Monday, April 30, 2007

Consumerism - yay. Not.

Well, this one will definitely be posted after the fact; I checked out the internet options before firing up the laptop, and they aren’t very good.

(Well, I’m sure they’re just fine, but I’ll be damned if I pay nearly $10 for a quick check of my email!)

There’s nothing new to report, though; I’m just bored. I bought two books for this trip – one knitting and one crochet (oh, the humanity!), and I’ve already made it through the knitting one. The crochet one is interesting, since I’m trying to teach myself, but without a hook and some yarn, it’s becoming increasingly frustrating the further into it I get.

I talked to everyone in the family; they’re scattered in a bunch of different places. I also nearly became one of those people who takes calls when they’re in the stall in the public washroom, but fortunately Big Bro was willing to wait until I walked out.

I’ve been awake for nearly 8 hours, and I still have probably another 4 to go before I can finally crash. Man, do I need to crash.

Flying the friendly skies

Well, this is a first. I’m blogging from the airport but i’m not blogging from the airport.

(The airport is supposed to have wireless, but methinks it doesn’t extend into the new US departure lounge. Cross-border duty and all that.)

So, yes, i’m at the airport. I’m here a full 2 hours and then some before my flight, because I wasn’t sure how this preclearance stuff was going to go. I’m always über-prepared, and this morning was no exception. Of course it was all “stamp-stamp-thank you ma’am”, so that was a nice surprise. What also surprised me was the fact that they searched one of my check-in bags, and then one of my carry-ons. The checked bag was full of dirty clothes that I didn’t get the chance to wash at A. and C.’s, and they searched my make-up too, which I’d checked specifically to avoid those problems. The other really surprising thing was that my jewelry, of all things, was what held me up at security the second time. Stupid me – i figured it would be easier for me to cross my own jewelry in, rather than sending it with Hubby. But, it rattled a lot and that seemed to freak people out ;)

But, no matter what happened in those 15 minutes, i’m here, waiting for them to light up my screen that tells me which gate to go to. There are about 12 kids in the café, from what looks like 3 families, and they’re well-behaved if not a bit too perky for 7AM.

(Hey, wait a minute. The guy across from me is reading off of his laptop. I wonder if there are Ethernet ports over there. I wonder if I even brought an Ethernet cord.)


So I’m interested to see if my luggage makes it with me… Hubby’s bag was ‘delayed’ when he flew down a few weeks ago, but only by about 6 hours (it was dropped off the same night). I checked two bags, because dum-dum here was trying to fit everything, including an empty backpack, into one checked suitcase – I realized I could check my rollie carry-on too, and just carry the backpack and my compy on board.

(should’ve checked the jewelry too, but that would practically guarantee that they would lose it, wouldn’t it.)

Yay. Yay yay yay.


ETA: Found me some Ethernet connections. Fabulous ;-)

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Goodbye old life, hello adventure!

This is my last post, for a while anyway, from my beloved province. I'm nearly packed, and will be getting up at some ungodly hour tomorrow morning to cab to the airport.

I've cleaned up the lab, said goodbye to everyone except A. and C., and even spent the better part of the day with Little Bro, who stopped by the city on his way home for two weeks of vacation.

I'm movin' on up.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Go Ellie! It's mah birthday!

Hilarious ;-) I get to spend my birthday sorting through a large filing cabinet full of papers, articles, and assorted crap. It's my last 'official' day at work, even though I'll probably have to come in tomorrow and Sunday to finish the clean-up job.

It's weird. I've spent seven years scooting up and down these hallways. I've had ten projects (four that worked), three desks (one of which in an office with a door with a lock), three mentors, seven birthdays, one wedding, and a whole lot of fun.

As much as I complain, I'm really going to miss this place. I arrived here a newly single 22-year-old, trying to find herself and her path in life. I'm leaving as a grown-up, with a husband, a Ph.D, and a plan. And it's in no small part to the friends I've made here, and the ones that have stayed with me.

I couldn't be more grateful.

Monday, April 23, 2007

A long and arduous journey, Part Deux.

So, I'd left off the story on my drive into the lab. I went to my corner of isolation and shame, not having practiced my talk, and fired up the laptop.

At that point I promptly locked down my laptop, took Hubby, and went downstairs to buy coffee.

I went through my slides in my own head, and the timing was better. Our friend, who's left to go back to the UK as of three days ago, came over to show me pictures and distract me. Again, I was surrounded by supportive, encouraging friends and co-workers, all of whom I was afraid I'd disappoint.

I finally ran through the talk with Hubby, before going to a seminar given by my ever so nice, ever so smiley, external examiner. My talk took 24 minutes; the EE's took 45. Not too shabby.

