVER. Can I just say that? I mean, he’d be the best husband ever even if he didn’t send chocolate-covered fruit, but chocolate-covered fruit is a good reminder about his bestness in his absence…long, long, long absence. PAINFULLY long absence.

Sorry I have been a little AWOL with the blog lately. It’s been a busy time, and although I “blog” a lot in my head, I haven’t had the time to sit down and write about much. As noted above, DB is still on his gig, and will be for the next 47 days, 7 hours, and 46 minutes (not that I’m counting or anything). Thankfully, he can call home free of charge, and we talk twice a day (but I only count once a day, because the first call is at 6:00 am and I *never* remember what we say, although apparently I’m funny at that hour). My happiest happiest HAPPIEST moments are when he calls and I can walk Little at the same time. I feel so productive, and so energetic outside, and it kind of feels like we’re walking Little together. Yes, cheesy. I’m all about the cheese these days.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure (and I mean that in all seriousness) of watching my much younger little brother row in a high school rowing race in Philadelphia. I coxed in college, and rowed/coxed a little bit in high school, and it was such a total blast from the past being at the race, watching the boats come down, and tromping through the mud in the rain. I loved it! It was awesome seeing my little brother row, too, although they didn’t do as well as they’d have liked (although that is so not the point of the race, it IS nice to succeed at it. Rowing is a really tough sport with crazy hours, and it’s nice to see all that hard work pay off…)

I have a whole post composed in my head of my observations of that race, and I will write it shortly. Stay tuned. I’ll even add pictures.

And…yesterday, I finished the second semester of my coursework toward a doctoral degree in public health. Most of the reason that I haven’t written much about the FBI recently is because I perseverate on two main things, for the most part: having kids, and my career. DB’s career is pretty much set, and he’s doing pretty well with it, if I do say so myself. I’m thrilled for him that he’s found a career that he likes as much as he does – he’s been quite the jack of all trades for a while. The FBI is a good place to be if you’re into lots of different things (it’s also a good place to be if you’re into one thing and one thing only. However, the one thing required by the FBI is to be flexible. It can be a challenge for agents and families – the need to be flexible. However, that is a separate post for a separate time.)

(As an aside, I received my very first email from someone asking more questions about the FBI about a month ago. I was PSYCHED! I will probably answer some of her questions in another post soon…they were all good ones.)

So obsessions: Operation Baby and Operation Find a Life. Operation Baby is another post, again for another time, although I will probably write it soon. I haven’t decided if it will be password-protected or not. I’ll explain a bit here: although there are many, many, many reasons we wanted to adopt, some of which are described here previously, chief among them are my medical situation, which is not exactly optimal for fetal development, and our family history of autism spectrum disorders. I feel incredibly blessed that my career with kids and families on the spectrum has really given me an eye-opening perspective on the disorder, but at the same time, it’s raised so many questions about whether we feel comfortable taking the risk that any child we create biologically will potentially have an autism spectrum disorder. I want to write something that will articulate some of my (our) thoughts on this subject, and although I want to write something that will elicit feedback from others in our situation, I also need to be sensitive to the fact that this is the internet, and things I write will be seen by lots of unknown people – and these are our family members. So after all of that, if you’d like the password, please let me know. I know some of you out there will ask (Jen * a million – if your name is Jen I probably know about your desire for the password, Liz…WOW…most of my readers are named Jen!) but just let me know if you’re interested. If I have no idea who you are, don’t be shy. I adore hearing from people.

Operation Find a Life…well, this, of course, goes hand-in-hand with Operation Baby. I’ve mentioned a few times that I am a doctoral student in public health. I had a number of reservations coming into the program, but I decided to cast those aside and pursue the degree whole-heartedly. I am a little sad to report that, after two full semesters in this program, I am increasingly uneasy about continuing my education here. I think it’s possible to stop now, get a master’s degree (I don’t really know about this one – I have to check on it), and pursue either a job or another career track. I do have another master’s degree – the one that I’ve been working under all of this time – but I’ve always felt in my heart that I want to pursue another clinical degree. Therefore, I am taking a few undergraduate-level (yes, undergrads. As in there are 19-year olds in my class. Just two words on that: pride.swallowing.) summer courses to test these waters. Last week I managed the doctoral-level classes with the undergrad class, and it was just such a bipolar experience. Now I just have one class of young ‘uns to manage. Should be fun, although I feel REEEEEEAALLLLLY old. Ahh. The things we do in pursuit of crazy career changes.

SO….the point of this was to say that a) I’m not dead, but I’m being eaten alive by sprightly young undergrads in a chemistry lab, b) I am officially capable of doing some statistical analyses and talking about various epidemics, c) DB is tired, but alive, too, and d) I will be blogging more soon. Topics to be covered this week include (I promise):

1) Observations of a high school rowing race: So you wanna cox? How to navigate a 60-foot torpedo down a river without killing ANYone;
2) Reflections on Autism Spectrum Disorders;
3) All that you wanted to know, part II, about being married to the FBI;
4) Still pondering whether to write this: Biblical marriage. I am the least qualified person in the world to write this, but I’ve been getting a lot of questions about it, so maybe I’ll just give it a shot. Leave me a note in the comments if you want to read what I have to say about it.

