If We Were Having Coffee….

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If we were having coffee, I’d want to get all caught up on the happenings in your life since I missed last week. I’d explain that I was away, in Toronto, for a long-ish weekend. I had planned to still participate in the Weekend Coffee Share, but time got away from me. It seems to be doing that a lot lately. A slippery thing, time.

If we were having coffee, I’d wish you a Happy Valentines Day! I know there are several Valentines Day grinches out there…yes, Happy Valentines Day to you too. Don’t worry, I’m not going to shove how wonderful Valentines Day is down your throat. I’m not an advocate for Valentines Day, but I don’t hate it either. With days designated for the celebration of everything from your nationality to crunchy peanut butter, you can’t go without a day for love. Love is something that should be celebrated, but not on one specific day once a year. It should be celebrated everyday. If you love someone, you should show them as often as you can. That, I am an advocate for.

If we were having coffee, I’d ask if you had any big plans for today? Hubby and I are staying home today. We both have a lot of work and chores and such to catch up on. Hubby made Finish pancakes this morning for breakfast. He doesn’t make them often, so that is my Valentines Day treat. I call them Finish pancakes, but they are really called lettues. They are thin, like crepes, but are more buttery in texture. They are good both hot and cold. We usually spread jam or Nutella on them and roll them up. Yum! We have some left over, would you like to try?


If we were having coffee, I’d tell you work is really stressing me out. I got the stomach flu…again, so I haven’t even been in. Being ill never stops the phone though. So firstly, we’re working on a new grant application. This one is only available to Quebec researchers working on Age-related Macular Degeneration. We applied last year and didn’t get it, so this year we have to be more cutting edge. The boss lady described a vague idea for the grant that she and a collaborator have been talking about. I don’t really know what to think about it because it is already part of my dissertation! If she applies for a grant with it, does that mean it is no longer my idea? Does that mean I can’t use it towards my Ph.D.? That would be really bad because this part was one of the more simple experiments I had planned out. I called her yesterday to discuss it, but she didn’t pick up. I hope I am jumping to conclusions here. As a person, I can’t imagine her doing that to me, but I have to be certain. I don’t want to sound like a b*tch fighting over intellectual property, but I have to make sure she remembers it was my idea and I’ve been presenting it as part of my dissertation plan.

If we were having coffee, I’d tell you the second reason work is stressing me out is the new Ph.D. student. He started last September. I thought he was an angel sent to help relieve my work load. As the only Ph.D. student in the lab, I was running everything which was wayyy too much for me. Having someone to share the load would have been awesome. Then I found out he was only going to be in town part of the year, doh! He is in his 40s and works for a low vision organization in the USA. His job is sending him here (with full salary I might add) to get a Ph.D. in order to fill a promotion when he gets back. Sweet deal right? Anyway, I’ll spare you the long story but, the problem is he can’t handle it and the boss lady is going to ask him to withdraw himself from the program. This doesn’t really affect me at all, but the boss lady has been really upset and stressed about the whole thing. I feel awful for her. She has to tell him to leave without crushing his confidence, but making sure that he understands what went wrong and why he’s not cut out for this. Can you imagine how difficult that would be? This is someone she has known for years and has to continue working with in the future. Even worse, I don’t think he knows what is coming either. In fact, I’m not sure where his brain is at the moment. The way he is handling the situation has left all parties involved (and me) scratching our heads. The boss lady is going to make it look like it was his decision to leave to help him save face going back to work in the US, but I don’t envy his position at all. *sigh*

If we were having coffee, I’d say it’s time to stop worrying about work. It is Saturday after all. It’s time to do something fun…not laundry! Maybe I’ll try to catch up on my art journaling. Have a great Valentine’s Day weekend. Eat some chocolate! Catch you next week!

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

Current Plan of Action and a Bit of Ewok

It is a really cold day! I’m in bed with a hot tea right now. Why am I in bed in the middle of the afternoon? Well, for one, it is THAT cold!! Second, it’s because I wanted to hang out with my cat, Ewok. Within the last few days, Ewok has discovered how comfortable it is to nap on soft cozy surfaces. Her spot of choice has been at the end of the bed burrowed into blankets. No matter how many times I bring her in the other room to spend some time with me…she ends up back in her burrow. So I have given up and decided to do things her way. So here we are in bed in the middle of the afternoon.