Then, we bought some lunch, and went through the talk again. 23 minutes.

At which point we had to jump in the car, drive to the other end of campus, set up the projector and laptop, and run through the talk for the *ahem* first time on a bigger screen.

I managed to get through most of it before people started arriving, which was quite stressful, and then I realized that I hadn't (a) read my own damn thesis, (b) read any papers, or (c) read my notes for my slides.

Fortunately for me, I had time to think about the consequences of all these things, since the Departmental Rep from Biology, who is essential to the whole process, was fifteen. minutes. LATE.

He sauntered in, just as we were starting to think about calling for a sub-in, and the fun began.

I don't remember much about the three hours, but everyone tells me it went fine. It would only bore you, so if you're interested in that sort of sciency crap, drop me a line and I'll fill you in ;-)

The one part of it that I'll share in my next post is how I became the first PhD student in science that managed to work in chihuahuas and Louis Vuitton pet carriers into her PhD dissertation defense.


The evening shift turned into a week-long shift.

I'm back in the city to print out corrected thesis copies and clean up my office. I ended up moving in with Grammie for the whole week, so Mom would feel comfortable leaving her and going to work.

More to come, including pictures of yarn; I promise.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Part Two of the saga to follow, but I bought YARN!

Actually, Hubby bought me yarn. He'd given me a gift certificate for the LYS in the new city, as a congratulation-type prezzie after the defense, but my birthday is in two weeks.

So, yarn at the LYS in the uni. city! Three balls of merino, in pinks and purples, and they were on sale.

I've already begun a narrow scarf a la Grumperina, and I'm hoping to finish it before I fly out at the end of the month. I bought plastic needles just in case, but that still makes me nervous - if anyone has had experience flying out of YHZ, or out of EWR, do let me know.

Pics later; I have the evening shift with Grammie.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

A long and arduous journey

I'm thinking I need to blog about this week sooner rather than later, because every single piece of information that's in my head is starting to fly out my ears.

Coming to the city this week on Saturday rather than Sunday contributed to the slowest passing of time that I've ever experienced. It was an extra day to be alone, an extra day to worry, and an extra day to feel guilty about leaving Mom alone to take care of Grammie all by herself. But, I realized that I had to try to push through.

Try being the operative word.

The more years I spend in school, the harder it gets to motivate myself to do things ahead of time. Most of Saturday and Sunday were spent staring at the computer screen, moving slides around within Power Point, and freaking out. I did think about the thesis a lot, but I didn't read the actual document again, and I didn't practice the talk. My classic paralysis set in, and because no one was around to keep me in check, it stuck around until Tuesday, when Dad came back.

I managed to get up early every day this week, and catch the bus into the uni. I would plunk myself into an isolated corner of the lab, stare at my slides, and listen to encouraging comments from my labmates. The support was nice, but there was a huge part of my brain that believed I was going to end up screwing up.

Hubby arrived on Wednesday night, and we were back to the hotel by midnight. I had been planning on doing a practice talk, but that didn't happen. Thursday, we both went into the lab, and again I was going to do a practice, but all that happened was that I explained what i was planning on saying for each slide. The idea of sitting down and actually going through from start to finish was giving me anxiety attacks.

Thursday night - back to the hotel. No practice talk. 10PM - we planned on doing a talk, but it didn't happen. I kicked hubby into the other room, and tried going over it myself for timing purposes. Now, PhD candidates at my uni have exactly 20 minutes to talk about four to six years of their lives. 20 minutes. So, I started going through my slides.

31 minutes.

11PM - Ellie has a panic attack. I knew I needed to cut slides out, and speak less on the ones that I kept, in order to get down to 20 minutes. So, I started removing some slides; by the time I was done, it was half past midnight, and I was in no mood to do a practice talk. Hubby encouraged me to try and sleep, so that's exactly what I did.

Try being the operative word, again.

I probably got a couple of 20 minute naps, and before I knew it, it was 5:45AM. The alarm was set for 6, because we had to a) eat breakfast, b) get dressed decently, which for me included putting on make-up and blowing my hair, and c) catch the bus by 7:30AM.

We didn't do too bad, even managing to meet up with Dad for breakfast. The weather was uncooperative - slushy and snowy - so Dad made himself late for work, and drove us over.

And, then, the fun begins...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Dr. Ellie is in the house!

Well, those 37 positive thoughts from Kate really pushed the envelope ;-)

I passed! Yay!

A nice long post to follow, of course, but right now I have to wrap my head around the fact that I'm going to dinner with my committee, and they've already mentioned about 15 things that they want to talk further about. Good, because it means they're genuinely interested in my work. Bad, because my brain is guacamole right now.

