If We Were Having Coffee…..

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If we were having coffee, I’d tell you this blog just turned a year old! I’m glad WordPress reminds me of these things. I knew it was sometime around now.

If we were having coffee, I’d want you to tell me all about your week. I hope it was a good one with lots accomplished and time for fun. I’m going to need to take a few sips of coffee to warm up my voice before I attempt to speak. Yesterday was the annual university conference where all the various vision research projects get presented. I had a poster to present on one of the studies I am working on. I got to show pictures of the retina and there was a 3D virtual environment involved in the testing procedure. It is definitely one of the cooler research projects I have presented. This is probably why the poster was drawing such big crowds. The talk I gave for the poster was only 5 minutes long, but I had to speak loudly so the crowd could hear me and I had to repeat it nonstop for almost two hours. Now, my voice is all crackly and keeps coming and going.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that despite the success of the poster and its award nomination, I’m still feeling rather low. I came home from the conference yesterday and just went straight to bed. I don’t know, maybe it is just exhaustion that is getting me down. When Hubby got home he brought in some mail for me. It was a package from my aunt. She sent some stuff that I had left at her place along with some new paint brushes and a new stencil. Very exciting! Check out the stencil..an eye diagram! Awesome! That cheered me up a bit.

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If we were having coffee, I’d probably tell you about a friend and a colleague of mine. I am really worried about them. The colleague was supposed to fly in next week to work on that grant proposal with us but he has had to cancel on account of his heart. He has a weak heart and went to the doc thinking he had the flu. It turns out his heart isn’t sounding good, so he has had to cancel the trip and do a full workup. He is not the only one with concerning health problems though. Hubby and I had dinner with our friend Lynne last night. She is scheduled to have her surgery to have her liver metastasis removed in a week and a half. Her latest CT scan shows a new tumor. We are hoping it popped up on the portion they were going to remove anyway.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you my art class is tomorrow morning. I’m a little nervous. I hope it isn’t too clique-y. I’m also still doing the 30 Day Colouring Challenge from The Daily Marker. There is about a week left. I have been enjoying it. Here is a collection of this week’s stuff. Two of them are from colouring books. The rest I drew myself. I even used regular old crayons this week. It was fun to revisit childhood with a box of nice, sharp, new Crayolas.

If we were having coffee, I’d wish you a good weekend! Hope to see you for coffee next week!

This conversation coffee post is part of a weekly link-up hosted by Part-Time Monster

J52: Just Write

Journal52, Week 11

Prompt: Just Write

I tried multitasking with this one. It is an art journal page for Journal52 and it is my psych homework. I had an appointment with my psychiatrist last Friday. I didn’t mention my declining mood but maybe I should have since it has only gotten worse. I thought it was just the usual up and down at the time. What we did discuss was work. I am having trouble dragging myself through it. I’m not sure if it is work itself, or me being depressed that is the problem. As I was leaving the appointment, Psych said he felt he should give me homework. He asked me to write about work. He wanted me to write what I like about it without thinking about it too much. He didn’t say I had to write it out in my neatest handwriting or anything and considering I hadn’t used this art journal prompt, I figured why not make it into a page.

I’m not really sure what this exercise is supposed to achieve. I don’t deny that there are things I like about my Ph.D., there are just a lot of “but”s. I enjoy learning. If you aren’t learning, you aren’t evolving and if you aren’t evolving, well, you are pretty much dead. I know there are lots of different ways to learn. I just know the academic way of learning and I was good at it, so that’s the route I took.

I also like information. I like to gather it, break it down into small digestible pieces and then build it back up in my own words with my own perspective. I like to share this information with others too. Teaching those that want to learn is always a great experience. I have a bit of stage fright, maybe a lot of stage fright, but giving a talk at a conference can make you feel like a rock star.

I also get to help people, improve their quality of life. Right now, there is no solution for age-related vision loss. There are treatments to help slow the progression, but no cures. The doctors spend as much time with their patients as they can, but some ophthalmologists have to pack 90 patients into one day. They don’t have the time to explain everything. I can do that. I can answer questions and explain how to use various visual aids. We even have training programs that teach people how to use what sight they have left. Most importantly, I can listen. Sometimes, that is all my patients want, someone to listen to them. I can do that.

