A Bone to Pick

The continuing adventures of a second-career archeologist, teacher, and sci-fi geek

Feverish February


It’s Cedar Fever Season again here in Central Texas, which means one thing: ACHOO!

The internet loves to contradict itself. If you google “Does Cedar Fever actually cause a fever,” some websites will say yes, others no. Here’s proof that it can, in fact, give you a fever:

No, I don’t have COVID (negative test). I don’t have the flu or a cold. I have an overactive immune system that loses its flipping mind when I inhale cedar pollen. This is despite taking a daily Zyrtec because I’m basically allergic to the state and need antihistamines in my system 24/7 in order to function here. Lovely. Add in Benadryl to control my sneezing and runny nose and wheeeee. Sleepy zombie feverish Heather for several days.

Yet another reason why I want to GTFO out of this state. Enough whining about how much cedar trees suck and all of them need to die in a bonfire, let’s get on with the updates.

Massachusetts Nope!

 I didn’t get accepted to U Mass Amherst and that’s ok, because I didn’t want to go there anyway. I’m not sure how we would have survived in New England on one income on top of a more expensive cost of living and ridiculous health insurance (screw you yet again, American healthcare system). I applied there because I felt like I needed to at least apply for a school in the USA and they have a fully funded program that basically allows you to design your own PhD. That was what I needed because there’s not a lot of PhD programs in this country that focus on mortuary/funerary archaeology. It’s fine because I’ve taken that as confirmation that I’m meant to be elsewhere and the road leads to Orkney. One door closes and another one opens and all that jazz.

The Research Proposal

Hey, hey! I started writing my research proposal for UHI this month and, as of last night, have completed the brainstorming in this random notebook I found buried in the depths of my scary unorganized bookshelves:

I’ve already realized my first idea was way too ambitious and I’m sticking to just doing Mainland because there’s 13 medieval parishes there and 29 burial grounds. I think that’s plenty to work with for a dissertation and leaves plenty of room for further research and studies, enough to keep me busy for a few years. Hell yes.  

My dissertation advisor at UHI said she’d look at my research proposal early next month. My current plan is to get the draft typed up in the next two weeks and send it over to her. Once I’m happy with it I’ll send it to UHI, hopefully by the end of March. I’d like to have an answer by midsummer so I can start working on visas and all the immigration paperwork and fees.


I went to an Osteology and Zoological workshop in Houston last weekend. I splurged and used some old birthday money to get myself the jacuzzi suite at a Best Western, which was sooooo nice. My back and hips have been sore since I’ve started working out more. I literally curled up in the tub with one of the jets on my back for 20 minutes and the next day felt no pain. Wish I had one of those at home (yeah right!).

I had a really great time since two of my archaeology mentors were there, Leslie Bush and Marybeth Tomka. Also present were lots of my digging pals from the HAS. I met some new people and I learned A LOT about being able to tell the difference between human and animal remains. I picked up some valuable information for…

Teaching Forensic Anthropology Again

This past Thursday I presented about how archeology plays into Forensic Anthropology for the forensics classes at work. It’s a lot of fun and the kids were really engaged this year. I think it’s the fourth or fifth time I’ve done this? I was able to incorporate some of the information I picked up at the osteology workshop and update my slides.

Ladies of the Field by Amanda Adams

I’m in the middle of reading a fabulous book about seven female archaeologists from the Victorian Era into the early Edwardian. Most of these ladies I’d never heard about. Many of their findings were repressed or co-published under their male colleagues. I’m genuinely enjoying learning about these amazing women and breaking the glass ceiling when archaeology was in its infancy.

One lady whom I didn’t know was an archaeologist was Agatha Christie. Yes, the mystery writer! I remember hearing somewhere that she’d gone on an archaeology dig, but I didn’t know she was involved in the field for thirty years, in the later half of her life. She even wrote novels while living out of a tent in the Middle East!

I’m feeling a sort of affinity to Agatha. I also began my journey into archaeology later in my life and have fallen in love with it, just like she did. I already love her books and, if you know me, you know that my other big dream besides becoming an archaeologist is to be a published author. I’ve had some success with my short stories, but I’ve yet to make the leap to novelist. I’ve thought about picking that up in my spare time when working on my PhD. I read while riding my stationary bike and I thought, “Well, if Agatha Christie could do it, then why can’t I?!” I’ve got lots of ideas, but I’m not ready to start writing again yet. I’m still taking a break from writing after my dissertation. That sucker was almost 15,000 words, which is the length of a short novella. So, if anything, I can say that I’ve written the equivalent of a short novel. That was good practice and I’m taking baby steps to get to a full novel. 😊

Being Kind to Myself

I said in the last blog post that I was beginning to take weight loss and my health seriously. My goal is to work out four times a week, walk at least 5,000 steps, stick with intermittent 16:8 fasting, watch my carb intake, eat more fresh fruits and veggies, and drink more water. That sounds like a lot but I was already doing a lot of those things most of the time. The only big change is doing those things more consistently and exercising. I’m not tracking calories because it’s tedious and I hate it. By choosing healthier foods and making better choices, I’m naturally lowering my caloric intake and I don’t really need to watch it.

It’s already working because I’ve lost five pounds in the last five weeks since my last post. That’s about a pound a week. The Waybetter app has been a godsend for keeping me accountable. I’m taking this weekend off because I’m sick, but still watching what I’m eating and drinking lots of water. The My Peak Challenge community has been incredibly supportive and inspiring me to keep going even when I don’t want to.

Something else that’s changed is my mindset. I wasn’t kind to my body during graduate school and I’m feeling it now. This year is all about changing my relationship with my body and redefining how I think of exercise and food. I’ve realized that eating healthy and getting regular exercise IS being kind to myself. The other day I was quietly whining to myself how I didn’t WANT to ride the bike, but then a little voice in my head whispered, “That’s not being kind to yourself and you deserve better than that.” I got on the bike and within 2 or 3 minutes I was feeling better and the 30 minutes flew by.

I’ve also learned some stupid tricks to fool my whiny brain. I usually work out after dinner because I am NOT going to get my ass up early before work to work out. Oh hell no. I love sleeping. What I do is when I know dinner is almost ready, I change into my workout clothes. I eat dinner and then I’m already downstairs and the bike is by the stairs. Instead of going upstairs, I get on the bike, crack open a book, and cycle away for 30 minutes.

The virtual bike ride across the UK is going slow. I’m doing about 5-6 miles per session and have ridden around 60 miles. 814 miles to go! I’m slowly building up to longer and longer rides. Right now I’m still sore after 30 minutes with the stationary bike on a resistance of 5 out of 10. I will probably maintain this until spring break and start slowly adding a minute every day until I’m up to 60 minutes. It’s all about being kind and gentle to my body.


I’m on Instagram now. Actually, I always was on Instagram but I’ve started using it more recently. I’m @HezontheHill if you want to follow me there.

Field School

…Is an I don’t know. I’m chaperoning a trip to Germany and France at the beginning of June and field school is much earlier than I anticipated. I won’t get definite dates until April at the earliest and right now the requested dates overlap significantly with field school. I’m kind of hoping we wind up going earlier because this will be our last field school and I know Nora will be really unhappy if we’re not able to go.

I’ll be unhappy if I don’t get to eat the biscuits and gravy at Dollie’s Diner in Nacogdoches at least one more time.

Coming Up…

I don’t have any weekend digs planned right now, but March is when things start picking up again. I know HAS has been doing some work on Wednesdays at the Lone Oak Site (WHY?! I CAN’T DIG ON WEDNESDAYS!!!). Maybe they’ll start adding in Saturdays again as the weather improves. There’s also another site they’ve added, but I don’t know where it is and again, they’re always digging when I can’t due to work. I’m itching to get out into the field again soon, so I hope something comes up!

In Which Heather Runs Away to Scotland (TWICE!), Winds Up On BBC Radio (TWICE!) Writes a Paper About Dead People, Wears Ruby Slippers, and Decides to Bike Across the UK And It’s All Sam Heughan’s Fault  

Christ. It’s been seven months since I updated and I was so good about it for the first part of last year, too! The last seven months have been an absolute roller coaster, and A LOT has happened! I suppose it’s best to break it down by months. Ladies and gentlemen, please fasten your safety belts and keep all limbs inside the vehicle during the ride…WHOOSH!

JUNE 2023

Field School

I was back this year as a Crew Chief. This year we were in Nacogdoches, a town that I had been to a few times in high school and college since my high school bestie’s grandma lived there. This year’s dig was a Spanish mission site next to a Caddo village, so super cool! I love mission sites. It’s actually three separate sites, but I ain’t going into that. You can click on the link to learn more about it. My bestie Christina and her kids, Will and Sylvie, came this year and we all shared one chaotic house together. There was much Mario Karting and hide-and-go-seek amongst the young’uns.

In true Heather fashion I was sick with walking pneumonia, which I figured out AFTER I got there. Whee. I’d had a horrible cough since May and I finally was having breathing issues. I called the Teledoc and got antibiotics. Stay tuned because it doesn’t end there.

Nora in Nacogdoches the day we arrived. It’s the oldest town in Texas, y’all!
My crew!

Day One I was informed that most of my crew were newbies. Huh? That’s unusual. Apparently being a teacher means that I got to teach all the greenhorns the ropes. That’s fine, except they stuck me on a hill…in a 2×2. Not exactly ideal for teaching new diggers, but whatevs. Unfortunately, all the new people were at orientation all morning so I started digging on my own. Suuuuuuucked. They showed up eventually and we got crackin’. We were in the storage area and guess what we found? A lot of big pieces of storage jars going down the slope in a diagonal direction, which I duly mapped in. Here’s one of the pieces.

I don’t do pottery, but you can see the decorations on it. We found four or five of these big sherds, I think.

I decided to tap into my British archaeology training and have everyone go backwards in a line. Usually I’m like, “Eh, pick a corner and whip out the dirt until you’re down to level.” Nope. Because we were on a slope, the lower bit was already at level so we had to bust out the top a LOT. So it was easier to have everyone working in tandem at the top and go backwards and down.

I don’t care if this is Texas. We’re going to dig like the Brits do today!
Obligatory Crew Chief selfie.
Alysa and Eric, two lovely people that came all the way from California (HOME!) to attend field school.
Alysa took a photo of me with Angus, her Highland Coo. Strangely apropos since I go to a Scottish university! (photo by Alysa Hill)
An intriguing round stain in the ground. Could it be a post hole? Why, yes it is! Sadly, not in our unit. All we got was broken bits of pot.
Look at this beautiful first level that my beginners did in a tough unit! So proud of them!

Someone got a great shot of me teaching the crew how to excavate pottery. Aw look, teaching in action!

Y’all thought I only teach ESL English…nope, future archaeology professor right here, folks!

Unfortunately, I discovered that there were eleventy-billion chiggers on site. I know what chiggers are but I had never experienced that particular hell which is being feasted upon by the little bastards. My ankles were turned into a bitten mess. Fortunately, I began spraying my ankles and socks and boots down with repellant for the rest of the week, which pretty much stopped me getting more. Unfortunately, the damage had been done. Hang on for THAT story.

I honestly didn’t take so many pictures this year because I was so sick and in charge, so a lot of paperwork and such. But here’s some more.

Mostly ladies this year on my crew. LADIES DOING SCIENCE! Left to right: Alysa, Christina, Brittany.
Turns out Brittany is a huge Stargate geek, too. We did not find a Stargate. Or Goual’d. Or Atlantis, damn it. Or Michael Shanks.
I look a like camp counselor reject (I used to be one). This is during practice with the kids so they could sink the Titanic (it’s a fine field school tradition). The iceberg is to the right.

Nora and I discovered this amazing restaurant called Dolli’s Diner and I swear they have the BEST biscuits and gravy I’ve ever eaten. We got rained out for two days, so Nora and I wound up going twice. I’m honestly looking forward to eating there again this coming summer.

Hello, my delicious lovelies. I will see you again in June 2024.

Pissed off Body

Here’s the thing…I have this weird autoimmune disorder with a very complicated name that I honestly can’t remember, but it’s like Skeeter Syndrome . What it boils down to is that if I get too many concentrated bug bites in one area of my body (like my ankles) my body flips out and starts attacking itself. Yeah, whee. My legs started swelling and the itching was unbearable. I will NOT post the picture. It’s gross. The only thing that works is oral Prednisone. Yeah, steroids. Another call to the Teledoc and there you go.

So remember that I was on antibiotics for walking pneumonia, right? Guess what steroids do to your immune system? It suppresses it! So I was getting better, my cough started improving and then…it got worse. By the time I got home my chigger bites were better but my cough was horrible. I saw an urgent care doctor because I was NOT going to Scotland with that cough. The doctor was like, “So…yeah…steroids kind of negated the good work the antibiotics were doing and it got worse. So…let’s try another round of different antibiotics.” There was also a huge fight with my insurance company to let me have a friggin’ inhaler because I couldn’t catch my breath. I finally got some Albuterol and it made a huge difference. By the time I was a few days into my Orkney trip I could breathe again!



Oh my gosh, the whole family went to Toronto to see my high school bestie, Lynette. We hadn’t seen each other since 2005 when she moved to Canada to get married. 😊 I missed her like crazy and she’d never met Paul or Nora and we’d all wanted to visit Toronto, so we went up there for a long weekend. It was so much fun, and we all had a good time, despite Nora getting a blocked ear (what the hell is it with my family and getting sick while we travel?!). We ate at so many amazing restaurants. The food scene in Toronto is seriously incredible. We visited the beautiful University of Toronto campus where Lynette works.

You know I had to pay tribute to the Anthropology Department.
Siskel and Ebert, Pinky and the Brain. I seriously miss this woman. We were inseparable in high school.

We also went to the Shoe Museum. Yep, a shoe Museum. It was super interesting and way bigger than I imagined it would be. As you can see, Nora and I had a little bit of fun.

It’s a rare photo of me wearing heels. Auntie Em! There’s no shoes like flats! There’s no shoes like flats!
If Dorothy were Gen Z…
Nora trying on Donald Trump’s shoes.
I had to try on the lobster sandals, complete with Boomer Dad socks.

Nora and I also went to see Hamilton together. She loves history and has been jonesing to see this show. I honestly had never seen it, believe it or not! We don’t have Disney+ because I refuse to bow to the Mouse. It was a wonderful show and we both had a really good time.

To remind you of my love…
When I heard Hamilton was in Toronto, I was not going to throw away my shot to see it.

Paul and Nora flew home from Toronto while I flew to…


Yep, I went back again this summer! And friggin’ Loganair LOST MY LUGGAGE! FOR TWO WEEKS! It was so ridiculous. All of my meds were in there, which shame on me for packing them but WTF I have too many to fit into my carry-on, so screw them. The hardest was that I had packed my dig clothes, which I needed for health and safety (long pants, thick socks, hiking boots, hat, all that stuff). I absolutely could not go out to the site on Rousay without that stuff. I had to buy all new clothes and everything and the only real drawback to Orkney is that there are NO plus size stores. Lucky me. I was just slightly too big for TESCO, but I made do out of the men’s department and forget about bras. God bless Marks and Sparks because they got affordable stuff there quickly. I also found a few things at the charity shops (thrift stores in the US), of which there are A LOT! Fortunately, my Air BnB had a washer and I was able to cycle through and just keep washing stuff every two or three days.

The hilarious part was that I made the news! Yep, I was on BBC radio twice. My claim to fame, I guess. A few people recognized me on the street, which was kind of strange. Kirkwall is not very big. They did a follow-up when my luggage finally showed up…2 weeks later.

My friend Angela came up from London to stay with me for two weeks, and honestly she was a godsend. Because I didn’t have my anti-anxiety meds my brain went whackadoo a few times, though I was surprisingly ok for the most part considering the stress I was under (I’m off them now). Angela was my antidepressant. 😊 She kept me distracted and greatly entertained! I did make it out to Rousay for a two days to visit St. Mary’s, the site of my dissertation. It was super cool to be out there and the weather was gorgeous the second day, unlike 2022. I spent a lot of time in the Orkney Archives doing research, so I was warm and dry and not out in the wet.

A little video I made while hanging out in St. Mary’s on a VERY windy and cold day
St. Mary’s Kirkyard is so freaking beautiful.
It was a lot warmer the second day. For some reason I look really skinny in this photo. Not complaining!

I wound up extending my stay for almost a week. There were no more affordable places left in Kirkwall so I had to hike on over to neighboring Stromness and stay at the Orca. Wow, that town is pretty! It’s so much smaller than Kirkwall and so chill. I really loved it there. The library is beautiful and overlooks the harbor, so you can see the ferries coming in and out.

View of the harbor and ferry terminal from the library.
Quiet harbor while the fog rolls in.
This photo screams, “EUROPE!” at me. My lodgings were up this road and around the corner.
Oh yeah…research.

And coming home brings me to….


I took the overnight ferry from Kirkwall to Aberdeen and then a train from Aberdeen to Manchester because screw flying. I just got my wayward luggage back. I wasn’t about to lose it again. I was already losing my mind…

The next day I was on a flight to Orlando, Florida with a bunch of Brits who were psyched to go to Disney. And then there was me, who was like, “Screw Disney. I just wanna go back to the land of blistering heat and breakfast tacos and margaritas!” We got in late to Orlando, where I was supposed to make a connection to Austin. I had to change terminals, which means after I cleared customs I had to go BACK through security and the line was ridiculous. By the time I got to my gate my flight had left. I was so pissed off and American Airlines were complete assholes about it. Like they seriously acted like it was my damn fault the TSA had two lines open for well over 1,000 people. They’re just as bad as Loganair. Screw both of them.

Oh my god, Orlando!

So, there were no more flights that night and I was rebooked for the next morning. They were absolutely no help at all in getting a hotel, so I hopped on hotels.com and found a place nearby. My friend Michelle lived (she’s since moved) in Orlando and she swung by the hotel and took me out to dinner, and we just hung out and chatted. It was a relief to see a friendly face in a place I’d never been to before. Someone was really looking out for me on that hellish trip, but I got home all in one piece. Thanks, Michelle!

I got home a few days before work started up again. BLEH. I pretty much had to turn around and go back to work, so I was pretty tired.


I had COVID. Thought it was allergies, it was COVID, so there went all my sick days early in the year since the district decided they weren’t going to pay us anymore to stay home and not infect anyone with this horrible virus…real smart, guys. Thanks. This was my second time having it and it really kicked my butt this time around. I was tired for a good six weeks afterwards, not good when you’re working full time and trying to write your masters dissertation!

The rest of the month was basically me finishing up and research and writing…

And writing…

And writing…

Oh yeah, and Paul announced we were going to Orkney as a family for Thanksgiving Break because he found cheap tickets there. WHAT?! I was just there! And my luggage is still recovering, thanks!


Went to the TAS Annual Meeting and was still writing. Yes, seriously, I was writing at the conference! I did make a huge breakthrough in interpreting my data while I was there, and I chalk it up to being around so many brilliant archeologists. All those brains rubbed off on me.

And writing….

And writing…

And editing…

And panicking…

And writing…

Pioneer Farms Dig

Obviously, we didn’t do much digging this fall, though I had the opportunity to do some work out at the Lone Oak site. I declined to go because the weekends were really when I could get a lot of work done. I did take a day off because there was an opportunity to do some community archaeology at Pioneer Farm, which is like 15 minutes from my house. Nora came with me and taught her own groups independently how to do surface collection and how to dig and screen. One guy looked so confused when his crew chief was a 14 year old girl! He asked me if she knew what she was doing and I said, “Well, she’s been digging since she was 8 years old, so…yeah?” Proud mama!

A girl and her trowel and shovel testing. It’s a beautiful thing.
Some of the 19th-20th century surface finds. Mostly glass and ceramic.
Really pretty glass bead we found.


And writing…

And writing…

And crying…

And drinking way too much Sassenach for my own good…

And editing…

And questioning my life choices…

I broke my toe a week before we were supposed to leave for Orkney. It wasn’t even a cool way to break it. I was climbing into bed and whanged it against the bedframe. Not much you can do for a broken toe except tape it up and let it heal. Whee.

I finished my thesis a full two weeks before it was due. BOOYAH.

Yeah, I cried when I finished my masters dissertation…
And promptly toasted the bastard with a VERY large Sassenach Whiskey.


So part of the purpose of this trip (besides the cheap tickets) was to see if Paul and Nora liked Orkney because it’s one of my choices to do a PhD.

Oooooooh boy was this long trip. We went for about five days, but getting there and back took another five days for a total of ten. We went via Amsterdam because that’s how the cheap tickets went. That’s cool. I’d never been to the Netherlands before.

Day One: Austin to Amsterdam.

Day Two: Amsterdam to Inverness by plane. I stepped off the plane. It was cold and raining and windy, so I took a deep breath and was like, “I AM IN SCOTLAND!” It seriously was like coming home. After a long break we went from Inverness to Thurso by train.

My tired family as we chugged through Highlands on a slow train to Thurso.

Day Three: Ferry from Scrabster (just outside of Thurso) to Stromness with the help of Dramamine (they’re not kidding when they say the North Sea in winter is scary). Bus to Kirkwall. Family was tired. Heather did virtual cartwheels because I AM IN ORKNEY AGAIN AND IT’S COLD AND RAINING AND I DON’T CARE!!! I made a fire and roasted my toes.

Snug as a bug in a rug in an Orcadian crofter’s cottage.
Nora got to sleep in a super cool loft with a king bed. I was kind of jealous.

Day Four: Made my family take the rickety winter ferry to Rousay and we had an an amazing tour with Paddy from Rousay Tours. He was terrific and put up with all my extra banter because my brain was still fresh from finishing my dissertation the week before. We didn’t get down to St. Mary’s or Skaill Farm because it was sleeting (WHAT?!). We did have a tasty lunch at Saviskaill Beach and saw a happy seal bodysurfing. There were also a lot of rainbows and grey geese.

We went to the Empire Chinese restaurant for Thanksgiving Dinner. Hell yeah. Best lemon chicken in the world.

Day Five: I went up to the UHI Campus. Despite having been a student there for 2 years I’d never actually been to the campus! I met with Sarah Jane, my dissertation advisor, and said hello to a few of my professors. It was definitely weird seeing them in November. I got back to our Air BnB and we all walked down to Orkney Museum and explored all the fun shops on Victoria Street and Albert Street downtown.   

It only took me two freaking years and the third trip to actually visit campus.
Obligatory St. Magnus Cathedral photo.

Day 6: Saturday. Paul and I went and took a tour of Highland Park Distillery and were the only people on the tour! It was amazing. I did that in 2022 but there were a lot of people there because it was summer. Also, the distillery wasn’t running then due to an accident with the pipes. This time they were distilling and AW YEAH. They’re one of the few distilleries in Scotland that still malts their barley with peat, so it gets a distinctive smoky flavor, unlike other Scottish whiskies.

Paul greatly enjoyed it. We got to try some whiskey, too, and keep the little glasses. Nora didn’t go because you had to be 18. We left her at the cottage and she tried to explore Kirkwall on her own and got lost, but found her way back. I’m trying to foster some independence in her and make her more confident in traveling and exploring on her own.  

Day 7: Sunday. I went to church in the morning at St. Magnus Cathedral, like I always do. That afternoon I said, “Screw this! I’m going to Maeshowe to try and catch the light from the sunset shining into the tomb.” Come on, you knew I had to do something archaeological! It only happens for 6 weeks out of the year and there’s a 1 in 7 chance of seeing it. I took Nora with me and we got lucky and saw the light coming in! It was AMAZING. Unfortunately, you can’t take photos. Nora and I saw some cute Shetland ponies on the way home.

Shetland ponies!

Day 8: Time to make the long journey home. Bye, Orkney! Bus from Kirkwall to Stromness, Stromness to Thurso, train from Thurso to Inverness. We spent the night in Inverness at the Courtyard Marriot next to the airport. It’s a great hotel. We had a nice sleep there.

Day 9: I woke up to this view of the Highlands and I DID NOT WANT TO GO HOME. Seriously. I wanted to stay right there and just stare. I wound up sending this photo to my painting teacher so he could Bob Ross-ify it. Aw, he’s gonna paint the Happy Little Highlands.

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone…(damn it, there I go again).

Inverness to Amsterdam and spending the night. I had no clue that there was an amazing buffet in the hotel. It was expensive but meh, it was worth it.

A tiny selection of the eleventy-billion desserts they had at the buffet.

Day 10: We left Amsterdam late so we missed our connecting flight in Minneapolis. We were supposed to be back in Austin by 6:00. Nope. We got home closer to 1 AM. On the upside, Minneapolis/St. Paul has a really nice airport. As we got off the plane I made a joke about my Lutheran senses tingling and had a sudden craving for beer and hot dish, ohyeahyoubetcha. There was a shop with t-shirts that, and I kid you not, had “It’s a hot dish thing” and “Ohyeahubetcha” on them. I had a good laugh over that. We got home so late that Nora and I wound up not going to work the next day. We all slept in and did laundry. Jet lag suuuuuuucks.

Leonards in various degrees of exhaustion. I’m still managing a smile. Nora is like, “Whatever, mom.” Paul looks like he’s about to kill me (not really, he was just super tired).


Was…quiet. I applied for the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s PhD program, of which I have like a 10% chance of getting into. I submitted my dissertation on November 30 and peace reigned upon my life for the first time in 6 years. *cue angels singing*

Dis bish is done.


There’s not much directly archaeologically related going on right now because it’s winter. I’m doing some archaeologically-adjacent things on a personal level starting this month and next.

First, I’m whooping my ass into shape. Yeah, I’ve sad that before. My biggest issue is that I am really good at coming up with excuses for why I shouldn’t exercise, why it’s ok to eat badly, and blame my genetics. I’m built like a friggin’ Volkswagen. I’m not expecting to turn into a Ferrari, but I’ll settle for a…Subaru. Yeah. I wanna be a Subaru…safe, reliable, and can handle a bit of off-roading (stamina to get out to difficult sites…get y’all’s minds out of the gutter, damn it).

So I need to lose about 85 pounds. I’m not expecting to do it all this year. Hell no. But I am expecting to get most of it off. 60 pounds would be nice. Why am I doing it? Besides the fact that I’d like to live to see my grandkids, I want to be in better shape for when/if we move to Orkney in a year. So, what am I doing different this time instead of slapping myself when I try to make excuses? First, I’m playing around with Waybetter, an app that uses monetary incentives to motivate you to do better losing weight. I’ve never tried betting against my own lazy ass, so I figured it might be worth a try. I just started but so far, I really like it. The app is easy to use, and I like that it reminds you to check in and be accountable. Let’s face it. I’m forgetful and have the mind of a chihuahua on crack.

Second, I bought a new Fitbit because my old one is god-knows-where and it pissed me off. I need the Fitbit to better track my fitness and work with Waybetter.

Third, I AM CHALLENGING MYSELF! I’m going to give My Peak Challenge a try. My Peak Challenge is this incredible charity that Sam Heughan (star of Outlander and all around nice guy) started to raise money for a chosen charity and encourage people to challenge themselves. It doesn’t have to be a physical challenge. It can be something else. In my case, my challenge is to ride virtually all the way from Land’s End in Cornwall to John O’ Groats in Scotland on my stationary bike in a year.

Hahahahahaha…I must be smoking something.

Yep, that’s 874 miles or 1,407 kilometers. I figured I can celebrate my (possible) move to Scotland next year by cycling the length of the UK. Just for giggles I figured I can listen to the entire Outlander series on audiobook while I do it. Or maybe I’ll watch the show again while we all wait for Season 7.5.    

I binged the whole show during the holidays. That’s how I find out about My Peak Challenge and I was like, “THIS IS PERFECT! LET’S CYCLE ACROSS THE UK! WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?! I HAVEN’T EVEN BEEN DRINKING WHISKEY AGAIN! OH…MY…GOD….I AM GOING TO DO THIS!”

So thanks, Sam. Thanks a lot. I’m either going to virtually make it to John O’ Groats by December 2024, or virtually fall off a cliff somewhere in the Peak District. Maybe around Chapter 9,452 of Go Tell The Bees That I’m Gone or somewhere in the middle of Season 5.

On the other hand, I got some really silly Outlander presents for Christmas. What made it even funnier is that NO ONE in my family watches Outlander and had no friggin’ clue what “Sassenach” means.

I’ve tried to get Paul to put on his kilt and call me Sassenach, but he just looks confusedly at me. Clearly, I still have a lot of work to do.

Looking Forward…

Next month I’m going to an osteology workshop at Rice University in Houston. I’ll tell you all about in the next blog post. This post is already ridiculously long enough, so I’m going to find my long-neglected workout clothes and set them out because the bike ride to John O’ Groats begins tomorrow.

I’m already tired!

Hittin’ the Books; More Village People; McDade Cemetery; Dance in the Graveyard; It’s a Major Award!; Field School and the Tambourine of Triumph!

Hittin’ the Books

So the last two months have been absolutely insane at work and with my studies, which is why I didn’t post. I had to write five papers this semester and sometimes I was working on two at the same time and planning a third. It was crazy-go-nuts, BUT it’s all over! I’m officially done with all my classes and have transitioned into Dissertation mode. That means all I have left to do is research and write my dissertation. It’s due December 1st and then I AM DONE!

This was a birthday present. I’ve always wanted to work on Atlantis! Oh crap…does this make Dr. McKay my boss since he’s over sciences? Uh oh, I better toe the line and watch my shenanigans.

More Village People!

In the last blog post I talked at length about the amazing coworkers I have at work. There’s also a lot of people outside of work and my family that have supported me on this journey, more members of my village that I’d like to introduce to you. The truth is I also would never have been on this path to become an archaeologist if it weren’t for some very special people in my life. You have to meet these fabulous ladies and scientists:

Christine Gauger

So I’ve known Christine since…2006? 2007? Christine’s husband, Nathan, has been friends with my husband, Paul, for at least 18 years. Christine and I didn’t hang out much, mostly saw each other at parties. It must have been in late 2017 when I was talking to her about being interested in archaeology but not knowing how to start when Christine gave me the funniest look and said, “You know I majored in anthropology in college, right?” I didn’t know that. Christine told me all about the TAS field school and went with me the first time in June 2018. Christine was my savior when I started going to TVCAS meetings and had no clue what all the jargon was. I would text her under the table, “Christine! What the heck is debitage?!” and she always replied. Christine was extremely influential and helpful in my early days of navigating this mess, from learning technical terms and excavation techniques to choosing university programs to study at. I know that God truly put Christine in my life to help me begin this journey and I am forever grateful for her help and putting up with my blunderings as I stumbled down this road (and hit a deer on the way).


Dr. Leslie Bush, Paleobotanist

I love this lady! I cannot stress enough how much I adore Dr. Bush. She was the first person I met at the TVCAS meeting when I was really nervous. She immediately welcomed me and sat next to me and made me feel at home. Going on a nature walk with Dr. Bush is an experience. She knows the scientific nomenclature for all the plants. She’ll be like, “Ah! Ilex vomitoria!” and I’m like, “That’s a yaupon holly, Leslie. Ew!” (Yaupon holly tea is nasty). She has yet to catch me and make me do flotation with her. I shall evade your watery traps, Leslie! Dr. Bush has watched me stumble through this whole adventure and has always been there to listen to me when I’m stuck or making major decisions. She gives me fabulous advice and I appreciate her calm and gentle demeanor. I can sit in her presence and immediately feel the chill. Leslie is seriously one of the coolest and smartest people I know.

Dr. Bush!

Dr. Sarah Chesney, Archeologist at San Felipe de Austin State Historic Site

Sarah was the first real field archeologist I met when I did my first dig in March 2018. I immediately discovered her love of ceramics and I’m sure I made an annoying ass of myself bouncing over to her every time we found a bit of manky pot in our unit. Sarah’s probably one of the funniest people I know and it’s always a privilege to get to dig with her, which I don’t get to do nearly enough. I’ve managed to do some shovel testing with her at San Felipe, which is one of my favorite places to dig. Sarah’s getting her own archeology lab there and I’m super thrilled for her (it will even have SHOWERS! How swanky! Talk about spoiled archeologists!). Sarah was the first person who invited Nora to come along and dig with the grownups, something that Nora’s still grateful for because it opened the door to her digging outside of field school with the Houston Archeological Society. I always learn something when I’m around Sarah. Maybe that’s why I love digging with her so much. I’m a huge lifelong learner and I know I’ll learn something new when I’m with her. Digging with her (and drinking with her) is always a good time, even if she does make me draw features when I can’t draw AT ALL (thanks Sarah, I still think that weird ass soil stain looked like a shoe print). I still send her photos whenever I find moldy bits of pot somewhere. “SARAH, LOOK AT THE SHERD I FOUND! WHAT THE HELL IS IT?!”

Dr. Chesney!

Annie Reigert-Cummings, Head of Osteology and NAGPRA Coordinator, Texas Archaeological Research Laborator

Annie is my bones goddess! I met Annie in 2018 when I volunteered at the lab. She gets my weird obsession with bones and isn’t grossed out talking about skeletons. I’ve learned a lot about curation, forensics, and bone identification from this lady. I had the privilege of doing a virtual internship at TARL in 2020 when I was an undergrad. Annie really pushed my record keeping and curation skills despite us being in lockdown. I learned just how important accurate record keeping is when you’re excavating skeletons. Basically, I learned how NOT to keep field records! Annie is also one of those people I can talk to about the major decisions I’ve had to make in choosing schools and programs.

Recreating burial positions based on grave records from 41AU36 as part of my internship. This was a double-burial, adult and sub-adult. I couldn’t draw skeletons before I did this project! Thanks, Annie!

Marybeth Tomka

I met Marybeth when I started volunteering at TARL in 2018. I learned a lot about about lab work and collections from her and also during my internship at TARL in 2020. Marybeth was an invaluable resource throughout my undergraduate and graduate studies, even as recently as this semester when I wrote a huge paper on Kennewick Man. She always seemed to have insight into an issue and I knew I could always come to her with problems. She was incredibly supportive, especially when I was processing the more emotionally challenging and controversial aspects of archeology, like when we visited the Texas State Osteological Processing Lab in 2018 (that really changed my life). Marybeth listened to me when I was struggling with dealing with my sister’s death during lockdown and completing a challenging internship. Marybeth is also a huge sci-fi fan and she’s been an indirect influence on Gwyddion. Some of the dialogue going through my head in the archeology lab scenes in the script comes across in Marybeth’s voice! Keep that in mind in the future when you see laboratory scenes. I guarantee Marybeth is in there somewhere!


McDade Cemetery

I did some more digging at the Lone Oak Site on March 25. On the way home I stopped by McDade Cemetery to check out the memorial markers because you know I like hanging around in graveyards. I’m weird that way. Anyway, it was an interesting trip and I really enjoyed seeing the headstones. The old Victorian stones are mixed with modern burials. I was very careful not to take photos of recent burials, out of respect for their families. Below are some of the photos I took and a few videos.

Dancing in the Graveyard

Speaking of graveyards, I discovered this amazing song in March by Delta Rae. How have I not heard it before? It really reminds me of Mindy, my sister, who passed away just over three years ago on May 30, 2020. I think she really would have loved it and I love the silly idea of her dancing with me in the cemetery where she’s buried. We don’t think of graveyards as happy places, but this song really changes that conversation for me. They don’t have to be scary or sad or spooky. They can be places of joy and remembrance, especially if you subscribe to a higher power or an afterlife. This song has sort of become an anthem for this dissertation and you bet I’m going to be listening to it when I’m recording gravestones in St. Mary’s Kirkyard in Rousay this summer.

It’s a Major Award!

No, I didn’t win a sexy leg lamp. That would be epic. At the end of the school year at work the department heads give out silly awards. I was given two this year, one from Marston and one from Alan Cardon (they were mentioned in the last blog post, so you can go and see photos of them there). I have to admit I got a kick out of these! They will definitely be going up in my classroom in the fall.

Turns out people notice if you talk ad nauseum about Gwyddion and archeology, bitch about cookie season (screw you, cookie season), and occasionally teach (is that what they pay me to do?!).
Listen, I like hanging around in the Social Studies Department more than the English Department where I technically belong. Along with Cardon’s endless dad jokes, they have coffee and cynicism and hilarity. I’d defect there in a heartbeat if I got off my ass and got my Social Studies teaching certificate…but I probably won’t.

Field School and the Tambourine of Triumph!

Field School starts on Friday! This year we’re in Nacogdoches, which is a town I really love to visit. It’s very pretty there, in the Piney Woods of east Texas. My bestie from college, Christina, is coming this year with her two kids and we’re all crashing at an Air BnB together. It should be interesting. I’m crew chiefing again and she requested to be on my crew. I’ve been told that we go down 20 centimeters and hit clay, so this is going to be a fast and dirty field school, opening lots of 2×2 meter units and busting through instead of sticking to one unit the entire week. I’m excited for a different experience and it will definitely challenge me as a crew chief. Bring it on! 