What a trip. Wow.

Think good thoughts...

Just a few more hours. I don't know how many of you there are out there, but if you could think just one positive thought for me, I know I'll be OK.

Ms. Ellie, over and out. Back in 8 hours.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Sushi for lunch :-)

I had to pick up some things downtown (well, just 2 things, both hair products), so I decided to go to my favourite local Japanese place and pick up some lunch. They have a killer spicy tempura shrimp roll, and today they had the same thing made with salmon instead. So, I got one of each.

Belly happy.

And, I was talking to Hubby - he's picking up the airport shuttle in about an hour, then his flight takes off around suppertime. He was happy to get a half-day in at work, so he won't feel guilty if he ends up taking monday off.

48 hours until the festivities get underway. ACK!

Dad's in town, and Hubby's flying in tonight!


Hard to believe it's been two whole months. We've been married for 18 months, two of them spent apart... that's over 10% of our married life!

Yeah, I can do math first thing in the morning. What of it? ;-)

I slept pretty well last night; Dad and I had to share the hotel room, and he snores, but it was lights out at 10:30PM, and I obviously needed it. I didn't budge until the alarm rang at 6AM.

Argh. I just want this to be over. The hours are still creeping along. I've added another slide, so I have to re-time the presentation... I'm not going to bother reading papers, either, because there are just too many.

Blech. My coffee's cold.


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sleeping is now a luxury.

Poor little me. The non-specific nerves are starting to settle in. I think I probably grabbed about 4 hours of sleep last night, and I'm still hyper as hell this morning.

And, I just got a call - my defense notices are ready for me to approve; a walk outside - yay!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Score one for the team!

*Totally will be too much information, but I'm tired, and happy, so I'm sharing it anyway*

I just got a call from Mom. She let me in on a secret - last night was a good night.

She had set her alarm for 4am, to wake up and help Grammie onto the commode for her evening bathroom break. When Mom got into the room, Grammie was fast asleep, having gotten herself up at 3am, used her cane to position the commode near to the bed, and got herself up and went on her own.

Then (and this is the kicker), when Mom woke up again at 7:30am, Grammie had gotten herself up a second time, went for a #1 on the commode, cleaned up, and went back to sleep.

Grammie's getting steadier on her feet, and is showing signs of determination without us having to give her a pep talk. Mom's keeping it secret for at least a day - she wants two good nights in a row before she goes and alerts the press (and Dad).

Yay Grammie!

Hubby sent me some pictures this morning...

... and I have to share them :-)

He went around the new city yesterday, while one of his experiments was running, to show me how spring has arrived. There are these trees everywhere, and they've been blooming for a while now (unlike the snow-covered vegetation up here):

Pink! It's pink! I think this city is calling to me :-)

Hubby hasn't said whether these are scented, but I like to imagine
that they fill the streets with a beautiful fragrance.

Some architectural pictures. The uni. is so beautiful, and even the new buildings are a riot:

Some thistles for Big Bro, the bagpiper and general scottish fanatic.

I'm guessing this is one of the cafeterias.
I wonder if there are mashed potatoes and gravy
carved on the inside of the lintel.

This guy, they tell me, is a uni. tradition; you rub his foot for luck. Hubby gave it a swipe for me.

Check out his toe - shiny.
Everyone must be stressed out from finals ;-)

And, he's been running into Canadians everywhere; there was another family, there for recruitment week, and they were taking a picture of this at the same time he was:

Canucks unite!

(All images copyright E. Boudreau)

Oh, where to begin?

Boy howdy, can a lot of crap happen in a few short days.

My life is crawling along like molasses, where every hour feels like a day, and every day feels like a week.

So, I'm back in the city, waiting for the week to begin so I can finish up at the lab, have my thesis defense, and get to tying up loose ends. It's Sunday, and I hadn't intended on even being on the road to get here until later this afternoon, but my father was awake veeerrrrry early on Saturday morning, and made the mistake of watching the weather forecast.

A "major" snow storm was being predicted on the weather channel, complete with what we like to call the 'red screen of death', warning people to stay off the roads, buy milk and bread even if you don't drink milk or eat carbs, and prepare for the four blizzards of the apocalypse.

Now, my father is a periodic sleeper. He goes to bed at 10pm, then wakes up at 1am and watches a little TV. Then, more sleep, and more TV at 3 or 4am. He saw the RSoD at about 4:30am, considered it briefly, and then pounded on my door at 4:45am. He then proceeded to tell me that I had to wake up and pack all of my stuff (including the spare monster suitcase that I'm sending to the new apt with Hubby next week), and get ready to head out at 7am to get ahead of the storm.

