Fall is Here!

I love fall!

I love it in that nostalgic, feeling-of-home sort of way. The minute the weather starts to turn and the temperature starts falling I immediately get this warm, fuzzy, emotional feeling. My mind turns to the fall menu that I revisit every year; pumpkin bread, apple crumble, squash and apple soup, oatmeal cookies, chicken and dumplings, chili and cornbread, hot chocolate, hot apple cider, pot roast, turkey and cranberries, mashed potatoes, to name a few. Some people gain their weight at Christmas, but for me, it is the bounty of the fall harvest that gets me every time.

The Husband makes fun of me because I cook on a seasonal rotation. As we were standing on our back porch the other day, enjoying the evening crispness of late summer, he says to me, "So, now that summer is almost over, tell me again what food will I get to see that I haven't seen in 9 months?" I smacked him in the arm, pretending to be annoyed, but I was smiling inside. Smiling that he knew me so well. Smiling at his good-natured teasing. And smiling because I really, really love fall.

I love the coolness and the crispness. I love the crunch of leaves on the ground and the rustle of dried leaves yet to loose themselves from the trees. I love the smells that linger in the air. Smells of apples and cinnamon. Smells from the smoke of the first lit fires of the season hanging in the air. I love the jeans and sweaters being pulled out of storage and the emergence of scarves around necks and hats on heads. I love the start of school with its sounds of laughing children that invade my kitchen (we live right behind Snowflake's elementary school). But, most of all I love the promise of weeks and weeks on end of holiday festivities.

In our circle of friends and family we are fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough, depending on how behind I am on shopping) to have 6 birthdays for immediate family members within 8 weeks. In between that we have Halloween, then after the run of birthdays we have Thanksgiving, Snowflake's birthday and then Christmas. Fall is a very, very busy season in our household. Despite the inherent stress of shopping, there is an overriding feeling of festivity that starts with the warm days of early September and doesn't end until the day after Christmas. It is one of the reasons I love the season SO much.

So, as I am basking in the cooler nights, enjoying the warmth of a bowl of chicken and dumplings and a steaming mug of hot apple cider and planning my sweet Starman's first birthday party, I find my writing to be one of the furthest things from my mind. And so, rather than let it suffer from neglect, I thought instead I would share my joy, my happiness and my contentedness in the season of friends and family. And just know, that in my little corner of the world, when the jingle bells start ringing in mid-October, this quirky lady not only doesn't object, but is most likely humming along.

Happy Fall Y'all!

The Impotent Anthropologist

I remember very vividly the day that I stood in my thesis advisor's office discussing my future. She was very clear that there were two things that I could not avoid if had any intention of continuing a career in anthropology. The first, and perhaps the most frustrating, was a PhD. I say frustrating, because I had every intention of getting one until life stepped in and "got in the way." Now, like Howard Wolowitz on the show The Big Bang Theory, I am relegated to a lifetime of "justs" and "onlys," as in, "I just have my masters," or "I only have a masters degree."

The other thing my thesis advisor noted was that I needed a foreign language. The fact that I was going to an expensive private school and paying for the majority of it myself, I figured I would save a few pennies and skip that little optional "requirement." I do wish I could go back and make that decision over again because while anthropologists with "just" a masters degree DO find jobs, those jobs are often serving minority or marginalized communities which frequently do not speak English. Five years later I now realize what my thesis advisor was telling me. If I do not wish to continue on with a PhD, the best way I can make myself marketable is to know a foreign language. Oh how I wish I had listened to that little piece of advice. By ignoring it I robbed myself of the most relevant skill I could posses to culminate my aspirations (although I am currently working on fixing the issue).

Shortly after graduation I remember, also very clearly, reading an article about the utilization of anthropologists in many fortune 500 companies. The article discussed anthropologists' various contributions to things like advertisement, product usage in the hands of real people, analysis of workplace and co-worker dynamics and product development (think the infamous "green button" on the copy machine, brought to you courtesy of an anthropologist). The article clearly delineated anthropology as one of the hottest new degrees with the promise of a bright shiny future, even outside the hallowed halls of academia. Then the recession hit, the economy retracted and fanciful degrees like philosophy and anthropology were suddenly forced to compete against people in the job market with much more streamlined, clear-cut degree tracts.

In hindsight I might have done a lot of things differently before arriving at that point in my advisor's cramped, windowless, first-floor office. For one, I might have flown back in time to the moment when I was sitting on my bed in that crappy apartment I shared with a co-worker, post-undergrad, looking at pamphlets on graduate schools and puzzling through what I wanted to do with my life. I could go back to that moment and take a different path. Sitting there in front of me were about four schools worth of information on various Anthropology choices, and one lone pamphlet for the University of Denver's Library and Informational sciences department, I could have picked up the "safe choice" and made it.

In hindsight, becoming a librarian would have been much more conducive to my current lifestyle with children. The schedule, job opportunities and family-friendly flexibility  might have made things easier but, I had such dreams and they demanded I follow them. In all honesty, I wouldn't have traded all my schooling in the social sciences for anything. I felt they gave me a greater understanding of myself and where I fit into the universe, and it was one of the main things that I enthusiastically embraced about the discipline.

Flash forward. While my mother always used to say, "do what you love and the money will come," I am not really convinced of that after living it for a decade. I followed my heart and it landed me in a sea of student loan debt with no promise of a future payoff . My lack of foresight has rendered me impotent in the current job market. I possess no clearly translatable skills, no language skills to fall back on. Instead I am left with broad based degree, whose very validity is currently being debated within the academic community, many of whom are postulating the demise of the discipline. So, I am left with the promise of a dream and no real way to fulfill it. And yet...I am not ready to abandon it. Somewhere out there is the perfect niche who could benefit from an anthropologists unique criticism, viewpoint and contribution.

Then today I saw a fellow anthropologist post this link with the recent conclusion that Anthropology is the #1 worst choice in majors for current undergrads. I could be angry, but I am not. Instead, I figure, if our subject is considered outside of the box, then that is where I need to be thinking. Am I sad I didn't become a librarian? Some days I am, when the bills are rolling in and there seems no end to it. But, in the end I am an anthropologist in my heart and that will never change.