This may not sound strange to a lot of you, but it is definitely strange behaviour for Ewok. She normally doesn’t like soft spots, she likes to lie on hard surfaces. Even as a kitten, she would usually fall asleep on the floor or the coffee table, never the couch. We later found out this was because she was peeing on the couch. Poor confused kitten. Don’t worry, we were able to clean it! Eventually, we moved and got different furniture, but she still preferred hard surfaces. Her napping spots were usually the coffee table, a stiff carpet or on top of the printer. When she got older, she started sleeping by my head in bed, but only if I moved the pillow and blanket to make room for her. So finding her the last few days lying on the bed, sinking into the mattress surrounded by blankets has been a weird sight. I hope everything is ok with her. I think she’s fine, she’s eating and drinking and happily snorting away over there.

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The reason I want to be around Ewok is because she is a great comfort to me. I’m not sure how to describe how I am feeling right now and listening to her snorting or purring or seeing her cute little smooshy face makes me feel better. I am definitely feeling better than I was in the fall. I’m not overwhelmed and not having the suicidal ideation, but I’m not great either. My sleep is so-so and I feel sort of paralyzed. I have to force myself to do everything, otherwise, I just get lost in my head. Thinking about work. During the holidays I was preoccupied with the dread of going back to grad school full time. Now that I know I’m going to start back part time, I’m not feeling panicky and having nightmares about it. I’m still dreading it though.

The plan is to go back two days a week. I’m going to make a detailed schedule for the next two months and have it approved by psych. When the two months are up, we’ll evaluate and see if I should continue as is or take on more. I think that is fair. Hubby does too. He thinks I always jump into things and take on too much. Maybe he is right.

I hope I can finish my Ph.D. I’m not sure if it’s the depression talking or not, but I think I hate it. I like parts of it. My supervisor is great, I’m learning a lot. I like reading, brainstorming, gathering information, sorting it, teaching it and writing about what I learn. I don’t mind managing students and volunteers either. It’s the constant trouble-shooting, working around barriers, asking for money, trying to find people who qualify to participate and then begging them to participate. When working with human subjects, research depends a lot on the cooperation of other people. It’s not that others don’t want to cooperate, they just don’t want to take on extra work (no matter how minute) or disrupt their routines. I don’t just mean potential participants, I mean doctors, receptionists, technicians, volunteers and other hospital staff. I am always friendly and polite with these people. I even bring them treats, but they are never happy to see me. I am a symbol extra work, change or disruption to their routine. It’s not a pleasant work environment for me. Research is also a lot of rejection and a lot of work for very little success or progress.

Now that I have gotten all these studies through ethics, all I am doing are the things I hate. Thinking of going in fills me with dread. I really hope I can get through it. As a more senior researcher (someone with a Ph.D.), I wont have to do this part anymore. I can send students (like me now), research associates and volunteers off to do it for me. I just don’t think I’ll ever get there. If there were an end in sight, I could probably force myself through, but there is no end. I have lost faith in my project and it feels like I will be a student forever.

Share Your World 2014 – Week 23

share your world

This is the Share Your World Challenge. If you missed the last couple of weeks, more information can be found at Cee’s Photography. Essentially, four questions are asked every week and you have to answer them. Simple and fun!

Would your rather be stuck in a small plane with mild turbulence for 2 hours or be a passenger in a car racing the Daytona 500?

I’ve done the plane already, so I’d want to give the race car a try. The plane was a little scary. I went from Hopkins Belize to Belize City is a little four-seater plane. It wasn’t for two hours, but there was enough turbulence for me to be holding on white-knuckled. The whole fear of heights thing didn’t help either.

Would you rather be alone with nobody in the vicinity for one month or never be alone not even for a minute for one month?

I’d have to be alone. I’m a stereotypical introvert. Being around people sucks the life out of me, so I need my down time to recharge. A month can be a really long time to go without a chance to recharge!

Would you like to sleep in a human size nest in a tree or be snuggled in a burrowed spot underground?

Is it weird if I say burrowed underground? The tree sounds fabulous. You’d probably get a really nice view, but all I can think about is what great mosquito bait I’d make up there. There may be no view underground, but I’m a lot less likely to be eaten alive while I sleep. I’m have bad reactions to mosquito bites. Besides, who needs a view if you are there to sleep anyway.

