Monday, May 28, 2012

1 year

A year ago today we got all dressed up

Spent time with our dearest friends and family

Walked into a church

Said our vows

Were pronounced husband and wife

Took some pictures

Celebrated with friends and family

And left for our amazing honeymoon

1 year went by so quickly and I have never felt so blessed, loved, or happy. Marriage isn't always easy, but it is worth it. So to Matt, my best friend and who always loves me, I love you . Thank you for the past year and here's to many more to come!
All pictures by Kasey Lynn Photography

Friday, May 25, 2012

Summer Goals- Please Help!

For this summer, I have some goals for myself. If I don't write about them here, then I won't get them done. I'll just sit down in front of the laptop or the TV and stay there for hours until Matt gets home and I wonder where the heck the day went. So that's where you come in-- you get to hold me accountable!
  • Read. I have a lot of reading to do, both academic and for fun. As a concrete goal, I want to read 2 chapters a day. 
  • Grill. We got a grill for Christmas and I think we've used it twice. Both times were delicious, it's just not something I think about. So I want to grill every other week. Any suggestions for me? Meat, veggies, fruit, fish ideas?
  • Work out. I did pretty well about working out during the school year, but I did mainly cardio. I would love to work in more weight-training in my routine, so maybe do that 2-3 times/week.
  • Watch less TV. That goes with some of the above. It's not good for me, but it will be hard to do that when it gets really hot outside. Guess that's where the reading comes in.
  • Find new lunch options. I have a feeling both Matt & I will get sick of meat & cheese/PB&J sandwiches soon, so I'm looking for new healthy ideas that Matt will be happy to eat.
  • Clean. I hate that I have to include this on the list, but it's true. I need to get better about following a cleaning routine, including weekly vacuuming, dusting, and cleaning the counters and bathroom. 
So any ideas of how to do these things and to hold myself accountable to these goals? Any lunch or grilling ideas you would like to share?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Five Things on Friday

This is an extra great Friday. Why? Well, read on to find out!

1) School is officially done for the semester. Woohoo! Only had to drive to campus once this week, so that's also a huge blessing!

2) Matt & I will be going with some grad school friends to a local minor league baseball game. Should be fun and my ticket is free, so I'll take it!

3) A dear friend's wedding is on Sunday and I absolutely cannot wait to go celebrate with her. I have known Erin since I was 4 or 5 and I am so happy for her and her future husband! Basically, it will be a blast!

4) I really enjoyed recapping my first year graduate school experiences & thoughts. Catch up on that here and here. That is, if you want a long read. I type a lot apparently.

5) Also, please go here. It explains 39 different ways men use Pinterest, and I think it will make you smile. 

And extra bonus, 6) We will be going here shortly and I am getting so excited... cannot wait to go hiking, sleep in, eat delicious food, enjoy the gorgeous views, and just relax with my husband with no distractions!


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why Grad School?

In undergrad I never really knew what I was going to do once graduation came. With the bachelor degree I earned, there really wasn't a lot I could do with it (that I wanted to do) so grad school was the obvious choice. I took some career aptitude tests to help guide me in that decision and their answer was always clear- PROFESSOR. I would always reject that answer and instead insist on other things. Those other paths shifted from month-to-month it seems, but one thing I knew- I would be anything but being a professor. 

Even when I started my program I was set against going into academia. This avoidance is due to a lot of things, such as desiring a more 'helping' oriented profession, the ability to have a family, and the lack of desire for the stress of a tenure-track position. An important obstacle was the anti-Christian message I received from several professors and I think the public perceives from academics in general. The list could go on. However, this semester things started to change. I still want a family of course and I don't want my job to be insanely stressful-- who does? But I learned I had a lot of misconceptions about being a professor, I learned a lot about myself, and I learned a lot about God's heart. 

I realized that it is possible to have a family and be a professor, too. Oftentimes professors have a lot of freedom in their schedules, so that can be made to fit with having kids, especially with the cooperation of my husband. 

I know how to handle stress for the most part by avoiding it. My first year in grad school wasn't that stressful. I realize I'm just starting and things will progress more that way, but I learned that I do work ahead of deadlines and I do enjoy research, two factors that will really benefit me in the field. I am so not one to put off doing work until the last minute-- putting off work stresses me out so why do that to myself? I have been known to make weekly/monthly schedules of I'm going to accomplish all I have to do by setting deadlines for myself and saying OK, on this day you will do X, Y, and Z. I do know that If I chose the tenure track, it will be a lot of hours, more than 40/week, but if that's where God wants me to be, then that's where He'll put me. 