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The reason I started down this path in the first place was because I was interested in vision, aging vision in particular. I was close to my Gran growing up, I even lived with her the first year my family moved to Montreal. Gran had Macular Degeneration (AMD). It got so bad that she was considered legally blind. This meant she wasn’t completely blind, she could still see light and movement, but no details. She walked around with the white cane, listened to audiobooks and was a member of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB).

Now, just stop for a second, imagine what it must be like to be a senior citizen, someone who has been depending on their vision for 65+ years and now cannot rely on it at all. You can’t drive, you can’t read, you can’t recognize people, you can’t shop without help because labels, prices and colours are hard to figure out and you can’t do most of your hobbies anymore because trying to see what you’re doing is too frustrating. Just imagine. It is worse when it happens quickly and there is no time to adapt. That is what happened to Gran. Most of the folks I work with get pretty depressed, but not Gran.

Gran was resilient. She had a great attitude. She was determined to stay independent and wasn’t going to let AMD stop her. She still went out on her own. She used her memory to get around the area she lived in. Once, she slipped on some ice and fell, broke her arm. She was out and about, cast and all a few days later. Her love of reading turned into an audiobook subscription. She used tools given to her by the CNIB to continue playing cards and doing cryptic crosswords. Gran even continued knitting! Of course, she could only do the patterns she knew by heart, but added her own little twist to them. These are two of the elephants Gran knitted. An angel and another one with a pink sweater, scarf and beret.

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All in all, she lived 15 years with AMD. Gran was a remarkable woman. Her attitude was inspiring. Sadly, I know it’s not like this in all cases. That is what prompted me into this field. I wanted to help in any way that I could. I still do.

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By the time I finished my writing, I was in tears. Gran has been gone for 11 years now, but sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday. I guess there are just some losses you never really recover from. I am pretty sure this is not the conclusion Psych wanted me to come to when he assigned me this writing exercise. Perhaps he wanted to determine if I was doing a Ph.D. for the right reasons? I don’t know.

Anyway, this is the page.

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For those of you interested in the art part…..I started by drawing a few eyes here and there. I wrote around them with different shades of blue Sharpie. You can see the Sharpie through the back of the page, so make sure you plan to gesso over the back or something. I wrote in different directions with a combination of printing and cursive. I spread a thin layer of gesso over the writing when I finished. I used my old Blockbuster membership card to spread the gesso. I find you can get a thinner layer with the gesso than with a paint brush. I wanted the writing to still be visible. The eyes were coloured with watercolour pencil crayons and Signo Uniball pens. I went over the background with some pastel gelatos. You can see kinda read the writing. It’s a bit tough in some places. I then went through with a Sharpie paint pen and highlighted some key words.

If We Were Having Coffee….

If we were having coffee, we would be having it at my house this week because I am too exhausted to move. Thankfully the apartment it relatively spotless. By relatively, I mean we still have cat hair. There isn’t much I can do about that with Ewok being the powder puff that she is. I hope you aren’t allergic to cats. So far I’ve been lucky. Only one of my friends is dating a guy that is allergic…and there is my sister. She chooses to bury her face in Ewok’s tummy when she comes over though, so I don’t worry much about her. Yes, Ewok is THAT loveable.

If we were having coffee, I’d ask how your week went and what was new with you. I hope you have some good news to share. I am hopelessly behind in blogging, therapy, art journaling and my Ph.D. dissertation. I’m not letting it get to me though. It was a really hard and busy week. I am hoping to lay low and get caught up on things this weekend. I am caught up on all the little side projects my supervisor like to throw at me though! I have been paranoid about how she feels about me lately. I feel like she has lost faith in me since I took a step back from my involvement in the lab. As if this grant she is preparing is to make sure my research idea gets done because she doesn’t think I am going to do it myself. I talked to her about it and she said that my research is still my own and I should look at this grant as my supervisor investing in my research. It’s a very nice answer to my concerns, but I don’t believe it. I think she is avoiding talking about what she really thinks because it is negative. She does this a lot with other people. She tells me about it. If this is how she handles conflict with other people, no doubt, this is the way she handles it with me. It is frustrating. One of her best friends and former Ph.D. students told me that I treat her too much like my boss and I should treat her more like my friend. Maybe it is worth a try.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I am glad #1000Speak has evolved into a monthly event. I think it’s a great idea. The last event was yesterday and the theme was “Building from Bullying.” I knew about it well in advance and was debating whether or not I wanted to post about my experiences with bullying. It is something I am sorting through in therapy at the moment. I finally decided that I did want to write something, but I ran out of time with this past week being so crazy. I am looking forward to reading the other posts though. If you are interested in reading some posts on “Building from Bullying” check out the linky at the bottom of Gene’O’s post.

