Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Case of the Missing Wife: CLOSED

(Note: the following post is excessively long because I'm summarizing pretty much the last month. It's equal parts romance and economics, and you don't usually see those two things together much unless you're in Dr. McDonald's econometrics courses at BYU.)

Tomorrow I get to fly out to Santa Barbara to rejoin Joy. This is a very happy thing.

The first time we had to be apart was for Joy's grandmother's funeral. By the nature of such things, it came on us quite unexpectedly, and Joy was gone for two weeks to spend some time with family she doesn't get to see much. Though she enjoyed it - as much as she could given the reason for the trip - it was a pretty miserable experience for me, and we were both quite concerned this month apart might end up like this. But this time I had time to prepare and psych myself up for it.

Chief in the process of psyching myself up for this month was the accumulation of way more to do than could possibly be done. Joy (the nationally certified Master of Career Counseling) and I had spent nearly all our time the month before working on the job market: identifying schools, preparing packets, preparing my job market paper, and so forth. She left just as we got out the first big shipment of them out. That meant there was a month worth of various things that needed to be done that neither of us had had time to do.

More urgent than them, though, was the preparation for the Cornell/U.N. Symposium on hunger in Africa on Nov 13 and 15. It's official title is The African Food System and its Interactions With Health and Nutrition. A lot of people had a lot of work to put it together, including in particular my adviser, Prof. Per Pinstrup-Andersen. He contacted me one night to inform me that one of the first speakers had had to cancel, and that meant that Per needed to fill in for that key presentation. He indicated that as he thought about what was needed, he realized that this was precisely the information I had been working with for my dissertation, and asked if I would be willing to work on this with him.

As I looked over the program outline, which included a number of very influential and accomplished researchers, U.N. leaders, and a vice-president of Uganda getting her Ph.D., I realized that the first speech he was talking about really set the stage for the other presentations. Its purpose was to describe the current state of hunger and malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa, what the recent trends have been, and what progress has been made in accomplishing the World Food Summit and Millennium Development Goals on hunger alleviation. And yes, it's exactly the information that forms the backbone of my dissertation. Each of the next presentations then dealt with specific elements of the food and health systems in SSA, proposing specific policy or research actions that need to be taken in order to reduce hunger.

So I happily signed on. Before Joy left and immediately after, most of my time was spent preparing the hunger presentation and paper. The U.N. has already posted the video of it, so anyone interested could watch it here. Cornell is expecting to upload their video too, and since that's the one where I presented our work, I'll be sure to put in a link in a future post once it's up.

After I got back from NYC and the first part of the symposium at the UN, I finally got that head cold that had been threatening the last couple weeks. That was just in time for my turn to present our paper at the Cornell part of the Symposium on Thursday, Nov 15. I asked some priesthood holders who live nearby for a blessing, where I was told my head and voice would be clear enough to be understood and do the work I had come to do. The blessing also mentioned something that made me think of the presentation in an entirely different light, so I adjusted how I planned my closing remarks. I'm very pleased with how it turned out. I think it generated a lot of thought and discussion, and helped more people realize the situation there.

It was actually quite thrilling to be working that closely with Per and moving an important piece of research forward that quickly. It provided some strong momentum to get other research and projects moving forward much more rapidly, and since they'd all been on the back burner for the last 6 weeks, they were overripe and begging to be picked. So by the time we were done with the presentations and I was done with the cold, half the time had already flown by!

The upshot is that the time apart has been infinitely easier than the last time because of how focused I could be on my work. This does not mean I haven't missed her, just that I haven't allowed myself to wallow in how much I miss her. It was a new testimony to me of Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley's advice of the importance of work to help you get through trying times, which he most recently stressed at the passing of his own companion of some 60 years.

The one exception, oddly enough, was at the church Christmas party last Saturday. They tell you that you should make sure you're not alone to prevent feeling lonely. Being alone with a lot of other couples may not be what they had in mind, though. When the first few people asked me how I was doing without Joy, I responded fairly "upbeatedly". By the time the 12th person had asked, however, my hand ached to hold hers and I left fairly depressed and missed her horribly. Thankfully (?), she was missing me very much that night too, so we talked a very long time on the phone after that and were able to put each other back together again.

At the party, someone asked if being apart had helped me realize how much I need her. I responded that the word "realize" presupposed that I didn't know before, but that, yes, we were both appreciating new ways in which we have grown to need each other. I was very gratified when the person acknowledged that I was one of the few husbands she knew who seemed to understand. It's a nice reputation to have. Actually, that reminds me that someone had gone to my website to get my bio for the Africa symposium, and when she met me for the first time commented that it was obvious how much I loved my wife. *chuckle* There are many worse things to be known for, than as someone who deeply loves his sweetheart.

And tomorrow, I will be with her again.

No comments: