Sunday, September 29, 2013


Guess who just finished another chapter draft and sent it off to her committee.
Guess who is done with her 2 postdoctoral applications 2 days before they're due.
Guess who will be celebrating with a bottle of yummy wine, blue rock candy, and a viewing of the finale of Breaking Bad with good friends.

Yep, that's me!

I'm trying not to get too excited, since I have another research proposal due one month from today.

But for today, I'm celebrating the mini-victory.  I beat my own procrastination.  I beat my sense of unworthiness.  I finished a lovely chapter and 2 applications ON TIME, and that is an accomplishment worthy of celebration for sure!

Hip Hip Hooray for me!

Monday, September 23, 2013

STRESS Expressions

I sincerely HATE when my body has to remind me that I'm trying to do too much and I need to slow down.  Today, the day before I make a HUGE presentation, my body has decided to remind me that I need to back off the pressure cooker that I've created for myself.  The somatic expression of my stress is not a new thing, but that doesn't mean it is welcome either.

My stress pains start between my shoulders.  The muscles that wrap around my shoulder blades start to twitch and the tops of my shoulders turn into rocks of muscle-y flesh.  Next comes the jaw-clenching which eventually results in tension headaches. Then my entire spine from between my shoulders to where my head rests starts to feel like every muscle is contracted at once, and I can hardly turn my head.  The PAIN is very very much real, as is the stress that I'm trying much too hard to ignore right now.

I can't stay in bed.  I can't lay flat without shooting pains in my spine.  I can't turn my head.

This happened once before, in Germany, and I went to see a doctor that was only semi-helpful.  She might have been more helpful if she hadn't embarrassed the crap out of me BOTH times I went to see her.  I stayed in bed for at least 5 days before even seeking help that then didn't even help me.  I don't want to do that again.

But today, today I HAVE to make myself feel better.  I HAVE to be able to move around without crying.  I HAVE to be able to look and feel good tomorrow for my presentation.  So today I will try to stretch.  I will try to relax.  I will try not to vomit in the steam room of my gym.

Here's hoping the stress wanes long enough for me to pretend to be smart, pretty, and talented for an hour tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

#iPPP Brains

We've got brains.  Yes we do.  We've got brains.  How about you?  

Here we have Supergirl, standing on something she's not supposed to be on at the children's museum, while her princess sister stares up completely fascinated by the lights inside the brain sculpture.  

I love this picture for so many reasons.  First of all, it was taken at the birthday party of dear friends of ours.  I love that Annika found a way to do something she isn't supposed to at a museum specifically designed for children.  I love that Mayzie is somewhat oblivious to Annika and in her own little fascinated world.  I love that this was taken during the brief hours long interlude between each of my girls being feverish and sickly.  Most of all, I love this picture because of the giant brain sculpture that occupied my girls for at least 5 whole minutes of intrigued bliss.  

It serves as a great reminder for me that their brains are growing and shaping in ways that I can't even comprehend at this point.  My words and actions must be chosen carefully, lest I teach them unintentional lessons.  The pressure of parenthood can sometimes be a little overwhelming.  I remember the initial freak-out over the fact that I was now responsible for raising these tiny little beings, and it really hasn't waned as they get older.  Their opinions and knowledge are still so shaped by what we teach them, though I know that won't always be the case.  But for now, I'll keep their little brains in mind whenever we are interacting, and try to remember that my words and actions are a part of the way that they will be shaped over the long term.  

P.S. We LOVE to play Zombie around our house, and routinely "eat" each other's brains.  This could also be an explanation as to why the girls are so fascinated with brains.  Annika even asked me this morning how brains stay together and a fun anatomy discussion ensued.  Yeah, we're that kind of family. 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Childhood Sick Roles

The sick role is the culturally shaped performative aspect of being sick.  Basically, your culture teaches you how you are supposed to act when you are sick, and you do it in part because that is what you have learned and think you should behave.  Talcott Parson's concept of the sick role is rather widely accepted, though it has also been contested and redefined by things like chronic and mental illness more recently.  

**And now is when you remember that I really am an anthropology geek at heart.**

Don't worry, I'm going to relate this all back to my life now though...

This past Thursday, Mayzie all of a sudden came down with a fever.  I immediately put her on the couch and started to cater to her every desire.  I did so unconsciously, but then also geekily realized that I was teaching her the sick role by doing this.  Yes, I like to apply social science theory in my daily life.  So what?  **sarcasm**  The fever hit hard and she had to miss school on Friday.  

Here we are on said couch cuddling and probably watching yet another episode of Trotro.

Mayzie had to miss her cousin's birthday party Friday night, but thankfully was better by Saturday morning to attend a superhero birthday bash at the Children's Museum the next day.  We three girls had a great time at the birthday party, and then I left to go get some work done (as I do most weekends).  By the time I got home on Saturday evening, Annika was running a fever of 102.3.  

Today, Annika has fully adopted the sick role on our couch as you can note here in her fetal position.  Doesn't she look like such an angel?  

This is the thing about the sick role: I feel it my duty as their mother to teach it to them.  I want them to know how important it is to take the time to feel better when you are feeling sick.  I want them to behave in culturally appropriate ways as American girls.  Do I know and understand other cultures' sick roles?  As an anthropologist, I should certainly hope so.  But do I need to implement them in the life of my family?  Certainly not.  Not all professional knowledge needs to be applied in my personal life right?  

As a complete aside, I MUST note here two of my favorite German sick role observations.

1. If you are ill or getting ill or think that you might at some point in the near future become ill, you must ALWAYS cover your neck.  I cannot tell you how many Germans advised me to put on a scarf when I was feeling a tad bit under the weather.  I found it comical.  Do we do that too?  

2. Go immediately to the Apotheke (pharmacy) and get yourself some preventative medicine.  We don't really do this in the US, but I actually like this policy quite a bit.  Most Germans, upon feeling the first hint of sickness, will head to the Apotheke and get some vitamins and/or tonics to ward off sickness.  I've certainly adopted this policy of vitamins at the beginning of sickness, though our preventative medicine here in the US leaves MUCH to be desired.  

Let me return to childhood sick roles and my girls.  I was astounded at Mayzie's ability to completely recognize that her sick role was a way to be treated completely differently.  At first she would ask for things demurely, as if not sure that she would actually get them.  By the end of the day, she was demanding things without even a hint of please.  She hasn't quite mastered the art of remaining submissively demanding yet, but she could certainly learn from her sister who insists on giving me the Puss-in-Boots eyes all day long at every request.  

Fingers crossed that Annika is feeling better this morning.  I would hate to mar her perfect attendance record for a silly little virus that produces a fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, and nothing else.  Here's hoping I'll still get my 3 hours of work in today, regardless of if I have to tend to a sick girl. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

5 Things about Anthropologists' Kids

The children of Anthropologists are a little bit different than your average child.  Their parents study people for a living, so how could they not be?  Here is a short list of ways I think that anthropologists' children (including my own) are changed by having us as parents.  

1. Anthropologists' kids can explain cultural relativity to their Kindergarten class.
My daughter might not know the term cultural relativity, but she can sure explain the fact that different people in different places have different rules and that's ok.  Essentially, that is the crux of cultural relativity, without getting into too much nuance.  We'll save the nuance for when she's a little bit older.  

2. Anthropologists' kids know a ton of random trivial facts about cultures far and wide. 
Annika already knows that not everyone keeps dogs as pets and that some people like to eat bugs.  So far, most of her random knowledge has to do with food, but this will surely expand as she grows up and I trot out more random facts to make her gasp.  

3. Anthropologists' kids catch the wanderlust bug early.  
As noted earlier, Annika already wants to travel around the world.  Her list of places to visit grows by the week, and I can't wait to take her.  I want to explore the world with both my girls while they are still young enough to be in awe of it all and old enough to remember it for the rest of their lives.  Of course, I do still consider myself in this category, but I know that isn't for everyone.  Andy gets a little peeved whenever I talk about travel too much.  He tells me to just put it on the list, but the list is becoming a little unmanageable.  Let's hope my girls keep their wanderlust throughout their lives, just like their mama!   

4. Anthropologists' kids get more stamps in their passports.
Certainly related to #3 is the fact that anthropologists' kids do actually get to travel more than most other kids.  Depending on where their parents do their research, they may be making frequent trips to Indonesia, Japan, Germany, Brazil, or some other locale.  The fact that these kids already have passports, already makes them a little different than other kids too.  Annika is 5, and is about to get her 2nd passport.  Anthropologists' kids can be seasoned travelers who speak multiple languages, but it doesn't mean they are always good while under way.  They are still kids after all.  

5. Anthropologists' kids get observed more than other kids. 
Anthropologists are observers by training, so it only stands to reason that they would observe their own kids.  Some of us like to think of parenthood as the ultimate participant observation.  Nancy Scheper-Hughes, an UBER-famous anthropologist, actually published an article on her children's observations while they were in the field in Brazil with her.  She had them keep journals and she later wrote about what they experienced.  Now THAT is what you call observation.  When I was pregnant the first time, one of my professors made sure that I read all there was to read in the anthropological canon about infants' acquisition of culture and the culture of birth.  I'm pretty sure that non-anthropologists focus most of their pre-baby reading on What to Expect, without critiquing it for culturally biased opinions.  The observation started in the womb, and continues as they grow.  

We anthropologists have a very different conception of normal, as most of us understand that it is completely culturally and situationally relative.  I had a friend once chastise me for not breastfeeding another friend's 2 year old, because that's what they would do in Tanzania where she did her fieldwork.  That's an anthropologist for you!  She would probably laugh at that now, but at the time she was dead serious.  

We are an odd bunch we anthropologists.  We think about things a little differently, so how could our children know any different?  At least we help form them into interesting humans!

Here is our lovely family in Berlin (my fieldsite). 
*Photo Credit goes to our good friend Mike Terry.
Mike also does some amazing mixed media work that you can check out here

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Something I learned this week.

Yay Mama Kat!  I've been learning so much these past weeks, but I promise I'm going to try to narrow it down to just two things.

1. I am not ready for the academic job market.
Some people know they are ready to apply for professorship jobs while they are still writing up their dissertations.  Looking through the calls for applications that are floating around the internet for cultural/medical anthropologists, I have come to the realization that I am absolutely NOT ready for the academic job market.  I have zero publications to my name.  My dissertation is only half done.  I only have a vague idea what kind of classes I would teach, and the idea of competing with some of my colleagues (that I know personally) makes me queasy.

Yes, I have submitted one article for consideration.  Yes, I do actually have a little teaching experience, including designing my own course.  Yes, I do have a successful record of getting my research projects funded.  But do all those things add up to a competitive candidate for a professorship?  I don't think so.

The result is that now I am going to concentrate on only applying for postdoctoral positions and independent research funding.  I'm working on shaping a research proposal that would keep us here ideally for another 5 years, and I get to present it to the potential field site on the 24th.  I'm really excited about the prospect of conducting more independent research, even though the process of getting it all set up is a little daunting.  I've also narrowed down the postdoc positions that I'm applying for to just a handful that I actually want.  I'm hoping this is a good strategy, but only time will tell.

See, we really ARE hanging in the balance again right now!

2. I have totally bitten off more than I can chew.

In addition to all of the things I'm working on right now, as listed above, I've also started doing some freelance work part-time.  First up, I've been working on some qualitative data coding.  It is the same kind of stuff that I'm working on for my dissertation, so it isn't difficult.  It is paid by the hour, quite nicely I might add, and it is a contained project with attainable goals.  Secondly, I've taken on a freelance gig doing some simple SEO research for a very small company located here in Evansville.  It is completely unrelated to anything else in my life, other than blogging which I'm only mildly good at thanks to my guru Marianne, and I like it that way.

The issue: I cannot actually do ALL of these things and still sleep.  My working days are limited to Monday-Wednesday-Friday 8-10:45am, Tuesday 8-2:30, all weekdays 5-9pm, and weekends when we don't have other plans.  Does that sound like enough time to you?  Did you notice that there is very little time to actually spend with my husband in there?  I've TOTALLY bitten off more than I can chew.  Here's hoping that Alanis Morissette is right in recommending biting off more than I can chew. (Apologies if that reference is too old for you.)

I mostly thrive when I have too much to do.  I really do.  When my time is precious is when I get the most done.  Just thinking about it makes me a little exhausted, but this too shall pass.  There will come a time when I will be free to do what I want, and I'm sure that I'll mostly spend it knitting and watching bad television.  Until that time comes, I'll be busy pounding away on my laptop if you need me.

What did you learn this week?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

#iPPP Family Days

There is nothing more important to me than family.  We are soo lucky to be surrounded by extended family here, and the perks are truly endless.  This past Saturday the amazing Aunt Amy gave us her free tickets to see Sesame Street Live.  When Andy first told me about the adventure, I asked, "Oo, so your Aunt Amy wants to take the girls?"  No such luck, but free is free either way.  

Here we are before the show. 

Mayzie giving me her best CHEESE.

Annika trying to look cheesy & scary, and succeeding at both. 

The show was really fun, and I loved the questions Annika kept posing me.  She would lean over and ask, "Mama, are they real?"  
I replied, "Well, what do you think?" 
Annika said, "Yeah, I think they're real.  What do you think?"  
I deferred, "I think you're right."  
Someday I will instill a skeptic in that girl, but now is not the time to do so about fluffy characters.  Let's wait at least a couple of years until after we take them to Disney World the first time. 

The show introduced a new friend from India, and Annika became fascinated.  I could see the wheels turning when she turned to me and asked, "Mama, can we go to India?"  Yes my dear, yes we can.  It is on the list of places I'd like to see before I leave this planet, and we will make that happen.  I adore the little adventurer that she already is and how large her world is.  I love that she dreams BIG and wants to travel.  I love that her perspective is already going toward the global, and like to think that I have something to do with that.  Perhaps all my silly anthropological quips about customs in other cultures are actually starting to sink into her evermore connecting brain.  Time will tell. 

