Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Wilderness in Graduate School

When I entered my doctoral program, I began hearing stories from my colleagues further along in the program about seasons when they sincerely considered leaving the program.  Such experiences are usually linked with sensations of purposelessness, futility, and sheer hopelessness.  Being a third generation doctoral student (and second generation off the farm on my father's side), none of these stories surprised or genuinely worried me.  In fact, its as though I've been waiting for this season since my first year of my doctoral program.

Years One & Two

Plateaus in Wyoming.  Taken during our cross-country drive from Chicago, IL to El Cerrito, CA (Summer 2011)

My first two years were filled with lots of time-consuming work for all of my courses.  Reading and writing felt easy and came naturally in comparison with suffering through the process of gaining proper competence in Hebrew, re-learning Greek, learning to read French and German as well as suffering through the boredom that was Aramaic.  I spent hours and hours with lexicons, texts, and flashcards.  Sweet Hubby was often the only reason I remembered to eat many times.  However, through all of that I knew that I could accomplish my goal, finish my coursework, and I also had a sense of purpose.  So, while the terrain was rough, it wasn't impossible.

Year Three

Salt Flats of Utah. Taken during our cross-country drive from Chicago, IL to El Cerrito, CA (Summer 2011)

I was finished with coursework, and thus entered into odd liminal space known as Comprehensive Exams.  At my particular school these are not orderly, predetermined exams.  Students compose their own exams.  For my particular program, they consist of two general exams, which are closed-book, four hour exams covering various material about the New Testament & Old Testament as well as two special exams, which are research papers of 30-40 pages each.  I had to propose my questions for general exams and my topics for my special exams.  After my proposal passed, I could begin the exam process.

 However, I was tired of being a poor student.  
So, last year was filled with a pleasant ton of actual, employed work.  I worked as a Teaching Assistant for two courses for Introduction to Old Testament as well as an Introduction to Christian Worship course.  I taught Introduction to Hebrew in a local church on Saturday evenings.  I worked as the Area Assistant for my department, taking minutes at monthly meetings, and assisting with inner-departmental communication.  Hubby procured a full time job.  The money was flowing in, times were good, and I was gloriously busy!

Year Four

I'm currently in my fourth year of the doctoral program.  I successfully proposed my exams in May and "promptly" began studying, reading, and writing.  By "promptly," I mean that without my study group for the general, closed-book, timed exams literally forcing me to work, I doubt that I would have finished those exams by the end of October.  Now, I am avoiding and trying to stop avoiding researching and writing my research paper exams.  After writing an eighty-five page masters thesis, I feel as though I shouldn't be so terrified of writing as much as I need to; however, I am.  I realize that I know nothing of child-birth; however, writing for me is the mental equivalent of giving birth.  And it hurts.  And it is joyous.  And it feels as though it takes months before its time to start pushing.  

Storm Brewing in Nebraska. Taken during our cross-country drive from Chicago, IL to El Cerrito, CA (Summer 2011)

It has been about six months since I was last in the classroom.  It has been about six months since the work I'm doing in this doctoral program brought me any modicum of joy.  Over the past several months, the sun has hidden its face, the dry air has parched my mouth, and I have truly begun to lose hope of ever reaching the end of this leg of my journey - graduation.  I have struggled with feelings of abject hopeless and the sense that what I'm about to research and write on its utterly meaningless.  

How can I impact any type of change in this world?  

How can writing on the Bible help the town of Ferguson?  How can my work on minor characters in the Bible bring any type of healing to the victims of the Ebola and HIV/ AIDS epidemic?  Even if I get a job in a seminary, teaching pastors, could I really create change in the ways that the Bible is used to perpetuate domestic violence, hatred toward LGBTQA individuals, justify the rape culture of the US, and encourage a blind eye toward white privilege?  How could I ever actually help change our society?

In this season, I have despaired at my own tiny reach, and my own small voice.  I lost my way in the darkness of the storm.  I finally admitted to myself that, quite often, I am miserable in this pursuit of a Ph.D.  I would love to give up, surrender, walk away.  But, there is no way but forward if  I am to answer my calling.  