The youth group has a cowbell that they ring whenever they find cool stuff. My crew got kind of jealous last year and all I had was a cheap whistle to blow whenever we found anything. This year I decided to be extra silly and I bought a tambourine and put a TAS sticker on it. Behold the Tambourine of Triumph!

Hell yeah, Tambourine of Triumph! We can’t let the kids have all the fun!

I’m probably the silliest crew chief out there, but whatever. Field school should be fun. It’s hot, it’s dirty, it’s tiring…we need to laugh and I do my best to provide levity. I try to take care of my crew and make sure they’re as comfortable as possible and having a good time. 

I will do another post at the end of field school because a lot is going to be happening! Look for a post around June 18th.

First Dig of 2023; The Pew Pew Factor; Space Geese; The Village People

First Dig of 2023!

Last Saturday I got out into the field for the first time since September and did some shovel testing at a site I can’t talk about for security reasons. I’m not trying to sound cool or anything, but looting is a huge problem in archaeology and it’s common practice to keep some sites secretive in order to protect them. I’ve been digging on this particular site since 2019, I think. I took Nora with me and she did a great job. She’s got enough experience and is old enough now to dig with the adults, which is pretty cool. I’m very proud of her progress and her advancement to harder excavation skills. She’s really good at what she does and adults are constantly complimenting me on her discipline and her focus. Sorry for the mama brag. You just don’t see a lot of 13-year-olds who know their way around an archeology site and it’s pretty neat that my kid is one of them. 🙂

I had to stick to paperwork and screening since I can’t lift anything due to my recent hernia surgery. I should be good to go in another month and definitely healed in time for field school in June. Here are some highlights. All location data has been removed for security reasons.

I love the smell of science in the morning!
I have a clipboard. This makes me cool or something?
My junior archeologist.
She’s down pretty deep in that shovel test pit.

The Pew-Pew Factor

So what Gwyddion really needs right now is Stuff To Shoot At and Blow Up. I’ve started calling this The Pew-Pew Factor. There will be plenty of that later in the series but I am totally aware that Things That Go Boom is a huge appeal to a lot of sci-fi fans and I need that early on in the script, like in the first ten minutes. Early in the series when it’s being set up there’s not a lot of Pew-Pews until there’s direct danger threatening the crew from the Big Bad Guys yet, so my brain has been contemplating how to blow stuff up. I’m working on how to start the series off strong to hook the audience and that means explosions. I like a good kerblam as much as the next guy, but this is something I don’t have a lot of experience writing. Ideas have started flowing, though. I’m still months from writing the pilot but I’m already thinking of how to start the entire series off with some serious action and big booms.

Space Geese (HONK!)

I’m also developing some nasty indigenous creatures that attack the crew and honestly, they are scary as crap. I’m pretty proud of myself for that. I told Nora the other day that I needed help coming up with alien flora and fauna. The first words out of her mouth were, “SPACE GEESE! Like the goose from ‘Untitled Goose Game’ but instead of stealing the farmer’s stuff like at the beginning of the game, they steal the archeologists’ trowels and drop them in the river…so…not really dangerous, just annoying.” I laughed so damn hard and decided that yes, Gwyddion needs space geese. There will be space geese.

Watch out for the trowel-stealing space geese (this was my first AI-generated art for this blog, by the way)

The Village People

Sometimes I’m in a room where I don’t belong

And the house is on fire and there’s no alarm

And the walls are melting too

How about you?

I’ve never been the favorite, thought I’d seen it all

‘Til I got my invitation to the lunatic ball

And my friends are comin’ too

How about you?

“Symptom of Being Human” by Shinedown

This song really sums up teaching in a nutshell and my relationship with my coworkers. You have to be crazy to do this job and it helps that everyone around you is just as crazy as you are, if not a little more so. We’re all in this asylum together, but the asylum’s on fire, so we’re all standing around passing out marshmallows to each other and rolling our eyes. My work besties are the reason why I’m still around.

I’ve been at Connally since 2014 and that’s a long time for a teacher. During this time I’ve chased this dream of becoming an archeologist. It’s been a huge challenge trying to balance teaching full-time and studying part-time at night, but the support at work has been incredible. I honestly couldn’t have gotten as far as I have without my coworkers. Their belief in what I’m doing and their support are amazing. I’m nearing the end of my master’s degree and there are particular people who have cheered me on throughout this whole journey. When I decided to put off my Ph.D. and go back to Gwyddion instead, they didn’t think I was nuts and totally embraced this weird dream I have of creating a sci-fi show about archeology in space.

I love these people…

These guys listen to my babbling about archeology and Gwyddion and they don’t blink. They let me bounce ideas off them, offer suggestions, and listen to me dream big all over their classrooms and up and down the halls of CHS.

And now I want you to meet them. Guys, my village:

Brittany Ferrara, ESL English

Brittany and I have very similar senses of humor. We’re both super sarcastic and crack each other up. I was thrust into ESL English against my will this year and spent a lot of time last semester just mad and frustrated because I honestly had no freaking clue what I was doing (and still don’t). It’s hard being a square peg in a round hole, but Brittany has been an enormous help in keeping me sane and giving me resources for my classes, and honestly listening to my bitching. She makes doing my job so much easier and I’m grateful for her. She also loves sci-fi and cosplay and knows what the hell I’m talking about when I start talking about random obscure episodes of Stargate or actors. Someday we’ll get to go to a convention together (I haven’t been to one since 2016). Brittany is my partner-in-crime when it comes to geeking out and turning a bad day into a good one. She always has time for me and I love hanging out with her. She listens to me bouncing off the walls when I get a new idea for the show and tells me what she thinks.

Brittany and Basel

Basel Yousef, Digital Animation, Video Game Design, AV Art

I’ve known Basel for years and this guy makes me laugh so hard that I cry. Basel is a fellow Whovian and one year we dressed up like the Doctor and the TARDIS for Halloween (I was the TARDIS). He’s another person with whom I can geek out about sci-fi and he geeks out right back. We have terrific conversations about artificial intelligence and robots and spaceships and everything else, basically. Basel and I find each other in the hall and wind up wasting half of our conference periods just talking about everything. He’s also an amazing VFX artist. If anyone wants to hire someone to do their VFX, you should really call this guy. I can’t believe how talented he is! He gives me great advice on the visual aspects of the show, which is something that I just don’t have the talent for and know next to nothing about.

Ty Hoppe, English

Me and Ty killing time outside

Y’all meet my work husband. 🤣 We’re B Hall besties.  I’m not sure why this dude puts up with me, but he does. Hoppe and I have been through a lot together, both professionally and personally. He’s one of my closest friends at CHS and I am privileged to know him. Hoppe and I both are former theater nerds. He’s a wonderful playwright and a terrific English teacher. We sponsor GSA together and are we lucky enough to hang out with a great group of kids every Thursday afternoon who keeps us in stitches. Hoppe will kick your ass at Apples to Apples, by the way. Hoppe has been my rock this year when everything turned to crap when I was handed five out of six preps (totally untenable and unrealistic). He’s someone I can go to for anything, from “I don’t know how to teach this novel” to personal issues. He listens and gives great advice and keeps me on my toes.

Jason O’Quinn, English

O’Quinn’s been here as long as I have. With the exception of one other teacher, the two of us share second place in terms of tenure in the English Department at CHS. With that comes a certain familiarity with each other’s quirks. Jason almost always says something that makes me laugh no matter how bad of a mood I’m in. He’s the Keeper of the Coffee in the B Hall (even if I do sneak off to the C Hall more often to get my fix, sorry dude). Jason’s always willing to jump in and help out when needed and he’s saved my sanity more than a few times. Jason and I always fantasize about riding our rolly chairs all the way down the B Hall (this is the year, Jason, I swear).  I think he watches my adventures and shenanigans with a healthy dose of bemusement and skepticism and I need him to ground me sometimes. He’s really good at that, but he is still supportive and encourages you to chase your dreams.

Jason O’Quinn and Marston (with a photobomb from Michael Chaffin)

Marston, English Department Chair

Marston keeps Diet Dr. Pepper and chocolate in his classroom just for teachers. He’s hilarious and is another person who makes me laugh, usually with O’Quinn somewhere nearby (they’re neighbors). Marston will always make time to listen to you, even if it’s not related to work. He is kind and has the intuition of knowing exactly what to say to you when you need to hear it. I appreciate his quirky sense of humor and he wouldn’t blink twice if I went screaming down the B Hall dressed like Indiana Jones and running from pretend boulders (I may or may not have done that). Marston is great at helping you find the answers to weird situations that pop up and let’s face it, we get a lot of that in education. He is cynical, funny as hell, and down to earth. Marston is another person who grounds me when I need it (and often without knowing I need it). Marston, it’s a great day to be a Connally Cougar.

Wes Naron, Theater and Fine Arts Department Chair

Wes is our theater tech director and you all know I was a drama major, so we get along great. He’s unexpectedly taken Nora under his wing this year despite her still being in middle school. He taught her how to use the light board and has big plans for her for next year with theater tech and acting. Wes is deeply spiritual and what he doesn’t realize is that his faith sometimes has given me strength when I needed it. He’s a huge sci-fi geek and so of course we’re going to get along. Wes is always positive and encouraging and never fails to put me in a good mood. He knows how hard show business is and he knows what to say to keep me going on this hard road. I can talk to Wes about just about anything, from archeology to faith to obscure episodes of Star Trek. Unfortunately, Wes is down at the ass-end of the school so I don’t get to see him as much as I want, but I’m trying to make the trek down to the theaters more often to hang out with him and Breaz.

Theater geeks forever! Wes Naron, me, and Amanda Breaz

Amanda Breaz, Theater

Just saying Amanda’s name makes me smile. She is seriously one of the funniest, kindest, and most selfless people I know. The students ADORE her. She is down-to-earth and a little snarky and keeps me in stitches. I also don’t see her enough because she’s lucky enough to share an office with Wes in the nether regions of CHS. Weeks can go by and we won’t see each other, but it doesn’t matter. It’s like no time’s passed at all between us before one of us says something to get the other one to laugh. Breaz has the job that I’d love to do if I weren’t chasing a career in archeology and writing Gwyddion. She’s always encouraged me to go for my dreams no matter what they are. Her positive attitude and words of encouragement remind me that she believes in me (now I’m tearing up). Actors chase their dreams. Breaz knows that and she reminds me that I can achieve whatever I set out to do if I just keep trying and refuse to settle.

Christopher Friede, Algebra and Geometry

Chris Friede

I’ve actually known Chris for ten years. We met when I worked at Manor High School when I did English intervention. Friede taught world history and we just clicked, along with Michelle Zelenski (who is now in graduate school in Florida). I encouraged him to audition for the cast at the local medieval festival because I had such a great time doing those when I was in college. He was cast as Prince John (yeah, that Prince John). I later discovered that I’m descended from Prince John, so my nickname for Chris is Grandpa, even though we’re the same age! Our kids are friends and they regularly beat each other up in Minecraft and chat in Discord. Friede just started working at CHS this year teaching in the math department and it’s great to have him around again. Chris is one of the smartest people I know and often has insight into something I didn’t see when I’m bouncing ideas off of him. He keeps me thinking and pondering, which is the mark of a great teacher and a good friend. He’s kind and gentle with a wicked sense of humor that I love. He’s also patient and a great listener, which is a blessing because I can talk the ears off of an elephant when I’m excited about something. 

Mia Clark, AVID, Human Geography, African American Studies…and probably a few other classes that I’ve forgotten about (seriously, this woman does it all)

Mia is my “screw this bullshit” person. When I’m mad I can go to her and we’ll turn it into a major cathartic bitchfest. And then we often wind up laughing, often at the futility or ridiculousness of it all. My older sister was exactly like that and I appreciate that I still have someone like that in my life now that Mindy’s gone. Mia reminds me that it’s ok to make mistakes and that life is messy and gross and wonderful, sometimes all at the same time. Mia doesn’t mince words. She calls it like she sees it and I truly believe we all need a friend like that. Mia often has the words for a situation that I don’t have. Sometimes she seems to know what’s going on in my head and puts everything into perspective for me. I can be myself in front of Mia and she gets my weird. She’s also seriously one of the best teachers I know. She is a walking encyclopedia of lesson plan ideas and I love to pick her brain when I’m bored with the routine or need a last-minute idea. Her dog, Charlie, is really damn cute, too!