We ate an early dinner, so we had time to take the girls outside to run around and get some fresh air before the mosquitoes descended.  The girls scared a Mama Duck and her 3 ducklings into hiding in the brush and loved every second of their waddling.    

Here is Annika giving her best DUH face and pointing at the ducks. 
Can you see them? 

The evening light was drizzling through the clouds as the sun sank ever lower, and I tried to catch the moment as much as possible with my phone. 

The girls found a flock of Canadian geese to chase into the pond. 

It was a beautiful day filled with family love.  Taking these days off could make me feel guilty for not working on my dissertation or multiple proposals that I have going at the moment.  But I don't let myself feel guilty.  I know that I will never regret spending too much time with my kids as they grow so quickly.  These fleeting moments make me appreciate the time I do get to spend with them, and make me so much more productive when I'm away pounding on my laptop like I do.  I love family days.  

P.S. For the best explanation of why time seems to go faster as we get older, check out this PhD Comic from a few weeks ago.  


Monday, September 9, 2013

One Year Ago

One year ago, we were still living in Berlin.  
Andy had JUST left to go back home again in Indiana already working at the job he still has.  
Our friend Ruth was in Berlin for the first time, working as our nanny for our last month there. 
The girls were growing bigger all the time, and were happily taking Ruth on a tour of all the local playgrounds. 
I was frantically running around Berlin gathering data for my dissertation and being continually drawn apart by my interviews and my want to be home with my girls.  
I was having a really hard time being away from Andy. 
I was in love with Berlin and was having a hard time even thinking about leaving.
I cried, a whole lot, about leaving and out of frustration with things at home that were still in chaos. 
It was a tumultuous time, see this post. 

I can't believe how little these girls look!!

I am stronger for having gone through it. 
Upon reflection, it was one of the most difficult, challenging, and rewarding parts of our Berlin adventure.  
I MISS RUTH, who now lives in Colorado.  
I miss our friends in Berlin.  
Funny enough, our old nanny Tali comes home this week after having spent a year as an au pair for our friends in Berlin.  
Life is complicated and fun and stressful and amazing all rolled into one big ball of whatever you want it to be.  
I'm a happier me for having had these experiences.  

One year from now?  Who knows where we'll be.  Isn't that intriguing and fun and stress-inducing all at once?  As always, I'm trying to enjoy the ride and laugh along the way. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

3 BIG Events Yesterday

Yesterday was a BIG day in the Melch house for 3 reasons.  Here they are in chronological order.

1. They FINALLY announced who is going to play Christian Grey.  Charlie Hunnam has been in my Top 5 ever since I watched the 1st episode of Sons of Anarchy.  Hey plays a great tortured gorgeous bad boy already, so Grey won't be too much of a stretch, though he will be going noticeably up the class scale for his new drama family.  I'm drooling already, and I haven't even read the 3rd book.  Please note: Academics can read smut too!

2. Our girls got to experience their first power outage.  We were reading stories on our bed when all of a sudden we heard a loud boom.  The power went out and the girls immediately started asking questions.  I love that they got curious instead of scared!  I checked the fuse box just to make sure and we wandered outside to check to see if our neighbors were also without power.  They were.  Thankfully there was still enough light outside to finish reading our books before bedtime, so we did.
Side note: They are currently outside banging around, fixing the power lines, so I'll shortly have to relocate in order to get ANY work done today, the only day that my girls are gone all day.

3. We finished reading the stories and Annika had already climbed into her bed.  I said, "Come on Mayzie," and then it happened.  Mayzie jumped down from our bed and bonked her mouth right on the corner of the nightstand.  She did that silent scream and I got a bad feeling.  I snatched her up and held her tight to my chest before I laid her down on the bed to inspect the wound.  Of course there was a ton of blood, so Annika started freaking out.  I told Annika to calm down and get me a rag.  She brought me a piece of toilet paper, so I went to grab a washcloth.  When I wiped the blood away, I saw that Mayzie had bitten through her lip and that our perfect record of never having been to the Emergency Department was in the toilet.  I called my MIL who came to pick up Annika at the ED.  She's really awesome like that.  We didn't even get a chance to sit in the waiting room before they took us back.  The doctor came in, pronounced possible cosmetic stitches necessary, and I said, "let's do this."  Two stitches and an hour and half later, we were out the door.  Mayzie didn't even shed one tear; she's so brave.

Such a big Labor Day for us and I didn't even mention the fair we went to in the morning and the swimming in the afternoon.  Did I mention that Andy was out of town at a Concert?  I was worried (excited?) that he might not leave me home alone with the girls for another weekend, but he assured me that he has the utmost confidence in my mothering skills.  DARN!

How was your Labor Day?  Did you do anything fun and relaxing?  Are you drooling over Charlie Hunnam too?


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