About Me: Carissa Marler

I’m realizing I probably should have lead with this, but as they say: better late than in heaven….or never….or whatever the saying is.

So whom am I?

I’m a small-town girl whose life path resembles the neuronal plaques and tangles found in an Alzheimer’s brain more than a sagittal plane running from umbilicus to jugular notch – please forgive the metaphor, I have pathology brain.  I’m newly married, newly relocated, and always hungry for chicken pot pie (that’s for you, sis).  Well, that’s a glimpse of who I am anyway…

Why do you care?

I don’t know that you do, but what I don’t know can’t hurt me.  😉

Where to begin…

I grew up in a family of 7 in western Nebraska, and can’t remember a time when I wasn’t aware of the song of birds, the glory in the rolling hills (check out my blog’s header photo if you don’t believe me – that’s taken from our driveway), the freshness of rain, the penetrating sweetness of pine and evergreen trees in the canyon, and the mystery of the stars that spilled across the endless night sky.  My parents taught us to see, hear, smell, feel, and taste.  They taught us in a thousand ways to engage the world, to pursue it rather than wait for it to come to us.

I remember waking up, looking out my window and seeing the breathtaking wrinkled no-man’s land each morning.  Fields of golden grain welcomed the sun in the east and bid farewell to the disappearing sun in the west.  I appreciated this quiet place where the brown earth was spotted by an occasional tree, where a dust cloud pursuing an old pick-up truck on the county’s dirt roads was the only sign of humanity for miles.  We lived a short thirty-minute drive from the nearest gas station, the closest store, and the first town large enough to be on the map in most states.  It was essential to plan ahead so you didn’t run out of gas.  It was helpful to know how to drive stick by age fourteen.  It was necessary to distinguish between mud and cow manure.  Meals were prepared for more than just your family – the hired men, neighbors’ kids, or last minute visiting friends would surely be eating too.  Ability to do manual labor was…well, it was required.  There were tractors to drive, fences to fix, and rye to pull.  It wasn’t always fun, but the hard work kept us busy and started to shape me before I even knew I needed shaping.

We would laugh and joke about there being “nothing to do” in Nebraska, but it fused our creativity and could turn our boredom into an inspired adventure.  I went to a K-12 public school.  Big fish, little pond…that sort of thing.  I couldn’t say no to opportunity and learning, so I did everything: I played volleyball, basketball, track, and co-ed league soccer, I loved power tumbling (my husband tells me you don’t know what it is, haha – here you go: Power Tumbling), I took swimming lessons for almost 10 years, and even found myself in ballet classes for a couple years (now I can honestly say, I hate being a ballerina but appreciate those who are).  I followed through with piano lessons, recitals, concerts, and competitions from 1st grade until my high school senior recital.  I played the flute and tritoms in the junior high and high school band, marching band, and pep band.  I sang in the junior high and high school choir and accompanied the full choir and smaller vocal groups on the piano.  I joined the math counts team, quiz bowl team, Odyssey of the Mind team, State Fair academic team, stock market team, and Science Olympiad team.  I didn’t even know what some of them were before our first competition day.  But I loved the challenge, the variety, the unique meshing of skills and disciplines and determination required to balance it all, to succeed at it all.

Now, it all reads like an over-achiever’s bio on a Harvard application, but it was really about taking the opportunities there were to take – I swear!  😉   I had an appetite for facing challenges head on.  Anyone who knew me, knew I was big on doing hard things.  I was big on challenges, stretching, growing, and trying new things.  I was independent and as much as I disliked confrontations, I liked challenges.  I knew things got dangerous for me when I got comfortable.  I think our generation has a warped thinking that says hard and painful things are terrible.  They should be avoided so failure doesn’t embarrass you.  But I don’t think that’s true.