If we were having coffee, I’d want to tell you about another great idea I heard about this week. This one is from Nerd in the Brain. It is called “There is Beauty in All of Us”. Basically, you send in a selfie, she will post it to acquire comments from other people..positive ones!! Then, all the photos will be put into a video showing how diverse beauty is. It’s a really uplifting project. Visit her blog and participate, or at least check it out. I am actually thinking of sending in a real selfie…not a drawing. You’ll have to guess which one is me when you see the video! haha.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’m still plugging along with the 30 Day Colouring Challenge. It has been a comfort this week, knowing that I can set aside 10 minutes from working to colour something. I did them mostly myself. I used my Steampunk colouring book from Dover one day. Dover Publishing colouring books rock! These are my entries from the past week.

If we were having coffee, I’d wish a happy and productive weekend. I am off to get caught up on all my projects. I think I will start with the colouring challenge. I always feel better getting something checked off my list. It gives me the motivation to tackle the bigger things.

This conversational post link-up is hosted by Part-Time Monster, join the fun!

If We Were Having Coffee…..

If we were having coffee, I would wish you a happy Pi Day! You’d probably give me a strange look and then I would change the subject by asking how you were and how your week was.

If we were having coffee, I’d say I worked a lot this week. There are several studies on the go, a grant proposal in the works, a poster to make, student posters to edit, another presentation to make and my own research on top of that. My own research always ends up being at the end of the list. Everything else has an upcoming deadline or someone else depending on it. Those ending up getting pushed forward and my research trails behind.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I’ve been communicating with an industry rep this week. I contacted him about using his product in my research over a year ago. We’ve been talking on and off since. Currently, he is having trouble entering the market here and thought I’d have some insight. I am all kinds of nervous about talking to him. When I took a moment to rationalize my anxiety, I realized it was because I thought he was better than me. He is a grown up with a real job, a title, a salary and he represents a company. I always see myself as some incompetent kid, but I’m not anymore, am I? I am almost 30 and a Ph.D. candidate. I know the field, I know the right people, I understand his product, why wouldn’t he want to talk to me? I just feel like a fraud, about to be seen through at any minute.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you work has been bringing me down lately. I’m not really sure why. There are some things on the go that I like, some that I don’t. Isn’t that the way work usually goes for everyone. I’ve been trying to lift my spirits with the 30 Day Colouring Challenge hosted by The Daily Marker. Colouring always soothes me a bit. Plus, I have new Neocolors and Gelatos to play with. Today is Day 11. Here are my entries so far.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I came across a rather nice surprise yesterday. I was starting a page in my art journal, trying a new technique. This technique required me to turn my book upside down to let paint drip down the pages. When I did this, two stencils fell out! One was dragonflies (my favourite!!) and another was a bird on a branch. I knew right away who put them in there. It was my aunt. I checked and sure enough, she was guilty. The last I saw her was at the beginning of February though. That would mean they were hiding in my journal for over a month!! She’s sneaky! I never would have been able to keep quiet that long if I were her.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you another one of my friends is having a birthday this month. She lives far away and is having a really rough time. I want to do something to cheer her up a bit, but I’m not really sure what to do. I thought of sending her a care package or some happy mail, but I’m not sure what to send. It can’t cost too much and should be small to keep the shipping costs down. I tried to think of her hobbies, but she doesn’t really have any. She spends time with her family and goes to church. I was thinking of making something. Maybe some cards with inspirational quotes or some of our favourite memories. I’m just not sure. Would you enjoy getting that sort of thing in the mail? Do you have any suggestions?

(This conversational coffee post is part of a weekend link-up hosted by Part-Time Monster. Join in the fun!)

If We Were Having Coffee…..