I think that’s it. Don’t worry, I won’t really have anything to write about the chem lab. I am not exactly sure what I’m supposed to be knowing about chemistry, but I hope that’s just because it’s the beginning of the semester!

Peace,

rach 🙂

*PS Duh, I realize that food is not heaven.  If you take offense at this please do not tell me about it.  Thanks!

Today was Recycling Day (as all non-holiday Mondays around here are).  Guess what went out with the recycling:  the cookie dough tub, and it wasn’t replaced at the grocery store today, either.

(Sigh.)

That’s really all I have to say about that.  I have yet to start writing the paper, but I have finally completed the background research.  It’s due in the morning.

It’s gonna be a long night.  Comments celebrating the newly flipped dietary leaf, or responding to my somewhat incomplete adoption statements below, are always welcome.  I realize that’s pathetic to beg for comments, but at the same time, it’s kind of pathetic to eat cookie dough for breakfast, announce that you’ve stopped, or continue to announce the impending beginning of a terrible paper (a paper, in fact, that no one cares about, including the pathetic person herself), so I’m okay with the comment begging.

Cheers!

P.S. Little wanted me to share his annoyance about this paper, too.  This is what he does to get my attention (I cut myself out of the picture – if you want the real picture, just ask…)

Yeah, you read that right. Writer’s block. Me, Ms. Verbal Diarrhea, has writer’s block.

I figured I’d write about writer’s block here to, you know, conquer it.

It’s because I have this paper due. It’s really actually this-paper-block. This paper instructs me to “create a theory-based intervention using a selected theory in its entirety and design a study that will allow [me] to determine the impact of [my] intervention”. See, the thing is, I just DID that, for a study in real life (IRL) to evaluate an intervention for onchocerciasis (river blindness) and other neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). And I *even* used a theory! (For this, I was quite proud.) HowEVer, this professor is not a fan of last-minute changes, and, in fact, even worse, this paper was due on Friday. Yeah, like 2 days ago. I got an extension on it because of the complete and total breakdown I had after DB left, which was much needed and a huge help, but now I am still having issues.

See, the thing is, the topic I chose for this paper is a topic I’ve had to write about for the last 2.5 months of this class, and I’ve hated every.single.minute. of it. In fact, feel free to peruse the effects of that decision (the paper-topic decision) on this blog here, here, here, and here. Yup. Every Thursday, I would sit down, stare at the computer, and wish I’d picked another topic. I felt my ass burn from the bite of this horrible topic choice alllllllllllll semester. And now, at the 14th hour, I am paying for it for the last time. You’d think I would just hurry up and swallow the pain already, huh?

So my chosen topic – preventing sexual perpetration among adolescent boys – *used* to be *very* interesting to me. My job pretty much focused on this topic, and I was fascinated by this topic, and I worked with said perpetrators of said sexual violence, etc, etc, etc, etc. And then I moved, and got a new job, and decided that topic wasn’t so interesting. However, I have *lots* of research on the topic, so when I’m forced to pick a topic for a long research paper and I’m feeling lazy, that seems to be my default. So basically this is punishment for being totally lazy.

(There are some other issues surrounding this topic that I cannot share with the broad readership of this blog without protecting this post. I’m quite certain that this post will be one of my least-traffic-happy posts, because it is COMPLETELY boring, but I don’t want to protect it, so suffice it to say this: I have a knack for picking up crazy people and having them rule my life and my decisions for years afterward. That’s enough about that. If you happen to be someone who knows specifically about my experiences with the crazy people that have to do with my wallowing about this paper topic, feel free to drop me an email; I’d love to connect with you. There are three of you, none of whom I think read this blog, but if you decide to read it and read this post, I think you live in the southeast, midwest, and northeast, but I could be wrong, cause people move.)

Anyway, so here I am, looking sadly at this paper, wishing I picked a better topic, a better theory, and designed a better intervention, or had the proverbial balls to speak up and talk to the professor about how much cooler my design for preventing NTDs was (CB, wouldn’t it be so awesome to flesh that out more, just in case?!? Sorry you don’t get more of a shoutout – it would be yet another argument to PW protect this post.)

OK, off to start my paper. In the meantime, I’ve managed to come up with the following deep, probably controversial thoughts (that will probably get picked up by Go0gle and will increase the traffic to this truly boring post):

1) I would like to drop out of this program and go to med school. Those of you who know me know this is only the 87th time I’ve considered this path. No, you’re never too old. Especially if you delay the decision each time it comes up by 2 or 3 years, so by the time you matriculate in said med school, you could have parented most of your preceptors and certainly most of your colleagues. (I’m not that old…yet.)

2) If I made it into med school, I’d be an internist or a family practice MD. I know a *lot* about medicine. It’d be nice to legitimize what I know.

3) I’d convert the doctorate to another masters.

4) Because it would be so. nice. not to have to take the written exam for my doctorate.

5) No, because it would be so. nice. to be Dr. Rachel and have my own radio show. Or TV show, and I could yell at people and tell them to “just lose weight already” or whatever that Dr. P*hil does. (I don’t want Google hits for that one.)

6) That was a joke. Actually, they were both jokes. ‘Cause although med school has no major written exam, it has enough other hoops to make up for it.

7) Domestic adoption scares the crap out of me.

8.) Because I simply do not know how we would be able to compete with other people who are trying to “market” (that is in quotes because it actually IS a quote from several of the websites) their parental prowess to potential birthmothers. I mean, I think we’re pretty cool (are we?) but we live in a city, in a small place, with one spare bedroom. Compare us to the young couple who is wealthy and lives in a huge suburban mansion with 5 bedrooms in a gated community with a private pool on a pond that is pre-stocked with fish. That is a great place to grow up for many kids, although that wasn’t either DB’s or my reality, and maybe more saliently, we will never have that *be* our reality as adults or as parents. It’s just not how we roll. We’re more urban, we like small spaces, we like urban green spaces, we like public transportation, we like smallish cars (although it’d be nice if they retained their oil), we like eating out, we like urban diversity from ALL sorts of meanings, we don’t fish, and (shhh) DB really hates swimming. And I really hate gated communities. Sorry if that offends anyone.

9) Although…I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to be unexpectedly pregnant and scared and trying to make decisions about what to do. I mentioned before that I pray for the birthmother of our future child every day. I seriously do. Because I really can’t begin to imagine what that’s like.

10) So…I put myself in her shoes. (This is how I avoided my paper.) I put myself in her shoes, and searched for families who put “any child” for the ethnicity, because that would be what I’d want if *I* were carrying a child. Even if that child was, oh, say, caucasian, I’d want the family to be open to any race, cause I’d want to know that they’d love my child for being my child and not try to make them into something they want them to be. (Projection much? I know.)

11) BUT…see, then I start thinking. I start thinking that there are very good reasons for some people to choose not to be open to any race, like having a terribly racist extended family, or planning to live overseas in countries where racism is worse than it is here.

12) BUT…that would not appear to be the case for 95% of the birthparents out there looking for babies. Or maybe it is. Who knows?!? That isn’t one of the questions, although I kinda think it should be: “How do you plan to raise your children with respect to diversity?” or “What are your thoughts on discipline?” or “What are your thoughts on education?” or…those types of things. But no. Instead, we have…

13) Some agencies, like, oh, say, this one, who want the PAPs to include why they “are unable to have children”. I find this repulsive. Because these families are ABLE TO HAVE CHILDREN, they are choosing to ADOPT to have children. I am one of the least anal-about-semantics people I know, and this irked me beyond belief. Why can’t people just CHOOSE to adopt? Why must it be assumed that biological children are everyone’s first choice?!? I mean, ok, a lot of people come into adoption after trying to conceive biologically; some come into adoption after trying (or succeeding at) assisted reproduction. But seriously, come ON. That means that the child who is eventually adopted using this agency will potentially see their adoption as their adoptive parents plan B, or second choice, or backup family expansion choice…that just doesn’t seem fair. I understand that many parents choose to start growing their families the old-fashioned way – I’m not denying that – and I’m not denying that many families who do adopt have experienced infertility. I just think that by the time families are arriving at a decision to adopt that they should have embraced the concept of adoption as the best option for their family’s expansion – not as their last option.

14) The homestudy should have addressed this issue; that’s part of the reason we have home studies. (At least, this is how I justify the homestudy. I won’t lie – a small part of me feels a little bit affronted that any teenager can have a child without a third party coming into evaluate her ability to parent, but if you choose not to procreate biologically, you must prove your worthiness to raise them.) I justify this in my head by saying that it’s to make sure that adoptive parents are prepared to raise an adopted child. Actually, I justify it in my head a lot of ways, but this is one of them.

15) I think I’ve killed the writer’s block now, don’t you think?

And on that note, I will stop. I think I’ve said enough controversial things today. Feel free to enlighten me or disagree!

Back to the paper…

FYI

This blog represents my personal views of a wide variety of topics. Aside from my connection through marriage, I am absolutely in no way affiliated with, informed by, or directed by the FBI, and, as such, the FBI bears no responsibility or affiliation with this blog.

Because I am not affiliated with the FBI, all information in this blog is second-hand information, and is therefore subject to inaccuracies. (Of course, I would never publish something that I believed to be a lie; however, there is always a chance that I will inadvertently misrepresent something.)

Finally, despite what you might expect given my husband's occupation, I am what most people would call a "(flaming, or insert other word) liberal". I gleefully mock the policies and practices of the USG that I consider worthy of mocking. In doing so, I am exercising a fundamental Constitutional freedom. Of course, you are always welcome to disagree (and exercise your Constitutional rights).

I welcome comments and emails.

Thanks!

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