Archive for September 2004

sinking in

today’s been a wonderful relaxing day, the first day without panic for quite a while. I do have a few revisions to make in the next couple days, and there’s still the final submission & paperwork to the faculty of grad studies; but it really is just paperwork. It’s a nice feeling to have had my work tested, and have it pass.

Actually, the defence was much less painful than I’d expected. During my comprehensives, way back in 2001, I felt attacked, unintelligent, and incapable. During my exam yesterday, I felt none of these things. I realized half way through that I didn’t agree with what some of the examiners were saying. That’s the critical part, I didn’t agree. I believed myself rather than my examiners, and that confidence in my own abilities is probably the greatest change in myself thoughout this PhD.

I think I’ve learned a lot about this from Cory. He’s taught me the importance in being confident in all aspects of life, and yet is good at not falling across the line into arrogant or cocky. I work in a world where being shy and humble isn’t always an asset, and I think he understands that better than I ever will.

However, on a more immediate level, Cory was essential to keeping me calm yesterday. Even when I started fussing about whether the projector was clear enough, he never lost his cool and was a visible support throughout the entire exam. It was also the first time he’s seen me present my work, and I wish I hadn’t been quite as nervous so that I could have enjoyed myself more up there. It’s not every day that a girl gets to show off in front of the guy she loves.
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a picture says a thousand words

Cory’s suprise for me after the defence was perfect!

It’s been a great day, my grandmother is feeling better too and I talked to her on the phone for the first time in weeks.
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count down in hours

It’s the same feeling as before a big race, back when I swam at university. The nervous excitement, the stress, the determination. My supervisor’s daughter was also a swimmer too – so he knew exactly what words to say, “rely on your training”.

I’m not going to Toronto now, my grandmother is feeling too sick to have visitors and they’ve said they’re worried if I was there she might feel she had to pretend to feel okay. I’m kinda sad about that, because I want to be there and want to help, but I don’t want to take the chance that I could make her worse. It’s hard to be so far away, and so hard to be unable to help, but I’m sure it’s way harder to be there right now and dealing with all of this.

I’ve turned off comments while I’m worried about my thesis defence and my Nana. The extra effort involved in checking the comments is a bit much right now and I’m not comfortable leaving comments open when I’m not paying attention.
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Two more days

My defence is Tuesday at 9am. I’ve reserved a seat on a flight to Toronto on Tuesday at 11pm. I haven’t told anyone that I’m going yet – i haven’t had a chance.

My grandmother is still not improving and my heart just aches when I think of the pain she’s been in for the past week. I know that there’s nothing I’m going to be able to do to help her, and she’d say I should stay in Vancouver. But not being there seems worse, and while there’s nothing I can do for her, there’s a lot I can do for my grandfather – even just little things like making shepherd’s pie so that he’s got good food to eat.

So this thesis defence wont be exactly how I planned, and I may not be able to get all the corrections finished in time for fall graduation – but at least I wont be sitting here waiting and worrying when I could be helping out.
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Nana is still in the hospital, and the doctors are not sure yet why she’s not recovering. I wrote earlier about how we were feeling like life was on hold, and it seems even more that way now. Prayers are always welcome, however I’ve disabled comments on this post to save myself the extra work of having to respond or check what people are saying.

My thesis defence is now only 6 days away, and all my instincts are telling me to forget about it and hop on a plane for Toronto. We’ve booked a ticket for me to go home at the end of October, but that seems too far away. Normally I’d be a basket case about this defence, but things have been put into sharp perspective and it’s not foremost on my mind. That being said, I’ve been able to study reasonably effectively and am feeling prepared at least.

If I owe emails or phone calls, they probably wont appear until things settle down. I’m off for more coffee (it’s 8am, already an hour and a half since my last does of caffeine) with a paper or two to read.
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the bad news, and the good news

So the bad news (which is bigger unfortunately) is that my Nana is back in the hospital again. It looks like problems with her medications, and this is the safest place for her right now, but my heart goes out to her and my grandfather who’ve spent way too much time there lately! It’s hard being so far away and knowing that we can’t help them, or even help out my parents who are once again being rushed off their feet between work and hospital visits. I’ve thought about flying home – but it looks like she’s going to be okay and I probably should get this defence out of the way (9 days to go).

Have I mentioned how great Cory is lately? I should, he’s been super at putting up with my thesis related stress and even better at being there for me while Nana’s been not well. I guess this has all added to his good karma lately, because on Friday at his company golf tournament he won one of the new 20GB iPods.

Yup, he won an iPod. The one thing we’ve both been coveting for ages. And now we have one. It seems a bit unreal. My first reaction was “if you’re this lucky, we should go buy lottery tickets”. Anyways, we spent the weekend putting songs on it and figuring out how best to share it. My only fear is that now we have one, we’ll find we definately need another.
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in defence of the pub

I walked home from the optometrists yesterday as the bus was full. Rush hour in Vancouver means standing room only, within a crush of sweaty bodies. I walk as often as I can.