This is how I felt walking into my field's annual conference in San Diego, CA a week ago.  SBL/ AAR (Society of Biblical Literature/ American Academy of Religion) is like an annual pilgrimage for professors, students, and pastors from all over the nation.  We gather together, share papers on all sorts of amazingly-nerdy topics, network, enjoy fantastic receptions, and catch-up with old friends.  It is supposed to be enjoyable.  I arrived in San Diego feeling like an abject failure at all things.  

However, very slowly, over the course of my three days there, after attending several sessions and meeting some amazing scholars, I began to remember, "OH!  THIS is why I'm doing this!"  (For those of you who follow me on Instagram, I'm sure you saw many of those moments!)  As a doctoral student and aspiring scholar, professor, and mentor, I am becoming a member of various communities - academic communities, religious communities, etc.  In doing so, I join with others in pursuing socio-religious change.  My small voice joins other small (and not-so-small) voices to create enough noise that we cannot be ignored.  It is through the constant practice of holding one another accountable, doing the tedious work of scholarship, and remaining connected with the current socio-political and religious climate that these communities help their individual members make a difference in the wider world.  Listening to papers and panelists talk about Rape Culture, Labor Rights, Migration, Minority Reading Approaches to the Bible, and participating in those subsequent conversations renewed my conviction that I am called into this work of biblical scholarship.  It also rejuvenated my spirit.Since I am a remarkably outgoing-introvert, I'm still recovering from all of social interaction; lots of sleep has been happening since I got home late Tuesday night. Despite my exhaustion, a residual sense of hope remains.  

I might still be in the wilderness, but now I am pretty sure I have found north.  I know where I'm heading.  My mouth has tasted sweet water, and my bones have received the energy.  Now, my challenge is to hold tightly to this hope, and begin reading & writing these 30-40 page comprehensive exam papers!

What wildernesses have you experienced?  How did you get to the other side?  Or, are you still there?  Who made a difference for you?  I'd love to hear your stories!

Friday, November 28, 2014

BarkBox Unboxing and Review

One of my dearest friends ordered my sweet puppy a BarkBox!  And I am so excited to share this experience with you!

When I received notice of my gift, BarkBox gathered all kinds of questions about my pup; his size/ weight, allergies, age, etc.  And they catered his box to him!

It opens with lovely information cards about BarkBox's Bark Shop as well as the products inside.  I was determined to photograph all the goodies before puppy (aka Barley) dug into it.  He is quite obsessed with opening boxes, a trick he learned from receiving Christmas presents from our parents for several years now . . . ah the joys of not having children! ;-)

SO MANY GOODIES!!  I'll break them down by food and nonfood items.

BarkMade BarkBox Flexi Dog Bowl ($6) and PetProjekt Football Tretball ($9) are both great products for my Barley-boy.  He's getting a little older and needs more water on long walks, so this flexi-bowl will be great for that.  Its very light weight, bendable, and easy to throw in our long-walk doggy pack.  The Tretbal kept Barley engaged for a while tonight; he loves treat puzzles.  This flexible ball requires a bit of work to get treats to fall out.  We still have some work to do to figure out the treats that will work best with this toy.

I am thrilled that all of the treats in this box are grain-free!  BarkBox takes doggy allergies seriously, and I am so thankful.  (Grains turn Barley into a sad, itchy mess.)  Barley definitely nosed for the treats immediately upon getting into the box.  His first note of interest were the No Grainers BBQ Chicken Jerky Chews ($13).  These can be easily broken into a smaller pieces, which is helpful for portion control.  I can't wait for him to try the Yeti Corporation Yak Chew ($11).  This is made from Yak and Cow milk, and is supposed to be a very healthy alternative to rawhide.  I think he'll also love the Etta Says Duck Chew (3), which should promote healthy teeth and gums.

As a dog-owner who received this as a gift, I highly recommend BarkBox as gifts from dog-owners to their pets or from you to a dog-lover you know!  For more information, you can check out BarkBox's website, here (not a referral link).

How do you feel about presents for our furry-friends?  What is your pet's favorite treat?  When do you splurge on them?  I'd love to hear your stories!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

ScentBird UnBoxing & Review

I was so excited when I heard about ScentBird's Subscription Box deal!  I scored my first box for $7.50 (half price), and I am extremely happy. 