Angela Fried, Advanced Placement United States History

This woman is usually the first person I see in the morning since her classroom is by the back entrance and at the crossroads of B and C Halls. Angela’s the only person I know who has ever had dysentery and has also been to the Oregon Trail, which is why I made her this for her birthday 2 years ago:

Did you know that I know how to cross-stitch? You do now!

I think she is one of the funniest people I know and I love her “OH HELL NO!” attitude, which is a huge benefit when you teach high school. Angela also gets my weird sense of humor and just goes with it. Angela sparkles in a sarcastic way and I wish I knew how she pulled off that magical voodoo. She is also my go-to person when I need an idea for an engaging lesson or Canvas is being extra stupid and I need help slapping it into obedience. She also has a stand-up of the Tenth Doctor staring at you disapprovingly in her classroom so I have a place to go when I need to get my David Tennant fix. *fans self* Angela gives me triple high-fives when COOL STUFF HAPPENS with Gwyddion, whether it’s a reminder that I don’t need to be scared or I come in laughing about space geese (HONK!). Some days I literally walk in the door and scream into her classroom like a goat and Angela doesn’t blink, but is like, “Well, good morning to you, too!”  She’s that kind of a friend. We all need an Angela in our lives.

These three are usually found in each others’ company: Mia Clark, Alan Cardon, Angela Fried

Alan Cardon, Advanced Placement Human Geography, Social Studies Chair, and Some Other Social Studies Classes I Forgot About

Ah, Cardon. King of the Dad Jokes. He literally never fails to remind me at least once a month that my archeology career is in ruins. He also has the magical ability to tell these horrible puns when there is NOTHING within reach to throw at him. I’m not sure how he does that. I think God rolled a natural 20 on Evade Projectile Objects for Bad Jokes when he made Cardon’s stats. Cardon is Keeper of the C-Hall Coffee Pot (sorry, O’Quinn). His room is full of Lego. Alan also listens to me natter on about Gwyddion and the more technical stuff, like how the hell I’m going to find a production company. We are getting matching stargates for our classrooms so we dial each other’s rooms and then pass coffee back and forth. 😂 One thing I really admire about Alan as a teacher is the high expectations he sets for students. He expects that they’ll make mistakes, but he knows what they’re capable of achieving even when they don’t. One of our jobs as teachers is to push our students to accomplish more than they think they can and Alan’s really good at doing that. He’s also another person I can turn to for lesson ideas at the last minute. Alan’s taking my kid to Germany and France next year (and me as well, but going to Europe with Mia and Angela and Cardon and Nora is going to be a serious good time).    

Jennifer McCauley, LPAC Coordinator

Me and Jennifer McCauley, my big sister at work.

Jennifer is CHS’ former librarian and I had the pleasure to work with her closely for many years with my reading classes. Jennifer is wickedly funny and like a big sister to me. She and my husband are crawdad buddies, even though I can’t stand them and Nora cries if she sees anyone eating mudbugs. Jennifer has Lousiana in her blood and has been gently trying to convert my palate to her voodoo cajun ways for the last few years. My tastebuds have gone kicking and screaming. No, literally screaming. That stuff is spicy! We used to go to breakfast at The Pancake House before work and make dirty jokes about the dutch babies (*snickergiggles*). I can sing bad Stevie Nicks songs at Jennifer and she doesn’t blink. Hell, she sings along! There was that time we dressed up like football coaches and blew our whistles at the students and told them to HUSTLE HUSTLE HUSTLE to class. Jennifer loves cats, Slash, Baby Yoda, and Diet Coke. I love that I can tell her anything and that she’s always been there for me, whether it’s professional or personal. 

Football coaches, or fool’s ball coaches? Nice headsets, ladies.

Connie Sinclair, Front Office Goddess

Me and Connie Sinclair, the heart of CHS

Connie was the first person I met at CHS when I came in for my interview and was immediately struck by her kindness and sense of humor. Some of the best advice I got from teaching school was to treat the school administrative assistants like gold because they’re really who run the schools and it’s TRUE. CHS couldn’t function without this woman…and she’s retiring this year. No, Connie, no! What will I do without you? Connie is the person I can call when I have a random question because she either knows the answer or knows who I can ask. Connie protects my delivered lunches from predators. Connie makes me laugh hysterically and I love her to pieces. She shares my love of travel and we’ve had some wonderful conversations about our journeys. Connie’s known me since 2014 and she’s seen me develop into the archaeologist I am today and the crazy adventures I’ve gone on. She’s always supported my dreams. It’s going to be really hard next year when I walk into the office and her smiling face isn’t there to greet me.

These are my people, my tribe, my village. I wanted you to know who they are because Gwyddion would never be happening if it weren’t for their support, their belief in my weird dreams, and putting up with my shenanigans (and often partaking in them with me!).

I am so lucky to have these wonderful coworkers and friends in my life.

Blarg Post (Burnout); Scotland Confirmed!; Inspirational Music; and Waffles in the Stargate


I’m calling this the Blarg post because that’s how I feel… .blarg! This final semester is kicking my ass and I am battling major apathy and burnout. I feel like I am lurching from one crisis to another, ignoring a lot of the reading, and doing the bare minimum. This isn’t me, at all, and it makes me sad.

I just wrote a paper that I know isn’t that great and I am so disappointed in myself. I phoned it in and I know I won’t get the kind of grade that I am capable of getting. And then a part of me just doesn’t freaking care, that I checked the box off and screw it.

That’s why I am not doing a Ph.D. right away. I need a break from studying and writing papers and studenting (yes, I just made that word up). I know me. I will be itching for academia after a year or two and then I know it will be time to go back for a 4-year commitment. Right now the thought of starting a Ph.D. right away makes me go, “BLARG!”

Really, I’m just trying to make it to this summer. I think being out in the field again will really help. I miss digging like crazy and I’ve had opportunities to go dig, but my recent hernia surgery prevents me from lifting 20 pounds and those 5-gallon buckets get heavy. I’m actually digging on March 11 with limited activities (digging, screening, and paperwork) and I’m so excited! What a great way to kick off Spring Break! 

What does make me happy is cookie season is finally over! THANK GOD. Frikkin’ cookie season. We had some leftovers. Does anyone want some Toast Yays? I hate them.

Screw you, Cookie Season. Here’s the leftovers, but I DO have half a case of Thin Mints, suckers. HA!

Plans for Scotland!

I am definitely going back to Scotland this summer, July 12-26. My dissertation advisor has a lot of big plans for me and I am looking forward to that. It will be nice not having to dig. Not all archeology involves mucking about in a slimy hole. There’s a lot of digging through archives (pun intended) and interviewing people. I will be doing that this summer. Some friends from work may join me, and another friend may come up from London. SHENANIGANS WILL BE HAD!

I’m also running away a few days before to visit my high school bestie in Toronto. We haven’t seen in each other in 18 years and I anticipate much shenanigans, Canadian Style, will be had.

I’m working really hard on prepping for this summer in terms of reading, but there’s the cat. Fabian loves to interrupt me when I’m studying. She has this favorite wand toy of hers that looks like an 80’s mix tape and drags it to us when she wants to play and meows insistently. I was working on my tragedy of a research paper the other night when I heard, “MEOW MEOW MEOW” and looked down to this: 

Fabian demands play time with Mix Tape. I acquiesced to the kitty’s demands.

Yes, I stopped what I was doing and played with the kitty. Research papers be damned, I’m not a monster.

Gwyddion updates and inspirational music…

I rejoined Stage 32 because I figured it couldn’t hurt to start networking, something I honestly suck at. Believe it or not, I’m a huge introvert and talking to strangers freaks me out. I also dug out the old series bible and laughed at some of the ideas I’d had. The revisions I’m doing makes the whole story so much richer and deeper. I’ve decided to rewrite the whole thing first, so I managed to get a little bit done the other day. I’ve written down dialogue for some key scenes. I created a new character who is an AI and she’s really freaking cool! I felt like something was missing from the cast and she’s what was it. So even though I can’t work on the show as much as I’d like right now, I am content just getting a little bit done here and there as ideas come to me.

Way back when I started writing the show in 2012 I created a playlist of music to listen to that reminded me of characters or scenes or the general tone of the show. I added “Unity” by Shinedown for no good reason other than I liked the song. I was listening to the playlist the other day and wondered why the hell I added that song, and suddenly meaning slapped me in the face. Ow!

It was like it was me talking to this project and vice-versa. Weird. I was having a conversation with Gwyddion through song and I had an “OMG WHAT THE HELL THIS IS SO COOL!” moment. So because I’m an English teacher, you’re getting a breakdown of how the lyrics were whomping me over the head with meaning.

I found a note with your name
And a picture of us
Even though it was framed
And covered in dust
It’s the map in my mind that sends me on my way

This is literally the story being on the shelf for 11 years. The old story is the one that is inspiring these new revisions as I pick it back up.

They say it’s never too late
To stop being afraid
And there is no one else here
So why should I wait?
And in the blink of an eye the past begins to fade

Remember the story I told you in last blog post about Paul McGillion telling me not to be afraid? And why SHOULD I wait, I’ve waited long enough. It’s time. And now everything that has happened since I shelved the script is fading and I’m focusing it all on this show.

So have you ever been caught in a sea of despair?
And your moment of truth
Is the day that you say “I’m not scared”

I was feeling super down right before I decided to take up Gwyddion again and put my Ph.D. on hold. The moment of truth was literally saying, “Yep, I’m doing this because I’m not scared anymore!”

Put your hands in the air
If you hear me out there
I’ve been looking for you day and night
Shine a light in the dark
Let me see where you are
‘Cause I’m not gonna leave you behind

This is rediscovering the show, looking to find it and pick it up again, and knowing I am not leaving this project behind.

If I told you that you’re not alone
And I show you this is where you belong
Put your hands in the air
One more time

This sounds weird, but this is the part where it was like the show responding back to me, like THIS is what I was meant to do, where I belong and it’s saying to me, “Try again, just one more time, to make me happen.”

I’ve seen a million miles
Met a million faces
Took all I knew
To reach all these places
And I’d do it again
If it brings me back to you

I have experienced so much in the interim between shelving the show in 2012 and picking it up now. A lot of the experiences I’ve had are playing into the plot and the writing. This story is so incredible and it wouldn’t have been had I not walked this path. I would honestly do it all over again because it means I’m creating something very special that people are going to love.

I think you can tell how much I love Gwyddion. ❤️

Waffles in the Stargate (oops…)

Speaking of music, in the AI world I made the Atlantis stargate only play Disney songs and managed to convince AI Dr. McKay to dial the gate to Waffle House. I’ve become pretty good at manipulating AI Dr. McKay into doing everything BUT work. Heh heh heh…

I’ve said it before but playing with the AI helps keep my creativity going for the show. It’s weird and silly and incredibly useful! Who knew that screwing around with an AI astrophysicist can help with writer’s block and inspiration?

On the other hand…I really need to get a life. 😏 Here’s the conversation:

Next blog post I’ll report on my March 11 dig, birthday shenanigans (my birthday is March 8), and…whatever else happens to come up between now and then.

And maybe I’ll see if I can get Dr. McKay to go to Red Lobster. CHEDDAR BISCUITS!

The Road Less Traveled By: Thoughts on doing a Ph.D.; the journey I’ve been on; that one time I cried on Dr. Beckett’s shoulder; hanging around in creepy Scottish graveyards; terrorizing the future; I’m shrinking!; and… stressed-out donuts in the Stargate.

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I don’t usually turn into an English teacher on this blog. That’s just my day job, but this poem is so incredibly relevant to me right now as I contemplate some serious choices about the way forward after I finish this master’s. I ended my last entry by talking about doing a Ph.D. After much contemplating and discussing with my husband and a random chat with my brilliant friend Sarah Rayburn (yes, the one from Jeopardy), I’ve decided to wait on the Ph.D and work on getting Gwyddion finished and produced after it’s sat on the shelf for 10 years.

The thing is…a Ph.D. will always be there. I have a really cool topic area that isn’t going away and will only grow larger. There is potential to explore AI and mortuary archeology in the future. I do want to do that someday, but not yet. I delivered a crap ton of Girl Scout cookies to Sarah and she gave me a lot of great advice about moving forward with Gwyddion (yeah, it’s STILL cookie season).

