Category Archives: The Indiana Jones Project

So long, farewell

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At 10:00 this morning I completed my time at ECU.

The past two years have gone by a lot faster than I’d expected. It doesn’t seem like I went there quite that long. It’s a little amazing to me that it seems like I just got started and it’s already over. It’s also a little surreal.

I feel like I should be saying it’s bittersweet but…it’s not. I’m thrilled to be done there. Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with ECU as a school. They just don’t offer anthropology. I knew my time there was limited to two years, max, so I never got attached. I will be forever grateful to them for giving me a chance, even after I blew the math portion of my ACTs. Plus, I’m sure, every semester when I see my OU bill I will have a pang when I remember ECU. But OU has been my goal all along, so I am happy that I’ll be there full-time starting in the fall.

I knew time went by quickly in relation to parenting, but no one ever told me my college career would zoom by so fast.

On to Phase Two, then.

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You can’t always get what you want

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Except sometimes you do.

Back in January, when I was considering whether or not to undertake field school this summer, one of my main concerns was the amount of time lost with the kids. All three are in school full-time now, which means my time with them is limited to evenings, Monday through Friday, and the weekends (when they are not at their grandfather’s, or out with friends, or I am not out doing something I didn’t have time to do during the week). Therefore, summers are very important to me because we get to spend a lot more time together. It’s especially important in light of the fact that we only have six more summers left until Madalyn goes away to college. It may sound like a lot, to the uninitiated, but fellow parents will understand how quickly that amount of time will pass. We’re talking blink of an eye, here.

Anyway, so I gave a lot of thought to whether I was ready to sacrifice nearly my entire summer with my kids in order to do this. (There was also the secondary question of whether I was willing, yet, to give up our long summer California trip.) The solution I came up with was a compromise, of sorts: I decided I would go to field school and then try to get all my fall classes online. This will enable me to be at home every day for the rest of the year, after I get back. I will still have a lot of work to do, as I will be taking enough classes to maintain full-time status. But it’s work that can be done on my own schedule, and that can be put on hold, temporarily, while I attend a school function, or go to lunch with one of my kids, and what have you. It also has the added bonus of freeing me up to do a little of the traveling I would normally have done over the summer, because I can just take my schoolwork along with me and work from the road. I’m hoping to take a run out to California by myself later in the fall to do some of the things I won’t have time for on our abbreviated summer trip. (We will be going to California, it will just be for two weeks instead of six or seven.)

I did, however, run into one snarl. I am just about done with gen ed and so I’m supposed to begin focusing on all the prescribed anth classes I need for my degree. The way OU recommends you do it is you get through most of the required anth courses right away, then spend the majority of your junior year and all of your senior year doing electives. They give you a “suggested” schedule of exactly which classes to do, by semester, start to finish. Unfortunately, only one class I’m recommended to take in the fall is available online.

This obviously was not going to work for me. If I were a 19- or 20-year-old kid with nothing else to do besides go to school, it would be different. Alas, I am neither 19, nor 20, and I have a LOT of things to do besides just going to school. It’s not that school isn’t a priority. It is. It’s just, my kids are a higher priority. That’s how it works when you do the marriage-and-kids thing when you’re young and then go after the education when you’re old. When I talked to an academic advisor, he advised I not pursue my plan, and, instead, take some of the anth courses which are suggested for sophomore year. I was very nearly swayed, until I remembered: I’m in charge, here. I’m a grownup, I make my own decisions, and this is the way things are going to be because it’s what is best for my family. Traditional students can do things by the book. Non-traditional students have to get creative sometimes.

And, so, this morning, I finished enrolling for my fall classes. They are all online, and they are all electives, save one. In the spring of 2014 I will get back on track. If it’s an option I may even do some intersession classes over Christmas, or over the summer, to catch up. But, mostly, I’m just stoked that my plan worked out. It’s almost like the best of both worlds. I get to go to school AND be available for my kids, for everything, like I used to be before I went back to school. I’ve always been really big on being the boss of my own schedule. I’m also going to be able to pick up and travel at one of my favorite times of year (fall). It may not be standard protocol that I’m following, but, you know what? Life’s a journey, not a destination. That applies to school, too. My journey may not be following the map, but I’m going to wind up in the place I’m meant to be, eventually. And I’m going to have a good time on the way.

Plus, you’ve got to admit, being able to “go to school” without getting out of bed or dressed is going to be pretty sweet.

That whistling you hear is my education going by

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Please excuse this brief break in which I become one of those people whose intelligence you question, based on her seeming inability to grasp the concept of the unrelenting and unchanging passage of time.

DAMN, I can’t believe the semester is almost over!

My geology lab instructor pointed out today that we only have two more regular class sessions left, and then our field trip to the Natural History Museum, and we are done. (We meet once a week, and we finish a week before regular classes do.) In my other classes, we have just four weeks left before finals. Since I only have school two days a week, that means I only have to go to school eight more times until I’m done – done for the summer, at OU, and done forever at my other school. Whoa. It seems like we just got started and I’ve barely gotten into the swing of things, and yet I’m down to counting our remaining sessions on my fingers.