Most importantly, though, I learned to accept where God has put me and the gifts He has given me. As I previously mentioned, I wanted a more helping oriented position, one that is clearly and directly helping people. Academia and associated fields seem less so. However, what I learned is that God did not give me a huge amount of patience, thus I really shouldn't be a teacher for anyone younger than 18. God did give me an analytical mind, He gave me an interest in reading, in learning, in why people do the crazy things they do. I could go on with this, but the point is that despite my kicking and screaming along the way, God has given me so many pokes and prods along the way I would have to blind not to see the fact that this is where I am supposed to be. 

My program has offered me amazing opportunities already and it is only my first year. I'm happy. I'm enjoying what I'm learning, being able to see the 'real' side of what being a professor is all about and what doing research really means. 

Does this mean I will without a doubt be a professor when I graduate in 3-4 years? I don't know that. It just means I'm way more open to it then I was 6 months ago. I probably will, but a lot of it comes down to finding a job where Matt can get a job, that I feel the position is a good fit for my personality and my family's needs, and all of that fun stuff.

Basically, the answer to what I want to do with my Ph.D. comes down to whatever will allow me to use my gifts to the best of my ability in order to fully glorify God. I should not try to be something I'm not by trying to do something I'm not called to. I very much fit into the world of academia, and that is not a bad thing. It doesn't have to be a profession full of atheists/agnostics who believe Christians don't think or are judgmental. I can be a part of changing that perception. My field will allow me to help uncover the reasons why people commit crimes, hopefully to inform policy efforts along the way. Of course this latter benefit pales in comparison to the former.

Regardless, I'm excited. If I've learned this much about grad school, myself, and God in the first year, I can't imagine where I'll be in 3-4 years from now. It may be some place different, but right now I'm very thankful.

PS: If you read this far, you're a champ. Here's your reward

PPS: Sorry, couldn't resist. If you don't get it, go here

Monday, May 14, 2012

Grad School Experiences- Year 1

I will be having two separate grad school-related posts due to my...ehh... lack of brevity. This one is about grad school specific related things, like classes and my daily schedule. The following one will answer the question, "So why are you doing this?"

By the time this post goes live, I will be done with my first year of my Ph.D. program. Yay! One down, 3-4 more to go! I'm not sure if any of you are considering grad school or interested in my experiences, but I wanted to share them anyway. This first year has been a HUGE learning experience for me, so I wanted to take time to write down some of what I've learned.

First, a little background. I am a full time grad student, working on my Ph.D. in Criminology at a local university. I also work as a Teaching Assistant within my program which not only pays for my school but I also get a monthly stipend during the school year. Not a bad gig, really.
Anyway, I do not have my Master's yet-- I just graduated from Texas A&M last May with my Bachelors-- but a benefit of this program is that I will earn my Master's along the way. Two degrees at once? Yes, please!

It is so true what they say, if you are not fascinated by your subject, don't do graduate school in that field. All I do most of the day is study criminal behavior, and thankfully I find it downright fascinating. There's also the not-so-exciting stuff like research design and statistics, but those classes have been interesting to me and have actually helped me see that I should be a researcher. I have really enjoyed seeing how research is actually done, why people do specific things, and how screwing one thing up can totally throw off your results. 

Yes, I'm a nerd. That should be more than abundantly clear by now. But anyway...

I take three classes a semester. Grad school classes are not undergrad classes. Sure there are some similarities, but oftentimes the professor is much more casual in the grad-level courses. I now have some professors that insist on me calling them by their first names, and others that I would never consider calling them anything but Dr. so-and-so. You obviously work a lot closer with the professors, especially if you're a TA because they are literally your bosses. There are some costs and benefits associated with that, especially when I feel tied to my university email at times, but I have also gotten some amazing opportunities to do really cool things in just my first year of grad school, so the benefits outweigh the cons in this case.

The classes are for the most part at night. For whatever reason, this never even crossed my mind until I registered for classes this summer. Imagine my disappointment when I walked out of my registration appointment and texted my newlywed-husband that I had classes 3 nights a week, one of them from 7-9:45 PM! But as much of a downside as that is, especially when we get up at 5:30 AM for Matt to go to work, it gives me tons of freedom. 

My day typically looks something like this: Wake up, pour Matt and myself our bowls of cereal, eat breakfast, kiss my husband good-bye as he leaves for work, do some computer 'work' (i.e. blogging, Facebook, email), go work out for about 45 minutes, shower, and then start 'real' work. Before I leave for campus, I'll have lunch and pack my dinner if needed. Then drive about 40 minutes to campus, praying to not get stuck in traffic, then hang out/work in the TA office, go to class, and then come home. Relax. Sleep. Repeat.

Time management is so important. No one is willing to hold your hand and you gotta get your stuff done on time. You are responsible for yourself and your work being completed when it is due. Thankfully I have always been a responsible student so that helps. That, and I like schedules. These qualities are definitely good things to have as thus far, I have completed all of my education without having to do an all-nighter. Yes I'm proud of that, and yes that may change, but I like to get my work done ahead of time.

Anyway, other things about grad school. In my program there is something called the comprehensive exams. You will hear way more about it in a couple of years, but it is basically the end-all-be-all test that separates you between being a Ph.D. student and being ABD (All-But-Dissertation). 2 days and 12 hours of examining you over anything and everything. Yup. It will be a blast. But as I said, that is a couple of years away for me. 

Next semester I start my Master's thesis, which will be good, and it is something I'm sure you will hear about.

Other miscellaneous things I've learned:
  • Publishing is difficult. I just completed my first experience of getting published (woohoo!) and there are a lot of hoops to jump through.
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions. I have a couple of professors I feel particularly comfortable with and I have asked both of them several 'dumb' questions, but the answers are always worth it
  • There are a lot of informal rules about academia and grad school that I never realized. That deserves its own post for another day.
  • Undergrads are interesting. That is all I will say on that topic as this blog is not anonymous. 
  • People cannot write. Or cannot follow instructions. Possibly both.
  • Flash cards, Microsoft OneNote, and Google are this grad student's best friends. 
  • My grad school has zero team spirit. Coming from Texas A&M where I still consider myself a very proud Fightin' Texas Aggie was quite a culture shock.
  • My grad school buddies are very diverse. There is no other word for it but they are a fun group of... adults? Seriously, I'm the youngest and the only TA straight out of undergrad. 
  • Grad school is difficult. No doubts about it. A lot of reading and a lot of writing, but as I said earlier, if you find it interesting, it is manageably tolerable as opposed to completely painstakingly boring.
I could go on longer of course, but I figured this post is getting long enough. But if you have any questions, feel free to ask. I am now about to have so much more free time and I definitely remember what it was like applying to grad schools, wondering what the program was like, etc. Don't hesitate to ask, even if you aren't considering grad school but are still curious about it! 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Five Things on Friday

I'm stealing this from some other bloggers, but I don't think they'll mind.

Here are a collection of miscellaneous things that on their own don't deserve their own blog post but I still want to share with you.

1) I'm so close to being done with this semester. Just 36 more hours to go and then that's that. I could tell you all about sampling and survey methods if you're interested ;)

2) I cannot wait to walk out of my final tomorrow evening. Matt and I have some fun things planned and I am very excited about it!

3) I can now run 2 miles without stopping AND I don't feel like my heart is going to beat out of my chest. It's not that big a deal, but I never thought I could run even 1 mile. Yay!

4) I'm excited to reflect back on all of the changes in my life over the past year, and then be able to relax a little bit this summer.

5) Only a few more weeks until we leave for our vacation to the Smoky Mountains-- cannot wait! Sleeping in, hiking, eating great food, and relaxing with my husband, can't ask for more really.


Hope you have a great Friday! :)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

What a month

Wow where did time go? It really does move fast the older you get and I cannot believe how different life is than 12 months ago. This time last year, I was finishing up my undergraduate degree, graduating, getting married, and then moving. Now I am married, still studying for finals, dealing with insurance companies, and for the first time in 5 years I will not be moving at the end of the spring semester. 

I have so many different thoughts swimming around my mind that I can foresee a few blog posts about them in the next week or so. First I have to finish finals. My first final was Tuesday, followed by a take-home final that's mostly completed, and then a Saturday final. Yup. I have a final on Saturday from 4-6:45 PM. If that's not cruel, I don't know what is. 

Anyway, I know I need to take the time for myself to just sit and reflect on these changes, if only for my sanity. I also want to share it with you, because I know all of my readers are in different places in life, so I will be interested to hear your insights. 