I did my undergrad at Wheaton College, just outside Chicago.  I played collegiate basketball and majored in kinesiology and psychology.  The college theme seemed to be a mingling with the world and adjusting myself to people and the things that happened to (or around) me.  I suspect that if I’d grown up in the 70s I’d have been a good hippie (minus the mind-bending experiences with drugs, of course).  I like to know what people love, what people hate, how they feel about this and that, what they dream about doing, what they write, and where their favorite getaway place is, and I like to think about what I think of this and that and where I’d go.  That’s a lot of face-to-face interaction for an introvert…so now I’m here, spending quality time with the lungs, livers, and gallbladders whose futures need foretold.

Well, that’s sort of how it happened.  Actually, I graduated with no idea what I wanted to “do” other than live the life out of every day.  So I coached competitive gymnastics, led chair aerobics for seniors in an assisted living residence (what a riot!), and pastored a small youth group on the beach just outside New York City.  Then when adventure beckoned again, I followed it to Peru, South America where I taught English Classes, offered sports clinics, and engaged a new culture that reframed my concept of “time”.  Eventually, I moved back to the States and took 9-1-1 calls as an EMT-I99.  I loved the thrill of problem solving on the fly, but my lower back had a pointed conversation with my head, something about “can’t take the heat” or something of that nature, after two calls for 500lb patients.  So that was that and on I went to pursue my long-term medical niche.

NOTE: This pursuit was briefly interrupted, and welcome the interruption was, by the pursuit by and marriage to a sweet, bearded man, whom I love and treasure. 🙂

But by the grace of God, I landed a job as a “histology lab assistant” at a Tier 2 regional hospital.  I quickly discovered the incredible teaching abilities of those above me and craved full understanding of “the whole picture”.  76 forensic autopsies and 700+ surgical dissections later, I’d discovered my niche (thanks guys!) and followed the thread to West Virginia University’s Pathologists’ Assistant graduate program…because what’s two more years of school when you’ve already done 8 years of post-high school “time” in the educational system! 🙂

Why pathology?  Well, I’m fascinated with the human body – what it can handle, what will break it, what it can do, and how it can heal itself.  I love its demand for attention to detail, it’s requirement for problem solving, putting the pieces together, telling the story that the body needs to tell.  Perhaps that sounds a bit theatrical, but it never fails that when asked what I do, people respond in one of two ways:

Wow!  That’s fascinating.  I bet you see some pretty intriguing stuff.


Gross!  Ugh.  How does that not affect you?  Why would you choose that job?

To the first, I’d respond:  Yes. Indeed, I have.  Indeed, I will. To the second I’d say:  Despite the fact that we are taught to act calmly, calculatingly, and with composure, at some point we have to think about the day.  We have to process the day’s tragedies.  So, perhaps this job isn’t for everyone.  I don’t know what’s different in me than the next person who “couldn’t do this job”.  I guess I just think that somebody should provide quality medical care, and some answers for friends and family who struggle with/for them.  I can do that, so why not me?  I always knew that the people we care for on a daily basis aren’t people in “everyday life situations,” they’re people who have come face to face with mortality (to some extent).  They are people who are at perhaps the most vulnerable, scary point of their lives.  They need help and I can offer that.  My interest in the intricacies of the human body has afforded me that opportunity, so that’s what I intend to do.  I’m not sure it’s ever been more complicated than that…for me.

Believe it or not, that was the Cliff Notes.  I guess I’m lucky that way – it’s been a windy road, but a road I’d choose again.  My life hasn’t always painted a rosy picture of victories and problems solved.  Life (and my faith) haven’t been like that for me, but there will always be a reaching out to my Savior, no matter the circumstance, no matter the mood, even when I don’t feel like reaching…because I know one thing for sure, I couldn’t have ended up here without a little magic from a big God.  🙂

And if you made it all the way through to the end, give yourself a pat of the back…from me.  I won’t judge you for not having anything better to do than figuratively thumb through the musings of “some girl.”  I don’t judge you at all…..shoot, I judged you a little bit right then.  Geez, now I’m judging myself for judging you.


Stay well, stay warm.

(Apparently around here that means “spend the whole day on your couch”…I’m not sure how that’s staying “well”, so maybe do a sit-up or a jumping jack or something…just to shake things up.)

One comment

  1. mysterygirl450 · January 24, 2016

    You are very interesting!


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