In a car would you rather drive or be a passenger?

It depends. If I get shotgun, then I’d prefer to be a passenger. My husband usually drives, so I’m not as comfortable driving as I used to be. Also, I tend to get sleepy on long drives or early morning drives. If the back seat is my only option, I’d rather drive. I get motion sickness when I sit in the back. I need the big window in front of me I guess.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Last week: I got a nice reminder of why I do what I do. I haven’t been feeling very motivated at work lately. I feel like the effort I put in is unappreciated, but at the same time I feel like I should be doing more. It’s a twisted way of thinking. Anyway. I’m a Ph.D. student and I do a lot more then just work on my research project. I run the low vision clinic at the hospital. This is not for credit towards my Ph.D., nor do I get paid for doing it. It is just expected of me. So I had an appointment with a patient last week. She had macular degeneration. I spent an hour talking with her about her vision, putting her through all kinds of tests and explaining what they were for. She was so grateful that I made the time to hear her out and explain her vision to her. She even agreed to participate in one of the studies I’m having trouble recruiting for! (This is a big deal!!) All I really did was be friendly and listen, but it made her so happy. That made me feel good. After the appointment, I helped her down the stairs and got her a cab. She gave me a big hug goodbye. It’s people like her that I work so hard for.

This week: I’m looking forward to the weekend. It’s going to be really busy. Considering how down in the dumps I’ve been, I’m not sure if that’s a good idea, but it is what it is! Friday is my sister’s birthday, Saturday my sister in law and her boyfriend are coming over for a Kraft Dinner (don’t ask) and movie night and Sunday I’m shopping with a friend and doing a Father’s Day dinner. I hope I get some time for some doodling and a rest in there somewhere!

sight without vision

Don’t ask, I don’t know, it just happened.

Unexpected Inspiration

I was lucky enough to catch wind of a Dr. Jane Goodall lecture put on by my former university. I knew Dr. Goodall was an expert in primatology and a legend in chimpanzee research, but I had never heard her speak before. Since I’m mostly from the medical field, I didn’t know much more about her and would have let the opportunity slide. I had been feeling pretty low about my own research endeavors lately and the last thing I wanted to hear about was a Ph.D. success story, let alone the Jane Goodall story.

She was scheduled to give a lecture followed by a book signing. Upon hearing this, my husband, a former wildlife biologist, hijacked my alumni identity and signed us up before I could protest. This lecture was only open to those affiliated with the university, so hubby couldn’t go without me. Finally, after all the “please donate” harassment, there was a perk to being alumni….for my husband at least. So Friday night found us standing outside in the rain waiting to be let in to the lecture venue. The night was not off to a good start.

In the end, I was pleasantly surprised. Jane Goodall is an excellent speaker and story teller. Of course, my husband had told me this, but I figured he was biased, still being a wildlife biologist at heart. I had expected her talk to be more chimpanzee research oriented, but it wasn’t. She talked about hope, inspiration and humanity, topics I think everyone in the audience could relate to and some of which (hope and inspiration) I was severely lacking. She spoke of her mother who encouraged her curious mind as a child. She told us her inspiration to study chimpanzees was Tarzan and that he had married the wrong Jane. She was funny too. I was more surprised to learn that she didn’t have the money to go to university and it took her years to save enough just to go to Africa. Once in Africa, she convinced the leading primatologist that she should be the one doing his research despite having no degree. She stressed the importance of patience, curiosity, tenacity, and of learning from mistakes. She did eventually go on to get the research qualifications, at Cambridge no less, but she didn’t start until she was 27! I’m 28 and I’m already significantly ahead of where she started. Maybe there is hope for me yet.

What’s the difference between the 1960s Jane and I? She wasn’t going to give up the fight when the going got tough. She was driven by her passion and curiosity to learn more about a developing field. That was originally what drove me. I guessI had lost patience and forgotten somewhere along the way what my reasons for this pursuit were. If I could contribute to my niche a fraction of what she has given to the world, I would be more than satisfied. It’s time to pick up the pieces of my shattered self-esteem and get back to why I started my Ph.D. in the first place.