But just a preview of what's to come-- Jessica's thoughts on:

  • 1 year of marriage (What? How?)
  • The life of a criminology Ph.D. student (more nerdy than 'Criminal Minds,' I assure you)
  • Grading undergrads' papers (I don't know where to begin)
  • Being more adult-y and independent (But I'm not old enough for this yet)
  • Moving and establishing myself in this new area (Or maybe ourselves, since Matt and I are a collective unit and all)
So that's where this blog will be heading in the next few weeks. Along with whatever else strikes my fancy :)

Have a great Wednesday! 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Smiles

It has been another crazy week, but I figured I would share the things that are making me happy today.

  • So Matt was in a minor car accident Wednesday (someone ran into his bumper at a stoplight) but I'm so happy no one was hurt and the only injury to his car was some cosmetic damage. Definitely thankful for that!
  • I had my last class of the semester yesterday!
  • I don't have to drive to campus today and instead get to work from home!
  • It's May, which means our 1 year anniversary is coming up. Time really goes by fast, y'all!
  • It's date night tonight and Matt has promised me a relaxing evening. Sounds about perfect.
  • I'm finally getting time to clean the apartment this weekend and I'm honestly looking forward to it. It needs it...
  • I will be done with my first year of graduate school in about a week. I cannot believe it's already been a year. 1 year done, 4 years or so to go between me and my Ph.D.!
What about you? Anything on your mind today making you happy?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Trip to Huntsville

**Disclaimer: this is not intended to be a post with any type of political/ideological leanings. If I receive any offensive/negative comments, I will delete them. I don't want to block the comment feature on this post as if someone wants to reflect/comment on the experience in a thoughtful/polite/rational manner, I want to allow them to do so. It is an interesting experience I had, one that I don't think a lot of people do have, so I thought I would share it.**

So not sure if you caught it in my previous post, but on Friday Matt and I traveled down to Huntsville, TX, to go on a field trip of the Walls Unit.

Because I couldn't resist, here's a little bit of background on this prison for you. It is the oldest prison in Texas and though it is a maximum security prison, it houses lower custody offenders, meaning they are not as volatile as higher custody offenders. They are all males and are typically older. It is also where prisoners are released when they are released on probation or when they have served their entire sentence.

You are probably aware that this is also where death row is. To be clear, this is NOT where the death row inmates are housed in the years between their conviction and their execution. Males on death row are housed in the Polunsky unit and females are housed in the Mountain View unit. The offender arrives at the Walls unit on the day of the execution.

The assistant warden was our tour guide that day, and he showed us the original cells that were used (sorry, couldn't bring a camera and I couldn't find pictures online), the yard, the chapel, and of course death row. 

I've been to the Dachau Concentration Camp outside of Munich, so I'm not a stranger to visiting places known for death. Visiting that camp is something I'll never forget, nor will I forget this trip. 

That evening prior to our visit, the state of Texas executed Beunka Adams. I was not aware of this until we had arrived at the prison. Going into a room where less than 24 hours before someone had been put to death... honestly there are no words to describe it. Our tour guide walked us through the entire process, minute-by-minute, including his role, all while we are standing in the room. 

And that was only part of the tour. It is of course the most solemn, the most serious, the most intense. The room looks precisely the way it does in that picture. The reason why the walls are painted that color? The color paint was the cheapest. At first the warden tried to pull our leg and say that the green/blue color was found to be the most relaxing in studies (which it has), but then he saw my gullible expression and told us the truth.

Other random facts about the prison, not related to death row:

  • The church service every Sunday is filled to capacity
  • They have a turtle inside the yard. He lives in his little habitat called Jurassic Park and even has a TDCJ number. Some offenders are given the responsibility of caring for him.
  • It's like a zoo being in there as the visitors are staring at the prisoners and they are staring right back.
  • Apparently the old cell block is haunted. Prisoners and guards alike tell of several ghost stories; some say they refuse to ever go in there again.
  • This is one of only 2 units in Texas where prisoners are allowed TVs in their cells. The prisoners for this reason prefer the Walls unit and they are generally better behaved than other units.

And there you have it- a first-hand encounter with the infamous Walls unit in Huntsville. If you get a chance to go to Huntsville, there is a really good prison museum that you should check out. Of course you can go on a driving tour of various other units in the area and go see the cemetery where prisoners who died but did not families to claim their bodies are buried. 

I will again remind everyone that this is not meant to start any kind of political debate about the death penalty. As I said above, if I receive any offensive/negative comments, I will delete them. I don't want to block the comment feature on this post as if someone wants to reflect/comment on the experience in a thoughtful/polite/rational manner, I want to allow them to do so. It is an interesting experience I had, one that I don't think a lot of people do have, so I thought I would share it.