Me and 5am. We don't get along too well unless we run into each other when I'm on my way home from the bar. We especially don't get along when I'm under pressure to do something that I thought I had upwards of 30 hours to complete.

At this point, we also had to figure out how to let Mom in on the action, since she's staying at Grammie's house to help with the rehab after her surgery (but we'll get to that later).

I packed, Dad consulted every weather website and channel he could find, and we were, in fact, ready to go at 7am.

Fast-forward a little, and I'm here in a (really nice) hotel room, by myself, while Dad is on the road cross-country to pick up Big Bro and bring him home (he happens to be moving back to the region this weekend). The mattress was quite nice, and I must've been exhausted because once I got to sleep, I didn't turn over a single time, and woke up at 6:45am completely rested. The continental breakfast was lacking, but I guess that's because it's the weekend; cannonball muffins and really bad coffee aren't doing much for my mood, but at least there's plenty of both. The only problem with this place is that there's some sort of minor hockey tourney in town this weekend, and I had to listen to teenage avalanches going up and down the hallway upstairs. all. freakin. night. They all very innocently told their parents at breakfast this morning that they were in bed at 11pm. Right.

So. Yes. Grammie. That is a whole saga unto itself, but we're surviving. She's out of the hospital, and pretty much doesn't have any use of her right arm for at least 6 weeks while the bionic shoulder heals, and her wrist cast is on. The problem is that she very quickly realized how easy and convenient it is to become dependent.

*Warning - possibly TMI to come*

She didn't hurt her legs or hips, thank le Bon Dieu, but being immobile for over a week meant she lost a lot of strength in her walking, and a lot of balance. The solution for that? Get up off your duff and walk. Walk with a cane if you must, walk with assistance, but walk. Sounds easy, right? Well, we get to the hospital and ask her if she wants to up out of bed to sit in the chair for lunch. "No, I'm tired. Leave me alone." We ask her if the nurses walked her to the bathroom. "Oh, no, dear. It's much easier to just use the bedpan." We tell her she's going home, since her incisions are healing nicely, and everything's ship-shape. "Oh, no! I can't take care of myself! They can't send me home!"


And Mom works with seniors as a therapist, so it's a double whammy for her. Grammie won't listen, even though Mom's a professional, and Mom's the one who gets shouldered with the responsibility of staying overnight. Even super-dependent (and dare I say - lazy) Grammie has enough dignity that she doesn't want her only son being the one to walk her to the bathroom and take care of all that goes with it. So, poor Mom is spending most of her days at Grammie's, because even with the home care workers that come over twice a day, their time there only amounts to about 3 hours, and it's a sponge bath and getting dressed, and transferring from bed to chair, or chair to bed at the end of the day. Everything else is on Mom. We're figuring on possibly hiring some more care workers, at least until we can figure out where she goes next (assisted living apartments, or a nursing home).

And, of course, I'm trying to help as much as I can, or I was before I came back here, but I really need to concentrate on my own work. And, even outside the logistic problems, this is breaking my heart. Dad is an only child, so I and my brothers are Grammie's only grandkids. My mom's parents died early on, one when she was 11, and one when I was 3mos., so Grammie's also the only grandmother we've ever known. She babysat us, and went on vacations with us, and cooked us macaroni and cheese. She taught me how to embroider, and still displays projects I made when I was seven years old. She stitched seven "one-a-day" tea towels for my wedding, and had started a set for Big Bro, and now her right arm and wrist will likely never be able to pick up a needle.


I keep telling myself, and my family, that we're lucky - she's lived to an age where these things are becoming problems. She's 87, turning 88 in August. And, some people start coping with this stuff when their loved ones are in their 50s or 60s.

I know we'll figure it out. But, it's a crappy time to be moving out of the country, I'll tell you what.

Grammie at my wedding.

(All images copyright E. Boudreau)

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

This talk thing is proving more difficult than I'd planned on.


Through a strange series of events, I'm back at my parent's place (have been since last Friday - I don't think I made that completely clear).

I'm trying to create a powerpoint presentation for the defense. I'd had one made already for a job interview, about 65 slides for an hour long talk. I figured it'd be easy to just pare it down to 25 slides (I have 20 minutes to talk during the defense before they start grilling me).

This is TOUGH.

I'm waiting for Mom to come home, so that we can go and visit Grammie in the hospital. She's being released tomorrow, so that should be loads of fun.

Sorry if I'm not making much sense; now that I'm feeling better, my nerves are starting to get to me again, and I'm not really eating or sleeping well.

Oh, to have this finished.