I don’t really know why it surprises me. This is my fourth semester of school and, with the possible exception of the first one, they have all been the same. I find myself having that vague, “just started” feeling a good 2/3 of the way into the semester and then I look up and, SURPRISE! FINALS!

And don’t get me started on the fact that I am mere weeks away from being totally and completely done at school #1. As of May 9th, the date of my last final there, I will no longer be a student at that school, the very first college I went to, the one that got me started on the road to fulfilling my dream. I guess at this point I’m supposed to say something about it being bittersweet but, to be honest…I’m not particularly attached to the school. I never had any intention of graduating from there; it was merely a convenient way to get most of my general ed requirements. I can honestly say I’m not sorry to be moving on. It’s just strange to consider. When I enrolled there, the two years I knew I’d attend there seemed like such a long time. Instead, they zipped by in a flash. Maybe not for my long-suffering friends who have listened to “School this, school that” come out of my mouth in a steady stream since fall of 2011, but, for me, it’s been a whirlwind.

I have to say, also, that, of all four semesters, this is the one I’m most looking forward to ending. It has been the busiest of all of them, both personally and academically. I’m getting a little burned out on all the general ed stuff and taking classes I hate, that have nothing to do with my major, simply because they’re required. This geology class has about torpedoed me. I will never be so happy and relieved as the day I mark down the last answer on the geo final, hand my paper in, and wash my hands of it. And, of course, there’s also field school. I’m really looking forward to ditching the classroom and learning by doing.

Wilderness Girl

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I am truly and sincerely excited about and looking forward to field school…and I don’t know why.

I am the sort of person who, before now, considered “camping” as staying in a hotel that had less than 3 stars. When my family had reunions at a campground, we rented a cabin with electricity and indoor plumbing. The last time I had done primitive camping was when I was in elementary school and, even then, that was just in tents, with real restrooms nearby. I hear people talking about being excited to go tent-camping with their families and I think it sounds more like torture to me. I don’t mean that judgmentally; that’s just my perspective. It doesn’t sound at all enjoyable, and I’m pretty sure I’d be bored silly within the first 24 hours. I don’t “do” nature. I like sitting in a climate-controlled house and looking at nature through the window.

So why is it that I’ve now committed myself to spending a month in a tent, with primitive showers and toilets, for an entire month? And, the bigger question is, how is it that I’m actually eager to do it? Who am I? It’s like I don’t know myself anymore.

The thing is, I am looking forward to it – all of it. I’m looking forward to getting my gear. Now, there have been times in the past when I’ve been excited about something and it turned out that mainly I was just excited about the preparation for it, about getting new stuff. That’s not what’s going on this time. In fact, I’m not necessarily anticipating buying all the things I’ll need. I’m thinking about it, but only in terms of making a list so I don’t forget anything. I’m really not excessively psyched to actually buy it; it’s more like something I have to get done in order to leave. I guess I’d have to say I’m looking forward to being ready to go more than the actual shopping experience. It’s not just that, though. I am finding the idea of being out there in the mountains quite appealing. Again, why? I have never wanted to spend excess amounts of time outside, and I’ve always been someone for whom the idea of being in remote locations was a bit frightening. I like to be in cities, where there are lots of people and lots of things going on. Heck, I didn’t even like the last house we lived in because it was too far from downtown, for my taste (maybe 3/4 of a mile) and we didn’t have many neighbors. Yet here I am in fond anticipation of spending 30 days doing the exact opposite of everything I’ve ever sworn I preferred.

All that is not to mention the fact that I’ll be separated from my kids for ten days at a time (something I NEVER would have considered, even two years ago), for at least ten of the days I’ll be hiking 2-3 miles a day at 8000 feet elevation (I? Hike? Absurd!)…and then there’s the fact that Miss Spoiled-and-Finicky here will be entirely removed from any and all comfort foods and will be relying on the camp food provided by our director to fill me up. Prior to this, the idea of having to eat to live, rather than live to eat, would’ve been abhorrent. Now, I don’t care. Don’t like the food? Good, that means I won’t be tempted to overindulge. Between that and the hiking, maybe it’ll turn out to be a good diet plan. No soda? Great. Excellent time to detox from the stuff.