The product arrived in an attractive bubble-wrap envelope, which included my Sleek Perfume Case, my 8ml purse spray, instructions, subscription discount code, a card for entry into a contest, and an announcement for December's Perfume of the Month. 

quote card with perfume case

ScentBird operates on the idea of eliminating that "perfume graveyard" building up in so many of our cabinets and makeup drawers.  You know, that perfume you buy, you love it for a while, and it starts gathering dust, because you've become obsessed with a new scent.  ScentBird sends 30 days worth (accounting for 2 applications/day) of scent to you each month.  They offer a very insightful quiz that helps determine scents that will most fit what you will enjoy.  Also, you are not limited to your suggested scents.  Finally, I really like that the scents have suggestions for daily use, night out, date night, etc.

Purse Perfume Case with my 8ml Purse Spray in Viva la Juicy by Juicy Couture

S0, each month, ScentBird sends you a new purse spray based on what you have placed in your queue.  You can slip the new insert into your perfume case for easy use.

Instruction Card

So, I received $18 worth of product for $7.50 (normally $14.95), either way, this is a good value subscription box, in my opinion.  ScentBird does offer discounts for purchasing multiple months upfront.  (Plus, they offer applications for blogger subscriptions!)  If you are interested in more information, I'd love it if you'd use my referral link, here.  This is a relatively new Subscription Box company, which offers a great quality product, so keep your eyes on this one! 

Do you know of other fragrance subscription boxes?  What luxurious scent would you love to try on the cheap?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Latest Obsessions (Eyes)

While I am definitely crushing on Benefit's They're Real Beyond Mascara and Push-Up Liner, I've already written about those products here.  So, this post is going to be about my favorite eye palettes, non-Benefit eye liners, and how I tame my full brows.

I want to start with what might seem like the least exciting product, the clear mascara.  E.l.f. has a fantastic clear mascara that has a brush specifically designed for taming your eyebrows! With trends moving toward fuller brows, this inexpensive addition to my makeup kit packs quite a punch.  Its easy to use, the brush is fantastic, and this is perfect for my full brows.   It doesn't flake off in chunks like other clear mascaras have done to me in the past.  Definitely one to try out!

Of course great brows are meant to help frame your eyes, right?  Since they're the star of the show, I want to talk about the eyeshadow palettes that currently have my attention.  First, the  Coastal Scents Reveal 2 Palette.

Before now, I was never a huge fan of large color palettes.  I'd only experienced large eyeshadow palettes as cheap, lacking pigment, and dried out.  Coastal Scents has definitely made me reconsider my prejudice.  This product is soft to the touch, highly pigmented, and totally buildable.  These colors are great for my green/blue eyes and fair skin.  Plus, the palette offers a range of options that take my look from day to night quickly and easily!

Next, is my beloved The Glass Beach by Bare Minerals.  

I was first introduced to this palette in April, and I was thrilled when I finally scored this item with my special discount shopping day on Bare Minerals.  I know, I have green eyes that can sometimes look blue - blue eyes get drowned by blue eye shadow, right?  Not with the grey-blue color in this palette!  I love that Bare Minerals always includes suggestions for wearing their products!
The third and final palette that I've been flirting with this season is Julep's Sweep Eyeshadow Palette in Neutral paired with Julep's eyeshadow brush.

For me, two of the most important characteristics of eyeshadows are soft texture and high pigmentation.  Julep definitely delivers. Their neutrals offer a range of colors that compliment many skin tones.  I know they have created at least one additional palette, and that one looks great, too!  

Finally rounding of the look is a great eye-liner.  When I'm not using my favorite black eyeliner, I'll probably reach for one of these two.  The first is Bare Minerals Round the Clock 4pm in Eggplant.  The second is Physician's Formula eyeliner in brown.

Both of these eyeliners have their pluses and minuses.  I love the rich plum color of 4pm, but the tip wears down very quickly.  I feel like I've used more of this product in the sharpener than on my eyes!  Physician's Formula isn't quite as pigmented, but its softer and easier to apply.  Plus, you only sharpen the product; there's no pencil casing.  This one has a built in sharpener that works really well!

So, those are my bffs in my eye makeup collection!  What are your favs?