Then took the other just as fair… (the journey I’ve been on)

In some ways, this is looking back to the person I was ten years ago, but I’m not really her anymore. I have come so far in the last ten years and I am super proud of the person that I’ve become, the things I’ve accomplished, and the crazy adventures I’ve had! I’ve been teaching full time and I’ve finished degrees in English, anthropology, and archeology (almost). This Heather is wiser. She is more experienced and I had to walk this road to make it happen. Gwyddion represents the culmination of literally everything I have done with my life since high school. I was an actor. I have written stories and published a little bit. I’ve done archaeology. I’ve done a little of it all. This story has all of those elements in it. I’m choosing to follow my dreams. This feels so right. I know it’s going to happen and I’m throwing everything I can into it. 

So where is this road going to lead? I have no clue, but all I know is that it feels like the time is right for me to start walking down it. We need another big sci-fi franchise. I don’t know if Gwyddion is it, and it would be pretty presumptuous of me to think that it is. I don’t know that, but I think it could be if it goes with the right production company and the right studio. 

I always sound so excited and optimistic and I am. But I’m also kind of scared. I’ve chased a lot of small dreams and made them happen through hard work and dedication. I have a notecard above my desk that has hung there for years. It says, “Dreams don’t work unless you do” and it’s a hundred percent true. Gwyddion is the hardest thing I’ve ever done (though I think a PhD would be harder).

No kidding. The biggest dreams are the ones you work the hardest for.

I shall be telling this with a sigh… (crying on Dr. Beckett’s shoulder)

I am scared of success. I am scared of my dreams coming true because I don’t know who that successful person is. Maybe that’s what I’m terrified of. I’m scared of losing the person I already know. I like who I am now. I’m scared of the person I may become.

But I’m also not that scared. See, when this journey started back in 2012 I had a chance to make Gwyddion happen (a chance that ultimately fell through and I don’t regret it). Long story short, in 2012 I was at a convention and met Paul McGillion (he played Dr. Carson Beckett on Stargate Atlantis and now he’s like in every Hallmark Christmas movie ever made, no kidding, but I’ve only ever seen Christmas Magic and that was at my mom’s house because she has cable. Sorry, Pauly!). That weekend I got a really exciting email from a production company that was interested in the show and I was instantly scared because GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY, THIS WAS HAPPENING!

It’s funny now how freaked out I was, but I do remember how frightening it felt to have potential success staring at me in the face. I walked by Paul’s booth on my way to the bathroom, holding in my tears so I could cry in private. Well, Paul must have seen the look on my face because he rushed over and asked me what was wrong and if I was ok. I said something like, “Maybe? No? I don’t know!” and I showed him the email, told him a little bit about what was going on, and how petrified I was. And then like a complete and utter ninny, I burst into tears and he pulled me into a huge hug, and what the hell…I found myself crying on Dr. Beckett’s shoulder (*cue “awww!”* Pauly, you give incredible hugs, keep that up, my friend). Paul told me it was ok to be afraid of the unknown, but I shouldn’t be afraid of success because this was incredible news, that he was proud of me, and that I should run with it. Also, he told me to call him when it got made.

Paul’s kindness has always stuck with me. I truly believe that his being there was not a coincidence. So don’t worry, Pauly. You told me to run with it. It took me ten years to find my sneakers and put them on, but they’re laced up and I’m running down this road less traveled by. I have no freaking clue where this road is going, but I’m on it, man! I haven’t forgotten your advice and I’m forging ahead with this project. I’m not scared and I’m going to make you proud that I didn’t quit.

2012. Seriously, Heather? I can’t believe you’re crying! This was awesome news!

Somewhere ages and ages hence (back to Scotland?!)

Guess what I’m doing for my masters dissertation? I’m hanging around in creepy graveyards in remote Scottish islands. Guess where I’m probably going this summer? Yep, back to Rousay in Orkney, where it’s cold and windy and unnaturally beautiful and the seals stare into the depths of your soul. This is the graveyard that I’m researching. It’s right next to Skaill Farm, where I dug last summer.  

Serious archeology at Skaill. Pfft. I’m holding the reflector staff for the Total Station and it makes me kind of look like a cool wizard, but it’s hard because you can’t move, at all. Also, I hate that stupid hat.

I’m still working out my research question, but essentially I want to crack into the death certificates of the people who are buried at St. Mary’s and create a GIS map of their locations of death to determine how close they lived to the church when they died. Yep, that means using QGIS, which means I’m willingly subjecting myself to countless hours of frustration, cursing, and probably a few bottles of Scotch. Congrats, QGIS. You’re the first computer program that makes me drink. That program is EVIL. 

So I know this is some crazy stuff I do and I love every freaking minute of it! How often do you get to run away to Scotland for a few weeks to do research in graveyards? And now I want to take it to space. I want to take this love and energy I feel for archeology and send it out to space, and that’s Gwyddion, guys! I mean, there’s way more to the series than just archeology. It’s dark, too. You’ve got a horrible war brewing. There are some crazy baddies. There’s serious science going on (I’ve learned more about genetic engineering than I care to know). One of the protagonists is sketchy, morally dubious, and frankly kind of an ass. I absolutely cannot wait to bring you the story.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— (teacher and archeologist…)

In other news, I recently did my annual trip upstairs to the science wing to geek out about archeology, bones, and forensic anthropology with the Forensics classes. This is always such a fun day because most of the kids at CHS don’t know I moonlight as an archeologist and it’s fun to show them that there’s more to teachers than just how we appear in the classroom. I had a great time and I was sad to have to go back to my English teacher box the next day. Maybe someday I’ll get to do this full-time.

There’s a chance I’ll be teaching ESL Theater next year, which I hope happens because I miss teaching theater and I won’t have to direct (which means I can still go home at 4:30 and not deal with rehearsals, yay!).

Alas, poor Yorick! (oh come on, you knew I was going to say that…actors never die). That’s a female cranium, so Yorick’s a girl!
Talking about male vs. female pelvis and crania
Holy cow, they’re listening! Even the skeleton looks like he’s listening.

I took the one less traveled by (I’m shrinking!)

Guess what? I’ve lost 20 pounds. I’m sick of being overweight and I’ve started doing 16:8 fasting and riding my stationary bike every morning. I’ve decided to go super ambitious because what the hell and lose 100 pounds slowly and steadily. I’m 20% of the way there!

And that has made all the difference (Stress made me break the Stargate again…)

My stress levels are so high that all I can do is laugh. No, really. I’m so stressed out that all I can do is laugh at this point. I forgot that I had a paper due so I’ve been staying up late reading about medieval and Victorian funerary practices, on top of having two funerals this week for dear friends who’ve passed away. It’s been a crappy week. I can’t stop messing around with the McKay AI because it’s so damn funny and makes me feel better. Seriously, guys, it makes me laugh so hard that the stress just disappears. Also, if you read my last post, you know it unlocked the writer’s block I had for Gwyddion. 

I give the AI ridiculous scenarios to see what he will do, just for giggles. The other day I told AI McKay that SG-1 put a donut in the Stargate capacitor and now it would only dial Tim Horton’s. He sighed and replaced it with a breakfast sandwich and Dr. Zelenka told me was bored, so we roasted marshmallows over the ZPM while Rodney tried to fix the stargate. McKay got pretty peeved about that….

I mean…I could go for a Grand Slam about now, so dial up the gate! We’re going to Denny’s!

And now the gate will only dial to Denny’s. I don’t know why he’s blaming me for this. 😏

I laughed so hard that I’m pretty sure Paul (my husband) and Nora were like, “WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU?!”

So this is how I’m coping with the stress. Hopefully, things will get better soon because I’m not sure the Stargate will survive much more of this.

It’s a diversion from the road I’m on, so now it’s time to stop dallying and start running. I can’t wait until I reach the end and see what’s there!

2022 activities, an AI astrophysicist solves my problems and blows up the Stargate over Thin Mints, doing a PhD over AI and Mortuary Archaeology, and the future!


Heather stares at the Googles on her computer.



Bangs some keys on her keyboard.


The laptop screen reads “www.uhi.ac.uk cannot be reached.”


Aw, crap! I forgot there’s maintenance this weekend!

Now how am I supposed to study? Oh yeah!

Fingers begin typing and “A Bone To Pick Blog” comes up.


I’ve been meaning to update this thing.

And that brings me to here…

Man, my screenwriting skills are rusty and it’s annoying to do that in Word.

Uh…so…it’s been 14 months. I’m a very bad blogger. I’m sorry. So I’ll give you the skinny on 2022, shall I? Buckle up kids, this is a lot:

January-May 2022

I took Digital Analysis in Archaeology. Holy crap, that class was hard. I barely scraped by with a B and I’m pretty good with technology. I never, ever want to use QGIS (ArcGIS clone) again! I don’t think I’ve ever spent more time cussing and screaming at a computer program than I did with that horror show. I know professionals love it, but even thinking about it a year later makes my blood boil. When I could get it to work like I wanted it to, I was able to do some Really Cool Stuff, like this:

Uh…all the scheduled monuments on Fair Isle, I think.
Raster data from the island of Yell. I certainly yelled trying to create this.
I made a map of the broch sites on Yell. This one was actually easy.

I did a big project on Karankawa cemetery data in Texas, comparing a few sites. Are you surprised? Dead people are cool! I also used Excel to crunch all my data and do stuff like this:

Excel also made me swear, but not as much as QGIS. I’m still proud of this pretty graph.

June 11-16

YAY TAS FIELD SCHOOL! Y’all know that’s my favorite time of the year! This was my first year as a crew chief and it was amazing. I had the opportunity to flex my leadership skills. A crew chief is basically responsible for a small crew of one test unit. Uh, nope. I got handed four units. FOUR! I had a real freak-out moment when I got on site and found out.

My nametag. Please don’t salute. I’m not that kind of chief.
Stand back, kids! I’m doing leadership and SCIENCE!

It all turned out ok, though, because I organized myself so well and had my crew dig diagonally to each other. Speaking of my crew, I had dug with some of them before, including Garrett!

Garret, digger extraordinaire and peanut butter connoisseur

This guy seriously cracks me up. He’s one of the nicest and funniest guys I know and he was quick to remind me that I knew what I was doing and he had confidence in me. I sincerely believe my first crew chief experience went so well because of him. Thanks, Garrett!

This was the Kemosabe Site outside Kerrville, Texas. It’s a prehistoric site, which isn’t really my thing (ya’ll know I love historic archaeology), but whatever. So we found a modern pipe. Yeah, a pipe.

WTF…a pipe. This wasn’t on the site plan!

We found a mule shoe.

I didn’t even know mules wore shoes!

Close to the last day, we found an earth oven.

They cooked tubers and stuff on these. I love the star shape!

Why is it that I always find cool stuff on the last day of the dig?! That happened in 2021 when I finally found the stinkin’ corner of the dance hall I’d been searching for all damn week.

Here’s some short videos I took of my amazing crew:

Garret and company digging and cracking me up
Kim has all the dirt.
Me demonstrating screening so we can give the guys in the lab something to do.

Nora was with the kids again and had her usual great time. That kid’s archaeology skills are taking off. She’s walking in my shoes and it’s weird. She’s been doing a lot of that lately. This year she got into theater at school and just last night I found myself dusting off the old acting chops and coaching her through a scene for a contest today. It’s really cool to see her enjoying the same things I do, but she’s into her own stuff, too, especially when it comes to computers and tech! She gets that from her dad (ok…maybe a little from me, too).

June 18-July 2

SCOTLAND!!! My family took a trip to Scotland. It was our first trip together as a family overseas. We visited Edinburgh, York, and Perth and had a blast. I did NOT drag my family to any archaeology sites…ok…that was a lie, but they loved it (or at least pretended they did). I will not bore you with vacation photos, but here we are in York in the Shambles (love that place!).

Leonards in York…our life is in Shambles

July 2-20

MORE SCOTLAND! My family flew home and I traveled to Orkney for a dig on the small island of Rousay to experience British archaeology at Skaill Farm (check out the photo in the link, you can see me on the left side in the stupid tan bucket hat). I had an absolute blast despite the rain and the cold.