I keep thinking that, surely, I am in denial and am just convincing myself I am looking forward to this. Or maybe it still seems so far away as to give it an air of unreality – something I’m talking about but won’t actually end up doing. The thing is…I don’t feel like it’s either of those. I do a lot of self-reflection and self-examination, and I honestly feel that I am sincerely thrilled, to my very core, at the prospect of this field school. In fact, there are some days I wish I could speed up time and have it arrive sooner. I don’t normally have that feeling with things I’m dreading. It just amazes me that there is anything that could cause such a 180-degree turnaround in my attitude. What it all boils down to is, this is my future career. It’s the only (academic) thing I’ve felt passionate about, ever. Archaeology is what has the power to make me step completely outside my comfort zone and be happy about it. I never thought I could be someone who could “rough it” for a week, let alone a month. Heck, it’s already making me do things I didn’t think I could do, like the Couch-t0-5k program. I’m running, for crying out loud. I, the person who always swore I’d rather become the 500-lb.-lady than ever take up running. The person who has never kept up an exercise regimen (when doing it on her own) for more than a week or two is now on week four of a program and has no real temptation to quit. Why? Because it’s for field school that I’m doing it. Archaeology is literally the only thing on Earth that has gotten me moving at a pace faster than a brisk walk. And you know all that stuff I said about tent camping? Yeah, I still feel the same way about it as a recreational pastime. You couldn’t pay me enough to take my family out and bugger aimlessly around the woods for days. I have no interest in it. But when you dangle the prospect of a dig over my head, suddenly it’s no big deal. Par for the course. I want to dig and find artifacts and learn to survey, and if it takes me sleeping in a tent and having no Internet access for a month, then that’s just what I’ll do, and I’ll be glad to do it.

And, really, if you have to make your home in the wilderness for 30 days, there can't be too many spots better than this.

And, really, if you have to make your home in the wilderness for 30 days, there can’t be too many spots better than this.

I. am. Ironwoman.*

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(*On  a very, very small scale.)

So, as you may or may not know, I need to get into good enough shape to be able hike 2-3 miles a day, for ten days, at 8000 feet elevation, and I need to do it by the end of May. I decided the solution to this problem was to begin a Couch-to-5k program. I have never had an interest in running; I think it’s bad for your knees and other joints and I think there are other ways to keep yourself in shape. However, I am looking for a set program that will raise my endurance level in a relatively short amount of time, and which also requires no extra equipment and fits into my schedule. It seemed like this program would yield the results I was looking for.

The program involves a walk/run routine. On Day 1 you do a 5-minute warmup walk, followed by alternating running for 60 seconds and walking for 90 seconds, for a total of thirty minutes. I knew, going in, that I was way out of shape and that I likely wouldn’t be able to finish the Day 1 program right away. I made some deals with myself before I even started. Firstly, I told myself I would do as much as I could and then stop, and not beat myself up about it.  Then I would just keep repeating Day 1 until I was able to finish it all – even if it took weeks. Secondly, I decided that my goal each week would be merely to show some improvement – even if it was only running 15 seconds of a leg I hadn’t reached before. As long as I added just a little more each week, I decided, I’d consider it a victory and be pleased with myself.

I’m now happy to report that the program and the mindset are working well for me. On the very first day, I only ran on three legs and didn’t finish any of them. I pulled up 5-10 seconds short on all three. This morning? I ran six legs – ALL of six legs. And when I looked at the app after I’d gotten back to the car, I realized – there are only eight running legs on Day 1! Having never sat and done the math, I had it in my head that there would be ten or twelve or something. But I am almost able to finish it!

I am amazed and pretty proud of myself. Yes, I know people who run miles and miles just about every day. Compared to that, this is peanuts. Maybe less than peanuts. Maybe only peanut shells. But I have, number one, stuck with the program for several weeks now; number two, continued to improve my endurance every single week; and, number three, gone from being a complete couch potato to now almost enjoying exercising. I say “almost” because I actually still hate it while I’m doing it, and have to keep up a constant litany of pep talk to prevent myself from wussing out. But as soon as I am done, I quickly forget how much it sucked and kind of start looking forward to doing it again. And, just as importantly, I feel proud of myself when I’m done. Today I may have actually fist pumped when I finished that sixth leg (I had started the routine telling myself I’d just do five). I am accomplishing something, and I’m seeing positive results from it. It’s pretty awesome. I never thought I could get into good shape. Now I know I can.

A Real, Live Sooner

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It is done. I AM AN OU STUDENT. I have a schedule and a fancy binder.

Following my advisement today, I enrolled in two classes. What I got…well, it’s not optimal. I had wanted two online classes, to go with the two on-campus classes I’m enrolled in at my current school. Since Robert is still working on getting back home more, I didn’t feel like having to drive to OU numerous times a week was a wise idea.

Well, I was able to get one online class, but the other that I needed is full. I don’t really have the option of not taking this class, as it’s a prerequisite for, oh, all the other Anthropology classes. So, for now, I am enrolled in an on-campus class, M-W-F. While I’m there on Mondays I will also attend the lab for my online Geology course.

At the suggestion of my advisor, I did contact the instructor of the online class to see if he’d make an exception and let me in. I don’t know if that’s at all within the realm of possibility. There may be a waiting list and I have no grounds to assume he’ll allow this. I really hope he does, though, because, if so, I will only have to drive to OU once a week…and my two local classes are going to be easy, so I’ll have plenty of time to maintain my sparkling 4.0. Or just pass. I’m good with just passing.

In either event, I am on my way.