To remind myself of this, I bought one of her books, Reason for Hope. It’s basically her memoir. I’m hoping that reading it will help keep me optimistic about my future despite how many times I have failed and have yet to fail. By the time I had gotten my book and waited my turn to get Dr. Goodall’s autograph, it was about 10pm. At nearly 80 years old and after traveling, lecturing and meeting fans all day, Dr. Jane was tired to say the least. So I quickly thanked her for the autograph, wished her a happy early birthday and went on my way. I couldn’t speak for the audience, but what I wanted to tell her was that her lecture was a success, I got the message. She reached me and inspired hope where there was none.

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Confessions of a Java Junkie

My crazy professor hanging from the auditorium ceiling

Coffee is my lifeline. It wasn’t always like that though. I used to hate it, the nasty bitter taste made my stomach turn. Now, I drink it black, like my soul. I blame my coffee addiction on Physics 101 and my body image issues. It was my first year of university, I had a physics class that lasted an hour and a half in an auditorium that sat over 600 students. The auditorium was cold, so I always had my jacket wrapped around me. This, along with my level of interest in physics and my professor’s monotone voice was the perfect combination for nodding off. I remember trying to take notes and falling asleep mid sentence. My notes would go from legible to chicken scratch. One time, I completely fell asleep at the beginning of the lecture and woke up to find my professor hanging from the ceiling by a bungee cord. Look, simple harmonic motion! he was saying. I thought I was hallucinating! Time to find a method of staying awake.

Getting cozy, wrapped in my jacket was not a good idea, so I had to find a new strategy to stay warm. Tim Hortons (THE Canadian coffee/donut shop) was near by, so hot chocolate would be good I thought. Then the little devil on my shoulder woke up and said too many calories to have that all the time. Coffee has no calories. So I started drinking it. It’s an acquired taste. After having it several times a week for a semester, I started to like it. Now, I have it not only because I REALLY like it, I need it too. I’m not quite as alert without it.

Coffee has caffeine which acts as a stimulant. It increases heart rate, stimulates the central nervous system and temporarily boosts metabolism (yay!). Caffeine is similar in structure to a brain chemical called adenosine which makes us sleepy. Since our body can’t tell the difference between the caffeine and adenosine, it ends up using caffeine instead, causing the spike in energy. Caffeine is not unique to coffee, it is also in teas, soda and chocolate, but you get the most benefit from it in coffee. Moderate amounts of coffee can improve your attention span, reaction time and other brain skills. Coffee contains antioxidants along with caffeine. Antioxidants are tiny molecular warriors against diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s. That’s not all coffee helps to fight. A 2011 Harvard study followed the caffeine intake of 50,739 women over a ten year period. They found that those who drank coffee had a decreased incidence of depression compared to those who didn’t. So more coffee = less depression. Hook me up to a coffee IV, stat!

Not so fast. It is recommended that the average person have 2 to 4 cups of coffee a day. Every body reacts differently to coffee. Caffeine toxicity is possible. The symptoms resemble anxiety and mood disorders, you can feel agitated, nervous and restless. Depression is often accompanied by anxiety and insomnia. Coffee can aggravate these. It best to see how you react to coffee before hooking up the IV. I noticed that if I have caffeinated coffee in the afternoon, I don’t sleep very well. So now I make sure to unhook my IV or switch to decaf (which has much less caffeine) by noon.

Coffee can also affect you differently depending on your medication. I haven’t read any research on this, I speak from experience and reading mental health forums. I recently increased the dosage of my bupropion (Welbutrin) to 300mg. This medication gives me more energy and a better outlook, but I have to put up with the side effect of tremors. They normally aren’t too bad, my hands shake a little, no big deal. I don’t know if this was because I was adjusting to the new dosage or what, but I had a pot of coffee one morning earlier this week and holy tremors Batman!! I was shaking so much I couldn’t write, type or draw. My muscles were doing strange twitchy things, especially the muscles in my face and it felt like my eyes were vibrating. In addition to all that, I was sooo nauseous! I didn’t actually throw up, but it kept coming and going in waves. I’ve never felt like that before. The last few days I’ve had two cups of coffee with lots of water and I haven’t had the same reaction thankfully. I would be really sad to give up my coffee.

What’s the moral of this story? Coffee has all sorts of benefits, but every body is different. Find out what amount is right for you. Also, watch out when you change your medication!


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