On the way home at 5pm, and knowing Cory wouldn’t be home until later, I stopped in at a pub for a pint and a quiet spot to study for my defence. Pubs are wonderful and mainly neglected places to study. Unlike coffee shops where patrons are often loud and the turnover rapid, it’s easy to find a quiet corner in a pub before the evening rush starts. If you buy a pint, no one will trouble you until it’s gone, and one pint can be a great facilitator of good ideas.

The other lovely thing about pubs is the older men who often welcome conversation while they enjoy a few pints before dinner. Last night I ended up getting drawn into one such discussion and truly enjoyed the hour of conversation (and the second pint). How often do we actually talk to people from different walks of life? People with different political and social views? People from different places? Not often enough. But last night I did.

Vancouver doesn’t have enough real pubs. We’ve plenty of bars and bistros where we can go for a drink, but these are all places where you sit at your own table and pretend the other patrons don’t exist. When we were in Scotland, one of the things we loved best was the way people would talk to you in pubs. I’m not sure if it was because we were so obviously tourists, or because pubs are a social experience, but either way I wish that happened more over here.
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welcoming winter

Last night we snuggled on the couch watching a movie, ate leftover Shepherd’s Pie, and finished the last of the honeymoon Mortlach. All of a sudden, winter seems rather inviting.

I don’t think I’d like living somewhere without winter. I like the feeling of warm blankets, wool skirts, and knee high socks. I like looking out the window and feeling blessed for having a lovely place to sleep. I like the way that Cory lets me snuggle up to him in the night now that we don’t overheat. And right now, I like that winter means we’re allowed to rest.

Of course we’re not there yet, with glorious fall days of crisp weather, bright colours, and ruddy cheeks still ahead. Except that we live in Vancouver, where fall means rain and grey skies, and winter with all it brings, can’t come soon enough.
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the finer things in life

Tonight’s a good night for celebrating, my Nana has been discharged from the hospital and is sleeping in her own bed right now! I just got a phone call from my father and I’m feeling like the world is perfect. While there’s not been much I could do to help out during this, I’ve felt a real sense of sadness the whole time she’s been in the hospital, it hurts to know that someone you love is unhappy and in pain.

I’ve never been hospitalized so I can’t really imagine what it’s like to get to come home, however it does feel like heaven to get back to my own bed after weeks in the field, and that’s a powerful enough to make me think that coming home after been in the hospital must be one of the more delicious feelings. It’s hard to argue with the comforts of your own space, your sheets and pillows, the books beside the bed, and most importantly, the person you snuggle up to (and after 60 years of marriage, I’d imagine they’re rather fond of that part). I’m very happy knowing that’s where she is – and I’ll get to talk to her tomorrow on the phone for the first time in over a week.

So this calls for a celebration about the finer and more enjoyable parts of life. Take a look at the picture carefully, that’s my Nana sticking out her tongue in concentration as she reads the menu – we’re a family that likes our food and wine. In the spirit of the occasion (and on her behalf, because they’re probably not letting her drink quite yet) I’m going to have a glass of white wine right now and toast the lovely doctors who took good care of her and got us through this!
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on hold

It’s been a tough couple of days. My grandmother is back in the hospital again in Toronto to get a pace-maker. A visit to a geriatric specialist revealed that her heart was skipping beats, causing her dizzy spells and having potentially life-threatening problems. Fortunately, this new doctor caught this and whisked her off to the emergency room within a couple hours of a heart monitoring test. We are grateful that she’s been taken care of so quickly, but anytime someone is taken to the hospital with only 10 minutes of notice, things are bound to be scary and unsettling. We are looking forward to her return home, which should happen in the next couple of days, perhaps even tomorrow.

It feels a bit like life is on hold right now, I’m waiting to defend my thesis and searching for a job at the same time as worrying about Nana. It’s a lot of waiting, crossing fingers, and prayers – although I can say that the thesis and the job hunt aren’t feeling particularly important these days, it’s all perspective. Still, there is a lot of hope. And that’s very very important.

I’ve learnt a lot in the past month about my family. First, my mom kicks ass. I knew that my mom was capable of being totally self-less when another member of her family needed her, but what I hadn’t seen her do since we were little was rise to the occasion and turn into this super-maternal figure who can cheer people up, organize their care, and manage to get my Nana a TV for her room in the blink of an eye. I’m in awe.

Second, I’m seeing a side of my grandmother I’d not seen before. Being in hospital sucks. Being in hospital twice in one month really sucks. Having a succession of nights in the hospital where you don’t sleep because you’re in the emergency room, or because your roommate is having hallucinations all night, or because you personally feel like crap and are puking would suck more than anything I’ve experienced. So then I’m totally impressed by how much of a trooper my Nana is. Smiling? Cheering herself up? Focusing on the positive? I think if I was in her place I might just throw one big extended hissy fit. The women in my family totally rock.
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