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you how you felt about cats. There are two different Cat Cafes in Montreal. I haven’t been to either and I’d really like to go. Of course, none of the cafe cats could ever be a cute as my Ewok, but I think it would be a fun experience and it’s something I could check off my life list. We would go to Cafe Chat L’Heureux. It looks like this cafe lets you hold the cats, the other one doesn’t. I’d get a coffee with one of their lemon raspberry marshmallow kitty paws. What are you in the mood for this week? A cat-pucchio perhaps? Haha! I’m not kidding, that’s on the menu!

marshmallow cat paw

Here is my order! Coffee and marshmallow cat paw. This is a picture from their menu.

If we were having coffee, I’d ask you how you were and how your week went….after I finished gawking at the cute furry beasts. Sorry! I swear, you’ve got my full attention now!

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that my week went by pretty fast. I did get some bad news from my friend Lynne though. She was diagnosed with colorectal cancer last spring. By the time they found it, it was a stage IV liver metastasis. She has been on chemo all this time and handled it really well. She kept her strength and only felt sick when she was actually plugged in to the drug. The tumor in her colon is pretty much gone and the one in her liver has shrunk significantly. The next step is surgery. This is the bad news. They have to take out 70% of her liver. Removing this much means it will not regenerate and if the cancer returns, they can’t remove anymore. The surgery is also risky (8% mortality) because the excision site is right by the portal vein. If she makes it through the surgery there is a high chance of liver failure afterwards. When she asked about the colorectal surgery she also needs, they told her to forget about it. They wanted to get though the liver first. It’s really not sounding good. Lynne is a quiet and kind person. She looks after animals for a living. She doesn’t deserve this.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I spent the first half of the week tied in knots and completely dreading going to work on Wednesday. I had a list of patients from a previous study (a few years ago) that I could use for my study. I had to go to their retina clinic and find out who was dead and who was still alive. A rather morbid task, but this is something you have to do when you work with a geriatric population. I was dreading this because I knew a rather nasty ophthalmologist was going to be on duty and he always sneers at my genetics research. Also, the last time I tried to do this, the clinic staff was just annoyed with my presence and refused to show me how to use the computer system. I anticipated the same thing this time. To my surprise, it wasn’t like that at all (probably because my supervisor came with me). Dr. Nasty didn’t say anything about my research and the clinic staff were very helpful. I got into the computer system and determined about half of my list had future appointments booked. There may be hope for my research yet.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you I am still loving the art journaling. I had brunch with a friend last weekend and we went to a scrapbook store afterwards. I bought some new stencils to try, some metallic watercolour pencil crayons, a waterproof pen and a cute little cupcake stamp. I love cupcakes. I’m hoping to have a chance to play with my new goodies later today. I’m also going to participate in “Happy Mail” with one of my art journal groups. Happy Mail is basically a trade of scraps of unique paper, stamps, stickers, charms or anything else you can journal with between artists via snail mail. Different things are available in different parts of the world. It’ll be fun to see what I can get and make some other people happy.

2015-01-23 10.59.21If we were having coffee, I’d tell you that Thursday was really zen. After getting over the shock of Lynne’s news and my work anxieties, I was able to relax a little. I spent the day at home with Ewok and got caught up on research articles and blog stuff. Ewok was really sweet. She sat with me all day drifting in and out of nap land. She got up only a few times to play, snack or drink. We have a water fountain for her to drink out of. When she was just a little thing, she was always desperate to get to the tap whenever we turned it on. So we thought getting her a tap-like water fountain would be a good idea. She’s a little weirdo with it though! Before she drinks from it, she swipes her slipper paw through the stream of water. It’s like she is testing the temperature or something. Even weirder, she sticks her head right under the falling stream of water! I thought cats weren’t supposed to like getting wet. Ewok hated the two times she got a bath, but she gets her head soaking wet! I often pick her up and kiss her on the head between her ears. Sometimes when I do this, it’s like kissing a puddle. Silly kitty.

2015-01-23 10.57.20If we were having coffee, I’d thank you for joining me and tell you I think it’s time we go. There is so much to do on a weekend. I’d probably grab a souvenir to take home to little Ewok and we would bid adieu to our new feline friends as we head out.

2014-09-04 09.25.35(This conversational coffee post is part of a weekend link-up hosted by Part-Time Monster. Join in the fun!)

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