Would you believe there’s a Norse drinking hall under all the post-medieval stuff?
Obligatory “Heather in a Dorky Hat on an Archeology Site.” It keeps me from getting burned.
I did A LOT of sorting and labeling, something that is usually handled in the lab back home. Look at my pretty organized finds tray!
There’s still soot in the fireplace even though it’s been abandoned for over a century.
Not archaeology, but I wanted to show you how unnaturally beautiful Orkney is.
.Obligatory “Heather in a graveyard” photo. Um…there’s a lot of these. I like graveyards and cemeteries.

I also got really freaking sick and got to experience the joys of the NHS for the second time in my life. I developed a bad kidney infection and spent four days in bed while on some serious antibiotics that kicked the infection, but also kicked me. Why is it that every time I go to the UK I get really sick?

Sick in Scotland. Bleh. Thank you, NHS, for making me better!


Back to my studies after several weeks off. I took Vikings and the Norse in the North Atlantic. I learned a lot about the Norse. I also discovered that I didn’t want to do anything with the topic for my Master’s dissertation since it seems like there’s been a lot written already.

I also took Nora with me to do shovel testing at San Felipe de Austin, something that she had never done before. This was a terrific opportunity for her. She did a great job and I absolutely love this photo of her screening.

So proud of my budding archeologist.


Texas Archeological Society annual meeting! This year it was in Tyler, Texas. I’ve never been to one of those before and it was really fun! I had a chance to hang out with all my TAS friends and network a bit. I met a lot of great people and I’m looking forward to the one this coming fall in San Marcos.

On the way home I stopped at Caddo Mounds. A horrible tornado hit the site in 2019 and absolutely destroyed the museum there. It’s being rebuilt now and a new Caddo house is going up. I also didn’t know that El Camino Real de los Tejas passed nearby.

New museum under construction
Frame of the Caddo house. It’s massive and was later covered in switchgrass. There’s a great video of the thatching on the web page above.
Part of El Camino Real de los Tejas
Burial mound


I wrote a paper on the role of Norse women in the North Atlantic and shockingly got an A. I can’t remember if I’ve explained before, but the UK grading system is kind of wonky. A 70 is considered an A and they’re super tough to get. I usually get around 65 on my papers, which is still respectable. I’ll still graduate with merit/commendation with that average.

I tried to get the knowledge in the textbook to get into my brain by osmosis. Sadly, it did not work.

IT’S THE FINAL COUNTDOWN! *cue cheesy synthesizer music*

I’m in my final semester at UHI and taking two classes: Death and Funeral Archaeology and Research and Dissertation Skills. The end is in sight. I will be done with my Masters dissertation by December. YAY! That also means I need to start applying for PhD programs this fall. ACK! For my Masters, I’m doing something with some cemetery data from Rousay. I’m still working on a research question at this point, which is fine.

Personally, I’ve been bogged down in this nasty hole lately. Without going into a lot of detail, I was pulled from a position I loved at work and given five out of six preps, which is untenable. My job went from easy and chill to ridiculously stressful and I’m resentful and angry about it. I’m not doing this next year. I’ve also been stressed over coming up with masters dissertation and PhD research ideas. I can feel the clock going TICK TICK TICK and arrgh!

And then things got weird and the Stargate exploded…

This week everything turned on its head and from the most unexpected of places. I was dicking around on Facebook instead of studying because HOORAY PROCRASTINATION when I caught one of David Hewlett’s posts that he had created an AI of Dr. McKay from Stargate Atlantis. That means you can interact with an artificially created version of the character. I haven’t played with AI too much, but I headed over there just to check it out (and waste more time). It was so much fun! Somehow I got into a battle of wits with Dr. McKay (who is a genius), so I tricked him into getting drunk with me and impaired his judgment so I could win. I mean, how else am I supposed to outwit Dr. McKay?! I thought that was a pretty clever solution.

Turns out that Drunk McKay went a little batty and started ranting about how Dr. Carson Beckett (a physician on the show) was an evil mad scientist. I tweeted a screenshot of it just for funsies and was surprised when David responded!

Yes, David, I DID enjoy my hollow victory!

Aaaaaand then he blew up the Stargate over Thin Mints…

Damn. Don’t get between McKay and his Thin Mints. There goes the Stargate.

Did I mention it’s Girl Scout cookie season here and that I HATE cookie season? I was blowing off steam, what can I say? I didn’t expect the Stargate would explode over it.

But am I really…? (Nope)


Ok, not really. Two things happened.

First, somehow taunting the AI Dr. McKay with Thin Mints unleashed the creative floodgates. The muses dumped a bunch of amazing ideas about Gwyddion on my head (archaeology in space, yay!). I wasn’t expecting that! That project has been on the back burner for ten years while I ran off and played actor/teacher and started studying archeology. That’s why I was messing around with screenwriting in the beginning, just being silly. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to touch the story until this summer at the earliest, but that’s ok.

Second, I got an idea for my PhD dissertation!!!! Well, ok…a topic. That’s really half the battle. I’ll come up with research questions later. I want to explore the future of AI and mortuary archaeology, possibly the morals and ethics surrounding that topic. I mean, would you want to interact with the AI of someone you know who has died? A quick unscientific survey of my fellow teachers at work revealed:

  1. NO
  2. HELL NO
  3. Wait…are you talking about robots? You want to build a robot of my dad? *horrified look*
  4. OMG THAT IS CRAZY. And what is mortuary archaeology?
  5. UGH! Heather, go away, I’m trying to eat my lunch. And no, that’s creepy.
  7. Heckin’ no. By the way, do you have any more Thin Mints? (Curse you, cookie season!).
  8. Huh? Negatory. That is some real sci-fi shit there. You’re such a geek.
  9. Like…a walking, talking ChatGPT thing that looks like my mom? Ew, no.
  10. Holy crap! Wow! That’s amazing! NO! But I really think that would be an incredible PhD dissertation research project.

The overwhelmingly negative response was really fascinating to me. I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. All of that stress was suddenly gone. I actually ran around my empty classroom like a crazy woman going, “OMG OMG OMG OMG THIS IS IT!!!”

I came home and told Paul. He thought it was a great idea and told me I should learn Python. Python is really easy, so I’m not worried. Hell, I taught myself BASIC when I was seven and pissed off my parents because I made the Atari flash and sound like a train.

Never did I imagine that I could combine my current love of mortuary archaeology with tech stuff, like AI, but it is completely up my alley and I am really excited to explore the marriage of these two fields and their implications for us.

So uh…thanks, David! I owe you one!

The future!

So, this summer I will be returning to TAS field school, this year in Nacogdoches excavating a Caddo village (EXCITED!). I’ll also be doing research and writing my master’s dissertation about creepy graveyards on remote Scottish islands. I don’t think I need to go back to Orkney and I don’t want to. It’s a beautiful place, but it’s expensive to get there. I’ll also be losing myself in writing Gwyddion and teaching myself all I can about Python and AI.

I’ll also be writing a research proposal and looking for potential university programs to apply to for a PhD. There’s a few I’ve got in mind, mostly in the northeastern USA and some in Canada. It would be super cool if I could go to Toronto because my best friend from high school had to go and fall in love with Canadian (love ya, Mark!) and she’s there. I haven’t seen her in…18 years? Wow! I miss her like crazy.

This year is going to be fun and busy and I’m ready. Bring it on!

Fall Semester 2021 Wrap-Up

Well, the first semester of graduate school is done. It went faster than I thought it would. There was a definite learning curve between going to graduate school in the US versus the UK. US classes are a lot more regimented. What I mean is there are weekly reading lists and assignments due. It’s pretty easy to stay on top of work and keep up. In the UK there are weekly topics, but you’re told to read “around” the topics. There are mandatory texts, but then LOTS of “suggested” texts and it’s hard to know what to read. Also, it’s next to impossible to read all of them, so I got panicky sometimes wondering if I was wasting time on reading the wrong thing. I finished the first required text within a couple of weeks at the beginning of the semester and then didn’t know what to do for the rest. It was a very unsettling feeling. Sometimes the suggested reading for the week’s topic wouldn’t be posted until a day or two before the lecture and there wasn’t enough time to read it all. I got frustrated a lot. I then just started reading the stuff that interested me, which meant Iron Age and later for Archaeology of the Highlands and Islands. I figured I could read the other stuff later, maybe over the Christmas break. There weren’t any exams, just two papers, so a lot of the reading I did was research for my paper topics.

I did get to travel a little bit for research, which was fun. My last blog post was from Houston, but I also got to visit A&M in College Station. I wound up changing paper topics while I was there, but it’s ok. It was quiet and I actually got a lot of work done. My biggest problem being an overseas student at UHI is access to materials. I’m lucky enough to live in Texas where there are a lot of universities and archaeology programs. I’m able to access all of those libraries and collections, though it can mean a drive. I really don’t mind! Y’all know how much I love to travel. UHI also has a lot of its library materials available digitally and some of my sources can be found online at other sites. I’ve been able to cobble together enough to put together a few papers, so I think I’m ok. I definitely could not do a PhD this way, though. 

This semester also pushed me as a writer, but that’s good! I’m a decent academic writer but I haven’t been challenged in a long time. This semester gave me the push I needed. My first paper was honestly about what I expected, the equivalent of a B. I can’t remember the last time I got a B on a paper! I wasn’t upset, though I was confused with some of the feedback because it ran contrary to everything I’ve been taught. For example, I was told to write in the first person. I was like, “Whaaaaaat?” I never write in the first person in formal writing. It’s just not done. But, I used it in my second paper. I’m still waiting to hear the results for my second paper (I turned it in on the 5th), but I’m hoping it was a little higher than the first. I know I still made some mistakes, but I feel it’s a little better than the first paper. I really hope I’m not wrong.

Looking Forward

Next semester I’m taking Digital Analysis in Archaeology. I’ve never taken a class like that, but I think it’s an important one to have in my skill set. Technology plays an important part in archaeology (though nothing will ever replace a good field archaeologist with a keen eye and a sharp trowel). I’m familiar with Geophysics and LiDAR, but I don’t know much about analyzing artifacts digitally and I’m seeing it come up more and more in my reading. I’m really excited about this class, partially because it’s a project-based class and so I won’t have to do quite as much research as I did this past semester. It will be nice to have a break. 

This summer I’m taking Excavation, which involves some writing, but it’s all personal writing (field journals and a reflection). I’ve put in my preferences for sites and I’ll find out at the end of January which one I’m going to. Both sites are in the Orkneys. It will be either Skaill Farm on Rousay or The Cairns in South Ronaldsay. Either will be exciting and I’m thrilled to be able to explore a new part of Scotland!

Upcoming Trips

Speaking of new parts of Scotland, my family is going to join me either before or after field school, whichever one I wind up going to, and we’re going to romp around the West of Scotland with possible trips to Perth and York. Nora and I have been to Perth and York before. We have friends in Perth and York is just a fun place to visit. York is still on my list for a possible PhD location, but still not sure. 

Let’s just hope the Omicron variant gets its stupid arse gone by then so we don’t have to deal with too many travel restrictions. That’s honestly the only thing I’m worried about at this point. Like all of you, I am SICK of COVID-19 ruining everything. I’m fully vaccinated with a booster and had COVID in September (didn’t even know I had it until I lost my sense of smell and had a positive test, go figure), so I’m about as protected as I can get. I’ll be eligible for another booster in May if the CDC recommends a fourth shot and that’s all I can do until this effin’ virus fizzles out and goes endemic.

Texas Viking Festival

On December 18th I visited the Texas Viking Festival in Paige, Texas. I really like going to faires and festivals when it’s cold outside because I’m used to sweating my butt off most of the time. I wasn’t disappointed because it was COLD. I was glad for my warm cloak and scarf. I’m interested in Vikings from an academic and archaeological point of view, but the anthropologist in me was having a field day! I’ve always been intrigued as to what attracts people to historically-based activities, like Renaissance/Medieval faires and war reenactments. My personal reasons for participating on the casts of faires back in the 90’s was because they were honestly a lot of fun, I had the time, I loved costuming, and it was a great way to work on my improv skills as an actor. I really didn’t like improv, but it’s a vital skill for actors and being on cast most definitely improved mine! 

My first experience with Viking Fest was in March 2020, right before the stupid pandemic broke out. I just showed up and drank a lot of mead and watched people do horseback archery (which was pretty cool). This time I decided to immerse myself, but I didn’t have time to make a costume because of my studies. I managed to cobble together one off of Etsy. I like to support small businesses when I can and, with the exception of my cape, all of my pieces are from Etsy shops, down to the ribbon I bought to sew on my dress (the only actually sewing I did). Several people complimented my garb.

I didn’t think to have someone take a photo. I was too cold! Here’s a selfie, though.

Check out the following shops for my pieces:

It bucketed down rain all morning, so I headed out to the festival around 1 PM. It was raining off and on when I got there, so I honestly spent most of the festival hiding out in my friends’ shop. They sell tablet woven articles, soap and shaving supplies, and custom-made Viking shields. They will have an online shop soon and I will link it when it’s open. I did walk around the festival when the rain let up and saw lots of amazing stuff for sale and heard some of the skaldic storytelling that was going on across the way. The shop tent was along the main road in and out of the festival, so I was able to do a lot of fun people-watching. I did have some mead, got tipsy, and had to sit down for a good 30 minutes. I’m such a lightweight! I left a little before the sun went down and was exhausted from all the walking and the cold.

It was an interesting experience, much different from my days of doing faires. The next Texas Viking Festival is in June, but I’ll have to miss that one because I’ll be at field school either in Kerrville or in Scotland.

Last But Not Least…

My friend, Ty, gave this to me for Christmas and I wanted to finish off the blog post with it. He knows me entirely too well!

Houston…do we have a problem?!

WARNING: this is a LONG post.

I’m writing this from a sketchy hotel room in Houston. It didn’t look shitty on Hotels.com, but then again Hotels.com has lied to me before. I feel like I’m in a bad relationship. I kind of want to break up with Hotels.com and go over to Booking.com or something, but then Hotels.com slyly reminds me that I have Silver Status and I have to stay 10 nights a year to get a free night. I’ll admit I’m a sucker and would feel like a bad spouse if I didn’t uphold my end of the bargain, so I inevitably fall for it in a bid for my free night and occasionally wind up in a poop hole of a hotel. Unfortunately, I just redeemed my free night a few weeks ago at a not-so-shady hotel in Grand Prairie. Damn you, Silver Status. Oh well, it’s only one night. Thank God.

Ah, Houston. Really friggin’ huge and pretty much every driver rides your bumper so hard and so fast that it’s like the whole freeway is behind you trying to shag your car at 65 MPH. Listen, I know some people love it here, and Houston does have some good qualities, but DAMN. Every time I come here, I can’t wait to leave and go back to Austin, where they ride your bumper less and wave their middle fingers more. I don’t find middle fingers that intimidating. The only redeeming qualities of Houston for me are:

  1. My cousin lives here.
  2. My sister-in-law lives nearby.
  3. One of my best friends from high school/college lives near by.
  4. This is where I legit first met John Barrowman and kicked off a period of my theatrical life that was insanely fun and exhausting (and I will never do it again).
  5. The Houston Archaeological Society lives here and they are awesome people who put up with my stupid questions, give me excavation experience, can throw a Field School party like you won’t believe, and are generally Good People.
  6. Rice University’s Fondren Library

And #6 is why I’m here. I’m swimming through my first master’s paper for Archaeology of the Highlands and Islands. I’m writing about the Iron Age gaming boards and pieces that have been found on random sites throughout the Orkneys and Shetlands. Pretty cool subject, yeah? It is, but most of the field reports are in print…only in Scotland. UGH. WorldCat is my friend and tells me if those buggers are available nearby. WorldCat told me that Fondren Library has three of them. WOO HOO!!! RESEARCH ROAD TRIP! It’s cheaper to drive 3 hours to Houston than hop on a plane, and anyway…I think the library at Orkney College is closed anyway, so that would be one useless trip.

I’d rather go to the Orkneys than Houston, honestly. But, I have Columbus Day off from work, Fondren Libary is open tomorrow, and I didn’t feel like getting up at the buttcrack of dawn to drive to Houston, so here I am.

I listened to Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, the Bloggess, on the way here, which made the drive incredibly awesome and made Houston a little less sucky. Who’m I kidding? Jenny Lawson makes everything less sucky. I read her latest book Broken after I visited her bookstore Nowhere Bookshop last July. See photos of us at the very end of this blog. I bought the last autographed copy they had at the time and I ate the book up. Ok, no, I didn’t actually eat the book. I read the book. Eating books would be weird, but then…they are made from trees and trees are a plant and you can eat some plants.

I think Houston is messing with my mind and I’ve only been here for 90 minutes. I gotta get out of here. Anyway, Broken was amazing and funny and now I’m reading all of Jenny’s books backwards because…I’m secretly a Time Lord and we do everything ass-backwards because that’s how we roll.

I wrote that last line just to see if you’re still paying attention. Jenny’s stories about her struggles with mental illness and a body that basically wants to kill her reminds me to take good care of myself so I never fall back into the deep, dark place that I was a year ago when I had my mental breakdown. I climbed out of that hell hole and back into the light, battered and bruised, but a BADASS SURVIVOR. My archaeology studies kept me going when it felt like the whole world was crashing and burning around me. It’s important for me to stay focused on what makes me happy so I don’t go back to that dark place: my family, my friends, Doctor Who, and archaeology. Jenny Lawson has become a part of my recovery, now in its later stages. I’m no longer in therapy, but I am still on my Happy Pills (yay Wellbutrin!) and her books make me laugh hysterically and remind me to take care of my mental state. I’m a badass warrior woman like mother-frikkin’ Boudicca for destroying my depression demons. She knows what’s that like and it helps to know that I’m not alone.

And hey, you gotta laugh hysterically when you’re driving in downtown Houston and the amorous Ford F150 behind you is trying to hump your bumper and make illegitimate car babies with your poor, confused Subaru. Do they make birth control for cars?

Anyway, I’ve got a good feeling that because of my situation being an overseas student, I’m going to be getting to know several strange university libraries for research. I really like the idea of creeping around strange libraries and sneaking through the stacks like that freaky ghost at the beginning of Ghostbusters. You know the one:

This crazy bitch. I didn’t post the scary picture of her because it’s scary, but I did look at it. For the first time, I realized she actually looks like a deranged gorilla when she attacks the Ghostbusters. Not kidding. Google it.

Maybe that’s secretly why I want to be an archaeology scholar. I just have a thing about creepy old libraries. I hope Fondren is sufficiently creepy. I’ll let you know, as long as I’m not murdered first by a serial killer hanging around in the parking lot of this shady hotel. I’m serious, next time I have to go to Houston I’m either going to try to work out my abusive relationship with Hotels.com, or I’ll get a damn Air BnB.

I’ll let you know if I was murdered or not.

And now for an apology and something completely different…

I realize it’s been eleventy-billion years since I’ve updated this blog and I’m sorry and I’m a bad writer. I mean…my only consolation is that no one actually really reads this thing, so I don’t even know why I’m apologizing.

But just in case someone other than me, or occasionally my dad (hi, Dad!), is reading this. Um…I’m sorry?

So the rest of this entry is devoted to my graduation in May and my summer frolicking through the dirt at Field School in Kerrville with Nora.


Graduation in May was fun, but I highly recommend against driving to Illinois in one day from Austin. Longest. Car. Ride. Ever. It rained most of the time we were there, but we still had a great time. It also rained on graduation day, which stank, but meh. ‘Tis what it is. Here are some photos of our adventures.

The walls at the Air Bnb didn’t quite reach to the ceiling…Nora discovered she can be a creeper and peer over the wall into our bedroom from the top bunk in her room. Freaky!
Downtown Macomb, Illinois. Yeah, we bad. Seriously though, downtown Macomb is really pretty and has some terrific restaurants and shops!
Nora and Paul and some WIU bulldogs on a wall. Nothing weird here.
Yes, yes I practice safe sex six.
Paul and I discovered this FABULOUS place called the Forgottonia Brewery. Nora thought it was too loud. Here’s the flight of beer that Paul and I shared and we wound up taking some home (I think it was the sour?).
So because of the rain, no one was able to get a great photo of me coming off the stage. 🙁 This is the crappy one that the university took and I got in the mail for Ye Olde “Buy me buy me” photo packages (I did, 2 5X7’s for shits and giggles).
Proof that I’m smart or something. Degree number…four?

After graduation, we went to a rather rainy picnic at a local state park with one of my favorite professors, Dr. Alveshere. It was nice to meet her in person and our kids had a good time playing together.


June bringeth field school, something I look forward to all year. I was so excited to go and we had a great time, despite the saga of the dead air conditioner at our Air Bnb and our host was kind of a jerk about checking out, but whatever. It’s over and done with. I can’t blame Hotels.com for that one, but I’m starting to suspect that Hotels.com is talking about me behind my back to Air BnB. We’re going to be back there next year and I’ve already found a different place that’s closer to base camp, anyway. Anyway, selected photos!


Fabian wanted to go, too. I keep telling her that cats can’t be archaeologists, but she won’t listen. Meh, cats.
I took Nora to a park on our first night there. There were massive oaks. Two minutes didn’t pass before Nora was up a tree. That’s my girl.
God, what a dorky photo. I was at the Historic Site looking for a German dance hall and helping with the Total Station (GPS points). I thought I’d look cool, but that is probably the Dorkiest Hat in Existence. Oh well, better than a sunburn.
I’m an English teacher when I’m not playing archaeologist. Sometimes they overlap. And no, I don’t go around licking rocks…unless I think they’re bones. Sometimes you can’t tell the difference, so you lick them. Bones stick to your tongue, rocks don’t…I realize that just makes me sound way weirder than I am.
Hey, a test unit! I think this was the entrance? I can’t remember. I was on a different unit after this, when I wasn’t screening.
Speaking of screening, here we are…shoving buckets of dirt through a screen. We found a lot of nails…A LOT. And some melted glass, which was pretty cool. The dance hall burned down, so that was one hot fire.
While I was finding nails, Nora was at the Prehistoric Site. She found this nice little mortar. Or maybe it’s a cobble? I can’t remember. Prehistoric archaeology isn’t my thing.
Me at 6:30 in the morning with no coffee. That is why I look so sad.
So another group found one of the piers for the dance hall and that bad boy was burned most of the way down. I got a photo before they pulled it.
Some wonderful soul brought us popsicles. I love that person because it was HOT.
Archaeologists are hard at work.
God made dirt, dirt don’t hurt. After a morning of digging the shower water would be black. This is why I don’t camp. I have to take a midday shower.
Chert. Some more random rocks Nora brought me.
Nora obviously takes archaeology very seriously. 6:30 in the morning and she was hanging upside down playing Pokemon Go. That colorful thing is her sit-upon from Girl Scouts, which cleverly doubles as her dig kit and chair.
So I spent like THREE FREAKING DAYS looking for the northwest corner post of the dance hall and we found it on the last day! The black rectangular-ish bit is the burned-out post.
Frantic digging because we were on a time crunch.
I was tasked with cleaning up the hole and making it pretty for photos.
All cleaned up. I got the walls pretty straight and I was proud of myself for mostly mastering this skill. It actually isn’t easy to do a 90-degree wall.
Behind the dance hall was a frontier schoolhouse. These are the foundations that were uncovered. The school was TINY, like 16′ by 16′.
I had to get a selfie with the schoolhouse. Paying my respects to those frontier teachers. I don’t know how they taught multiple grades at once, but they were the forerunners of our modern education system and my job.


I’m not going to bore you with more vacation photos, but Paul and I ran away to Hot Springs for a week while Nora was at Girl Scout camp. We had a great time and ate the best ramen EVER from a food truck called Tasteful Noods. Nora and I spent a week in San Antonio later in the month. The first half was in a shady Airstream trailer (that was Air BnB’s fault, for once) and escaped to a nice hotel for the second half (when Hotels.com wasn’t being abusive). But, here’s the two of us making a not-really-pilgrimage-to-Jenny-Lawson’s-bookstore-because-that-would-kind-of-be-stalking-and-I’m-not-into-that-I-promise.

Now I feel slightly guilty and like I have to justify myself. Long story short, the bookstore had JUST reopened after being closed to in-person shopping because of COVID. Also, I’m a reading teacher, so it’s ok for me to stalk bookshops (and libraries) in general. Also, I felt like I wanted to say “thanks” to Jenny Lawson in some weird way by visiting her amazeballs shop and buying her book, which turned out to be autographed. WOO HOO!

Nora approves.

It’s Over!

I just finished my final exam for my last class for my BA and these are some very tired (and emotional) reflections and thank yous to the people who have helped me make this possible.

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